The Rice Digital Friday Letters Page, October 1, 2021 – Best of the Bad

The Rice Digital Friday Letters Page

Good afternoon, everybody! We’re coming to the close of another week, so hopefully you’ve all got a pleasant weekend lined up ahead of yourself. My wife’s away at her sister’s birthday party, so I plan on spending at least some of the time playing visual novels with noisy H-scenes with the volume up nice and loud. Possibly. Or I might just continue my never-ending Atelier addiction. Either option sounds good right now.

Anyway, for those of you new to Rice Digital or those who just need a reminder, anyone can take part in the Rice Digital Friday Letters Page from any page of the site! Just cast your eyes over ➡ there (a little further, past the ads) and you’ll see a little blue widget that says “Write to Rice!” — click on that and you’ll pop up a little form where you give your pen name and write your message. No personal info is required (and none is sneakily collected behind the scenes, either) so you can write whatever you want and we’ll get to it the following Friday.

For now, we’ve got a small but nicely formed mailbag to enjoy this week, so let’s get right into some good ol’ fashioned correspondence, shall we?

The Rice Digital Friday Letters Page
Original source: Ramudia (Pixiv)

Metacritic, more like metashi-

Dear Rice,

I enjoyed your Metacritic article recently. I have a few more that I’d add to the mix, too, mostly on the Switch side of things, but a few of these are probably on PS4 or PC…

  • Akiba’s Trip: Hellbound and Debriefed (52) – fun open world adventure, lots to do if you can look past the dated visuals and structure
  • Senran Kagura Reflexions (39) – excellent fandisc for Senran Kagura, just wish there were some more characters for it
  • Our World is Ended (59) – cool sci-fi story, bit like Steins;Gate but more about virtual worlds and time travel

Why do you think these games get bad reviews when there are plenty of people out there who like them?

scoresrdumb


Hi scoresrdumb, and welcome to the Rice Digital Friday Letters Page. Thanks for the kind words and for the additional suggestions — this is the kind of topic that everyone doubtless has their own opinion on, and there is probably a justification for someone to enjoy every game under the 75% mark on Metacritic. Yes, even supposedly the “worst game on Switch”, Vroom in the Night Sky.

I haven’t played Akiba’s Trip: Hellbound and Debriefed myself yet, but I fully intend to. Our Isaac wasn’t too impressed when he gave it a go a while back, but this is the kind of game that was always going to attract mixed opinions by its very nature as a port of a PSP game.

I enjoyed Senran Kagura Reflexions a lot, as you evidently did. In this case, its low review scores doubtless came from the fact that there’s not a lot here for those who aren’t already fully immersed in Senran Kagura; as you say, it’s a fandisc, and unashamedly so — the fact that we got it in the west at all (let alone with a limited physical release!) is worthy of celebration.

Letters Page: Senran Kagura

Where Senran Kagura Reflexions shines is in something very simple: an opportunity to hang out with a selection of popular characters in a context where there is no real pressure. You just enjoy their company. That, to some folks, is doubtless a dumb and pointless sort of game — but if you’re on board with it, there’s plenty to enjoy.

Our World is Ended is a game that I feel got rated much too harshly by a lot of places. It’s a visual novel with excellent art, memorable characters, a brilliant voice cast and a thought-provoking, fascinating story. I highly recommend it to anyone who enjoys a good sci-fi story.

Sadly, shortly before its western release it was subject to a flurry of outrage-baiting articles over the young character Tatiana; as always, this attracted a lot more attention to the game than it otherwise would have got, but also made a fair few outlets seemingly feel obliged to criticise the game on the most superficial of levels, without taking any sort of context into account. But such is the usual way of things.

The important thing to remember, which I suspect you’re already aware of, is that one or even twenty bad reviews of something doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy it yourself — though I do tend to feel that when bad reviews cross a line into insulting the prospective player base, we’ve entered inappropriate territory.

Letters Page: Our World is Ended
The image that made a thousand (white, male) western games journalists cry.

