My Games of 2021

Ugh. What year is it? 2021 is over, so now I can talk about the games I played throughout the year. I was originally going to rank the games that I came out in 2021 that I played, but I ended up playing a lot of uninteresting titles. If you want me to talk more about Mario Golf: Super Rush again I can try, but that was already a struggle previously. So, this year I am going to shake things up and talk about my top ten favorite games that I finished this year. There is a good mix of new and old titles in here and it makes for a more interesting write for me. To give you an idea of how slow I am with things, here are two honorable mention list with games I wanted to play and games I started but haven’t finished.

Games Released in 2021 That I Had Interest Playing, But I Never Bought

Disgaea 6: Defiance of Destiny
Pac-Man 99
Poison Control
Nier Replicant ver. 1.22474487139…
Returnal
Resident Evil: Village
Chivalry 2
Cris Tales
Famicom Detective Club: The Missing Heir
Famicom Detective Club: The Girl Who Stands Behind
Legend of Mana (Remake)
Pokemon Unite
The Great Ace Attorney Chronicles
Psychonauts 2
No More Heroes III
Sonic Colors: Ultimate
WarioWare: Get It Together!
Cruis’n Blast
Kena: Bridge of Spirits
Metroid Dread
Far Cry 6
Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba – The Hinokami Chronicles
Voice of Cards: The Isle of Dragon Roars
Forza Horizon 5
Dungeon Encounters
Grand Theft Auto: The Trilogy – The Definitive Edition (For the lols)
Monster Rancher 1 & 2 DX
Super Robot Wars 30
Wildermyth
Potion Craft: Alchemist Simulator

Games That Came Out In 2021 That I Played, But Didn’t Finish

Persona 5 Strikers
Bravely Default 2
New Pokemon Snap
Monster Hunter Stories 2: Wings of Ruin
Scarlet Nexus
Super Mario 3D World + Bowser’s Fury
Scott Pilgrim vs. The World: The Game – Complete Edition
Back 4 Blood
Shin Megami Tensei V
Yu Gi Oh! RUSH DUEL: Dawn of the Battle Royal!!


Top Games That I Finished This Year

10. Etrian Odyssey III: The Drowned City

“Hie thee to the ocean city… To the Yggdrasil Labyrinth. A journey to the blue depths… To conquer the shadows of night. Though you know not what this means, you go towards Armoroad. What awaits is time’s end; death’s demise. A tempestuous dream… To push away the unfathomable dark and bring light to Armoroad… A stormy adventure begins…”

Creating my list was hard, but I knew I wanted to include this game. Etrian Odyssey III was one of the hardest games I have on the DS. My gaming knowledge was new to dungeon crawlers and understanding party compensation.10 years later, I have become an adult with a better understanding of how things work. I went from not understanding how certain abilities could be helpful to finding ways to make my party unstoppable. The mix between dungeon crawling and finding treasure out in sea made the game enjoyable for many hours. The game left such a big impression on me that I went out and got the other games in the series to slowly play through the story canon games in the series. I will report my thoughts when I finish the series twenty years from now.

9. Dragon Quest XI: Echoes of an Elusive Age

The trend this year was finishing games that I’ve put off for years. I was really excited to play through this game when it first came out, but I found myself playing chunks at a time since I had started grad school at the time. Motivation went south fast when the definitive versions came out and sour my mood when I learned that you couldn’t transfer your progress to the newer, shinier version. So instead of starting all over, I chipped away at the base game and finally finished it this year. 

Dragon Quest XI is a comfort game for JRPG players. It is simple and friendly for newcomers while also engaging for series veterans. The story and setting make this an adventure worth playing while never feeling stale. There is always something to see, something to do, and challenges around every corner. I still need to finish the post game and eventually play through the definitive edition one day, but that won’t be until a while from now. I did write a post about this game back in October.

8. The World Ends With You: Final Remix / NEO: The World Ends With You

Yeah I’m cheating with this one. I couldn’t decide on which game I liked more over the other since they both have their high and low points. Ultimately I decided that if you put both together, you get a great game. The World Ends With You took me places that I wasn’t ready to go. The themes of your world ending when you refuse to live in it struck a chord that I never really thought about. It opened a new viewpoint that I was unaware of and kept the optimistic flame in me going. It’s sequel doesn’t do the theme justice, but it did deliver an improved gameplay formula that irritated me in the formal. Both games had me playing them whenever I had the free time to do it, and that’s coming from someone who ignored the original game when it came out. I am sad that NEO didn’t do well enough to Square’s expectations, but here’s hoping that the series can continue with new characters, locations, and a stronger emphasis on its theme.

7. Castlevania Advance Collection

I’m still cheating! When I learned that the Gameboy Advance Castlevania games were being rereleased, I got excited. Symphony of the Night is one of my favorite games and the advance trilogy share the same formula. While most games in the collection were better than others, I enjoyed my time playing through all four games. If you would like a more of my thoughts on the games, I wrote a post about them last month.

6. SaGa: Scarlet Grace – Ambitions

This was a surprise to me when I was looking over my options. The more I thought about this game, the more I remembered my playthrough and the adventure I went on. SaGa: Scarlet Grace has the charm and formula of a SaGa game that is also friendly for newcomers. The almost endless possibility of how your journey could play out makes finding and making decisions fun since you have to figure it out yourself (almost literally since there are not many guides). My journey with Urpina was a daunting one, but rewarding in so many ways. The other three protagonist are still waiting for me to take them on, but I am in no rush to get through theirs (especially since I started playing other games in the series). I wrote about my experience with the game back in August, so you can get the full read there.

5. Xenoblade Chronicles

The award for the game that took the longest time for me to beat this year goes to Xenoblade Chronicles. In hindsight, I could have finished this game a long time ago, but similar to Etrian Odyssey, my dumb young brain didn’t understand how to play the game logically. Xenoblade mimics a MMO game style where understanding how abilities and status modifiers matter. Once I understood this, the game became much more enjoyable to play and finish. It was a bit bittersweet to finally cross this game off my list since I was really feeling it. My advice if you want to play the game is to get the definitive edition on Switch. It is a really good game and worth playing. And yes, I did write about it as well as part of Love Your Backlog month.

4. Dark Souls Remastered

This is one of my proudest gaming achievements. I had no intention of finishing this game anytime soon, but the more I played and got into it, I was determined to see it through. I’m glad I did since the reward was definitely worth it and I felt accomplished. The original Dark Souls may not be my personal favorite out of the series, but it is now the one I am most comfortable with. There are parts in this game that I dread doing again, but I’m not afraid of facing them anymore. It is somber that I finally get to cross this off my list, but with other games in the series to keep me busy for the next four to nine years, I think the experience will make me a better player.

