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[Game Journal] gimmegaming - 2022

25,502
Posts
11
Years
Final Fantasy VII - Part Ten
The party moved about the town exploring and picking up items. It appears that this is actually Aerith's hometown, or at the least her mother's. That's an oof. She was so close to seeing it. Anyway, the party went to move on and continue the chase, but were interrupted by the appearance of Shinra troops. Elena, blaming the party for Tseng's death, knocked Cloud the fuck out and headed onwards but that doesn't seem to have delayed things really. Cloud woke up again soon after, grabbed a snowboard and the chase through the frozen north resumed.

One snowboarding course later, the party found themselves in a frozen forest and had to utilise a map to find their way through - solving a frozen lake puzzle in the process. Unfortunately, the cold did eventually take its toll and the party passed out, waking up in a hut being cared for my a guy named Holzoff - where the party can rest and recuperate. Once they were healed up, they headed out to try again. Eventually the party (Now Cloud, Red and Yuffie) made it to their next destination, climbing up a steep cliff to find an icy cave they had to traverse. At the end of the cave... more mountaineering. As it turned out, there was going to be a few rounds of this. Part way through, Yuffie tagged out for Tifa and then the party ascended the final cliff to reach a boss battle. This boss is a twin-headed dragon that does shitloads of fire and ice damage usually and sometimes earth damage just to spice things up. Not knowing this in advance fucking hurt cause none of my fire or ice nullifying stuff was equipped and it kicked my ass. Round two was a little different since I knew what to expect and had the appropriate gear equipped. The party reached the peak soon after, a huge crater called the whirlwind maze where the planets energy was clustered - evidence of a previous impact, smaller than the one Sephiroth planned. Rufus also arrived at about the same time, all the major players converging on one place.

The party hurried on to the end of the path where they watched as Sephiroth sacrificed the remaining cloaked figures that followed him. He then unleashed another Jenova boss. Luckily though, I had not thought to change the party's equipment since the previous boss and this turned out to be a fire form of Jenova. This meant this fight was actually extremely easy since it couldn't hurt me. The party simply nuked it to shit while taking no damage. Once the fight was done, Jenova was gone and the black materia remained. Cloud left it with Barret to guard and then he, Tifa and Red continued on to search for Sephiroth. What followed was 20 minutes of me trying to time dashing past obstacles that triggered unskippable fights because despite having done the same puzzle twice already, the timing on this puzzle was way more finicky for no clear reason. So that was fucking annoying. Eventually though the party made it past the bullshit and to the end of the road... and ended up in... Nibbelheim? Somehow Sephiroth had created an illusion and the party walked right into it. The party watched Sephiroth arrive in the village as he had once before... but the person who should have been Cloud was someone else. Tifa assured Cloud not to worry about it... which was honestly just even more suspicious. The illusion continued as the party watched not!Cloud goig through the same actions as Cloud once had. Sephiroth taunted Cloud, telling him he had been created as a failed clone of Sephiroth after Nibbelheim was first destroyed and given someone else's memories and boy was Tifa's discomfort damning.

Meanwhile, Rufus, Hojo and Scarlet found the "Promised Land," a giant source of materia and a monster sleeping within, something he called weapon, a creature (or creatues, it wasn't super clear) that would reduce things to nothingness in defence of the planet.

The scene skipped forward again, showing Barrett isolated all of a sudden after being engulfed in shadows. Someone who was very obviously not really Tifa approached and told him Cloud was in danger and the others had already reconvened. This was all an illusion set up by Sephiroth as well of course. The party had been there all along, knocked out, and he was taking the black materia right into Sephiroth's hands.

Back with the Shinra group, Cloud and co appeared suddenly in their midst. Cloud told the Shinra people they should leave as they had reached the sight of the Reunion, things were soon to get very bad. Cloud, thoroughly out of his mind, took the black materia from Barret and flew up in the materia-tree-thing. Hojo, far too happily, explained that Jenova was rebuilding it true self there - instigated by Sephiroth who had actually did five years prior and kept himself physically present through sheer force of will. Encased in crystal, Sephiroth's true body appeared. Cloud, under his control again, gave the true Sephiroth the black materia and all hell broke loose as the weapons escaped and the party (minus Cloud) and Shinra made a hasty escape. There was then a cutscene showing how the false Cloud and Tifa met each other.

A week later, Tifa awoke from a coma in Junon. Barrett revealed to her that they didn't know where Cloud was, that meteor was in effect and a huge meteor (or a planet/moon even) was rapidly closing in on the planet and that the Weapons were causing chaos everywhere. Rufus and Shinra were fighting the monsters, but they hadn't exactly turned good either because they soon appeared and told the pair of them they were to be publicly executed as scapegoats for the causing of the apocalypse. Well then.

A lot happened this time but I'll have to pick up the rest later because it is weirdly hot for this time of the year in this room and I'm suffering lmao.
 
25,502
Posts
11
Years
Final Fantasy VII - Part Eleven
As Tifa was stuck in a gas chamber to expect a slow and painful death, an alarm went off signalling an attack by Weapon. As the personnel present rushed to their stations, Cait Sith dropped their super obvious surprise and knocked Scarlet out with a mild dose of her own gas before helping Barrett defeat his guards and attempt to free Tifa even as Shinra engaged Weapon. Unfortunately, Tifa was thoroughly trapped in the chamber. Luckily, Cait Sith had a plan B. That plan B seemed to be a wrong turn as the party ended up at a dead end at the airport. Meanwhile, as Shinra seemed to defeat Weapon, Tifa managed to escape on her own because she's a badass like that. Tifa slapped the shit out of Scarlet and made a diving escape onto the party's newly acquired Highwind airship and reunited not just with Barret, Cait Sith and Yuffie but also Red, Vincent and Cid. The gang was all together again and set off in search of Cloud.

The party flew all over the place to no avail, eventually stumbling into the town of Mideel. At Mideel, the party found a comatose Cloud who had washed ashore there. He was in a bad state because of his mako exposure though, so in the end Tifa stayed with him and the party moved on without them for the time being. Shortly after, thanks to Cait Sith, the party were able to listen in to a Shinra meeting and hear their plan to deal with Meteor... smashing a bunch of giant materia into it. This seemed like a bad idea, so Cid was appointed the interim leader as the party prepared to intercept Shinra at Corel.

The party (Cid, Barret and Red now) got to Corel and the nearby reactor but were too late to stop the extraction of the huge materia, leaving them no choice but to chase down the train it was being moved on. In a very intense sequence, the party had to fight through a bunch of enemies while also battling a timer because the train was going to plough right through Corel and wreak havoc. Luckily, they managed to stop the train and claim the materia. The next stop was Fort Condor where the party fought off an encroaching Shinra army to once again protect the condor nest and secure the second huge materia. The new condor was born as the old one passed in light of the victory and the party also got one of my favourite summons, Phoenix, for their efforts. The party the recuperated and headed back to Mideel to check in with Tifa and Cloud.

There was little time to spend on hospital visitation though as while the part were there, the Ultima Weapon attacked. This was a rough fight that I was not at all ready for and the first attempt didn't go well. The party wiped pretty fast. The second go was still rough, but I played more defensively having Cid drop buffs first while Red focused on healing until the party were all set to unleash hell. Ultima Weapon wasn't defeated, but the party did manage to drive it off. In the aftermath of the fight though, the quaking only got worse and everyone was forced to evacuate. Most of the party could escape, but Tifa and Cloud were too slow to get out and were subsequently dumped into the lifestream. Within, Tifa found herself inside Cloud's mind (or something like that anyway). Together, she and Cloud were able to finally piece together his memories and identity. Five years prior during the incident at Nibbelheim, what we had seen before as Cloud's memories actually were those of Zach from Gongaga - Cloud instead was one of the masked pleb soldiers. When Tifa confronted Sephiroth at the reactor and was wounded, Zach had been killed by Sephiroth and Cloud had leapt in and killed Sephiroth in defence of Tifa. When both had come too on the Highwind, Cloud explained that all members of Soldier were injected with Jenova's cells which is how he had essentially been made into a Sephiroth clone/puppet body. He couldn't resist that influence. The party, reinvigorated and all together again, readied up and made their way towards Junon to take the last huge materia from the underwater mako reactor.

With that, the party began their attack on Junon. I'm planning to come back to this more tonight but for now I need a break.
 
25,502
Posts
11
Years
Final Fantasy VII - Part Twelve
The party fought their way through Shinra troops and entered the underwater reactor. Continuing to carve through Shinra soldiers, they soon reached the sight of the huge materia, to witness it being moved to a submarine by a crane. Naturally, they gave chase. Unfortunately for them, they ran headfirst into Reno of the Turks who subjected them to a boss fight against a big robot. With no time for bullshit, the party unloaded all their best attacks on the machine and eventually, by the skin of their teeth, felled it. The submarine was gone though, so they had to commandeer one of their own to go after it. This meant another unpleasant but blessedly quick mini where the party had to shoot down the sub with the materia in it. With their new sub, the party searched for and collected the last huge materia. That's all for today.

