Banners of Ruin (Review)

Source: Review Copy
Price: £15.49 (£21.28 for bundle with Supporter stuff, Supporter Bundle on its own £5.79)
Where to Get It: Steam

I do love me some anthro dark fantasy. A tale of revenge, the last members of a clan of animals making their way through the enemy’s city to claim their head… Yes, this is very much my jam.

And, despite some qualifications, Banners of Ruin is also my jam.

Who are the bad guys? Well, they’re the ones on the side of ri- on the right hand side. This is dark fantasy, there is no right side…

So, in case you hadn’t guessed, this is one of those games where you pick cards for events (out of three each time, although you won’t always get a choice), level up your characters, build up a deck of combat cards with which to beat down the enemy, and weapons and armour to help screw them up, recruit more characters (potentially), fight a variety of enemies, and… Well, most likely die on your run until you really get to know the game.

Just roguelike things, y’know?

Honestly, though, while this isn’t anything new, per se, it’s solidly built. Choices are relatively simple, and everything is clear… Well… See, this is where one of the qualifications comes in.

See those tiny squares on the bottom? That’s where you drop your stuff.

Accessibility wise, it’s fuckawful. Serif fonts, often tiny. Colourblindness unfriendly symbols which are also tiny… Would a white outline, or, y’know, a high contrast colour kill you, folks? I can tell it’s bleeding from the drops, I can tell it’s a wound from… I know what the symbols mean because of your tooltips… It does have some of the basic stuff, like windowed mode, removing motion blur or screen shake, so on so forth, but… Something this ubiquitous is something that really needs looking at.

So there’s that. I did, however, like the fact that fights that seemed extremely deadly at first were actually manageable… Well, until the first boss, who utterly ruined me… But that’s generally the case with this sort of roguelike. I liked the fact that moving a party member from their position flummoxes the direct attack enemies, but doesn’t work at all on archers, and has only limited use with pikemen. However, be warned, keeping weapons in your stash also means they’re cards in your deck. Cards you can’t use, or, more accurately, I couldn’t quite use. Similarly, switching equipment from the looting screen is… Awkward. Tiny icons again, folks… Tiny icons.

I couldn’t exactly turn down a ferret with a polearm, could I?

And visually, I love it. I’m a sucker for painted art, and the art is good. Soundwise, I don’t feel particularly strongly either way.

If the accessibility issues were fixed, I’d whole-heartedly recommend this one to folks more experienced with card-based roguelikes, but as it is, it comes with that heavy accessibility qualification.

The Mad Welshman wants all dark animal fantasy to be as accessible as possible. The only thing I’d say we need more than dark fantasy anthro games is lesbian otome villainess isekai games.

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Samurai Warriors 5 (Review)

Source: Review Copy
Price: £54.99 (£79.99 with Season Pass, £26.99 Season Pass)
Where To Get It: Steam

The Sengoku period is one that is heavily used in Japanese media, and it’s for a good reason: There was drama, there was intrigue and backstabbing, and it was a time of great and bloody change. And Samurai Warriors, well… It’s been a long running Musou series, alongside Dynasty Warriors, and of the two?

Pictured: One of the two main draws of a good musou game.

Yeah, I like Samurai Warriors more. Sorry, Lu Bu.

Okay, primer on Musou games: They’re an action genre, involving cutting through vast swathes of weak enemies, fighting their commanders, taking territory rapidly, and fulfilling objectives to clear each mission, usually ending in either an escape or a boss fight. It’s twitchy, it’s button mashy, it loves high combos… And it’s grand. There’s a great feeling to slashing up tons of foes in an over the top fashion, people literally being juggled before your blades, slammed before your special attacks, and slammed into the ground by other specials.

Hot guys and gals, the other main draw of a good musou game… Okay, no, it’s the ease of play, but still…

So… Yeah, Samurai Warriors is fun. But is it accessible, does it look good, are there any critiques?

Accessibility wise, it’s solid. Aesthetically, it’s great, I’ve always loved the kinds of flair the game puts in (giant brush strokes, loud kanji, and soft 3d characters), and its music is solid. Mechanically? Well, it’s one of those simple in practice, hard to master type deals. With RPG elements like skill trees (and skill points shared between the entire cast, which means you’re going to be grinding a fair bit if you want to do it well), and skill gems, weapon skill upgrades, that sort of thing, it nonetheless eases you in nicely with the first campaign (With ya boi Oda Nobunaga), then branches out. And then, well, you’re going to be working out how to get certain side missions, getting skills, upgrading buildings… But the core remains walloping the shit out of people to get territory in a map.

A general, getting walloped because… Well, that’s a good 80% of what you do. You wallop things until they fall down, and it’s fun.

