First Impression: Final Fantasy X (PS2) ~ Soccer under water.

Wikipedia entry

So, my vacation recently started, and I felt like playing some games I have in my collection for years but haven’t really played. One of these games is Final Fantasy X on the PS2. A game I started playing this year, but I haven’t gotten the time to start really playing this game. I was even afraid in 2019 that I wouldn’t be able to start playing these two games. But now I have a whole summer to play games, and work inside my apartment. So, was it a good idea to pick Final Fantasy 10 to play during this holiday, or should I start looking for another game? Well, let’s find out together in this first impression article if I think it’s worth our time or if we should skip this game for another one. While I invite you, the reader, to leave a comment in the comment section with your thoughts and/or opinions on the game and/or the content of this article. And no, it’s a coincidence that I pick this RPG with fantasy soccer elements on the day that the final of the European Championship is being played. (That little bit would have worked, if only I was able to finish the article on that day.)

Blitz soccer under water

While writing this article, I found out that this game got an remaster way back in 2016. But, when I was able to pick up this game, and it’s sequel for €5 in my local game store second hand… Well, let’s just say I quickly decided to play the originals. Now that I’m admitting things, I think it’s a good thing to also “admit” or rather inform my readers that I haven’t played a lot of games in the Final Fantasy series. If my memory serves me correctly, this is one of the first Final Fantasy games I really started playing in-depth. I have started playing Final Fantasy 7 and other Final Fantasy titles, but for some unknown reason, I didn’t continue playing them.

Anyway, enough introductory rambling. It’s time to explain the (start) of the story of this game. So, this game opens with Tidus, a blitzball player from Zanarkand who is playing in a memorial cup. This memorial cup is to honor his father, a legendary player who went missing 10 years ago. The memorial cup for Jecht (Tidus’ father) has barely started and a big monster attacks the metropolis. Together with Auron, our main character Tidus is swept away. Who is Auron? Well, he is somebody who was looking after Tidus right after his father went missing and Tidus’ mother died.

Now, where is our Tidus swept away to? To Spira. A world where he barely knows the customs and languages. There, Tidus learns that Zanarkand has been destroyed over 1000 years ago by a being named Sin. And not only that, it turns out the Zanarkand is a holy land.

It doesn’t take long before Tidus’ blitzball skills are discovered by the locals and he enters a tournament. There, he meets various characters like the summoner Yuna. Together with her crew, Yuna is taking a pilgrimage to Zanarkand to destroy Sin. And you can bet on it that Tidus’ joins Yuna’s crew since he wants answers.

A lot of this game is voice acted. If you google this game together with “voice acting”, you get a LOT of varied opinions. From it being the worst they ever heard to being good. Personally, I think the voice acting is a bit on the weak side. I think the biggest issue is the pacing and delivery of the lines. Now, what I mean here is that the delivery of the English lines doesn’t always match the actions on screen. For example, there is a scene where you just enter a village, and you get stopped to get the prayer explained. But, there is a strange pause between the “Oh right, hold up” line and the character actually pulling you aside.

Overall, the writing so far is decent. All the unknown customs and languages are as confusing to us players then they are to our main character. If only the English voice acting was a bit more fine-tuned to give the story a bit more impact, a bit more “umphf” you know. Since there are moments that really have great voice acting, but it isn’t consistent, and it feels unpolished and a tad bit rushed.

Now, I could keep talking about the voice acting and story for a while but since I haven’t beaten the game yet, I think I’ll wait to talk about it more in depth for when I have finished this game and/or I have finished the sequel. Since then, I’ll have a way more clear picture on what the whole game and if it’s really that bad that the internet is actually saying. The only thing I want to say for now is that after 5 hours of playing, this game is a tad bit slow on the story side.

It’s battle time

This game is at its core an RPG. You explore the world while you have random battles with enemies to increase your stats. Besides that, you have a whole blitzball game to play as well. Currently, I haven’t played enough of the game to comment too in depth about blitzball. So, I’m going to focus mainly on the RPG gameplay. The battle system in this game your classic turn based affair. So, that means that if you have played RPG’s before, it won’t take you long before you get into this one.

One of the unique mechanics in this game is the Sphere Grid. I could try and explain it but I found that the Final Fantasy wiki has an excellent explanation. So, props to the writer(s) of that section of the wiki since it’s one of the best explanations of this interesting and fun to play with mechanic I was able to find.

At the end of each battle every party member that took at least one full turn earns AP. Characters who are switched out during their first turn, KO’d, or petrified at the end of the battle will not gain AP. If the player defeats the enemy using an aeon, then Yuna will be treated as having taken a turn even if she only summoned.

When enough AP is earned, the character gains a Sphere Level (“S.Lv“). The amount of AP needed to generate Sphere Levels increases progressively until the character has acquired 101 S.LV, after which an additional Sphere Level will always require 22,000 AP. When moving about the Sphere Grid, the character may move one node forward for each S.LV they have. The player does not need to activate a node to pass by it. Regardless of activation, when the player passes a node, a colored band connects their current node to the node they left to mark their path on the grid. Moving across previously connected paths allows the character to move four nodes for every S.LV they have.

Each character’s starting location on the grid indicates their strengths and weaknesses based on the variety of nodes in their section, though the player can choose to take the character down a different path using Key Spheres. The character-specific sections merge at certain points, allowing a character to take another’s path. The character-specific sections are separated by locked nodes, which become empty nodes once opened, allowing free movement. Ultimately, every node on the Sphere Grid may be accessed by every character.

https://finalfantasy.fandom.com/wiki/Sphere_Grid

The Sphere Grid makes the combat even more interesting. Something that this game does extremely well is teaching the mechanics and the strategies in battles to the player. It doesn’t overwhelm you with all the mechanics of this game in one go, but it steadily builds up until every mechanic has been covered. While I love RPG’s, I always have a hard time getting into the deeper meta of the game and I barely remember several things like what’s effective against what. Thankfully, in the towns, there is a station where you can re-read every tutorial from the game to refresh your memory. I love touches like these in games since it makes the game more accessible whilst the difficulty doesn’t suffer.

Speaking about difficulty, since you have full control over the Sphere Grid, you can somewhat decide that for yourself. I think this is an excellent idea how to handle difficulty. This way more veteran players can make the game more difficult by not unlocking everything on the grid while for more casual players, the game can become “easier” by unlocking the whole grid.

Something that really surprised me is the fact you can control Tidus via the D-pad. I honestly expected that since this game is on the PS2, only the joystick would move him. But that isn’t the case. You can control him with both. Overall, the controls of this game are quite well done. They are responsive and intuitive. Even when I put the game down for several months in February and picked it back up for this summer vacation, I was able to get the hang of the controls extremely quickly.

Also, the small map/radar helps quite a lot while exploring the area’s you come across. The yellow arrow is you and the red arrow is the next major objective. I’m really curious how that’s going to work when I’m further in the game and I hope it doesn’t take away the joy of trying to find the way to your next location. Since sometimes it’s a lot of fun, getting lost in the RPG world. That’s why I love playing games like Dragon Quest.

A bit stiff

I’m not that picky when it comes to the visuals of a game. I don’t mind if a game hasn’t the best visuals or looks from yesteryear, what matters to me is that the visual presentation is consistent with a nice art style that isn’t too hard on the eyes, fits the theme and atmosphere of game and helps me to pull me into the game. But, there are something’s in this game I want to talk about.

While overall, the visual presentation of this game looks quite good, I do notice some visual hiccups here and there. I honestly can’t tell if that’s because of the composite switch I’m using, my PS2 disc or something else, but I have noticed some visual issues. In one cutscene, you could see how Tidus’ hair is modeled, since it blurred out the background on the empty spots.

Maybe I notice these imperfections more easily since I have been reviewing games for over 11 years now and I might have developed an eye for it. But, there are some things that I really don’t like in terms of animation for this game. For example, I find the somewhat slow run cycle of Tidus so unnatural, it’s honestly almost comical in my opinion. Also, I have seen some strange movements from Yuna during her first cutscenes.

It’s a real shame, since this there is a lot that this game does right in terms of the visual presentation. The battle animations look amazing, and I have seen environments that still hold up in my opinion. But, it’s a bit stiff and rough on some edges. Things that could have been patched out if the game was to release in the modern gaming industry.

Now that I have talked about the visual presentation, I think it’s high time I also talk about the audiovisual presentation. Let’s first talk about the music. The orchestral soundtrack of this game has Final Fantasy written all over it. The classic victory tune and the hints to the original theme in the theme of this game are excellent. When I’m listening to game soundtracks, I rarely skip Final Fantasy soundtracks and this game is one of them. Great soundtrack!

That also goes for the audio in this game. There are a lot of ambient sound effects that pull you more into the atmosphere of the visual design. There were some moments where I felt that some additional sound effects could have helped… like with a silent waterfall. But then again, it might run the excellent sound mixing this game has going on… So yeah.

Now, I want to mention a nitpick. There isn’t a way to quickly skip long animations and/or cutscenes. So, yeah. That’s quite annoying if you are in a rush to get somewhere since you got a game over, and you haven’t manually saved at a save stone in a while. Thankfully, I’m that kind of player who saves at every opportunity I can, just in case…

The final thing I want to touch upon in this first impression is the camera. All in all, the camera in this game is good, but sometimes it doesn’t follow the main player well enough and the main character almost goes off-screen before the camera angle switches. Thankfully, the map helps in these moments, but hey, it could have been better.

Overall, I’m quite happy that I’m giving this game a chance during my summer vacation break. While this game is showing its age in the visual department and that complaint is mostly fixed with the remaster… I do still enjoy playing the original version of the game. The only thing that really bothers me is the mediocre voice acting, which breaks some tension of the story. But, thankfully, it’s great voice practice for me since my folk theater group is restarting after the… let’s just say… the “covid-break”. So, I can try to act it out myself how I would have preformed that line.

While I could have gone more in depth on certain aspects of this game, I’m going to keep that for the review when I have fully beaten this game. I’m really curious if certain opinions are going to change. And with that said, I have said everything I wanted to say about this game for now. I want to thank you so much for reading, and I hope you enjoyed reading this article as much as I enjoyed writing it. I hope to be able to welcome you in another one, but until then, have a great rest of your day and take care!

First Impression: Blue Dragon (XBOX360) ~ Helpful Shadows

BlueDragonWikipedia entry

It has been quite some time since I have written an article about a game on the XBOX360. Which is quite surprising to me, since I bought my XBOX360 from an old classmate of mine three-ish years ago. Anyways, I’m glad that I bought the system since when I moved in September of last year, I had a lot of issues with getting my internet up and running, so it was my DVD player. Besides that, I kept playing games on it since it was on anyways. Anyways, earlier this month I felt like browsing the XBOX360 Online store and I wanted to play an RPG. When I found Blue Dragon, a game I thought released only on Nintendo DS, was actually a series that started on the XBOX. I didn’t hesitate and bought the game for 20€. And, because you guys and girls voted for it on my Twitter, here we are. I’m going to talk about my first impressions of this game after playing this game for about 2-ish hours. Let’s dive right into this while I invite you to leave a comment in the comment section with your thoughts and opinions on the game and/or the content of this article.

Helpful shadows

Blue-Dragon-XBOX-360In this game, you take on the role of Shu, Jiro and Kiuke. These three young kids live in a village that gets attacked yearly by a mysterious landshark. This landshark not only destroys almost the whole village but also caused several victims. During one attack, these three children want revenge on the landshark and try to trap and fight it. This doesn’t turn out so well and they get dragged away by the landshark. 

After a small exploration of the resting place of the landshark, they discover that the landshark is being controlled by somebody else who is taking great pleasure in seeing the destruction and panic. Our three heroes are able to escape this evil person but they also eat a special light orb which transforms their shadows into beats that make them not only stronger but also give them magic abilities. 

Now, allow me to be blunt and direct for a moment. If you expect a deep and rich story from this RPG, I’m afraid to say that you are barking up the wrong tree. The writing and the pacing is perfect for an children anime series. But, to be honest, I think it fits the game well. If the writers would have written a more grim plot with the whole “your shadow gives you special powers” plot you would either go more in the lines of a Persona game or risking that the story becomes too silly to be taken seriously. 

Yet, on the other hand, this does put the game in a weird position for me. When I play RPG games, I expect more from the story then a simple story for the young kids. Granted, I can enjoy the stories in a Pokémon game and those aren’t too special, but the story in this game is just a bit mediocre. If I have to pin point why I feel that the story in this game isn’t the best, I think I have to say that the story in this game is like a small rain puddle. 

A small rain puddle that is quite enjoyable to jump into and kick the water around but it’s just that. A puddle. It has no depth and it doesn’t provide you with more enjoyment than the surface layer. A perfect example is that the resolution of some missions can be skipped completely. In one of the first missions, you have to save the “bravest warrior” from a sheep village. After you have done so, the exit to the next section of the game is right there and you never see the “bravest sheep” return home and lie about him defeating the monster that was trapping him. 

There is just not enough reaction on the situation by either the NPC’s or even the playable characters. When they get trapped in a big machine with no way out, there is no panic, no plan meeting… Nothing. Anything would be nice to provide more depth. 

