Bloodstained: Curse of the Moon 2 Review – More of the Same, But Better.

Bloodstained: Curse of the Moon 2 is a side-scrolling platformer released for Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC. The sequel to 2018’s Bloodstained: Curse of the Moon, this Castlevania-throwback experience features new characters, stages, and even 2-player co-op. Having recently beaten the game’s Final Chapter, I’ll briefly discuss the best and not-so-best parts of ArtPlay and IntiCreates’ latest title.

For anyone wondering, Koji Igarashi‘s studio, ArtPlay, developed the spiritual successor to Castlevania, Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night. Inti Creates, known for Mega Man Zero and Gunvolt, developed the 8-bit Curse of the Moon titles. While they feature similar characters and settings, Curse of the Moon’s storyline spins off from Ritual of the Night’s. Thus, the two are not interetwined.

While I find CotM 2 to be quite an improvement over the first game, I think it still clings to some of the previous title’s fundamental flaws. For one, I don’t really need an excuse to replay a game just for a few different gimmicks. If I want to replay the game, i would rather do it on my own terms instead of being cheesed into unlocking the true ending. That aside, however, its presentation offers a stellar job with boss battles, levels, and gameplay.

Story

Bloodstained: Curse of the Moon 2 follows the plot of the first title. However, Zangetsu is now accompanied by new companions. These include Dominique, the exorcist from Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night, a sniper named Robert, and a mech-piloting corgi named Hachi.

The story’s straightforward narrative involves going to a castle and slaying the demons to save the world. However, it takes some interesting twists within the game’s replay formula. Each one follows an ending, a new chapter, and an opening. Each of these chapters also affects the lineup of your party.

While little changes regarding the level designs, the final boss will be altered in both Chapter 2 and the Final Chapter. There are four different chapters and the final one features the true ending. Additionally, some of the dialogue among party members ends up rather humorous. Between that and the cutscenes that play between chapters, it becomes a bit more worth replaying the chapters with a slight change of pace.

Audiovisual

Much like its predecessor, Bloodstained follows the classic NES Castlevania aesthetic. The 8-bit title features an array of gorgeous colors and boss animations. Similar to Shovel Knight, the game presents various levels, bosses, and design choices far surpassing the NES’ own capabilities.

The chiptune music provides a selection of fast-paced music fitting for a Castlevania-esque title. I found the tunes to be catchy and at times quite engaging, such as The Demon’s Crown. I was also quite fond of the boss theme.

Gameplay

The 2D action gameplay features platforming, the ability to switch between multiple characters, and exploring non-linear stages. This means you can choose different paths to clear the stage depending on the characters you have available. Additionally, each character has their own playstyle.

Unfortunately, I was not at all fond of using Robert. While he served to be a sniper with long-range capabilities, he had no way of protecting himself up close. He felt woefully out of place in this game since his mechanics made clearing stages or bosses extremely difficult if not impossible.

Another slight issue I had was with Zangetsu. He gains a more powerful sword later in the game which gives him vertical slashe and multi-strikes. After Chapter 2, however, if the player didn’t hunt down the secret sword, they would lose it to the basic Zanmatou in the EX Episode. I feel downgrading abilities from a player is a big no-no.

Bloodstained also once again goes the route of “beat game and replay” ad nauseam. They try to write a different chapter of the tale but you’re really just repeating the game again with a slightly different roster in the 2nd chapter or the CotM 1 cast in the EX Chapter. By the final chapter, you have everyone, albeit briefly, to collect parts to reach the final level. But you’re just doing the same stages over again.

The developers would benefit greatly from creating more new stages to go with each stage rather than force the player to do the same game four times to get the final ending. Sonic Heroes is one example of a game that makes the player replay the exact same game, with slight differences, just to get the best ending.

Final Thoughts

I will admit that I greatly enjoyed the co-op in this title. The 2-player co-op allows players to jump in and exit anytime. While it’s limited to offline play, it still offers players to work together to defeat bosses or even access hidden areas.

Another good part was the difficulty level. The Veteran difficulty was tough as nails. Casual Mode offers its own challenge as the stage layout and enemies don’t change. After Episode 2, I switched to Casual Mode because I didn’t feel any need to play the same game again. I just wanted to finish the story. Furthermore, the bosses just become HP sponges on later chapters and it’s no longer enjoyable to fight them and mimic the same pattern each time.

Bloodstained does a great job of presenting a classic 2D platforming experience. However, it still relies heavily on gimmicks like forced replay or unbalanced characters in a side-scroller. Even compared to Castlevania III: Dracula’s Curse, it was at least possible to solo the game with Trevor, Sypha, Grant, or Alucard.

Despite these mild shortcomings, Circle of the Moon 2 is well-worth the purchase. Even if it’s just one playthrough, you’ll surely find an enjoyable challenge and experience through the title. If you’re missing classic 2D Castlevania action or just enjoyed the first Bloodstained: Curse of the Moon title, it’s recommended giving it a try. I found the level designs to be vastly improved and more varied than the first Curse of the Moon title.

Whether you decide to continue with the replay chapters or not is up to you. However, I recommend at least playing through it once to all classic gaming fans who seek a real challenge.

Verdict: 8/10

Why Skies of Arcadia Deserves to Be Remastered on Modern Consoles.

Sega‘s heralded JRPG, Skies of Arcadia, originally released for the Dreamcast in 2000. When the Sega Dreamcast ended its early run in the console market, Sega opted to port some of its hit Dreamcast titles to consoles of the era. Among them included the JRPG, rebranded now as Skies of Arcadia: Legends, for the Nintendo GameCube.

