Category: Games

Case for Shenmue

In the late 1990’s, Yu Suzuki set out to advance video games yet again, Shenmue was originally in development for Sega’s brilliant, yet much maligned Saturn console, but focus shifted onto the next generation hardware and the numerous possibilities that it would offer them. Coining the term F.R.E.E. (Full Reactive Eyes Entertainment), Suzuki set out to deliver a level of freedom unheard of in video games, a fully realised world of day/night cycles, realistic weather, complex AI and full voice acting for even non-playable characters. A world that would simulate other aspects of reality too, from playing games to working a day job. Shenmue was never going to be something that you played, but rather lived, and in that respect, it was a glorious success.

Whilst at its core, the story is a fairly simple tale of revenge ripped straight out of a kung-fu film, but this is also part of its inherent charm and beauty, ably assisted by the incredible Virtua Fighter style combat mechanics and stunning quick time events, Shenmue set the unassailable standard by which all other open world games should be judged. RPGs have always offered character progression, it’s key to the genre, but none have ever felt as personal as this, it wasn’t just the character of Ryo Hazuki that got stronger as the game progressed, it was the player too. They almost literally stepped into the protagonist’s shoes to make it their quest for revenge, their journey, and that is why the untimely cliff-hanger ending of the second game has been so colossally devastating for anyone touched by this masterpiece.

The case for a HD re-master of the Shenmue series is an open and shut case to me, not only is it a vital piece of gaming history, but it is a work of undeniable beauty and power, and it is only through the markets of the PlayStation Network and Xbox Live Arcade that there can be any hope to be found for the re-emergence of these gaming classics, but also for a future for the series. For too long, they have survived on the fringes of the gaming industry, residing under “cult”, but now it is time for them to earn their place in the spotlight for the right reasons.

The install base of the Dreamcast amounted to around just 10 million users, but between the Xbox 360 and the PlayStation 3, there are more than 170 million consoles shipped across the globe, there are a huge volume of gamers eagerly awaiting the arrival of something that will demand their attention, and this it. Whilst the fan base clamour for a third entry into the series to complete the tale of Ryo Hazuki (or at least extend it), a more likely option for Sega is to opt for the more cost effective HD versions of both Shenmue and Shenmue 2, not only will these delight fans both old and new, but it will give us hope. Hope of a future for a series once seen as dead in the water, hope that one day, we may yet find ourselves with the opportunity to complete our epic journey and hope for an industry that has found itself devoid of any creativity. Shenmue came as a breath of fresh air once, and it can be again.

In the many years since, I have yet to experience anything quite like Shenmue, it is something so unique and rare that I have opted to conclude this with a quote that might surmise why it should be remade better than I ever could, so as Virginia Woolf wrote in The Waves, “These moments of escape are not to be despised. They come too seldom”. And indeed they do.


Dragon Age Inquisition

Story

Dragon Age Inquisition places us in the middle of a battle between the mages and the Templars in which there’s no clear winner. However, in the beginning of the game a large explosion takes place and opens a rift that spawns demons, and this changes the course of things immensely. We play the role of an inquisitor that tries to destroy the rift and all the smaller ones that appear throughout the land, in an effort to bring peace once again to the wonderful world of Thedas. Of course, there are lots of twists and turns as you progress but overall Dragon Age Inquisition manages to provide you with a wonderful story that will keep you glued to the screen.

Gameplay

Unlike Dragon Age 2, Inquisition allows us to explore a massive game world that does have a lot of inspiration from the previous game, but which also manages to bring a plethora of new stuff as well. First of all, we have the dragons which are much more detailed and harder to defeat, in fact they are so large that you will need to attack different parts of the body, each one with its own health bar. Battling a dragon is one of the hardest, yet the most rewarding things you can do in Dragon Age Inquisition, and this truly tests your skill like never before.

But this isn’t all you do in Dragon Age Inquisition. You get to explore the Hinterlands as well as numerous other regions of Thedas, and these are filled with quests. Thankfully, the quests are varied and they allow you to go through the region in a natural way, something that helps the overall experience a lot.