3. It Takes Two

There is a reason why this game won Game of the Year. It is a well-developed game. I played this with Kat the entire way though to the point where we couldn’t stop playing it. Everything felt well designed from the locations to gameplay to how everything relied on how cooperative you and your partner had to be. The story still irks me in several places, but certain moments make it up for being heartbreaking or hilarious depending on the type of person you are. I wish the game had more to do after the campaign since Kat and I were eager for more. If Hazelight Studios can expand on this gameplay and create something more inline with this, then it would be an instant buy from me.

2. Monster Hunter Rise

A new year, a new Monster Hunter game to play through. For me personally, I enjoyed Rise way more than I did with World. Rise fixed a lot of my personal issues with scaling down the bloated environment and making them smaller and more interesting. I like exploring the maps in Rise since there are things to discover like artifacts from the previous era and remnants of epic battles. My favorite is the Frost Islands where you can explore a destroyed ship and follow the skeletal remains of the monster it was fighting throughout the entire map. It’s details like this that I wish existed in World to make my time getting lost more interesting.

Besides the map, the mobility and how fast the game plays now made for interesting hunts. The Wire Bugs are one of my new favorite additions to the series and offers a lot of elements in and out of battles. I felt “meh” at first with the Wyvern Riding mechanic at first, but once I figured out how take advantage with the controls, it became fun to use. Rampage quest are still a struggle for me. The idea is to have multiple people with you during them, but my lonely self had a hard time maintaining everything that was going on. They do present a nice change of pace and strategy, but it does feel like it was meant to be played with others.

Other than that, the new monsters introduced had their fun gimmicks and quirks. I thought the Magnamola would be a pushover since I had no real difficulty up to it, but it quickly put me in my place when it decided to fly all of a sudden. The two new elder dragons are no pushovers either since they utilize Rise’s gameplay and your understanding of them. They are neat fights and made me say a swear or five. Outside of all of that, I’m happy Rise brought back interesting and creative designs for weapons and armor. It was something I was missing and happy to have back.

I never did write a post on Rise for one reason or another, but there is a lot that I can talk about. I originally didn’t have this game high on my list, but after replaying it this month, I feel in love with it all over again. On the fence if I might double dip and get the PC version when it comes out. I may actually finish Sunbreak when it comes out. The offer still stands if anyone wants to play online.

1. Tales of Arise

Tales of Arise is not a perfect game. If I had to rank it with the rest of the series, I would put it as maybe my fourth or fifth personal favorite. The game has a lot of good qualities in it, but there are glaring issues that hold it back from being up there for me like Symphonia and Vesperia. So why is it my number one game this year? From beginning to end, I could not stop thinking about this game. I wanted to explore everything this game offered and complete each difficult challenge that was available. I tend to avoid doing ridicules challenges in Tales of games, but Arise kept me engaged throughout. I didn’t find the characters annoying outside of battle and their struggles kept me invested. Even though I felt the story wasn’t on par with other titles, it did through me off guard at times and only decided to get complicated at the last minute.

Even as I write this, I still find it hard to explain why this was my favorite game I played and finished this year. There is something to say here about acknowledging all the faults it has while still finding some enjoyment out of it. I may never write about this game because I can never find the true words that I want to say. The best I have is that it is good despite its flaws. Rather that is good or bad is left to the individual. All I know is that Arise was my favorite game that I finished and completed this year.


So that’s all I got. Sorry if it is not the follow-up from last year’s presentation, but there wasn’t a lot of excitement from my gaming bubble. Let me know what some of your favorite games were this year that you finished.

The Flames of Dark Souls Have Been Extinguished (Backlog Tale)

I feel like if I had beaten Dark Souls a few years ago it would seem like a bigger bragging right than it is now. People have played and study this game for years now and there are videos and guides that help new players get through some of the most daunting trials. It now feels like once you beat it, you are handed a merit badge to show off to the other scouts who are busy earning other difficult badges that you are behind on. While that is what one part of my brain is saying, the other part of it is partying like its New Year’s Eve in 1999. I am very proud of myself for beating this game on my own (unlike Bloodborne where I played the majority with a friend). It is not the type of game that I would go out on my own to play, but the lore and culture around it hooked me in and now I’ve fallen in the abyss. Through practice, studying, and good ‘ole trial and error, I defeated Lord Gwyn and ushered in a new age where the next miserable soul would repeat the process. So allow me rest by the bonfire and reflect on this journey that took me (looks at game data…) two years to get through.

Synopsis

Long ago, dragons ruled the world…I think. That all changed when man discovered fire and all of its benefits; like containing souls to kill dragons….I think. Out of this fire, four lords were chosen. Nito, the first person to die I think, the Witch of Izalith and her normal daughters, Gwyn ,the Rock, Johnson, and some other guy. Together with Seath the slug dragon, they vanquished the dragons and established a golden era of fire…I think. Things were going great for a while, but no one told the lords that fire needs fuel to burn. The Witch of Izalith tried to use her flames to create a new one, but created chaos and demons instead. Gwyn sacrificed his life to keep the original flames going, and from there the world got even more chaotic. Those born with the darksign are considered undead and will fail to die until they lose their minds and become hollows…I think. Prophecy states that a chosen undead will leave the Undead Asylum and embark on a journey to rekindle the flame and restore the golden age of fire, or let it die like a badass and usher in the age of darkness…I think.

Act Like The Undead

My journey through Dark Souls was not without pain, torture, learning, adapting, and overcoming hardships. On the surface level, the mood and reputation of Dark Souls is to intimidate and highlight this bleak world that has misfortune around every corner. There is nothing that makes you feel safe at any moment except for the warmth of the bonfire. I find it strange that the one thing that has great power and the catalyst that started all of this is also your source of comfort. Nothing feels as satisfying as getting through hard areas only to discover a bonfire. Though it all, the challenge beforehand seemed daunting just to get there, but once you reach a save point, you start to feel safe and understand your terrain a bit. If there is one thing that I appreciate about the bonfire system is that they are never right next to the next boss or sometimes close to the next best thing. Bonfires can symbolize that you are close to something, but still need to get through something in order to reach it. For example, the bonfire closes to Quelaag has a swamp, big dudes who throw boulders at you if you get too close, and some egg sack creeps before you get to the boos room. When you first make the trek, you may look for an easy way to minimize the poison damage you get from the swamp, what big guys you can take out in your way, and beat the eggy guys before Quelaag. Soon you start to realize that trying to find the “easy” route may be the longest route since you will most likely limit your supplies before the boss fight. Eventually (depending on how many times it takes for you to beat the boss), you start to realize that if you run and avoid combat when needed, you can just as easily reach the boss room while conserving your resources. The game finds ways for you to abandon your cautious nature and take risks to yield better results. Overthinking things and hesitating will get you killed in most circumstances.

