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Jason Clement

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Posts posted by Jason Clement


  1. Zelda-like games are a dime dozen these days but Sparklite (from indie developer Merge Games and publisher Red Blue Games) looks to be a cut above the rest with a few things that make it stand out.

     

    Part Zelda-like adventure, part rogue-like, and part... crafting-like (?), Sparklite is set in a world where its natural resource (or life force) goes by the same name. Its story focuses on a young heroine named Ada, whose quest is to save the world from an antagonistic, self-named 'Baron' that is seeking to exploit the resource in order to further his own nefarious goals.

     

    To do so, you'll explore five procedurally-generated biomes, invent different gadgets and weapons to solve puzzles and defeat enemies, battle giant bosses, and help the local population rebuild The Refuge. Last but not least, all of this will be set to a soundtrack composed by Dale North (of Wizard of Legend fame).

     

    If mixing Zelda gameplay, crafting, and a procedurally-generated world sound right up your alley, you can check out Sparklite on the Nintendo Switch eShop, Playstation Store on PlayStation 4, Xbox Games Store on Xbox One, and Steam starting today. The game is also on sale for 15% off on each platform until November 20.

     

    Check out the game's launch trailer below!

     

    Source: Press Release


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  2. Developer: Sky 9 Games

    Publisher: Curve Digital

    Platform: Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4,

    Xbox One, PC (via Epic Games Store)

    Release Date: October 10, 2019

    ESRB: T for Teen

     

     

     

    Note: This review is based on the Nintendo Switch version of the game

     

     

    It’s always a bit surprising to me that we don’t see more games use 3D Zelda titles as a base, given the series’ immense popularity. Sky 9 Games' A Knight’s Quest is one of the first indie titles I’ve seen recently that attempts this and actually gets much closer to replicating the experience (especially the adventure aspect) than most other games have. Unfortunately, there are also a number of aspects that hinder it from living up to its potential.

     

    A Knight's Quest 01.jpg

     

    In A Knight’s Quest, you play as Rusty – a clumsy adventurer who unwittingly unleashes an unknown, presumably malevolent force that has been sealed away. In order to fight this evil, Rusty is tasked with seeking out four spirit heroes and their powers, which in turn means going on a journey to find each one in their own dungeon. The story isn’t necessarily the most original ever, but it works for setting the game in motion. Likewise, the dialogue often aims for funny and nonsensical, but is hit and miss. This is mostly due to just about every character being written with a combination of snarky/sarcastic wit and internet meme culture; kind of like that awkward friend who tries to be funny by repeating outdated internet memes and jokes. In the end, the character dialogue comes off as more of a first draft and could use a bit more refinement.

     

    The game takes a good half hour to really get going, but once it does, its world shows off impressive potential. Though it isn’t the open-ended, interconnected wilderness featured in The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, it’s apparent the developers took a lot of inspiration from it. There are many large, detailed areas for you to explore with treasure chests and other loot off the beaten path, skeletons at campfires, different enemies littering the landscape, and sidequests you can undertake from certain characters you come across in your travels.

     

    A Knight's Quest 02.jpg

     

    In fact, the design of the world and its various areas is perhaps the most impressive and compelling aspect of the game. Not only is it appealing from a visual standpoint, many of the areas are massive in size and can take 20+ minutes or more to traverse for first-time players, adding to the feeling that you’re on a long journey. There is also an oddly satisfying ‘Zelda meets Mario’ aspect to the gameplay, where it incorporates a lot of 3D platforming and vertical exploration in certain areas, giving the game a bit more of a unique flavor in contrast to typical adventure games.

     

    Likewise, the soundtrack composed by Will Bedford is excellent and evokes a real sense of adventure and wonder. The overworld theme has a heroic melody reminiscent of the Hyrule Field theme from The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, and the Desert Proving Grounds theme is a real symphonic highlight, featuring an eclectic mix of strings, horns, flutes, and different kinds of unique percussion (such as bells). Unfortunately, that’s just about where the games’ good qualities stop.

     

    While the world is expansive and looks great, the actual characters look rather bland and mediocre. The enemy design is much more miss than hit, consisting of such things as generic, one-eyed snake creatures, generic skeletons with swords, scorpions, and other creatures that just aren’t that original or interesting. Making matters even worse is that they all use the same two or three sound effects, making them even more irritating.

