Old Disappointments Revisited: JRR Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings, Volume 1 (SNES)

Over the past decade or so, I’ve tried to play every SNES RPG I can find, even if I don’t beat them all. I played most of them at some point via rentals, and I have fond memories of many of them (even Lagoon). Over the years, I have built my collection to include as many as I can reasonably justify (ex: I might pick up Brain Lord, but I’m probably not getting Dragon View). Even the most mediocre of these games has had some redeeming quality, but I’m here today to tell you about one that really doesn’t. J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings, Volume 1, which should probably have been named “Volume 1 of 1” in retrospect, really doesn’t have that much going for it.

The good news is that it looks good enough.
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“Revived” Franchises and Kickstarters

It’s no secret that I like Suikoden a lot.  Even the bad ones.  The series’ spiritual successor the Eiyuden Chronicles: Hundred Heroes got yet another trailer recently.  The creators are mostly saying the right things, indicating they’re focusing on things that Suikoden did differently from most games – having a large cast, involving that cast in the story (appropriately), and a relatively realistic and political scenario.

I’m a little worried, though, because past crowdfunded games that focused too much on recapturing an existing series’ magic lost sight of being their own thing, and end up being known as inferior copies.  Mighty No. 9 is probably the most notorious, but it’s definitely not alone in this.  Been there, got the t-shirt, still wear it ironically (probably), but honestly haven’t played the game.  →  Read the rest

Review – Tyranny

Not long ago – it feels like yesterday – I put Tyranny on my New Year’s resolution list.  It’s still 2022, right?  I’m happy to report that I completed Tyranny.  I’m not sure I’m happy that I chose it for my list.  It looks unique, and starts out feeling different from other CRPGs, but by the end it feels like a reskin of other games.

Tyranny starts out on a high note – the animated style of the narration and Conquest portion of character creation mesh to give a very different feel from the typical beginning of a CRPG.  The backstory (fleshed out in Conquest), in which you are effectively middle management for the conquering despot Kyros, also feels fresh.  Not enough games have you start as middle management, assigned to a failing project and expected to turn it around.  →  Read the rest

Gacha by the Nostalgia – Fanservice, or Predation?

I’ve played Gacha games – only four or five total – off and on for years.  I’ve rarely spent money on them, but I know they are – by design – predatory.  I find them relaxing and they offer just the right level of engagement for 10-30 minutes a day – sometimes more, sometimes less.

On some level, I know it’s a bad idea to play them.  Having played for years, I know the feeling of spending all your “free currency” on summons and getting nothing of value (where value can mean either a useful unit or a favorite unit).  It was tempting to spend real money – maybe $5 or $10 – to “support the game” and try for one last chance to get something good,but I managed to resist the temptation.  →  Read the rest

Some Itch.io Game Reviews

Around a year ago, I joined a fortnight-ly Itch.io game club after picking up the Palestinian Aid Bundle.  The club leader would post a (semi-curated) random game, and everyone would play through it.

The large itch.io bundles are perfect for buying entirely more games (and sprites, and rulebooks, and engines) than you need, while feeling like you’re helping to make the world a less terrible place.  It’s the perfect way to build up a crushing, overwhelming backlog and get some unusual games without a large investment.

Here’s a sampling of the games I played and enjoyed from the bundle:

Closed Hands 

This is an interesting visual novel about a terrorist attack in the UK and political/social reactions to it, told from five different perspectives.  The timeline varies by perspective, and each perspective is (typically) linear in one direction or the other, so you have a fair amount of freedom about whether you want to go forward or backwards in time.  →  Read the rest

Review – Eiyuden Chronicle: Rising

Eiyuden Chronicle: Rising is a “companion game” to the core game Eiyuden Chronicle: Hundred Heroes, which is still in development. Hundred Heroes is a Kickstarter headlined by Yoshitaka Murayama (story) and Junko Kawano (art), veterans of the original Suikoden. The Kickstarter is clearly designed to invoke the feel of the Suikoden series. Eiyuden Chronicle: Rising serves as a kind of teaser for the game world as well as a standalone, relatively casual, action RPG. As a teaser for a future game, it works reasonably well. Isolated from that context, I’m not sure it’s a great action RPG, although I did enjoy it.

As Jay observed in a comment on a prior post, Eiyuden Chronicle: Rising is similar to Ys III (not just because many of the environments line up – that’s just a happy coincidence). →  Read the rest

Switch Mario Party Games Compared by a Dad Who Would Rather Play Something Else

I’ve played Mario Party games off and on in the past. Sometimes I even enjoyed them. When you’re with a group of friends or family, and the down-time between turns and minigames doesn’t matter as much, they’re a great background game.

