Monday, December 25, 2017

Nintendo Switch Accessory Recommendations

Like any Nintendo console, the Switch has an overwhelming amount of accessories and other plastic odds and ends to clutter up your home. If you're one of the thousands of people who received Nintendo's new hybrid device, there are two things that I recommend picking up as soon as possible: a case and a Pro Controller.

Off-brand cases:

Since the Switch is too large to fit in most clothing pockets and doesn't feature a clam shell design to cover its screen, a case is essential if you intend to travel with the device. While I generally prefer to buy gaming hardware and accessories from established companies, I decided to take a chance on an obscure case I found on Amazon and I've been really pleased with it over the past nine months. It's just big enough to fit the console, the USB-C cable, and 10 cartridges without being too bulky. It also offers limited water resistance (but is definitely not water-proof) and comes with a screen protector.

The case I have:
A nearly identical one (in case the other one is out of stock):

Pro Controller:

Initially I planned on just sticking with the included Joy-con controllers and balked at the high price of the official Pro Controller. However, after enough long play sessions of Breath of Wild, I eventually caved in and ponied up the $70 (US). It was totally worth it. The comfort and precision of the Pro Controller can't be beat. The Joy-con in their grip will get you by for a while, but if you're going to be primarily playing in docked mode, the Pro Controller is a must-have accessory. As an added bonus, the Pro Controller also makes switching between portable and docked mode even more effortless because you'll no longer have to go through process of attaching and detaching the Joy-con. Recently a 3rd party Pro Controller option has become available from 8bitdo. I haven't had a chance to get my hands on one yet, but I've been hearing good things about it. Both the official and 3rd party Pro Controllers can be used as controllers for PCs as well, though compatibility seems to vary from game to game.

Official Pro Controller:
3rd Party Pro Controller: 

Note: None of the links on this page are affiliate links. Feel free to buy these things from whatever source you see fit. If this blog every features affiliate links or sponsored content, I will be sure to disclose it.

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Xenoblade Chronicles 2 Impressions

For the longest time, the Final Fantasy series was the gold standard of JRPGs for me and nothing else could ever come close to touching it... then came Xenoblade Chronicles for the Wii. As one of my favorite RPG series, I've been looking forward to Xenoblade 2 (which is actually the 3rd game in the series) ever since it was announced during the unveiling of the Switch. Right now I'm about 15 hours and 3 chapters into this massive game. Some early impressions:
  • The setting, a world in which each nation is on the back of a different giant flying creature is pretty cool and fun to explore. This does make each region feel a little smaller and more linear since each Titan is a self-contained area. I'm totally fine with this though, as I've already explored enough completely vast open worlds this year.
  • Like the previous two games, there are a ton of stats, abilities, skill trees, and items to manage. At 15 hours into the game, I still don't even have access to all the games menus.
  • It took a while for it to click with me but now that I'm getting the hang of the combat (particularly executing combos), the battle system seems like it will have some potential for interesting strategies. Combat is very chaotic though, so it can be hard to keep track of what's going on.
  • The game lacks a manual or in-game menu to reread the tutorial info which makes learning the game's complex systems more difficult than it needs to be.This is an especially strange omission considering that the first two Xenoblade games had such thorough documentation.
  • In addition to the lack of a manual or tutorial menu, the UI is also missing other smaller things like controller rumble options and aggro symbols on monsters in the field. Not being able to tell which monsters are aggressive has gotten me killed several times already.
  • The story leans heavily into one of my least favorite anime tropes: the magical girlfriend who is also the protagonist's possession, pet, or slave. For now, I'm going to try to have a little faith in the Xenoblade writers and hope that they'll develop Pyra into something more than just a bargaining chip for the hero, Rex, and his enemies to fight over.
  • Xenoblade 2's character designs are much more anime-inspired than in previous entries and I've found these designs to be a mixed bag. Several of their outfits look particularly silly. Also, some of the highly sexualized characters seem kind of out of place for the game's tone.
  • While many players will be quick to download the Japanese audio patch, the English voice acting has really grown on me. I appreciate the diverse range of accents in the cast; so far I've picked out English, Welsh, Australian, and American. The main downside to the voice acting is that the characters talk way too much during combat. However, this has been an issue since the original Xenoblade.
  • The game's music is really beautiful. I'm looking forward to playing the soundtrack at work or in the car.
Overall, I'm really enjoying Xenoblade Chronicles 2 even though the story isn't grabbing me as much as the previous games. If the earlier entries in the Xenoblade series didn't appeal to you, I doubt this one will be the one to win you over. However, series veterans will like what they find here and complete newcomers could easily use this as a starting point since the plot is unrelated to the first two games.

Monday, December 18, 2017

Golf Story Review

If you would’ve told me a year ago that one of my favorite games on the new Nintendo console would be a golf game, I would’ve laughed in your face… but here we are in the year 2017 and all the rules are out the window! I had a fantastic time playing Golf Story, the role-playing/sports hybrid game that I never knew I wanted. Here are my takeaways now that I’ve finished the game:
  • The game’s story of an underdog athlete, his coach, and his condescending rival is fairly typical of the plots one would see in sports movies or TV series. What sets Golf Story apart is its effective use of humor that varies from biting commentary to utter absurdity.
  • Even though real golf courses have 18 holes, the game wisely cuts it down to 9. Having to replay an entire 18-hole course after losing a tournament would be aggravating.
  • The golf mechanics seem simple at first, but become deeper as the game goes on. Eventually, more advanced aspects such as ball spin direction, club selection, and adjusting for wind/slope are essential to succeed on the later courses. The courses also feature hazards, such as ball-stealing birds, that can be to your advantage or detriment depending on how you aim your shots.
  • While I’m generally not into golf (or most other sports for that matter), I found that carefully lining up my shots and setting my parameters and then watching the ball sail through the air, hopefully landing in the right place, to be very satisfying. This process reminded me a lot of artillery games like Scorched Earth and Worms that I used to love playing as a kid.
  • The game offers a variety of challenges and mini-games that varied a lot in their appeal. A few stand-out ones surprised me and immediately put a smile on my face, while others I cut through quickly (or skipped) so I could move on.
  • Golf Story’s music is an interesting mix of jazz, rock, and ambient pieces. Many of them were appropriate, but forgettable, while others I’ve found myself listening to even in a non-gaming context. The game cleverly has some of the tracks drop in at just the right time to set the scene really well, for example, the tense-sounding theme that plays during a sink-or-lose putt.
  • I did have two minor gripes with the game. The first being that the player can't quit or reset challenges while they are in progress. For example, if you need to make 7 shots out of 10 and miss the first 4, the game will still require you to take the next 6 shots before you can restart the challenge. The second grip is that while on the putting green, the only indication of the slope of the ground is an arrow in the corner of the screen with qualitative descriptors such as "slight" or "moderate". This vague information can make pulling off long putts more difficult than it needs to be. While these issues show some lack of polish on the part of the studio, they didn't cause me enough grief to significantly impact my enjoyment of the game.
Overall, Golf Story is a fun and quirky experience that is unlike anything else on the Nintendo Switch. If you think you have a taste for off-beat humor and also have the patience for a slow-paced game like golf, I highly recommend picking up Golf Story.

