I've had my eye on Wargroove since last year. Billed as a sort of spiritual successor to the Advance Wars series, I was pumped. In fact, I was even more excited about this one than Fire Emblem: Three Houses. And I'm a FE fan! But something about Wargroove just looked awesome. Maybe it's the throwback art style? Maybe it's the campaign editor? Maybe it's the fact that Wargroove is considerably cheaper than Three Houses? Haha. I don't know.
But I was also determined to wait on a physical release of Wargroove. I KNEW it would happen. I mean take a look at what Limited Run Games, Super Rare Games, and like a dozen other boutique publishers have released this year on Switch. It HAD to happen. And I was right. It's here.
And was it worth the wait? Oh dear goodness... YES.
I've only played a couple of hours so far, but man, it's so good. It has that solid Advance Wars throwback vibe. But the setting is a lot closer to Fire Emblem. So it's almost a mash-up (minus that RPG leveling of FE). The visuals and music are great. I'll be honest, I don't care much about story in a strategy game like this, but the gameplay? Wowza.
It's got everything. There's the usual classes who have different strengths and weaknesses. There's capturing areas on the map to raise resources. There's the risk/reward of putting your commander on the line. There's deciding which new units to call in each round. There's... a lot to think about. And I love it.
The controls and menus are super intuitive. Everything you need to know is a click away, and what you need to know depends on how deep you want to get. There's also lots of customization in presentation and gameplay. Everything has been so well thought out here.
Before I even started the campaign, I also spend a while browsing the user generated content. It's so awesome to see these fan projects remaking OTHER games within this engine. The Advance Wars and Fire Emblem series are obvious, but still exciting as it means there's going to still be lots of reasons for me to continue playing this outside of the main campaign.
Wargroove is no joke. It looks so sweet and cute, but damn it's actually a super deep game. Which I appreciate as a big fan of the genre. But truth be told, I might need to take a break right now. It's just a much heavier game than I feel like I have time for right now. What I need right now is more pick-up-and-play stuff. I think.
I'm now in chapter 4 (of 7) in the main campaign and the difficulty has spiked immensely. I'm not even embarrassed to say I've bumped the difficulty down a notch because it was eating up so much time. I had a couple of battles that took me twenty-something turns to then beef it and find myself starting over again. If this was last year I'd be in heaven. But right now with a baby in the house and such limited gaming time, these kinds of setbacks bum me out.
Again - this is a brilliant game. It's just not something I have the time nor concentration for at the moment. So I'll probably approach the second half of the game in smaller chunks instead of really focusing on this as my go-to game for the moment.
Overwatch on Switch is kind of a big deal for me. I'll cut right to the bottom line and say that I'd consider Overwatch to be my favorite game of the DECADE. It was such a big deal for me that I literally sold my Xbox One the week that the Switch port was announced. In fact, I was relieved that I didn't have to pay for another year of Xbox Live. Or Gold. Or whatever it was called.
Back when Overwatch launched in 2016, I actually preordered it based solely on how much I had enjoyed Hearthstone and Heroes Of The Storm. Two totally different games from a competitive 'hero shooter,' but I figured why not? And initially Overwatch felt like a Team Fortress kind of deal and I bounced off it. But a few months later I gave it another try, and started reading about it more and it just clicked with me.
In the years since, it's remained in my rotation. And I've actually kept up with it like no other game. Like I mentioned, I bought it again on Xbox One when I got out of PC gaming and had some friends willing to play it with me on console. Even weirder, I even got into Overwatch League, and have been watching it for the first two seasons.
I should maybe NOT admit how into the game I can be. But whatever. There's literally Luci-O's cereal in my kitchen right now. I still wear my Boston Uprising 'inaugural season' t-shirt probably weekly. I've received all kinds of Overwatch merch as gifts. Heck, there's even a Pachimari plush toy in my daughter's nursery. I'm just not like this about other games.
But please don't think I'm saying I'm good or anything. I'm not. I'm fine. I'm competent. I try hard. I care about not dragging my team down. But I'm perfectly happy staying in a casual lane. And when I'm practicing a new character, I'm also fine with playing against bots. I have no delusions of being great. But that's not what OW is about for me. It's just a great way to relax.
Anyway, I'm approaching this Switch port as someone who has played hundreds of hours over the past several years - both on PC and on Xbox One. Is the framerate lower? Yup. Are textures going to be simplified? Sure. Is it the absolute best version of OW available? Of course not. But here's the thing - and this is true of many Switch ports nowadays for me - it doesn't matter. What matters is that the EXPERIENCE is here. The past few nights I've played OW in a way I was never able to before: sitting on the couch, next to my wife while she read a book; or while listening to the TV in the background. It's an absolute game changer for me to have the ability to play OW without shutting myself away in the game room. And that is worth whatever sacrifices the port makes.
My personally, I don't find the handheld great for FPS games. I think my hands are too big, and I don't like position of the analog sticks. But I've been standing the Switch up and playing with a Pro Controller and it's perfect for me. People are going to hate that progression isn't cross platform. And that's a legit downer. But I can deal. I had to start over on console once before. It is what it is.
All I can tell you is this: since the Switch came out, my number one dream port was Overwatch. That's the one game I wanted, and now it's here. I'm beyond happy that this exists. And that it's playable! And for now, I'm having fun grabbing Halloween loot boxes as I slowly level up once again.
I had taken a break from Overwatch for the past few months because I felt like the rumors of it coming to Switch HAD to be true and I didn't want to re-up my Xbox subscription. Coming back to the game now is soooo comforting. Who says you can't go home again, folks?
