Tag Archives: remake

First Impressions: AI – The Somnium Files (Switch) ~ Kotaro Uchikoshi Is At It Again.

Official website

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

Date and Aiba

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

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

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

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

He is at it again

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pretty and funny

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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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!

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

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Bulbapedia entry

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

Where is our remake Nintendo?

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

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

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

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

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

Unique mechanics galore

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The lakes

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Conclusion

Negatives:

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

-Nintendo Online being shut down.

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

Positives:

+ Amazing audiovisual design.

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

+ Fun story.

+ …

Final thoughts:

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

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

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

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

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

Score: 100/100

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

NekoJonez’s looking forward to these 10 games in 2019

2019.jpg

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)

Desperados III.jpg

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)

bloodstained

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.

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

ageofmythologyextendededitionSteam store page

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

Tale of the Dragon

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

God powers and such

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Let’s dance

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Conclusion

The bad:

-The visuals are just okay.

-The Tale of the Dragon DLC misses some polish.

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

-The save menu should display more information.

-Dying online multiplayer community.

The good:

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

+ You can use mods.

+ Amazing and addictive RTS gameplay.

+ Amazing soundtrack & sound design.

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

+ Good story.

+ …

Final thoughts:

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

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

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

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

Score: 70/100

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

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Wikipedia entry

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

Are you ready, Chomp?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Metroidvania

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Save often!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Conclusion

The bad:

-The pause menu could be reorganized a bit better.

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

-The game is really short.

-No teleporting in the game.

The good:

+ Amazing Metroidvania game.

+ Great story.

+ Amazing visual and sound presentation.

+ This game oozes charm.

+ Great controls.

+ …

Final thoughts:

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

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

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

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

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

Score: 99/100

10 Games I’m looking forward to playing in 2018

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2018 is almost here. So, it’s time to look forward to what the new year will bring. Tomorrow, I’ll take a look at my favorite games of 2017. Ah, next year will be an interesting year. A year where I’m planning to delve into the Nintendo Switch library. So, what games that release next year, am I looking forward too. That’s what this article is about. Also, note that this list isn’t in any sort of order, so yeah. Please know that this is my list, so if you think that a game is missing, feel free to talk about it in the comments or feel free to talk in the comments about the games I selected. In any case, here we go! 

#10 – Age Of Empires – Definitive Edition (PC) (Release: 2018)

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The original Age Of Empires game fills me with nostalgic feelings. While I’m not the best-skilled player when it comes to RTS-games, I do enjoy playing them quite a lot.

2017 was an amazing year to be a fan of the Age Of Empires franchise. Not only did got the announcement of this game releasing next year, we also got the confirmation that Age Of Empires 4 is under development.

The hype is real for me. I can’t wait to see what the new games will bring. So, I’m sure keeping an eye out for this title!

#9 – SystemShock (PC) – (Release: Q2 2018)

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I have always been told that the System Shock games where the inspiration for the amazing Bioshock series.

I always wanted to play these games but didn’t have the time for it. The thing is, I even have System Shock 2 in my Steam library.

Even when Bioshock and System Shock aren’t the same game, I’m quite excited to see where these claims come from. In addition to that, I read a lot about this game and that made me only more interested in playing this game. So, I’m quite curious how this game is going to turn out!

#8 – Secret of Mana (PC) (Release: 15 February 2018)

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I have played the first bit of Secret Of Mana several times. I think it’s quite a good game.

I can’t say why, but I always get distracted by other games and forget about this game.

So, that’s why I’m looking forward to the release of the remake of this game. Now I’ll have an excuse to really play this game with improved visuals. Not that I dislike the 16-bit visuals, I’m a retro game collector after all.

Besides, I have to come clean and say that I don’t own the SNES cartridge and bought the game on Android. Yeah, not the best idea ever, I know. So, that’s the main reason why I’m excited to play the remake of this game. A way I can play it with better controls than touch controls.

#7 – Shin Megami Tensei – Strange Journey Redux (3DS) (Release: Early 2018)

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Since I played Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE, I wanted to try out a game from the Shin Megami Tensei series. While I was lucky to buy a few games into my collection from garage sales and digital sales, I still didn’t have the time to really play one of these games.

Also, I was looking for the DS title to start with. Since I played that game at a friend’s house one day and wanted to start with the start of series on the handhelds.

That’s why I’m so happy that an updated port is coming to the 3DS. I actually pre-ordered this game for a while now. So, if I didn’t put this game on my list, I would have been disappointed with myself.

#6 – Radiant Historia: Perfect Chronology (3DS) (Release: 2018)

3DS_RHCP_2D_PEGI SLarge

And my list of games “I still want to play but didn’t have the time for” continues with another RPG. I have played Radiant Historia for a bit and actually got distracted with other games.

This 3DS remake isn’t just a port of the DS game. It will have an additional plot, new features and music, voice acting and more.

