Xenoblade Chronicles 3D

91bfa0z2jl-_ac_sl1500_Date Completed: September 24th, 2016

Holy Long Game Batman!  I was one of the few who owned the original version of the game when it was released on the Wii console.  I had started the game a few times but I never made it very far in and eventually I traded my Wii in for a Wii  U and lost my save.  I tried the game again on the Wii U but I never made it very far there either.  Eventually it came out for the ‘New’ 3DS and the portable form factor finally made it possible for me to sink the hundred hours into the game that were needed to beat it.

The ‘universe’ in Xenoblade consists of two massive titans (The Bionis and the Mechonis) who killed (or did they?) each other after some sort of timeless battle.  Several races of beings live on the bodies of these titans and naturally the beings on the Mechonis are at war with the beings on the Bionis.  Without giving too much away, the game will take you on an epic journey across the body of the Bionis.

The size of the game world is absolutely massive.  The scenery is breathtaking.  There are rivers, mountains, valleys, forests and swaps all magnificently realized with some amazing views.  The design teams plays fast and loose with gravity and there are tons of spots where it is possible to step right off the Bionis.  In fact, there is even an achievement for doing so.  This is the only game I can think of where I frequently found myself accidentally jumping off the world.

xenoblade-landscape

The true test of the quality of an RPG is of course the story.  I’m happy to say that I enjoyed the story and it reminded me of back in the day when Final Fantasy games used to be good.  It was a wild and insane ride, but it all made enough sense that I didn’t have to hunt down a Wiki that explained anything.  The main characters were all interesting, realistic and likable.  Overall I’d say this game is a job well done.

wvw69jpwkemy73pwkf

Like many other RPGs this game has way too many things to fiddle with.  There are weapons, armor, gems, skills, abilities, affinities and bonuses that make the whole system a little overwhelming.  The tutorials are vast but I always felt lost in the menus.  The FAQS I read online didn’t really help either.  I HATE paying for strategy guides but this certainly seems to be the type of game that needs one.

If you are the type of player who expects RPG characters to wear body armor that isn’t likely to protect you from a butter knife then Xenoblade may be the game for you.  While some of the armor available looked functional quite a bit of it could have doubled as swimwear.  The game isn’t sexist though!  The gents and the ladies both get the swimwear treatment.  In fact, I’ve seen the male character ‘Dunban’ referred to as the ‘Nekkid Ninja’ in forum posts.

Totally Functional...

Totally Functional…

Xenoblade Chronicles features a bazillion little side-quests in each area that took most of play time. The completionist in me hates missing anything but I found questing to get old quickly so I’d often push forward with the main story quest early.  It was always clear where the main story quest objectives were located, unfortunately I often found myself out classes when I arrived in a new area. I found that if I took the time to complete all of the quests in an area I was usually ready to go when I moved on.  So much for speed runs.

New Quest

Clearly more important than saving the world.

The graphics seem a little dated on the Wii, but they were more than passable on the ‘New’ 3DS.  It sucks that it’s not compatible with the older 3DS consoles but there were some occasions when the frame rate dropped and I doubt the older model would have been able to push as good an experience.  I thoroughly enjoyed the game and I wholeheartedly recommend it to anyone who has the means to play it.

  • Is it fun: Yes
  • Score: 8/10
  • Length:  ~100 hours
  • System: Nintendo 3DS
  • Genre: RPG

Triforce Heroes

91zvmp3i6l-_ac_sl1500_Date Completed: December 8th, 2016

Zelda games have never let me down.  Even the bad ones are usually pretty good so there was a pretty good chance that I’d eventually be buying a copy of The Legend of Zelda : TriForce Heroes.  I probably would have pre-ordered the game and had it for launch except for the fact that I saw the story trailer on YouTube.  After seeing that…I suspected that the Nintendo devs had lost their minds and I wasn’t sure I wanted to have anything to do with it.

The story of the game follows a princess who (I kid you not) has been cursed to wear an unattractive unitard.  It is your goal to steal articles of clothing from a witch so that you can dress up in drag and un-curse the princess.  The main game mechanic involves you changing your clothes to gain new powers.  I have no idea why they chose to green-light this mechanic.  I can only imagine in horror any ideas that didn’t make the cut.

Goofy premise aside the game is pretty fun.  It can be played single player but it is meant to be multi-player.  In a somewhat unusual twist it can only be played by exactly one or three players.  This game is download play enabled so you only need a single cartridge to start a multiplayer game.  I started the game on my own but ended up playing most of it with my two sons (who both received 2DS consoles in the last year).

The first several missions were easy and I was able to carry my sons on to victory.  Later missions require some teamwork that my younger son ( who was 5 at the time ) wasn’t ready for.  My older boy would get frustrated and yell at his brother, which led to much crying and shouting.  I sure love family bonding time.

