Tag Archives: difficulty

Gamer’s Thoughts: The Meta Skill

I’m rarely able to beat a Pokémon game. Some bosses in RPG’s give me a lot of trouble. Battles in Europa Universalis 4 are extremely difficult for me. What is going on? I have been playing games for my whole life and I still have trouble with a lot of things in video games. Especially when it comes to the finer things in video games. The meta, the nitty and gritty of gaming. This article is mainly just a braindump of various things about meta gaming. If you don’t really know what I’m talking about, this Wikipedia article and Urban Dictionary explains it quite well. Also, I’m curious, feel free to leave a comment in the comment section with your opinion and/or your experiences. 

Git gud

So, do I need to git gud at playing games?  To be honest, I don’t think my gaming skills are lacking. I don’t mean to brag but I have beaten quite a lot of games.

I think that the biggest issue with my gaming skill is that I’m a jack of all trades. I have basic skill in almost every gaming genre due to my gaming collection but I haven’t specialized in any particular genre.

This lack of knowledge always comes back to bite me in the behind. For example, in Super Mario Odyssey, I’m unable to preform the Cappy Jump. Or, in Etrain Odyssey, my team build is either so unbalanced or too diverse. And when I encounter a powerful enemy, I always know that I’m in for either a restart or for a longer battle than usual.

The fact that a lot of people upload their gameplay onto YouTube or talk about various mad tricks on their blog is not helping. When I’m watching a gameplay video and somebody is preforming a trick with ease that I’m unable to preform, I get jealous.

Now, certain things are quite difficult to explain as well. Take for example the combat in Europa Universalis 4. Whenever I’m a multiplayer match with MiseryLC, he is always talking about how he is building his army or which terrain he is using to fight the enemy. This gets extremely confusing to me extremely quickly.

An easier and more universal example is, try to explain how every jump works in a Mario game and how to preform it. It gets quite challenging to do that. I experienced this difficulty first hand when I was explaining how Lara Croft controls in the fan made levels of the Level Editor. I had to rewrite that section at least 10 times before I was content with it.

Training

Let’s talk a bit more about one of the examples I gave in the introduction of this article. I haven’t been able to beat certain Pokémon games because my team isn’t diverse enough to beat the Elite Four easily.

I haven’t been able to beat the original Pokémon Red/Blue and Yellow, yet, I have been able to beat Pokémon Gold/Silver and Platnium, the sequels of that game. Granted, I abused the cloning glitch the first time, but the second and third time, I had beaten the game completely legit.

My issues with the meta gameplay come when my friends want to challenge me in a duel. Almost every time and also when I prepare myself on a duel, I get beaten. In various cases, I’m even unable to defeat one or two of their Pokémon.

This problem isn’t unique to Pokémon for me. There are several RPG games in my backlog where I’m just unable to progress due to me either having to grind or me unable to beat a certain boss. Take Atelier Rorona as an example, I haven’t been able to get any other ending because I rarely plan out my journey and I always have to race the clock to be able to meet the goal.

For this article, I sat down and thought why I was having so much trouble with these kind of mechanics. And I think I might have a reason. For of all, I have a lot of trouble remembering the weapons triangle. Let’s take Pokémon again as an example. The main battle mechanics are a rock/paper and scissor model. Rock beats scissor. Scissor beats paper and paper beats rock. But, there are more than three types of Pokémon. Take a look at this type chart from Reddit user u/ar-gee.

Now, this chart is quite handy. But then game throws an additional wrench in the works. The fact that some Pokémon have more than one type. This makes this chart even more complicated. And let’s not get started about the strength of certain moves and the special stats.

Whenever you level up in an RPG, you see a ton of stats rise of your characters. More often than not, I rarely pay attention to them. When I’m buying gear for my characters, I always make sure that the previous gear is stronger then their current gear. In turnbased RPG’s, this isn’t such a big issue. But in real time strategy games like Rise of Nations, that’s where things get even more tricky.

During a match in any real time strategy game, I always create a random army. A handful of soldiers, some cavalry and some archers. Rarely I know which balance to maintain. When my enemy attacks, I always send in my whole army. Instead of trying to think which units are the most effective to use.

Now, knowing the mechanics is one thing. Being able to train them is another thing. How do you train yourself in building a better Pokémon team or upgrading the right stats in an RPG. Or having a better army balance in a real time strategy game. Barely any game gives you feedback where the weaknesses and/or strengths are in your team. Maybe one day…

Do you need to know?

I could keep giving example after example. But, do I need to know the meta mechanics of a game in order for me to enjoy it? Well, that really depends on one thing for me. If I’m able to enjoy myself and continue in the game.

I barely know anything about the meta gameplay of the Pokémon games yet, I’m able to beat certain mainline Pokémon RPG games. While I don’t have the strongest or the best team in the game, I’m able to finish the game.

On the other hand, you have Remember Me. In this game, the combat is rather rhythmic and you have to preform a lot of button combo’s for the stronger attacks. Now, if there is one thing I’m not that good at, it’s keeping a rhythm. There is one boss I need to defeat in Remember Me, but because I’m always unable to preform the button prompts in time, I always loose. And yes, I have rage quited the game.

Of course, the meta is quite important. There are certain games where I’m even able to abuse the meta. Indiana Jones and the Infernal Machine on the PC is one example. I know how to abuse certain mechanics to reach certain places that can’t be reached by certain means. Just take a look at the speedruns of the game to get an understanding of what I mean with how broken the roll and the chalk is in this game. If only I was able to preform these tricks with greater ease, I would compete in this speedrun category.

The obvious importance of the meta in games is for the people who play online and/or in a competition. I don’t think I have to explain that. Maybe that’s another reason for me. I barely play online or in a competition. It just doesn’t interest me that much. I prefer to play games on a casual level, in my own time.

Before I continue to ramble on about this topic, I think it’s time to finish this article. I might return on this topic but I would like to know what you, the readers think. If I revisit this topic, what do you want me to talk about? Am I alone with these “issues” or are there other people? Do you need to “git gud”?

With that said, I have said everything I wanted to say about this subject for now. I want to thank you 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, have a great rest of your day and take care.

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The Sunshine Blogger Award – Q and A

sunshine-blogger-awardI think that I write a similar introduction for every community award I receive. The introduction talks about how the blogging community is one big family that supports each other and to support each other we have these community awards. You can compare them to YouTubers doing shoutouts or collaborations to promote each other and help each other grow. One of these awards is the Sunshine Blogger Award. All of these awards work in a very similar way, while thanking the blogger who gave you the award, you have to answer his or her questions, write up the same amount of questions that the bloggers have to reply to that you select to receive the award.

Thank you!

The blogger who gave me the 3rd Sunshine Blogger Award is AK from Sonatano1. It really makes my day when another blogger gives me an award like this, I feel recognized and it really makes my day. Now, AK writes articles on various game related subjects. From old to new games. If you enjoy my content, I’m quite sure you will enjoy his content. One of my favorite articles is one on the Windows Entertainment Packs. It just tickles the collector and retro gamer in me.

Now, I think it’s time that we get to answering the questions that were asked by AK. Let’s dive right into some interesting things and facts about myself.

The Questions

1) What’s your favorite or most-used medium for entertainment?

cropped-bannerblog3-1.jpgMy favorite form of entertainment is gaming, followed by YouTube and anime. I also love theater and stand up comedy quite a lot. Here and there, I go to the movies.

Now, if you follow my blog you might know that I play games on a ton of systems. From my phone to my gaming desktop. From my Nintendo 3DS to my Sony PSP. I even play games on rip-off consoles. So, my favorite medium for entertainment are devices that can play games. My most-used platform is Switch and my computer at the moment of writing. But, because I got some new 3DS games, I think that might change in the future.

2) What character in a work of fiction would you inhabit and why?  (Assuming you’re experiencing the entire storyline of the game/novel/film/whatever as this character.)

Oh dear lord, to answer this question I had to stop myself from cheating and counting one of the stories I wrote in the past. My biggest hobby, besides gaming and acting, is writing. Before I started writing this blog, I used to write a lot of fantasy stories on paper. I have a couple of binders full with story ideas and pitches for quite interesting stories.

