The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild

Red Metal’s extensive coverage of the Zelda series has convinced me to give Breath of the Wild another chance. It will be nice to go on another adventure with Link, after all these years. Back in the day I had a grand time completing Link’s Awakening, Ocarina of Time and Wind Waker. In recent years however I have shunned the series due to its use of clunky stylus/motion controls.

Breath of the Wild is very different to the Zelda titles of yore. It’s a big open world with a big emphasis on survival. Gone are the days when money would literally grow on trees (um bushes.) Foraging is required to make an income and health restorative meals. Wish me luck guys. I don’t have a good track record of finishing open world games. Often I’ll neglect the story in favour of exploration… something I am sure Grand Theft Auto and Skyrim fans can relate to.

Extra Life

Introduction

Though Skyward Sword was released to a positive reception, certain players voiced their displeasure over the sheer amount of filler present and the hand-holding nature of the game. The latter aspect was especially ironic given the challenging nature of Skyward Sword. Series producer Eiji Aonuma, though mostly satisfied with what he and his team created, ended up agreeing with these reservations. The series’ next installment, A Link Between Worlds, seemed to openly defy the design choices behind Skyward Sword, featuring a terse narrative and a largely non-linear design. In an era when gaming placed a great emphasis on storytelling, A Link Between Worlds would have been a sleeper hit had not been part of a famous franchise. Emboldened by this installment’s success, he and his team sought to “rethink the conventions of Zelda” for the series’ next console installment. He made their intent known at…

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Review of Harvest Moon: Light of Hope

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Harvest Moon: Light of Hope is technically not a Harvest Moon game. The team responsible for producing the classic Harvest Moon games of yore is currently releasing titles under the Story of Seasons banner. Natsume, the publisher who holds the rights to the Harvest Moon name, has meanwhile decided to continue the franchise by hiring lesser skilled developers to make new sequels. The situation reminds me of the time when Eidos and Sports Interactive parted ways. After the split, developer Sports Interactive lost ownership of the Championship Manager brand. This forced them to release new games under the guise of Football Manager. Eidos went off to make Championship Manager games in house and ultimately run the series into the ground.

OVERVIEW

When I say that Harvest Moon is now in the hands of less talented developers I am not kidding. Just look at this game’s graphics. The characters may look cute, but there is no disputing that these visuals are below the standard one would expect from a PS4 release. In particular the low-res buildings look especially bad on a big screen. Gameplay wise things aren’t much better. The farming on offer hasn’t advanced much from the rather basic Harvest Moon GBA game I enjoyed many moons ago. In order to grow crops one simply needs to plant seeds and water the soil on a daily basis. Fertilizer is only required if you elect to grow something out of season. Seems easy enough. I wonder why Zimbabwe had so much trouble with farming when Mugabe kicked out all of the white farmers.

Still, who cares about farming? In this game I didn’t find agriculture to be particularly profitable. Rather than sell produce I just gifted my veggies to the local townsfolk or cooked them into stamina replenishing meals. If you seek riches I would recommend foraging for seashells at the beach. Those things sell for a surprisingly high price. I also hear that mining for ore can be lucrative, although that venture requires some investment. To crack open the rocks that house gems one needs to first upgrade their trusty hammer. Later in the game you can also trade eggs, wool and milk by populating your barn with livestock. I like how you can name the animals you buy. My cow, lamb and chicken were christened Mooris, Baary and Hen-Tai.

VERDICT

My rating for Harvest Moon: Light of Hope is a three out of five. The game is inferior to rivals Stardew Valley and Story of Seasons in terms of content. Without too much trouble I was able to complete the four-chapter story within a couple of in-game months. Despite its faults I must however say that I appreciate the relaxing experience it offers. Rather than start the morning with fifteen minutes of meditation, I can instead turn off my brain by doing chores for quarter of an hour on Harvest Moon’s virtual island. Even if I have already saved the land, by repairing the isle’s mystical lighthouse, I still intend to continue playing the game for the foreseeable future in short bursts. There are plenty of trophies yet to earn and a mailbox worth of villager requests to complete.

Other activities I can look forward to are the monthly festivals. These events allow the player to partake in various mini-games, which include fishing contests and dog races. Thus far my pooch has managed to scoop the top prize, but I have fared less well in the angling tournaments. Most important of all I cannot conclude my Harvest Moon adventure without first getting hitched. From the five available bachelorettes I have my eyes set on the bespectacled doctor. She may not be the most attractive of the bunch, but she won my heart during the tutorial by generously gifting me tons of free cabbage seeds. When it comes to romance the ladies don’t have to do much to make me swoon. I’ll settle for any girl, providing that she doesn’t carry much emotional cabbage… um baggage.