The voice acting of this game is decent. I have heard better voice acting but I have also heard a lot worse. But the voice acting has the same problem compared to the shallow story. I feel that some scenes should have been voice acted or at least have some more sound effects to draw you in more but alas, we get silent textboxes. 

Missing: Depth

538221-blue-dragon-xbox-360-screenshot-marumaro-dashing-through-the

So, the story isn’t the strong suit of this game. Granted, I have only experienced a small part of the story and maybe the story improves quite a lot when I continue playing this game. Since, I’m seeing a lot of amazing mechanics and idea’s in this game that show the potential of this game. 

I really like how you can choose which character is the character you explore this game with. There are no real difference in terms of gameplay doing that, apart from one minor visual one. 

But then there are things that are quite flawed. A great example is the map system. Explain me why it’s possible to see the locations on the map in the teleport system but not on the world map? The world map in this game is the most useless map I have seen in a RPG. Apart from a location pointer and an icon where all teleport places are, you have no further information. You can’t even see area maps apart from the small compass in the bottom right corner. 

Thankfully, not everything is as broken as the global map. There are minor flaws in the game as well. They can be distracting but they didn’t ruin the game (too much) for me. For example, I think it’s hardcoded in the game that after cutscenes, every character joins Shu to continue the adventure… even when you selected another character to explore the world with. And after a small second, you transform into the correct character. 

Now, let’s talk about something good about this game for a change. I really enjoy the battle system. While I would have loved a better animation for the start of a battle, that nitpick doesn’t take away that the battle system has some unique and fun mechanics. Every enemy can be seen during exploration. So, there are no random battles in sight in this game. You can also bring up a circle in which you can choose which enemies to group together to attack in one battle. And while you’re exploring, weaker enemies will flee from you while stronger enemies try and chase you down for a while.

So, you can assign classes to your shadow. These classes dictate which spells and attacks you can use. This adds a layer of complexity to the game that I enjoy quite a lot. In addition to that, the battle system also has a timing mechanic. Unlike the Paper Mario games where you have to time a button press with the attack landing, in this game you have to hold the “A” button and if you land in the “critical” red zone, your spell or attack is more powerful BUT it might need a turn to charge up. The risk/reward system is excellent. 

Let’s power through

538217-blue-dragon-xbox-360-screenshot-activating-warp-devices-willFrom the previous section of the article, you might get the idea that this game is mediocre or isn’t worth your time. Now, that’s something I personally disagree with. I think this game is worth at least a try if you enjoy playing RPG or adventure games and you want to play something more lighthearted. 

Maybe the amazing visual presentation of this game might pull you in like it does with me. While some animations aren’t the best and a bit silly, like some walk cycles. The game looks well crafted and apart from some minor animation hiccups during cutscenes with the mouths not moving during talking, I don’t see too many major issues. The biggest issue is that some unskipable attack animations have some minor slowdown or tearing in them. But, that might be because I’m playing this game on a very new TV and maybe the high refresh rate and the big size might be overloading my poor XBOX360’s GPU buffer. 

The other big part of the presentation of this game is the audio. Apart from the game needing a bit more sound effects during cutscenes, I think the audio does a decent job of giving this game more character. Yet, I do have some complaints. I noticed that in some spots, the audio mixing wasn’t the greatest and the sound effects sounded too loud compared to the music that was playing. Speaking about the soundtrack, I enjoy most of it but there are some tracks with vocals. And these miss their mark completely in my opinion. Not only is it hard to understand what is actually being sung but combined with the sound effects of the battle, it gets even worse. Also, these songs don’t fit at all as a boss battle theme. 

Something I feel on the edge about is the fact that this game doesn’t have an autosave system. All the saving happens manually. So, don’t forget to save when you get the chance since a “Game Over” sends you back to the main menu where you have to load your save. Thankfully, this game isn’t too difficult but loosing progress is never fun.

And I’m not saying that this game is too easy. If you aren’t careful, you will loose and “Press A” to win doesn’t apply in this game. You will have to use some strategy or else you will be defeated. 

So, if you would ask me if I would recommend this game… I would say “Yes, but know that this game is not for everybody.”. While this game is quite enjoyable, I don’t think that this game aged quite well. While I heavily disagree with the 90+/100 scores that some reviewers gave this game, I don’t think this game is a bad game. 

While I haven’t gotten too far into the game and according to a small peak at the walkthrough, I currently finished 10% of the main story, I’m quite curious to see what this game is going to throw at me. So far, this game is quite enjoyable in my eyes despite it’s childish nature and the various flaws this game has. But, it puts a great battle system, enjoyable worlds and various other things to balance the flaws out. 

Normally, I wouldn’t score a game in a first impressions article but I’m going to do it because earlier I said that I disagree with the 90+ scores that this game is getting. I would give this game 70/100. This game has a lot of good elements but the lack of depth and polish in this game is something I would love to see improved in the sequels when I get around in playing them. 

And with that said, I think it’s high time to wrap up this article before I find another way to talk about the same point again in another way. There are a few things I’m leaving for the review when I have beaten this game but I have mentioned the most important things. 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, have a great rest of your day and take care. 

Gamer’s Thoughts: The 10 games I want to play in 2021

2021

2020, what a strange year it has been. I think everybody will agree that this is an understatement and a half. Of course there is still this world pandemic which is causing all sorts of havoc. But let’s not forget the events that also happened this year like the Australian bushfires, a new American president, the UK royal family growing smaller, a Brexit agreement… In terms of 2020 being an historic year, I think we delivered in spades. In my personal life, a lot of things happened as well. From me starting my dream job full time to living on my own, it has been a crazy year to say the least. While 2020 was filled with a lot of positives for me, there were also some things that I wish turned out in another way. Anyways, that’s enough rambling about 2020. This blog is a gaming blog and you are all here for me talking about video games. So, I think it’s high time to start talking about 10 games I’m looking forward to be playing in 2021. Feel free to leave a comment with your list of games you want to play next year and if you agree or disagree with my list and/or some of the games on it. Ready? Let’s go and take a look at my personal list in a random order.

#10 – Persona 5 Strikers (PC/PS4/Switch – Feb 23th) 

Persona_5_Scramble

In the past we started to see various franchises cross over with Lego and I think we’ll now see cross overs with Dynasty Warrior cross overs next. We have seen cross overs with series like Fire Emblem, Zelda, Dragon Quest, One Piece and now we are getting a cross over with Persona. 

It was a big surprise when Joker got added to Smash last year, but this year we got the announcement that for the worldwide release of Persona 5 Strikers, we are getting a port to the Nintendo Switch alongside with a PS4 and PC version. 

I really enjoyed playing Fire Emblem Warriors and Hyrule Warriors on the Switch so I’m quite hyped for playing this cross-over. I haven’t played a lot of the Persona series but from what I have played through Persona 3 Golden and Persona Q, I’m extremely interested in seeing how they tackled the franchise and this cross-over. Maybe one day I might have to invest in getting the Persona games on other platforms if I enjoy them enough. 

#9 – World’s End Club (was Death March Club – Switch, Spring 2021)

maxresdefaultLast year, I told you all about Death March Club. A game that’s written by the creator of the Zero Escape franchise. Now, color me surprised when the game released this year under another name exclusively on the Apple Arcade this September. 

Currently, this game is a timed exclusive on the Apple Arcade and it’s coming in Spring of 2021 to the Nintendo Switch where you can be sure that I’m going to play it. I’m currently having a lot of trouble trying to avoid spoilers by not watching gameplay, teasers or anything of the sort. I’m even avoiding reading reviews of the game since I really want to experience it for myself. 

The only thing I know is that it’s going to be a death game where you have to work together to win all the while you need to sacrifice your class mates to avoid bad things in the world above. You can be damn sure that I’m keeping an eye on this game to get a final release date on the Nintendo Switch so I can start playing it and write an article about it!

#8 – Age of Empires IV (PC, TBA)

age_of_empires_iv_logoThe new entry in the amazing RTS Age of Empires franchise got announced late 2019. The original rumors where that this game was going to release in 2020. In hindsight, I should have known better since the teaser we got barely showed any gameplay so it would be way to optimistic to see this game release in 2020. Now, the rumors are that this game is going to release in 2021.   Somehow, I highly doubt that. We do know a few things about the game already which you can read in this helpful article by “Windows Central“. 

As a fan of the series, it’s amazing to see that this series never died. It had some low points but ever since the Age Of Empires II HD version released in 2013, we got a steady stream of upgrades. Granted, apart from 3 new expansion packs we barely saw any new content since 2007. But hey, in the last three years we got definitive editions of the whole franchise (apart from Age of Mythology, oh well) so I have high hopes that Age Of Empires IV will be an amazing game since the team has a lot of experience with the franchise now. 

#7 – Lord Winklebottom Investigates (Switch, Q1 2021)

headerBut, hey! This game has already released in the PC back in 2019. So, why is this on the list of games you want to play in 2021? You have a good point there and I’m going to explain myself. 

When I’m preparing to write this list, I always look around for games releasing in the upcoming year that I want to play. I go over huge lists created by other news outlets and check various games if they could be interesting or not. When I found out that this game was coming to the Nintendo Switch in 2021, I added it to my list. 

Since this game is a port from the 2019 version of the game, the team will have the chance to also iron out some bugs and things for the Switch port so we might get more or better content. Now, why am I excited for this game? Well, doesn’t the logo remind you of the Professor Layton series? 

Because we got only one new game in the past seven years and three ports to mobile platforms, I don’t have high hopes we are going to get any new Professor Layton content real soon. But, in comes this game. A game that looks to be a sort of Layton’s Mystery Journey game but in an animal universe. Do I have to say more? The potential and all those things. Yeah.

#6 – Haven (PS4/Switch, Q1 2021)

Haven_Steam_cover_artworkYes, yes, I know. This game has been released earlier this December. But, I only discovered this game this week and now I’m quite hyped to play it on my Nintendo Switch. 

The story and concept is what drew me into this game. A world where you have to survive with two people all the while being an RPG… Sign me up! The only thing that has me slightly worried is that this game has some rhythm game elements, which is one of my least favorite genres. But we will see, maybe it isn’t that bad and it might be even quite enjoyable. So yeah, let’s wait and see what the Nintendo Switch version is going to bring in the first few months of 2021.

#5 – Mystiqa (PC, Switch – Q1 2021)

capsule_616x353Man, do I miss the old school 2D topdown Zelda games. I wish there were still games developed in that style where you have a whole big adventure in big world. Like the Link’s Awakening remake last year. 

But, wait, what is this? A game that’s inspired by the old school Zelda games, Final Fantasy Adventure, Dragon Quest amongst other amazing games? And it’s even a rouge like so the replay value is through the roof? Plus, this game is coming out in 2021 on Steam and Switch? 

When I followed this indie developer on Twitter, I found out that there are several of these games in development! Well, well, well. I think my dream came true. More content in the style of the old school 2D-Zelda games. I simply can’t wait to play them and you can be sure I’m going to write an article about them!

#4 – Bravely Default II (Switch, 26th February)

220px-Bravely_Default_III have played Bravely Default back when it got released on the 3DS. I still have to play the 3DS sequel Bravely Second but from what I have seen from the demo, I think I’m going to have a great time with that. I have also played the demo of Bravely Default II and I’m also quite hyped for that game. 

I can’t put my finger on exactly why I enjoy playing the Bravely Default games but something is really drawing me in. Maybe it’s the unique battle mechanic where you can skip turns to use stronger attacks or the whole class system. Yet, I do know full well that these mechanics are also present in other RPG games but something just clicked for me with Bravely Default. Maybe I’ll be able to answer that question when I have played Bravely Default II. 

One thing I know is that my birthday month is going to be extremely busy with two games releasing I want to play. Not even that, a few games are releasing in Q1 2021, which can be in February as well. And I have the Pokémon collab to finish as well. Wish me luck!

#3 – Re:Zero – Staring Life in Another World: The Prophecy of the Throne (PS4/PC/Switch, 5th February)

headerI love the setup of the Re:Zero story. When Subaru, our main character, got transported to another world he discovered that he has a special ability which he can’t speak about. Whenever he gets killed in the new world, the whole world gets reset. As if he is part of a game that gets reset whenever he dies. He does remember everything but nobody in that world is able to remember the reset. 

Now, this unique story mechanic is getting worked into a game. It’s going to be a visual novel but it’s also going to be a tactical RPG/adventure game. So, this is going to be quite enjoyable if the “Return by Death” is implemented well and might set up various twists up extremely well. 

For some reason, the USA is getting this game a week earlier than we over here in Europe. Oh well, that means I’ll have to dodge spoilers for a week which won’t be too big of an issue since it’s a work week and also working on the final stages of the Pokémon collab by then. 

#2 – Shin Megami Tensei V (Switch, Early 2021)

Shin_Megami_Tensei_VThis series is one of the biggest RPG series ever created. I think I don’t have to explain more by simply saying that Persona is a spin-off of this series. Yes, you read this correctly, the popular Persona series is actually a spin off of this franchise. 

