Video Game Review: Dark Souls III – The Fire Fades Edition (PlayStation 4)

Well, I have reached the third and final installment of the Dark Souls series. The game’s director and creator Hidetaka Miyazaki claims that it is the last and he’s already moved on to other things like 2019’s Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice and the upcoming Elden Ring. There are also rumors of a Bloodborne sequel in the works.

Needless to say, I don’t know how Miyazaki can top the Dark Souls series, as a whole. These games are near masterpieces! Well, the first game is a masterpiece and this one is close. The second game, which Miyazaki was a lot less involved in, had its problems but I covered those in my review of it. However, it was still a pretty great gaming experience and much better than most games out there.

So speaking specifically on Dark Souls III, this game was really fucking solid. It’s not as good as the original but I like it at almost the same level.

I was worried that it was going to be ungodly hard but I actually found it to be the easiest of the three. In fact, I didn’t need to grind for souls (XP) until I got to the last three bosses out of a few dozen. In the previous games, I spent quite a lot of time grinding away for souls really early on.

Everyone seems to have a different opinion on which game they consider the hardest. A lot of people think this one is it, so I’m not sure why it was the easiest for me. I think a lot of that has to do with playing style. Also, by this point, I had two previous games worth of experience under my belt and I’m sure that helped me out immensely.

I thought the boss battles in this chapter were better and more varied in style than the previous game. However, the first Dark Souls still takes the cake in that department. Granted, it was also the first game and set such a high precedent that anything after it has its work, unfairly, cut out for it.

I also liked that this game felt a lot less linear than Dark Souls II. While this didn’t have the sandbox style, interlocked world of the superbly designed first game, the shortcuts and secret paths that created loops through multiple areas were a welcomed addition.

This also felt like it had a lot more optional areas than the previous installments. I played through all of them, though, as I always want the full experience in these games.

I also found the combat to be smoother in this game than the previous ones, as well as the graphics and design being a step up.

Overall, this is nearly a masterpiece. I think the only thing working against it is that it felt shorter than the other games and some of the bosses just had ridiculous levels of health regardless of how suped up my character and his weapons were.

Rating: 9.5/10

Video Game Review: Dark Souls II – Scholar of the First Sin (PlayStation 4)

I may come off sounding like a total dick in this review but after the experience that was the first Dark Souls game, this one was a grave disappointment while still being pretty decent for the most part.

My initial gripe with it was that I hated how they changed the stat system to deliberately make the game harder, as well as how upon each death, you lose 10 percent of your total health bar unless you return to human form after being hollowed. To do that, though, you have to consume a human effigy, which early on in the game are very rare. Plus, they’re a limited item. Using them all up too soon, fucks you as the game gets even harder.

The beginning of this game is exceedingly difficult, even more so than the original game. Initially, the controllers felt off and I later learned that you needed to build up your “adaptability” stat in order to properly back-step and dodge-roll. So with that little bullshit tweak to the system, you’re kind of fucked on employing the defensive techniques that became second nature after the first game.

Beyond that, the hit boxes are a nightmare. Multiple times, I was standing behind an enemy to go for the good ol’ backstab and he killed me, even though he attacked forward, which was in the opposite direction of my character.

Also, the game does some real bullshittery with the targeting system, which caused me to die a. fucking. lot!

Additionally, the overall world is kind of boring even if it does look incredible. The first game blew my mind on how every area was interconnected in neat and creative ways, giving you multiple paths to hit or escape from an area. This game just has paths and each path is pretty straightforward and linear. It makes the game’s world less immersive and a lot more basic. It’s a major step backwards for how well-crafted the first game’s world was.

Another issue was that there are just so many knight-type villains that it gets tiresome and boring fighting all the various types of essentially the same enemy. This also carries over into the boss fights, which were mostly superpowered knights that you kind of approach and fight in the same way.

Sure, there are other villain types but you basically have four categories: knights/hollows, dragons/beasts, sorcerers and annoying shit (like the ice porcupines and the crawling poison spitter critters).

With that being said, the game gets repetitive and boring and while I’d get these spurts of energy upon entering a new area, I’d soon find out that it was full of similar shit with a different skin.

Plus, the boss fights in this seem to be a hell of a lot harder than the first game, which was super damn hard on its own. Except, the boss battles aren’t hard for reasons other than the bosses have huge health bars, your weapons do minimal damage and you basically have to dodge-roll multiple attacks and then get in one or two quick hits, assuming you don’t need to replenish your health. These fights are just long, tiresome and lack any real creativity.

And frankly, the game, as a whole, lacks the creativity of the original. This was pretty surprising to me but upon investigation, I learned that Hidetaka Miyazaki, the series’ creator, wasn’t as involved on this game as much as he was on the previous one because he was developing Bloodborne, a game I look forward to playing in the near future.

Lastly, as far as negatives go, I just wasn’t into this story like I was the first game. Yes, these games actually have very minimal story but the lore and mystery of the first game really captivated me while this one seemed like a simple rehash that lacked passion.