For my playthrough, I mostly stuck to a one-handed sword with a shield for defense. My character, Yeetes Yotes, was not the bravest of warriors at the start of the game, but throughout the journey she turned into a badass soul slayer. I mostly relied on my shield in areas unfamiliar to me and I wanted to keep my guard up for unexpected fuckery. Once I got familiar with areas, it turned into a use-only-when-needed item since dodge rolling is much more effective. To this day, I do not know what a good pose stat is and at this point I’m too afraid to ask. Since dodge rolling was my jam, I opted for light-weight armor that wasn’t good for defense, but made me hella light and sting like a Japanese hornet. For offense, I started off with a falcon, but quickly obtained the Drake Sword and fell in love. Eventually, I picked up a Black Knight Sword and despite how heavy it was, I quickly boosted up my stats to make this my main weapon for the rest of the game. During this time, I discovered the value of two-handing a weapon and start making most fights into a joke. One swing from me in two-handed mode who dispatch an enemy with one hit, and bosses took little from when I was solely one-handing. The only thing that I wish I took more advantage of during my first playthrough was using sorcery, pyromancy, and miracles. Using magic makes the game much easier in my opinion from playing some of Dark Souls 2 & 3. Regardless, playing the game with only the guns on your arms and a bow for long-range attacks is more than doable.

Yeetus Yotus journey came with great feelings of joy and a lot of frustration. From the early days of the Undead Parish to Anor Londo, each area has its trials that feel good for passing. I view each area as it’s own little puzzle that needs to be solved in order to find the great rewards of either a bonfire or really good item. Sen’s Fortress of Happy Fun Times felt like one of the most daunting trials to get through; and then once you get past it the later levels just laugh in its face. I dread one day returning to Anor Londo have have to deal with scaling the roof while two Black Knights shoot their giant arrows at you. I wanted to give up in the Giant’s Tomb since everything is so dark, but once I found the Sunlight Maggot, it became business as usual. Everyone likes to complain about Blighttown, but once you know your way it is one of the less intimidating places in the game (just annoying). The place that I was most frighten about was the Demon Realm and Lost Izalith since the first thing I saw in the Demon Realm were an army of Capra Demons. I wanted to nope out of that, but after I got passed the first two I found a shortcut that led me straight to a bonfire. From there, the rest of the Demon Realm and Lost Izalith was just an exploration tour to find the Bed of Chaos. I think by the time you are hunting down the Lord Souls, your fears and anguish of Dark Souls starts to wain to the point you are familiar with how the game works.

Experience From Unexpected Places

Boss battles are their own puzzles to figure out as well. Unless it is your first time fighting a specific boss (or you’re a quick learner), you will spend the first few attempts just trying to figure out the boss’ move set and patterns. Once you do that, you find the best way to punish them for underestimating you for the tenth or twentieth time. Since some bosses share similar traits (big and swing around), you can start to utilize some strategy from an earlier fight. Some bosses just outright tell you that “I have a gimmick and you need to figure that out!” The Four Kings comes to mind since they each come out at specific times. So instead of hesitating during the first king, you are encourage to beat each king before the next one joins in. It is one of the only “timed” bosses that you face, and it makes you change from a slow, observant fighter to a fast, hitting one. Besides Ornstein and Smough who you have to fight at the same time, there was only one boss that really gave me the most trouble; Gwyn himself. I’m guessing Ornstein and Smough were learning points for this fight (since they are the only humanoid bosses you fight), but Gwyn doesn’t mess around and his fight takes a while to understand. At this point I was looking at guides on how to beat some bosses, but the guides on how to beat Gwyn didn’t work with my style. I hadn’t been parrying at this point so that strategy was out the window. I wasn’t used to wearing heavy armor or had the magic to fortify myself; so that didn’t work either. Ultimately I abandoned all the guides I saw and opted to do things my way. Honestly, my playstyle from a different game gave me the ultimate victory.

It’s a good thing I played all that Monster Hunter before this game! In Monster Hunter, you are encouraged to stay engaged with your hunt at all times and defense all depends on your playstyle. My default style is using a Great Sword and mostly relying on dodge rolling to evade attacks. So why not adapt that mindset to the Gwyn fight? My Black Knight Sword sorta functioned like the Great Sword from Monster Hunter, and using my instance to dodge roll at the right moment was natural to me. To mimic my dodge roll feel like in Monster Hunter, I equipped my lightest armor that still offered some protection. So then my strategy turned into have shield equipped for extra insurance if my dodge was off, switch to two-handed mode for my attacks, and hide behind a rock (my new bff). Once I started engaging him in this manner, his patterns became more noticeable like monsters I would fight. After a few attempts with this new mindset, I defeated him and victory was mine. Monster Hunter and Dark Souls are two very different games, but it was neat discovering the skills I mastered in one game led to my victory in another. I will have to see if other skills from different games can have the same effect.

The Heavy Hitters

I do have some complaints about my journey that will probably vary player to player. At first, I didn’t really care about the speed of the game. My problem with it probably has to do with playing other games in the series first before this one. Dark Souls 3 was technically my first game in the series and there is definitely a different flow to the former. Bloodborne was the first game in the series that I finished and that demanded a lot of movement and fast actions. Compared to those games, it was hard for me to reset my brain a bit to accommodate to this game. After a while, I grew into the control style of Dark Souls and work with my limitations instead of wanting more.

Another minor complaint I have is how lost you can get sometimes. There were certain points where I had no idea where to go next and the game almost makes you figure that out on your own. I panicked a little when I got the lordvessel and was told to gather the lord souls, but wasn’t told where to start. The game was pretty linear up to that point, and once you get there the game suddenly opens up for you to tackle the rest of the game however you want. I thought there was an certain order the game would think that you would take, but no it’s like a Mega Man game at that point. I know a map system would defeat the purpose of exploration, but that would have helped a bit when planning out my course.


I guess the only other thing I can complain about is PvP. I do not care for PvP in these games and I feel it adds unnecessary stress when you are minding your own business and some dickhead just comes and kills you. It’s for this reason that I hardly ever restored my humanity and played most of the game undead. Could I just simply played offline and restricted my matchmaking? Yes of course, but before I knew I could do that the added stress had already sunk in. It is fun when you find people that want to help you and watch them tear ass through things they’ve done countless times.

Until the Next Journey

I like Dark Souls. Never did I feel like the victories felt undeserved since the challenge felt great to overcome. I will get around to playing a New Game + playthrough at some point since I do want to get the other ending to the game. I do also have the PC and Switch version of the game (courtesy to a friend who wanted to play co-op), so maybe I will create a different character on each and do some experimentation. It’s hard to tell where I would personally rank this game with the others, but I would definitely say below Bloodborne since I really enjoyed that game. For now, the tale of Yeetes Yotus comes to a close here, and soon/one of these days a new adventurer will embark on another journey through Hell and the Abyss.