I have played some Shin Megami Tensei games over the years but everytime it was in between waiting for other games to release. But, I decided that in 2021, I want to fully play through a Shin Megami Tensei game. I quite enjoyed my time with the series so far playing the (3)DS entries and the cross over Tokyo Mirrage Sessions #FE. So, it’s a good thing then that a new game is going to be released on the Switch in the near future.

You might argue that it’s not a great idea to jump into the series with the 5th main entry but then again, it might make it more interesting to me to play the other games to connect the dots and to answer all the unanswered questions in the 5th entry. 

#1 – Axiom Verge 2 (Switch, Early 2021)

H2x1_NSwitchDS_AxiomVerge2I honestly have a weakspot when it comes to MetroidVania games. When I learned about Axiom Verge and the unique mechanics that the game brought the genre, I was hooked. I haven’t finished the game yet but it’s one of those games that I pop into my Nintendo Switch or start up on my Wii U once in a while to wind down and relax. Maybe I should continue the game on only one of the two platforms instead of two. But, I own the collectors edition on Switch… 

At first, this game was going to be released in the fall of this year. Sadly enough, due to a delay, this game has been pushed to early next year. For now, I think this game will be an exclusive or a timed exclusive to the Nintendo Switch. And looking at the screenshots, oh wow.. Is this game going to be fun! Maybe I should finish Axiom Verge and Axiom Verge 2 back to back… That might be fun.

Wrapping up

I have to say that it’s getting more difficult by the year to create these lists. Mostly because most of the announced games are scheduled in Q1/Q2 of the upcoming year and a lot of them are sequels or entries in a long running series. On top of that, we lately get more remakes/remasters and ports in the last few years. 

Another big reason is that I’m more and more focusing on my collection and collecting games instead of playing the upcoming and new games. So, that means I’m not going to buy a PS5 or the new XBOX or even upgrading my computer to play the newest games. I’m quite enjoying myself by playing games on my consoles. 

That means I have an even smaller pool of games to pick from. And when I notice that a game that looks interesting to me requires to either upgrade my PC or get a new console, I dismiss it. For now, there aren’t enough games that I really want to play that validate the purchase of a new console or a stronger computer in my mind. 

I rather spend my money on games I actually want to play or add to my collection instead of having the “latest and strongest” gaming hardware. I know that this might be just me or my collecting hobby but maybe this year a lot of games will release that validate the purchase of a better computer. 

Besides all that, it looks like my Nintendo Switch will be quite busy in the upcoming year. Which is a good thing, since I love playing my Switch on the train to and from work. I just a great way to spend the long train journey creating memories and something starting to talk to other gamers on the train about various games. And I wish to be able to do that in 2021 and make new friends. That would create some sunshine in these strange times. 

But with all that said, I think it’s high time to wrap up this article and thank you for reading this one. I hope you enjoyed reading this article and 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 Impressions: Dragon Quest XI S: Echoes of an Elusive Age – Definitive Edition (Switch) ~ Grand Adventure

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Nintendo.com micrositeWikipedia entry

Today we are going to talk about a game with a lengthy title. It’s also a quite lengthy game to boot. I mean, this game clocks in at giving or take 60 hours of playtime. Now, in the past, I talked about other games in the series like Dragon Quest IX and Dragon Quest Builders and it’s sequel Dragon Quest Builders 2. But now it’s time to look at and talk about the newest game in the series. The 11th entry got an expanded edition on the Nintendo Switch and that’s what I have been playing for the last couple of days. And I think I’m ready to give my opinion on the question if you should spend your time, money and effort in this game or that the adventure isn’t worth it. And as usual, feel free to leave a comment with your opinion on the game and/or the content of this article in the comment section down below.

Grand Classical Adventure

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In this game, you play as a nameable hero. You start off in the village of Cobblestone where you partake in a coming of age ritual. It doesn’t take long before things start to go south. Well, it turns out that you are the Luminary, a legendary hero chosen by the world tree Yggdrasil to save Erdrea from evil.

Now, here is the catch. You go to the King to provide your services and things go even more south. The King accuses you of bringing evil upon his land and throws you into the dungeon. So, the stage is set for a grand adventure to prove yourself and save the world before the actual evil entity destroys the world.

The main plotline itself is nothing to really write home about. After playing Dragon Quest Builders 2, where your building was illegal, I felt that I already experienced a similar story in the franchise. Maybe I’m looking a bit too deep into this. Yet, the actual pacing and storytelling are way more enjoyable. The story turns into a journey from town to town where you have a smaller adventure in each town. It’s almost like an anime series where the hero and crew travel around the world.

The writing of this game is just amazing. From medieval speak to people speaking in English with a foreign accent, it’s just lovely. What I mean with a foreign account is that you clearly see the Spanish influences in the made-up language that they speak at some beach cities.

The voice acting really adds a lot to the personality of the characters. While some of the characters really follow some stereotype arcs, I really enjoyed the mix of characters in this game. The characters are written that well, I even started to shout right at some of the characters when they did something frustrating.

Currently, I’m not even halfway in the adventure and I have been enjoying myself throughout the story. I cannot wait to see where the story is going to take me next since the whole world seems massive and a blast to explore.

The Confused Light

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What is a massive world to explore without an interesting visual presentation? This game doesn’t disappoint in that area. One time I played Dragon Quest VII on my PlayStation 2 and I found that game extremely pretty. If you take that game and give it a 1080HD facelift, you get the visual presentation of this game. The world is colorful and extremely detailed to explore. It even has a day and night cycle that makes the world come alive.

Yet, it pains me to say it but I do have some things I disliked about the visual presentation. First of all, there are a few details that were missed while designing some towns. For example, in one of the towns, they forgot to add in a door at the backside of a store. I have posted a video about it on my Twitter. Notice how inside the store, the door is present and when you run behind the back, the door is suddenly nowhere to be seen.

Thankfully, these moments aren’t too frequent and overall, the world is extremely detailed. But, something that is somewhat broken is the triggers to change the lighting. Now, the lighting changes when you enter a building. That isn’t a problem until you start walking to edges of buildings and the light level already changes when you are still outside and next to a wall. Just look at this video I posted on my Twitter, where the ending shows off what I mean. Sadly enough, this problem occurs extremely frequently. Especially at night time and even more when the roof sticks out of the building or when the pathway has a roof itself.

It’s a shame since this is a problem that puts a damper on the excellent animation. I was extremely surprised to see characters actually react surprised or angry when you raided their cupboards or their belongings. Or the fact you can turn the camera around while in battle and see everything from every angle you wish.

Now, I think that the next issue I noticed has to do with memory management for the Nintendo Switch version but the render distance isn’t the best. This is something I can personally forgive since it affects the far off objects that get less detailed render. You can clearly see more detail appear in the frame when you walk up to it. On extremely rare occasions, the detail appears when you are just up close.

Automation

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This game plays like every other J-RPG and especially like most previous Dragon Quest games that came before it. I haven’t played all the Dragon Quest games, so I can’t tell you what’s unique in this title compared to the previous entries in the series.

If you haven’t played any of these games in the past, let me quickly explain it to you. While you take your party on a journey throughout the land, you fight various battles to make your characters stronger and let them learn new skills. With each won battle, your characters gain experience points. When they gain enough experience points, they gain a level. For each level, they get points that allow them to open up a skill in their skill tree.

There are a lot of different character classes that spice up the fighting style and gameplay. From characters that are meant for healing to characters that act as a sponge for all the attacks, better known as a tank. So, you have to choose your equipment wisely as well. You buy a strong shield for your tank and a strong wand for your healer.

There are two ways of battle encounters and this game has them both. On the overworld, the monsters are visible and roam around, so you can pick and choose your battles. Alas, while traveling in places that aren’t the overworld, like the sea, the battles are random and can happen at any moment. Thankfully, in most cases, you see the enemies so it’s not a mess to understand where which system is used.

So, during the adventure, you also have to solve puzzles where you have to look around the environment and dungeons for clues. These puzzles can range from conquering a dungeon to do a fetch side quest to using a monster to climb a crumbling building. A tight control scheme is essential for this type of games and I have to say that this game doesn’t disappoint. After you get used to the control scheme of this game, I have to say that it’s a blast to use. Some features are a bit too buried in menus for my liking but that might be the biggest complaint about that.

Everything is paired together with an amazing soundtrack and sound design. Now a lot of the soundtrack and sound effects sound extremely familiar when you have played previous games in the series. This isn’t a bad thing since this really helps to put the game into the Dragon Quest universe. Plus, the music still fits the atmosphere quite well and doesn’t get boring.

And with that said, I think I have said almost everything I wanted to say about this game for now. Because I’m not even halfway done with the game, I’m not going to talk more in-depth about the game for now. When I have finished the game, or put more hours into it, I might write a more in-depth review. But, at this moment I already reached a conclusion.

This game is one of the best games I have played on the Nintendo Switch when it comes to RPG’s. The expansive world and the amazing story is an amazing journey to take part in. I can’t wait to see what the rest of the adventure will bring since I’m enjoying myself with this adventure. I also highly recommend this game to every Dragon Quest fan, RPG fan, adventure game fan and people who are looking for a lengthy and expansive game to sink their teeth into. And if you want to know if the game is for you, you can download a free demo in the Nintendo eShop to try out the game before you buy it.

So, that’s everything I wanted to say about this game (for now). I want to thank you for reading this article and I hope you enjoyed reading this article 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.

NekoJonez’s Top 10 Games of 2019

my personal top 10 games of 20192019 has been a very special year for me. A lot of things happened in my personal life like job changes. Now, I might have written fewer articles compared to 2018, I still have a top 10 games ready for you! If you haven’t read my top 10 games of the year lists before, let me explain something to you. I’m not that big of a fan on top 10 lists where all the games came out that year because you nearly always get the same games on that list. Besides that, I’m a retro gamer and I play a lot of retro games and I find that those also can be my pick for game of the year. So, that’s why I can pick ANY game for my game of the year. The only rule I had to start playing the game in 2019. Games that I started in 2018 or earlier don’t count. So, I can’t pick games like the Zero Escape since I replayed them with a friend this year because I played those games in the past. So, what games did make my top 10 list and which games didn’t make the list? Let’s find out together! Also, remember that I haven’t played every game that came out and that this list is my opinion. So, if you disagree, feel free to leave a respectful comment. But, in all other cases, also feel free to leave a comment with your opinion on the games, the list, the content of this article and/or your own list.

Editoral note: Some of the games I have already reviewed, if that’s the case, the link will go to my review or article. If that isn’t the case, the link will take you to a store page.

Number 10: Degree of Separation (Switch) (2019)

degreeofseperationI have only started to play this game at the start of December. But, the mechanics and gameplay made such a big impression on me that I decided to place it on my top 10 games list I played this year. While I know you can play this game as a single-player game, I’m going through the adventure together with a friend. We started to play this game right after we finished Tick Tock: A Tale For Two. We wanted to play another co-op game.

This game is a co-op game where you have to help each other to reach the end of the section. Meanwhile, you have to solve various puzzles to collect scarfs. One player plays as an ice prince and the other player plays as a fire Princess. Both characters have very different abilities that you have to use together to solve the challenges of the game.

The mechanics that there is a separation and a bond between the characters are just amazing. I’m tempted to finish this game in single-player but I’m holding myself back from doing that since it’s such a great game to play with a friend that I want to fully complete the adventure with her. It helps me to create amazing memories with her and I can’t wait to create even more. Speaking of which… one of the other co-op games is one of the honorable mentions.

Number 9: Etrain Odyssey Nexus (3DS) (2019)

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The most likely final entry in the Etrain Odyssey series has been released around my birthday. I’m a huge fan of the series and whenever I have the time, I’m trying to make progress in one of the Etrain Odyssey games I own.

I haven’t gotten around to writing a review or an article about this game just yet, but I’ll make sure that next year will see an article about this game.

Since it’s bittersweet knowing that no new games will come in this amazing franchise. The reason is that the gameplay was created with the DS and the 3DS in mind. On the top screen, you were exploring the brutal dungeons and on the bottom screen, you were creating your very own map.

This game is an amazing finale to the series. It combines all the amazing aspects of all the previous games and it’s a great way to finish the series. Personally, I don’t recommend this game to a newcomer to the series since it might be a bit overwhelming.

On top of that, it’s one of the final big new games on the 3DS. While I’m totally not done with playing games on the 3DS just yet, this swansong feels even more strange because of that. So, thank you Nintendo for the amazing memories with the DS and 3DS. I’m so grateful that you developed this hardware and made it possible that this amazing series got created.

Number 8: My Big Sister (Switch) (2019)

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So, this game is an RPG Maker adventure game created by Stranga. While the gameplay isn’t anything too special since the game isn’t too difficult nor it is it quite long… The game’s story is quite well written.

The charm of this game reminded me a lot of Angels of Death, which was one of my favorite games last year.

The story tells a tale about a special bond that two sisters have while going through some troubling times. It has quite a lot of symbolism and after it was finished, I needed some time to let it all sink in. Recently, I have started one of the other games from this developer and I’m quite enjoying my time with that game as well. So, thank you for this game for introducing me to an amazing indie developer that I’ll be following from now on.

