Everything's weird right now. The coronavirus panic is crazy right now. Everyone's trying to find a balance between how to work and live safely. It's confusing for sure. And so when it's time to settle down and relax before bed, I've found something to take my mind off of the outside world.
The Bravely series is REALLY interesting. Let's go backwards for a minute. In 2009 there was a DS game called Final Fantasy: The 4 Heroes Of Light. If you never played this one, you're missing out. It's an awesome throwback JRPG that draws heavily from Final Fantasy III and V. Now, while this game was developed as a spin-off to the Final Fantasy series, my guess is that Square Enix decided to use the FF name as a means to selling more copies through name recognition. In reality, we may have well called this game Bravely Zero.
Anyway, The 4 Heroes Of Light did well enough that a sequel was started - and that sequel eventually saw the light of day under its own new title away from the FF series. That game became Bravely Default on the 3DS. I remember picking that one up at launch, and thinking it was really cool, but I got distracted by other games soon enough and never went back to it. Bummer.
The next game in the series was Bravely Second, which I'm playing now and will circle back to in a second. I didn't actually play it back then. And as it turns out, Bravely Second was more of a full game length expansion to Bravely Default than a true sequel on its own. Sort of like Xenoblade Chronicles 2: Torna.
Okay, this is where it gets weird. Enter the Switch era.
So I guess you could say that the next game in this loose series would be Octopath Traveler. I mean, the battle system? It is totally Bravely Default. And so are the weirdly written characters. And I LOVED Octopath Traveler. Even weirder? After all of that, Square Enix has announced that a new Bravely game is coming to Switch. It's called... Bravely Default II. Got all that?
So anyway, here we are. I'm playing Bravely Second, and thinking to myself that this series is awesome, even if it's kind of a mess. To some degree, I've played every game in this loose collective, and I've definitely enjoyed every game to some degree. That's saying a lot.
Bravely Second's story is mostly silly and tropey. But that's fine. I admit I got a chuckle out of one of the characters being straight up referred to as "one of those four heroes of light," only to comment about how pretentious that title sounds. Good stuff.
But the story is WHATEVER. I'll be honest, half the time I just skip the cut scenes. I'm playing this game for its lovely visuals, solid soundtrack, and more than anything else, it's awesome battle system. If you haven't played any of these games, it uses a turn based system in which you can choose to "brave" (or spend turns early and have to sit out that many future turns) or "default" (or sit out a current turn to stack up extra turns later). It makes for some interesting strategizing.
Likewise, the job system is really cool and makes your characters insanely customizable. Again, if you played Final Fantasy V (or Tactics) then you have a good idea of how the job system works. And you'll be leveling up your jobs independent of your characters, so again, there's a lot of variance to how your experience will play out versus mine.
So yeah, I'm having a blast with this game. And oddly, it's one of the cheapest 3DS RPG's I've picked up in recent memory. So maybe give it a spin if you need some mindless yet solid RPG'ing in your life right now.
I'm five or six hours in now, and this game is definitely captivating. I mean, it's not like the experience I had with Xenoblade Chronicles X which was just this huge epic explosion of awesome. But this feels like a pretty great modern throwback RPG. The story is kind of meh. But everything else makes up for it, mechanically.
I spent some time in a side quest last night - something I don't do a lot of in most RPG's - and leveled up considerably. I ended things at a boss fight against a red mage, which is appealing because if I beat him then I'll have the red mage job to use. That could replace either my black or white mage, opening up a slot for another job. I'm just not sure I'm leveled up enough to take this dude down right now.
It's really been a weird week. And this is a pretty weird game. In some ways it's very familiar and comforting. It's got that great 16-bit throwback vibe to it; and it really reminds me of playing Octopath Traveler, which is definitely in my top tier of Switch games. But then it's just... weird. Like, there's these alien creatures called the Ba'al and obviously the warriors tasked with killing them are called... Ba'al Busters. And they run with that joke A LOT. Oh, and pigs are warp points from village to village. And there's some kind of weird base building stuff you can do in a sub-menu that involves the moon. I don't even know.
But honestly, I tend to just kind of ignore a lot of stuff. The base building on the moon? I don't even know what's the point. The story and silly jokes? I skip about half of them anyway. I'm just enjoying the meat and potatoes. This game has an awesome battle system, and the job system is solid and makes for fun experimentation. I'm about ten hours in now.
So after twelve hours I hit Chapter 2. Out of curiosity, I looked up how many chapters there are. There are six chapters. Six! And it took me twelve hours to finish the first one. So... apparently this game is really long.
I'm having a really good time with it, though. The battle system is solid, the job system is neat. But my goodness. I really don't think I have what it takes to plow through five more chapters right now. I know I'm in the minority, but I do sometimes miss the days when a twenty hour RPG was considered long. Damn.