Score: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
Completion Time: About 20 hours (campaign and most side quests)

Monday, December 11, 2017

Dishonored 2 Review

Even though I received Dishonored 2 as a Christmas gift last year, it took me until this month to finally play through it. This has been quite a year for gaming! Since Dishonored 2 is quite similar to its predecessor (see original review), I'll mostly just be giving a quick overview of points of contrast here:
  • The new setting for Dishonored 2, Karnaca, is a little bit more vibrant than the previous game's Dunwall, but it still has a generally similar dark steampunk aesthetic. 
  • Of the game's nine missions, there are two stand-outs: the clockwork mansion and the time-travel stage. Each of these introduces new mechanics that manipulate the level layout and allow the player to explore in new ways. I wish that these interesting new features were further explored rather than confined to their own maps. The remaining stages, while well-designed, are fairly similar to those in Dishonored 1.
  • Playing as the new protagonist, Emily, doesn't feel significantly different than playing as Corvo (the first game's hero) since most of her abilities are analogs to his. The main exception is that compared to Dishonored 1, there are more options for non-lethally eliminating enemies head-on. In the first game, if Corvo was spotted, the non-lethal options were to use one of his precious few sleep darts or run and hide. Emily, on the other hand, has the option of blocking enemy sword attacks and the delivering a knock-out counterattack. This makes taking the non-lethal route much more forgiving in Dishonored 2.
  • I found the story to be a little bit less engaging than in Dishonored 1, but that be due to the fact that the first game was an introduction to a whole new world and Dishonored 2 is just building upon that. 
In summary, Dishonored 2 is a very good first-person stealth game that doesn't deviate much from the formula established by its predecessor. I'm glad I played this game, but in my opinion, there doesn't need to be a Dishonored 3. If you loved the first game and are craving more, you'll be satisfied with what Dishonored 2 has to offer. Newcomers will definitely want to start with Dishonored 1 in order to get introduced to the characters and world and then decide from there if they want to proceed to part two.

Score: ⭐⭐⭐⭐
Completion Time: 17 hours, 25 minutes (non-lethal campaign path + most collectables)

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Mercenaries Saga 2 Review

After giving some initial impressions of Mercenaries Saga 2 for a "Demo Hotness" back in December 2016, I've finally gotten around to playing the full game. For convenience's sake, I picked up the Android version rather than the 3DS version that I originally previewed. Here are my takeaways now that I've finished the game:
  • Throughout the game's 32 stages I found that the variety of units, skills, and classes allowed for good party customization and changes of tactics. That being said, there definitely seemed to be some clear winners and losers among my characters (e.g. witch >>> thief)
  • Most of the battles provide a good challenge and mix of enemies along with some varied terrain to take into account. However, there were very clearly some stages that were just there to serve as padding. In my opinion, if the whole set up for a battle is  "Oh no! Bandits!", it probably didn't really need to be in the campaign.
  • As somebody who is pretty averse to grinding, I was concerned when I hit a few difficulty spikes. Thankfully, by revising my strategy I was usually able to find a way overcome stronger enemies and I managed to get through the whole campaign with minimal grinding. To me, this is a hallmark of a well-designed strategy RPG.
  • Compared to most other SRPGs, the battles are fairly short which is well suited to portable play. It's also helpful that progress can be saved at any time mid-battle.
  • As I noted during my preview, the controls and interface are pretty clunky. This is even more notable when playing on a mobile phone since some of the menus were clearly designed with physical inputs in mind rather than a touchscreen. Once I got used to it, this clunkiness didn't significantly impact my enjoyment of the game.
  • The writing in the cutscenes is pretty dry, but the story works in terms of giving each character a little personality and setting up each battle scenario; just don't expect it to keep you on the edge of your seat.
  • The music quickly became repetitive. This is a rare case of a game that I played mostly on mute.
Reading this review, it might seem like most of the positive aspects of this game that I've highlighted come with a negative caveat. That might be true, but when you get right down to it, this is a fully-featured portable SRPG for only $5 (USD), and a pretty enjoyable one at that despite a few flaws. If you want something more robust than Fire Emblem Heroes, but not as involved as Final Fantasy Tactics, Disgaea, or Fire Emblem Fates, Mercenaries Saga is definitely worth a look.

Score: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
Completion Time: 25 hours, 5 minutes

Monday, November 27, 2017

Implosion Never Lose Hope Review

For the past several months, I've been chipping away at my #MechMonth game, Implosion: Never Lose Hope, for the Nintendo Switch. Here are my thoughts on this brawler on a budget now that I've completed the campaign:
  • The game offers a good hack-and-slash fighting mechanic with added depth since you can upgrade your mech. Learning to how to chain melee attacks, ranged weapons, and special moves is pretty satisfying.
  • The surprisingly high-production value voice acting and music was pretty consistent throughout. However, after a while, I had trouble following what was going on in the story.
  • The main campaign is pretty robust but starts to feel repetitive after a while. There's only so much that can be done with hack-and-slash gameplay, kill rooms, and the game's limited mix of enemies.
  • Boss battles are a highlight and break up the routine, but some of the later ones feel a bit too bullet spongy for my taste.
  • There are optional challenges in each level that allow you to unlock more upgrades and a new mech. The objectives are fairly bland but they give you something else to aim for as you go through the stages.
  • The free DLC side story is a nice addition to an already good value. Unfortunately, the DLC levels are very long and have no check points, so I eventually got frustrated with them.
  • This game is a solid single player brawler, but it's sorely lacking a co-op mode.
Implosion is a good game for what it is, a single-player hack-n-slash. It was more than enough to be a fun diversion when I had time to kill but wasn't especially compelling either. I think this game is best suited for players looking for lighter fair as a palate cleanser to put between bigger releases.

Score: ⭐️⭐️⭐️
Completion Time: About 10 hours (Main campaign plus half of the DLC missions)

Sunday, November 19, 2017

Doki-Doki Literature Club Review

A wolf in sheep's clothing.