My older son got really into the game and purchased his own copy of the game with his saved up allowance money.  He played the game almost constantly, often while crying with frustration because some part of the game was too hard.  He’d beg me to help him but I always refused instead informing him that he’d never get any better if someone else played the game for him.  Tough love seems to have worked.  He has now surpassed my level of completion with the game, has beaten all of the bonus levels and is only missing one outfit.

Due to the crying, whining and fighting my wife was less than thrilled with me for bringing this game into the household.  We had to confiscate 2DS’s multiple times because the kids were getting frustrated or refusing to sleep.  All in all I think this is a pretty strong endorsement for the game.  It’s a little inconvenient that it requires three consoles to play multiplayer but if you have the equipment it’s worth the price of entry (That’s what she said?)

  • Is it fun: Yes
  • Score: 6/10
  • Length:  ~10 hours
  • System: Nintendo 2DS / 3DS
  • Genre: Action / Adventure

 

StarFox Zero

star_fox_zero_naDate Completed : June 16th, 2016

I never played the original StarFox but I did play the ever-loving-snot out of StarFox 64 back in my college days.  It ranked with Goldeneye, Mario Kart and Smash Bros. for most played game cartridge.  Unfortunately every StarFox game since StarFox 64 (with the exception of Starfox 64 3D which was a remake and doesn’t count) has been in the range of mediocre to awful.  I wasn’t setting my hopes too high for StarFox Zero and when Nintendo bundled a second game (StarFox Guard) in for no additional cost I began to suspect that once again we would have a dud on our hands.

I thought StarFox Zero was a new game in the StarFox series but I had heard rumors that it was a remake of StarFox 64.  It turns out that it’s both new AND a remake.  It’s a reboot of the StarFox Universe with some new mixed in.  The first mission on planet Corneria  will be extremely familiar to anyone who has played StarFox 64 although halfway through the mission it switches into new content.  It’s a bit lazy storytelling-wis but I can appreciate that the world these anthropomorphized animals live in doesn’t lend itself to many story options.  Rabbits, Foxes, Birds and Frogs living together in harmony in a world where there is nothing to fear except giant floating Gorilla heads?  This stuff doesn’t exactly write itself.

So, how is the gameplay then?  Early on Nintendo marketed StarFox Zero as a game that would use the Wii U Gamepad to great effect.  The only effect however is that it makes it incredible difficult to play.  The motion controls do not improve the experience whatsoever and switching between the TV and second screen is incredibly disorienting.  I’d often be piloting myself into walls or buildings with my kids yelling at me that I was near death.  I attribute all of my failures on this game to poorly implemented controls, and not any lack of skill on my part.  It has been said that there is a difference between ‘challenging’ and ‘being hard to play’.  StarFox Zero is the latter.

The only parts of this game that I really enjoyed were the parts where I wasn’t piloting any of the new vehicles, or looking at the gamepad (Essentially only the parts that played like StarFox 64).  It’s a shame because this game really presents itself well, and my kids really enjoyed watching me play it.  If you are not the one stuck fighting the control scheme StarFox is a lot of fun to watch.  If Nintendo released a patch that fixed the problems with the controls I would recommend this game.  In it’s current state I suggest you pass on it.

It’s worth noting that the game also came bundled with StarFox Guard for no additional cost.  I haven’t tried Guard yet and I’m not even sure what it’s about.  It may add a little more value to the whole purchase if you’re on the fence about it, but after playing the main game it’s hard to get too excited about anything else that came in the same box.

Is it fun: Meh
Score: 5/10
Length:  5 hours
System: Wii U
Genre: Action / Rail Shooter

 

 

 

Uncharted 4 : A Thief’s End

Ci3bEgoUgAAf7lk

The Intro Screen

Date Completed : June 4th, 2016

It looks like the Olympics are on once again which means that my wife will be commandeering the Television for two weeks.  During the Winter Olympics 2 years ago I was able to take the opportunity to complete The Last Of Us but this time around I think I’ll start by getting caught up with my blogging.

I spent the first few hours playing Uncharted 4 taking screenshots of everything. This is the first PS4 exclusive game that I’ve played on my PS4 and it looks fantastic.  It took awhile but eventually the ‘Wow’ wore off enough for me to focus on playing like I would any other Uncharted game.

CjfnAA1UYAEiuje

Don’t Sneeze!

Being a long-time fan I already knew the drill and I set myself up with a spoiler-free walkthrough that detailed all of the hidden treasure locations.  I played all three of the previous game without the assistance of a walkthrough and each time I regretted it.  The hidden treasures are squirreled away pretty deep in some cases and I’d rather be experiencing the story than exploring every nook.

One of the things that really stood out for me was the bantering.  Characters engage in bantering with each other and it comes off as perfectly natural.  I never observed any ‘repeat’ conversations – I can’t imagine how much voice work must have been recorded to make this game possible.