Quick Play now has a queuing system where you choose the roles you're willing to play: Tank, Healer, or Damage. It's a nice touch. And now there are mandatory slots for two of each of those roles on a team. I can see the pros and cons of this, though I think the pros win ultimately.
The downside is that this may prevent some truly insane and interesting team compositions. I mean, if a team was really badass using six healers, I'd want to see that. Y'know? But really what this does is cut down on some tension on picks. There's no more situations where you go into a match annoyed that nobody wanted to play healer.
Of course a mandatory composition does mean that things could get sort of stale (such as with the so called GOATS meta that invaded Overwatch League for a while there... I remember the most exciting matches were ones where teams got creative with their picks and bucked the trend). But then on the flip, each class does have some picks that could still think outside the box. It's been shown that Zenyatta can be a legit pick for damage. And D.Va is a tank, sure, but she feels more like a damage-tank combo. Even Soldier 76 can be seen as a quasi-healer if played right.
The bigger thing for me is that it's helping me branch out a bit more outside of my chosen favorites. If I get called in to tank and someone else picks D.Va (my absolute favorite in the game) then I need to get better with someone else. And though it seems like I get picked to damage less than the other roles (not surprising), it's fun to see what the team looks like and pick accordingly, bouncing around between whoever - Solider 76 or Widowmaker or anyone really.
Anyway, I'm still having a blast YEARS into playing this game. The Halloween event is always fun, and starting from scratch (YET AGAIN) means unlocking new skins and stuff feels sort of more exciting than it had for me in a while.
I mentioned before that I actually quite like the new 2-2-2 role requirement in quick play. Well, this is why... it's forced me to start experimenting with new characters instead of sticking solely to my favorites. Personally, I always queue up to play ANY role and let the cards fall where they fall.
It's rare that I get picked to play damage, but when I do there's generally a few picks I'll have. I've been a longtime fan of Soldier 76. But I'll sometimes attempt Widowmaker on a defend map. And there's a handful of others I enjoy playing. So that's not too much to think about.
On the tank front, D.VA's been my favorite forever. Though given my preference to play her somewhat aggressively, I'll now tend to wait and see what the other tank player chooses and try to compliment them with D.VA or Orissa as necessary. So that's cool.
For a while support was a tough role for me. If I could get Zenyatta then I was happy. I feel like I'm comfortable with him and can kind of swap between playing him aggressively or not depending on the situation. However, I didn't really have a secondary support so if someone grabbed him first then I felt like a detriment. Until now.
It turns out that I REALLY enjoy playing as Ana as well. As a sniper, she feels a little less stressful or stealthy to play as than Widowmaker. And as a healer she's interesting as her ammo heals allies which means you're still doing a ton of shooting and throwing grenades for damage while healing at the same time. It's an interesting approach. Plus, her sleep darts are badass if used in a well thought out way. Congrats, Overwatch. You've made it fun to play support.
Oh dudes, I am a Jeopardy FAN. Anyone who knows me knows my love of Jeopardy. It's the only show I like NEED to watch during the week. I just love it, and have for years. And given this, I've played A LOT of Jeopardy video games in my life. This goes way back to the early 90's when I starting with the NES game. Not that I was good at it back then. I was a kid. And spelling out answers on a time limit was tough for me. But still.
I had super high hopes for the Switch version of Jeopardy. But it was terrible. First of all, who wants multiple choices in a Jeopardy game? That's awful. Not to mention how quickly you'll start to see repeat questions. And I guess the consensus was in because anytime I tried to play it online against real people to really test myself... there would be like one or two people online total. I'm talking about in the entire world. This was when the game was a new release... on one of the most popular platforms available... during the height of Jeopardy James' big run that should have driven fans to the game. So yeah. Not good.
This week my wife decided to dig out the DS version of Jeopardy so we could make a new character to play together. You'd think that combining our brains would make it easier, but there's now the challenge of trying to quickly have two people decide if they know something and communicate that we need to ring in. Also, things like coming to agreement on wagers. Things like that. It adds another dimension to the game that makes it feel different than if I were playing solo. I'm always looking for new and interesting ways to approach a loved game.
I'm impressed with the DS take on Jeopardy. I hadn't played it in a few years. But it's still quite good. The question pool is decent. The AI is pretty good - wrong guesses generally seem like "good" guesses for instance. It's all pretty believable. And of course, typing out answers with the stylus makes perfect sense. The DS was such a good platform for brain games. I can't even tell you how many hours I spent on the NY Times Crossword Puzzles on DS. My goodness.
Anyway, yeah Jeopardy is still great. We own other console editions as well, but it seems like leaving the cart in my wife's DS and playing a round when we have time after dinner or something with this new shared profile should be a fun way to revisit this particular version.
I tend to make it a habit to download any new free game on Switch. Because why not? It's free! Well, Asphalt 9 is a fairly mixed bag. The game itself is fine. Actually, it's pretty good. It's an arcade style racer and it looks great and the sense of speed is excellent.
But... it's a FREE game in the -To-Play mold. Meaning, the fun is probably going to run out soon enough as I hit a pay-wall that I'm not looking forward to. I'm already seeing the edges of it. The car "blueprint" rewards I'm getting from races feel like only fractions of the actual cars I'll want to unlock to stay leveled up enough to keep racing.
It sucks because I'm getting tinges of some other pretty great F2P games I've played in the past. Pokemon Shuffle comes to mind. My goodness, I don't want to go down the road again. I actually spent "money" in Shuffle (okay, it was Google Play Store credit, but still... I felt gross). So yeah, I don't know. I'd probably be better off just BUYING an actual retail racing game should I get the itch to drive fast.