In addition to that, it’s published by the same publisher who published Etrian Odyssey V here in Europe. So, I’m hyped!

#5 – Dragon Quest Builders (Switch) (Release: 9 February 2018)

Dragon_quest_builders_art.jpgThis game has been on my “to play” list since it released. I found out about this game when I was looking around for Minecraft-styled games.

Now, next year, this game will be ported to the Nintendo Switch. And not only that, the sequel for this game will release for the Switch as well.

Consider me a happy camper now, since I enjoy the Dragon Quest games quite a lot and I enjoy myself some Minecraft as well. This cross over works quite well when I look at the various lets plays I have seen.

I didn’t watch a ton of content on this game since I wanted to avoid spoiling the whole game for me. Especially now that I know that this game is coming to the Nintendo Switch.

#4 – Atelier Lydie & Suelle: The Alchemists and the Mysterious Paintings (Switch) (Release: 27 March 2018)

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When I look to the teasers for this game, I get the impression that the gameplay will be similar to Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE.

I do realize there will be differences, but I think it’s too late. I already made up my mind. This game is one that I would love to have in my collection.

This game looks right up my alley and I think that this will be one of the first Switch games I play in 2018 since it comes out right around the date I’m planning to buy a Switch.

So, if this game would come bundled with the Switch, I think I won’t hesitate for a second. This game will become a part of my collection for sure!

#3 – Ace Attorney (Switch) (Release: 2018)

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While there aren’t a lot of concrete details for this game, there are more rumors and speculations that this will happen.

What’s even more, in the article I linked, there are reports of Capcom planning THREE Ace Attorney titles for the Switch and to release them all in 2018.

It’ll be quite interesting to see what happens in 2018 for our Ace Attorney. If remakes/ports will come out for the Nintendo Switch or new games. I wouldn’t mind any port of games, but I would love Ace Attorney 7 to come in 2018. Or at least a new main game, even when it’s a spin-off. So, please Capcom, make it happen!

#2 – The Swords Of Ditto (Steam) (Release: 2018)

the swords of ditto

When I first saw the trailer for this game, I just fell in love with the charm and art-style this game has.

This game is an RPG where you set out to defeat the evil Mormo. In this Action-RPG you can play solo and co-op. And it’s the “co-op” part that interests me the most. I was looking for a new game to play with my friends and I think this will be the perfect game for us to play.

Just take a look at the Steam Store page and I think you might understand why this game sounds so interesting to play with friends. At least, I think that it’s interesting!

#1 – Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night (PC/Switch) (Release: 2018)

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Ah, the Castlevania series is one of my favorite action games ever made.

While I was afraid for the future of the series, I was quite pleased when I saw that one of the producers of the games is going to create this new game. Koji Igarashi, thank you for doing this!

While I found out about this game after the Kickstarter ended, I am still very excited to play this game. So, I’ll be surely looking forward to this game. The only thing that I still have to decide is that I get this game on the Switch or on my PC. Or maybe both, if my wallet allows it.

While I know that this game started it’s life as a Kickstarter, I’m praying that this game will not do a “Mighty Number 9” but an “A Hat In Time” and a “Shovel Knight”. Make it a great game guys, feel free to delay it when it needs more polish!

Final thoughts

Besides a few new games, it looks like 2018 will most likely be a “catch-up” year for me. I’m mostly interested in ports and remakes to the Switch, PC and 3DS. It might be a good idea to play a bit of catch-up with my endless list that is called my backlog.

I can’t wait to see what 2018 will have in store for me. Since next year will be a special year for me. I’ll reveal why when the time comes, but for now, let me say that I am looking forward to 2018 and I can’t wait to see what it will throw in my way.

Thank you so much for reading. If you wonder what my favorite games were in 2017, you will have to wait until tomorrow at 8PM Brussels time. It shall be revealed then.

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

 

First Impression: Etrian Odyssey Untold Stories 2 – The Fafnir Knight (3DS) ~ A Coocking Guild?

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Wiki entry

This year I went on various trips. One day, I went to Brugge. When I was walking in the shopping streets, I went into a game store and saw this game there for like 10€ second hand. Because I enjoyed Etrian Odyssey Untold Stories, I wanted to know how the sequel was like. I know that I haven’t finished the original, but I have gotten quite far. More Etrian Odyssey in my collection. In any case, I think it’s time that I talk about this game since I have put in quite some hours into it. If I may believe the activity log of my 3DS, I have put in 40 hours into this game. That’s a lot for me. So, why did I put in so many hours? Let me explain. As usual, feel free to leave a comment in the comment section with your opinion on the game and/or the content of this article.

Side note: This game is a remake of Etrian Odyssey II for the Nintendo DS.

A Cooking Guild? 

EO2UScreen02.jpgSo, this game is a prequel to the first Untold game. You play as the Fafnir Knight, who is nameless since you decide the name for the character. On your journey, you meet up with 4 other adventurers by the name of Flavio, Arianna, Bertrand, and Chloe.

