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Review: Monster Tale (DS) ~ Are You Ready, Chomp?

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Wikipedia entry

Last week when I was writing about Castlevania: Portrait of Ruin, I wanted to reference Monster Tale. To my surprise, I haven’t written a review or talked about this game in full on my blog. So, that’s why I’m going to fix that right now. Let’s tell the tale on one of the best Nintendo DS games ever made. As usual, feel free to leave a comment in the comment section down below about the content of this article and/or the game. For now, let’s ready, set, go!

Are you ready, Chomp?

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In this game, you take the role of Ellie. A young girl that gets dragged into a world filled with monsters. It doesn’t take long before she meets a monster that hatches right in front of her and follows her around as if she was the mother. She decides to name the monster Chomp.

Then, Jinx, a shopkeeper explains what the world is.  There are other humans in the Monster World and they are king of their own domain.

Now, Ellie and Chomp go on a quest to try and defeat these evil Kid-Kings and try to get them all home.

The reason I stay pretty vague about the story is simple. This game is a very nicely written plot and talking about it more would spoil it. The characters might be cliche here and there, but I really liked the chemistry between the characters. To this day, I still remember the characters and their role in the story by just looking at screenshots or hearing their theme.

The story is a blast to experience from start to finish. All 10 hours of it. Yes, all 10 hours of it. This game is criminally short. You can squeeze a few more hours out of the game when you want to fully complete it.

There is voice acting in this game, but no full lines are voice acted. Some of the major characters have some spoken phrases or noises but nothing really more. Which is a darn shame since the whole voice cast is extremely talented amine dub voice actors. On the other hand, it helps with the charm that this game has quite a lot.

I especially love the grunts of Ellie and the noises Chomp make. They are so adorable and made me fall in love with this game. It’s still a mystery how the adorable and cute game can tackle serious subject matter like what’s presented in this game. So, I hope that you are ready since you and Chomp are going on an adventure.

Metroidvania

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Back when I first played this game, I hadn’t really played a lot of Metroid or Castlevania games. I had heard about both series but I haven’t played them. That all changed when I started to play this game.

The gameplay is your typical Metroidvania game. You explore this world and fight monsters on your way. Don’t be fooled by the visuals, this game isn’t easy at all.

This game is unforgiving sometimes and you really have to learn how each move works and how to use the special items provided to you.

This game has a lot of depth as well. There are three enemy types; fire, water, and earth. These work on a rock, paper scissors theme. So, you will have to keep in mind which version of Chomp you level up and bring with you. Yes, you can level up Chomp. While it’s not 100% needed to unlock all versions of Chomp to defeat the final boss of the game, it’s highly recommended that you level up at least one form quite a lot.

During combat, enemies can drop various items like footballs, books, slingshots, ice cream, camera’s… to help Chomp level up. Some dropped items even have additional benefits, like the football bounces around on the top screen.

Now is a good time to address the top and bottom screen, since it’s used in this game to its full potential. On the top, you have the Monster World that Ellie is exploring. You can have Chomp with you for a limited amount of time. That’s what the yellow bar on the 2nd screen is for. This bar drains as soon as Chomp is in the Monster World.

You can let the bar recharge when Chomp is resting in his den, which is the bottom screen. Once there, the bar recharges and he can experiment and learn about the various items that enemies drop. There is also another catch, each version of Chomp has different attributes, abilities and special powers to play around with.

Now, I love the risk and reward system of the combat. There are a lot of ways to handle a situation. One possible option is to let Chomp handle the enemies. Another possible situation is to shoot the enemies down and another is to melee combat. Now, you would argue that the melee combat sounds useless. Well, I would agree with you there but there is a limit to your shooting ability. When the 2nd bar on the 2nd screen, the blue one, depletes; you can’t shoot anymore. You can recharge this bar at save points or by finding rare blue orbs in the world or as drops. But the easiest way is to melee defeat enemies.

Now, there is a lot more done with the mechanics of the two screens and I have to tell that I really liked it. The combat is extremely challenging to do but in a fun way. Also, no playthrough feels and plays the same since you have so many different ways to tackle the situation.

In addition to that, you never get lost on what to do next since the next spot you need to go to is always indicated on the map. I have no idea if there is an option to disable this, but I think it’s a very useful feature.

Gameplay-wise, this game is extremely addictive. There are a lot of power-ups for Ellie and various forms for Chomp. So, this game quickly becomes a balancing act on who to power up with your hard earned cash. Do invest in both, since otherwise, you will regret it later.

Control-wise, this game is solid. While in very few occasions, the ground pound move was a bit tricky to pull off, but that was a minor annoyance. Since, when you die in this game, you get quickly put back to the latest checkpoint. Now, if there is one thing I really disliked in this game is the lack of teleports.