When I was a kid, I remember being very aware of The Legend Of Zelda thanks to those commercials. Remember? "Zelda!? Zelda!?" I bet it's on Youtube. But I didn't have a NES yet. I had an Atari 2600. And while the commercial showed me NOTHING, I feel like I created this insane vision of what Zelda was. And I had to have it.
I got a NES a year or so later, and by that time Zelda II was out. I remember getting a copy of Zelda II and the Official Nintendo Player's Guide for my birthday. It was a huge deal. And I've written about how much nostalgia and fondness I have for Zelda II. But soon enough I knew I needed the original game. I brokered a trade with my cousin, Matt. I don't remember what game(s) he got in the exchange, but I can promise that I came out ahead.
The first Zelda quickly became an obsession. And it was and remains one of my absolute favorite NES games of all time. Shocking? No.
But I've replayed it many times over the years. It's straight comfort food. In the past year, I played through NES Remix which featured a sort of micro-version of the game where you just plow through boss battles and key moments. It was a fun and quick way to revisit the game. It was like getting a little Zelda fix.
Nintendo has done an interesting job in presenting new experiences for old games in the Wii U and Switch eras. I think most people probably overlook these SP versions of games on Switch Online. But some of them are pretty interesting.
The Legend Of Zelda SP is basically easy mode. You start off with better armor, better sword, a few items, some extra hearts and lots of rupees. Oh, and all the bushes with hidden entrances are already revealed. You might say this takes away from the experience. And it does - for a first playthrough. But for me - someone who's been through this game multiple times over the decades - it's like a nice relaxing visit home.
Now I can march right from one dungeon to the next and play a sort of mellow version of this game. It's not about the CHALLENGE, it's about reminding myself of the EXPERIENCE. Scoff at these SP versions as being cheap ROM-hacks if you like. But some of them are not without their merit.
I ran through the first four dungeons last night in about an hour. A nice way to do it for a dude who's got a four month old in the house that's still figuring out how to sleep through the night. To be honest, with such inconsistent downtime for gaming, having this sort of easy mode to revisit is actually quite the blessing. I don't need to spend time grinding for rupees or exploring the overworld map - it's all just the dungeons. Nice.
I don't know what happened. I actually played this a bunch over the weekend. I did some of the dungeons out of order because I forgot where they were. Anyway, I got up to Gannon's dungeon and died a couple of times and then just kind of quit. I don't know. I feel less compelled to finish this up now. I've beaten the game in the past, so I'm not super motivated to see it through. And I feel like I've played the bulk of the game - or at least had fun revisiting it for now. Still an awesome game. Top 10 Zelda for sure.
Miami Law is a 2009 DS game published by Gaijinworks - the first game for Vic Ireland's new company after Working Designs. What makes this interesting is that WD never published on any Nintendo systems. And I'm pretty sure Gaijinworks avoided Nintendo after this one. Huh. At any rate, Miami Law is a sort of point-n-click adventure game, and a sort of visual novel, and it has various puzzle and shooting segments. Think of it as a kind of budget meshing of Vice City and Snatcher. Although that might be overselling it. The gameplay changes from moment to moment, as does the quality of the gameplay and writing; as does the level of fun.
The adventure/GN side of the game feels akin to something like Hotel Dusk, though not really as deep. There is some impressive depth to the size of the fictional Miami and the cast of characters. But the problem is that at times any illusion of choice is shattered by how utterly linear it really is. While investigating a case, you might want to go to one location you feel interested in, only to be told "I shouldn't go there right now." The times where you ARE genuinely given a true choice can sometimes result in a swift game over, forcing you to go back and make the right decision instead. This wouldn't be so bad, but sometimes you're forced to go back a big chunk of time which is tedious.
The game also wastes your time in how you move through the world. For instance, let's say I need to go talk to the chief at the Miami PD. I'll need to click "Move To," then select "Miami PD." Then I'll be outside the building and I need to click "Move To," and "Enter," and remember which floor so "Main Floor." Then I'm on the main floor. "Move To," "Chief's Office," "Enter," and finally "Talk to," and "Chief." WORSE is when this results in him just telling me to meet him down in the investigations room instead, and more clicking multiple times to get there. It just seems like it's there to pad things out. I suppose that's necessary in a linear game like this. There's only five missions, and I've done the first three and each clock in at about an hour. That includes the extraneous clicking.
PUZZLES are a big mixed bag as well. There are some that feel like actual puzzles, but others are definitely just there to kill some brief time. Hacking computers literally involve typing a code you're given into a keypad. It's nothing. Another involved using the stylus to "cut" some rope. There's a lot of stuff that's just tapping on the screen - I guess to remind you that you're DS has a touchscreen. There's some shoot/duck/reload parts that are mildly fun, I guess in lieu of Snatcher's legit lightgun sections.
In light of all this, I think there's actually a somewhat interesting and fun game buried under these complaints. The story and dialogue are super pulpy. Like an edgier version of Miami Vice. And it is weird to be playing a VN with these anime looking line drawings talking about drugs in suitcases and everything. To some degree, this game is almost in the realm of so-bad-it's-good. Or at least it's odd enough that I am compelled to see the story through to the end, which I'm pretty sure is only two hours away if HLTB is to be believed.
I've never been into the whole Kickstarter craze. This important to know, because Friday The 13th is the only game I've ever Kickstarted. I mean, it wasn't even a question. The only question was to what level do I back it? And how many copies do I want? I settled on one copy (for the time being) along with the soundtrack, because OMG Harry Manfredini!
