What’cha Been Playin’? June 2017

WBP June 2017

I didn’t think I played much in June, but I’m seeing quite a few games on this list. In reality, outside one or two games, I only lightly touched upon these titles. That explains that, I guess.

Famicom Wars

Do you enjoy Advance Wars? Me too. Famicom Wars is Advance Wars with an uglier presentation. No, seriously. Famicom Wars plays exactly like Advance Wars. You earn funds with the buildings under your control, and you use infantry to take over neutral or enemy buildings. Then you build vehicles of war, ranging from large tanks to long-range mortars. I’m not complaining because Advance Wars is damn near perfect, something made obvious by the changes made in future sequels.

Fault 1

Fault, stop being so difficult to like. The previous time I played this visual novel, I entered a flashback where the friendly, chipper girl I was introduced to earlier might actually be an unfeeling sociopath. That made the character more interesting, but returning to the present led to a question: the two female protagonists trying to learn about this girl needs to return to their own kingdom, yet stay as they investigate someone who’s essentially a stranger, so what is the story? The mystery of this strange girl or returning home?

My biggest complaint about this visual novel is how wordy it is, something I’m pretty sure I bitched about before. For instance, they introduce a magical ability that allows someone to show past events to others essentially like a video, but takes way too long explaining it. We get it. You made this fantasy world, so stop forcing it in my face and let the story continue.

Fault Silence Pedant demo

A prequel set five years before Fault – Milestone One, Silence the Pedant stars Ritona, one of Fault’s heroines. This begins stronger than… Hold on, I forgot that there’s a prologue involving a ship followed by a meeting between government officials. Hell, neither were any interesting, and the meeting couldn’t have ended any sooner. Then the focus moves to Ritona, who is currently somewhat of a recluse crafting glass objects as she considers whether she’ll follow the family trade and become a bodyguard to the royal family. I haven’t reached the end of this demo, but Ritona is just different enough compared to how she’s depicted in Milestone One to keep me interested.

Maybe the narrative will continue keeping me interested this time. I’ve struggled through the first Fault visual novel (as I noted before), but hopefully the developers learned a few things about storytelling since. It’s only a demo so I won’t be reaching an ending anytime soon.

FE Binding Blade

I purchased a Game Boy Advance SP recently and spilled out my GBA collection before me. I tossed in the reproduction cart for the sixth Fire Emblem, i.e. the one with Roy, modified with a fan translation that isn’t great, but it gets the job done. What it does right is showcase beautiful sprites and animation that were lost when the franchise moved into 3D. The one aspect I dislike is that you can’t toggle enemy’s range of movement at all times, and there’s the occasional cheap enemy placement, but nothing terrible. The Binding Blade lacks in ambition, but playing a Fire Emblem on GBA gets me all nostalgic.

Fire Emblem Echoes Shadows of Valentia

The first chapter focuses on Alm, while the second is devoted to Celica. Now, midway through the third chapter, I have control of both. Each character has a path on the map independent from the other to travel upon, and I’m able to bounce between them as I move them towards their respective destinations, and that’s awesome. I’m not forced to jump from one battle to the next, always focusing on the same people that I fought with minutes ago, making for a more refreshing approach than I am used to with Fire Emblem. I’d love to see this return in a sequel.

I do wish that I had a list of possible supports to better nurture relationships between characters. This is also something I’m dealing with in The Binding Blade, but I prefer how Awakening and Fates gave a list of who could build rapport with whom. Well, I’ve little doubt that list is located somewhere online.

Breath of the Wild

I wouldn’t normally bring up a game that I spent only a night or two with, but holy shit I hate this forced stealth segment. Nothing about this is fun. Link moves too slowly while crouching, and those big enemies are annoyingly resilient once they find you. Oh, and they’re capable of teleportation, just like their somewhat less annoying, more fragile counterparts. And the big times are capable of one-shot killing Link, I guess to provide more incentive to sneak. The point is this is not fun.

Nintendo, stop forcing stealth into Zelda games. They never work, and nobody wants Link to emulate Solid Snake.

Metro 2033

Footage of Metro Exodus from the recent E3 prompted me to start Metro 2033. So… at what point do I stop following people around? My character followed a gruff asshole around for a few levels only for him to die and be replaced immediately by someone who dropped into the room from the ceiling. How quickly that last asshole was replaced was almost comical had that not been when I realized that my character apparently can’t go anywhere without someone else leading the way. He’s like a lost child with a penchant for firearms.

Miitopia demo

My explanation of Miitopia from my E3 GAMES! post works perfectly here, so:

“Take four Miis onto a lighthearted turn-based RPG adventure isn’t a terrible hook, and Miitopia is looking like a quaint and entertaining game. The demo that Nintendo released showcases the beginning and allows you to build your party, but the best part is the obsurdity of seeing certain Mii characters as NPCs and monsters. For instance, Heath Ledger’s Joker (from The Dark Knight) was the welcoming greeter in the first town. I cast the late Satoru Iwata as the helpful Great Sage, which felt somewhat appropriate. And the evil Dark Lord? Doctor Eggman from the Sonic franchise. Because why not?”

