Monday, February 6, 2017

Game Time - January 2017

2016 was a pretty good year for video games, but 2017 is going to be off the chain! Most of the time January is a slow month in terms of releases. Usually I would use the two months to catch up on my backlog, or go back to games I had missed from the previous year. This year I didn't get a lot of time to do that, because the releases are coming fast and furious already!

To kick off the new year I went on a trip to a fighting game tournament. Due to being on a plane I busted out my Vita and tried to see if I could finish Danganronpa 2. I started it when it came out years ago, but for some reason or another I didn't get very far. Upon returning from the trip I played it to completion. I don't think it's as good as the original, but it's still a decent product.

Halfway through the month, the new games started to flow. Gravity Rush 2 was the first one I picked up. It's a lot like the original, but better in almost every facet. The jump to PS4 did the game justice and it's doubly cool because now it will reach a wider audience. Sadly I have not finished it yet, because there is so much content and I have a problem where I need to complete every sidequest.

Yakuza 0 came out shortly after and it's just what you'd expect. It's a Yakuza game, but set in the 80's. All the goofy side missions and deathly serious Yakuza drama are back! I've had very little time to play it so far, but I have enjoyed myself so far. I set it aside to play Digimon World: Next Order, but that's a story for next month!

I've been buried in games, and I need to talk about them. However, this month I am going to try and keep each game to around three paragraphs. While I normally try and talk about each game for around sic or seven that can get a bit too wordy. I think I'll enjoy writing these a lot more when they're shorter, but we'll see!

Danganronpa 2

The original Danganronpa wasn't even on my radar when it released a few years ago. Mainly because I didn't know what it was. The cover had the franchise mascot Monokuma on the cover art. So seeing a weird looking anime bear I wrote it off as a bad game and didn't look up anything about it. Somehow I stumbled across video of it and ordered it immediately. It's a visual novel, so there's a lot of text. However, you can walk around the map freely as opposed to moving through menus. The concept is that children are being held captive in an area and if they want to leave their captor says they must kill each other. So inevitably murders occur and then you have to have a trial in order to figure out who the murderer was. This is where it turns into a more frantic version of Ace Attorney with a bunch of weird mini-games.

The first game takes place in a school, while the second takes place on an island. Danganronpa 2 is a direct sequel. At first it doesn't seem like it, but by the end there's so much about the first game they assume you know I don't know if you'd understand anything without playing it. To me, that's a bummer because I really didn't like the overarching plot of the first game. So when it carried all of that baggage over I was a bit bummed out. The part about Danganronpa I like is getting to know all of the characters and seeing their interactions. The class trials are great too. Solving the murders feels good, with the exception of a few frustrating mini-games. So when the plot dealing with the world outside the murders comes in I can't help but roll my eyes. The last chapter of Danganronpa 2 gets so far up its own ass that half the dialogue is intelligible to the average human.

Who's going to get murdered!?

If the last chapter of the game didn't exist I would recommend it to anyone wholeheartedly. However, now I have to tell people about it with the caveat that the plot falls apart at the end. I absolutely love the core of the franchise, and am glad that it is continuing into a third game. What gives me hope about the third game is that it drops all of the plot from the first two games and is a completely different things. There is still going to be kids murdering each other, and I honestly hope that's all.

Gravity Rush 2

As you may have seen I beat the original Gravity Rush in December. Gravity Rush 2 is obviously a direct sequel that takes place shortly after the events of the original. The gravity controlling girl Kat and her police officer friend Syd were caught in a gravity storm and taken far away from their home in Hecksville. Initially you don't have control over gravity, but after a lengthy intro sequence Kat is able to do almost everything she was before. I've seen a lot of people criticizing the opening, but I personally didn't really mind it. Walking around the mining town without gravity powers makes them feel all the more special when you do get them back. As the game goes on you receive two more styles that change how your powers work. I only got the lunar style, which allows you to jump ridiculously high and fly at ridiculous speeds. It's a fun addition.

Lunar Style lets you go stupidly fast.

The remaster of the original looked fine, but having 2 be developed from the ground up on the PS4 did a lot for it. Now there is much more to the world, and a whole lot more people roaming around on the streets. The new town introduced early in the game feels very lively, and looks beautiful. As with the remaster you no longer have to control anything with the gyro in the controller. You can still move the camera that way, but it would often make me spin out of control. I turned all gyro off as soon as I could in the menu.

