An obscure game even by our standards, Shepherd’s Crossing was developed by Success, who have worked on a number of games with terrible Metacritic scores. This game only avoids joining that group by not being reviewed by any major publication (as far as I can tell).
Pat: With a few tweaks to the interface (I had serious trouble placing fences around my crops), and some way of alerting the player as to what is going on (a useful tutorial, some reference guide, status screens, anything!) this could have been a decent game. I managed to make some progress I think, but I never felt like I was running a successful farm; instead I felt like I was always one bad turn or decision from losing absolutely everything. There is a bare bones RPG battle system in the game also, which is fun enough.
Disclaimer – I have no experience with Harvest Moon or Animal Crossing or any game like that, so its possible there are far better options for this type of game out there, but as I said, I know nothing about them.
Jay: Yes, there are much better options but those games don’t include the radical new technique known as Random Dropping Farming. In Shepherd’s Crossing all farming is done with RDF and as a result your farm always looks like a tornado just hit. I do think Pat is being overly demanding in his suggestion the game should include a tutorial, I would settle for a useful manual. It’s a frustrating experience because the concept of a trading sim, which this essentially is, that includes some complication due to the ecosystem (crap grows, is eaten by other crap, is crapped out) is interesting and even a bad RPG mechanic only adds to the game’s potential. But you never have any idea of what you should do, what’s currently happening, or why the duck won’t share his bottle of wine with you.
Based on an a line of Japanese action figures, Konami blended a cover shooting system with puzzles and bad voice acting to create a mediocre Metal Gear ripoff. A misstep for an otherwise mostly solid developer, Cy Girls is nonetheless more playable than its terrible reviews may indicate.
Pat: The last time we ran down a gaming weekend on vl, I went a bit easy on Superman 64 because I said it had mildly interesting mission structure. This game is nowhere near that bad, but I am inclined to go easy on it for much the same reason. When we put this down, the prison-escape level I was playing was much much worse than any fifteen minute chunk of Escape from Butcher Bay.
Jay: What we played of Cy Girls was definitely not that bad, yet reviews of the game are absolutely awful. I have a theory that paid reviewers accumulate pools of hatred because they must give the Kane and Lynch-es of the world good reviews. Then an average game comes out from a big publisher they really go to fucking town on it, releasing all the pent up anger. Instead of giving MGS4 an 8 and being fired and having Konami take out a hit on them, reviewers give it a 10 and then tell you how Konami’s other game Cy Girls is responsible for transmitting AIDS from apes to humans.
A blend of brawler and Magic: The Gathering, budget Xbox title Phantom Dust was created by Yukio Futatsugi, who is also responsible for the Panzer Dragoon series.
Pat: This game probably deserves a bit more time. We made it somewhere into Chapter 2, but there are major mechanics we had yet to unlock (such as creating your own deck, or “Arsenal” for use in battle). Unfortunately, the early missions were so repetitious that we needed a break from the battles, and in a single weekend, taking a break from a game usually means not coming back to it.
Jay: Enough people seem to like this game to make me think it does get better. What we played was repetitious, though, and holy shit are these character designs ugly. It’s a shame the game establishes an interesting plot and world and then boxes you in for your fights. The setup screams for an action adventure game and then the gameplay is just one-off rounds, which is disappointing.
*Obligatory go back to Sega and make another Panzer Dragoon comment goes here.*
The fact that this is a sub-mediocre Space Invaders knockoff is mitigated only by the fact that the developers at Taito were apparently attempting to knock themselves off.
Pat: This game suffers from unfair bullet patterns and poor level design. There is no reason to play this game in a world where Treasure exists (such as the world we happen to live in).
Jay: You’re aiming too high. There’s no reason to play this in a world where Alfa System exists.
Pat: You are right, comparing anyone to Treasure is unfair. Really, the original Space Invaders is probably a better game to play today (in addition to more nostalgic, more important to game history, etc) than Space Raiders. Also, there is probably a post in there somewhere about how unlimited continues without penalty (not even the loss of quarters) causes me to stop trying. By the last level or so I was allowing myself to die constantly, safe in the knowledge that I would start exactly where I was.