Skies of Arcadia starts the Sky Pirate, Vyse, and his childhood friend, Fina. They’re Sky Pirates initially taking jobs before fighting against the Valuan Empire. Along the way, they meet Fina, a girl from the Silver Civilization, and more companions along the way. During their resistance against the empire, they’ll build a crew for their airship, fight through dungeons, and even battle airships.

While Skies of Arcadia was loved for its character design, soundtrack, and setting, hindsight is only 20/20. Despite its wondrous and popular aesthetic, Skies of Arcadia suffered from some more common JRPG flaws, These will appear later in the article.

While Skies of Arcadia has only made cameo appearances in Sega titles since the GameCube release, players want to revisit this world again. Ideally, perhaps Sega could not just re-release the title for modern consoles but remaster it with modern quality-of-life improvements.

Rogue’s Landing stage from Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed. (2012)

What Made Skies of Arcadia Special

People embraced Skies of Arcadia for its character design, music, and unique setting. Unlike any other game past, you were a Sky Pirate who sailed across the sky. The world was divided by islands and you used an airship to explore.

Its battle system entailed the use of SP. In addition to MP for magic spells, SP offered another layer of depth. These powerful strikes offered impressive cinematics while your character unleashed a devastating blow on the enemy.

The locales, the characters, and even having a pirate crew charmed its players. Perhaps also due to its limited releases, its novelty value remains high among its fans.

What a Proper Remaster Could Entail

Despite its best intentions, Skies of Arcadia suffered from its own series of flaws. Even though Legends attempted to lower the encounter rate, in comparison to other JRPGs, it was still considerably high. It was also no secret that the player would get lost at times without consulting a guide.

Skies of Arcadia’s ship battles moved like molasses. Thanks to the over-emphasis on cutscenes, the animations, and long HP bars could make fights take up to 45 minutes long. This was followed by a boss battle which, if you lost, you would have to do all over again.

The title does not need to focus on improving aesthetics outside of your usual HD Remaster such as Final Fantasy X/X-2 HD Remaster. Rather, some quality of life improvements would breathe new life into the game.

ACT FFX HD Remaster Comparison
Final Fantasy X (2001, Final Fantasy X/X-2 HD Remaster (2013, 2015)

Final Thoughts

I feel ambivalent towards Skies of Arcadia. On one hand, I love its characters, especially Gilder, Fina, and Vyse. On the other hand, it was a slog to play through. I hated that I lost near the final boss fight because I was under-leveled and forced to grind.

Despite this, I know it has the potential to be an even better game. I would love to see it return, better than before, by Sega’s grace. Whether through an HD Remaster, remake, or even a sequel, here’s hoping Sega will revisit the Blue Rogues once more.

Did you play Skies of Arcadia or Legends? Let us know in the replies below. As always, be sure to follow our social media pages below to bring the latest gaming content with you!

 

 

Hello, readers!  I just to say that SEGA Forever was buzzing a little bit about Skies or Arcadia.  While this isn’t a guaranty, we thought it might show promise.

‘Sorry to people that thought that my promotion of the article made this click bait.  It wasn’t my intention or John Rinyu’s fault.

‘Sorry for any confusion and/or frustration.

-HERETICPRIME

Why Hasn’t Ninja Gaiden Resurfaced in Years?

KoeiTecmo and Team Ninja‘s legendary action series, Ninja Gaiden, debuted on the Arcades and the NES in 1988. While the former was an arcade beat ’em up, the latter featured a trilogy of Castlevania-inspired platformers. As a result, Ninja Gaiden saw success with its NES trilogy.

Ninja Gaiden (1988) was among the first video games to feature cutscenes.

However, after the initial release of the series, as well as the SNES remake, Ninja Gaiden fell off the map. Despite Team Ninja’s decision to put Ryu Hayabusa into their hit Dead or Alive fighting game series, Ninja Gaiden would remain buried for more than a decade. However, two years after the release of Capcom’s popular 3D action title, Devil May Cry, Team Ninja decided to bring Ryu Hayabusa back from the dead.

Ninja Gaiden Rebooted

Featuring similar action, yet fine-tuned with incredible speed and bloodier animation, Ninja Gaiden came out on Xbox in 2004. Known for its ruthless difficulty, the title was followed shortly after by two successful re-releases: Ninja Gaiden Black and Ninja Gaiden Sigma, the latter which was an HD-upscaled release for PlayStation 3.

Ninja Gaiden Sigma Plus (2012)

Ninja Gaiden would become a hit 3D Action series throughout the 2000s. Team Ninja would follow up with 2008’s Ninja Gaiden II for Xbox 360. Unfortunately, internal issues would force series Producer, Tomonobu Itagaki, out from Team Ninja. His colleague, Yosuke Hayashi, was in charge of Ninja Gaiden Sigma 2 and the sequel, Ninja Gaiden III.

Ninja Gaiden Sigma 2 (2009)

Unfortunately, Ninja Gaiden III would release to poor reviews. While Team Ninja released Ninja Gaiden: Dragon Sword for Nintendo DS, they also opted to release Ninja Gaiden III: Razor’s Edge for the Wii U. Despite the momentum the series carried with its first two games, even the re-release, Ninja Gaiden III: Razor’s Edge, would scarcely fair any better.

Ninja Gaiden: Dragon Sword (2008)

The Future of Ninja Gaiden

Since 2013, Ninja Gaiden has not seen a new game released on any platform. Team Ninja has since focused heavily on the Dead or Alive series. One theory might suggest that Ninja Gaiden III’s poor reception has kept Team Ninja from wanting to risk releasing another title.

