Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Mega Man X Legacy Collection 1 + 2 Review

Mega Man X Legacy Collection is a compilation of the main games in the Mega Man X series. It features every game from MMX1 through 8, but not any of the side games, like Mega Man X Command Mission, or the GBC Mega Man Xtreme games. Like Mega Man Legacy Collection, MMXLC is split up into 2 packs, with 1-4 on MMXLC1 and 5-8 on MMXLC2. You can buy them separately as downloads for $19.99 each, or in a boxed bundle as Mega Man X Legacy Collection 1 + 2 for $39.99. The PS4 and XBO versions come with a disc for each collection, but the Switch version comes with MMXLC1 on a cart and a download code for MMXLC2, just like MMLC 1 + 2. The Steam version doesn’t get a physical version at all!

Mega Man X Legacy Collection 1 and 2’s in-game options are exactly the same in both. They are very similar to the in-game options in MMLC 1 + 2, but there are a few key things missing, like save states and button remapping options. There are no save states, checkpoint saves, or rewind features of any kind. This isn’t much of an issue with X4-X6, since they have automatic checkpoint saves you can continue from, but I miss having save states for the SNES games. X7 and 8 could probably use save states, too. MMX1-3 have a save feature, but it’s really more like an auto password input. It works exactly like passwords did in the original games, and does not save button configurations or special upgrades, like the Hadoken in MMX1. MMX4-8 have button remapping options in their pause menus, but the collection’s own in-game options menus do not have button remapping, like MMLC 1 + 2, so the only way to remap buttons in MMX1-3 is to change them in the game’s main menus before starting a game.

The only cheating feature available in these collections is the new Rookie Hunter Mode, which can be switched on or off in the in-game options menu at any point during any of the games. This mode gives you 9 extra lives, reduces damage by half, and you won’t die instantly from hitting spikes or falling into pits in MMX4-8, but you still will in MMX1-3. If you fall into a pit with Rookie Hunter Mode on, you’ll just warp right out onto a safe platform. It’s actually kind of hard to die in Rookie Hunter Mode.

The video options are pretty much the same as they were in MMLC 1 + 2. You have 2 filters; CRT scanlines and a smoothing filter that makes the games look a little bit like Xover. You also have the option to turn them off. There’s 3 screen sizes; a 4:3 mode that fills the screen from top to bottom, another 4:3 mode with the games displayed at 4x their original resolution, and the quintessential 16:9 stretch, which fills the whole screen. MMX4-8 look great in their original 4:3 aspect ratios, but MMX1-3 are not displayed in 8:7, like MM7 in MMLC2 was, so most of the graphics in these look stretched horizontally. There are 5 wallpapers available if you want to cover the black borders around the games, one for each game and another plain looking one for X Challenge. You can use any of the wallpapers on any game, unlike in MMLC, but you also have a lot less than in MMLC.

Some other features include the option to play the Japanese Rockman X versions and Hunter Medals, AKA achievements. Yes, even the Switch version has achievements. They, of course, are only for this game, since there is no Nintendo gamerscore. Sadly, there is no option to turn off their notifications. The Rockman X versions of the games are the real deal Japanese versions of the games, have Japanese voice acting, and their saves are not compatible with the English Mega Man X versions.

A lot of people are probably going to go straight for the original SNES trilogy in MMXLC1, but sadly, these are far from the definitive versions I was hoping for. I’ve seen tests done with the PS4 version that say the input lag is around 7 frames. That’s twice as much as MMX on the SNES Classic and about half a frame more than MMLC1 on Switch. I don't think it feels as bad as MMLC1 on Switch, but it doesn't feel as responsive as MM7 did on MMLC2. They did reduce some of the slowdown found in the originals, but they didn’t get rid of all of it, and they introduced some ugly frame skipping that happens for no apparent reason in the process. I’ve even seen some screen tearing going on in the PS4 version.

