Yakuza 0 (First Impressions):

[This first impression contains spoilers]

I played about two hours of this game today. It was wacky and over the top in every way you’d expect of a Japanese melodrama. Yet, its core it had something I wasn’t expecting, a mafia story.

I haven’t played heaps of the game, in fact, I’ve barely scratched the surface. Yet the game very proudly tells me spraying stuff in people’s face while brawling somehow ‘sobers’ them up. Karaoke is a real rhythm mini-game. The combat is bombastic and fun. In fact, the combat in someways feel like a rhythm game of their own.

The voice acting, so far, is really good. It has just the right amount of dramatic yelling, filled with a good amount of pauses.

So far, I’m intrigued. Awesome!

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God of War: The Throwing Axe Simulator

[This review contains spoilers]

When I first started the game, I thought it was perfect. That feeling carried for the first 5 or so hours before cracks started to show. Enemies soon lost their initial feeling of variety, the word opens up, which can break the pacing of the game and the over the shoulder camera can get in the way, making you unable to readily see where attacks are coming from.

Yet that same camera provided the game with such a feeling of immersion, in someways it was worth the issues of combat, for just the feeling of intimacy that it provided to the game.

I really enjoyed the story, a man trying to atone and escape his sins. Trying to raise a son, and causing his illness, by denying the truth to him. I thought for the most part, it was very well done. Except for when ‘Boy’, also known as Atreus, starts to think he’s better than everyone else because he’s a God. I found it to be a moment of tonal whiplash that came out of nowhere, though its resolution was satisfactory. Why did he begin acting like that to begin with? It was rather out of personality.

The mythology of the world truly is what pulls you in, with Kratos interacting with these foreign Gods with a certain disdain. Mirir is truly a highlight, explaining the world around you in a truly organic way.

Kratos’ relationship with his son is also a strong aspect, he obviously loves his son, but doesn’t know how to express it. It’s touching watching him learn how to truly be a father. Also, with his wife’s death hanging over both their heads, it’s touching watching them both mourn her.

The gameplay is also fun. To me this game has good combat, but it can be repetitive. Despite that, it’s satisfying upgrading your character and son. Becoming stronger is noticeable and a welcome aspect to the game.

An easy criticism would be to say God of War is a ‘throwing axe simulator, also known as the land of invisible walls’. Yet that’s be simplifying it. Yes, a lot of the combat can just be throwing the axe, yes, the invisible walls can be immersion breaking, but these are small complaints.

The set-pieces in this game truly are breathtaking, the art direction creates a beautiful and fully realised world. I recommend this game to anyone.

Persona 5 Review:

[This review contains spoilers]

This is the first Persona game I’ve played and I enjoyed it. I think that this is a good game that could’ve been great. It has some honest strong points, with great characters, a wonderful art style and fun turn-based combat.

Yet the main plot held it back for me. The god bullet was the largest deus ex machina. The plot twist was just strange, Igor (or his imposter) was a giant grail that was filled with people’s life source? Defeating a god was fun and dramatic, but the plot getting there toward the end was nonsensical.

The game basically ended twice. Both of them filled with too much exposition. There was also too much information that was repeated throughout the game. Maybe that’s fine if you play it over a couple of months, but marathoning the game just emphasises these faults. I don’t need hear the same information over and over again.

Also I felt the pacing was off, one second I’m in the largest dungeon ever, trying to bring truth to light of someone’s crimes; the next, I’m being a high schooler. I didn’t get to do everything I wanted. On one hand that’s great, it leave me wanting more; however I wasn’t prepared for the game to take away months from me toward the end.

So I never got to complete my romance, or fulfil all my confidant rankings. That was annoying and unfortunate.

Especially when I felt like that last twenty hours of the game just dragged for me.

Regardless, this is an over a hundred hour game, and I liked most of it.

I liked chilling with Ryuji, he’s brash but loveable. Yusuke is a stereotypical artist. Futaba is an adorable geek. All these characters are just wonderful. I loved getting to know them, and being their friend. I adored the message in this game about overcoming your hesitations and others expectations. How you are literally embodying the spirit of rebellion.

That’s a powerful message.

I also think it’s great that each major dungeon, or palace, is significant to the narrative. They acted as a stage for the characters to free themselves of doubt and fear. To be true to yourself and having the bravery to do that.

To reform society.

That’s another message I love about this game. That things can only be horrible if that’s all we expect them to be. That sometimes adults and authority have it wrong. That they can be dirty and corrupt. That we can as a society recover from that, by exposing the rot to the light.

That anywhere you go, there will be shitty people, but that doesn’t define us. Being complacent and letting it persist, that’s the true failure.

This game has a lot to love, with great dialogue options and good voice acting. An engaging plot, for the most part. It’s just a shame it’s not always consistent on the narrative front. Because I really did enjoy it.