     

    A Knight's Quest 03.jpg

     

    Perhaps the biggest issue of all is the combat and controls. For the most part, combat works just enough that you can get through the game, but it’s uneven and loose at best. Where it gets a bit dicey is when you face multiple enemies at once. There’s at least one major instance in the story where you’ll be faced with this scenario; however, you’ll realize that the battle system is largely designed around you fighting one enemy at a time. So while you’re attacking one, the rest are still doing (sometimes major) damage to you, and it’s impossible to dodge every attack. There are certain items (such as bombs) designed to attack large groups, but they’re not terribly effective, and the few multi-enemy attacks you have are not super viable because of how long they take to perform (you must wait and charge a few seconds before unleashing them). The flow of battle also simply isn’t fast enough for you to fight large groups of enemies evenly, leading Rusty to slowly fight one enemy and clumsily move to the next.

     

    Beyond that, a number of standard quality of life features that are generally present in games like this are either simply missing in this one, or not implemented as effectively as they should be. One major issue is there are no maps of each area beyond a simple, illustrated overworld map in your sub-menu. There’s a compass at the top of the screen that will show you which direction your objective is in, but it’s not 100% foolproof and can sometimes misguide you. Also, fast travel is something that’s implemented fairly early on in many games, yet you don’t even get access to it in the first half of this game even though you pass by many fast-travel stations (that you can't yet access) in your travels, forcing you to sometimes retrace your steps through long, winding areas.

     

    A Knight's Quest 04.jpg

     

    There’s also no way to sell off any loot you acquire early on, as well as no meaningful way to buy items (especially health-recovering ones) until the second major area you get to. This leads to another issue in that you simply don’t have enough inventory storage slots in the beginning, and thus no way to store some of the more valuable items you come across when you run out of room. And last but not least, there were a number of clipping issues I faced. In one area, my character simply stopped responding to any control input and I had to restart the game entirely to continue, and in yet other areas I would clip through the wall or floor and die instantly.

     

    Despite the negatives, I still had fun throughout the game, and there’s a lot to admire about A Knight’s Quest. Its world is one of the most impressive I’ve ever seen created by an indie team. The soundtrack is also exceptional and could easily be mistaken for a AAA title's score. Even much of the gameplay (especially dungeons) and main quest itself is pretty fun and compelling. There’s arguably a good game beneath a rough exterior here; if the game had another half a year or more of polish, I might’ve been able to call this a pretty good game. As it currently is, the negative aspects drag a good experience down to just a decent one at best.

     


     

    Pros

     

    + Large, impressive world with lots of sidequests and ripe for exploration

    + Soundtrack is great

    + Dungeons are surprisingly fun and capture a bit of the Zelda magic

     

    Cons

     

    - Issues with the fluidity of combat; fighting large groups is incredibly difficult and not really fair for players

    - Lack of standard quality of life features (especially early on) that would make the game much better and a lot more pleasant to play

    - Character and enemy models are a bit bland in design

    - Infrequent clipping issues at various points

     


     

    Overall Score: 6.5 (out of 10)

    Decent

     

    An impressive world (both visually and in design) and epic musical score are undermined by a number of issues plaguing gameplay as well as a lack of standard quality of life features, causing this Zelda-like title to be just a decent adventure at best for those brave enough to overcome its problems.

     

    Disclosure: This game was reviewed using downloadable Switch code provided by the publisher.


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  3. On 9/5/2019 at 8:53 AM, DarkCobra86 said:

     

    I think you should be able to.

     

    Pretty sure that's a bot you're responding to, DC. It's hard keeping up with all of the new ones that keep popping up here nowadays.

     

    But on the flipside, it's cool that you're still keeping an eye on this place! How've you been? Feels like forever since we've last talked. xD


  4. PQube's and JoySteak Studio's Songbird Symphony is out on digital shops this week, and it stars a cute little bird named 'Birb' that sets off on an adventure to discover his heritage, but it's far from your typical hop and bop platformer.

     

    As Birb, you'll move the environment around you by tapping in sync with background beats, solve different puzzles to add new sound queues to the background music, collect feathers, and explore interconnected levels with many different passages. Oh, and you'll participate in rhythm battles as well.