We found character creation to be very interesting as well, in fact you can choose from 4 different races, each one with its ups and downs that can be felt as you play. However, what makes Dragon Age Inquisition really worth it is the combat. Although the previous game didn’t have the tactical cam, now this has made a triumphant return and as such you have the opportunity to use it whenever you see fit, although you can disable it too.

Combat is refreshing and quite strategic, especially when you battle the bosses, because you need to carefully plan the next move if you want to succeed. This is a very important thing, because without planning it would be impossible to defeat the enemies with large health bars such as bosses or dragons for example.

If you explore the land you can create camps where you can upgrade your items, craft new ones and so on. Camps also allow you to travel faster, so by creating camps you will have an even better opportunity to survive in the harsh environment. Camps are also great for creating military attacks, espionage or commerce.

On top of that, if you want, you can import saves from the previous game, and this will impact the story. Although it isn’t necessary, this is definitely a thing that is most welcome in this regard, especially if you are a fan of the series.

You get 8 companions during the game and even though you can use 3 at a time, each one of them has an interesting story and they are so nicely done that you will find yourself switching between them often just to find out more about them and their story. However, adding different types of characters in your party is essential, because you want their abilities to compliment yours if you want to get the best results!

Graphics and sounds

Dragon Age Inquisition is one of the best looking RPGs to date. The massive game world is nicely portrayed and it simply shines, not to mention that the character design is also stellar and even the animations work great. Everything blends seamlessly in order to provide a one of a kind place to explore. Also, we need to mention the fact that you can now, once more, see the blood remaining on the character clothing, which is a trademark of the Dragon Age series.

When it comes to sounds, there’s not that much to say other than the fact that the soundtrack is filled with epic music that always keeps you pumped with adrenalin. Also, the voice acting is amazing, with each character being portrayed in a natural way!

Conclusion

Dragon Age Inquisition manages to combine all the best RPG ideas and features into a single game, and thus it offers us one of the best RPG experiences that we played in years. With a massive game world, lots of quests as well as impressive character customization and companions you can relate to, Dragon Age Inquisition is a game in which you can easily pour in hundreds of hours and never regret even a single second!


Final Fantasy 3

Centuries have passed and a rational world now exists with Espers living only in myths, until one frozen solid since the ancient wars is unearthed. Suddenly, there are reports of magical attacks on civilians. Imperial Commandos launch raids using magic powered MagiTek weapons. Magic is obviously alive and the world is in danger again. Who or what is behind the rediscovery and redeployment of this legendary power? What chaotic plans exists that will wreak havoc on this orderly world?

Final Fantasy III is one of what many consider to be the classics for RPG genre games. Released as Final Fantasy III for the SNES in 1994, it is actually the 6th installment of the immensely popular Final Fantasy series produced by Squaresoft. The game takes place about 1000 years following the ending of a great war called “The War of the Magi” which removed magic from the face of the world.

It is a typical turn based RPG with the player having control of over 15 playable characters each one with his or her own strengths and weaknesses and different fighting styles and stories to tell. The main character is a young half-human, half-Esper girl whom is trying to find her place in a world torn asunder by war. The main villain in the story is one of the most colorful villains in the Final Fantasy series, a rather funny clown named Kefka.

Joining forces with him are a few other military style villains with lesser roles and even a few NPCs who get involved. There are many plot twists that include cut scenes involving characters that allow the player to have a “real-time” feel with the story. The characters have “expressions” that while being very basic, convey the general theme of each scene to the player. In my opinion, this game is perfect for the player who wants to see some of the best the SNES had to offer in terms of RPGs.

Gameplay

As far as games for the SNES go, there are only 1 or 2 other games as engrossing as Final Fantasy III. All of the elements that make the other games in the series enjoyable are here. The player can rename all of the characters in the game including the ever present summons (called Espers in FFIII).

There are a multitude of side quests in the game that vary in difficulty from easy to difficult in terms of time and involvement to complete, and the level of commitment necessary to complete the game can vary between 25 hours. To just finish the core storyline of the game, can be up to 100 hours give or take. This is if you want to obtain what is called a “complete” gaming experience meaning gathering all of the most powerful weapons, armor, and magic, and also leveling characters up to maximum levels.

