Orwell: Ignorance is Strength

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Steam

I believe some time ago I reviewed Owell: Keeping an Eye on You. It was an interesting game where you play as Morgan Freeman in The Dark Knight. You would listen in on people’s conversations, you would steal their information, access their calls, etc. And you would be a total establishment shill. Until the end where I messed up by trying to go against the system and shut it down but it was all an elaborate trap laid by my superiors. Very well-crafted game. Indeed.

Anyway, Orwell: Ignorance is Strength is not so much a sequel as much as it is another one. It runs concurrently with the uhh… other game. The game that was published first. Like the other game, you spy in on calls, access files, read the news, and be a total snoop. Typical day at the office of the NSA. Your job opens with an investigation into a suspected murder but slowly turns into a battle of controlling media narrative. Which over my several playthroughs, I never found a way to ‘win’, that is, prevent the people from rioting. This may have something to do with the canon of the first game, but I don’t remember and I can’t be bothered to play through the first one again.

Finding the information is fun and they’ve trimmed down the news articles somewhat, making the ‘side stories’ a bit less of a pain to tread through. Where I think this game loses me is in its lack of story. The game itself is only 3 episodes near as I can tell. I don’t know if it’s because it’s so short or because it feels so meaningless but I wasn’t sold on the story. The other game had a much larger impact on me, this one feels so meh.

I think what really lost me was that I didn’t find the characters interesting. Even now I can remember the characters of the first game as being a teacher, a soldier, a blue-hair, her lawyer boyfriend, and a freelancer. I remember their personalities, a teacher that just wanted to speak beyond the system. A soldier battling with her troubled past and providing for her child. A blue-hair looking for a cause to fight. A lawyer… being bland. And a freelancer that hated life. These characters are forgettable. A blogger in a wheelchair, his wife/therapist, and his brother.

Another thing is I think they sorta baby-proofed the game somewhat. I remember really thinking “Holy smokes, updating this stuff is permanent. Better make sure of every single thing I post”. In this game, (and this may be faulty memory) but I feel like there are fewer boo-boos you can make

Unfortunately, because this game is second to be published, it will ultimately be compared to its first. Did it keep the things that made the first one good? Yes. Did it introduce something new and interesting? Yes. Did it use these tools effectively? I think not. And unfortunately, for those reasons, I have to give it a thumbs down. Standalone, I might consider giving it a maybe, around a 5. But if you liked Orwell: Keeping an Eye on You and you wanted more? Just play the first one again. But that’s it from me. Thank you for reading.

Artemis Hunt

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Orwell: Ignorance is Strength

“Capitalism is Feudalism with extra steps”

I browse reddit every now and again and I’ve seen the people that post that “Capitalism is slavery with extra steps”. Now this never made sense to me but I suppose it might make sense to someone that has seen or read “The Great Money Trick“. I’m not here to discuss “The Great Money Trick” and quite frankly, it’s old. I’m sure that there are many criticisms and critiques of the essay elsewhere.

As far as I know, the quote is a reference to a Rick and Morty episode regarding alien beings producing a great deal of energy for Rick for free. When Rick and Morty visit the aliens, Morty says “That’s just slavery with extra steps” as a criticism of Rick’s attitude regarding the tiny alien race. I don’t watch Rick and Morty though, so don’t sass me bro.

For the purposes of this post, we will assert that the world is more capitalist and less feudal today than it was in the past. 

In order to compare capitalism and feudalism, we must first understand what capitalism and feudalism are.

Capitalism is an economic system based on private ownership of the means of production and their operation for profit. Characteristics central to capitalism include private property, capital accumulation, wage labor, voluntary exchange, a price system, and competitive markets.

In a capitalist market economy, decision-making and investment are determined by every owner of wealth, property or production ability in financial and capital markets, whereas prices and the distribution of goods and services are mainly determined by competition in goods and services markets. – Wikipedia

This definition is a little lengthy but it is adequate for our purposes. I’ve bolded some of the more important phrases in the definition. The important bits are:

  1. You own private property
  2. All exchanges are voluntary
  3. Markets are competitive

The other bits are either unimportant or unnecessary. For example, you do not need wage labor to have a capitalist economic system. Suppose I own some land and I grow an apple tree. You own some land and grow an orange tree. You and I decide to trade an apple for an orange. No wage labor needed.

