What’cha Been Playin’? January 2017


What an eclectic gathering of games. I began 2017 with an abnormal desire to jump into Game Boy games, eventually routing into other old games, coming away happy with that decision. For the most part. Spoiler: I still don’t understand why people enjoy the Tales games.

Dishonored 2 // PlayStation 4

Reached the credits! I would’ve completed Dishonored 2 much sooner, but I got a little lost while exploring a luxurious mansion, trying hard to avoid enemies and civilians alike as I searched for my intended target. I even said to hell with sneaking and murdered every guard that I encountered so that I might investigate without worrying about discovery, but I still couldn’t find the right person. I did eventually, randomly entering the correct room, quickly realizing that I ran by the it repeatedly without realizing. How did I move past two damned doors into that room so often without realizing?

Also, for a game (and series) that struggles with characterization, Dishonored 2 surprised me by dropping a revelation regarding one of the main cast. Furthermore, I learned that my adventure through a dilapidated mansion could’ve physically impacted that same character for the better, although I missed that chance. Still, I always appreciate when my regular, in-game actions allows me to make a permanent physical mark on someone or something.

Dr. Mario & Puzzle League // Game Boy Advance

Like Tetris, I always wrote off Dr. Mario as boring. So when I bought Dr. Mario & Puzzle League, a Game Boy Advance game featuring those two games, I did so for the excellent Puzzle League. But, I thought, I will play around with Dr. Mario a little. Hopefully walk away with a few reasons why Nintendo’s puzzler doesn’t appeal to me. And then something unexpected happened.

I played for 45 minutes.

The difference between Dr. Mario and, say, Tetris, is that the former has a clear progression. Where a single session of Tetris could theoretically last forever, Dr. Mario is composed of a gradually more difficult levels that makes me feel that I’m making progress. I can’t say why Dr. Mario never charmed me before since the game (I believe) hasn’t changed since the NES original, but I’m happy nonetheless.

Dragon Quest VIII // Nintendo 3DS

I probably shouldn’t include Dragon Quest VIII in this list since I only played roughly an hour before the allure of more Fire Emblem dragged me back to Fire Emblem Fates. Even this early, I’m impressed by the visuals, reminding me of something I’d find on Vita. (Maybe not a graphically cutting-edge Vita game, though.) And that’s all. The story barely started, I’ve yet to meet most of the cast, and I can confirm that the battle system is still Dragon Quest. Shocking, I realize.

Hopefully I’ll have more to say next month.

Fire Emblem Fates: Conquest // Nintendo 3DS

What a strange reverse. Fire Emblem Fates: Birthright is undoubtedly easier than Conquest, yet I struggled more with the former’s final two chapters to such a degree that I used an online FAQ for assistance. For comparison, the last two chapters in Conquest were, although not easy, easier. I’m unsure why — differences in stage design or perhaps Conquest’s overall difficulty toughened up my units more. Regardless, I’m happy to reach have beaten both Birthright and Conquest so that I was able to move onto the third Fates game, Revelation.

Fire Emblem Fates: Revelation // Nintendo 3DS

Revelation is maybe more of a traditional Fire Emblem than Birthright and Conquest. Almost every Fire Emblem game starts with only a handful of characters supporting the protagonist and no army, resembling a David and Goliath thing as your small band of warriors carves through the stronger, more imposing nation. With Birthright/Conquest, you’re leading an army, or at least a piece of one, warring against an army of presumably similar size. Two Goliaths, no Davids.

Unlike Birthright/Conquest, Revelation sees Corrin walk away instead of allying with Hoshido or Nohr, intent on finding another way to end the conflict. No army stands at Corrin’s back, only a handful of friendly faces to join in butting heads against two strong, imposing nations. Sounds like the beginning of a traditional Fire Emblem story to me. It’s too early to know if Revelation continues this spirit, but it’s off to a good start.

Fire Emblem: Shadow Dragon and the Blade of Light // Famicom

It’s probably considered cheating to play Fire Emblem using save states, yet I cannot complete the first Fire Emblem without them and keep my sanity intact. This Famicom game isn’t terribly different from later sequels, but it’s too slow. I mean, most Fire Emblem games are slow, which is why I bump up movement speed, but this game is slow and the controls are slow and everything is a little too slow to want to replay chapters over and over because I stupidly moved that character a little too ahead of everyone else. (And no, I won’t allow anyone to die.)

Mystery of the Emblem, which features a remake of this game, removed this chapter. Curiously, the chapter titled Soulful Bridge from the “new” portion of Mystery of the Emblem features almost the exact same map. (Confused? Check out my post “Overview of the Emblem,” where I discuss every Fire Emblem game.)

Go! Go! Nippon! -My First Trip to Japan- // Steam

Part visual novel, part method to explore portions of Japan. You play a foreigner obsessed (perhaps too obsessed) with everything Japanese visiting Japan for the first time, lodging at the home of two attractive sisters who’re more than happy to play guide. Unfortunately, the environments are illustrations of real locations, so there’s a lot of staring at the somewhat animated sisters as they explain via text aspects of the site and surrounding areas. They’re full of information, although most facts didn’t exactly stick with me.

However, most outdoor locations include a “Google Maps” button that immediately brings up a web browser and drops the camera to that location in Street View. I would’ve preferred integrating Google Maps into the game itself, but it’s still better than sticking with just illustrations.

