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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 make. 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 the combat. There are a lot of ways to handle a 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 reorganised 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

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First Impression: Bravely Default (3DS) ~ Featuring GamersHive

bravely-default-europe-box-artGamersHive Facebook

Official Site

Thanks for tuning in you guys. Today, I’m going to try something different. In the last few years, I met a guy on a garage sale with the same first name then mine. A few months ago, I found met him again through Dutch website, similar to eBay. After a few mails back and forth, I joined his Facebook group. Now, if you are a reader from Belgium and you’re interested in games… Don’t wait! Go take a look on that page. This is a group to my heart. They are collectors like myself. I might ask them to get the forums to work together. As a sort of apology to you guys and to them (because I haven’t mentioned them while I promised it) I asked their opinion on this game. Keep in mind, this isn’t a review since I haven’t finished the game myself. Yet, there are guys on GamersHive that finished it. So, I’ll be using their words to talk more about this game. The only “altering” I did to the quotes is translating them. So yeah, before we start, feel free to leave a comment on the article and or the game. 

Unexpected. 

a544b637e7bdbabf2abb0e823e5a80d3Honestly, I wasn’t planning to play this game. I got this game thanks to my forum. When a few members where hyped about this game, I kept the title in mind. A week later, I was looking on the shelves of a local game store for any potential great sales in the 2nd hand section. When I saw this game on the shelves, I decided to pick it up. To check if the hype was really worth it. I rode my bike home and popped the game in my 3DS.

Bravely Default is what the new Final Fantasy should have been.

– Ringo G. (GamersHive)

Now, my friend. That’s quite a big statement. I’m ashamed to admit this, but I haven’t played too many Final Fantasy games. Actually I have never beaten one. Yet, I do love the formula of the game. While I heard mixed reviews on the latest releases, I do think that there is some truth in the statement.

First of all, let’s talk about the story. I’ll be using now a lot of a mini-review Sam Stevens placed as a comment to my post in the group.

The story is really beautifully created. It gives you the feeling to continue playing to see the ending.

– Sam Stevens (GamersHive)

 I’m sorry Sam, but I have to disagree. The opening was truly unexpected. The introduction is done by using the AR features of the 3DS. It gives you a personal feel through the story. I haven’t beaten the game yet, so I don’t know how it ends but from what I have played… I don’t think the story is that good. You won’t hear me saying that the story is bad. That is totally not the case. Let me explain myself.

The main story is generic. It’s a basic story of “save the world with crystals”. But here the saying of “don’t judge a book by it’s cover” is very, very true. The execution of the story is what makes the story good. The dialogue, interaction with the characters and their backstories are all very well written. Sadly enough, some characters suffer from “tropes”. What I mean here is that they are your standard characters. To say it very crude, the characters don’t have a soul. I don’t see any change in their personalities. They stay way to close to what their what their trope is supposed to be.

Here the story looses a lot of it’s charm. Sadly enough, to experienced story tellers, the story becomes predictable. In summary, the story is good but not great. It has it’s moments here and there but there are so many missed opportunities.

Generic RPG or more?

brave6Let’s move on to the gameplay. And to save me some trouble, I will quote some very true things from Sam Stevens.

Norende Village and the StreetPass support really aid you in your quest.

– Sam Stevens (GamersHive)

Now this is very true. On the surface, the game looks to have a basic RPG-style gameplay. With turn based moves and random encounters. That’s only the surface. The game is deeper then that. Sam gave two examples how the gameplay is more then your standard RPG game. What they exactly are, well… that I leave as a surprise to you guys.

The feature of being able to set the amount of random encounters is just amazing.

– Sam Stevens (GamersHive)

Oh yes! Sam, you are totally right. This is one of the big selling points in my opinion. It’s really hidden but it’s so handy. This way you can explore early dungeons again without having to be interrupted by weak enemies. It’s just great. Also, the game warns you if you disable the random encounters! The game might become too difficult if you try to play this without them. Yeah, great move.

Now, the title of the game is pretty much the gameplay of this game. You can either “Brave” or “Default”. The “Default” is your basic “Blocking” / “Defending”  but with a twist. You earn a point when you “Default”. These points can be used to “Brave”. This way you can release multiple attacks at once. This adds a whole layer of strategy. Since if you “Brave” without saving points first, you will end up loosing turns with that character.

Negatives

gfs_373321_2_3Now, usually I would be about to wrap up my article. But since I mentioned some guys, I think I will continue this article for just a little bit. In this part, I will talk a bit about the negatives of the game. What didn’t I enjoy? I realize that I leave out a whole bunch of things that I haven’t talked about, but I save these for my review when I beat the game.

So, the first flaw I want to talk about is something that is a big shame. Minor spoiler here but at one point, you get an airship. It’s actually really early on. Now, you can go to every place on the map. And that’s amazing. The open world feeling is such a fun thing to play around in. Until you get a slap to the face.

When you try to enter a dungeon before you’re actually supposed to, the characters say that they shouldn’t go inside, since they haven’t business there yet. What? Like ProJared said in his “1 minute review”:

Let me experience my own mistakes.

– ProJared

This is very true.

Another mistake is how the game has micro-transactions. I don’t think I have to explain myself here. It’s just silly. I might talk more in-depth about it in the review. Although, I have already talked about it in my last rant. So yeah.

