Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Podcast Episode 32 - Monster Hunter World

In this episode of the podcast I discuss what Monster Hunter World is all about and how I think it was able to succeed on a global scale.

Saturday, March 3, 2018

Podcast Episode 31 - The One Year Anniversary of the Switch

The Nintendo Switch turns one year old today and I talk all about it in the newest episode of the podcast! Listen in as I talk about how I feel the Switch did in its first year and where it's going.

Friday, February 9, 2018

Plans for 2018

This blog is something that I have been consistently working on for years. I try my best to write a post at least once a month, but sometimes I just can't find the motivation. Video games are definitely something I'm passionate about, but to be honest when I come home from work I'd rather play them than sit here and write about them.

It's no secret that my dream job is to write about video games in some capacity and originally I was trying to use this as a repository of my work, but as of right now it's not where I'd like it to be. The kind of stuff that you'll find on websites that still focus on writing about video games is far above the work you'll find here. I don't think I'm the best writer, but I definitely think I can be doing better.

The only thing I've really been doing on here for a while is a monthly edition of Game Time. It started as a weekly post that I decided to pare down. Then in 2017 I decided to pare it down again, because I was writing about three games with five paragraphs of description for each. That was way too much. The worst part is that the text I was writing wasn't that good. Now that I've trimmed down to three paragraphs I still feel the same way. I just vomit up three paragraphs per game where I describe what they are and loosely give my opinion. It's just not what I want it to be.

My main goal for 2018 is to revamp Game Time yet again. Right now I just don't care about what I'm writing each month. I'm trying to fill some imaginary quota I imposed upon myself. I want to keep the Game Time posts as a way to talk about the various games I've played each month, but it might be better served in a more list-like form. Then I can have one or two long form articles about specific games each month. I don't know how I'm going to do it yet, but I have a few ideas I'll try out at the beginning of March.

The other thing I want to do is try and write more. I feel like I always tell myself this, but then as usual lose motivation. That's why I'm not making some type of personal promise or even saying I'll do that. I'm just putting it out there that I'd like to make more posts. Bringing back Memorable Melodies would be a good start. If I did that I'd probably write a bunch and have them go up as scheduled posts.

In general I just feel really weird about this blog. It should be a fun thing I do in my spare time, but in my mind I treat it like a job. I need to change my personal outlook and then maybe I can start to enjoy this thing again in the same way I used to. I just need to try out a bunch of new stuff and see where it leaves me. Thanks for taking this very weird journey with me as I try to find my place on the Internet.

Game Time - January 2018

I decided to take December off from writing and now I'm back to start 2018 with a bang! 2017 was a stellar year for Video games, and 2018 looks like it's going to be great as well. 

To start I'll talk about Xenoblade Chronicles 2, which is the last game I started playing in 2017, but the first game I beat in 2018. It's the first new expansive RPG for the Switch and it delivered in all the ways I wanted it to. 

As for some hot new 2018 releases I've got Dragon Ball FighterZ and Monster Hunter: World. Sadly I have only played a bit of DBZ, but it seems like it's actually a good fighting game. Monster Hunter on the other hand has pretty much consumed my life since its release. Boy do I love me some Monster Hunter. 

It's game time!

Xenoblade Chronicles 2

I played the original Xenoblade Chronicles for over 100 hours before getting burned out. I forced myself to do everything I saw, until I just couldn't do it anymore. I came back to it a few months later and finished it. For my initial 100 hours of play I loved that game. The MMO like combat pulled me in deeper than I ever would have expected. The real draw for me was the interesting story though. That's why I bounced off Xenoblade Chronicles X. There was barely any narrative whatsoever, but Chronicles 2 brings it back.

Xenoblade Chronicles 2 returns to the originals narrative heavy roots.

I don't even really know where to start with this game. The combat system is a more simplified version of the original with a ton of complex and slightly convoluted systems are layered on top of it. To start the original game had you using a fairly large pool of skills that once used would go into a cooldown state. Depending on your style of play you could swap out skills when you needed. Chronicles 2 cuts down drastically on the skills known as artes and each character only has three they can use in battle at a time. Each character auto attacks like an MMO and then you use skills to do more damage and inflict status effects. At first it sounds more simple until you get into the combo system.

The world of Chronicles 2 revolves around beings called blades. They are essentially sentient weapons. The characters you control are called drivers, who bond with crystals to make the blades appear. Once summoned they are bound to the driver and you can use them in battle. They each have different elements, which leads us back to the combo system. Each driver can have three blades equipped. In addition to their three skills they have a special attack that can level up from 1 to 4 by using skills. Once you use a special a combo meter will start and a branching path will appear on screen. You then need to find the next element in the chain in order to continue the combo. Once you complete a full tree which takes three special attacks an orb will begin floating around the enemy with the color of the last element you used in the chain. You can then "burst" by filling another meter. Once you do that you get a chance to break the orbs you have on an enemy in order to do massive damage.