Now let’s take a look at feudalism:

Feudalism was a combination of legal and military customs in medieval Europe that flourished between the 9th and 15th centuries. Broadly defined, it was a way of structuring society around relationships derived from the holding of land in exchange for service or labour.Wikipedia

This definition is pretty loose. The page mentions that the definition is still debated by scholars. Now we do see why Feudalism can’t be Capitalism with extra steps: Feudalism is a combination of legal and military customs. Capitalism is an economic system. Ne’er the two shall meet.

But we know what you meant, so I’ll do this a bit more honestly. Let’s say we are going to try to compare the economic consequences of Feudalism to Capitalism and see if we can reach Capitalism.

One thing most people do recognize is the concept of serfdom, a system in which individuals called ‘serfs’ are attached to the land. While we do recognize it in medieval Europe, we see it elsewhere such as in Japan after Toyotomi Hideyoshi’s “Hito barai rei” in 1591 {1}. The serfs are, like land, property. Similar to slaves but with the caveat that they had some more rights. Anyway, the reason I bring it up is because if we consider serfs to be part of the land, we can now consider the whole property of an actor in Feudalism.

When these individuals are making a comparison to Feudalism, we need to figure out where everyone lines up:

So I think that the fairest way to view the working poor is peasants. There are no slaves in our capitalist system because we’re going to adhere to that rule before where you own your private property and you are your own private property. There are no serfs, because employees are always welcome to quit and move to another company if they so desire.

The lord of the manor is likely the business owner. They own the land and they have the responsibilities that come with owning the land. But that guy is just a vassal to a king. So from whom do the business owners receive their lands? Well, they buy it. From someone else, another vassal. Hold on, we’re running into a problem here. See, there is no ‘monarch’ analogue in capitalism. Quite frankly, there is no peasant analogue either. Everyone is a vassal with their own plot of land and the rights over what may be done with it. But since we don’t have a monarch, everyone mas as well be their own monarch. The system breaks down. Saying capitalism is like feudalism with extra steps is like saying that Feudalism consists of potentially infinite monarchs when in real feudalism there is only one.

Now, the anti-capitalists are going to maintain that the working poor are still slaves, serfs, or peasants. That’s what those ‘extra steps’ are for. So now we have to try to figure out what extra steps make you one of these individuals.

We can completely disregard slavery. Again, slavery is against the principles of capitalism because we maintain that the individual owns themselves. Serfs, huh. Well, you might have a little bit of a case. If a company is sold to another individual, the employees of that company may remain as companies for the company under the new management. That could be considered a ‘transfer of a serf’ as part of a land purchase. However, there’s nothing systemically preventing the ‘serf’ from quitting their job and seeking gainful employment elsewhere. So again, we arrive at the only possibility being peasants. Now is there a way for peasants to climb the social hierarchy? Yes. There were a few. They could become a knight, clergy, or trade. Peasants were unlikely to have the skills necessary to do so, but as Toyotomi Hideyoshi could do, so too could peasants.

However, I think the important question would be to ask – is it easier to move up in Capitalism or Feudalism? And possibly more important – is it easier to move down? I would argue that it’s easier to move up in Capitalism, as evidenced by the great reduction of the lower classes since the 1800’s in the West. Worldwide poverty has greatly decreased no matter what people may think. The point of this post is not to argue whether or not capitalism is the thing that caused this reduction in poverty. We are only concerned with whether or not capitalism is feudalism with extra steps.

If we accept that Feudalism is what kept these people poor, and that Capitalism is Feudalism with extra steps, then we need to wonder… at what point does Capitalism make these people poor again? We’ve only seen that with the changes towards Capitalism reduce poverty. That’s the trend. At what point will the trend reverse? And if it’s taking so long to reverse, at what point can we just say, “Alright, maybe it won’t reverse”?