The visual novel aspect is a light bit of romance between your character (who’s largely without personality outside of his overwhelming love for Japan and his attraction to the sisters) and one of the girls. There’s a few paths depending, but it’s a pretty fluff story. And there’s the (apparently) obligatory fan-service, including finding the older sister standing naked in the bathroom and seeing the younger sister changing her pants. They’re both accidents, but the scenes are so damn forced and unnecessary for a game about exploring Japan.

Gravity Rush // PlayStation Vita

I bought Gravity Rush 2, but decided to run through the original game first. Worked out alright with the Dishonored games last year. So far, I’m not terribly enamored with the game, although I like protagonist Kat. She’s delightfully carefree, often approaching situations with an easy smile. There’s (so far) little desire to explore where her sudden magical gravity-defying powers (rather, the cat granting that power) or her amnesia. It’s all rather refreshing, which is more than I can say for the rest of the game.

I’m getting the complaints regarding the combat, but I don’t mind too much. My bigger issue is that the world feels claustrophobic (I recently unlocked a new area, so hopefully that’ll help), further worsened by the fog-like limited visibility. I’m reminded of games on the Nintendo 64, where the draw distance created a similar problem.

Journey // PlayStation 4 (PSN)

Journey, the hit PS3 game from thatgamecompany, was a huge hole in my game collection. You hear about people getting emotional at the conclusion, so it’s a title I knew I’d have to play eventually. I grabbed the PS4 version on a sale and ran up the mountain and, y’know, it’s good. I’m not blown away by Journey. It didn’t change my life and cause me to weep, but it was an enjoyable hour or however long it takes. There’s cool moments, and I appreciate that thatgamecompany didn’t add unnecessary padding to justify the price.

I’m glad that I didn’t buy the game full price ($15, I believe it launched for), but I also wouldn’t have felt ripped off had I paid that. It’s a unique project that maybe doesn’t entirely deserve the reputation it got, but it’s absolutely worth playing, especially if you’re able to grab the game on a sale.

Mass Effect // Xbox 360

With Mass Effect: Andromeda hitting non-Nintendo consoles in March, I felt the itch to jump back into the original Mass Effect trilogy, starting with the first game. It’s not a great game, either. The graphical pop-in not uncommon with early Unreal Engine games is distracting, and the visuals are looking pretty bland. But the most distracting aspect of all is this weird eyelid movement that happens whenever Shepard makes certain expressions. I don’t recall the sequels having that, so I’m hoping that my memories hold true and that eyelid… thing vanishes by Mass Effect 2.

The combat isn’t great, either. You’d think that an N7 soldier (supposedly the most badass of the badass) could aim accurately, but because aiming is dependent to a certain degree on RPG stats, Shepard often misses. This isn’t a new complaint, although I continue to not understand why some defend this system. Jumping to a more standard third-person shooting in the sequels was a sensible and thankful move.

Mega Man Xtreme // Game Boy

I can’t recall why I tossed in Mega Man Xtreme. It’s not a terribly long game, and being a compilation of content from Mega Man X and X2, the amount of original content is limited. And, as expected, I pushed through most of the game in a handful of sittings numbering no more than the number of fingers on one hand. On the plus side, seeing familiar 16-bit sprites reduced to NES-like 8-bit sprites gives an amusing look at what Mega Man X could’ve been had it been created on the original Nintendo.

Super Mario Land 2: 6 Golden Coins // Game Boy

Suck it, Super Mario Galaxy. Super Mario Land 2 already sent our plumber hero into space over a decade earlier. Wait, doesn’t Mario Land end with fighting an alien? Surely that occurs in space. I don’t know. My memories of THAT game are of out-of-place Egyptian pyramids.

Having suffered through Super Mario Land for the first time, I jumped into the superior sequel and reminded myself how much better Mario Land 2 is. I also completed the game in a single sitting, so obviously Nintendo didn’t improve Mario Land’s length complaint. Regardless, everything else makes for a stronger game. The graphics are vastly improved — Mario actually looks like Mario instead of a weird rip-off for Atari 2600 — and the controls are tighter. And it introduces anti-hero Wario, who went on to lead the wonderful Wario Land games.

Tales of Berseria (Demo) // PlayStation 4 (PSN)

Talk about bad first impressions. Okay, I went into this demo having previously complained about heroine Velvet’s design since her unveiling, and that possibly flavored a little of how I view Tales of Berseria. The demo began badly when, while trying to invert the camera controls, I accidentally started one of the franchise’s signature “skits.” This one featured two male characters telling a younger boy that all women are liars. Now, I won’t say that Tales of Berseria is anti-woman, but it’s a surprising way to start a demo. How might someone unfamiliar with this series think?

I battled some (the demo made the combat sound like a mindless hack ‘n’ slasher with the ability to swap controllable characters mid-fight) and watched two more skits. One featured a creature wearing a top hat, speaking in an obnoxious voice as he(?) tossed out terms that I couldn’t recognize since the demo was clearly set after the point in the story where those words are explained. The second focused on the boy from the first skit, who evidently has a vague connection to one of the female characters.

And, unsurprisingly, the discussion drifted into who among the female characters should bathe with the aforementioned woman. It wasn’t a smooth transition into the bathroom bit, and of course it didn’t explain why she couldn’t bathe in private. I almost would’ve preferred that the demo be the first twenty minutes of the game. At least I wouldn’t be confused. So, no, I don’t believe that I’ll be buying Tales of Berseria.

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