My Stats From Finishing Dark Souls Remastered:

1 Full Playthorugh
Game Started: February 23, 2019
Game Ended: November 28, 2021
Total Playtime: (I don’t know since the game doesn’t keep track of that)
Number of Deaths: Ha
Achievements Unlocked: 18/41 (44%)
Proudest Moment: Beating Ornstein and Smough
Character Stats:

Advancing Through Four Castlevania Classics (Backlog Tale)

I have been enjoying the Castlevania games ever since Castlevania: Symphony of the Night won me over. The castle labyrinth with its secrets and fun gameplay made me wish I got into the series earlier and play other games in this fashion. While I would later play Castlevania: Order of Ecclessia and some of Castlevania: Dawn of Sorrow, there were older games in the series that I missed out on completely (especially for someone who loved the GBA). Castlevania: Circle of the Moon, Harmony of Dissonance, & Aria of Sorrow were three Castlevania games that came out on the Gameboy Advance. All three games followed the structure of Symphony of the Night with the core gameplay of explore a castle with various rooms while finding items to increase your abilities and clap Dracula’s cheeks at the end. All three games are regarded as great games for the GBA and have high standards in the Castlevania franchise. Originally, I was going to purchase all three games via the Wii U Virtual Console (because good luck getting them for cheap physically), but one magically day, rumors started flying around about an Advance collection that had all three games in one package. Great for me, sad day for my Wii U. So for the month of October, I set out to complete as many of the games that I could. I finished all three GBA titles plus Dracula X which was included for some reason. Each game gave off different impressions for me, which made playing each a good different experience than playing the same game with a different skin. I will be going over all four games in the order that I played them. This post may get long, so get comfy and play any of the Castlevania soundtracks for background noise (all of the soundtracks can be found on Spotify)

Castlevania: Aria of Sorrow

Intro

It is the year 2035. Since that is 14 years from now, I am not surprise that the threat of Dracula still haunts us. Soma Cruz and his friend Mina Hakuba are enjoying the lunar eclipse when they are suddenly transported to Dracula’s Castle. Meet by not Alucard, Soma finds himself drawn to the castle as if he was a teenager who likes to trespass onto people’s property. He soon learns that he can absorb the souls of monsters if he is lucky enough, and has to stop a man named Graham from becoming the next Dracula.

This All Feels Familiar…

I will be completely honest here. This is not my first time playing through Aria of Sorrow. I played it back in the day when I first discovered emulation and it was one of the first games that I played with that method. That didn’t disrupt my experience with replaying this game since I had mostly forgotten the layout of the castle. The only thing I remembered were the three souls required in order to get the true ending of the game (for clarity I went for the true ending for all three games). Castlevania games have a tendency for including multiple endings with specific requirements in order to obtain the true ending. Just know for this game you need to obtain and equip the Flame Demon soul, Succubus soul, and Giant Bat soul during your fight with Graham to unlock the true ending route.

Mechanically speaking, Aria of Sorrow is the best out of the trio. The controls, movement, and items that you can obtain are similar to Symphony of the Night while standing out on its own thanks to the Soul Absorption mechanic. You can absorb the soul of every enemy in the game and it will add a new ability for Soma. There are three different types of souls: Bullet Souls shoot projectiles for long range attacks, Guardian Souls that can either transform or provide offensive or defensive buffs, and Enchanted Souls that provide stat boosts. What the three different soul types provide are multiple play styles that you can choose from during each playthrough. There are definitely certain souls that you want to utilize for effectiveness, but having the option to make your playthrough easier or more difficult is something I like to see in games. Along with souls, Soma can equip different weapons that change up his basic attack. Weapons range from shortswords, lances, hammers, brass knuckles, and even a gun. Each weapon also changes how you go about fighting enemies since they each weapon has a different animation, range, element, or aliment attribute to them. Just because one weapon has the higher attack value doesn’t mean that you can tackle all enemies and bosses with ease. During my playthrough I had to switch up weapons since some were harder to hit certain weapons. That all changes once you find Claimh Solais and start murdering enemies since the sword takes up most of the screen.


Difficulty is present in this Castlevania game. Throughout my playthrough there were definitely times where I felt outclassed or the enemies were just kicking my ass over and over. Being a Castlevania game, you are encouraged to explore each area you visit to ensure you find weapons, armor, and souls that can help you get through some of the castle’s challenges. The game is an RPG, so it tricks you into thinking that you need to grind levels in order to be more powerful to tackle these areas. If there is one thing that you take from me about almost all the Castlevania games is that you do not (I repeat DO NOT) need to grind levels. Obstacles require patience and understanding of how certain enemies more, what their weaknesses are, and understanding the best way to overcome their BS. The solution is not thinking that once you get to a higher level you can go on a killing spree. Just like the boss fights, the enemies in this game require your respect and a well thought out plan will get you through their obstacles.

Overall, Aria of Sorrow provided me with a good challenge and a great time navigating Dracula’s Castle (which felt like the shortest out of the three). Collecting souls, finding hidden areas, and blazing through the castle always feels good and the game provided. If I had to complain about something it would probably be the length of the game. I finished the game in about 5 hours across five sessions. I found navigating the castle to be simple and I hardly had to stop and consult a guide on where I had to go to next. Each area is very telling if you should be here on not, and once you find an ability soul for a specific ability, you pretty much know where to go to next. The game is super fun and replayable; I highly recommend playing this in the collection.

Castlevania: Circle of the Moon

Intro

The year is 1830. While the Belmonts were off playing dead or something, Dracula took the opportunity to plan his resurrection for the seventeenth time with the help from Carmilla. Because this tale is non-canon to the series, a vampire slayer by the name of Morris Baldwin, accompany by his apprentices Hugh Baldwin and Nathan Graves, storm the castle to stop the ritual. They fail as Morris is captured so that his blood can be used in the final ritual, and Nathan and Hugh demonstrate what you will be doing for most of the game by falling down a large pit. Hugh rushes off to save his master/father while leaving us with Nathan to ponder why the fall didn’t crush their tendons.

Oh boy….

Easily the worst game in the trilogy. I had high hopes for this game since people were talking good things about the game; the collection proudly features Nathan on the title and home screen, and it had high reviews at the time. This was the biggest let down for me and I was hoping that the game would turn around for me at some point, but it never did.

