Starfox Zero, given that I've beaten 24 hours after it arrived at my house, is not a long game. It is, however, a very GOOD game. I know that Nintendo fans have been a bit divided on the game since it's reveal, but I'm a huge fan of this game. It's basically halfway a remake of Starfox 64 and halfway a full reboot of the series.
One of the cool things about the game is that you have some vehicle diversity. You, of course, start with the Arwing which can transform into a sort of AT-ST looking thing (although it moves much faster than the Empire's chicken walker). You've also got your iconic Landmaster tank which can transform into a...flying...tank...thing? I don't know, but it's nifty. Lastly, you've got a helichopper sort of thing. I'm bad with name. BUT, putting aside my inability to remember names, the vehicle diversity gives the game some solid diversity.
The game is set up much like Starfox 64 - depending on how you play through a mission, your path through the game will change. It also has come cool (albeit useless) amiibo functionality. Scanning a Fox amiibo will change your vehicle into the "Retro Arwing" which looks like the original Starfox's polygon ship. Scanning a Falco amiibo will change your vehicle into the "Black Arwing" which looks like sex.
Part of what will be divisive for players, I think, is the motion control. You control your Arwing primarily with the gamepad for maneuvering and firing, but your big screen aim is like aiming a shotgun at distance - it's kind of okay, but you won't hit much. For precision aiming, you need to look at the gamepad and move the crosshair by moving the gamepad. I really like it (even if I wasn't very good at it), but I suspect that for many, that alone will be a complete turn off for the game. You can, as I discovered while fighting the last boss, switch it so that the cockpit view is on the TV and the third person view is on the gamepad, an orientation I much preferred.
My only major gripe is with the way they tried to make it more approachable. Instead of having regular difficulty settings, the whole game has a set difficulty, and when you fail a mission three times, it gives you invincibility. I mean, Nintendo has done it that way in numerous games before, but I'm personally not a fan of it; I'd rather have a regular difficulty setting because those last couple stages kicked my ass up and down the street, but I didn't want to straight up god-mode it. Oh well. Minor gripe in the grand scheme of things.
Also, I wish it had some online gameplay, but that's an EXTREMELY minor gripe IMO.
My Rating - 3 Neps
I'm probably one of the few Playstation owners who has never played any of the Ratchet and Clank games. I've seen my friends play them when I was in high school and the first one or two came out on the Playstation 2. I always knew I'd like the games, and I always intended to get them and play them at some point, but up until this new release, I'd never gotten around to it.
Holy sweet baby Jesus, though, this game is freaking amazing. Like, I don't know how it compares to the original game, but for someone who's never played a game in the series before, this game is damn amazing. It's beautiful, and it runs extremely smoothly. It's one of the few games that I went out of my way to do the extra stuff. I went out and found all 28 golden bolts, and I found all 9 RYNO cards. I actually managed to find all of the RYNO cards on my own, and I only needed a guide to find three or four of the golden bolts. Truth be told, I'll probably play some more tonight in Challenge Mode and try to level up and upgrade my weapons.
I know I'm super Captain Late to the Game with the Ratchet and Clank series, but srsly, if any of you PS4 owners haven't played this game yet, JUST DO IT. It's cheap for a new retail game, too - only $40 at launch as opposed to $60.
My Rating - 4 Neps
I'm sure most long-time gamers have played a Fire Emblem game at some point, so I'm gonna cut to the chase here. Revelation is the third path of Fire Emblem: Fates and the "true" path for the story. It's also only available via download as DLC rather than a stand-alone physical game like Birthright and Conquest (damn it, Nintendo, I wanted three separate game cards!).
Without spoiling anything, you refuse to side with either Hoshido or Nohr, instead stubbornly insisting on winning the trust and support of both kingdoms' royal siblings to form NATO a grand alliance to fight the evil forces of the Warsaw Pact a mysterious hidden enemy.
In terms of difficulty, this was the Goldilocks path; Birthright was way too easy, Conquest was way too ball-bustingly difficult, but Revelation is just right. Except the Endgame chapter. That map abused me in ways unfit to discuss in good company. The story is pretty rock solid, too, and with both royal families as well as certain things I won't mention that you don't discover until towards the end of the game, there are lots of opportunities for glorious incest waifus and husbandos.