Now, because I full control over those worlds, I think it would be too easy to pick one of those stories. On top of that, none of those stories are finished and aren’t even released to the public.

256px-Indiana_Jones_and_the_Infernal_MachineSo, in which universe would I want to live? In that case, give me Indiana Jones in one of the Indiana Jones movies or games. The reason for that is quite simple. I’m in love with the Indiana Jones universe. My favorite game is Indiana Jones and the Infernal Machine, which is released on Steam and GOG now. My favorite movie is the first movie, Raiders of the Lost Ark. While I know that the 4th movie wasn’t one of the best Indiana Jones movies and was filled with various plot holes and things of that nature; truth to be told, I still enjoyed the movie quite a lot. But,  I do agree that it’s one of the worst movies in the series. My love for the series is so big that I went dressed up as Indiana Jones three times to carnival as a child. I even own a replica of the hat Indiana wears in the movies and games. It felt so amazing when I was able to use it in a play last year. So, yeah. Indiana Jones would be my character, the adventures and the mysteries… Do I even have to explain?

3) What work would you wipe all memories of from your brain if you could so that you could experience it all over again?

To be honest, I have a huge list of games and experiences that I would love to be able to re-experience without any memories. To name just a few: the Tomb Raider games, A Hat in Time, Time Hollow, all the Ace Attorney gamesFantasy Life, Stella Glow, Dream Chronicles and a ton more. I could be adding entries to this list all day.

Now, to be honest, I don’t think I’m open for the idea that my memories would be wiped from my brain from one or more experiences. Quite simply because all of these experiences shaped me into the person and gamer that I’m today. On top of that, this would always change since the older I get, the more works could go on this list.

So, I’m sorry, I don’t think I have one answer for this. Maybe I should play these two Gameboy Color games that I haven’t played yet from the Zelda series. One is called Oracle of Seasons and the other one is called Oracle of Ages. Maybe that might be a great answer for this question…

And for those who totally missed the punchline in the paragraph above, the Oracle games in the Zelda series are the games that introduced me to adventures you can take with you where ever you go. They taught me so many things in life and they were on of the reasons why I wanted to become a game collector. Since I got Oracle of Ages from a garage sale and after I finished the game and so the “To be continued” screen… I wanted to see the story continue so bad. But at the time, the Gameboy Advance SP was released, so it got quite tricky to find Gameboy Color games in garage sales. After a long time (2 years) I found myself a copy of the game and I played completely through it. Since then, I got quite hooked at collecting games.

4) What’s the most annoying trend occurring in your favorite medium today?

I know for a fact that my answer on this question is going to have some people disagreeing with me but still, I find it very annoying. The decline of physical media is somewhat worrying to me. I talked about this before multiple times on my blog but the reasons I find it annoying are multiple.

SotTR_HERO-1-heroFirst of all, as a game collector, I love having a physical copy on my shelf to look at and have nostalgic memories flood back. I don’t have that with digital releases too easily. Now, let me be clear, I’m not against digital releases but I find it worrying that even big titles don’t get a physical release. Take Shadow of the Tomb Raider for example. That game didn’t get a physical release on PC but it did get one on consoles.

The second reason I’m not that fond of going full digital is, the possibility of digital shops getting deleted or shut down. For example, the Wii Shop channel. There is no legal way anymore to buy WiiWare in 2019, which is disappointing. So, if you were saving up as a retro game collector to buy some Virtual Console games on your Wii, cross your fingers it’s on the Wii U. I watched a YouTube series by Scott the Woz that talks about my feelings quite well.

And a 3rd reason is game shops. I find it mind boggling that the biggest entertainment industry is reduced to a few shelves in retail stores. In one of my local tech and multimedia shops, I see the amount of shelf space that is reserved for gaming and gaming merch decreasing by the year. Now, there are a lot of online stores but I feel that it’s less and less present in our day to day lives. I also love to go to game stores and chat with the people about games, tech and various other things. Of course, you can do that on the internet, sure. But, I enjoyed the non-virtual contact more.

A 4th reason is that it’s a nightmare for game collectors. Apart from having nothing physical for our gaming shelves, the whole move to the digital market space is killing the second hand market. I need to keep a careful eye on the packaging when buying a game on garage sales or during flea markets. Some game cases come with a game code you can only activate once. Even when it has a disc inside, the game can’t be installed without the code.

There are a few other reasons, but I won’t get into those in this article. I’ll leave those for when I talk more in-depth on this topic.

5) What’s the most promising trend occurring in your favorite medium today?

2017-12-29 19.22.57The acceptance of the gaming hobby by today’s community. When I was a teenager walking around with my Nintendo DS, I get strange looks by adults. “Aren’t you too old to still be playing video games?” is a question I got asked.

But, now-a-days, when I talk to people and say that one of my favorite hobbies is playing video games, I usually get one of these answers:

“Oh cool, it doesn’t interest me to be honest, but my [child, family member, friend, coworker…] also plays games.”

OR

“On which platform do you play?”

I’m also under the impression that there is a growing part of non-gamers who understand why gaming is so appealing and that a lot of cliché things like: “violent video games make youngster violent.” is less easily believed.

The gaming community is also growing each and every day. Which I find amazing. But, like my answer on the previous question, I think I’ll go more in depth on this topic in a later article.

6) How much or how little romance do you like in your games/films/novels/etc.?

It’s quite tricky to give this a proper answer. At one hand, it depends on the story and such. It also depends on what you understand under romance.

But what I find very important is consistency and proper use. What I mean by proper use is that romance isn’t used just because “all other games in the genre do that.”. If romance fits in the story, then I don’t mind. If I’m still making sense.

7) If you had to be the ruler of one country in any work of fiction, which one would you pick?

pokemon-alpha-sapphire-limited-edition-steelbookI have rewritten my answer to this question several times simply because I always wanted to choose one of the stories I wrote myself as a kid. But that wouldn’t be too much fun since I have full control over that world.

For the sake of this article, I think it’s more fun if I choose a world that already exists and people know the rules of. So, after a lot of thinking.. and trying to avoid me getting distracted by the stories I wrote in the past, I decided to choose the Heonn region from Pokémon Ruby, Sapphire and Emerald. Just because those games are my favorite Pokémon games and the nostalgic memories with those games are so big.

Also, who wouldn’t want to live in a real Pokémon world? There are so many possibilities in those worlds, it would be amazing.

8) Do you think virtual reality will improve anytime in the near future to the extent that it’s actually worth using?  Or are we already at that point?

One of the biggest problems with virtual reality is the price. I know that there are a lot of cheap VR possibilities with smartphones. But for that you need a pretty powerful phone and that doesn’t come cheap either. Also, the more popular VR-glasses like the Rift and the HTC Vive just got three years old.

While there are a lot of practical uses for VR, I’m not interested enough to invest in the technology yet. To be honest, I haven’t tried VR for myself for several reasons. From not having the equipment and budget and just because there isn’t a game out yet that I would love to play that’s exclusive to VR.

Personally, I think that VR will be one of the possible platforms we will be able to play games in the future. In the future, we will have consoles, handhelds, PC and VR. I don’t think that will go away.

To call VR a gimmick or a fad like the Wii would be wrong in my opinion. There are many practical applications for VR. I think it just needs to grow and evolve. At the moment, you need to be quite tech savy to set it up, just take a look at the sensors and the specs you need to run VR at a decent frame rate.

Actually, answering this question gave me an idea for a future article. So, I’ll go more in depth about my opinions and thoughts on VR in the future.

9) I’ve heard people say that the novel is a dying form of art and that changes in attention span length and the constant multitasking our generation is involved in will make them obsolete.  If you have an opinion on that matter, do you agree or disagree?

If the novel would be dying, please explain to me why companies like Audible and Scribd are so popular? Besides that, if novels would be a dying art form, why do people still write and read blogs? Now, this discussion is so popular that it has it’s own Wikipedia page about it. 