I would also argue that it’s harder to move down save by one’s own fault. In Feudalism, all that is required is some link in the chain of command above you strip you of your lands. In Capitalism, you have to piss away your capital and at the end you still retain the most important capital of all: your mind and body. If you fall in status due to your own decisions, I don’t find it fair to blame Capitalism for your fall in status.

Recap

Recall our three rules for Capitalism

  1. You own private property
  2. All exchanges are voluntary
  3. Markets are competitive

Let’s ask ourselves if any of these apply to Feudalism

  1. It is possible for you to have no rights regarding private property
  2. It is possible for exchanges to be involuntary
  3. Markets may or may not be competitive, we did not examine Feudal markets

So no. I don’t buy that Capitalism is Feudalism with extra steps. Of course, you are more than welcome to try to convince me otherwise. Please list the necessary steps in the comments or something and I will be more than happy to reconsider. That said, that’ll be it from me for now. I thank you for reading.

Artemis Hunt

Offline sources:

  1. Sengoku Jidai: Nobunaga, Hideyoshi, and Ieyasu: Three Unifiers of Japan; Chaplin, Danny (Kindle Edition)

 

“Capitalism is Feudalism with extra steps”

How to Fix Sword Art Online

Alright, I got into a furious Facebook discussion on why SAO is terrible and it got me thinking, SAO is actually pretty easy to fix. So let’s take it from the top with a (relatively) short blog post.

What is Sword Art Online?

Sword Art Online is known to be a popular anime produced by A-1 studios based on the light novel of the same name by Reki Kawahara. Some people have read the light novel. I have not. So everything here will be based on the animation. And I’m doing this from memory so if some of the details are a little fuzzy, my mistake. Not going to go rewatch it. Make of that what you will.

So the animation features Kirigaya Kazuto. He is a gamer in high school. He is incredibly excited for the release of Sword Art Online (SAO). SAO is a fully virtual MMO where you really feel like you’re Batman Spiderman in the game. He is fortunate enough to receive 1 of only 10,000 copies sold. He logs in immediately like any normal person does. Meets his totally-not-homoerotic friend after which he is told by a Game Moderator that no one can log out and if you die in the game you die in real life. The only way to get the logout button back is to beat the game. Thus begins the struggle to beat the game without dying once.

What’s wrong with Sword Art Online?

Well, a lot, actually. Many people I talk to online say that things went down during the second arc (Alfheim). I disagree. I think it was wrong from the get-go. A lot of this next bit might sound familiar if you’ve literally seen any coverage of SAO but I have to put it in for completeness. Also I’m going to keep it to the Aincrad arc because I did say we’d have a relatively short one. If I do Aincrad + Alfheim you’ll be here all day reading this.

It has a pretty good starting premise and for 1-3 episodes it’s actually pretty good. However around episode 4-6 or so, it begins undercutting its premise by making Kirito (oh yeah, Kirigaya Kazuto’s IGN is Kirito) overpowered. He gets mobbed by like 10 guys and they can’t do enough damage to outpace his natural regen. What the $#@! And it only gets worse. Kirito goes through the motions of having a hard time but he always seems to come out ahead and it never feels satisfying. Feels like he got out easy most of the time. Even at the end of Aincrad he loses all of his HP and dies but somehow can break through the death and deal a killing blow to the final boss.

That’s not to say that overpowered characters are bad by design. We can take a look at Superman for a relatively overpowered character that is well done. Superman is effectively god. There’s really not a whole lot that can actually stop the guy barring Kryptonite (we’ll get back to that). So when your character is overpowered, nothing can kill them, how do you manufacture conflict? In the case of Superman, morality is used. Superman’s greatest foe is his own sense of morality and justice. His greatest enemy is his own naivete.

When your gimmick is “If you die in the game, you die in real life”, don’t make us follow a character that can’t die. Make us follow someone that actually struggles and fears for life.