I, personally, don't think Fates was as good a game overall as Awakening, but it is a damn good entry for the series and totally worth playing for fans of SRPGs. If you have all three paths on one card (either through the super-rare limited edition or buying the other two as DLC), you get special "path bonuses" including items that let you turn units into either a Dread Fighter or Dark Falcon (I think that was what it was called; super awesome black pegasus rider). Using the Dread Fighter item is, as a side note, the only way I found to make Mozu useful, but dear sweet baby Jesus, she will absolutely REK your enemies if you make her a Dread Fighter and level her up.
My Rating - 4 Neps
Also available on Windows
This is a game that I feel the need to share with the world. Take the following review as a cautionary tale so that you don't make the same agonizingly painful mistake that I did. This is as much a warning as an actual review. Now I've played a lot of video games in my life, and a great number of those have been exceptionally poor quality. This game, however...Chasing Dead for Wii U is, without a doubt or the slightest hyperbole, the worst game I have ever played.
Let me start with how I came to possess the download for this game. Roughly a month ago, I saw a write up on NintendoLife about it. A horror/sci-fi shooter with zombies and robotic drones and mysterious soldiers that's exclusive to Wii U? Hell yeah, man, count me in. So I downloaded on Day 1. It was a $30 download, so I figured that I was in for a decent length, decent quality adventure. Dear God, was I mistaken about that. The game is complete shit, and it only took me roughly 4, maybe 4 and a half hours to finish. I also found out that, a few weeks after launch, the eShop price dropped from $30 to $10. #SaltinessIntensifies
The story involves “another Earth” that appears in sky about 1,000,000 miles away and a lost scout team that was sent to research the mysterious planet. Your guy – a random cybernetic soldier with not real backstory provided – is sent to discover the fate of the scout team and, if possible, rescue any survivors. Then oh no, random zombies…on an airplane. Because apparently Boeing retrofitted their 747s to be spaceworthy, I guess? You’re never really told why there are zombies, or why mysterious masked soldiers start shooting at you later, or why flying drones and attack helicopters start shooting at you either. But there are plenty of great games with shit stories. Just look at No More Heroes. What makes this so bad?
The first thing that becomes apparent is that the acting is worse than a high school play. The life-action cut scenes in Chasing Dead makes the early and mid 90s FMV games look like performances by Patrick Stewart and Kevin Spacey. The actors would deviate from the subtitles, at times cutting out entire lines or hastily adding in a skipped part last minute. You can clearly see them looking down at a script to read their lines, and the delivery is less convincing than when my students say “Mr. Deck, I wasn’t cheating, I swear!”
Ignore the "Quick Look" bubbles; I pulled the image from Google, and that's the best one I could find of the "acting."
Visually, the game looks like an upscaled Playstation 2 game. Think back to Resistance: Fall of Man, and that’s roughly how the game’s visuals are. The guns look okay, and your character’s arm doesn’t look bad, but it’s mostly just sloppy textures and uninspired designs. That’s not the biggest complaint I have with the visuals because I don’t really care too too much about graphical fidelity in a game. The biggest complaint I have is just…stupid. I honestly have no idea why they did this. The gun models are not even remotely close to what they’re supposed to look like. The AK-47 is clearly an M4. The M4 is clearly an M-16. The MP5 is some M4 variant with binoculars strapped to it. The flamethrower is….I don’t even know, man. It looks like a plasma gun or something. It’s bizarre.
That's an MP5, apparently.
The game’s biggest sin, by far, is its performance. It’s no secret that the Wii U isn’t a robust piece of hardware when compared to the Playstation 4 or the Xbox One, but it’s not exactly a toaster oven, and this game could probably have been run by the original Xbox. If the game looks like a potato, then you’d expect it to run fairly well, right? Wrong. Super wrong. More wrong than Donald Trump’s creepy crush on his daughter. The game varied from about 5 fps to 20 fps. I’m not kidding. A first person shooter with a single digit frame rate.