Are there positives? Well, sure.

This is a Dark Souls game and if you like the first one, you’ll generally like this one too, in spite of its myriad of problems. You still get overwhelmed by a genuine sense of accomplishment when you finally beat that tough boss that killed you a dozen times or when you find that very helpful shortcut after trying to conquer a nightmare of an area for a day or two. And honestly, that’s the most important factor in these games for me. I love the way they make me feel, as a lifelong gamer, because they throw you against impossible odds and it takes the development of real skill to adapt to and eventually crush these challenges.

Look, I don’t hate Dark Souls II but I also don’t have this burning desire to run through the entire game three or four times like I did the first one. Honestly, I just feel like I’m done with it and I should move on to Dark Souls III with the hope that it corrected the problems this game had.

Rating: 7.5/10

Video Game Review: Dungeons & Dragons: Shadow Over Mystara (Arcade)

I really dug the hell out of the Dungeons & Dragons arcade game, Tower of Doom. That one felt like it was greatly inspired by the awesome Golden Axe series, except they really expanded on what those games did and created something with more diverse enemies, great looking levels and multiple paths to reach the end.

This game, Shadow Over Mystara, is a direct sequel to Tower of Doom and with that, was created in the same style on what I would assume was the same engine. It reuses elements of the previous game but also expands further, making this one hell of a fun experience to play.

Additionally, there are so many character choices you can play as in this game. Even just experimenting with them all as you progress is a lot of fun. Each character has its own set of pros and cons like a regular table top Dungeons & Dragons campaign should.

Furthermore, the game is chock full of so many baddies of various types. The boss battles are also a lot of fun and simply progressing through this game gives you a good sense of accomplishment.

This is just a really great game and while it does take a good amount of time to beat for an arcade beat’em up, the time flies by pretty swiftly.

Rating: 9/10
Pairs well with: its predecessor, as well as the Golden Axe games and Altered Beast.

Video Game Review: Final Fight (Arcade)

Final Fight is a pretty badass side scrolling beat’em up game from the era where I spent a lot of time in arcades. The era that was probably the peak, as far as arcade games were concerned but then arcades started to fizzle out not too long after.

This game exists in the same universe as the Street Fighter series and a lot of the characters from Final Fight would appear in Street Fighter-related games over the years.

With that, this is an incredibly well-crafted, fluid, fun, smack a bitch kinda game.

Final Fight is just a blast to play and it’s aged really well and is definitely one of the best games of its type. While I enjoy Double Dragon a bit more, Final Fight beats out the vast majority of its competition from the same era.

The characters all look cool as hell, the levels are neat and the overall playing time and pacing of the game is damn near perfect.

This would go on to spawn sequels and to see its characters used, again and again, in other Capcom games from the early ’90s till current day.

Rating: 8.25/10
Pairs well with: other Final Fight games, as well as similar side scrolling beat’em ups like the Double Dragon series, the Streets of Rage series, Crime Fighters, etc.

Video Game Review: Golden Axe II (Sega Genesis)

As I kid, I seemed to like Golden Axe II slightly better than the Sega Genesis port of the original game. However, as an adult, I see this as just more of the same with the only difference being a few new sprites for new enemies and new levels. Other than that, the graphics and the gameplay didn’t improve and this was very obviously just made using the original games assets with some tweaks.

That doesn’t mean that this is bad or a waste of time. The original game is pretty great for what it is and this is just more of that. It’s really just an extension of that already solid game, which is probably why it sold really well and there weren’t too many complaints from players.

I thought that the game was still a lot of fun and I actually found it a bit easier than its predecessor. But then again, I’ve been blowing through all the Golden Axe games, lately, and maybe my skills are just coming back to me after all these years.

In the end, if you’re a fan of the series and specifically the original game’s Genesis version, there really isn’t a reason why you shouldn’t enjoy this one too.

Rating: 7.5/10
Pairs well with: the other Golden Axe games, as well as the Gauntlet series and other sword and sorcery video games of the 8-bit and 16-bit eras.

Video Game Review: Golgo 13: Top Secret Episode (NES)

The first Golgo 13 for the original Nintendo is a game I used to love playing. But I hadn’t picked it up in years. Since I’ve been thinking about doing a deep dive into Golgo 13‘s anime series and movies, I figured I’d revisit the video games, as well.

This is still a lot of fun and I really liked games like this that didn’t just have one playing style. Here, you have a side scrolling shooter but then you get to use vehicles, go on sniper missions and also go underwater.

Golgo 13: Top Secret Episode has a lot going on for it. Each stage of the game brings something fresh and unique and for a NES game, this is pretty long and takes a few hours to beat if you know where to go and what to do. Back in the day, I had to explore and figure out which steps to take.

For the time, the graphics are pretty good and the sound is great. However, it’s the story that makes this such a cool game.