Number 7: Uncharted – The Lost Legacy (PS4) (2017)

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So, I can’t hide the fact that I’m a huge fan of the Tomb Raider series. So, I knew that the Uncharted franchise existed but I have never played any of the games.

Now, a good friend owns almost all of the games and one of the first times I came over her place, we played Uncharted – The Lost Legacy together. She was stuck at a puzzle and I wanted to help her out.

It didn’t take long before I was hooked at this game and I finished the remainder of the game. Not long after that, we went on holiday together and after that, I lent her PS4 for a short while. During that time, I finished the campaign I hadn’t played yet and I knew one thing for certain. That this game will be on my top 10 games of 2019 list.

While I enjoyed the modern Tomb Raider games a little bit more, I still think that the Uncharted games deserve recognition. Now, I can’t wait to start playing the other Uncharted games. So, maybe next year you might see a review or two from other games in the series…

Number 6: Horizon Zero Dawn (PS4) (2017)

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Ever since I heard about this game, I wanted to give this game a try. This game looked extremely interesting to me. Now, I don’t own a PS4 but my a friend of mine does.

So, when we saw the base game on sale in our local game store, we bought it right away and started playing it. And I fell in love with the game right away.

The story and atmosphere reminded me to the amazing time I had in games like Shadow of the Tomb Raider and Breath of the Wild.

While I haven’t played a lot of this game, I can’t wait to play more and actually finish this game. It’s one of the best games I have been playing on the PS4 and it made me want to buy my own PS4. If only I had the budget to do that…

So, thank you Horizon Zero Dawn for taking me on a journey that reminds me of two of the best games I have played in the last two years. I can’t wait to see where the adventure is going to take me next since the world is calling me back in.

Number 5: Ion Fury (PC) (2019)

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If you look through my blog, I’m quite a big fan of retro titles. When one of my favorite YouTubers introduced me to this game, I was quite interested.

Yes, I bought the game right after watching that review and I was unable to put the game down for a few weeks. It was almost the only game that I played during that time. The old school shooter games were back in business!

Now, the game gets frequent updates that add improvements and even new content. So, that’s why I’m currently putting this game a bit on hold. I’m going to give this game another shot really soon to see what has been changed and try to beat this game again and find even more secrets. And I’m also thinking to dip my feet into the mods that the community is creating for this game since I have seen some interesting things that might make this game even more enjoyable.

Number 4: Bloodstained – Ritual of the Night (Switch) (2019)

H2x1_NSwitch_BloodstainedRitualOfTheNight_image1600wYes, yes,  I haven’t played the best version of this game. I know that the other versions have a better performance. But, honestly, I still think that this game is a blast to play.

I really missed playing a great Metroidvania game ever since I had beaten Monster Tale on the DS.

And this game just exceeded my expectations. I was really worried that this game would crash and burn like Mighty Number 9. But thankfully, this Kickstarter game delivered on its promises and turned out great.

I have talked more in-depth about this game in my review, so when you want to know more, I advise you to read that article. Currently, I’m considering if I should start over or not since a big patch is coming soon to the Nintendo Switch version. Now, that’s up to me to decide when the patch comes out in a few weeks.

Number 3: Dragon Quest Builders 2 (Switch) (2019)

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Well, well, well. Here is a surprise. One of my most anticipated games of 2019 is only number 3 in my Top 10 games of 2019 list.

After I had beaten the original game last year, I was really hyped for the sequel. I was waiting to see a release date appear on various outlets and when it got announced, I pre-ordered it right away through my favorite local game store.

The game didn’t disappoint at all. It was an extremely enjoyable ride from start to finish. While I still have a ton of postgame content left to do, I’m currently on a break from this game. I have spent over 100 hours in this game, so yeah…

Now, I have been playing this game with friends as well and while the multiplayer is somewhat limited, it’s quite a lot of fun. Maybe one of these days I might return to this game with her and start playing the post-game content and improving my Ilse of Awakening even more to have a better-looking island. Since now it’s a huge construction zone…

Number 2: AI – The Somnium Files (Switch) (2019)

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This game came out of nowhere for me. After the amazing Zero Escape series, I didn’t expect that Kotaro Uchikoshi was writing a new horror-themed visual novel game with its own unique twist.

So, I was counting down until the release date hit and I even patiently waited until I could start this game with a good friend of mine since she is a big fan of Kotaro’s work as well since we had beaten the Zero Escape series together this summer. Well, she finished the games since I was replaying them with her.

When the game started, we noticed all the little nods to his previous work. The subtle references in the story and the sound effects being reused. It was an amazing feeling.

At first, the story was a bit mediocre. But, then a sudden plot twist changed everything. That friend wasn’t interested in the game after a few play sessions but when I told her the twists the game took, she wanted to see them.

I remember the time we finished the game during my week off in November. A few times, I had to put the controller down because the story just blew my mind. It’s an amazingly written story if you let yourself get drawn into it. Now, a ton of people argues that it’s not his best work. I see where they are coming from, but that doesn’t mean that the story in this game is bad at all.

The issue is that when you know Kotaro’s style of revealing plot details and that even small details mean quite a lot, you can see some twists coming from a mile away. But, it didn’t bother me that much. The suspense then is, how are the characters going to find out the truth you knew all along. And that’s where this game shines in the story department. If only this game didn’t wrap up the story so nicely, then we might have some sequel potential. The whole dream concept of this game and the gameplay is just amazing. But, I’m equally as hyped for the next games of Kotaro. Keep on creating my dude! I fell in love with your games since the Zero Escape series and now I want to play even more games from you and your team.

Honorable mentions

Before I reveal my number 1 of this year, my game of the year if you will… I think it’s time we talk about honorable mentions. Games that I loved playing this year but didn’t make the top 10 for some reason. Also, keep in mind that this isn’t a complete list of games that I played this year that fit the rules of this top 10 but it’s more a list of games that I want to mention that fit the rules but didn’t make the top 10.

Keep Talking And Nobody Explodes (Switch), Fire Emblem – Three Houses (Switch), Resident Evil 7 (PC), Silence (PS4), Peggle 2 (XBOX360), Halo 3 (XBOX360), Call of Duty – World At War (XBOX360), Resident Evil 1 (PS1), Life is Strange (PS4), Adera (PC), Chrono Trigger (Android), Forager (Switch), The Legend of Zelda – Links Awakening (Switch), Wii Sports Resorts (Wii), Mario + Rabbits: Kingdom Battles (Switch), Atlantis (PC), Pokémon Sword & Shield (Switch), 2048 – Read Only Memories (Switch), WarioWare Gold (3DS) and Asterix and Obelix – XXL 2 (PS2).

Man, I do have to say that choosing my top 5 this year was extremely difficult. Usually, I start putting this list together by either late October or early November. I have a text file with the games and I change the order around in November and December and add games I really enjoyed during those two months if that is needed. I start writing the article in middle December and I finalize the article in the last week of the year. So, this article went through a ton of revisions.

Last year, it was an extremely easy decision which game should be number 1. This year, I had to choose between 5 games I enjoyed it quite a lot. It’s quite possible that I want to change the order around the top 5 in 2020. But, I’m not going to change the order around in this article, after a lot of careful consideration, I decided which game should be my number 1. And I’ll explain why right now:

Number 1: NG – Spirit Hunter (Switch) (2019)

81EBL2k3XTL._AC_SL1500_So, why is this game my game of the year? Out of all the games I could have chosen, why did I choose a rather niche Japanese horror visual novel adventure game. Well, let me explain. One of the big reasons is the story. The story is about a guy taking care of his sister. Well, technically, she isn’t his sister but his niece. But, she addresses him as “big brother” so I think it counts. I care a lot about my younger sister. So, the story spoke to me emotionally.

Both my numbers 2 and 1 have amazing stories in my opinion. But, the story is one of the reasons that made my decision. My 2nd reason for picking this game as my game of the year is simple. The different endings are just amazing. There is a chance that there is going to be a sequel to this game and I’m really curious which ending the 3rd game will take to build upon. The good or the bad ending, since both have amazing story potential to continue the franchise.

I’m crossing my fingers that the crowdfunding campaign is going to be successful for the next entry in the series. At the time of writing, it’s extremely close to its goal. More information about the sequel can be read in this Siliconera’s writeup.

So yeah, this game didn’t only improve on the mechanics of the previous game Death Mark, it blew that game out of the water. Sadly enough, the performance issues on some platforms kept the game a bit back, but those were quickly fixed by the developer. Thank you Experience for this amazing game, the amazing experience. If only I could understand Japanese so I could play your other games. Then again, most of your games got localized, so I know which studio I’m going to keep an eye on next year.

Conclusion

Like I said before, this article was extremely difficult to write. It was extremely difficult to choose between NG, AI, Dragon Quest Builders 2, Ion Fury and Bloodstained. These 5 games were the most memorable games for me this year.

Now, this list underwent a ton of changes. I have looked to the number of revisions in my Dropbox of the draft document of this article and I have around 20 revisions where either the order of the games changed or I swapped out a game from the top 10 for another one.

So, most of the games I played in 2019 took me on an amazing story journey. Almost half of the games on this list, I fell in love with the story and/or the world of the game. And some games even pulled some emotional strings.

I can’t wait to see what 2020 is going to bring and what games I’m going to play. I have seen a lot of games that I’m looking forward to playing next year but lately, I’m finishing a lot of games that I started. Mostly because I’m enjoying my collection quite a lot.

Anyways, thank you for taking the time out of your day to take a look back at 2019 with me. I’m quite curious about what you people think about the games I have chosen for this year’s list. Do you agree or disagree with my list? I would love to hear it in the comments.

Thank you for all the support for my blog in 2019. Due to a lot of personal things going on, I haven’t written a lot of articles but I feel that the quality of my writing improved quite a lot. I can’t wait to keep on writing and improve my skills and entertain you guys and girls with new content.

Before I write my usual ending phrases, I have a question for you, the reader. What games or series did you discover through my blog this year or in the past? I’m really curious about that. Anyways, here is the usual ending of my articles:

Now, I hope you enjoyed reading this article 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 Impressions: AI – The Somnium Files (Switch) ~ Kotaro Uchikoshi Is At It Again.

Official website

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One of my favorite horror series is the Zero Escape series. I have reviewed every game here on my blog. I have played through all of these games again this year since I introduced the series to a good friend. When I’m reviewing adventure games or visual novels, I often find myself referencing 999, Virtue’s Last Reward or Zero Time Dilemma. Now, sadly enough this trilogy of games has ended with Zero Time Dilemma. Now, last month I learned that the director and main writer of the series were finishing development on a new game. Ai: The Somnium Files. When I saw Kotaro Uchikoshi’s name in the promotion material, I got extremely hyped. I honestly pre-ordered the game right away. Now, do I regret that pre-order or was it worth it? I’m going to give you an answer to that question in the form of this first impression review of the game. And before I start, I always say: feel free to leave a comment with your opinion in the comment section down below about the content of this article and/or the game itself.

Date and Aiba

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In this game, you play as special agent Date who is investigating a gruesome murder. Now, this is unlike any detective game because Date has a special ability. His left eye is quite special. In this left eye, an AI lives. This AI is called Aiba and helps Date to make phone calls, access databases, x-ray vision, zooming and so much more. On top of that, Date can explore people’s somnium, which is created by their dreams. These dreams can help in the investigation whenever you need to get information out of a witness that refuses to give testimony.

The story is quite complex and takes a lot of twists and turns. Like the previous games that Uchikoshi worked on, this game has branching paths as well. Depending on certain actions you take during the somnium exploration, the story can go in very different directions. Now, I have already seen one ending of the game and it even got me a bit emotional while playing it. The writing and pacing of this game are wonderful. While there is some dry and lame humor in this game, the actual jokes work quite well and made me laugh out loud more than once.

I’m leaving quite a lot of details on the story out on purpose since this game is better experienced without a lot of knowledge of the story. Go in this game as blind as possible. Since the twists are better without knowing them in advance. Which honestly, speaks for itself don’t you think? Now, something that I quite liked is the various nods to the Zero Escape series. Certain sound effects and visual cues come from or are heavily inspired by the Zero Escape series.

Now, before I talk more about that comparison, I want to talk about the voice acting. While you can play through this game with the original Japanese cast, I’m playing through this game with the English voice actors and I have to say that the dub of this game is amazing. The cast has been cast quite well. Maybe I might be a bit biased since I’m heavily invested in the story and now I’m quite used to the voice work of the voice actors.

He is at it again

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The gameplay in this visual novel is quite varied. This isn’t a visual novel where just choosing between a few options makes the difference. In this visual novel, there are various puzzles to solve and dialogue trees to explore. The first gameplay type is simply one where you explore a location. This can be a crime scene or the house of a suspect. In these scenes, the Date doesn’t move around. You explore your surroundings to find various clues and leads. To make sure you didn’t miss anything, whenever the text turns green whenever you move over the cursor over something, that means that there is still some interaction to be done. If the text turns gray, you have done every possible interaction.