So yeah, this will be a good point for me to take a break from Bravely Second.
When Pokken Tournament was announced, I had pretty minimal interest. For one thing, I still wasn't QUITE sold on the Wii U yet. And I wasn't as big of a Pokemon fan as I am now. And as far as fighting games go, Tekken is pretty low on my list.
A year later it was re-released on the Switch and people were going gaga over it. I didn't really get it. I assumed that it was mostly because the Switch was new, and there weren't a ton of games yet to choose from. And three years later, I assumed I was right because now there's a million games on Switch and nobody ever talks about Pokken Tournament anymore.
But I ended up with a copy of the Wii U release on my shelves, from a Gamestop B2G2 sale after the holidays. At the time I was pretty heavily collecting Wii U games, and would just grab anything I didn't own if it was cheap enough.
I decided to give the game a go this week to mix things up. I've been playing a lot of RPG's lately and Overwatch and I don't know, just wanted to play something different; something outside my comfort zone. A decade ago I was huge into fighting games, but less so nowadays. I'll be honest: I'm pretty bad at them now. Out of practice anyway.
To my surprise and joy, Pokken is actually damn good. I had always just assumed it was a Tekken game reskinned to include Pokemon in it. Not the case. Not at all. It's actually very unique and fun. For instance, matches are constantly changing perspective between being a Power Stone kind of 3D fighter and a more traditional Tekken 2D fighter. This makes things interesting.
The matches are fast and flashy. And there's a leveling system that makes you feel like there's actual progression instead of just y'know... fighting a bunch of dudes over and over again.
The tutorial was fun and actually quite useful. There's a lot to learn here from basic moves to grabs, blocks, powered up moves, assists and so on. All of it was introduced at a decent pace. I'm using Pikachu as my main because there's no Squirtle, sadly.
The real meat of the game is the League, which is basically the single player story mode. You enter a League (Green is the first) and play matches to rank up, and once you're eligible for a tournament you do that and if you win, you can qualify for the next League. So far I've spent about two hours between the tutorial and ranking up, and now qualify for the green tournament. So again, there's a sense of track-able progress in each play session.
This is good stuff. I'm glad I gave it a try.
I have a weird relationship with Metroid. I certainly like to consider myself a fan of the series, but sometimes I think I'm a bigger fan of the IDEA of the series than the games themselves. I love the Samus character. I love the influence that Alien had on the games. I love the settings and the music and all that. But I mean, the games themselves, I can be a little tough on I guess.
In the past year I played Samus Returns, which was a 3DS remake of Metroid II. And I pretty much hated it. In fairness, I seemed to mostly hate changes that were made from the original game. But still. I also played Super Metroid - oft considered THEE defining Metroid experience, and I managed to lose interest fairly quickly. In my defense, I personally feel like the two GBA games - Zero Mission and Fusion - are the best 2D Metroid games ever made. Period. It's probably even weirder to say that Other M kept my attention longer than Super Metroid - though, in reality part of that had to do with how weird and sometimes bad Other M was. It kept me coming back anyway.
I had been thinking about replaying Zero Mission, which is the GBA remake of the original Metroid. But then I realized I could just play the original via the Switch Online service. And really, I tend to usually go with my cheapest option. In this case, "free."
I've never spent that much time with the original game in all honesty. I remember a friend's dad playing it when I was a kid but it seemed pretty complicated and hard back then. I jumped on board with the series with Metroid II as I was a total Game Boy kid. And eventually I played Zero Mission and loved it. So going back to the actual NES game seemed like a step backwards. Funny as it sounds, probably my most experience with the NES original was via NES Remix. Weird.
So I figured why not. There's no map, and I'm a baby who doesn't want to spend TOO MUCH time backtracking and getting lost right now (at least not after the 20-something hours I've spent in Xenoblade Chronicles X lately) so I found a nice walkthrough online. The game certainly feels more manageable this way. I've already picked up some upgrades and am heading to the elevator to get to the second area now.
I will say I never found the controls in Metroid all that tight. Jumping feels so floaty and weird. But we'll see how it goes. Like I said, I WANT to love all these games, but it tends to be a mixed bag for me in reality.
People generally point to Super Metroid and Symphony Of The Night as the start of the Metroidvania genre. But really, wasn't Metroid and Castlevania II already pretty much there? Like Castlevania II, I don't think I could even play Metroid without a walkthrough. There's so much unexplained crap. Like all these random floors or walls to bomb to find certain areas. Who has the time to bomb EVERYTHING just in case? Not me!
Anyway, I got some power-ups. I got the high jump and the screw attack and that's great. I also figured out wall-jumping and got stuck inside some lava and couldn't exit the screen so had to go back to an earlier save state.