My second title for #VNNovember was Doki Doki Literature Club, another freeware visual novel. This one initially presents itself as a cliche saccharin-sweet dating sim, but as things progress, you'll realize there's more to it than meets the eye. As this game is highly susceptible to being spoiled, I'll be keeping this review short and relatively vague so that anyone who reads this will still have surprises in store for them when they play the game.
  • While the game has certain surprise elements that set it apart, the majority of the time you'll spend with it will be in the form of a classic dating sim. The game's developer absolutely nails the tone, characters, and scenarios of classic 90s PC dating sims. Much to my surprise, before the various twists happen, Doki Doki Literature Club is actually a pretty decent dating sim visual novel in its own right.
  • Since the game is about a literature club, the game's main sections involve sharing poems between the protagonist and the various girls in the club (of course the protagonist is the only male member... I told you this is a cliche dating sim). The protagonist's poems are generated by picking a selection of words from a menu. The player never sees the protagonist's completed poems, but the words you choose will affect your dialog with each girl. Reading the girls' poems is more interesting than I expected. The writing in these sections does a good job of giving the characters a little more depth beyond their otherwise trope-laden personas.
  • Like the writing, the music also perfectly captures the tone of classic dating sims while lulling the player into a false sense of comfort. Unique instrumentation of the music plays while reading each girl's poems, which is a nice touch. The pleasant soundtrack also distorts appropriately when the twists start coming, which is another little detail I appreciated.
  • Without saying what actually happens, when the game finally starts deviating from being a dating sim (you'll know when you get there), it does so in a way that is interesting, but not entirely unique. As someone who has played other indie games that hinge on deceiving the player, I wasn't as shocked by the turn of events as some other players might have been. That being said, some of the twists were very well executed, but I felt that a few were handled a little clumsily.
Overall, I really enjoyed my experience with Doki Doki Literature Club. The main portion of the game was a pleasant nostalgia trip to my days as a dorky teen playing dating sims on my parents' computer late at night. The post-twist segment, while not completely original in concept, was still effective and stuck with me for a while after playing. If you like dating sims and games that go to strange and dark places, I'd highly recommend Doki Doki Literature Club. If you don't like dating sims, however, you will likely find yourself getting bored long before you get to the twist.

Score: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
Completion Time: About 5 hours

Sunday, November 12, 2017

Narcissu Review

This month, as part of Chic Pixel's #VNNovember Community Game-A-Long event, I'm going to be trying out a couple of visual novels. For those unfamiliar, a visual novel is software that tells a story primarily through static images and text (occasionally accompanied by voice acting). I use the word software here rather than game because while some visual novels involve decision-making and have winning/losing conditions, others are purely a means to tell a story and involve little or no user input.

Naricussu is a freeware visual novel for PC and Android that tells the story of a man and woman that have been diagnosed with a fatal illness. The story is primarily told from the male protagonist's perspective and describes his thoughts about his condition, his interactions with a fellow hospice patient, Setsumi, and how the two of them elect to spend their final days of life. It probably goes without saying that this is an extremely sad story and it is important that one be in the right mindset before experiencing it.

While I have some prior experience with visual novels (primarily of the adventure or dating sim variety), Narcissu is the first completely linear visual novel I have ever tried. Other than tapping/clicking the screen to advance the text, there is no input required from the user. Also, unlike most visual novels, the use of images is very limited and the graphics primarily show scenery rather than characters. Thus, this minimalist experience is much more like reading a short story rather than playing a video game. I was initially disappointed by this, but once I reframed what this experience would be (i.e. not a game), I was able to get into it.

Being a mostly text-based experience, everything hinges on the quality of the writing, which I had mixed feelings about. Narcissu initially does a great job of expressing the thoughts and feeling of its terminally ill characters and succeeded in getting me invested in their situation. However, as the story went on, the writing style and pacing often tried my patience. The author has a tendency to reiterate the same points several times. I frequently found myself saying "Ok, I get it already, let's move on." Also, since the characters' relationship is initially very awkward, there are many conversations that are primarily made of up phrases like "umm...", "never mind", or just "...". As a result, the middle of the story seemed to drag on. It is possible that some of the issues I had with the writing are not the fault of the original author, but are an artifact from translating the Japanese script to English. Making it through the mid-story slog did come with rewards, the late-story scenes pulled me back in and the poignant conclusion left me thinking for some time to come afterward.

In addition to the text and minimal imagery, Narcissu featured some audio embellishments that added to the atmosphere. The context-appropriate background music and sound effects were well-timed with the text and did much to set the mood of each scene. Also, a subtle, but effective Japanese vocal track is included for Setsumi that contributed to the strength of the ending. The male protagonist, however, is silent.

Narcissu is tricky to recommend. If you're in the right mood for a non-interactive tear-jerker of a story and have the patience to get through some writing in desperate need of an editor, you'll probably be satisfied with your experience. For me, I'm ultimately glad I made it through this visual novel but couldn't help but feel like it had the potential to be much better.

Score: ⭐️⭐️⭐️
Completion Time: About 4 hours

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Mario Odyssey Review


Even though Mario Odyssey has only been out for a week, it’s already become a cliché to refer to it as “an absolute delight”. The truth is that there may be no better phrase in the English language to describe the experience of playing this game. Since the internet has already been flooded with lengthy essays gushing about Nintendo’s newest flagship platformer (you can also checkout my impressions from last week), I’ll keep my rundown simple:
  • Each of the game’s 10+ kingdoms has a unique structure and appearance, but also a unique set of mechanics. Some of this is a function of geography, traversing a wide-open desert is very different from a tightly-packed city, but a big part of the difference between kingdoms is how the capture mechanic is implemented. Often, taking control of some of the more mundane creatures or objects can be surprisingly fun once you get the hang of their move sets. For example, one of my favorite character to capture was an onion with stretchy roots.
  • I was initially thrown off by how many Power Moons there are to collect and how frequently they were found. My concern was that finding them so often would make them feel less special and significant than finding stars in other 3D Mario games. However, I came to realize that what the moons are really doing is bread-crumbing the player through each kingdom. This incentivizes the player to thoroughly explore each stage and gives meaning to reaching the most remote areas of the map. Since finding more moons unlocks more areas to explore, a compelling and addicting loop is created; I quickly found myself saying “just one more moon” at the end of the night, only to end up sucked in for another hour or so.
  • In the past, 3D Mario games have suffered from repetitive and simplistic boss battles. While this is still true for the mid boss enemies, the Broodals, the proper stage bosses are usually much more creative. Many of them are fought while Mario is in the form of a captured character which helps keep the boss battles fresh and ensures that each is mechanically distinct.
  • In addition to the ear-worm vocal theme, “Jump Up, Super Star”, that I had mentioned in my impressions post,  this game as all-around excellent score. The orchestral pieces further add to the sense of place in each kingdom, and on a few occasions in the campaign, vocal tracks kick in at just the right moment to give the scene some extra oomph.
  • The only gripe I had with this otherwise stellar game, was with the controls. While many gamers took, issue with the motion controls (I didn’t have a problem with them), my issue is with Mario’s ever-increasing move set. Since Mario 64, the variety of jumps and flips has ballooned to a level that makes keeping them all straight a challenge. For example, I’ve never found Mario’s sideways flip to be a useful maneuver, but I accidentally executed it several times on narrow platforms, cartwheeling Mario to an unnecessary death. I think trimming some of Mario’s extraneous moves would prevent this and cut down some frustration. Also, since camera control is primarily manual in Mario Odyssey, managing the viewing angle while tackling difficult platforming segments can get tricky.
  • My playtime in Mario Odyssey was split between docked mode with the Pro Controller and handheld mode. While I preferred the TV and Pro-con setup, I also enjoyed playing the game portably and don’t think handheld-only players will be at much of a disadvantage.
After playing for over 30 hours and collecting at least 440 moons, the campaign came to a satisfying conclusion, but there is still so much more to do. There is already a staggering amount of content in the game’s main worlds, and more moons and bonus stages become available after the credits roll. Normally, after such a robust campaign I would be satiated with a game and set aside the extra content for later, but in the case of Super Mario Odyssey I’m immediately eager to dive back in. The game is just that much fun to play. If you have a Switch and pulse, Mario Odyssey is a must-buy game.