With that said I think that the game feels better as a whole. Now that it isn't designed around a Vita specific feature it's much better off. The game seems better as a whole outside of control as well. It characterizes all of the characters worlds better than the original, and actually tackles classism in a tactful manner. I've already played it for a long time, and I don't think I've even halfway. Whether or not the game can continue to hold my attention until the end remains to be seen. The developer said that this game would end Kat's story and as of right now I don't have any idea how they can do that. I guess a lot more has to happen in the story still. I just hope they don't cram it all in very poorly at the end. Video games tend to do that.

Yakuza 0

Yakuza has always been a niche franchise and I don't really know why. Yes, it's very Japanese, but it has a lot of things that popular western developed games have. It's one of the earliest open world franchises I can think of. I mean, sure, the world is just a sub-section of a city, but it's still open. It took me until Yakuza 3 to get on the train, but ever since then I've been singing the praises of Yakuza everywhere I can. So I find it very odd that now that this entry is being widely praised here in the U.S. Perhaps it's because it's a prequel? I guess coming into a franchise five or six entries deep is a bit daunting, but the gameplay stays largely the same between them all. Regardless of how it happened I'm not complaining, because maybe now we won't have to wait years for each new entry to be localized.

I was going to pass on Yakuza 0 until I say this image. No joke.

So now you're saying what is Yakuza all about? Well, it's about Yakuza, the Japanese mafia. They're tough guys who take no guff and have tattoos that cover most of their body. You play as Kazuma Kiryu in all of them, however in Yakuza 0 you also play as Majima Goro (Another series regular). Yakuza is essentially the evolution of old school beat-em-ups like Streets of Rage. You get into a fight and just beat the living hell out of your opponents. You can grab weapons and your opponents with them, or just throw a flurry of blows and grapples. Eventually your character have blue flames emanating off them, which allows you to push triangle for a heat action. These actions are brutal finishers that do a ton of damage. They're all over the top and a pleasure to see every time. The combat has been largely the same for a majority of the franchise so its refreshing to see Kiryu get some different styles to use. It seems that there are four styles and I've gotten one that allows me to punch people so many times they can no longer block. It's awesome.

I'm only around 2 hours in, but this feels like some Yakuza ass Yakuza. I have seen a lot of melodrama, and even a few men take off their shirts before challenging me to a fight. It's all happened before, but it's still fun. The fact that it's set before all the other games during an economic boom is Japan is really cool. Everyone has a ton of money and is trying to make their mark on the city. So far everything has been pretty tame by Yakuza standards, but I'm sure it'll ramp up as I get farther in. I guess what I'm saying is that you should really check out Yakuza. There's never been a better time to get in on the action.

All I can see are Digimon

On the last day of January Digimon World: Next Order came out and It's pretty much all I've been playing since then. Something about it grabbed me in a way that I could not shake off. Following its release I had two days off and I completely destroyed my sleep schedule by staying up until 7 AM two consecutive days. So next month you can look forward to me spouting off all about what a wonderful game it is.

Other than that the only other game due out in February is Horizon Zero Dawn, the much lauded robot animal hunting game from Guerilla games. It's nice to see them making something that isn't Killzone for once, especially something that looks really cool.

I'm sure something else will pop up for me to talk about, but I'll have to wait and see. I've had a fun time chatting, but it's time for me to get back to Digimon now...

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Podcast Episode 24 - Nintendo Switch

In this episode of the podcast I talk about my thoughts on the Nintendo Switch presentation and the console's impending launch!

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

What I Watched: Gravity Rush Overture

What I Watched is a series where I tell you about the video game related things I have been watching. This covers everything from documentaries to anime. 




I've been on a bit of a Gravity Rush tear over the past two months. I played all the way through the remaster of the original, and now I'm working my way through the newly released second game in the series. Last month I was loosely aware of the fact that Sony was producing an anime short about the franchise, but I paid it no mind. It turns out that I should have, because it covers the gap between the first game and the second.