Another thing I dislike about this game is how grinding is such a thing. I actually stopped playing this game because of a part in the game where it’s a boss rush. And you will need to grind, a lot, in order to beat them. Either that, or I fail at understanding this game. It might be a combination of both. But I don’t the grinding in this game fun. Sorry.

Anyways, thanks for reading. I’ll talk more about the graphics, difficulty, music, controls and design in my review. I hope you enjoyed this article. Thanks to GamersHive for the amazing quotes. It was really fun to try out something different. Now, I have a game to beat to fully review it. Hopefully until then!

First Impression: The Walking Dead – Season 1 (PC) ~ Overhyped?

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Official website

Deep breaths, Jonez, deep breaths. I might have to hide after this first impression or a horde of fanboys might come and attack and bite me. I’m scared to talk about my first impression with this game. I just finished the first chapter out of five from this game and it’s not what I expected. I’m going to warn you, this game might shock people, and this first impression might give me tons of bad comments. But please, keep in mind that this is my opinion on it and if you want to discuss my opinion, do it in a civilized manner. We have to stick together when we try to survive the horde of bad games lately. I got this game a week ago for an extremely low price. And it’s an adventure game from TellTale, a company that made the excellent Tales Of Monkey Island. And point-&-click / adventure games are my favorite genre ever. But does this game live up to the hype I created for myself or was this a big mistake to hype? Well, let’s make the harsh decision and let’s take a look at it. Feel free to leave a comment with your opinion on the game or / and this article. 

The story, such a weird thing. 

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Indeed, used a screenshot from GameSpot

Yesterday, I recorded a podcast with Q about this and I already talked about this. Because I was able to verify my fears, I think I can talk about this with more comfort. The story of the Walking Dead game isn’t as good as people claim it to be.

Don’t get me wrong. The setting and idea behind it is pretty nice but there are a few things that made me shake my head pretty bad. There are some major flaws with the story.

The first thing were this game falls flat on it’s face is the fact that you know that there is going to be a victim. Sometimes you have the illusion that you can choose while in reality, the outcome doesn’t change.

Some choices just give you a different dialogue part while the main storyline is pretty much the same.  I can be wrong on this but from what I have played, my impression isn’t the greatest in terms of story.

Most characters die a bit too quickly as well. You barely get any connection time and a poof, they are death. And that is just lame in my opinion.

The second thing that makes me not really like the story is the fact that it exists out of some cliche things. Arguments and zombie attacks. Some things happen to have some gameplay but don’t make sense story wise. There is a moment were you are a in heated argument, somebody collapses and you are allowed to take charge. Ehrm, is it just me or did we make an awkward jump in terms of story here?

Something else that bugs me quite a lot is the fact that you are on a quick time limit. I understand the idea behind it, in real life and at those moments you wouldn’t have time to think about it as well… But when you play through the game for the first time it’s just a annoying thing. Since you barely get any time to read each option. And by the time you have read them, you have to decide quickly before you stay silent or do nothing.

Is the story bad? No, it isn’t bad. It has it’s memorable moments. The writing is nicely done but the execution isn’t the best for a game. I always feel that some main story is taking place and that you simply decides which character is going to die now or later on the road.

And the rest?

The-Walking-Dead-Game-Dev-Wants-Suggestions-for-Potential-Second-Season-2Usually I keep my story segment short, but for this game, I made an exception. Honestly, I think that the story isn’t the strong point of the game. The gameplay is. The last thing I’m going to say about the story is that for what I have seen now, the characters are a bit … well, paper thin. Like in episode two, suddenly another guy popped up out of nowhere. No explanation at the start. Just poof, he is a part of the group.

Anyways, enough “ranting” about the story. Let’s talk controls. And they are awkward at best for adventure game veterans. The simple fact you need to scroll when you want to talk or use an item on somebody is unnatural. Nearly every adventure / point-&-click game have a handy inventory where you can drop and drop the items from.

It’s possible to get used to the controls but with some animation flaws, they aren’t pretty good. Try holding the arrow keys and walk into the wall. Yes, the old shacking screen is there. TellTale, you disappoint me here. I know you guys can do better!

Do I have different complaints about the Walking Dead? Yes, yes I have. I’m under the impression that this game is quite short. A normal adventure game takes you on a lengthy adventure that takes you in tons of different places. But after a small 1,5 hours I was done with the first out of 5 chapters. Hearing from a close friend of mine, who has beaten the whole first season, each chapter is around 1,5 hours long. And trust me, veteran adventure gamers won’t get stuck easily. So, a short 5 – 10 hour game. That’s something I finish in an afternoon, and that’s not such a good thing for an adventure game.

So, this first impression sounds extremely negative. It’s almost like I’m about to say that this is a bad game. And trust me, it isn’t. This game suffers from too much hype. Everybody talks how awesome and amazing this game is and don’t look at the flaws this game has. While this game has flaws, it doesn’t make this game a bad game. The charm of the game is that the flaws get hidden behind a well crafted game. I have to give TellTale that.

The story has good voice acting and is graphically extremely well done.

Thinking about it, this game is actually more meant to be discussed with friends. Also, watching to a let’s play of this game is a tad bit more enjoyable then actually playing it. Since the surprise of what’s going to happen is then lost. I’ll finish this game for sure and I’ll write a full review about it. By then my opinion might have changed. And then I will also talk about some other things I didn’t had the time to put in this article.

Thanks for reading and I hope you enjoyed this article. I’m working on a few new articles and I hope to see you guys there. Be sure to also check out the podcast I did with Allahweh! It’s the previous article.