As a kid, I read a lot of books. I enjoyed reading quite a lot. Now-a-days, I barely read one book in a year. I don’t feel the need to actually read books. But, I still read blogs and my favorite gaming genre are visual novels like Death Mark or Trace Memory. I still “read” novels but in a totally different experience. Besides that, my sister enjoys reading books quite a lot. Granted, she has to read a lot of novels and books for her studies.

My two cents on the subject goes as follows. I honestly think that the novels just lost some popularity. Because other hobbies like video gaming and watching content online grew, other art forms are loosing terrain.

Yet, I still see a lot of people from all ages during my commute to and from work who are reading books. There is still a market for novels. Otherwise products like the Amazon Kindle wouldn’t be created. Also, if big companies like Google still provide a service to read books like Google Play Books, I honestly think that novels aren’t dying, they are evolving with the time.

10) Are you optimistic about the future of the human race?

My answer for this question depends on the mood you catch me in. There are things I’m quite optimistic about like the improved awareness about the climate change and the willingness to do something about it but there are things that worry me quite a lot. Something like article 13 that might ruin the internet as we know it.

I think it’s something were we just have to wait and see. There is always going to be something that makes me optimistic and something that worries me. As long as we don’t plunge the world into chaos, I think we will be just fine.

11) Cake or pie?  (There’s only one right answer.)

The fact I had to look up the difference between cake and pie explains quite a lot. Now, did you know that in my native language we have one word for cake and pie? In Dutch we use “taart” for both words.

To be honest, I like both. So, I don’t discriminate. 🙂 And if you want it, the pie cake is a lie, thanks Glad0s.

My questions and nominations

Now, for my eleven questions. Let’s go.

  1. Do you think that nowadays there are too many reboots and sequels to old games instead of new IP’s?
  2. Can the big studio’s like Nintendo, EA, Ubisoft… make indie games?
  3. If one of the games you played in the past gets a HD remake, do you get excited? Would you play the remake?
  4. What do you do during a grinding session? Do you do something else while grinding for resources or characters or do you focus on the game?
  5. How do you take notes for your articles? Do you write them down on a piece of paper while playing the game? Do you record your gameplay and write down time stamps?
  6. What are your least favorite sections in gaming?
  7. What is something unique/fun/interesting about your hometown and/or community?
  8. What’s your advice to new bloggers or even, experienced bloggers looking for advice?
  9. Can you answer this question with a wrong answer?
  10. Do you sometimes look back at your old(er) articles and think, if I write another article about that today, it would be totally different?

So, here are the people I tag. And yes, these are all worth your time and you should seriously take a visit to their blog. For your convenience, I have linked to their latest article. I invite all these people to answer one or all the questions and share the love with the community.

LaterLevels

Sheikah Plate

Triform Trinity

ABXY Reviews

Pix1001 – Shoot the Rookie

Drakulus

Hundstrasse

OverThinkerY

A Geeky Girl

Adventure Rules

Killer Robotics

NormalHappenings

Winst0lf

TwoTall4uFool

Reaper Interactive

Falcon Reviews

GamersUnitedGG

I Played The Game

LividLighting

Well Red Mage

TheDragonsTeaParty

Games With Coffee

The Shameful Narcissist

And that will do it. While there are a ton of other bloggers around, I don’t want the end of this article to end up as a long extensive list of amazing people. Now, I think I’ll end off this article here. Thank you for reading this article and I hope you enjoyed reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it. I’m looking forward to the possible replies to this post. I also hope to be able to welcome you in another article but until then, have a great rest of your day and take care!

Gamer’s Thoughts: Difficulty in games

downloadToday I want to talk about something extremely objective subjective. Something not a lot of people agree on. That subject is the difficulty in games. This isn’t unique to video gaming, since other entertainment mediums can be difficult to understand, analyze or appreciate. But, difficulty is one of the most important factors in gaming. In order to write this article, I have asked in various groups what their opinions about game difficulty are. Are games today too easy? Are difficult games fun to play? Are old school games too difficult? I got some extremely interesting replies. Now, if you have your own opinion on this subject, I would love to talk about it in the comment section down below. Of course, keep it civil down there, everybody has a different opinion.

My own views on game difficulty.

Keep in mind that the following thoughts and opinions are mine. It’s quite possible that you think in a different way due to your different experiences in gaming and/or life. Like I said in the introduction of this article, feel free to leave a comment with your thoughts and opinions on the content of this article and or the subject. With that out of the way, on with the show.

Now, with such a broad subject as game difficulty, it’s quite tricky to give a full opinion. In the introduction alone, I gave a few different angles I could take this article. In addition to that, this subject is extremely subjective. For example, I’m not rhythmic at all. When I talk about the DS, a lot of people talk about games like Elite Beat Agents, a rhythm game. I have to admit that I find this game too difficult.

pokemon goFirst of all, let’s talk about a sentence you often hear us older players say: “Games today are too easy.” Are they really too easy? Well, they became easier in one way but more challenging too. For example, take the Pokémon games. When Game Freak remade the 3rd generation on Nintendo 3DS, one of the biggest complaints was that the game was too easy. And yes, I finished the game without losing 3 battles during the whole playthrough and 2 of these loses were because I wasn’t paying attention during the battle and forgot to heal my Pokémon and the other loss was because I forgot that grass was weak to flying and I most had grass Pokémon in a flying gym. Whoops.

photoNow, why do I think that games can be too easy now-a-days? That’s has two reasons. The first reason is because games just got more accessible. Because the growth of the hobby, a lot more people play video games. So, there need to be ways for every style of player to play video games, even the youngest ones. Thankfully, you have difficulty options that can provide the other players with some additional challenge. Sadly enough, not all games do this. In most games, the difficulty settings have a small explanation to what each level means.

And this brings me to the second reason why games are too easy now-a-days and that’s skill. I have been playing games since I was a young lad. I started playing games give or take 21 years ago. During these years, I have played a TON of games and got a TON of different experiences. That means I have seen quite a lot and the chances of a puzzle stumping me or a fight being too difficult get slimmer with every game I play.

Is this a bad thing? Depends on what you are looking for in a game. Do you want a game that challenges your strategizing skills or the ability to solve puzzles than the lower difficulty can be a problem. If you are looking for a game to play to pass the time, in that case the drop in difficulty shouldn’t matter that much.

resident evil 4It’s always a difficult balancing act in how difficult you make your game. Since if a game is too difficult, people will stop playing. A great example for me is Resident Evil 4. There is a section in that game where during an already hectic fight, two chainsaw enemies spawn that kill you instantly when they come to close. There were three times that one of those enemies actually spawned right behind me, giving me no time nor room to turn around and defend myself. These moments I actually rage quitted the game. Another example is Atelier Rorona. The amount of depth in this game is just insane. You have to think about so many things like the freshness of ingredients, how long it takes to collect them and get them home, the amount of MP you have to fight and or craft… It was quite challenging to balance all of these things.

EuropaUniversalisIV_Packshot_editedThat brings me to the question, what makes a game difficult and how difficult should a game be? It speaks for itself that how more layers of gameplay and mechanics you add, the more difficult a game becomes. Take Europa Universalis 4 for example. In this grand strategy game, there are so many mechanics; it’s not even funny anymore. The complexity of a game can turn some people off. I would love to play Europe Universalis 4 with more people but most of my friends don’t understand how the game works or get too scared when they hear how many things they need to think about while playing the game.

In a way, the difficulty of a game can limit your audience. I would love to play a game like Cuphead, but from what I have seen and tried, the game is a bit too much for me. I don’t really like games that depend on memorization or trying over and over again. This makes the game boring and repetitive in my eyes. For me personally, I want to have a great time while I’m playing games. I want some parts to be challenging and test the skills I learned during the game and I want some sections to be easy to play through so I can relax and enjoy the game.