My wife and I are HUGE fans of Friday The 13th. I don't know how to properly convey that. Many of our first dates involved rewatching those movies (in order) together. I can't even fathom how many times we've seen them all over the years. Heck, I can't even count how many times we've watched documentaries ABOUT the series. It's just a huge deal for us.
I played that original Kickstarter release back when it launched on PC and had a great time with it. It was one of my favorite games of that year. However, since then I've moved away from PC gaming and had been really hoping for a Switch port, which I thought unlikely due to licensing issues that Gun Media eventually ran into.
Well, my wish came true and I re-bought the game happily!
Though you could view Friday The 13th as just another asymmetrical game a la Evolve or Dead By Daylight - and that would be fair - it's a total love letter to the series. I had been following the game long before it even had the license. It used to just be called Slasher Volume 1: Summer Camp, and I was all for it as an homage. But being able to play a game where you actually get to explore locales from the movie is mind blowing for a fan like me. They totally nailed the feeling of the movies big time.
My wife generally hates any game where she has to play with other people online. She won't touch stuff like that as it makes her really nervous. But when I said "hey, play this Friday The 13th game," she was happy to give it a shot. What makes the game so incredible is that each 20-minute or so match feels like it's a mini-movie where you can relay the plot of what just happened. It's actually exciting.
For instance, I remember playing one where I teamed up with another player and we spent a good deal of time together finding weapons, setting traps, and making our way through the map. When Jason found us we were on a bridge so we jumped into the lake and tried to swim off. He followed us. Just as he got to us another camper showed up on a boat and I hopped in. The camper sped off in the boat leaving my original partner in the water as bait. I felt horrible, but it was memorable.
This is the sort of game that's as fun to watch as it is to play. As such, I'm having a lot of fun just watching my wife give it a try. She entered Camp Crystal lake an immediately was like "wait, I'm Shelly? He's the worst character in the whole series!" Haha. I never told her what to do - just watched. It was great. She made her way through some cabins, and found a weapon. She decided to go solo - like maybe Jason would go after the big group of teens and leave her alone. Well, no. He detected a straggler away from the group and acted as a true predator. But damn, this game is fun. The funny thing is that even after dying it's fun to watch the survivors and see what they do.
Seriously, I'm underselling it here. This game rules.
I went to the woods because it was hot out. I wished to escape my game room; to drink coffee in the gazebo while my wife read her book. The birds chirped around us. It was around this time last year that I first played Zelda: Breath Of The Wild - in fact it was the sole game that I bought with my Switch, back when finding the console itself meant calling multiple stores every day for over a week. At first I was in awe of the game, but after twenty-five hours I called it quits with a more sour outlook. Although I had enjoyed the visuals, the controls, the tone... I was starting to get frustrated with how difficult it was to actually progress. I found myself in a hurry. I just wanted to see the end-credits roll. I became obsessed with the destination so much that I wasn't able to enjoy the journey. I actually let all of this cloud my vision - proclaiming that against the opinions of all the critics out there, Breath Of The Wild was not actually the best game of 2017.
Looking back it was this kind of rush that is the antithesis of not only Breath Of The Wild, but of the escapism that games are supposed to offer us in the first place. So I went back into the woods because I was ready to get back to basics. Replaying the game this year I've learned just how wrong I had been. The game was never the problem - it was my own expectations with it. It was never meant to be a game with linear beats. I fire it up and I have no preconceptions about how much I should be accomplishing or even what I should be doing. Much like how my greatest moments of enjoyment in Grand Theft Auto V and Skyrim came from 'doing nothing,' I'm now learning that letting the current take you where it wants within Hyrule is the only way to play Breath Of The Wild. In forcing myself back to a simpler time pre-internet where I can't just look up solutions to shrine puzzles or even try to figure out where I should go next means that I'm just as lost as Link. And I'm in just as much amazement by each new minor discovery.
How does one survive Hyrule? First I must take care of the four necessities: food, shelter, clothing and fuel. Food is simple. It's everywhere. There's apples and bananas growing on trees. There's meat dropped by fallen foes. Of course I choose to make combat barely a priority. I hate stealth in games but in this game it simply means finding an alternate path. I try to put my Spirit Orbs into making my stamina wheel bigger which means that the world becomes far more vertical. I'm gonna climb some mountains to choose not to fight. Don't get me wrong - I will fight, but only when I have to. Part of that is because weapons break and I fucking hate that big time. It's my biggest pet peeve about the game. But the other more embarrassing reason is because I find the combat in this game truly difficult. In no other Zelda game are grunt foes so intimidating. Many can one hit kill you without a thought. You will die a lot in Breath Of The Wild. I hate to use the Dark Souls simile but man... that red GAME OVER font might as well say YOU DIED. Oh the other thing is that you have to learn to cook food - like recipes. I find that sort of a pain, but then again it's certainly helpful when I'm up against a difficult situation and find I have a meal that can keep me warm or prolong my stamina or refill my hearts fully. In a way this reminds me of Monster Hunter. It's no secret that BOTW borrows from a lot of games, and that's fine. Because it borrows really well.
Shelter is a different story. In that sense Breath Of The Wild truly does feel like a SURVIVAL game, y'know? The elements are really out to get you here. Rain makes it hard to climb stuff because the surfaces are wet. Lightning is attracted to your metal weapons so you need to unequip them and swap in wooden stuff. It's possible for environments to get too hot or too cold, depleting your life. You can use buffs to help you through this but damn. I never had to think about this stuff in Link To The Past or Wind Waker - my other two favorite Zelda games, so what the heck? It feels so harsh. And yet... I kind of need it.