Your main objective is guiding Arianna through Ginnungagap to complete a ritual. You aren’t exactly told what the ritual is and what it means, but the further you get in the story, the more you uncover.

Each character has his or her motives to join you and be in the group. While they all fit a stereotype; the player character is the overpowered character, Arianna is the scatterbrained klutz, Bertrand is the warrior with a past he doesn’t want to reveal… The mixture of all these stereotypes makes for a great party. The writing and personality of the story are really good.

The voice acting is also pretty good. Something that surprised me is that shopkeepers start to have a small conversation with your characters if you want long enough. I actually discovered that while the game was open and I was writing this article. The conversations can be really funny and fit the personalities of the characters as a glove.

The story is keeping me on the edge of my seat. Yet, I do wish there was some log of the things that happened or what you are supposed to do next. Since there were a few times I didn’t play this game for a while and just started exploring randomly.

While you can get a vague idea by looking at the active missions and quests, I feel there should have been a location where you could ask what to do next. Even when you have downtime and you are free to do whatever you want since the next story quest requires your party to be a bit stronger.

In any case, in this game, your Guild Hall is something quite special. You operate from a restaurant. A game mechanic I really adore in this game is that the different items you find in while exploring the labyrinth all contribute to the restaurant.

And this restaurant is extremely important in your game. Regina, the cook of this restaurant, found an old recipe book from an old chef, who passed away. This chef was one of the greatest in the kingdom and Regina wants to recreate as many dishes as she can. Now, the recipe book is written in a cryptic way, so you have to read item descriptions to figure out which ingredient you need to develop the dish.

Besides that, you can let Regina cook a dish to give your party a certain buff before you go inside the labyrinth. This can be extremely helpful to when you are gearing up for an extremely tricky boss fight or when you need a certain boost to defeat some tricky enemies.

But wait, the importance of the restaurant doesn’t stop there. You can also develop the town, which will make the shops sell better items. So, you need to make sure that your restaurant is stocked up so you can create the right dish for the right area. Also, you can invest money in the town…

I think you get the idea. There is a lot of depth when it comes to the restaurant. It’s a very addictive balancing act to know which items you should sell to the stores to be able to buy certain items and which items you need to keep to have the ingredients for the restaurant.

The Fafnir Knight

EO2U-Euro-AnnBesides the great depth you have in the restaurant, the general town provides you with stores and various important locations. You can spend hours managing your party and upgrade it. Looking for the right items and the right builds for your party is extremely important. Be sure that you make your builds carefully and that you stock up on enough items before you go exploring the labyrinth.

Since this game can be quite unforgiving in the labyrinth. Expect when you play on the picnic difficulty. When you play on Picnic difficulty, you don’t get a game over when your party is wiped out. You just get kicked out of the labyrinth. Also, some items won’t deplete so you have a come casual experience with the game.

On standard, you get a pretty challenging game that is more fit for gamers who are into RPG and Dungeon Crawlers. You do get once chance to restart when your party is wiped out.

On expert mode, well, the game gets even more difficult and the game describes this mode as “for the real masters of Etrian Odyssey, or masochists”.

The difficult has barely any influence on the game, apart from you being unable to earn in the picnic difficulty. Also, you can change the difficulty at any time while you are in the town. You can’t change the difficulty while you are exploring in the labyrinth.

etrain fafnir map

The goal of exploring the labyrinth is to get as far into the labyrinth as you can. The further you get into the labyrinth, the more difficult the monsters get. Every 5 floors have a certain theme and on the 5th floor, there is a final boss that tests your abilities. This boss also fits the theme of the area extremely well. So, try to learn from the behavior of the enemies and their weaknesses.

So, this isn’t just your typical dungeon crawler. There is a reason why this game is on the DS. That is because it has two screens and a touchscreen. You see the dungeon itself on the upper screen and you have a map screen at the bottom. The catch is, with the Etrian Odyssey series, that you have to draw the whole map yourself.

You can do this in a lot of ways, but I have my own style. For example, I draw walls where I’m unable to pass. So, if there is a column in the middle of the room, well, I draw walls on that square on the map. I have seen others use another color for those spots.

Anyways, before I go on a whole ramble about how I make the maps in the Etrian Odyssey series, I do have to say that this is the mechanic I love the most in this game. A good map is important to your survival since some strong monsters are running around in the labyrinth and if you draw everything, you can also find escape routes and shortcuts more easily.

These things can help a lot with finishing quests and missions pretty easily. The side quests are a lot of fun to do and you can find them in various buildings in the town. I highly recommend that you do them since they can help you sharpen your skills and find out something you didn’t know about the labyrinth.

Exploring to explore

etrian2fafnir_03I have to admit that sometimes I just started walking around in the labyrinth because I just had so much fun. My goal was just to wander around, fight enemies and check if I found everything on my map.