 

Dying

“Hold up Artemis, there are at least 3 times he almost died and on the third time he did actually die,” I hear you say. Well, let’s actually look at those.

The first near-death for Kirito is against Gleam Eyes, or is it. No. It isn’t. This chump lets a ton of people die because he doesn’t want to show his two-handed skill for no reason. He could’ve won the fight at any time without incurring as large a loss of human life if he had not waited for everyone except tsundere-chan to die.

The second near-death for Kirito is when he’s paralyzed by poison and his assailant takes his sweet time killing him 1HP-by-1HP. Which buys Kirito enough time to pull a deus-ex-machina and have tsundere-chan arrive to save his ass. And then Kirito kills the guy even though it would have been more satisfying (from a writing perspective) to have tsundere-chan kill the creep.

The last near-death experience is at the end of Aincrad when he dies and somehow manages to magic his way through death when no one else can. It’s bullshit. Now you’ve done one step further. For 99% of this series there was no risk of death and when there actually is death, it doesn’t even matter?

Tsundere-chan

Let’s take a moment to talk about tsundere-chan. At the beginning of the series we’re introduced to tsundere-chan and she comes out strong like a total BAMF. She’s made to seem like someone who is naturally almost as good as Kirito. Bear in mind that Kirito had some 2 months or so to play the game in beta while this grill did not. So she’s been given a high initial rating. You see her 4 episodes later and she’s been totally domesticated. She’s cooking and stuff. Cowering behind Kirito from a creep she should easily be able to take out in seconds. Kawahara neutered this character. And he does it with every character. Any time you want a character to come out strong and define themselves they turn into harem bait. Even the guys. The guy from the beginning, his name is Klein. I just remembered it. I ain’t editing this after I finish writing it so if his name is still Klaus from paragraph 2 or something that’s what it’ll be when I hit publish. Anyway literally everyone becomes “X person”. “Blacksmith girl”. “Dragon girl”. “Black man shopkeeper”. “Best guy is a girl”. I think there was one more harem member but it might’ve come after the series. *Shrug*

The Writing Makes No Sense

I’d like to take this moment to point out that this game is definitely rated PG-13 at least. Probably rated whatever the highest rating is because you get naked and (probably) have sex. So now I gotta ask the question, why are there like over nine thousand 5 year-olds in it? Did Mom and Dad let drunk Uncle Rick watch the kids that day? Because after 2 years there’s still like a bajillion 5 year-olds and they’re all being watched by full-time starting town people.

Honestly Kawahara loses track of how many people are supposed to be alive in this game which also kinda takes away from the series.

About half-way through the series Kirito and girlfriend encounter a program (yes, a program) that looks like a little girl that they decide to ‘adopt’. Then, holy shit, she’s as broken as Kirito is. She can delete (yes, right click, delete) boss enemies and chooses to do so to save Kirito. Why, why does such a program exist. Why does it have that power either? It was designed as a psychology robot, being able to delete other programs should be well beyond the scope of its power. Then Kirito suddenly becomes expert hacker, familiar with the system intimately, and manages to save the program as an item. What? Where did all of that come from?

This guy has literally no struggles. The authors try to frame things as struggles but they can’t do it properly because the characters that they’re working with are broken. The source material has to be fundamentally broken by design. There’s no excuse for this.

How to Fix It

Alright, I could go on all day about how the series is bad. We see sub-plots that lead to absolutely nothing, yadda-yadda. But we’re already at 1300 words and I want to keep this relatively short.

Break things down as simply as we can, what is SAO? SAO is a shounen anime with no threat and side-stories that go nowhere. Without the struggle, there’s no point to making this a shounen series. The most enjoyable scenes of this anime were the slice-of-life scenes and the whodunnit episodes in the middle. So how do we fix SAO? Simple. We focus on what it does well and drop what it does poorly. If SAO was purely a slice-of-life anime it would actually be quite decent. The action scenes (while well-crafted) are pointless because we know Kirito will win. Every. Single. Time. Remove them. This life-or-death game isn’t life-or-death. It’s just life. And since it’s just life, just make a slice-of-life anime about a man and his waifu in a medieval world. The music is excellent. The stories are fun enough. At least this way, I’d be forced to give you a 6 for being meh rather than a 1 for being awful. Do something about your characters. We see some characters for all of one episode before they’re relegated to the harem and exist to be an extra voice in a later scene.