Another theory might come from Team Ninja exerting their efforts into their latest hit series, Nioh. Derived from Japanese mythology and history, Nioh took the elements of Dark Souls while adding its own hardcore take. Furthermore, it features its own set of references and Easter Eggs.

Now that Nioh 2 has been released, Team Ninja may have freed up their schedule. While Nioh 2’s DLC will still come out over the next year, players want to know if they will return to Ninja Gaiden. With a new console generation coming, players want to return to playing as the world’s most badass ninja.

Keep in mind that the time span between Ninja Gaiden III: The Ancient Ship of Doom (NES) and Ninja Gaiden (Xbox) spanned 13 years. While only seven years have passed since the release of Razor’s Edge, one can only hope that Team Ninja has not forgotten about their stellar action series that helped put them on the map.

Which Ninja Gaiden title was your favorite? Let us know in the comments below. Also, be sure to follow our social media channels below for the latest gaming content to take with you!

Persona 5 Royal Review

Persona 5 Royal is a Japanese RPG developed and released by Atlus, in 2020, for PlayStation 4. Being a re-release of 2017’s Persona 5, Royal features new features, storylines, quality-of-life improvements, and characters. This improved version of the game echoes Atlus’ previous re-releases in the series: Persona 3 FES (2008) and Persona 4 Golden (2012).

In Persona 5 Royal, you’ll play as the leader of the Phantom Thieves. This group of vigilantes becomes known for erasing the distorted desires of villainous beings. As you live your daily life in the outskirts of Shibuya, Japan, you’ll hang out with friends, enter dungeons, and even play mini-games. The social link-building, well-paced gameplay, and epic music will surely charm fans of the genre.

When I played Persona 5 back in 2018, it introduced me to an immense world. I’ve never played something so stylish, so polished, and yet, so long. Spending over 100 hours, I found it to be one of the greatest games I ever played and finally understood the hype surrounding it. This past year, I’ve beaten both Persona 3 FES and Persona 4 Golden and admit they’re easily as engaging as Persona 5. With that said, I knew it was time to return to Shibuya for another round with Royal.

If you want to view a quick list of updates and additions in Royal, check out the list here.

Story

Persona 5 Royal features the high school transfer student, Ren Amamiya, trying to live life after being convicted of assault. Sentenced to probation he now attends Shujin Academy as an exchange student. Living at Cafe Leblanc, he must spend a year away from home while trying to manage school and his life as the Phantom Thieves.

What I love about Persona 5’s story is its ability to touch on real-life social issues. Your first villain is a teacher/coach who commits sexual abuse against female students while bullying the students on his volleyball team. You’ll fight plenty of demons, shadows, and other mythological beings. But Persona 5 does a handy job of exposing the worst of society by reforming them and changing their hearts. Of course, it’s with plenty of humorous moments along with being dead serious.

What makes Persona 5 Royal’s story especially interesting is its gray morality. The Phantom Thieves become a hot debate in society as to whether their actions are righteous or illegal. It becomes even more complicated thanks to the third semester. If you unlock the right conditions, the third semester’s story will open up. This will bring you to an even grayer area on whether it is alright to rob people of their escapism in order to pursue happiness.

Character Design

Persona 5 offers a colorful cast of appealing characters. Engaging in their social links allows you to develop your relationship and help them solve their life problems. You can even enter romantic relationships with them. The game’s writing brings the player close to the characters with such clever writing as to immerse them in the story. Their pain is your pain.

I love the character design just for how well-animated the characters are. I’m especially fond of Morgana for your being the occasionally smart-assed, sensitive cat friend. Amidst the heroes, villains, and those in-between, you’re bound to find characters you bond with. Also note that, even with as much dialogue in the game, the game cleverly paces it with strong writing.

I should also mention that one particular character received outstanding character development. While their story expired late into the original Persona 5, the 3rd semester brought forth their inner, true self in the grandest way possible. It turned a character I strongly disliked and spun a complete 180 on them in the best conceivable way.

Aesthetics

Persona 5 features gorgeous animations and visuals. It offers a robust, stylish, UI, smooth battle transitions, and feels wonderfully polished in every possible way. Persona 5 Royal now offers 4K support for PS4 Pro as well. The battle animations, anime cutscenes, and portraits breathe life into the game.

Persona 5 Royal_20200308234501

Persona 5 Royal also boasts an exceptional soundtrack. Jazz, rock, and J-Pop all meld together perfectly. Shoji Meguro also composed for Persona 3 and Persona 4 and now brings a more smooth jazz style to P5. Honestly, this could be the greatest soundtrack I have ever heard.

Gameplay

The turn-based Persona gameplay continues its traditions here. You can attack, cast spells, gun down your enemies, and even hold them up. What I love about Royal includes some of the new improvements. You no longer need ammo for your guns, you can unleash powerful Technical attacks, and it features the new Showtime abilities which are both powerful and incredibly flashy. These become your finisher attacks that occur during a desperate situation and work to even the odds in your favor.

Persona 5 Royal rewards players who pursue building their social links. It’s incredibly beneficial to boost them with party members and NPCs alike. Whether it’s to add to your battle repertoire or so party members can shield you from lethal attacks, this game rewards the notion that you go out of your way to care about your allies.