Score: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
Completion Time: About 30 hours (Main campaign with 440 moons)

Monday, October 30, 2017

Mario Odyssey Impressions

After over six months of hype, Mario Odyssey is finally out, and I am once again absorbed into another massive world built by Nintendo’s crew of mad scientists. Over the course of the game’s release weekend, I have put about 15 hours into the game and have already collected 222 moons (out of 800). Here are my impressions of Mario Odyssey so far:
  • The game’s structure is an interesting amalgam of Galaxy, 3D World, and Sunshine. While there’s no central hub world, each kingdom in Mario Odyssey is a large and fully open playground to roam around (similar to Sunshine or 64). Just wandering around the kingdoms, the player will happen upon dozens of opportunities to collect Power Moons (equivalent to Stars or Shines in other Mario games). Within each kingdom, there are doorways that lead to areas with linear platforming challenges that reward the player with even more moons. I’m not sure if these areas have proper names, so I've started referring to them as dungeons. From what I’ve seen so far, the regular kingdom moons and the story-essential moons have been relatively easy to get, while a few of the dungeon moons have been quite tough.
  • Unlike previous Mario games, where there would be no more than 10 stars in a stage and finding each one involves a significant trek, the moons are extremely plentiful and vary widely in terms of difficulty to acquire. Some moons are obtained simply by breaking a glowing box or talking to a right NPC, while others are more involved and could require climbing a massive tower or beating a boss. So far, the kingdoms I’ve played through have had anywhere from 17 to 100 moons to collect.
  • After collecting the story-essential moons and a handful of the more obvious moons in each kingdom, I find myself making pretty liberal use of the in-game hint systems. There are two ways to get hints in Mario Odyssey: In one case, talking to an NPC will provide you with the title of a moon (e.g. "Atop a Tall Tower"), but not provide a location. In the other case, an NPC will mark the map with a location of a moon, but not tell you what you need to do to actually make the moon appear. The second of these two options requires paying 50 gold coins, which is pretty easy to accumulate, or to scan an amiibo. 
  • The capture mechanic, in which Mario can take control of an NPC or enemy allows for some interesting breaks in the typical 3D Mario action. Capturable characters range from giant dinosaurs, to classic Mario enemies, to benign objects like plants. For the most part, the time spent as a captured character is brief, but each character has a unique feel and adds more variety to the gameplay.
  • While it didn’t initially grab me when I heard it during E3, Mario Odyssey’s theme song, “Jump Up, Super Star” has really grown on me. I couldn’t help but put it on in the car on my way to work this morning.
While Zelda: Breath of the Wild represented a drastic departure from the series' traditional formula, Mario Odyssey feels more like a new blend of mostly familiar elements. However, as one would expect from a Mario game, the execution is top-notch and every part of the game that I've seen so far is simply imbued with the spirit of fun.

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Shin Megami Tensei Synchronicity Prologue Review

Surprising pretty much everyone, last week Atlus of Japan released a new freeware spin-off Shin Megami Tensei game for PC. Unlike most SMT games, which are usually turn-based RPGs, Synchronicity Prologue is a non-linear action platformer in the style of Metroid and Castlevania (i.e. a “Metroidvania”). While my exposure to the Megami Tensei franchise is minimal, I’ve been interested in it for a while and could not pass up the opportunity to grab a free game, especially from a series that is rarely seen on PC. Here’s a rundown of my thoughts on the game:
  • While it’s my understanding that regular Shin Megami Tensei games have a pretty dark and serious tone, Synchronicity Prologue stars cute-looking cartoon mascots Jack Frost and Pyro Jack. Despite the kid-friendly appearance, when your character takes damage there’s a pretty distinct blood splatter animation which struck me as a kind of out of place.
  • If you’ve ever played any of the Castlevania games on the Gameboy Advance or Nintendo DS, the gameplay of Synchronicity Prologue will immediately feel familiar to you. The playable characters have standard and special attacks and collect upgrades that strengthen them and allow them access to new areas of the map. The level design and placement of hidden rooms are also very similar to Metroid and Castlevania games.
  • The game’s mark of differentiation from other Metroidvanias comes from its character switching mechanic and use of elemental strengths and weaknesses. As you can probably guess, Jack Frost is immune to ice but weak against fire and the reverse is true for Pyro Jack. Each enemy also has its own set of elemental strengths and weaknesses. Later on, special moves introduce wind, lightning, and non-elemental attacks as well.
  • During boss battles, enemies will often launch a massive barrage of ice and fire projectiles in bullet-hell fashion. Studying the bullet pattern and quickly switching between Frost and Pyro to avoid taking damage is the key to survival. This mechanic, reminiscent of Ikaruga, makes for an interesting addition to the otherwise standard Metroidvania format.
  • Much like other aspects of this game, the music sounds like something straight out of Castlevania. It’s well-composed Castlevania-esque music, though, so it fits nicely.
  • Even though I know very little about Shin Megami Tensei, with the help of the English translation patch (see notes below), the game’s simple plot was easy to follow. It wasn’t anything special, but it got the job done.
As you’ve probably gathered, SMT Synchronicity Prologue is essentially a Castlevania clone with some bullet-hell elements mixed in. In this case, however, that isn’t a criticism since Synchronicity Prologue is an exceptionally well-made clone. The game is quite short (~ 3 hours) but this keeps its simple mechanics from getting stale. There’s also the fact that this game was completely free, so you’ll hear no complaints from me. I’d highly recommend checking out Shin Megami Tensei Synchronicity Prologue, especially if you're a fan of the Metroidvania genre.