SI_NDS_NewSuperMarioBrosDS_image1600wA game series that nailed difficulty in my opinion are the Super Mario World games. In these games, you learn by playing the game. You might have heard this explanation in various other video’s or articles but if you haven’t heard it yet, allow me to explain. At the start of the level, you are able to experiment with a new level mechanic in a safe area. One where you can easily avoid the enemies and you don’t have death pits. And the further you go in the level, the more challenging the mechanic or level gimmick becomes. And during the later and last stages of the game, all the challenges are combined into one big final set of levels that test your skills and what you learned through the game. In a way, you can compare it to school. The early levels and sections are the classes while the later levels and finale of the game is the final test/exam.

Now, should games become “NES-hard” again? To be honest, I think we shouldn’t do that. In the current gaming climate, we get a lot of games inspired by the more challenging nature of older games and we also get easier games. That means we have options. Now, were all old school games difficult? Were games more challenging in the past? Well, that’s a tricky question to answer.

Tomb Raider LegendFor example, I grew up with the original Tomb Raider games. When I play these games today, I don’t have a lot of trouble with jumping from platform to platform. Of course, due to the limitations of the systems at the time, it wasn’t always clear to which ledge you should jump and how you should make that jump. In more recent games, the better visual presentation helps out with that problem a lot. This “issue” became clear when I did the Tomb Raider project. Some people in that collaboration had never played an old school Tomb Raider game and gave it a try for the first time. And because they were more used to the newer style of the series or the newer style of play in more modern games, they had trouble during the game.

Something I often got during me search for writers in the Tomb Raider project was: “Also the old Tomb Raider games that aged poorly?” or something similar. I completely agree that the original Tomb Raider games aged poorly. The newer Tomb Raider games, and not per se the more modern games, play better because the developers improved their craft and learned a lot from developing the previous entries in the series.

I don’t find all retro inspired games that difficult. I was able to beat some without much trouble like Blossom Tales or Retro Game Challenge. While I did had some trouble in Shovel Knight because I haven’t played a lot of games similar to that.

When I was researching and brainstorming for this article, I came to conclusion that there are 4 types of difficulty in my eyes.

The first type is intended difficulty. This is planned by the developers to challenge you during the game. Think about a Zelda dungeon where you get a new item in a dungeon and you have to learn to use it or remember the places where you were unable to progress and needed to use the item.

The second type is unintended difficulty. This was unplanned difficulty due to bugs, randomness (like RNG or random generation) or just plain bad game design. Or it can be because of things like certain mechanics. For example, a lot of people complained when Super Mario 64 DS came out. While it’s a good remake, the controls weren’t loved by various reviews because the original game was designed with a joystick in mind while the DS didn’t have a joystick.

The first two types can be mixed with the other two types.

The third type is fair difficulty. With this I mean, the game provides you with a challenging and rewarding experience. Like, you finally figured out how to beat that one puzzle or beat that one boss.

The forth type of difficulty is , you guessed it, unfair difficulty. Now, this can be because of bad and or lazy game design but this can also be a huge spike in difficulty. A great example is Suikoden Tierkreis for me. Overall, the game is somewhat easy. If you don’t skip too many battles and pay attention to what you are doing, the game isn’t all too challenging. I rarely to never saw the game over screen. Until, I came at the final boss. This annoying battle gets such a difficulty spike made me not fully finish the game and actually look up the ending online. Now, while writing this article, I actually restarted playing the game and I’m hell bent in finally beating the game this time.

The more difficulty of type 2 and 4 you have, the worse it becomes for your game. One time a developer asked me to review an Android game. In this game, you had to feed various foods to some customers. The issue was, all of the dishes were based on Asian dishes and I’m European. I barely know anything about the Asian cuisine. The unfair difficulty in this game is that almost nothing was explained in the game about the foods themselves. So, I was unable to figure out which food was what, so it became a guessing game.

Another example of unfair difficulty is more recent. A developer asked me to review a Switch game they just released. The game is a twin stick shooter and in the shooting tutorial, there were two spawners in the room that spawned so many enemies so quickly, it became overwhelming. You shouldn’t put so many enemies in the first level of your game while the player is still learning the basic mechanics of the game. That’s unfair.

headerDoes a game like Dark Souls have unfair difficulty? Well no, the game is quite balanced in my opinion. There is a lot of risk and reward gameplay, the punishment is just a bit too harsh in my opinion. But the game becomes beatable when you learn the finer details of the game and get used to the inner workings of the game.

The line and difference between the four types is really thin and makes it still personal. Speaking of personal, some people talk proudly when they were able to beat a certain game on the highest difficulty. While that is impressive, you shouldn’t look down upon people having trouble on the lower difficulties. While my gaming buddy MiseryLC can beat the AI in Europe Universalis IV on hard, I feel that the normal difficulty provides just enough challenge for me.

I think it would be a great development if all games have difficulty sliders. The more you can adjust the difficulty, the better. Something I really loved in the Etrian Odyssey series is that you can change the difficulty setting when you are in the town without any other punishments. This is great, because when I was unable to beat a certain boss and almost stopped playing, I was able to lower the difficulty a bit so I was able to beat the boss and move on. After I had beaten the boss, I set the difficulty back on normal. This is a perfect system since people can choose how easy or hard you want the game to be.

Now, I have said quite a lot about the topic now. To avoid this article becoming a bit too long or having too much rambling, I think it’s time to let some of my friends talk. I want to thank everybody for their input since they helped me quite a lot while putting my thoughts together for this article.

How others think about difficulty.

Now, I asked around on various groups on Discord and Facebook on their opinions on game difficulty. Here is what they have to say. Note, some quotes I translated from Dutch to English. Some quotes had minor edits since sometimes contained an answer to another topic in the conversation or something in those lines.

The following quotes come from a Facebook group where Belgian retro game collectors gather.

Ward: “Some games are pretty challenging due to their difficulty like Slain and Cuphead. But other games hold your hand, but that doesn’t always take away from the fun of the game. It really depends on the game and how enjoyable the story is.”

Hakim: “Sometimes a too difficult game can be really frustrating. And out of this frustration, the game can go on my shelves to be never played again.”

Kenny: “Personally, I think that the player should have a choice how difficult the game should be. Some games I play personally for the story and not for an extreme challenge.”

Mayu: “For me, a game can never be too difficult. I’ll play until the end as long as the difficulty, challenge, story and such are fun. It already happened that I was disappointed when I bought a new game and I finished it without issue. The solution for this is lately, collection or completion rewards. Some of them are really letdowns. In the past, gaming was a very niche hobby. When a game was too difficult, you just had to try and try again. But, now that gaming isn’t a niche hobby anymore, the difficult games don’t sell that well anymore. And with companies trying to make as much profit as possible…”

Koen: “Making a game extremely difficult is no issue for me. As long as all the elements of the game are fun, it doesn’t matter to me. I really enjoy the rewarding feeling of finally being able to beat a game at the highest difficult setting after trying on it for weeks and seeing the real/true ending. But, when the story is garbage and I have to replay the game on a harder difficulty setting, I won’t be spending my time on a new playthrough.”

Niels: “As long as a game stays fair, it’s worth my time. Nowadays, there are a lot of games that are too easy for everybody to play. From endless tutorial sections to special power-ups when you die a lot and sometimes even a skip button, these are just a few things that you find more and more in modern games. Now, there is nothing wrong with that, as long as they are optional or are disabled by higher difficulty settings. Something I really want to stress, a game that is too difficult thanks to bad enemy placement, terrible controls or bad decisions is a bad game.”

Xavier: “I prefer easier games. There are a lot of games that are quite enjoyable to play. It doesn’t matter to me if games are shorter, I usually buy them at a lower price after they have been released for a while. It’s better then having to play a game where you have to retry a section 20 times to finish it.”

Dennis: “I usually start a game on normal mode. Depending on my experience, I raise or lower the difficulty. So, this means that I play some games on easy, some on normal and some on the hardest difficulty. I don’t really enjoy games where you respawn a thousand times before you can continue and especially when you have the same issue 10 minutes later in the next section. If I enjoyed the game enough, I might replay it on a higher difficulty setting. Most of the games interest me for somewhere between 10 to 20 hours. But, this is absolutely not the case for me with Final Fantasy games.”

The following opinions are from fellow bloggers or friends in the blogging world.