The calendar system progression offers you a set amount of days to complete all your tasks. Knowing which social links to manage becomes entirely up to you. In fact, you choose how to spend every day of your life. Whether you want to boost a social link or boost a social skill, you can talk to allies, eat at restaurants, or even invite them to mini-games. The level of variety in this game offers you a bevy of fun activities with the dialogue that goes with it.

Also, while Persona has a history with randomly generated dungeons, Persona 5 added Palaces. These feel more like your traditional dungeons which feature puzzle-solving elements. As Phantom Thieves, you’ll also engage in stealth gameplay while you hide from and ambush Shadows.

Mementos, the randomly generated dungeon, also features a complete overhaul. In addition to new songs playing at deeper levels, you meet a new character – Jose – who shows up as a merchant. You’ll collect flowers and stamps in order to buy items and boost your EXP, Money, or Item Gain in Mementos. This alone makes it a major step up from the previous release’s Mementos.

Value

Persona 5 Royal is important for the JRPG fan, the Persona newcomer, and even the Persona 5 fan. Newer fans will certainly appreciate one of the greatest JRPGs out there while veteran Persona 5 fans can unearth dozens of hours of new content. Royal features a full-on story expansion that offers new social links, mini-games, activities, unlockables, and an entire third semester.

This comes along with various improvements to battle gameplay, exploration, and the abilities you gain. To be honest, I found Persona 5 to already be a near-perfect game. Doing the unthinkable is to polish it and add more to a game I already valued so highly.

If I had to say I had any gripes with Persona 5 Royal, it’s that it can admittedly become too easy. Even if you download the DLC Personas in the Velvet Room, that alone is not enough to break the player. You’ll still need to be on your toes so you don’t get one-shotted or ambushed.

However, strategic management of social links will allow you to gain these high-level Personas sooner. Meanwhile, your continued support of your allies, especially NPC social links, will grant you abilities that will significantly boost you against powerful enemies. By the time I finished the third palace, I was playing on Merciless difficulty and died only a small handful of times.

Despite this, Persona 5 Royal offers a level of flexibility that can enable players to become godlike or even balance their challenge. While you can, in fact, become quite broken partially due to DLC Personas, it’s entirely up to you whether you choose to or not. Even then, you will surely face challenging bosses and need to keep your guard up from enemies who can KO your protagonist in a fell swoop.

Final Thoughts

I cannot say enough good things about Persona 5 Royal. It might be quite possibly the greatest JRPG, if not the greatest game, I have ever played. The 172 hours I spent immersing myself in this experience is among the greatest I’ve ever enjoyed in a game. I’ve played countless hours of other JRPGs, including Persona 3 and 4, and I’m not sure if anything will ever be possible to top this.

Nothing feels quite as immersive as getting to live as your character, indulge in social links, and invite them to play darts or pool while boosting your stats along with them. Everything you do grants incentive and rewards the player. This includes anything from building social links to implementing battle strategies. The gorgeous, shiny graphics, the beautiful soundtrack that accompanies you, and your daily life brings immense levels of world-building within your little corner of Tokyo.

Overall, this is a must-play for any RPG fan including, again, those who played the original Persona 5. The amount of content far surpasses the price tag while the quality improvements raise the bar to the highest possible standard. With that being said, I hope you will enjoy this game as much as I did.

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Dragon Quest XI S Coming to PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and Steam.

Last week, Square-Enix confirmed that Dragon Quest XI S would come to major consoles and PC later this year. Originally released in the west, in 2018, Dragon Quest XI came out to rave reviews when it debuted on the PlayStation 4 and PC. While the original Japanese version came out for 3DS, Square-Enix prepared a re-release for the title shortly after its overseas debut.

Dragon Quest XI S, a Nintendo Switch exclusive re-release, featured the 2D mode showcased in the Japanese 3DS version. However, this version of the game also added new cutscenes, storylines, bosses, and even endings to the game. This stellar level of content warranted a replay for veteran fans while introducing new ones to a fantastic JRPG. However, the latest announcement by Square-Enix ensures that Dragon Quest XI S will now be playable for owners of any modern console.

The Significance of Dragon Quest XI S

This title showcased a phenomenal level of polish from a 110-hour game. While America always struggled to embrace Japan’s long-loved series, Square-Enix added an extra dose of marketing to appeal to a larger fanbase. However, Nintendo took it even a step further the following year.

In 2019, Nintendo announced Dragon Quest XI S for Nintendo Switch. This is followed by E3 2019 where Nintendo features the game’s Hero as a new character for Super Smash Bros. Ultimate. Shortly after, they would follow it with a new trailer for the game. Upon its release, Square-Enix would later go onto mention the game succeeded.

For PlayStation and PC fans, this is a return to form with new content not featured in the original release. For Xbox fans, this is the debut of Dragon Quest. This is also the first JRPG featuring Akira Toriyama’s creative designs since Blue Dragon released on Xbox 360 in 2007. Ultimately, everyone can now enjoy the definitive edition of this legendary title.

Final Thoughts

I found Dragon Quest XI to be one of the best games I ever played. I personally rank it up with Persona 5 Royal as one of the best JRPGs of the current generation. Its charming character design, writing, aesthetics, and battle system all hit excel points. It never forced level grinding, save for an optional encounter, and proved to have a solid challenge for those who sought it.

I did not play Dragon Quest XI S, however, as I felt satisfied with my first playthrough of the original release. Despite this, I’m currently entertaining myself with Persona 5 Royal which grants me a 100+ hour replay after beating Persona 5. With that being said, I can’t say I’m not considering playing through Dragon Quest XI S at some point.

