Wednesday, December 31, 2014

This Year in Video Games - 2014

I gotta say, this has been a great year for Nintendo. As the year comes to a close, I've seen lots of articles talking about the comeback Nintendo made this year. It makes me feel good to be a Nintendo fan (Not that it ever feels bad, but sometimes it seems like the rest of the gaming world forgot we exist). But with the solid library of Wii U and 3DS titles that came out this year, it's hard to argue against Nintendo. Not to mention the rock solid E3 presentation I can still remember now.

In any case, I present to you, in no particular order, iliekgaemz' year in gaming, 2014!

  • Bravely Default
Essentially an old-school Final Fantasy game, Bravely Default charmed the shit out of me with it's music, art style, and immersive gameplay. The tinker-friendly job system encouraged players to do their best to come up with game-breaking stat combinations, while the battle system tied everything together. Instead of trying to reinvent the wheel with yet another timing-action-active-super-battle system,  Bravely Default stuck to a traditional turn-based system with an intriguing twist; allowing players to take multiple turns at once by borrowing against future turns. I loved this game and you should too.

  • Hyrule Warriors
Koei Tecmo's Hyrule Warriors caught a lot of us by surprise this year.  The Legend of Fanservice really took on the trappings of the Zelda franchise well. One of my most distinct memories is when we first opened started up the game. The first 10 minutes of gameplay were drowned out by my wife screaming in excitement while slashing wildly at enemies. We had tons of fun taking on the missions, unlocking the characters, and running through the story. A fantastic addition to any Zelda fan's library. 

  • Pokemon Battle Trozei
Battle Trozei was a neat little puzzle game for the 3DS. Slide the different Pokemon faces around to match them up, and try to chain combos together in order to catch Pokemon. All Pokemon available in the main games can be caught in this one. It's a very straightforward arcade puzzle game. If you like puzzle games, you'll love Pokemon Battle Trozei, if not, well...

  • Armillo
Armillo was kind of overshadowed this year. I think if it hadn't been released only a week after Shovel Knight, more people would have noticed. It's a simple action game. Roll around the maze, collect powerups, defeat the bad guys (by rolling into them). The intuitive, fast-paced gameplay and exciting soundtrack won me over, along with anyone else I convinced to try it out. Check this game out, especially since it's currently on sale on the eShop.

  • Mario Kart 8
One of the most anticipated games of the year for me, Mario Kart 8 didn't disappoint at all. Not much needs to be said about this game. Either you've been living under a rock for the past 20 years or you know what Mario Kart is. Going into it, I swore that no Mario Kart would ever replace Mario Kart 64 as my favorite. I was wrong. Mario Kart 8 is the best Mario Kart ever.

  • Fantasy Life
The first time I saw Fantasy Life during Nintendo's E3 presentation. I was intrigued. This looked like a great game to play alone and with friends. I'm always looking out for games I can play with my wife, as we both like to play games, but we don't usually have the same preferences. This is a game anyone can enjoy. We each have 80 hours into our games and are still going strong.

  • Master Reboot
I grabbed this game pretty late in the year, and I'm glad I did. Master Reboot is an adventure/horror game by Wales Interactive. The biggest selling point of this game is the atmosphere. This game oooooozes atmosphere. The graphics, while simple, have a great aesthetic that can best be described as eerie. Weird noises and shifting shadows at intermittent intervals add to the suspense. I get paranoid every time I play, I feel like I'm being watched. This game is also currently on sale on the eShop, so get it while it's hot.

  • Smash Bros Wii U/3DS
I do have both of these. We were originally going to stick to the Wii U version, but a sale at Target and the temptation of the limited edition soundtrack offer won us over. These are both great games, with tons and tons of extras and unlockables to keep you playing match after match. Smash is one of those games everyone needs to have, just to keep in the house when friends come over. A true classic.

  • Another World: Out of this World Edition
This game is a re-release of a 1991 release. Another World is a classic trial-and-error adventure game. Make your way through the chapters by jumping, shooting, and climbing. Do the wrong action or move at the wrong time and you're dead instantly. The tension of exploring the alien environments with death waiting at every turn is what turns this game into a real adventure. One little extra I really appreciated was the option to switch back and forth between the 1991 graphics and the smoothed-out modern ones. It doesn't sound like much but it added to the fun. This game still holds up after 23 years.

  • Pokemon Alpha Sapphire
I love Pokemon. I've played every generation, starting with the original. Gen VI was in many ways a dream come true, as even back in Gen I we would talk about how cool a 3D Pokemon would be. As a remake of Ruby and Sapphire, ORAS went back and redid the entire game from the ground up and it is wonderful. If I'm being honest, I still prefer the Gameboy originals, something about those sprite-based graphics really get the nostalgia machine going, but in a perfect world, I would own both. I guess I live in a perfect world then.

  • Weapon Shop de Omasse
From the same studio that brought us Fantasy Life comes Weapon Shop de Omasse, a rhythm game with an emphasis on character interactions and time management. You play as Yuhan, an apprentice weaponsmith as he creates various weapons to rent out to RPG heroes to aid them in their adventures. It's a charming title, and the dialogue is superb. This is a very text-heavy game though, take that as you will.