Score: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
Completion Time: About 3 hours (92% map completion)

  • If you’re interested in playing this game, it can be downloaded for free directly from Atlus of Japan. Click either of the blue rounded buttons midway down the page to download the game. It will be available until December 24th.
  • The game was originally in Japanese, but a translation patch was created by @Brento_Bento on Twitter. The patch and installation instructions can be found in an article from Destructoid. Small amounts of text remain untranslated, such as some character names and item descriptions, but the patch still provides more than enough English text for a Japanese illiterate player to be able to understand what's going on.

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Demo Hotness: Spelunker Party

A great thing about Nintendo’s eShop is the proliferation of demos. On many occasions, demos have turned me to new franchises and genres that I would have never discovered otherwise. In other cases, they’ve shown me that a game that sounds like a good fit for me on paper just doesn’t work for me in practice. Square Enix’s new co-op 2D platformer, Spelunker Party, unfortunately fell into the latter of those two groups. Some thoughts on the experience my wife and I had with the demo:
  • The game has a simple and cute visual style. However, the male spelunker, female spelunker, and their animal companions all look like they were drawn by different artists, giving the game a somewhat uneven look.
  • In local co-op mode when playing with the Switch docked, the screen splits into small windows even though additional screen space is available when playing with two characters. This can be problematic as it makes many of the game’s already tiny obstacles, traps, and items even harder to see. For visibility’s sake, it would probably be best to play this game on two Switches.
  • Spelunker Party is extremely unforgiving for a game with the word “Party” in its title. Touching any of the cave’s tiny obstacles is instant death as is missing a jump or even falling from minimal heights. These deaths are in fact so instantaneous that the game strangely doesn’t bother to animate your character falling, but instead just displays the death animation the moment his/her feet leaves the ground if your jump or fall trajectory would result in death. It also doesn’t help that two characters can’t grab the same rope at the same time,
  • Spelunkers also have a finite amount of air in the cave (yet another way to die), but thankfully checkpoints with air refills are easy to find. However, once you’ve lost five lives, the whole level must be restarted. If there’s a disparity between skill levels of the players, it’s quite likely that one will be left staring at the game over screen while the other one continues with their remaining lives. Having to sit out the rest of the level like this significantly detracts from the party potential of Spelunker Party.
  • The game’s music is simple, repetitive, and catchy. It reminds me a lot of the upbeat tunes you’d hear in Bomberman.
Based on my experience with this demo, Spelunker Party could potentially make for a decent 2D cave exploration game for those with the patience for its finicky nature. However, as a casual co-op or party game (which is what I would expect from a game with “Party” in its title), I think Spelunker Party would introduce more frustration than fun.

Note: At some point after playing the demo, it was brought to my attention that this game is a remake of an Atari game which helps to explain some of its quirks. Thus, it may have some additional appeal to retro gamers, but as somebody that lacks that nostalgia, I still can’t recommend Spelunker Party.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Broken Age Review

My wife and I recently finished playing through Doubefine’s crowdfunded point-and-click adventure game, Broken Age. If you’ve ever played other adventure games directed by Tim Schafer (Day of the Tentacle, Monkey Island, Grim Fandango, etc), you probably already know what to expect from Broken Age. For those unfamiliar, the game consists exploring the environment as one of two different playable characters, collecting miscellaneous junk used to solve puzzles, and having snarky dialog with NPCs.

The game starts out strong by introducing you to its protagonists, Vela and Shay: two reasonable people trapped in two very different, but equally, absurd worlds. The game’s visual style, which looks like moving children’s book illustrations, gives the world and characters plenty of personality while still making items and objectives easy to discern. Snappy dialog, featuring the signature LucasArts/Doublefine sense of humor, further adds to the charm of the game world.

Pretty pictures and quirky characters aside, Broken Age is a game that’s all about puzzles. The puzzles are all initially of the pretty straight-forward “use item X on environmental object Y” variety and gradually increase in difficulty and obscurity throughout the game. This is all part of the standard point-and-click progression that one would expect from a throwback adventure from Tim Schafer. In the second half of the game, a different type of puzzle is introduced in which long sequences of actions must be completed in a very specific order for the game to progress. This is where the game makes the transition from clever, but occasionally arcane, to tedious and frustrating. Many of sequential puzzles require traversing the map in-between steps and switching between characters, with a single incorrect step resetting the entire puzzle. Compounding this issue, the game often isn’t particularly good at conveying what you did wrong. As a result, for the last handful of puzzles, my wife and I resorted to using a guide to spare ourselves the aggravation of using trial and error to finish the game.

Overall, Broken Age is an adventure game with a strong sense of style and personality but suffers from gameplay mechanics that fall apart in the second half of the game and make the game feel like it’s dragging on. I expect that players that are already fans of Tim Schafer’s work will find enough to like here to make the game worth playing, but newcomers will probably find it too discouraging.

Score: ⭐️⭐️⭐️
Completion Time: 11 hours

Monday, September 25, 2017

DragonCon 2017

This past labor day weekend, my wife and I attended DragonCon for the first time and really enjoyed it. While the Con covers a huge variety of fandom topics and doesn't really focus on gaming, when you get over 80,000 nerds together in one place, you can pretty much guarantee there will be video gaming happening somewhere. Here's a synopsis of the gaming-related things we saw at the Con:

Japanese Arcade

One of the exhibit halls was set up as an arcade stocked with imported (and mostly untranslated) Japanese arcade games. Best of all, the cabinets were all set to free play mode. I worked in Japan for several months a few years ago and found the selection at this DragonCon exhibit to be a pretty good representation of the modern Japanese arcade scene. In my experience, non-redemption Japanese arcade games generally fall into 4 categories: fighting, rhythm, mech battle, and button-mash/novelty. I’ve included some photos and brief description of the games I was able to try.

Reflec Beat – A touchscreen-based rhythm battle game. Notes are fired as projectiles downward by an enemy at the top of the screen and they must be tapped in time with the music to reflect them back.

Gundam Pod – A first person mecha battle arena with enclosed cockpits. Each cockpit features a panoramic curved screen and controls with a combination of joysticks and foot pedals. The screen between the pods allow spectators to watch the battle in 3rd person. The game is 100% in Japanese (which I can’t read a word of), so I had to make educated guesses when navigating menus and monitoring the HUD. I was most excited to be able to play this game at DragonCon. I played it briefly when I was in Tokyo, but at ~$10/play, my prior experience was fairly limited. That being said, my limited background knowledge was enough to give me an edge and wreck most of the other players during the match.

Upend The Tea Table – This is where things get weird. The player pounds on the table until a meter fills and then flips the table over (it’s attached to the cabinet with a hinge). On the screen, the table is sitting at home plate in a baseball diamond and then gets launched into the air. Players compete to see who can launch the table furthest.