     

    If that all sounds good to you, you can check out Songbird Symphony on Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, and PC (via Steam) for $16.99. And be sure to check out the trailer below!

     

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fcShLsh-Sk8

     

    Source: Press Release


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  5. Developer: WindThunder
    Publisher: Winking Entertainment Corp.
    Platform: Switch, PS4, PC, iOS
    Release Date: May 23, 2019
    ESRB: T

     

    Note: This review is based on the Nintendo Switch version of the game

     


    The episodic game format is not without its risks. While it can potentially ease the cost of development in creating smaller games released in sequence over a span of time, a lot hinges on the ability to keep the player’s interest for the duration of the full series. If the first episode doesn’t hook the player, they’re not likely to return for the rest. Such is one of the hurdles faced by the action RPG, Heroine Anthem Zero.

     

    Heroine Anthem Zero_01.jpg

     

    Heroine Anthem Zero: Episode 1, or Heroine Anthem Zero: Sacrifice, is the first chapter of a prequel to the original Heroine Anthem: The Elect of Wassernixe and Heroine Anthem II: The Angel of Sarem, which released back in 2002 and 2003, respectively. As both of those games are rather old and obscure, it’s fortunate that Heroine Anthem Zero is set thousands of years prior, and thus requires no knowledge of the originals.

     

    Episode 1 features the story of Wanin, a young warrior of the Norse-inspired Uzato tribe that works as a Forest Keeper, patrolling the forest near his hometown for danger. He’s accompanied for the duration of the game by the fairy, Mormolia, who assists him in his duties. Most of the game follows the perspective of this pair, who are entertaining, if simplistic, in their writing. Wanin is a brave, capable warrior that cares for his sister, Naire, who has been chosen to serve as the maiden of an important ceremony in a neighboring land, though he’s also somewhat oblivious and foolhardy. The more perceptive Mormolia, on the other hand, is quick to anger, often insults Wanin for his obliviousness, and loves to drink.

     

    Unfortunately, there’s not much else to say about the story, as the main plot beats serve as apparent set-up for what comes, I presume, in Episode 2. And despite the short length, it does not feel particularly well-paced. Large amounts of story and exposition take precedence in the first few hours before turning the focus almost exclusively to gameplay broken up with smaller, lighter story beats for the remainder of the experience.

     

    Heroine Anthem Zero_02.jpg

     

    To its credit, the game has some interesting lore. Story sequences are enhanced with great character art, as well as painterly illustrations put on display when characters speak of the myths, legends, and history of their land. The characters are all voiced in Japanese, and their acting boosts the experience as well. The bigger faults with Heroine Anthem Zero lie with its gameplay. As a side-scrolling action RPG, it generally controls well. Wanin can swing his sword in a basic combo as well as dash, double-jump, and scale vertical walls. But the combat overall is very basic and generally lacking in challenge, even on the standard difficulty. There are some enemies that can only be damaged by charging Wanin’s sword attack, and enemies can be stunned by sending Mormolia at them. Even the final boss, the most challenging encounter in the game, was little more than a battle of attrition. In fact, I didn’t die to any of the bosses in the game.

     

    What killed me far more often, and with far more frustration, was the game’s platforming. Relatively early on, the game introduces spiked vines that stretch across sections of the ground, walls, and ceilings. At that point, these vines are the single most damaging thing in the game and will knock off huge chunks of life every time you collide with one. The game also features instant-death bottomless pits, and while some are clearly obvious, such as when hopping across a rickety bridge stretched across a chasm, others very much aren’t. More than once, I hopped down a hole, thinking it might lead down to an underground cave, only to be met with the 'Game Over' screen. And if you die, you’re forced to retry from the last save point you accessed.

     

    Heroine Anthem Zero_03.jpg

     

    Another issue comes from the game’s map and fast travel system. The map itself is of little use and does nothing to illustrate the actual landscapes. It simply indicates how sections in the zone you’re currently in are linked together. Once fast travel is unlocked, most save points will feature a character that will freely take you to most any other save point, but only within the same zone that you’re currently in. This means, for example, that it’s not possible to jump straight back to town from the western woods. But even then, there’s no real incentive to actually make use of the fast travel, as the fast travel character also doubles as the shop with all the best healing items and weapons necessary to beat the game.