So you go through various dialogue trees where you get new information. Whenever you missed something, you can quickly bring up the log and replay the voice clips. Something that I found a bit missing, is a sort of summary of the events that happened. Since very different things happen in the story depending on the path you take. So, a quick summary of past events might be helpful. Especially since there are character bios and a word list where various terms are explained.

Speaking of these character bios and terms, these are handled amazingly. The various hidden jokes and references add so much to the atmosphere of the game. Especially the way how some explanations are written, it’s almost like writers are talking to the player directly. Sometimes even saying that if you want more information that you “have to look it up on the internet.” And as an IT guy, I found the binary joke in one of the character profiles an extremely nice touch.

Now, the exploration in this game is quite limited and somewhat linear. While you can choose which location you visit first, it doesn’t make a difference in the story if you go in order or out of order. So, this is quite linear. Now, the dream sequences are something completely different. Now, if you played any game in the Zero Escape series, you will quickly get used to these sections. These dream puzzles are the escape rooms of this game, but the big difference is that you can move in the whole area.

If you compare the gameplay of this game with any game in the Zero Escape series, I have to compliment this game for improving the dialogue sections of the game. The dialogue and story sections are more involved now and you can choose in which order you experience it. This makes the game more accessible and doesn’t dump a lot of text and story on you all at once.

That said, now the dream sequences and puzzles are a blast to play through. Some of them are a tad bit too easily to my liking, but the later puzzles more than makeup for it. For one puzzle, I even considered using a walkthrough but after a lot of trial and error, I figured it out and it gave me such an amazing feeling.

In each puzzle, you have to unlock various mental locks. You can do this by exploring and interacting with the dream. Because you are exploring a dream, extremely strange things can happen. So, you have to make sure you understand why and what is going wrong. There is a catch, you have 6 minutes to solve the whole puzzle. If you don’t, you get a game over. You can use 3 tokens to go back to a previous checkpoint. If you go back one checkpoint, you use one token. If you go back two checkpoints, you use 2 tokens.

Now, you have to plan your actions right since each action uses a certain amount of time. With some actions, you earn special bonuses that can increase or decrease the used time in the game. It’s very important that you plan ahead and that you are sure of the option you pick. Now, whenever you are standing still, your clock ticks down slower than when you are moving. Take this time to plan out your moves and make sure you aren’t losing time by walking in the wrong direction.

This whole mechanic gives the game a very tense atmosphere. Am I going to have enough time to crack the other mental locks or have I lost too much time in the previous sections? Sometimes it’s better to restart the whole puzzle instead of using your tokens to go back to a previous checkpoint. Now, you can also use these tokens during gameplay. The time you had on the clock is the time you have when you return to that checkpoint. You get 3 tokens for each puzzle and they reset whenever you restart the whole puzzle.

I was pretty interested in the game whenever I saw the teaser trailer, but the gameplay is not disappointing me at all. It’s one of the best games I have played this year. And to be honest, if the quality of the game keeps up during the rest of the game, I think there are big chances that this game might be my Game Of The Year. And yes, maybe my bias towards the author and director of this game might have some to do with it, but you still have to deliver a great product and gameplay and story-wise, I think they more than succeed here.

Pretty and funny

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Visually, this game looks amazing. The detail in the character models and the environment are just amazing. Compared to Zero Time Dilemma, the animation work got a huge overhaul. The character portraits are no longer static, they have the same animation as the actual characters on screen. That way you can still see their animations whenever you missed their animations because you were looking around.

The little details in the animations are mindblowing. For example, there was a scene where a teacher was talking about a student and when she was talking about the student, her head actually moved towards the student itself and the student broke her idle animation and looked at her teacher. These things might be small moments but are moments that give just that bit of extra flavor and atmosphere to the game.

On top of that, the audiovisual presentation of this game is equally as good as the animation. Some parts of the soundtrack reminded me of a lot of the music that’s used in the Zero Escape series. Now, there are some sound effects that are exactly the same from the Zero Escape series like the save sound and some other sound effects. If it’s intentional, I found it a great easter egg for people who played the previous games. Now, it’s also quite possible that they used the same sound library to save some development money and even if that’s the case, I wouldn’t mind at all.

Surprisingly, the composer of this game also wrote the music for BloodStained and the Pokémon Mystery Dungeon games on (3)DS. The Zero Escape series’ soundtracks were composed by Shinji Hosoe who wrote music for Fate/Extra and Tekken 6. The composer of this game is Keisuke Ito and he did an amazing job with his team to create this soundtrack.

One of the biggest shames of this game is the fact that sometimes those games have some stuttering or some major slowdowns during gameplay. Thankfully these don’t have that often and it only affects the Visuals and not music nor the voice acting. Most of these slowdowns happen during dialogues or when a lot of animation is playing. On these moments, the fan of my Switch didn’t blast me away like in Dragon Quest Builders 2.

If I’m allowed to nitpick just a minor bit, I can’t remember exactly where but there are just 1 or 2 lines that aren’t voice acted. These are very short lines and if you are just following the story, you might not even notice them. I clearly remember that one of these lines was said by Date somewhere in the first few sections of the story. I think it was in a conversation between Boss, Aiba, and Date. But given the whole script of this game, just one or two missed lines is something that isn’t THAT bad and can be easily looked over.

This game has only one difficulty level. The overall difficulty of this game is quite well done, the difficulty scaling is very well done. Some puzzles require some trial and error but once it clicks, the whole thing makes sense. The biggest challenge is in the exploration of the dreams since you need to think fast and think about the time limit.

The controls of this game are almost perfect. The only thing that’s missing is touchscreen controls. But hey, that’s huge nitpick since the controls are quite responsive and easily mastered. Thanks to the amazing UI, I can find any negatives about the controls and UI. Apart from maybe one minor thing. I find the text in the word list and character bios a little bit too small to read when I’m playing in docked mode and when I’m sitting a bit too far away from the screen. All the other text can be read just fine, apart from that part.

I’m also forgetting to talk about something quite important and that’s the save system. While there is an autosave system present in the game, you also have three save slots you can use. Thanks to these three save slots, I’m able to continue to play the game by myself but also save at the point me left off so I could pick up the game right where I left off when I played it for the next time.

Now there is some minor replay value when you want to unlock everything. During each Somnium, there is an eye hidden that when collected and finished the Somnium without failing; you unlock additional concept art. These are quite fun to watch and a great reward for people who explore the game to the smallest detail.

Now, this review is already getting extremely long for a first impression. It’s quite clear what I’m thinking of this game. I think it’s high time to wrap this first impression up. This game comes highly recommend to everybody who enjoys adventure games, puzzle games, mystery games, visual novel games and games like the Zero Escape series. This game is one of the best games I have played in 2019 and I can’t wait to see how this game ends. Apart from some minor flaws like the slowdowns, this game is in my eyes as good as perfect. It’s such a shame that this game doesn’t get the publicity that it deserves. I hope that with this article more people give this game a try and give it the audience it deserves. With that said, 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.

One minor side note, this game is also on PS4 and PC.

First Impression: Dragon Quest Builders 2 (Switch) ~ Illegal Building Is Fun!

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Official website

When I played Dragon Quest Builders on the Nintendo Switch, I was highly surprised by the quality of the game. Now, granted, not everybody enjoyed the game and some Dragon Quest fans even disliked the game quite a lot. Take for example my buddy Drakulus, who gave the game a 5/10. Another friend of mine, FalconGameReviews wrote a more lukewarm review of the game. And then you have me, giving the game the full marks. While I won’t deny that the original had some flaws like the lacking combat, I heavily enjoyed my time with the game. After I had beaten the original game, I certainly wanted to play more and when I saw the trailer for the sequel, I was extremely hyped. So, now that I was able to play the game for a while, I can give you my first impressions on it. So, what did I think of the game so far? Let’s take a look. And as usual, feel free to leave a comment with your opinion on the game and/or the content of this article in the comment section down below.

Illegal Building Is Fun!

dragon-quest-builders-2-11The events of the original game took place in an alternative universe of the ending from the original Dragon Quest. Dragon Quest Builders 2 takes place a few years after Dragon Quest II. In the 2nd Dragon Quest game, the hero Erdirck takes on Hargon and Malroth. Their followers, the children of Hargon want revenge and make sure that nobody is allowed to create anything. But during the story, you teach the brainwashed citizens that building is still fun while trying to avoid being caught by the children of Hargon.

So, they paint builders as a sort of criminal. You start on a ship where you learn the ropes of the game and get a tutorial on the basic game mechanics. When the ship actually crashes, you wake up on an island together with a person named Malroth, that has no memories of his past.

The story so far has been quite enjoyable. The charm of an actual Dragon Quest game is still here. The humor and great writing are still here. Also, in this game, the story is a bit more in-depth. It takes some various turns and it’s more expansive than the original one. Story-wise, I personally think that the story of the sequel is a lot better than the original. It plays more on the central theme of the story but it also has a lot of side stories and side quests to keep you occupied.

The only negative about the story is that the pacing is a bit slow. Personally, I don’t see this as a big deal but I think that this can be a turnoff to some people. Sadly enough there no way to skip the dialogue outright. Or there is no way to look at the previous dialogue, like if you accidentally pressed a button and skipped a part of the dialogue while you were reading.

Now, while I was enjoying the story, I noticed something that worried me a bit. While I was playing the game, either in docked or in handheld mode, the Switch’s cooling fans kick into high gear. My Switch actually got extremely hot in the middle. Also, the Switch is blowing out hot air, which was an unwelcome thing while I was playing this game during a heatwave…

Expanded

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A ton of mechanics in this game got expanded to aid you in building the town or doing your quests.

First of all, you don’t need Chimera Wings anymore to fast travel back to your base. There is a new fast travel mechanic that makes life a lot easier. It’s a huge improvement over Dragon Quest Builders 1.

The gilder feature is a godsend. I loved it in Breath of the Wild and I love it in this game. It’s an amazing feature that aids a lot with traveling and exploring the vast and open world in this game.

The Builderpedia feature is an extremely welcome feature as well, it’s a sort of mini wiki inside the game that can help you when you want to build a certain room in your base and you don’t know which items you need to have in your room in order for it to register as a certain room.

The new builder tools like the handy builder’s glove is also an extremely welcome feature. When you misplaced a block, you don’t have to mine it out anymore. You just pick it up again with the glove and place it where you want.

A big complaint about the original game was the camera. Now, the issue was that in tight spaces or in buildings with multiple floors, it was sometimes a struggle to center the camera on your character. In this game, they have a brilliant solution to that problem. With the simple press of a button, you can go into the first-person mode and more easily explore around.

Another great feature is the autosave. The game autosaves after a while of playing. Also, you don’t have to go to the village center to save it anymore. You can easily do that from the menu.

There are a ton of amazing other additions in this game that make this game even more enjoyable to play. From more easily creating rivers and lakes to changing walls into another block with the click of a button… If I would be talking about all the new mechanics and how they improve this game, I would be here all day.

Now, there are a few things that got downgraded. First of all, cooking. While it’s unique and somewhat fun that you need to cook your food on a campfire, you can’t cook in bulk anymore. Meaning that you are unable to easily get all of your food cooked.

While that is negative, the new cooking system allows for more experimentation. Since in some cooking stations you are able to throw ingredients together to make something unique like in Breath of the Wild.

Something I also missed from the original game was the fact you could keep blueprints in your inventory after building a certain room. It would be so handy if I was able to just reuse a blueprint somewhere else. For example, when I wanted to rebuild a certain bar from the main story on the Isle of Awakening, I had to either take screenshots or reference the Builderpedia several times.

Complaining out of love

Dragon-Quest-Builders-2-Boy-Malroth-Windmill.jpgIt might seem that I’m complaining a lot about this game. That’s because I’m highly enjoying my time with this game while still being a bit frustrated at several mistakes that make this game less enjoyable. Now, if I would score the game, I would still give it full marks.

One of the reasons why this game gets full marks is the visual presentation. This game looks amazing. I’m so glad that there is photo mode and a screenshot button on the Switch so I can make screenshots of the amazing landscapes and gorgeous visual presentation of this game. Together with amazing animations, this game really comes to life. I especially like little details like when you move the camera from under weather to above weather, the camera appears wet and various water droplets roll off your screen.

Like every Dragon Quest game, the music in this game is fantastic. I haven’t played a Dragon Quest game where I didn’t like music. That said, I do have to ask the Dragon Quest fanbase a question. Does the soundtrack of this game have original songs or does it also reuse classics from the previous Dragon Quest games, like the original Dragon Quest Builders? I was unable to find more information on that.

Together with amazing sound effects, the audiovisual presentation is excellent. In addition to that, the stable 60FPS framerate of this game is just a blessing. The game runs and plays extremely smooth. I can even say that I rarely had a slowdown. In some rare situations, I didn’t see the animation of a block-breaking but that happened so rarely, I don’t think it’s a huge problem.

Now, let’s talk about the controls of this game. The controls are still excellent. While I played the original with the Nintendo Switch Joycons, I did play this game with a wired Pro Controller. And I have to say it’s great fun.

