Wednesday, December 27, 2017

LiK's Top 17 Favorite Games of 2017

Boom, my 17 favorite games this year in no particular order. Remember that this list can include games that came out before 2017. No spoilers for anything in my impressions as usual.

Persona 5 (Completed/Platinum) PS4 - One of my most anticipated RPGs and it didn't disappoint. I was a huge fan of Persona 4 Golden and I was super excited to finally play this. The menu, music and character designs were just oozing with style. The story was much darker than P4G but it also gave us a pretty interesting story with some truly despicable villains. The political climate of this game also mirrored what I felt was happening in our world which made it hit home quite a bit. I enjoyed all the new characters and Confidants. Most had pretty relatable problems which made me care about them. It was fun to see how each relationship resolved itself by the end. I loved pretty much everyone's character designs and the world just looks cool. The music was super excellent with the best boss battle tracks in the series by far. I picked up the OST and love all the various fan remixes out there. Such a good soundtrack. The combat was improved and more engaging than the previous games. I also loved that all the main story dungeons were not randomized or generic. They each had their own style and feel which was nice.

My only gripe with this game was that it's a little too long for its own good. Every dungeon could've been 20% shorter and that would've been perfect. It felt like they padded out the game for too long. I literally felt exhausted after a few of the later dungeons because they felt like they would never end.  But it was still quite an amazing journey with some big twists and moments. This entry also has my favorite MC in the series so far. He's much more developed and badass than the previous ones. Def a worthy sequel in the Persona franchise. Def check it out.

Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE (Completed) Wii U - What a wonderful experience. While the overall story and plot was fairly simple, the way it was presented was magical. Yup, I'm definitely using that word. The characters were fun and charming and the world was vibrant and colorful. I really liked how it delved into Japan's entertainment industry as a whole. While it's an idealized world and not realistic at all, it was still enjoyable to go through. The combat was ridiculously fun and challenging and the music was fantastic. The pop music in this game was truly stellar. Shame only the vocal tracks were released on CD because the game's battle tracks were also fantastic. I enjoyed how the story ended. It was super satisfying.

My major gripe with this game was the censorship and changes that were made to the international versions. It's really really dumb. You can check my review for some examples and a more detailed rant. I highly recommend that if you own a Wii U, that you should pick this up. I'm hoping Nintendo considers rereleasing an uncensored enhanced port for the Switch in the future. This is an underrated gem.

Steins;Gate 0 (Completed/Platinum) Vita - Definitely a great follow-up to the original. If you played the original, you must play this game. It clears up some dangling plotlines from the original while maintaining it's own story. Do NOT play this first if you are new to the series. You won't know what the hell is going on and it also spoils the original in many ways. While the story and ending was no way as impactful and strong as the original, it still had plenty of cool moments and twists. I was pretty impressed with some scenes and how well they were written. The biggest surprise to me was the introduction of Maho. She's definitely one of the best new characters this year and maybe my favorite character in the franchise. I absolutely adored her and her journey. I would love a spin-off or sequel involving her, no question.

One minor gripe I had with this entry was the change in artstyle for the sprites. They're less stylized like the original and looked more generic anime. While it's not a huge deal within the game itself, they sometimes included sprites from the original in some scenes for some reason and it was incredibly jarring. I wrote a more rambling review so if you want that, feel free to check it out.

Danganronpa V3 (Completed) Vita - HOLY SHIT. This might be the craziest game in the series. It's another cast of quirky and eccentric characters mixed in with a lot murder and mayhem. I really liked the new cast and how they bonded. The English dub and localization were pretty fantastic which enhanced the experienced. I'm not even kidding. The English dub might be one of the best in the series with some returning VAs from previous entries returning as new characters. They made a lot of the trials very emotional and full of tension and even had some laugh out loud moments all from their performances. It also had a ton of insane insults and vulgar language that made me super uncomfortable in all the right ways. I bet the localizers had a lot of fun coming up with them. They were pretty hilarious and savage. The game had some pretty crazy twists that will melt your brains. DR vets will def be in for an emotional rollercoaster ride. The music was fantastic as usual with some really good new original tracks and remixes.

My main gripe was I felt some murders/investigations weren't as interesting as they could've been and some motives were questionable. But all the class trials were pretty well done and had a good flow. The story and ending might end up being the most divisive among fans but it was a hell of a journey. It was very ballsy and unlike anything else I ever experienced. This entry also had the best collection of minigames in the series. They're much more fun and playable than the previous entries. I found myself spending hours just playing the unlocked bonus modes and I didn't find them painful. I do have to admit that this entry also has some of the toughest trophies to collect as well. It's so grindy that it gave me despair.

Horizon: Zero Dawn (Completed/Platinum) PS4 - What a nice change from the creators of the Killzone series. Aloy is a fantastic character and her interactions with the NPCs in the world was truly refreshing. I really liked some of the NPCs as well. They had some pretty funny interactions with Aloy and with each other. The dialogue was pretty amusing in spots with lots of dry humor. The controls were super tight. The combat was tons of fun and very engaging. The robotic beasts were fun to fight against although I have to admit I didn't like fighting the humans at all. Their AI was very one note compared to the beasts. The world was quite intriguing and there were some pretty good reveals. I really enjoyed exploring it and discovering what the current world is like. While the sidequests weren't quite as deep as some other games like Witcher 3, they were fun and quick. This game is truly gorgeous with a lot of amazing animations and lighting. I was def impressed with the parts of the world especially during certain times of the day.  But even though the game is incredibly gorgeous, I have to say the water effects were pretty horrible. They were flat and didn't even move when you swam in them. It was quite jarring since the rest of the game was so detailed and full of animated foliage. Hopefully, they can fix the water in their engine for the sequel. Anyway, it was a fantastic experience with a super satisfying ending.

