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First Impressions: Dragon Quest XI S: Echoes of an Elusive Age – Definitive Edition (Switch) ~ Grand Adventure

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Nintendo.com micrositeWikipedia entry

Today we are going to talk about a game with a lengthy title. It’s also a quite lengthy game to boot. I mean, this game clocks in at giving or take 60 hours of playtime. Now, in the past, I talked about other games in the series like Dragon Quest IX and Dragon Quest Builders and it’s sequel Dragon Quest Builders 2. But now it’s time to look at and talk about the newest game in the series. The 11th entry got an expanded edition on the Nintendo Switch and that’s what I have been playing for the last couple of days. And I think I’m ready to give my opinion on the question if you should spend your time, money and effort in this game or that the adventure isn’t worth it. 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.

Grand Classical Adventure

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In this game, you play as a nameable hero. You start off in the village of Cobblestone where you partake in a coming of age ritual. It doesn’t take long before things start to go south. Well, it turns out that you are the Luminary, a legendary hero chosen by the world tree Yggdrasil to save Erdrea from evil.

Now, here is the catch. You go to the King to provide your services and things go even more south. The King accuses you of bringing evil upon his land and throws you into the dungeon. So, the stage is set for a grand adventure to prove yourself and save the world before the actual evil entity destroys the world.

The main plotline itself is nothing to really write home about. After playing Dragon Quest Builders 2, where your building was illegal, I felt that I already experienced a similar story in the franchise. Maybe I’m looking a bit too deep into this. Yet, the actual pacing and storytelling are way more enjoyable. The story turns into a journey from town to town where you have a smaller adventure in each town. It’s almost like an anime series where the hero and crew travel around the world.

The writing of this game is just amazing. From medieval speak to people speaking in English with a foreign accent, it’s just lovely. What I mean with a foreign account is that you clearly see the Spanish influences in the made-up language that they speak at some beach cities.

The voice acting really adds a lot to the personality of the characters. While some of the characters really follow some stereotype arcs, I really enjoyed the mix of characters in this game. The characters are written that well, I even started to shout right at some of the characters when they did something frustrating.

Currently, I’m not even halfway in the adventure and I have been enjoying myself throughout the story. I cannot wait to see where the story is going to take me next since the whole world seems massive and a blast to explore.

The Confused Light

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What is a massive world to explore without an interesting visual presentation? This game doesn’t disappoint in that area. One time I played Dragon Quest VII on my PlayStation 2 and I found that game extremely pretty. If you take that game and give it a 1080HD facelift, you get the visual presentation of this game. The world is colorful and extremely detailed to explore. It even has a day and night cycle that makes the world come alive.

Yet, it pains me to say it but I do have some things I disliked about the visual presentation. First of all, there are a few details that were missed while designing some towns. For example, in one of the towns, they forgot to add in a door at the backside of a store. I have posted a video about it on my Twitter. Notice how inside the store, the door is present and when you run behind the back, the door is suddenly nowhere to be seen.

Thankfully, these moments aren’t too frequent and overall, the world is extremely detailed. But, something that is somewhat broken is the triggers to change the lighting. Now, the lighting changes when you enter a building. That isn’t a problem until you start walking to edges of buildings and the light level already changes when you are still outside and next to a wall. Just look at this video I posted on my Twitter, where the ending shows off what I mean. Sadly enough, this problem occurs extremely frequently. Especially at night time and even more when the roof sticks out of the building or when the pathway has a roof itself.

It’s a shame since this is a problem that puts a damper on the excellent animation. I was extremely surprised to see characters actually react surprised or angry when you raided their cupboards or their belongings. Or the fact you can turn the camera around while in battle and see everything from every angle you wish.

Now, I think that the next issue I noticed has to do with memory management for the Nintendo Switch version but the render distance isn’t the best. This is something I can personally forgive since it affects the far off objects that get less detailed render. You can clearly see more detail appear in the frame when you walk up to it. On extremely rare occasions, the detail appears when you are just up close.

Automation

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This game plays like every other J-RPG and especially like most previous Dragon Quest games that came before it. I haven’t played all the Dragon Quest games, so I can’t tell you what’s unique in this title compared to the previous entries in the series.

