Thursday, July 6, 2017

Game Time - June 2017

June seemed like it went on forever. Somehow I managed to play the three games I'm going to talk about and about 60 hours of Final Fantasy XIV. The new expansion dropped, so I decided to get back in on the MMO action. I'm having more fun than the last time I played, but we're not here to talk about that.

2017 is shaping up to be a big year for fighting games tons of stuff is coming out and I'm playing all of it. I bit the bullet and got ARMS on the Switch. I had to know what it was all about, and I'm glad I did. The concept is really cool, even if I don't like playing it very much. On the other hand I also got Tekken 7 and it rules. I don't think Tekken can be bad.

After all the fighting games I needed a change of pace and picked up Hollow Knight. I enjoyed the journey even though it was filled with sadness and despair.

It was an interesting month, so let's start talking about it. It's game time!

ARMS

I did and still really want to like ARMS. Every time Nintendo creates a new IP I feel obligated to try it out. While I do find the character designs to be charming, I don't particularly enjoy the combat. It's not necessarily bad, it just doesn't really do it for me. The concept of ARMS is pretty simple. One day people woke up and had stretchy arms. They thought it would be a good idea to fight with their new arms, so they made a tournament. So yeah, you might with your arms in ARMS...

The character designs in ARMS are really cool. 

When the game was revealed there was a large emphasis on motion controls, which is the way I personally prefer to play the game. To play you hold a joycon in each fist in a punching grip. To punch you thrust out the respective arm, or both of them to grab your opponent. Movement is controller entirely by tilting in the desired direction. Jumping and dashing are performed with the bumpers, which can feel a bit awkward when you're tilting to move. The motion controls don't always work as intended, but they work just well enough. Traditional controls can be used as well, but I didn't find them to be particularly great.

By nature ARMS isn't as crazy as most other fighting games. Due to the fact that you're slowly stretching out your limbs to hit opponents there aren't really any combos to be seen. This means that the game is almost all about movement. Patience pays off, and I am certainly not a patient person. What bums me out is that there isn't a lot of content in ARMS. Really the only thing I can do is fight the AI, or get absolutely decimated by people online. Nintendo came up with a bunch of really cool characters, but they have almost no story or development behind them. Thankfully Nintendo is taking the Splatoon approach and will be updating the game for free over the course of its lifespan. It' s an interesting game, I just don't know if it's worth it in its current state.

Hollow Knight

When I first saw a screenshot of Hollow Knight I didn't find it interesting. However, after seeing it in motion I suddenly understood what it was all about. It has a stop-motion quality to it that I now can't get enough of. I wanted to wait and get it for the Switch, but the development of that version seems like it will be a little while longer.

Hollow Knight is a metroidvania style game where you play as a little bug dude with a nail. Your goal is to explore the ruins of a forgotten underground kingdom. Gameplay is relatively simple at first blush. You jump around and swing your nail at enemies. As you beat bosses more and more abilities are added to your arsenal until you are an unstoppable bug killing machine. The basics of combat are simple, but precise timing is often required of you. If you get injured in combat you can focus the stolen souls of your enemies to slowly regain health. This means that even though combat can be tough, it's not impossible to recover from most situations.

It's like you're playing a sad painting!

The atmosphere in Hollow Knight is universally bleak. You're exploring a defunct kingdom filled with sadness and death. Everything is drab and dismal, but in a way that I really appreciated. The color palette, music, and art all fuse together to make something that's appropriately depressing, but also interesting to explore. I really enjoyed my time with the game, even if it felt a little too difficult in spots. I also could have done without the Dark Souls-like mechanic where you have to run back to your body upon death. However, things like the simple yet-rewarding combat kept me interest throughout. I may even give the game a second go when it finally does release on the Switch.

Tekken 7

I really like Tekken as a franchise and Tekken 7 is no exception. The combat I've come to know and love is back again. Characters still have a billion moves each, there's a bunch of juggle combos, and the walls are super deadly. It's Tekken, but this time there's a cinematic story mode.