As a parent to a child who loves playing them, I have officially played enough Mario Party. The good news, for you, is that I have played enough Mario Party on the Switch to go in-depth on which one you should play, when you would really rather be playing anything else.

Super Mario Party

Although it’s a few years old now, there are several points in Super Mario Party’s favor. It has a large variety of gameplay modes – including 2v2 and 4-player co-operative modes, in case your gameplay companion is really insistent about winning. →  Read the rest

Affordable GOG Game Recommendations Part 2

More GOG recommendations, continued from Part 1 here.

More Strategy games

Knights & Merchants: The Peasants’ Rebellion – If you’re into sims, this sure is a sim. When I had the time to play the original release (which had no fast-forward) I reviewed it. I find myself mostly agreeing with my earlier self; it’s an interesting game if you’re into the idea of building a supply chain from scratch, sort of like a peaceful, less dangerous cousin of Dwarf Fortress. I’d probably recommend the more recent Banished over this one, if only for the clunky combat K&M requires you to engage in – but if you want to build a medieval ant farm and then leverage it to crush your enemies, this might be your game.

Seven Kingdoms 2 – This is a deep, relatively slow-paced RTS that was largely ignored at release. →  Read the rest

Affordable GOG Game Recommendations Part 1

Since videolamer has begun the process of following in Buzzfeed’s esteemed footsteps, it’s only natural that we reach for the low-hanging fruit of picking out games we played and telling you to play them. GOG (www.gog.com), briefly branded as Good Old Games, is stacked with tons of games created by incredibly talented developers years ago, most of whom will never see any of the money you spend because the rights have been sold and resold dozens of times over. But at least if you spend money on these 20-year-old games, it will assuage the slight twinge of guilt you might have felt if you pirated them.

Many of these games are more than 20 years old. Some run in DOS/DOSBox, but many have fan patches available. Check the corresponding GOG forum first – there is typically a stickied topic for mods/patches. →  Read the rest

Last Minute Nintendo 3DS and Wii U Virtual Console Game Recommendations

With eShop purchasing for the Wii U and 3DS set to end next year, and the majority of releases for the Wii U coming out in the 2012-2016 timeframe, it seems appropriate to bring up the immense loss of availability that we’ll see once the eShop is closed.

Digital-only releases are already only available to those brave few that bought a Wii U. There are fewer systems and games available on the Wii U VC than the original Wii VC (RIP), so even what is still available until next year is a stripped-down version of what once was. But many of the games available on Wii U VC are still unavailable to owners of the Switch via the Switch Online apps – so once the shop closes for new purchases, the selection will be further stripped down. Given →  Read the rest

Playing a Classic Game for the First Time: Heroes of Might & Magic 3 in 2022

I had a classic game on my shelf for literal years, unplayed. It’s not the only one – although it’s one of the more prominent ones. It’s simultaneously a symbol of the dying physical game release and the lost excess free time of my youth. It’s the Heroes of Might & Magic III collection – the base game, plus two expansions, on one DVD. I bought it at a used book store for $10.

Might & Magic started as a first-person RPG series. King’s Bounty was a spin-off of that series, where you play a hero leading an army on a quest for magical artifacts. Heroes of Might & Magic then took the strategic combat of King’s Bounty and made it into a turn-based strategy game – you take command of a nation, with heroes serving as your generals. →  Read the rest

Shin Megami Tensei V, from the perspective of an SMT “fan”

I’ll start all this off with a long caveat. Shin Megami Tensei 4 on the 3DS was the first real SMT game I finished. But since Persona 1 came out on PS1, I’ve played pretty much every SMT spinoff. The core series has such an iconic identity among RPG fans – “The Dark Souls of JRPGs,” (because Souls and SMT are both accessible, you just have to put up with a lot of deaths).

Except that last part is also ironic, because the first two SMTs are (legally) inaccessible in English unless you installed them on an early Apple device years ago before they got pulled. Anyway, what I’m trying to say is that I’m the kind of person a true SMT fan hates, while anyone who’s not a true SMT fan thinks is an SMT fan. →  Read the rest

Maximum Spoilage: Persona 5 and Apathy

The Maximum Spoilage series of writings is focused on discussing aspects of a game that would spoil said game to any normal person. Please continue reading at your own risksona. Note that this Maximum Spoilage entry also contains spoilers for the Mass Effect trilogy, in case you somehow haven’t either played or read about how terrible the ending is.

Persona 5 starts off with a bang. It ends with a whole ton of narrative confusion, meaningless (or even meaning-killing) twists, and the age-old “power of friendship” and “determination to move on” saving the day.