Shantae Half-Genie Hero

This game made me feel dumb. Not all the time, however. For around 90% of the game, I had no problems. I ran through levels multiple times as I unlocked new abilities that, in traditional “Metroidvania” fashion, opened new areas for additional items and powers. But I became stuck two or three times, and I mean at a complete loss. The objective is clear — usually find this item — and Half-Genie Hero offers multiple hints, and yet I replay levels repeatedly with no idea how to proceed. Of course, the answer was usually stupidly easy, like using a transformation that I forgot I had.

This was only made worse by my inability to leave the level early. You unlock magic to jump between each level’s three zones, but you’re still forced to complete the level again to leave. And that’s okay most of the time, until you’ve visited that same level so many times that it’s no longer fun and you just want to leave. I don’t mind backtracking in most “Metroidvania” games, yet I hated running through those same zones over and over and over and over.

Valkyria Revolution

I should mention that I’m only in the first chapter of twelve, so I am still early. That being said, with the reviews that Valkyria Revolution got, I doubt anyone (not working for Sega) will be deeply offended should I make criticisms that are later addressed in the game.

Let’s talk gameplay: Valkyria Revolution is a real-time, third-person action– Wait, no. Valkyria Revolution features the combat from Dragon Age II with added dodge and block commands. Also, attacking isn’t automatic (unlike DA2), but hitting the necessary command does automatically cause a three-swing attack. Sound fun? Probably not.

I’m puzzled about who this combat is meant to appeal to. Weapons lack the weight of Dark Souls and The Witcher 3, and character movement isn’t anywhere close to Devil May Cry and Bayonetta. Magic, firearms, and special abilities are accessible via radial menu, but they’re not necessary so far. It feels more like the developer added options that they could later point to and claim that they’ve given players ways to play strategically. Hopefully I’m later introduced to reasons to use these options, but I’m not seeing it yet.

Let’s talk story: Five people manipulate their country into starting a war as means to get revenge upon the enemy’s leadership, and their story is told decades after the fact. Love it. Throwing too many cutscenes at the very start. Don’t love it. I watched Greg Sewart play through the opening of Valkyria Revolution during a Twitch stream, and in roughly an hour and a half, he fought one regular battle and two tutorial skirmishes lasting mere minutes. Ninety minutes, only around 15 minutes of actually playing.

No, bad game!

Valkyria Chronicles is similarly criticized for too much story, but Valkyria Revolution is way worse.

Speaking of bad, don’t introduce a batch of new characters within seconds of one another. Valkyria Revolution is far from the only offender of this, but that’s a great way to keep me from remembering them. Instead, focus my attention on a single person over a reasonable span of time (at least a few minutes, not seconds) for a better introduction that gives me an idea of their personality and/or motivations. I’m much more likely to remember them.

Let’s talk presentation: Valkyria Chronicles is a beautiful game. Valkyria Revolution diminishes whatever visual splendor it builds with robotic animation, terrible mouth movements, and a number of little things that makes me question the budget that the developer had. For instance, there is a scene where a character delivers her line and walks away in the opposite direction. Simple, right? Except instead of turning around and leaving, the camera cuts immediately to her walking. No turning animation, and no attempt to hide the lack of a turning animation. Dialogue, cut to leaving in the opposite direction.

And the loading! Too much loading, but while they thankfully don’t last long, I’m reminded of Sonic 06. That’s an association no game should want. In that game, you’d load into a scene where someone delivers a few lines of text followed immediately with more loading. Similarly, Valkyria Revolution loaded into an external shot of a far-off castle at night and back into loading. That doesn’t build confidence.

Of course, it doesn’t help that Valkyria Chronicles manages to look beautiful without cut corners and egregious loading. This game was developed almost a decade ago on older hardware, yet still makes a much better impression than Valkyria Revolution.

Despite my complaints, I don’t hate Valkyria Revolution. Yet. I consider Valkyria Chronicles and Valkyria Chronicles 3 among my favorite games ever, so my complaints come from wanting the best for a franchise that hasn’t exactly been treated kindly by Sega. I take solace in how Valkyria Revolution is merely a spin-off, but that doesn’t mean I wanted this game to fail so Sega will create a Valkyria Chronicles 4 because there’s no guarantee we’ll see a new Valkyria.

Bringing the original game to Steam was a success, but there is little reason to believe that this is a franchise that Sega can’t ignore as they have so many others, occasionally trotting out fan-favorite characters for Sonic Racing so they can pretend that they haven’t forgotten about, say, Panzer Dragoon. So I wanted good things for Valkyria Revolution.

June 7, 2017: Fixed a few typos, changed a few words. Basic maintenance.
June 8, 2017: Further maintenance.
August 1, 2017: Changed the title image for Fault Milestone One.

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