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. 

NekoJonez’s Favorite Gaming Music #26 – I can’t choose!

downloadPrevious articles

Last time in this series, I actually was on a podcast with Alexander Sigworth. Now, after 25 articles talking about my favorite music in games, I still can’t decide which tracks are my favorite and which ones are the best. In any case, I think it’s quite clear that this series is mostly about the music in games that I enjoy quite a lot at the time of writing. For those who haven’t read an article of this series before, let me quickly explain the idea. In this series, I talk about a track from a game or I use a track from a game to talk about the game without having to write a full article about it (for now). I limit myself to one track per franchise per article and I try my best to avoid repeat tracks. Also, unless stated at the start of the article, I only pick original tracks and not remixes. Those are for special articles. And per usual, I invite you to leave a comment with your opinion on the tracks chosen and/or the content of this article and/or your favorite gaming tracks. Let’s go.

Etrian Odyssey Untold – The Millennium Girl (3DS) ~ Decisive Battle – End of the World

SoulFinalFirst impression of the game

So, because I want to talk about as many games as possible on my blog and I try to write weekly articles, I don’t always finish the games I play. This is quite annoying since sometimes I enjoy playing a certain game quite a lot.

Now recently, I started to tackle my backlog bit by bit while also trying to play other games to be able to talk about on my blog. On top of that, I still have a day job and have other hobby’s.

In any case, today I can proudly say that I have beaten my first Etrian Odyssey game. Well, I have beaten this game in late February but hey. After beating this game, I fell into a sort of “post-game depression”. Yeah, I wish I hadn’t beaten the game since I enjoyed it quite a lot. Thankfully, there is still some post-game content and I haven’t done all the quests. So, I still have some playtime left. But, what a journey it was. And what amazing music was created for the final battle which I have selected for this article. Man, I’m glad that I discovered this series since I can’t wait to see what the other games have to offer. Maybe I should finish all the other Etrian Odyssey games I have finished…

Nightmare Reaper (PC) ~ Boss Theme

nightmare reaperMy article about the game

Andrew Hulshult, you mad lad. There are a lot of retro game shooters coming out and when I see that Andrew Hulshult created the music for it, I get hyped right away. The music by itself sounds amazing and melodic but listening to it while playing the game, it fits the atmosphere like a glove.

The music was one of the reasons why I had chosen this game to be my favorite game of 2020. Currently, the 3rd chapter is in development and various teasers have been shown on Twitter by the developer. They look amazing and I can’t wait to play more. Today I was finally able to beat the second chapter after failing a certain boss battle over and over again. I also started the 2nd playthrough and I have to say that I really feel different from my original playthrough.

I’m nearing 50 hours of playtime in this game and I’m under the impression that this number will only grow once the third chapter has been released. And also, I’m trying to get as many of the achievements as possible. So, that will also increase the number of hours I play this game. Hehehe.

Pokémon X/Y (3DS) ~ Dendemille Town

Pokemon_XYMy review of the game

During my prep for the Pokémon Collector’s Catch-collab, I played a lot of Pokémon. This shouldn’t be a surprise at all. Now, when I read the article that TriformTrinity did on Pokémon X and Y, I dug up my copy of the game and I noticed that a while ago, I started a new save file and I hadn’t finished the game on that one.

So, that’s one of the things I’m currently doing. Playing through Pokémon X/Y again. And honestly, I forgot how enjoyable things are in that game. I got various nostalgic memories while playing that game.

Something strange I noticed is that when I listen to some parts of the soundtrack from this game, for some reason I can’t tell if it’s a track from this game or from Pokémon Sword & Shield. Is this just me or am I hearing things? They have a similar vibe in my opinion. But on the other hand, that shouldn’t be too crazy since this generation is based in France and Pokémon Sword and Shield is based in the UK. France and the UK are neighbors of each other… So, yeah.

Touhou – Luna Nights (Switch) ~ Stage 3 Boss – Locked Girl

The Metroidvania genre is one of my favorite genres. I just love exploring a world where slowly get stronger, unlock new abilities, and go on a great adventure. Usually, Touhou is a sort of shoot ’em up kind of game but this time, it’s a Metroidvania. 

So, this game got released in late December of 2020. After seeing the trailer, I bought the game. Now, since I have this rule in my top 10 games of the year list where I can only select games I started in that year, I waited until 2021 started before I started playing this game. Just in case that if I enjoy this game quite a lot, that I would be unable to choose it in my top 10 games of 2021. 

And I’m so glad I did. The unique mechanics and abilities in this game give a breath of fresh air to the formula and of course, the difficulty spikes you find in every Touhou game are here too. Now, I’m holding a lot of my opinions on the game back since I want to write a full-length article about this game but for now, I want to introduce you to the soundtrack of the game. I’ll say this about it, there is a reason why it sometimes plays on repeat while I’m working or doing chores. 

Wrapping up

So, these are 4 tracks that can be added to the ever-growing list of my favorite game music tracks. After writing these articles, I always check my schedule on the games I’m going to write about. More often than not, I change the schedule around to talk about the games I have mentioned in these articles. 

I really should start creating playlists and share them in this series since I really think that these playlists would make me skip fewer and fewer tracks while I’m working. But hey, maybe I shouldn’t start so many projects while I have so many others running. 

Personal things aside, I hope you enjoyed reading this article as much as I enjoyed writing it. Have you played any of these games and if yes, what did you think of them? But for now, I want to thank you for reading this article and I hope to be able to welcome you to another one. But until then, have a great rest of your day and take care.

Gaming Nostalgia: Mario & Luigi – Bowser Inside Story + Bowser Jr.’s Journey (3DS) ~ It’s inside me, Mario!

Wikipedia entryNintendo Microsite

Remember the Zelda project, Final Fantasy project, and the Tomb Raider project? Well, today a new project drops all about Mario! The mad man, The Well-Red Mage found over 100 bloggers to write about the Mario series in the style that I found several bloggers for talking about the Zelda series and the Tomb Raider series. In any case, of course, I’m a part of this collaboration of fine bloggers! Now, you can find the hub article where you can find links to all the other articles here: [LINK TO ZE HUB BABY!] And in this article I’ll talk about my adventures and thoughts of Mario & Luigi’s Inside Story + Browsers Jr.’s Journey. So, let’s go with this Mario RPG!

It’s a me, a remake!

This game tells the same story as the original Nintendo DS game released in late 2009. From what I can see, most of the changes in the game are focused on the graphics. While the original game has a more 2D look to it, the remake has a more 3D look to the visuals. You can see a great comparison in the video created by aWiibo where both versions are set side by side.

On top of that, this game has an additional story mode telling a story about Bowser Jr. This mode adds 7-ish hours of playtime if I compare the times on howlongtobeat.com. But, the game almost doubled in playtime for people who want to play the game to its full completion.

