Wednesday, June 12, 2019

Four Job Fiesta 2019

It's almost time for one of my favorite annual gaming events, the Four Job Fiesta! I am very excited to announce that I will be participating once again this year! For the uninitiated, the Four Job Fiesta is a charity event in which participants play through Final Fantasy 5 and raise money for Child’s Play. The Fiesta uses a bot to randomly assign character classes to each player’s party which ups the difficulty and makes for some fascinating improvised strategies. For this year's campaign I'll be playing the mobile version of FF5. This will allow me take care of the grinding during my lunch break at work and then stream the bigger game moments once or twice per week on my Twitch channel using my brand new capture card! I will also be writing periodic blog posts on my Fiesta campaign progress, especially whenever I get assigned a new character class.

Leading up to my first stream of the Fiesta on June 18th, I will be holding the 3rd Annual "Name My Butz" charity auction! The highest bidder at the end of the auction will get the privilege of picking a new name for my player character for this year's campaign! (I'm sure you can come up with a better name than his default name, Butz.) By the time this post is up, the auction will be open. To submit a bid, send me a DM on Twitter with the amount you'd like to donate. The winner of the auction and new name for my character will be announced at the start of my Twitch stream on June 18th. This stream will feature the beginning gameplay of FF5 and we'll also find out which class the bot assigns to me first! For my charitable contribution this year, I will donate a dollar for each hour it takes to complete the campaign.

Last year my campaign raised $75 for Child's Play. This year, let's shoot for $100!

Tuesday, June 11, 2019

E3 2019 Highlights: Nintendo

It's a good thing Nintendo gets the whole day to itself; there was so much going on in their presentation! I attempted to live tweet this show like I did with the others and it was almost impossible to keep up.

