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NekoJonez’s November 2019 Update

Hello there, dear reader! Thank you for checking out my blog and taking time out of your day to check out this post. 2019 is coming to a close but not only that, a new decennium is going to start soon as well. I’m quite excited about it and I have a couple of plans for the future. But, I think it’s best that I mention a few things in an update article to keep my readers up to date. So, that’s why we are here. Let’s dive right into the updates about my personal life and my blog. And as usual, feel free to leave a comment in the comment section with your opinion and/or suggestions.

Blog updates

Something I have been promising in a lot of update articles is the fact that I’m proofreading my blog and trying to get rid of as many typos as I can. Now, I understand the argument that there shouldn’t be any, to begin with, but I’m human and spell checking isn’t my strong suit.

Now, I’m happy to say that since writing this update article, I have updated every article that I published in 2019 and a part of 2018. I’m also fixing broken links and broken images.

So, whenever you see a typo or a sentence that doesn’t make sense, feel free to hit me up on Twitter, in the comments, on Discord or on any place you catch me. I’m always happy to receive feedback and even when it’s a small typo that I have overlooked. I’m also going to do my best in the feature to avoid as many mistakes as I can.

Apart from that, I have also started working on various other things like improving the overview pages, updating outdated information on the about me page and various other pages. I’m planning to somewhat merge a few pages and I have started working on that as well.

Besides that, I’m also thinking about creating new artwork and new logos for my blog. On top of that, I’m trying to work out a new theme for my blog as well. I have been using a similar site theme for so many years now, I think it’s high time for something new. But, before I do that, I want to finish reworking all the pages, categories and fixing the typos and grammar mistakes.

Lately, I’m quite busy with my personal life. I’ll talk a bit more about that in a later part of this article. This means that I’m running behind on developer requests and I even had to scrap a few. But, I’m going to try and catch up. Instead of publishing them on the weekends, I’ll publish them whenever they are done.

Now, I have a few major plans for December. Of course, I’ll publish the usual end of the year spiel but besides that, I have a few games in mind that I want to write about. In January 2020, I’m planning various nostalgic posts to look back at the past 10 years in gaming.

Before I got to the updates about my personal life, I think it’s time for the usual “update”. That is: I’m quite active on Twitter. So, when I have to skip a week or when I have updated a page or when I want to share something, you can follow it on Twitter. Most of these updates in this article are tweets I have posted in the past few months.

Personal life stuff

So, one huge piece of news is that my girlfriend @notthatalice94 started her own personal blog. You can find her on NotThatAlice’s Creative Space. On that blog, she will be mostly writing about her creative projects like photography or sewing but also about things that happened in her life. If you enjoy lifestyle blogging, be sure to check her blog out. Sure, the blog is still a work in progress, but I’m helping her out. And maybe, I’ll be writing a few guest posts on there. These posts will be mostly about things that have nothing to do with games. Of course, NotThatAlice might still write gaming-related articles on this blog as well.

So, 2019 was an extremely crazy year for me. My mental health wasn’t the best during this year but thanks to amazing friends and family I have been improving slowly. I’m also recovering from a major writing burn-out which caused me to skip several weeks. This means that I wrote fewer articles this year and my stats really show that. Last year, I had over 25k visitors to my site. In 2019, I currently have 13k. Which isn’t bad, but it’s a major decline in readers. Yet, it is better numbered then the number of people who read my blog in 2017, which were just over 12k people and we still have a month and a half to go.

Since I met NotThatAlice in March of this year, my schedule became filled pretty quickly. We have been doing so many different activities together and I have been enjoying my time quite a lot. I could write a very long love letter, but I don’t think this is the right article for it. Anyways, the reason that I mention this is that in the future my reviews might have her viewpoint as well.

Something else I have been doing is a major cleaning in my collection and my gaming room. I noticed that I had a lot of unused cables, broken handhelds, empty batteries, books I don’t read anymore… Because of this, I have a lot more room in my gaming area but this also means that I came across a ton of games I haven’t written an article on and I want to replay.

In the past few months, I have also been playing games I have started in the past but never finished. A lot of games I have written a first impression article on but never a review. So, maybe I’ll write a few follow up articles on games I have wrote first impression articles on. I have an interesting format in mind, so that might be fun.

And that is everything major that’s been happening in my life. I’m sorry for the shorter article this week, but there are a lot of events going on in my personal life and I have been reorganizing and decluttering my life. And I think that this made my last few articles even better.

In any case, thank you for reading this update 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.

Game Quicky: Island Maze (Switch) ~ Each Island Is A Maze

SQ_NSwitchDS_IslandMaze.jpgOfficial Nintendo micrositeDrageus microsite

From time to time, I enjoy trying out cheap games. Especially when I have some budget leftover and I see a game that looks interesting. That’s why I agreed to write a small review article on Island Maze for the Nintendo Switch. It’s a game Drageus Games developed themselves instead of porting the game over. So, let’s take a look at this game with the review copy that the developers provided. Now, in this review, you will find my 100% honest opinion on the game but feel free to leave your opinion on the game and/or the content of this article down below.

Positives

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This game is quite easy to grasp and has an enjoyable concept. The idea is that you get to the goal in the least amount of moves possible. The catch is that you can’t move over a colored tile without the correct gem. So, you have to think about how your dice is going to move over the field before moving.

Now, the game might seem to limit in the controls department, but you have a lot of helpful tools at your disposal. You can rotate the camera, zoom in and out and even undo moves. You can also reserve the camera’s direction when it doesn’t feel right to you to control.

This game allows you to skip levels. Whenever you are stuck on a certain level, you don’t need to play that level. When you complete 10 levels with the least amount of moves, you unlock every level.

The music is quite relaxing. It fits the atmosphere of the game amazingly well. Together with the amazing visuals, the game looks and sounds amazing. Maybe a bit more sound effects would be nice but then again, I think I would get sick of the dice rolling sound effect extremely quickly. Maybe one or two sound effects in the menus would be nice.

Negatives

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There are a few glaring issues in this game that I want to address.

The first issue is that the undo button only works for one move. So, if you noticed a mistake that you made ten moves ago, you better restart.

Secondly, there is no hint system. So, when you are stuck on a level, there is no way for you to know more. So, if you don’t understand a new mechanic right away… You will have to experiment.

For some reason, the “-” button brings up the controller connect menu of the Nintendo Switch. This serves no purpose in the game at all.

The naming of this game is a bad decision. If you Google: “Island Maze”, the results are mostly the island mazes from Breath of the Wild. If this game was a simple hobby project, I wouldn’t mind it too much. But, I think that in future the developers should pay a bit more attention to the naming in case they want to promote their game online more easily.

This game has been out for a year on Steam. Compared to the Steam version, which is a tad bit cheaper mind you, nothing has been changed. I think that after a year, the game could use some new levels and mechanics to give the game a bit more depth.

Final Thoughts – Conclusion

is_s1This is a good game, but it’s on the wrong platform. The audience for the Nintendo Switch isn’t an audience for quick and short casual games like this game. I think that the game would be better suited for mobile platforms. I felt that touch controls would work better for this game. Honestly, the game gave me that sort of vibe.

Apart from the broken undo system, I don’t see anything wrong with the game. This game is a cheap and enjoyable puzzler that can be entertaining for a rainy afternoon or when you are waiting for the doctor or when you are traveling on the bus or something of that nature.

I’m just a bit sad to see that this game is so short while the concept has a lot of promise. I enjoyed my time with this game but I wouldn’t blame people when they get bored with this game or skip it.

And that’s everything I wanted to say about this game. 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: 3/5

First Impressions: Bloodstained – Ritual Of The Night (Switch) ~ Middle Ages Magic.

Official websiteNintendo Microsite

So, a new Metroidvania game has been released. The Metroidvania genre is one of my favorite style of games. When I heard that Koji Igarashi of Castlevania fame was the director of this game, I was beyond hyped. I even mentioned this game in my top 10 games I wanted to play in 2019. And, yes, the game was even twice on that sort of list. Anyways, this game was a Kickstarter game were major flops like Mighty Number 9 and major hits like A Hat In Time. Where does this game fall? On the major flops or on the amazing titles part of the spectrum? Let’s find out in this first impressions article. Also, feel free to give your opinion on the content of this article and/or the game in the comment section down below. A small editor note I have to make is that I have played this game before and after the visual improvement patches applied, and I will keep this in mind for this review.

Middle Ages Magic

During the Industrial Revolution, the Alchemy Guild got scared of losing their followers and patrons. So, they decided to create Shardbinders. These are humans who are forcibly fused with demonically charged crystals. Thanks to these crystals, the Shardbinders obtained magical powers. Everything was peaceful until the Fire Nation attacked, well sorta. Kinda. The Shardbinders were sacrificed and abused to summon demons from Hell (let’s be honest, this is a sort of Fire Nation. 😉 ). Now, this whole plan backfired and brought mass destruction over the whole of England. Thankfully, the Church was able to intervene and save some areas of destruction.

Two shardbinders survived the whole massacre, Gebel and Miriam. Ten years after the incidents, Miriam wakes up from her unnatural slumber and finds out that Gebel has summoned another demon to continue the revenge of the Shardbinders on what the alchemists did to him. Miriam starts her journey accompanied by Johannes, who is a former member of the Alchemy Guild. Miriam wants to stop Gebel before the whole world is destroyed.