If you’re looking for a title that paces itself well, both in story and in gameplay, Square-Enix’s masterpiece will suit your needs. It’s a worthy addition to anyone’s library. With the multiplatform release of the Definitive Edition, I strongly recommend playing this title.

Dragon Quest XI S comes to PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC on December 4th, 2020. You can pre-order the game now. Be sure to follow up with us on AllCoolThings by following our social media pages below!

Balan Wonderworld, New 3D Platformer Developed by Sonic the Hedgehog Creators, Coming in 2021.

Balan Wonderworld is an upcoming 3D platformer developed by the creators of Sonic the Hedgehog. Helmed by Yuji Naka and Naoto Ohshima, Square-Enix’s upcoming title will herald the return of two platforming legends from the heydays of Sega and Sonic Team. This will also debut their new development studio, Balan Company.

What makes Balan Wonderworld significant?

Naoto Ohshima created Sonic the Hedgehog while Yuji Naka programmed the original Genesis titles. Yuji Naka would later lead Sonic Team in developing Sonic titles before leaving Sega in 2006. His last original platformer that featured a mascot character was Billy Hatcher and the Giant Egg for GameCube in 2003. Perhaps the most striking resemblance this has to Naka’s past work, however, is NiGHTS into dreams…

While Naoto Ohshima had continued developing games outside of Sega since 2001, he would find success in creating his own mascot platformer, Blinx the Time Sweeper, for Xbox. His studio, Artoon, would later go on to develop Yoshi’s Island DS. Once Artoon disbanded, Ohshima founded Azrest, which would develop games for Nintendo franchises, such as Yoshi’s New Island and Hey! Pikmin for 3DS.

With that being said, this is the first time Naka and Ohshima have teamed up together in decades. For fans of classic Sonic the Hedgehog and NiGHTS Into dreams…, this game feels like the return of an important era.

You can learn more about the title from the official website here.

Releasing in the perfect timeframe.

Balan Wonderworld will release during an era where 3D platforms have seen a massive boom. While Nintendo has pressed on with successful titles, like Super Mario Odyssey, only in the last few years have 3D platformers seen mainstream success in the gaming market once more.

Former Banjo-Kazooie developers founded Playtonic Games, creating Yooka-Laylee. Independent studios, such as Playful Studios, succeeded with games like New Super Lucky’s Tale for Nintendo Switch.

Meanwhile, Insomniac Studios‘ reboot of Ratchet and Clank in 2016 set the groundwork for the upcoming title Ratchet and Clank: Rift Apart. Plus, developers Vicarious Visions and Toys for Bob remade classic PlayStation titles in the form of Crash Bandicoot N.Sane Trilogy and Spyro Reignited Trilogy, respectively. In the former’s case, Toys for Bob is currently developing Crash Bandicoot 4: It’s About Time for the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One.

Final Thoughts

As a longtime platforming fan, I’m glad to see the creators of Sonic working on a new project. I’m almost intrigued to play Billy Hatcher and the Giant Egg and NiGHTS into dreams…, the latter being released on the PlayStation Store for PS3. If nothing else, I suppose I could watch a playthrough on YouTube.

It would be fun to delve into Yuji Naka’s earlier works before this title comes out. While Sega has catered to fans with references to both games over the years, fans truly loved these original titles and want to see their creativity return.

While some 3D platformers have floundered with titles, like Sonic Forces in 2017, their releases have otherwise come few and far in between. However, thanks to the efforts of Insomniac Studios, Toys for Bob, and now Balan Company, platforming fans can rest assured; the era is back.

Look forward to Balan Wonderworld when it comes out for PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X, PC, and Nintendo Switch in Spring 2021. Keep up with us and follow our site for incoming updates on Balan Wonderworld!

Koji Igarashi Announces Bloodstained: Curse of the Moon 2.

Earlier this week, Koji Igarashi (IGA), founder of ArtPlay, announced a sequel to 2017’s retro 8-bit love-letter to the classic Castlevania series, Bloodstained: Curse of the Moon. The title will receive a sequel featuring Zangetsu, main character of the first adventure, as well as three new playable characters replacing the playable cast from the first title.

About Bloodstained

Bloodstained: Curse of the Moon serves as the spin-off precursor IGA’s larger project, Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night. With the former title, developed by Inti Creates, it served as a tribute to the NES Castlevania titles. Ritual of the Night, however, served as a successor to IGA’s own produced Castlevania titles. Bloodstained Curse of the Moon 2, however, already shows more promise given the trailer’s use of new stage design choices.

While Curse of the Moon felt like a proper love-letter to the original Castlevania titles, its design scope felt limited beyond a few incentives to replay. The sequel, however, already shows the kind of promise you might expect from a quality indie platformer such as Shovel Knight.

What makes Bloodstained special?

The NES Castlevania titles were known for their critically-acclaimed platforming. The original Castlevania title remains a favorite among NES fans to this day. The first entry featured Simon Belmont, the gothic horror enemies, 5 different sub-weapons, a killer soundtrack, and the first of many epic battles against Lord Dracula.

Koji Igarashi’s Metrodivania titles integrated even more storyline into the narrative ranging from Alucard fighting his father, Dracula, to Soma Cruz, protagonist of Castlevania: Aria of Sorrow, discovering he was Dracula’s reincarnation. The exploration and map system borrowed heavily from Nintendo’s Metroid series while the RPG elements allowed you to equip weapons, armor, spells, and level up with EXP.