The Bishibashi – A collection of competitive minigames that are all based on button-mashing. Each minigame features cute animations and objectives such as trying to hit the button exactly 100 times within a time limit.


I saw a lot of fantastic cosplay at DragonCon. The most popular game used as cosplay inspiration was definitely Overwatch. I’m generally not into competitive multi-player games, but seeing the passion people have for the characters definitely has me more interested in trying it. One of the top-ranked cosplayers in the DragonCon masquerade contest was dressed as D.Va:

Photo credit: Crescent City Cosplay
However, my personal favorite video game cosplayer, was this dedicated gentleman cosplaying as Beedle, the shopkeeper from The Legend of Zelda: Wind Waker. “Oh, thank you!”

Accessible Gaming Demonstration
We attended an interesting panel about the inovations and challenges involved with creating specialized gaming equipment for players with physical disabilites. We saw everything from controllers meant to be used with one hand to those that could be controlled with the tongue. This panel really gave me an appreciation for how gaming can be an important recreational and social outlet for people with disabilities. For more information about this topic, check out Able Gamers.

Hololens Demonstration
This panel was hosted by some developers that are working on software for the upcoming Microsoft Hololens augmented reality (AR) platform. While the tech definitely has some cool applications, it was very clear from the live demonstration that we're still in the very early stages of AR. I didn't get a chance to try on the headset myself, but from what I was able to observe watching the developers use it, the performance of the equipment looked rough compared to the heavily produced presentations seen at events like E3.

Monday, September 18, 2017

Demo Hotness: Octopath Traveler

 After teasing the mysterious new RPG, Octopath Traveler, over six months ago, Square Enix hasn't said a word about the game since. However, much to my surprise, not only was the game prominently featured in the September 13th Nintendo Direct, but it also had a demo released on the eShop that very same day! I immediately dove into this meaty demo, here are my thoughts on the 2-3 hours of gameplay on offer:
  • First, a warning: Octopath Traveler may feature seemingly innocent looking 16-bit graphics, but do not be mistaken; this game features very dark themes such as murder, slavery, and rape. This is NOT a family-friendly game!
  • The structure of Octopath Traveler is very similar to Saga Frontier. You start the game by picking one of eight protagonists; two are available in the demo: a knight and a dancer. Each protagonist has their own unique story and starting location, but their quest will eventually intersect those of the other characters. When you meet another one of these characters, you can add them to your party but continue along your original character's quest line.
  • Even though it's clear that this game is still unfinished, the production values are very high. The 2D/3D hybrid art style is very striking and most of the cut scenes are fully voiced. However, what grabbed me the most was the beautiful soundtrack.
  • The combination of 2D sprites and 3D background has a cool old-school look to it but also uses advanced lighting and particle effects. These effects generally look really nice but sometimes obscure certain details like character facial expressions and staircases in dungeons. It would also be nice if the character sprites had a broader range of animations to make cutscenes a bit more dynamic. There's a good chance a lot of these things will be polished up in the full version of the game.
  • Octopath's combat system features random encounters and straight-forward turn-based battles with the turn order displayed at the top of the screen (similar to Final Fantasy 10). The unique wrinkle is the boost mechanic in which boost points can be stored up to allow your character to strike multiple times per turn. Also, enemies have weaknesses to certain elements and weapons that can be exploited to stun your foes and gain additional turns.
  • The demo only featured single-character scenarios, so I wasn't able to get a feel for how the game's combat will work with a party. With only one character available at a time, combat strategies were pretty limited, but there's probably potential for interplay between characters in battle once a party has been formed. With what was shown in the demo, I'm not really able to determine exactly how deep Octopath's mechanics will be.
  • Olberic's path presents a pretty generic RPG story of a disillusioned former knight. While his plot is something I've seen in many games, his unique ability, dueling, makes for some fun possibilities: Olberic can challenge pretty much any NPC to a duel, including those that are blocking access to doors and passageways. Thus, I was able to duel a guard, win, and then step over his unconscious body to enter a restricted area.
  • I found Primrose the dancer's path to be much more compelling from a narrative standpoint. It covers the mature themes I mentioned earlier to set up a dark revenge tale. Between the two paths available, the writing and voice acting are much stronger in her story (Olberic's is still ok, though). Her special ability, alluring, allows her to recruit NPCs as temporary companions to join her in battle.
  • Each path in the demo features some lengthy opening dialog scenes, a town, a short dungeon, and a boss battle before coming to an end.
  • It was clear that a lot of features that will be available in the full game are not available in the demo. These include the world map, a quest log for managing side quests, and a character status screen. Also, the demo lacks the ability to change the text speed or skip cutscenes. Even though these basic features were all missing, I still feel like this bare-bones package was enough to give a representative taste of the game.
I finished the Octopath Traveler demo hungry to experience more of this unique Switch-exclusive RPG. As much as I enjoyed titles like Saga Frontier in the PS1 era, the lack of a cohesive narrative and quest structure often led to dead ends and reliance on guide books to make progress. Octopath seems like it will deliver on the intersecting multi-adventure premise of the Saga games but use modern story-telling techniques and structure to hold the game together in a more statisfying and complete package.

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Ever Oasis Review

Studio Grezzo proves that they're ready for prime time

After chipping away slowly at this summer’s 3DS desert epic, Ever Oasis, my journey is finally complete. During #JRPGJuly, I wrote fairly complete impressions for the game and most of the points I made there stand true for the experience of the entire game, so in this review, I’ll primarily be sharing my reflections on the later portion of the game.

One of my concerns during the early portions of Ever Oasis was that dungeons and combat felt a little too easy and simplistic. As the game progressed, these concerns were largely alleviated as the later dungeons definitely provide a steady but significant increase in difficulty and complexity. While the dungeons attain the level of design seen in the Zelda series, I found the ones in the back half of the Ever Oasis to be a satisfying level of challenge for a lighter handheld experience. Often times, later dungeons would include segments where specific characters or weapons would be needed to progress and the fact that party and gear can only be changed in town meant that I would have to fast-travel between the dungeon and town several times to complete a story quest. Thankfully, fast-travel can return you to the exact position where you left the dungeon. While I think the game designers set this system up to ensure you’d check the status of your town at regular intervals, it did become mildly irritating toward the end of the game. The ability to make at least some changes to equipment and characters while in the dungeon would have streamlined things considerably.

While the combat scaled up in difficulty, it ultimately remained fairly simple. Aside from a handful of combos Tethu can learn, (s)he doesn’t learn any new moves and enemy strategy never gets especially deep. However, as the game progresses, choosing the right party members and weapons for the situation can make a distinct difference in how smoothly battles go. Coming into the confrontation with a good supply of healing items also helps. Alternately, leveling up your town provides an HP boost and the ability to revive your party in the event of an unexpected wipe.