Something fun I've noticed in the latter part of the game is that a lot of the generic enemy plebs have started fearing the party which is cool. It gives you a real sense of progress that enemies now flee on site or panic when they fight you compared to before when they gladly rushed in to face you. It's a nice touch.
 
25,502
Posts
11
Years
Final Fantasy VII - Part Thirteen
The part intercepted a concerning call and quickly made their towards Junon's airport once again. There they watched as an aeroplane loaded with the remaining huge materia took off bound for Rocket Town and borded the Highwind to pursue them. The party reached the eponymous rocket, Red tagging out for Cid part way through since he took Shinra's presence on his rocket quite personally. They reached the top where they fought Rude (a Turk) and his squad of soldiers. Although calling what they did to them a fight is being generous.

Once the party were on board and in the cockpit, Cid dismissed his crew and prepared to send the party off to take control himself with the auto-pilot down. Unfortunately, the auto-pilot was repaired before he could take further action and the ship was launched with the party still within the cockpit. The party managed to, with some rapid and desperate button mashing, retrieve the huge materia and prepared to bail out in the escape pod. There was a malfunction along the way and a tank exploded, trapping beneath some metal. However, Shera appeared having been on board double-checking the escape pod still and helped them free Cid. Cid acknowledged Shera had been right about that tank being defective before as they disembarked.

As planned, the rocket crashed into Meteor... but this was no ordinary asteroid. Even though it was partially destroyed, it began to reform and everyone was back to square one. The party, after some inspiring words from Cid of all people, decided to go back to talk to Red's grandfather in Cosmo Canyon, deciding he was their best hope for finding a solution. After talking to Bugenhagen, they realised that Aerith likely had some sort of plan given how confident she was she could stop Sephiroth. With that in mind and the old man in tow, the headed for the Forgotten City once more. There they learned that the black materia and meteor have a white magic equivalent, the white materia and holy. The party pieced together that Aerith had the white materia and that it had sunk beneath the water when she died. Good thing they had a submarine. The party set out to retrieve the white materia. Beneath the waves, the party retrieved something called the Key of the Ancients and took it to Bugenhagen back in the Forgotten City.
 
25,502
Posts
11
Years
Final Fantasy VII - Part Fourteen
With the key, Bugenhagen activated a device that showed the party a projection. It showed Aerith's death and what became of the white materia... and also that she had already used it. Holy was already in effect, but Sephiroth was managing to hold it back. That was a problem, but it also meant that Sephiroth's defeat would also save the planet from Meteor. A nice way to tie all these distinct plot elements back together. As the party exited the projection room, Cloud got a call from our friendly double agent, Cait Sith, They revealed that the cannon from Junon, the one that runs on huge materia and was being used to fight off the Weapons, had been moved to Midgar to be powered by their mako reactors there. They planned to use it against Sephiroth whatever the cost. Another problem the party needed to solve.

Things only got worse from there though. As the party returned to the Highwind, one of the Weapons emerged from the ocean and began heading towards Midgar itself. Yet another problem for the party to deal with. They prepped themselves and headed to confront it. Along the way, because this was clearly the time, Cait Sith got into an interesting argument with Barrett, who was focused only on the fate of Marlene. They pointed out that Avalanche destroying the mako reactor before, even if they had good reason, had killed lots of people and that he was kind of selfish in a way, only thinking about what was right by him. Tifa suggested that Cait Sith couldn't leave Shinra because they were trying to protect people. It was an interesting turn of events that I hope gets explored more.

This thing hit hard as hell, but ultimately it couldn't keep up with the heavy damage and recovery the party was capable of. They defeated the Weapon and gained a fuckload of exp. This wasn't the end though, the Weapon was still heading for Midgar... but Shinra's cannon was ready. Shinra fired the cannon, piercing through and defeating the wounded Weapon... and continuing right through to destroy the barrier around Sephiroth's cave. Not before Weapon, in retaliation, rained hell down upon Shinra HQ and Weapon - seemingly killing Rufus.

Concerned, the party went to investigate the Northern Cave, now unimpeded by the barrier. While the party were surveying the damage though, Cait Sith (now revealed to be operated by Reeve, one of Rufus' top three) realised something was off and warned the party/Shinra that the cannon (I will not call it fucking Sister Ray) was no longer under Shinra control and was operating (apparently) on its own, refusing to shut down. Cut to Hojo, the crazy scientist tampering with the cannon to send mako energy to Sephiroth. Shutting down the reactors powering the cannon wasn't an option, it result in a detonation that would destroy Midgar just the same as if Hojo finished his plan. The party had no choice but to double back around to Midgar and deal with Hojo directly. Of course, Heidegger and Scarlet wouldn't side with Reeve and, for personal petty reasons, decided to stand in the party's way. Just the same, the party couldn't sit by and do nothing, so they parachuted into Midgar.

Following Reeve' lead, the party headed into the underground to avoid Heidegger. The party made their way through a twisted series of tunnels, fighting behemoths and robotic sentries until finally they faced the Turks once more. The Turks had their orders, to hunt the party down and kill them (even if Elena wasn't thrilled about it) and the party had their mission. The fight was on: Cloud, Red and Tifa vs Elena, Reno and Rude. This fight was hard. Easily the first in a while to make me really work and the first ever to take more than two attempts. On my third attempt, I went "fuck it" and equipped anti-elemental shit to negate the heavy fire and lightning damage I was taking. It was cheap, but desperate times call for desperate measure lmao. The party set up Haste and Regen and proceeded to unload on the Turks, Stealing their shit as they did so. The Turks still put in work, even with their elemental attacks largely negated, but eventually were defeated. As the Turks fled, the party healed up and carried on... directly into another boss fight. This time against Heidegger and Scarlet inside an enormous mech.

The mech, naturally, packed a punch. However, it had nothing on the Turks. Tifa set up Haste and Regen and the party pelted Heidegger and Scarlet with powerful attacks, Red healing everyone up as needed. They were quickly dispatched. The party carried on and came face-to-face with Hojo at the cannon soon thereafter. He claimed he was doing it because Sephiroth, who was actually his son, needed the power. In the past, he had given his wife and child over to Gast's Jenova experiment. He attacked and the first multi-phase boss fight began.

Hojo's fight was long, but it wasn't hard. While each phase did more and more damage, he couldn't keep up with Tifa and Red's healing - especially with Cloud having barriers up weakening his damage anyway. Witht he party all Hasted, it was as simple as hitting Hojo with all their best attacks. Every iteration of Bahamut, Kjarta, Phoenix, Odin, Ultima, Limit Breaks - all of it. To his credit, while he couldn't take the party down, they did have to spend everything they had to keep him down too. It was one hell of a slugfest. His defeat was inevitable though, and soon he fell.

With Hojo defeated and his interference stopped, the party assembled on the highwind. They established the truth of the matter, they all had personal reasons for what they were doing. They weren't just saving the planet, they were in it for their own vendettas too. This wasn't a bad thing though, it just gave them even more reason to fight. With seven days left before the fall of Meteor, the party dispersed to put their affairs in order and then all returned to face their final battle. It was onwards towards Sephiroth.

Things are getting hype now!
 
25,502
Posts
11
Years
Final Fantasy VII - Part Fifteen
Fuck the Northern Cave. Filling a dungeon with a load of monsters that can hit you with an instant death effect isn't making the game challenging, it's making it unfair. Luckily, I had enough anti-instant death stuff with me that once I figured out what I had walked into I was okay. With that bullshit out the way, the party continued their descent down the crater. Through this, I did encounter an actually tough monster a few times - the black dragon. This thing has powerful attacks and the ability to cast freaking Ultima. Not a single boss fight as of yet has been as fearsome as this random encounter monster. Comparatively, without the ability to instant kill, most of the other monsters were pushovers.

Finally, after a gruelling descent, the party reached a fork in the road and were forced to split into two teams. Cloud, Tifa and Yuffie took the left path while everyone else (with Red covering their asses lbr) went right. A large amount of cave ward travel ensued, fighting through many obnoxious enemies (fucking Tonberries). Finally though, the party were able to reconvene at the centre of the cave system, distribute the loot and prepare for the final battle. Before much could be said, enemies started approaching from behind. The group couldn't all stay together for long. Cloud, Tifa and Red descended to face Sephiroth while Barret, Cid, Yuffie, Cait Sith and Vincent stayed behind to hold off the incoming threat.

Of course, it wasn't so simple as just walking up to Sephiroth. The party had to descend down a glowy path of floating broken stone as the Jenova music played (I wonder what that could possibly signal...), all the while fighting through ludicrously powerful foes. Until, sure enough, Jenova stood before them once more. Jenova, as per usual, went down easily, but it wasn't going to be as simple as that for Sephiroth. The party descended deeper still when suddenly they found themselves before Holy. A moment later though, the remaining party members were abruptly teleported in and Sephiroth appeared before them. The fight began with Cloud, Red and Tifa facing Sephiroth down.