Mega Man X4 is the last game on MMXLC1 and MMX5 and 6 are on MMXLC2. All of these run great and look much better than the PSOne Classics versions do on PS3. They look sharp and not blurry, like they do on PS3, and the anime cutscenes have been upscaled and look much better. There is no trace of slowdown, screen tearing, or stuttering either. They maintain their original 4:3 aspect ratio, so they don’t look stretched, like the SNES games, and they all perfectly scale to 4X in 1080p docked and to 3X in 720p on the fly when you take the Switch on the go, unlike MMLC2. The only issue I’ve found with these 3 is that the voiceover in the cutscenes and some of the sound effects in menu screens are way too quiet. This is most noticeable while scrolling through menus.

Mega Man X7 and 8 are the final 2 games on MMXLC2, and they look better than ever. They’re both upscaled to 1080p, run at a constant 60fps, and have anti-aliasing. They maintain their original 4:3 aspect ratio and just look great all around. I guess the only real issue with these 2 is that they’re still the same games, and were never great to begin with.

X Challenge is the new mode made specifically for MMXLC 1 and 2. In X Challenge, you pick 3 weapons and try to get through a gauntlet of battles against 2 bosses at the same time. You get 3 lives per game, 10 minutes for each fight, and don’t get health back after finishing a fight. Each collection has its own X Challenge (Vol. 1 and Vol. 2), but they do share some fights. I didn’t like this mode a whole lot. The fights take forever and the weapons don’t seem to do a lot of damage, even when the bosses are supposed to be weak to them.

There are two galleries in the game, an art gallery and a product gallery. The art gallery has a bunch of character bios and artwork from all the games, including the new artwork made for Mega Man X Legacy Collection. The artwork for the main games is exclusive to each collection, so MMXLC1 has the MMX1-4 art and MMXLC2 has the MMX5-8 art, but they both have the same gallery with the new MMXLC art. The Product Gallery has a bunch of pictures of action figures, capsule toys, cards, and lots of other stuff, and it is also the same in both collections. The product gallery is a neat idea, but the pictures are way too small to really appreciate. The biggest improvement over the MMLC1 and 2 galleries is that up and down is not reversed anymore and you can browse through pictures by pressing ZL and ZR.

The Music Player has all the soundtracks from the games included in each collection, and both collections have the full MMXLC soundtrack, which has a bunch of new music recorded specifically for these collections. The MMXLC soundtrack is pretty good. There’s some good remixes and some cool tracks that remind me of Phantasy Star Online in there. The actual music player has gotten a nice upgrade over MMLC’s, and now has autoplay and a few different looping options.

The Day of Sigma animation from the PSP remake of MMX1, Mega Man: Maverick Hunter X, is also included in both collections. It’s a 25 minute long anime prequel to MMX1, which takes place shortly before MMX1 begins. It shows the origin of X and how Sigma went from leader of the Maverick Hunters to the main villain of the series. There’s also a gallery with what looks like old E3 or TGS trailers of the games, but there’s nothing too exciting there.

I’m really not too high on either of these collections, and I’m not sure I’d recommend them to anyone except Mega Man fans. I enjoyed revisiting the games and looking through all the galleries, but this isn’t the best way to play the SNES games, and X6-8 were never great games to begin with, so the only stuff really worth your time here are the really nice versions of X4 and X5, and the extras. Hopefully the issues with the SNES games are fixed, but I doubt they will be.

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Adventure Island Review

Adventure Island is a platformer developed by Hudson Soft (now known as Konami :( ) for the NES. It was originally released in Japan as Takahashi Meijin no Bouken Jima in 1986 for the Famicom. Adventure Island is Hudson’s port of the arcade version of Wonder Boy, which was developed by Escape (now known as Westone) and published by Sega. Sega owns the Wonder Boy name, but not the actual games, so Westone was able to license them to companies like Hudson to port to other systems. There are many games named Adventure Island, but only a few of the early ones use the same level designs as the Wonder Boy arcade game. For example, Adventure Island for the Game Boy is actually based on Adventure Island 2, and Adventure Island for the PC Engine in Japan (AKA Dragon’s Curse in NA) is actually Hudson's version of Wonder Boy III: The Dragon’s Trap.