Everyone's favorite Tekken character the volcano returns!

When I first completed the story I left off with positive thoughts, but after some time to reflect I don't think it was that great. Yes, it has all the elements you'd want in a Tekken "story" like people being thrown into volcanoes and turning into devils, but it just didn't go as far as it could have. For starters a ton of new characters are introduced in this game and only three of them are even IN the story. What's up with Lucky Chole, and Shaheen? Who knows, because they're certainly not in the story. What really drives me up a wall is the narrator. He's a reporter who is trying to tie together all the random CG scenes as you play through them. His voice actor sounds like a robot. Every line is delivered as flat as possible. So you're getting all hyped up as you see people get punched through walls, but then you transition into a man talking super slowly with no emotion. It's a jarring transition that never works.

However, I will say that Tekken 7 still rules. Fighting in Tekken always makes me feel good. It's cool because beginners can play and have fun, but the level of depth in Tekken is nuts. I'll never be truly good at Tekken, but I'll at least have fun messing around with each character. The new additions to the cast are all fairly unique, which is always nice to see. I'm always down to play more Tekken.

Splatoon?

The summer lull is finally upon us. The only full retail product I will be purchasing is Splatoon 2 on the Switch. I'm eager to play new stuff on it, so that's cool. I'm just worried it won't be different enough from the original to justify its existence.

Supergiant Games new release Pyre is coming out as well and I'm pretty excited about that. It's like some weird NBA Jam and RPG hybrid. At this point I will play whatever the studio puts out.

Other than that I'm going to keep picking away at FFXIV. I completed the base game and am now moving into the first expansion. It's a lot more fun when its not just a series of bad fetch quests. We'll see how long my enthusiasm for it keeps up.

That's all I've got for now. I'll see you all next time!

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Podcast Episode 27 - E3 2017

Everyone's favorite video game expo has come and gone once again. Tune in to the podcast so you can hear all about what made me get excited and or very upset!

Thursday, June 1, 2017

Game Time - May 2017

I played three very different games in May. I started off with the rhythm game Deemo, then moved onto everyone's favorite existentialist robot game Nier: Automata and finished with the super hero fighting game Injustice 2. 2017 is a weird year.

Deemo: The Last Recital

I love rhythm games and that's exactly what Deemo is. Somehow I found myself reading a list of what a totally random website considered the best Rhythm games of all time. To my surprise a phone game made the list, so I had to check it out. After a bit of research I found out it was coming out on the Vita as well. I played both versions, but actually prefer the phone version quite a bit.

Deemo is a touch screen only game, which is why phones have an advantage over the Vita. A line sits at the bottom of the screen as piano keys fly towards it. When the keys meet the line you need to touch them. On higher difficulties tons of notes are flying at you at a time, so the better touch functionality of my cell phone makes me prefer it. The Vita is fine, but it's a bit too big to reach all the parts of the screen at the same time. It's also not as responsive as I'd like it to be. The touch screen isn't the only difference between the two versions though.

You need to hit the notes when they reach the line on the bottom.

The plot of Deemo is that a little girl wakes up and finds herself trapped in an underground area with a weird emotionless demon guy. The demon guy, Deemo is pretty good at the piano. When he plays a tree grows, so the goal is to make the tree grow so that the little girl can escape. It's weird because the songs aren't scored. The way to make the tree grow is complete a song for the first time on a difficulty, or full combo songs. As you progress the phone game has odd scenes with still images, while the Vita version has beautiful animated cutscenes. The Vita version costs $15, while the phone version is initially free, but then two dollars if you want to remove ads, and then another $10 for a while new scenario that the Vita version doesn't have. It's a cool game that I don't think many people are aware of.