The only reason the game is not getting a 10 rating in this department is the fact that while leveling characters is not a problem in the beginning and middle of the game, once a character reaches the higher levels (above 60) it becomes a very time consuming, tedious process to level up the character sometimes taking hours upon hours to raise a character just one level. This I would say is the main common problem with RPGs of this era. But, if you do not mind that sort of monotony, this game is for you.

The characters in Final Fantasy 3 offer a host of clever individual attacks. Each character has his or her own special talents and the player can choose to utilize each character’s talents or can just ignore them. An essential part of each Final Fantasy is magic, and this game is no exception. There are a multitude of magics available to the player to use, each one learned from equipping certain Espers.

The longer an Esper is equipped, the more magic is obtained from the Esper and once the learning curve for the Esper reaches 100%, all of the magic available from that Esper is learned. Some magic is able to be learned from two to four Espers, while other magic may only be learned from one specific Esper. This makes Esper use a conscionable thought process. The player must plan their use of Espers in order to learn the needed spells.

Graphics

Again, I am comparing this to other SNES games. This game is 2-D. Plain and simple. It features a 3/4 overhead view 90% of the time and also features an overworld which has since been all but removed from most RPGs. The graphics were considered state of the art in 1994 when this game was released. There are rich color textures and some very good use of the Mode-7 graphics capabilities of the SNES in both scaling and rotation which are show cased especially when the characters use the airship for transportation.

As far as actual graphic renderings are concerned, the game is 2-D, so if you are expecting to see walking, talking, fully rendered 3-D you are out of luck. In scenes where the graphics are made to be inflated or close up, they become pixilated the larger they become. These problems aside, the graphics for its day, when compared to other games out at the time, were considered to be very quite advanced.

Sound Quality

Here’s where the game shines. The score is enormous! Created by the world-renowned Nobuo Uematsu, there are at least 100 different songs in the game (including renditions of the main theme) and also includes a scene with one of the earliest examples of voiced “singing” in video games. The songs feature 128 note polyphony and a beautifully detailed musical story. Because the game’s dialogue is text based, the music allows the player to get involved on a more emotional level with this game and the characters than many other games out at the time.

There is a great combination of deep bass, singing strings, and synthesized keyboards to keep the listener enthralled and engaged throughout the game. There are very few songs that last less than five minutes without repeating so the player never really gets the boring monotonous feeling that usually accompanies games from the SNES.

Replay Value

There are very few games that can be left to sit for years on a shelf and then picked up and played again with the same level of commitment and enjoyment as Final Fantasy III. The game is just as much fun the every other time through as it was the first time through. As a matter of fact, with all of the side quests and obtainable items, weapons, armor, and magic, the game could possibly be one of the hardest RPG’s created for the SNES to obtain a “perfect” or 100 percent complete game. There are always ways to expand the difficulty of the game and make each play through a unique experience.

Concept

Not exactly the most cutting edge in gaming, this game has the very familiar “fight the monsters and gain levels before fighting the final boss and saving the world” theme. While the Action RPG gamer will find this game very repetitive, the fan of the Turn Based style RPG gamer will love it.

Having a female as the main character in the game is a concept that was not used very much prior to Final Fantasy III. This seemed to be a risky idea but Square pulled it off flawlessly. Also, with all of the other characters in the game, the stories unfold rather nicely for each character. This adds to the depth of the game as well as the entertainment concept.

Overall

If you are a fan of the Final Fantasy series, a collector of vintage games, or a person who is interested in getting involved in the series but is worried about the complexity of the newer Final Fantasy titles, this game is for you. Final Fantasy III is great for the “old-school” player and the “newbie” alike. It has a great story, great sound, and WILL take over your life for a few days if you let it. The characters are original, have many different abilities to use, and have emotions that make playing this game really great.


Mario Kart 8

Starting out, you have the option to use either the Wii U’s gamepad tilt controls or the classic analog and buttons. Being a purist, I had to stick with the traditional controls. I found that the tilt controls seemed more or less twitchy so I figured I should just stick with what I understood. Before the game started, of course you had to pick your character. Personally, I can’t play a Mario Kart game and not be Mario.