As far as clothing goes, you can obviously buy some in towns. But like in any RPG (yes, I'm calling Zelda an RPG for the sake of this writing exercise - just go with it) I'm very careful with my rupees. So mostly I just stick to what I NEED and mostly what I need is whatever I happen to find. To me that makes the game feel unique in the sense that I'm not just buying the best shit. So my gear is what I happened to come across. In a weird way that makes it feel closer to a Rogue-like or something. Kind of. One of my favorite moments of this replay was being in the right place at the right time to witness a falling star that led to a Xenoblade 2 helmet. I mean that's pretty cool right?
I don't know what to say about fuel. Wouldn't't that be food? I'd think so. Unless it's the Spirit Orbs which mean either extra hearts or extra stamina. And I already addressed that. I'm focusing on stamina for now. I'll swap in one heart every eight orbs. But I fear that makes me timid. Then again, I am trying to live off the land here. I'm at the mercy of mother nature. There's no reason for me to be overpowered.
Okay and when all that is said and done - I kind of have to talk about rupees within the economy right? Well here's the deal: they're not as abundant as in EVERY other Zelda game. Instead it's all about selling shit that you forage. Which is fine because I mostly hate crafting in games. For the most part I pick up EVERYTHING and just sell the majority of the stuff I don't think I need. I hang on to all the ancient parts for now because I know they come in handy later. Though I actually forget how or why.
The first couple of hours or so (or more, depending how you approach the game) are spent on The Plateau. Despite what you may have heard, there is far more here than a bucket, mop and illustrated book about birds. In fact depending on how much exploring you want to do right off the bat, there's probably HOURS of material to dig into here even though this is kind of sort of the tutorial in disguise. Mere minutes after beginning your game you will find yourself atop a hill looking out over the kingdom. And this first section is really the only time that you will be completely kept at bay from the rest of the game. Once you make it off The Plateau, the entirety of the world is yours. But for now we start small. It's just that small in this case is rather big.
As a tutorial, the game is subtle about its nudges. For instance some smoke in the distance will probably pique your curiosity, which will lead you to learning about cooking food - which is of course rather important. You'll learn to climb - because you have to. You'll discover a recipe to keep you warm in the cold and you'll chop down a tree to create a bridge. But nothing forcefully pushes you into any of this. It's all so gentle that you'll forget you were playing a game because games more often than not treat us like we're idiots.
Because the prerequisite for getting off The Plateau is completing the four shrines on it, you'll soon learn how to track them, be rewarded your various skills (bombs, freezing time, magnets, ice...) in order to tackle each of the Plateau's shrines. The fact that each one of these four puzzles are solved using one of your new skills is the most straight-forward and traditionally "Zelda" part of the entire game, really. So don't get used to that, because again all of this is just to show you what's possible; how things work. But after that it's all up to you to use how those things work to your favor.
I'll be honest, I've never really needed much story from a Zelda game. A little lore peppered in here and there? Sure. But as far as story goes, really all I need to know is that Link should probably kill Ganon. Y'know? Although that's not being totally truthful because actually Majora's Mask has an incredible story - enough so to make it way more compelling than Ocarina in my little opinion. But whatever.
The beauty of the story of Breath Of The Wild is that it's here to the extent you want it to be. Since the game is (basically) non-linear the storytelling isn't going to be traditional compared to a classic Zelda title. And outside of some major plot points, the story isn't even forced upon you. Really it's up to you to CARE enough to want to talk to NPC's to get more background. So it's up to you. I'm kind of half-and-half, where sometimes I'm interested in learning more but other times I kind of like knowing less. It leaves some level of mystery. Like I'm just out here in this harsh world trying to survive and trying to rescue Zelda from Ganon and what else do I really need to know? The motives are pure and primal.
I say it's "basically" non-linear because obviously main story quest B isn't going to trigger until you've completed main story quest A. But then again, even much of the main story quests are ones you can tackle in any order that you choose. Like, there are the four ancient beasts or whatever they're called and all four quests are put on your map at once. So I guess it's the one you get to first that you'll be working on first most likely.
The sound design of Breath Of The Wild is well done, tasteful. The music is sparse, oftentimes leaving you with just the sounds of the world. Which I mean - look at the game, that's exactly what it should be like. When I'm swimming I want to hear the water, not a score. When it's raining I want to hear each droplet hit the ground. I don't need a bombastic orchestra to punctuate lightning strikes; lightning strikes do that on their own! The wind in Breath Of The Wild is just as much a part of the score as anything that was specifically composed for it.
The music that is present is fitting for sure. Mostly it'll kick in when you're caught up in a battle and this actually does add some excitement. And of course there are those jingles when you find a shrine or solve a puzzle which are mostly there for nostalgia. But it works.
Perhaps the best thing about Breath Of The Wild is everything that happens in between: the moments between action or discovering new shrines or advancing the story. It's those meditative moments where nothing much is happening and you can just listen to yourself breathe. There have been countless Holy Shit moments I've had with this game that had nothing to do with anything that would actually be considered progress. The first one happens mere minutes after starting, when you first leave Resurrection Shrine and look down from that high hill. Later moments include sitting on a cliff and watching a green dragon twist his worm-like body as the game's night cycle ticks by slowly. I've waited out thunderstorms in a little nook in the side of a mountain because I knew it'd be too slippery to climb. It took all in-game night, but required me to sit there listening to only the heavy rain for ten or so real time minutes.
Getting around Hyrule is a treat and more often than not I do so not knowing where I'm even heading. It doesn't matter. Putting Spirit Orbs towards the stamina wheel helps as I love looking at mountains in the distance and saying "hey, I can go climb that," or knowing I can hang-glide to some further off place, or at least swim without drowning!