Nier: Automata

Sometimes I feel like I'm one of the only people on the planet who played the original Nier. The fact that it got a sequel continues to baffle me. At first I was apprehensive, because while the original Nier was pretty rough it still holds a special place in my heart. It was kind of broken, and the combat was really rough, but it had memorable characters and tried to switch through so many genres I really liked it. It felt ambitious, which I really admired. Luckily Automata is just as ambitious, and just as weird. Yes, Automata plays a whole lot better, but it's still not anything stellar.

You need to kill all the machines!

So what is Nier: Automata you ask? Well it's a game about Robots who are fighting machines created by aliens on earth. Aliens drove humans to the moon, but the humans created an army of androids called YORHA to take back earth. Initially you play as 2B, who is a female combat unit. You have a sick sword and you kill a lot of robots in stylish, but mashy combat. It's not anything special, but it's engaging enough to keep you invested.

The real draw to Automata is the story. The game's director Yoko Taro is very weird, and that's reflected in the game. If you're interested in stories that are very into existentialism and asking whether or not machines can learn, then this game is going to be your jam.

Injustice 2

I have a weird relationship with games made by NetherRealm Studios. As a kid I was never super in love with Mortal Kombat, but I would play it from time to time. I got back into their games around Mortal Kombat vs. DC Universe on the PS3. That's what I consider to be the new era of their games. Solid fighting games with a ton of solid single player content. When it comes to cinematic fighting game stories they have yet to be outdone. The problem is that I rarely have a lot of fun fighting. That's a bummer when the fighting is basically the entire game...

Get ready to beat up all kinds of DC characters for the second time!

The quality of Injustice 2 is ridiculous. The character models look great, especially when compared to the original game. It has a crazy amount of fan service for DC fans. If you're down for some super heroes beating the hell out of each other, then you'll probably enjoy Injustice. The story takes about four hours and lets you get a good sense of the mechanics and a handful of the characters. Outside of the story mode is where the game's true hook comes in. This time around you can open loot boxes to get sweet loot. The loot can then be equipped to your characters to give them different looks and abilities. It's an interesting concept that's turned off in competitive play, but it keeps me coming back to the game when I otherwise wouldn't.

The problem I tend to have with this studio's games is that I like them until I play against another human. I'm not the best fighting game player, but these games frustrate me like no other. I don't really know why, but I just can't grasp a lot of the systems in play. So I dominate the AI, but as soon as I play a real person I got stomped into the ground. This time around there's enough single player content that I don't feel like I need to try and take my skills online. This game is actually packed to the brim with content, and I'd actually recommend it to people who aren't looking to enter the competitive scene.

E3!

As with every year I am looking forward to E3. This year is going to be very interesting, because Nintendo has to prove that the Switch has a lot of stuff coming in the future, and Microsoft needs to sell the world on the Scorpio. Maybe Nintendo will announce their plans for the Virtual console on Switch. There are a lot of things I want to happen, but I'll just have to wait and see. I'll be back next month to tell you all about my favorite parts of the Electronic Entertainment Expo!

Saturday, May 6, 2017

Game Time - April 2017

For the first few months of the year I tried to focus on playing one game at a time. Everything was going well, but then 2017 showed me that it had no intention of slowing down. Tons of good games are coming out at a rapid pace and now I have buried myself alive in video games. Right now I have started six different games, and finished none of them. Now I don't really know what to do. A few of them I'm not particularly fond of, but I find myself not wanting to really drop anything. It's quite the dilemma.

Today I am here to tell you about two of those six games, and one of the rare few games I have actually finished this year. Surprisingly it was a 96 hour journey that I managed to finish...

Other than spending a ludicrous amount of time on Persona I played a little bit of Flinthook and Yooka-Laylee as well. 

Flinthook

I feel like I've been seeing GIFs of Flinthook forever, but it only just came out a few weeks ago. It's a rogue-like in which you play as a little pirate man with a grappling hook. You run around pirate ships in space and shoot a ton of enemies. It's a very familiar game, except that you can use a sweet grappling hook. This is the "hook" of the game. The ships are split up into rooms, and each room is filled up with a bunch of grappling points. It's hard to describe, but the grappling hook is just straight up fun to use. It feels good to hook onto things. Everything is so fluid, and just feels right. I often find myself getting into a flow of grappling around and shooting.

