Tuesday, July 26, 2022

Cuphead - The Delicious Last Course Review

Developer: Studio MDHR
Platforms: NS, XBO, PS4, PC
Price: $7.99
Version Played: PC

Considering its nearly 5 year development cycle, I thought Cuphead - The Delicious Last Course would basically be Cuphead 2. That's not the case, though. Cuphead DLC feels more like Studio MDHR putting the finishing touches on Cuphead before moving on to their next project. Cuphead DLC features a new playable character, a new island, 7 new bosses, and 5 new parrying challenge levels. This is a good amount of content for $8, but it's not quite enough to be a standalone game, or a Cuphead 2.
Cuphead DLC's main attraction is the new bosses. There are 7 in total; 5 regular, the final boss, and the secret boss. These new bosses all have unique artwork, new music, they're very challenging, and some really push the boundaries of what the game asks from you with their mechanics. For example, there's one in which you're standing on a plane and the screen rotates every few seconds, which made me wish I was playing handheld on Switch so I could rotate the screen. The secret boss also tested my mettle. Some of the other bosses include a mountain giant, a frost wizard, a musical bug-themed battle, and a new shoot ‘em up boss in which you fly on a plane across the Wild West while fighting a giant cartoon cow. These bosses don't really have a unifying theme, like the ones in the first 3 isles, but overall, I feel like they fit right in with the rest of the game in terms of creativity. All the new artwork and music is also just as good as anything in the base game.
The new bosses are very challenging, but they don't feel like they reach a new level of difficulty. I definitely didn't think any of them was as hard as King Dice or The Devil. Most just felt like bosses that could have been on the 2nd or 3rd isle. You don't have to finish the first game to access the 4th isle, so these probably aren’t even meant to be harder than the bosses in the other 3, but the fact that it’s called Isle IV had me thinking they might be.
You can access the 4th isle as soon as you complete the mausoleum on the 1st isle and meet Ms Chalice. Once you reach the 4th isle, you’ll get a special charm you can equip to play as Ms Chalice. That means you’ll be giving up the third charm slot to play as her. I think her abilities make up for the loss of a charm slot, though. She's not just Cuphead in a skirt, she’s a very different character. She has a double jump, a dodge roll, and she parries by dashing, which is much easier to time than Cuphead’s axe kick. Her midair jumps and dashes also reset after every successful parry, so there are situations in which she can easily stay in the air for long periods of time. You can't get any of these skills on Cuphead and Mugman. She's kind of overpowered, but I'm not complaining! Oh, and you can play the whole game as Ms Chalice. You're not limited to Isle IV.
The Delicious Last Course also features 5 parrying challenges called The King's Leap. Like the mausoleums in the base game, these are strictly about parrying. In fact, you can't shoot at all in these. All charm effects are disabled, too. These challenges all have new music and unique art, but they're all just single phase trials, and not as complex as regular bosses. They don't count towards the amount of bosses you have to beat to fight the final boss either. They're fun for what they are, but I would have preferred to have a couple of more regular bosses instead. These just feel like fun minigames to play after you're done with the real bosses.
I had a lot of fun with this DLC. The new bosses are fun, creative, and look just as great as the old ones. The new music is fantastic as well. I also love playing as Ms Chalice. This is great content for a great price. I can't complain about that. I can't can't say I wasn't left wanting more, though. I was really expecting this to have more bosses after the nearly 5 year wait. Here's hoping Cuphead 2 comes out sooner than 5 years from now.

Saturday, July 16, 2022

Spidersaurs Review

Developer: WayFoward
Platforms: XBO, XBSX, PS4, PS5, PC, NS
Price: $20
Version Played: PC