Oh, but if only that were the game’s only performance sin. The game is a broken mess all around. This game is FAR more broken than Sonic Boom BEFORE the 1.2 GB patch. Take this little anecdote, for example. I had a sniper rifle (which had like a 2x zoom – that’s it), so I was like “Hey, I’ll get on the roof of this building to get a better vantage point.” Nope. I fell through the roof. There was no hole or anything in the roof; I just fell through. No problem, I’ll just go out the door. Right? Wrong. The door won’t open. It’s just aesthetic. I had to reload to the previous checkpoint because I couldn’t get out of the damn house. On three separate occasions, the game crashed. I’ve had a few games on my Wii U freeze, forcing me to hard reset the system, but that’s not what happened here. The Wii U was still completely responsive. I could open up the home menu without so much as a stutter. The game, however, had completely crashed, complete with error message telling me to eject the (non-existent) disc. Three times this happened, and always at the transition between the end of one level and the start of the next but BEFORE it saved my progress, forcing me to redo the 20 minute or so level.
And then there’s the jeep driving. Imagine the Mako from Mass Effect. Now imagine that but 10 times harder to drive. That’s how driving this damn jeep feels. It’s almost completely impossible to drive, but like the Mako, it can drive pretty much straight vertical. So I thought to myself, “I’ll drive up to the top of this little mountain and look around to see if I can find my next objective.” Well, even if the draw distance were more than six inches and allowed that, the planet had other ideas. At random times, my jeep’s wheels would get stuck in the rock, and I’d be forced to try to shimmy my way out of a non-existent crack which would usually cause me to spend at least 30 seconds spinning my jeep on its nose until it decided to jump out of the mountain and fall back to the ground on its wheels. Then I would say "Screw it, I'll walk," get out of the jeep to go on foot, and my legs would get stuck in the rock. It was bullshit.
Then there's this boss ripped straight from Attack on Titan that throws tanks at you. He legit throws tanks and jeeps at you.
From what I've heard, the Steam version is better, and they're supposedly porting it to PS4. The Wii U version, however, is just unacceptably bad. Do NOT buy this game. This a complete waste of money. I thought Meme Run or The Letter was the worst game on the Wii U eShop. I was wrong; it's Chasing Dead.
My Rating - 1 Nep
Also available in arcades
Akai Katana was one of my numerous impulse buys inspired by by buddy Fragem's Amazon Warehouse Deals post, but Geebus Kryst, it's fantastic. Because the game is so short, however, this review will also be pretty short. It's a horizontally scrolling bullet hell shooter, and it's surprisingly good. It's not the most challenging - it's extremely approachable and beginner friendly - but it's a lot of fun to play. It's got pretty easily recognizable shot patterns, and your ship/plane/person has a circle in the middle to show you exactly what part of the character model actually counts as the hit box, making it easier to weave in between the shots. Not difficult, and not long - only took me about 45 minutes to play through - but lots of fun. Highly recommended.
My Rating - 4 Neps
Otomedius Excellent is a Konami shooter based on their venerable Gradius series. As this is another very short game, this will be another short review. This is the third game in the series, so it's clearly got a number of fans, but I'm definitely not among them. It's an extremely slow paced shooter, especially when compared to a faster paced 360 shooter like Akai Katana, and your ship's firing speed is EXCRUCIATINGLY slow until you get a couple power-ups. It's not that it's a bad game by any means, and I love the super ecchi anime art style, but the gameplay is definitely not my cup of tea.
My Rating - 2 Neps
This is it. The moment that I'm pretending you've all been waiting for - my honest and unbiased review of Sonic Boom. "Elkin, why would you play such a piss poor terrible game?" Good question, random reader. Why would I subject myself to this? It's quite simple, really; my rule is that you can't judge a game until you play it. I also was genuinely curious. The Internet says that it's the worst thing to happen to humanity since the Holocaust, but it also said the same thing about Duke Nukem Forever and Devil's Third, and I legitimately enjoyed both games (even if for mindless Steven Segal-esque violence). Would Sonic Boom be a similar story? Would I enjoy it despite the Internet's persecution of the game? Well, yes and no.
