Weekend Gaming Playlist (3-10-23)
March is always a nebulous month- Winter feels like it is on its way out, but Spring is not all that willing to enter the conversation. This results in a mixture of dreary weather patterns- at least, if you’re from my neck of the woods. Although I have a rainy forecast in the cards for this weekend, I have plenty queued up on my gaming playlist to keep me occupied. Here’s what I plan to sink my teeth into:
Metroid Prime Remastered
One of my favorite games ever has been updated with (questionably) modernized controls and visuals, and that’s good enough a reason for me to jump back into it. While I can’t say that every update in this remaster feels like an improvement, I am enjoying what must be my fifth or sixth expedition on Tallon IV. I’m presently on my way to attain the Gravity Suit, which will open up and alleviate some of the more tedious portions of the game.
While I do feel that the lighting and overall character models have been modernized, the original release’s dark ambiance and low visibility on creatures like the Space Pirates gave them more of a threatening aura. Likewise, being able to appreciate the environments more actively via the free-movement camera control is nice, but it does obfuscate beam weapon selection- if that matters to you all that much. Metroid Prime is a slower-paced, methodical game, and though many of its original control mappings were designed for expedience, the overall pacing of combat and exploration doesn’t necessitate this all that much.
In any case, these minor changes can’t ruin what is overall a master class in environmental storytelling and immersive gameplay. We won’t be covering this title on the site, but it makes me all the more hungry for the eventual fourth installment. Honestly, similar remastered treatment for Metroid Prime 2 and 3 would be nice, but I can acknowledge the amount of work that was put into updating this sole title for the modern era.
Chinese developer Arrowiz has offered up an early March delight with the release of their cyberpunk/spiritualist/neo-noir mashup. If that sounds like a mouthful, it doesn’t begin to describe the variety of gameplay mechanics that Mato: Anomalies possesses. Part 3D-dungeon crawler with turn-based combat, part visual novel with deck-based negotiation mechanics, the game is as complex on the surface as it is in execution. The ambition present in this mashup is much appreciated, and would probably be harder to stomach if the disparate elements didn’t come together. But, they do- not exceptionally well, but there is a logic and deliberate cohesion to a story that might lose its audience entirely without proper context.
The game follows dual protagonists Doe and Gram as they unearth conspiracy and purge Mato of its emotional baggage, with Poe handling the investigative side of things and Gram taking to Rifts in order to slay the demonic creatures that plague the city’s denizens. As Doe takes on cases and gathers intel by traveling across Mato, the pair will meet and assimilate a number of colorful characters into their fold so that Gram can conquer Rifts in turn-based combat. Some of the game’s more unique features are its shared HP pool for the playable party and a unique equipment system that encourages links on a grid layout. While Mato does have some technical hiccups here and there, it succeeds in delivering a very stylistically unique experience thanks to its strong aesthetics and brisk pacing. You’ll hear more about this title when our review drops later this month.
I don’t know how else to say it, but I think I’m in love with Harvestella. Before I truly grasped its gameplay intentions, I was worried that the game would feel like a knock off of the better-known but recently-unsteady Rune Factory series. Instead, I’ve been delighted to learn that it shares a great deal of its DNA with the Etrian Odyssey series. While those games tie the progression of time to turns taken in dungeons, Harvestella has a more active clock that rewards careful consideration of daily objectives and a healthy sleep cycle. This isn’t all that much different from Rune Factory, but that series fleshes out a number of non-combat activities for the purposes of enhancing its atmosphere. Harvestella is all about dungeon crawling, which is the game’s key tie to Etrian Odyssey.
Building shortcuts, solving environmental puzzles, and avoiding- or confronting- the game’s dangerous FEAR enemies is the bulk of the Harvestella experience, and its dungeons act as valuable sources of materials that can benefit progression in a variety of ways. They also give the opportunity to build strong bonds with the many party members you’ll encounter, whose narratives then factor into the strength of their respective combat class, which the player avatar can use for dominance in battle. In short: Harvestella is the perfect RPG for short bursts of play, as meaningful choices made throughout the in-game days build on the momentum required to overcome all of its other challenges. It’s a gem of a game, and I wish that it had received more attention upon its release.
Those are the games I will definitely be working through over the weekend, but there’s always the off-chance I might delve into one of many deck-building roguelikes, or compose some more music on KORG Gadget. Is anyone else playing through Metroid Prime, either for the first time or as a revisit? Does Mato: Anomalies look unique, in your opinion? Should you play Harvestella? The answer to that last question is always “yes,” but feel free to share your own playlists either down in the comments or on one of our social media platforms. Have a great weekend!