Grappling hooks have never felt this good!

Like most modern rogue-likes you gain things that carry over after each run. In this you level up and get booster packs. Instead of cards they net you a bunch of powerups that you can equip to help you out. It works very well to keep you going. The powerups help, but so far I haven't found anything that negates the fact that you need to be good at the game. Like most games of this style it is quite difficult, but that's what makes them appealing to most people.

Yooka-Laylee

As a kid I was a big fan of Banjo-Kazooie. It's one of the few demos I remember playing as a kid at Target and being absolutely blown away. I managed to play through most of it again within recent years with the release of the Rare Replay Collection on the Xbox One. It's a whimsical platformer where you control the animal duo of Banjo the Bear and Kazooie the Bird. They worked in tandem to do cool moves and collect a whole lot of stuff. In recent years games like Banjo-Kazooie have become known as collect-athon games. It's an apt title, because you're really just collecting a whole bunch of stuff. In the years following the games release many other people partook in the genre, but it eventually faded out. However, now here we are many years later with a new one called Yooka-Laylee.

It sure looks a lot like Banjo-Kazooie...

If you're thinking that Yooka-Laylee looks and sounds similar to Banjo-Kazooie, you're absolutely right. Some of the original developers who worked at Rare on the original Banjo got together to make their own studio called Playtonic games. Their goal was to make a new collect-athon game in the vein of Banjo. They took to Kickstarter and the game was funded. It's out now and they certainly delivered on their promise of a Banjo-like game, but I'm personally not feeling it. It's one thing to pay homage to something you love, but it's another thing entirely to try and literally be what you love. Yooka-Laylee is trying to be Banjo-Kazooie in almost every way, but the downside is that it's not as good.

I don't want to say that our new Chameleon and Bat combo aren't fun to play as, but they're just not as fun as the Bear and Bird duo of yesteryear. It's a bummer, because I often find myself frustrated in this new game. The camera isn't great, the controls aren't tight enough, and the level design is so open that I often get lost. It's a game trying to be Banjo-Kazooie, but I feel like it doesn't have the same charm. I played Banjo within the past year and it still made me feel good. This game does not. It certainly delivered on its premise of being a new game in the collect-athon pantheon, but it's just not doing it for me at all.

Persona 5

Turn based RPGs are my jam, and it's not so often that they come around anymore. It's even more rare that they have a huge budget to work with, but that's what we got with Persona 5. Originally the game was slated for a Winter 2014 release in Japan, but a shift to the PS4 caused quite a few delays. Normally excessive delays cause me to worry, but with Persona I knew that I would be happy with the final product regardless of how long it took. This was one of the rare cases where I saw the original trailer and instantly knew that I was getting exactly what I wanted. I waited patiently until April 4th, and then pretty much just played the game for 96 hours. Sure, that was over the course of three weeks, but I did little else with my time. My takeaway from my time with Persona 5 is that I absolutely love it.

This game has a ridiculous amount of style.

The Persona series started as a spin-off of the Shin Megami Tensei series. It focused on high school kids who were given the ability to summon their true selves from within, otherwise known as Personas. With that power they took on evil demons and saved the world. It was a traditional turn based RPG, but in the third game it morphed into something a little more. It was still a turn based game, but it added in social elements as well. This formula carried over to Persona 4 and 5 as well. Now you go into dungeons and fight monsters, but afterwards you can hang out with your friends and get to know them on a much deeper level. On the surface it sounds simple, but the game revolves around you doing a multitude of different tasks while on a time constraint. There's only so much you can do in a day, so you have to choose how you spend your time very wisely. It's stressful at first, but very rewarding in the end.