There is another writer taking a look at the DS version of this game, but I’m focusing on the remake of the game. While I haven’t finished the game for this article due to time constraints, I did some research to make this article interesting in another way.

Some random facts

So, did you know that this game is one of the final games released by Nintendo for the Nintendo 3DS? It wasn’t the last Nintendo published game on the 3DS however, that honor goes to another remake: Kirby’s Epic Yarn a bit later in March of 2019.

The title of this game in development was Mario & Luigi RPG 3!!!. Since it was the 3rd Mario & Luigi game. Before this game, we got Mario & Luigi: Superstar Saga on the Gameboy Advance and Mario & Luigi: Partners in Time on the Nintendo DS. So the title makes a lot of sense since it’s the 3rd game in the series.

For some reason, Nintendo skipped over remaking Mario & Luigi: Partners in Time and remade this game. Partners in Time is the only one of the three first games that didn’t get a remake on the 3DS.

Something that I found quite strange is that there are a lot of leftover sound effects from Yoshi’s Story and Mario & Luigi: Partners in Time in the rom for the original DS version. This isn’t the case in the 3DS version.

This game got two updates. The first update fixed an issue where you could soft-lock yourself with Luigi. In the second patch, a sound issue was fixed in the Music menu under records.

According to the TCRF (The Cutting Room Floor), there are various test rooms left in the final version. You can read about them in more detail on the page of this game.

After releasing this game, the developer AlphaDream filed for bankruptcy protection. Which is a shame since we might not see a Mario & Luigi RPG on the Switch. Maybe Nintendo can get the IP to another developer?

My thoughts

So, apart from those interesting facts about the development of this game; let’s give my opinion on this game. I won’t give my full opinion on this game just yet since I haven’t finished the game and I’m planning to write a review about this game in the future anyway.

Now, the tricky thing is that I had almost finished the DS version. I was close to reaching the final area. But then disaster struck. I lost my save file and I felt a bit too discouraged to restart the whole game to get to the point I was at.

It’s a darn shame since the game is quite a lot of fun to play. If you have played the two previous games, you know what to expect here in terms of gameplay. It’s an RPG where you play as Mario & Luigi, where the A button controls Mario and the B button controls Luigi. This is also the case in the battle mechanics where you have to rhythmically time your button presses to do more effective attacks.

The annoying thing is that I’m anything but rhythmic. So some battles took longer for me since I wasn’t able to do all the attacks at full damage. I did improve the more I played the game, but I rarely got consistent.

Yet, I did enjoy the game for silly and unique storytelling. In this game, something strange happens with the toads. They swell up like a balloon getting the nickname “The Blorbs”. After some investigation, all the affected toads act a strange mushroom created by the mad scientist Fawful. So, Princess Peach orders Mario & Luigi to set out and try and find a solution. But, then Bowser tries to kidnap Princess Peach. When this fails, Fawful lets Bowser eat a vacuum mushroom and this sucks Mario, Luigi and various other characters from the mushroom kingdom inside Bowser. Mario & Luigi have to help Bowser to regain his strength in order to escape and find a cure for the Blorbs.

The multiple layers of the story are something I truly love. The writing is rather humorous and lightweight. There isn’t a lot of voice acting, but the voice clips that are used help a lot to understand which emotion is in that certain part of the dialogue.

Bowser Jr.’s story takes place during the events of the main game. So, the additional story is a bit of a side story. Currently, I’m playing through it and I’m going to keep my opinions and this quite interesting side story a secret.

Now, I much prefer the visual upgrade from the remake over the original. I have looked at various screenshots and video comparisons of the original game and the remake. I think that the remake’s visuals feel more alive and pop that much more. It makes the original look more like a sort of Saturday morning cartoon from a decade ago.

Anyways, I think I’m going to end off this short look back at Mario & Luigi’s Bowser Inside Story + Bowser Jr.’s Journey. That’s a mouthful. That said, 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!

Wahoo! You are a Super Reader! But the adventure doesn’t stop here… There’s more of this project in another castle! This article is just one level in an entire Super Mario Multiverse, a galactic collaboration between writers around the world sharing a bit of our hearts and memories about our favorite Mario games. Visit the Center of the Multiverse to see more:

https://thewellredmage.com/2020/03/10/center-of-the-mario-multiverse/

Game Quicky: WarioWare Gold (3DS) ~ Minigame Short

WarioWareGold_HOLLarge.jpgNintendo microsite

For those who don’t know, I live in Belgium. Around late November – beginning December, we have a special holiday.  Depending on the region you are in, you either celebrate Sinterklaas or Sint Maarten. Both days are basically the same thing, but Sint Maarten takes place in late November and Sinterklaas in early December. Now, what is this? Sinterklaas or Saint Nicholas Day is a sort of 2nd Christmas day/Santa Claus celebration. I could explain the whole celebration, but I think I’m just going to link to a Wikipedia page that explains it better than I can: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sinterklaas. Now, why am I mentioning this? Well, during this celebration I usually give my godchild a gift and I get a special gift from my godmother. This year she gave me WarioWare Gold for the Nintendo 3DS. Now that I have finished the game, what did I think about it? Let’s take a look at it! Oh, and before you say: “Don’t look a gift horse in the mouth!” Well, I just want to review this game… Anyways, feel free to leave a comment in the comment section down below with your opinion on the game and/or the content of this article. 

The good

warioware-gold-screenshot-1

While the story isn’t anything special, the voice acting is just amazing. It’s one of the best performances that Charles Martinet as Wario. The voice acting actually gives the story the charm it needs.

The theming of the minigames is perfect. This game is sort of a compilation game of all the previous WarioWare games, the 300 mini-games it has are a blast to play. Especially since you have games where you need to use the microphone, gyrosensors and the touch screen.

There are quite interesting extras in this game like recording your own voice in the cutscenes and the mini-games. There is also a lot of Nintendo history in this game that made me quite nostalgic.

So, the gameplay is amazing. If you played WarioWare games in the past, you’ll feel right at home with this game. If you have never played a WarioWare game, the game works like this. You get challenged by a character that sets the theme of the mini-games. In these mini-games, you have to quickly perform one action to complete a goal. For example; shave three hairs for a chin or blow, blow out a candle, raise a bridge on time… All of this with a simple action or button press. It doesn’t matter if you win or lose, you go to the next round. The consequence is if you lose, you lose one of your 4 lives. Logically, you need to restart the whole chapter when your 4 lives are lost. The mini-games speed up at a certain point and after a couple of rounds, you’ll face the final challenge of that character.

The visuals of this game are amazing. The game looks colorful and vibrant. The artwork is sublime. There are a lot of amazing references to other Nintendo games and to earlier WarioWare series. I especially loved the nods to WarioWare D.I.Y. with some mini-games having crudely drawn visuals like a casual player would create on the Nintendo DS.