So yeah, that’s my fix. Make it full-on slice-of-life. Problem solved. Thanks for reading.

Artemis Hunt

 

How to Fix Sword Art Online

[Article Response] “Damaging a Franchise”

This article was pretty short so I figured I could do a quick response to it. This means that my response will only be about 3-4 times as long as the article in question rather than 20 times.

Alright, so what’s going on here? Well, it’s exactly on the tin. “[James Mangold] warns fans that backlash will to films by hacks”.

At the point when work writing & directing big franchises has become the emotionally loaded equivalent of writing a new chapter of The Bible (w/ the probable danger of being stoned & called a blasphemer), then a lot of bolder minds r gonna leave these films 2 hacks & corp boards

In my opinion, his claim isn’t unreasonable. He claims that when producers fear backlash, they will take the safe route when it comes to making films and films will be produced by committee. I don’t know whether this is true or not, but it’s not an argument that I find difficult to accept at face value.

So what’s the problem? Well, there’s one big problem

Respecting the Franchise

I think it’s important that when new writers and directors take on a film, they need to show a great deal of respect to the franchise that they are picking up. They need to recognize that fans love the established universe as it is and work with that. Yes, you are writing a new chapter of the Bible. You don’t get to claim the glory of writing Chapter VIII while flagrantly abusing Chapters I-VI.

Outside Example: Doctor Who

Doctor Who is a show about a humanoid species called “Time Lords”. Time Lords are a unique species in that they possess the ability to “regenerate” when they sustain heavy injury, affording them a new body, new personality, new everything, while retaining the experience they’ve accrued in their past lives. This power is not infinite, it can only be used twelve times. When it came to be nearing the end of the Eleventh Doctor’s run, the producers of the show were faced with a problem: the twelve regenerations (as stated in already established canon) were up. What do we do? Do we create an ending to the Doctor? Or do we cheat, and try to find a way to keep the series going now that it’s relatively popular?

The directors chose to cheat, and ass-pulled some kind of time-energy regeneration. Don’t get me wrong, I loved that Christmas special in which Eleven ends his tenure as Doctor, but it is an ass-pull and it is a disrespect to the show. And after that episode, we see the ratings drop Could the ratings drop be due to something else? Certainly. But it certainly seems suspicious that the ratings drop by 30% over the years since Eleven. Could it be the writing? Moffat, a highly-renowned writer, was a writer for the series after Eleven. He seemed to have been doing an excellent job until then. Why did the ratings go downhill after Eleven? Could it be the Doctor? Peter Capaldi has an impressive discography, extending over 40 years. To say that he is not an accomplished actor would be a bold statement to make. Perhaps Doctor Who was just a passing fad that has lived its 15 minutes in the limelight.

I recognize that we all want to see our favourite characters do the thing, but all stories must come to an end, and by disregarding previously established canon, it is my belief that the writers disrespected the series and in turn disrespected their audience as well.

Star Wars

When it came to the writing of Star Wars: The Last Jedi, we arrive at a story which seemed to have the intent to “Let it die, kill it if you have to”. Let [Star Wars] die, kill [Star Wars] if you have to. This was not a Star Wars movie for people that liked Star Wars. This was a Star Wars movie to disrespect people who like Star Wars while attempting to sucker in a new generation. Which may be why Solo did not sell. People simply do not trust the studio to produce Star Wars in a respectful manner anymore. Star Wars Episode IX isn’t out yet, and we may need to see how Boba Fett plays out, but at this current moment, I will not be surprised if Episode IX does not sell.