This fight was brutal. Sephiroth's damage output was insane - the man's Supernova attack straight up ruined the solar system and the party on multiple occasions with the trio just barely scraping through thanks to their barriers and regen. His longevity was even worse. He had a few billion HP and kept putting up his own barrier that needed repeated dispelling. The party hammered him with Limit Breaks, their best E-Skills and Spells and even the odd regular attack for well over an hour until finally, after one last confrontation with Cloud 1 v 1, he had been taken down three times and this time stayed down. Holy activated and, just barely, defended the planet against Meteor thanks to the freeing of the Lifestream. They barely made it through but, in the end, the world was saved.

So, Final Fantasy VII. The overwhelmingly most popular game in the franchise. The game that got a generation of people into Final Fantasy. Probably one of the most definitive titles of the PS1 era. I liked it! I can definitely see why it means so much to so many people.

The story itself is very ambitious and complex compared to earlier Final Fantasy titles. The only other one up to that point that really goes that hard on the scale of the story is FFVI which is one of my favourite games and I think FFVII continues the trend of a vast story well executed. The characters all felt very grounded in their setting with their own motivations for doing what they do and, by and large, were very compelling. Some characters started off slow or had dead patches, but nobody was boring the whole way through. I suspect I might have missed a lot of stuff for Yuffie and Vincent given their optional status, but they still felt like a part of the cast in full despite that - especially Yuffie. Most of the cast had solid character arcs and those that didn't generally had something else that kept them interesting.

The villains were a bit of a mixed bag. The Turks rarely felt threatening and usually felt more like comic relief. I don't think that was really the intention going by how they came off later on, but that's just how it is. I really liked Shinra as a whole though. In fact, while Sephiroth was very imposing as an antagonist, I think Rufus was a lot more compelling. It was cool having three factions all at odds with each other though (the party, Shinra and Sephiroth). It made for some very interesting character dynamics and sometimes left you questioning just what was going to happen at the end. I appreciated the environmentalist themes with Shinra too and I was pleased that, while they got muddied a bit towards the end, the story mostly continued to factor them in. Hell, even Sephiroth himself was a bi-product of the hubris of Shinra which was a nice touch to keep everything tied together. Comparatively though, Sephiroth himself was thematically lacking give the rest of the narrative. You could argue his refusal to die tied him in to the narrative of natural v unnatural, which makes sense, but the link felt tenuous at best. He felt less like an entity of his own and more like a mistake created by Shinra, which was a little iffy since he clearly had agency and relished in what he was doing. I'm not sure how I'd fix that myself to be fair, but something felt lacking and I think it is because of the final bbeg's tenuous link to the thematics of the story.

Speaking of the story though, I do like that consequences felt prevalent - something other Final Fantasy games sometimes lack. Aerith's death felt like it mattered and it continued to reverberate throughout the story even after the fact. Shinra flew too close to the sun and rained hellfire down upon the world as a result, even unleashing the nightmare creation that is Sephiroth. Even the party had to face the consequences of their action, Reeve struggled to earn back the trust he lost and Barrett had to face up to his own death toll. Consequences should matter in a story and I'm pleased FFVII realised this.

Mechanically, the ATB still sucks and it would be impossible to enjoy the game without wait mode (for me anyway). I like time to make choices and to enjoy the game rather than having to race against the timer. The fights never felt unfair but were rarely too easy to be fun either - especially towards the later half of the game. That being said, Northern Cave's insta-death enemies are hardcore bullshit and that is a terrible way to manufacture difficulty. It's just bad game design. Also, Sephiroth's boss fight was really fun but I feel like it was starting to draw on way too long. It just went on and on and it was starting to wear thin by the end. It wasn't obscenely hard (although it certainly wasn't easy), just obscenely long. It didn't quite overstay its welcome, but it was pushing its luck. It definitely didn't help that he used Supernova like five times and every time I had to watch the entire damn solar system-destruction cut scene and the fallout. The only other thing to say about the gameplay is that, as is Final Fantasy tradition, the mini games were terrible and I was thoroughly peeved by how many of them were a mandatory part of the gameplay experience.

Visually, I was really impressed. Obviously the graphics in a PS1 game do not hold up for the most part. Everything is janky and polygonal. That being said, you can tell that it was cutting edge for its era and that some of those cut scenes probably pushed the PS1 to its limit. The cutscenes with Aerith and Cloud at the Gold Saucer were especially pretty. Musically, we're well into the era of Final Fantasy music being iconic as hell with FF7. The overworld music was pretty meh, but the character themes and battle music were all top-notch and the music always fit the mood of the story really well. Sephiroth's theme (of course), the Jenova theme, the Forgotten City theme, Aerith's theme, the Cosmo Canyon/Red XIII theme and The Great Warrior were all really good pieces of music with the latter being my favourite from the game.

So, how does FFVII stack up to the other Final Fantasy games in my ever growing list of FF games? Pretty well! It doesn't top FFX and I think VI just barely edges it, but it's strong competition for FFIX's third place spot. I'd say I'd give a tentative ranking of X, VI, IX, VII, III, IV, XIV (ARR) and then V with XII out of the list until I replay it and reassess my thoughts. It's a tough call for places 2-4 though. I can definitely see why FFVII does top so many lists for other people though. It's a fantastic game.

Writing: 8/10
Visuals: 7/10
Soundtrack: 9/10
Gameplay: 7/10
Total Score: 31/40
 
25,502
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11
Years
Catherine - Summary
So, I'm doing this as an overview because, despite it having a story and being a decent 10-12 hours long, there's not a lot to actually say about Catherine. Definitely not enough to break it down into a different post per play session - almost every single one would read "got drunk and pushed blocks around."

So, what is Catherine? Catherine is a game about a guy named Vincent. He's got a sucky job, a bar he likes to go to with his longterm buddies and a relationship he's been in for about five years. Fairly ordinary guy, even if he's starting to feel the societal pressure of being pushed towards marriage since he and Katherine (yes, with a "k") have been together for so long. Then, he starts having awful nightmares about climbing huge towers of blocks at about the same time rumours about people having dreams where they'll die for real if they did in the dream. The day after the first nightmare hit him, he wakes up in bed with Catherine (with a "C" this time). Uh oh. The game then follows him as he continues to have these nightmares, climbing worse and worse block puzzles each night while struggling to figure out what the hell to do about Katherine and Catherine in the day hours.

The core gameplay loop is pretty simple. Vincent climbs an increasingly hazardous block tower puzzle with a progressively smaller group of fellow "sheep" - think of it like Jenga but you have to climb the tower as you shift blocks around, some of the blocks are trapped and there's a bunch of other crazy sheep-people stuck on the tower too who will absolutely push you off to save their own skin. If you fall, you die. After each nightmare, he interacts with his friends and other patrons at the local bar as he tries to navigate the messed up situation he's found himself in - one that becomes increasingly more complicated (and supernatural) as he continues to fail to break of the affair. Naturally, the situation is not as it seems.

The gameplay is... cool but also infuriating. The basic concept of the platform puzzles is really clever and you really do have to think. Sometimes a little too much. It is very easy to find yourself getting frustrated by Catherine's puzzles. Some of them really do feel like straight up bullshit and that was with me playing on easy because I don't really like puzzles that much and didn't have the energy to commit to a more difficult experience. Thank fuck I didn't play on a harder mode too because, while I am confident I could definitely get through it on a tougher mode, it would have taken forever and I would have started to find it rather tedious. Catherine is one of those games that I feel tries a little too hard to be challenging to the point where at times it just wasn't fun. Even on easy. Yikes. So that did sour it for me a bit even though I did enjoy it over all. I don't really have the patience for trial and error stuff like that.

The music was great, but it's a game from the same people who do Persona and SMT which are both famous for their great soundtracks. The voice acting was also mostly really good - the only character who felt like they didn't emote enough was Erica and that was partly just how she was written I think. Something I was really impressed with was how expressive the character models were though. Everyone was very vibrant and alive for the most part.

So... Catherine is a game about choices and about freedom. The stairway-like puzzle is a metaphor for personal growth as you struggle towards greater heights and the elusive goal of "freedom." There's no one way to solve most of the puzzles, you have a lot of freedom to choose how you get through things. Vincent has to face the consequences of his choices and his choice paralysis and yearns to be free of societal pressure - he wants to make up his own mind. The antagonist has to learn that people aren't a flock of sheep, they're complicated and need room to grow. They need the freedom to choose and need to face the results of those choices. Would I choose to play through again? Probably not. I had fun ultimately and Catherine is definitely not a bad game, but it's not my kind of thing. If you really love puzzle platformers - heavy on the puzzle element - I'd highly recommend it. If that's not your thing, I'd say give it a pass. Especially if you're not someone with the patience for a lot of trial and error.