Review of The Lost Child

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I love the Persona role-playing games. Shame then that it takes so long for new instalments to come out. How I wish the franchise would release new stuff on an annual basis. Then again, I suppose that the series would feel far less special if it appeared in stores with the regularity of an Assassin’s Creed sequel. Rarity builds anticipation and shorter development cycles tend to harm a title’s quality. Some people have suggested that I play the other Shin Megami offerings, whilst I wait for a new Persona. The problem is that those RPGs are bloody hard. I’ll try The Lost Child instead. This game may be a shameless Megami clone, but at least it caters to my lack of skill by providing an easy mode.

OVERVIEW

Hayato Ibuki is a reporter for one of those trashy occult magazines. Not a glamorous career, but hey it could be worse. Writing for a tabloid publication is still more respectable than being a games journalist! When the story begins Hayato acquires a weapon that is capable of bending demons to his will. A big-breasted angel named Lua (who dresses like a witch for some reason) informs Hayato that he must use the gun to defeat Cthulhu, who is presently plotting to take over Heaven. A weird and somewhat blasphemous plot… although that should be expected given that the game is affiliated to the equally bizarre El Shaddai: Ascension of the Metatron.

The Lost Child is broken up into eight chapters. Each level has you battling through puzzle filled dungeons that are made up of multiple floors. Players explore the stages through a first person view. Every step you take has the potential of triggering a random turn based battle. When in combat, Hayato and Lua are accompanied by a party made up of previously captured demons. Like in most RPGs the heroes grow stronger by accruing experience points. The demonic entities they recruit are meanwhile strengthened via karma. Killing creatures is the main source of karma, although it is also possible to acquire it by making dialogue choices during certain story events.

VERDICT

My rating for The Lost Child is a three out of five. The game is a decent, albeit unoriginal, dungeon crawler. I recommend it to anyone who has an interest in the genre. The story may be forgettable but I didn’t mind, as the thrill of navigating labyrinths was enough to keep my interest for the forty hours it lasted. Compared to other RPGs, there isn’t much in the way of character customisation. You can however tweak Hayato and Lua’s attributes by distributing stat points upon levelling up. Ally demons meanwhile can be taught new skills and evolved, akin to a Pokémon. Just be aware that instead of cute critters, in this game, you evolve fallen angels and topless Succubi.

Overall I had fun with The Lost Child. I must however say that I have some grievances with the game. First up was a glitch that prevented me from earning one of the optional characters. Another complaint is that some of the puzzles can be annoying. Examples include invisible walls, sandy currents that drag you back to a dungeon’s entrance and pitfalls that drop you to a lower floor. The latter especially blows, as transferring to a new zone is preceded by lengthy load times. Not sure what causes the Vita to process for so long. The floors aren’t huge and the graphics comprise of still pictures. Oh well, no matter how slow the loading is the wait for them to finish is still shorter than waiting for a new Persona.

Omega Labyrinth Z Banned in the West

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Right now I am enjoying the Muv-Luv visual novels that recently got released on PlayStation Vita. The highly acclaimed trilogy came to the system courtesy of a successful 2015 Kickstarter campaign. Muv-Luv starts out as a high school harem rom-com, in the first title, before transitioning into a sci-fi mech adventure in the later sequels. If you are interested in downloading the games be sure to manually search for them in the PSN store. Sony’s inept European staff never bothered to list either VN on their New Release listings. Guess they really hate anything that publisher PQube brings out.

Case in point, earlier this week it was announced on PQube’s website that Omega Labyrinth Z won’t be getting a Western localization after all. A handful of prudish nations (including Australia the kings of censorship) refused to give the dungeon crawler an age rating, thus barring it from being sold in their retail outlets. The rest of the world was however expected to get the game at some point this year. Unfortunately for RPG fans Sony has scuppered those plans at the eleventh hour. A press release from PQube reveals that Sony has effectively banned the game in the US and EU…

“In the case of Omega Labyrinth Z, while PQube has worked with all relevant age rating bodies in their respective territories, PQube must respectfully comply with the wishes of the platform holder and have therefore withdrawn any future plans for Omega Labyrinth Z’s European and North American release.”

When I say Sony I mean their European and America branches, because the game came out last year in Japan without incident. Shame that said Asian version doesn’t carry English subtitles, because that would have allowed prospective buyers to import it. Thank you very much Sony Europe/America for policing what grown adults can buy. You are okay with profiting from games that revel in graphic murder (God of War) but heaven forbid that an eighteen year old gets to play something that features cute cartoon girls. Better not tell them that their Crunchyoll app already allows people to view ecchi content on their machine.