The UI is just as overwhelming as the battle system!

Confused? I certainly was for the first few hours of the game, because the tutorials are not super great and you can't really review them. The entire system revolves around working to built these combo chains, which takes a long time. Due to that even battles with weak enemies can take upwards of ten minutes because your meant to do a ton of damage with your burst. At first it seemed tedious but once I got the hang of it every battle seemed like a puzzle. The battle system is the core of the game. Overall the game is fun, but man does it have some huge flaws. The map is atrocious, and getting blades revolves around random chance, but the entire experience as a whole was something I greatly enjoyed. It's the first real AAA rpg for the switch and it's at least worth a look.

Dragon Ball Fighterz

I'm going to be real here, I've played this game three times. Twice during betas, and once to get trounced by my brother and a few friends because I focused all my time on Monster Hunter instead. What I have played of the game is very fun though. I kind of knew what to expect from a DBZ fighting game made by ARKSYS, but I have been pleasantly surprised by it. Just like Xrd the game looks beautiful in motion and in stills it looks just like the anime. In terms of gameplay it was a lot of intricacies you'd expect ARKSYS game, while remaining assecible for the average player. If you just want to have some fun with DBZ characters you can mash one of three attack buttons to do cool looking auto combos. On the other hand if you want to go wild with super long combos you make yourself it's got you there too.

Like Guilty Gear Xrd before it FighterZ is a beautiful game. 

I'm excited to really dive in and see what the story is all about. It introduces a new Android character (21) and she seems pretty cool. You have to beat the story to unlock her as a playable character so I haven't seen much of her on streams. So far people seem to really like the game and I hope it succeeds in a huge way for ARKSYS.

Monster Hunter World

Monster Hunter World came out last Friday. I have played 80 hours since then. I have killed monsters for approximately two full work weeks now and I don't regret a single moment of it. As some of you may know I fell down the Monster Hunter rabbit hole for the first time with Tri Ultimate on the Wii-U. The thrill of the hunt caught me and since then I have put over 1,000 hours into the franchise as a whole. What's a bummer is that most of the time people are dismissive about the franchise because it doesn't do a good job of explaining a lot of it's systems and it can get overwhelming fairly quickly. Now we have Monster Hunter World, which does a lot to try and make the series appeal to a wider audience, and for the most part I think it succeeds.

I could list the quality of life changes World makes, but that's not going to mean anything to a lot of people. What I can tell you is that there has never been a time to start playing the series. For once it has a tutorial that is serviceable enough to get you into the swing of things. It is by no means perfect and misses a few things, but at least it does enough to get prospective players started.

The scale of the monsters and the world are much larger than ever before.

Just in case you don't know what Monster Hunter is, the title says it all. You hunt large monsters and use their parts to craft weapons and armor. This is all done in service of hunting more monsters! There are 14 weapon types which are all very different, and I equate them to different characters in a fighting game. At first glance their movesets seem very limited, but under the surface they are all very nuanced. Finding the true potential of a weapon is a large part of the fun I find in the game.
In previous iterations you would travel around various maps and travel through loading zones to attack monster. In World each map is one contiguous zone, and there is an emphasis on everything being more like actual nature. Everything is lush, and the monsters interact both with the environment and each other. Capcom took a calculated risk by moving Monster Hunter from handhelds to home consoles, but after selling 5 million copies worldwide in just three days I think their gamble paid off. The franchise is seeing success on a global scale like never before and I can't wait to see what kinds of updates this new formula receives. It just might be the best Monster Hunter yet.

2018 is Going to Be a Banger

Every time a new Monster Hunter comes out I get sucked in for a long time. In my extreme hype for World, i decided to import Monster Hunter XX for the Switch. Going to back to a game without all of the improvements and quality of life changes that World made has been rough so far. Despite that I've been sticking with it and continue to play two Monster Hunter games at the same time...

When I get completely burned out of Monster Hunter I'm going to transition back to playing the new Digimon game. I have a lot of thoughts about it... As a turn based RPG I like it a lot, but as a story based game I can't stand it. It's the equivalent of playing a filler episode from an Anime.

Most of the new releases on the horizon that I care about are in March. So it's entirely possible that I'll just continue to play a whole lot of Monster Hunter.

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Top Ten Games of 2017

I can say without any hesitation that 2017 was one of the best years of all time in terms of video game releases. What makes it even better is that the real world events of 2017 were depressing to say the least, so it was nice to look to my hobby for new levels of happiness and quality. Video games rule, and I'm glad.