Let’s get my biggest complaints out of the way. I understand that some people may not like the long hallway sections in these games since they are giant time wasters that have nothing interesting in them except hordes of zombies or skeletons. Now, take those horizontal hallways of nothingness, set them up vertically, and make most of you map based on that. The game is essentially a repetitive notion of climbing up sections just to go through a few rooms that make up climb us less, to then climb up some more until you eventually need to go back down to get somewhere else. This wouldn’t be an issue if they included some cool enemies to challenge you on your way up or vary up the platforming a little besides the clock tower. Each ascent just feels the same and their are hardly any enemies or platforming tricks to make the climb feel engaging. It is interesting to have a Castlevania game focus on vertical progression over mostly horizontal exploration, but if there is nothing interesting to do or see while climbing, then its just a waste of time. This bothered me the most during my playthrough since I would get lost often on where to go next; only to find that I need to be on the other side of the castle and will have to backtrack mostly on foot (since there are no warp points at the bottom of the castle) to continue progress. Just writing about it makes me mad and makes me dread playing it again in the future.


Another thing that baffled me was at the beginning of the game. When you start off, Nathan has the classic slow walk like in the classic Castlevania games. You cannot run, you cannot get running starts to some platforms, and it is a slow experience to start the game with. This would deter most newcomers as it seems ridiculous to play a game at this speed until you found the ability to run. What I found to be bad game design is that in the third room that you go into, you find the boots that make you run. What was the point of not having it at the beginning if you are just going to get it without a fight or trial. It feels completely useless to start you off without the ability to dash, only to go through one room with where you fall and get pass a couple of enemies to then be rewarded with the privilege to play the game at a distant speed. If I hadn’t committed myself to play the game all the way through, I would have stopped playing the game right then and there out of spite and worried what other questionable game design choices the devs made.

Okay. Some non-negative things about the game now. I did enjoy the Dual Set-up System (DSS) mechanic that Nathan uses. Defeating certain enemies will make sometimes make a card drop representing an action or attribute. By choosing different combinations of action and attribute cards, you can turn Nathan’s main weapon into a different type of weapon or create spells that can help you offensively or defensively. My favorite spell was to combine the ice attribute card with the barrier action to create a rotating shield that helped me defensively as well as with offense. It made traversing much more tolerable and made some boss fights a joke since my barrier would destroy any projectiles they had. I hardly used any other skill once I had access to this.


Another enjoyable feature that is included in the Castlevania Advance Collection is the ability to create save states and rewind. I didn’t mention these features when I was talking about Aria of Sorrow since I hardly utilized them but would occasionally use the rewind function if I did something stupid. In Circle of the Moon I abused the hell out of these two mechanics. Since running around the castle was a pain, I would use a save state on one side of the castle, and if I realized the path I took was a horrible mistake, I would just reload the save state and choose a different path. No shame in doing that. I would also save state outside of boss rooms since I didn’t have the patience to restart the fight if I somehow lost. This didn’t matter since I abused the hell out of the rewind function during boss fights since I wanted to be done with this game as soon as possible. This made the final Dracula fight so much better since he had this stupid one hit kill rush that you have to avoid or start the whole fight again. I didn’t have the time or patience for that so I became a time wizard and just rewind time to avoid my untimely deaths. Again, I have no shame in using those tools. Without them I probably would not have finished them game and would have caused some minor property damage.

Overall, Circle of the Moon was a chore to get done and I hated every minute of it. I get why some people were excited to revisit what was possibly their first Castlevania experience on the GBA, but with so many better games that came before and after this game, I don’t get it. The slow start, boring level design, and worthless vertical progression just makes me want to stay away from this game forever (knowing me however I will probably stupidly want to go back and 100% it).

Castlevania: Harmony of Dissonance

Intro

It is the year 1748. Juste Belmont gets an invitation to a party in Dracula’s Castle. Attending the party are Maxim Kischine, Juste’s friend who went on a self-discover quest only to forget who he was, Lydie Erlanger, the damsel in distress plot, and the typical rose gallery of monsters you would find in these games. Juste and Maxim work together to find their friend Lydie who is held captive somewhere in the castle. While zooming through the castle, Juste realizes that the castle keeps changing, and Maxim goes from chum to chad depending on where he goes. It’s up to Juste to use his Belmont powers to crash the party, save his friends, and maybe murder Dracula along the way.

Better Than Expecting

I won’t lie. I thought this was going to be the game that I would hate in the collection. I found the pixel art for the characters to be awful and one of the driving factors to why I never bothered to play this game. Once I got past that issue, I found this game to be enjoyable and now one of my favorites in the series. Who knew that if you look past a game’s visuals you can find a fun game underneath?

I think the first thing that made this game for me was the speed at which Juste can move. Unlike Soma and definitely Nathan, Juste starts off with a forward dash that he can do with a push of the trigger buttons. It is about the same speed as doing a backstep in Aria of Sorrow or Symphony of the Night, but you are able to spam the dash to make Juste fly through some of the rooms. This made retracting places so much better in my opinion since instead of backstepping my way through places, I could keep a forward momentum while facing forward in case I had to dispatch enemies on my way. The speed at which Juste moves is also a good thing considering this has the biggest map out of the GBA trilogy. Iga wanted to bring back the feel of going through the same castle like in Symphony of the Night. The only difference is that Castle B isn’t upside down like in SoTN. Castle B is more than least the same as Castle A, so it makes you flip through two copies of the same map with the only thing that are different are enemies, background visuals, and items that you have to find. This may be disappointing for some who believe this to be lazy game design just to inflate the length of the game, but I didn’t mind it.


One of the reasons I didn’t mind it was because for the first time in a good while, I got lost on what to do next. The game doesn’t really spell it out to you on where to go next like in the other two games. It gives you plenty of guesses on where to go on the map, but most of the times it is an impassable wall or requires a certain item to get through it. Harmony of Dissonance took me the longest to finish by only an hour, but it was mostly because I was constantly getting lost at certain points, and then when I found my correct path it was a euphoric moment. For context, I didn’t use a guide at any point during this game until it came down to finding one item. When I consulted the guide, it basically told me that I was at the end of the game, and I felt good about figuring things out on my own up to that point. This does make the game hard for newcomers who are not use to the gameplay flow of Castlevania to retrace steps to find hidden secrets and retain knowledge on how to get back to certain areas. I did feel good that I am used to this type of gameplay, but I would find this game tortures to anyone playing it for the first time.