When the game has loaded the first thing you’ll notice is that it’s gorgeous. I can confidently say that this game is easily the best looking Wii U game to date. It had incredibly vivid colors, the environments looked alive and characters seemed almost like something out of a Pixar movie. Even the items seemed to get an overhaul- I never thought that green turtle shells could look so beautiful.

But visuals don’t mean anything if the gameplay isn’t there. And for the most part it is. There were a lot of features that weren’t available during the E3 demo. For example, in Mario Kart 7 you can collect coins on the track to give your kart a boost but in the E3 build the coins were there but they didn’t provide anything.

What there was one of Mario Kart 8‘s new features: anti-gravity sections. On certain parts on the track, your kart will transform its wheels to jet engines that will grip the track as you go upside down and side to side. It was a neat feature and it looked cool but it didn’t really add anything to the gameplay. Then again, I only saw a couple of tracks and this game was just announced this month. I hope Nintendo really goes buck wild with this feature because I could totally see it becoming something really fun and different. It’s just a shame that during the E3 build it was rarely showed off.

Despite the new features, the gameplay remained basically the same. It’s still the old Mario Kart. You’ll get better items if you’re lagging behind, and you’ll probably only get a banana or a green turtle shell if you’re in first place. It’s almost as if you’re rewarded if you decide to stay in the back until the last lap of the race. I feel like they really need to change this up somehow.

Basically, if you’ve ever played a Mario Kart game in your life, you’ve played Mario Kart 8. It’s unfortunate but true. I mean, if you absolutely love Mario Kart, then you’ll have a great time. Everyone else might get bored with the limited gameplay. Granted, this is a very early look at the game and there’s sure to be more features added but for right now it’s basically Mario Kart 7.5.

It’s no secret that the Wii U isn’t exactly performing admirably. What seems to be the case is that the games just aren’t there. I’m very confident this game will be a system seller, and hopefully down the line Nintendo will add downloadable content to the game post launch. I think what they will need to do is add more tracks, karts and characters to keep people interested. That’s one of the main problems with the Mario Kart franchise; it just gets stale after too long. They have a golden opportunity with the next console generation to completely change that.

Sure, it has always been undeniably fun but it’s never been a game to keep you occupied. It’s like candy: it’s nice to have once in awhile but you don’t want to keep eating it, when something like Zelda or an actual Mario game is a better main course. I’m hoping with the next iteration of Mario Kart that they’ll add more depth and unlockables to keep the player coming back. If Nintendo would take their time with the Mario Kart games maybe we’ll have a more absorbing title. I’m very optimistic about Mario Kart 8 and most likely it’ll be a must have for any Wii U owners regardless of how hollow the series might be.


LittleBigPlanet 3

LittleBigPlanet was really cool when it first came out in 2008 because it had three “layers” so to speak. Your sackthing could switch between these layers to move through the side-scrolling level. It was a nice way to upgrade the age old way of playing a 2D video game. Another one of LBP’s strengths is the art value, integrating textures and combining art styles within stickers and level props. What they’ve done in this version of the game is added a secondary layer that your character can jump to or use other items to slide into, so essentially you have two main pathways with 2-3 layers in each (or maybe just two, I’m only onto the second act or so in the game). I like the way this adds depth to an already interesting series of levels.

They’ve also added some interesting new angles of gameplay – whether you’re picking up a totally different character to run through a level at an aerial view, or building a race car and racing another character, there’s a slew of new ways to play the game. Inside the game. It’s just miraculous.

The game interface differs slightly in this version as well. You still have your “Popit” where your stickers and personalization tools are kept, as well as where your explody-sackthing-tool resides. What they’ve added on the nary-used circle and triangle buttons are two new menus, a quest tracker and a tool-keeper. In past games for tools, you would typically run over a platform to pick up the tool and it would disappear within the level once you don’t need it anymore. In LBP3, you can access all your tools at any given time, which adds to the puzzle-solving aspect of the game, and convenience for level building later on. One less platform to account for, and if I remember correctly you would have a limited radius in which you could use the tool as well. The quest tracker reminds me of World of Warcraft in the way that you can highlight a quest and it will give you a pointer on the side of your screen to direct you to where the quest’s next step is located. Either way, both of these little menus were a nice update to the game and made sense to be where they are.