As usual I will be listing my top ten games of the year in descending order. Please keep in mind that these are my opinions based on games I personally completed in 2017.

10. Digimon World: Next Order

The original Digimon World was ahead of its time, and was truly a one of a kind game. Raising Digimon in an open world didn't happen again until now.

Next Order brings back the city building and Digimon raising that I love, but this time you raise TWO at the same time. I lost countless hours of sleep to this game, and I hope they continue using this formula.

9. Gravity Rush 2

Gravity Rush got its start on the Vita, which means it was pretty much DOA. Despite a rough start the game garnered enough of a following to garner a sequel that improves upon the original in almost every way.

Once again you control Kat, the Gravity Queen as you fly through the air using your magical Gravity powers. The world is larger, and the mechanics work a lot better than before. Sadly the story is wrapped up, so we might not get to see another.

8. Hollow Knight

Metroidvania games have been wearing out their welcome for me recently, but Hollow Knight pulled me right back in. Team Cherry has manages to create a beautifully bleak world that's surprisingly fun to explore.

You play a little bug knight with a nail as you explore a long abandoned kingdom. The combat initially seems a bit mashy, but I eventually got into a rhythm and enjoyed it a lot.

7. Nier: Automata

I feel like I'm one of the few people who played the original Nier, and am one of the even fewer people who actually liked it. Due to that fact I put off playing Automata for a lot longer than I should have, because I was worried that the hype would fall flat for me. It didn't.

While the combat wasn't the best, it was serviceable. What drew me in was the crazy existentialist story of a few androids. The themes and questions that Automata bring up are absolutely crazy.

6. Yakuza 0

I fell into the Yakuza franchise during its third entry and I have loved it ever since. What's crazy to me is that this is the entry when the series finally blew up in the West. The story goes back to the 1980's when the Japanese real-estate market was blowing up, and a young Kazuma Kiryu is just starting his Yakuza career.

You get to see characters you've known for years in a brand new context. On top of that it introduces many new combat styles to keep it feeling fresh.

5. Pyre

What I like about SuperGiant games is that each one of their games have been different. Bastion was an action game, Transistor was turn based strategy, and now Pyre is a visual novel mixed with a weird fantasy sport.

I thoroughly enjoyed dunking my way across the Downside in an attempt to rescue my fellow teammates from their banishment. I'd give more context, but it would ruin the experience for you. Just know that it's a well developed world, and the part where you play a sport is fun.

4. Super Mario Odyssey

Mario is the first video game I ever owned, which is why I think Odyssey is so special. To me it feels like the culmination of everything Nintendo has been working towards with Mario since its inception. It manages to be an excellent new adventure while paying homage to the days of old. I teared up a few times.

It feels like you want a Mario game to feel, and it's so awesome that you can possess enemies with your magical hat. Odyssey rules.

3. The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild

Breath of the Wild is a reinvention of the classic Zelda formula that still manages to hold onto what makes people consider something to be a Zelda game. The open world is immense and filled with a lot to see.

What's amazing is that it made exploring an open world fun for me again. It's not overly concerned in funneling you towards all the coolest content, and lets you discover the secrets the world has to offer on your own. Even more importantly is that it proves Nintendo can renew their old formulas.

2. Persona 5

Persona 5 is exactly the JRPG I wanted it to be. Even though people seemed to turn on it relatively quickly I still think it's great. I like the characters, world, and story. Don't even get me started on how amazing the music is.

Yes, it should have come out in Winter of 2014. However, the game we got was well worth the wait.

1. Night in the Woods

I found out about this game from a random ad on the PS4 store and I'm so glad I did. It's an adventure game about a cat named Mae who has dropped out of college and returned to her home town. She realizes that everything is both simultaneously the same and very different. Something strange is going on and it's up to you to figure it out. All I can say is that you should probably play this game.

Monday, January 1, 2018

Podcast Episode 30 - GOTY 2017

2017 might be one of the best years for video games ever. While the year may not have been so great for a myriad of other reasons we try to put that aside as we discuss the fun video games we played in 2017.

As usual Landers, Noukeo, and I got together to read off our top ten lists in descending order. Join us on an over three hour journey as we profess out love for the wonderful games of 2017. If you would prefer to read a list of my top ten games, I will be posting that within the next few days. Enjoy!

Friday, December 8, 2017

Game Time - November 2017

During the entire month of November I didn't really play a whole lot. I kind of just lounged around and let the Holiday season wash over me. I don't even really know what I did other than watch a whole lot of Adventure Time.

That doesn't mean I didn't play games, it just means I didn't finish any... It's game time!

