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First Impression: Jake Hunter – Detective Story: Ghost Of The Dusk (3DS) ~ Norse Wolves

jake hunterWikipedia pageNintendo.com page

I can’t hide the fact that I love adventure games that take you on a story that takes a lot of twists and turns. The Nintendo DS and 3DS introduced me to many series like Ace Attorney, Professor Layton, Zero Escape, Trace Memory and many others. So, it seems fitting that one of the latest games I add to my 3DS collection is one that fits my favorite genre perfectly. It’s the second Jake Hunter game released in the west. So, is it any good or should this series stay in Japan? Let’s find out if this game meets my high bars while I give you my honest spoiler free opinion while I invite you to leave a comment with your opinion on the content of this article and/or the game in the comment section down below. 

Norse Wolves

Jake1In this game you play as Jake Hunter, a private detective who is enjoying his drink at the bar while a strange man starts talking to him. One of the coworkers of this strange man dared the strange man to go inside an abounded house in the middle of the night. There are a lot of tales about this house and they all have a pattern. The house is cursed and everybody who enters and/or lives in the house is going to die in an accident. 

Jake doesn’t waste time and investigates the house and indeed finds a dead body of a homeless man. When you discover that the homeless man has been murdered and when you meet the owner of the house who lives in a small shack at the back of the giant house/mansion, a chain of events is started that takes Jake Hunter on an adventure with everything you would want in a detective story.  

In terms of the game delivering on my high expectations in terms of story and pacing, the game fully delivers. The only shame is that you miss some backstory and interactions with the characters which isn’t referenced too much. It’s like starting to watch a police series from the 3rd or 4th season in. But apart from that minor complaint, the story is still good enough to take you in it’s world and take you along on the adventure. 

I do have to mention that so far I have only spent my time with the main case on offer. In total, there are 6 cases in this game. In order to not spoil myself, I have decided to play these cases in order. So far, I’m still in the first case which has the same title as the game. 

This game also has voice acting, there are short Japanese lines spoken to breathe a bit more life into the characters but don’t expect them to be fully voice acted. Most of the dialogue is written out in text boxes. And about them, I do have some complaints. 

The first complaint is the fact that the color used for some characters matches the color for Jake thinking or preforming actions. I find this rather confusing and I think that it would have been better if another color had been used or another font or even put it in cursive. 

The second complaint is that the game asks you to remember who has which dialogue color. So, if you have forgotten that the green text is for another officer, well too bad… The game doesn’t tell you who is talking. 

While I do have two complaints about the dialogue system, I got used to it quite quickly. I kept these two issues in the back of my mind while I was playing the game. Overall, they didn’t hinder my enjoyment of the game too much but I was so glad that I could use the up and down arrows to move through a short history of the dialogues to check out where I went wrong. 

Handholding Police Work

Jake2

So, the story and pacing lives up to my high bar of expectations. But does the rest of the game live up to my expectations? Well, let’s talk about that. 

In terms of gameplay, you can compare this game most to the Ace Attorney series. You interview people and go to various locations to investigate and gather evidence to find the culprit. 

Now, unlike Ace Attorney, this game can be extremely handholdy. What I mean with that is that it’s almost unlikely that you leave a scene without finding all the evidence and/or talking to everybody. This take a lot away from the challenge in my opinion. So, if you are looking for a challenging game, I think that this game might not be the right one for you. 

It isn’t a cake walk either. Since some parts of the investigations require some pixel hunting. So, if you are stuck in a search, take a good look at everything. If the joystick is too sensitive, use the D-Pad for more accuracy. If only spots you haven’t investigated sparkled or gave some sort of identification, this would have helped so much.  

There are some cutscenes in this game, most of them are used to set up the start and/or end of a chapter. I’ll talk more about the scenes when I’m going to talk about the visuals of this game. But there is a thing I want to mention before that. The save system. 

This game doesn’t have any feature to speed up and/or skip these cutscenes to my knowledge. And why is this important? Well, because you only have three save slots. Yes, three save slots. For all the 6 cases. Man, I wish I had three save slots per case or one per case. Oh well, this isn’t too big of a deal since this game is quite linear so you can at least save for 3 different cases without loosing your progress in one. 

Which is a good thing since it’s quite tricky to find your latest save. Thankfully, it tells you how far you got into the case before you load the save file. But that information would have been way more useful on the box of the save file itself. 

Apart from that, I don’t have any other UI complaints. So let’s return to talk about the gameplay. The core gameplay consists mainly out of two parts. Talking and investigations. Let’s start with the talking one first. 