The Point

I recognize the point in that you want movies to push boundaries but there is a way to do it without taking a dump on the source material. Of course failing that, there’s no reason that an established franchise has to have a movie that pushes the boundary. Marvel has been pushing out the same movie for at least 5 years, probably more, and all of the Marvel movies I’ve seen are legitimately enjoyable movies.

The decision to toss out tons of canon is incredibly baffling to me when the new canon to be written seems to want little to nothing to do with the existing material. It might’ve been forgivable if the writing actually made sense. But it didn’t. The world of Episodes I-VI felt so much bigger compared to this. Most of this episode takes place during the slowest car chase ever in the vast emptiness of space. The Force Awakens was so much better than this. It’s almost like you don’t even like Star Wars. You just wanted to slap your name on it. If that’s the case, don’t be surprised when in your act of greed that you failed to maintain the old guard while simultaneously being unable to entice a new order.

Conclusion

So I guess in summary, it’s not the fans that are damaging the franchise, it’s the producers.

The short version is that I don’t particularly like this criticism. Fundamentally, I think it misses the mark. Excepting that which I’ve stated above, Mangold’s statement could pessimistically be taken as “Don’t criticise movies or you’ll get bland movies”. I think the question you need to ask yourself is whether or not the fan backlash is justified. Again, I believe in this case, it is, or at least a significant audience believes that it is, considering the market failure of Solo. The people have voted with their eyeballs and their dollar. Whether or not Star Wars will recover from this, I don’t know. I don’t plan to speculate. But I would hope that the writers for the next movie are watching the internet, acknowledging concerns, and making necessary adjustments. If not, we may see the death of Star Wars, rather than the end of Star Wars. Which, in my opinion, would be pretty sad. That’s my take. Thanks for reading.

Artemis Hunt

[Article Response] “Damaging a Franchise”

Final Fantasy XV Windows Edition

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Steam

Not sure why ‘Windows Edition’ is important but whatever, it’s in the title on Steam.

Don’t think that this is going to be a habit or anything. I just happen to have had some extra time because I finished my certification courses and I’m waiting for the certificate to come in the mail.

I want to preface this review by saying I absolutely hate JRPGs. I hate the grind, I hate the backtracking, I (generally) hate turn-based combat, I hate the lack of good story, I hate the cliched characters. I just hate JRPGs. I’ve started several Final Fantasies, I’ve only finished one. That is to say, I’ve only finished Final Fantasy VI. Because I got sucked into the stories and the characters. Outside of that, I really couldn’t find myself getting attached to characters in any of the other ones I’ve tried.

This game is fantastic. It manages to avoid most of the major pitfalls that come with JRPGs. Taking place in a 3D world definitely plays to the game’s credit. It’s easy to get lost in the scenery while you’re traveling throughout the world. The Backstreet Boys also keep things interesting with their little dialogues and being able to listen to music from the other Final Fantasy games (and NieR… for some reason) really passes the time. Best part is, you don’t even have to suffer the drive if you’re traveling to parking spots or towns. Just fast travel. The grind is still there but relatively tolerable because the combat is actually fun even if simple and repetitive. When it works, it feels very fluid and you feel like a total hero flying from monster to monster. When it doesn’t work, the real monster is the camera trying to film you through 10 meters of foliage or through a wall. This didn’t happen often enough to me to really be annoying though. The characters are great. I found myself really appreciating the characters. I think this game gets by by having the characters fully developed before you really interact with them. They already exist and you don’t have to create them and the story doesn’t have to bend to meet your personal choices. And honestly? This Band of Brothers is just really cool. The way they interact and rely on each other really makes you feel like these characters have a history together. They’re all pretty likeable as long as you don’t look too hard at the story.

Which I guess brings me to what I believe is the game’s biggest flaw. The story. While there’s an advantage to having the characters developed before the game, there isn’t as much of an advantage of having the lore developed before the game. This game seems to assume some level of background knowledge to the lore and I have no idea where any of this comes from. I want to lose myself in this game, in the story, but it feels like there are so many pieces that were chopped out and I have no idea where to find them. Granted, I am still looking around the map for little things to read, but I dunno. Something about this presentation rubs me the wrong way. Another major flaw would be its load times and the last (and this one annoyed me for a few before I found a workaround) is that the game would often crash my computer. Not crash to desktop, literally crash my computer.