The story itself is nothing that special. To be quite frank, the story didn’t really grab my attention. Now, I have reviewed two Castlevania games in the past: Castlevania – Portrait of Ruin and Castlevania – Lords Of Shadow – Mirror Of Shadow and of both these games, I don’t remember a lot about the story. It’s a shame since the story has quite a lot of potential to go quite in-depth and in different directions. The story takes a backseat in this game, to a point that sometimes the story is used as a sort of in-game guide. Like, when you have defeated a boss and you talk to one of the members of the Church, she straight up tells you (this isn’t an exact quote but it’s quite similar): “I have heard rumors that one of the high ranking officers can jump again in the air. (…) You need to look for a tower where…”

Now, the cast of the voice actors of this game is just mindblowing. Miriam is voiced by Erica Lindbeck who voiced Barbie herself in a few movies and also voiced one of the leading characters in Fire Emblem Echoes. Gebel is voiced by Ray Chase who’s a voice you can also hear in Super Smash Bros. Ultimate as Roy and in Final Fantasy 15 as Noctis. Zangetsu is voiced by a voice acting legend by the name of David Hayter who is famous for his voice work on Solid Snake. You can dig deeper into the voice cast using this page from Behind the Voice Actors. With so much talent on board and pretty good direction, you can be sure that the dub of this game is pretty well done.

Now, what could have improved the story? Well, first of all, a bit more character development. Some characters are quite two dimensional. I barely notice any progress in these characters. Secondly, I feel that too many stereotypical characters were used. A more diverse cast of characters or characters that broke their stereotype would be a great twist in the story. And finally, be a bit less hand-holding. If you want to guide the players to a certain location to gain a new power-up, you can do that by other means. I loved the system the developers used in Monster Tale on the DS. In that game, you also have a guide to where you need to go, but it’s up to you to fight through the enemies and find your way there.

Metroidvania at its finest

In the previous section, I have already mentioned three games I have reviewed that were in the same style as this game. The two Castlevania games and Monster Tale.

If you have played games like Castlevania, Metroid, Monster Tale or Axiom Verge then you’ll know what to expect in this game. In this game, you explore a huge map, defeat different bosses, learn new techniques to make exploring easier and access unknown areas. Meanwhile, you have to fight through a lot of enemies and try to balance your items right in order for you to stay alive.

Most Metroidvania’s are anything but easy. This game is no exception. This game can be quite difficult. But, the difficulty is fun difficulty. Sometimes you aren’t strong enough or don’t have the right gear to survive the encounters. Now, some people would enjoy the challenge of this game and try to defeat this game with the weakest gear possible. Now, this means that this game has some minor forms of grinding to improve your stats and defeat some bosses easier.

Now, the map of this game is quite huge. Thankfully, there are several warp points that allow you to fast travel to other areas in the castle. These warp points are in special rooms marked in green on your map. A minor nitpick I have is that the warp point to the central base of the game is outside right after some enemy encounters. I think that it would be better inside so I can go with full health to the boss. Yeah, I’m that kind of a player. So, that’s why I mentioned it as a nitpick.

Anyways, the warp rooms aren’t the only special things on your journey. You also have to save rooms. This game doesn’t have an autosave feature, but you can save (and heal your HP/MP) at the various save rooms that are shattered around the castle.

I really love the freedom of exploration in this game. While the story is a minor disappointment to me, the gameplay more than makes up for it. Exploring the castle and the areas around it is a ton of fun. Trying out the different mechanics and abilities of Miriam is just a great experience to have.

Together with the decent controls, this game is a blast to play. Now, I have read in different reviews that the controls of this game have a bit of input lag or are a bit floaty. Thankfully, I find that they improved them a lot in the patches that the game received and I think that the future patches in November 2019 will improve the game even more.

Visually underpowered

Allow me to address the elephant in the room. Look, there it is. His name is Dumbo and he has a movie made about him. Now, let’s be a bit more serious. Visually, this game doesn’t look that great when you compare it to the other versions on PlayStation or PC. The publishers even posted a statement on the rather spotty technical performance. Now, I think that’s a great move to improve technical performance through patches. On the other hand, delaying the Switch port to work on the technical performance would have been an even better move in the first place.

While the Switch is quite powerful, compared to the other consoles on the market today… Well, it’s underpowered. So, I can understand that the Switch version has some fewer animations or visual effects. Something I think that I don’t understand is the inconsistent performance of the game and the input lag in certain areas. Now, these things will be addressed in the patched that is scheduled for November. This is a shame since this game would be an amazing title to play on Halloween night, but they will miss the mark on that completely.

With all that talk about the Switch version having a spotty performance, I do have to say… I don’t find it that bad. The issues are the worst when you play the game in undocked mode. When you play this game in docked mode, this game plays just … decent. In very rare spots, the game has a bit of frame or input lag but nothing game-breaking.

In its current state, the game still looks quite good. I think the visual presentation is great and the animations are quite good as well. Together with the amazing music and enjoyable sound effects, the audiovisual presentation still gets a pass from me. So, I’m a bit mixed on this whole thing.

The game is a blast to play and has some extremely helpful features like the ability to leave markers on your map so you can remind yourself to visit these areas later. The game even has a lot of depth with its own crafting system, various shops, various unlockable skills and builds you can make… Even when you change your outfit in the menu’s, Miriam wears the armor and outfits in the game, during gameplay, and during cutscenes.

But, the whole game is held back by the lack of polish that is now coming in the form of patches. It gives the game a wrong first impression to a lot of players. Not everybody knows that this game’s performance and visuals are going to improve. Also, I have stopped playing this game because I want to replay this game when all the patches have been released so I can experience this game in it’s the best form. And that’s what’s so disappointing to me. I’m already halfway the game and now I have to restart the whole game. Well, then again, it’s my own choice…

So yeah, this article is going to be continued. I think it would be a bit unfair to fully judge the game right now when I know that there are patches to improve the visuals, the controls and the gameplay in the near future. But, I still wanted to talk about this game so here we are. So, for a full review, you will have to come back a few weeks after the patches have been released. If I don’t forget, I’ll also link the updated article here: [TO BE ANNOUNCED.] And maybe I should go more in-depth about the gameplay in that updated article as well.

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

Game Quicky: Forager (Switch) ~ Collecting the Mining

Forager

Official website

A few days ago, I wrote an article about a few of my favorite pieces of music in games. In that article, I talked about Forager. A game that recently got ported to the Nintendo Switch. Because the game looked quite interesting to me, I decided to give it a try and now that I have almost finished the game, I decided that it’s high time that I write an article about it. So, in this game quicky, you will find my opinions on the game and feel free to leave a comment in the comment section with your opinion on the content of this article and/or the game itself. A little side note, this review is written when the original version came out on Switch, it’s possible that things from this review can become irrelevant when new content comes out.

Positives

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In this game, you play as a sort of nameless somebody that’s stranded on an island. Your goal is to expand the islands and survive. Now, there are a lot of game mechanics and there is a lot of crafting that will need to be done. The pacing of the game is something special. Depending on your playstyle and what you unlock, the game can go quickly or slowly.

The gameplay is quite unique. You start off on one lonely island. I was unsure at first what I needed to do. I was able to mine away from the resources on the island and after a while they randomly respawned. So, where a flower spawned first, a tree was now standing. I always got small bits of experience. When I leveled up, I was able to unlock new skills and buildings. These skills and buildings allowed to me gather even more types of resources and sometimes even more efficiently.

It didn’t take long before I had a ton of farms and factories setup that helped me in automating certain parts of the crafting process. Now, it would be lovely if they expanded a bit more on this process in future updates, like for example, a certain furnace always smelting a certain ore when it got below a certain point.

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Besides crafting and grinding for resources, you also have enemies to worry about. Depending on the strength of your weapons and gear, these enemies can range from major treats or pushovers. I found it extremely enjoyable to improve my gear and then to take revenge on some annoying enemies by defeating them in one swipe of my sword.

On top of that, there are various dungeons, quests, and secrets to find throughout the game. Almost every island has something to do or to discover it. Some islands have even more than one thing. So, it’s a great idea to try out different things. If you watch closely to each island and try out things, you might discover some secret treasures and upgrades.

I found the visual presentation of this game quite nicely. The pixel art of this game is excellent and fits the style of this game quite well. The animations aren’t too special or flashy, but that isn’t too big of a deal. The goofy writing and humor of the characters more than make up for it. Speaking about that, the characters in this game can be quite amusing and entertaining.

Now, if you talk about the presentation you can’t forget about the music and sound effects. These are excellent as well. The soundtrack of this game is a joy to listen too. I’m even considering adding the soundtrack to my playlist for when I’m writing or just relaxing. The soundtrack is in general quite relaxing but can be quite tense when it needs to be.

The controls of this game are quite responsive and easy to get the hang of. It didn’t take long for me to get used to the controls and do some advanced moves. The inventory management is a bit basic, but more on that later.

So, you have to purchase land, find secrets, unlock achievements and so much more. Whenever you finish a quest line or finish an achievement, you get special costumes that give you special abilities. These special abilities can range from taking less damage or certain enemies ignoring you. And some of these costumes are great easter eggs or references to other series. One thing to know is that once you unlock the effect of a costume, it’s always active. Even when you are not wearing it, it’s active.