So one thing I appreciated about the last game was the fun they had with the names – Larry Da Vinci or Dr. Higginbotham. The new game certainly does not disappoint with the play-on-phrase names like Papal Mache, Newton or Marlon Random. While most kids who are playing won’t make some of the connections, the older crowd can appreciate the nuances.

But let’s not forget about the 3 new playable characters in the game – Oddsock, Toggle and Swoop. I’ve currently only unlocked the first two, but they’re a blast to play with. Oddsock is adorable and fast, his strengths being to run up walls and wall jump. Toggle can literally “toggle” between a larger or smaller self, able to break through walls or run into small spaces, launch himself through different layers and be an overall badass. Swoop is a bird, so I’m gonna take a guess that he can fly through other levels, which could be pretty OP depending on how they handle it.

Something that I was pretty unhappy with in LBP2 was the story mode – or lack thereof. I blew through the story mode within a week or so of buying it, and I was left wanting so much more. I understand the game is geared towards more of a “create-it-yourself” crowd, where the community levels are often better than the actual story mode levels, but I enjoy the unlockables and the perfecting of the game, so the fact that there wasn’t too terribly much to go back to made me fairly disappointed.

LBP3 does not disappoint. I’ve already put in roughly 6-8 hours of gameplay and I already find myself wanting to go back to levels for things I’ve missed, but there’s still so much story line ahead of me as well. The levels are also set up a little differently, where they have “storybooks” of levels. A main world that will take you to levels inside it as you unlock them or find them through discovery. Even in this main world you can pick up prize bubbles.

Something else I’m looking forward to is the other “modes” they have going on in this game. From what I’ve gathered (I’ve only really dabbled in story mode thus far), they’ve created a mode encouraging people to play through levels by using the building tools to keep moving through. If that’s the case, I think that’s a great integration of what the second cool part of this game is, which I tend to not touch because I don’t have any amazing level-ideas. I’ll let you know if I’m totally off the mark.

Trying to find a game that makes you want to play with others, I personally think is hard. With any of the new Mario franchises (Kart, Super Smash, or World) you find characters you’re familiar with, and worlds or enemies that have been recreated time and time again to save the princess (I think? She wants to be saved – right?) LittleBigPlanet has a great way of getting others involved, so much so that I want to grab my husband or someone to come and play with me while I play through any and every level. The teamwork is interesting – I’ve found that this game overall is a bit more challenging than the last with boss fights and level complexity, which lends itself to longer game play and more interesting replay value. The same goes for the x2, x3 or x4 player puzzles, bridging on something that more Portal 2-esque within reason. The new tools that you’re given in this game make the puzzles something to think about instead of a straightforward one person jump on a switch and another stand on a platform.

So at this point I’ve gotten 4/5 of the new sack-toys in my arsenal. Props to the interface of the game making them easy to access too. I think the tools in this game so far are pretty hilarious (the pumpinator – it blows and sucks!), but also very clever (the illuminator – shine light on something seemingly flat to make it come to life). I really like that there are levels I’m playing through and seeing the icons for other tools that I didn’t have at the time, so I’m even more encouraged to go back and see how I can get those prize bubbles. It’s like when you finally get double jump in some game and can reach all the spots you couldn’t before hand. So satisfying.


Gin Rummy Plus

To begin with, the game play in Gin Rummy Plus is pretty good, and it looks fantastic. Card games are a dime a dozen, so the only thing that really separates them are graphics and extras.

Peak Games has done a fine job on the graphics part. The look is fantastic, the animations are smooth, and the user interface is very intuitive and learned in seconds.

Unfortunately, that’s pretty much it with this one. Even after connecting with Facebook, the “leaders” and “friends” buttons are non-functional, giving you a nice little “coming soon” balloon.

This is disappointing, especially the friends option. One of the selling points to games like this (e.g. Words With Friends, What’s the Phrase?, Dice With Buddies/Yahtzee With Friends) is the ability to play against people you know. As of now, this option does not exist… In fact, I would prefer it if they hadn’t even put the button in there to show users and upcoming feature, instead letting the game stand as it is.