It was released in two parts. Overture Face A, and Overture Face B. The first part was around seven minutes long, while the second part was around nine. The animation is very odd. It does what a lot of new anime does, where the art style looks almost CG as opposed to being drawn. Since I'm not anime art expert it could be completely CG for all I know. It looks really good in motion, but there are times where it looks really stilted. Almost as if it was meant for 60 frames a second viewing, but it was being output at 30. However, I am led to believe that it is a stylistic choice, because they use it for some visual gags in the opening of Face A.

As I said previously the purpose of these two short animations is to bridge the gap between the first and second game in the series. For those who are unaware the second game begins in an entirely different place from the first, with little to no explanation. Kat and her police officer friend Syd have found themselves in a mining settlement working to earn their keep. I am close to halfway through the game, which is roughly where Face A takes place.

Face A

There's not a lot to Face A, other than to show that Gravity Rush would make a super cool anime. For some odd reason it begins around  quarter of the way through Gravity Rush 2. It starts off like most anime comic relief where Kat is trying to get some food. She is offered a meat skewer for half price and she takes it. Just then the evil monsters of the world called Nevi attack and her food is taken from her. She then fights them in spectacular gravity defying action to try and save her food. The other gravity shifter Raven shows up as well as Syd. Together they defeat the Nevi menace and reflect back on what brought them to the city of Jirga Para Lhoa.

Face B

Face B takes place very shortly after the original Gravity Rush ends. Kat and Raven are chilling in their sweet pipe room and eating a ton of pretzels. They lament over the fact that many of the orphans they saved have been disappearing without a trace. A gravity storm alert goes off and the two go to check it out. When they arrive they come across some powerful new enemies. In the end they win, but a gravity storm appears and separates them.

Overall

I apologize for pretty much describing the entire plot, but there wasn't a whole lot to it. In fact I was kind of disappointed with the whole thing. When I realized there was some story in between the two games I wan't expecting that half of the thing describing it would be about a skewer of meat. Then the part about the extra story is so think that there's almost nothing to it.

The music is ripped straight from the games, so that's great. The animation is top notch as well, and proves that Gravity Rush could stand on its own if it was made into a full fledged anime. In the end though, I just found myself wanting to play Gravity Rush 2 in order to get the story. One of the coolest thing about it is that it doesn't have actual voice, and still uses the French inspired gibberish of the games.

While I do think that Gravity Rush Overture has merit, I don't really understand why it was produced in the first place. I guess it drove awareness for Gravity Rush 2, but it's not the companion piece it could have been. On the plus side it's very easy to watch, because it's right on YouTube.

Memorable Melodies: Gravity Daze from Gravity Rush


Song: Gravity Daze
Composer: Kohei Tanaka
Games: Gravity Rush 1 and 2

Over the past few months I have been playing a whole lot of Gravity Rush. When I initially got a Vita I tried my best to play it, but controlling the main character Kat in the air with the system's gyro was not my style. During a sweet PSN holiday sale I picked up the HD remaster for PS4 and got hooked. One of the things that drew me in was the catchy tunes on the soundtrack.

I am now playing the second game, and some of the tunes from the original return. The one I chose for this week's memorable melody is the main theme of the game. On the soundtrack it is called Gravity Daze, which is the Japanese name of the franchise. It plays on the main menu of both the first and second games and it always gets me pumped to mess around with Gravity.

It starts off as a sweeping symphony, and then turns into an almost reggae-like mellow jam before returning to its original form. It's a bit all over the place, but so is the game. You're controlling gravity in order to "fall" into the sky. It's all a bit weird, but that's what I love so much about it. 

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Game Time - December 2016

Just when you thought 2016 was behind you, here I come with the December edition of Game Time. I honestly meant to do this a few weeks ago, (when it was still 2016) however I got caught up in some other shenanigans. I then went on a trip for five days, and got myself a sweet cold! So for the past week I've either been gone or in bed. That's not a great excuse because I should have been done sooner, but that's the one I'm going with! In 2017 I'm going to try and be more on top of my blog posts!

Normally I use December as a month to finish up smaller games I missed out on earlier in the year. I did a bit of that, but for Christmas I also have myself the gift of an MMO addiction... I decided it would be a good idea to get Final Fantasy XIV on the steam sale and try that out. Now I'm deep down the MMO hole!