Negatives

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Certain building mechanics are quite underdeveloped. When I wanted to place another oil pumping station, I had an extremely difficult time removing all the wood I had placed in the ocean. Also, I was unable to remove any land tiles that were blocking the pumping station.

The vaults are quite handy and aid you in stocking up resources. The issue I have with the vaults is that you are unable to choose where which item goes when your inventory overflows. At the end of my playthrough, I had several vaults and I didn’t know which item was where. It was always a find expedition when I needed to find one item or check if there weren’t item stacks that could be combined.

In an extension of that, the inventory management is too basic. You can’t move items in your inventory, you can’t change the order of the items in the hot bar. Also, when I was catching things with bottles, the hot bar sometimes switched to the caught item and I accidentally released the fairy.

The randomness and luck-based drops nearing the end can get extremely frustrating. There are two artifacts that I still have to get to complete the museum but the random drop rates of the remaining treasures are so low that after 5 hours of trying, I was unable to get even one of those drops.

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There are some minor game-breaking bugs in the game. For example, there are some puzzles where the required items don’t always spawn. These bugs are fixed in the Steam version of the game, but I still experience them on the Nintendo Switch. The one that affected me is the bug with the mushroom puzzle on the rainbow island.

When you bought all the islands and crafted almost every upgrade, the game gets a bit boring. Not only is one of the final upgrades quite repetitive and slow to get, but there is also nothing to do after you bought all the islands. Now, this might change in the future, since additional content is being developed. Recently a new content pack has been released for the Steam version.

In most cases, the frame rate is quite stable. But, whenever you enter or exit a building or when there is a lot happening on screen… The framerate can drop drastically. For example, I noticed a lot of frame drops whenever I had some special buffs applied to me and I was digging all over the place. Speaking of the frame rate, there is one dungeon where you have to guide a beam towards certain obstacles to open the doors. How the longer the beam was, the worse the framerate got.

Conclusion

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This game is quite a lot of fun, I enjoyed myself with this game quite a lot. But, the game can be a bit rough around the edges. There are some parts of the game that are still a bit underdeveloped and could some expanding.

The tricky thing about reviewing this game is that there are a few major updates planned and I have no idea what they will change or add to the game. I don’t even know if I have to restart or if I’m able to continue on the same save file when the updates come out. While some of them already got released on Steam, I don’t know if and when they come to the Nintendo Switch.

9

Yet, I still recommend this game to people who enjoy games like Terraria, Zelda or Minecraft. This game is a lot of fun and quite addictive as well. When I started playing this game, I had a very hard time putting the game down and playing other games. I’m very excited to see what the next updates will bring and which improvements it will bring to the game. Since if they polish the mechanics that I talked about in the negatives section of this game, the game can become even more enjoyable.

And with that said, I have said everything I wanted to say about this game. Thank you so much for reading this article and I hope you enjoyed right it 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: 70/100

My Favorite Game Music #23 ~ Maybe with a jukebox?

music-gaming

More articles in this series

It has been quite some time since I wrote about my favorite music tracks in gaming. It has been a year since I talked about music. So, for those who don’t know how this series works, let me quickly explain it to you. My favorite music to listen to are the soundtracks of movies, games, shows… I have enjoyed. In this series, I talk about my favorite tracks or the tracks I love to listen too. Now, a rule in this series is that I’m only allowed to talk about one track per franchise per article. Otherwise, most of these articles might get filled with tracks from my favorite games. Also, I don’t include remixes in these articles; unless it’s special, then I only talk about game-related music or remixes. Now, this one is one about the original music. But, let’s stop stalling. Let’s get to talking about gaming music. And as usual, feel free to leave a comment in the comment section down below with your opinion on the selection and/or the music.

Forager (Switch) ~ Boss Fight

forager-cover

Forager, a game that is the love child of HopFrog. When I discovered the story behind this game, I found that the developer a real inspiration.

Besides that, this game is quite an interesting one. The game is inspired by Terreria, Minecraft, The Legend of Zelda and Stardew Valley. At the moment, I’m playing the game on Nintendo Switch. I know that the Steam version is more complete, but yeah. I didn’t know that this game was a PC game at first.

I’ll talk about my opinion on this game in a future article but for now, I want to draw your attention to the existence of this game with linking you to one best track in the trance/dance/techno soundtrack of this game.

I really can’t wait to play the update that’s now in BETA on the PC. I hope it comes soon to the Switch version so I can play these new things. Since they are looking quite interesting.

Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night (Switch) ~ Gears of Fortune

Bloodstained_cover_art

The Metroidvania games are back and how! Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night is one just a joy to play. It’s also one of the next articles that I’m writing for my blog.

I know that I’m playing this game on the platform with the weakest visual performance, but honestly, I don’t really care. The game is still a blast to play.

Now, the music is addictive to listen too. It might be one of the best soundtracks I heard this year. The tunes really stick in your head and I was unable to really pick one of them for this article. So, I picked Gears of Fortune just because it’s the track I’m listening to most too during this week. There is no other reason. The soundtrack is really good and if you enjoy this track, you really should give the other tracks a listen.

The orchestral arrangements are just beautiful. The energy of the ruined town and a haunted castle are really well portrayed. You really feel like a warrior on the battlefield really to fight the enemy and try to save the world from destruction. But, can you do that before it’s too late? Well, I think I know which game I’ll be playing after this article is published.

Etrian Odyssey 5 (3DS) ~ Battle 2

Etrian_Odyssey_V_cover.png

I have been playing so many good games this year. Etrian Odyssey 5 – Beyond the Myth is one of them. It’s sad to see that it’s the final Etrain Odyssey game in the franchise. But, the series had an amazing run for being such a niche game.
For those who don’t know what this game is about, it’s a hard as nails dungeon crawler where you have to draw and create your own map to boot. I have reviewed other games from the series in previous articles.

But, I seriously wish that the Switch wasn’t such a distraction to me since I really want to continue to play this game. This battle theme really gets me pumped to play some more Etrian Odyssey V. The music of this title is amazing as always, so yeah.

A Hat in Time (PC) ~ Nyakuza Metro DLC – Rush Hour

Hat In Time

Review

I haven’t played the DLC packs of A Hat in Time yet. I have played enough to unlock both sections, but I haven’t completed either of them.

Recently, I have been playing the game with my girlfriend in co-op mode and we are having so much fun. So much fun that I copied the whole soundtrack on her phone for her to enjoy. Too bad that her laptop isn’t powerful enough to run the game. Thankfully, she will be able to enjoy this game on the Nintendo Switch really soon.

Now, when I hear the amazing music in the DLC, I’m really pumped to start playing the DLC chapters. But now I’m in a bind, should I start playing them now or should I wait until me and my girlfriend get until that point? This is a tricky question. I think I should wait, so we can both experience the amazing music and new content that this game has to offer.

Pokémon Ranger – Guardian Signs (DS) ~ Rand’s House

Ranger_GS_EN_boxart

Most of the pieces in this article are great tracks that really get you pumped up to fight or go on a great adventure. This Pokémon track is the complete opposite. It’s more down to earth and relaxing.

Recently, I bought the three Pokémon Ranger games on my Wii U and I have been replaying them. While my favorite music to listen too is the more action-packed music like the four previous tracks, from time to time, I love tracks like these to wind down.

This track is played inside of the more important character’s house. It fits the atmosphere of the conversation really well and fits the mood perfectly. That really reminds me, I should review the two other Pokémon Ranger games shouldn’t I? I have reviewed the first game.

Closing off

And with that, I think it’s time to close off this article. I’m so glad that I wrote this article since it really helped me out. In the last update article, I talked about how I felt a bit burned out on writing and a bit idealess/inspiration less. Well, this article gave me a lot of ideas for future articles and reminded me of a lot of games that I still want to talk about.

With that said, I hope you enjoyed listing to these soundtracks and maybe found some new tracks to add to your playlist. Feel free to let me know in the comments which games also have amazing soundtracks. I would love to hear and play them.

Now, I think it’s high time for my usual closing of the article. Thank you for reading this article. I hope you enjoyed reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it. I hope to be able to welcome you in another article but until then, have a great rest of your day and take care!

First Impression: Rise of Nations: Extended Edition (PC) ~ Apes With Tanks

21462-rise-of-nations-windows-front-cover.jpgOfficial website

Since my childhood I have been playing a lot of RTS games. From Rise & Fall Civilizations At War to Age Of Empires, I have played a lot of them. And I have to admit, I’m not great at them. Whenever I would play online against other players, I get easily defeated. Yet, I enjoyed my time with these games quite a lot. I love to play skirmishes or various matches against the computer. Now, one of the favorite RTS games is Rise of Nations. And that’s the game we are going to take a look at today. A game where you take your civilization from give or take the stone age to the modern times of today. So, let’s not wait longer and let’s dive right into my first impressions of this game. The reason the first impression is simply because I never finished the campaigns, so yeah. I haven’t seen all the content of the game. And as usual, feel free to leave a comment with your opinion on the game and/or the content of this article in the comment section down below.