In Adventure Island, you play as Master Higgins (Takahashi Meijin in Japan). He’s basically a moustache-less Mario dressed like Tom-Tom. Look at his hat! It's a Mario hat with a Hudson bee on it instead of an M. He is on a quest to save his girlfriend, Tina, from the Evil Witch Doctor, who kidnapped her and took her to an island in the South Pacific. No specific reason why is given. The manual says the name of the island is Adventure Island, but it also calls Tina, Princess Leilani.

The game has 32 levels, split into 8 areas (worlds), with 4 rounds (levels) per area, and 4 checkpoints per round, so the last level is 8-4. At the end of every 4th level, you fight a boss who looks like and does the same thing as every other boss, but is faster, takes more hits to kill than the previous one, and has a different animal mask. Does all this sound familiar? Adventure Island borrows more than just the style of hat from Mario.

Adventure Island is basically the same game as Wonder Boy, but there are a few differences besides the graphics and characters. Adventure Island is harder and more unforgiving, because you can't just continue from the last checkpoint, like in the Wonder Boy arcade game. You have to restart levels from the beginning after a Game Over in Adventure Island. You also have to collect a hidden Hudson bee item in the first level to unlock continues, and then use a code to continue every time. I totally forgot to do the code many times back in the day. Thankfully, we have save state insurance these days. Adventure Island also adds secret item eggs and bonus zones, and the controls feel slightly different.

Master Higgins starts the game with nothing but his hat and a grass skirt. He can jump, but he can't jump on enemies, like Mario. Along the way, you’ll find stone hatchets (like cavemen hatchets) which you can throw to attack enemies. Sometimes hatchets will just be hanging in plain view, but usually, they’ll be inside giant eggs. Judging by what they did in the sequel, they’re dinosaur eggs. Master Higgins throws hatchets directly in front of him and they fly about halfway across the screen, so they’re more like Ghosts ‘N Goblins torches than Castlevania axes. If you already have a hatchet and break open an egg, sometimes you’ll find a fireball upgrade for your hatchet. These lets you shoot fireballs that can break rocks and fly farther across the screen than the hatchet. They don't bounce off the ground like Mario’s fireballs, though. There’s also an invincibility fairy bee item that works just like the star in Super Mario Bros, jingle and all.

If you open a second hatchet egg while you already have a hatchet, you’ll get a skateboard, complete with helmet and pads. Usually, you die in 1 hit, but if you're on the skateboard, you can take another hit, kind of like when you get a super mushroom in Super Mario Bros. Of course, you lose the skateboard if you get hit. Getting the skateboard can be both a blessing and a curse. The skateboard lets you to take an extra hit, but it also doesn't allow you to stop moving forward or turn around. You can slow down by holding back, though. It basically makes the game a runner. Since the game is full of moving platforms and obstacles that require precise timing, being on a skateboard can make platforming extremely hard.

There is no countdown timer in Adventure Island, but there is a time limit element to the game. Instead of numbers counting down, like in Mario, you get a health meter that rapidly depletes as time passes and if you trip over a rock. You can; however, fill this meter back up by collecting fruit and milk bottles found within the levels. There are no fries, burgers, slices of pie, or ice cream, like in Wonder Boy. Master Higgins is on a diet. This time limit isn't as strict as it is in Wonder Boy, but you definitely have to collect the fruit or you will not make it to the end of a level. Sometimes, you’ll find eggs containing an evil eggplant that will follow you and make the meter go down faster. This evil eggplant will kill you if your meter is already low and you don't collect more fruit quickly enough, and will always leave you with only 1 bar left on the meter. The evil eggplant eggs are speckled in Wonder Boy, but they look like every other egg in Adventure Island, forcing you to memorize their locations to avoid them.