The open-world setting works well with the character because without a sense of direction it really just feels like the Fantastic Four being the Fantastic Four. Really. I just really like the camaraderie of these guys and playing the game is just bros being bros. In my view, the game is really relaxing. Just pick a direction and go there. Eventually I’d get overleveled and decide maybe it’s time to do the story but then I realized that the story is super short. This has to be one of the shorter Final Fantasy games because it feels like it just flew by. Or maybe time flies when you’re having fun? Who knows.

Either way, I really do commend Final Fantasy XV for being a great game and I do recommend it to people. Thanks for reading.

Artemis Hunt

Final Fantasy XV Windows Edition

Shantae and the Pirate’s Curse

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Steam

Shantae and the Pirate’s Curse picks up where Risky’s Revenge left off, with Shantae still effectively human. The town is getting bulldozed by its Mayor, Ammo Baron (yes, he’s still Mayor) and you decide to stop him. Unfortunately, this is effectively rebellion, so you get a court summons. While under house arrest, you uncover a lead into the revival of the Pirate King and decide to stop it. Who cares about court summons, amirite?

I’ll say outright that Pirate’s Curse is better than Risky’s Revenge. It maintains the quirky design and pleasing aesthetic of the first game.  It decided to go full 2D this time though, so that’s an improvement in my books. The movement feels so much more fluid and the movement options unlocked throughout the game feel better. You get a glide, a dash, and an extra triple jump… which you lose… in the final boss fight… because design decisions.

What I find most amusing is that this game sorta solves the problems of Risky’s Revenge while also adopting some problems that the old problem solved. The backtracking is less insufferable. Might be level design making it a bit more enjoyable to go through them. Luckily the backtracking is mitigated in Pirate mode (unlocked after beating the game once). Honestly, what might have fixed it for me in backtracking might be the addition of a new item called “Pirate’s Flare” which is effectively an escape rope. Tired of a map’s BS? Get out of the labyrinth and flare back to base. Speaking of items, they’ve rebalanced the items to be less broken and now none of them are required to unlock certain areas. Health drops regularly (if you’re killing enemies) and you can use these drops whenever you like instead of immediately.

There are few things more frustrating than entering a screen only to get knocked back because instant dash enemy. Yet here we are. Insufferable stealth section and the climb to the final boss is a series of spike traps that exist purely to try my patience. No enemies. Just spikes. And lord save you if you game ogre there because the save point is not between spike hells but rather at the beginning and at the end. Bring all of the potions.

Let’s talk about the final boss fight. Now in Risky’s Revenge, I didn’t really dock points for the game taking away all of your transformations because they weren’t really used for combat. The time required to dance for them took away from the pacing anyway. However, in this game, most of your upgrades are movement upgrades. Which means you don’t pause to use them and you’ve been using them the entire game. And they were instrumental in spike pit hell because each puzzle room was set up to utilize a specific upgrade. So by the time you’ve gotten to the boss, you’re pretty used to using them like, all the time. You get to use them for phase 1 of the boss. Then the boss takes them away. Then you have to deal with phase 2 with limited movement. Then phase 3 which is phase 2 with some extra patterns. And phase 4 which can be cancer because it’s not the same kind of combat you had been doing all game.

Look, the final boss is a test. A test on all of the skills we’ve obtained up until now. You don’t teach us all of the math required to do the exam and then give us a stinkin’ psychology exam instead of a math exam. That’s completely unfair to the player

But when the game works, it works. Pirate Mode (again, unlocked after playing through the game one) is a great replay option if you’re into that sorta thing. The game is legitimately enjoyable and the characters are as delightful as ever. I’m going to give this game a pass, but not by much. Be prepared. Thanks for reading.

Artemis Hunt

Shantae and the Pirate’s Curse