Breath Of The Wild is a lonely game but it's a certain solemn loneliness. It's like one big zen-garden. You could make a complaint that the enemy placement is too sparse, yet that never bothers me. If it weren't for loot-drops there'd be even less reason for them to exist anyway. And like I said, I prefer sticking to the shadows anyway. I'm happy to be alone in this game; happy to not see anyone else. Sometimes I mark towns and stables on my map from afar but don't feel like actually going down and connecting with any NPC's.
I'm not alone in Hyrule, though. As much as I enjoy staying to myself, and while there are long stretches of seeing nobody, I'm not alone. First there are the NPC's, and while many of them stick to towns there are sometimes travelers that I come across on various paths. Of course these can be good or bad meetings. I've met a gentleman selling items, an odd woodland creature who would make my inventory larger if I gave him seeds, some kind of weird demon disguised as a hiker who attempted to kill me for not joining her gang, and everyone in between.
And then there are the Guardians - easily the scariest creatures in any Zelda game. The Guardians are these automatons with metallic tentacles that move like slow spiders. They are terrifying and their attack beams are devastating. There is a way to deflect them with a shield, though I'm not confident that I can pull it off consistently so I just try to stay clear for now. I hate these things but I also think they're awesome. The Guardian is my number one most wanted Amiibo right now.
Enemies in the game are much more formidable foes than you'd expect from a Zelda game. They hit friggin' hard, and they fight well. Actually the AI in general is impressive in this game. Things like seeing a lookout catch a glimpse and begin blowing in a horn to alert the others. Actually the other night I saw something the blew my mind... I was swimming as stealthily as I could into a little fishing camp that was loaded with those lizard creatures. Right as I got to the shore one of them noticed me and starting freaking out. He charged at me but in his haste he clipped a lit lantern.... And caught on fire. He charged at me ON FIRE and dropped to a pile of ash before he could hit me. It was amazing.
Some of the shrines aren't puzzles at all, but rather tests of strength. I'm not a big fan of these shrines. Basically these are just single rooms where you must survive a battle against a pretty vicious automaton that wants to kill you good. They are fast and they have huge blades and stuff. It's tough. So mostly I just mark these as spots for fast travel and then get out and figure I'll come back to all these later. Of course those swords they drop are cool. Oh well.
Similarly I came across an island recently that I'll have to come back to for similar reasons. It was kind of a survival game I guess. When you get to this one island all of your gear is taken away and you're tasked with stealing three orbs from three colossi who can one-hit kill you without much thought. I'll pass for now.
Sometimes I head into town, but it's rare. Obviously I'll do so for a quest, but when I'm just out exploring I tend to stay away. I mean what do they have there that I can't handle on my own? I'm trying to master the art of self-reliance within Breath Of The Wild. Though at times I fear I may be going insane like that dude from The Beach. Just kidding.
But really what do I need from a town? They've got food but I can hunt and gather my own. I can cook it in a fire that I've built. And I don't need an inn as I could just sleep by any fire. They've got weapons and tools, but so far I've done fine with what I've scavenged on my own. Enemies drop weapons and shields; the stray treasure chest contains them now and again. I guess armor's the one thing that I could see the benefit of buying, although in the dozen or more hours of my current replay I've not bought a single piece of armor or article of clothing. I've got over a thousand rupees and they're not burning a hole in my pocket. Finding that Xenoblade 2 gear was actually a lot more rewarding than just going and buying something anyway.
There's also stables, though I've not utilized those either. I suppose I should try to catch and train a horse now that I think about it. Although the slow nature of travel throughout the land is part of what makes the game feel so relaxing to me to begin with.
The first time I found a raft sitting on a shore it seemed like a worthless construct. I stood on it and nothing. I tried to push it into the water and nothing. I waited for the wind and finally gave up. But sometime later I used my little glider to get to a small island and found a big leaf and it turns out you can use those to create a gust to power the sail of a raft. Off to the seas I went. And actually I'd like to take a brief moment to talk about how lovely the water looks in this game. The way it moves, the way it reflect and morphs your submerged body. It's impressive stuff - especially when I remind myself that I'm playing on a handheld device!
As far as I can tell that leaf will not get damaged since I'm not using it as a weapon so it makes sense to keep it forever. Just the ability to go out and ride around through the waves is relaxing. And taking a raft out to the middle of the ocean nowhere to just sit and drift is really something.
Part of what makes Breath Of The Wild so successful to me is the persistency of its systems. I can draw parallels to Spelunky - a game that I've spent so many hours playing, reading about and discussing over the past five years. What makes Spelunky work so well is that the game basically just tells you: Look, there are lots of rules, but they are strict. Learn the rules and you learn the game. So for instance physics are global. If you understand the physics of yourself in the game, the you understand the physics of your enemies and can start to exploit this.
Breath Of The Wild is very much the same. The more you play the more you understand the physics of the world, and the way the AI reacts to everything. If you're patient you can use bombs to take out clusters of enemies while you remain safely up on top of a hill. You just need to know how long it takes for them to give up looking for you before you let them regroup and detonate the next one.
One of my absolute favorite moments in Breath Of The Wild was due to learning one of these global rules. I was in a particular shrine that involved electricity. The goal was basically to create a very long circuit throughout the dungeon to get electricity from one end to the other. You were given these metal objects that you were tasked with moving around strategically to complete the circuit. Seems pretty basic, right? Well at one point I ran out of these metal objects and was SO CLOSE. IF ONLY I had just one more metal piece to finish this puzzle. And that's when it hit me... actually that's when the GAME hit me... I had a bunch of metal objects in the shape of swords and shields and so on. I opened my inventory, highlighted a cheapo sword and hit 'drop.' The sword fell and became the missing link in the chain. Because you see it's not just the metallic items in the shrine that conduct electricity; it's EVERY metallic item in Breath Of The Wild. If you know how one metal object works in this game, then you know how they all do. And that's what makes a sandbox interesting enough to spend so much time within.