Writing: 6/10
Visuals: 7/10
Soundtrack: 7/10
Gameplay: 7/10
Total Score: 27/40
 
25,502
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11
Years
Digimon Story Cyber Sleuth - Part Twenty-One
I went to speak to spirit Yuugo but as I got there shit got real weird and glitchy. A bunch of Eaters appeared and I heard a voice talking about how the world would end as a result. As the Eaters jumped for me though, I was taken to an empty void where I was able to actually speak to Yuugo. He confirmed that he was indeed a victim of Eden syndrome and that he was the one who brought me to the forest. He also said I somehow ended up with a fragment of his memories in me which might explain the weird flashbacks. He certainly seemed to know the other protagonists.

After that, I was "called back" to reality mysteriously by someone with a "deep connection" to me and appeared back with a week having passed and everything being chaos with corruption all over the place. I reconvened with Arata, Yuuko and Nokia at the agency to figure out what was going on. Apparently while I had been gone, Kyoko vanished. Things kept going at a hell of a pace from there as I was filled in about the Eaters in reality going nuts, Crusadermon still being on the loose and then experienced a glitch to my own body briefly. Then the detective walks in out of nowhere to talk to Arata - explaining he was on the line for "Rie Kishibe's" disappearance and the hack that caused the blackout (the latter of which he was actually responsible for). Arata made a break for it - showing us that it was possible to summon up his digimon partner at will in reality thanks to the corruption of the digital shift. The detective went after him and with the spotlight on him, we were free to act as he pleased. Yuuko went to look for Crusadermon/Kishibe and Nokia went off to try and handle diplomacy between to colliding worlds. That left me to... wonder where the hell Kyoko went and figure out something to do myself. Then a path opened up as Date - the crazy cop lady- showed up with a Lopmon who wanted help in tracking down a missing Tokomon (beginning chapter 13). Finding the lost little guy didn't take long and soon both Lopmon and Tokomon were off under Nokia's protection.

I took a nap then because the game told me I had to which led to a weird ass dream sequence about some little girl called Fuuka meeting a bunch of Digimon. I then woke up to a bunch of cases which I had to take care of. This mostly felt like busy work but it didn't feel as bad as previous similar segments because it made a lot of narrative sense. I have to handle a world going mad in Kyoko's absence, so naturally there's a lot of dumb tasks to do to maintain some semblance of order.

Once the busy work was over, it was time for what seemed like it might be the next plot-relevant case. I had to go to talk to someone called Masanori in Ueno who was looking for help for his sister. Perhaps this could be the mysterious Fuuka? I went to meet him and he explained she had been sneaking out at night to meet what he believed to be "bad friends" and asked me to do something about it. This was definitely going to be her. Sure enough, the girl was Fuuka and the friends were Digimon. I talked some sense into Masanori and that was that... or so it seemed. But he wanted me back the next night to keep an eye on things. Good thing I did it too cause this ugly fucker called Cyclonemon showed up and needed a good ass kicking for trying to eat a kid. Also interesting, apparently I'm having vision dreams now because of being part digital during the shift. Cool.

Anyway, once that was done I got called out to Shibuya by Nokia to kick off Chapter 14. Apparently we would need to track down the Royal Knights and get them on our side to help fight off the eaters and deal with the continuous flow of conflict between humans and Digimon that the shift was causing. First stop, Akihabara to track down Galantmon. But that will have to wait for next time.

It was fun to get back into this after so long - and I made it through two chapters too. It seems like they're getting shorter as the pace of the game builds towards the climax which is nice. I also liked that the busy work filler missions actually felt like they mattered and made sense for a change. That was nice.
 
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Digimon Story Cyber Sleuth - Part Twenty-two
We went to talk to Gallantmon but ran into Leopardmon and Dynasmon first who were not very chill about humans and planned to kill us all. Luckily Gallantmon did show up and managed to temporarily diffuse things before the shit really hit the fan. It as explained the knights were split roughly 50/50 on the destruction of the human world, so there was hope of bringing more on to our side. The search would continue later, but first I had work to do and took a detective job at the hospital.

Chika, the girl who chased me away when I investigated her father way back appeared at the office. He seemed to be starting to be starting to get his memory back and was talking about a betrayal by Kamashiro, but the experience was severely addling his brain so he'd been checked into a hospital for observation. Chika asked me to get to the bottom of it and, as the plot demanded, I agreed. I ran into Yuuko there and we had a talk about her brother. After that she decided to tag along while I dealt with Chika's dad... which is good because he was AWOL and I had to track him down.

We found him and he begged us to take him back to the Roppongi lab where Yuuko had previously been held by Crusadermon. We snuck him out and headed right over. There, he remembered having helped set up the basic framework for Eden with Suedo... and that Suedo had taken his memories. He had us plugged into the machine that Yuuko had been impersonating her brother with to try and recover his memory, but this caused a digital shift. Naturally, I jumped into the machine/his head to try and rectify things. I followed the path to the end and fought a weird-ass looking alien-robot-thing Digimon and in the end restored Yamashina's memories. He then explained that when he and Suedo ran the beta test for Eden years ago, the five kids who took part in the trial were afflicted by EDEN syndrome. Four of them woke up, Yuugo did not. Apparently, Yamashiro also had Suedo remove his memories to spare him the guilt. Apparently Seudo also arranged the five kids' memories - kids who I assume are Nokia, Arata, Yuuko and myself in addition to the unconscious Yuugo. That would also explain the flashbacks, the weird connection they all seem to have and why none of them could remember something as huge as being the beta testers. Yamashina also mentioned that we'd all been talking about some sort of weird fairy tail world when we woke up and that Suedo had been very interested in that. Anyway, after that, he had us erase his memories again because he was a less shitty dad without them. We were a little uncertain about that morally but went through with it and brought him home to Chika.

We split up from there but I was immediately called to Shinjuku by Detective Matayoshi because he and Date were in trouble and desperately needed help. They're going to have to wait for next time though because I have other shit to do.
 
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Angels of Death - Part One
So... I ended up with another game that is largely puzzle-based. Ha. Ha. Yay. It's my fault I guess. I put it in the RNG. The thing is... I'm not amazing at puzzles. My gripes with puzzle games extend beyond my own abilities though because puzzle-based games frequently fall into two really annoying brackets - either the puzzles are ridiculously abstract (like Deponia) or they're not that hard but actually executing your solutions is hard (Catherine's boss levels often fit this category) - so either they're ludicrously difficult and frustrating or they're easy to solve and frustrating because you can't actually put your solutions into practice. This is also a horror game, so I'm expecting it to be more of the latter.

We kicked things off with our protagonist Rachel Gardener - although she seems to prefer Ray - waking up in the basement of some sort of hospital. Apparently she witnessed someone die and was brought in for psychiatric care. Unfortunately, this doesn't seem to be the hospital she was brought to. In fact, it seems to be some sort of murder facility she will have to ascend through while being chased by murderous lunatics.

The first floor I had to get through seemed to be more dirty backroads than inside a building. Rachel quickly found a door with no keyhole and a key for a second door. It didn't take too long to find the next key and get into a building where some snacks could be obtained... out of a box that she specifically noted she could maybe fit into. So it was clear at some point, she was going to hide in that box.

Sure enough, Rachel was soon running away from a killer called Zach who very much wanted her dead and she managed to get a brief reprieve inside that box. It is here that I will note that this game has very clunky controls. They're clunkier on a controller than with a keyboard and a mouse, but I'm really bad with a keyboard and mouse so controller was still my better option. It still made escaping to the box very annoying. Especially because this is the only game in existence where you have to click to open doors and Zach moves three times faster than tiny young Rachel. So... that was annoying. It was also only dumb luck that I figured out the bird puzzle to get the key I needed for later. Anyway, Rachel unlocked the sealed lift door and managed to just narrowly escape a second chase from Zach to ascend to the next basement level... but not before demonstrating that she was maybe not entirely all there as far as her own sanity goes.

On the next floor, Rachel ran into her therapist who was apparently in the same mess as her. He joined the party but I was immediately pretty sure the suspiciously upbeat therapist would be an issue at some point. The more he talked about how great Rachel's eyes were, the more certain I got. Naturally it didn't take long before my suspicions were confirmed and Rachel was strapped onto a chair by dear Doctor Danny who very much wanted those eyes of hers. Rachel started having weird flashbacks, then Zach appeared out of nowhere and offed Danny. He went to kill Rachel too, but she had spontaneously decided she actually kind of wanted to die which took the fun out of it. Zach was then labelled a traitor by a voice on the intercom and also made a sacrifice. He ran for it and Rachel followed. They came to an agreement that if Rachel helped him get out of the facility, he'd kill her like she (quite suddenly) wanted. So with an alliance formed, they headed up to the next floor. This floor was basically a giant graveyard and very kindly featured a grave pre-made for Rachel. Control switched to Zach for a while... he was weirdly offput by all the graves and took to smashing them... which uncovered the door mechanism Rachel needed to open the next section. Inside that room Rachel found a switch she couldn't do anything with and paperwork about herself and about Zach and his murderous history. She found the other switch and Zach stand on it to activate and then went back to do the first one herself.