As it is, it is a fine game. As I’ve already said, the graphics are very nice, the animations are smooth, and the matchmaking with strangers seems adequate. The turn timer is a bit annoying, as not much time is left for the player to think strategy without forfeiting the entire turn if you don’t discard in time. A turn timer is needed in a multiplayer game, of course, to keep things moving along, and on three missed turns in a row the player forfeits the game, so you won’t be stuck when playing an unresponsive opponents. A few more seconds would be nice, that’s all.

Another shortcoming (though one many, many developers choose to ignore – not that that is an excuse) is the lack of a play vs. CPU option. It never ceases to amaze me how many game developers refuse to put this feature in their games, when it appears it would be fairly easy to do (or maybe not – I’m a gamer, not a programmer… but then I’m giving a gamer’s perspective here, not a developer’s).


Forza 5

When you first start the E3 demo you’re given a choice of which car you want to drive. Like everyone else, I picked the bright red Ferrari over the Lamborghini. The only mode available was just a race around a city. There were no other cars to race against and it could have been more exciting if all of the E3 testers could race against each other via system link but alas this wasn’t the case. I still had fun testing out the racing aspect of the game. As opposed to previous Forza games, this time the cars actually felt like they had some weight behind them. It took a little bit of getting used to but Forza veterans and newbies will quickly adjust.

One of the new Xbox controller’s main features is the rumble in the triggers. While sliding into a sharp turn the rumble felt realistic as you can feel the tires grip the pavement. I was skeptical about the rumble feature of the triggers when Microsoft first announced it but now I don’t know if I can go back to play Forza Horizon without it. The concept works and it will be fun to see if different cars have different amounts of feedback.

No doubt the most recognizable feature of Forza games is being able to customize your car without limit. I’ve seen Halo: Reach decals and even Brad Pitt portraits painted onto cars in previous games. Luckily, Forza 5 continues this. Of course you can sell them in the Forza marketplace for in-game currency but now the store can remember your buying habits, in a similar way that Amazon recommends something based on your previous purchases.

One of the developers informed me that we can’t transfer any of our cars from previous Forza games, not even paint jobs. This crushed my heart but he made me understand that they had to completely build everything up from scratch with this game. I accepted the hard truth but I was still disappointed.

Another huge let down for me was the audio. One of the best aspects of Forza: Horizon was the soundtrack! I would race down the rolling hills blaring Arctic Monkeys from my car’s stereo. They informed me that all the audio was done in house and there weren’t going to be any featured bands in this game. The music seemed fine but it was lame not to have a choice between their music or licensed bands. I guess I’ll just have to listen to music on iTunes at the same time while playing Forza 5.

Since this is an Xbox One title, you immediately notice the visuals. They look great, don’t get me wrong, but at times they seemed a little bit underwhelming compared to other Xbox One games. During the E3 demo I stopped my Ferrari to see if the fans cheering on the side of the track were still hideous, and guess what? They are still frightening manikins. In one part during the race, fans on a bridge threw confetti on my passing car and it was stunning to see each piece go off in different directions. Also, the lighting and shadows in the first person view from the dashboard has to be some of the best I’ve ever seen.

One of the big features in Forza 5 is how they’re handling the Cloud feature of the Xbox One. Using the cloud, Forza 5 can bring your Xbox Live friends’ driving habits to your AI. This seems like it could be very innovative and something that all future racing games will need to stay competitive in the future.


Almanacs Of A Bygone Era

Medieval playing cards display a lot of individualism and the freedom of expression. When the Renaissance came the curiosity of the world around grew, the art became truer to life, and explorers were born. Then during the Industrial Revolution the production of the cards were made by power-driven machines in factories.

From playing cards we can learn about craftsmanship, the assembly and amalgamation of elements & materials. These cards have been the focal point for design, invention, or advertisement almost like a cigarette pack-sized almanac of a bygone era.

These decks have a tremendous educational worth, an extensive history and myriads of types & styles all over the world. Some have historical value, others political, then there are souvenir decks for tourists.