I feel bad for PQube because they must be out of pocket, after going through the expense of translating a game they can no longer sell. Meanwhile the folks at Sony have accelerated the death of their handheld with this decision. Banning games is not going to help the lifespan of a system that is starving for new releases. One thing that concerns me is the signal that Sony has sent out. Game publishers are hesitant to localize niche games because they aren’t big sellers. I suspect in future even fewer quirky titles from Japan will reach our shores. The risk is too great when the threat of a potential Sony ban hangs over their heads.

Review of Batman: The Enemy Within

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I am the son of a chemist and a mathematician. People call me iron fifty-nine. What is my name? Leave your answer in the comments section below. Why am I opening this review with a riddle? Well, it seemed appropriate given that the first villain Bruce Wayne faces in Batman: The Enemy Within is the Riddler. I have to say that the aforementioned Edward Nigma is more bloodthirsty than I remember. This version of the character likes to place victims in death traps one would expect to find in a Saw movie. Fail to answer the criminal’s puzzles and you will get zapped or have your fingers sawn off. Ouch! That would make typing out reviews most difficult.

OVERVIEW

Batman: The Enemy Within is the follow up to 2016’s excellent Batman: The Telltale Series. This five-part adventure sees the Caped Crusader take on a group known as The Pact. Apart from the abovementioned Riddler, the group’s members include Bane, Harley Quinn and Mr Freeze. To this day my favourite take on Mr Freeze has to be Arnold Schwarzenegger’s rendition of the character (due to the delightful ice jokes.) Sadly I can’t think of any ice puns to insert into this post, as they have all “slipped” out of my mind. From the rogue’s gallery of baddies Harley Quinn is the one who gets the most screen time. Interestingly she is an established criminal who the Joker has a crush on, rather than vice versa.

Ah yes, how could I forget the Joker. This game chronicles how a former Arkham inmate named John Doe transformed into the Clown Prince of Crime. John made a brief appearance in the last title – helping Bruce escape from the asylum he had been imprisoned in. The pair formed a friendship during the breakout, which carries over into this instalment. How the relationship develops will depend on the decisions made throughout the game’s five episodes. Play nice with John and he may become a vigilante who aids Batman. Betray him however and you run the risk of turning John into a crazed psychopath. Tread carefully when answering John’s questions… just like when your girlfriend asks if she looks fat.

VERDICT

My rating for Batman: The Enemy Within is a four out of five. When compared to other Telltale superhero projects it is a huge improvement over Guardians of the Galaxy and a worthy successor to their last Batman release. Like with most Telltale offerings the game would best be described as an interactive movie. You influence the outcome of scenes by picking from a list of dialogue options. Battles are resolved via quick time events. Compared to its predecessor there are fewer puzzles to solve. Going off memory, the crime scene investigation segments have been scaled down in this sequel. On the plus side The Enemy Within suffers from fewer bugs and visual glitches. You won’t see a pair of flying eyeballs in this one!

If you enjoyed the first game or are a fan of the Dark Knight in general I can highly recommend Batman: The Enemy Within. Telltale once again delivers a great story that isn’t afraid of playing around with the Batman mythology. Character origins are tweaked and prominent figures get killed, leading to several surprises. My only gripe with the script is that for large portions of the game you play as Bruce Wayne, rather than his cooler masked alter ego. Sadly that can’t be avoided, as obese government agent Amanda Waller blackmails Bruce into going undercover. Grr, I hate her. Waller is so fat that when doctors diagnosed her with a flesh-eating virus they gave her 90 years to live.

Review of Metropolis: Lux Obscura

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Puzzle games sure can be raunchy. First there was the sex filled HuniePop and now we get Metropolis: Lux Obscura. This debut title from indie developer Ktulhu Solutions features images of topless women and comic book panels depicting intercourse. Isn’t it silly how some publishers feel obligated to censor swimsuits in their games? Seems like a gross overreaction to me, given that Ktulhu Solutions can sell their mature wares on consoles without causing any controversy. Perhaps the video game industry has finally grown up, sparing us from Mass Effect style lovemaking where participants do the horizontal mambo whilst fully clothed.

OVERVIEW

In Metropolis: Lux Obscura players follow the exploits of a baseball-wearing chap named Jon Lockhart. The protagonist of this tale has returned to his old stomping grounds, after serving a lengthy prison sentence. Said stomping grounds happen to be a city where crime rates are so high it would make Detroit blush. It’s a place where bikers harass the populace, a homicidal Elvis impersonator roams the streets and corrupt cops beat up the citizenry (even the Caucasian ones). To make ends meet Jon does odd jobs for a Mafioso named Falcone. Most of the earnings he makes end up going towards booze and strippers.