Aiphafemaie: “A couple thoughts – I think games felt more difficult in the past because you had to rely more on yourself to figure out how to pass levels or quests. Or printing out walkthroughs from GameFaqs.com lmao.  Now when you’re stuck, you can just to YouTube and see how it’s done. I don’t think games were more difficult in the past, but “difficult” is a subjective word.  Today’s games do have varying difficulty modes, in comparison to the past. Before most games could only be played on default.”

TwoTall4uFool: “I think there was a lot of trial and error with games back in the 80’s and 90’s. Even in the 2000’s. Aiphafemaie you bring up a great point about GameFaqs but there are some games out there that I would’ve never beaten if it wasn’t for Game Genie/Gameshark. Today in games you have tutorials and of course there is YouTube. And even with plug and plays such as the SNES Classic you can rewind and try a part again if you fail. And plus suspend you point. So emulating older games have made them easier ….. sort of.”

ReaperInteractive: “I agree with @aiphafemaie . Games in the past had no clear instructions or clear, “Go here to pass to the next level.” Games nowadays are a lot more direct and I feel that developers intentianally make these instructions extremely clear as to make the game as playable and prevent people from giving up midway. A little more on the note. There have been games where the instructions were so unclear that I literally had no clue what to do and ended up giving up. Another reason I feel that games nowadays are a lot easier is because we’ve played the same basic mechanic over and over again as to games in the past, there were hundreds of different mechanics. Most games nowadays can be grouped into a couple dozen genres with the same mechanic and controls. Contrary to this, I feel that games in the past are composed of hundreds of different genres, some completely new to the people hence why I feel that why games in the past are a tad more difficult than those of our age.”

The Well Red Mage: “I think that games can still pretty hard now, some of them, but there are new varieties of games now. There are brutal platformers as a subgenre now that are built on difficulty, but then there are also walking simulators and interactive movies now that eschew difficulty almost entirely. I think some would say that the difficulty of retro games was such that it was unfair, but I think that the lives systems and the memorization of patterns (two very retro-centric ideas of difficulty) are perfectly valid; we maybe just don’t have the toleration for them that we used to. Those games were still demanding something of the player (memory or timing). So I think this is a conversation that benefits from specifics like specific games and specific features in those games that bring difficulty into the equation (memorization, level design, limited options or limited chances to complete a challenge, longer periods without save features, increasing speed, item management, enemy AI… all those things are specific features that games then and now used and use to create difficulty).”

The Badly Backlogged Mage/MrBacklog: “I think the obvious-but-unhelpful answer is “as difficult as they need to be to convey the desired experience”. Dark Souls, the Walking Dead and Mario Party are all different in terms of difficulty because they’re going for different experiences.”

OverThinkerY: “I think there are different ways of adding difficulty – Backlogged makes a good point about those games being difficult in different ways as part of the experience. There’s perhaps the most classic sort of difficulty, which is reacting and executing the right series of inputs quickly enough to proceed, and then there are things more dependent on memory, ingenuity, or sheer emotional fortitude. I think there are more examples these days of different sorts of difficulty other than simply pressing buttons accurately, which might be down to better tech or just natural progression, but it enables different kinds of experiences to be made effective in that way.”

Mail Order Ninja Mage/Daniel Flatt: “Difficulty is the hardest thing to get right in video games. If you push back too hard you lose all but your most dedicated player, if you don’t present any challenge then moderately skilled players become bored. Like everyone said above it is drastically different depending on the game and furthermore the individual playing.

That being said games aren’t necessarily easier than they were before, but they have become better at not wasting our time. Games previously were artificially hard, first because checkpoints and saves weren’t a thing, and then because many NES games are a handful of hours long without constantly starting over. They had to have that difficulty to make the game worth it, can’t have Billy coming to you after an hour and asking for a new game. I dare anyone to play B side levels of Celeste and say games are easier, but the difference is you don’t have to play through the same 30 minutes over and over to finally get through something and die 20 seconds later to start all over.

The best games have difficulty determined by the player, Nintendo excels at this, but one of the best examples is Ori. It has a function where you basically create your own checkpoints or don’t, depending on your preference. It could be brutally hard, but if I get to try again right away for a certain section it wasn’t wasting my time making me play the same section a hundred times.”

Now, as you can read, the opinions are extremely diverse when it comes to difficulty. This brainstorm was extremely interesting to do. I honestly think that I’ll return to this topic in future. Before I close this article, I want to point you to an article created by Rob “I Played The Game” Covell that he wrote in 2017 about the same subject. “A Difficult Conversation”.

Closing off

Like I said in the previous paragraph, the conversation of how difficult a game could be or if games are too easy now-a-days gets quite diverse opinions. While this topic could be discussed for hours and the opinions will go in various directions, I think I’ll close off this article here. I’m quite curious what everybody thinks. Maybe I’ll revisit this topic on a later date.

If you have written or talked about this subject in the past or know a great resource like another article or video, feel free to send me a message with the link. Maybe I’ll included it in the next article. And with that said, I think I’ll really end off this article. Thank you everybody for helping me putting this article together. It was a blast. Thank you 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, have a great rest of your day and take care.

First Impression: Project Zero 2 – The Crimson Butterfly (PS2) ~ A Sisterly Bond

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Wikipedia entry

Ah Fatal Frame, a series I found quite interesting when I was a little child but fell in love with a few years ago when I was able to get my hands on a collector’s edition of the Wii U entry in the series. It was the 5th entry in the series and I loved it so much, I started to hunt down all the other entries in the series. Last year, I was able to get myself all the European released games on PS2, in a physical copy! While testing them out,  enjoyed myself quite a lot with Fatal Frame 2. So, I kept playing that game. It’s no secret that I enjoyed myself with this game since I gave a spot on my top 10 games I played in 2018. So what are my actual opinions on this game? Well, let’s find out! And as usual, feel free to leave a comment down below with your opinion on the game and/or the content of this article.

PS: The article was originally going to be publish on this Sunday, but because today is my 26th birthday, I decided to publish it today as a birthday special.

A sisterly bond

fatal frame II screenshot 2The story starts out with two sisters running around in the forest playing. Suddenly, the pass a stone and it looks like the duo entered another dimension. The two get terrified that there is no easy way out and even worse, the two split up. Not willing, mind you. One of the two sisters get mesmerized with a crimson butterfly that she keeps following.

So, you need to go look for your sister in a creepy and haunted town while you need to escape ghosts and try to find an exit of the city. The setting for this horror game is excellent. The voice acting in this game is really well done, the voices of the two sisters is excellent. I also loved the performances of the ghosts since they kept me on the edge of my seat in certain battles.

The story is mostly told through notes, cutscenes and the environment.  There are moments you are together with your sister and there are moments she sees that damned butterfly again.  She really likes these red butterflies. Now, the story so far has been quite enjoyable. While sometimes I feel that the story is mostly used to string levels and area’s together, it’s executed extremely well. I really felt that something strange was happening and that there were higher powers at play.

Now, I am quite curious where the story of this game will go. The mysteries are getting unrevealed slowly but I still don’t have any answers. Now, do you need to play the first game before you can understand the story of the 2nd game? Well, not at all. The story is totally independent from the first game, while a lot of story mechanics return in the second game, all the characters are new.

Also, I haven’t beaten the original game myself. Now, you might wonder why I have chosen to play this game on the PS2 and not go for the director cut on the XBOX or Wii. That has two reasons. One, I don’t own an XBOX and two, the physical copy of the Wii game is extremely expensive. Now, when I was finishing up this review, I discovered that the game got released on the Nintendo eShop, so I bought myself a digital copy.

Anyways, we are getting off track here. The story itself is interesting. It’s two fold actually. In one part, it’s about how to escape the village and in another part, it’s about saving your sister. So, I have the impression that this game has multiple endings. But, I have to beat the game to know that for sure!