Apes with tanks

Rise of Nations has been developed by Big Game Studios, the studio that also worked on the second expansion of Age of Empires III. While this game has a “Conquer the world” campaign mode where you play as for example Napoleon conquering Europe, I haven’t played a lot of that mode. And that has a simple explanation, I already talked about in the introduction of this article. Now, for this article I have played parts of the first campaign of Alexander The Great.

Now, for this article I have played the extended edition of the game that is on Steam at the moment. The core gameplay of this game is extremely similar to games like Age of Mythology and Age Of Empires. If you have played a RTS game in the past, you will feel right at home in this game.

Some mechanics do work differently in this game. First of all, the way to claim land. When you start the game, a certain part of the map is colored in your color. You can expand this area by building more cities or defensive buildings. You are unable to build any other buildings outside of that area. It’s quite important that you plan out your city structure well, since it’s a factor in how much wealth you will earn from your trade route or the ability to build even better wood cutting or mining camps.

To increase the population limit or the efficiency of certain buildings, you will need to upgrade at the library. There are 4 trees you can update. The military level which allows you to create even better military units, the science level to have even better buffs to your economic output and military, the economics level to have your resource gathering be even more efficient and stockpile better and the civic level which allows you to build even more units and cities. On top of that, you have to worry about advancing through the ages. You go from the early stone age to the middle ages to finish in the modern ages.

The way you gather resources in this game is also quite different. In this game you don’t have to worry about re-seeding farms or finding now ore veins for your villagers. All the resources are infinite. Now, there are certain restrictions. You can only build up to 5 farms per city. The placement of the building is also quite important. For example, if you place a woodcutter camp in the middle of a forest, more villagers will be able to cut wood for you. If you place it at the edge, less villagers will be able to cut wood for you.

Now, with all of this, you need to keep in mind that if you enter enemy territory, your units automatically get attrition. So, if one of your camps or buildings falls into enemy territory, you will loose slots or loose that building entirely.

Another mechanic in this game are the merchants. Spread over the whole map are certain bonus items. Sometimes they can be presents like the relics you can find in Age of Empires III but without the guardians. And sometimes they can be rare resources that can give certain buffs. On this Wiki page, you have a list of all the different buffs you can get.

One of the mechanics I really love and miss in a lot of other RTS games is the automatic exploring. Seriously, I can let any unit automatically explore the map without me having to worry about it or me always giving it a path. The times I forgot to explore the map in other RTS games… Man, I’m unable to count that anymore.

As you can see, there are many layers on top of the gameplay. The game is very complex and expansive. And I haven’t talked about how you can conquer and take over cities, set the unit production to loop, the fact you can take out your enemies in many different ways, the ability to rename your cities, the unique wonders and their bonuses… The features that set this game apart from other RTS games are just amazing and make for a very unique experience.

Visual fluff

This game can be very challenging. Depending on the difficulty of the AI, this game can be quite easy or quite difficult. While I’m able to beat the computer on Normal, I always have trouble when the computer is on hard mode. Yet, the issue I have with this game is that the normal mode provides just a bit too little challenge for me and the hard mode provides a bit too much challenge for me. Whoops.

Something I really like about this game is the fact that the visuals change when you change through the ages. You see the building style change when you advance through the ages. And not only that, the sound design changes as well. For example, when you get to the industrial ages, you start to hear chainsaws in the lumber camps instead of saws.

Up close, the visuals can look a bit dated. But, that’s completely normal. Since near the end of the game, there are so many units on the screen, I’m glad that they aren’t too detailed. The ending of a game can be so extremely hectic, I can barely keep track of what’s going on. I remember a multiplayer session with my best friend. In the end of that session we neglected our economy and idle villagers because the warfare required most of our attention. At the end of a match, you are able to make 4 big upgrades. One of them is instant creation of units. With this upgrade, the warfare gets so crazy, you have to focus on it.

Some elements of the UI in this game can be expanded and collapsed. For example, when you expand the resource menu, you have quick access to the market where you can trade resources. You don’t need to click on a market to do that. You can also see if there are open spots for mining, farming, wood cutting… And when these get in your way, one simple button click and they are hidden.

Not only the visual presentation and sound design changes through the ages, the animation does as well. When you reach the industrial ages, the miners you jackhammers instead of pickaxes to mine.

The sound design is amazing, it really captures the enjoyable chaos that happens on screen perfectly well. On top of that, the sound effects for male and female units are different. Yes, when a female unit dies, you hear a woman scream. And guess what, you hear a male scream when a male unit dies. This attention to detail is just amazing.

Couple this sound design and amazing visual design with an amazing orchestral soundtrack and you have an amazing visual presentation. In the original version, I had issues with the soundtrack. It never played during gameplay. While playing the Extended Edition, I haven’t encountered that issue once.

Perfection?

Now, is this game perfect? No, there are some things I would change in this game. One complaint I have is that there aren’t too many differences between the nations you can choose to play as.

Due to the various amounts of game mechanics, this game can be extremely overwhelming. If you aren’t into RTS games, just don’t play this game as your first RTS game. This game isn’t easy to get into because the various amount of layers upon layers of complexity in this game.

Due to the length of some rounds, I honestly got a bit bored at the end. This game is a lot of fun to play but near the end, I found that the game became a bit too repetitive to my liking.

Also, compared the to original game and the extended edition, there hasn’t been a lot of additions. Thankfully, the community picks up the slack from the developers in the Steam Workshop.

Some achievements are rather grindy in nature. I have close to 60 hours of playtime in this game and I’m not even halfway to the achievement of killing 50K units. Yes, I have killed 8K units during my 60 hour playthrough.

And to be honest, that are all the negatives I can talk about. Maybe I discover a few more negatives when I’m trying out the campaign mode again soon, but I highly doubt that. This game is quite a lot of fun if you are into RTS games. Once this game has a hook on you, it barely lets go. This game is one of my favorite RTS games and I’m so glad that it’s available on Steam. And after writing this review (well, first impression) I can’t wait to boot the game back up again and start up a new round.

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

The Sunshine Blogger Award – Q and A

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

Thank you!

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

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

The Questions

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

OR

“On which platform do you play?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

My questions and nominations

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

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

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

LaterLevels

Sheikah Plate

Triform Trinity

ABXY Reviews

Pix1001 – Shoot the Rookie

Drakulus

Hundstrasse

OverThinkerY

A Geeky Girl

Adventure Rules

Killer Robotics

NormalHappenings

Winst0lf

TwoTall4uFool

Reaper Interactive

Falcon Reviews

GamersUnitedGG

I Played The Game

LividLighting

Well-Red Mage

TheDragonsTeaParty

Games With Coffee

The Shameful Narcissist

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

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

Fatal_Frame_II_-_Crimson_Butterfly

Wikipedia entry

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

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

A sisterly bond

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

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

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

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

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

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

Spooky Camera

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 The atmosphere in the dark

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Review: Atelier Rorona -The Alchemist of Arland- DX (Switch) ~ Crafting The Adventure With Alchemy.

atelier-rorona-featureWikipedia page

On my top 10 games list of 2018, I talked about Atelier Rorona. I talked about how this game got me interested in playing the Atelier series. Now, it’s time to give my full opinion on the game. Why did I place this game on my top ten list and why wasn’t it higher on the list? I think it’s time to talk about crafting and exploring. Adventuring and RPG’ing. And as usual, feel free to leave a comment with your opinion on the game and/or the content of this article in the comment section down below.

Get off your lazy bum

atelier rorona screen 1The story of this game has a simple premise. You play as Rorona, a young girl who is an apprentice at a local alchemy shop in the Arland Kingdom. Her master Astrid is so lazy that business isn’t going well at all. As a matter of fact, she didn’t get off her lazy bum for so long, the kingdom is considering to close down the shop. Rorona doesn’t want this to happen so she takes on the challenges provided by the kingdom. She gets a deadline of three years. During these three years, she has to prove that she can run the alchemy shop and make a profit. If she fails one of these challenges, the shop will be closed without any further questions.

On the surface, the story of this game isn’t anything special. It’s one that has been done various times before. Yet, the story actually changes a lot in your actions. It depends on who you take with you on your journey, how good you craft your items, how you interact with the characters and how you run your alchemy shop. The one that lazy Astrid sort of gave to you because she wanted more sleep but didn’t want the shop to be closed.

This makes the story quite a lot of fun to play through. Because each and every playthrough is going to be different, you will have a different story. This game has various endings that all depend on how good you did during your missions provided by the kingdom. When I had beaten the game for the first time, I got a very generic ending that didn’t give the closure I felt that the story deserved. Because of that, I feel motivated to replay this game with so I can get an even better ending.

The writing of this game makes replaying this game even more enjoyable. While I was playing this game, I posted a short clip on my Twitter showing off the voice acting. The game has a lot of funny and charming moments. I actually fell in love with the characters of this game. Now, depending on how good you play this game, the characters you interact with getting more character development.

Now, during my playthrough, the story was quite enjoyable. While it didn’t have a lot of moments where I sat on the edge of my seat, it was quite relaxing. Maybe the other endings have more thrilling moments, but overall I enjoyed the story quite a lot. The writing, the pacing, and the voice acting make for an enjoyable experience. I can’t wait to see how the game plays out on my next playthrough.