Jay: Space Invaders is a better game. In Space Raiders the bullets reach the bottom of the screen way too quickly so you have little to no time to recognize then react to the patterns being thrown your way. Maybe you could argue the game is for expert players only with razor sharp reaction times, but the infinite continues kind of undo that logic. Like Pat, I eventually stopped trying and just powered my way through, continuing every two minutes.
Soul Nomad and the World Eaters
The last Nippon Ichi developed game to appear on the Playstation 2, Soul Nomad and the World Eaters follows closely in the tradition of Disgaea, La Pucelle and Phantom Brave by being an SRPG where everything can be leveled into the thousands and using annoying and inoffensive demons as main characters.
Pat: Had I known this was basically just another Disgaea I probably would not have selected it for this weekend. There is nothing wrong with those games, but I just don’t think the format of these weekends allows for the time necessary to make any real headway or appreciate them. That said, it seemed like a deep and interesting SRPG that I could easily lose many hours of my life to.
Jay: Once you left I picked this back up and have so far put 10 hours in. It’s pretty good, though it feels like most Nippon Ichi games – deep mostly because a bunch of unrelated mechanics were thrown together randomly. For example, the maps almost entirely lack spaces you can’t move units through – castle walls and mountains are not impediments due to the strange yet graphically appealing way the map is drawn entirely flat. This is an interesting idea but none of the many other mechanics seem to tie into it at all. Ultimately I think this will run its course like all NI games: I will be fascinated by it for 30 hours at which point I will realize I just wasted a lot of my time for absolutely nothing and will become irate and swear off the company.
Legendary Czech Developer SCS Software adds this hunting simulator to its stable of perennial favorites: Bus Driver, Hunting Unlimited, 18 Wheels of Steel, and Euro Truck Simulator. A shallow piece of crap by any measure, at least you can turn the Wii off without leaving the couch.
Jay: LUNG SHOT!
Pat: As if shallow and boring gameplay weren’t bad enough, the voiceover has to rejoice every time I mortally wound something. I’m not as much of an animal rights person as our friend Jay here, but if I were a hunter I would like to think I’d be more the type to respect the animal I’m killing than just celebrating its demise. The most painful part is that the deer frequently look like they are suffering, although perhaps not as much as I suffered while playing this.
Jay: It’s probably shocking that two liberals from NYC aren’t big hunters, but I’m pretty confident that even if we were, this game would be abysmal. The arcade shooting gallery style is boring; instead they should have made a MGS style realistic hunting game. You know, one where 50 deer don’t charge past you while you simply stand still shooting them in the face as they pass.
Our mild infatuation with Love de Lic and its successor companies continues with this skip developed foray into the miniature-cleaning-robot genre. A brightly colored game in which the primary goal is to make the people around you happy, it was nonetheless described as “A dreary, joyless piece of junk” by a reviewer who must have never played the game.
Pat: We saved the best for last with this one. There are fair criticisms that could be leveled at this game: your battery runs out too quickly, especially in the early-going; days and nights are too short; conversation options are limited and pointless. And if you are insecure in your masculinity the cuteness may be off-putting. That said, I found it charming, and despite the fact it is not always clear exactly how to advance the plot, you never feel like you are wasting time, since there is so much to do (granted, much what there is to do involves cleaning up candy wrappers and crumbs). It is also refreshing to play a game once in a while where your goal is to make NPCs happy rather than shoot them in the face.
Jay: I actually put off playing this because it came off as overly cute. It’s cute but in the “god damn the Japanese are weird” way, which I really like. I feared it would be more like Hello Kitty or girls giving the peace sign in pictures. The writing and quirkiness of it, as well as the sense of scale, remind me of Pikmin, which is generally a good thing for a game to do. I am not sure how the handheld sequels are but it’s a shame that the series probably won’t make any more console appearances. Maybe a 3DS game?