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First Impression: Project Zero – Maiden Of The Blackwater (Wii U) ~ Snap Those Ghosts

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Official website

While I know that Halloween is over and that we are extremely close to another holiday, that is supposed to bring happiness and joy to people, that doesn’t stop me from talking about a scary game. I had heard a lot about this game and also a lot about the franchise, Fatal Frame. In fact, this is the 5th entry into the series. Thankfully, you don’t need to know about the previous games in this series to enjoy this game. When I saw in my local game store that I was able to pick up the collectors edition with everything in it for a cheap price, I don’t hesitate. I mean, I’m a game collector after all. In any case, I think it’s time to take a look at this game since this game did something with me. Do I regret buying this game or have I been enjoying it? Let me explain while I invite you to leave a comment in the comment section with your opinion on the game and/or the content of this article. 

Scared-y cat

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So, I’m not that good with horror games. I get spooked too easily and generally, my play style doesn’t fit the more careful way of planning and strategizing that you need to survive in horror games.

Now, in recent memory, there were a few horror games that actually made me want to play horror games. First, there was this psychological horror game called 999: 9 Hours 9 People 9 Doors then there was this, somewhat over the top, horror visual novel adventure series called Corpse Party. Then I noticed something if I’m able to get invested in the story, I tend to enjoy myself. Also, I tend to enjoy Japanese horror games more than western horror games.

That’s what happened almost right away in Project Zero. The story is pretty well written and takes various twists and turns. Some I had seen coming, but the pacing and execution are great.

You play this game in chapters, called “drops” in this game where you visit a cursed Japanese mountain. You can play as a few different characters, but there are no big differences between them gameplay-wise. The difference is in the story.

In this game, you can choose between English and Japanese voice acting. I honestly tried both and I think they are both great. For my overall gameplay, I tend to choose the English voice acting since I enjoy looking at the cutscenes on my big TV and the subtitles are just a bit too small on there.

So far, I’m at the 5th drop and I have been enjoying the story. I can’t wait to see what the rest of the game has to throw at it. I also like how you can get some backstory with the various notes you find. While some people don’t enjoy reading huge walls of text, in this game there aren’t too many and they aren’t too long to read either.

Snap those ghosts

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Something I really like in this game is that this game doesn’t have a limited amount of ways to defend yourself and still stay challenging.

In this game, you solve different cases related to the haunted mountain. While you can explore the mountain, most of the game is somewhat linear. You can do some exploration but not too much.

During your exploration, you can get attacked by different ghosts. Now, you can choose to avoid most of them, but others you will have to “kill”. This you can do by snapping various pictures of them. The better you get the ghost and it’s face into the frame, the more damage you do.

There is also a point system and these points can be crucial to your survival. The better pictures you take and the better combo’s you make, the more points you earn. You can use these points to not only upgrade your camera to do more damage and defeat the boss or the stronger ghosts more easily. You can also use your points to buy various healing and supportive items at the start of a chapter. So, if you need more healing items or supportive items AND you want to upgrade your camera, you better make good pictures of the ghosts.

There is a “risk and reward” system here. If you let the ghost come close, you will get damaged, but you also do more damage. So, you really have to think wisely when you get in to combat.

While you are exploring the area, you can choose if you have your screen mirrored on the Wii U gamepad or if a map is shown. Something I really like during combat is how the game shows a more general view on the TV screen and a more zoomed in view if you look through the Wii U gamepad. You really get the feeling you are snapping pictures of those ghosts using the Wii U gamepad as a camera.

The camera is a game mechanic used to it’s fullest in the game. You will also need to use it to bring items from the ghost world to ours. There are a few other mechanics too, but I leave those for you to discover if you decide to play this game.

Shivers

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The visual presentation of this game is extremely well done. The game looks amazing on the Wii U. The game really drew me in with its visuals and animations.

While I have seen some clipping in the animations, when it comes to humans picking up objects, there are a few moments where I thought the game could use just a bit more visual polish. Especially the animation of the hair I found lacking. Almost everything on the body is well animated, even down to a shaking hand to simulate shivers in the characters when they are picking up objects. But, the hair mostly stays static, as blobs to the head of the characters.

Also, there are some invisible walls in this game. While I understand that there are some invisible walls to avoid players running off cliffs, sometimes they are used in places I think they weren’t needed. For example, there was one place where you had a room with an altar and a pool in front of it. You were unable to go to the altar since in the middle of the pool, there was an invisible wall.

Those are the only complaints that I have when it comes to the visual presentation of this game. And most of them, don’t really bother me that much. I really think they did a great job when it comes to the visual presentation. It even creeped me out sometimes.