Spooky Camera

project_zero_2-6Because this is a Fatal Frame game, the Camera Obscura shows itself again. If you have played any other games in the series, you know how this game plays. In this game, you have to explore an area that’s filled with ghosts. Some ghosts aren’t hostile but the most of them are hostile. In order to defeat the ghosts, you have to take pictures of the ghosts. The better they are in frame, the more damage they receive. The damage also depends on the film you use. There is an aspect of survival horror to this game since the amount of film isn’t infinite. The stronger films are really hard to find and quite rare.

Combat in this game is an awkward dance with the ghosts. You have to come close to snap a good picture. But, if they are too close, they can grab you and you get damage. So, you have to move backwards. Now, the camera you use is quite old. So, it needs to recharge after each use. You have audio and visual cues to see when the camera is recharging.

To be honest, I found the combat controls better in the Wii U game I played. In my review of Resident Evil 4, I mentioned that I had difficulty with aiming my gun on the PlayStation 2. The same thing applies here. So, each play session, I have to get used to the controls. It doesn’t take too long, but it makes me miss the Wii U controls. Maybe when I play the Wii version, I won’t have this issue too much.

Now, this game doesn’t have an autosave. Much like Resident Evil 4, you can save at certain locations. In this game, it’s a red lantern on a pedestal. You have a limited amount of save slots, but that doesn’t bother me too much since it helps me to get more points. Side note, there is an improvement over the save system of Resident Evil since there is a small picture accompanying the save file.

Yes, the better the image, the higher the points you get. These points can be used to upgrade your camera. Upgrades like shutter speed or damage output. You can also find upgrades in various, sometimes hidden, locations to get certain things up to a higher level. There is a safer way in earning points as well. If you are able to make a picture of the scripted harmless ghosts, you get some bonus points. So, it’s highly advised to explore around and not go to solve the puzzles straight away.

Oh yes, this game has puzzles. Some of the puzzles require you to analyze a photograph and try to work out where it came from. Other puzzles require you to find a certain key item to open a door or to lift a curse on a door in order to progress.

Like a lot of other survival horror games, this game also suffers from some jump scares. Now, I find the build up to the jump scares pretty good. Most of the jump scares happen a bit off screen when you haven’t encountered a ghost for a while. In the Wii U game, the jump scares were way worse. Also, it’s quite possible to miss some jump scares if you didn’t explore certain areas of the room.

Exploring the city and the buildings is made much easier with a great map system. The map draws itself while you are exploring. The area only adds itself when the area is discovered. Also, when a door is locked, the door isn’t shown in blue but in red. Now, if you unlock a door when solving a puzzle that is somewhere else on the map, I don’t know for sure if the door also changes to blue. Since, to be honest, I haven’t paid attention to that.

There are a few additional things to the combat and gameplay I’m going to keep a secret for this article. The only thing I’ll say about it is that there is a combo system and a few other features. The camera is used in so many different unique and creative ways, it keeps the mechanic from being repetitive.

 Atmosphere in the dark

fatal frame II screenshotThis game is totally worth to wear the title of horror game. The atmosphere of the game is done extremely well. While this game first released on the PS, this game still looks amazing to this day. Some models and textures do show their age, but the lighting and visual design gives an extremely creepy atmosphere. I found myself sitting on the edge of my seat during most of my play sessions. I even went as far as closing the curtains of my room or to play this game at night with a good pair of headphones and in the dark. Only the dim glow of my darkened LCD television to keep me company.

I have played this game without and with my headset on. I found the game better when I played with a headset or with a good sound system. I wouldn’t listen to most of the soundtrack outside of the game but in the game, it helps to build the scary atmosphere so well. Some tracks sound like wind blowing through the room or that something is chasing and/or following you. Together with the amazing sound design of the ghosts, this game is just creepy.

The ghosts don’t sound either human nor other worldly. This is especially creepy because the ghosts moan and speak in Japanese. Well, most of them speak Japanese. Some ghosts also speak English and hearing that suddenly makes it even more creepy. They even managed to make picking up items scary with playing an animation and a creepy sound effect each time when you reach down to pick up an item. You also never know what the item will be since it’s a glowing white orb on the ground. It’s also possible to find some items in various drawers and house hold items. So, explore away!

Now, the bulk of the story is told through the locations you visit. There are some cut scenes where somethings are explained, but the visuals help to tell the story. There are also some moments where you find a stone that tells some additional story to flesh out the story even more. Earlier in this first impression, I talked about how the two sisters entered a cursed village and they are trying to find their way out. In this game you explore various locations. From a graveyard to a scary forest. You also explore various typical Japanese homes to a big shrine. While I was exploring, I really felt I was exploring an abandoned haunted village. The realism and attention for detail in the visual presentation is amazing.

Something I really want to praise this game for is that lighting. The lighting in this game is one of the strongest points. Of course, the game takes place during the night. It’s never light outside. At least, so far. I haven’t finished the game after all. The various candles littered around the village help to sell the atmosphere even more. The flashlight that you can control with one of the joysticks of the PS controller works flawlessly.

So, I think it’s quite clear that the atmosphere of this game is solid. When you want to play a good horror game, I highly recommend this game. The game also provides you with some good challenges. From tricky ghost encounters to clever puzzles. Now, you can run away from the ghosts, but you’ll lose points. And if you don’t get enough points, you might not be able to defeat certain bosses easily. Since, points = upgrades.

The controls is something that some people don’t like about this game. Personally, I got used to them after a while. I already talked about the struggle I had with the aiming of the camera. But, that also helps in the immersion department in a way. Remember, you are playing as a young Japanese girl trapped in a cursed village looking for your sister and a way to escape. Of course, you are scared and you are looking frantically for a way to defend yourself.

I’m almost forgetting to talk about the animation of this game. The animation in this game gets extremely close to the uncanny valley. I’m convinced that it’s in the uncanny valley for some. Especially how certain characters react and express their emotions. For example, how the two sisters like arms when they are witnessing something scary for the first time. They are looking for comfort with each other. It still blows my mind that there was such life like animation on the PlayStation 2.

I could continue to talk about this game for a while longer but most of it will be praising the game. If you are a horror fan, you really owe it to yourself to check out this game. The quality of the Fatal Frame series is up there with the Silent Hill and the original Resident Evil games. I’ll talk a bit more in depth about the game when I write my review. Consider the things I haven’t talked about in this first impression review as nice surprises when you decide to play this game.

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

First Impression: Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE (Wii U) ~ Festive Fighting

Tokyo mirage sessions.png

Official site

So, today is a day of celebration. It’s Christmas. So, let’s celebrate that with some festive fighting! For those who don’t know yet, this game is a crossover between Shin Megami Tensei and Fire Emblem, in some weird hybrid way. Now, I have played Fire Emblem games in the past, but I haven’t played a lot of Shin Megami games. But, let me tell you, that isn’t a problem when you want to play this game. But, is this game worth your time and money to invest in or this is a game you should avoid as a bad concert? Well, let’s find out in this article. As usual, feel free to leave a comment with your opinion on the article and/or the game in the comment section down below. 

Mirage Masters

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The main character in this game is Itsuki Aoi. A young lad who was going to a concert with a friend of his. Actually, it was to see her perform.

His friend goes by the name of Tsubasa Oribe. She is in a competition and made it to one of the final rounds. When the winner gets announced, the presenter goes into a total crazy mode and starts attacking everybody together with weird creatures that came out of nowhere. When a portal appears in another dimension, where Tsubasa is sucked into, Itsuki gives chase and you find yourself in a strange world.

In there, you have to find your way through various labyrinths. It doesn’t take long before you meet a mirage. You start fighting alongside this mirage to conquer the strange world you are in now. After various things happened in the labyrinth, you find out that your friend, Touma Akagi, who wasn’t able to make it to the concert was in the same strange world as yourself. You rescue Tsubasa and escape. Now, Itsuki is a mirage master. Just like Tsubasa and Touma.

It doesn’t take long before you are picked up by a talent agency and Tsubasa’s dream of becoming an idol becomes true. Besides that, Itsuki has to undergo the same training as well. But, it doesn’t take long before even more portals to the strange other world appear and the gang must go inside to undo the world from harm of the strange force invading.