Sonic Boom is a tragic tale of missed potential and identity crisis. Let me address the latter first. "Identity crisis" was my big gripe about Sonic Lost World; it didn't know if it wanted to be a 2D platformer or a 3D platformer. Sonic Boom is like that on steroids. Part of it is a 2D platformer. Part of it is a 3D platformer. Part of it is a puzzle game. Part of it is a beat-em-up. Part of it is an awkward rail shooter. Because it tries to do everything, it ends up doing nothing well. I've never been a fan of 3D Sonic games (I haven't played them all, but from what I have played, I just feel like he works better in 2D), so I wasn't crazy about that, but I expected it. The 2D parts were good enough and definitely constituted my favorite part of the game. The rail shooter segments were extremely few and far between, but they played a little like a bad Space Harrier in terms of controls. The beat-em-up element, while the closest thing to a redeeming element for a lot of people, was actually my least favorite part. It just felt clunky and unpolished with extremely shoddy hit detection.
Now what do I mean by missed potential? Truth be told, there's a good game buried beneath the unmitigated disaster that is Rise of Lyric. There truly is. The problem is that it's a broken mess riddled with endless bugs, and that's AFTER a 1.2 GB update. This truly could have been a good Sonic game, even with its inability to figure out what kind of game it wants to be, if it actually worked. As it is, though, it just...doesn't. You randomly fall through platforms. Certain mandatory flags don't trigger unless you step on the EXACT spot it wants you to, and some don't trigger at all unless you close the game and reload it, causing you wander aimlessly until you think to try that. Other times it DOES load what you're supposed to do, but because the game gives you zero instruction on a certain mechanic or environmental object's purpose, you THINK that it's glitched again and get pissed off and throw your phone across the room, almost smacking your friend in the face with it (sorry Paul).
The frame rate is also....atrocious. It's legitimately unacceptable. I know that the Wii U's hardware is underpowered compared to its peers, but Sonic Boom isn't exactly pushing the limits of graphics, and the game still drops to single digit frame rates in certain places. The thing is, though, I didn't notice frame rate drops in battles. It would be when I'm just walking or something, and usually at a specific place. I'd walk through one doorway, and it would be a fine 30 fps before I walked through the door, but EVERY single time I walked through, the game would stutter. Characters will also just randomly appear from the ether. I'm casually strolling to my next objective (because Sonic doesn't run in this game except in certain 2D places and when he becomes Jesus and runs across water, also only at certain places), and it's like "Oh, okay, it's raining pink hedgehogs and red echidnae."
Speaking of Knuckles, this game butchered his character. I mean, they straight up murdered it. As I'm sure most of you are aware by now, Sonic Boom portrays Knuckles as a fairly happy-go-lucky guy with an IQ of approximately 6. Now I've only played through about half of the Sonic series, so correct me if I'm wrong, but I've always thought Knuckles to be a pretty bright guy, even if a bit stubborn and impatient. Certainly not so stupid that he literally doesn't know right from left (that's in one of the first cut scenes in the game). Given that Knuckles has been my favorite Sonic character since I was little kid, that REALLY bothers me.
I'm not lying when I say that Sonic Boom was almost a good game. I haven't played the 3DS game, so I can't compare the two, but it really was almost good. If it just...worked. The fact that the game IS an insanely broken mess is a real tragedy because, even with the meh story and ruined characterizations, the game's legitimately fun the few times it actually works like it's supposed to. If you're a big Sonic fan and can find the game for less than $10, it might be worth picking up just to add to your collection and experience once, but even though it's not as bad as the Internet makes it out to be, it's still pretty damn horrible. Not the WORST game ever made, but still a solid 1 Nep out of 5.
My Rating - 1 Nep
Also available on Windows
Quantum Break is a unique game that attempts to bridge the gap between video game and television series, and it does it in a very unique way. Now at first, I was really unsure how I felt about this. If I want to watch TV, I'll watch TV; if I'm playing a video game, it's because I want to play a video game. Right? But the more I played the game, the more I started to warm up to the idea.
The basics of the plot are that you help an old friend of yours with an experiment involving temporal manipulation, but you guys *accidentally* tear a whole in space-time. Big, evil corporation paramilitary guys show up and try to kill you, drama ensues, bang bang third person shooter. What makes this more than just a generic third person shooter is the time manipulation powers you get from being exposed to the magical time radiation. You can do stuff like reverse time in a localized place (only in certain situations, not in battle), freeze a specific enemy, create a temporal "shield" to catch bullets, freeze time and move around the battlefield briefly, et cetera; and certain parts of the game take place in "stutters" where time has stopped but, because of your exposure to magical time radiation, you can still move around. Basically Life is Strange plus guns minus adorable main character.