This game has fun and challenging levels, but there is a big lack of variety in them. There's 6 level themes and nearly every level using that theme is the same level, but with more obstacles. Some levels have more pits or less platforms to jump on, and as the game progresses, the levels add more fire, rocks, and enemies, to the point where the framerate suffers. This lack of variety makes the game feel too long and a bit repetitive, especially during the latter half.

For a Famicom/NES game that came out in 1986, Adventure Island looks pretty great. The graphics are colorful and they capture the look of an 80s anime better than most NES games of the time. Not a lot of NES games looked this close to their arcade counterparts either. Arcade games were already using 16-bit hardware by this point, so the NES just couldn’t handle arcade perfect ports. The character and enemy sprites flicker a lot, and there's a few areas with bad slowdown, especially when they put a lot of enemies on screen, but overall, this is a pretty nice looking game.

I like the music, it’s upbeat and sounds like what you’d imagine tropical 8-bit music would sound like, but there isn't a lot of it. There's only one music track for every level theme, so every cave level has the same music, for example. There's about 10 songs in the game total, and that's including short tracks, like the bonus stage, evil eggplant, invincibility bee, and boss themes. It's more than whatever Wonder Boy had, at least.

Adventure Island isn’t usually mentioned in best of NES lists, but it's one of my favorite NES games. Playing Adventure Island is like learning a dance routine or something. It's one of those super challenging games in which you have to memorize the levels and then play them almost perfectly to beat them. It reminds me of playing challenging 2D shooters in that way. I think fans of difficult platformers will enjoy it.

Sunday, July 8, 2018

Mega Man 8 Review

Mega Man 8 was originally released in Japan for the PlayStation in 1996, and a couple of months later on the Sega Saturn in 1997. Not counting spinoffs, like Mega Man & Bass, Mega Man 8 was the last original series game released until Mega Man 9 came out 12 years later in 2008. Mega Man 8 was the game that Sony infamously rejected for release on the PlayStation because it was 2D, and Sony was making a big push for 3D games on the PS. Sony changed their mind when they heard the game was also coming out on the Saturn, though. Mega Man 8 is available in Mega Man Legacy Collection 2 and as a PS1 Classic on PS3 and PSP/Vita.

The game starts off with an awesome anime cutscene in which an alien robot, Duo, is fighting an Evil Energy robot in space. This Evil Energy amplifies the evil in people's hearts and can be used to power up robots, or something. Apparently, it would kill Mega Man, though. Duo defeats the Evil Energy robot, but both of them fall burning through Earth’s atmosphere, and crash on an island where it just so happens Dr. Wily has set up his newest base. Dr. Light tells Mega Man to go get the thing, but Dr. Wily beats him to it. He left Duo behind, though, so Mega Man sends him to Dr. Light’s lab to get fixed. Now, Mega Man must stop Wily from doing evil stuff with this Evil Energy.

There's a lot of focus put on this Duo character, but he comes off like a Poochie to me. Apparently, his planet needs him too, because he leaves Earth at the end of the game. We didn't need another robot friend who wants to fight sometimes anyway. Not right after the introduction of everyone's favorite frenemy, Bass, who in case you were wondering, is still around, acting like Vegeta, striving to beat Mega Man in a fight someday.

The story is pretty dumb, but the presentation is fantastic. The anime cutscenes that play throughout the game look great. They truly nail the Mega Man art style, unlike the real MM animated series. I especially love in intro cutscene, which shows Mega Man fighting old Robot Masters, like Tomahawk Man and Pharaoh Man. The voice acting in these is comically bad, and Dr. Light does sound like Elmer Fudd, but that's part of their charm.