Also, I completed The Frozen Wilds DLC and it's def worth playing. The new weapons, enemies and puzzles were fun. All the new characters I met were interesting and much more fleshed out than the NPCs in the base game. There's a lot more lore for both the new region and the past that is a must for fans of the base game if you were interested in that. The new improved conversation's dynamic camera, animations and faces made it much more cinematic. It's like watching a cutscene at times. Too bad this wasn't applied to the base game conversations when I checked. They looked pretty stiff in comparison. I hope other devs will check out what Guerrilla did here because if all RPG/open-world conversations looked like this, it would make everything better. Anyway, must play even if you finished the main game. There's a lot more to this world.

NieR: Automata (Completed) PS4 - Simply fantastic. The action was fast-paced and the combat was fun with super tight controls. The combination of being a character action game mixed with bullet hell shmup was pure heaven. The art direction and character designs were great. I was particularly enamored by 2B's design which was definitely quite sexy. Hell, the majority of the YoRHa soldiers were all pretty and not what I had expected in this world. Props to the character designer for making them look unique and interesting in a game like this. The enemies and world def had a distinct look. I was impressed with the size and scope of some areas. That was not something I expected from PlatinumGames since they usually make their levels very linear and small. The music was incredible and is definitely one of my favorite OSTs this year. Most of the tracks have vocals and they give each area and scene a very unique feel and enhance the emotional moments quite a bit. I also loved the remixes and alternate versions that pop up in certain circumstances. I picked up the OST after I beat the game.

This game made so many bold choices with its narrative and created quite an experience. The structure for the story is a bit unusual and is done very creatively especially in certain gameplay moments. I was constantly surprised and unprepared for certain moments and twists. The game had some humorous moments but the whole game overall had a very melancholy feeling. There were also some pretty dark gut-wrenching moments. It was definitely an emotional rollercoaster. I loved the English voice-acting. The performances were fantastic across the board. I was particularly impressed with the VA for 9S. His performance was quite impressive especially as the story progressed. The various machines also had really great voices. I especially liked the voices for all the Pods. There's something extremely chill about the way they sound and the way their voices were modulated. I could listen to them all day.

My main gripes with the game were the sidequests and a few glitches. Most of the sidequests were pretty bland fetch quests and weren't that fun to play. I skipped most of them but I may revisit them in the future for more context. I also had one major frustrating glitch that forced me to replay an entire area twice. Turns out I had to turn off the Network feature as a workaround in order to progress. I won't get into specifics but I wish that didn't happen. Anyway, it's not every day that you get a game that is not only an excellent action game but also has an excellent story. PLAY IT.

Uncharted: The Lost Legacy (Completed/Platinum) PS4 - What a fantastic follow-up to Uncharted 4. This might be my favorite game in the series. I loved the chemistry between Chloe and Nadine and the pacing was perfect. The optional quests were fun and I enjoyed all the puzzles. This is another gorgeous game this year with some insane textures and art. There were some truly awe-inspiring views and locations. I found myself just staring at certain environments and items in the world. Super detailed and well designed. The combat encounters were fun and didn't last too long compared to the previous entries. I enjoyed killing dudes with stealth as well. I thought there was a nice balance. I liked the villain although I felt his motivations were a bit unclear. I didn't find the pay off to his method of madness to be that interesting. But I enjoyed how menacing he was. Overall, this is a must play especially if you finished Uncharted 4. If someone told me this was originally DLC, I wouldn't have believed them. I didn't know I would want more Uncharted until I played this. Really loved it as a whole.

Super Mario Odyssey (Completed) Switch - Wow, this entry might be on par with Super Mario World for being my fave Mario game of all time. I haven’t loved a Mario game as much as World until now. This was so creative and charming. While Galaxy had its moments, I felt Odyssey had a much more loveable feel with its characters and worlds. The story was more down to earth (literally) and some very cute interactions between NPCs. The whole gimmick with Cappy possessing enemies and objects was really clever and fun. It created much more interesting use of Mario’s powers whenever he takes over someone or something. I do have to say that the worlds were far smaller than expected. It wasn’t the sprawling open world I thought it would be like BotW. But I have to say that this entry had the best boss battles in the entire long running franchise. They were fun, well designed and never frustrating. The art direction is great with different worlds having their own feel and look. I played the entire game docked (with Pro controller) and it looked amazing on a big screen TV. The soundtrack is also top tier with many memorable tracks including its excellent theme song.

The HD rumble was incredible and made use of every little thing that touched Mario including even grabbing coins. It was subtle at times and felt very good. More games need to take advantage of this function. As for the controls in general, I did find myself a bit frustrated with the way the camera moved and the slight delay with Mario’s movements at times. It made some of the optional courses quite frustrating. I’m also not a fan that some moves that can only be used with motion controls. Other than those minor complaints, I loved everything else. The climax and ending were amazing. There’s also tons of things to do after you complete the story so the amount of post-game content is worth checking out. It’s not pointless grindy fluff. There’s also a ton of references and Easter eggs to find for Mario fans. Definitely one of the best Mario games to date and a must play.

Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild (Completed) Switch - This was quite the departure from the past Zelda 3D games. The open world was fun to explore with lots of secrets and unexpected moments. The main story was a bit underwhelming but at least it added some interesting lore to the Zelda canon. The Shrine puzzles were pretty clever and fun to solve for the most part although the ones that involved motion controls were beyond awful. Please stop. I also didn't like the combat at all. It felt like Link was just waving a toy around like a kid. It made most combat encounters a chore and the weapons broke so easily didn't help. I hope they refine the combat mechanics in the next installment. I was impressed with the size and scope of the world. It was pretty large and vast. I loved exploring and finding new things like some unexpected locations and NPCs/enemies. I haven't felt such a level of discovery since Skyrim. I highly recommend playing this with the Pro Controller. Your hands will thank you for it.

I should probably mention that I absolutely hated the English dub. It sounded like a horrible Saturday morning cartoon with Zelda's voice being the worst. Thankfully, Nintendo decided to patch in the option to pick the other languages and it made it way better. I picked up the Expansion Pass right after I finished the story but I haven't actually put in a lot of time into the DLC content. I'll probably get into them after I catch up on more games. If you own a Switch, this is a must play.

Night in the Woods (Completed) PS4 - Picked this up strictly from everyone's recommendations and you guys were right. Oh man, the first thing I noticed right after I started the game were the visuals. The 2D art is super clean and colorful and everyone animates so smoothly. What really impressed me were the color choices and lighting in various scenes/locations. They took my breath away at times which I didn't expect in a game like this. If you like eye candy, be prepared to take plenty of screenshots because almost every scene could be framed or used as wallpaper. In addition to the great art, the music was equally fantastic. Really chill music and it also sounded so "pretty" and whimsical.

The writing is one of the best this year. The dialogue was super sharp and very witty at times. Some really funny moments. But the game also had a bunch of real talk which will make you think about your own life and situations. It doesn't really hold any punches and can get pretty dark. Story was interesting but the moment to moment with Mae and her friends and family were the true highlights. You'll meet a lot of great memorable characters. They felt so real and I ended up really caring for most of them. I'll def need to replay this game soon because I feel like I missed out on a lot of optional scenes. The game has a lot of branching dialogue and decisions on who you want to hang out on any given day. I really want to see those when I revisit it. Should be fun. Def check out this gem.

What Remains of Edith Finch (Completed/Platinum) PS4 - I went into this completely blind and it was quite a journey. I've always been a fan of narrative-based adventure games like these and this one is def one of the best. The writing and VO was excellent across the board. The music was pretty amazing and really accentuated the individual stories perfectly. The various moments you encounter were just filled with whimsy, emotion, tragedy and a bit of humor. I was pretty impressed with how they incorporated the gameplay with the story elements and how it created the stories you would listen to. Very imaginative. The controls were very intuitive and I enjoyed figuring it out as I progressed. I don't want to reveal too much else because it's an experience you should jump into completely fresh. It was a really interesting story and a very moving experience. I think almost anyone can relate to what's going on with these characters. Def worth checking out.

Cosmic Star Heroine (Completed/Platinum) PS4 - This was a really fantastic throwback to old RPGs from the SNES era. The sprites themselves literally look like they could've come from their original inspiration (Chrono Trigger) for this game. The story wasn't anything outstanding but I really liked the characters. It's a really diverse cast and if you went into it blind like me, you'll never know who would join you crew. I was constantly surprised by who ended up where. I really wish they all had their only main sidequests to flesh them out because what little we see of their dialogue with each other was really well written. The combat was really fun and unique. It's a nice change and felt new and different than what most other RPGs use. I never felt bored or frustrated by the combat. It was fun to mix up the various powers and abilities constantly. Ending was pretty satisfying as well and I'm hoping we get a sequel of some kind in the future. Overall, I really enjoyed it and I'm glad I backed it. Look for my name in the Spy Directory!

2064: Read Only Memories (Completed) PS4 - This was a pleasant surprise. I had heard of this game for a while but I decided to finally pick up the PS4 version when it was released. This was a nice throwback to older adventure games like Snatcher in terms of design and look. I really loved the characters and everyone's interactions. Turing was a really lovable character and I cared about he/she/it. The voice acting was truly exceptional and made me love everyone I met. I don't think I would've liked the game as much before they added voice overs to the original version on PC. The story was interesting and was def quite bold. The music was also pretty fantastic. One track reminded me of a track from Ace Attorney and that ain't a bad thing. The game has multiple paths and endings and I managed to get the best one on my own. I was replaying through the scumbag path to get the Platinum trophy but I ended up not finishing it that way. The best ending felt so satisfying that I didn't want to ruin that for myself so soon. Maybe I'll try again in the future. If you enjoy adventure games, this is def worth playing through.

Pyre (Completed) PS4 - I've been a fan of Super Giant Games since their first game so I had to pick this up as soon as it came out. This was a lot of fun and had plenty of good characters. The Rituals were very fast paced and fun. People compared it to playing something like NBA Jam and I could see it. The story itself was okay. I feel like there's a whole lot more out there that wasn't explored as much as I would've liked. But I did like how your choices and Ritual results would affect the ending. I really loved the lore and various party members you recruited. They were all very different and unique with a few standouts. Loved the dialogue for them as well. I found myself loving characters that I didn't expect when I first met them. It goes to show how you can't just judge someone from what they look like. The art is also gorgeous and one of the best looking games from SGG. Super colorful with very smooth animations. There were so many nice character designs. Music was also very good but I didn't find it quite as memorable as their previous games.

I did have a few gripes with the game. I did not like how the story would push you constantly forward without any time to openly explore. You would be forced into the next Ritual and must complete them before a deadline which took away the potential of learning more about the world and meeting more random characters and developing the said world. I was also confused why we didn't get NG+. Both Bastion and Transistor had excellent NG+ modes which enhanced the narratives and gave them replayability but Pyre lacked that. With the way this game's branching paths and upgrade system went, you only get one chance without the ability to revisit story beats and previous upgrades felt like an oversight. I'm hoping they somehow patch in NG+ in the future but I'm not holding my breath. So while this is my least favorite game from SGG, it was still a great experience and worth playing through.