  • Fairune
Circle Entertainment's Fairune just came out towards the end of this month. It's a short RPG style game. Combat is pretty much automatic. Run into an enemy, you either get bounced back or it dies. You take a bit of damage, gain a bit of experience, and move on to the next one. This is largely a puzzle solving experience. Trying to figure out how to find the items necessary to unlock the areas and complete the game is where the joy of this game lies. With simple graphics and only a couple hours of gameplay, I'd say this game is limited, but at $2.99 I think it's just right.

As Nintendo fans we have a lot to look forward to in 2015, with games like Zelda U, Starfox U, and Xenoblade X on the way. I'd love to hear what games you played in 2014, feel free to leave a comment below. Thanks everyone for reading, and enjoy the new year!

Nintendo eShop Review - Weapon Shop de Omasse

With the holidays come gifts, and for me, gifts mean Nintendo eShop credits. For the most part, my friends all know I love games, and they all know I love Nintendo. With some fresh eShop credit burning a whole in my virtual pocket, it was time for some new games, and with the current sale on games by Level 5, I decided to check out Weapon Shop de Omasse.

My introduction to the game studio known as Level 5 came with Fantasy Life, the recent action-RPG for the 3DS. One of the things I loved about the game was the writing. For a generic RPG story, I thought the dialogue in Fantasy Life was very clever. When I heard that WSdO also had an emphasis on clever writing (It was even written by a Japanese comedian), that sealed the deal for me.

WSdO's dialogue really is what sets this game apart. Each interaction with a customer is set up like a live sitcom. Customers enter with applause, and dialogue is punctuated with laughter, cheers, or boos. It sounds irritating, but it really isn't. The character interactions set the whole experience off and make what would otherwise be a mundane rhythm game into something memorable. While the customers are out on quests,  you can check the "Grindcast," which is basically a medieval Twitter. Customers will leave status updates as their quests progress, and this adds a lot to the gameplay. Watching the personalities of the customers change as they adopt their "online persona" is a cheeky reference to how most of us approach social media, and another clever addition that adds to the charm of the game.

As a whole the WSdO experience is one of time management. Juggling different orders and ensuring your shop has a wide variety of weapons in stock for any of the random customers who come in is a large part of the game. While attempting to forge new weapons, polish returned weapons, check the Grindcast, and order materials, the days counting down the approach of the Dark Lord seem to slip away. This game is very addictive. Despite taking about 10 hours to complete the main story mode, I completed most of it in one sitting. I just couldn't tear myself away from my 3DS. I just had to forge one more weapon, complete one more order, or unlock one more level.

In between cinematics, the gameplay is fairly simple. Each customer has an ideal weapon suited to both their preferences and the quest they are setting out to complete. As an apprentice blacksmith at the local weapon shop, it's your job to figure out what that weapon is and make it for your customer. The weapon forging minigame is a basic rhythm game. Time your hammer strikes with the beats of the music, and try to take as long as possible to do so. The more hammer strikes you use to make your weapon, the better your resulting weapon will be. As you're actually running a rental shop, it's very important to send your customers out with the right weapon, or you may never get it back. I've heard this game described as repetitive, and to be honest, it is. However, I'm a huge weapons nerd, so it didn't get old for me. Forging and lovingly polishing dozens of broadswords, falchions, morning stars, rapiers, and daggers was tons of fun, and I couldn't wait to rank up to see what new weapons I'd unlock.

So would I recommend this game? Maybe. Once the game is finished, an infinite mode is unlocked which allows you to forge weapons to beat an increasingly powerful nemesis. I plan to replay the main story mode once more to see if I can do better, but I have to admit this game may not be for everyone. There's a ton of dialogue, and the forging can be really frustrating at times. However, the game is a steal right now at $2.99US on the eShop. If you like weapons and good writing, I guarantee it's worth the price.

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Game Night Episode 1- The eShop Price Drop Special

Game Night posts are based around the rare times when I get three or more games at the same time and I get some time to try each one. Since my excited mind, giddy over getting new games I've been looking forward to playing, is unlikely to allow me to sit down and play these games in depth, I'll be posting my impressions based on the first 20 minutes to an hour of play. You'll also notice some randomly attributed quotes by each review. I've also collected quotes from friends after asking them to try the games out for a couple minutes.

Today's Game Night post is based on three indie games I've had my eye on- Another World 20th Anniversary Edition, Armillo, and Master Reboot. With the recent Nintendo eShop sale on these games, and some recently gifted eShop credits, it was the perfect time to grab them. I'm really excited to share the experience I had with each of these games, so let's jump right in.

