The Amazing Spider-Man 2 (PG-13)

I barely remember this movie, but maybe there's just nothing to remember. It wasn't so much a movie as a two hour advertisement with little ambition beyond setting up future Amazing Spider-Man movies starring the Sinister Six, and more threads connected to the mystery of Peter's dad that nobody cares about. Unsurprisingly, Sony scrapped this version of Spider-Man and let Disney and Marvel have joint custody of of him.


Determination: The Purple Side

Last year I talked about Fangamer's Determination album, two discs of Undertale covers featuring bitching rock versions of several battle themes and synth bastardizations of some town and dungeon themes. The Purple Side is a third disc that redoes six dungeon themes in rock and five battle themes in synth. Guess which are the superior songs.

The peaks of the album are the covers for "Another Medium" and "CORE", and are especially welcome after the shoddy covers they got on the original album. As for the synth battle themes... yeah, they're shit. For one thing, they're needlessly dragged out to breaking point; the "Heartache" cover sounds like it's playing in slowmo and for fuck's sake, the final track of the album is a rendition of "MEGALOVANIA" that's over 11 minutes long. The original version is two and a half! That length could have been acceptable if it was a compilation of "Your Best Nightmare", "Finale", "Hopes and Dreams", "SAVE the World", and "MEGALOVANIA" in some kind of final boss theme blowout (though I wouldn't have much hope for the actual music). But no, it's one tolerable and three awful ways of playing "MEGALOVANIA" crammed into one track. And kudos to this album for finding a way to fuck up "ASGORE" by turning it into the opening theme for an 80's sitcom.

And the seventh track is... some kind of droning noise. Maybe it's supposed to be based on "You Idiot" but the first time it came up, I thought my music player bugged out.


Mega Man X (SNES via SNES Classic)

I imagine most people's reaction to the Mega Man franchise's foray onto the SNES goes something like "Huh, there's a level before I gain access to the Robot Masters? This ruined highway is a bit darker than anything in the previous Mega Man games. Who's Sigma? I thought the big bad guy was Dr. Wily? Is this red robot a man or a woman? Oh, the Robot Masters are based on animals now?" But then they settle in the Mega Man rigmarole of poking at stages until they find the one that lets them kick off the weapon weakness chain. Mega Man X also incorporates a little of Metroid by hiding powerups around the levels to make the trip easier. Although the fact a crucial upgrade is placed in Chill Penguin's stage as to be unavoidable should give you a clue as to who to go after first. You know, the upgrade that's so important subsequent Mega Man Xs gave it to you from the start?

One thing I always found neat is the interactions between the bosses and levels. Like how clearing Storm Eagle's stage causes the ship you battled him on to crash into Spark Mandrill's stage and stop the electricity flowing through the floor, or how Boomer Kuwanger's weapon can cut off Launch Octopus' tentacles and seal two of his attacks. That interaction is also interesting because Boomer Kuwanger is weak to Launch Octopus' weapon, so you have to decide whose weapon you want to use against the other. Also, you can cut off Flame Mammoth's trunk but I seem to recall that making him more difficult, unless I'm confusing him with that trash compactor boss from X3. That said, I'm not sure how beating Chill Penguin's stage causes Flame Mammoth's stage to freeze over, because on the map view of the stage select screen they're on opposite ends of the city.

Mega Man X does flounder a bit in terms of balance, mainly from the aforementioned hidden powerups; if you use all the tools the game gives you it's a joke, but if you don't use them you're going to get ripped to shreds. Part of this is funky enemy placement that leaves you getting blindsided by enemies that just spawned off screen or having to tank attacks to make any progress because retreating will cause the enemy to respawn. And just, how do you even fight Armored Armadillo without shocking his armor off?

Also, this might be nitpicky, but why do these games bind the dash to the furthest button on the right of the controller face (A on the SNES, O on the X Collection for PS2) by default instead of a shoulder button so you can actually to access fire, jump and dash at the same time? Because it's "pretty" to have all the actions on the face buttons and leave the real-time weapon swapping to the shoulder buttons? Yeah, you can also double-tap a direction to dash, but good fucking luck dash-jumping off a wall that way. I forgot to change it while getting a screenshot, and struggled against Chill fucking Penguin.