Wolfenstein 2: The New Colossus (Completed) PS4 - Whoa, what a fantastic follow-up to The New Order. It literally starts a few minutes after the first game ends. The story and characters were the true highlight. The writing and dialogue were super sharp and very witty. So many interactions between your crew were just laugh out loud hilarious. I loved all the optional scenes you would encounter from just exploring your base. But the game also had a lot of really dark emotional parts too. The way it presented racism, homophobia, antisemitism, domestic abuse etc is just pure and raw. The devs didn't pull any punches. I was also thinking that with the way America is now in real life, some of these scenes hit me much harder than before. It was pretty powerful stuff and I'm grateful the devs did it. This game also had one of the best scenes I've ever witnessed in a video game. If you played it, you know which scene I'm talking about. The ending was super satisfying and made me wonder what could be next for this franchise. While the gameplay and level designs were inferior to the first game and its DLC, I still had fun for the most part. This is definitely worth playing and like I said before, make sure to play the previous game first because it's one cohesive journey. BJ is now one of my all time favorite protagonists in video games.

BUT, one major gripe I had was the bad audio mix. For some reason, the surround was really inconsistent. The problem usually happens during firefights where sometimes the audio doesn't register or lack a punch. It got worse after I got a perk that would cause slow-mo to happen whenever enemies noticed me and it made it sound like I was in a fish tank. Got pretty bad when it was multiple enemies in a row. The CG cutscenes also sounded very muted and lacked surround of any kind. These issues were in the previous game as well but I noticed them a lot more in this one. I just had to mention this because it ruined some of the engagements and I hope the devs patch it in the future. Also, this game has one of the worst ending credits song I ever heard. Play something else during it. Anyway, well done. Fuck Nazis!

Destiny 2 (Completed/Platinum) PS4 - Ah yes, I really enjoyed the sequel quite a bit. You can read my review if you want more detailed thoughts. The game was much less of a grind than the first and it was much easier to max out my level. I enjoyed playing with some old Destiny buddies and it felt oddly nostalgic as a result. But I do wish the game changed it up more. It felt a lot like the first game and still had a lot of issues that were never expanded upon or improved. It feels like we won't see the jump we wanted until the next game and who knows when that will happen. I also checked out the Curse of the Osiris DLC and while the fairly short campaign was fun, it's not anything special. The additional gear and changes didn't really do anything new or interesting. It's just more Destiny 2 and that's about it. The other content is just more guns and gear but nothing of note. Also, make sure to play this game with HDR on if your TV supports it. It's gorgeous. I don't believe I'll be playing this as much as I did with D1 but I had a good time. It'll most likely be a game I will jump into for an hour or two every week just to shoot random stuff.

I do also want to rant about the Eververse microtransaction BS that's been going on with it. As of this writing, the devs have mentioned that they will try to address this issue next year so we'll see how it goes. I refuse to pay a single dime for the Silver for cosmetic stuff because this game doesn't have enough long term content for me to care about them. Hopefully it gets better next year.

Cuphead (In Progress) Xbox One - Yea, I admit that I haven't finished it. There's been too many games and it's been kind of shuttered to my backlog. I also have a bad habit of trying to play it when I'm tired or sleepy so my progress has been slow. But man, this might be one of the best looking games of the year. The animations look incredible and the entire presentation is just stunning. They did a fantastic job mimicking the 30's style of animation. Even the sound effects and music sound like those old cartoons. Controls are super tight and the levels and bosses are just plain devious. Def one of the toughest games to come out this year and also def worth checking out for the visuals alone.

Honorable Mention:

Animal Crossing: Pocket Camp (In Progress Forever) iOS - I never got into the mainline games but this got me to play for a good couple of weeks. I liked how chill it was and and how simple the mechanics were. It's like playing a clicker games at times. The furniture placement is light and the interactions were a bit muted. It's a charming game and looks great on my iPhone and iPad. I kind of fell off it because I got tired of the grind for materials to build more stuff. I'm hoping they add more substantial content in the future to bring me back in. I'm hoping the inevitable Switch version will finally make me fan.

Games that would've probably been in this list if I had time to play them this year:
Yakuza 0
Yakuza Kiwami
Hellblade: Senua's Sacrifice
Mario + Rabbids: Kingdom Battle
Life is Strange: Before the Storm
and whatever else I'm interested in...

They'll most likely show up next year. Thanks for reading!

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Goodbye NeoGAF

So now that NeoGAF is a dumpster fire, I think I'm going to post my memories and general thoughts about my time with one of my fave gaming communities.

Oddly enough, I do not remember when I actually registered for the site because it has been so long. I remember my friend telling me about it but I didn't have any interest in another gaming forum at the time. I was much more active in places such as Gamespot, GameFAQs, 1UP, CAG etc. As you could tell, I was stretched pretty thin trying to participate in multiple communities. I was fairly active in every gaming community because I was super passionate about games in general. It was fun to discuss games with people with similar interests and keep up with the news. I think I became more active on GAF after the demise of certain sites as well as after major changes that were made to other sites which I didn't like.

GAF was a super fun place to chat games and other news on a daily basis. I got to know so many people through it including some developers and other people in the gaming industry. I was able to mix it up with other fellow Gaffers and had fun debates. Of course, you had your fair share of trolls and morons popping up but GAF had been pretty good with its moderation overall to keep the site from being a cesspool like in other similar forums. While I had my own beefs with how certain threads and topics were moderated at times, it wasn't a dealbreaker. I was only banned twice in my 10 year history and both were from silly jokes directed at no one. Whoever banned me was a douche. But as a result of those incursions, I became quite friendly with a couple of mods and admins who supported me through the years.