With that said, how do you actually go about saving the shop? For that, Rorona needs to gather ingredients from various locations and craft various items. Depending on the quality of the items, you get better items. Now, I do have one thing I felt mixed about in terms of the gameplay.

Running that shop

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Yes, this is a screenshot from the PS3 version, but the Switch version looks the same apart from the different buttons.

While the story pacing is quite good, the pacing of the game is … let’s just say, strange. Because the game gives off a relaxing and casual vibe, the game can feel extremely slow. But this is very misleading. Because you have a strict time limit; you shouldn’t waste time at all. You have to play every move extremely carefully. The more mistakes you make, the worse your ending gets. The depth in this game is crazy. You do get an assistant at the middle point of the game. This mechanic saved me various times. You can assign this assistant to go and explore for you or craft items for you.

Be warned, the tutorials of this game only scratch the surface of the mechanics of this game. Something I recommend is that you use the save system to your advantage. I had various saves at various points. So, I can go back when I felt I was able to finish the missions with better results.

Talking about the save system, the fact that this game got ported from a PlayStation system really shows in the UI. If you have played a game on a PlayStation you will recognize the typical save and load UI easily. The only thing that annoys me is that I’m unable to name my saves. This would have helped quite a lot.

So, you have to explore, fight monster and craft items. This sounds like your typical RPG fare. You do have side quests that can help you to get a better relationship with a certain character. Some of these side quests have the potential to improve the reputation of the shop which also has a big influence on the ending of the story.

All in all, the biggest challenge of this game is time management. Use your time wisely and try to waste as few days as you can. I always tried to finish the assignment of the kingdom as fast as I could. When I finished that, I used the remaining days to explore new areas and improve my relationship with the other characters.

The gameplay immersed me quite a lot. I really felt like a shop owner trying to find the best strategy to get my shop up and running and to try to get as many customers as I can. While the game isn’t too difficult to get the most basic ending, the challenge for this game hides in trying to get the best endings.

A normal playthrough of this game will take you somewhere around 20 hours. But, if you want to see all the endings, you will get a lot more out of this game. On howlongtobeat.com, there are reports of players taking 60 to 100 hours to fully complete this game. Now, this is for the PlayStation 3 version. At the time of writing this review, the website has no listing for the Nintendo Switch version.

Now, the meat of this game is in exploration and crafting. First of all, let’s go a bit more in-depth about the exploration. During your exploration, you can take two allies with you. Certain allies require a certain price to hire. This price needs to be paid upfront. So, make sure you have enough gold in the bank to hire them.

During the exploration, you can go to various locations. Each location has several areas you can explore that provide different items. These items aren’t randomized, so if you find herbs in a certain area, you will be able to find those herbs every time there.

One thing you need to keep in mind is that you have an inventory limit. If you reach that limit, you have to throw out items. Also, you need to keep in mind that certain items can lose their freshness. For example, if you collect berries and don’t put them in your storage in the chest in the shop, the quality will drop.

During your exploration, you can see certain spots where items can be gathered. In the meantime, you see the enemies roaming around. When you interact with them, you can start a fight with them. The battles are turn-based. It’s the system you see in a million other RPG’s. But there are a few differences.

One difference is that only an alchemist can use items. So, only Rorona can use healing items during the battle. Another difference is that you can use certain characters to defend you and make combo attacks. In each battle, a meter builds up. When that meter is full, you can use the shoulder buttons to defend Rorona. A similar mechanic counts for the combo attacks.

One thing you need to keep in mind during the exploration is that moving between locations and areas takes valuable time. So, make sure you know which items you need and where you can find them and plan accordingly. Otherwise, you might get into trouble and you aren’t able to craft certain items.

In addition to that, keep in mind that you have a limited amount of MP. MP is also used to craft items. And this brings me on the second part of the gameplay I want to focus on, the crafting. This is something I didn’t always pay attention too. Each item can have certain properties that make a huge difference during crafting. Each item has also a quality level that changes the outcome quite a lot as well.

Something I found extremely tricky was looking for high-quality items. For some reason, I always found a mid tear or low tier quality items. I’m quite sure that this was one of the reasons that resulted in me having a mediocre ending. Now that I know that, I know what I should look for in a second playthrough.

Anyways, the crafting system itself is a bit basic. You can select various ingredients to craft an item. If you don’t have a certain sub ingredient that is craftable, you get forwarded to the crafting menu of that item. One thing that I found really annoying was that it wasn’t always clear which ingredients were missing. For example, the icon of the missing ingredient was a flame. But I had a few ores that looked extremely similar. Yet that wasn’t the ingredient I needed. It turns out I needed oil.

Something I really liked was that in the crafting list, you were able to sort ingredients in terms of quality or rarity. Also, you had various symbols that gave information if you were or weren’t able to craft a certain item. For example, a triangle means that you are able to craft the item but you have to craft a sub-item first.

One thing that I would like to mention is that this game can be repetitive. It’s quite easy to fall in a loop for every assignment or mission. Explore, craft, rest. Explore, craft, rest. Explore, craft, rest. And repeat. Each assignment has a different theme like preparing for a festival or helping to craft medicine.

I didn’t mind too much, but I feel that a bit more variation in the gameplay would do the game some good. For example, a bit more assignments where you needed to defeat a certain number of monsters or collect a certain amount of ingredients would do the trick.

Arland is saved

atelier-rorona-the-alchemist-of-arland-dx-screenshot-03-ps4-us-04dec2018Let’s talk about the visuals. This game looks quite nice in my opinion. While the game could have benefited from a free camera, I actually didn’t mind too much since the camera allowed me to watch the nice city and fun dungeons in great detail. Some enemies suffer from the recolor syndrome, like the slime enemies. There are at least 3 variants and only the color has been changed. I wish those games added a few extra details. Oh well. At least I never had slowdowns during gameplay and I was able to play the game at a decent frame rate.

In terms of animation, this game is good. While the cut scenes would have benefited from some more character animation instead of gorgeous looking 2D artwork. Now, if the game came out in a previous generation, I would excuse this…. oh, wait… that’s right, this game is a port of a PS3 game. Then again, the PS3 is capable of so much more. Oh well.

Now, something that bugged me a bit is the rather awkward jumping animation. I think it’s missing a few frames near the end where Rorona’s feet almost snap into place. It also looks strange when you adjust your jump in midair. Since Rorona sort of floats awkwardly. It’s hard to put into words but while the jump works great, it feels off and looks a bit off.

Jumping in itself is easy to do and control. You just press the jump button and voila. I don’t have any complaints about the controls. I really like how there is a dedicated button to cycle through Rorona’s animations. The game controls great and I didn’t have the need to spend time getting used to them. The UI explains it so well, I got the hang of it right away. One minor nitpick is that the prompt for running is a tad confusing. When the UI shows a button for “running ON” and you press that button, Rorona actually starts walking. So, that prompt in the UI actually shows the status if you are running or not.

Now, the UI has some amazing things I really liked. Like how easy it is to sort items or the great and easy to use crafting system. But I have a few complaints. First of all, I wish I was able to see which ingredients were at a certain location before I actually traveled there. I would have been able to save so many days…

Secondly, while I totally understand why the developers did this; I wish I was able to see how many days it would take to go to a newly discovered gathering area. The reason why they don’t tell you this is most likely for immersion reasons.

And my final and third complaint is when you buy armor, you can’t see if it would increase somebody’s stats or not. This was quite annoying, especially when the armor shop rarely has new items because the game really wants that you craft it yourself.

The music and sound effects for this game are good. The soundtrack really fits the mood of the story quite well. It’s relaxing and rather melodic. It helps to get immersed in the game. I even added the soundtrack to my playlist for when I want to relax. Now, the sound effects are great but I wish there were a bit more of them. For the whole crafting system, the use the same effects and I would love some different ones for food or bombs. Also, one for days passing, while the clock ticked over, would be the cherry on the cake.

Oh, and here is something nice, you can totally change the whole soundtrack. Yes, while interacting with the book in the atelier, you can change each and every track to another track. You can choose between a pretty long list of other games in the series. Now, this is an amazing feature but it could have used some additional features. Like a reset to default option and one where you easily see which song you have selected since in that menu there is a lot of unused screen space. And the biggest missing feature is, in my opinion, a preview of what song is currently playing. Oh dear, they were so close.

In that same menu, you can access the different costumes for Rorona. As far as I know, these are only cosmetic. You can do save file management and decorate the atelier to a certain degree. You can also access the options menu where you can adjust the sound mix to your liking. Here, you can also change the language of the voice acting to Japanese or English. So, if you want Rorona to greet you in Japanese on the main menu, you can do that.

After you have finished the game, there is a post-game chapter. I won’t spoil what the chapter is about but it adds some additional story. But after this post-game, there is no free-roaming. So, you can’t experiment with the game… This is a real missed opportunity since I would have loved to try and experiment with the game to learn and have a better run next time. Yet, on the other hand, I totally understand why they did this. Because the game has so many different endings in which different characters aren’t present, it would have been a hell to program.

Interestingly, during my writing this review and posting it; the game got a small update. I have no clue what has been added, but I wanted to mention it, just in case something in my review doesn’t make sense anymore.

With that said, I have said almost everything I wanted to say about this game. I did leave some things out for you as a surprise if you decide to play this game. But, it’s time for the conclusion of this review and my final thoughts.