Persona 5 focuses once again on a group of high school students, but this time they're a group of thieves. They call themselves the Phantom Thieves, and their goal is to steal the twisted desires of adults and make them atone for their crimes. They do this by using a special phone app to enter a person's mind, where they will steal their most prized treasure. It's definitely a weird concept, but one that the Persona team pulls off with a ridiculous amount of style. Persona is known for its stylish nature, but Persona 5 takes that style to a whole new level. If you're interested in hearing a bit more about my time with Persona, then you'll want to check out this month's podcast, which you can find here.

2B or not 2B

Instead of digging into my stupidly large backlog I decided to start Nier: Automata. So now I am playing through that and having a blast. Having played the original Nier I kind of knew what to expect, but man is Automata a weird game. The director Yoko Taro somehow manages to out crazy himself with this one. Also you have to play through it like five times to see the whole story, which is extra insane.

Lucky for me the only new game I'll be getting in May is Injustice 2, so maybe I can catch up on my backlog. So next month I'll definitely talk about Nier, and Injustice 2. See you then!

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Podcast Episode 26 - Persona 5

After taking a month off from Podcasting I have returned to bring you this episode about Persona 5. This is a game I've been looking forward to for years, and I have quite a bit to say about it!

Friday, March 31, 2017

Game Time - March 2017

Here we are on the precipice of April, and 2017 is already shaping up to be an incredible year for video games. However, I feel that while March had some incredible highs for me, there were also a few lows. To start, the Nintendo Switch came out alongside Zelda: Breath of the Wild. I love Zelda with very few caveats. Nintendo took a rick and tried something new. The payoff was a video game that's completely on another level. I recorded a podcast with my thoughts on the game, but it's always good to document them in text form as well.

Then there was Horizon: Zero Dawn. It released on the last day of February, so I only played it for a few days before moving over all of my time to Zelda. What's a bummer is that I don't know if I'll ever go back to it. Personally it didn't really grab me, which seems to go against the grain.

Finally, we have Mass Effect: Andromeda. This game causes me to get upset just thinking about it. It has so many issues, but somehow I can't seem to pull myself away from it. Perhaps my love for the original trilogy is clouding my judgement?

There's a lot to talk about, so let's get right into it. It's game time.

The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild

Nintendo is a company that is famous for rehashing a lot of its ideas. While that has brought them a lot of success in the past I feel that myself and many others have been craving something new. I got my first taste of new Nintendo goodness with Splatoon and now they have followed it up with Breath of the Wild. Initially I was skeptical that Nintendo would be able to pull off a compelling open world, but somehow they nailed it.

See that mountain? YOU CAN TOTALLY GO THERE!

I feel like I say this all the time, but Ocarina of Time is the game I can point to as the one that got me to continue playing video games. The sense of adventure I felt while traversing that world is something that has stuck with me. Now they have replicated that with Breath of the Wild. You can go literally anywhere in the game with some effort. If you can see a place, then you can definitely go there. Link can climb up almost any surface, and stamina is essentially his only limitation. The world is vast, and filled with areas that are exciting to explore. While there certainly is a lot of empty space, there are also many hidden villages and treasures to be found.

In terms of combat and plot, Breath of the Wild isn't spectacular. At first the weapon durability annoyed me, but in the end I grew fond of it. Since every weapon is breakable it encourages you to use a ton of different kinds. It's functional, but exploring the world was the main draw for me. If you want to hear me babble on for close to an hour about the game and all of its systems I recorded a podcast, which you can listen to here.

Horizon: Zero Dawn

Have you every felt left out, because you don't love something that everyone else loves? That's how I feel with Horizon. Initially I was super excited to see Guerilla games making something new. The reviews hit a bit early for the game as well, and they were all glowing. I still hear people talking about Horizon with a reverence that I don't know if I'll ever be able to understand. I would have chalked it up to being tired of open world games, but then Zelda came out and I absolutely loved that. I feel like I'm missing out on something and its very frustrating.