After that I made it to the boss fight against Kraid, and... I might be done with this game. I just don't have enough HP right now, and I don't feel like going to farm for more because frankly, the game is starting to feel like a real slog. Like I said earlier, I loved the Zero Mission remake. But its existence has made going back to the original game all the harder.
I've been meaning to play Xenoblade Chronicles for, oh, ten years now. That whole Operation Rainfall thing was fascinating while it was happening. And it was my intention to play all those games. But I haven't. And yet, the Xenoblade series has continued to grow over those years. The original game has been re-released on 3DS and soon on Switch, while a full on numbered sequel was released on Switch along with a game-length stand-alone expansion.
But I still haven't played any of those games. Instead, I've just fired up Xenoblade Chronicles X, a spin-off title that was released (so far) exclusively on Wii U. And people love to hate that console. And I love to defend it. Here's a good example of why. Now in fairness, a lot of the once exclusive Wii U games have been ported to Switch. Tokyo Mirage Sessions was a recent surprise. But for now Xenoblade Chronicles X is still exclusive to Wii U. And even IF it gets re-released, it'll no doubt be a $60 game and I managed to grab it for less than $15 in pristine condition. So I'm happy.
I'll be honest - I had NO IDEA what to expect from this game. Screenshots and videos I've seen from the original look like the typical blue sky and green grass RPG, albeit with some futuristic designs a la later Final Fantasies. But as I delved into X, it became immediately clear that I was really in for a treat.
The influences here are staggering, and really check off a lot of boxes for me. The game opens with a huge cinematic intro that involves aliens and robot spacecrafts in fight in space. It's awesome. And as the game started up, it became clear that the futuristic designs are more inline with Phantasy Star Online than say Mass Effect. It's an awesome blend of bright colors typically found in JRPG's with a more sci-fi feel. Even better, once you get to "New Los Angeles," it's like you're in a JRPG version of Blade Runner. Heck, the team that you join is even called "BLADE." This game feels like my kind of game.
That said, I'm two and a half hours in and still struggling at times to figure out the basics. Combat feels awesome, but I'm still not fully understanding how it all works yet. It's sort of a blend of auto-attacks, and then cool-down skills you can manually do and then there's even some QTE stuff thrown in. I think this feels like a metaphor for the game as a whole. There's a LOT going on and it's going to take some time to make sense of it all.
But for now, I'm heavily intrigued. I think this game is going to really click with me - even more than it already has in the opening hours.
Okay, so there's a lot of stuff that Xenoblade Chronicles X does a poor job of explaining to the player. There's so many menus and mechanics to wrap your head around, and very few of them are properly outlined. And I think that to really enjoy this game you need to be alright with that. And I am. I kind of think of this game as just letting myself go and get taken up by the currents and let it bring me where it brings me and along the way, I hope I learn to swim.
And slowly I'm figuring things out. For instance - and this is embarrassing - early on I didn't even know how to use the cool-down abilities in battle. Turns out it's the d-pad. So now this has improved my experience a lot. The battles in this game are fast and chaotic and engaging. It's a joy to grind.
I spent a lot of time last night just trying to explore this enemy alien outpost base. It was slow and sometimes frustrating. At times we were under powered. Or at least under prepared. I died a lot, but dying in this game seems to be a learning experience. Like, you can see enemy levels above their heads. So maybe don't mess with a level 80 thing in the wild when you're level 9. Lesson learned.
My character is Newt (Xenoblade, Xenomorph, whatever) and is somewhat modeled after my wife, because I have a type. I'm still slowly figuring out the menus. Even stuff that should be easy - equipping armor, say - is a little convoluted because there's minimum levels required for EVERYTHING and it's not always clear. There's definitely no button to just equip the best stuff automatically like you might see in other RPG's. This is definitely an RPG for those that like to get into all the little systems.
Anyway, we finally got into the alien base, and did a sort of little boss battle and recruited an annoying little space-potato character who I'm guessing is a healer of sorts since he said he doesn't fight and needs to be protected. Joy.
It's weird, though. Anything I'm saying that might sound negative... it's really not. I may have sort of complaints, or at least things I would have done differently if I were directing the game. But ultimately, I'm finding this game truly fascinating and really really awesome.
Somehow SOMEHOW I managed not to save my game before the Chapter 3 story quest was officially turned in. Which meant I had to do that whole chapter again. UGH. So this time instead of slowly discovering where I need to go, and what I needed to do, all while slowly grinding organically, this time I just bolted straight to that boss chamber to do it over again - and thus, I'm level 9 now instead of level 10. Lame. At least I was able to skip the cut scenes I had already watched.
Lesson learned: save often. Apparently the auto-save in this game is not as generous as I had assumed.