The short game I finished was SUPERHOT, and boy did I enjoy the hell out of that game. It's about two hours long, but those two hours were ridiculous and awesome. At some point I also bought Gravity Rush Remastered on a PSN sale and have been chipping away at that.

Let's talk about all of these video games! It's game time!

Final Fantasy XIV

I tend to not play MMO's because I have can get addicted to things very easily. I've gone pretty deep in the past, so I tend to stay away from the genre. It also helps that I generally move from game to game very quickly. I don't generally have a lot of time to stick with one thing for the amount of time an MMO requires. However, I have a few friends who really like FFXIV, and they had been wanting me to try it out. The cost of the game and expansion were $20 during the Steam winter sale, so I took the plunge.

At first I was really not enjoying the game. The story was so slow, and boring that I almost stopped playing. The thing that kept me going was the fact that leveling up makes me feel good. After playing for around ten or so hours the "real story" starts and the story actually got interesting. I started to do cool and challenging missions, and began to have a great time. I've played for around 30 hours and am currently at level 28 on my main job.

It's me, Manny Manatron!

If FFXIV was a traditional MMO in every sense I may have dropped it already. It does have the usual combat. The main attack is an auto attack, so you click on an enemy and your character starts to go ham. The real "challenge" comes from using your skills and managing their cooldowns. I chose a Pugilist, so I use my fists to attack. I chose the class, because you have to pay attention and use the skills in a certain order to get damage buffs. That way I don't just zone out forever while I play.

Where FFXIV differs from other games in the genre is that you can have every class at once if you want to. They all start at level 1, and can go up to level 60 if you have the expansion. Currently my highest level job is a pugilist, but I have also leveled up the rogue job to level 12. This means that at any time I can change to a rogue and use a completely different set or armor, weapons, and skills. The benefit to doing this is that each job gets specific skills and perks that carry over to other classes. It's a really interesting system that reminds me a bit of Bravely Default.

It looks and plays like an MMO

I guess I don't really have a lot to say about this game. I'm enjoying my time with it, but outside of my addictive personality and the job system there isn't a whole lot of unique stuff going on. I just wanted to give the game a shot, because I've been on a bit of a Final Fantasy binge lately. I'm going to keep playing it, but I don't know for how long. I want to try finishing the content in the game currently, but that's a crazy amount of time I could spend playing newer games. I just have a weird compulsion to do everything in MMO's even though most quests are absolutely worthless and don't give you good rewards.

SUPERHOT

You may be thinking the title should be Super Hot, but you're wrong. It's SUPERHOT, and boy is it something to behold. I initially saw someone try out the browser game that the SUPERHOT Team put out to show their initial idea. The game revolves around a simple concept that doesn't sound cool, but when you're experiencing it in practice it's one of the coolest things I've ever done. It's a first person shooter where time moves when you move, and moves very slowly when you stand still. This allows you to pull off amazing feats that never really get old.

Initially I thought that the browser game was a cool tech demo that wouldn't really be able to become something more. I was proven wrong on every level. The setup for the story is that you meet someone in a chatroom and they hook you up with SUPERHOT.EXE. It's a cool new game that everyone's playing. You boot it up to be greeted by white environments filled with red polygonal men who are trying to kill you. Depending on the level you may start with a gun, or nothing. If you have a gun, then you can shoot your foes until you run out of bullets. The best option when you run out of bullets is to throw your empty gun, which will cause your enemy to reel and throw their gun into the air, which you can then catch and use. That description probably doesn't sound very exciting, but imagine pulling off that string in slow motion, and feeling like a badass. Then when you've cleared the stage your character inexplicably chucks whatever they're holding and the words SUPER, then HOT, accompanied by chanting of said words will happen until you click to start the next stage. It's awesome.

Shoot your enemies.

Outside of guns you can also pick up objects in the environment to throw, or punch your enemies to death. A bullet will kill an enemy in one shot causing them to shatter. Throwing objects will cause them to drop their gun for you take take, the same goes for throwing your gun at them. There are various points where you will also get a sword, which can be thrown for one hit kills, or used to kill enemies by swinging until it breaks. In my opinion the sword, and other melee weapons like the baseball bat are the most fun to use.