Mega Man 8 follows the same basic structure as MM7, but dials back some of the stuff it borrowed from MMX. You still have intro and mid game levels, you still start with only 4 bosses available, and you still use Robot Master weapons to discover hidden areas, but you’re not collecting weapons or upgrades in the levels anymore. All the hidden items have been replaced with bolts, the currency used in the shop, which is run by Roll instead of Auto this time. The shop has completely different items for sale now, too. All the 1Ups, E-Tanks, and weapon refills have been replaced with power ups, like faster Mega Buster charging, an item that gets rid of knockback, one that lets you climb ladders faster, and items that were hidden in levels in MM7, like the Exit item, and the Energy Balancer. E-Tanks and similar refill items are not in this game at all, but don't worry, Rush has your back.

Auto, Eddie, and Beat are still in the game, but they're just upgrades in the Rush Jet shoot ’em up sections now. The Rush Jet is only available in those section, too, and the Rush Coil has been replaced with Mega Man’s new Soccer ball-like item, the Mega Ball, which he can bounce on to reach higher platforms.

Rush has not become obsolete, though. This robo dog has learned some new tricks. Rush has a new motorcycle form, the Rush Bike, and a new bombing run move called the Rush Bomber. He takes over Eddie's role with the Rush Question, which drops a random item, and replaces Weapon and E-Tanks with the Rush Charger, which is a bombing run, like the Rush Bomber, that drops a bunch of recovery items instead. The Rush armor is completely gone.

The biggest thing that sets Mega Man 8 apart from the rest of the series is its level design. Mega Man 8 is full of levels with gimmick sections. There’s autoscrolling snowboarding, a Rush Jet shoot 'em up, long sections full of time bomb platforms, grappling hook swinging, mazes, and even swimming. There's still a lot of Mega Man style action platforming, but this game has more gimmicks than any other MM game. The shoot 'em up sections are OK. They’re not Parodius, but they’re fine. The time bomb platforms are good, but been done before. The snowboarding sections are just annoying, though. They require a lot of concentration, memorization, and precise timing, which is probably too much to ask for from people playing on HDTVs today. I guess it was good that Capcom was trying to mix things up, but it just made this game look weird and gimmicky in comparison to the rest of the series.

Since MM9 and 10 went back to 8-bit, the graphics in MM8 are still the best in the series. They got a pretty big upgrade over 7's. The backdrops depict beautiful scenes of futuristic cities, crazy machinery, and lush jungles and forests. The environment pieces are bigger, more detailed, and capture the look of Mega Man artwork better than ever. They also gave the game a slightly more 3D perspective by tilting the camera angle downwards a bit, showing more of the floor and platforms Mega Man runs on. This gave the developers even more layers to play with and add details to, but also makes this game look a little weird when compared to previous games. All the enemies and characters have more frames of animation than ever, and there's more squashing and stretching in the animations, giving everything a more authentic cartoon look. I played the MMLC2 version of the game, so the frame rate stayed smooth, even with lots of enemies on screen, but it's also smooth in the PlayStation version, from what I’ve seen.

I really don't like the Mega Man sprite in MM8. I like the big head design from MM7 much better. Mega Man looks older in 8, and not nearly as cute as in 7. The rest of the supporting cast also got a more anatomically correct makeover, but I don't mind theirs as much. I don't know why they changed the character designs. Did they want a more serious Mega Man? MM7’s design was the best looking post-8-bit Mega Man as far as I'm concerned.

I don't really like the soundtrack either. It has a few good tracks, like Genade Man’s theme and the Wily Machine theme, but a lot of the soundtrack sounds like smooth techno jazz. It sounds more like Phantasy Star Online music than Mega Man music. There’s too much wacky circus music, too. Tengu Man’s and Clown Man’s themes are especially bad. Some of the jazzy tunes are pretty good, like Frost Man’s theme, but most just sound too mellow for a Mega Man game.