Before I could start Chapter 4 there were some mandatory side-mission tutorial things to get out of the way. So I did those. Did you ever see the episode of Parks & Rec where Ben makes a board game and the rules are so convoluted that nobody can follow? Xenoblade Chronicles X feels a little bit like that at times. It's like the developers were daring you to try to keep up on all of the systems that are in place. Take for example leveling... you've got your own level, plus your abilities have levels, plus there's a rank, and a Blade rank, plus there's some other sort of percentage you need to hit for unlocking parts of the map. Oh, and there's affinity scores, too. It's a lot. Obviously some more important than others. But my goodness, did they make this game complicated.
And yet I'm sort of enjoying butting my head against it. I'm trying my best. And I'm having a good time.
Never has an RPG challenged me so much to even understand what's going on. The map itself is color coded, and apparently each represents the difficulty of the enemies found there. I had no idea. This isn't told to you in-game. And the color coding itself is kind of arbitrary. It's not a basic green/yellow/red kind of thing. There's five colors I think? Maybe more. Google is my friend.
I tend to only lose interest in RPG's if I feel like I'm not making progress. So that's what has kept me so interested in XCX. I'm always making progress, at least right now. And right now it's slow. All I know is that my current objective is to get 15% of the map surveyed. I assumed that meant just exploring/discovering. But no, you need to 'resolve' each piece of the map - whether that means placing a satellite thingy or killing a certain big enemy or just discovering a specific thing there.
I did manage to get that survey level raised from 7% to 11% so again, progress. But it's a little slow right now. There's so much to complain about how this game treats the player, but oddly, the game itself is so good that I'm able to overlook so much of that. It's just really fun to play.
Chapter 4 was a beat. Not really the chapter itself but all the stuff I had to do to be able to take the mission. So now I'm like ten hours into this game. And y'know what? It's still fantastic. It took me forever to figure out how to use the follow ball, and now I've completed Chapter 4. And it turns out that this world is HUGE. Like, I already knew it was, but I was only one ONE PART of it. There's way more. And I also figured out how to recruited other players' characters into my party temporarily which is really cool. In this way, it plays like an MMO, except you're using like ghost characters. It's weird. But awesome. This game is great.
On the macro, Xenoblade Chronicles X is a slow game. Progress comes in granules. Leveling can take an eternity. Yet, in the moment-to-moment the game always manages to feel exciting. The actual battles are frantic and awesome. And there is always SOMETHING to do be it your main quest or side quests or just exploring or spending time dicking around in menus upgrading gear or skills or tweaking abilities. It's never boring.
For the most part, I've played in a linear fashion - sticking to the main story quest. However, some of these require certain conditions be met. So I might have to do specific side quests first, or explore certain areas of the world map, or just be a certain level, mandating that I spend some time grinding.
Last night I completed Chapter 5, which I had started the night before. There was some intense battles in there, and the whole story culminated with me finding out (spoilers!) that my character was actually a robot. I felt genuinely shocked by this story beat. And I also felt in love with the game. Spending all this time with a character I created - one who was suffering amnesia, the most common JRPG trope EVER - only to find out her memories were wiped because she's a robot! It's all so very Blade Runner. And I love it. Hard.
I was curious how long I'd been playing. I estimated about a dozen hours, but when I checked my Wii U's activity log it turns out I had played seventeen hours. Wow. That's how sucked into this game I've been. The hours have just melted away. Over the past couple weeks, any gaming downtime has been poured into this one. Happily. I could easily list all the complaints I have about XCX, but none of them really matter. Because I love this game. It's one of the best modern RPG's I've played in a long time. And certainly one of the most unique. I mean, I've actually been keeping a text file on my Chromebook just to remind me of all the stuff I want to try to do. It's crazy. This game rules.
I am getting absolutely destroyed in this one side quest. It's one that's required before you can do Chapter 6. Anyway, there's a huge boss battle and this thing has crazy HP. And does crazy damage. I'm wondering if I can fast travel back to base and recruit a fourth party member and then warp back? I should try that. Because I CAN NOT get him to die with just three of us. I came sooooo close at one point. I had him down to just a sliver of health but couldn't hold out.
It turns out that yes, yes I can go back and recruit another party member. So I did that. I scouted another player's NPC, who was a bit higher level than me, and went back and crushed that boss. Okay, I didn't crush him. We were actually super low on health by the time we took him out. But still.
The ability to scout other player characters and use them as NPC's is a really neat touch in this game. And I wonder - because NOTHING is explained all that well - if someone scouts me, does my character gain XP in that time?
I was too tired to start Chapter 6 by this point as we have a baby going through a sleep regression right now. So I just spent a little time running around Oblivia to grind a bit as I was pretty close to level 20. And now I'm level 20.
So for some reason I had it in my head that I wanted to import that Dragon Quest trilogy for Switch. But, ugh, the price on that sucker felt a bit too steep given that it's ultimately three mobile ports of NES games. And to be honest, I don't even feel like the mobile ports look all that good.
