Yoshi's New Island (3DS)
Let me be up front with this because it may be an unpopular opinion, and it shades my opinion this game - I absolutely detest Baby Mario. And Baby Luigi. And Bowser Jr. And really pretty much any infant character.
Now with that out of the way, this game was...okay. Not bad by any means, but it just felt kind of lackluster to me. A better title, perhaps, would have been Yoshi's Sort of Average I Guess Island. Maybe my expectations were too high since I beat the STELLAR Yoshi's Woolly World back at Thanksgiving, but I was just not impressed with this game. It also didn't help that Baby Mario kept fucking crying every goddamn time one of my pixels touched one of an enemy's pixels.
This is all you're good for, Baby Mario.
Let me be fair, though. It's a really solid platformer. The problem is that it doesn't really feel like it has a "thing." You know? Like, every really great game as a "thing." Wind Waker's thing was the cell shading. Skyward Sword's thing was functional motion controls. Super Mario Galaxy's thing was the gravity based puzzles. Yoshi's Woolly World thing was having as many costumes as Larry King has had wives. Yoshi's New Island's thing was being remarkably average in absolutely every way.
The art style, while not captivating enough to count as a thing in my book, is pretty and well done. It has a very nice almost hand drawn looking aesthetic about it. It's a very subtle but very fitting look.
Some of the puzzles are really good, but by and large, the game is a cake walk. I also HATED the way they implemented Bitch Mode. In Yoshi's Woolly World, it was a legit mode; you paused the game and pressed Minus to toggle between Normal Mode and Mellow Mode (Bitch Mode). In this game, after you die a couple times, a pipe spits out a wing power-up that actives Bitch Mode. Normally that would be fine, whatever, but I'm impatient, so on the last level, I hit a spot where some careless jumps kept landing me in lava, so I was like "I'M GOING TO BEAT THIS DAMN LEVEL" and start going as soon as I spawn. Well, I didn't realize that I had hit the "Activate Bitch Mode" number of deaths, and I accidentally ran straight into those wings. The only way to turn it off would have been to restart the level, and I was about 75% of the way through it. Ain't nobody got time fo' dat. So I finish the level on Bitch Mode, whatever, I was bored of the game anyway. Turns out that there's a bonus world or some shit if you beat every level without using the wings. Well, looks like I'm never seeing that because I don't care NEARLY enough to go back and play that game again.
So in summary, Yoshi's New Island is not a bad game by any means, and since it's one of the recent Nintendo Selects, it's worth picking up if you can find it cheap used, especially if you're a fan of the Yoshi series/sub-series. Just don't go into it expecting a masterpiece. It's a nice way to kill some time, but it's not one of Nintendo's better platformers.
My Rating - 3 Neps
The Division (PlayStation 4)
Also available on Xbox One and Windows
Thanks to some help from my buddy Fragems (okay, a LOT of help), I finished The Division's storyline tonight. I feel about The Division a lot the way I felt about Destiny because in a lot of ways, The Division is pretty much Destiny with a smaller budget and a modern setting as opposed to a future sci-fi setting. When I first got the game and started playing it, I thought "Golly gee, this game is swell!" Well, that's what 1950's middle class me would have thought, anyway, but you get the idea. It was super cool. Pseudo-MMO open world post-apocalyptic New York? Heck yes, sign me up.
Then I started playing it more (I sank around, I think 21 hours into the game), and my opinion of the game started to change. Individual missions are interesting, but the overarching plot line is paper thing and horribly disjointed. The larger narrative that these various story missions try to weave is uninspired and uninteresting, and that's really a shame as the game had a lot of potential for great storytelling. I mean, civilization is pushed to the brink of extinction because of a genetically enhanced strain of smallpox. That's some GREAT potential. Unfortunately, the story feels as poorly written and shoehorned in as most recent Call of Duty games (with the exception of Black Ops III).
Not only is the plot paper thin and mostly nonsense, but the game provides very little context in the way of backstory, and what context is given is done through intel reports scattered across the map that you have to find and read. To a certain extent, that's not a bad thing - Fallout and Elder Scrolls establish lore through random text scattered across the world. Fallout and Elder Scrolls do that to build upon the lore and narrative that the game's missions/quests tell, though; The Division does that to establish the background of the story that the missions attempt to tell, and I have a problem with that.
While I'm ripping the game's storytelling to shreds, let's talk about characterization. There isn't any. There are like four or five legitimate characters in the entire game, and by the end of the game, you feel zero attachment to or interest in any of them. They're completely static and flat. No character growth, no character interaction, just different voices telling you things that you probably don't care about when you start and finish a mission. Most of the NPCs in the game barely even count as characters in my book.