 This was the conference I was most looking forward to, and I gotta say, it did not disappoint!
  • Dragon Quest DLC for Smash Bros Ultimate - The protagonists from several past Dragon Quest games will be playable in Smash. I recognized the heroes from DQ 3, 8, and 11 in the preview. Nintendo's mashup fighter certainly isn't lacking for sword-wielding RPG characters in its roster, but it's still nice to see a classic like DQ get recognized. (trailer)
  •  Luigi's Mansion 3 - We already knew this game was coming, so this was more of an update. The kid-friendly survival horror game (yes, you read that right) will take place in a haunted hotel and will offer the option to play through the game in co-op mode. There's also a separate 8-player mode. While the release date is "2019" there has been no confirmation that the game will come out in time for #HorrorGameOct. (trailer)
  • The Dark Crystal Tactics - This one really came out of left field! It's a tactical RPG based on the Jim Hensen fantasy film and upcoming Netflix series. I would have never seen this coming. (trailer)
  • Link's Awakening - While this remake of the Gameboy game was revealed previously at a Nintendo Direct, in this presentation we learned that it will include a dungeon editor! Between this and Mario Maker 2, there will be a lot of room for creativity in upcoming Nintendo games. (trailer)
  • Trials of Mana and Mana Collection - The previously Japan-only sequel to Secret of Mana is getting remade and released internationally. It looks like a really vibrant 3D action RPG. The original version of the game is being released via the Mana Collection. This series has been on my "Gaming Shames" list for a while, so I need to get around to playing at least one of the Mana games. Looks like I have options. (trailer)
  • The Witcher 3 - I had heard rumors of this game coming to Switch previously and found them very hard to believe. Looks like those rumors were right on the money! While I've already played through the game on PC, it's nice that it'll be available to a whole new audience. Graphically, it's very clear some major sacrifices had to be made to get this game to run on Switch. Hopefully, the core experience of this great RPG is still intact. (trailer)
  •  Fire Emblem Three Houses - We've already seen a lot of this game since it's coming out so soon (and besides, I've already pre-ordered it). This trailer mostly showed cinematics but it also revealed that there will be a time travel mechanic similar to other recent Fire Emblem games. (trailer)
  • No More Heroes 3 - I've been waiting for a proper part three to this insane action game series since the Wii! In a scene in the trailer, Travis appeared to be flying in some sort of mech. Very interesting. (trailer)
  • Panzer Dragoon Remake - The Sega Saturn's answer to Star Fox is getting a remake. I absolutely loved the third entry in the series, Panzer Dragoon Orta, on OG Xbox and later went back to the original two games via Saturn emulation. It'll be nice to play an official and enhanced version of the original; it looks great! It was such a pleasant surprise to see this dormant property again! (trailer)
  • Astral Chain - The more I see of this game, the more I like it. In addition to character-action game combat (like Devil May Cry), it also features explorable environment and motorcycle shooter segments. I also really like the art style. I'm tempted to pre-order this one but may wait for reviews just in case since this is an unproven franchise. (trailer)
  • Marvel Ultimate Alliance 3 - As I've said before, I'm pretty burnt out on Marvel, but I can totally see the appeal of this game as it gathers up a huge roster of characters from the comics (many of which have never been depicted together in movies) and drops them into a multiplayer beat'em up. It could be a lot of fun with the right group. (trailer)
  • Cadence of Hyrule - This Zelda cross-over with Crypt of the Necrodancer is coming out on Thursday! I'm hesitant on this one because I really struggled with the Rouge-like aspects of Necrodancer. Since they only showed a brief trailer, I guess we'll have to wait to find out if they changed the mechanics from Necrodancer to make it more forgiving for Zelda fans. (trailer)
  • Animal Crossing New Horizons - Fans have been waiting a long time for this and unfortunately they're going to have to wait until March 2020 to play it. This entry involves traveling to a deserted island and offers local two-player co-op on the same system. (trailer)
  • Banjo Kazooie in Smash - Nintendo announced another new Smash character, Banjo Kazooie! I liked the way they faked the audience out by initially showing the dog from Duck Hunt standing in a Banjo-like pose. I'm surprised there's so much demand for this character considering that there haven't been a new Banjo platformer since N64. (trailer)
  • The Legend of Zelda Breath of the Wild sequel - This was the big surprise at the end of the show, a teaser trailer for the next mainline Zelda game. The trailer prominently featured Princess Zelda in an active role that I'm hoping is hinting that she will be a playable character. The tone of the trailer was dark and mysterious, reminding me of Majora's Mask, which is one of my favorites. It'll likely be several years before this game comes out, but I'm already excited for it. (trailer)
Dragon Warriors in Smash
Luigi's Mansion 3
Luigi's Mansion 3 co-op
Dark Crystal Tactics
Link's Awakening

Link's Awakening "Color Dungeon"

Link's Awakening dungeon editor
Trials of Mana
Witcher 3
Fire Emblem Three Houses

No More Heroes 3
Panzer Dragoon Remake
Astral Chain
Astral Chain
Marvel Ultimate Alliance 3
Animal Crossing New Horizon
Banjo Kazooie in Smash
Breath of the Wild sequel

E3 2019 Highlights: Ubisoft & Square Enix

While there were a total of seven E3 presentations today, I decided to focus on the two that tend to deliver consistently good shows, and even more importantly, consistently good games: Ubisoft and Square Enix.

Here's what stood out to me from the Monday conferences:

Having set the bar so high in previous years, this show felt like a little bit of a letdown. Most of it focused on games in the Tom Clancy franchise, which is not really my thing, but I'm sure this was very exciting to fans of those games. Thus only a few parts of Ubi's presentation really spoke to me:
  •  Watchdogs Legion - The new Watchdogs is set in a cyberpunk future London. While the basic gameplay looks like GTA with hacking, this game boasts an interesting system in which you can recruit and switch between a wide variety of characters. The assassin granny, was of course, the most amusing. Ubi stated that this game has permadeath (i.e. you can't revive a character once they've been killed) which seems like a shame since I think I would want to keep my favorite characters in my queue the whole time. (preview)
  • Brawlhalla Adventure Time DLC - Finn and Jake are coming to the Smash Bros-like fighter, Brawlhalla. I briefly played some of this game at Momocon, and I could definitely see the Adventure Time characters fitting right in. (trailer)
  • Just Dance 2020 - While I haven't played any of the Just Dance games, I like that Ubi always announces the new ones with a live dance performance. Also, this game is coming to all the typical platforms... and also Wii! Can you believe it, a brand new game for the Nintendo Wii in 2019?! (dance performance)
  • Uplay+ - Similar to Microsoft's Game Pass, Ubi is offering a new subscription that gives you access to 100+ games and each of their new games as they're released on PC. The games can either be downloaded or played via the Google Stadia streaming service. At $15/month, it seems a little pricey.
  • Roller Champions - A colorful futuristic sports game that reminded me a lot of the sport played in Battle Angel Alita. I'm not big on sports games, but I liked the stylized look and friendly tone of what they showed. (trailer
  • Gods & Monsters - It's a shame this game got such a brief tease. It's an absolutely gorgeous action adventure game that appears to be based on Greek mythology from the studio that makes Assassin's Creed. I'm looking forward to seeing more of this one in the future. (trailer)
Square Enix
As one of my all-time favorite game publishers, I always look forward to Square's conference. They crammed a lot into this presentation! I found myself wishing that they had given each game a little more time to breathe, but there was definitely a lot of good stuff on display.
  • Final Fantasy 7 Remake - They came right out with the big guns! The main focus of this part of the presentation was to not only showcase the graphics, but also explain how the combat system works. During battle, regular attacks are executed in real time like an action game in order to build up an ability meter. Special moves consume this meter and can be executed in either turn-based menu-driven style (like in the original FF7) or in real time using button commands. A boss battle showed during the demonstration also showed the the player can use the environment as cover to avoid enemy attacks. Square also said that FF7R will be a series of games rather than a single release; the first game will take place entirely in Midgar. I wasn't especially hyped for this remake before, but now I'm definitely on board! (trailer)