Mega Man 8 is a fine game on its own, but it just doesn't look that good when compared to the rest of the series. The heavy use of gimmicks in the level design, uncharacteristically mellow jazzy music, and slightly more anatomically correct Mega Man design make this game stand out as an oddity in the series. Still, the core Mega Man gameplay is solid as ever, the graphics are the best in the series, and the anime cutscenes look great, even if the voice acting is hilariously bad.

Wednesday, July 4, 2018

Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night - Beta Backer Demo Impressions

Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night is the upcoming game by former Castlevania series producer, Koji Igarashi, and his new studio, ArtPlay. It’s a Metroidvania in the same style as Castlevania games like Symphony of the Night and Aria of Sorrow. Bloodstained RotN was successfully KickStarted back in 2015, and backers who pledged $60 or more were recently given access to a 2nd early demo of the game. The demo has 3 areas, 2 bosses, a handful of quests, and a little bit of crafting available. I’ve played through the whole thing, and I’ve done pretty much everything I could find to do in it, and I’m glad to say it's looking promising.

ArtPlay has obviously paid close attention to how the Igavanias played, because they’ve pretty much nailed the controls. RotN has all the familiar floaty jumps, gliding stride, back dash, slide, and long windup attacks. It definitely controls like a Castlevania. I spent some time comparing running and jumping speeds between RotN and the DS games, and they're very similar. Miriam's running speed in Bloodstained feels a little bit faster than in any of the DS games. I didn’t break out the stopwatch, but the time it takes Miriam to run across a save room is pretty close to how long it takes Soma in Dawn of Sorrow, even though her room is in 16:9. Her airtime while jumping is about the same as in Portrait of Ruin and Symphony of the Night, but a little longer than in Dawn of Sorrow and Order of Ecclesia. Miriam’s slide and back dash also feel very similar to those moves in the DS Castlevanias, but they both have slightly shorter recovery times than in the DS games. Miriam’s slide in particular feels very spammable in comparison. You can also use the back dash to cancel out of a slide, which you could never do in the DS games.

There’s a couple of items that let you play around with the running speed and back dash distance, leading me to believe that they might still be tweaking them. The Speed Belt will slightly increase your running speed and the Moon Belt will increase your back dash distance. The Speed Belt reduces the time it takes Miriam to walk across the save room by about a second (from about 3 and a half to 2 and a half seconds) and the Moon Belt allows Miriam to dash across the save room in 4 back dashes instead of 5. I’d be OK with the normal running speed being the final speed, but I’d really like the Moon Belt back dash distance to be the default one. It just makes back dashing out of danger much easier.

There seem to be some problems with using back dash to cancel out of attacks. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t. I think it depends on what part of the attack animation you’re in. Sometimes you’ll hit back dash and instead of canceling out of the attack, you’ll queue up a back dash, and do it after the attack animation is over. Hopefully that’s smoothed out in the final game, because back dashing is a great tool to have in a lot of combat situations.

There’s a bunch of familiar weapons to play with in this demo. There’s knives, 3 types of one-handed swords, big two-handed swords and axes, guns, maces, spears, kung-fu shoes, and whips. The knives have a very short range, but their attack if pretty fast and they have downwards diagonal attacks. I don't like the short range of the knives, so I didn't use them very much.

The normal one-handed swords have quick attack animations with small oval shaped attack arcs, and let you attack diagonally downwards while jumping and crouching. They’re very similar to Castlevania swords, like the Alucard Sword. Maces are basically the same as these swords, but with a different model.

The katanas have a 90° frontal attack arc, which is about twice as large the regular swords’. These katanas don't have diagonal attacks, but they’re fast, and you can perform special combos with them by stringing together Street Fighter style quarter circle forward motions, like Fei Long’s Rekka Ken.

The third type of one-handed sword in the demo is the rapier. These swords have a quick stabbing animation and can attack diagonally, but don’t have special combos.