Overall, I really enjoy Samurai Warriors. The difficulty curve isn’t too steep, the tutorials aren’t too heavy, and I recommend it to people wanting to get into the subgenre, or musou fans.

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Ninja Gaiden (Sigma) 3: Razor’s Edge (Review)

Source: Review Copy
Price: £32.99 (or £39.99 for the Master Collection), Gaiden Sigma 1, 2, 3 included. Controller necessary.
Where To Get It: Steam

Hrm… The Ham is strong with this one… I mean, it was hammy before, but Razor’s Edge… Yup, this is the hammiest of the Ninja Gaiden games, and also the one that brings in annoying stuff earlier, but… I have to admit, if it weren’t for the whiny voice of the first villain (as opposed to the mastermind), I think I’d have enjoyed the early portions of the game a bit more.

I will admit though, watching the Prime Minister get ganked, even if it’s not the right one, is oddly cathartic.

I still enjoyed them a fair bit, because slicing foes up in this one is fun, the blood is on by default, the ham is pretty hammy, and because unlike the other two, I gave in and played on Hero mode. Yes, I am not the best at these kinds of things. Yes, I still came extremely close to death several times in the first two levels alone, as while there is regeneration of health after fights, your max health lowers if you’ve taken serious wallopings until you can regenerate it all back at a health point.

Anyway, yes, Ninja Gaiden is a character action game, a game of jumping and running and clambering over maps, beating the snot out of enemies with combos and special attacks and all sorts of different weapons you can theoretically switch quickly between, ninja magic (Ninpo Arts), instakills on wounded enemies, and Flashy Boss Fights. It is my jam, even if I’m not terribly good at them.

Yes, I chose the edgiest costume. Because why not?

Still… It’s time to mention the thing I really should have mentioned for the first two games, but will mention here because it’s pretty much mandatory to get the hang of from level 2: The bow. Is. Trash. Yes, it will instakill some enemies. Yes, for some enemies, it will auto-target. Yes, if you hold the aim button, you can switch enemies easily and it locks on most of the time. But also yes, this takes up valuable dodging time, murdering time, and seeing projectiles coming at you time.

Graphically, it’s solid. I won’t say it’s the prettiest, as it feels a little out of date, but it is pretty, the characters are designed well, and I can definitely tell when someone’s pulled out a gun. The music, also, is nice, it’s largely accessible, with subtitles and so on, it’s checkpointed well…

Just visible are one of several assholes which require the godawful bow to kill. Joy.

And of the three Sigmas, it’s… Not the one I’d most recommend. The other two bring the bow in a little later, as mentioned, it’s the hammiest of the three, and it’s also the one that uses the buttons most of all. Is it still good? Aye. Is it still peanut buttery, and not beginner friendly? Even the easiest difficulty is, make no mistake, a bit of a git… A fair bit of a git. But, since you’d be getting these in a trilogy pack anyways, well, at least try the peanut butter, since you’ve already resolved to taste it with one of the other two.

2 is still my favourite of the three, though.

The Mad Welshman wonders if we can get a BoJo mod, one where the model of the PM is slightly different, and there’s loud cheering and applause when… No? No? Well, it didn’t hurt to ask…

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Ninja Gaiden Sigma 2 (Review)

Source: Review Copy
Price: £32.99 (or £39.99 for the Master Collection), Gaiden Sigma 1, 2, 3 included. Controller necessary.
Where To Get It: Steam

Now that I, Ryu Hayabusa, ninja who has gone from blue to deep, edgy black, have learned that Triple Buffering is bad for my games, I can properly be an awful ninja who forgets how to block and dodge, despite those being terribly important things, in the second installment of Team Ninja’s Ninja Gaiden, Sigma 2. Which is, honestly, a friendlier game, for the most part.

As in the first game, however, the camera can be your worst damn enemy.

Not the biggest fan of RB being “snap the camera back to somewhere over Ryu’s right shoulder” and hold RB for “Show me the path to go”, not only because that makes things awkward, but also because the way not to go often contains goodies, and the way to go inevitably contains fights I’m not so hot at with anything between two and… does a fingermath… Silly amounts of enemies (Okay, okay, the upper limit’s generally about eight, with more spawning in in longer battles.) Once again, controller mandatory, this is a character action game, so there’s a lot of blocking, dodging, combos, special Ninpo Arts, weapon switching, item switching, camera struggling… Less camera struggling than the first game, but definitely not free of it…

There be a lot of buttons, although your main ones are the fighty ones. Switch items mid-battle when you’re good at it, and maybe choose Hero mode.

However, when it’s not, congrats, you can enjoy some fun murdertimes.

