What’cha Been Playin’? May 2017

WBP May

Last month’s What’cha Been Playin’ focused entirely on Persona 5, but I’ve returned to writing about multiple games for a month that’s felt light on gaming. At least compared to April, where I usually spent several hours per day running through palaces and developing friendships with my fellow Phantom Thieves. It was a simpler time where the idea of juggling about half-dozen games seemed hilarious.


Arms

Playing the ARMS Global Testpunch is quite a trip as I continually reevaluate my interest in this game. I started with little desire to touch ARMS, which was cemented after I played a few matches using the motion controls. Then I switched to regular controls and found myself enjoying the game significantly, to the point where I considered buying ARMS on release day. Then I played on the next day and became frustrated by the two-on-two battles, which is basically unrelenting chaos. Frankly, I playing better once my companion was defeated and therefore couldn’t drag me around (and vice versa).

So now I’m close to where I started. I definitely have an interest in ARMS, but probably won’t purchase it immediately unless critical reception is high. I hated two-on-two fights, which were randomly selected with one-on-one and one-on-one-on-one fights, so taking out the random component and just choosing those non-team battles might be enough to get the game earlier than later.


Cosmic Star Heroine

I was apprehensive to start Cosmic Star Heroine so soon after Persona 5, and maybe that caution was warranted. Not because I believe it’s a bad game, but because I haven’t felt the drive to continue playing. I started Cosmic Star Heroine still with the itch to replay P5, so how could an RPG that plays very little like Persona scratch that itch? That’s hardly fair to CSH, which does made a good first impression thanks to its somewhat unique combat system.

Basically, special abilities don’t rely on Magic Points, but instead are grayed out once used and restored once that character blocks for a turn. There’s a strategy to deciding when to block as, naturally, doing that keeps the character from attacking or healing for a turn. It’s interesting that some RPG developers, like the Bravely Default team, are exploring ways to keep the block command relevant.


Fire Emblem Echoes Shadows of Valentia

I’m progressing slower through Shadows of Valentia than I expected, but I didn’t play a lot of anything during May. I only recently completed the first chapter, but I did enjoy it. If Fire Emblem Fates felt bloated, then Shadows of Valentia features a leaner Fire Emblem that changes enough to feel unique. The Weapon Triangle is absent while using magic requires HP. A customizable character is gone, and Supports are closer to the type used in the GBA installments. Thankfully, the story feels more focused with plenty of character interaction.

A bunch of this is because Shadows of Valentia is a remake of Fire Emblem Gaiden, released in 1992 for the Famicom. Although later Fire Emblem titles used mechanics established here (especially Fates), Gaiden is the Zelda II of the franchise. That Intelligent Systems remained loyal to Gaiden’s blueprints makes for a welcome change and, hopefully, a sign of the future.

This being a remake means that Intelligent Systems isn’t beholden to these changes in the upcoming Fire Emblem on Switch, yet I hope they’re being inspired. Explorable dungeons is an idea I’d love to see revisited in either a new Fire Emblem or a hypothetical Tokyo Mirage Sessions 2, and the scaling back on the relationship stuff isn’t a bad idea. They already did the “everything and the kitchen sink” approach with Awakening and Fates, so maybe they’ll see the benefits of a more streamlined approach in Shadows of Valentia.

But, yeah, I’m enjoying this game.


Mario Kart 8 Deluxe

Mario Kart 8 Deluxe is a great port of my favorite Mario Kart, but I played a bunch of the Wii U version. Consequently, I’m already feeling tired of playing this. Maybe I should spend more time with the only major new addition: Battle Mode? At least jumping online and playing with folks from a forum I frequent is still enjoyable, although what I would’ve killed for additional racing courses.


Mass Effect Andromeda

Andromeda recieved a handful of updates since its initial release, making the characters appear less dead-eyed and more, well, human, but there’s still a surprising lack of polish. Companions appear suddenly as if transported using a Star Trek teleporter, and my Ryder is rather hideous despite best efforts. His eyelids always appear more closed than they should, making his appear uninterested in whatever’s happening and possibly a little sleepy. It’s awkward to view in cutscenes. It’ll be amusing when I reach the end of a romance. His paramour undresses, and he’s staring at her with an unimpressed expression.

Not that I’ll reach that point anytime soon. I’m still hunting monoliths on the first planet after the prologue/tutorial, bored of filling out my alien alphabet. I think I have an idea of something more exciting: what happened during Andromeda’s development.


Minecraft Switch

Minecraft is Minecraft, but I never played a portable Minecraft that didn’t suck. Limited draw distance and slowdown plagued the Vita version, and later updates only worsened the latter problem. As expected, the Switch version is an improvement, offering a larger world and better performance. There’s also the convenience of going from portable to television without worrying about cloud saves. Still, this isn’t the optimum Minecraft experience. The world and draw distance are inferior to versions on more powerful hardware, and the game sticks to 720 resolution regardless of whether it’s portable or docked. These are only nitpicks, however.


PT

On the eve of my birthday, I decided to play something different. So I took a stab at completing P.T., otherwise known as Playable Teaser developed by Hideo Kojima before Konami turned all Joseph Stalin and drove Metal Gear’s creator from the company. My previous attempting with P.T. ended somewhere towards the middle as frustration and fright burdened me, but I nearly reached the conclusion this time before getting frustrated as I tried and failed to get the baby to laugh three times. So I gave up for now, although I’ll probably returned eventually.


Thumper

The sixth favorite game of last year released on Switch, so I was compelled to purchase if only because portable Thumper sounds amazing. It’s basically a straight port with a few minor graphical elements removed, so everything I wrote before still applies. “. . . a weird mix-up of F-Zero and music/rhythm games, brewed somewhere in the higher levels of Hell. The stages are bathed in dark colors and metallic surfaces, [and] the soundtrack is cold and bassy, but for as unwelcoming as Thumper appears, it’s difficult to stop playing.”


October 7, 2017: No =/= an.

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