Unfortunately, while separated the master of Basement Floor Four showed up and he rather obsessively wanted to bury Rachel in one of his graves. She had a deal though, so that wasn't happening. The creepy kid chased Rachel through a labyrinth but failed to catch her before she turned the power back on. Zach caught him and murdered him and the unlikely duo headed up to the next floor. It is at this point I realised it was "Zack" not "Zach" - but I'm not going back through this whole entry to fix it.

So... that's part one finished. I'm guessing Rachel might have killed her family or something herself to have ended up in this messed up situation. I'm hoping that this is going to turn into some sort of weird lesson about not giving up on life or something instead of just being edgy for the sake of being edgy, but I guess only time will tell. The puzzles so far haven't been too tricky to figure out and rarely have the chases gotten in the way of them so that's nice. The power cutting out all the time in the maze and the original Zack chase were kind of annoying and I really do wish the controls were smoother, but it's a low-budget game so I shouldn't complain. It's decent. I wish the characters were more interesting too... so far neither Rachel nor Zack have proved particularly likeable or compelling. We'll just have to see how it goes.
 
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Angels of Death - Part Two
This next segment was off to an interesting start. Ray and Zack found themselves stepping out into Basement Floor 3... and a locked cell. They tried to open it, but had no means of doing so. That was until after a failed shooting attempt, this floor's resident psycho decided to let them through for her own amusement. Side note: this brief segment also included the best music the game has had so far by miles. Anyway, the duo proceeded onwards.

This floors master took a really different approach to the last few - Zack included. She decided to heard our weird protagonists around her level via locking and unlocking doors and an intercom. She started out with having them take their own mugshots before trapping Zack in an electric chair and forcing Rachel to solve a puzzle to save him from being fried. This was also the point where Cathy was definitely locked in as the best music so far. Next up she tried a poison gas chamber - forcing them to take turns with one gas mask as they tried to escape. I liked this puzzle quite a lot honestly. It was like doing an escape room. Zack also started to show something resembling legitimate concern for Rachel after the poison gas messed her up a bit. I do like some character development. We also got to see some of his backstory and the messed up orphanage he grew up in during a flashback while they rested to recuperate. Next up, Rachel and Zach were split up and the former had to help the latter navigate through a maze full of pit traps from a view on a screen.

Things actually got kind of interesting following that. Cathy forced a situation where Zack got delirious and started trying to kill Rachel - who ran because despite her death wish, she recognised that this wasn't how Zach would have wanted it to play out (they still had an agreement where she had to help him escape). Then Cathy gave Rachel a means to fight back (a gun) but Rachel wouldn't pull the trigger. Zack went crazy and stabbed himself with some real thin justifications for not wanting to murder Rachel so Cathy entered the room, revealing the gun she gave Rachel was never loaded. Cathy went to finish Zach off but Rachel - having some dim and vague homicidal flashbacks - pulled a different gun and shot Cathy and then Zach finished her off.

The two of them then ascended towards the next floor of the lift, Zach in a weirdly good mood. Zach asked Rachel about how she ended up in the facility and about the gun. She explained that she had witnessed a murder and been hospitalised for counselling. She also told him the gun was hers and she'd had it since she'd witnessed said murder. So... she definitely killed someone (probably her parents) and got stuck in this facility as some sort of punishment.

I liked this segment a lot more than the last. It was paced a lot better with Cathy having a lot more presence and we got some actual character growth and hints as to the nature of the facility and as to why Rachel and Zach are there. The music was way better too and I found the puzzles more interesting - especially the escape room. I still wouldn't necessarily say this is a particularly amazing game, but this was a big improvement over the previous segments.
 
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Angels of Death - Part Three
So... was not expecting the next floor to be aesthetically based on a church. But here we are.

With Zack still pretty badly wounded, this section started off with a concerned Rachel leaving him alone by the lift to go and search for medicinal supplies to treat his wound. Right from the beginning the game made a point of hammering in that a weird, but genuine bond is developing between these two characters. Good. That's a positive sign.

Rachel had to pass through a bunch of weird vaguely biblical puzzles, all the while under the influence of some weird scent the candles were producing that was messing with her head. Eventually though, she found herself inside a straight up church where she encountered Grey, the master of the floor. Unlike all the previous masters who had tried to kill her, Grey proved unnervingly cooperative, telling Rachel that she could find medicinal supplies back on Danny's floor. He also said that he knew more about Zack than most which is interesting. Before he would show Rachel the way though, she had to pass a test for him. Thus the less cooperative elements of him began to quickly shine through... but he wasn't attacking or anything.

He hung about in the church leaving Rachel to figure out if she was willing to take his test. In the meantime, she went back to check on Zack. He was not doing well at all, but tried to move regardless. Rachel was having none of that shit. Zack was worried she wouldn't be able to make it (noticeably, without mentioning he needed her smarts to get out) but she convinced him she would manage. Strangely, she did not mention Grey. She explained she was going to head back to floor 5. Before passing out again, Zach asked her to get something from his own floor for him as well. Rachel returned to Grey to take his test.

First she had to activate the lift on Cathy's floor, pressing a button hidden in one of the cells where she imprisoned many of her victims. A lot of dangerous and angry prisoners seemed to have gotten out though. She was determined to save Zack though, so Rachel accessed Cathy's wall guns and gunned them down to go and activate the switch. This caused her to hallucinate Cathy, chiding her for the heartless violence. When Grey asked her why she did it, she simply professed that they were in the way quite emotionlessly. Girl's got priorities. Cold as fuck.

On the next floor, activating the switch was a simpler task. Rachel simply had to catch what were apparently toy hands... that screamed when she hurt them. She grabbed enough and stitched them to a stick to get the reach she needed to reach the switch and then returned to Grey. He once again asked her about the choices she made and she was honest. She did technically not admit to the hands screaming, but she reasoned they could not actually be in pain since they were simply toys. After this, they finally reached Danny's floor. Much like previous floors, everything was a mess and the bodies of Zack (and Rachel's really) victims were gone. More pressingly for Rachel, there was no disinfectant, bandages or anything either. She was worried about Zack and wanted to hurry back to him despite being empty handed, but she had agreed to visit his floor again too so prepared to make her way there. This segment caused a change in music which is worth noting because it's another really good track. Up there with Cathy's theme.

Meanwhile, Zack woke up to find he was in the company of a still living Danny. The doctor had taken precautions and had come after Zack and Rachel still wanting the latter's eyes... only to find she wasn't there when he caught up. He had a very tense discussion with Zack, but offered him a deal anyway. He told him that he'd treat his injuries if he carved out Rachel's eyes for him. Zack told him to fuck right off in no uncertain terms. Danny left him to keep bleeding out and resumed his search for Rachel.

Back on Zack's floor, Rachel found the place where Zack had been living. The conditions were less than stellar. There she couldn't find any disinfectant or burn medication (I do not remember him being burned, but that would explain why he's always covered in bandages). She did, however, find a fresh bandage and a rusty but very sharp knife. She took both and headed out to re-join Zack... except when she got back he was gone.

It was here that, as expected, Grey turned on Rachel. He decided that Rachel's actions were ruthless and selfishly motivated, declaring she loves nobody but herself. He asked what she would do if God didn't want her to die like she planned and then he hit with his weird fumes again to prepare for her judgement. She came to being chased by a gigantic snake... or so it seemed. She ran into Zack in the next room over and he thumped her in the head bringing her out of the hallucination. Zack explained the situation with Danny - much of which Rachel had already figured out - and applied the new bandage and took the knife since his scythe was too heavy for him in his messed up state. He wouldn't let Rachel touch him to help treat him though - which was interesting. Also interesting was that when he tried to encourage her that he wouldn't die that easily, he said a lot about how he was a monster. Anyway, they set off after Danny to deal with him and take his supplies to treat Zack.

It was pretty soon that Zack wasn't able to keep going on again. Rachel and he had their first genuine heart to heart, but neither could really articulate their emotions. In the end though, Zack gave his knife to Rachel so she could protect herself from Danny and passed back out. It was not looking good for him if he couldn't get some proper treatment. Unfortunately, Rachel ran right back into Grey who decided it was time to put her to trial (with an epic soundtrack). Thanks to her dedication though, she was able to break free of the hallucination Grey inflicted on her and force him to give her the medicinal supplies he'd liberated from Danny at knife point. When asked if she'd kill him, she told him that she had no reason to if he wasn't in her way and left to take the supplies to Zack. There, Rachel... sort of... admitted that she genuinely cared about Zack while she patched him and he didn't say anything outright, but showed plenty of concern over her injuries too.