Even with great controls, the combat is still quite generic. Not a lot changed when you compare it to the original. Now, when I read other reviews, I see a lot of people complain about basic combat. To be honest, personally, I don’t see this as that big of a problem. The game isn’t focused on combat with enemies, the game is more focused on building and crafting a world and your town. So yeah, the basic combat doesn’t bother me that much.

Something that did bother me and got me in a lot of trouble was the fact that I was sometimes unable to eat my healing pots during combat. I’m under the impression that there is either some delay on it during combat or some sort of cool down. Quite often I had to walk away from a battle to eat a healing pot.

Now, a feature that I love quite a bit is that after scripted battles, your citizens actually repair your city. Yes, if monsters manage to destroy your city or parts of it, it gets fully repaired to the way you actually build it. This is an amazing tweak and one that saved me a lot of headaches. Since one time I actually rage quit a boss in the original game simply because it destroyed around 75% of my town.

This might be just me, but I have the impression that this game is easier than the original. So far, I have fought several bosses in the game and quite rarely the gave me trouble.

A minor complaint that I have with this game is that there is only one save slot. Compared to Dragon Quest Builders 1, you had 5 slots per chapter. Granted, this game isn’t split up into chapters, but I really miss the 5 save slots.

This game is an excellent sequel, it builds upon the original game quite a lot. From a central island where you bring all of your befriended villagers and build your own paradise to unlocking new blocks and various other things with the gratitude you receive. There are also monsters you can tame and ride, you can swim… You can quite easily change your look in-game and let’s not forgot to mention the multiplayer functionality that this game has.

It’s no wonder that various people who are playing this game got addicted to this title. For me, it got to the point that I even put other games aside. Games like Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night, Fire Emblem – The Three Houses… While this game came out, I was lending my friend’s PS4 since she has Uncharted, a game series I always wanted to play. And nope, I kept playing Dragon Quest Builders 2.

But to whom do I recommend this game? Well, easy. I highly recommend this game to anyone who enjoys open-world games like Breath of the Wild or Skyrim. I also recommend this game to people who enjoy Minecraft, Terarria or games of that nature. If you have enjoyed the original Dragon Quest Builders, this game is for you as well. The biggest issue, in my opinion, is the overheating of the Switch. The other negatives don’t affect my enjoyment with this game that much.

So, yeah. I’m in love with this game. There are high chances that this game will be in my top 10 games I played in 2019 list. To be honest, so far it’s even on my list as a contender for Game of the Year. But let’s just wait and see, the second part of 2019 has a lot of amazing titles that will come out. And also, the game will receive DLC later this year, so my opinion might change on that…

I may talk a bit more in-depth about this game if I ever write a review on this game but for now, I think it’s about time that I end off this article right here. I 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, have a great rest of your day and take care.

NekoJonez’s looking forward to these 10 games in 2019

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The year 2018 is almost history. The final moments are happening when this article was in the process of being written. Like each year, I want to take the time to look to the upcoming year. Since I’m writing a gaming blog, I especially want to take a look at 10 games I’m quite excited about that currently have a release date in 2019. If you want to know what the 10 best games of 2018 for me where I have already written an article on that subject. Before I start talking about my list, remember that this list is my personal opinion. It’s quite possible that the games you are looking forward too aren’t on my list. In any case, feel free to leave a comment with your opinion on the article, my list and/or with your list. And now, it’s time for the actual list in no particular order. 

#10 – Minecraft Dungeons (PC)

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Announcement blogpost

To be honest, Minecon Earth passed me by this year. When I heard about “Minecraft Dungeons” I honestly thought that it was another skin pack for the console edition. I was very pleasantly surprised to learn that it’s actually a new game in the Minecraft universe.

From what I have read on the Minecraft website, the game looks like a dungeon crawler game like Pokémon Mystery Dungeon or The Binding of Isaac in concept. Now, it looks like it’s a multiplayer game, but I hope there will be a single-player component to the game as well.

I have started playing Minecraft in late 2011 and I play the game here and there today. While I play less Minecraft today then I did in the past, I still hold Minecraft very near and dear to my heart. Now, I’m quite interested and hyped to see what the Mojang team has in store with this new game and how they are going to use the actual Minecraft mechanics in this new game or if they are going to introduce new mechanics. Maybe, the new game might link to the original game in a way… maybe. We shall see. Currently, there is no release date announced, apart from somewhere in 2019. The only thing we know for sure is that this game is going to release for PC.

 #9 – Desperados III (PC)

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Official Steam page

I remember the day I got introduced to the Desperados games when I visited a coworker of my mom. Her son was playing the game. He introduced me to the game and actually made a copy of his disc for me to play at home.

Yes, I started to play this series illegally. A year later, I actually bought myself a legit copy on Steam and I bought all the other entries in the series. I really love the gameplay of these games. The game is extremely challenging and I haven’t beaten the games until this day. I have come quite far. I was in the final three levels of the original game.

When I was installing Desperados on my laptop, I suddenly noticed that the game got a new post in the news section. To my surprise, a new reboot/sequel got announced and to blow my mind even further, the game was coming in the summer of 2019!

So, I know what I’m going to do this upcoming summer. I’m going to play the first two Desperados games to refresh the story and lore of the series so I can get right into the new game. I’m quite excited to relive my childhood and finally beat the games I wasn’t able to beat as a child.

#8 – Fire Emblem – The Three Houses (Switch)

Nintendo.com Mini-site

H2x1_NSwitch_FireEmblemThreeHouses_image1600wI was playing Fire Emblem Warriors at the time this game got announced. When I saw this game during Nintendo’s E3 presentation, my mind was blown.

When I was watching the trailer, I got the impression that some elements of the Fire Emblem Warriors game actually made it into the actual main series, while staying true to their roots. It also looked like the game got a lot of new mechanics compared to the games I have played on the 3DS.

Now, apart from the Fire Emblem Warriors spin-off, I haven’t finished any Fire Emblem game. And all the Fire Emblem games I have started playing were the handheld games. I have never tried a console Fire Emblem. Then again, the Switch is a hybrid; both console and handheld.

Nevertheless, when Spring 2019 rolls around, the game will finally hit the shelves. You can count on it that I’ll have some budget to spare to get myself a copy of this game and give it a try. I want to give this Fire Emblem game a try. Maybe this is the game that convinces me even more that I should finish all the other Fire Emblem games in my collection.

 #7 – Final Fantasy remakes (Switch)

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IGN article

I know for a fact that there are going to be people that are not going to like the following confession from me. I have never finished a Final Fantasy game in my life. I have started a few of them but I haven’t gotten into them at all.

I have Final Fantasy 7 on Steam and I have Final Fantasy X and X-2 on the PS2. I also played a few Final Fantasy remakes on my DS but I haven’t gotten further than the introduction chapters.

They are all extremely interesting and I loved my time playing them but I always got distracted with other games. So, I’m going to grab my chance to change that in 2019. A few of the biggest titles of the Final Fantasy series are getting an HD facelift and are coming to the Nintendo Switch. So, I can take these games on the go and finally finish them. Now, let’s hope I don’t get distracted by other games on my backlog or coming out in 2019.

#6 – Etrain Odyssey Nexus (3DS)

Etrain Odyssey NexusOfficial site

It’s no secret that I’m a big fan of the Etrain Odyssey series on the Nintendo DS and 3DS. When I learned that Etrain Odyssey 5 was going to be the last game in the series on the 3DS, I was disappointed yet I was very understanding. There isn’t a good way to actually re-create the gameplay on another system than on the DS or 3DS. Well, you could argue that tablets could work, but still…

Now, the gameplay isn’t unique at all. It’s a challenging dungeon crawler RPG like Pokémon Mystery Dungeon or The Binding of Isaac. What sets this game apart is the fact that you don’t have random dungeons AND you have to draw your very own map. This makes the exploration so unique and personal. It’s highly possible that you miss a pathway because you drew a wall in that place.

But, Atlus gave me two big surprises this year. The first one was that the series is going to get a new life on another platform. Possibly the Nintendo Switch. Only a teaser has been published but I haven’t found too much more information.

The second big news was that Etrain Odyssey X, a game which I honestly thought would stay in Japan forever, is coming to the west. And sooner than I thought. The game is going to release a bit short of my birthday. On the 5th of February. Man, I can’t wait to play this new entry into the series. Now, I still have to finish all the other games in the series but I’m just so happy that I will have more Etrain Odyssey content coming my way pretty soon. And yes, I pre-ordered myself a copy for my birthday already, which is the 7th of February.

#5 – Animal Crossing (Switch)

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Nintendo.co.uk microsite

Often when I’m watching videos by Nintendo YouTubers, they all have a story about playing a version of Animal Crossing on either the Gamecube, DS or Wii. I haven’t spent a lot of time with the Animal Crossing series until Animal Crossing New Leaf got released in 2012.

When I started playing the game, I started to understand how people love this series so much. To be honest, I started to fall into love with the series myself. I have spent countless hours on my 3DS manging my town, running errands and doing favors for my townsfolk.

This year, I was able to add Animal Crossing: City Folk to my collection. Well, here in Belgium it’s called “Animal Crossing – Let’s Go To Town”. While I didn’t have a lot of time this year to play a game like Animal Crossing, I’ll have more time in 2019 to give the new Animal Crossing title a go and explore the new town I’m going to build.

The reason I love the series so much is that it provides a more relaxing experience. It’s a game I can play to wind down after all the more action-packed games or the events in my day. So, I’m looking forward to the version of the Nintendo Switch. And I’m convinced that I’ll see even more people playing their Nintendo Switch on the train once it’s released.

#4 – Bloodstained – Ritual of the Night (Multiplatform)

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Yes, I know. This game was also on my list last year. But the game hasn’t been released this year. It’s going to be released in 2019.

We got a spin-off mini-game under the title of BloodStained: Curse of the Moon this year, which I haven’t finished nor played yet.

I have explained in the article from 2017 why I’m so excited to play this game. I’m really looking forward to a new game in the Metroidvania style since it’s one of my favorite genres and I really feel that not enough games are released in that style.

Now, here is hoping that the game doesn’t get another delay and that I’m able to play this game in 2019.

#3 – Town (Switch)

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Teaser from E3 (Thanks GameExplain)

A new game from the developers who brought us Pokémon? Where do I sign up? While an exact release date hasn’t been announced, I’m sure we going to see more of this game in the upcoming year.

There isn’t too much known about this game. The only things we know are from the teaser that we got in the E3 presentation of Nintendo this year.

Now, I’m getting the impression that this is going to be a sort of tower defense style game. A game where you need to develop a village so you can get the right skills and equipment to fend of the monsters that are going to attack your village. To a certain degree, the game reminds me a bit of Ever Oasis. Now, we will have to wait and see how this game is going to play and more details of the actual gameplay. But, I’m already quite interested after seeing the 40-second teaser.

#2 – Pokemon (Switch)

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So, GameFreak released Pokémon Let’s Go Pikachu and Eevee this year. Personally, I’m a bit mixed on the games. I feel that they made it too accessible and a bit too stripped down for my liking. Now, I’ll save that for my actual review of the game.

But, we were warned that Pokémon Let’s Go Pikachu and Let’s Go Eevee were going to be stripped down versions of the games. In 2019, we are going to get the next generation of Pokémon. My biggest hope is the new game will be more like the Pokémon games of the past like Sun & Moon and less like Pokémon Let’s Go.

Anyways, I think we will have to “wait and see” on this one. While I’m still quite excited for the new Pokémon generation, I have a little bit of a bad taste in my mouth because of Pokémon Let’s GO! But, I have faith in GameFreak. Let’s hope they don’t shame it.

#1 – Dragon Quest Builders 2 (Switch)

Dragon Quest Builders II

Dragon Quest Wiki entry

This game is already released in Japan, but the western version is going to be released in the future. According to Forbes, the release date of this game will be somewhere in 2019.

If you have read my review of Dragon Quest Builders 1, I think it shouldn’t be a surprise to see this game on this list. I enjoyed the original game so much, I wanted to play more. And, next year I’ll get more.

While not everybody agrees with me on this, but I find that Dragon Quest Builders mixes the Dragon Quest formula perfectly with open world-building games like Terreria and Minecraft.

In the sequel, I’ll be able to play with even more features and mechanics then the original. From swimming and waterfalls to gliding through the air. While I’m extremely tempted to watch let’s plays of the Japanese version, I have decided that I’m not going to watch nor read anymore on this game until it’s released. I want to be as spoiler-free as possible. But, you can be sure that whenever this game releases here in the west, I’ll be playing it as soon as I can get my hands on it.

Closing words

So, 2019 is almost here. To my surprise, there aren’t a lot of games announced for 2019. I’m rather curious to see what next year is going to bring. I have a gut feeling that 2019 will be a slow year for gaming that’s going to build up for a special 2020. There are a few games in 2020 I’m also really hyped for like Age of Empires IV and Beyond Good and Evil 2.

Then again, 2019 hasn’t started yet. It’s quite possible that a lot of games are going to be announced and that 2019 will still be an amazing year for gaming after all. Only time will tell.

In any case, I’m not going to ramble too much here. 2018 was an interesting year for me, but 2019 shows a lot of promise and I’m looking forward to the challenges that are life going to throw my way in the upcoming year. Of course, I’ll still be playing games and you will still be able to read about my adventures on my blog. So, thank you for taking your time into 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.