I was also heavily involved with several Community threads and I also enjoyed Off-Topic and had a lot of fun debating politics and movies/TV/randomness with people there. Some topics were so bizarre and weird that it became hilarious places to drop in for the insanity. Some people's names and avatars became instantly recognizable and I felt like I was talking to friends at times. I also loved the hilarious gifs and memes that would pop up in the various threads especially when major events like E3 rolled around. Some of the gifs became so legendary that they would spinoff into other gifs. It was nuts (all hail SunhiLegend and ElTorro). GAF had been so popular with devs that you can even find easter eggs or direct references to the forum and memes it created if you look for them in certain video games. It was quite influential.

GAF was also a place where I learned to be more careful with my words and opinions. People can be real picky about what you say so you had to clarify what you meant or risk people asking the same damn questions or accuse you of something really dumb. I guess it inadvertedly made me better at communicating online and made me a better writer overall. I quit using shitty shorthand slang words and used correct punctuation and grammar instead. It might sound strange but when you have literally hundreds or maybe even thousands of lurkers and fellow posters reading your words and judging them, you don't want to look like an idiot by writing like one. People also took you more seriously if you didn't write like you're in first grade.

People always liked using the term "hivemind" to refer to GAF as whole and they couldn't be more wrong. There were so many different types of people with various beliefs and opinions that you couldn't have one thread made without a dissenting opinion in it. Debates raged over every little thing and even when people agreed about something, they would disagree about something else in the same topic. You couldn't have multiple pages in a thread without a disagreement of some kind. It always amused me whenever a handful of individuals would say something in agreement and people automatically thought the entire community believed the same thing. That's not how forums work.

I was pretty active and posted quite a lot. I considered myself one of the most prolific posters in the forum with a few other Gaffers beating me in post count (yes, I had a problem). I would usually be bored at work and had to get my fix everyday. I also created threads and even game specific official threads for the community. It was fun sharing breaking news which got sourced in gaming sites from time to time. It was also nice to see devs and pubs post in threads and connect with the community directly. It was great to give feedback as well.

-Final bamage-
But in the end, I guess it couldn't last. I've stayed in touch with many Gaffers through Twitter, Discord and other avenues. GAF is no longer a part of my daily entertainment but I will always remember the fun I had with the community. It was a good time.

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Destiny 2 Review + Thoughts

So it's here but before I begin, I want to talk about my experience with the original Destiny. I played the Alpha, Beta and finished the entire "story" campaign. I played all the expansions and completed all the raids. I was one of the few who Platinumed the game pretty early on and I played a ton of PVP. I played through most of the changes and also participated in some of their holiday events. I was a big fan of the lore and world. I loved Destiny even with all the flaws and frustrations I had. I burned out on the game after a while and once I finished the Rise of Iron DLC along with the final raid, I was done. I don't know if I'll ever return to Destiny 1 to get that one last trophy but probably not. It was a fun time even with the annoyances I had with the game. I got into the Destiny 2 Beta and the first mission was impressive enough that I wanted more. Now that I've done pretty much everything, I'm ready to share my thoughts about it.

Destiny 2 is an improvement over the original in every way. It features a cohesive coherent campaign with a story and an actual villain. The campaign itself was fun and featured plenty of funny banter between characters both new and old. I loved Failsafe in particular. I also enjoyed a lot of the later missions and boss fights. Some were pretty dramatic and exciting. There were some good lore about some of the subclasses to be had but it's not the real focus of the story. The story itself was pretty straightfoward. They do mix in most of the activities you would be doing post-story within the campaign itself which was a nice introduction to them. I also enjoyed the optional Adventures that are littered all over the place. They provide some much welcomed character development with the NPCs and also give more context to the world as well as hints to future content. They are def worth playing through. The new zones are much larger than the previous game and a bit more fun to explore. My only gripe with the campaign was how they held back the Sparrow until the end (unless you happened to get one from a Bright Engram earlier). It made running through some areas of the map quite a slog.

The shooting is still fun. There are quite a nice variety of weapons but I found myself using only some favorites for SP and PVP. I usually switched them up depending on my mood or activity. Most weapons felt good and looked good. Altho I feel Handcannons need to be buffed for PVP on consoles at least. But overall, controls are tight so killing things is still a joy no matter what mode you're in.

Speaking of PVP, I'm disappointed with the change to 4v4 from 6v6. 4v4 is way more sweaty and doesn't allow the more relaxed casual chaotic fun that I enjoyed in D1. If you slack off for just a bit, it's a stomp. Not a fan of it especially for modes like Control. I'm also disappointed that there's no way to only play modes you like because new modes like Countdown and Survival are not that fun. Bungie, please offer 6v6 as an option and please give us the ability to play modes we like. I am also not a fan of a lot of the new PVP maps. I just don't find them to flow too well. Trials was fun for a bit but after reaching Flawless, I had no motivation to keep playing it. Iron Banner was alright but the RNG for the armor drops were ridiculously bad so it soured me on it. I stopped playing after I reached the Season 1 Milestone requirements and got the emblem. I think PVP feels like it's unfinished right now and that's a shame.

The Leviathan raid itself was okay. While I did enjoy moments of it, it's much more heavy on mechanics with only one true boss fight. They still reuse the ol' stand on plate while defending mechanics in one encounter while another encounter brought back stealth. The platforming encounter was a bit more refreshing but it was still pretty ho-hum overall until the last boss. Even then, the final encounter was a bit messy with the bugs and glitches in the dimensional rift. Overall, it was entertaining with a good experienced team but it's not a raid I will enjoy replaying that often especially with how raid drops are rewarded. Token king indeed.