I've never played any of the Far Cry games. I admit that Blood Dragon looks like something that would appeal to me, but as for the main series I've always been turned off by the emphasis on killing animals. Maybe that's not so much what those games are about, but it's what I assume and it doesn't interest me. I remember a single mission where I had to hunt some deer in the Tomb Raider reboot. I wasn't crazy about it, but it did feel inline with the tone of the game. There was no glorification or anything. It was just there to show part of the difficulty of survivalism.
Likewise, I've stumbled upon a hunting side-mission in Grand Theft Auto V and just walked the F away. And those Cabella games? Forget it.
Look, I'm not a vegetarian or anything but I just don't want to see an animal harmed. It's just not something that appeals to me. There's a line, and I think it falls somewhere between the Tomb Raider reboot and what I presume Far Cry games are like. As for Breath Of The Wild, well animals are everywhere which assures you an endless menu. That said, my Link has been running on a hearty diet of apples and bananas for the most part. He's no vegan, though. He's bought some meals and even found some meats that were already dead. But I've personally not found a reason to waste an arrow by aiming it at any of the wildlife. Now if a bore attacks me then I'm going to defend myself and dine well that night. But I'm not going to start any shit.
I bring this up because of the dragon that flies in the sky at night. Technically I guess there are three but I have only ever seen the green one. As much as I try to avoid spoilers in this game, I did manage to read something about the dragons... apparently you're supposed to try to shoot them with arrows and they drop special loot. Well I would have never known that because the thought of shooting this dragon never crossed my mind. Like in my example with the bore above - if something isn't fucking with me, why would I fuck with it? Honestly, I think that dragon is one of the prettier things in the game. He just appears in the sky sometimes and flies around gracefully twisting himself into a pretzel. Sometimes he dips down into the water and reminds me of Nessy. When he appears I've never thought about attacking him. I have spent lots of time trying to grab cool screenshots of him. And one time I attempted to ride on his back (bad idea).
I should note that my time with Breath Of The Wild is not totally just me being a hermit and avoiding progress. It's actually the contrary: I totally WANT to make progress, I'm just not forcing it. Everytime I boot the game up it is my intention to find some new shrines to conquer or towers to open up the map some more. It's just that I'm doing so leisurely, and enjoying everything that goes on in between those points.
But the shrines are plenty fun for the most part. And there are definitely puzzles that make me mumble to myself, "you are the smartest man alive." I mean let's be real here, this is the age of the internet. Nevermind those pricey strategy guides you could get, but I'm certain that within a day of the game's release there were already Youtube videos that showed you how to solve each shrine. But that's not for me. The fun of those shrines is figuring them out on your own. Some I've cracked in just a couple of minutes, while others I've walked away from and come back because I just couldn't wrap my head around what I had to do. But that's cool. The shrines (and there are A LOT of them) are like a book of brain-teasers that you might flip through and pick and choose which to attempt and when.
I'll say this: I prefer the ones that don't kill me. The shrines that involve trying to manipulate boulders as they come crashing down an incline at me? Those I don't love. But the ones that are classic brain teasers are great.
My copy of Shining Resonance Refrain just showed up (on a Sunday - three days early, no less!) so my attention will now shift to that game for a while. But I'm not done with Breath Of The Wild. Not by a long shot. And replaying however many hours that I have this year have made me realize a couple of things about the game. First and foremost, I was lying to myself when I said it wasn't my favorite game of 2017. I mean really, I played a lot of great games last year but I don't think any of them made such a lasting impression. I don't I'd be as quick to replay any of them from the beginning. And it all comes down to expectations; I was simply playing the game wrong last year. I was expecting one experience and getting another, which made it hard for me to grasp just how much better the experience I was getting really was.
Also there's this: Breath Of The Wild is like Skyrim for me. Or Grand Theft Auto V. It is not just a game, but rather a world that I enjoy exploring and experiencing stories within. I played GTA V on and off for over two years before I finally got around to actually beating the actual story mode. And as for Skyrim I'm not even sure how many hours I've played - first the original PC release, then the remastered one, and yet I've never beaten the story. And that's fine. I'm in no rush. It's all about going back to that world for me. Truth be told, when I get the itch to play Skyrim again, I'll no doubt pick up the Switch copy because the allure of playing it in handheld mode far outweighs my desire to see the end credits anytime soon. So with that said, I'll pick up this writing exercise again sometime in the future. But no rush. And I mean that in a good way.
I tried BOTW in VR over the weekend. Really only had time for a quick demo of it, but I like what I saw.
I want to start by reiterating that I've played lots of things in Oculus Rift in the past, as well as in Samsung Gear VR. So with that in mind, I feel like I knew what to expect (something closer to Gear VR, really) as far as experience/visual quality goes. As such, I wasn't disappointed. But I feel like my expectations were in check, so there's that.
Yes, the resolution is going to make the game look a bit blurrier and all. But that's to be expected going in. It is an absolute MUST that you turn on the aim-with-motion option. This is what will make your head become the camera, and actually give it a proper VR immersion feel, rather than just sort of floating around behind Link all the time. (I'd wager that NOT using the look option would also result in motion sickness as your head tries to understand why the visuals aren't matching the head-turns).
At any rate, diminished resolution fidelity aside, I find this a really interesting game to use in VR. I mean, it makes the rather cheap point of entry of the basic Labo kit worth it to me.