CjfMp2RVEAE8jkf

Lots of back-seat driver banter through this section…

The game plays exactly like the predecessors, with the notable exception of rope/vine swinging mechanics.  I thought that I’d enjoy the vine mechanics more but in practice I didn’t find a lot of opportunities where it made much of a difference.  I usually went with my go-to strategy of charging down my enemies with guns-a-blazing.

So, how does the game rank in the grand scheme?  I’ve really enjoyed every single Uncharted game but when I think back on previous titles I think I enjoyed them all for different reasons.  The original Uncharted had a small cast while later games had much more cast members with seriously over-the-top action sequences.  I think Uncharted 4 manages to recapture some of that small cast vibe while still including great action.  Thinking back on the games I think that Uncharted 4 may be my new favorite.  Here’s my official ranking, if you’re keeping score:

  1. Uncharted 4
  2. Uncharted 2
  3. Uncharted & Uncharted : Golden Abyss (Tie)
  4. Uncharted 3

The game is too violent to let the kids watch but sometimes I let them sit in the room with me between action scenes.  Some of the language in the bantering sections could get questionable but the kids didn’t seem to have noticed.  Whenever bullets started flying I’d kick the kids out of the room.

CkIrKwwUYAAceEl

Sometimes you’ve gotta push a wagon.

Occasionally my wife wandered in while I was playing and she seemed at least somewhat interested in the story.  The storytelling is one of the elements that has elevated the Uncharted games above other similar games.  This game continues the tradition, and being Nathan Drake’s last outing they take every opportunity to please long time fans in every way.

I didn’t purchase this game – I borrowed it from a colleague.  This game is a lot of fun and I can see myself plaything through it again but it’ll have to wait until I have access to another copy!

Is it fun: Yes
Score: 9/10
Length:  20 hours
System: Playstation 4
Genre: Action / Third-Person Shooter

Dead Space 2

Dead-Space-2_LIMITED_US_ESRB_PS3Date Completed: May 9th, 2016

I pre-ordered Dead Space 2 because the PS3 ‘Limited Edition’ included a free copy of Dead Space Extraction and I was lead to believe that supply of ‘Limited Edition’ versions would be ‘Limited’.  According to Wikipedia launch date was January 25th, 2011 so I’ve been sitting on this game for over 5 years.  The current price on eBay for the ‘Limited’ version is between 5-10 dollars, or roughly a 92% discount.  Since performing this calculation I’ve been wondering what kinds of things my 2011 self would have done with that money if I’d waited to buy the game until I was ready to play it.  I think the honest answer is that I would have blown it all on some random junk on eBay and my life wouldn’t be any different than it is now but I suppose we’ll never know for sure.

Unfortunately the release of the Dead Space games coincided with the arrival of children in the family so I’ve been unable to play Mature games with any regularity for many years now.  I played Dead Space 2 in short spurts for over 5 months sneaking time whenever my wife went to bed early or the kids happened to be elsewhere.  Most sessions were about an hour long which was usually enough to complete a chapter (of which there are 15) although some chapters took longer.

I don’t play many games that are especially gory so I was a bit shocked at first when I started the game.  When your main character dies the animation is as horrifying as possible.  Rarely if ever was my head still attached to my body after an encounter with necromorphs (Space Zombies).  Some of the evil space zombies cause you to vomit yourself to death, detonate your body into half-a-dozen pieces or simply impale you multiple times just for the fun of it.  I was a bit uncomfortable with the level of gore at first but eventually I became desensitized and began to find the extended death scenes more irritating that horrifying.  I died A LOT and some of the death animations are quite long.  If I suspected that I was on a collision course with a lengthy death animation scene I would often find a way to kill myself quickly so I wouldn’t be forced to see myself slowly mutilated.

I was constantly out of ammo and health through the entire game.  In one memorable scene I had 4 bullets to kill six enemies and no way to restore an earlier save point.  Getting through this section alone may have doubled my total play time.  After slogging through about half the game I resorted to using a walkthrough so I could find all of the hidden diamond semi-conductors ($$$) and buy some ammo.

Dead Space 2’s gameplay isn’t particularly unique or mind blowing but it is fun.  What I’ve always enjoyed most about this series is how your character appears to be going slowly insane while plowing through a story full of wacky cultists and space zombies.  Dead Space 2 builds on the story of the first game in a very satisfying way and while I don’t consider this to be one of my ‘go-to’ genres I really enjoyed the game.

The last thing I want to mention is that I think I triggered a bug in the final shootout and somehow managed to beat the game when I should have died.  I replayed that last battle many, many times because I rushed the last chapter and didn’t have enough health or ammo left at the end of it to make a decent go of it.  I decided one more try and then I’d give up for the night and re-load my previous save and then something weird happened and suddenly the credits were rolling.  It may not be the normal way to beat the game, but I’ll take it!