There are, regrettably, still people posting reviews of games they have no intention of treating fairly or do not wish to make the effort to find out more about — and those opinions trickle down to average consumers. I’ve personally known several people who I used to like and respect accuse us here at Rice of covering “disgusting filth” and “perverted trash” without even attempting to explore why we talk about the games we do.

That’s not a productive or helpful means of expanding culture. It should be exciting and worthy of celebration that video games are often pushing boundaries in terms of subject matter — but some people just have very traditional tastes, I guess!

Either way, don’t let review scores bother you. If you like a game, you like it — and you should tell all your friends about it. These days a lot of developers say word of mouth is just as effective — if not more so — than press coverage anyway. So shout about what you love! You can do it on these very pages if you want.

Spoopy spoopy speletons

Dear Rice,

What spooky games are you going to be playing for October, if any?

J


Hi J, and welcome back to the Rice Digital Friday Letters Page — assuming you’re the same J from a while back, which is a big assumption on my part, I know… if you’re not, then omit the “back” from that previous sentence. Maybe we should start again.

Hi J, good to see you here on the Rice Digital Friday Letters Page (nice recovery, huh) — and thanks for the question.

I’ve got a few things I’d like to spend some time with. There’s a few more Chilla’s Art games in the mix that I want to cover, for one thing, but they’re all slightly more substantial than the half-hour “walking simulators”, so they’ll take a little longer to play. I’ll try and get to them this month, though — now’s the best time for ’em, right?

Letters Page: Onryo

Aside from that, I’d like to return to the Resident Evil games I was looking at a while back. I was greatly enjoying what I played, but the volume of other stuff that was coming through the office that needed covering with a slightly higher priority meant I needed to put that feature aside for a bit. Again, this is a good month to return to it, though, isn’t it?

I’ve also got a few games I’ve had on my shelf for ages that I think are probably worth exploring. Tokyo Twilight Ghost Hunters, Death Mark, NG, White Day… and I’m sure there’s even more that I’m forgetting. Perhaps this is what I should actually spend my weekend playing through while the wife’s away… she does not like spooky games at all.

As always, if you have any spooky game recommendations of your own, feel free to share them on these very pages — the community will thank you!

Actreraiser

Dear Rice,

Actraiser Renaissance looks cool, though I’m still not 100% convinced on the art style. Do you reckon it’s worth playing for someone who plays through the SNES original on the regular?

coffeebeast


Hi coffeebeast, and welcome to the Rice Digital Friday Letters Page. I can give you a quick answer to your question, and that is an emphatic YES!

To elaborate somewhat, I went in to Actraiser Renaissance with similar concerns to you. I was expecting just a reskin of the original game, but what I actually got was a considerably expanded take on the original game with some brand new elements. It’s still recognisably Actraiser, but it has enough new stuff in it to make it feel like a new game.

For starters, the strategic side of things has been expanded considerably with the tower defence elements. These start off fairly simply, but as the game progresses you’ll need to make good use of your limited resources to ensure you’re defending your settlement as efficiently as possible. Since you can only place down a very limited number of towers in your town — with the maximum increasing as you seal more monster lairs — placement is absolutely critical.

Letters Page: Actraiser Renaissance

The other side of things is that the narrative is considerably, considerably expanded. While the SNES original mostly had you looking down on high at your most loyal worshippers as they brought requests and prayers to you, in Actraiser Renaissance the Angel takes a much more active role in the narrative, interacting with a variety of people down on the ground that you, as the Lord of Light, would not be able to meet with directly.

There’s a lot more background lore added to each of the areas, there are some brand new distinct characters, the hero units have their own little sub-stories to explore — and in some cases even the bosses have some fascinating and emotionally engaging stories to tell, too; the Bloodpool stage is a particular highlight in this regard.

The more I play it, the more I’m really impressed with what they’ve done. It’s definitely a very worthy upgrade from the original, and I’d say it can definitely sit happily alongside the SNES version in your collection. Now here’s hoping for a physical release at some point — a lot of other Square Enix stuff has had Asia-English releases at the very least, so chances are good.


And that’s your lot for another week! Have a lovely weekend, and we’ll see you with more fun and frolics on Monday.

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