When you fully explored a floor, you are able to quick travel to that floor if you place a stairway on the map. But, these things get explained while you are playing the game.

The game doesn’t work with random encounters. You are on the “clock” so to say. I’m not talking about the day and night system present in the game, but after a certain amount of steps, you encounter an enemy. But be careful! There are big boss monsters running around in the labyrinth too. When you have an enemy encounter close to such a boss monster and it notices your party, it can enter the fight as an additional enemy to make your current fight became a bit more difficult.

Speaking of fighting, each character has his or her own strengths and weaknesses. So, make sure that you use that to your advantage. Also, use the points you get from leveling up your character to your advantage. Since you don’t learn new skills by leveling up, you have to distribute points. Be careful how you distribute them since they matter and you can’t undo them easily.

I can talk for a while longer about the gameplay of this game, but I will say this to wrap it up. This game has a lot of depth and has so much to manage that it can become overbearing. Knowing which enemies are weak against what is a challenge and a half to remember. That’s why I’m so thankful that the characters actually give hints before a battle starts.

Because this is such an expansive game, you expect the controls to be flawless. Well, there is something I think could be improved in the drawing controls. It’s something I had a lot of trouble with in previous Etrian Odyssey games as well. That is the fact that removing placed icons is a hassle. It’s very tricky to move icons once they are placed.

Overall, the controls of this game are pretty good. Every button is used to its fullest. The UI is also great to use. There is something I think they can improve when it comes to the UI and that is a search option in the Monstrous Codex and the Item Compendium and make those list sortable. That would have been such a great help.

The visual presentation is a feast for the eyes. When I’m playing this game I sometimes just stop and look around with the circle pad to take in the gorgeous artwork and the detailed environments. The theming of this game is pretty well done. On the jungle floors, you get various patches of patches of grass filled with thorns. On the winter floors, you have a lot of the area that there are icy spots you have to slide and you can’t suddenly take a turn then.

The animations in this game are pretty decent. You can compare the style of animations in this game with a Pokémon game. It’s a similar concept. Most of the animations are present during the battles. I wish that the characters inside the towns were a bit more animated while they speak since now they are extremely pretty 2D characters.

All of this is topped off with an amazing soundtrack, a soundtrack I’m actually interested in buying it. I really enjoy listing to the soundtrack of this game that much. Together with the sound design of this game, I think you have a feast for the ears too. One of my favorite tracks in the game is “Bloody Fight – Betting it All”. It’s such a great track when you are fighting those bosses.

This game is a blast to play. If you are into RPG’s and/or Dungeon Crawlers, it would be a shame if you don’t play any of the Etrian Odyssey games. If you want to enjoy this game and don’t want to be afraid that this game is too difficult, play on the picnic difficulty.

This game can be extremely challenging if you don’t build up your party the right way. If you don’t use your upgrade points wisely, if you give bad items to characters, don’t use boosts or grimoire stones… If you want a challenge, don’t use a guide for this game. Otherwise, I think it’s perfectly fine to use a guide to help in on your quest.

I love the Etrian Odyssey series and I can’t wait to finish this game. I can recommend it to everyone who is looking for a game they can sink hours upon hours into and a game that challenges your skills as a gamer and an RPG/Dungeon Crawler fan.

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

 

Publishing: The Riddle of the Sphinx: The Awakening in HD on mobile devices – Kickstarter

Explore the Great Pyramid and SOLVE the Riddle of the Sphinx: The Awakening in HD on mobile devices and more!

Jeff and Karen Tobler, along with Charlie and Marta Tobler, their son and daughter in law, are “rebuilding” the Giza Sphinx and Great Pyramid — one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World — in enhanced HD resolution in newly rendered, breathtaking environments. The adventuring family has turned to Kickstarter to fund their epic Historical Egyptian adventure re-make.

MOSELLE (SAINT LOUIS), Missouri, Nov 1, 2017 — Old World Studios announced the launch of Riddle of the Sphinx: The Awakening. Husband and wife teams, Jeff and Karen Tobler, along with Charlie and Marta Tobler, have turned to Kickstarter (https://riddleofthesphinx.com/kickstarter-launch) to fund this epic Egyptian adventure.

Riddle of the Sphinx is an epic adventure game that takes the player through the compelling archaeological ruins and history of ancient Egypt while uncovering age-old mysteries surrounding the Great Pyramid and Sphinx.  Players of all ages will have access to amazing life-like 3D environments in this larger than life archaeological adventure game.

Set within and around the ancient Egyptian monuments, Riddle of the Sphinx is backed by years of extensive research and painstaking recreation of the existing Giza Plateau, Great Sphinx, and Great Pyramid — one of the existing Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. Major levels of the game involve exploring real-life archaeological finds, then taking those discoveries to the next level. Players assume their role as close friend and confidant of famous archaeologist Sir Gil Blythe Geoffreys as he excavates the site of the Sphinx. The tale begins as Sir Geoffreys realizes he has unwittingly unleashed an ancient curse while translating a key scroll. Sir Geoffreys dies, and the scroll mysteriously disappears. The player’s task is to locate the missing scroll, finish Sir Geoffrey’s translation, and solve the time-worn puzzle before . . . well, we won’t spoil the intricately woven plot.