  • Dragon Quest 11 S - The Switch version of DQ11 really does seem to be the most complete version of the game. Both the 2D and 3D art style options looked really good. My backlog is rapidly growing out of control, but this may be the game that pulls me back into Dragon Quest after being away for many years. (trailer)
  • Romancing Saga 3 and Saga Scarlet Grace Ambitions - These two previously Japan-only RPGs are coming to the West! While these are both older titles, it's always nice to get newly localized JRPGs. The only part of the Saga series I've played is Saga Frontier on the PS1. I'm curious to hear about how these are in comparison. (trailer)
  • Final Fantasy 14 Shadow Bringer - This expansion to the MMO Final Fantasy sounded intriguing with its concept of finding balance between the forces of light and darkness (typically all the other games in the series only focus on the Warriors of Light). Even though I'm not into MMOs, I will play at least a little of FF14 in my quest to play every numbered Final Fantasy game. (trailer)
  • War of the Visions - This mobile game may be inspired by Final Fantasy Brave Exvius but the gameplay looks more like Final Fantasy Tactics or Fire Emblem. It also seems like it has some interesting lore. Perhaps this will the Square mobile RPG that'll finally get its hooks into me. (trailer)
  • Outriders - A change-up from Square's typical far, this co-op shooter that appears to also involve magic could be interesting.  (trailer)
  • Avengers - I may be kind of burnt out on Marvel's superheroes from all the recent movies, but this is a game from the developers of my beloved Tomb Raider, so it has my attention. There was little shown of the gameplay, but the cinematics were interesting because this an original depiction of the Marvel characters rather than being based on the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Also of note, they appear to be excluding Hawkeye from the Avengers team. While I know some people are big fans of that character, from a gameplay standpoint, he'd likely be the least exciting to play. (trailer)
PC Gaming
I didn't watch this conference, but a few interesting games were pointed out to me by folks on Twitter that I figured I might as well highlight. If you're interested in a full recap of what was shown at this conference, I recommend this article from Venture Beat.
  • Cris Tales - A turn-based RPG about time travel that reminds me in some ways of Chrono Trigger. I really like the art style they used for the characters. There's a demo out on Steam that I'm looking forward to trying. (trailer)
  • Vampire the Mascarade Bloodlines 2 - My streamer pal, Bogus Meat Factory, brought this game to my attention. A first-person RPG with a gothic vampire setting could be an interesting break from the typical fantasy settings we usually see in the genre. (trailer)
  • Shenmue 3 - As a fan of this series, this game has, of course, been on my radar for quite some time (I backed the Kickstarter years ago). Seeing more gameplay was nice and we got confirmation that the game would be releasing this year. It was also announced that the PC version would be exclusive to the Epic Game Store rather than Steam, contrary to what had previously been stated. While I don't have a strong preference for one game launcher versus another, I can still understand why some fans are upset about this sudden change. (trailer)
Watchdogs Legion
Brawlhalla Adventure Time DLC
Just Dance 2020
Roller Champions
Gods & Monsters
Final Fantasy 7 Remake
Final Fantasy 7 Remake