There is a lot of backtracking in this game. That’s the biggest problem I have with this game. The Castlevania have teleport stones, but Monster Tale doesn’t have that. That’s the biggest flaw this game has. Besides being criminally short that is.

Save often!

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So, this game doesn’t have an autosave. At certain locations, you come across a book where you can save. There, you can recharge every meter to it’s fullest potential. These rooms are highly needed since the lower your hearts, the more tricky this game can become.

Something I will never get tired of with this game is the presentation. This game looks amazing. It’s clear that a lot of love has been put in the creation of this game. The backgrounds of each zone look stunning, vibrant and have a lot of detail.

The colors pop and they build an amazing atmosphere. I especially love the beach zone since it has a lot of memories for me. As a kid, I took a lot of trips to the seaside with my family and I love to sit on the beach and watch the sea do its thing.

Besides that, the monster design is adorable. In some cases, I didn’t even want to hurt the enemies. They all have unique designs and patterns, it’s tricky to kill them. Both since they look so good and some have very unique killing patterns.

Now, the soundtrack of this game is good. While there are some tracks that I find mediocre, the overall package is a blast to listen to. It really pumps you up to continue. You won’t regret hearing these tunes during gameplay and even outside. I played the soundtrack in the background while I was writing this article and I actually heard the various enemy noises and the various other sounds in my head.

This proves that this game has an amazing audio design. To this day, I still remember sound effects and music from the game. And that’s what I mean with that this game will leave a visual impression on you. The game is not only pretty but also sounds pretty.

The animations are fluid and the game runs at a very stable frame rate. I actually don’t remember the game ever dropping frames. Also, I really like how there are two save slots. This way you have tried for two very different runs.

In terms of the UI, there is one minor thing I have to complain about. It’s actually extremely nitpicky but I really find the use of the start and select buttons to switch between the menu’s a bit too much. The start and select buttons on the DS Lite are extremely small. Besides, I wished they merged the map screen and the other menu into one option. Maybe an ability to select from the pause screen if you wanted to see the map screen or the evolution screen of Chomp.

So, that’s everything I wanted to say about this game. I left a few things unexplained for when you are interested in giving this game a chance. You will be surprised. But, it’s time for the section of the review of the people who need a tl;dr. Time for the conclusion!

Conclusion

The bad:

-The pause menu could be reorganised a bit better.

-The harsh difficulty could be a turn off for some people.

-The game is really short.

-No teleporting in the game.

The good:

+ Amazing Metroidvania game.

+ Great story.

+ Amazing visual and sound presentation.

+ This game oozes charm.

+ Great controls.

+ …

Final thoughts:

If you highly enjoy the 2D Castlevania games, the Metroid games or any other Metroidvania game and you are looking for something more light-hearted, then Monster Tale is your game. This game looks and sounds amazing.

Besides a few minor flaws, this game comes highly recommended. It’s a big shame that the remake for 3DS actually fell through and that the original developers of this game went bankrupt.

If you see this game for sale, pick it up and play it. It’s one of the best games on the DS. I wish more people knew about it so another developer could pick up the IP and make a sequel to it.

On the other hand, the ending wraps up things extremely nicely and makes for an amazing package. Due to the various possible playstyles, this game is highly replayable. But, it’s the complete experience that will stay with you. And that’s what makes this game so memorable and unique.

Thank you for reading this article and I hope you enjoyed reading this article as much as I enjoyed writing it. I hope to be able to welcome you in another article but until then, have a great rest of your day and take care.

Score: 99/100

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First Impression: Castlavania – Portrait Of Ruin (DS) ~ No Stars For Mario

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Wikipedia entry

Back in the day, when I just got the Nintendo DS, I decided that I wanted to try out a horror game. Castlevania was one of the only horror game series I knew about so when I saw this game on the shelves, I decided that I had to have it. Now, I have never really beaten this game, but recently I returned to it. I wanted to beat this game. Now, did I just want to relive a nostalgic game or did I really want to beat this game since I was having so much fun? Let’s take a look at this game and give my opinion about it.

No Stars For Mario

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In this game you play as Jonathan Morris and Charlotte Aulin. They are childhood friends who are going on a journey to protect mankind from evil. When an evil vampire artist revives Dracula’s Castle, the duo springs into action.

There is also an interesting twist in the story. Notice that I started explaining the story with the last names of the characters. Now, look to the cover-art and you might notice that Jonathan wields the legendary vampire-killing all evil defeating, Master Sword… whoops, wrong series. I mean, the Vampire Killer.

But Jonathan is part of the Morris family, the son of John Morris from Castlevania: Bloodlines, and not a Belmot. So, he can’t fully use the abilities of the Vampire Killer.

Now, the story looks like your generic Castlevania story at first, but the more you go into it, the more complex it gets. Most of the story is told through in-engine cut scenes and dialogue boxes. The “voice acting” in the game are various grunts and sounds to give the story more “umph”. There are spoken lines in the game, but those are mostly sound effects or lines spoken by enemies during combat.