Going back to Juste. I found him to be extremely powerful for having nothing but his whip and sub weapons to mostly rely on. Harmony of Dissonance is still an RPG, so you will have to spend some time outfitting Juste with armor and accessories to boost his stats. I did find this game to rely more on the RPG aspect as it gives you four slots to outfit Juste with head, body, arm, and leg armor with you picking and choosing what fits best for your playstyle. Juste only has the Vampire Killer whip at his disposal, but that is all he needs to kick ass. During your journey, you will find certain tips that you can equip to the Vampire Killer. This tips are mostly elemental tips that you can change out to deal elemental damage to enemies, but some have special properties like the Crash Stone that can destroy certain walls and the Platinum tip that adds a +20 attack to the whip. Classic sub weapons are present like the dagger, axe, holy water, bible, knuckles (which is new), and my favorite, the cross. If your basic whip attack is too short, these projectiles have you back as always, but can be helpful in other ways. Another mechanic that Juste has access to are spell books that can be used to change how sub weapons are used. I would like to be honest and tell you which each did, but there was only two that I used. Those were the cross + fire book spell which creates a giant flaming cross that can stay in one place until you input the command again, and the cross + lighting spell that turns Juste invincible for a moment and summons a giant pillar of crosses that deal massive damage. Boss fights became a joke with that last spell since I would use up most of my magic just casting that and then finishing the job with my whip. The spell book system is something that you can turn off and on when you need to, and it is wise to turn it off when you don’t need it. Sub weapons require hearts to use them, but spells require MP in order to be used. So if you are in a fight and run out of MP, turn the spell book off and you will be able to use the sub weapon no problem since you didn’t have to waste hearts while combined with a spell. This versatility may seem simple, but it makes Juste feel deadly and one of the strongest Castlevania characters that I’ve ever played.


If there is one more complaint I could make it would be the lack of secrets that you can find and things that you could miss. I spent a lot of my time hitting walls thinking that one of them would be a secret room, but in my entire playthrough I didn’t find a single one. Breakable walls have been a staple of the Castlevania series, and if I knew this game didn’t have any besides the visible ones that you need a certain item for, then I wouldn’t have wasted my time checking everywhere I went. Instead of breakable walls, you do discover that some walls have an invisible path that you just have to discover on your own. To my knowledge, no other Castlevania game features invisible walls, so it trips up both newcomers and veterans to check for stuff like that. Going along with this, there are relics around the castle that help you travers different areas. There is a point in the game where you get the high jump ability, but you will sometimes find barriers that you can’t get through. You would think that you would need to find a relic to help you get through that barrier, but that is not the case. There are random boots that you have to find located off the beaten path that gives you the ability to break those barriers when equipped. The same thing happens when you come across one dark area and have to find night vision goggles to get through the area. For something as important that you need to get the things you need to unlock the final area, I wish it was a little bit clearer that these boots were important. If I didn’t read the description of them, I would have missed the fact that performing the high jump while they are equipped will destroy the barrier. Something minor that most people won’t have a problem with, but I could have spent another hour searching for something that I already had in my possession.

Overall, I was surprise that I enjoyed this game. Looks were very deceiving and I was not expecting to have a good time. So far, Juste may be my second favorite Belmont right behind Richter (his game on the other hand makes me rage).

Castlevania: Dracula X

Intro

One day while watching people suffer while playing Castlevania 3, Toru Hagihara was displeased that he didn’t have a bombing soundtrack to go along with his entertainment. He decided to task Akira Souji, Keizo Makamura, Reika Bando, Koji Yamada, and Satan himself to create on of the best soundtracks that they could come up with. After months of work, they created one of the best soundtracks that blew everyone away. To market on this great soundtrack, Hagihara had the great idea to program a game around it and sell it as a video game instead of a music CD. The team decided to call this album, Akumajō Dracula X: Chi no Rondo (Castlevania: Rondo of Blood) and release it as a computer game to get pass customs and dominate the PC music genre. While they saw great success for the PC version, they quickly realized that they didn’t live in the era of the PC master race and not many people played/listened to music on their home computer. The team then decided to re-release the soundtrack two years later in a cartridge format to fit into people’s cars. The cartridge wouldn’t fit into most commercial car radios, but it would fit perfectly in Nintendo’s Super Nintendo at the time. They were also lucky that Hagihara’s game program was also on the cartridge so that listeners could do something while jamming out to the music. Thus, Castlevania: Dracula X came to existence. Oh yeah and I guess the game has something to do about a guy named Richter Belmont storming Dracula’s Castle in order to save his lover Annette or something…

I am bad at this game

I played this entire game without figuring out how to perform the Item Crash ability. That should set the tone of how badly this playthrough went. I will admit that when it comes to Castlevania, I am a bigger fan of the “metroidvania” design over the 2-D platformer. The difficulty curve that they can throw always infuriated me with how bad I am with platformer games to begin with. It is all about trial and error and knowing how to utilize the tools that are at your disposal. None of that really translate to my brain much as I’m just trying my best to get to each goal as best as I can. It doesn’t help that health is hidden in each stage and there are limited. Thus, this creates a stressful environment for me where I am trying to play my best while avoiding hits that make me unprepared for the next screen or boss fight. I like to play games to relax and not send me to my therapist office every Friday evening.

But, Rondo of Blood/Dracula X felt different from other classic Castlevania titles. Sure there were some unfair enemy placements to create that artificial difficulty, but the game didn’t feel impossible or cheap like the time I played Dracula’s Curse. I could actually tell that the game was trying to help me get through the stages with helpful sub weapon placement and telegraphed enemy movements that makes playing the game easier if you notice these things. Of course there were times where I felt like my own skill level was preventing me from tackling things better, but once I took my time to analyze things and work at my own pace, I found the journey rewarding and manageable. I still don’t like the idea that Richter will jump back like a meter to the nearest pit if he gets hit, but all of this became manageable once I started utilizing the best feature of the game.


Yup, I used the reset function like crazy in this game. I probably used it more here than in Circle of the Moon due to my zero patience for platformer games. Does this diminish some of the difficulty of the game? Absolutely. Do I give a flying fuck? Absolutely not. When you are garbage at platformer games like me, you take all the advantages that you can take, and since the rewind feature is built into this version of the game, hell yeah it becomes a game mechanic. This doesn’t mean that I was going about rewinding after every hit or death. There are such things as strategic defeats in order to gain the upper hand. This mostly came in when I was low on health and couldn’t get past the onslaught of obstacles in my way. Dying will put you at the beginning of that screen, and then from there it is just practice to find the best ways to get past enemies. Randomly on like Stage 6, I finally discovered the backflip ability that you have access to at the beginning of the game…so that helped me out a lot going forward. Bosses can either be challenging or a joke if you can see their attack pattern coming ahead. Surprisingly, boss fights weren’t difficult to me since instead of platforming I just had to learn their pattern and attack when the opportunity came. The Dracula fight however is extremely tedious and requires you to jump on several platforms just for the change to attack him, and the time it took me just for the chance to hit him almost killed me before he got the chance to do so. The second phase however is a joke if you came to the fight with the cross (the cross will always be my favorite sub-weapon).