No, Spidersaurs is not a 90s licensed game trying to cash in on the popularity of Jurassic Park, it just looks like one. This is an original run'n gun shooter from the developers of Contra 4, WayFoward. It looks like something aimed at a demographic that I'm not part of, but it plays like the 2D Contra sequel Konami is definitely not going to make any time soon.
If you’re not familiar with Contra or the run’n gun genre, it’s basically something between a platformer and a shoot ‘em up. There’s a lot of jumping around, and you have to do it while avoiding tons of bullets and shooting everything in sight. The run’n gun’s roots lie in the arcades, so they are punishing by design. They were made to take your quarters. These games are made for you to play over and over, learn from your mistakes, and eventually master them. While Spidersaurs is a new game with modern features, it's still all about those arcade fundamentals. I’m not saying you have to play this on hard, but if you ask me, you should play it on a difficulty that gives you a good challenge because that’s kind of the point.
Spidersaurs is Contra AF, and it's not trying to hide it. Unsurprisingly, it controls a lot like Contra 4, but with a few new moves. You start out with your basic machine gun, jump, duck, and 8 way aiming. As you play through the game, you gain new abilities by beating bosses at the end of each level. By the end of the game, you'll be able to climb, double jump, dash, air dash, do a butt stomp type of attack, and use a very Contra 4-like grappling hook. The level and boss designs get more and more complex as you get new abilities, so there’s always something new to play with in each level. I think the game is a lot more fun with all the abilities unlocked, but I see why they introduce them like this.
At first, I felt like a few of the guns were either too slow or too weird for my liking, but as I played more of the game, I started seeing how they would be useful in specific sections. The game does a good job of dropping weapons close to where they might come in handy. And yes, they come in flying pods, just like in Contra. I still avoided the ones I didn't like, but keeping the guns you like is also a good strategy because you can upgrade them if you get a duplicate.
It’s also worth noting that the 2 playable characters get completely different guns from the same item drops. Victoria’s weapons have more of a musical theme to them and work more like classic Contra weapons, while Adrian’s have a sports theme and have weirder effects. For example, Victoria’s spread gun works like the classic Contra weapon, and Adrian’s version is a billiards ball that explodes on contact into a 3 way spread of smaller balls. I like playing as Victoria better, but someone has to use Adrian in co-op.
Spidersaurs has 7 levels in total. Five of those are big 2 part levels, but it's still a fairly short game you can finish in one sitting once you get good at it. I think it does a great job in getting the most out of its content, though. The game has 3 modes of play; Story, Arcade, and Speed Run. You have to beat Story mode to unlock Arcade and Speed Run, by the way. Story is the modern way a lot of these games are presented these days. You get all the dialogue and cutscenes, unlimited continues, you can replay any level with all your abilities after beating them, and your progress is saved. Cuphead, Blazing Chrome, Hard Corps Uprising's Rising mode, and TMNT Shredder’s Revenge’s story mode are all like this.
Arcade is how the game might have played in the 8 and 16-bit days. It has linear progression, so you can't replay levels, and there's no saving. Arcade has the same ability progression and unlimited continues as Story mode, and it gets rid of the cutscenes. There are still some NPC dialogue windows with talking during the levels, which are kind of annoying because you can’t see through them. The last mode on the list is Speed Run; a linear, 1 credit, no cutscene, all thriller, no filler mode in which you start with all the abilities. If Story and Arcade are too easy for you, try this on for size.
I can't decide if I'm too young or too old to have any nostalgia for what Spidersaurs' aesthetic is going for. It looks like a Cartoon Network show from 1996, the premise sounds like something made during the early 90s Dinomania, and Victoria looks like she's about to audition for Jem and the Holograms. None of these are things I was ever really into, and I had my Dinosaur phase before Jurassic Park came along, so Spidersaurs as an IP doesn't do anything for me at all.
The game does look really nice, though. It looks like a playable cartoon. The backgrounds are super detailed, the characters and enemies look just like cartoon characters, and the animation is really good. The game also runs at a smooth 60FPS, even in its most chaotic moments. It bugs me that the PC version has no graphics options at all, though. Not even full screen or windowed settings.
The soundtrack is also really good. It has a lot of hard rock in it, and some of it sounds kind of like Castlevania rock, my favorite music genre. The voice acting is also really well done. It's humorous, and it just sounds like real cartoon voice acting to me.
I'm not really feeling Spidersaurs as a theme, but this game is a lot of fun. I was a big Contra fan growing up, and we don't get a lot of run'n gun games these days, so it's great when one comes along and actually gets it right. This game plays like the sequel to Contra 4, it looks good, the soundtrack rocks, and it has a lot of replay value. I’ll definitely be trying this in co-op when people come over, too. If you're a fan of this type of game, this is definitely worth checking out.

Saturday, July 9, 2022

Monster Hunter Rise: Sunbreak Review

Developer: Capcom
Publisher: Capcom
Platforms: PC, NS
Price: $40
Version Played: NS