Night in the Woods (PC)

I did like this game quite a bit, but any recommendation comes with some disclaimers; namely, there's not a whole lot of what you could call "gameplay" in it. There's a handful of situational puzzles out of a point-and-click adventure game, sections where you have to navigate a dream maze for four ghosts, and several glorified Guitar Hero sessions, but most of the game is driven by dialogue. And if you're going to make us press buttons on a track in time with music, developers, please use DDR-style directional arrows instead of button letters so players can tell what to press without having to look at the controller. I could handle the X and B prompts because they're on the far left and far right of both the 360 controller's main button group and the track, but Y and A would always wreck me.

Oh, there's also a dungeon crawler minigame that's surprisingly fleshed out, to the point of practically being a game unto itself.

Night in the Woods is the story of a cat girl named Mae who drops out of college and comes back to her country town, checks out what's changed in her two years away, reunites with old friends, and basically chills for several days leading up to the town's big Halloween festival. So yeah, a good chunk of the game is Mae going to the mall and helping a friend on a house call to fix an old rat woman's broken furnace, (yeah, I generally stuck with the alligator girl), then coming home to have a trippy dream sequence. Not the most pulse-pounding action, but the characters are fun and engaging and the whole "college girl comes home and finds things have changed while she was away" thing struck a bit of a chord with me (I didn't drop out, though).

But on the night of the Halloween festival, Mae gets caught up in a dark secret surrounding her town. How that secret plays out is a little wishy-washy; without wishing to spoil too much, there's a folk tale about a supernatural occurrence that turns out to have a rational explanation (more spoilery: allegedly a witch cursed a nearby lake, but it was actually poisoned by runoff from a mine), but then it turns out there IS something supernatural going on in the town (that one's far more important so I won't spoil it even with white font, but let's just say the mine comes back). Night in the Woods starts off as a fuzzy tale of nostalgia, but then turns into one about being swallowed by darkness, fighting to not be crushed by it, and finally breaking out and stepping into the light of a new day.

PS: What is it with indie games and bears that go "Thaaaaat's XYZ!"


Mega Man X2 (SNES)

I used to consider Mega Man X2 my favorite of the SNES Mega Man X games, but I'm not sure I still hold it in that regard. I generally felt into it while playing, there's some interesting ideas that sort of got conked in the head by bad execution like the optional fights with the X-Hunters, and if nothing else the theme for the first two X-Hunter stages (for the 25 seconds it lasts, anyway) and the ending theme are among my favorite songs in the Mega Man X series.

But some parts are just... not thought through. Vertical scrolling while trying to avoid spotlights is kind of a bad idea, some of the powerups are awful trying to get without suiciding for them (that heart container in the corridor of spikes in Overdrive Ostrich's stage springs to mind, even omitting what a pain in the ass it is to get the speeder bike up there in the first place), Magna Centipede is even worse than Armored Armadillo in terms of trying to fight him without crippling him with his weakness, and I could really do without the screen vibrating during Wheel Gator's stage. Both fights with Violen involve him swinging around a flail that's so random all you can do is pelt him with his weakness and hope he dies before you do, and the rematch with Agile is kinda bullshit, as he hangs out at the top of the screen requiring you to wall jump to get to him while he's firing platforms into you.

And the second fight with Serges is just idiotic; you're on two tiny platforms moving up and down in opposite directions over a floor of spikes while he's also sliding up and down in a pod throwing out bouncing shots with hard to predict trajectories, and when things finally line up to where you can try to get a shot in it ends up pinging off the rim of his pod.

Another thing that shocked me was just how much slowdown the game has; the first fight with Serges and Sigma's second phase are fought entirely in slowmo, the latter being especially surprisingly because those wire frames are supposed to be handled by a chip in the game cart specially designed for them, so WTF is going on here? On top of being a drag, the slowdown caused me to frequently fire in the wrong direction while trying to juggle firing towards the enemy and wall-jumping, especially in the Serges fight when you're trying to line up your shots to hit the bit of his head peeking out of his shield.

I guess the takeaway of this quickie is fuck you, Serges.