Backloggin’ the Year – Paul’s Playthroughs, April 2021

Welcome to Backloggin’ the Year, a feature that discusses the challenges and excitement that comes with working through your backlog. Paul Shkreli looks at where he’s at in terms of his backlogging goals.

April was quite a busy month. If you’ve missed it, check out my review of SaGa Frontier Remastered and Saviors of Sapphire Wings. The stream of new releases or ports continues this month with Shin Megami Tensei III Nocturne. This month features an ARPG reboot of a SNES classic, a side-scrolling beat ’em up, and more.

Lufia: Curse of the Sinistrals (Nintendo DS)

As my astute followers know, I’m a big Lufia fan and have already played through the first game in the series earlier this year.  Rather than play the original Super Nintendo prequel next, I skipped straight to the 2010 re-imagining of the prequel with Lufia: Curse of the Sinistrals. Initially dismayed at the abandonment of the turn-based mechanics in favor of a party-based ARPG, I passed on the title when it was released and only picked it up within the last few years. Having recently revisited the series, it felt like the proper time to visit the newest entry.

The game is an absolutely serviceable ARPG with decent platforming mechanics and several challenging puzzles. My issue is this game is so divorced from the Lufia series, it might as well be from another intellectual property altogether. Outside of character names and a very basic idea of the plot, almost everything is a radical departure from the original. The game is more similar to the Ys series than Lufia. It borrows a handful of background themes from the original series, but that’s not enough to anchor the experience in the Lufia universe.

The combat is functional if nothing else. Players can jump, move objects, and deploy a number of abilities to fight enemies. However, the gameplay cycle is redundant. There is an excessive amount of backtracking, with players revisiting the same locations time and time again. Sure, including the overworld theme from the first game is a nice throwback, but this game doesn’t even have an overworld. Instead, players cycle through the same locations between dungeons via the menu. The strange and ultimately disappointing changes don’t stop there. This game would fare better, but for the Lufia-sized albatross weighing it down.

Record of Lodoss War: Advent of Cardice (Dreamcast)

I watched Record of Lodoss War at the beginning of the pandemic last March. The series itself has its origins in role-playing games, and the series and other media effectively capture the spirit of role-playing games. It came as no surprise that there are video games affiliated with the series, including a never-localized SNES game. After I reviewed Record of Lodoss War: Deedlit in Wonder Labyrinth, I wanted to check out the other game in this series to reach western shores, albeit twenty years ago.

Record of Lodoss War: Advent of Cardice was released in North America on March 14, 2001, during the twilight of the Sega Dreamcast. It features an original story set in Lodoss and includes appearances from characters from the show. Players create an original character who is tasked with joining the story’s heroes in an all-new adventure taking place after the conclusion of the original series.

The game is essentially a Diablo II clone. Lots of people have an affinity for Diablo II, and maybe I even did in 2001. Twenty years later, however, this one’s starting to look a little tired. The graphics are blocky and much of the game drowns in the same drab earthy tones. There is plenty of tolerable hack-and-slash action with a pinch of Lodoss flavor thrown in. Like other licensed titles, the game is light on original content and heavy on generic action. It’s hard to recommend this title to anyone other than a hardcore Lodoss fan, especially considering the number of great hack-and-slash titles released in the last two decades.

Night Slashers (Switch)

After reading one of Sam Wachter’s backlog pieces featuring a side-scrolling beat-em-up, I couldn’t quite escape the feeling of wanting to play one, too. The Switch has a large selection of some classic (even if I wasn’t previously aware of them) retro games, so I picked up Night Slashers and a few other titles issued under the “Johnny Turbo” line of retro games, gussied up with quality-of-life enhancements, save states, and filter effects to resemble the ’90s CRT TV you may have used to play them.

The game features a cyberpunk-tinged mid-’90s brawler aesthetic multiplied with exploding demons and zombies – and boy – do they explode. There are three character classes to choose from, each providing gory action, tight graphics, and dazzling spell effects. The Johnny Turbo releases also include presentation options, allowing players to apply a filter to the video, as if you were playing on the TV you had in your parents’ house when you were in pre-school (assuming, of course, you were born in the late 1980s). This is very much a game I would have played in the arcade at the hockey rink after practice.

I personally enjoyed this game, especially with the option to play with unlimited credits. Knowing I would be able to revive myself endlessly certainly made some of the trickier boss fights easier. I was able to finish the game in just under an hour. It was the perfect short jaunt in a month full of heavier, longer releases, and the quality-of-life enhancements make the game more accessible. I am looking forward to trying out other games in the series.

Honorable Mention

Fantasian (iOS, Apple Arcade)

On April 2, 2021, Apple Arcade released what I consider to be their first true killer app. Fantasian, from Mistwalker, is an Apple Arcade exclusive. I’d been looking forward to playing the game since it was announced in 2019, but had largely forgotten about it. It was a stealth release of sorts, first showing up in the Japanese App Store a few hours before releasing here.

Requiring a $5.99 subscription to Apple Arcade, the first of two parts is an entertaining turn-based RPG featuring a great twist on the classic JRPG formula. I do not generally write about new releases in this space, but wanted to quickly encourage anyone with an Apple device to consider Fantasian. The art direction is stunning, featuring gorgeously pre-rendered backgrounds that are based on real-life dioramas. The battle system is innovative and takes advantage of the Apple device touchscreen. Random battles have also been modernized through the “Dimengeon” battle feature. The system allows players to store up random encounters and then tackle the group en masse. It’s like the inverse of Wild Arms series, which allowed players to cancel random battles before they occurred.

The game is absolutely worth a try and can be completed within the trial window. It is an absolute no-brainer for any gamer weaned on old-school Final Fantasy. For an in-depth look, check out Jason McFadden’s impression here.

Well, no more from me this month. I’ll be honest about the slight fear-of-missing-out I am experiencing at this exact moment regarding Resident Evil Village (can’t I just call it Resident Evil VIII?). I am not a huge fan of the first-person perspective. I’ve got Resident Evil 7: Biohazard (or however the name is stylized) but tried playing it and did not get very far. I’m thinking of giving it another go, but I’m just not sure I am cut out for a first-person survival horror experience. Maybe I’ll just replay Resident Evil 4. I’ll be back again in a few weeks!


Paul Shkreli

Paul has been playing video games since his Nana bought him a Nintendo in 1991. He joined RPGamer in 2020.

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