They found the next life and headed up o the next floor. Along the way, Zack told the story of how he'd got the burns being set on fire as a kid. The discussion prompted Rachel to almost tell him about the murder she "witnessed" but she didn't. What is interesting about this is that it seems like she's remembered the truth for a while now - maybe even the whole time. She chose not to tell Zack because he has often repeated that he hates liars.

So... at this point I'm genuinely invested in the weird fucked up relationship these to characters have and watching them come to care about each other has been really engaging. The mystery of the game isn't doing too much for me as a mystery because I'm fairly sure I'd figured the gist of it out early on in chapter one, but I'm curious to see how more revelations on that front affect Rachel. Mechanically the game is... okay. The controls still feel kind of clunky to me. The movement especially feels more sensitive than it should be. The puzzles have been surprisingly fine. They're pretty easy really, but they're usually not so easy that they bore me. Maybe because the story is more important in the long run. The music has been a high point too. Usually it doesn't really even grab my attention, it's just decent backing music for the atmosphere of the game but every now and then you get a fantastic track like Cathy's theme, the music when Rachel is separated from Zack and the "trial" music which I guess is probably Grey's theme.

The game had a pretty weak start honestly, but it's been consistently getting better and better as it goes. About 3/4 of the way done now.
 
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Angels of Death - Part Four
This floor seemed to be based on a house or mansion or something along those lines - with both Zack and Rachel (especially Rachel) seeming to express in different ways that it had a familiar kind of vibe. Zack at the end of the last segment seemed to be finding it vaguely familiar but the level of concern Rachel has about him wandering around this floor seems to imply she is much more familiar with it and perhaps not in a good way. Weirdly though, as they moved into the next room it became clear that Zack did not recognise the place while Rachel still seems to. Maybe it's just a translation thing. Why Rachel might have some feelings about this place became much clearer when Zack stumbled across two bodies that had been stitched together rather disconcertingly - Rachel has multiple times expressed an interest and penchant for sewing and has twice used a needle and thread on a living (or formerly living creature) - when she "fixed" the dead pigeon early on, and when she helped treat Zack with some enthusiasm. The escalation kept going from there as Rachel promptly lost her shit over Zack investigating the bodies and started aggressively begging him to murder her... and then passed out.

Things took another turn for the worst when Danny tricked Zack into leaving Rachel and then locked him out of the room, taunting him and telling him that he would still help him escape (sans Rachel) but he had to learn about Rachel first since this floor was all about her. Zack set about exploring the trap-filled house, eventually finding himself in a basement area of some sort... where he was attacked by dogs and nearly feel into an explosive pit trap. Luckily for him, Grey showed up and pulled him up before he could fall to his death. Grey at this point revealed that the facility was basically his own twisted experiment in an attempt to see the world through the eyes of god by well... playing god with people. He was using it as a way to pass judgement both on the floor masters he brought in and on the victims who had to try and ascend it. He also expressed interest in observing the weird bond formed between Zack and Rachel and offered to help Zack out if he could keep observing them. Zack agreed and was immediately asked a question - how he felt when Rachel called him "her god" as she has now taken to doing. Naturally, Zack finds that rather fucking creepy.

With some help from Grey and some stubbornly unnecessary but nonetheless solid deductive work from Zack himself, Zack managed to get access to Rachel's bedroom - confirming this floor to be either where she had lived or at least based on her old home (or maybe both). There he learned the truth behind Ray's history. She was from an extremely toxic and abusive family. Her dad was a violent alcoholic and her mother turned her misery and dissatisfaction on Rachel. Her home life (and maybe some genetic predisposition to instability) had already left her pretty warped. She would "fix" creatures that were dead or dying, sewing them back up to make them "perfect" companions that wouldn't leave her or torment her. She had a puppy she "fixed" she kept in a box in her room. So when she came downstairs to find her dad murdering her mum, she completely broke. She murdered her father and then stitched her two dead parents together to "fix" them - putting together so they'd get along, replacing damaged body parts with stuffed animal parts and sewing smiles on their faces. Eventually, she was found out and taken to a psychiatric facility - and the facility they were now in. Zack, rightly so, found this whole situation rather disquieting and realised that this floor was Rachel's.

Zack went back to try to find Rachel... finding that the door was now open. He went inside and was able to wake Rachel up. He asked her if she was going to kill visitors to her floor. Before he could get an answer though, Danny appeared and shot him. Danny explained a little more about the situation. Essentially, he had been assigned to be her therapist (somehow) and he had insisted on giving her a floor, although Grey was against it. She had picked up all her biblical stuff and morality stuff from reading a bible that had been left among books on her floor... and this had been her first real exposure to the fact that what she had been doing was incredibly messed up. This screwed with her already screwed up head and is basically responsible for her death wish. She admitted that she had lied to Zack but asked him to still be "her god" - something sack is not comfortable with. Zack told her that he isn't anything like a god and she went mad and pulled her gun, taking a shot. She missed and then fled, having one hell of breakdown. Danny went after her, intending to support her because of his own weird sick idolisation of her (she reminds him of his dead mum).

Zack gave chase, trying to catch up to the fleeing Rachel as she led him from death trap to death trap. Eventually, he caught up to her... only to have Danny come up from behind and pull a gun on him. Rachel then shot Danny though, claiming that only she could kill Zack, he was hers. She was exhausted and just wanted everything to end too, she had no intention of continuing to live - especially as the object of his sick idolisation.

She then turned the gun back on Zack but before she could make herself pull the trigger, Zack got the better of her and disarmed her. He restrained her and forced her to listen to what he was saying. He convinced her to stop worrying about all her god stuff, to stop using god as an excuse and to own up to her own actions and desires. They then reaffirmed their agreement and prepared to continue on.

I'm going to leave it there for now. Honestly, I have to process how I feel about that last part. Not in the sense of emotional impact, but because I'm not sure if I like it or not. I'm enjoying it still of course, everything that has happened so far in this episode has been solid and it's nice knowing my suspicions from earlier were pretty much right. But it seems weird for them to have reaffirmed the death pact at this stage given how genuine the friendship and bond they have developed has been. It seems like a weird walk back on their development but it also feels hard to believe that either of them will actually go through with it now, so it loses some impact there. I'm thinking that perhaps the way they'll justify this with the development is Zack maybe pulling some sort of "I'll kill you but only when I feel like it" thing. Rachel is starting to think for herself again now too though - it's possible she might also just choose not to die. So it feels a bit weird, but it's not like they've written themselves into a corner. The character growth still feels believable and there's still room for either or both characters to back out.

Mechanically I don't have anything new to say, so I'll save further commentary on that for the end. Musically this was interesting. The music in this part of the game has been nice, but nothing has really wowed me yet either. It's like the quality of the music on average has increased from past play sessions, but the high points haven't been as dramatic. Fewer valleys, but the peaks aren't as high. It's interesting.

Anyway, I'll wrap this game up tomorrow.
 
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Angels of Death - Part Five
So, the adventure resumes with our duo trying to find a way off of Rachel's floor. Except that they couldn't find any way to go further up. Some deduction on Rachel's part led to them figuring out that their quite probably isn't a way off of her floor. However, Rachel realised that Danny had come and gone from the building - so he had to have a way in and out. With that in mind, they decided to head back down to Grey's Floor to search for an exit there.

First though, Rachel was feeling a bit sentimental and went alone to press the switch for the lift in her music box. There, she encountered Grey again. He asked her a bunch of philosophical questions about who she is as a person, to which she replied rather exasperatedly that she is herself and that's all there is too it. He did confirm for her that there is a way out on his floor though.

Rachel and Zack headed back to the living room to grab Rachel's gun, but found it was broken and Danny was missing yet again. Neither of them were thrilled to see that he was quite probably, somehow, still alive. This didn't change what they had to do though, just added another potential problem along the way. They continued to the lift to head back down to Grey's floor.

They found the stairs up on Grey's floor but, as they climbed, someone set off the building's self-destruct sequence and they found themselves suddenly trapped on the staircase surrounded by rubble and flames. Zack was able to smash through the rubble... but his fire PTSD kicked in and he was having a freeze response. Putting her own safety on the line, Rachel helped Zack cope with the flames so they could start breaking through and continue their climb. Persevering through a seemingly endless passageway full of hazards - floors caving in, rubble falling from above and fire god damn everywhere despite their clunky ass controls, the pair managed to make it out of the basement floors thanks largely to their support of one another. They had reached the door out.