What took the ancient Egyptians half a million workers and decades of grueling manual labor to complete, Jeff and Karen originally completed in just under 6 years. But now, they are utilizing the latest in 3d rendering software to create absolutely stunning settings for the game’s epic storyline, bringing an even more realistic immersive experience to exploring the Sphinx and Great Pyramid, as well as the huge scope of historical discoveries including hidden corridors, lost tombs, and secret chambers that tie to a larger mystery… a riddle.

“One aspect of Riddle of the Sphinx that intrigued me was the age-range of players who were impacted. It surprised us that parents were playing with their children, older house-bound players could ‘escape’ through the game and even long-distance engaged couples played over the phone. It was really encouraging that Riddle of the Sphinx was the tool for people to share time with each other and create lasting memories. We are excited to see new relationships forged and more memories made with the new real-time 3d version,” said Karen Tobler, Co-Creator of Riddle of the Sphinx.

“Riddle of the Sphinx is the ultimate Egyptian adventure game with realistic megalithic monuments, lost tombs, hidden corridors, and sacred artifacts pointing to solving the Riddle of the Sphinx… it’s a game where everyone can become the adventuring archaeologist that we all secretly want to be,” shared Jeff Tobler, co-developer of Riddle of the Sphinx.

Old World Studios is offering unique Kickstarter pledge rewards to backers of the Riddle of the Sphinx: The Awakening.

For more information visit https://riddleofthesphinx.com/ or their Kickstarter campaign https://riddleofthesphinx.com/kickstarter-launch

About Old World Studios

Old World Studios is the adventure game division of LifeTree Group, LLC (originally Omni Creative Group, Int’l). In 1994, the husband-wife team, Jeff, and Karen Tobler began work on Riddle of the Sphinx, a project that started as a means to virtually explore the Giza Plateau, Great Sphinx, and Great Pyramid. The story grew to include the fulfillment of the many theories, lore, and myths of secret chambers, hidden corridors, and lost treasure associated with the Great Pyramid — the response was phenomenal! Riddle of the Sphinx and its sequel The Omega Stone continue to be sold and played worldwide.

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

Wikipedia entry

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

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

Casual start

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

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

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

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

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

Random no Random encounters

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

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

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

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

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

Soundtrack Gold!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

First Impression: Ratchet & Clank (PS2) ~ The First One

RachetandClankOriginalPS2Cover.jpgWikipedia entry

Today I want to talk about a game I started playing in my holidays on the PS2. The name is Ratchet & Clank and I’m playing it on PS2. I realize that with the recently released movie, there is a new game on PS4. But I haven’t seen the movie (yet), I don’t have a PS4 and I don’t own the PS4 game either. So yeah. In any case, it’s time to take a look at Ratchet & Clank on the PS2. A game I bought at a garage sale. At that same garage sale, I also bought the third game in the series. Sadly enough, I was unable to buy the second one. But, that game is on my “to look out for” list. And I’m quite sure I’ll find it in the near future. In any case, enough stalling. It’s time to talk about Ratchet and Clank. A game I haven’t finished … yet. In any case, feel free to leave a comment with your opinion on the content of this article and/or the game. 

The story of sci-fi

 If you read my blog from or when you know me personally, you might know that I’m a big fan of stories in my games. While I do enjoy the characters and the jokes that are thrown around, I feel that the story is taking a backseat to the gameplay. Honestly, the story doesn’t 100% click with me. I think the biggest problem is that the story doesn’t really help build the world and atmosphere.

When I play sci-fi games, I want the story maxresdefaultto explain how certain things work. But so far, nothing is really explained enough in-depth. Yet, there is some techno-jargon that gets thrown around. Take for example an “infobot”. From what I can gather, it’s a sort of advertisement billboard, but I have seen it play recordings of people’s video calls. And what didn’t help is the fact that some infobots have coordinates of where some people are. So, what’s the purpose of an infobot? That left me very confused.

So yeah, while I do enjoy the interaction with the characters and the actual plot of the game, I feel that there is so much lost potential with the story. I felt that the focus was too much on the characters and not enough on the world that they created.

The voice acting of this game helps to bring the characters alive. The jokes of a naive robot Clank work so well in the robot voice. It feels real and genuine.

So, in conclusion about the story, I’m in the middle. Like I said earlier, I do like it, but I feel that they could have gone more in-depth with it. Also, some characters are underused. Like the Captian Qwark figure. He looks like an extremely popular marketing thing, but I have only seen him on one island. So yeah.