Is it fun: Yes
Score: 8/10
Length:  18 hours
System: Playstation 3
Genre: Third-Person Shooter

 

Mega Man 9

Megaman9coverDate Completed: July 28th, 2016

I don’t remember when Mega Man 9 came out but I do remember that it came out before trophies were a requirement for the PS3 and it did not support them.  I had hopes that they might be patched in after the fact but that never materialized.

I’ve played enough Mega Man games to know how they play out but this one is different.  IT IS HARD!  All Mega Man games are challenging but this one seemed to be unusually unforgiving.  I played the game all the way to Dr. Wily’s stage and eventually I got to a part that I couldn’t get past no matter how hard I tried.  Being stuck is no fun, so I took a half-decade break from my save game.

My two sons have been getting interested in Mega Man games.  All of the previous 6 NES titles still hold up as fantastic games and I was surprised to see that my younger son was even able to play his way to some of the bosses.  My older boy purchased the Mega Man Collection for his 2DS and my younger son has been playing Mega Man virtual console releases wherever he can.  With all of the Mega Manning going on in the house I decided that maybe it was time to go back to my old save file and finally finish the game.

I had forgotten everything about Mega Man 9 in the several years since I had played it, fortunately YouTube walkthroughs quickly reacquainted me with all the tricks I needed to get past the parts that I had been stuck on in the past.  It took a few tries (and a lot of energy tanks) but success!  I finally righted a great wrong and my save file is no longer incomplete.

When I first bought the game my brother-in-law once remarked that ‘they’ should make more games like the classic NES games that we all know and love.  I’m happy to say that in the years since we’ve seen lots of classically styled games get released and classic gaming has a bright future ahead of it.

Is it fun: Yes
Score: 8/10
Length:  ??
System: Playstation 3
Genre: Action

Animal Crossing : New Leaf

animal_crossing_new_leaf_box_art_north_americaDate Completed: 11/25/2013

You may have already noticed that this review is being published two and a half years late.  I generally don’t write a review until I’ve gone through the process of ‘retiring a game’ which involves placing it back into it’s packaging and either listing it on eBay or placing it on my “I might want to play it again but probably won’t but I will keep it anyway” shelf.  In the case of Animal Crossing I never retired the game because the game never ends.  I’ve checked in to my town a few times but I haven’t played the game regularly in awhile now and I think it’s finally time to do my write-up.

I bought my wife a copy of the predecessor of Animal Crossing : New Leaf (known as Animal Crossing : Wild World) before I heard that New Leaf was going to be a thing.  I thought it was the kind of game my wife would enjoy  and as it turns out she really did get into it and I was surprised to find I sort of enjoyed watching her play it.  A few months later I heard that a 3DS update to Animal Crossing was coming so as soon as it came out I bought my wife a copy.  I never intended to purchase a copy for myself but I noticed that everyone I met on Streetpass had been playing Animal Crossing.  Various video gaming news sites were also publishing vast amounts of Animal Crossing propaganda and I eventually caved and bought myself a copy as well.

HNI_0097

My house may resemble a gothic cathedral. 

My wife wasn’t emotionally ready to leave her old town behind so I ended up starting in on New Leaf first.  As I’ve mentioned numerous times before anything Norse related is automatically awesome.  I decided to make my town as ‘Norsey’ ( May Thor forgive me for using that word) as possible.   I named my town ‘Alfheim’ after the home of the Light Elves in Norse mythology and I designed my town flag to look like a Viking longboat.

HNI_0005

My town flag

After arriving in town and being installed as the new Mayor you are free to pursue any activity you want.  You can go fishing, dig for fossils, collect bugs, plant orchards, commission buildings, decorate your home or engage in various other activities that the average person wouldn’t expect to be fun.  It would take a lifetime to describe all the activities so I won’t do that here.  The one I engaged in most was bug hunting on Tortimer’s Island because that was the quickest way to earn massive amounts of Bells (which is the in-game currency of Animal Crossing).

HNI_0001

My wife and I during a visit she made to my city. 

Once you’ve fully upgraded your house and paid off your home loan there really isn’t anything specific left to do in the game.  You can continue to develop your town as you see fit but after putting countless hours into the game I finally just phased it out of the gaming rotation.

HNI_0006

Based on my actual T-Shirt.  I’m so creative.

Animal Crossing was a surprise to me and I think it was worth the experience.  It’s not the kind of game I usually enjoy but it’s well done and very ‘Nintendo-ey’ in execution.  The game oozes adorable charm out of every orifice and I wholeheartedly recommend it.

HNI_0098

Relaxing in the town square.

Is it fun: Yes
Score: 8/10
Length:  ?? (lots) hours
System: Nintendo 3DS
Genre: Simulation