Conclusion

The bad:

  • The jump animation looks awkward.
  • The game can be repetitive.
  • There is no free play in the post content.

The good:

+ Enjoyable story, writing and voice acting.

+ Amazing charm.

+ Great UI.

+ High replay value due to the different endings.

+ Relaxing soundtrack and you can change it to your liking!

+ ….

Final thoughts:

I don’t know exactly how this game compares to other games in the Atelier series. Since this game is the first game in the series I have played. Nevertheless, I did enjoy my time with this game quite a lot. The game is on the surface of a relaxing game with a lot of charm. But, don’t get fooled, this game can become quite hectic in a good way.

The game is quite enjoyable to play but difficult to master. You really need to plan every single move to make sure to you get yourself in a difficult situation.

This game is perfect for everybody who is looking for an RPG with a crafting system or somebody who is looking for a shop simulator. While I can totally understand why some people won’t enjoy this game too much, it did click with me.

But the game is far from perfect. Don’t get me wrong, this game is quite good but it has some flaws that hinder the gameplay in my opinion. Like the strict deadlines and the repetitive nature of the game.

Personally, I recommend that you give this game a try. If only there was a demo of this game you could try out and judge for yourself if this game is for you are not. I bought this game because the screenshots and descriptions looked interesting on the Nintendo eShop and I wasn’t disappointed.

Now, I can’t wait to play the other games in this trilogy to see if they improved the mechanics in the other games. Maybe they crafted an even better adventure while they kept everything that worked quite well in this game.

Do keep in mind that I’m not saying that this is a bad game. It’s a good game with some flaws. It’s up to you to decide if these flaws would hinder your enjoyment of the game or not. Since this game has a lot of depth so you will be able to have a lot of fun with this game.

With that said, I want to thank you for reading 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 different article but until then, have a great rest of your day and take care.

Score: 70/100

Publishing: Be Part Of History With Rise Of Ages

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Rise of Ages is a sandbox game that lets you explore, build, found cities, make wars and evolve technologies to reach the highest level of civilization and then travel to other planets! The game begins in prehistory and advances through ages, as the player evolves. In each era, the player will live a unique story, which will lead him to face dangerous dungeons and powerful enemies. Several building blocks and items will allow the player to create their own culture with unique structures.

History

Development of Rise of Ages began in early 2015, the team has dedicated all its time and effort since then to bring the game to life. Late 2016 a public demo was released at GameJolt to see public reception. The team kept working on the game and is preparing to launch the game on early access.

Features

  • Evolve from stone age to space age, going through a total of six eras.
  • Discover new technologies, each one expanding your possibilities. There are more than 30 of them.
  • Found your civilization and call NPCs to live there. A city is just the beginning, claim other cities through war and build an empire.
  • Each NPC will have a job and will work for you. They can specialize in a profession and become better at it. You can even create a supply chain.
  • Experience a unique story on each age through dozens of quests and multiple side quests.
  • Fight bosses that are powerful enemies and unimaginable beings.
  • Craft multiple objects from your hands or from your skilled workers.
  • Explore the world beyond the limits, going through the left/rightmost side of a region will leave you to the World Map that connects multiple regions of the world.


Check out the last public demo of Rise of Ages. gamejolt.com.


About Anguis Game Studio

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Anguis Game Studio is an independent game studio based in Porto Alegre, Brazil. We are working on our first title Rise of Ages

More information
More information on Anguis Game Studio, our logo & relevant media are available here.


Rise of Ages Credits

Michel Alves: Founder & Programmer

Ronaldo Boeira: Founder & Artist

Contact

Inquiries: contact@anguis.net

Twitter: twitter.com/AnguisStudio

Facebook: facebook.com/anguisstudio

Web: anguis.net

More information can be found in the press kit located here: http://playriseofages.com/presskit/sheet.php?p=Rise%20of%20Ages

The game is released on Steam TODAY: https://store.steampowered.com/app/744270/Rise_of_Ages/

LaterLevels’ QOTM – January 2019 – The Ultimate Game: Themes

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For a couple of years now, LaterLevels is organizing a question of the month. In 2017, you were able to send in a small section to be featured in the article. You were limited to the number of characters you had for a tweet. In 2018, every month a writer got a challenge to write an article centered around a question asked by LaterLevels. This year, LaterLevels is going “to develop” the best and/or ultimate game. In each month, another part of the game will be created. The idea is that other bloggers write up an article with their thoughts and ideas on that section and submit it to the post of that month. At the end of the month, the best is chosen by the already existing development team and will be invited to join the secret Discord to judge the entries in the following months. If you want to read more about the rules in-depth, you can read the post of LaterLevels here. Now that I have explained all that, it’s time for my entry. In January, the setting and theme will be decided without deciding the story and such. And as usual, feel free to leave a comment with your opinion on the content of this article and/or the question in the comment section down below.

The challenge and my background

yoyo_logo_512Now, I don’t want to brag but I have various ideas to make a very interesting game. In the past, I actually created some arcade clones with YoYo Game Maker. I’m not going to republish them since I lost the source files and I want to change so much for them to get republished.

alleyway_boxartBut, here is the thing. When I was developing a game, I always started with the mechanics and gameplay. For example, when I wanted to create a Break-Out clone, I actually started out with recreating the Gameboy game Alleyway. Now, I felt too limited in level design, so I started to look further. Then, I found an asset pack with different blocks, a ball and various other sprites with a sea theme. So, I totally reskinned the game and I made up a story about a submarine stuck in a big magical coral reef trying to find its way out.

warioware-diy-top-625x352Another example is when I wanted to remake those simple flash and phone games that you need to tap a ball or an object to keep it from the ground. When I started to make that game, I got some small ideas for other mini-games with the sprites in that asset pack and I started to create a sort of WarioWare inspired game.

Now, you might have noticed that I always talk about an asset pack. This is a pack where various sprites, sound effects, music, backgrounds… are provided to game developers. In almost all of the games I created, I used asset packs. I can barely draw a decent stick figure let alone design various level elements. Also, when I created those games; I was 12 years old. So, I didn’t know how copyright and licensing work. That’s another reason why I’m not going to republish the games.

Anyways, let’s end this storytime about my history here and let’s get back to answer LaterLevel’s question. The reason why I’m talking about my hobbyist game development past is the fact I mentioned earlier. I mainly focused on an interesting and unique gameplay. The setting and themes would come later. While that is not the best approach, but it was the approach my young teenage mind took. And because LaterLevels didn’t want too many story details, the challenge got even harder.

81i7ndliszl._sx385_I also messed around in RPG Maker. And I always had one or two chapters of the story written before I started to create the world and setting the characters lived in. I had a general idea of the world but when I write, I love to let the readers create the world for themselves instead of possibly boring them with the millionth description of how a fantasy castle town looked like. In addition to that, the fact that I don’t describe a scene gives me the liberty to use the setting to my advantage. That way I can bend the world to the story and my needs. But it makes continuity much more challenging.

So, the ultimate video game. What could be a setting and/or a theme of the game? Well, I have a few suggestions without giving too many plot details. Let’s take a look at that.

Themes and settings

First of all, when you are talking about the best game, I think that the theme should be one of the variety. A power fantasy in another world would be extremely easy and generic. Most RPGs use a silent character you can name yourself or has the most generic dialogue that can be used for each RPG main character. To be honest, this is a generalization. There are exceptions of course.

91fbW6yu4TL.jpgA perfect video game needs to grab you and pull you into the story, world, and setting. When I was brainstorming for ideas I noticed that most of my favorite story-driven games take place in one location. For example, in Corpse Party, you explore one haunted school and the associated buildings. In Another Code: R, you explore the vacation resort where your father works. And as a final example, in the first two Bioshock games, you explore Rapture.

swordartonlineSuddenly, various things started to click in my mind. I got my eureka moment. I got it when I remembered the story of Sword Art Online. In that series, people are trapped in an online VR-game. In order to escape, they have to beat the game. The catch is, when they die in the game, they die in real life. In that series, the game takes place in a huge fantasy open world with various dungeons and quests.

Now, what if we take the idea of Sword Art Online and expand it for the best game, but with a huge twist? First of all, we can decide if we create the game in VR or not later. My suggestion is that the best video game takes place in a sort of fantasy open world with castles and towns that provide a lot of quests and things to do.

no game no ligeThe twist is that everything in the world happens with games. Think of the mechanics of the No Game No Life series, where every dispute is settled with a bet who wins a game of for example chess, rock/paper/scissors, poker or even more extreme examples. Now, it would an interesting idea if this idea is implemented into a real game we can play.

Back to the story of Sword Art Online, in order for those who are trapped to escape they have to beat all bosses in a huge tower. Now, what if each floor in this tower is replaced with a challenge in another genre and that you have to beat different challenges in that genre before you can progress.

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Think about the overall story of Retro Game Challenge. In that game, you get sent back to the past and in order for you to return, you have to beat various challenges in retro games. These challenges range from beating the first three levels of a top-down shooter to performing some unique tricks in a sports game.

So, the setting would be a great fantasy open world with one central tower the players have to beat in order to climb the leader boards. On each floor, another mini-game or challenge is provided. To avoid people getting frustrated at being stuck on one floor, I think it would be wise to give the player two or three options on the floor. For example, a fighting game challenge, an RPG challenge or a rhythm game challenge.