Besides the visual design, the sound design does a lot to creep you out too. In most cases, when a spook happens, some loud noise or sound effect plays. That’s not always the case in this game. This game can play tricks on you with moving dolls or just putting silent ghosts just right around the corner.

The sound design also helps out in the cutscenes and regular gameplay. You get additional sound effects playing through the speakers of the gamepad, making some situations even more creepy.

Overall, I think it’s quite clear with all the praise I’m giving the game, that I’m enjoying this game. But, there is one thing that I think really brings this game down. Sometimes, the controls in combat aren’t as smooth as they are supposed to be.

I had times where my gamepad lagged behind what was happening on the screen or the other way around. Also, the gamepad didn’t always follow my movements when I went from side to side. This caused some damage that could have been avoided. While I write it off as my character packing and being flustered, I can see some gamers being frustrated at this and stop playing the game altogether.

The game has two difficulty levels. You can play this game on easy and on normal. Maybe, you unlock a higher difficulty when you beat this game, but I haven’t done that yet.  In addition to that, I assume that you unlock the costumes also at the end of the game. Since I’m at the 5th drop and not one costume unlocked. Maybe, I’m overlooking something here.

In any case, that’s everything I wanted to say about this game for now. There are a few things I left out in this review since I think it would be more fun for you to discover while you are playing the game for yourself. This game is totally worth playing if you enjoy adventure games and games with a good story. But beware, for spooky moments.

Thank you so much for reading this article and I hope you enjoyed reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it. I hope to be able to welcome you in another article but until then, take care and have a great rest of your day.

 

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Review: Nintendo Pocket Football Club (3DS – eShop) ~ Let’s Play This Match

Nintendo_Pocket_Football_Club_(GER)Official website

From time to time, I tweet about a match I’m watching or I just watched. I’m a casual soccer fan. When a game is shown on TV, I go to my grandfather to watch. Apart from that, I don’t follow a lot of soccer. When I saw a Nintendo soccer game a few years ago on store shelves, I was interested but never bought the game. Until a few weeks ago, when it’s was on sale in the Nintendo eShop and I bought it with the money I had left over. And now, it’s time that this game plays it’s most important match, the review match. I’ll be the referee of this game, so I hope you are ready! If you want to shout something to the referee; especially your opinion on the game and/or my decisions in this match, go ahead in the comments! 

The goals

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So, this game scores a few goals. Let’s take a look at what goals this game scored.

In the first few minutes, this game scored with the visual presentation of this game. The artwork and the sprites blend together quite well. While the animation during the matches can be somewhat lacking sometimes; I think that changing them would destroy the charm of the presentation. That makes the 1-0 for the game.

The game scores a 2-0 with the overall gameplay during matches. Each match can go in many different directions. One time, I didn’t save after a match, restarted the game and replayed the same match. I did this five times, each time I got a different outcome. You will never know what you will get. During the matches, the game can be very tense. It’s a balancing act in when to substitute players, changing tactics and hoping for the best. There is an additional layer of strategy since you can only change your strategy when you substitute your players or during the break period of the match. And during the break period, you have more options to change your strategy so your decision will count.

Not only that, you need to balance your team as well. The 3-0 goes to the training system. This is done with trainer cards, which I will expand more on later. But, you need to make sure that you don’t lose players since they rarely played or played too much. To manage your team well and who knows, you might be able to transfer more expensive players to your team.

The 4-0 is scored by the random element in this game, called the trainer cards. During a match, you gain a certain amount of random player cards. You can use these player cards to improve your players. If you combine them, you can make special combos which improve the player’s stats more than if you would use them separately. Also, you need to think about what stats you need to improve. For example, you don’t need to learn a keeper how to dribble, since he almost never needs to dribble. But, it’s a great idea to improve the jump stat of your keeper.

Surprisingly, the game scores a 5-0 with the sound design. Personally, I wish that there was music playing during the matches, on the other hand, I’m glad that they didn’t. Since it adds to the realism of the game. The only complaint I have about the sound design is that the goal scoring jingle doesn’t always play when your team scores when you are the “away” team. Minor nitpick really.

The game also scores a 6-0 with an interesting in-game manual. The game also explains some terms for players who aren’t that well known with soccer. Neat.

The 7-0 is a goal with the customization of the game. You can design the shirts of your team, the logo, and the name. When you want to redesign or rename your team, you can do that when you want, when you aren’t playing a match.

The kicks to the woodwork

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So, this game could have scored more points but they missed a few chances in this game. Let me start with the first one.