I started my demo just standing on the side of a mountain. So yeah... I jumped. Soaring down and looking around as I made way down felt great. When I got to the bottom a thunder storm started up. Those lightening strikes feel intense when you're like "inside" the game world. As did my attempt to steal a sword off of a sleeping giant.
As you might imagine, using the Joycons connected to your head isn't the most comfortable way to game. It's not actually as bad as I figured, but not ideal. I have to imagine that someone is working right now to make some 3rd party plastic headset that could replace the cardboard Labo kit. Though, I also saw someone selling straps for the Labo headset on Etsy for like $18 which isn't too bad an option for now. I think having the ability to truly wear the headset and play with a Pro Controller would make a world of difference.
If Overwatch is my self-proclaimed Game Of The Decade, then BOTW must be #2 on that list. (Maybe I'll make such a list once the decade is done...).
Not since Link To The Past has a Zelda game kept me continually coming back to it. Most Zelda games are just like an adventure that I want to beat. BOTW is one where I just want to keep going back and exploring the world in tiny little increments. I almost don't care if I ever beat it.
I've been watching this IGN stream called Linked Together and it's been giving me the itch to fire BOTW back up. So I did so this weekend. As usual, I've got nothing planned. I just pick a direction to start walking and see what happens. I NEVER use fast travel. I'm like this about favorite open worlds. I beat Skyrim without fast travel, dudes. The world was too awesome to miss anything.
Anyway, I knocked out a couple of shrines and then found this awesome fire sword that I'm really excited about. One of these days I should get back to the main quest. I have like 20 hours into this playthrough and I've barely started the actual quest which is kind of funny. But then again, it's also how I tend to tackle open world games that I adore. It's nice to know the main quest is there waiting for me should I ever feel like working on it. For now, I'll just relax with the game.
There's no understating how huge TMNT was for me back in 1987. I mean, even to this day TMNT is pretty huge. But by the time this NES game rolled around in 1989, the Ninja Turtles were the biggest thing on the planet for me. So having a a Nintendo game to play was kind of a big deal.
This was one of those games that "everybody" I knew had a copy. Heck, I had it on NES and somehow we also had a DOS copy on our PC back then as well. It was one of those classic games where you'd tell your friends on the playground all the tips and tricks you figured out. I guess all I'm trying to say with all this is that the NES TMNT game was a bit hit with my circle of friends. And as a fan of the franchise to this day, the game still means a lot to me.
And yet I recognize it's not perfect. It's actually far from perfect. I could sit here and nitpick it all day. It's that far from perfect. I could talk about the weak range of Raphael and Michelangelo's weapons. Or the crazy slowdown that results from Ultra throwing a million enemies at you at once. Or the poor hit detection. Or certain jumps that require such precision that you'll have to retry them over and over. But alas, nostalgia blinds me on this one. And I'm willing to let that happen.
I've been using a SNES controller to play games on my Retron 5 lately, and this feels really good on old NES games like this. I love that overhead map music in this game by the way. Sorry, random. Anyway, I pretty much coasted right on over to the dam level and then of course I hit a wall. Ugh. That level's always been brutal for me. There's one part where I can't seem to make it through without touching the electric grass stuff over and over. It's bad. I had just the last bomb left to defuse - I could SEE IT - and zap. Ugh.
That's my biggest takeaway from the original NES game. The game is damn difficult. Like probably unfairly so at times. But I really do still enjoy it and appreciate it. Don't get me wrong, there are far better Ninja Turtles games out there. But also, there's way worse ones. Or at least less interesting ones.
The original Luigi's Mansion was definitely fun for me. But it was also very much a part of a place and time. Meaning, it was a great game to show off the launch of the Gamecube. It was different, and had great lighting and use of transparencies. In many ways, it sort of felt like a longish tech demo. And most, it was a fun but shortish game.
Nintendo has always been smart about this kind of stuff. The idea is so simple: Take a successful game and totally Nintendofy it. IE: Make it fun and family friendly and not overly challenging. So back when the Gamecube launched we got what was effectively the Nintendo Resident Evil game. And oh yeah, it also aped Ghostbusters pretty hard. But it was fine. It worked. It was a goofy and unique game that didn't overstay its welcome. I enjoyed it then, and I enjoyed it years later when my wife and I revisited it.
Now they've gone ahead and announced Luigi's Mansion 3, but I realize I skipped 2. Or what would have been 2. Instead it's called Dark Moon. And I found a fairly cheap copy so here we go.
Having played a couple of hours now, I'll say that I'm not really hooked. I don't know if Luigi's Mansion needed to be a series. It worked great as a one-off experiment. But this sequel feels like they just took the original game and made it way WAY bigger. Depending on your take, this is good or bad. For me it's like... eh, did they need to? Do I NEED to play another Luigi's Mansion game? I don't know.
The first two hours have been slow. There's very little challenge. Very little in the way of puzzle solving. And worse - it's so guided. I feel like every few steps I'm getting a call from the professor to tell me SOMETHING else about how to proceed. Given what I've seen in the first couple of hours, I'm nervous that this game will be nothing but a very long tutorial. Oh, and yeah it's super long apparently. Like six times longer than the original game. The original game was known for being very short, but y'know what? That's okay. I often like a nice compact experience.
So here we are. Dark Moon seems fine and all, but also kind of unnecessary to me. I'm not sure how much more I'll play. It's not BAD by any means, but it just has a very rehash feeling about it, at least so far. Maybe it's a slow burner? But even if it is, I have a lot of other games I'd probably want to get back to sooner. I still haven't finished Resident Evil Revelations that I started earlier this month.