But I had it in my head that I needed a copy of Dragon Quest because it was my first RPG as a kid and I don't know, I was feeling nostalgic. It turns out that the GBC port - which I have played and enjoyed - is now pretty expensive. So I guess I could seek out a NES cart of Dragon Warrior, but eh, I also kind of wanted the quality of life improvements (namely: being able to save anywhere) of the remake.
It dawned on me I could just buy the eShop game. I'll be honest, I REALLY prefer physical versions of games. But here we are. The trilogy was $50 to import, or I could nab the first game - the one I was in the mood to play - for $3 on sale. Oh, and because I had some eShop coins saved up... it was technically "free" for me to grab that game. So yeah. I got that version.
That was weeks ago. And it just sat on my home screen saying "hi" whenever I went and fired up Overwatch instead. So last night I figured, eh, maybe I'll give that one a shot for a while.
Like I said, Dragon Warrior was my first RPG. Final Fantasy was my second. And I vastly preferred FF, mainly because of the four-character party. But Dragon Quest bursts with personality. I can't hear that music without thinking of getting my free copy of the game from Nintendo Power back in the day. It was possibly the most awesome magazine promotion EVER. Ever.
Now about this Switch/mobile port. First of all... it looks like a mobile port. And I might have a sickness, because I did actually (try to) play this on Android some years back and was disturbed by how poor the Android version felt. In fairness, that was with touch controls and a forced portrait mode. PORTRAIT mode! Why??? The Switch version has neither of things, so I feel better. But I'll be honest here: it's ugly. At least the Hero is ugly. He doesn't look like he belongs in the same series of games as like those DS releases. Which feels weird. But whatever.
If you've never played Dragon Quest (or any of its sequels) you should know this: it opens up SLOW, dudes. Like real slow. And I spent about an hour grinding around the first town until I had enough loot for the best stuff at the shops. By then I was level 5. And so I went up to the little cave up north and read the tombstone and then went to the second village where - you guessed it - there's more expensive gear. So now I'm grinding around there.
I don't think I've ever taken the time to actually beat the first DQ. And I don't think it's actually a super long game. So I guess maybe I'll use this as sort of mindless grinding while listening to TV. For now. We'll see how it goes.
Mindless grinding while listening to TV? Yes!
I'm now level 10 and have done a fair amount of grinding for new armor and other stuff. My take on leveling has been thus: I go to a new town, check out the shop. I then take note of how much money I'll need to buy the absolute BEST stuff there, and then go out and kill stuff for an hour or whatever until I have enough for that best stuff. And there's your grind. But y'know what? It's kind of nice.
Having recently played through the DQXI demo, I'm in a total DQ fandom phase right now. Like, the other morning I sat and watched the first half of the new DQ Netflix movie with my daughter (who's teething by the way...). And I was just really in the mood for more DQ but didn't want to go out and buy a new game, so I just figured I'd get back into the first one. And dammit if I'm not having fun. The nostalgia bomb is in full effect.
It's funny how tastes change over time. But then again, time itself is funny. Or rather our perception of time - that perception itself changes over time. When you're a kid, everything feels like a long time. Then you grow up and time won't stop barrelling down the highway.
I was nine years old when Nintendo Power sent out free copies of Dragon Warrior. And while I thought the game was cool - I was really intrigued by all things Dungeons & Dragons at the time - I was far too young to really appreciate a slowburn like this. I didn't have the patience to grind, nor did I understand the necessity.
I was in my twenties when I played the GBC port of the game, and while I was drawn into the nostalgia of replaying it - again, I wasn't yet patient enough to truly savor the game. At the time, I was more into the fast-paced genres like shmups and fighters. Who has an hour to grind the same patch of a map to gain enough gold for new armor? I'll tell you who: a dude in his late thirties.
Last night my wife put on This Is Us, and I listened to the cabin saga unravel as I walked around hoping to find some Golems for big gold. I needed to get 7,700 gold for the magic armor that would replenish health as I walked. If this sounds boring to you, then you're just not there yet. For me, it was a perfect quiet night.
Look, Overwatch is pretty much my favorite game like ever. But sometimes playing that before bed is just too much for my brain. It makes it tough to get to sleep. (The same can be said for Tetris). But Dragon Quest? It's perfect for slowing things down.
Anyway, I got my magic armor and went off and rescued a princess from a dragon. This is the stuff of my D&D dreams as a kid. I know I've said for years that I prefer Final Fantasy games, but lately, I don't know. Maybe I don't need all the crazy or the teen angst anymore. Maybe tastes change. Maybe the pure and simple joy of Dragon Quest is exactly what the late thirties version of the gamer Me really needs.
It took me thirty years, but I can finally say I've beaten Dragon Quest. It was an awesome victory for me. And I was a bit nervous going into the final boss at level 20 (the level cap is 30) but I walked away unscathed, no problem.