The early allusions to playing cards in Europe came from Brabant, Catalonia (Spain), France, Florence, southern Germany, Sienna, Switzerland, and Viterbo (Italy) in the 1370s. No cards from this era have survived but some sources point out that cards were gilt or painted in gold as well as various other colors all done by hand. This hints on the fact that these were luxury packs.

The Medieval theme took pleasure in ornate & colorful designs and miniature art was very much appreciated and applied. But that does not mean that people of this age were lesser in intelligence & sophistication and did not value art & culture as we do nowadays. Their designs are indicative of vivacity & refinement. This practice reached a plateau then the designs shifted to the grotesque, mechanical, or superficial.

The earliest cards that have survived the passing of time came from the 15th century. A deck from the collection of the dukes of Bavaria in 1430 had suits of stags, ducks, falcons, & hounds in reference to the courtly hunt. The original set included 52 cards-the number cards (1 through 9 plus a banner card) designate by repeating the sign of the suit. The court cards illustrated the suit symbols in harmonious relationship with the human figures- falcons & ducks with masculine courts while stags & hounds with feminine courts.


Batman Arkham City

With an already stellar battle framework, there’s little change inside Arkham City’s battlegrounds. As Batman, you can fight and counter well with several techniques. You fight with one button, counter with an alternate. Contingent upon how the player levels up, Batman’s traps and devices can essentially beat mind dead hooligans with ease. There’s nothing better than arriving at the end of a battle to witness that last hit to the jaw that only Batman can deliver. On the other hand, not all the foes are idiots. Some come outfitted for the fight with electric stagger bars, compelling protection, firepower, and some amazing numbers. One of my favorite battle techniques is hanging on statues, and dropping the hammer on clueless adversaries upside down. I’m likewise a huge devotee of slithering underneath vents, then to ascent to take a villain out… and afterward cover up once more. Gradually however without a doubt, one by one, the awful fellows start to get apprehensive and understand they’re in for a beat down; it won’t be long before they find the Bat!

An alternate perspective that emerged within the gameplay were the boss battles. While the Penguin and his shark coliseum was extraordinary (exceptionally similar to that of the boss fight with the ocean creature in Resident Evil 4); you never truly knew when the shark was set to hop out from submerged water to lay a beatdown on you. In hindsight, it’s the fight with Mr. Freeze that steals the show. You need to utilize your wit to its extent to survive this fight. The fight’s arena offered the ideal measure of key components to use stealth and nature’s turf to turn out triumphant. I likewise reveled in this battle for its emulating cutscene. I’ve generally had a weakness for Mr. Freeze, since deep down, I accept he’s a genuine man simply battling for the lady he adores. Sincerely, it was a touching minute in a game bent on violence and extreme judgement.

One component of the Batman series that provides a special test are the Riddler’s enigmas to be settled. I began this game with the presumption that I’d finish each of the 400 Riddler tests. All things considered, that didn’t keep going long. I would have needed to invest a ton of time on Google figuring some of these conundrums out, of which I chose to give up. After the first play through, having the chance to play the New Game Plus choice, I abandoned a large portion of these missions. The New Game Plus choice is a fun chance to utilize your newly obtained abilities, contraptions, and ability to go up against an increasing number of foes offering a more difficult test.

In all, Batman Arkham City offers additional modes to test the player’s merit (i.e. defeat waves of adversaries, effectively pull off a stealth mission, and so on.) Really, the fundamental draw for these tests are to sharpen Batman’s aptitudes, to turn into a significantly stronger protagonist.

In essence, the only grievance I have about Arkham City are the Catwoman missions. I didn’t fundamentally enjoy playing as Catwoman. I simply got so comfortable being Batman, that I simply didn’t want to be playing as an alternate character.


Dark Souls III

There are no “bullet sponges” here. They hit you for half your health bar? Guess what, you can hit them back for almost the same. You’ll die a lot, and unlike many other games, there isn’t an overly generous checkpoint system.

But know this: My kid (with some SunBro assistance from me) beat Dark Souls 2 -including DLC – when he was 11. He just finished Dark Souls 3 last weekend. He’s 13.

That said, after hundreds of hours poured into Dark Souls 3, here is my brief review.