The game is broken into five acts, each one roughly 60 to 90 minutes long where you play as Jack Joyce, the game's protagonist. After each act, you have a "Junction" where you play as Paul Serene, the game's antagonist, for maybe 10 minutes and make a choice. That's where the cool stuff comes in. The choice you make will affect the rest of the game dramatically. After each Junction is a 30 minute or so episode of an actual live-action show, and the episode that you see depends on the choices you made during the Junction, and some of the minor scenes may be included or excluded based on extra story events and items that you find during the levels. It takes the "Your actions affect the rest of the game" concept and crank it up to 11.
That's the part that I wasn't sure how I felt about at first - the episodes. Don't get me wrong, it's super cool. It just felt a little disjointed at first. I'd spent over an hour playing this pretty solid third person shooter in some fairly high action fights, and then I'd spend half an hour watching a TV show. Then I'd spend another hour-and-some-change playing. As the story gets going, though, you get so wrapped up in the plot that it becomes REALLY cool to see your decisions in the game affect what live action performance you're shown. It's certainly not going to be to everyone's taste, but I definitely applaud the developers for trying something different and, in my opinion, doing it quite well.
Now the game's not perfect. I've got a couple of major gripes. The game runs in 720p at 30 FPS. Normally that wouldn't be a big deal - I'm not a graphics whore - but for a machine that Microsoft brags about being so ridonkulously powerful, I feel like it should do better, and based on other Xbox One games I've played, I think it could have if the developers were more skilled with coding for the console. That's just a minor complaint, though; my big grip is with plot holes.
Either I'm an idiot, or there are a couple of REALLY big things left unexplained. I'm not talking like the end of Star Trek: Nemesis where we're all left wondering "Is Data really dead, or can they bring him back?" I'm talking like you watch Khan explode in the USS Reliant and then see him as a belly dancer on Risa three movies later. Like, how even? That level of plot hole. There's only one or two of those, though. The biggest plot gripe I have is a personal one that many may find frivolous - they did the bullshit end on a cliffhanger to set up a sequel crap. I HATE that stuff. Tell your damn story, and finish your damn story. If it sells well enough to warrant a sequel, write a new damn story. Don't leave me on a cliffhanger assuming I'll give a damn about what happens next.
Now what might be a big complaint for some people but didn't bother me is the length. Even including the live action parts, the game is only roughly 10 hours long. That's only about 8 hours or so of gameplay. I, personally, prefer a game tell its story in however long it takes and not extend that artificially just for the sake of having a longer game. Then again, I loved The Order: 1886 for the same reason - it did what it came to do in the time it took to do it, and it didn't needlessly drag it out. Some people will say - and I totally understand the feeling - that a game that costs $60 should provide more than a few short hours of entertainment. You're not wrong. However, given the huge replay value that the story branches give it, Quantum Break more than makes up for the length IMO.
If you're really into temporal sci-fi, check this game out. If you're a TV buff, check this game out. If you want an excuse to dust off the Xbox One since you play all of your multiplats on PS4 since it runs them better, check this one out. It's not a masterpiece, and I'd suggest waiting until the price drops to $40, but I enjoyed this one.
Also as a side note, if you have the game installed on your Xbox One, you can download the 78 GB or so "episode pack" that has all of the television parts if you just want to watch them each without replaying through a game a bunch of times. Not sure how it works on the PC version.
My Rating - 3 Neps
Given that the demo for Bravely Second is a separate story and independent (albeit short) game, I'm counting it here. Basically this serves to get you ready for Bravely Second and, for those of us who played Bravely Default when it first came out years ago, remind you of the game mechanics and controls.
The demo's story follows three of Pope Anges's cavaliers - Yew, Janne, and Nikolai. There have been reports of mysterious goings-on near the Temple of Wind, so Anges sends these three cavaliers to investigate the situation. Along the way, they meet a super adorable French moon alien named Magnolia.