I had a really hard time deciding where to place the soundtrack of this game. I’m personally a bit mixed on it. While the soundtrack has a lot of great tracks, there are a few that didn’t click with me. Now, when I replayed these sections, I noticed that the tracks didn’t click with me outside of the game. So, I can’t fault the game too much for that. So, that’s why I decided to mention the soundtrack in the good section.

The bad

CI_3DS_WarioWareGold_13

So, let’s talk about the story in this game. While the voice acting is amazing and adds a lot of charm, it doesn’t fix the mediocre story of this game. The story just feels incomplete, storylines that go too quickly to their conclusion. There is barely any arc.

I can totally understand that the story needs to be short and bite-sized for the WarioWare games, but I feel that there is a lot of wasted potentials here and that this story could have been more interesting if it was more fleshed out for a Wario platformer.

While collecting the collectibles is a fun distraction and a nice post-game objective, most of them are just useless. In previous games, most of the unlockables had some sort of interesting function but in this game, a lot of them are just images of previous Nintendo products with a little bit of explanation. That’s a major let down.

Conclusion

This game is an interesting one. While I highly enjoyed my time with the game, I felt that there were a few things lacking. I felt that a bit more polish might have improved this game to be even better. But, on the other hand, there are a lot of things that this game does right and nails in the process. Like the voice acting and the visuals.

Personally, I highly recommend this game to everybody who enjoys playing mini-game collections, puzzle games, Nintendo games, and other WarioWare games. Personally, I wouldn’t pay full price for this game and wait for a discount. But, I wouldn’t skip this game at all. I think it’s worthy to be in your 3DS collection or library.

Since this game is one of the only games that use almost all the features of the 3DS and I think that’s just great. Thankfully, they didn’t use the 3D feature or I would be in trouble because I use a 2DS XL.

With that said, I have said everything I wanted to say about this game. And yes, I have left a few things out for you to discover… I want to 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.

Score: 75/100

Review: Pokémon Diamond, Pearl & Platinium (DS) ~ Where Is Our Remake, Nintendo?

pokemon_dppt

Bulbapedia entry

It has been quite a while since I talked about the Pokémon series. But today I noticed that I haven’t written an article on the 4th generation of Pokemon games. I think it’s high time to do something about that. Now, I want to tell the story of how I acquired this game. Just when I got my DS, I only had one game. The Legend of Zelda – Phantom Hourglass. Not too long after, my sister and I went to buy new games. She bought it together with me, Nintendogs since she was 10 € short. While I bought Pokémon Pearl. The nostalgic memories are quite extreme for this game. I played this game quite a lot, sometimes through the night while hiding my DS underneath my pillow to avoid getting caught. But, is the game still good or are my nostalgia goggles clouding my judgment? Let’s take a look at the 4th generation of Pokémon games. As per usual, feel free to leave a comment in the comment section down below with your opinion on the content of this article and/or the game.

Where is our remake Nintendo?

pokmon_pearl_image10A lot of the early generation Pokémon games got a remake from Nintendo. The first generation, Pokémon Blue/Red and Yellow, has been remade on the Nintendo GBA and more recently on the Nintendo Switch. The second generation, Pokemon Gold/Silver and Crystal, got a remake on the Nintendo DS. The third generation, Ruby/Sapphire and Emerald, got a remake on the 3DS.

Fans are hoping for a remake of the Sinnoh region on the Nintendo Switch. The fully experience the story of this 4th generation all over again. Fans want to start in Twin Leaf Town again, together with your childhood rival, meeting the evil team in the first minutes of the game. Now, this game has your usual Pokémon story. If you have played any previous Pokémon games, you will know what to expect. Fight 8 gyms, defeat an evil team, save the world from destruction, defeat the Pokémon League and become champion of the region.

There are a few twists in the story, but overall it stays very normal for a Pokémon game. While I was playing the game for the first time, I remember quite liking the story. I found the characters quite enjoyable and I enjoyed myself following the quirky cast of characters I met on my journey. While I replayed the game for this review, I still enjoyed the story but I felt that there was more that could have been done with the story. Thankfully, in the following generations, the story gets more and more flesh out.

Something I found really great was the pacing of the story. In the previous Pokémon games, the evil team stays a lot on the background during the story and nearing the finale of the game, appears almost out of nowhere. In this game, you have several encounters with them and a lot of roadblocks on your adventure are caused by them. This made Team Galactic more memorable compared to some other teams. Then again, I might be saying this out of my nostalgia goggles.

Now, does this game have a good story? In my honest opinion, sort off. If you are expecting a story with deep lore like Skyrim, you won’t find it here. The story has a lot of lore but not too in-depth. The story of this game is quite accessible. And that fits the style and theming of this game better than a lore heavy game. It makes the game a lot more accessible for all ages and it stays true to its portable nature.

Unique mechanics galore

pokmon_pearl_image11

If you have played the previous generations, the gameplay will be quite familiar to you. Find and catch Pokémon in the wild to make a team to train and battle other trainers. Now, the usual formula gets enhanced by the Nintendo DS because of the added UI elements of the second screen. The Nintendo DS spoiled me since from this generation the UI gets a lot of improvements.

Some key items like the Item Finder are now a lot easier to use thanks to the PokéTech on the touch screen. There are over 20 apps you can get for the PokéTech. Some are useful inside the game and others can be quite useful outside of the game. I remember that one time, a friend of mine forgot to bring his calculator to school and was allowed to use the calculator in the game for exercises. I used the coin toss app a lot for various situations.

Now, each generation has its own unique special mechanic. The second generation had two regions, the third has secret bases, the fifth has seasons… And this generation has the underground AND the PokéTech. Yes, two unique features. Man, the underground looks like so much fun. Sadly enough, I didn’t have a lot of friends (outside of the internet friends) I could play this mode with. I played this mode twice on the bus and it was quite a lot of fun. In the underground, the secret bases from the 3rd generation return. But there is more, there is a sort of capture the flag mode where you can earn points by raiding the flag of other players their bases. And on top of that, you can put traps in the various hallways. And on top of that, you can mine for various ores and sometimes very useful items. And yes, possible fossils to find several Pokémon. While I wasn’t able to play with the secret bases in the underground, I still spend countless hours just digging for ores and decorating my secret base.

Earlier I talked about the improvements to the UI. Thanks to the touch screen, the battling mechanics and bag management got a lot easier. When you look at the newer generations, it’s clear that these UI improvements work quite well since they got even more fleshed out in those generations. To be honest, I missed the second screen with my menu options and such while I was playing Pokémon Let’s Go.