Rachel and Zack had a... very weird but... heartfelt discussion. Rachel made Zack reaffirm that he was going to kill her and that he wanted to do it. She didn't want to die alone and she didn't want him to do something he didn't want to do. He, nonetheless, assured her that nothing was changed... just in time for Danny to crawl out of some rubble and shoot Rachel. He shot Zack too for good measure, but accurately for either of them to just outright die... or maybe it's better to say with enough accuracy to ensure it. Of course he was the one who set the building to blow. He had devolved now to the point of just taking satisfaction in preventing the two of them from completing their agreement - they would all simply die together in the crumbling building.

Zack was furious about being made into a liar and Danny was satisfied with having effectively broken their twisted promise for them... except Rachel pointed out that both of them were wrong. Zack couldn't fulfil his promise maybe, but he wasn't a liar because he wasn't the one that was trying to render it impossible. So Rachel told him it was okay not to fulfil the promise in the end. As for Danny, she told him that he couldn't break their promise for them out of spite. He could prevent them from seeing it through, he could kill them and himself, but their dedication to each other remained unchanged.

Grey however stepped in and took out Danny. Zack was kind of distraught about the whole, Rachel was about to die thing and didn't see the point in continuing to try to escape, but Grey told him that she could still be saved if he made it outside. They reached the outdoors and a bunch of sirens started blaring. Police showed up. Zack one again reaffirmed his promise to one day kill Rachel... then walked towards the sirens.

The blame was laid on Isaac for the death of Rachel's parents - after all a disappeared girl with recently murdered parents was found horribly wounded in the company of a suspected serial murderer. He was charged for kidnapping too even though Rachel adamantly denied this was what had happened. Rachel was taken to actually the the psychological care she needed and Isaac was eventually sentenced to death. Rachel's rehabilitation seemed to be going well... but in truth she was still pretty miserable. The game ended with Zack breaking out of prison and rescuing(?) Rachel from the hospital. He promised he'd kill her once more and then they fled into the night never to be seen again... and it was left totally up in there air whether or not they ever actually saw their arrangement through to the end.

So... this game was weird as hell. It's centred around a relationship that is twisted on every level, but you still find yourself rooting for Zack and Rachel. Granted... I'm really not sure what I mean by that. I wanted them to succeed but at the same time I'm not exactly thrilled with the idea of Zack roaming around society or Rachel's therapy ceasing. I have no idea what to think of their weird oath. Mostly though, I'm frustrated by the total lack of closure in the ending. Sometimes an ending that's up in the air like that can work, but it's a rarity. Closure and a sense of finality is almost always better. Personally, I don't think Zack would have killed Rachel. Not immediately. They probable would have gone a long time before he finally capitulated in circumstances where death or capture were inevitable anyway. I would have liked to know though.

This game did some interesting stuff with characters and philosophical questions. Rachel in particular is an extremely complicated and layered character with a fractured mind that is very interesting to explore. She's a mess of contradictory feelings, trauma, guilt and psychosis and she knows it. Zack is simpler, incredibly simple and intentionally so. It makes him a different kind of interesting to watch but he definitely needed Rachel to carry the story. Danny was also a fascinatingly messed-up character. Everyone else though - the other three masters - they were honestly pretty dull. Grey was mostly just their to espouse the philosophical questions the game wanted to present because they'd possibly have been lost otherwise while Cathy and whatever the boy's name was were more obstacles than characters. The questions the game posed were interesting though, they just could have been done a little better in places. Rachel and Zack's relationship was definitely the centre point of the game and weirdly compelling but I wish that their character growth and friendship had taken them somewhere other than effectively back to square one - at least visibly instead of giving the player a maybe of a conclusion.

Mechanically the game was... fine? I guess. The controls felt too clunky for some of the stuff it wanted you to be able to do. Too sensitive on controller and not sensitive enough with a keyboard. It was never as bad as the initial chase from Zack but it was often a point of frustration when I'd overshoot a door I was running for or run directly into an obstacle avoiding another one. It was workable, but frustrating at times. The puzzles were also often pretty mediocre. The story was the selling point, so they were rarely a huge detractor but I was aware of the fact that the game was trying to convince me I was doing something different than "walk to location, pick up key, open door" over and over again when it really wasn't. The exception here is Cathy's escape room. Even though it was also that same thing if you really break it down, it felt different and interesting and I liked it a lot.

The drawn art of this game is charming but it's not of a super high quality either. I liked it, but it's not something I'd consider particularly good either necessarily. The pixel environments and sprites were better - especially in the later parts of the games (specifically the last two floors). The music was quite good all around though. There were some great tracks in Angels of Death - Cathy's Theme, Grey's Theme, the music when Rachel and Zack were separated on her floor and the music box for example. Most of the music didn't reach those heights, but at its worst it was still just decent atmosphere for the scenes playing out so I'm not complaining.

So... yeah. This was an interested experience. The first episode of the game is honestly really mediocre but things steadily improve through episodes 2,3 and 4 right up until the ending that leaves me a little dissatisfied. It's far from amazing, but it's definitely worth a play through.


Writing: 7/10
Visuals: 5/10
Soundtrack: 7/10
Gameplay: 4/10
Total Score: 23/40
 
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11
Years
Aragami - Part One
So, there was a sort of blurry flashback sequence and then I became conscious. I followed a strange light who took the shape of a woman called Yamiko. She explained that she was a projection and had summoned me to rescue from an enemy clan called the Kaiho - light users as opposed to the shadow of aragamis - who had taken her hostage after wiping out most of her clan. She led me through a tutorial area where I collected a sword that seems suspiciously like Grass Cutter and then had me sneak past and kill a few Kaiho to learn how to use my abilities.

I was then, in the next game segment, treated to another strange vision of a shadow kitsune, courtesy of a kitsune statue I passed following the projection Yamiko. Neither of us really knew what it meant though, although apparently Yamiko was also seeing the visions because of a connection created by the summoning ritual. Yamiko also took this chance to tell me that I'd evaporate if caught by sunlight so I'd have to move quickly and then sent me on my way. This was also the introduction to a typical skill unlock system which was a neat addition.

The next mission was to free a magic raven of some sort. Yamiko said it had something to do with the magic keeping her sealed away. I murdered my way through a complex and then fled via the rooftops following the raven. Coming into contact with it caused more visions though - from the perspective of a person using light essence powers. They seem like memories, but Yamiko is sure they aren't since a shadow user can't also have been a light user apparently. Apparently the raven is a scout of sorts that has been observing the Kaiho's actions. Yamiko said it could lead them to the talismans that were keeping her trapped. With the raven freed, I fled slipped past the Kaiho guards to escape through the mountains and head for the city.

Continuing through the graveyards, I slaughtered my way to the first talisman and this time saw visions of Yamiko's brutal and tragic childhood. The bell, as it turns out, were also a mechanic that could lure and distract enemies. I liked that game choice, making the talismans mechanically useful as well as narratively. The next talisman I retrieved from a woodland cave. There was no mechanical bonus to this one, but I did get some more lore (and another vision of Yamiko's history). When asked why so many guards were being thrown at the talismans, just to keep her sealed away, Yamiko explained she was not the only one trapped - the empress, a woman with god like power was also trapped with her. The Kaiho could not kill the goddess, so sealing her in the temple was all they could do. By releasing Yamiko, I also release the goddess, which is why the Kaiho are trying so hard to prevent that. I once again made my bloody exit from there, completing another chapter.

So far, I'm liking this game a fair bit. Narratively it's a bit lacking so far, but there is hints of a story through the visions and Yahiko's exposition so that may yet go somewhere interesting. Mechanically I'm enjoying the stealth and movement options a lot and the ability to choose the skills you develop and in which order is really nice too. The gameplay is excellent. The music is really solid and sets the atmosphere nicely. The visuals are also quite impressive and are not just aesthetically pleasing but tie into the stealth and stamina (well, not stamina more like mp) systems too which is really cool.

So far so good!
 
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11
Years
Aragami - Part Two
As I began making my way through a lake district, I had an interesting discussion with Yamiko about what would happen to me once she and her empress were rescued. It seems likely I'm set to just vanish although Yamiko claims she'll figure something out about that. After I collecting the next Talisman - a hunting knife - I was treated to a vision of a young and ragged Yamiko using to hunt while she was on the run from the Kaiho. It is starting to seem odd how all the talismans once belonged to her, but I'm running with it. This chapter seemed much longer than the rest since it involved a decent amount of looping around and backtracking but it's been fun so I'm not complaining. A crow friend informed us that there was one more talisman to go outside the city, so I made my way to my next destination.

This next location was a huge mausoleum structure... that didn't exist when Yamiko and her empress were captured. Seems like they've been sealed away for a very long time. Anyway, I decided that the next skill I'd aim to unlock would be the kunai because a ranged option would be very useful. The shadow kill ability is handy for its ability to remove bodies and kill simultaneously, but honestly I've not gotten that much use out of it. I'd have preferred to have the kunai first in the end. Oh well. It was time to infiltrate.