The bigger victory is that I've walked away with this huge new love and respect for the Dragon Quest series. I'm hooked. These games rule.
Back when I was super into GameCube, I remember avoiding Four Swords Adventure because I ASSUMED it was a four-player only game, and I didn't have three friends with three GBA's to play it with. But then I found out there was a single player campaign so quickly picked it up and LOVED it. It was glorious to see a new 2D Zelda game on the GCN hardware. And the whole gimmick of swapping between four Links felt awesome.
Around the same time I picked up the Link To The Past port on GBA which included a similar game simply titled "Four Swords." This one unfortunately WAS a four-player only game, so I never messed with it.
Fast-forward quite a few years and somehow I ended up with a free copy of Four Swords Anniversary Edition on 3DS. I don't remember how I got this. Did everyone get it free? Hmm. Anyway, this updated port allows for you to play in single player so I figured why not finally get around to it?
Well, it turns out I don't like this game. It truly pains me to say this about a Zelda game. But I mean, it's gonna happen. I guess. The truth is it's been over a decade since I played Four Swords Adventure, so I don't really remember why I liked it so much or how this experience differs. I just know I'm not having fun.
The fact that the levels are sort of randomized, and the puzzles often don't make a whole heck of a lot of sense... the fact that you can put yourself into a no-win state AND NOT REALIZE IT. I mean, at what point do you just check a FAQ to see if there's a way to proceed or not? I don't like that kind of feeling in a game.
So yeah. About an hour into this I just quit. I'm all set.
If I was forced to pick a favorite Mega Man game of all time, it'd be Mega Man X. And I'd consider Mega Man X4 to be the second best X game in the series. I've loved that one for years. Which is sort of weird, because I don't actually think that the X series is all that good or consistent as a whole. But something about X4 has always just kind of clicked with me.
Last night I was sort of between games and not sure what I felt like playing so I fired up Mega Man X4 on the Switch Legacy Collection. I was all set to plow through this game that I'd beaten numerous times over the years. And then something dawned on me. Regardless of how much I was into this game, for some reason I had never bothered to play through it as Zero in the past. So I decided I'd finally do that.
Well it turns out that playing Zero's campaign is like a totally different game. Disclaimer here, I've actually never played any of those Zero/ZX games in the past. Something I might fix now that I've enjoyed his X4 campaign and given the upcoming release of the collection on Switch.
Anyway, Zero differs from X a lot. He uses his sword and relies on mostly melee attacks. He doesn't steal fallen boss robot powers, but instead learns new sword techniques. It's very very different. And it makes for a fun experience to play a game that I knew so well but with new powers and new limitations.
It only took me about two hours to rush through to the end, but I had a good time playing this game in a new light. Good stuff.
I keep a Google Doc with a list of upcoming games of interest each year. And on that Doc, I've had Dragon Quest XI listed for quite some time. It seemed like one of the "big ones" for 2019. I guess because it was a new DQ game that was coming to console rather than just 3DS. And also because unlike the previously released PS4 version, the Switch edition would offer up a full 2D retro mode, which looked amazing when it was announced at the Nintendo Direct a few months back.
Generally speaking, if I'm already interested in a game, I don't bother with a demo. I tend to want to just wait for the full release. But this time was different. See, DQ XI's demo is estimated to be around ten hours long. And here's the thing: I'm not actually a huge DQ fan. I played the original game a ton as a kid, but only dabbled with II and III on GBC later. I played V just this year on DS but lost interest after eleven or so hours. And VIII - often considered the best in the series - I tried starting twice over the years and lost interest VERY fast. So here's the thing; as generous as a ten hour demo is, it's totally possible that that's all I'll need of this game.
I have to admit up front that I'm a much bigger fan of the Final Fantasy series. You can argue that the DQ games are 'better' games with 'better' stories, but I don't know. Something about the varying quality of FF has always just struck me as more interesting and unique.
The other big thing I need to admit is this: I don't care for the art in most DQ games. The way the characters look? Not for me. It's that same artist that made Dragon Ball Z right? Yeah. I'm not into that look. At all. Which says nothing about how the game plays, but just saying.
Anyway, I've played MAYBE 40 mins of the game so far and I'm mixed on it so far. The world is really pretty. The slimes are super cute. Unfortunately, the 2D mode is absent from the demo so that kills that for me. But it seems... alright. A little too talky right now, which is making it really slow to get going. Essentially, it's been walking in a straight line through some caves and fighting two or three slimes at a time. Fairly boring. And the leveling is slow.
I'm sure it picks up as there are fans out there who I know that have gushed about the PS4 release and put in over a hundred hours. So we'll see.