Bloodstained: Curse of the Moon continued the former’s tradition by allowing you to switch characters like in Castlevania III. Ritual of the Night took over Symphony of the Night and onward’s formula, allowing you to explore the castle to your heart’s content. Also note that Circle of the Moon (CotM) itself is a reference to Castlevania: Circle of the Moon which was released on GBA in 2001.

Final Thoughts

If you enjoy platforming titles, we strongly recommend checking out Bloodstained: Curse of the Moon. As with Shovel Knight, it serves as a love-letter to classic 8-bit platforming with a polished sheen, epic boss battles, and even replay incentives.

I found Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night to be a fine game. The series already shows that it features the spirit of Castlevania in many ways. As someone who also feels great disappointment in Konami’s performance – or lack thereof – over the past decade, IGA has yet to let us down.

Bloodstained: Curse of the Moon 2 will release on July 10th, 2020. Keep up with us as we cover ArtPlay and IntiCreates‘ latest title. The title will also feature a 2-player co-op mode. If you are seeking more info on Bloodstained, follow us on our social media links below. We’ll keep you updated with Curse of the Moon 2 here.

PlayStation 5 Reveal – The 5 Games That Stole Our Hearts.

Earlier this week, Sony showcased their PlayStation 5 digital reveal event. Featuring the new console, controller, and its specs, Sony showcased a number of incredible-looking titles coming to the system over the next two years. With that said, we want to show you the five titles that captured our hearts and left us the biggest impression from the show.

You can check out the official PlayStation 5 site here for additional info.

Ratchet and Clank: Rift Apart

Coming from Spyro and Spider-Man developer, Insomniac Games, Ratchet and Clank: Rift Apart will be the first title in the series since the 2016 Ratchet and Clank title, which was a remake of the original game. Featuring the titular duo, this title sets them in an adventure with ever-changing landscapes. Shifting through dimensions, you’ll enter a world of dragons one moment and get dragged into a futuristic city the next. The gorgeous fur texture and environments showcase exceptional visual detail. As someone who’s only played the PS4 remake, I’m excited to check out another title in the series.

Spider-Man: Miles Morales

Spawning off of the 2018 PS4 hit, Marvel’s Spider-Man, the upcoming Spider-Man: Miles Morales looks nothing short of beautiful. It features Peter Parker’s protege taking on crime in his own adventure. However, while initial reports mentioned that this is not a sequel, but rather a remaster of the 2018 PS4 hit featuring a new storyline, Insomniac confirmed this is, indeed, a standalone title.

Demon’s Souls Remake

Bluepoint Games, developer of the Shadow of the Colossus remake, unveiled the remake of From Software’s original Souls title. Setting the groundwork for Dark Souls, this PS3-exclusive title began From Software’s modern legacy into creating some of the best games released in the last decade.

Demon’s Souls set a precedent as a real-time Action/Adventure title with RPG elements. However, it was unquestionably flawed in its execution with some elements, such as World Tendency. This mysterious element changed world elements. As such, without the proper understanding of how it worked, you could miss out on crucial weapons, such as the Dragon Bone Smasher in the second world. This frustrating aspect will hopefully be corrected in the upcoming feature. If the Dark Souls Remaster taught us anything, it’s that quality-of-life improvements will almost certainly come to this remake as well.

Resident Evil: Village

Capcom’s upcoming survival-horror title, Resident Evil Village, features Ethan Winters, the protagonist of highly successful Resident Evil 7, as well as Chris Redfield, longtime Resident Evil protagonist. The trailer features an old village, the occult, and more.  To what extent the title will feature supernatural elements, akin to the Resident Evil 4 beta, remains to be seen. Perhaps most striking is the end of the trailer confirming that “Resident Evil Village” spells out “Resident Evil VIII.” Coming after two Resident Evil remakes, Capcom has chosen to continue the story from its last chronological entry.

Horizon: Forbidden West

The sequel to Guerilla’s incredible 2017 title, Horizon: Zero Dawn, Forbidden West will continue protagonist Aloy’s story in a world set 1,000 years from the present day. Featuring the machines, it appears that they will become part of yet another global threat. The trailer also features Sylens, one of the prominent characters from the first game, interacting with the machines as well. However, fans of the original game remember one thing: the fate of past-world antagonist, Ted Faro, was never uncovered. His actions single-handedly created the apocalypse and his status is only presumed deceased. Hopefully, we will see in the very near future.

The Five Times That Video Games Stood Up Against Prejudice and Oppression.

Given the current events and following the #BlackLivesMatter movement, we want to dedicate this piece to the protesters fighting for human rights. We’ll feature five stories in video games where characters stood up against authority figures who spread nothing but lies, hatred, and ruled with an iron fist. These uplifting stories of rebellion will hopefully bring some peace of mind and a brighter outlook on the future.

Please keep in mind that the following game sections contain spoilers. If you see the game’s title and are even mildly curious, I strongly suggest buying them.

Final Fantasy X

The Al-Bhed people were shunned by the followers of Yu Yevon, the guardian deity of the world of Spira. However, throughout the game, you begin to notice corruption within the church of Yevon. As your team became branded enemies of Yevon, the Al Bhed came to your rescue. This aid came, in no small part thanks, to Rikku, the Al Bhed girl that you befriended early on in the game.

 

This connection bridges the party to the Al Bhed working together for a better cause. Even though the Yevon loyalists in the party, such as Wakka, initially reject such a radical change, they eventually warm up to the Al Bhed. Eventually, you join up with them in a united effort to save Spira, using their machina to destroy Sin, and set a new course for the world.