Two or more ways to objectives

ratchet_clank_ps2-620x413It surprises me how I managed to fall in love with the gameplay of this game. Usually, I play adventure games like Broken Sword and Monkey Island. I even said in some articles that I don’t like platformers. But this game is something really different. In this game, you have to travel to various planets to finish missions.

But here is the thing. On two planets, I managed to miss secondary pathways that lead to other objectives. While this could lead to frustrating “find the right way” gameplay, I love that the map shows in yellow the places you have visited already. Too bad that it also shows a “?” mark exactly where a trigger for an objective is.

I have one problem with the gameplay that made me put the game down for a while. That are the respawn points. When you fail a jump or die, you sometimes respawn way too far. One time I was on the other side of the planet., and I misjudged a jump. When I respawned, I was back at the start, which was on the other side of the planet.

Also, I find it an interesting mechanic that the boxes and enemies only respawn when you leave the planet. Apart from one exception though and that is when you have a mission where you need to kill for example all sand sharks.

Maybe it might be just me, but the hit detection is sometimes a bit strange. I have seen several times where I was sure I was hit but didn’t lose health. A minor thing I would have changed is that I would have made the health always visible. There have been moments where I though I had more or less life and misjudged a situation. But then again, you can see it easily when you press a button.

The controls of this game are really good. The only thing I felt could use some polish was the grabbing of platforms. That didn’t always work for me. What I really liked is that this game didn’t force the tutorial on me. When you get a new gadget or a new item to play around with, the game briefly explains how it works and you can read it again in the menu. Also, you are able to shut off the help feature completely. I haven’t tested if the help section then still updates or what happens if you use a weapon where the explanation hasn’t popped up for it yet.

Something that would have improved this game is a sort of indication from where you are hit. I felt cheated when I died because an enemy was attacking me from behind. Speaking of which, some enemies are quite stupid. When you aren’t in range, you can easily kill them with bombs and not having them chase you.

The manual aiming of the special weapons is a big issue for me. I think I’m too spoiled by playing games with a mouse or a Wii Remote. It’s really clunky on a controller. Thankfully, there is a sort of auto-aim feature that works really well.

A big plus in this game is that you are free to explore the game at your own pace. Sometimes you have two different objectives and you choose on which one you focus first.

Planet Life 

the-ratchet-clank-trilogy-playstation-3-ps3-1337694400-011The sound design and the music are pretty decent. I would have changed one thing around to make it a bit better.

I would have given the enemies a bit more sound effects. Now, they can sometimes be soulless. It feels like they don’t have a personality. What I mean here is that, in other games you can easily hear if the enemy is a weak or a strong enemy. That isn’t too clear in this game.

The soundtrack of this game is really fun to listen too. While I feel that the soundtrack doesn’t always fit the world or presentation like a glove, it gets the job done pretty well and it’s a joy to listen too from time to time.

Speaking about the presentation, that’s something I really have to praise this game. I feel that the level design is extremely well done. From what I have seen so far, this game provides moments of action and then moments of rest. This game is a platformer at hart, but it changes things up here and there with some mini-games.

Graphically, this world aged pretty well in my opinion. I love how some things are animated in the background and how ships fly around while you are exploring the world. It makes the world come alive that much more.

I think I have everything I wanted to say about this game for now. There are a few things I want to talk about, but I’m going to leave them for the review. When I have to give my opinion on this game: it’s a really good game but it lacks some polish. It’s an amazing platformer that made me come back for more several times.

Anyways, I hope you enjoyed reading this article as much as I enjoyed writing this. I hope to be able to welcome you in another article and until then… Have a great rest of your day and take care!

2015: A Look Back

ano-2015-3294.jpgWell, 2015 is nearly at an end. As usual, everybody is doing (or preparing) their best games of 2015 lists. And I think I should join in the party. What games have I played and/or finished in 2015 and will stay with me? Let’s find out. Let’s look back to my gaming year of 2015. This list isn’t in an order, so all these games are my favorites in 2015. Keep in mind that this are MY favorite games. This isn’t a TOP 10 most popular or anything. Oh, yeah… Feel free to leave a comment in the comment section with your favorite games or your opinion on my picks. 

Note: For this list, games didn’t had to be released in 2015. I had to play them in 2015 in order for them to count.

Majora’s Mask 3D (3DS)

boxart-large.png

Official site

Not that far from my birthday, one of my favorite 3D Zelda games got its remake released. As a kid, I loved the rings that turned you into monsters in the Oracle games. I wished you could attack other monsters using that monsters power… but alas, that wasn’t possible in the gameboy color games.

A friend of mine had a copy on his N64. I didn’t own a console until mid-way the Wii’s life. Yeah, I played handheld games and various PC games when I was a kid. But hey, that didn’t stop me from marveling at the games on consoles.

A few weeks before this game released on the 3DS, I actually bought it on the Nintendo eShop for my Wii. But then I got my hands on the 3DS remake. It’s so beautiful. Finally I can play this game without fearing that I need to give it back to a friend later. I finally own it. And I also own the special collector’s edition which makes this Zelda fan ever more happy.