So with all of that, it would be no surprise that I didn’t like the game for being a challenging platformer game right? Well, as a shocker to myself as well, I came to enjoy this game once I got a feel for it all. The soundtrack to the game definitely helps since it was one of the driving forces that kept me pumped for more. Of course Vampire Killer and Bloody Tears are instant bangers, but other tracks like Richter’s theme Blood Relations and the Cemetery just struck a cord with me that boosted my moral. Without the rewind function, I probably would not have finished this game as fast as I did, but with it, I discovered what is now probably my favorite classic Castlevania game. I will have to play the game one day without the rewind feature, but hopefully by then I will know the game well enough that I don’t have to rely on it (and my blood levels can stay stable).

Advance Collection Overall

Honestly I am really glad that I experienced these games in this format. Playing the original games with an actual Game Boy Advance will probably feel like the best way to play these, but this collection makes these so easy to play. I played the collection on my Switch and the first advice I can give is to play these games with a comfortable controller. I played everything with my 8bitdo controller since it is in the shape of a Super Nintendo controller and felt comfortable playing games like this on. You do have the ability to customize your button layouts and that was a saving grace for me for attacking and jumping comfortably (its an available option, use it). Each game has a built in tracker that helps keeps tracks of relics that you find, cards and souls that enemies drop if you are trying to collect them all. This is super helpful and makes collecting items so much easier. There is also the after mentioned save states and replay functions. If you are having problems playing through the games due to their difficulty, please please please use these features to help make the games more tolerable. They are built in functions for you to use; use them to the fullest and never feel bad about it.

Overall, these are all good games that are worth playing (even if I think one of them is technically bad). They take no time to beat and can be replayed over again. If I had to rank them out of my personal enjoyment it would go as following:

1. Aria of Sorrow
2. Harmony of Dissonance
3. Dracula X
4. Circle of the Moon

Thanks for reading this really long post!

Backlog Tale – Mario Golf: Super Rush

Mario Golf: Super Rush was a fun game to play for the two weeks I spent playing it. I haven’t played a Mario Golf game since the N64 version. I enjoy that version and the Game Boy Color version as well. Super Rush is easily one of my favorite to control and understand, but I can’t help but to feel that some of the charm has been lost. When I compare this to some of the older Mario sports games in general, I can’t help but to notice the Mushroom Kingdom “charm” feels missing outside of some elements that were paste in. What I’m left with is a fun game that functions great, but doesn’t get me excited with its level design and boring plot to a story mode.

Synopsis

What if golf was Mario Kart?

A Neat Idea That Can Be Frustrating

Despite not liking most sports, I do enjoy them when you add some fun, wacky mechanics to it. To me, it makes the game more interesting when bombs are flying all over the field or you have fun characters to play as. Mario Golf: Super Rush found a way to make golf interesting by adding a new mode called Speed Golf. While I think the real world equivalent would be watching a bunch of golfers take meth and run and scream after they hit their ball, this game gives me a close equivalent to what that would be like. Speed Golf requires you to race to your ball after hitting it down the green and race your opponents to see who can sink their ball the fastest. There are different variations to this mode like just playing normally under a time limit, or earning points based on your placement. It is a fun mode and adds to the crazy chaotic fun that I enjoy in some of my games.

One thing that I don’t like is Cross Country (XC) Golf. This mode in the Adventure Mode let’s you pick which holes you want to go for in any order as long as you do them within the number of strokes. The stage that you play this mode on has a ton of cliffs that you have to send your ball upwards in order to clear. For someone who tried using the recommended methods to get past these obstacles, it made me want to send my controller down the fairway. Even worse, the game times you so you don’t feel like you can get enough time to adjust and figure out the best ways to clear the cliffs. It was aggravating and could completely be my fault for not using the right technique, but nevertheless frustrating.

The other new mode is called Battle Golf. In this mode, you compete against others sink your ball into the required amount of flags before your opponents. This is where the real chaos of Mario Golf: Super Rush comes in as the field is smaller than other maps, but with items being used everywhere and characters using their own abilities to disrupt others, it looks fun. I honestly did not spend much time in this mode, but probably will if I have friends who want to join in.

What is nice to know is that the game will be supported in the future with free updates. I know this goes into the topic of if the game was actually finished to begin with. I too wonder if the developers had more plans with the title but were force to ship it out on release day (more on that in the next section). I like this approach however for a title like this. I don’t see myself playing this every day or develop a routine with it. Giving me a reason to pick the game up once again outside of playing with friends might give me a reason to play this on occasion here and there. For a sports game, I am a little more accepting of picking it up when free updates are sent out (and not spending $60 for the same game with a different roster). If the content is worth it, then I will check it out.

As of the last update, there are 9 courses.

Adventures in Golf Land

I was excited to play the adventure mode since they were my favorite in the Game Boy entries. Adventure mode left me disappointed and honestly where I felt the most content was lacking. I know people want to say that the lack of content comes from the number of courses you can play on, but to me this is where the content was lacking. I felt like I was just going through the motions and not really caring about what was going on in the story. At the beginning it felt like some type of rivalry between you, Charging Chuck, Boo, and Toadette, but they kinda disappeared somewhere in the middle and suddenly I’m teaming up with Wario and Waluigi for “plot.” It also felt unfinished to me at the end where you save Bowser’s Castle, Toad says you can participate in Battle Mode, and then the credits just roll. You do get the ability to use your Mii in Battle Mode at that point, but I just ended up saying whatever at the end and moved on.

The other obvious complaint to adventure mode that I could make is how uncreative the areas and characters are. I know Nintendo is going through this phase of not allowing creative characters in Mario games anymore, but this game really suffered from that choice. Being surrounded by Toads and (Bowser’s) minions makes exploring and talking to them dull since you see them everywhere. I’m not saying that it could have the opposite effect if they were human characters, but making them all look the same and nothing creative about them just makes me uninterested in talking to them. I can see why they wouldn’t let Camelot use their human characters in the game, but if they were uptight about not having non-residents of the Mushroom Kingdom roaming around, then they could have used the next best thing, the Miis! If I’m allowed to run around as a Mii, then they could have easily implemented generic Miis in the adventure mode and make you go against these NPCs with an identity rather than a minion that shares the name of the others.

I can now play as my boi Koopa Troopa!

It’s Golf, but with Speed

This post feels short just because there is not a lot for me to talk about. It’s Mario Golf. You either like Mario Golf or you don’t like it. I enjoy Mario Golf games because they speak to me at my level on how to play golf. I had more fun just playing the regular golf mode with my father-in-law than anything that the adventure mode threw at me. I like some of the stages and characters, and I will most likely play through the new stages and content that come out later. If you like Mario Golf, I can recommend it to you since you will have a good time with this and the new modes that come with it. If you like golf but hate Mario and gimmicks, then you can skip this game a find a cheaper golf game to play. If you hate golf but like Mario, then play any of the other thousands of Mario games. If you hate golf and Mario, then why were you reading this in the first place? I enjoyed playing this for the time that I did, but don’t see myself playing it constantly in my rotation.