Much like how the dungeons grow in scale and complexity, so does the task of maintaining the Oasis town. For most of the game, as your town expands, so does your tool set for managing it, thus keeping the process of satisfying your townsfolk's needs efficient. Eventually, however, the introduction of these efficiency tools tapers off as the Oasis continues to expand, eventually becoming a sprawling metropolis filled with businesses that each require regular deliveries of a myriad of crafting supplies. As a player who was primarily focused on being an adventurer rather than a mayor, it became clear that there was no way I could please every citizen in the Oasis while still making progress through the campaign at a reasonable rate. Thankfully, in the course of dungeon crawling and battling, I picked up enough supplies to keep the town's happiness gage (it's an RPG; everything can be quantified) at 75% or more with only minimal upkeep required. This proved more than sufficient to keep my town prospering and get all the necessary perks (HP boosts, crafting recipes, etc) I needed to help me on my quest. For players with a perfectionist streak, however, I could see this never-quite-full meter driving them absolutely crazy and compelling them to waste time tediously micro-managing the Oasis just to max out the happiness gauge with minimal benefit. Ideally, the game would grant Tethu the ability to delegate more of the town management tasks to NPCs so that the town would run like a well-oiled machine, allowing Tethu the ability to concentrate on saving the world.

Quibbles about gameplay mechanics aside, Ever Oasis is a really high-quality package. As I noted in my impressions, the game's character design, music, and script are all very strong and were consistent throughout my entire playthrough. The plot is fairly simple (again, think 90s Zelda) but provides a reason for fun characters to interact and gives purpose to Tethu's quest, so it gets the job done. The game's length will vary depending on how many sidequests the player elects to do, but I found my playthrough to be long enough to feel like a good value without burning me out on the game's systems. With Ever Oasis, Grezzo proves that they're capable of creating quality original games rather than just being Nintendo's remaster factory. For their sophomore effort, however, I hope they can better integrate and streamline the management-sim/RPG hybrid design, and if not, split these two disparate gameplay styles into separate games. I would recommend Ever Oasis to players who like their action RPGs light and their characters adorable.

Score: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
Completion Time: 32 hours, 15 minutes (Main quest with Oasis level 22/30)

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Implosion Never Lose Hope Impressions

This past weekend was my first time traveling by plane this year, and as the original Nintendo Switch reveal commercial demonstrated, I knew I had to bring my Switch with me to play in the air. Since most of the recent big releases for the system are online multiplayer-focused affairs, I found myself browsing the eShop for an affordable and light-weight single-player experience to play on my flight. After having good experience with Kamiko and Mercenary Saga from Circle Entertainment in the past, I decided to pick up their newest mecha-themed hack-and-slash, Implosion Never Lose Hope. Here are some thoughts on the first few hours of gameplay:
  • Implosion's combat starts out with very simple mechanics: combos of light and heavy melee attacks. However, the game quickly introduces ranged attacks, special moves, and evasive maneuvers to keep things interesting.
  • Controlling the mech feels pretty good and cycling through its various types of attacks felt like second nature after playing through the first few levels. Cutting through swarms of enemies is very satisfying now that I'm able to make use of the full arsenal.
  • Initially the enemies are pretty dull slow-moving zombies, but the challenge level and enemy variety ramps up. Eventually there are some big boss monsters to tackle that keep you on your toes.
  • The levels are mostly linear and each can be finished within about five minutes. Most of the levels have secondary objectives that earn badges that can be used to unlock mech upgrades. This gives the levels a little extra replay value.
  • I like that I can customize my mech's load out but I'm not always sure what the various new parts and upgrades do.
  • The graphical style looks sort of like a HD-remastered PS2 game. For a $12 game, however, I'm more than happy with how it looks.
  • I was surprised to find that a budget game like this has a fairly involved plot with fully-voiced cut scenes. However, due to the engine noise on my flight, I wasn't able to hear the dialog very well, so I can't really comment on the quality of the acting. For the same reason, I don't have much to say about the music either.
  • The only downside to Implosion so far is that there's no option for co-op play. As the old Gauntlet and X-men arcade machines proved, hack and slash games make for some great local multiplayer. 
During my travels, I was able to put about three hours into Implosion Never Lose Hope and have been pretty happy with it. It's been a fun arcadey experience that's well-suited for those times when I don't want to play something too engrossing.

Note: This post marks the 1-year anniversary of this blog! Woohoo! Many thanks to everyone who's stuck with me!

Monday, August 7, 2017

Dropping GTA 5 for Witcher 3

Of the remaining games in my backlog, the two largest games (both in terms of acclaim and scope) were GTA 5 and Witcher 3. Since I’ve been playing a lot of fantasy RPGs lately, I decided I would tackle GTA 5 next. Having been a fan of GTA since GTA 2 on the PS1, I was pretty disappointed to find that the new(ish) and insanely popular entry just didn’t grab me, but I’m not sure if it’s the series that changed, or if it’s me. Some thoughts:
  • From a technical standpoint, the size and level of detail of the game world are very impressive.
  • The cars and aerial vehicles all handle far better than they did in previous GTA games. Even when using mouse and keyboard.
  • While the story production values are clearly high, I just couldn’t bring myself to care about any of the characters. Of the 3 protagonists, only Franklin is even remotely likable and he quickly gets sidelined in favor of Michael and Trevor. Michael’s family drama, in the beginning, has the potential to be interesting, but the game doesn’t really do much with it after the first few missions. Trevor’s antics were amusing for a little while but got old very quickly.
  • The game's FBI vs CIA vs corrupt businessmen plotline fails to be engaging since each side is equally despicable. Earlier GTA games and their progeny (especially 2012's Sleeping Dogs) did a better job of showing the motivations of each of their respective factions and managed to include a few interesting characters in each.
  • The game’s snarky cynical tone just doesn’t jive with me; maybe this just isn’t a game world I feel like spending time with in 2017. The humor and attempts at social/political commentary don’t feel like they’ve evolved at all from 90s GTA.
  • After playing a high-octane open-world action game like Just Cause 2 last year, it's become painfully apparent how much time is spent in GTA doing mundane tasks like chauffeuring characters around while they chitchat. I do enough boring commuting in real life, I don't need it faithfully simulated in my virtual life of crime.
Despite my issues with GTA 5, I was still having some fun with it for the first 10 - 15 hours. At about the 20 - 25 hour mark, however, it was feeling pretty stale, so I decided to look up how many main story missions were left since I figured I was pretty close to finishing the game. Turns out I was less than halfway! With that revelation, I promptly dropped the game and moved on to Witcher 3.