Actually, there is a third unique mechanic in this game but it isn’t something that game-changing. It’s a nice addition that helps with the atmosphere of this game. After some time, your badges get dirty and a bit rusty. So, you can clean them by rubbing on them on the touch screen to make them sparkle again. This is a nice small addition. And yes, as a child I regularly checked my badges to make sure they were still in sparking condition.

Depending on how skilled you are in optimizing your team, this game can be easy and sometimes quite difficult. I’m the more casual type of player and I have to say that I got frustrated with one of two gym leaders. I disliked the 5th gym a lot since I had to grind quite a bit to beat that gym. And if there is one thing I dislike, that’s grinding.

This adventure will take you roughly 40 hours to complete. But, if you want to fully complete this game and see everything that there is to see, you can spend close to 260 hours in the game. While I haven’t fully completed the game 100%, I think I played this game give or take, 100 hours. Granted, over several save files since I have restarted the game two or three times.

The lakes

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Visually, this game looks amazing. Sinnoh still looks great in my opinion. The game is quite colorful and lively.

In terms of the animation, this game looks quite good. I had to get used to the static Pokémon sprites again while battling, but that was a small price to pay.

And the game also nails in it in the audio department. The music for this game is amazing. It’s one of my favorite soundtracks to listen too when I’m in a Pokémon mood and the sound effects really add a lot of flavor to the game.

Running around in the world of Sinnoh is a fun experience. From a port town to the snowy tops of Snowpoint City, this region is one of my favorite regions in the series. Especially because there is so much variation in the region. It’s not themed in one giant theme like in Pokémon Sun and Moon where everything is based on Hawaii or in Pokemon X and Y where everything is themed like France.

So far, I have been praising this game quite a lot. But, are their things I didn’t like about this game. Well, yes. There are a few things I didn’t like about this game.

The first big negative of this game has to do with the fact that the Nintendo Online services have been closed down. Because of this, the online features of this game are inaccessible. Well, apart from the local features then.

Sometimes, I felt that the game was running a bit too slow. Now, I don’t mean that there were any frame drops or lag… I mean that there was a bit too much of the text boxes. Especially when certain weather effects whereinto play.

The best version to play this game is Pokémon Platinium. Apart from fixing some bugs, there is a whole long list of improvements to the game. NintendoEverthing made a very helpful list that can be found right here. And after playing Pokémon Platinium for a bit, I found that a lot of the minor nitpicks I had with the game, were fixed.

And yes, that was almost everything negative I can say about these games… And with that said, I think it’s high time for the conclusion of this article.

Conclusion

Negatives:

-Some rare moments of griding are required to beat the game.

-Nintendo Online being shut down.

-Pokémon Platinium improved the games so much that Pearl and Diamond feel inferior.

Positives:

+ Amazing audiovisual design.

+ Several unique mechanics in this game like the underground and the PokéTech.

+ Fun story.

+ …

Final thoughts:

To be honest, I had a really hard time finding negatives for this game. Maybe it’s possible that I have too many nostalgic thoughts about this game or maybe it’s just that good. In terms of Nintendo DS games, this is one of the best Nintendo DS games I have ever played.

There is a reason why so many players want to see this game remade on the Nintendo Switch. They want to bring this game back to the masses so that a whole new generation can experience the amazing journey through Sinnoh again.

I highly recommend that you give this game a try if you enjoy Pokémon games and/or RPG’s. The main game can be easy for hardcore RPG fans but the post-game and the side quests will give you a lot of challenges.

While this game has a few minor flaws, I find them not hindering my experience at all. Compared to the generations after this generation, this game can feel a bit lacking. For example, you don’t need to hold a button down to run and the menu is always accessible on the touch screen… But, then again, there are moments I really miss the PokéTech and the underground mechanics from this game.

And with that, I think it’s time to wrap up this article. I hope you enjoyed reading this article as much as I enjoyed writing it. I hope to be able to welcome you in a future article but until then, have a great rest of your day and take care!

Score: 100/100

Gamer’s Thoughts: Difficulty in games

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

My own views on game difficulty.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How others think about difficulty.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Closing off

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

If you have written or talked about this subject in the past or know a great resource like another article or video, feel free to send me a message with the link. Maybe I’ll include it in the next article. And with that said, I think I’ll really end off this article. Thank you, everybody, for helping me put this article together. It was a blast. Thank you for reading this article and I hope you enjoyed reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it. I hope to be able to welcome you in another article but until then, have a great rest of your day and take care.

Review: Monster Tale (DS) ~ Are You Ready, Chomp?

ds_monster_tale-110214

Wikipedia entry

Last week when I was writing about Castlevania: Portrait of Ruin, I wanted to reference Monster Tale. To my surprise, I haven’t written a review or talked about this game in full on my blog. So, that’s why I’m going to fix that right now. Let’s tell the tale on one of the best Nintendo DS games ever made. As usual, feel free to leave a comment in the comment section down below about the content of this article and/or the game. For now, let’s ready, set, go!

Are you ready, Chomp?

ellie 1.PNG

In this game, you take the role of Ellie. A young girl that gets dragged into a world filled with monsters. It doesn’t take long before she meets a monster that hatches right in front of her and follows her around as if she was the mother. She decides to name the monster Chomp.

Then, Jinx, a shopkeeper explains what the world is.  There are other humans in the Monster World and they are king of their own domain.

Now, Ellie and Chomp go on a quest to try and defeat these evil Kid-Kings and try to get them all home.

The reason I stay pretty vague about the story is simple. This game is a very nicely written plot and talking about it more would spoil it. The characters might be cliche here and there, but I really liked the chemistry between the characters. To this day, I still remember the characters and their role in the story by just looking at screenshots or hearing their theme.

The story is a blast to experience from start to finish. All 10 hours of it. Yes, all 10 hours of it. This game is criminally short. You can squeeze a few more hours out of the game when you want to fully complete it.

There is voice acting in this game, but no full lines are voice acted. Some of the major characters have some spoken phrases or noises but nothing really more. Which is a darn shame since the whole voice cast is extremely talented amine dub voice actors. On the other hand, it helps with the charm that this game has quite a lot.

I especially love the grunts of Ellie and the noises Chomp makes. They are so adorable and made me fall in love with this game. It’s still a mystery how the adorable and cute game can tackle serious subject matter like what’s presented in this game. So, I hope that you are ready since you and Chomp are going on an adventure.

Metroidvania

monster tale3.jpg

Back when I first played this game, I hadn’t really played a lot of Metroid or Castlevania games. I had heard about both series but I haven’t played them. That all changed when I started to play this game.

The gameplay is your typical Metroidvania game. You explore this world and fight monsters on your way. Don’t be fooled by the visuals, this game isn’t easy at all.

This game is unforgiving sometimes and you really have to learn how each move works and how to use the special items provided to you.

