Written by Rinoa Carmichael
So I made a post about managing a backlog, setting a plan, and how that might help you work through it. Big talk for sure. But… am I following my own advice?
So as some sort of self-reflection, I decided that delivering monthly backlog updates could be neat. As always, feel free to chime in on discord, Twitter, Mastodon, or wherever you lurk that we also do these days.
So, my goal game for January was Atelier Ayesha. A Cute alchemy JRPG with a light but present sense of looming deadlines. Did I play it?
So, great start to the year? Maybe it seems like a no, but remember, that whole goal-setting thing is about setting some intents. It’s not about sticking hard to a schedule. So, for the purposes of this series, it’s a good thing. It’s more important to follow your feelings over a schedule if you want to play more of your backlog. But what got me distracted from Atelier Ayesha? Let’s open up that Notion and see what we finished.
I always like to start off the year with a bit of a retro classic I’ve never quite finished. First up was Sin and Punishment, published by Nintendo and developed by Treasure. It’s an over-the-top run-and-gun rail shooter. I’ve always liked it. But despite its short length and owning a physical copy, I had never actually finished it. So I finished up this bizarre piece of work. If you aren’t familiar with it, it’s quite an ambitious 2-3 hour rail shooter. You control both the character and the cursor as opposed to linking the two like in Starfox. There’s a large focus on unique and over-the-top set pieces you wouldn’t expect on the N64. Not only that, but despite being a humble N64 game, it’s entirely voice-acted. Stranger still, all the voice acting was in English but the game was not originally released outside of Japan until the Wii Virtual Console. That alone can’t be why I didn’t play Atelier Ayesha though, can it?
No single game ruined anything, but two derailed me. Muv Luv, a series of visual novels that happens to contain one of the highest-rated of all time in the genre. And Phantasy Star Portable 2 Infinity, which is not the highest-rated anything. But has Infinity in the title.
I started the Muv Luv saga last year. It is a fascinating series and a rather important one. Coming out from 2003 to 2006, the games Extra, Unlimited and Alternative tell some fascinating stories. They play with the conventions of anime and visual novels in what were for the time, novel ways. But by this point can seem more like it is being cliche as opposed to being one of the pioneers. The first game channels a lot of Love Hina energy, hiding the serious war story that is to come. (but that isn’t a spoiler don’t worry)
The back-of-the-box description for the second game though, is what if the guy in a harem-style visual novel got dropped into a world where life is hard because aliens are wiping out humanity? This genre shift might sound silly. Even at the start of the game, it’s played as a joke by the protagonist. Who comes to understand the horror of the life he’s now living compared to before.
They also have a really unique presentation to them, doubly so for the time. As the text comes on more akin to subtitles, and the positioning and use of the character sprites is a lot more dynamic than even most visual novels today. It comes off feeling incredibly modern, despite the first game turning 20 this year.
Basically, really good stuff. Although it’s important to note before you go and play them that these were originally erotic games. And while the versions you can buy in English have that removed, it’s not like it hides that aspect at all. It just doesn’t show it. I’m currently playing through the third game and looking forward to seeing how it ends. Well worth the schedule change though.
But, a super long series of VNs seems like a lot right? So naturally on a whim and seeing a Kimimi tweet (link) about it, decided to finally go play Phantasy Star Portable 2 Infinity. You can identify it as a PSP game released during the Monster Hunter craze in Japan that wouldn’t hit western shores until World. You can spot the games trying to ride this wave by being four-player co-op action RPGs with a focus on local multiplayer, almost always getting an expanded version a year later. Sega localized the Phantasy Star Portable 2 but never the Infinity expansion. A lot of people hold both this game and its expansion in high regard. It got a fan patch a few years ago though. So instead of playing that I opted to play in Japanese as a bit of a warm-up for my March goal game, Buddy Mission Bond.
I’ve finished replaying all the base story, and am about to embark on the new content. It upscales nicely, looking good if you are into the PSP aesthetic. The combat is just the right level of involved and considered. Which is something Phantasy Star’s outings have always excelled at. I’ve been surprised how much the story jived with me despite also not thinking it is terribly good.
I did want to knock off a goal game though, so I installed Yoku’s Island Express. The cute pinball gatepunk experience. It’s small, it’s fun. Some of the pinball tables were a little finicky. A few took a little too long for my preference. But I enjoyed it quite a bit as a chill game to play between Muv Luv sessions. I’m glad I set it as a goal game though because it’s just a super nice way to spend a few afternoons.
I also dabbled in some service games. (Flash Party is a fun Smash clone). I got a head start in *Chaos Rings III. Despite it being a single-player offline game it has daily logins so I’m collecting those to smooth out the actual play experience.
And now it’s February! I’m going to keep playing Muv Luv and Phantasy Star but I’m not sure what from the goal game list I’m going to commit to. I really don’t feel I’m in the mood for Ayesha quite yet, but don’t want to knock out all the short games too quickly. I’m thinking that despite what I originally wrote, maybe Sable is the game to play. Something a lot quieter and focusing on atmosphere and player choice should be a nice change of pace to the mindless hack-and-slash or the reams of text I’m currently dealing with.