I have pretty mixed feelings about the end game content (especially now that I Platinumed it and reached the current max Power Level). I only enjoyed maybe one or two of the Vanguard Strike missions. The rest feel like a chore especially with replays for any Vanguard gear I wanted. The weekly Milestones are a great way to level up easily and does provide an incentive to log back in every week for that. It's probably the most chill way to max out your Power Level without any pressure with a fireteam like in the original. My favorite activities are the Public Events. They're always fun as long as you're playing with a bunch of people and they go by quick. I also really love the addition of Clan Engrams. I like how you get a random reward from some of the tougher activities in the game from other clan members every week. It's a nice bonus for just being in a clan. But there's really nothing else I feel like grinding for.

Destiny 2 is a lot better than the original game but there's way more improvements that need to be made. The Vault is still a mess, the end game is not satisfying enough and PVP is not up to snuff. I'm hoping they improve a lot more before we need to wait for the expansions to drop. I still recommend Destiny 2 if you have people to play with. It's still fun but it def feels watered down in terms of offering challenges and unique rewards for a Destiny 1 veteran like me. This game feels like it was catered more to casuals and people without a lot of time to invest in compared to the original. If you check the original game's achievements/trophies, they were 100x harder than anything in the sequel. I'm hoping the expansions offer much more substantial new content and I'm hoping the next raid will be better with more satisfying loot.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE Review, Thoughts + Censorship

Didn't get a chance until this year to play this game and I'm glad I did. It wasn't really talked about when it came out from what I remember. I picked it up day one but didn't really follow the news of it prerelease. Now that I finished it, here's a super long detailed review for you! ^_^;;

The main story was good but somewhat predictable. The best thing wasn't the actual story but the events and scenes with the main cast themselves. I loved their interactions with each other. There were lots of humor and wit. The game embraced the full aspect of the entertainment world in Japan and did a fine job mixing it in with the main story. This wasn't just about idols and songs but it also delved into movies and TV shows. I loved all the parodies and homages to Sentai shows, cooking shows, kids shows etc. They even include the Vocaloid phenomenon into it which shows the times we're in. They were really funny and well produced with their own faux presentations. I was constantly surprised what they parodied and with whom from the main cast they used for the scenes. It added a lot of charm and fun to the overall narrative. While the story had some cheesy moments, it was actually pretty self-aware and characters would call out certain silly things I noticed. It's a pretty witty script at times even with some cliche tropey elements thrown in. Also, the way they tied the Fire Emblem and SMT franchises together was pretty interesting. I think fans will appreciate it. The ending was wholly satisfying and very well done.

The localization was excellent. While some of the text didn't match what was being said exactly by the Japanese VAs, it was close enough and also added a bit of its own flair to the conversations. The jokes and conversations were natural. I also didn't notice a single unintentional typo which was quite an accomplishment. I was particularly impressed with the text messages. Each character had a distinctive style of typing and some of their replies and banter were eerily realistic. I like to text and tweet all the time and the responses here were pitch perfect. The peeps at Altus definitely know their social media

One minor gripe I had with the localization was that none of the character interactions and dialogue during battle are translated at all. So all the banter and quips are lost to anyone who can't understand Japanese. I'm not sure what prevented them from doing so but a large part of interactions are gone. Oh well.

The real gems were the Side Stories. Each character in the main cast had their own story that had a beginning, middle and end. These weren't optional sidequests like the random fetch quests with random NPCs found throughout the game. These were full on stories in of themselves. They were really well written and developed the characters really well. Not only do you learn a lot more about them but you also see how they bond and become better friends. There were some genuinely touching moments in these stories that I loved. It made these characters much more complex and interesting. Their confessions and revelations gave me major Persona vibes. It's my favorite part of the game and each objective is varied enough that I never knew how each one would progress. They also tied in some must-have gameplay perks and rewards when you finish different parts of them so they're a must play for story AND combat reasons.

The art direction for this game is fantastic. There are very vibrant colors everywhere and the look and feel is very nice and inviting. All the characters are very well designed and look super clean. Even NPCs you barely see that often have a unique and distinct design. The main cast are all attractive and good looking although since they're performers, that shouldn't be a surprise. I liked the majority of their different outfits as well. I really liked how the 2D concept art transitioned to 3D. I found myself taking a ton of screenshots constantly. The Mirages in your party as well as the various enemies also look fantastic. Some of the redesigns for the Fire Emblem characters as Mirage looked particularly fanastic. The special attacks in particular also looked awesome. While it's not a technical marvel (some stiff animations in cutscenes, aliasing and slowdown occasionally), it's a very nice looking game overall. I also loved the idea of making the NPC crowds you can't interact with as just randomly colored people. It's quite stylish.

There were also a bunch of cutscenes for the music videos which ranged from much more detailed cel-shaded models to 2D animated scenes and some even used the in-game character models. They were all very well produced and looked amazing. Note: There were some major changes to the game during localization but you can read my rant about the censored visuals/content later in this review.