51vk2fckjhlMaybe it’s an interesting idea to also have separate dimensions where players specialize in a certain genre or style of gameplay. Compare it a bit to the main characters in Kingdom Hearts traveling between various Disney stories to solve issues there.

The theme of the game can be either competition or teamwork. Various guilds can possibly form to aid players to easily beat certain genres. On the other hand, I totally see certain players compete with each other to be the best player in a certain genre.

Being one of the best players in a certain genre can give advantages in the game. In terms of balance, each genre should have a “contrast genre”. That way we avoid players getting overpowered because they mastered too many genres. For example, the players who master a fast-paced genre like rhythm games shouldn’t be able to easily level up their stats in a more slower based genre like grand strategy.

Do you see it now? Just trying to find a setting and or a theme for a game is tricky for me. Like I said earlier, I don’t create worlds too often and I leave them as vague as I can so I can bend them to the will of the gameplay and story. As soon as I got a certain idea, I start thinking about how the world actually works and how the world is balanced. And then we get eerily close to game design and how the game plays.

When I cut out all my gameplay & story suggestions, my idea for the ultimate game’s setting and the theme is this. A big open-world game with various challenges like dungeons and (side)quests, possibly with different universes. In the center of it all, is a huge tower that serves as a leader board for the solo and or clans that play the game.

Closing statement

And with that, I think it’s a good idea to end this article here. Otherwise, I might restart giving my ideas and suggestions on how the game will play. Now, if you want to know if my idea has won or not, you should follow OverThinkerY, since, on 31st January 2019, they will reveal the winner on his blog.

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If you want to join in on this challenge, don’t wait. Check out LaterLevels blog for the February challenge.

With that said, I want to thank you so much for reading this article. I hope you enjoyed 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: Death Mark (Switch) ~ Alive Until Dawn

death mark

Official website

You are walking on a street and you overhear two schoolgirls talking to each other. They tell a story about one of their teachers dying in a horrible death. Her arm was found in the library of the school, cut off from the rest of the body with a red bite mark on the hand. That’s how Death Mark opens. The game I decided to play during the Halloween season because I already finished Angels of Death by then. Since I started playing the Zero Escape series and Corpse Party, I have been hooked on the horror genre. I wanted to play more horror games or games with a strong focus on horror. It doesn’t need to be survival horror like Resident Evil 4 or Silent Hill but a game that fits the mood of the holiday perfectly. Now, I know I’m terribly late with my review of this game. But, it was part of my top 10 games of 2018 list and I want to give my honest opinion on it. So, let’s talk about the PS Vita game that got ported to the Switch called Death Mark. As usual, feel free to leave a comment with your opinion of the game and/or the content of this article in the comment section down below.

Alive until dawn

nswitch_deathmark_05So, the story of this game centers around the mystery of the mysterious Death Mark people has been receiving. This red bit mark appears on people’s bodies when they interact with spirits. The protagonist of this game suffers from your typical case of memory loss and doesn’t remember his past. After you heard the two girls their story, your own mark starts to burn and you get teleported to a mansion. When you enter the mansion, you find it to be abandoned. When you visit one of the bedrooms, a thunder crack reveals the dead body of a girl on the floor with flowers blooming from her stomach and chest. Startled, you run down starts where you meet up with a doll that explains to you that the Death Mark is quite real.

If you are unable to remove your mark, you will die by the time dawn comes. One theory that you quickly form is that you can possibly remove the mark by killing or defeating a spirit. But, how do you kill a spirit? How do you kill something that is already dead? Well, by trying to solve the grudge that is keeping them in the living realm.

After you got the explanation of the living wooden doll that lives on the sofa in the entrance of the mansion, you heard a knock on the door. You open the door and find two teenagers. They are looking for the previous inhabitant of the mansion. She is a spiritual healer and they are looking for her help to get rid of the same mark you possess. It’s revealed that she was the dead body you discovered earlier. So, you try and take her place. So, now you start in trying to help the other people with a Death Mark while trying to discover who you are and which spirit gave you your Death Mark.

All of this is explained in a quite lengthy introduction. The writing of this game is amazing. If this story sounds interesting to you, I have to give you a fair warning. This game is a visual novel adventure game. There is quite a lot of text in this game. If you aren’t interested in playing a game that has more dialogue then gameplay, this isn’t your game.

I do have to say that the writing is amazing in this game. The story has a weird charm. On one hand, the game has amazing characters and great development. It didn’t take long before I got attached to certain characters and I got quite invested in them. Yet, this game is also a horror game. So, a lot of creepy stuff happens on your journey. From finding dead bodies to combating spirits, this game has it all. This game has just the perfect mix between the two worlds and I have no complaints about them. The pacing of the game is just perfect as well.

The only minor disappointment is that the characters are voice acted in Japanese. Now, I don’t mind the Japanese voice acting that much, but I personally prefer English voice acting. The whole game isn’t voice acted, but quite a lot is. The voice acted that is present in the game is really great. But, I’m not going to critique it too much since I don’t know enough about Japanese to say it’s good or bad. But, from my personal experience, I feel that the voice actors always used the right emotion to what appears on the screen.

This game has 6 chapters. The original PS Vita game had 5 chapters and one DLC chapter. The DLC chapter is included for free in this Switch port. There is something in terms of the chapters I’m quite on the fence about. The chapters themselves are not too long nor too short. But, if you combine all playtime to get through the game and fully beat it, this game takes around 8 to 10 hours to complete. This game is quite short, too short even.

Near the end, I was so invested in the game, I was extremely bummed when I finished the final chapter. I wanted to play more, explore the world and setting of the game a bit more. But alas. Thankfully, this game doesn’t have a lot of filler content. The story in some chapters can go at a breakneck pace and that was a refreshing experience.

Explore and read

nswitch_deathmark_04One of my favorite genres in video games is the visual novel. There are two types of visual novels; the ones with gameplay and the kinetic ones. The kinetic ones almost have no gameplay and I honestly dislike playing. This game isn’t a kinetic novel. In this game, you have to explore various areas where a spirit is roaming. During your exploration, you have to find a reason for the grudge of the spirit.

While you are exploring the area, you can come across live or death situations. You get presented with different options and if you choose the wrong option, you get a game over. In some cases, you lose soul power. What is this soul power? It’s the power of your soul, when this drops to 0, the spirit of the chapter catches you right away.

When you are in a live or death situation, you are timed. The remaining time you have is the remaining soul power you have. During your exploration, you can find talismans that restore your soul power if it gets low. Now that I have beaten the game, I can say that there is no additional reward when you answer all the questions correctly without losing soul power. This is a missed opportunity. It would be great if this unlocked the additional 6th chapter or some character art.

Anyways, your soul powerfully restores in-between chapters. So, you aren’t punished for mistakes in an earlier chapter. Personally, my favorite chapter is the 6th chapter. The moral of that chapter speaks to me on a personal level.

Now, there are two different endings to this game. The ending that you get depends if you are able to fully solve the grudge of the spirit of that chapter. So, when it comes to the climax of each chapter, think long and hard before you make your next move. Since one mistake during those battles can change the ending dramatically.

Speaking about the climax of each chapter, think carefully about who you take as a partner on your journey. Sometimes you will be unable to defeat a spirit if you don’t have the right character in your party. I loved trying to work out who would be the best character to use against the spirit. Reading their character profile is even more important now than before. My advice is, save often. You are only able to save outside of dialogue sections. So, don’t be a hero and save after you made some progress. Also, pay attention that this game doesn’t automatically save. And when you are dead, you have to restart from your last save point. You can save using the “Y” button. There are a limited amount of save slots, so use them wisely.

Saving is this game is quite easy. After the introduction, you can save when you are in the mansion in a limited amount of save slots. Now, if you want to be able to restart a chapter, I highly advise you to save right after the introduction of the chapter. Since there is no other way to start from a certain chapter. The only option in the main menu are: new game, continue or a gallery. In this gallery, you can see the animation of the spirits and the images you saw during the chapter.

In terms of UI, this game is good. I have no real complaints. I do have some minor suggestions. Especially with the inventory screen. This would feel so much better if the inventory screen had a static image of the item you have selected. Now, it’s just a boring-looking list of items, like you would see in a spreadsheet.

Anyways, sometimes the story of one spirit links to the story of another spirit. In that case, you can always read a small summary in the pause menu. During that, you can watch the amazing full-screen pictures that were used during the chapter.

During each chapter, you have to explore a location. You can only explore with one partner. The other partner or partners will stay at the mansion to look for clues in solving the mystery of the Death Mark. You can go at any moment to the entrance of the location to take the car back to the mansion to change partners. Like I said earlier, the choice of partner matters. If you are unable to solve a puzzle or pass through a location, try having another partner.

The locations themselves aren’t that large. It doesn’t take too long before you are able to fully explore the location. Now, there is something to do in each and every screen of the game. From small jump scares to big puzzles. Oh yes, this game has small jump scares. Most of the jump scares are rather subtle and aren’t too distracting from the exploration. To be honest, I found them used quite well. Also, it’s possible that you don’t even see all the jump scares since they are location specific.