1- Another World 20th Anniversary Edition

"Everything in this world can kill you" -Trevor
"What the hell is that, a chupacabra?" -Christian

Another World was the first to complete, so I loaded it up as the other two titles finished downloading. My first impressions were of fascination and frustration in equal measure. As I watched the introduction load and the music begin, my mind started getting pulled into the unique art style and atmosphere. Unfortunately, my mind didn't stay there. This game has a few minor flaws that can jar you right out of the experience if you're not expecting them. First off, this game only supports the Wii U Gamepad for control inputs. There is no option to switch to the Wii U Pro Controller to play the game. Now, I love the Gamepad, and the option to play the game off-TV is a blessing, but for an immersive experience, nothing tops playing on the TV with the lights off and given the option, that's what I prefer. I would feel differently if there were added options that used the Gamepad's features, but there aren't any. So whenever I am playing it, I am now forced to either play on the Gamepad screen, or play on the TV with a glowing light under my face. I got used to it, but I shouldn't have to. Also, the controls are imprecise. Tapping the D-pad or control stick moves your character one vaguely defined step left or right. Tapping B sends your character into a vaguely defined jump over low (very low) obstacles. However, once I got used to the controls, I really started enjoying myself and wondering what was going to happen next. Like any true adventure game, Another World uses trial and error style gameplay. Hop here, shoot here at just the right time, climb here, and you get to the next chapter. Deviate from that script and you die. I died several times just trying to figure out how to get past some basic obstacles. You might think this is a complaint about the game but it's not. The tension resulting from knowing that one could die at a moment's notice are what allows this game to transform it's simple puzzle mechanics into something that truly feels like an adventure. I recommend this game for anyone who thinks they would enjoy an otherworldly adventure experience with little or no direction as to what to do next. 

2- Armillo - Fuzzy Wuzzy Games

"He's a space armadillo that is basically Sonic." -Nani
"Kind of reminds me of, like, Sonic" -Christian

To summarize Armillo is, as my lovely wife put it, a "space armadillo" who rolls around maze-like planets, dodging obstacles and enemies on a quest to rescue his brother and save the universe from evil robots. Armillo is kind of an obstacle-course action game, and, despite the repeated comparisons to Sonic the Hedgehog, is really closer to Super Monkey Ball than anything else (Thanks Trevor for the apt comparison). Armillo shoots forward from boost pads, rolls along tracks or bounces around like a pinball. The levels are fun and intuitive, and I never had trouble figuring out what to do. Playing on Normal difficulty was definitely challenging for me, although admittedly I'm not very good at action games, and I had a few game over screens as I attempted to beat the first few levels. However, at no point did I feel the game was unfair or artificially difficult. I knew exactly where I had screwed up, and knew exactly what to do next time (Even if it took a few tries to actually do it). The music is another great part of this game. Instead of going with the usual bouncy melodies normally found in these sorts of action games with cute animal characters, Fuzzy Wuzzy Games went with an intense techno score that pulls the action aspect to the forefront. Good thing too, as this game takes lots of concentration. This is a great example of a polished, creative, indie title, and it's something I'll be playing again and again, both by myself and to show off to friends. Unfortunately, Armillo came out only a week after the Hype Juggernaut that was Shovel Knight and I think a lot of people missed it as a result. Check this game out if you get a chance.

3- Master Reboot -Wales Interactive

"That's pleasant; an axe" -Trevor
"I don't want to find out what happens" -Christian

As I started up Master Reboot for the first time, I could already tell I was about to see something unique. So far, I haven't been disappointed as this game is definitely making an impression. It hasn't helped that I watched the trailer on the eShop, which featured doll-like girls with glowing eyes lifelessly stalking the player. The art of this game takes a very simple approach, with flat textures and simple shapes, giving the environments a sterile, alien aesthetic that I found very off-putting. Areas are small and keep the player from wandering off, and I began to find them claustrophobic, I felt as if I was being pulled along, no matter how much I wanted to put off moving to the next area and finding out what might be waiting for me. I also had a very distinct sense of being watched throughout the short time I spent with the game. Basic noises, like a crow cawing in the background, began to put me on edge. I think this is a great example of what a small studio can do using well-applied aesthetics. Simply being pulled along from area to area without any clue as to what will happen next is truly an unnerving experience. I am really enjoying this game and I'm looking forward to uncovering more of the mystery. I would recommend Master Reboot to anyone who prefers atmosphere over jump scares and gore.

I hope you all enjoyed reading this first Game Night. My writing skills are really rusty, so any feedback, positive or negative, is appreciated. If you liked what I wrote, tune in next time for a more in-depth review, as I take on Circle-Entertainment's Fairune. Thanks to Trevor, Christian, and of course my lovely wife Nani for testing these games out and allowing me to steal their precious words, and thank you for reading! See you next time.

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Welcome, Fellow Traveler

My name is Rabi and I've started this blog to write about something I've realized is a big part of my life, and that is video games.

After some recent reflection, I've become more and more interested in games as an art form. How they look, how they sound, how they play, and how they make me feel. I've felt a burning need within me to communicate my feelings on games with the world, so I've finally decided to attempt to do so with this blog. I'll be focusing mostly (But not exclusively) on games published for Nintendo platforms, as that's what I play the most.

To me video games are more than a simple pastime. Much like a great book, a great game can suck me into it's world and spit me out on the other side, bewildered and disoriented. Even as a kid who was barely allowed to play games, I was fascinated by them. I put myself into the worlds of the games that I saw and imagined myself traveling the worlds I caught glimpses of while playing or watching others play.

If you feel the same way about games as I do, then I am writing for you. Let's explore together.