Tales of Symphonia

From the beginning of the game, you befriend Genis and Raine, your elf friends. Only later do you learn that they were half-elves, a being repressed throughout Sylvarant and Tethe’alla due to their mixed heritage.

While their secret comes out later in the game, the protagonist, Lloyd, still unites his friends and continues his journey to save both worlds. Genis, despite saying he hates humans, reassures Lloyd he’s still his best friend. Even when the mayor of the town, Iselia, preaches his racism towards your half-elven party members, the people stand against him.

Regarding the overarching storyline, you later learn that the Sylvarant’s folk hero and eventual antagonist, Mithos, began his entire crusade because of the half-elven oppression and the death of his sister, Martel.

Fire Emblem: Path of Radiance

“Sub-humans.” That was the word used to describe the laguz, or beastkin people, in Tellius. The country of Gallia waged battles with the beorc, or humans, and faced discrimination simply due to their appearance. When Ike fought against the Daein army, he traveled to Gallia, which he later learned was his birthplace. Throughout his travels, he encountered new laguz friends, united them for the cause of liberating the country of Crimea, and took down the Mad King Ashnard.

The story comes full-circle when Ike would unite the Tellius continent once more to defeat the Begnion Senate and their army. Near the end of the game, Ike’s forces, the Greil Mercenaries, defeat Senator Lekain and the Begnion Senate, ending a decades-long struggle between Begnion’s iron grip and the laguz who fought against their oppression.

Persona 5

Persona 5’s story tackles sensitive social issues. Authority figures who bully, exploit, and even murder become the victim of the Phantom Thieves’ vengeance. The whole point of the story is to help your friends rebel against oppressive authority figures and, as they join you, take the fight against other horrible people in Tokyo.

You’ll enter their cognitive Palaces, fight their Shadows, and change their conscience. Doing so will change their heart, forcing them to own up, confess their crimes, and relinquish their positions of power.

Fire Emblem: Three Houses

Three Houses marked the third Fire Emblem game where racial injustice became a major focal point of the plot. Claude, one of the House leaders, wants to unite Fodlan. He does so due to his Almyran background. The people of Almyra, dark-skinned warriors, faced oppression from the Fodlan continent for decades.

When joining the Golden Deer route, you’ll fight alongside Claude and his quest to reform Fodlan’s government. This includes allying with the church, the enemy of the Black Eagles route, and uniting your forces against the Adrestian Empire and Those Who Slither in the Dark.

 

Final Thoughts

For anyone keeping up with the protests, we’ve all gone through a tough time. Supporting our fellow human beings, including those who are different from ourselves, becomes an important cause in these times. Hopefully, this list helps inspire you with these courageous stories of people fighting alongside friends and make the world a better place.

Be sure to follow our social media channels listed below for the latest in gaming culture!

Interested in Donating?

Know Your Rights Camp – Started by Colin Kaepernick, this camp helps empower teens and meets three cities, at the moment:  Atlanta, Baltimore, and Miami.

 

Want to Donate, but Not for the Cause?

HFC (Hilarity for Charity) – Founded by Seth Rogen and Laura Miller Rogen, this non-profit helps spread awareness about Alzheimers, as well as funding research.

 

How the SEGA 32X Could Have Saved the Saturn, and to a Greater Extent, SEGA’s Hardware Business

(Originally Posted April 21, 2019)

First off, I’d like to say that I would love it if folks from SEGA of Japan and North America could see this article.  I have been a SEGA fanboy ever since the Genesis was released in North America.  When I got my Genesis and Power Base Converter that Christmas, it was one of the most magical moments ever.  I had only owned an Atari 7800 before that, and the Genesis assaulted my senses and imagination.  Because of SEGA, to this day Mario, Link, and Samus mean nothing to be.  My home experience was a slightly scaled down arcade experience rather than the small screen made for home platforms.  Thank you, SEGA, for making my bedroom an arcade room.

Oh, and I am not a programmer.  Nor am I someone that works with computer hardware, professionally.  If I suppose or think that something could be done in this article and it cannot, please be kind.  This is more of a “love letter” to SEGA and what it meant to me a long time ago.

 

A lot of gamers think that the launch and support of the SEGA 32X was in the top three of SEGA’s mistakes that killed off their hardware business.  I think that how they handled the 32X was.  I think the 32X had great potential, and it’s success did not have to be exclusive to it’s big brother, the Saturn.  As some of you know, the 32X was SEGA of America’s baby.  The Genesis was still a hot success when talk of 32 Bit systems started, and SEGA of America saw it as a means to capitalise on both.  However, SEGA OF Japan wanted a truly next generation machine, and seemed to do everything in it’s power to make the Saturn as seperate and standalone from the 32X as fiscally possible.  However, the success of both the 32X and Saturn could have depended on cooperation rather than pissing contests and inhouse competition.

 

 

Really, the 32X wasn’t that bad!  Have you even played one?

 

First off, if what I heard was correct, one of the reasons that the Saturn had a RAM/Cartridge slot was the success and love of the Genesis/Mega Drive.  Is there any reason that they didn’t make the Saturn backwards compatible with the Genesis/Mega Drive?  True to both the legacy of SEGA and Atari, the Saturn’s sound chip was the main processor of it’s past generation machine.  This helped with the library of their machines because it meant an easy means for their new machines to play games from their predecessors.  The hardware was there.  All SEGA would have needed was to make the cartridge port the same as the Genesis/Mega Drive.  