Horizon centers on a girl named Aloy who is born as an outcast. At a young age she finds a device called a focus, which is essentially a Bluetooth earpiece that shoots AR things around that explain the world to her. The world of Horizon takes place after the apocalypse where machines have taken over and humans have gone back to a much more tribal state. Things like the focus that Aloy found are considered forbidden relics from the metal age of humans past. The people of the world seem to believe that humans in the past ruined the world. I find all of this to be interesting, but in what I played it never really took off.

I hope you like shooting robots with a bow.

The gameplay takes place in third person and focuses around a bow. You can get different kinds of arrows, which will affect the machines in different ways. You gain other tools as well, but the bow seems to be the number one way to take down your foes. The combat seems to be the thing that most people praise above all else, but I personally find it to be tedious. Where I am right now the bow does too little damage, so I find myself running up to enemies and using a melee attack until they die. Eventually I'll get back to this game, because I honestly feel like there has to be something I'm missing. Hopefully the plot picks up in a way that I can get behind.

Mass Effect: Andromeda

I love the original Mass Effect trilogy. I'd be willing to go so far as to say that Mass Effect 2 is one of my favorite games of all time. As a huge fan of Star Wars it was awesome to see Bioware essentially create a new Star Wars RPG without the Star Wars license. I immediately found myself enamored with the universe and its characters. Yes, the ending of Mass Effect 3 is awful, but it was not enough to taint the journey I had along the way.

Now we come to the 4th entry in the franchise, Mass Effect: Andromeda. If you've never played the original trilogy then the conceit of Andromeda might not make sense to you. Without spoiling the whole plot, let's just say that things in the Milky Way went sideways, and a few of the races decided to try and settle a new galaxy, Andromeda. A little bit of me feels for Andromeda while it's being railed on by almost everyone. When you're making the 4th thing in a franchise beloved by many, it's automatically going to be hard for it to succeed. Even if the work stands on its own it will always be held up against the original trilogy. Despite that, Andromeda feels like a straight to DVD sequel that no one really wanted.

All the familiar elements are here, but it just doesn't feel right.

If Andromeda felt new, I would feel a little more hesitant to criticize it. The main issue I have is that every character and many of the locales are trying to be things from the original trilogy. For example, the Citadel was a space station in the Milky Way where many alien races gathered. It was a central hub where you got to experience all kinds of interesting scenarios. In Andromeda it's the Nexus, which is almost the EXACT same thing as the Citadel! The characters are the same, they each fit into an archetype of characters from games past. So far I've had fun talking to them, but no one seems particularly interesting. Hell, even the plot is about finding ancient alien tech again.

The one praise I'll give the game is that the combat is fun. It's essentially the same third person shooting of the original trilogy, but it adds a lot of mobility through the jet pack. You can jump and dash, which adds an additional layer to combat scenarios. It's fine, but that might be the only place that the game is "fine." I feel bad saying this, but Andromeda is the buggiest AAA game I've ever played. Yes, some of the animations are bad. I don't think that's a bug though. I've had issues ranging from not being able to talk to someone because their prompt won't show up to not being able to interact with literally anything in the game. It's crazy. Most of it is the kind of stuff that would never get through QA. I had the game literally become unplayable, how is that okay? Even with the bugs aside, the underlying game seems uninspired. I'm going to see it through to the end, but that's really only because of my love for the franchise.

IT'S HAPPENING!

My level of excitement if through the roof today! Persona 5 comes out in four days! I have been waiting for this game for years. Usually games I wait this long for don't live up to my expectations, but I knew from the very first trailer that Persona 5 was going to offer everything I wanted from it. I have been craving a JRPG with a compelling plot for a while now and now it's finally here.

There's a slight chance that I'll talk about something other than Persona 5 next month, but like I said it's a very slim chance. The estimated time to beat is currently hovering around 150 hours so I don't know that I'll have much time to do anything else. Find out what happens next month!

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Podcast Episode 25 - Breath of the Wild

Who's ready to get wild? I have once again recorded a podcast. This time it is about the brand new Zelda game Breath of the Wild. Enjoy it!