This game has a lot of depth as well. There are three enemy types; fire, water, and earth. These work on a rock, paper scissors theme. So, you will have to keep in mind which version of Chomp you level up and bring with you. Yes, you can level up Chomp. While it’s not 100% needed to unlock all versions of Chomp to defeat the final boss of the game, it’s highly recommended that you level up at least one form quite a lot.

During combat, enemies can drop various items like footballs, books, slingshots, ice cream, camera’s… to help Chomp level up. Some dropped items even have additional benefits, like the football bounces around on the top screen.

Now is a good time to address the top and bottom screen, since it’s used in this game to its full potential. On the top, you have the Monster World that Ellie is exploring. You can have Chomp with you for a limited amount of time. That’s what the yellow bar on the 2nd screen is for. This bar drains as soon as Chomp is in the Monster World.

You can let the bar recharge when Chomp is resting in his den, which is the bottom screen. Once there, the bar recharges and he can experiment and learn about the various items that enemies drop. There is also another catch, each version of Chomp has different attributes, abilities and special powers to play around with.

Now, I love the risk and reward system of combat. There are a lot of ways to handle the situation. One possible option is to let Chomp handle the enemies. Another possible situation is to shoot the enemies down and another is to melee combat. Now, you would argue that the melee combat sounds useless. Well, I would agree with you there but there is a limit to your shooting ability. When the 2nd bar on the 2nd screen, the blue one, depletes; you can’t shoot anymore. You can recharge this bar at save points or by finding rare blue orbs in the world or as drops. But the easiest way is to melee defeat enemies.

Now, there is a lot more done with the mechanics of the two screens and I have to tell that I really liked it. The combat is extremely challenging to do but in a fun way. Also, no playthrough feels and plays the same since you have so many different ways to tackle the situation.

In addition to that, you never get lost on what to do next since the next spot you need to go to is always indicated on the map. I have no idea if there is an option to disable this, but I think it’s a very useful feature.

Gameplay-wise, this game is extremely addictive. There are a lot of power-ups for Ellie and various forms for Chomp. So, this game quickly becomes a balancing act on who to power up with your hard-earned cash. Do invest in both, since otherwise, you will regret it later.

Control-wise, this game is solid. While in very few occasions, the ground pound move was a bit tricky to pull off, but that was a minor annoyance. Since, when you die in this game, you get quickly put back to the latest checkpoint. Now, if there is one thing I really disliked in this game is the lack of teleports.

There is a lot of backtracking in this game. That’s the biggest problem I have with this game. The Castlevania have teleport stones, but Monster Tale doesn’t have that. That’s the biggest flaw this game has. Besides being criminally short that is.

Save often!

monster tale4

So, this game doesn’t have an autosave. At certain locations, you come across a book where you can save. There, you can recharge every meter to it’s fullest potential. These rooms are highly needed since the lower your hearts, the more tricky this game can become.

Something I will never get tired of with this game is the presentation. This game looks amazing. It’s clear that a lot of love has been put in the creation of this game. The backgrounds of each zone look stunning, vibrant and have a lot of detail.

The colors pop and they build an amazing atmosphere. I especially love the beach zone since it has a lot of memories for me. As a kid, I took a lot of trips to the seaside with my family and I love to sit on the beach and watch the sea do its thing.

Besides that, the monster design is adorable. In some cases, I didn’t even want to hurt the enemies. They all have unique designs and patterns, it’s tricky to kill them. Both since they look so good and some have very unique killing patterns.

Now, the soundtrack of this game is good. While there are some tracks that I find mediocre, the overall package is a blast to listen to. It really pumps you up to continue. You won’t regret hearing these tunes during gameplay and even outside. I played the soundtrack in the background while I was writing this article and I actually heard the various enemy noises and the various other sounds in my head.

This proves that this game has an amazing audio design. To this day, I still remember sound effects and music from the game. And that’s what I mean with that this game will leave a visual impression on you. The game is not only pretty but also sounds pretty.

The animations are fluid and the game runs at a very stable frame rate. I actually don’t remember the game ever dropping frames. Also, I really like how there are two save slots. This way you have tried for two very different runs.

In terms of the UI, there is one minor thing I have to complain about. It’s actually extremely nitpicky but I really find the use of the start and select buttons to switch between the menu’s a bit too much. The start and select buttons on the DS Lite are extremely small. Besides, I wished they merged the map screen and the other menu into one option. Maybe an ability to select from the pause screen if you wanted to see the map screen or the evolution screen of Chomp.

So, that’s everything I wanted to say about this game. I left a few things unexplained for when you are interested in giving this game a chance. You will be surprised. But, it’s time for the section of the review of the people who need a tl;dr. Time for the conclusion!

Conclusion

The bad:

-The pause menu could be reorganized a bit better.

-The harsh difficulty could be a turn off for some people.

-The game is really short.

-No teleporting in the game.

The good:

+ Amazing Metroidvania game.

+ Great story.

+ Amazing visual and sound presentation.

+ This game oozes charm.

+ Great controls.

+ …

Final thoughts:

If you highly enjoy the 2D Castlevania games, the Metroid games or any other Metroidvania game and you are looking for something more light-hearted, then Monster Tale is your game. This game looks and sounds amazing.

Besides a few minor flaws, this game comes highly recommended. It’s a big shame that the remake for 3DS actually fell through and that the original developers of this game went bankrupt.

If you see this game for sale, pick it up and play it. It’s one of the best games on the DS. I wish more people knew about it so another developer could pick up the IP and make a sequel to it.

On the other hand, the ending wraps up things extremely nicely and makes for an amazing package. Due to the various possible playstyles, this game is highly replayable. But, it’s the complete experience that will stay with you. And that’s what makes this game so memorable and unique.

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.

Score: 99/100

Gamer’s Thoughts/Rant: “So, you play game X?”

emulators

“Oh, you still play games? Grow up, man! Games are for young children or for people who have no life.” Have you ever said something like this or have you ever been on the receiving end of a question like this? There are a lot of statements that I get annoyed by in the gaming community and today I want to talk about some. Please, keep in mind that these are my opinions and that I’m not you. So, I invite you to tell me your opinions in the comments and/or give me suggestions for other questions to do another article like this. 

Before I begin

Now, in some cases, I’m going to talk in very general terms. And let me be clear on one thing. I’m not going to deny that there are edge cases for everything. Things like game addiction and compulsion do exist and are very real problems.

If games stop being a leisure activity and everything else needs to make way or room for a game, please seek help right away.

In addition to that, parents and friends, if you find any negative change in the behavior of your child, friend or loved one; please help him or her.

Also, in most of my arguments, I talk about the people who can still separate fact from fiction and/or aren’t struggling with game addiction.

“Games are just for little children or are for losers.”