Lets start with the negative stuff first:

The Poise system is badly designed (there is, last I checked, a belief among the community that the Poise system in fact doesn’t function at all. There is supposedly code in the game that would allow for a functional Poise system, but it was removed or ‘switched off’ before release. The developers, to my knowledge deny this, which is fine. But then it means they handled the mechanic really, really poorly.)

“It’s working as intended.” Then you intended it to work badly…

What is Poise, and why does it matter?

Every time you hit an enemy, you have a chance, depending on their Poise and your weapon, to interrupt their movement (preventing them from dodging, running, rolling, and most importantly – attacking.)

This is called staggering. The movement is interrupted and they get hit. A staggered enemy is a helpless enemy. A dead enemy.

This system applies to you as well as the enemies in game.

How Poise used to work: In past Dark Souls games you could wear armor that would raise your poise, making it more difficult to stagger you and disrupt your attacks.

How it works now: It doesn’t. Any enemy can interrupt most any attack with any weapon you use.

At first that might not seem so bad, until you get to the second mistake of Dark Souls 3 – and possibly my biggest complaint with the game.

Absolutely every enemy attacks faster than you can (and has longer reach), no matter what weapon you are using. They have a greatsword the size of a house? The can initiate an attack with that faster than you can stab with a dagger. Their dagger? Will hit you while your greatsword whiffs the air in front of their face.

So, if you’re the kind of player that likes to trade hits with enemies… you will ALWAYS be staggered.

Your only option now is to dodge out of the way of everything, all the time. And that’s fine. If that’s the playstyle you want to choose. People have been doing it that way since Demon Souls. But there was always a choice.

I like to be a fast-rolling ninja. But there are also times when I get sick and tired of this game’s crap and want to throw on some heavy armor, pull out a flaming ultra greatsword, and go to town!

In the past, you could choose heavy armor, and a greatsword, and exchange hits with an enemy. Yes it would hurt you, but you would hurt them more. An entirely viable playstyle that no longer works.

And fine. That’s how this game is supposedly designed. But the claim that Dark Souls has such a deep combat system? I don’t think that’s true with this installment.

For a game that is in large part based on combat… That’s a pretty big step back.

One more complaint:

The covenant system. This is no big deal if you’re not a trophy hunter. It’s entirely possible to play the game the entire way through and enjoy it without ever messing with the majority of covenants.

But if you’re after the Platinum trophy? Get ready to grind. A lot. Because while the multiplayer system has been improved over games of the past, there’s still a couple broken covenants that will require either a LOT of sitting around waiting to be summoned, or grinding. Expect an average of 6 hours killing the same enemies over and over and over and over and over and over…

(I’m looking at YOU Blades of the Darkmoon… )

OK, so what’s good?

Pretty much everything else.

The environments are beautiful, and fun to explore. I can’t think of a single area where I arrived and went “UGH. This again.” (In the first Dark Souls, I found pretty much everything after Sen’s Fortress to be cheap and tedious.)

The weapons and armor, everything really, looks amazing.

There is plenty of enemy variation, and they make sense for the environments in which they are found.

Multiplayer is always open to opinion. I think it’s fairly balanced if you play smart. Others will disagree. If you’re a whiner and don’t like being outnumbered when you invade, you won’t be thrilled with how Dark Souls 3 handles things.

Matchmaking is much improved. You can co-op with your friends easily this time around thanks to password matchmaking.

Finally, one of my favorite improvements: For the first time ever, all armor sets are useful! You no longer need to upgrade them. And they are ALL functional. The majority of weapons are viable as well.

The developers have given you an incredible armory to choose from, and it all works. Even the poorer weapons are adequate for handling in game enemies.

Bottom line: Is it fun? Yes. Is it frustrating? Somewhat often. Is it worth buying? Yes. Are there other games like it that are better? No.

Do I harbor resentment towards the developers? A bit!

If I were to score it, I’d start with a 10 for all the amazing things this game gets right. Then I’d take away 3 points for the broken combat and settle around a 7. Yes, this game has a whole lot going for it. But you’re gonna have to put up with some unnecessary (in my opinion) frustration to enjoy it.