For some reason I decided to fire up that DQXI demo again. And y'know what? I'm glad I did. I'm about two hours in now and it's actually picked up quite a bit and is a way better game than my first impression gave it. Granted, I went in with low-ish expectations and only had played about thirty minutes. But still.
What I found interesting was this - there's the usual trope of like "you're the Luminary" and you need to go talk to a king or whatever. You know the old cliche in RPG's of how you're the "chosen hero" or whatever? But when you get to the king he's like "no! Dude! The Luminary is a bad omen! You gotta die!" I'm paraphrasing. But I don't know, turning that trope on its head seems interesting.
Setting up tactics and letting the battles play out makes grinding feel brisk. I'm level 5 now. And I've got a second party member, Erik. So yeah. I'm enjoying it more now. I think I'm gonna do some grinding for new gear for a bit. I might even do some side quests to make this demo last. Apparently the demo is about ten hours or so, and we'll see how much fun I can get out of it without paying $60.
After spending some more time with this demo, I have to say that Dragon Quest XI is so good that it's actually making me retroactively like the DQ series even more as a whole. The more I think about it, yes I was more into Final Fantasy on NES than I was Dragon Warrior... but Dragon Warrior has enough nostalgia for me that I rebought the game TWICE - on both GBC and again on the Switch eShop. And while playing Dragon Quest V and Final Fantasy IV on DS back-to-back was borderline stupid, I had a lot of fun with DQV - and I'll always remember that game as something I played in waiting rooms while bringing my wife to doctor's appointments when we were expecting our daughter.
Yes, the more I play DQXI, the more I'm thinking about the series as a whole. The more I want to look into the rest of what I've missed. There's something about this game sort of being the PERFECT Dragon Quest game that's made me appreciate the series. And that's a good thing.
Even the art style. For years I've talked about how I don't care for the art. I'm not a fan of Dragon Ball Z, so I've always been turned off by the look of the DQ games and Chrono Trigger and so on. But all the sudden, it's like it makes sense here. The DQ games are a very manga take on the very western Dungeons & Dragons tropes. All the sudden that makes these monsters and heroes look more charming to me with that in mind.
I'm still a bigger fan of Final Fantasy as a whole. But part of what draws me to that series is that it's kind of a mess. There's some baffling decisions and some truly bad games and that can make for interesting exploration. Will this be a good Final Fantasy or a bad one? Dragon Quest on the other hand, I mean DQXI is a SLOW burn for sure, but the writing is insanely good. The pacing is quite obviously intentional.
I'm really glad I've given this game another chance. It seems like the kind of game I could play 'forever.' Like Breath Of The Wild, it's the sort of game I might play in thirty minute spurts for months. Or I might binge several hours during a storm. Or I might drop it for months and then come back to it fully invigorated. I think this might be the most perfect DQ entry - even for someone who's played a few of them in the past but took them for granted.
Okay, so Dragon Quest XI is turning out to be one of my favorite modern JRPG's in a long time. I think the last one I got this into was Octopath Traveler, but that felt like more of a throwback. THIS is like a truly modern take, and versus a lot of the stuff I've played such as recent Final Fantasy entries or Shining Resonance Refrain, THIS game blows that stuff out of the water.
The world is huge - along the lines of BOTW. Probably bigger even. And yet things are thrown at you at such a pace that everything feels just right. I was three hours in when the crafting mechanic was introduced. At first I rolled my eyes. I hate crafting in games. And yet... AND YET it's so good that I actually spend time trying to perfect the stuff I was crafting. They've streamlined everything here. Don't have enough found-crap to craft what you want to craft? No problem! Just pay for the ingredients. THANK YOU, SQUARE ENIX. Thank you.
And even the tropey stuff is well thought out. We got back to Cobblestone, our hero' s hometown and everything looks normal except nobody remembers me. Guess what? It's a fever dream. The village was burned to the ground in our absence and we're talking to ghosts. All of this revealed with trippy VHS artifacting. It was awesome.
I love this game. I love that it reminds you what you last did when you fire it up so you don't forget where you were in the story. I love that you can find in-menu what your goals are for each quest. I love the battling. I love the gigantic world. I love the freedom. I love that I'm four hours into a demo and that's not even half. A physical copy of the game is on my wishlist now. I'll be happy to pick up a copy once the demo has run its course.
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.