I'm only about 8 hours into Witcher 3 and am enjoying it a lot so far. Some early impressions:
  • After playing the first two Witcher games last year, this one doesn't feel like the revolutionary leap forward that some people had lead me to believe it was. It's more like a quality iteration built on an already strong foundation.
  • The combat has a slightly different feel to it than the previous two entries, but there's enough similarity for me to still be able to take out enemies several levels above me when playing on medium difficuly. 
  • Like with the previous two games, I'm playing with keyboard and mouse controls and doing pretty well, though I may remap some of the harder-to-reach keys to my extra mouse buttons.
  • There's a good mixture of familiar characters from the first two games and new faces.
  • I was initially concerned the new open-world format would lead to a lot of back-tracking, but so far this hasn't been the case. Also, there's finally a convenient fast-travel system!
  • I have no idea how to actually win a game of Gwent, but it seems far more interesting than the dice game in the earlier Witchers.
Witcher 3 is a very lengthy game, so it's too soon to say if it'll manage to stay engaging for its entire duration, but for now, I'm looking forward to exploring it further. 

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Four Job Fiesta Wrap-up

 My Four Job Fiesta campaign came to a close last week and I can say that the experience has cemented Final Fantasy 5’s position as one of my favorite games of all time. The game is already tough, but playing with the Fiesta rules has pushed me to become not only a better Final Fantasy player but a better RPG strategist as a whole. Here are some developments from the last segment of the game:
  • Initially, having a white mage based party meant having a team full of cream puffs. That all changed once I acquired the Holy spell. This turned my once docile healers into savage damage dealers, especially Lenna, who had also learned Dual Cast from having been a Red Mage for most of the game. During late game boss fights (including the final boss battle), she became my primarily offensive character, dealing over 8000 damage per turn.
  • As I had mentioned in a previous post, the importance of using defensive buffs to improve character survivability cannot be understated. As a fairly grinding-averse player, properly leveraging Protect, Shell, and Reflect was often the key to victory. It’s hard to imagine what I’ll do next Fiesta if I don’t end up with access to White Magic.
  • While I spent most of the game using the Elven Mantle accessory to help my characters avoid physical attacks, switching these out for Hermes Sandals in the late game was the right move. Having everyone in a perpetual state of Hast” allowed me to do more damage while taking fewer enemy hits. It also made it much easier to recover if a boss used a devastating attack that hit the full party.
  • Partly for nostalgia’s sake, I frequently consulted with my “Final Fantasy Anthology” guide book that I used for my original play-through of Final Fantasy 5 back in 1999. While the dungeon maps were still somewhat useful, the Fiesta rules coupled with the higher-level strategies used by modern players have largely made this book obsolete. In some cases, using it slowed me down because having full dungeon maps made me feel compelled to get every single treasure chest even though most of the items in these chests would end up being gear for classes other than those I was assigned. Thus, I think I will allow this guide book to enjoy a much-deserved retirement on my bookshelf next year.
  • It took me a while to warm up to it, but I ended up really liking the PC version of Final Fantasy 5. The higher resolution graphics make spotting small objects easier, and the auto-checkpoint system it uses prevented unexpected party wipes from resulting in a significant loss of progress.
I had a great time revisiting Final Fantasy 5 and participating in the Four Job Fiesta. I already find myself thinking about next year’s Fiesta and what challenges a completely different set of classes might bring. I’m also considering trying out a mobile/handheld version of FF5 next time so that I can fit multiple shorter play sessions into my schedule rather than relying on longer sessions on nights and weekends to progress through my campaign. As a result, I’ll probably be reducing the number of Twitch streams I do for future campaigns (I streamed nearly all 42 hours of this year’s campaign) and will instead focus on streaming a handful of major events/battles in the game. Quality over quantity.

Regarding the charitable side of the Fiesta, my campaign raised $50 between myself and Twitch viewers, while the Fiesta overall raised over $18,000 for Child’s Play Charity! Thanks so much to everyone who participated, donated, or tuned into the streams!

See below for the stats of my end-game party:


Enjoy your retirement, trusty old guide book!

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Fast RMX & Snake Pass Mini Reviews

I recently finished off two titles that I picked up on the Nintendo Switch eShop. Here are mini-reviews for each:

 Fast RMX
  • This futuristic racer looks absolutely gorgeous and runs silky smooth at top speed. The performance looked pretty solid even when playing 3-player split-screen (I don’t have a fourth controller yet to test 4-player).
  • The boosting and color-changing mechanics keep the races fast and fluid. The only downside is that sometimes by the time you are close enough to a boost pad to tell what color it is (blue or orange), there might not be enough time to react and change color. Thus, course memorization is sometimes required.
  • Each race track has a unique setting and set of road hazards to avoid, though the race tracks could use a little more personality rather than just having a generic “future” aesthetic. This is only a minor quibble as the courses still look great and are fun to drive.
  • The later grand prix cups become very challenging, even playing on the easy “Subsonic” setting. However, it's also possible that I'm just a lousy future space car driver.
  • Overall, playing Fast RMX just feels good. At one point I was playing with a friend and she found herself spontaneously shouting “Woohoo!” when launching her car off a big ramp. It’s just that kind of game.
  • The only thing Fast RMX is missing is a cast of muscle-bound folks in off-brand superhero costumes to drive the cars.
Score: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
Completion Time: About 5 hours (All cups on easy difficulty, all cars unlocked)

 Snake Pass
  • While it looks very accessible from screenshots, Snake Pass mixes the aesthetics and sounds of a Banjo Kazooie-esque platformer but with the deliberately cumbersome controls and physics of Octodad, to make for a cute but punishing experience.
  • The game's difficulty comes from trying to do fairly simple platforming task (short jumps, climbing ladders, balancing on narrow ledges) as a character with no limbs. Wrapping your mind around how a snake should approach these obstacles and then getting your hands to sync up with the controls in order to actually pull off these maneuvers can be very tough, but is rewarding when you get it right.
  • I thanked my lucky stars every time I landed on a checkpoint. While the levels are generally fairly generous with them, there are definitely some times (especially late in the game) where I found myself having to repeat the same few obstacles over and over due missing a platform between checkpoints. There are some sections where this can become rather frustrating. The fact that the camera can take on a mind of its own at inopportune times doesn't help alleviate this frustration.
  • Every level is full of a myriad of collectibles. However, gathering these doesn't really serve a purpose so I would suggest skipping them and sticking to the main path. They're there if you're in need of an extra challenge, however.
  • The game was scored by veteran composer David Wise. So you can expect to hear catchy tunes throughout your adventure.
  • Snake Pass starts out as a laid back and fun experience that becomes nerve-racking near its end. Mercifully, the game isn't any longer than it needs to be.It has enough time to fully explore its relatively simple concept without overstaying its welcome or becoming unbearably difficult.
Score: ⭐️⭐️⭐️
Completion Time: About 5 hours (Critical path w/ 60% completion)