During your journey for the truth in the Death Mark mystery, you explore a forest, a school, and various other locations. Each location is extremely memorable. The detail in the artwork of each location is impressive. The atmosphere building with the visual presentation in this game is a strong point of this game. I really felt on edge while exploring certain locations. I really felt that the location I was exploring had a certain presence and a morbid history to it. On some occasions, the game managed to get underneath my skin.

Now, in terms of the animations, this game has a lot of missed potential. Apart from the spirit battles, this game doesn’t have a lot of animations. I think it would have been better if the game had a bit more animations and scene transitions. For example, a walking animation from going between rooms would aid a lot with the world-building and immersion. And if you give the option to the players to turn this animation on or off, it would be perfect. Now, there is a small dialogue box that appears when you move between rooms with a sound effect, but could be so much more.

On the edge of my seat

nswitch_deathmark_03Exploration in this game is really well done. During the game, you are able to use your flashlight to investigate each and every room. I highly advise that you look around carefully in each and every room. Since every little detail can aid you in your quest to solve the grudge of the spirit. The game helps you out a bit in the investigation. When you can interact with something, you see a little sparkle animation when you hover over it with your flashlight.

When you have to use an item in your quest, the item will be automatically used. Expect during the spirit battles. In those battles, you have to use every item in your inventory to try and defend yourself. You and the spirit take turns in making a move. If the spirit comes too close, it’s game over.

Apart from one puzzle, the puzzles in this game are well crafted. They really test your skills in exploring the area you are in and your investigation skills. Exploring the location gets even better with the fluid controls. The flashlight is mapped to one of the joysticks of the joycon and reacts very responsively.

Now, there is one thing that could turn some people off and that is the map system. During the exploration, you have a mini-map of the location at the top right. This mini-map is nothing more than a few squares and lines on how the squares connect. So, you will have to build a mental map of the location during your exploration. This is highly essential when you don’t want to get lost. A more detailed map would have been welcome, but I felt it added to the world-building of the game. Remember the story? You only have the few short hours of the night to try and get rid of the grudge of the spirit before you die. So, creating an actual map might lose too much time.

The controls in this game are quite decent. Sometimes I got a bit disoriented, but that’s because of my mediocre navigational skills in games. It doesn’t take long before you get used to the control scheme of this game and learn to use it to your advantage.

The exploration is added with some great sound and music design. The soundtrack sounds like a combination of the Zero Escape series, Ace Attorney and Corpse Party. The music gives off eerie vibes and fits the visual presentation like a glove. I’m actually hunting down the soundtrack of this game to add it to my music library.

Together with the amazing sound effects, the visual and audiovisual presentation of this game is a real treat. I can’t make any complaints about that aspect of the game. Before I keep repeating myself, I think it’s time that we talk about another aspect of the game.

The difficulty of this game is just right. The game is even more difficult when you don’t pay attention during the investigation. In the later chapters, I even took some physical notes to aid myself during the investigation.

Now, if you forgot to save, there is a button that you can use to fast forward the cut scenes. I rarely used this button since I was too invested in the story. I used this button only once when I forgot to save before a LIVE OR DEATH situation and I got a game over… Now, I could have used the “decide again” option to restart from the beginning of the LIVE OR DEATH situation but I lost too much soul power. So, restarting from an earlier point actually benefited me.

Also, there is a message log you can access. A minor complaint is that the button to fast forward is quite hidden in the UI. It’s the L-button.

The replay value of his game isn’t too high. Not counting replays for fun, you can play twice through the game before you have seen it all. Now, this isn’t a big issue but more endings would extend the already short overall game time.

With that said, I said almost everything I wanted to say about this game. I think it’s high time to go to the summary and closing statement of this review.

Summary

The good:

+ Amazing atmosphere in the visual and audio department.

+ Great writing.

+ The game has a lot of text.

+ …

The bad:

  • The game is too short.
  • The game has a lot of text.
  • A bit more animations would enhance the game a lot.
  • You can’t restart a chapter without a save.

Final thoughts:

This game is not for everybody. If you don’t like a game that has a lot of text, I think that it’s best for you to skip this game. If you enjoy games like Ace Attorney, Zero Escape, Walking Dead, Corpse Party, Trace Memory… I highly recommend this game.

This game is the perfect game to play through on Halloween night or whenever you are in the mood to play more horror focused games. The writing, pacing, audio and visual presentation of this game is very well done. The biggest flaw of this game is that it’s too short. I got so invested and the ride was over before I knew it.

Now, a spiritual successor is going to be released in Japan really soon called NG. I really hope and wish that they are going to bring this game to the west as well. Since the trailer looks amazing and I really would love to play it.

I can totally see why some people would be turned off by this game. But personally, I loved my playthrough. When you play this game, don’t use a walkthrough. This game gets even more fun when you aren’t using a walkthrough to guide you every step of the way.

If you ask me, I think that this game is totally worth its price. This developer really convinced me of the quality games they can put out. While this game has flaws, in my eyes they don’t ruin the experience at all. But, I’m really going to hammer this home… This game would be perfect if there were a bit more chapters. A bit more content.

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

Score: 90/100

NekoJonez’s looking forward to these 10 games in 2019

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

#10 – Minecraft Dungeons (PC)

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Announcement blogpost

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

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

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

 #9 – Desperados III (PC)

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Official Steam page

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

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

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

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

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

Nintendo.com Mini-site

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

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

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

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

 #7 – Final Fantasy remakes (Switch)

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IGN article

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

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

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

#6 – Etrain Odyssey Nexus (3DS)

Etrain Odyssey NexusOfficial site

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

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

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

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

#5 – Animal Crossing (Switch)

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Nintendo.co.uk microsite

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

#3 – Town (Switch)

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Teaser from E3 (Thanks GameExplain)

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

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

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

#2 – Pokemon (Switch)

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

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

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

#1 – Dragon Quest Builders 2 (Switch)

Dragon Quest Builders II

Dragon Quest Wiki entry

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

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

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

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

Closing words

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

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

In any case, I’m not going to ramble too much here. 2018 was an interesting year for me, but 2019 shows a lot of promise and I’m looking forward to the challenges that are life going to throw my way in the upcoming year. Of course, I’ll still be playing games and you will still be able to read about my adventures on my blog. So, thank you for taking your time into reading this article and I hope you enjoyed reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it. I hope to be able to welcome you in another article but until then, have a great rest of your day and take care.

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

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

Place 10: Angels of Death (Nintendo Switch)

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My review

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

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

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

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

Place 9: Shining Resonance – Refrain (Switch)

Shining_Metal_SwitchLarge.jpgWikipedia

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

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

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

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

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

Atelier Rorona

Wikipedia

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

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

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

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

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

Place 7: Resident Evil 4 (PlayStation 2)

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Wikipedia

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wikipedia

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

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

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

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

Place 5: Death Mark  (Nintendo Switch)

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Official website

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

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

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

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

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

Place 4: Blossom Tales (Switch)

Blossom Tales

My review

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

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

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

Place 3: Fire Emblem Warriors (Nintendo Switch)

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My review

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

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

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

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

Place 2: Dragon Quest Builders (Nintendo Switch)

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My review

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

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

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

Honorable mentions

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

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

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

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My review

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wrapping up 2018.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Publishing: Heralds of the Order – A New Handdrawn Turnbased Adventure!

Heralds of the Order is a turn-based strategy game boiled down to the genre’s core principles. Utilize positioning and abilities with elaborate patterns to achieve victory! Featuring hand-drawn art and over 20 story chapters.

Story

Maala, the realm without gods, finds itself on the verge of catastrophe.  Objects of ancient power resurface, triggering a race to claim them, one that promises to engulf the world in war. It is your duty as a Patronus of the Order to go forth and restore balance. Along the way, you will find new allies and face countless foes, as the line between myth and reality shatters.

Key Features

  • Turn-based tactical combat boiled down to its core principles.
  • A sprawling story that will take you on a gripping journey across Maala.
  • 8 party members each with their unique motivations and abilities.
  • Hand-drawn art and traditional rotoscoped
  • Over 20 handcrafted missions taking place in 6 unique environments.
  • Adapt your strategy! Customize your party‘s stats and choose from the numerous God Powers to overcome the challenges ahead of you.
  • Several unique boss fights with devastating attacks.

Combat Features

  • Abilities with elaborate patterns.
  • Positioning, flanking and countering the enemy’s defenses are the key to victory.
  • Elaborate battlefields with various boons and hazards.
  • A unique energy management system that determines the ebb and flow of combat.
  • Devastating God Powers which can alter the course of combat.

Media

Videos

A video of me playing through our free demoHere’s an interview we did with Eddie from Playing Indies

Character Art

Articles

“Let’s save the world of Maala in this new turn-based strategy game inspired by The Banner Saga. ” – TURN-BASED LOVER

“”Heralds of The Order” by @ArcheanGames promises a richly detailed turn-based strategy. ” – CaptainD, Indie Game News

Downloads

GameJolt Archean Games Download

https://gamejolt.com/games/herald-of-the-order/366356

About the team

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We’re a three-man team, consisting of two programmers and one artist, based in Plovdiv, Bulgaria. We spent our high school years dreaming of a career in the games industry, learning the basics of game-making. When we began university we decided that it was the perfect time to try our luck in the indie scene. And so we began developing Heralds of the Order – our first major project.

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