The backing system is where they had a missed opportunity. While I really like the concept, I’m really displeased with the fact that you loose backing when you play either a draw or lose a game. Personally, I think that you shouldn’t lose backing when you draw a game. Also, I think that you shouldn’t lose backing when you lose a game on certain occasions. For example, when you lose 1-0 from a team that is placed in the highest league when you are in the lowest league, that’s a big accomplishment of your team that shouldn’t go unnoticed, since, in the real world, fans would be happy with the play of their lower ranked team.

The game also hits the goal post with the trainer cards. While they are quite interesting to use, you don’t have a list of what cards make a combo. When you select a card, other cards will sparkle if you used them to make a combo in the past. But, when you have never made that combo, you won’t see them sparkle. Also, on my playthroughs, I noticed that I get a lot of the same cards each and every match.

Something that isn’t present is an autosave feature. Which can be a be a blessing and a curse. To me, it’s a blessing since I can restart a game when I’m not happy with the outcome of a match. But this can be considered cheating too…

The goals of the opponent

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Sadly enough, the game got a few goals in their own goal as well. Let me talk about those.

The 7-1 is scored due to the lacking controls sometimes. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that this game has unuseable controls in any sense of the word. But, sometimes the controls are so picky that you lose a lot of time with it.

For example, you need to confirm when you change players from a location in the field. Also, on the screen where you decide to swap players, the “L” button bugs out sometimes. When you go the bench with using the down arrow, the prompt of the “L” button changes when I’m at the 3rd player.

The 7-2 is scored because the UI lacks some information sometimes. While the UI is very well put together, I really wish I was able to see the stats of the player I wanted to replace. But, you can only see the stats of the player your cursor is on. In addition to that, when you use the “Y” button to swap players, you can’t see the stats of the players.

Outside of the matches, the UI can be annoying sometimes. I think that the biggest issue is that the game lacks some information screens. Like, how many times a player scored in the “players to watch” screen. Or on the screen where the players ran, you can’t see where the keepers ran.

The 7-3 is scored because I think that the offside rule is programmed a bit strangely. I’m under the impression that when a ball is going towards another player and when a player is running offside, the fault of offside is given. This is very frustrating.

After that, this game suffered another goal; making the score 7-4. This is due to the lack of options for the game. You can’t change the length of a match. When you leave a match early, you don’t get a lot of player cards and most of the times, your team automatically loses. Also, you can’t see in the history of a rival team to see how strong other players are and who to watch out for. You need to base your judgement on the stats of the players that you can only see at the start of a match. Oh well.

It can be very repetitive when you need to sit through each and every match. The 7-5 is made by the lack of “simulating” the match or just give you the result.

But, the biggest flaw of this game is the 7-6, that’s the extremely harsh difficulty curve. What I mean here is that you don’t get enough information out of the game to improve your team and find out where your team is lacking. Minusworld says that’s it’s an uphill battle sometimes.

The game can be very difficult and unforgiving sometimes, to the point that I wish there was a rollback feature. Sadly enough, this isn’t present.

The 7-7 is scored because I feel that the game doesn’t explain some mechanics enough. How do you make a player not have the “balanced” play status? What’s the best combination for a midfielder? Those things are for you to find out and you don’t get any hints for the game about this. This should have been handled better.

And that concludes the match, now it’s time to give the final analysis of this game.

Final analysis

So, due to the structure of this review, I won’t be listing off the positives and negatives like I usually do in other reviews. I’m going to close off this review with my overall thoughts on this game.

I think that this game isn’t great nor bad. The game sits somewhere in the middle for me. If I would need to give points, this game gets a 65/100 for me. While I expected more about this game, I really had a fun time trying to survive with my team and try to find out what works and what doesn’t work.

Each playthrough, you learn more about the pitfalls of the game and you learn more mechanics. While the game can be repetitive from time to time, watching those matches of your team makes the game exciting.

A very important thing to remember is something that MinusWorld also said in his article about this game. You need to remember that you aren’t 100% in control of your team. You can set the general strategy and such, but you don’t play the matches themselves. If you look at this game more as a sort of casual-ish football club manager sim than a football game, I think you will get more enjoyment out of this game.

This isn’t a bad game, but the harsh difficulty and the lack of explaining certain game mechanics can be a real deal breaker for some players. Give the demo a chance and decide then if the game is for you or not.

So, that’s everything I wanted to say about this game. Thank you for reading this article and I hope you enjoyed it as much as I enjoyed writing it. I hope to be able to welcome you in another article on my blog but until then, have a great rest of your day and take care!