The story is told through stylish graphic novel cut scenes and how it all pans out will depend on the locations you choose to visit. Every now and then Jon gets mixed up in a brawl. Whether he emerges victorious from these altercations will depend on how the player fares in battle sequences that are reminiscent of Puzzle Quest. To avoid a Game Over players need to knock out their foe before their adversary manages to deplete Jon’s health points. Lining up three or more fist icons inflicts damage. Conversely, forming a row of first aid kits replenishes HP. Watch out for the police badges. If you inadvertently match three of those Jon will suffer pain. The Police hurt because Sting has a bad voice.

VERDICT

My rating for Metropolis: Lux Obscura is a three out of five. I enjoyed the game, but was disappointed by the lack of content. Even with four endings to unlock I managed to platinum it all after just a few hours. I wouldn’t describe the game as challenging; even if I lost the occasional fight due to misfortune with the randomly generated tiles. Yes, bad luck is to blame. I didn’t lose because my puny brain struggles with puzzles! What helps counter the potential difficulty are the abilities Jon earns after every encounter. These upgradable perks allow him to increase the effectiveness of health packs, force enemies to skip turns and can even replace the detrimental police badges with anger themed damage boosters.

Anyone who dislikes match three games can safely give Metropolis a miss, because the story by itself isn’t worth the price of admission. The script feels like a poor man’s Sin City. It’s heavy on cliché and grit, but deficient in substance. I think the top-notch graphics and competent voice acting deserved a better plot. Perhaps that’s why the developer resorted to boobs and fornication? Distract the punters with eye candy and they won’t notice the narrative’s weaknesses. Maybe I am being a tad harsh, as puzzle games aren’t renowned for their fiction. At the very least I can say that Metropolis has a better story than Tetris. The strippers are also much hotter than L-block.

Review of Kirby Star Allies

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The only person more gluttonous than myself is Kirby. Nintendo’s pink puffball devours enemies akin to me scarfing down Easter Eggs. The only difference is that Kirby’s overeating is beneficial, as it allows him to mimic the powers of the foe he consumed. I on the other hand only suffer a trip to the loo, whenever chocolate overindulgence takes its toll. Sitting on the can, with indigestion, isn’t so bad though. Thanks to handhelds I can still game whilst in the restroom. Years ago I would play Kirby’s Dreamland on the Gameboy. Nowadays I repeat the stomachache ritual with Kirby Star Allies on the Nintendo Switch.

OVERVIEW

Kirby Star Allies begins with a hooded figure performing an occult ceremony, which causes dark hearts to rain down from the sky. Anyone who comes into contact with these black organs becomes evil… or eviler as is the case when King Dedede and Meta Knight get corrupted by their influence. Kirby, the adorable protector of Pop Star, sets off to free his rivals from the shackles of dark heart possession. Hampering his progress are three generals (Francisca, Flamberge, and Zan Partizanne) who command elemental magic. This wicked trio are stockpiling the hearts, with the aims of using them to resurrect their dark lord.

If you seek respite from hardcore games, which revel in violence and difficulty, Kirby Star Allies is a good choice. The cute graphics and cheerful soundtrack are the antithesis of something like Dark Souls. Its casual gameplay differentiates it from other platformers, such as Super Meat Boy, which punish those who lack superhuman reflexes. Even an inept player such as myself was able to best Star Allies within six hours. I attribute my success to Kirby’s floatation gifts that allow him to soar over pitfalls. By hurling hearts at an opponent, Kirby can also convert adversaries into loyal bodyguards. This significantly lowers the challenge, as your companions can do much of the work when it comes to combat.

VERDICT

My rating for Kirby Star Allies is a three and a half out of five. Although it is far from Kirby’s greatest adventure it is still a lot of fun to play. What most people will criticise Star Allies for is its longevity. Kirby games are known for being short, but even so it is disappointing that developer HAL Laboratory didn’t use the Switch’s beefier hardware to include some more content. Aside from the story mode you can tackle a couple of mini-games. Once the end credits roll a boss rush mode is unlocked. You’ll also get the option of playing through the story again with different characters.

I suspect the game would have been more enjoyable for me had I opted to play co-op with friends, rather than depend on AI partners. Alas, it is awkward to invite friends over for a multiplayer session when I am playing Kirby in the bathroom (curse that painful belly and those delicious Easter treats.) What I liked best about Kirby Star Allies is copying powers to defeat enemies and solve puzzles. There are close to thirty powers on offer and some of them can be combined. Kirby can pretend to be Link with the sword skill, masquerade as Ness with the ESP ability or role-play a woman courtesy of the cook and cleaning powers. I kid! I kid! Please don’t flame me too hard in the comments section 🙂