Final Fantasy 14 Shadow Bringers
Romancing Saga 3

Monday, June 10, 2019

E3 2019 Highlights: Microsoft & Bethesda

E3 has only just begun and there have already been some pretty exciting announcements! Since these conferences tend to be jam-packed with far more info than I could ever accurately summarize. , I'll be rounding up my personal highlights from each presentation.

Here's what stood out to me from the first two major press conferences of E3 2019:

Even though I haven't owned an Xbox since the OG, I always watch Microsoft's presentation because it tends to cover a broad range of games and their announcements tend to have far-reaching implications on the rest of the game industry. This year was no different.
  •  Star Wars Jedi Fallen Order - The gameplay looked like it could be a lot of fun. I liked that you get to ride in an AT-AT (a quadrupedal mech) at one point. Star Wars games tend to appeal most to me when they offer vehicle combat since on-foot sword and gunplay are so common in other video games. The protagonist of Fallen Order seemed incredibly bland, however. I'll still keep my eye on this one. (trailer)
  • Cyberpunk - This new RPG from CDProjekt, makers of The Witcher, made another appearance, this time showing off more story but only a tiny glimpse of gameplay. The real highlight of this was the announcement that Keanu Reeves would be playing a character in the game. He even appeared on stage to make the announcement himself! (trailer)
  • RPG Time - I'm not entirely clear on what this game is, but it has a really cool handmade visual style that reminds me of Yoshi's Crafted World. It seems to be an RPG about a person making an RPG? (trailer)
  •  Xbox Game Pass for PC - Microsoft announced that the new PC version of Game Pass would include over 100 games and that the first month would only cost a dollar! I signed up immediately. I'm hoping that most of their upcoming first and second party games will premier on both the PC and Xbox version of the software at the same time.
  • Psychonauts 2 - While this game is a known quantity, and looks like exactly what you'd expect from a sequel to the original, the big part of this part of the show was the announcement that Microsoft has acquired Double Fine studios! It's nice that they won't have to rely on Kickstarter any more for funding but I hope their creative freedom doesn't become limited as a result of the deal. (trailer)
  • 12 Minutes - It appeared to be a narrative-driven puzzle game in which the player travels back in time to avoid catastrophe. Looping through the same sequence over and over but getting different outcomes based on the player's choices made it seem like Groundhog's Day the video game. Seems like it has potential. (trailer)
  • Forza Horizon 4 Lego Expansion - This was another big surprise, an expansion that turns the otherwise realistic Forza into a Lego racing game! In a call back to a previous Forza presentation, they unveiled a race car on stage that was entirely made of Lego bricks! I'm looking forward to trying this on Game Pass when it comes out on June 13th. (trailer)
  • Tales of Arise - The newest entry in the Tales series of action RPGs looks gorgeous! I've only played Tales of Symphonia for GameCube, so this is light years ahead of my experience with this franchise. The world looked very lush and combat very fast-paced. (trailer)
  • Phantasy Star Online 2 - While this MMO has been available for several years in Japan, Microsoft will be the ones to bring it to the West. I don't know much about Phantasy Star and I'm typically not into MMOs, but what I saw in this trailer reminded me a lot of one of my favorite RPG franchise, Xenoblade, so I'm definitely curious to know more. Supposedly the game will be free-to-play, so there's a good chance I'll give it a shot. (trailer)
  • Xbox Project Scarlett and Halo Infinite - The new Xbox system was formally announced and it boasts 120 FPS framerates and 8K resolution. They also announced that the system will launch with the newest game in the Halo series, Halo Infinite. While I'm not entirely sold on the system based on specs alone (I still haven't even switched to 4K yet!), a new Halo game could be pretty exciting and I think it's wise for Microsoft to use it as a launch title. Both the game and system are coming out late next year. (trailer)
Much of Bethesda's show was devoted to online or mobile games that aren't really my thing. However, the handful of things that caught my interest have me really intrigued.
  • Ghostwire Tokyo - A horror action-adventure game from the makers of Evil Within. Only a cinematic trailer was shown, but a paranormal mystery set in Tokyo seems like it could be pretty interesting. I also have to give a lot of credit to the game's director, Ikumi Nakamura. Not only is she making her directorial debut with an ambitious-sounding game, but she explained the game's premise live in front of a global audience in English, which is clearly not her first language. She did a great job and definitely has guts! (trailer)
  • Commander Keen - This long dormant franchise is making its return as a mobile game. I doubt the game will be for me, but it was certainly surprising to hear the name Commander Keen come up at E3 2019! (trailer)
  • Wolfenstein Youngblood - Bethesda showed a cinematic trailer of this first-person shooter last year, but this year we got to see much more gameplay. The co-op aspect of it looks particularly interesting. This game is supposedly coming to Nintendo Switch in addition to PC, PS4, and X1; I'm very curious to see how it runs on a technically limited platform. Switch is usually my preferred co-op platform, but I'm not sure it can do a graphically-demanding game like this justice. (trailer)
  • Deathloop - A mysterious new game from the maker's of Dishonored. This appeared to be another game with a Groundhog's Day-esque premise. If the level design ends up being anything like Dishonored, I'm definitely interested. (trailer)
  • Orion - This isn't a game, it's some sort of technology used to optimize games for streaming/cloud gameplay. They did a live demonstration of it being used to play Doom 2016 on a cellphone. If it's actually capable of playing a fast-paced game like Doom on a phone in normal network conditions, that's very impressive.
  • Doom Eternal - There was much more gameplay showed off the next Doom, and it looks like exactly what I want: a continuation of Doom 2016. This game will also feature a multiplayer mode in which two players will control demons to try to take down a lone player controlling the Doom Slayer. It's an interesting concept but I could see it being difficult to balance. (trailer)