The first antagonist, Kamoshida, is arguably the best. He’s a former pro athlete turned high-school coach, and his reputation from his old job allows him to run roughshod over anyone else in the school, since it brings the school fame and money. →  Read the rest

Review – SaGa Frontier Remastered

The SaGa series has been on a remaster/remake/rerelease kick lately – in part because the series seems to have strong advocacy within Square Enix because of a successful mobile game (Romancing SaGa Re;Universe, which pains me to type) which helps cross-promotion, and likely in part because it makes money. While the cynic in me would say these are probably low-effort cash grabs, so far these games have been more accessible and better than the originals. So this is at least a medium-effort cash grab. Not bad!

Just like the good old days.

I’ve mostly been a “SaGa-adjacent” RPG player, primarily because many of these games didn’t make it over.  The ones I did play either didn’t have the SaGa label (Final Fantasy Legend), or were among the few that made it over during the golden age of RPGs – which is, of course, when I was mature enough to enjoy them and had the time to play them.  →  Read the rest

SaGa Collection: A Review of the Games that Matter

In an era where I find online, free-to-play mobile games gross and yet play them anyway, an RPG experience that is small, complete, and playable in short sessions is a great palate cleanser.  I finally picked up the Collection of SaGa AKA the Final Fantasy Legends remasters when they came out on mobile. As our thousands of readers might recall, I’m unreasonably nostalgic about these weird games – at one point I wrote an FAQ on one of them.

COLLECTION of SaGa FINAL FANTASY LEGEND for Nintendo Switch - Nintendo Game  Details

The Collection itself is about what you would expect. I got the Android version, and the real lure for me was the ability to play in portrait orientation and rearrange the buttons for comfort. The price tag might seem a little high for what it offers – but the fast-forward feature is a godsend (particularly for the second game, and I imagine I will appreciate it on the third also). →  Read the rest

We’re back… kind of

We’ve managed to bring the site back with https support, removed some older shared content (what even is gamegrep?) and cleaned other things up a bit.

If you happen to actually read this… let us know if anything seems to be broken!

Quantum Link Remembered

Hey reader(s),
None of us at videolamer (that I could get a hold of) recalls the Quantum Link service, although many of you no doubt remember its successor America On-Line with no small amount of fondness. This is a pretty darn cool article about the Quantum Link worthy of attention:


We’re not really in a state to reincarnate at the moment, but we do fondly recall the times we would write several articles a week, some of which were worth reading. We’ll keep them online as long as we can.

Keep on keeping on.

2012 Retrospective – Part 2

Continued from the previous article, this is a set of mini-reviews from stuff I didn’t get the chance to actually write about in 2012.

Diablo III (PC)
Because impressions from the beta were somewhat divided, I held off on picking up Diablo III until early summer, when the hype for the game had died down to “acceptable dungeon-crawler”. Unfortunately, I commit the ultimate sin now by (mini-)reviewing it without having actually beaten it. After the wealth of customization, strategy, and randomness that was in Diablo II, its sequel came as a huge disappointment.

Despite more than two hours of gameplay, I had yet to make an actual decision for either character I made. Bizarrely, stats exist but are auto-allocated, and you are simply given a new skill (and occasionally skill-variant) at each level. →  Read the rest

2012 Retrospective — Part 1

Since I didn’t get the chance to write about many of these games on videolamer, this is sort of a 2012-as-reviewed. Apologies if it’s a bit much; I’ll try to keep my impressions brief. These are all games that stand out to me, in either a good or a bad way. Some of them were released in 2011, but as a fellow gaming peon (no review copies for videolamer) I didn’t acquire them until this year. Games appear in rough chronological order.

Overall, 2012 has been a really great year for video games. Personally, I’ve been trying to limit the growth of my backlog while completing as many new and interesting games as I have the time for. What I found surprising was how well-represented the JRPG genre has been, as they have seen releases on consoles, portables, and even PC. →  Read the rest

Great Greed: Or, I play bad RPGs so you don’t have to

Many, many years ago I was an avid reader of Nintendo Power.  I had already developed a taste for RPGs, although they were a bit less numerous back then.  A bunch of them were bad — and often, even Nintendo Power was willing to admit that.

Regardless, I would read each article about an RPG with fascination.  When it was a game I knew, I would enjoy flipping through the various artwork and reading about the tricky parts.  Otherwise, I’d quietly file it away in a hidden corner of my mind, to play later.

I’m finally working my way through the last few of those games I filed away — recently Paladin’s Quest and 7th Saga, and a year or so back I played through a good chunk of Arcana.  All of these games I tracked down, purchased, and (with the exception of 7th Saga, which is too tedious) played on real hardware. 

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