I love turning the tables on arguments like this. I love to ask them if they enjoy watching sports. Technically, sport is also a game. If you follow the definition of what a game is, like the one by Kevin J. Maroney, where games are a form of play with goals and a structure. Well, then you can fit all sports in that definition.

So, if games are for kids, then explain to me why board games have age stamps like “for ages 3 AND UP”. And in addition to that, if games are for little children, why are games like Civilization and other strategy games so popular?

The “games are just for little kids” argument is so easily debunked if you simply watch to our community and how much money it brings in. So, please, if you are still convinced that games are for little kids, please explain to me why games aren’t for older people.

“But older gamers are people who don’t grow up or can’t let go of the past.”. Oh, please! If you give that argument, you have already lost the debate. I can give many arguments to point out the flaw in that statement. For example, there are a lot of extremely complex games on the market like Civilisation and Europa Universalis 4 who tend to be pretty complex to younger children. And if games would be created for younger children, why would they put effort into developing a game like that?

In addition to that, “can’t let go of the past.” Man, I hate that argument with a passion. So what, that I’m nostalgic? Why is that even an issue? I have grown up playing video games and I love playing games since it brings me back to my childhood or gives me new and interesting experiences.

Making the statement that games or for certain demographics of people. Please, don’t be so close-minded. It’s like saying that football (soccer) is only for men and ballet only for women. If you find enjoyment out of a certain hobby or profession, why would it matter which gender, age, nationality…. you are?

Making the statement: “Games are just for little children or are for losers.” just proves that you are ignorant and that you are pretty close-minded. So please, be a decent human being and don’t say things like this when you mean it.

People who play games sit all day in their room and do nothing else than stare at a screen.

And to be honest, so what? Is it a problem that we sometimes do nothing else than stare at a screen all day and play games all day? I’m sorry that I engage in an activity I enjoy in my free time.

But did you notice the keyword in the previous paragraph? “Sometimes.” While I’m not going to deny that there are people who devote their whole life to video games and do nothing else, the same can be said about people addicted to something else, like movies and books.

Take me for example. I see myself as a pretty big gamer. I play a lot of games in a week. But besides that, I fix people their computer, I work full time in the education sector, I’m part of a folk theater group… I can go on for quite a while, but I think you get the point.

To counteract this statement, I love to bring up the argument of mobile phone games. There is an extremely huge player base for those games and those are also being played by people who don’t really play games but have some time to kill on the bus, train or while waiting on the doctor.

But the best debunk for this is the issue of generalization. It’s like saying that every metal lover is an aggressive person and similar things like that. Nothing everybody is the same, and thankfully so.

Aggressive/the violence in games make your youth more aggressive and/or train them to be killers.

I’m going to keep this brief since this statement really boils my blood. But, I wanted to talk about this one for sure.

First, violent movies, violent books and such… why are they left out of the argument? Because they aren’t interactive? Or is it because games are the new kid on the block and haven’t got the respect that movies and books have?

Two, if a game is very violent or aggressive; shouldn’t you be the responsible parent and talk to your kids why they aren’t okay to play at their current age? Or at the “M for mature” or “18+” label just part of the artwork on the front cover? Why would Steam age-gate these games?

Three, while I’m not going to deny that there are people who are sensitive to violence and get introduced to these things by games, the same can be said for movies and other violence in media too. Thankfully, not everybody is like that and those people are a minority.

Four, isn’t it possible that the youth has another stress reliever? That they can vent all their frustration from their daily lives without harming a fly.

And my final point, there has been done quite a lot of research on this subject. And the results are quite divided. An interesting overview can be found in this amazing piece by TechAddiction: http://www.techaddiction.ca/effects_of_violent_video_games.html

“Nintendo games are for kids” / “PC is the master race and should be the only way to play” / …

If you say things like that to me, you will hear a heavy sigh. Let me first start with “Nintendo games are for kids.”.

First of all, family-friendly doesn’t mean “for kids”. A lot of Nintendo IPs are family-friendly and they might have a childish outlook, but they are far from that.

Secondly, if Nintendo games are childish, why do so many adults play games like Pokémon GO? They grew up on it and makes them nostalgic. Okay, sure. But, aren’t you generalizing here too much?

Thirdly, just this Reddit thread: https://www.reddit.com/r/nintendo/comments/1kge42/why_do_people_think_nintendo_games_are_childish/

On that page, there are so many arguments why Nintendo games might seem childish but actually aren’t.

The other argument of “PC is the master race and should be the only way to play.” is such an easy one to debunk. Dear console gamers, do you actually realize what the definition is of a computer?

computer is a device that can be instructed to carry out arbitrary sequences of arithmetic or logical operations automatically. The ability of computers to follow generalized sets of operations, called programs, enables them to perform an extremely wide range of tasks.

Thank you, Wikipedia for that definition. The difference between your console and computer is the input device. That’s all. So, you are basically playing on a computer with a different shell and operating system. So, technically, computer gaming is the only thing that exists.

Oh oh, wait, I hear the PC elitist gamers already: “You can replace hardware in a console!” Oh yeah? You are sure about that? So, the manufacturer isn’t able to replace any broken parts when something breaks? Or the guides on iFixIt like this one: https://www.ifixit.com/Guide/PlayStation+4+Optical+Drive+Replacement/24720. That is just a hoax?

Oh, and the other argument: “You can’t upgrade a console, so you are restricting the customer!” So. What. Some people don’t have the technical knowledge to do so anyway. Why stop them from buying a pre-built computer that can play games without having to maintain a lot of parts?

“You can build a very strong gaming computer for real cheap if you do the research.” If you do the research. You can also learn a new language if you do the research. You can do everything if you do a little research. If you are actually able to do it, it depends on your skills. I almost have a bachelor’s degree in Computer Science – Networking. And let me tell you, there are people who don’t have the time to do the research nor the technical skills to actually put the research to use. For example, I’m not that good at writing code, I tried various times to educate myself on it but alas. If you don’t get the right guidance, this research can be a big issue.

“But there are many more games for the PC than for console.” And that’s a problem with PC gaming as well. Yes, I call it a positive and a problem. There are too many games and barely any quality control. It’s also a problem for game developers. Just try to get noticed in the vast sea of computer games.

“There are many more options and features like mods for the computer.” Okay, I give you that. But, it’s a problem as well. For example, as a developer, try to optimize a game for literally millions of different combinations of hardware. It’s an extremely difficult task.

Conclusion here: don’t be elitist about a certain gaming platform. I love playing games on as many different platforms. I also love portable consoles like the 3DS and the Nintendo Switch since they have something over computers. I’m on the go a lot and gaming laptops are either extremely expensive or too bulky to play on the train and such.

There is nothing wrong with saying that PC or console is better, but I do have a problem when people belittle others because their preferred platform of games is “better”. Just no. Let people play games the way they like. If it sells, people want it. If there is a better alternative, the market and consumer will find out.