That’s everything I want to say about the story. So far, I’m at the final boss of the second chapter. And I have to admit, the story of this game has a real Saturday morning anime vibe over it. Each chapter is a story in itself while the overall story is progressed. This fits the game like a glove. It wraps up each chapter nicely while it progresses the main story just enough to have some more tension for the next chapter.

There is also a lot of voice acting in this game. Almost all of the dialogue during cutscenes is voice acted in Japanese. There is no English option. There are subtitles though and the Japanese voice acting is just amazing.

Since this game takes place in a more modern time, the characters talk a lot back and forth using their smartphones. The Wii U gamepad is the character’s smartphone. It’s impossible to play this game without the TV. This is somewhat of a bummer in my opinion. But, the Wii U gamepad screen has used a sort of a second screen like the Nintendo (3)DS to display the map or display more information on the screen.

Festive Fights

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Exploring the labyrinths reminds me a lot of the Etrain Odyssey series and the Pokémon Mystery Dungeon games. This game is an RPG-Dungeon crawler.

The battle system has some unique surprised up its sleeve. At first, enemies can appear randomly during your exploration. You have a meter on the top left of your screen when an enemy is nearby. But, you don’t see the enemies itself roaming around, you see mirages roaming around.

These are different colored ghosts floating around that have a different color depending on what type of enemy they are. For example, red is your “normal” enemies and gold are the extremely rare enemies.

When you let them catch you, they get the first move. When you run into them, it’s a random chance who goes first. But, if you slash them and then run into them, you get the first move.

The battle themselves take place on a stage, with a crowd cheering you and the enemies on. If a weak spot can be hit, a session can be performed. This means that the allies can attack as well. Notice how I didn’t specify on how can do that in my previous sentence. Since both you and your enemies can do that.

So, that means, if you are facing off against a fire type enemy and one of your characters is weak to fire; well, prepare to defend that character and heal were needed since a session attack can hit pretty hard.

As a side note, this game doesn’t autosave. You get promoted here and there with the question if you want to save your game, but you can save anywhere and anytime outside of battles and cutscenes, by using the main menu.

So, session attacks. How do you know which enemy is weak against what? Well, as soon as you hit an enemy with a certain type of attack, the result will be noted down. On the gamepad, you can always see an overview of which enemy is weak for which attack.

Choose your fights wisely, since you can only enter three characters into combat. Something I really like is how every important character lays down on a grass field in the main menu.

Gimmicks and stuff

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So, each labyrinth has it’s own gimmick that fits the story perfectly. This adds a lot to the visual presentation of the game.

And I do have to say that I think this game looks amazing. The game is colorful and pleasing to the eyes and runs at a steady frame rate. I haven’t seen any slowdowns or notice any moments that the frames get dropped.

The animations are also nice to look at. While you can skip most of them, I don’t always skip them, since they are so pretty to look at. This game is just eye candy and I think that this is one of the game strong suits.

The soundtrack of this game is really great as well. Besides creating an amazing atmosphere, I also put the soundtrack in my playlist to listen to while I’m at my day job doing work. It’s that good to listen too. If this soundtrack comes out on CD, I would love to buy it. Since it would be amazing to have in my collection.

The sound design is pretty great as well. I love the sound references to Fire Emblem, when you level up, for example, that’s the sound effect used in Fire Emblem.

So far, I have mostly sung praises for this game. Is there something bad about this game? Well, there are a few things that I don’t like about this game. First of all, the difficulty curve can be a bit unforgiving.

I rarely skip fights while I’m playing an RPG, since I know if I do start skipping fights, my characters might not be strong enough to fight a final boss. But, sometimes a final boss has some extremely strong attack up its sleeve, that comes out of nowhere and destroys my party. There is grinding in this game and not the enjoyable type of grinding. In addition to that, I noticed that there isn’t a way to easily fully heal before a big boss fight happens. That’s a shame. So, stocking up on items is a good idea.

A second thing that I don’t like is how easy it is to get disoriented in the labyrinths. When I want to go somewhere, I’m not able to follow the map I can view on the Wii U gamepad. I wish it was a bit more clear which staircase led to where. An easy solution would have been, if you touch a stairway on the gamepad, you get taken to the stairway on the other floor.

A 3rd thing I highly dislike is how difficult it is to get the golden enemies to spawn, catch or defeat. While I know their locations, they are sometimes too quick to even have a chance of battling them and they tend to run away. I noticed that if they run away, you are unable to get them to spawn again while exploring that labyrinth. Exiting and entering back doesn’t always help.

A 4th thing I don’t like is nothing said in Japanese during the battles is subtitled. I feel like I’m missing out on interesting dialogue on puns because I can’t understand a word from what they are saying.

A 5th thing I dislike about this game is a nitpick actually. But, why is the main menu button “Y”? I had a few times I wanted to press “X” to attack and instead I pressed “Y” and opened the main menu. This could have been avoided when the main menu button was the “Start” button.

And the 6th and final thing that I dislike is how rare items are to heal your SP. You can’t even buy them in the shops for a crazy price. So, if you want to save your SP up for a boss fight, you will need to use the teleporters or save up those items.

In any case, besides those 6 issues I have with the game, I’m greatly enjoying my time with this game and I want to finish it. I can’t wait to see what the other chapters are going to throw at me and how the side quests will play out.

But for now, I have said everything I wanted to say about this game. I want to thank you for reading this article. I hope you enjoyed it as much as I enjoyed writing this. I hope to be able to welcome you in another article but until then, have a great rest of your day and take care!

Rant #009.5: 10 things that I dislike about games. (Part 2/2)

not-sure-if-trolling-or-just-bad-game-designPart 1

Alright, let’s continue this rant. With the picture I used for the introduction at part 1 at the right side, let’s talk about 5 other things that annoy me in games. I started with issues with the control binding, tutorials, invisible walls, grinding and social networks. This second part of the rant has been written before part 1 got released, so I couldn’t add things from the comments. In any case, these things aren’t placed in any order. Since all these things annoy me. And what does it matter that one thing annoys me more then another one? All these issues need to be addressed! To close off this introduction, feel free to leave a comment with your opinion of my picks and or your most annoying things in video games. Thanks in advance. Anyways, let’s go!

#5: Micro-transactions of ANY kind

dlcThis stuff happens with DLC as well. I have seen DLC for Assassins Creed 4 to speed up some grinding. But you need to pay a small fee for it. Now these things give people an unfair advantage in some games.

Bravely Default made a big mistake here. There is a special “rescue” type item to save your party that works with micro-transactions.

I can understand DLC. If it’s additional content that you need to pay for. But these things to have additional gems or reduce waiting or grinding time boils my blood.

An amazing parody game is DLC Quest. You will get a kick out of this if you dislike this as well.

Before I move on, I have to mention something. In college, a friend of mine plays a soccer sim on his phone. He got annoyed that people kept beating him because they abused the micro-transaction system. So, this kills the balance in the game. Yeah. I promised him that I mentioned it!

#4: Online “noobs”

Unbenannt-1_3058566Okay, don’t get me wrong here. I have no (big) issues with noobs. There are people who need to learn how to play the game. You can’t expect yourself to be good at any game you play online. By playing the game over and over again, you get better at it.

In Minecraft, if you use a hacked client to make custom maps, I can understand. Yet, then you have a whole range of people who are just killing the online experience. And instead of flooding my whole top 10 here, I took them all under one entry.

I’m talking about campers, hackers, abusing the chat system… It all grinds my gears. Can’t you just play the game like normal?

Rust, is a perfect example of a game that got ruined by people who used hacks for example fly. I have seen YouTubers calling out at each other, and that’s where I draw my line.

Abusing glitches in a game, sure, why not? I mean, I used the “X-Ray” machines to find caves in Minecraft. I have no shame in admitting that. It doesn’t help me finding the best ores. It just helps me finding caves to find those ores or to make grinders work better.

If you’re a hacker, and you need your hacks to play the game, just keep in mind that you ruin the game for others! There is also a chance that you either kill the server, experience or the game for others. In my experience I have seen a server dying slowly because of the hacking.