Stepping aside from the narrative (or lack thereof), there are some technical gripes I have. I understand that online open world games are a technical challenge, and Ubisoft in general has never had a knack for releasing functional games, but I shouldn't be walking down the street and have five enemies appear out of thin air around me and gang rape me with shotguns before I even realize that they've materialized out of the ether. If your game is touted as a fully online multiplayer experience that requires a constant internet connection, I shouldn't have to wait a full three to five minutes just to connect. It normally only takes 60 seconds or so, but I've waited five solid minutes before I managed to connect to the servers. I get kicked off randomly from time to time, the in-game party chat jumps back and forth between functional and randomly broken more than Hillary Clinton jumps between positions, and the level scaling is as broken as the entirety of Sonic Boom.
To give an example of how FUBAR the level scaling is, I'll tell you what happened when Fragems and I teamed up last week. I was level 13ish, and he was level 30 (the max level). We were in an area that's supposed to have enemies between levels three and five. A bit of level scaling makes sense, right? These ass holes were all level 25, and in this game, anything more than a one level difference means that you'll need a mop to clean up the lower-level person. So these guys are twice my level even though I'm the party leader and the mission is intended for level 12 players. I can't even tell what level they are; as far as I can tell, they're level skull-and-crossbones. I understand the desire to keep the game challenging for higher level players, but I shouldn't die from a single stray bullet from an assault rifle.
My biggest complaint with the game is one that I know is partially invalid since I knew about this before the game even came out, but I hate that the game requires an internet connection and online play. I know it's designed as an online game, and that's fine, but just like with Destiny, I think that there should be an option to play the game's badly written story missions solo offline. All of the enemies are AI anyway. I know that I bought the game knowing full well that it was online or bust, but it just seems needless.
Don't get me wrong - the game's not bad. It's a lot of fun if you're playing with a friend or a few. For someone who wants to get a good story out of a game (or even a decent one), however, it's a big let down, and it is very disappointing in a lot of ways. Ubisoft had some real potential here, and I can't help but feel like a lot of that potential was missed.
My Rating - 3 Neps
Moero Chronicle (PlayStation Vita)
Also available on Switch and Windows
It's every bit as weeaboo titty anime as it looks. It's your basic dungeon crawler RPG but ecchi af. If you thought the fan service in Hyperdimension Neptunia or Onechanbara was bad, you ain't seen nothin' yet. For most, I realize that would probably be a turn off, but for me, it's just great. The basic plot of the game is pretty thin - the world is split between humans and monster girls, and the monster girls have randomly started going crazy and attacking humans except for the monster girls in your town. You, along with your monster girl childhood friend, set off on this quest to find out why the monster girls are going crazy and save the world by finding magic panties. I'm not kidding, your quest is seriously to find magic panties. It's fantastic.
It's a little bit like Shin Megami Tensei in that when you encounter monster girls throughout the games six dungeons (roughly five or six monster girls per dungeon), you fight them and attack each article of clothing until they're stripped down to their panties. Then you enter the "Bumping Scratch" minigame. It's basically "molest the monster girls until they come to their sense." This minigame has three phases, and in each phase, there are two "weak spots" on the girls that you either rub, tab, or pinch. When you hit both weak spots enough, you'll activate "Nude*Flash" where you basically jack your Vita off for a brief period of time to get your meter filled higher. When the meter maxes out, you win, the monster girl regains her sense, and she's added to your party.
The actual dungeon crawling is from a first person perspective (think the original Phantasy Star on Master System). From an objective perspective, it's a really "okay" game. The only area in which it stands out is for us ecchi pervs. Then it's a gift from the heavens. There are two versions - the Japanese only version and the Asian version. Since I don't read or speak Japanese, I have the latter. The Asian version retains the Japanese dialogue, but you have the option of having the menus and subtitles in either English or Chinese. Be aware, though, that the game can be rather pricey. I got lucky and snagged a copy for $35 when Play-Asia was having a sale, and that's the best place to get it (right now, they've got copies for $40) as eBay seems to have it for everywhere from $50 to $100 depending on when you happen to look.
If you're a weeby perv like me, this is one of the greatest games on the Vita. If you're a respectable person with sophisticated (or even moderately mature) tastes, you should probably pass on this one.
My Rating - 4 Neps
I'm a teacher.
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 high school history; during the night, I spend my spare time gaming. Then I write about it.