If you haven’t played any of these games in the past, let me quickly explain it to you. While you take your party on a journey throughout the land, you fight various battles to make your characters stronger and let them learn new skills. With each won battle, your characters gain experience points. When they gain enough experience points, they gain a level. For each level, they get points that allow them to open up a skill in their skill tree.

There are a lot of different character classes that spice up the fighting style and gameplay. From characters that are meant for healing to characters that act as a sponge for all the attacks, better known as a tank. So, you have to choose your equipment wisely as well. You buy a strong shield for your tank and a strong wand for your healer.

There are two ways of battle encounters and this game has them both. On the overworld, the monsters are visible and roam around, so you can pick and choose your battles. Alas, while traveling in places that aren’t the overworld, like the sea, the battles are random and can happen at any moment. Thankfully, in most cases, you see the enemies so it’s not a mess to understand where which system is used.

So, during the adventure, you also have to solve puzzles where you have to look around the environment and dungeons for clues. These puzzles can range from conquering a dungeon to do a fetch side quest to using a monster to climb a crumbling building. A tight control scheme is essential for this type of games and I have to say that this game doesn’t disappoint. After you get used to the control scheme of this game, I have to say that it’s a blast to use. Some features are a bit too buried in menus for my liking but that might be the biggest complaint about that.

Everything is paired together with an amazing soundtrack and sound design. Now a lot of the soundtrack and sound effects sound extremely familiar when you have played previous games in the series. This isn’t a bad thing since this really helps to put the game into the Dragon Quest universe. Plus, the music still fits the atmosphere quite well and doesn’t get boring.

And with that said, I think I have said almost everything I wanted to say about this game for now. Because I’m not even halfway done with the game, I’m not going to talk more in-depth about the game for now. When I have finished the game, or put more hours into it, I might write a more in-depth review. But, at this moment I already reached a conclusion.

This game is one of the best games I have played on the Nintendo Switch when it comes to RPG’s. The expansive world and the amazing story is an amazing journey to take part in. I can’t wait to see what the rest of the adventure will bring since I’m enjoying myself with this adventure. I also highly recommend this game to every Dragon Quest fan, RPG fan, adventure game fan and people who are looking for a lengthy and expansive game to sink their teeth into. And if you want to know if the game is for you, you can download a free demo in the Nintendo eShop to try out the game before you buy it.

So, that’s everything I wanted to say about this game (for now). I want to 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.

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

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Wikipedia entry

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

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

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

Let’s form a guild

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

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

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

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

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

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

Was this needed?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Snatch that jewel

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Conclusion

The bad:

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

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

-This game could have benefitted from some cutscenes.

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

The good:

+ Great story and writing.

+ Great visuals.

+ Amazing music.

+ Fun, yet sometimes repetitive, gameplay.

+ …

Final thoughts:

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

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

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

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

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

Score: 95/100

Rant: Tetris, mobile versions and the dreaded square block

Tetris is one of my favourite games ever. It’s a practically perfect game. You can play it for hours or just for ten minutes. It’s brilliant in its simplicity and simply brilliant. Everyone knows Tetris. Only mention the name, and the soundtrack will be stuck in your head for the rest of the day.

Now you’d think a game like this would be great for mobile platforms. There’s a plethora of Tetris clones on the Google Play Store, but looking through all of them, I can’t seem to find a good one. I must’ve downloaded fifteen different versions. Either they take up 50 to 100MB (Seriously? For Tetris?) or they play horribly. Most of them use a poor algorithm that doesn’t randomise the blocks well enough and/or often give the same blocks three or four times in a row. That, or they speed up way to quickly.

Tetromino - screenshotThey often don’t show what block is next, have horrendous controls or just “feel” wrong. The “best” version I found so far is called Tetromino, but it’s a looooong way from perfect. Putting that aside and talking about the game itself right now, I abhor the square block. Some people hate the Z and S-shaped blocks, but I don’t. You can rarely actually use the square block and when you do, most of the other blocks can deliver the same effect. Often, when given the square block, you have no choice but to create holes. And I HATE holes.