Collection Tale – The Young Fool Who Bought Skyrim

In 2011, I became a victim of a series issue that unlucky young adults find themselves in when faced with misinformation, societal influence, and being vulnerable and unprotected. I of course am talking about peer pressure. I was a victim of peer pressure to the point where I look back and feel ridiculous for my actions. During my second year of undergraduate studies, I became close to a group of friends within our department. At the beginning of the semester, all of them couldn’t shut up about this amazing game that was coming out in November and it was going to be the highlight of gaming for ages to come. That game (if you didn’t read the title) was The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim. At the time, I didn’t know what an elder was and what they were scrolling from. I had never heard about the series before, but the way my friends were describing it, it sounded incredible. Soon, I would start watching the trailer with them and start feeling the hype for it. There was one small issue however.

Back in 2011, I had no consoles on me. The only gaming device I had with me was my DS and PSP. Not a single one of those would play Skyrim on it (I doubt that would stop Todd Howard today) and I didn’t have the money to just go out and buy a system. I was getting hyped for no reason, since I couldn’t play the game regardless. One of my friends however told me that the game was coming out on PC, and that I could play it on my laptop if I wanted to.

This was mistake number 1. I was rocking a Gateway POS that could only run my school work on. There was no way that my laptop was going to run this game well enough. But my friend (who went on to build his own PC and help me with mine later) assured to me that my potato with buttons would be able to play the game just fine. So with the hype building, I borrowed some money from my savings (mistake #2), went to GameStop and preordered the Collector’s Edition of Skyrim for PC (back in the day when you could preorder physical PC games *thunder sound effect*). Nothing really mattered to me at that point since I could now be part of the group and conversation when this game came out. Little did I know that this event would mark the beginning of when I stopped listening to people’s advise on games I should play and how to play them.

Let’s talk about the Collector’s Edition for a minute. The Collector’s Edition for Skyrim cost about $125 USD if I recall correctly. It came in this big box and had the Skyrim scenery all around it. There were five items included in the box. The first was the game obviously, but also included was a behind-the-scenes DVD that talked about the development of the game. I’m pretty sure I have never watched it. A mild trinket was a map of the entire region that you can see in game. Its made out of nice material, but I haven’t done anything with it. An interesting item included was a 200 page art book that had illustrations of characters, enemies, items, and scenery. That doesn’t compare to the item that possibly influenced me the most to get the Collector’s Edition. The edition came with a 12 inch statue of Alduin, the main antagonist dragon. This statue could be classified as a lethal weapon since it is sharp and could easily be used as a blunt-force weapon. These days it probably wouldn’t be worth the price, but for what you get I think it was a good deal at the time.

November 10, 2011 arrives. My friends I are at the midnight release of the game (the one and only one I’ve ever done) and the doors open. When its my turn in line, I proudly declare that I was picking up my PC preorder for Skyrim. The employee designated me as the weirdest person that night, but seeing that there were two more people who preordered the PC version, I didn’t feel too out of place. I get back to my room, I can hear my roommate’s cheers of joy that all his dreams have come true, I put the game in my disc drive, and then it askes me for my Steam account. Come again? Yep, this was my first encounter ever with Steam. The disc just had the installation software on it, but in order to download and play the game, I had to create a Steam account and download the game from there. No real biggie. I created my Steam account, started the installation, and Steam told me it would take 20-23 hours for the game to download. You could feel the regret lining up at my door to start beating the crap out of me.

The next day, all of my friends had either skipped their morning classes or just never left their places to begin with. Since the game was still downloading on my laptop, I couldn’t bring it to any of my classes and couldn’t use it for most of the day. The one’s who did show up later in the day were talking about the character they created and their builds, and here I was still waiting for the game to download. That night, I was finally able to launch the game. The launcher checked my laptop’s specs and I’m surprised it didn’t just refuse to launch. It set everything to the lowest possible setting available and told me good luck. The iconic music starts to play on the home screen, and I’m finally ready to dive into dragonslaying adventures.

The game struggles to run. My laptop was able to run it decently, but since I had everything set to either low or off, a lot of the beauty of the game was lost. I believe at one point the game wouldn’t run since so many things were still running in the background, that I had to manually turn things off just so the game could get past the character creation. When I finally got the game past the opening, I set off in this low texture, slow development, 15 frames per second world. It was vastly different from the game that I saw my roommate playing, and I’m pretty sure I felt frustrated that I couldn’t play this game that I spent money on to not work on my laptop. But after I got over those initial hurdles and could play the game comfortably as possible, I started to make lemonade out of this limes that I had.

Imagine the game looking 800x worse than this

Would you believe me if I told you that I played the entire game on that laptop and finished the game? Would you believe me if I told you that I put over 100 hours into that version of the game and had a time doing so. Just me, my small screen, and my mouse and keyboard. I don’t know what possessed me to keep playing the game in that state. I guess at that time it was one of the few things that I had, so I was committed to play it and have fun with it while I could. Eventually I got used to the slow combat, aiming my fireballs without actually seeing the flames leave my hands, and reading every tip the game offered due to slow load times. I even managed to get through that one story quest where you have to solve a puzzle that involves reflecting lights off mirrors. Yeah, try and do that puzzle with no light effects whatsoever and relying on tiny particles moving in the air as your only guide that you maybe doing it correctly. I thought that puzzle was going to be the end of me, but I solved it and continued my ball busting run through Skyrim. I must have finished the game offline since I don’t have the achievement for it, but my last achievement from the game (to this day) is from December 8, 2012. It took me a year to finish it, but I managed to beat Skyrim on the lowest settings possible on an electronic typewriter that probably hated me.

A picture I took a long time ago with no context

To this day, I haven’t really gone back to Skyrim as much. When I got my actual gaming PC, I remember playing some of it, but not a lot. I have all the DLC and can now enjoy the game the way it was meant to be played, but nothing has called me to return to it for long. Before a few months ago, the last time I played the game was back in 2016, probably around the time I got my gaming PC and played around for a while. I think I just got my fill of it from playing on that busted laptop that I felt like I got my fill of it for the time being. To this day, it still holds the number one spot on my Steam account for the most hours played at 156 hours (rookie numbers I know). This post is not to make me sound superior in any way of playing and beating Skyrim in a difficult way. I believe the moral of this story is to do your own research and don’t let the influence of others dictate all of your decisions. I didn’t need to play Skyrim on release. Hell, I was more than happy playing the few DS games I had at the time over again. I desperately wanted to be a part of something that the group I was with were into and I made a foolish mistake for it. I don’t mostly talk to anyone from that group anymore, and I feel like me not keeping up with the “trends” was one of the reasons; which is completely fine by me. Don’t make my mistake. Say no to peer pressure.