The music is the real highlight and compliments the visuals perfectly. Considering pop idols were the main focus, this shouldn't come as a surprise. I didn't expect to like most or all of the songs in the game since I don't like most modern J-pop songs these days. The songs were produced by Avex Trax which is a real record label in Japan and they did a pretty great job. Every song is catchy and memorable. They range from traditional J-pop songs to ballads and there's even a Vocaloid equivalent. Some songs actually got stuck in my head even when I wasn't playing the game. Even if I didn't like the singing for a few songs, the music itself was still great. It's a shame you don't get to hear the full songs in the actual game though. You only hear a portion in the debut music videos as well as clips from some special attacks. The only way to hear the whole thing is from the Vocal Tracks album they released in Japan. I actually imported that before I finished the game since I knew I would want to listen to all the songs after I finished the game. A selection of tracks were also released with the Special Edition but it's just a small sample. It's really good and I recommend picking up the album if you liked the songs in the game.

But the songs weren't the only good tracks. The in-game music is also great and memorable. I found most of the slice of life themes to be nice and relaxing while most battle tracks including some boss ones were really hype. They fit in within the scenes really well and had a really modern J-drama feel to them. I'm a bit disappointed that they never released an official OST for the rest of the game's music aside from the vocal tracks. The only way to to listen to them outside the game would be from a game rip on YouTube which someone has done.

Combat was super fun. The battles started out somewhat repetitive but once you start amassing the rest of your party members and unlocking more and more attacks and special moves, it's a sight to behold. You mainly try to attack an enemy's weakness to start a Session which will have every party attack in sequence.  Not only does this look super flashy but it's a must to take down really tough enemies and bosses later in the game. The enemies can also do the same to you so it can prove to be quite challenging at times. I actually died because some enemies will take advantage of the whole Session mechanic. The addition of special performances, adlibs, duo arts etc also add an insane amount of extra flashy animations and effects to the battle making it quite a feast for the eyes and ears. It's what keeps the combat enjoyable and addictive. There are more systems in the game that involve upgrading your weapons and characters but my review would end up even longer if I explained it in more detail. It's good, trust me. I also liked that you could basically save anywhere. No save points here! That was unexpected.

The dungeons were okay. They felt and looked a lot liked the dungeons from the SMT and Persona games except the ones in this game are much smaller in scope and less of a grind. There were some light puzzles except for one dungeon where it was actually a bit of a brainteaser and frustrating to solve. I had to look up a guide a few times because some parts just weren't clear enough for me to figure out. I also found the dungeons to be a bit of a drag at times especially when you need to revisit them for Side Stories, sidequests and other reasons. That was a bit too grindy for me. But I did like that each dungeon looked different and had its own music. Each one is based on a specific theme and I think they were pretty well thought out. The backtracking sucked but at least the dungeons weren't super long. I also liked that they would put in some unexpected objectives in order to complete a dungeon.

I should also give a special shout out to the UI and the way they implemented the Gamepad functionality. The UI is very similar to a visual novel where you can fast forward through all the dialogue, let it play out automatically or manually progress it. It also allows you to press a button to hide all the dialogue boxes so you can take clean screenshots of of the scenes. It's pretty handy and I wish all RPGs allowed this function. The Gamepad screen is not only a nice easy access to the map for the world and dungeons but it also uses the texting messages really well. Here, you can check all the texts very easily and see the very humorous dialogue as I mentioned before. I also love that when you get a message, the Gamepad would vibrate like a phone. The ability to check the stats and weaknesses for your party and the enemies during combat in the Gamepad which was also a nice touch. It's all very slick and made navigating around quite painless. Whoever designed this did a great job.

Okay! Rant time start:

One major gripe I had with this game was the censorship. It made no sense whatsoever so I need to talk about it. I can understand if they wanted to take out some of the pervy aspects of the game they found too mature for children but some of the censoring choices were baffling. I'm usually fine with changes made to a game for local consumption but this was done all wrong. Some of the decisions felt like one hand didn't know what the other was doing. Example: A few outfits were censored for some cleavage but then there were other ones that showed MORE skin and cleavage but they were left untouched. Huh?

I was going to list my grievances in detail but these guys at Censored Gaming did a great job summarizing the bulk of the major changes in this YouTube video. They also mentioned some of the inconsistencies with what Nintendo and Atlus felt inappropriate. Make sure to watch it if you're curious what they changed. Nintendo and Atlus put way too much effort into this including changing or adding in a ton of new assets/textures and changing hundreds of lines in the dialogue. The amount of work they did to censor the game was pretty insane. It's really quite a shame because the people who are buying this game know what they're getting into. If you're going to change what the game originally was just because you're afraid of offending some people outside Japan then you are doing it wrong. This whole game is about the idol culture, pop entertainment and fanservice in Japan and going ahead and fucking with it doesn't make it acceptable. The people who are interested in this game know this stuff well. It's a niche game for a niche audience especially for the audience outside Japan. Taking away the original content from them isn't a positive thing no matter how you spin it.

If you already own or played the game but you don't want to import a JPN Wii U or JPN copy of the game, then you can check out a fan-made patch to restore the original content. I discovered this while looking up the censorship issues. It seems pretty involved and I'm not sure if I'll bother with it but if you're interested, it's worth checking out just to play the game the way the developers intended for the Japanese audience. I might just import the JPN version myself and play on an emulator in the future.

Also, you can thankfully watch a full playthrough and all the music videos/cutscenes for the original Japanese version on YouTube. You can see all the costumes and whatever else Nintendo and Atlus decided was too "offensive" for our poor child-like eyes. Seriously, I haven't been this annoyed with a censored game since Yakuza 3. That was bad and this comes close to that.

It's ironic that this game was so heavily censored because it goes against the message of what the game is trying to tell us. It tells the player that you need to be true to yourself and your art in order to entertain people. I bet Barry (the otaku dude in the game as seen above) would've been pissed.

Rant end.