If you've played Bravely Default, then you know exactly what to expect. It's basically your typical JRPG but with the "Brave" and "Default" mechanics adding a twist to the game. Each turn, your characters gain one BP, and you can store up to a maximum of 3. If you choose to "Default" (it's really just guard), you can gain an extra BP that turn as well as take less damage from enemy attacks that turn. With the exception of certain special attacks, every action takes one BP. You can also choose to "Brave" up to four times, however, which uses an extra BP but allows you to take an extra action. It's important to know, also, that you can run a deficit of up to -4 BP, but if you go into negatives, you can't take any action until you get back to 0.
So, for example, let's say you Default three turns until you start a turn with 3 BP. You can Brave four times and make four attacks that turn. You'll end the turn with -1 BP, so you'll be able to attack again the next turn since you'll be back at 0. You could also, however, Brave four times at the very start of the battle and attack four times on your first turn, but you'll end the turn with -4 BP, so you wouldn't be able to do anything for three turns. If you did that with all four characters, you could attack 16 times in the first turn, but it's a gamble. If you can beat every enemy in that turn, you're good because your BP reset to 0 after the battle. If an enemy is left, however, all four of your characters become defenseless punching bags for the next three turns.
The last risk-vs-reward battle quirk that I REALLY love for grinding is the option to chain battles. If you end a battle in one turn, you can choose to fight a follow-up battle immediately for boosted experience. Every time you do this, the percentage boost increases. Two battles nets you 1.5x, the third gets you 1.8x, then 2x, 2.2x, 2.4x, 2.6x, 2.8x, and 2.9x before maxing out at 3x. When you finally end your chain, either by choice or by being unable to finish a battle in one turn, the gold, exp, and job xp earned from your battles are totaled and then multiplied by whatever multiplier you earned. Doing this, setting the battle speed to 4x, and setting it to autobattle, it's really easy to grind while doing something else, even on weak enemies since the multiplier increases the exp earned.
If you're on the fence about Bravely Second or haven't played the first one and wonder if you'd enjoy it, give this demo a download and play through it. Even taking your time with it and trying to complete everything, it won't take you more than 10 hours, and it's a self-contained story, so you don't have to worry about being confused with what's going on if you haven't played the first game.
My Rating - 4 Neps
Also available on PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360
Alien April - Second Game Sunday Edition! Well, mainly they're all short games - like the first two, Alien Breed 3 only took five hours to beat. I'm foregoing pictures again since, like Alien Breed 2, the gameplay and graphics of Alien Breed 3 are completely identical to the first game.
Like the second game, the pistol, assault rifle, shotgun, and flamethrower return, but the last two weapons change again. This time you get a gun that shoots an electric bolt and a gun called "Project X" that shoots what I can only describe as a sphere of energy that explodes on contact with a powerful AoE shockwave.
There's a lot to be said for the philosophy of "If it ain't broke, don't fix it," but there's also the fact that you can have too much of a good thing. Really, this should have been a single 15 hour game instead of three 5 hour games. Each one plays EXACTLY the same, and they all look EXACTLY the same. Now, don't get me wrong, the trilogy is totally worth playing, but by the time you get to the third one, you can't help but start seeing it as a money grab rather than a "series" (which makes sense; 2 was released nine months after 1, and 3 was released two months after 2). At least they're relatively cheap, and I'm sure they'll be on sale this summer (isn't everything on Steam?).
My one big gripe with this game is the ending. The final boss, while difficulty enough to be worth of a final boss battle IMO, was anticlimactic. You only very indirectly fight the main antagonist, and there's not much real "resolution." They leave the door open for an Alien Breed 4, though we're more than five years past the release of the trilogy with no mention of a planned fourth game.
I'm going to cut it off here since the third game is just more of the first two, but if you're a fan of arcade shooters and aliens, do put this on your wishlist and check it out. There are definitely worse ways to spend 15 hours killing aliens for $23.
My Rating - 3 Neps
I'm Mr. Deck
And I like to play video games. I like to collect video games. I like to talk about video games, and I like to write about video games. During the day, I teach history at a high school in central North Carolina; during the night, I spend my spare time gaming. Then I write about it.