You can't open competitive play in OW until you hit level 25. Not that I play comp, but it's still like a badge to earn. And obviously I've already done this on PC and Xbox One long ago. Anyway, last night I was a small bit of XP away from 25, so I'm like I want to do this as D.VA (my fav) and make this an awesome win. It was a payload map. We're so close. We can see the goal. Clock's ticking down. Four seconds left. Their whole team is like a brick wall. I use my boosters and fly up over them, drop behind them and self destruct and jump on the payload un-meched. We're in OT now. It's moving slow. My team catches up to me. I'm back in the mech. Problem is we're right at their side, so as they respawn they have like zero walk to get back to us and defend. Overtime, overtime, overtime, it just keeps going. Every time I see one of their players go down, two more respawn. If one of us go down it's a longer walk to get back. Overtime, overtime, overtime, just keeps going! We are but an inch away from victory but they won't let up. I get un-meched and pushed back and we lose. My heart's pounding. I hit 25. I send kudos to three of my teammates. Even though it was a loss, it felt like a win in the same way that Rocky did. We lost, but I knew I had played the hardest and smartest that I could of. I did everything "right." Every decision was what I should have been doing, they just played better. But that's okay.
I always enjoy the holiday events in Overwatch. I feel like the temptation of those limited edition skins really brings out the best (skill) in players. Which is to say, I've been seeing a lot of losses this week. Everyone wants those sweet sweet skins. I'm close to nabbing that Soldier 76 ugly sweater myself.
It's crazy that a game that I've been playing on other consoles for years is already my #5 most played Switch game right now. This is within a two month span!
Also I got a Play Of The Game as Zenyatta which blew me away. It's not often you see a POTG from a Support. And it was for actually saving lives, not for kills. I think he's my best Support - easily - yet, I admit also play him fairly aggressively. So it was cool seeing the POTG was me dropping Transcendence at just the right time to turn the tides.
The new season of Overwatch League started over the weekend. It was exciting for me, and thank goodness my daughter decided to take a nap just in time for me to catch Boston Uprising's match against New York. Sadly, NYXL crushed the Uprising but it was still a lot of fun to get back into OWL.
The Uprising's roster is totally different this year. I only recognized two faces - Fusions and Colourahex. And the rest of the chairs are filled by rookies, which is interesting anyway. Clearly from this game it looks like they've got a ways to go before the gain the synergy that some of my favorite players shared.
One of the reasons I love watching OWL is because it pumps me up to play the damn game, though. Like, I only started playing Zenyatta last year after catching some phenomenal plays with him in OWL. And because of that I started playing him fairly aggressive. Watching this game, it got me pumped to play Tracer who I haven't bothered with since the beta in 2016. I jumped into a game last night and on my first map as Tracer got like 14-1 KDR. That felt good.
There are good Zelda clones and bad Zelda clones. The good ones are few and far between. Things like Golden Axe Warrior or 3D Dot Game Heroes. Those stand out to me as games that sort of understood what makes Zelda great. And then there are others that just go for a similar look or playstyle and hope for the best without really grasping what makes a great game. Quest For Camelot is pretty much the latter.
Having said that, I still think that digging through old licensed games is a pretty interesting thing. You find these games made based on random movies or whatever and you never really know what they'll be. More often than not it's a collectathon platformer. But every once in a while, you'll find that a developer used a license to just make a tribute to a game. It's sort of a backdoor way to make a sequel to a series you wish you got to work on.
I've never seen the movie Quest For Camelot. I don't even remember it. Apparently it was a late 90's thing and must have been fairly big budget as it's got a decent enough voice cast. It looks to me like kind of a Disney wannabe deal. Also the art reminds me a bit of Dragon's Lair.
Anyway the game is a total Zelda ripoff. But not in a good way. For one thing there's no overworld, so each area is just its own thing. You start in a village, and that's one level. There's a few tasks you'll need to do to advance to the next. So in the village I had to find five chickens (boring) and then get a sword and then learn to use it and then kill all the knights in that area (boring).
The battle system is pretty meh. But at least you can upgrade your sword's power by killing more enemies. By far the worst thing here is the menu system. The music is awful - that's a close second. And it's repetitive so after a while I just shut the volume off. But the menu... Okay, so to save your game you need to equip "SAVE" by mapping it to one of the buttons. So press Start, and select Save, then Start to get back to the game and hit the button you mapped Save to. Then you wait a second and asks if you want to save. Then you wait a second and it confirms it saved. So every time you load a saved game you immediately have to go into that same menu and unequip the Save thingy. It's so so bad. OH! And it costs you 30 gold to save! Which wouldn't be so bad if my cart didn't seem to have some issues causing it to glitch randomly making me paranoid of losing any progress! UGH!
The second level is a castle. In here I had to find a guy's dog (boring) and then I got a shield and then I had to kill all the ghosts (boring) and then I could open a magic door to get the hookshot to get to the roof to the dungeon key which let me fight the boss. He... did nothing. I just hit him over and over and he just kinda walked around. On to level three.
So yeah. This game sucks. It feels like a poor man's Crystalis. It's janky and clunky and bad. But... I might stick with it. How Long To Beat says it's like a four hour game, and I'm a sucker for short games. Also, I happen to have the issue of Nintendo Power that contains a walkthrough. So it should be a breeze? We'll see if I can hang in there long enough to finish this bad game.