In any case, the second installment is much more bombastic from the get-go. The team of Eeeeevil Ninjas, the Spider Clan, are once again up to no good, trying to claim demon artefacts to get demon powers while also being very devilish themselves, and your first boss fight is against… Buddha. Okay, okay, a gigantic Buddha statue, but it allows me to say that Ryu Hayabusa is a big believer in “If you meet the Buddha, kill him.”

Aesthetically, it’s definitely an improvement, pretty solid by today’s standards, visually nice, good music, much more organic sounds of death and blood, and, in a nice touch, you can either have the censored version’s purple smoke for blood, or, y’know… Blood. Oddly, the censors still allowed dismemberment. Maybe because it’s such a big part of the game. Cut a limb with a weapon off, bam, they’re less useful. Cut a leg off, they’re not going to do much, movement wise. Cut both legs off a Spider Clan ninja and you’re silly enough not to use the simple instakill-when-wounded of “Hit Y when you’re next to an enemy for a kill animation”, and they’ll try to grab you and self destruct.

“Ah. Clearly, this is Thursday. I never could quite get the hang of Thursdays…”

It’s still a peanut butter style deal, still not an entry level character fighter (although it’s likely as good as you’re going to get in this combo heavy, don’t button-mash but consider your movey type deal), but I’d more comfortably recommend this one to players looking to get into games where single people (sometimes different single people in certain chapters) beat the living snot out of multiple people at once, then beat the living daylights out of a boss, usually a loud and powerful one.

The Mad Welshman would kill the Buddha on the road, but the Buddha’s kind of far away, and he’s rather tired, and just not up to it. Here, this Buddha’s yours…

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Ninja Gaiden Sigma (Review)

Source: Review Copy
Price: £32.99 (or £39.99 for the Master Collection), Gaiden Sigma 1, 2, 3 included. Controller necessary.
Where To Get It: Steam

Ah, Ryu Hayabusa. You’ve gone through a few changes over the years. But it’s mostly been an upward trend. And Sigma is… Alright. Solid character fighter, with some good enemy designs. Although that assessment isn’t without its qualifications.

He is such a badass, he knows exactly how to hold a sword to make it glitter in your face.

In any case, Ninja Gaiden Sigma is an action game in which the aforementioned Ryu Hayabusa must recover the Demon Sword that was in his clan’s care (It’s been taken and used for evil before, after all), and to take vengeance for the murder of clan members, slashing and polesmacking and generally murdering a bunch of enemies, from other ninja clans to an authoritarian military to demons, and finally, the Big Bad. Fun stuff. And definitely controller mandatory.

Or rather, it would be fun stuff if the camera weren’t my deepest enemy, and if Triple Buffering is turned off, because otherwise the game’s framerate drastically drops.

I freely admit, I didn’t get very far in playing it, because of these very frustrations. Jumping is… Finicky, the camera can sometimes just look straight down and obscure my view of anything, as sometimes happens in character action games in confined spaces do (and there are quite a few confined spaces. Usually with enemies in them.) If there’s enemy lockon, I couldn’t find it, and so, awesome moves like the swallow blade (jump, press Y to muller somebody’s head off in a diving arc) are also finicky.

It’s actually kinda pretty, too, for something that was originally a PS3 title. Not mind blowing, but you can definitely say, at points, “Damn, this scenery, huh?” or “Hrm, that sure is a tank, wonder if it- YES, IT’S MANNED, KILL IT KILL IT KILL IT WITH FIRE.” A combo of hard buttrock and traditional Japanese music makes the soundtrack, and the sound effects… Well, those feel a little older than they maybe should, but hey, not everything has to be awesome.

Why yes, I would like to juggle you to death, thank you for being co-operative with that!

Still, from what I’m aware, it has some frankly baffling level design decisions at some points. Okay, yes, you, uhh… Don’t have much of a move set underwater, Ryu. So why did they put you through a swimming level, mmm? Or the labyrinthines sewer level, just a bit earlier.

Look… Look… People. Hate. Sewer Levels. They’ve hated them since Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles for the NES. Also, the subtitles I saw were missing about half the time, which is a problem (both accessibility wise and generally), and the easy difficulty mode is only unlocked by dying a whole bunch… So, definitely a mixed bag, even today.

To be honest, Ninja Gaiden Sigma’s gameplay, janky as it is at times, is a peanut butter situation. If you’re not a longtime “Make combo and guard to kill enemy, use different weapon which do different thing for different folks” type player, this definitely isn’t an intro level game, and it likely won’t appeal that much.

The Mad Welshman is, on the one hand, not a fan of peanut butter. They are a fan of character action games, even if they are not the best at them.

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