Gamer’s Thoughts: NekoJonez’s Top 10 Played Games of 2018

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2018 was an extremely strange year for me personally. A lot has happened in the past 12 months both good and bad. I have graduated this year. I’m now a bachelor in Computer Science – Networking. But on the other hand, I have gone through a lot of personal rough patches that did quite a number on my mental health. I’m slowly recovering and the support I’m getting is motivating me, even more, to go forward and get better. That said, I also played quite a lot of games this year. I got a Switch this year and I enjoyed it quite a lot. I also finished and completed a lot of games I started in the past few years so I had a bit of trouble putting this list together. So, for those who are new here, this list contains my 10 favorite games I have STARTED playing in 2018. The release date of the game itself doesn’t matter, what matters is that I started playing it in 2018. Before we get into the actual list, reminder, this list is my personal opinion. So, feel free to discuss it in the comments and also feel free to post your own list into the comments. I’m rather curious. Anyways, this introduction is getting quite long, it’s time to get into the actual list.

Place 10: Angels of Death (Nintendo Switch)

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My review

At first, this game would have a higher place on this list. The story and theming of this game grabbed my attention so much, I felt the black hole after finishing this game quite hard. I wanted to spend more time in the world of this game and spend more time with the characters.

I think that my love for the Corpse Party series and the Zero Escape series made me enjoy this game so much more. If you are a fan of either series, I highly recommend that you check out this game.

In addition to that, this game might have one of the best soundtracks I have heard this year. How many times I have listened to it this year, I lost count already. And mind you, I found this game in late October.

Now, why is this game not higher on the list? I praised it quite a lot in my review and I might have given the impression that this game would be my game of the year… Well, it’s because I played another horror game this year that just did that bit more. Outside of that, the short length and gameplay; the game felt like a game I play in between big releases. So yeah. That’s why.

Place 9: Shining Resonance – Refrain (Switch)

Shining_Metal_SwitchLarge.jpgWikipedia

So, back in 2016, I played Stella Glow. I got quite into the story of music playing a big role in an RPG by giving buffs or debuffs. When I found Shining Resonance: Refrain on the Nintendo eShop on the Switch and read that music played an important role as well, I was sold.

When I started to play this game, I got flashbacks to Stella Glow. Even when this game plays quite a lot differently than Stella Glow. This game is more action-focused and in real-time while Stella Glow’s gameplay is more a big puzzle and turn-based.

While I haven’t even come close to finishing this game, I’m quite curious about what else I’ll encounter in this game. I’m at the midway mark of this game but I have been rushing through it. I think that the next couple of playing sessions will be to catch up with various side quests and improving my characters and their equipment since I quite a lot of trouble while battling the last boss.

Now, this game is a port of a PS3 game released in 2014. It’s also a part of the Shining series. If the other games in the series are as enjoyable as this game, I think I might explore this series in the future. Too bad that a lot of games in this series haven’t left Japan.

Place 8: Atelier Rorona – The Alchemist of Arland (Nintendo Switch)

Atelier Rorona

Wikipedia

So, not too long ago, a bundle of three Atelier games got released on the Nintendo Switch. These games are the Arland trilogy. After I figured out what was the first game in the series, I started playing Atelier Rorona.

I was very surprised with the game actually. The game is quite enjoyable to play but it can be repetitive. The game is about an alchemy workshop with a very lazy owner. You play as her pupil named Rorona. When the kingdom orders the closure of the workshop, you get three years to prove the worth of the shop and finish various assignments of the kingdom. If you fail one of these, the workshop closes right away.

Now, what I didn’t know is how replayable this game is. These are so many mechanics I discovered during my first time playing this game, I also found out that there are a lot of various endings to the game. Now that I have beaten the game once, I think I’ll first beat the other two games before I do another playthrough to get an even better ending.

I personally really liked this game but I have to say that this game isn’t for everyone. I recommend this game to everybody who enjoys a more laid back RPG game. This game does have a lot of depth, but overall I found this game a more relaxing experience. That statement might change if I try to go for the other endings, who knows.

In any case, I’m rather curious about what the other two games have an offer for me. Since I’m going to beat those next. And who knows, these games might convince me to further check out the Atelier series, of which there are many… many games.

Place 7: Resident Evil 4 (PlayStation 2)

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Wikipedia

When I started playing games like Corpse Party, Fatal Frame and Zero Escape; I knew that one day I’ll have to look into the horror genre. A long time ago, in one of my local toy stores, there was a PS2 booth where a demo of Resident Evil 4 was playable. I think I was 14 years old and while I enjoyed playing the game, I didn’t even know the title nor the impact that game was going to have in the gaming scene. I think I only played the game for like 10-15 minutes in total since the next time I went, the booth was replaced with a demo Gamecube with Donkey Kong Jungle Beat.

I actually forgot about the game until some of my favorite YouTubers started to talk about it on their channels. Back then, I was more into adventure and puzzle games, so I took note of the name and moved on.

Fast forward to this year. I was browsing the second-hand games in my local game store and I saw a copy of Resident Evil 4 for the PS2 for only 10€. I didn’t hesitate twice. I bought this game and after I came home I started to play it right away. While I was afraid that I would suck at survival horror, I was able to finish chapter after chapter.

I also got quickly used to aiming and firing a gun with a controller. Since that was one of my biggest fears. I tried playing various shooters with a controller in the past and I always had a lot of trouble.

So, because I was highly surprised at how much fun I was having, I felt that this game rightfully deserved a spot on this year’s list.

Place 6: Project Zero II (Fatal Frame II) – The Crimson Butterfly (PlayStation 2)Fatal_Frame_II_-_Crimson_Butterfly.jpg

Wikipedia

So, due to Project Zero V – Maiden of the Black Water last year, I got quite into the Project Zero / Fatal Frame series. But seeing the pricing of getting other entries in the series ranging from 30€ to 60€, I had a hard time tracking down a copy.

To my surprise, around my birthday, somebody brought Fatal Frame I, II and III into my local game store and I was able to buy the three titles for 20€ each.

I started playing all three games to test out if the games worked or not. Yet, when I was testing Fatal Frame II, I found myself not able to stop playing the game. The concept of the story where one sister is always looking for her sibling just spoke to me on a personal level. It was quite tricky to get used to playing this game on the PS2 since I always tried to move the camera while moving the PS2 controller since I was used it that playing the other game on the Wii U.

I enjoy playing this game the most, late at night while I darken my room and turn off the lights so I have only the glow of the TV and the disc spinning in the PS2 to keep my company. This makes the game and the experience that more enjoyable. I can’t wait to boot up my PS2 again tonight and try to make some more progress in this quite enjoyable game.

Place 5: Death Mark  (Nintendo Switch)

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Official website

It looks like I was in a horror rush this year. Death Mark is the 4th game on my favorite games of 2018 list. Now, when I wrote my Halloween special on Angels of Death this year, I actually completed the game before Halloween. So, I was looking for a new horror game to play on Halloween and that’s when I found Death Mark on the Nintendo eShop.

When I was looking at the screenshots and reading the description, it felt like a mixture of Corpse Party and the Zero Escape series. A visual novel horror adventure game that throws you in front of a lot of puzzles.

And that’s what the game delivers perfectly. An enjoyable story with multiple outcomes depending on your actions and one that gripped me to the end. While I was able to see some twists coming from a mile away, the pacing and writing the story more than made up for it.

The story is about a mysterious mark that appears on your body when you go to a haunted place and that mark spells death by dawn if you are unable to clear the grudge of the spirit that gave you the mark. So, if you enjoy a visual novel style horror adventure game, I highly recommend that you check out this game.

Now, Japan is getting a sequel/follow up to this game next year.  Now here is my call to the developers, please localize the follow-up game as well. Looking at the screenshots and the teaser, I’m quite interested! And here is my call to everybody who is interested in horror, please give this game a shot and share it around. This game is highly underrated and deserves more attention and love!

Place 4: Blossom Tales (Switch)

Blossom Tales

My review

I often check the Nintendo Switch store for interesting and unique games. When I came across Blossom Tales, I was sold. The game looked like a well made 2D-Zelda clone and as a big fan of the Legend of Zelda… Let’s just say it was a no-brainer.

And I didn’t regret that decision once. I enjoyed playing this game quite a lot. I felt right at home as a Zelda fan. Also, this game reminded me a bit of the Fairune games. It reminded me how fun that 2D Zelda games are and how much I miss that style of gameplay. I wonder that if we are going to ever see a 2D Zelda game again after the massive success that was Breath of the Wild.  Only time will tell, but for now, I’m happy to see that there are indie game studios that will create games in that style so I’ll always have a game in that style to look forward too.

What I liked the most about this game was the unique way the story was told. A grandfather telling his grandchildren a story since they are bored. That’s one of the biggest strengths of this game. It gives off so much charm and character to the game, for that alone I would recommend that you play this game. And, since we are in the holidays period, the charm is even better!

Place 3: Fire Emblem Warriors (Nintendo Switch)

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My review

Raise your hand if you saw this one coming. This game is one of the reasons I bought a Nintendo Switch. I think the praise I gave in my review on this game made it pretty clear that this was one of the best games I have played in 2018.

Honestly, at first, I was afraid that I wasn’t going to like the game. Since I had put so many hours into Hyrule Warriors, I was afraid that I was burnt out on the formula and gameplay.

But Fire Emblem Warriors brings a lot of new and fresh mechanics to the table to make me enjoy the game even more. The only criticism I have about the game is that some parts are a bit too complex and not well explained enough in-game. Everything else is highly polished. Even the trick that Drakalus gave me to improve the frame rate in multiplayer aided quite a lot.

Thanks to this game, I got back into the Fire Emblem series. I think that in the upcoming months, I will start tackling my huge backlog of Fire Emblem games I have in my collection. I have at least 6 Fire Emblem games that I have started but never finished. I think it’s time to change that. This game convinced me that the series has quite a lot to offer and I can’t wait to see which adventures the world of Fire Emblem will bring me.

Place 2: Dragon Quest Builders (Nintendo Switch)

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My review

When I saw a trailer for Dragon Quest Builders for the first time, I was hooked. I was disappointed when I learned that this game was going to release for the PlayStation 3, 4 and PSVita. At first, I was considering to buy a PSVita for this game (and Corpse Party Blood Drive before that got ported over to Android)

The game got ported to the Nintendo Switch, so I was able to buy it on the system I bought this year. And I’m glad I was able to play this game. I loved every moment of this game and I’m so extremely hyped for the upcoming sequel. The Japanese version released a couple of days ago. It’s quite tempting to look up let’s plays but I want to keep my experience as spoiler-free as I can.

The only new negative is that I’m unable to play the Terra Incognita mode. Since I have to pay for a Nintendo Online subscription and purchasing that for only that and a few NES games is currently not worth it for me in my opinion. But hey, that’s my opinion.

Honorable mentions

Now, I have played a lot of games and some games deserve a mention but haven’t made it on my list for various reasons. So, before I reveal my “game of the year” / number 1, it’s time for the honorable mentions.
Cleopatra – A Queen’s Destiny (PC), Knights of Pen & Paper (PC/Switch), Darkest Dungeon (Switch), Kamiko (Switch), A Magical High School Girl (Switch), Grumpy Cat (Android),
Etrain Odyssey 5 (3DS), Zack & Wiki (Wii), Steamworld Dig 2 (3DS), Silent Hill 4 (PS2), Telsagrad (Wii U), DuckTales (NES), Age of Empires – Definitive Edition (PC), Devil May Cry 4 (PS2).

Now, I know that a lot of major titles released in 2018 didn’t make it on my list or on my honorable mentions. In any case, I think it’s time to reveal the game I was most hyped for this year and I enjoyed the most. Which game is MY personal game of the year 2018? Let’s. Find. Out.

Number 1 – Game of the Year – Shadow of the Tomb Raider (PC)

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My review

So, this experience. This game is my game of the year in 2018. Shadow of the Tomb Raider. When I was planning the Tomb Raider – Writers Raid collaboration, I claimed this game right away. I wanted to write about this game.

While some fans in the Tomb Raider series aren’t a big fan of the reboot since it’s a more action-focused and linear game; I enjoy the new direction of the series. Especially this game. The improved visual style, improved writing, the improved quality of life features… The game is just an amazing way to finish this reboot trilogy.

I seriously hope that this isn’t going to be the final game in the Tomb Raider series. Since I enjoyed myself with this game so much, I can’t wait to see where Lara goes next. Besides that, this year a new Tomb Raider movie got released. That movie I personally enjoyed quite a lot. For a movie based on a video game, I find that they did an extremely good job. I’m not really a movie review but if I have to grade the movie, it would get a 75/100.

Now, why did I enjoy this game so much? Why did I pick this game as my game of the year? For several reasons, the first reason is that this game’s story is the best story out of the three games in the reboot series. I had several moments where I felt the emotions of the characters, the voice actors did that good of a job.