Keanu Reeves presenting Cyberpunk
RPG Time
Forza Horizon 4 Lego Expansion

Tales of Arise
Phantasy Star Online 2
Halo Infinite
Ikumi Nakamura presenting Ghostwire Tokyo
Ghostwire Tokyo
Commander Keen
Wolfenstein Youngblood
Doom 2016 running on a phone via Orion
Doom Eternal

Wednesday, June 5, 2019

MomoCon 2019

 Having attended a general nerd/pop culture conventions like Dragon Con for the past several years, I've been interested in attending a convention that focuses a little more narrowly on my main nerd fandoms: video games and anime. Conveniently, Dragon Con's sister convention, MomoCon, happens to be focused on those two very things! While the anime parts of it were a lot of fun and the cosplay, of course, was on point, it was the gaming events that really stood out to me. In particular, I really enjoyed meeting indie developers and trying out demos of their games.

Here are some of the gaming highlights from the con:

Inti Creates (website)

Among the devs with displays on the MomoCon floor, Inti Creates was one of the largest and most well known. They make Bloodstained Curse of the Moon, which was one of my favorite games of 2018. As one of their employees stated, they are the makers "of fine 2D action games... and also Gal Gun."
I was able to demo four of their games at the convention:
  • Dragon Marked for Death (Switch) - The newest game from Inti, an action RPG with 2D platforming elements. It's hard to get a good sense of an RPG during a brief convention floor demo, but it felt solid and had very nice sprite work. The combat was quite tough, so I think learning combos would be key.
  • Azure Striker Gunvolt 2 (Switch, 3DS) - My favorite among the games I tried at the Inti booth. It's similar to Mega Man but with more of an over-the-top anime flavor. The character I played as, Copen, had an interesting mechanic in which you first dash into an enemy to lock on to them, and then jump back to fire homing shots at them. I may end up making space in my queue for a Gunvolt game in the near future. 
  • Blaster Master Zero 2 (Switch) - I have very limited experience with previous Blaster Master games, but this one appeared to stick quite closely to the formula of the original. This series breaks up the Metroidvania format by having vehicle combat and occasional overhead shooter segments. Since the game controls differently depending on whether you're on foot, in a tank, or in the shooter segments, I would likely need to spend some time with it to get the hang of it.
  • Gal Gun 2 (PS4, Switch) - This was probably the strangest game I played at MomoCon. It's an on-rails light gun shooter that also features dating sim elements; your character apparently is shooting crazed anime girls with pheremones?! Unfortunately, the floor demo used a PS4 controller, which I found really difficult to use to aim the gun. Also, the suggestive themes in this game made it a little awkward to play on a convention hall floor surrounded by thousands of people! 

Mega Cat Studios (website)
I had never heard of this studio before, but they had a rather prominently positioned booth with more games to try than any other developer. Most of their focus seemed to be on making new games for retro systems like the NES, SNES, and Genesis. I appreciated that each demo station uses a vintage CRT TV set. They also had a demo for one game for modern consoles.

Games Played:
  • Log Jammers (NES, PC, Switch, PS4) - A lumberjack-themed sports game pretty clearly inspired by Pong and Wind Jammers. It was pretty basic I liked the work they put into the customer NES cartridge.
  • Little Medusa (NES, PC, Switch, PS4) - A puzzle game in which you turn enemies into stone and knock them into the water to form bridges. A fun game for shorter sessions. I liked the cute and colorful graphics.
  • Old Towers (Genesis) - A puzzle platformer in which your character zooms up vertical stages along rows of coins. The way the character moves coupled with the fact that you have to get every coin to reveal the exit reminded me of Pac-Man.
  • Crunch Out (SNES) - I watched my wife play this one. In this area arcadey management sim, you play as the manager of a video game company and run around the office making sure your coders keep working by feeding them and keeping them awake. There's definitely some commentary being made about the state of the game industry here.
  • Bite the Bullet (PC, Switch) - A 2D shooter like Contra or Metal Slug but with a twist, eating your downed enemies allows you to upgrade your character and charge up special moves. As their only game on modern hardware, it takes Mega Cat's retro designs and adds a lot of embellishment. The controls and character movement felt a little sluggish but I'm hoping that's just due to the floor demo being an in-work build of an unreleased game.



Studio Soft Colors (website)
This studio only had one game on display, a visual novel:
  • Aquadine (PC, mobile) - This visual novel set in a Venice-like city had really pretty artwork. It seemed to have some pretty deep lore about mermaids, Atlantis, and other mythological concepts in addition to a more typical romance plot. The con floor was far too loud and busy to really focus on a visual novel, but what I saw has me interested to try the demo. 

Blue Bomber Games (website)

This developer's game won Momocon's Best Georgia Indie award!
  • Looking for Heals (PC) -  A dungeon crawling action RPG in which the player character is the healer for a group of wreckless AI-controlled warriors. Most of the gameplay involves following your party around as they battle their way through skeletons and demons casting various healing and resurrection spells on them to keep them alive. It's a simple but novel concept. Only a limited demo was available, but the game seemed like it will feature some humorous writing as well.

Pixel Nicks (website)
Pixel Nicks also only brought one game, but they made it count by winning Best Overall in the Momocon Indie Showcase!
  • Eagle Island (PC) - A Metroidvania with Rogue-like elements. The player character has very limited abilities, so he relies on his pet bird to attack enemies and pick up items. I liked the lush look of the environments despite the fact that they're procedurally generated.

While I mostly focused on indie games for this con, of course, it wouldn't be a real con without some cosplay. Most people were cosplaying as anime characters (a little out of scope for this blog), but I did happen to snap photos of my two favorite video game characters cosplays that I saw.