Overall, aside from the silly censorship, the game itself is great. The changes didn't destroy the positives that much. It was much longer than I expected and I was constantly surprised with the scenarios it presented. I loved all the characters and the setting. It was really cool to see a cast of heroes made up of performers from the entertainment industry. It felt fresh and new. You could tell the devs put a lot of love and care into this game. This is one of the best RPGs from last year and should not be missed. You should definitely play it. I really hope Nintendo and Atlus gives this game another chance by porting it to the Switch. It needs a bigger audience. Here's hoping!

Wednesday, January 04, 2017

Steins;Gate 0 Review + Thoughts

Before you even read this, if you loved the original Steins;Gate, then stop right now and get this game! Don't even ask, just get it. This is a MUST play for fans since it's a direct sequel and continues the story of the original. YOU MUST PLAY IT.ヽ(`Д´)ノ

*ahem* If you want my opinions about it, then let's continue...

This is a pure visual novel so there's not a lot of gameplay to speak of  just like with the original. I will mention that the UI is much improved over the original. I will try to be as vague as possible about the story to avoid spoiling anything.

The overall story and plot was fantastic! I was skeptical how they tied this game's story to what happened in the original to create a brand new adventure.  Not only did they do a good job expanding upon what we already know but they managed to tie up or clarify a lot of dangling plot threads of the original with some new mysteries. Fans will eat this up (like me!). The pacing is also much improved. The original had a super slow burn but the sequel flows at a much better pace. The conversations were really great and natural. I was never bored and I found the humor to be much better. The interactions between the characters were the true highlights and my favorite part of the game. I found myself enjoying the daily slice of life parts more than the sci-fi elements. Some of the banter and arguments made me laugh out loud pretty often. If the devs ever decide to do a spin-off that focused purely about these characters' everyday life over some crazy sci-fi adventure, I would gladly welcome it. I simply adored these characters.

One thing I really enjoyed more over the original is that the game actually jumps around to other characters during the game. Not only does this allow us to see their point of views but it also fleshes out the supporting cast tremendously. I really really enjoyed seeing their side of the story and their thoughts. These scenes were really well written and also made the overall cast even more likeable than the original.

They featured a lot of new characters but the one who really stood out for me was Maho. I won't get into specifics to avoid spoilers but I friggin' loved her. She was extremely well written and super complex. They really did an amazing job developing her through the course of the game and made her quite a stand out among the rest of the cast. She's a very flawed character and that made her quite relatable to me in more ways than one. They also did a great job connecting her into the overall story and she fit in with the rest of the original cast just fine. She is definitely my favorite character in this game and probably the series in general.

I had mixed feels with the art in the game. The overall character art is much cleaner than the originals and the coloring was also much more detailed for the clothing and hair. I liked most of the redesigns for the existing characters' faces but some of them looked off or actually looked worse. They completely redrew most of the characters for the new game and I think they match the anime style much more than the original designs.

 I loved Mayuri's new design the most. She actually had a much sweeter face. She looked especially cute with some expressions. Her original design did sorta freak me out because of how janky her face looked in some parts. I also loved Moeka's redesign. She's also much cuter and sexier in this game compared to the original. One redesign I hated was for Suzuha. Her face just looked off compared to the original. You might be wondering why I feel the need to complain about it. Well, the game actually reused art quite often from the original game for some odd reason. Even though the redesigns have been made, they actually reused character art from the first game in many scenes and it was really jarring. I had no idea why they did this at all. At first I was thinking they did it for flashbacks to give us the feels of the original but they did the same thing for the present  time which made no sense. There were several scenes where the old and new character art were standing right next to each other. Some CG scenes looked amazing while a handful looked pretty rushed. The art was pretty inconsistent throughout the game which was a shame. Some people might not be bothered by this but I was.

The VO in this game was excellent just like with the original. Every voice is distinctive and recognizable and the amount of varying emotions were pretty epic. If you were only playing this with the text, then you're missing out. It's not just just the way they say their lines but even minor sighs, sounds of disgust/surprise/horror etc added so much humor and emotion to a ton of scenes in the game. If it weren't for the voices, then a lot of the scenes wouldn't have been as great as they were. Sometimes the most emotional and funniest scenes were all from the voices alone. The timing is impeccable. The text and music that accompanied it was just a cherry on top. So even if you don't understand Japanese, you can still hear all the tones and sounds from their performances that made it so great. I would just let the audio play out cuz they were that good. So good!

Speaking of the audio, I urge everyone to use headphones or speakers when playing this on the Vita. The Vita speakers are crap and I found both the audio and music sounded pretty bad there. All the voices and music sound so good with a good pair of cans or speakers. Make sure to do this in general for all your Vita games when possible. If you found the audio to be subpar, it's not the game it's the Vita speakers.

The localization was great overall. I had no issues with the terms and phrases they used and I was pretty impressed with several CG scenes and RINE messages where they had to translate them all into English.  I wasn't sure if the changes in spelling with the names of real world people were intended with the original Japanese audio/text though but that didn't bother me too much. I did find there were some odd things like using the wrong words (ex: "fear" instead of "hear" or "chance" instead of "change") which messed up some dialogue. I also saw a few errors in general too like ("/" showing up at the end of some sentences or words like "N?ckel"). They didn't pop up too much but it was pretty jarring for me when they did since I'm the type of guy who pays attention to these things. It's not a huge deal and I think most people will overlook them.

Overall, this is a must play. Just make sure you played the original first or at least watch the anime because this is a follow-up and you'll probably won't understand what's going on if you skipped the original. I was worried when I heard they were doing a follow-up but it turned out to be another masterpiece and a worthy sequel to one of the greatest sci-fi stories ever told.

El. Psy. Kongroo.