This came out in an era where games didn’t have complex stories like they do in modern times. But this game took it to a level gamers hadn’t seen in 1988. This sort of has RPG vibes to it in how you talk to informants and other NPCs, get clues and directions and more pieces to the plot. While I think much was lost in the English translation, as was common with old NES games, the story still lured me in when I was a wee li’l lad.

Golgo 13: Top Secret Episode is a neat game. It’s held up well and is still engaging and fun, even if all the first-person shootout sequences do become a bit tedious and annoying after awhile.

Rating: 7/10
Pairs well with: other side scrolling shooters from the era, as well as the second Golgo 13 game and Rescue: The Embassy Mission.

Video Game Review: Conan: Exiles – Isle of Siptah (PlayStation 4)

Conan: Exiles – Isle of Siptah is probably the DLC that I have anticipated more than any other in the history of my gaming life.

That being said, this came with extreme disappointment as the game on PlayStation 4 appears to be broken.

Sure, the game starts and you can run around doing your thing in this neat, deadly world. However, graphics keep switching back and forth from high res to low res and then NPCs and enemies either have a delay in loading or don’t load at all.

Furthermore, the game gets really f’n choppy to the point of absolute madness.

Every time I try to conquer a dungeon, before I get to the end, enemies just stop spawning and I get stuck, unable to progress and beat the dungeon.

I attempted to fix these issues, as I thought that maybe my files were f’d up due to building so much shit in the regular game. So I deleted all of my save files and even deleted the game files and DLC files. I then redownloaded and reinstalled everything and the problems were still there.

So I stopped playing this after a few days and didn’t even start on a new fortress build because what’s the point?

If they fix these issues, I’ll gladly give this a go again and update this review.

All that being said, the new map looks amazing. I just wish I could play the damn game without massive issues.

Rating: 4/10
Pairs well with: other open world survival RPG-type games.

Video Game Review: Karnov (Arcade)

I played the arcade version of Karnov a few times, back in the ’80s. I barely have any memory of it, though and I guess that’s because the original Nintendo port was a damn good port.

Playing this now, it’s damn near identical to its 8-bit port, other than the graphics are a bit better and the gameplay is slightly smoother.

I used to play the NES game a lot. But it’s nice getting refamiliarized with this one.

Karnov is a cool character that was also featured in other Data East games to the point that he essentially became their Mario. He’s actually the first boss in both versions of the Bad Dudes video games.

Since the character became so prominent for Data East, it’s surprising that this game never got a sequel. It’s unique, cool as fuck and as I’ve already pointed out, features a prominent character for the developer.

These games remind me a lot of the Rygar games, as it features a unique hero in a very unique but interesting fantasy setting. Both games have cool landscapes, awesome beasts to battle and present a serious challenge that isn’t unbeatable but requires the development of great skill to do so.

Karnov is just a blast to play, even if it’s difficult to adjust to its playing style. Frankly, this should’ve birthed a long-running franchise. Maybe if it became that, Data East would still exist today.

Rating: 6.75/10
Pairs well with: other side scrolling fantasy action games for the arcade and the original Nintendo.

Video Game Review: Contra (Arcade)

As much as I have played Contra on the original Nintendo, I hadn’t played the arcade version in decades. I always remembered it looking better and having better sound but I wanted to replay it just to see the differences between this original version and its more widely known NES port.

So this obviously does have better graphics and sound but it also has smoother gameplay.

Beyond that, the levels feel more condensed and the bosses take less hits to defeat.

However, even though you have the ability to continue after death, those continues are limited, so it’s extremely hard to actually play through the game in its entirety. In fact, I kept getting put down on the snow level, about midway through the game.

Still, this was a hell of a lot of fun and it should be considered an arcade classic in the same vein the NES version is considered an original Nintendo classic.

Rating: 8.25/10
Pairs well with: other side scrolling action games for the arcade and classic Nintendo, which narrows it down to about 8 dozen games.

Video Game Review: Bad Dudes Vs. Dragonninja (Arcade)

I’ve played through and beat the original Nintendo port of this game at least a dozen or so times in the last three decades. However, I haven’t actually played through the superior, smoother arcade version since the late ’80s.

There was actually a Bad Dudes arcade cabinet in a convenient store right next to my cousin’s house when we were kids. We dropped a fuck ton of quarters in that machine.

It’s a game that was just too f’n cool for words when I was a kid. Ninjas were awesome! And here, you play as one of two buff Jean-Claude Van Damme looking dudes and smash color coded ninjas by the dozens.

You also got to do it in greatly designed levels where each had a unique look and vibe about them. The moving semi truck and freight train levels just added an extra dose of badassness to the already badass proceedings.

The arcade version is also the best version. It plays smoother, has better graphics, better sound and just exists on a higher level than the NES version, which was watered down by the limitations of the console.

Bad Dudes is, hands down, one of my all-time favorite beat’em up side scrollers of all-time. Revisiting this version of it just solidified that even more.

Rating: 9/10
Pairs well with: other ’80s beat’em up games like Double Dragon and its sequels, RenegadeCrime Fighters, Final Fight, River City Ransom, Streets of Rage and its sequels, etc.