It’s a small shame to admit, but I haven’t finished this game. It’s on my “TO DO” list, but I have the same issue I had on the DS. There are just too many good games coming out and I get so easily distracted.

Europa Universalis IV (PC)

EuropaUniversalisIV_Packshot_edited Link to my article

I always thought that these kind of games weren’t my style. I’m not that good at managing big countries and fighting wars with other countries.

But after a good friend of mine helped me and learned me the ropes of this game, I have been playing this game from time to time and spent nearly 300 hours on it.

It’s challenging and it actually broadened my horizons. This game is actually a lot of fun and the soundtrack of this game is even one of the best soundtracks I have heard this year.

Now, I need to try and play this game on single player without Mizari’s help. Then I just might loose myself in this game even more. But that’s for next year, I think.

The Etrian Odyssey series

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Link to an article about an other game in this series.

Man, I have tried to get into this series a couple of times in the past but when I was able to pick up a copy of one of the games for cheap at a garage sale, I was hooked.

The gameplay is what hooks me the most. It’s a RPG with a very nice story where you explore a dungeon. The best mechanic of it all is that you have to draw your own maps. Also, there aren’t any random encounters. Since you can somewhat predict when you get attacked.

Lately, I have been playing two games in the series. I recently got myself a copy of Etrian Mystery Dungeon. The reason for that is, I enjoy the formula of Pokémon Mystery Dungeon that much, I wanted to play a game to took a different approach on the formula.

Now, I play these games off and on. But not on the train anymore. Since I can get very lost into the world and the game that I once almost missed my stop. I should finish one of these titles so I can actually review them. But they are very lengthy. So, yeah. I haven’t come close to beating one.

The Legend Of Zelda – Triforce Heroes (3DS)

407451_nds_b.pngOfficial website

This game recently got a free update to expand this game even more. But I’m running ahead of myself.

This game actually proves that you can have a multiplayer Zelda game and enjoy yourself quite a lot.

This game doesn’t take itself quite seriously. The story is in my opinion laugh-worthy, but in the good sense. The story is there just to explain one of the main mechanics of this game. Since this is a spin-off Zelda game, I’m rather glad that the big N didn’t make a story that tried too hard.

While this game has its problems, it’s a quite enjoyable game. The game is challenging (and cruel in some places) and actually feels like a “real” Zelda game (minus the overworld) to me. The update promises to always link you up with players that have a similar playstyle. If that works, one of my biggest complaints with this game would be fixed. I’m still playing around with the updated game. So, when I have beaten the game, I will write a review on my blog. So, stay tuned for that!

Honorable mentions

I don’t want to make this article too long, so I list a few games that I enjoyed this year and don’t want to leave out.

Hyrule Warriors (Wii U), Fantasy Life (3DS), Golden Sun Dark Dawn (DS), Giana Sisters – Twisted Dreams (PC), BoomBlox (Wii), Tomb Raider IV (PC), Typoman (Wii U), NES Remix (Wii U / 3DS), The Binding of Isaac: Rebirth (Wii U), Terriara (PC)

And there are a lot of other games I’m leaving out.

Wrapping up

The reason I didn’t write a top 10 this year is because I didn’t want to make a the harsh decisions of which games to place where. I play and enjoy games as a hobby. But this year, I played so many games I honestly lost track of it all.

That’s why my overview of this year is quite different. Because I forgot what games I played. I had to look in my logs which games I forgot. In any case, I have been working on some fun articles for next year.

Also, I build a very strong gaming computer. So, I replayed a lot of games just to see them in higher quality and enjoy them even more.

2015 was a fun year for me to blog. I have been doing this for over five years and I look forward what my 6th year of blogging will bring, next year.

2016 will be an amazing year for games. There are a ton of games I’m looking forward to. Both on PC, Wii U and the 3DS. Yeah, I play mostly on those systems. But I’m planning to write articles about consoles games as well. In any case, I hope you enjoyed my articles this year. Thank you to all my readers and the feedback I got. I really helped me grow. But prepare yourself for a year full of new articles about old and new games since I don’t feel like stopping anytime soon.

Thank you for reading and I hope you enjoyed reading this article as much as I enjoyed writing it. I also hope to welcome you in another article. But until then, have a great holiday season and take care~

Review #038: Pokémon Gold, Silver and Crystal (GBC) ~ Pokémon 2

Pokémon_box_art_-_Gold_VersionWikipedia entry

I have an objection. This game can actually be played on the original gameboy. Well, only the Gold & Silver versions. Crystal has to be played on the good old original gameboy. Anyways, you might have seen this one coming. Since I played this game a lot as a kid, and I’m writing the final articles for the GB(C) month, well, why not talk about this game? It’s one of the biggest in everybody’s top 10 lists. It will appear each and every time. So, yeah. Without further ado, I’ll review the first Pokémon game I actually finished. As always, feel free to leave a comment on the content of this article and or the game. 