I actually don’t mind that the story isn’t voice-acted. The only thing I really miss is a sort of log. To keep track of what story elements happened. Since, when you pick this game up after a few months and don’t remember where you left off; well, you are going to have to spend a time to find out where you need to go.

Which is, on the other hand, not such a bad thing. The difficulty in this game is pretty high for people who aren’t used to this style of gameplay. So, exploring the castle is a great idea to level up Jonathan and Charlotte.

I find the story really interesting and it actually motivates me to try to beat every monster that comes my way. If you decide to play this game, I really advise you to put a lot of time into exploring and learning how each and every enemy works. Also, there is no shame in avoiding enemies, but do know; if you do that, you will have a lot of trouble with bosses.

So, I’ll go more in-depth about the bosses in a moment. But first, I want to talk about paintings. Since, the main antagonist is an evil vampire painter, you discover various paintings in the castle. These transport you to various locations where you can advance the story. There are no “missions” like Super Mario 64. When I played this game back when it was released, I was convinced that there was an easter egg where you could jump into a painting and come out in a sort of corrupted version of Princess Peach’s castle. Yeah, my childhood imagination is interesting to say the least.

“Charlotte” – “Jonathan”

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If you can’t tell from the screenshots, the game looks amazing. To this day, I find this game one of the best looking action/adventure games on the DS. The details in the background are what I find the most impressive in this game. The world really feels alive.

I find this game not that scary. There is a lot of gothic and mythic imagery, but the game doesn’t get under my skin. At the other hand, I wouldn’t give this game to younger kids. There are some bosses that can cause nightmare fuel to young minds.

Like the boss in Land of the Fools. I won’t spoil it, but I can see how this can become nightmare fuel. If you can stomach basic horror elements, you will be fine.

The atmosphere in this game is just amazing. I really like how all bosses are based on real life myths and various enemies have an interesting spin on them. Together with really nice looking animations and a rarely a dip in frame-rate, you can’t complain.

Personally, I like to have the map on one of the screens. The map is extremely handy to have. The blue squares are teleports, the red squares are save points and the yellow square are paintings or locations of extreme interest. The only thing I really miss is that you are unable to place any notes on the map. A feature where you were able to pin locations like in The Legend of Zelda – Link Between Worlds would be been such a blessing. Since some area’s contain loot that you can only access with a certain ability, and marking them would be a great way to support your mind.

Speaking off abilities, some require you to control both characters. With just a press of the button, you can switch between the two. When you are playing as Jonathan, you switch to Charlotte and vice versa. Now, for some reason I find it pretty enjoyable to switch between both characters. They shout each others names each and every time. I’m sometimes easily amused.

You can also have both characters on-screen. The AI to control the other character is decent, but sometimes makes some pretty questionable decisions. You can also use a support ability to avoid more damage. While this sounds overpowered, know that the damage to the 2nd character also counts! So, yeah. Be careful with that.

The castle and such

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If you have played games like Monster Tale and Metroid, you know what you are getting into. This adventure isn’t that long, it can be beaten in an afternoon if you really know what you are doing. Yet, I’m not that good with the combat, so I think it will take a bit longer.

Currently, I think I’m halfway done with the game. I have died quite a lot in this game, but each time I’m making a bit more progress. The biggest flaw in this game is how slow you go from the game over screen back into gameplay.

You get a “Game Over” screen with a barely readable font, that slowly fades into the main menu. Speaking about the main menu, you might find some interesting features there. The only thing I’ll say is that there is a boss rush mode that might help you in the main story line.

The music in this game is really good. When I want to listen to Castlevania music, I always listen to the soundtrack of one of the DS games. I honestly can’t pick my favorite but, all three are my favorite Castlevania soundtracks. Together with the sound design, this game is a joy to the ears. Playing this game without sound takes a lot of the atmosphere away.

Yet, there are a few things that aren’t that good in this game. First of all, you can only attack sideways. You don’t have an attack to hit smaller enemies easily. Unless, you use a weapon like a mace. You can’t attack on top of you either. This caused a lot of unneeded damage.

Actually, that isn’t really a flaw in a way. It’s choosing the right weapon for the job. Now, if only you could swap between weapons a bit more easy, this wouldn’t be such a big problem.

There are a lot of neat touches I really enjoy. The fact you can an opening and closing sound-effect when you open or close the DS is one of them. Another one of them is, how the interface changes to blue when you are equipping items and armor to Charlotte and to pink for Jonathan.

All-in-all, this game is really solid. If you are looking for a challenging Action/Adventure RPG on the go, I can’t recommend this game enough. I’m glad that I picked up this game again since with the skills I have now, I’m able to beat parts that I had a lot of trouble with as a child. This game is a blast to play, but can be very frustrating too when you die over and over again.