The two-handed swords and axes are huge, slow, and have a big 135° attack arc. They feel very similar to big swords in the Castlevania games, but have a shorter recovery time, allowing you to attack more often. These swords are slow and require a little more planning, but they have the highest attack power and cover the biggest area around you with their slash, so they were my go to weapon in the demo.

Guns let you attack from a distance, but don’t do a lot of damage with the default infinite ammo. You can; however, equip a variety of limited ammo, which do a lot more damage and add different effects to your attacks. You can get ammo with ice, fire, or thunder magic effects, for example.

Spears have a long reach, but are slow and don’t have a lot of options for attacks. You can’t attack in any other direction besides directly forwards and they don’t have any special combos. They’re nowhere near as cool here as they were when Eric Lecarde used them in Castlevania Bloodlines.

Kung-Fu shoes let you use your feet as weapons. They’re quick, do good damage, have downward diagonal attacks, and have a special combo, like the katanas. The kung-fu shoes’ combo is a series of flaming spin kicks. These are the flashiest and coolest looking weapons in the demo, even though they're just your feet.

Whips have a long reach, but attack in a downward diagonal arc, unlike whips in Castlevania. The whip’s attacks let you hit small enemies without crouching, but make it very hard to hit anything above you, and sometimes enemies in front of you, too. I don’t like this whip at all. It feels like they’re going out of their way to make this one thing not like Castlevania. It seems forced when they’re trying so hard to make the rest of the game like Castlevania. I don’t mind if they want to have a weapon that behaves like this, but why does it have to be the whip? Why does it have to be the most iconic Castlevania weapon, which Miriam already used like in Castlevania in Curse of the Moon?

There’s also a good amount of shards available to play with in the demo. Shards are a lot like souls in Aria of Sorrow. You get shards from killing enemies, and can collect multiples of the same shard and use them to upgrade the shard in the shop. All enemies in the demo have a chance to drop a shard, except for Zangetsu, since he’s the last boss you fight. Normal enemies drop weaker shards, but the boss from the ship drops a shard that summons huge tentacles and does a ton of damage. There are 5 shard slots in the menu screen, but only 3 kinds of shards in the demo, 2 sub weapon or magic spell shards and 1 enchant shard. The 1 enchant shard I found was for Sword Mastery. It increases your damage with one-handed swords and maces. The Trigger shards are for spells, like summon bat, boomerang axes, and the ship bosses’ summon tentacle spell. Directional shards are spells you can aim with the right analog stick and include a bone throw, arrow shot, toad summon, and a fire cannon, which can be used to light the wicks on cannons on the ship. The 2 shard slots unavailable in the demo are Effective, which I don’t know what it’s for, and Familiar, which I know is for combat pets, like in Symphony of the Night.

The graphics in this demo look very inconsistent and unfinished. It looks like all the textures from the first demo are gone and they have all been redone. The lighting and shaders are a huge improvement over what was in the first demo, but the color maps look like they've lost a lot of detail in the process. A lot of objects look like they have a normal map, adding bumps and cracks, but the textures barely have any color variation. Some of the wood on the ship looks like it was freshly painted with brown paint, for example. I doubt that's the look they're going for. A lot of surfaces also look glossy or shiny when they really shouldn't, like the stone walls in the village, and there's generally a lack of dirt and soot, which you would expect to see in old or ruined places like these. Some places, like the save room, look so much better than other areas that they stand out in a weird way, so I guess the game looks how it does because it's still being worked on. Hopefully the whole game looks as good as that save room when it comes out.

I think this game is shaping up pretty nicely. There are some rough spots, but I think the controls are pretty much spot on, the music sounds great, and it looks like there's going to be a ton of stuff to do in the game. I don't know how much further along past the demo progress on the actual game is, and they have not announced a date, but I get the feeling that this game still needs a lot of work before release. Hopefully we don't have to wait too long for it, because I'm really looking forward to this game.