The second reason is that this game is just beautiful. The visual presentation is just amazing. There are various spots where you look out over a huge forest from on top of a mountain or you get other breathtaking views. Now, a few moments had some minor visual glitching or some spots where the game could have look a bit better, but that might be because of my older GPU on my desktop. That might explain various lighting glitches I have in the post-launch DLC.

A third reason why this is my game of the year is that the Tomb Raider series just means a lot to me personally. I’m a huge Indiana Jones fan and I see and I have always seen Lara Croft as a sort of “sister” to Indiana Jones. But Indiana Jones doesn’t get a lot of attention in the video game scene while Lara does get that. So, being able to play games like Tomb Raider… Well, it’s my favorite genre and style of games after all. A mystery adventure game mixed with action and platforming segments.

The only disappointing thing is that I don’t have a physical copy of this game. The PC version of this game hasn’t gotten a physical release. And I feel it would be a waste of money to buy a PS4 or XBOX copy of the game just to have a physical version. But, if you want to know my actual opinion on the game, I advise that you read my review. Since I really detailed my opinion in that article.

So, if you will excuse me now. I think it’s time to wrap up this article so I can play the newly added tombs and story segments.

Wrapping up 2018.

Like I said at the beginning of this article, 2018 was an extremely weird year for me. I even got my articles stolen various times. Outside of that, I had 25,000 views on my blog. This is more than double compared to the number of views I got in 2017.

This inspires me to continue and write even more articles in 2019. I have a few in mind so I hope I’ll be able to welcome you on my blog next year. Blogging is my biggest hobby since I’m able to share my opinion on the games I have played with the world. I’m quite grateful for everybody who reads my articles and leaves comments or talks to me on social media or even in person about my articles and/or the games I have talked about.

I also love it when developers contact me and give me various chances to play unique and fun games. It also helps me to expand my collection and takes makes me even happier.

If I have to pick my favorite blogging moments of this year, I have to say how the community came together for helping me and other bloggers in fighting article theft, the Tomb Raider project and the various milestones I reached like 500+ followers on my Twitter. It’s still the best way to keep up-to-date with me.

2019 is going to celebrate the 9th year I have been blogging. Before 2013, I had a Dutch blog. That means that this blog will be 7 years old next year.

That will mean that 2020 will be an extremely special year for me. But, let’s focus first on 2019. Let’s not get ahead of ourselves. Speaking of 2019, I think I should talk about the games I’m looking forward to! That’s going to be (one of the) next articles on my blog. So, keep an eye out for that.

With that said, 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.

Review: Age of Mythology Extended Edition (PC) ~ And on the 7th day he gamed.

ageofmythologyextendededitionSteam store page

Ah, Age of Mythology. I got introduced to this game when I wasn’t able to understand English. It was at a co-worker of my mom’s house. I was playing the games on the PC I didn’t own. The first time, I played with the Egyptian culture, since I have quite a fondness for the old Egyptian culture. A few years later, I found Age of Mythology in a garage sale. It was a French version, but I didn’t mind. I was finally able to play that one game I played for myself. Back then, my French was better than it is now. It didn’t take long before I found a copy of the Gold Edition with the Titans expansion pack. I played the game quite a lot back then. I even dabbled in online play. Fast forward to 2014 and Age Of Mythology Extended Edition releases. Overjoyed, I start it up and have a nostalgic wave. But, is the game any good and does it still hold up. Let’s find out. 

Tale of the Dragon

To my surprise, in 2016, the game received new content. This new content isn’t too well received if you read the Steam reviews. But, I’m running ahead of myself here. First, let’s take a look at the story of this game. In this game, you play as Arkantos, an admiral from Atlantis. Something strange I have to point out is that the Atlanteans were added with the expansion pack “Rise of the Titans”. 

Anyways, Arkantos gets a mission where he has to help Agamemnon in the Trojan War. Things go south right away and Arkantos’s fierce enemy Kamos tries to boycott him. The story of this game is quite long. It has over 30 missions and it will take you 30 hours to finish the main campaign. If you decide to play the additional campaign the DLC brings, you get a 10 hours additional playtime.

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During the story, you come across various allies and go on a big adventure. The writing in the game is good. Personally, I prefer the stories in this game more than the stories that were told in Age of Empires I & II. The way how they used the mythologies and stories to create one huge story is just amazing.

Something that still holds up from the original is the voice acting. During the story, you come across Greek, Egyptian & Norse missions and each character feels and sounds unique. My favorite missions were Egyptian missions. The reason for that might be because I’m really fond of Egyptian mythology.

But, would I say that the voice acting is actually good? Oh, no. The voice acting is cheesy and over-the-top. And to be honest, I love it. It adds to the craziness of the story and atmosphere. I get the impression that the voice actors had an amazing time in the recording booth. The voice acting just clicked with me and actually made me laugh out loud sometimes.

The two base campaigns of the game are a blast to play through. I’m also glad that the downloadable short campaign “The Golden Gift” is also added in the Extended Edition. This was a 4-mission long campaign you were able to download from the official website as a sort of update/free expansion.

So, I also played a bit through Tale of the Dragon for this review. While I can understand the negative reception of this DLC, I would still recommend it. Now, there are some balancing issues and the multiplayer with the new Chinese civilization is sometimes quite unstable. But, it provides some new and fresh challenges in the game. I have to admit that I haven’t experimented with them too much since I love playing with the Egyptians the most, but from what I have played; the Chinese look like a lot of fun to play with. If you want a more in-depth review of the DLC, I would recommend that you read Moshfish’s review on it. It’s an amazing summary of what’s good and what’s bad with the DLC and I agree with a lot of it.

I want to add one thing to the Tale of the Dragons review. I don’t know if it’s just me or if other people experienced it as well, but in some missions, I didn’t have background music. Also, I found it a missed opportunity to add additional Asian tracks to the soundtrack.

Something minor that I experienced as well is that when you use a God power, usually a name is display who uses it. In the main campaigns, that’s Arkantos. In Tale of the Dragon, it’s nobody… No name is displayed.

God powers and such

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This game plays like your typical RTS game. If you have played games like Age of Empires II or Rise & Fall – Civilizations At War, you will feel right at home. Your main goal is to build your civilization. You do this by assigning villagers various tasks to collect resources or create buildings. With these resources, you can create more units to improve your economy or create an army to defend from enemies or attack them.

There are, including the DLC, 5 different civilizations to play with. The Norse, Greek, Atlanteans, Egyptian and Chinese. Each civilization has it’s unique units and quirks. For example, the Norse has a special cart, the Oxcart, that is a sort of movable drop off point for resources. The Greeks need to have villagers praying to great favors while the Egyptians need to build statues of their gods to create favors. 

The best way to learn how to play with these civilizations is to play through the campaign. By the end, you will know the basics and some advanced mechanics with each civilization. But, if you are totally new to RTS games, there is a “Learn To Play” map where you get the basics of RTS gameplay. You learn how to play with the Greek civilization. The unique elements for each civilization are explained in a cinematic. Now, there is no Greek one and in the Chinese one, some bits take a bit too long.

If you ever want to know more about a unit or a building, you can just click on the portrait. You get a very detailed screen with a lot of information. This information contains the unit’s or building’s things like strengths, weaknesses, and uses. You can also click on “contents” to read a full in-game Wiki. Too bad it doesn’t have a search feature or a better menu system. If this was expanded upon, this would have been an even better tool.

You can play through the campaign on 4 difficulties. I mostly played through the campaign on the normal (moderate) difficulty. I would recommend that you play the game on the Normal difficulty first and decide if the game is too easy to too hard for you and switch if needed. Overall, the game is quite balanced and I rarely had moments where I found the AI was quite unfair.

There are a few unique mechanics in this game. First, let’s talk about a new unit class. Besides your typical triangle of sword, bow, and horse; there is a 4th unit class. Myth Units. These units can be trained in temples and are effective against human units. Each civilization has unique to the mythology of that civilization. For example, centaurs for the Greeks and sphinxes for the Egyptians.

The second unique mechanic is the Titans. When you reach the last age, you can start building a Titan Gate. When this gate is completed, a titan unique to that civilization is summoned. These are huge and powerful units that can be used as tank units to attack the enemy. Now, you can only place this Titan gate once, so if it’s destroyed, though luck. Also, the Titan is quite weak to Hero Units and siege units. So, be careful if you use the Titan.

Now, if you have played Age of Empires III, this mechanic might be sort of familiar. When you advance to the next age, you can choose between various advisors who give you a certain reward when you advance. This isn’t different in this game. When you advance to the next age, you can choose between two minor gods. The god you choose decides which myth unit you can create at your temple and which god powers you can use.

Yes, the final unique mechanic is the god powers you can use. Each civilization has it’s own unique god powers which range from offensive to defensive powers. You can summon earthquakes, spy on the enemy for a limited time, summon a healing spring, have a moment where nobody can attack… There are a lot of them. Most of them can only be used once during gameplay. Some can be used more than once, but they all have a limit.

If you want to read more in-depth about how this game works, I recommend that you take a look at this website: http://aom.heavengames.com. It’s a huge website containing very detailed information and strategies on how to play this game.

Most of my time has been spending in this game playing random matches versus the AI of this game. In the past, I was quite skilled in this game. I knew most of the keys to quickly and efficiently create my base and build up my army. While I love the economic play in this game, I’m horrible when it comes to balancing my army. Since I played a lot with the Egyptian civilization, I don’t know a lot about the other civilizations.

If it’s not clear by now, I think that the gameplay in this game is excellent. The campaign has quite a lot of challenges but just playing on a random map versus the AI is quite a lot of fun as well. There are some things I would love to change about this game but there is a very active modding community providing a ton of mods in the workshop fixing bugs and fixing most of the issues I have with this game.

Let’s dance

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The soundtrack of this game is amazing. The soundtrack is orchestrated and uses an amazing mix of various instruments.

Each civilization has it’s own unique theme and unique tracks. Also, the developers enjoyed themselves way too much with naming these tracks. The main theme of this game is called “A Cat Named Mittens” and one of the most relaxed and most chill tracks is called: “Eat Your Potatoes”.

Together with very good sound effects, the audio of this game is a hit. To this day, when I listen to the soundtrack casually, I remember how the villagers sound and other sound effects. Something I really like is how the sound effects are played in stereo. So, if you move a unit from the left to the right, you will hear your unit in your left speaker.

Now, the rest of the presentation of this game isn’t that great. Don’t get me wrong, the game looks great and the theming is very well done but some character models look out-dated. While I personally don’t mind that much, I feel like this extended edition could have done a lot more than just simple widescreen support. The additional visual polish isn’t much to write home about. Just look at this Imgur library created by NecessaryDerp from 2014 where the graphics from the original are compared to the Extended Edition: https://imgur.com/gallery/L8WEE

Am I saying that the game looks ugly? No, I’m not. Like I said before, the game still looks great. The improved visuals for the liquids like water and lava are quite pleasing to the eye. And to be honest, the only moment I find the graphics dated is when you are extremely zoomed into the map. Also, thanks to the magic of Steam Workshop ingratiation, you can use a lot of mods to improve the visuals to your liking.

In the past, the online community of this game was quite alive. There were a lot of people playing this game. I remember that were at least 100 different lobbies. Nowadays, the online community of this game is dying. The day I publish this review, there were only 5 lobbies. It’s a shame since I played some great game mods online. From King of the Hill to a sort of Dota clone.

There is one thing I really dislike in this game and that’s the save and load menu. Now, it works fine but I wish it displayed more information. For example, if you were playing a random match or if it’s a save in a mission/scenario. I haven’t found a mod that’s able to solve the issues I have with it.

A nitpick I have with this game is with the map. I love how you can rotate the map holding the CTRL-key down, but there is no identification on what position it was originally in. It’s a minor thing.

Something that frustrates me the most is that this game doesn’t receive additional patches. The updates stopped in 2016. Yet, the developers keep updating Age of Empires II HD. This game could use a lot of minor polishing updates but the focus of the developers is on their other products.

So, that’s everything I wanted to say about this game. I think it’s time for a conclusion.

Conclusion

The bad:

-The visuals are just okay.

-The Tale of the Dragon DLC misses some polish.

-The in-game wiki could have been so much better.

-The save menu should display more information.

-Dying online multiplayer community.

The good:

+ A lot of unique mechanics like Titans and God Powers.

+ You can use mods.

+ Amazing and addictive RTS gameplay.

+ Amazing soundtrack & sound design.

+ Cheesy and over-the-top fun voice acting.

+ Good story.

+ …

Final thoughts:

I might be blinded by nostalgia and quite biased while reviewing this game. But, I think this game still holds up well. Yet, I fell in love with this game the first time I played it. I have a lot of fond memories with this game and reviewing the game just makes me want to replay the game some more.

This game isn’t perfect and could use some polish to fix those last bugs and improve some models, especially the human units. Yet, the charm of this game is something else. The over-the-top voice acting and endless replay value make this game a must-play for every strategy and RTS fan.

The original reception of this game was poor, but thanks to the patches, this game has improved quite a lot already. If only Skybox Labs kept updating the game, then I would give this game a higher score.

Now, that’s everything for this review. Thank you so much for reading 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.

Score: 70/100