Monster Hunter Rise: Sunbreak is the download only expansion for my 2021 GOTY, Monster Hunter Rise. It features 100% less Rampages, 2 new hunting areas, a new story campaign, a new endgame, and new monsters, with more on the way. It's a lot of content. It's bigger than Iceborne was at launch. I haven't counted the quests, but it may even be bigger than Rise was at launch.
Sunbreak's story campaign plays out in the new Master Rank quests. This is a new higher difficulty, so you have to have killed Allmother Narwa to access it. There's 6 tiers of Master Rank quests, each with 16 to 31 quests within. You unlock an Urgent Quest after completing a certain amount of quests, and after you complete the Urgent Quest, you unlock the next tier of quests, just like in LR and HR. This campaign doesn't have a bunch of tutorials, like Kamura Village's, but there are still a few small monster killing quests. There's a new story that explains why Malzeno and his monster friends are bad, but you probably shouldn't care about that. It’s barely better than MHW’s story. The main difference with Sunbreak's campaign is that there's no longer different Hub and Village quests with separate progression. It's just one list of quests, and just like in Monster Hunter World, you can do all the campaign quests either solo or in multiplayer. This is how it should have always been, in my opinion.
I really like the campaign overall, but just like in MHW's Iceborne expansion, there's a lot of going back to old areas and fighting old monsters, which is kind of underwhelming. I've spent hundreds of hours doing those same hunts. I want to see some new stuff when starting one of these expansions, not fight Aknosom in the Frost Islands for the hundredth time. Those early Rank quests feel too much like the beginning of Rise's campaign. It gets a lot better when both new areas and more of the new monsters become available, though.
Sunbreak introduces 17 new monsters to the game, including a new final boss. Most of the monsters are just returning monsters from past games, like Gore Magala and Astalos, but among them are 4 all-new monsters and a few variants of monsters from Rise. Some of the variants include new versions of Rakna-Kadaki and Almudron. I think it’s a pretty good selection of new monsters. I would have liked more dragon or dinosaur type monsters, like Lagiacrus and Deviljho, since this expansion is all about knights and castles, but it’s still a pretty good bunch overall. Maybe they’ll add more reptiles with DLC.
Since Sunbreak has a sort of goth vibe to it, the new monsters look like they’re based on castles and classic monsters. The first one you’ll meet is Garangolm, a big rocky Gorilla whose head sort of looks like a Chess Rook. Then, we have Lunagaron, who is an icy werewolf. He starts off running around on all 4, and then transforms and walks around on 2 legs at different points throughout the fight. He reminds me of Jon Talbain from DarkStalkers in werewolf form. The final one of this trio is the cover monster, Malzeno. He’s kind of a vampire bat dragon, and his gear kind of looks like someone made knight armor out of Dracula from Castlevania. The last of the new monsters is the new final boss, Gaismagorm, who is another gigantic elder dragon, like Xeno'jiiva from MHW. I really like the designs of the 3 new monsters, and they're all pretty good fights.
The 2 new areas in Sunbreak are the Jungle and the Citadel. The Jungle is a tropical seaside environment full of palm trees, beaches, rocky cliffs, and sandy underground caves. There's also some mysterious ruins on the far end of the zone. It's very colorful and beautiful, and if it wasn't full of monsters, it might make a good vacation spot.
The Citadel is actually more cliffs and forest than it is a citadel. This area has huge pine trees, rivers, mossy stones, snowy cliffs, and icy caverns underneath. The only citadel here is in ruins. It looks pretty cool, though. It looks like the ruins of Castle Grayskull. There's little spots with ruins all over the zone, too. They make me wonder who lived here and which one of the monsters destroyed it all. I'm guessing it was Malzeno. This area looks especially cool and spooky at night, when it's covered in pink and purple lighting.
Sunbreak doesn't end when the credits roll, though. The endgame here is basically another campaign. After beating the story’s last boss, you unlock Anomaly Quests, which are basically Tempered monsters from MHW done right. In these, you fight tougher versions of every monster and get new materials from them, which you can use to craft new decorations and upgrade your weapons to R10. Not the armor, though. Only a few monsters get R10 armor sets. The monsters are split up into star tiers, and you get Urgent Quests you have to complete to access the next Rank, just like in the Master Rank campaign. The main difference here is that you have to raise your Hunter Rank for the Urgent Quests to pop up, not just do some quests. These versions of the monsters not only hit harder and have more HP, they're also more aggressive and have Malzeno's status effect, Bloodblight, which prevents you from naturally recovering red health, reduces healing, and gives a life steal effect to your attacks. If you don't do enough DPS to these monsters, they’ll do a huge explosion attack that does a lot of damage, but probably won't kill you if you're healed up.
In addition to the Master Rank and Anomaly Quests, there’s also a new type of quest called Follower Collab Quests. These are single player only quests, but you’ll be joined by some of the game’s more popular NPCs in them. You can play with Minoto and Hinoa, Rondine and Fiorayne, Master Utsuchi, and more. There are quests in which you’ll be grouped with specific NPCs, but after you do their quests, you’ll be able to take them along on other quests that let you choose whoever you want. All the NPCs have clever dialogue, they talk about you, talk to each other, pose with you, and even cook steak. So tasty! They’re no Palicos in a fight either. They know how to hunt and will heal, use items, and even ride monsters. They’re pretty awesome. It’s just too bad you can only do a specific set of quests with them. There’s so much potential here. Imagine bringing Mega Man, Zero, Dante, or Regina from Dino Crisis along on a hunt. I can’t wait to see what they do with this in future DLC.
Switch Skill Swap is the big new combat mechanic introduced in Sunbreak, but honestly, I’ve barely used it. Switch Skill Swap allows you to do just that, swap Switch Skills. You can customize 2 different Switch Skill loadouts at your item box and switch between them in the middle of combat by holding down ZL and pressing A + X. You can also save a bunch of different loadouts at the item box. It’s a neat idea, but there’s a reason why I don’t use the other skills, so I’m really not that interested in switching to them. Some of the new Switch Skills are pretty cool, but if I like them better, I’ll just put them in my main loadout.
I think this is a pretty great expansion. I love both of the new areas, the new monsters are cool, there’s awesome new versions of armor sets to craft, Rampages are gone, and I think I'll play Anomaly Quests for a few months at least. The Follower Quests are a lot of fun too. There’s so much to do here. I think this is a must have for all Monster Hunter fans.