When I use the words first person shooter to describe SUPERHOT I'm only using them to describe what you're doing. You're shooting people in first person. Despite that fact it actually plays more like a puzzle game due to the time mechanics. The fact that you can essentially pause time means that you can think your way out of most scenarios. If you're skillful enough you can dodge bullets, or even shoot them out of the air with your own. If you get hit and die, then you can start the level over almost instantaneously. Each level offers a completely new challenge.

Melee weapons are my favorite.

While the story is over in about two hours, it felt like no time at all because I was having so much fun. Once it's over you unlock challenges like katana only runs, and things of that sort. There is also an endless mode which you can use to test your skills. The story is interesting and will sometimes have you quitting the game to chat with the person who gave you the game, and then going back in. It takes some pretty weird turns, but it just adds to the game's extreme sense of style. Overall SUPERHOT is an experience I would recommend to anyone.

Gravity Rush Remastered

Gravity Rush is one of the Vita only games that I was interested in playing. When I got one I tried to play the game for a few hours, but had to put it down. I loved the characters and the world, but using the gyroscope to control the main character Kat's gravity power was not something I wanted to do at all. Lucky for me the game was re-released on the PS4, but I almost let that pass me by as well. The only reason I'm playing it now, so far after its release is that Gravity Rush 2 comes out in a few short weeks and it looks amazing. In order to be ready for it I decided it was time to play through the original.

Gravity rush follows the amnesiac Kat who finds herself in the unfamiliar town of Hecksville with her gravity controlling cat Dusty. The central crux of the game is using gravity powers to traverse the world and destroy floating enemies called the Nevi. I really enjoy the gameplay now that I don't have to move the Vita around like a moron. On the PS4 you can just push R1 to activate Kat's abilities and then aim a reticle with the right stick to get you where you need to go. You're traversing a lot of floating islands and going to high areas, while upside down. It's like a super intense version of Mario Galaxy. There are often times where I forget if I'm actually on the ground or not so I have to look at Kat's scarf for reference.

The gravity powers are fun to use.

Throughout the world there are crystals you can collect that are used as the currency for upgrading your abilities. These crystals can also be gained by completing challenged like racing through checkpoints, or defeating a ton of enemies. It seems like none of the upgrades  are necessary to complete the game, but they sure make things a lot more fun. You can upgrade things like your falling speed, kick attack, and gravity meter. It's always good to be able to use your powers for longer.

The thing that strikes me about Gravity Rush the most is the world and its characters. The models and the world of Hecksville look beautiful. There are a lot of bright colors. Each district of the city has its own style, so the visuals change greatly over the course of the game. As a character Kat is very charming. Despite the fact that she's lost her memory she is very witty and genuinely funny. A lot of games recently get a little too heavy on the Internet humor and memes, but Gravity Rush is able to be funny in its own right.

For a remaster of a Vita game, this looks incredible.

I am about 3/4's of the way through now and the story is really heating up. New characters have introduced themselves and I actually don't really know where the story is going to end up, but I'm happy to go along for the ride. There's something about Gravity Rush that's super endearing to me, but I can't quite put my finger on it. Yes, the world and characters are great, but there's something about the package as a whole that makes me feel warm and fuzzy inside while I'm playing it. I look forward to the second game!

2017

We're a few weeks into 2017 now, and I have yet to do any serious gaming, Like I said I've been on a trip for the majority of it and now I have a stupid cold. As we speak I'm hacking up a lung and it's very unpleasant.

In two weeks I will start my 2017 gaming binge by diving into Gravity Rush 2, and Yakuza Zero. I am super excited for all the games coming out this year. The Nintendo Switch is going to be detailed tomorrow night, and I'm getting super hype about it. I set my money aside as soon as the NX was announced, and the rumors are that it'll be cheaper than the $500 I put aside for it. If that's true it means I'll be able to get more games at launch than I anticipated!

Man, this year is going to rule and I seriously cannot wait!

Saturday, December 31, 2016

Top Ten Games of 2016

When I thought back on 2016 I couldn't think of any amazing games at first. I honestly feel like the beginning of the year was an eternity ago, and I have a pretty bad memory. However, upon looking at my list of completed games I realized that this was a banner year for video games. So many great products were released, and a few of them actually blew me away. 

