At Local Heroes we’d worked on the localisation of Tactics Ogre: Reborn (PS5) quite some time ago, to the point that we thought the game had been cancelled. But nope, it finally appeared alive and kicking this year but with… ehr… what looked like an emulator’s Super Eagle filter applied to its graphics. Yikes.
Everything else that was shown in the announcement trailer looked excellent though. From the improved UI, to all the additional tweaks, to the updated score. I immediately wanted to play this. But those sprites…
Well, the good news is that it’s okay in the flesh. I still have some doubts at the claims that all the graphics have been redone manually, because when you take a close look at it, it really does look like a Super Eagle-like filter, including diminished contrast and everything. The thing is, blown up on a large 4K screen it kind of fades away. In the end it more works like an overzealous CRT-filter, rather than smudging the art to smithereens. Still, I would have preferred a toggle to just flip it to the original pixel-art on a larger canvas.
With that out of the way, the game itself really shines. If you’re not familiar with tactical RPGs, this is best described as “chess with extra steps” or “a Dungeons & Dragons combat simulator”. Movement, targeting, areas of effect, and item management are key.
The genre is also known for having brutal difficulty spikes. Stable-mate Final Fantasy Tactics is notorious for having a scenario where the wrong preparation for one battle can soft lock you into an unwinnable situation. Reborn has a lot of tweaks to make this not possible. For instances, there’s a soft-cap for levelling, keeping the game’s challenge within limits. In terms of accessibility there’s also the possibility of using a mouse and keyboard on the PlayStation. Probably a side-effect of this getting a PC launch as well, but welcome nonetheless.
It’s all additional fluff, as the game’s core mechanics are still really solid: deploy a group of characters on one side of the map, and make them defeat and/or survive whatever the map’s setup is. It’s slow, but that’s exactly what makes it great. Like chess, it’s good to think ahead and seize opportunities as the battlefield evolves. It requires a certain dedication as a player (especially when compared to most open world offerings these days) and I don’t think I can simply recommend it without a legion of footnotes.
If you are excited by turn-based battles with a slower pace and more bite to them though, you could do worse than to give Tactics Ogre: Reborn a look.
Garbage Pail Kids: Mad Mike and the Quest for Stale Gum (PS4) came out of nowhere. It’s also a strange premise. This is a retro 8-bit game, designed as if to run on actual NES hardware, based on a gum-and-trading-card IP of gross and creepy children, themselves a parody of the Cabbage Patch Kids doll toys out of the ‘80s. Got that?
Here in the Netherlands, I remember the cards briefly being a fad and apparently there was even a movie made out of it, which RedLetterMedia looked at recently due to the release of this particular game.
And it’s not good.
Which is a bit of a bummer. The concept itself is good: you get four Garbage Pail Kids to play as, each with their own attack and you can switch between them at all times. You navigate through multiple levels to gather ingredients for stale gum (a nice nod to the awful gum that was packaged in with the cards) and you can trade GPK cards, some of which act as power-ups.
Sadly, the controls are a bit sloppy. The graphics are much more crude mid-NES than late-NES era, and the level design is just plain bad at times. Levels are excruciatingly long, turning each one into a slog to get through and often repeat sections, boring you to tears.
Yeah, it’s fun as a nostalgic reminder that Garbage Pail Kids existed at all, but it’s a real shame that this game sticks a bit too much to the quick cash-in licensed platformer releases that plagued the 8-bit generation. With a bit more love this could have been a solid game.