Oh, and a shoutout to BulletBarry. While I don’t always agree with him, his Console Peasant Quote videos are just really well made.

In conclusion

I can ramble about things like this for hours. While sometimes, I wasn’t telling anything new, I do think that it’s important to educate yourself and have respect for everybody. Don’t belittle because somebody has a certain hobby! Also, don’t believe everything verbatim what the news tells you. Read up about it.

If you think all gamers are male, please talk with them. You will be pleasantly surprised that there are female gamers out there. If you think all metalheads have a beard and/are bald, please talk to metalheads. Don’t be close-minded either. Not everybody is the same, you know.

While you could say I’m biased towards games since I’m a pretty big gamer. I honestly think that isn’t a problem in this case. I think it’s good for us gamers that we can give our opinion on the subject you know?

In any case, I’m quite interested in the comments for this article. Remember, I’m the kind of person who is open to civil discussion and I’m always very understanding that not everybody thinks the same way. So, please, if you have something to say or ask, the comments are here.

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 on my blog but until that time, take care and have a great rest of your day.

First Impression: Lufia II (SNES) ~ Some Dutch please

Wikipedia entry

A few years ago, my uncle gave me his SNES with a few games. One of them, was a boxed version of Lufia II – Rise of the Sinistrals. After some research, I realized that my copy of the game is rather rare in a way. The cartridges of the game go on eBay for 80€ and up, but the catch is, I have a Dutch version. Since there aren’t too many Dutch speaking people in the world, less cartridges are produced so making the game even more rare. But hey, I don’t think that every collector wants to own a cartridge of a game in a different language they might not understand while there is a version available in their native language. In any case, let’s take a look at this game. Is it even worth that price now or should you pass on it? Here are my impressions after the first few hours of gameplay. Also, feel free to leave a comment with your opinion on the game and/or the article.

Sidenote: while I know that this game got a remake called Lufia: Curse of the Sinistrals on the DS, in this article I’m focusing on the SNES game; simply because I don’t own the remake and haven’t played it.

Casual start

When you start this game, your first mission is “The Training Dungeon”. In this training dungeon, you get the basic explanation of the game mechanics.  But more on that later, first let’s talk about the story of this game.

This game tells the story of how the Sinistrals came to be. Now, this sequel tells a prequel story. But here is the annoying thing, the original game never reached European shores. To make matters even more confusing, they dropped the II from the title here in Europe. Yeah.

So far, the story and writing is very enjoyable. The only complaint is that the Dutch translation feels so out of place. Which is normal, since I’m so used to the English names of items and suddenly seeing them in my native language sounds so foreign to me. But, I haven’t gotten too far in the story, so I will leave that for when I review the game.

But something I really enjoy from the writing is the fact that NPC’s react differently depending on the story. Even when little events happen like somebody cooking some bad food. This gives the game a more alive feeling and I think that’s a serious plus in my books.

If you would start playing this game, beware of the glitches.  Due to the rushed localization, there are a lot of strange bugs and some are save corrupting. This happened to me once and I lost my save and had to start over. Take a good read to avoid bugs before you start playing.

Random no Random encounters

So this game has random no random encounters. I mean with that the game has random encounters and no random encounters. When you are on the overworld, the game has random encounters. But in the dungeons, you don’t have any random encounters.

The meat of the game is mostly in the dungeons. In these places, you can also use your skills. A very useful skill is the Reset Spell. With this spell, you can reset a room to its original position. So, if you screwed up a puzzle, you can reset the room without having to leave it. And this doesn’t cost any mana.

This game is a blast to play. This game is a typical RPG when it comes to battles and exploration. But, it has various elements of The Legend Of Zelda sprinkled in. The gameplay in the dungeons reminded me so much of the Zelda games. If you want to form a picture, think of the Zelda dungeons but instead of beating enemies when they are on screen, you have a RPG-battle screen.

A very useful feature is that you see on your screen how much EXP you still before your level raises by one after you defeated an enemy. It also shows your goal total. The only thing I don’t really like about the battle screen is that in sometimes the health bar and such are simply bars and you don’t see how much health or mana you have left.

I’ll go more in-depth about the gameplay when I have beaten this game and when I write a review of this game. It’s a lot of fun and with great controls, you can’t go wrong. The only thing I would have changed about the controls is the “X” button. This button is used as the menu button, but I think that the Start button would have been a much better choice for this.

Soundtrack Gold!

If you would start talking about the best 16-bit RPG soundtracks, a lot of Square and Enix RPG’s would be mentioned. I honestly think that the soundtrack of this game should be mentioned in those kind of talks.

The soundtrack of this game is amazing. It’s one of the best soundtracks I have heard on the system in my opinion. And believe me, various tracks got stuck in my head even when I had put the game down for a while.

Visually, this game looks amazing. I love the details in the dungeons and the animation is great as well. The artwork for this game is impressive and colorful.

This game is well balanced. There isn’t too much grinding in this game. And honestly, I don’t mind the grinding too much in this game. Something I really like is that you have save platforms right before you go into a room with a boss. I really appreciate that since that way I don’t have to do a whole dungeon over again when I die at the boss.

Speaking about saving, that’s one of the only things I don’t really like about this game. You can only save at save points like a church or on save points in dungeons. But, honestly, that’s nitpicking. No?

That’s everything I wanted to say about this game. So far, I’m enjoying myself a whole lot with this game and I can only praise this game. If you look at other reviews of this game, you will read the same praise. And believe me, this game is worth a lot of praise.

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

Review: Pokémon Mystery Dungeon – Explorers Of Time / Darkness & Sky (DS) ~ Expansion Dungeon?

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Wikipedia entry

So, remember when Nintendo released an enhanced version of each generation? Games like Pokémon Yellow, Crystal, Emerald, and Platinum come to mind. Well, they also did that once for their Pokémon Mystery Dungeon series. When Explorers of Time and Explorers of Darkness released, a year later Nintendo released Explorers of the Sky. I have beaten Explorers of Time but I haven’t beaten this updated version yet. Why did I decide to write a review then? Well, the core mechanics haven’t changed in this version. In any case, it’s time to take a look at this game, what do I think about this entry in one of my favorite game series? As usual, feel free to leave a comment with your opinion on this article and/or the game. 

250px-MD_Time_EN_boxart

Note: In this review, I will focus mostly on the Sky version of the game. But my thoughts in this review apply to all versions of this game except the exclusive stuff in the Sky version.

Note 2: To avoid mentioning the full title of the game every time, I refer to the games by only using the last word in the title.

Let’s form a guild

Pokemon mystery dungeon explorers of the sky 2

So, you start up a new game and you get a personality quiz. This will decide which Pokémon you will be during the whole adventure. For some reason, I love doing this quiz. I have played it various times and I always end up with the same Pokémon.