Battle Chef Brigade

Years ago I saw a pre-release video of Battle Chef Brigade and it immediately caught my eye. It's an interesting mix of an action RPG and a match three puzzle game couched inside a fantasy Iron Chef. If what I just said sounds crazy, it's because it is. You play as Mina, a chef. She has run away from home to enter the tournament to become a member of the battle chef brigade. In the game world chefs are apparently super powerful and protect the land.

In order to join the brigade she must win a series of matches without losing three times. The game has you start your day by doing odd jobs for your teachers around town. This doubles as a way to get money and learn advanced game mechanics. You can do fun puzzles where you need to create specific patterns in the match three game, fight enemies, and make orders ads fast as possible in a busy restaurant. When you're all set you can find a fellow chef and challenge them to a battle. You than travel to a battleground and start the cool chef fight.

If only it was this easy to cook in real life.

Initially you're introduced to the judge for the event and they let you know what element they like the best and what the main ingredient of your dish should be. There are three elements earth, water, and fire. The more you have of the specific element the judge requests the higher you'll score. The buzzer goes off and then you need to get cooking! You have to run outside and kill monsters to collect their parts, which are made up on colored orbs. You need to drop the parts into your cooking pot and then match them. When you match three of a kind they fuse together into an upgraded flavor gem and you can repeat the process. Before the timer runs out you bring the dish to the judge and are scored accordingly. It has been a lot of fun the few matches I've played so far. It has a lot of charm, and I'm excited to see where the story and mechanics go.

Pokemon Ultra Moon

It's a well known fact that I love the Pokemon franchise. Despite that I can't bring myself to defend the newest duo of Pokemon releases. I have personally enjoyed my time with it so far, but it's hard to justify it as a purchase for people who played Sun and Moon last year. Game Freak billed this as an all new adventure with an alternate story, which is only a half truth. While there are new aspects to the story it is still largely the same as before. They made tweaks to the pacing so that things get going quicker, but a majority of the changes take place near and at the end of the game. I do think that it's a better overall package, but it just takes a while to see any of it.

The games bring back Team Rocket, but not until very late in the story.

Sadly I can't comment on any of the new story aspects other than the Ultra Recon Squad showing up every so often. When I last played the game I stopped right before getting to the wholly new story section dealing with the legendary Pokemon Necrozma. There is also additional content after the game is over where you fight against a new and improved Team Rocket which I am looking forward to.

In terms of gameplay it's pretty much identical. You fight with Pokemon in turn based battles. You capture Pokemon, level them up, and see them evolve. It's the classic gameplay that we all know and love from the franchise, but I hope that next time they can change it up even more. Sun and Moon were a nice departure from the previous games and tried a bunch of new things. Personally I hope that for future iterations they take the changes even farther. While I adore Pokemon I don't know how much longer they can get away with the current formula.

.hack//G.U. Last Recode

.hack//G.U. originally came out in 2006 for the PlayStation 2. I came into the three part franchise during its second outing in 2007. I played the second and third volumes a ton, and enjoyed them quite a bit. However, that was back then. The graphics were decent then, and the repetitive combat mechanics and melodramatic anime acting did it for me then. Now we're in 2017 and the games have been re-released in a collection on the PS4. What sets this collection apart from others of its type is that it adds a ton of cool features in addition to the improved graphics. On top of all that they created an all new volume 4, which I definitely have not played yet. It is really cool that this franchise has been revived in 2017, but I just am not having a good time playing it.

The combat is simple active combat. You run into a group of enemies and mach a button to kill them. As the games go on you receive more weapons to add variety, but in the opening hours there's little to no variety. You play as Haseo, who is a player in the MMO known as the world who is trying to find out what happened to his friend Shino. She was attacked by a mysterious character called Tri-Edge and was never seen again. Haseo learns he has special powers as all good anime protagonists do, and he goes on a journey while honing his skills.

Haseo is back and edgier than ever!

Even in 2017 the concept of playing a video game about being inside a video game is pretty novel. It still freaks me out that you can "log off" the game and retire to a PC desktop to read email and download sick wallpapers. I still like .hack, but I just don't want to play through it again. I already saw the story once, and the combat actually puts me to sleep. I played three sessions of it and almost fell asleep each time. It would be hard to recommend it to someone who has no nostalgia for it, but it's really cool for fans that Namco put this collection out.

Tis the Season

Pretty much all I've been doing since the 1st of December is playing Xenoblade Chronicles 2. The Switch finally has the hot JRPG action I have been craving. Sometimes I feel like if I go too long without playing one I will wither and die. So far I like it a lot, but it certainly has its fair share of problems.

The Director's Cut of Night in the Woods comes out Tuesday and I'm totally going to play through that again, because I love it so much. Other than that I don't really have a whole lot of video gaming plans. I'm just going to chill for the Christmas season and get really stressed out at work! See you next time!