Before I close off, I hope one thing. If you are interested in this game; don’t let the publisher’s name scare you away. This has been published when Konami’s reputation was a bit better.

That’s everything I wanted to say about the game for now. I’ll go a bit more in-depth about the other aspects when I review this game. But, the review will only happen if I beat this game one day.

Thank you for reading this article and I hope you enjoyed reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it. I hope to be able to welcome you in another article but until then, take care and have a great rest of your day.

NekoJonez: Gaming Music – My favorites – Numbero 1

GameMusic_InArticleSo, I wasn’t planning to write an article today. Since I’m so busy with college and such. I said that on my Twitter. But now that I’m finally done with my work for today, I was listing to some music of my favorite games. And I came to a conclusion, even while I finished the game, I still listen to it’s music. Probably bringing back nice memories. So, in this article I’ll list some of my favorite music tracks in game history. I won’t make a top 5 or 10 out of it, in case I want to write a new article with this subject. Also, I won’t count remixes in this list. As I adore some remixes of the Ace Attorney themes. They are a no-go here. Since those weren’t in the original game. Anyways… Here. We. Go! Time to throw that volume up and enjoy some amazing (nostalgic) music. Feel free to comment your favorite music tracks in the comments. Or your opinions of my chooses as well.

#1: CastleVania (NES) – Bloody Tears

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Extended original version

There are a massive amount of remixes out of this track. The melody and structure of this track is so memorable that to this day, I whistle it when I’m on my bike riding to school. I brings back so many memories of playing this game at my cousin’s house and not able to sleep at night. Hey, I was a kid back then.

People who claim to fans of the series and can’t name the track by name, that’s the biggest shame you can have. This track gave me while writing this article a feeling to stand up and march/dance around in my room.

#2: Virtue’s Last Reward – Consternation

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I adore games with a dark plot. I simply love this series to death. It’s high in my favorite series of all time list.

Every time I hear this track from the amazing collection of tracks in the game, my jaw drops to the floor. Since every tense and amazing twist came with this track.

The timing was always right. While I think that this track has goes weaker near the ending, the start of this track is what I replay time and time again when I listen to the OST of this game. And since my save file corrupted, I’ll be able to enjoy this gem of a game again. Ah, do I wish that there is a new game in the series coming on 3DS.

#3: Pokemon Mystery Dungeon – Time To Say Goodbye

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Link

I rarely cry when reading a game story, even when the game gets extremely sad. But the setting of this game, yes, this kid’s game managed to do it. Each and every game. Even the latest installment on 3DS.

This finale track is such a nice track filled with friendship but also departure. Love and left alone. Together yet not.

When I used this track in the RP’s I took part in, many blamed me for using a “cheap” music track. I disagree. This track just fits big time to the situation and is perfect from start to finish. And the piano versions of this cry… Jeez. They are even harsher to not cry.

#4: Pokemon Black & White – Gym Leader ~ Last Pokemon

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Alright, I’m going to be extremely blunt here for a second, the latest theme in Pokemon X & Y for the gym leaders is terrible. It just feels empty to me. And why? Because of that weird introduction sound which destroys the melody that the middle brings.

Yet, they nailed it perfectly with this gem.The final gym leader Pokemon in Black & White is my favorite track in the whole game. It feels so rewarding when you hear this track and that you know that you are about to earn a new badge.

Since I didn’t had such a great party, I felt that the final part was really happening and that it’s now or never. Man, do I enjoy this track.

#5: Indiana Jones and the Infernal Machine – Main Titles / Credits

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This is one of the best Indiana Jones games ever. Period. It actually created my love for 3D adventure games like Tomb Raider as well. Adventure games, highly story based games and visual novels are my favorite style of games.

While this game is heavily inspired by Tomb Raider, I grew up with this game and I prefer it over Tomb Raider. It’s also the game that gave me my nickname. So, it means a lot to me. And honestly, I’m so glad that I have a retro gaming pc where I can play this game on. I even plan to buy me a N64 with the game’s cartrigde off eBay just for the nostalgic reasons.

The game has not that much music but this track is an extremely nice combo of the actual John William’s score and the game’s score. And it blends so well that I even confuse both.

Man, do I miss this game.

Closing words

That’s more then enough nostalgia for me to bare in one night. Well, nostalgia that I didn’t plan at least. I do have a lot of music that I want to list as well of games that didn’t made this list. So, one day I’ll write a “sequel” on this article. I hope, since many bloggers have so many great idea’s they often forget to write a sequel on articles. You have to forgive that to them, they just do what they want to write.

Yet, I’m planning to look around my blog for topics to write about one day. And this’ll be one since now that I scroll through my favorites on Youtube, I see a lot of candidates. So thanks for reading and until next time.