How cool would that have been to play Streets of Rage 2 on the Saturn?  I’m not even sure if Genesis/Mega Drive backwards compatibility would have meant backwards compatibility with Sega CD, but I’m sure that was something might have been able to have been worked out.  The hardware power was definitely there, but that’s not even that important.  The important thing is that the Saturn would have been physcially compatible with the 32X.  I know, that probably sounds blasphemous to some of you, but keep an open mind and follow me for a few more minutes. 

The SEGA Saturn was already a superior machine to the PlayStation.  The only thing that the PlayStation had on the Saturn was an easier chipset design specifically made for a home console,  and better and easier transparency technology.  The Saturn’s progaming and chipset has been misunderstood and cursed with erroneous lore for decades.  It’s 3D prowess was believed weaker than PlayStation’s because programmers lazily made straight copied ports of PlayStation’s games, completely ignoring the power of the multiple chips sets in the Saturn, which were not just slapped together without thought, but was directly influenced by SEGA’s prolific legacy as an arcade giant. 

Yes, arcade machines’ motherboards used multiple chips to maximise power, efficiency, and performance.  The Saturn and Genesis/Mega Drive were actually at home heirs to that legacy.  Multple processors to lighten processing loads, plus the cartridge slot that made increases in RAM and a second direct access to the processors made for gaming experiences  far beyond that of the PlayStation.  If you don’t believe me, just take a look at the videos  below that compares PlayStation games with Saturn games that were built from the ground up, rather than being ported over.

(Video by VCDECIDE)

Notice the many objects on the field and how much more deail is in this.

While the PlayStation did have transparency effects, the Saturn has more

to offer visually and does it’s best to replicate the transparencies.

 

 

(Video by VCDECIDE)

Again in the video you can see how the Saturn is able to handle more

sprites and overall information at a time.

 

 

(Video by VCDECIDE)

The final example is Dead or Alive or DOA as the game and

the series has also come to be known.  The difference between

the Saturn and PlayStation was so profound that the creators,

Team Ninja felt that the Saturn was not only superior, but

was “the definitive version.”

 

 

Now imagine if that Saturn with the RAM/cartridge port shaped like a Genesis/Mega Drive was able to take advantage of the added power of the 32X.  Can you imagine how much more slack could be taken off of Saturn’s chipsets if yet two more Hitachi 32 Bit RISC, a VDP, and a 32X VDP were pumping out power? Not only woiuld the Saturn get more parallel processing power, but an addition of 4 Meg of RAM from the 32X. Of course, this would have required forethought in the production of the Saturn to have the interface outlets possible There is no doubt in my my mind that a Saturn 32X would be able to play a decently passable version of Virtua Fighter 3, not to mention decent versions of any other SEGA Model 2 arcade games.  Saturn + 32X + 4 Meg RAM cart > PlayStation. In fact, it might have even given the PS2 the same surprising competition that the SNES gave the 32X in graphics.

 

 

(Video by Top Hat Gaming Man)

Top Hat Gaming Man researched and found an attachment that might have been in the

works to give the SEGA Saturn that extra UMPH! that could have KOed the PlayStation

right out the box!  ‘Look familiar..?

 

 

(Video by Michael’s Retro Game Reviews)

In Michael’s Retro Game Reviews Channel, Michael uncovered that SEGA

almost released a Saturn version of Virtua Fighter 3.  it was speculated that

it might be possible with the latest development packs.  However, this was

more likely to be possible because of an add-on with technology from

Lockheed/Martin.  ‘Sound familiar, again?  Could this have been the 64X?

Do both of these technologies get inspiration from the 32X?

 

 

Now instead of being sold for $20 a pop in clearance bins, 32X machines would have been a hotly sought after accessory in the 90’s rather than a cult object of interest in today’s retro gaming world.  Who knows?  SEGA might have actually had to have made more, as well as Saturns.  Maybe it would have pushed back the timeline in video game generations, increasing the quality of all gaming consoles to come.

But for this to have been possible, like I said, it would have required cooperation between SEGA of American and Japan.  It would have required SEGA of Japan to see all of the possibilities of the 32X and all of it’s strengths suggested by SEGA of America.  If that failed, then SEGA of America could have also embraced the other side’s suggestion of the Saturn, and sought to find a way that 32X could have played support for it’s big brother, as well.  In the end while both sides failed, it ultimately falls upon the shoulders of SEGA of Japan to take the lion’s share of blame.  They were the ultimate authority, and should have been more open and mature about the rivalry, especially since thier bottom line is ultimately the international bottom line of SEGA.

So what do you think?  Did what I say make any sense?  Do you think the tweeks I suggested to the Saturn’s hardware and design were reasonable?  Would a 32X charged Saturn have made that much of a difference?  Comment below on that.  Share to perpetuate the debate.

I cannot think of all of the sources of information I have for this article.  Like I said, it is sort of a “love letter” to SEGA and the Saturn.  I can tell you the places that I do get my information from when I need it, and chances are that they are responsible to a great deal of what I do know and allowed me to write this article.

 

Thanks to The Top Hat Gaming Man and Sega Lord X.  Their YouTube channels are constants in my retro-love, and I don’t miss any episodes.

There are also a couple of Facebook groups that I am in that help tremendously when I have questions in real time:  Sega Saturn Collectors of America and The PS Junkyard (Planet Saturn Junkyard).

Thanks also to David Lee and Ke Kona, fellow members in many of my Facebook groups and hosts of SEGA SATURN, SHIRO Podcast.

All of you have helped grow my knowledge and obsession with SEGA.

‘See you next timie.

-HEREITCPRIME