I thought the dungeons were well designed. I like how gaining more confidant ranks impacted combat. I thought the art was just dripping with style throughout the whole game. I enjoyed the gameplay, it was strangely nostalgic whilst also mixing up the formula.

Is this a game for everyone? No, it’s too long to be for everyone, but it is a good game. An easy recommendation for JRPG fans, and something I think most gamers should at least consider.

Tales of Phantasia

[This article contains spoliers]

This game may be my favourite game of all time, and I even love the bad version. The dreaded Gameboy Advance copy. I’ve heard it being described as a bad port of a good game.

The SNES version has better sounding music. The GBA version slows when fighting enemies, which unintentionally adds a little bit more challenge to the combat.

This game, this version of the game, has problems. And you know what? I really don’t care. I adore this game. I have’t played it in a little while, but every time I play that song ‘Be Absentminded’ (do yourself a favour and listen to the SNES version) I fall in love with it all over again. I still really like the GBA version of the music, though the SNES version grew on me over time (with good reason).

You play Cress, a young man that loses his family and village. It sounds cliche, and it is, but I think it’s a hell of a way to start a story. Your friend, Chester, mourns his sister.

Cress is your good guy. Chester rushes into things. Mint is calm, warm and gentle. Claus is a man who strives for more, in a world where humans have no magic, he learn to summon spirits, so that he is able to do things that he shouldn’t be able to. I honestly love that little bit of lore; and I think it truly speaks to his character that he overcomes the very nature of his world. Archie is bubbly, and just fun, with the ability of magic due to her half-eleven nature. Suzu wasn’t originally playable, but I think she’s a great addition to the cast.

It’s important to note that everyone of these characters experience tragedy one way or the other. This isn’t a perfect story, and when it ends, there is a ‘more to do’ feeling for the characters. They’ve got to pick up the pieces from their broken lives. And that’s nice. Life never ends, and that’s realistic. That doesn’t mean the story isn’t resolved, it is, but the ending makes the characters feel alive. They’ve got a life they have to recover and that’s what’s important.

This game has time travel, it has futuristic technology, it has a unicorn. It even has a villain, Dhaos, though he is suitably intimidating, he isn’t the best villain you’ll ever meet. It’s a story with twists and turns, high and low moments. I think it’s a blast.

This game also has voice acting. It’s laughable, hard to understand, and doesn’t really play all that much oustide battles. But it’s there.

You’ll also be hard pressed to find a better looking game on the SNES or GBA. It looks that good.

It also has one of my favourite quotes from gaming by Edward D. Morrison: ‘If there is evil in this world, it lurks in the hearts of men.’ I love Edward D.Morrison, and that you meet his descendants throughout the game. It’s that sort of attention to detail that really sets this game apart for me.

I honestly don’t understand why Final Fantasy IV and VI are so well remember and this game isn’t. Chrono Trigger is known as being a great game, but this one is forgotten.

Now I have played Final Fantasy IV, and not the other two mentioned (well I have played them, but I only finished FFIV). I think that FFIV is a great game, but so is Phantasia, yet it’s basically unknown.

It’s probably because the game never came to America until the GBA version in 2006. Fate has been unfair to this game, because it’s just as beautiful as the other games mentioned. And the story is just as compelling. At least to me it is. I think it’s worth another look, if you enjoy that classic experience and adore beautiful pixel art. This game shouldn’t disappoint you.

 

Horizon Zero Dawn Review

[This review contains spoilers]

This game is beautiful. I feel the need to emphasise that after the old console vs. pc war rages on. It’s an exclusive for the PS4, and that makes it an easy suggestion for any owner of that console. It’s a good game.

However I, in some ways, felt disappointed by it. Not because it isn’t great, but because I was expecting a fantasy, or fantasy-like game, to be more specific. When this game came out, many outlets sang it’s praises. It was compared very favourably to Witcher 3. To me, that’s misleading. It’s a Sci-Fi game, and a great one at that. The story has twists and turns. It has some sequel bait, which is fine by me, I’d like to play one.

The villain feels generic, taking a sort-of ‘skynet’ approach. However the main character, Aloy, despite a funny name, is a great character. It’s refreshing to me to have a great female character in a leading role in a AAA game.

I’m not sure if that’s controversial or not to say. But after playing The Last of Us and Witcher 3; both games where a playable female character get only a brief appearance, it’s nice to have it consistent throughout a game. A game that doesn’t have a ‘pick your adventure’ vibe like Mass Effect or Skyrim.

I should make it clear that I am aware of Tomb Raider, I’ve yet to play it, but that is another good example of a female-lead franchise.

I liked the overall story. I like the mystery that surrounded everything, it drew you in. I even found myself reading notes left behind by the dead civilisation, listening to audio logs. I was also surprised by the inclusion of a lesbian couple earlier in the game; when listening to the last words of a dead woman. It was sad, and poignant. I felt for that couple, just based on one audio log. That’s difficult to do, but I found the inclusions of that, by interacting with the world and coming with your own conclusions, to be one of the strongest aspects of this games storytelling.