I think I will leave it here for this entry. But this might be another rant coming where I talk more in depth of this subject.

#3: Flaws in the difficulty

escape-from-monkey-island-cover683213Dear lords, is this something many gamers under us have such a hate for. Games that suddenly throw up the difficulty for the climax of the game.

Escape From Monkey Island on the PS2 made a major flaw here. You have to work out a whole rule set for an advanced rock-paper-scissor game. Now, I don’t have endless patience to figure this all out. So, naturally I looked it up online. And yes, it’s randomized each and every time! Oh lords, isn’t that fun.

I’m planning to write a “game quicky” about custom minecraft maps. But in these maps, they make this fatal flaw as well. When I still made YouTube video’s I had to cancel a series because there were too much spawners.

In CTM maps, there can be a lot of spawners. But they should be balanced. In Super Hostile maps, there are a lot of spawners but it’s possible. Because with enough light sources you can disable the spawners and such.

Now, when any game, mod or custom map throws an overdose of enemies at you that it becomes more of an endurance round, then the game is flawed.

Not to mention that games where the enemies can kill you in a shot or two on the hardest difficulty setting. I mean, it should still be playable. And you shouldn’t be afraid that each monster could kill you with the greatest of ease.  That’s in summary what I mean with this.

#2: Backtracking, most of the times.

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Yes, I’m looking at a game like the amazing 9 Hours 9 Persons 9 Doors on the DS for this one. While you don’t have to backtrack while playing the game, there is a major sort of backtracking here. This game has multiple endings.

Here is the issue, when you saw an ending, you have to replay the whole game over again to see the other endings. Auwch! You might have a speed-up button but still.

Thankfully the sequel fixed this. In Virtue’s Last Reward, you have a tree that follows the different paths. So, that way you can easily go back to one point in time and pick the different option.

Now, about backtracking. In some cases, I can understand it. Like you need to go first to one spot to fetch a power-up. In Castlevania(-like) games I have no problem with it at all. Since you can grind your character meanwhile. That’s clever game design!

But when the game design is so bad that you can easily skip something or when it becomes a big focus, then it’s no fun anymore. Take notes from the examples I mentioned above guys!

#1: Cliches / Bad game design

unnamedNow, my final thing are two things combined. When a game uses too much cliches in their game, the game gets boring and predictable. I hate it the most when it comes to cliches giving the game a bad game design.

From cheap deaths to jump courses you can’t fail… Yeah, it can ruin a game easily. I found a game on Android that demonstrates this to it’s full extend. From impossible timed challenges to moving platforms to spikes… You name it.

While this game goes of memorization, this game has great game design. And it’s rewarding to find the way the developer wanted you to finish the level. This game uses a ton of cliches in the right way and makes an amazing game with it.

For example, I’m not good in jumping puzzles. I fail them a lot. In the Wind Waker, there is a part in the ship that you need to do. It’s a part where you need to jump from platform to platform. When you fail, you have to restart. Man, did I hate that part.

Closing words

So, that was my rant on 10 things that annoy me in games. I know that a lot of these articles exist on the net but I tried to talk about things that almost never get mentioned. That got extremely challenging near the end.

All these subjects would have been a complete rant. But I never had enough material to write a full article about it. So, I’m glad that I was able to talk about it in this article.

I hope you enjoyed reading this. I’m really looking forward to your comments. Thanks again and I hope to see you at a next article.

Rant #003: Tutorials ~ The games that hold your hand.

ds-game-reviewsIt’s extremely lovely how games now explain the things in game. Sadly enough you don’t have to look at the manual anymore. For that manuals start to disappear. As a game collector, this makes me sad. But there is one thing that makes me sad too. That’s how games now a days have tutorials. Even if the battle system is extremely simple, the developers feel like explaining the game mechanics to you. Is this needed? Each time you play the game? Well, I don’t think so. Game tutorials are overrated, big time. I’m not against them, but they are certainty overstaying their welcome now.

Want to play the game, here I will help you.

I was talking with a friend of mine over Skype earlier and I said that I was giving Call Of Duty a shot. (ha, bad pun.) And he said that past CoD 5 it isn’t worth a play, since the game actually “holds your hand”.

What I mean with this is that you barely have any challenge in trying. The button you need to press flashes on the screen way on beforehand and finishing the game is just as easy as pressing the button.

Don’t confuse these with quick time events. I actually kinda like quick time events, as long as they aren’t overdone in a game. Tomb Raider has the action broken up with quick time events.

A game that’s good with it’s tutorial is Devil May Cry 4. The first part is you having a tutorial of the basics, to refresh and check if your controls are properly set, and after that it’s up to you to play the game. When you get a new ability, the instructions flash on screen once and then it’s up to you to remember them.

That’s the big problem with games that flash the buttons on screen. Back in the day, I knew where the A and B buttons where on the gameboy. But now I don’t know where the buttons are located on my PSP, since the button is flashed on the screen and I quickly peek over or just memorize it for that game. That may be a personal nitpick but tutorials can be annoying as getting the trash out and the bag rips. The first time you might go through with it but the second time you want to say some curse words.

Where is the skip button?

I can understand tutorials to make the games accessible for everybody. But when a battle system is self-explanatory then why for the love of God do we need a tutorial. I’m looking at you Pokémon for example. Is it really needed to say that you can select attacks under “attack” and that your items are under “bag”? Well no, let me try to defeat my opponents Pokémon by trying to run away and let’s try to throw a Pokéball to a wild Pokémon with a Sand Attack.

One game managed to nearly boil my blood. The start of Devil May Cry 4 is a fixed tutorial. And when you don’t do the move or the action required, forget it, you won’t pass to the rest of the game. Lovely.

A game that got it right is Overlord for example. In this game, right after the opening, you get the basics explained but for the basic combat and such, you can take a route. But if you want to skip it, you can go right to the Throne Room. This is how I want my games to be! With a skip-able tutorial.  I don’t want to be reminded each time I restart the game how to play the game.

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A game that is a perfect example of how to do it, but make it extremely annoying is The Legend Of Zelda – Ocarina Of Time.

In this game, you have a fairy following you, acting as your tutorial in how to use weapons and your items. But the sound effect to remind you that she has something to say is “HEY LISTEN.” and you hear this phrase a least a million time in the game. It gets on people’s nerves extremely quickly. Luckily they fixed this in the sequel Majora’s Mask where the sound effect is just a tingle.

A game that has no tutorial is Minecraft. This game drops you in a random generated world and without prior knowledge, this game is pretty confusing. And this is the big fun of Minecraft. You get to learn the game by playing it and you feel rewarded if you kill that first Zombie or craft your first bow. Most recipes aren’t far fetched anyways.

Some games have in game menu’s where you can review certain combo’s or actions. I remember some games, and I’m sorry that I can’t bring an example at this moment… I think it might be Age of Mythology for the DS, have a separate tutorial button that you can take outside of the game. That’s also a great option.

I feel retard. 

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Yes, I feel sometimes as a retard in a game. The game gets more like an interactive movie where you need to punch in the right button on the right time. There is no real skill involved anymore.

It’s like that coach at the side of a soccer game shouting at their players each and every move they need to do.

In complicated games, no issue, more power to you. But like I said, in a game like Kirby or Pokémon where the things are obvious how they work, it’s not needed. Just scrap that part and use the space for something decent like more levels.

Nintendo isn’t the only wrong do’er in this. I feel like tutorials now-a-days make a game way to easy. They flash the button you need to press or they can’t be skipped. What’s wrong with the challenge in a game. I once heard on a podcast that a developer needed to scrap a puzzle inside a game because there weren’t enough hints and you needed to use your common sense.

Oh, that’s another thing. Gamers don’t use a lot of common sense because of these tutorials. I wouldn’t be surprised if some gamer shouted at their game because “it wasn’t in the tutorial.”. Pathetic.

In conclusion, I think tutorials are welcome to aid the player get introduced in a game. But it’s annoying when you can’t skip it or when it explains extremely easy stuff that makes me go: “No shit sherlock.”.