I could start explaining how every mechanic works in detail but that would make this article quite long. So, take it from me that you learn how to use the UI quite fast due to the excellent tutorial chapter. Now, about the first core mechanic, the talking. Of course, you have your normal conversations where you either share information with other characters or just gather information. In itself, this isn’t the difficult part. The “difficult” part is the interrogation of some characters or the “Talk Profile”. 

When you are doing the “Talk Profile” of somebody, you have to choose the right angle of attack to get the information out of somebody. It’s a bit like the cross examination in the Ace Attorney series without the penalty part. If you get it wrong, you can try over again without seeing a game over screen once. The same mechanic is applied when you are deducing something or thinking which action you should take next. 

The second core mechanic of this game is the investigation. Apart from moving from place to place, you can investigate a location at certain parts of the story. In these parts, the pixel hunting can be huge. At least two times I have been stuck at an investigation because I hadn’t found one clue. Oh well, spam clicking sometimes helps or revisiting the game with a fresh mind after a good night sleep helped as well. 

If these two mechanics weren’t into the game, this game would be a kinetic novel. This game doesn’t provide a lot of challenge but I keep finding it fun to play. I find it funny that there is even a sort of hint system in this amazingly linear game. Then again, it once helped me in the pixel hunting since I overlooked something. 

Comic books

jake3Visually, this game reminds me a lot of reading a comic book. There are barely any animations in this game apart from the UI elements but on the screen, there isn’t a lot of animation. Sound effects are used to great effect in this game as well as clever camera motions during the cutscenes. The box-art of the game also adds to the idea of a comic book further. For some reason, I find it quite refreshing to see this visual style. It sparks my imagination to make the characters come to live and how they act. 

The presentation of this game is quite detailed and I applaud the amount of work that the designers have put into this game. It really looks like you are playing through a comic book. The characters really look like I would image them and together with the minor pieces of voice acting and the sound design, the game comes to live.

Speaking of the sound design, I’m really impressed with it. It walks that fine line of adding tension and not being too present to get annoying. In addition to that, the soundtrack. This soundtrack is quite enjoyable. I found it quite surprising that the intro theme of this game even had some sung lyrics. No other track of in the soundtrack is like that.

So, the cutscenes are a perfect example on how this game works like a living comic book. There are barely any animations in these as well. For some people, this would be a negative of this game but in my eyes, I find that it adds to the atmosphere quite well.

Now, I think it high time to get some minor nitpicks out of the way before I finish my overall opinion on this game. The minor things that annoyed me through my playthrough.

First of all, I would have loved that some checkmark or something like that appeared next the questions I couldn’t get more information over. Since that would have saved me some time asking repeat questions.

Secondly, I hated that if you finished a dialogue, you weren’t always able to use the DPAD to watch the history of the conversation. Thankfully, I save often so it isn’t too big of a deal to reload my manually saved file and replay a part of the game.

Thirdly, saving in the middle of a dialogue means that the save restarts at the beginning of a certain scene. So, keep that in mind and don’t be alarmed when you have to redo a converstation.

The fourth thing is that when you are in the game, you are unable to get to the options menu. Only in the main menu, you are able to see the options menu.

And the final and 5th thing is that when the game tells you, you can advance by touching the screen it expects you to touch in exact spots. For example, if you check your log, you have to touch the paper in order for you to see more. While this helps immersion, I would have loved a sort of scroll bar instead… Yet, the biggest issue is when you have to tap the bottom of the screen while the rest of the screen doesn’t react on your touch.

In conclusion, I think it’s clear that I’m enjoying myself with this game quite a lot. Honestly, I highly recommend this game to everybody who enjoys games like Ace Attorney or CSI. I find the story well written and the visual presentation is a nice change of pace of the highly animated and detailed characters of the more recent adventure/detective games.

Sadly enough, it makes a few mistakes in terms of pixel hunting and the lack of a real difficulty… But the positives are so good that it highly outweighs the negatives in my opinion. It’s so enjoyable that I went on eBay to buy myself a copy of the DS game that was the first Jake Hunter game ever come out in the west. I want to experience more of this series while I haven’t finished 1 out of the 6 cases in this game.

So yes, I’m quite sure that I’ll finish this game and maybe write a review about it if other interesting things appear like what is hidden in the gallery after you finish a case. But apart from that, I have said everything that I wanted to say about this game so I think it’s high time for my usual outro.

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

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

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

The challenge and my background

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Themes and settings

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

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

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

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

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

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

retro_game_challenge_coverart

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Closing statement

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

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

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