So, the story of this game. You play as a human that got turned into a Pokémon. You meet your partner on the beach. After your partner gets his special artifact stolen from some rival gang, you and your partner go and reclaim the stolen artifact. After you have helped your partner, both of you team up and go join the local guild.

When you join the local guild, you learn that somebody is stealing the time gears and which controls time in that given area. So, you set out on an adventure to stop this madness and restore peace to the land.

And that’s just the basic part of the story. This story goes much deeper. You go on various quests and adventures, it’s great. The writing in this game is great, but some jokes are more aimed at the younger audience. In the Sky version, there is an additional backstory added to the game. There is also a longer epilog added to the game. I still have to finish the epilog, but I love the added stories so far.

The visual presentation of this game is, as you would expect from a Nintendo game, excellent. I can understand that the visuals might turn some people off since they aren’t upgraded too much from the original GBA title. Still, the detail in the artwork is well done. Also, the gorgeous full-screen pictures are an amazing touch. A common criticism of this game is that

A common criticism of this game is that the dialogues go on and on for too long. I honestly didn’t mind this too much, but I do understand why people complain. This game could have benefitted from some cutscenes, even when it’s just a big picture that goes over the two DS screens.

Was this needed?

620279-pokemon-mystery-dungeon-explorers-of-sky-nintendo-ds-screenshot

The expanded Sky version has a very mixed reception. While some reviewers hated this version, some reviewers loved it. The biggest issue is that the things that were added in this version were somewhat minor at first. Why do I say minor at first? Well, this version has much more polish than the original versions.

Why do I say minor at first? Well, this version has much more polish than the original versions. Also, there are some many things added like: new dungeons, new story, more starters, new places and shops… But most of them appear after a bit of playtime or is post game content.

I think that this could have been handled better. I think that the Sky version should have been the only one that got released. It’s the superior version of Time and Darkness. So, if you haven’t played these games yet, don’t bother with Time and Darkness, play the Sky version.

Another interesting idea would be a sort of “save file transfer” feature. So, that you transfer your save file from either Time or Darkness to Sky and you get direct access to the new features without having to replay the whole game.

If you have played Pokémon Mystery Dungeon Blue or Red Rescue Team, you know what you can expect in this game. You go through randomized dungeons while fighting various other rogue Pokémon. Your goal is to reach the end of the dungeon so you can continue to the story.

Sometimes you have sentry duty over at the guild. Then you have to guess which 250px-MD_Darkness_EN_boxartPokémon wants to enter the guild. I think this mini game would be pretty tricky if you aren’t familiar with Pokémon. But, if you are familiar with Pokémon, this shouldn’t give you too much trouble.

When you aren’t exploring a dungeon, you can go and visit the local town to buy items and upgrade your Pokémon. You can also go on various side quests and/or hunt after wanted criminals.

The core gameplay can be repetitive, yet enjoyable. If you play this game more an extended amount of time, it might get boring. But, if you spice things up with some side quests and trying to progress the story, the game stays enjoyable.

In Sky, there is a new Spinda Café added, which adds some new mechanics into the game. But, I’ll leave that for you to find out. One of them is a recycling mechanic and another is “the lottery” mechanic. That’s all I’m going to say about that. Check it out since it will help you in your journey.

When you die in a dungeon, you get kicked back to the start of the dungeon or the mid-way checkpoint. The catch is that you lose some items and almost all your cash. So be careful what you take with you since you can lose it when you aren’t careful.

The music for this game is excellent. There is one song that almost every time hits a chord with me. That song’s name is “Don’t Ever Forget – I don’t want to say goodbye…” and it plays near the climax of the whole game. To avoid spoilers, I’m not going to say too much about it, but it still gives me goosebumps while writing this part of the review. And I’m not the only one. Just go on YouTube and read the comments. Yeah, you will understand what I mean.

The music adds so much to this game. There are so many memorable moments that are made so much more powerful with the soundtrack. So, I highly recommend playing this game with a good pair of headphones. Thank me later.

A quick note about the sound design, it’s great. But honestly, due to the amazing soundtrack, it didn’t pay too much attention to the sound design to comment too much about it.

Snatch that jewel

Pokemon mystery dungeon explorers of the sky 1

This game can be pretty difficult in some places. But, most of those moments can be defeated with some grinding. Yet, sometimes you have or can get lucky and finish a difficult dungeon by finding the stairs on each floor.

In Sky, there are various tweaks at the difficulty. But the random monster houses can be so cheap. I died more than once because of this.

The controls for this game are great. I didn’t have any problems with them. The only annoying thing is that you attacking diagonally is a nightmare. I had to struggle with the controls more than once to do that. Also, attacking at a corner doesn’t work. Your attack always misses. This is fixed in later entries in the series.

Due to the randomized nature of the dungeons you enter, there is a lot of replay value in this game. But, you will miss a skip button for skipping the story bits.

Speaking about that, something that annoyed me was the end of the day after you finished your missions. You go through dinner with your guild and it takes a bit too long. I honestly think that a skip button for this would help. But, that would be tricky since sometimes at night time, you get important story bits. So, I can understand why it isn’t added.

This game’s length is great. If you play through the game to just beat the main story, you will have 30-ish hours of gameplay ahead of you. But, I have read that when you want to complete this game, you have over 150 hours of game time ahead of you.

So, that’s everything I wanted to talk about in this game. I didn’t talk about some parts, but hey, that means there are still surprises for you to find when you decide to give this game a try. So, it’s time to wrap up this whole review in the conclusion.

Conclusion

The bad:

-Some minor issues like not being able to attack at corners aren’t fixed from the previous entry in the series.

-The bad reception for the Sky version is understandable. Due to the release of Sky, the Darkness and Time versions look unpolished.

-This game could have benefitted from some cutscenes.

-A skip button for the story isn’t here. This would benefit 2nd playthroughs so much.

The good:

+ Great story and writing.

+ Great visuals.

+ Amazing music.

+ Fun, yet sometimes repetitive, gameplay.

+ …

Final thoughts:

If you want to give this game a shot, I highly recommend playing the Sky version. If you think the games are worth a replay, you might give the Time & Darkness a chance. But remember, as I said in the review, the Sky version is better since it has much more polish than the originals.

This game is excellent. This game is one of my favorite games in the series and I can’t wait to finish the additional content. I have beaten this game at least 4 times, so that’s why I wrote a review instead of a first impression.

I can understand people who are let down by the Sky version since they played Darkness and/or Time first. But, don’t let it discourage you to not play this game. You would miss out on a great Pokémon spin-off that is slowly growing into an amazing series.

This game doesn’t have too many flaws, but the flaws it has aren’t too big of a deal in my eyes. They didn’t stop me from enjoying the game and having a great time.

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

Score: 95/100