Story

grass-hidingI have a big surprise for you guys. My best friend was recently playing this game, so why not ask him to do a co-op review of this game? So, let’s both give our opinions. He played Pokémon Crystal and I played Pokémon Gold.

Mizard: I think that some people are wrong. Some people think that the end of the game is beating the elite 4. Yet, this is the mid-way point in the game. Team Rocket is still present in the game, but they aren’t the big bad.  There is actually no real story. The game is just a series of side quests, with a vague goal.

Some area’s are totally optional and can be skipped without hindering your progress.

Me: The story is just lacking. Miz asked a valid question, is there actually any story? After some discussing, we both agreed that the game is just side-quests with a vague goal. As soon as you reach Kanto, the amount of side quests go down.

The game was first supposed to be a sequel of Pokémon Blue and Red, but somehow it evolved into Pokémon Gold and Silver. Truth to be told, the fact that there are side-quests, is an improvement over Pokémon Red & Blue, they were completely absent in that game.

Music and sound

Mizard: It’s pretty cozy, but when you ride your bike a lot… It can get annoying and repetitive quickly. I don’t like the PokéCenter tune. The cries of the game are pretty sweet. Steelix and Espeon are one of my favorites.

Me: I agree with Miz, but the sound when a pokémon is on low health. That’s extremely annoying. I’m so glad that they somewhat fixed this in the 3DS releases. The surf theme is actually one of my favorite themes.

Graphics, (world) design and animation

gfs_15878_2_26_midMizard: The animation is pretty basic, but that’s due to the gameboy’s limitations. It does give a different atmosphere. Because it’s all similar, nothing is bad. Graphically, the game is pretty sweet. With the limited resources, they did manage to give you the right feel.

The first few routes are just too big and too empty compared to all the other routes, while the other routes get really lively. At some routes, you can barely evade the grass.

Me: Something I didn’t like is that the battle animations where exclusive to Pokémon Silver. They were included in Pokémon Crystal. But I played Pokémon Gold. Why didn’t they include them there? I agree that the animation is basic, but it serves as stepping stone towards the newer generation.

Some puzzles still work on my nerves. The ice sliding puzzle is one of the worst. While it’s a fun concept and great puzzle, I got stuck several times. Even worse is the time that you had three switches to open doors in the basement of the mall. When Miz and I were discussing our opinions for this review, it turns out that we both don’t like that puzzle.

Gameplay & controls

Pokemon_Crystal_Version_GBC_ScreenShot4

Miz: The controls are pretty solid, but the bike controls can be pretty annoying to control sometimes. Compared to newer generations, the controls aren’t that good. But we can’t blame the game for that, since the gameboy color was limited.

Some items are totally overpriced. Like a Repel. It’s a handy item, but it doesn’t last long.

The overall gameplay didn’t get much new things, but they tweaked a lot of features. The item holding for example was a nice addition.

The improved breeding is also a great update in my opinion.

Me: Well, I clearly remember that you need to restart each HM before you can use it’s action. This made the stone sliding puzzle in the Ice Path tedious.

The addition of the XP bar is one of my favorites. I can finally see how long it will take before my Pokémon levels up. Another nice addition where the berries. You can either make Pokéballs out of them or use them to heal your Pokémon.

The intern clock and the events is just a fun addition. But something I didn’t like was that some legendary Pokémon can only be caught on certain days. Speaking about the internal clock, the biggest update to the game is the day & night cycle. It has effect on the wild Pokémon. According to Miz-, it’s more occurring in the Crystal version.

Difficulty

Mizard: This is a weird beast. When you rush through it, it might give you trouble. But if you play it normally, the game can get easy.

Me: I can’t add anything special to Miz-‘s statement, but the cheat/glitch of cloning is just a cheap way out.

Postgame

Both: There is barely anything to do anymore. Apart from the Battle Tower in Crystal, there is nothing to do.

Conclusion

The bad:

– Difficulty can be selected by playing.

– The music can become repetitive/annoying.

– The unneeded calls of trainers.

– Boring postgame.

– Kanto has some wasted potential.

The good:

+ High replay value.

+ Good animation, world design for it’s time.

+ Day & night cycle.

+ Better story then the original.

Final thoughts:

Miz finds that this game is a long term arcade-ish game. Here and there is a challenge but you mostly continue to play. Most of the times you can set your own challenge. 

To me, it’s the biggest Pokémon game out there. While the game isn’t perfect, it does start to show it’s age. But honestly, it’s so well crafted, that the negatives can be overlooked for the hours of fun it provides.

Anyways, I think we mentioned everything. There might be some things that we didn’t mention that are for you guys and girls to discover. Thanks for reading and I hope you enjoyed it. Until the next one! Take care~

Score Miz: 82/100

Score NekoJonez: 80/100

Our score: 81/100