As always I will be listing these games in descending order from ten to one. Keep in mind these are my opinions, and are based on video games I completed in 2016.


10. Uncharted 4: A Thief's End 

I was originally upset that there was an Uncharted 4, but seeing it in action put my mind at ease. This game gave the franchise the ending it deserved, and boy is it a great ending. 

The gameplay is improved vastly over the previous iterations, and the graphics and facial animations are unparalleled in video games. Naughty Dog really knows how to draw everything they can out of Sony platforms, and I can't wait to see them improve even more.



9. Digimon Story: Cyber Sleuth

Namco Bandai finally started to bring Digimon games to the west again, so now I can finally play the games I crave once again.

The story of Cyber Sleuth is an anime trope nightmare, but the gameplay is the compelling turn based strategy and Digimon evolution festival I really needed early in the year. If you like seeing cool monsters change into cooler monsters and grinding for EXP, then this game is totally for you!



8. Final Fantasy XV

After ten years Final Fantasy XV made it to market against all odds. What should have been a horrific mess of development hell actually came together into a fairly enjoyable game. 

While the story was an absolute train-wreck I found myself loving exploring the open world. The combat might not be my favorite, but it was fun enough to pull me through. I'll definitely return to it when the DLC is released.



 7. Street Fighter V

SFV got a lot of shit from the press and general gaming populace. While a lot of it is undeserved, Capcom also did a lot wrong. The game launched without a lot of features, and they even managed to put a root kit in the PC version for a day.

Despite all that the fighting at the core of the game is in my opinion better than it has ever been. I played it a ton its first few months of release, and still return to it occasionally. 



6. The Last Guardian

Like the Team ICO games before it the Last Guardian is a puzzle puzzle game. However now you have the added bonus of hanging out with Trico the dope bird-dog. As an animal lover I felt a bond with Trico that I can't even really describe. I tried to talk to him like I would my dog. The AI is amazing and acts like a real animal.

I can not praise Tric's mannerisms enough,




5. Dark Souls 3

It's closer to the original than it is to 2, but it never reaches the highs of the original. It's another one of those games, and it's great. I didn't like the fast paced action of Bloodborne, so I was glad to return to my slow and methodical play style.

My favorite part was discovering the world while talking to a friend about it. There's something about discovering the secrets along with the rest of the Internet that is absolutely magical. 



4. Stardew Valley

I've always loved Harvest Moon, and Stardew Valley is an improved version of old Harvest Moon games. It's an amazing game made by a single person. 

You can farm, mine, fish, gather, and make tons of friends. You can really tackle the game however you want, and it never discourages any play style. It even manages to make the villagers deep and meaningful characters,

If you like Harvest Moon, then you absolutely need to play this game.


3. Pokemon Sun/Moon

Nintendo managed to actually change up the Pokemon formula a bit and the result is one of my favorite games in the franchise.

It actually had a real story, and the world they created feels lived in by both Pokemon and people. I hope each new Pokemon game continues on this trend.



2. Ace Attorney: Spirit of Justice

Ace Attorney 6 manages to add in new gameplay elements to the courtroom that change things dramatically. Trying to find contradictions in a seance is both interesting and weird.

On top of that the game manages to tell a compelling narative that gives Apollo his time to shine. The end result is a solid end to the second Ace Attorney trilogy. 




1. Overwatch

I'm not a huge fan of multiplayer games, and I'm even less of a fan of first person shooters. Somehow Overwatch managed to pull me in with a strength I still don't quite understand. I love everything about the game.

The game only surfaces positive data, so I feel good about my performance and the game in general. On top of that the characters are all super colorful and have a ton of personality. 

Blizzard solved some magic formula to make any game they touch into a cultural phenomenon, and Overwatch continues that trend.

Podcast Episode 23 - GOTY 2016

Another year has passed, which mean that I sat down with a few of my friends and recorded the world's longest podcast. It was long previously, but this year it ballooned out of control! However, it was worth every minute and I had a lot of fun doing it.

Witness the epic 3 and a half hour countdown from 10 to 1 for four people! 2016 was pretty rad.