I also find it interesting that Aloy had no interest in romance, something that’s normally a staple of games like this. When you can make choices in a game, normally it also leads to ‘love’.

The choices that are in this game are limited, but when they’re there, they feel important. It should also be noted that all your actions, for the most part, feel significant. Especially for the main plot. I felt like I was making a difference, that I was saving the world as we knew it. That I had something to prove and everything to lose.

The story does however have some faults, some key characters introduced at the beginning were wasted potential, they died too early. They could’ve made a larger impact later on, like Rost for example.

I also found the side missions to have a repetitive structure ‘track something down, kill a robot dinosaur, return thing back to person’. This felt weaker overall and like ‘busy work’. However the main plot lines, as stated before, are strong and avoided these issues.

Another problem I had, was that there were impressive cities, yet unlike games like Skyrim, I couldn’t just randomly walk into people’s houses. That felt immersion breaking to me.

The game play is fun, but I found the ‘stealth’ parts to be the weakest part. Especially with the over emphasis on the red bushes, this is something Shadow of Mordor did far better. The attacks via bow and arrow are, however, fun and satisfying. The spear feels closer to a last ditch effort weapon, but is competent enough to be a main weapon for those that prefer it.

The health system, I thought, was unique and easy to use, far better than Shadow of Mordor in that regard. It actually allows you to keep your herbs on hand.

Horizon Zero Dawn is a fine game, that I think, is mainstream enough for mass appeal. It’s good, with a strong story, I’d recommend it to almost anyone.

Mass Effect: Andromeda Review

 

[This review contains spoilers]

Mass Effect: Andromeda is a good game and I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say that. It certainly isn’t perfect, it can have pacing issues (depending on your style of play…however it’s also a bit of a design flaw); and the character animation can be clunky.

But the story has heart.

I love Jaal. In some ways he should’ve been the main character, because really, it’s more his story than the ‘Pathfinders’. He grows from distrusting you, your people (the ‘aliens’), to seeing the great things you accomplish. The things you do for peace. You change his mind with your actions, and by being his friend. He begins standoffish, but if you play far enough, he considers you family.

This is huge, considering the Angaran trusted the Kett and were betrayed. You’re the alien. You have to be better, otherwise you’re no better than the villains of the game.

This is where the game could’ve capitalised on it’s choice mechanic. Do you gain their trust, make Andromeda better for everyone, or do you fuck up? Do you become worse than the Kett?

The game never goes there and it’s a waste of potential. That’s my biggest criticism of the game. It’s good, but it could’ve been better. It should have been better. Your choices should shape the future for Andromeda. Yet it barely did, your choices, for the most part, were superficial.

Except for a few, like breaking up a romantic relationship or gaining an alliance with the Krogan. I’ll admit when I chose the Salarian Pathfinder over Drack’s scouts, he called me out on it. And it hurt, because in someway, I had betrayed him. It was a small thing, but it made me feel like he’d never truly trust me again. By putting the mission before him, I had made a sacrifice, and no apology was going to fix it.

It’s a shame that this doesn’t happen more often. That’s it’s the only choice I regret, but would make again. It’s the sort of thing that separates a good and great game.

The characters, for the most part are good. Drack is an old man that could kick anyone’s arse. Peebee is insecure, but with a confident bravado. Kallo is great, and will always weigh in on Salarian issues.

Then there is Reyes Vidal. He’s cocky, a crook, and the perfect lover. I mean he’s just the perfect flirt, irresistible. Though I love that you can punch him if you take the friend route.

The loyalty missions are fun. The main mission has a good story, the Salarian ark being a highlight. Again though, the game suffers inconsistent pacing. There are times where the main quest can be forgotten in favour for side missions, or when other quests are put on ‘Hold’. You’re not sure when you can ‘get back’ to them. This makes the missions lose momentum, and when doing other tasks, important details can be forgotten by the player. This makes the story just that much more disengaging.

The game design can also lead to this, with it’s long drives to locations, to only have a cutscene before needing to fly to another planet. This can become tedious, another disengaging aspect.

The ‘alien’ Sudoku should be noted as a take it or leave it feature.

The gameplay was good, but to me, was played best as a cover shooter. Though watching other players, and listened to other people’s comments, it seems to be a highlight for most players. Especially with the addition of the jetpack. I enjoyed it, but I thought games like Titanfall 2 had better combat.

The art design is where this game really shines. Each Remnant vault was a treat to explore, and a feast for the eyes. They felt epic, both in scale and meaning. The gravity well only adding to that experience, as if you had truly entered the unknown.

As I stated above, this is a good game. Yes the character’s glitch, yes it can be annoying. But, for the most part, the voice acting is good. The characters grow as people, and you grow with them. There is a true sense of discovery in this game. Of being on the frontier of space. The writing, though inconsistent, shines where it really counts.

I may play this game again, and that to me, is compliment enough.