I got inside the structure and had to set about destroying four elementally themed orbs in order to access the talisman - some sort of medallion. This triggered a vision of Yamiko and a mentor figure of hers called Ryo - a powerful warrior who survived the war and later went on two fight two of Kaiho's leadership at once alone. His fate uncertain after that. Unfortunately there was less time to ponder than would have been nice because taking this talisman set off a trap that I had to parkour out of to avoid being incinerated by light. Once I'd made it out the trap, I found a tablet that triggered more visions of the conflict between Yamiko's clan and the Kaiho. Yamiko theorised that the memories I was seeing that weren't hers were those of the Kaiho's general. Since I was a being created to seek revenge against him effectively, I was bound to him too and my purpose was less freeing Yamiko and the empress and more killing the general.

Unfortunately, the cat was out of the bag now. With the four talismans from outside the city now taken, it was clear someone was trying to free the empress. I saw one of the Kaiho captains giving orders and preparing for my arrival within the city.

That's enough for now. After that last segment, the levels are definitely getting longer and complex and there may even be some sort of boss fight on the horizon with the captain I saw in the cutscene. Not sure how that'd work in a stealth game, but I'm down. With levels getting quite significantly longer, I'm glad I didn't leave this until the last minute. It's good fun still though... although I'm having some issues figuring out exactly what the kunai's range is. I seem to either always be too close or too far away to use it.
 
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Years
Aragami - Part Three
Heading in towards the city, I fought through an encampment of guards and eventually found myself standing at Hyo's grave - triggering more of the general's memories. I soon after reached the outskirts of the city where I grabbed enough points to pick up the invisibility and ledge kill skills and then snuck (and slaughtered) my way into the city itself via a convenient sluice gate. From there I - admittedly with a few hiccups as I discovered that the floating balls of light are not lanterns but basically homing missiles made of the sun - carved my way through the outer area of the city and made my way deeper within.

That was all for today. I don't really have a lot to say about this game as I play through since each level really operates on the same basic premise - make your way from one end to the other stealthily murdering enemies as you go (and hopefully not getting murdered in turn) - and the limited story is pretty slow coming. That being said, it probably says something that while each segment of the game is pretty much the same it has not become even a little boring. It's still great fun.
 
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Aragami - Part Four
I continued making my bloody way through the city of Kyuryu, eventually coming to reach a gravestone that triggered more memories of the general's past. This brought questions to the fore about the nature of an Aragami and the question of the soul. Perhaps Aragami are reincarnated warriors - something I as the player have been assuming since the very beginning. The question is, who was I originally? There's a few options at this point. I'm wondering if perhaps I was actually a Kaiho originally and these memories are mine and not those of the general. But someone like Hyo or another shadow user is an outside chance.

After this it was boss fight time! The way this worked was actually pretty cool. Rather than do something that was radically different to previous stages, to beat the last Kaiho captain I had to sneak around and destroy the power sources for his personal light barrier - either avoiding or taking out his minions as I went while also not getting obliterated by him while I was at it. As a reward for your efforts, I got treated to a short cutscene of Aragami vs Kaiho Captain. When he was defeated, the captain monologued for a bit and dropped some interesting tidbits. He claimed that I was going to cause more war and death not less and revealed Yamiko was actually the shadow empress all along... what a shock... gasp... I never saw that coming.

Anyway, Yamiko claimed she hid the truth because she was ashamed at being captured and having to rely on a fragile Aragami spirit instead of her own considerable power. She was worshipped as a goddess by some after all. She promised she would keep no further secrets and we pressed on. But we'll see how long this promise of hers lasts.

So... in case it wasn't obvious enough, the story so far hasn't really caught me by surprise. The twists so far have been fairly standard and predictable stuff. It's not bad but it is definitely not mind blowing. Now though, I have hit the point where this really could go either way. Either Yamiko will turn out to be evil as fuck or the game will be trying to pull a double-twist. It can only really be one of those two options and either one is fun to think about even if neither will feel like much of a shock. I'm eager nonetheless.
 
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Aragami - Part Five
I crept my way through the city's military district - not intimidating at all. Funnily enough though, I actually found this segment way easier than the last few levels. I found my way to the talisman... stumbling upon it quite by accident in the upper floor bedroom of a building. Claiming this one - a knife - I saw a vision of Hyo ceremoniously presenting Yamiko with the weapon. I felt one of the other two being presented with a dagger - Ryuta - looked familiar because of his black and red armour. With the talisman claimed, I snuck back out of the district's walls and made my way around to the next destination.

I snuck around the outskirts of the city to infiltrate a huge pagoda, moving up the levels and taking out any Kaiho in my way to reach the sixth and final talisman. This time I saw visions of the moment Yamiko's partners (Ryuta and the other guy) died at the hands of light adepts, awakening Yamiko's full power. She explained that after that she killed each and every last one of those adepts - the same ones who had killed her parents years before. Our inevitable clash with the Kaiho general was fast approaching.

These two levels proved really fun. In particular, the lead up to and infiltration of the pagoda were enjoyable because they made a lot of fun use of elevation and different available pathways. It felt like it really built a lot on the strengths of previous levels, improving them further.
 
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Aragami - Part Six
Archers man, easily the biggest threat in this game. So naturally, the Kaiho general - Sora - was an archer. For this next segment of the game I had to sneak through an area towards my final destination as I was pelted by both rain and light arrows courtesy of the General. She wasn't alone either, she had a handful of lesser archers and foot soldiers patrolling for me too. Any time I got near the general, she would teleport away with the light version of my own teleporting and start hooting from somewhere else. This was an intense segment with some kickass music to back it up. In the end though, I was able to drive her away.

I chased her into the temple where Yamiko was being held within her magic prison - losing the ability to speak with the empress. There, in a rather cool cinematic, I faced down General Sora once more and was able to finally kill her... triggering a memory of her and I when younger. She recognised me too, calling me Ryo - the name of Kaiho's first general. Sure enough, with the help of the dying Sora, the memories came back revealing that I had been Ryo in life and that I had originally died sealing away Yamiko... who looked a hell of a lot like some short of shadow kitsune before reverting back to her human shape - explaining an earlier memory.

With Yamiko free and my memories returned, it was time to face down the empress of darkness and stop her before she could be unleashed on the world. What followed was the world's most high stake game of hide and seek, each of us bouncing around the shadows as we tried to get the upper hand on each other. I managed to sneak up on her and attack three times, triggering the final confrontation where I picked up Sora's light sword and used it to kill Yamiko.

Many years prior to the story, light adepts had killed Yamiko's people. After many years of harship living in the wilderness, Yamiko responded by going on a rampage and killing light adepts. The Kaiho then formed to get revenge and managed to kill her followers and imprison her. Then, Yamiko summoned me as an aragami to kill the remaining Kaiho and free her. It was a never ending cycle of revenge perpetrated against one other by the adepts of light and shadow. But, by killing Yamiko and then fading away myself after her demise, I effectively ended that with the two of us parting as equals full of regret. Pretty poignant really even if it's not exactly a new concept.

So, where do things stand with Aragami? Narratively it's fine. There's nothing truly that surprising about the story but it is reasonably well-crafted. It's engaging enough to make the player are about what happens to Yamiko and the aragami even if the mysteries are pretty obvious. So I liked the story. Mechanically, I have few complaints. It could be a little annoying how abilities often triggered off the same button or would sometimes just not do things when they were meant to, but by-and-large the core mechanics were really nice. The stealth element - which was also the recharge mechanic for abilities- was really well-designed and I liked the slight degree of customisation with you being able to pick and choose the abilities you unlocked with the scrolls you'd fine in whatever order worked best for you. The kunai was especially good and I wish I'd unlocked it earlier though. I had mistaken the shadow kill for being something with range because I wasn't paying enough attention. The shadow kill auto-removing bodies is really useful since it saves time and reduces the chances of you being spotted but the ability to attack from a distance is a godsend - especially in later levels.

Visually there's pro's and cons. I liked how the aragami character's visuals reflect the games mechanics a lot. The amount of each ability left and the "MP" available to use them is reflected by the glyphs on his cape and his colour scheme becomes darker and monochromatic when he's hidden with his red armour being visible when he isn't. He also just looks really cool design wise and moves really naturally. Other characters though would often be a bit more lacking with more stilted movements or faces treading the outskirts of the uncanny valley - especially Yamiko's boss fight form. Some of the cutscenes were also cool by virtue of what was happening but lacked the impact they probably should have had. Rain would also clip through surfaces often. Still, the game did look quite nice and the aragami's implementation was close to flawless.

The music was also really nice. The boss fight music and the end cutscene music in particular were really good, but everything was solid.

So yeah, Aragami definitely has its flaws but it's over all a really good game that I'd highly recommend to anyone looking for something quick and fun or who really enjoys stealth mechanics.


Writing: 6/10
Visuals: 5/10
Soundtrack: 7/10
Gameplay: 9/10
Total Score: 27/40
 
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