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The Ten: Updated Wednesdays-Fridays-Sundays

Monday, October 27, 2014

Dual Review: Sakura Samurai and Retro City Rampage

Seemingly unrelated, but actually TOTALLY unrelated!
I just recently bought and finished these games because the 3DS release schedule is abysmal. But! On the positive side of things, it wasn't abysmal when Super Smash Bros. for 3DS came out. So I picked these two up before I got that game and promptly forgot about them until I stopped playing Smash Bros.

And then I finished them.

Sakura Samurai: Art of the Sword

PROS:

-Lots of variety

-Many additional challenges

CONS:

-Frustrating boss encounters

-Requires a large amount of patience

THOUGHTS:

I suppose I am not a patient man. So wen I discovered that Sakura Samurai was all about feinting and striking, I set about trying to complete it as fast as possible. At this point, I thought for every opening, you could only strike once. Then I learned this wasn't true, and I began destroying enemies in a quick fashion.

That being said, I still find the game incredibly annoying and even a bit boring.

It's not a flaw in the game design, though. I'm not a fan of a game that makes you wait. Yes, there are many games with cutscenes and scripted action, but I often found enemies shuffling just out of my reach for three seconds before finally deciding to telegraph their attack. And even then, I could only hit them so many times before they went to a defensive stance and I had to wait for my next chance to attack.

Skaura Samurai's entire playtime is based on playing the waiting game. Even the currency of the game is locked behind minigames you will either have to learn to master by practicing your timing, or simply completing the many battles on the world map over and over again. Without 3D, I often felt a bit disoriented with the minigames, which are usually either quick slice based or timing based, but the depth perception is difficult.

And then there are the boss battles. You will often have to fight through a number of grunts to reach the boss, which is not difficult in itself, but then the boss will have a number of attack patterns that feel entirely new, and are also extremely efficient at dulling your blade if you get too close, which is difficult to discern because of their increased size in comparison with the grunts you face. This means you will either have to carry a ton of whetstones and rice balls (again, a problem to obtain because of reasons mentioned prior) or just learn their patterns really well, which the game decides to make difficult to master since they can switch stances a number of times before settling on an attack.

I just get the feeling that most of my time with Sakura Samurai was spent waiting- waiting for the right opportunity to attack, waiting until I had enough money to buy an expensive upgrade or item... it really did not sit well with me at all. But hey, if you like Punch Out and the Japanese setting, go for it.

Retro City Rampage 

PROS

-Gloriously cheesy and unafraid to show it.

-A wide variety in missions and plenty of other stuff to do.

CONS:

-Frustrating endgame

-A few bizarre mechanics and inputs

THOUGHTS:

While I was playing Retro City Rampage, I felt very frustrated. The game throws many tutorials and new mechanics at you even past the halfway point, and some of these end up being crucial concepts that feel added later just to buff difficulty. But, looking back at the game, I had a ton of fun. I may have died more than I would have liked to, but I still enjoyed things.

My main issue with Retro City Rampage is that it never establishes an even tone- you are constantly doing and learning new things. Many missions feel like comedy sketches rather than part of a game, with mechanics being thrown in just to push a punchline. But where the game does succeed is with its unabashed love of many retro titles. The levels that attempt to emulate these games do so with great success and are the most rewarding part of the game.

The final stretch is a bit punishing, stripping you of all the items you have collected and forcing you to run through a gauntlet, then giving you a new powerup, then having you fight a final boss in a segment that is very unlike the rest of the game. Enemy balance seems a bit unfair as well, with the Player character being knocked out by one rocket while the most difficult grunt- which the final map is peppered with- takes two rockets to kill and boast their own launchers. The viewpoint of the game sometimes makes it difficult to target enemies with stomps, which is a focal part of the gameplay.

Yet, even with all these complaints, I'd be lying if I said it wasn't a very fun experience. It is offensive enough that its humor works, and its most ridiculous moments sell the entire package. Ultimately, it succeeds as a weird, simplistic, bite-sized Grand Theft Auto. Character customization, a "wanted" system, and plenty of quirky side content will keep you entertained with this game even after you've finished the surprisingly substantial story mode.

Final Verdict: One game forces an appreciation of patience and its precision mechanics, while the other is hell-bent on taking you on an insane ride through parody and retro-inspired moments. Both are solid efforts, but each have their own flaws that makes it hard to recommend either. While one is solid, it plays the waiting game too often, and the other is incredibly varied but features too much in one span of time. They are not the standout titles on the eShop, but they are both enjoyable in their own way.

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