     

    Possibly the most annoying moment in the game came during a dungeon that serves as the home of the few simplistic-but-required puzzles. In a large chamber, there are four switches that need to be pressed in order to open the way forward. Each of these switches are in turn blocked by gates that open via other switches, and these timed gates will close after a few seconds. After clearing all four gates, hitting the switches, and opening the door ahead, I backtracked to the previous chamber and used the save point, only to find on my return that the switches had all reset and the door ahead had closed, forcing me to redo the entire sequence.

     

    Heroine Anthem Zero_04.jpg

     

    Having only played the game on the Switch, I have no idea how its technical performance compares to that of other platforms. Originally released in 2016, Episode 1 was published on the PC, PS4, and iOS before it made its way to Nintendo’s console this year. Aspects of some of the game’s menus feel tuned more for touch, though playing on a TV is just fine. The only real hiccup comes in the equipment menu, where there’s a strangely long, noticeable lag while scrolling through weapons or clothing in the inventory. The game also occasionally encounters odd hitches during cutscenes, and even during the end credits as different images are swapped in and out. For the most part, these graphic hitches aren’t that bothersome, but on rarer occasions, I’ve had similar hitching occur during gameplay. I’ve had to abort more than a couple of jump attempts because of an odd pause in the animation, though I can’t blame any of my deaths on this.

     

    On a more positive note, the music in Heroine Anthem Zero is a genuine highlight. The soundtrack, composed by Joe Chou, is comprised of some great music that fits the tone of the world and characters. Tonally, it reminded me at points of games like Valkyrie Profile, and even in the game’s most annoying moments, the music was one element that I always appreciated.

     

    Heroine Anthem Zero_05.jpg

     

    Heroine Anthem Zero: Episode 1 feels like a mixed bag. I like the characters, the music, the world, and the general sense of the gameplay. But the pacing, platforming, and technical oddities frequently pulled me out of the experience. I can’t say that I didn’t have any fun, but had there been more polish and fewer annoyances, I could have had a lot more. Based on my experience, I wouldn’t rule out playing Episode 2, but I’d hope that it’s an improvement.

     


     

    Pros

    + Fun artwork and interesting, if simple characters
    + Great music and entertaining voice acting
    + Attractive and colorful artwork and graphics

    + Combat is in general lightweight and not stressful

     

    Cons


    + Odd pacing of story and gameplay
    + Annoying platforming with high-damage hazards and instant-death pits
    + Lack of responsiveness in some menus, and the map is near useless
    + Odd animation hitches occur every once in a while that can throw timing off while platforming

     


     

    Overall Score: 5 (out of 10)

    Average

     

    Heroine Anthem Zero: Episode 1 is a mixed bag with likeable characters, music, world, and general gameplay but is brought down by its pacing, platforming, and technical oddities.

     

    Disclosure: This game was reviewed using downloadable code provided by the publisher


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  6. Developer: Image & Form International AB

    Publisher: Thunderful Publishing AB

    Platform: Nintendo Switch

    Release Date: April 25, 2019

    ESRB: E for Everyone

     

     

    At this point in Image & Form’s rapidly-expanding SteamWorld franchise we’ve had two incredible Metroidvania entries; an epic, space-faring tactical strategy title; and a lesser-known tower defense game for DSiware that started it all. According to studio head Brjann Sigurgeirsson, fans had been clamoring for the Swedish developer to give the RPG genre a go and it seems his team was all too happy to oblige. Thus, SteamWorld Quest: Hand of Gilgamech was born.

     

    A departure from the sci-fi setting of previous games in the series, SteamWorld Quest features a storybook tale that unfolds in an era of knights, dragons, and magic, narrated by SteamWorld Heist’s Seabrass in a welcome cameo. The journey begins with two adolescent female steambots named Armilly and Copernica -- a wannabe knight and a novice alchemist, respectively – who find themselves caught up in a plot against a rising evil. Along the way, you’ll pick up a few more party members and discover some unsettling truths about what’s really happening, and maybe even experience a twist or two.

     

    SteamWorld Quest_01.jpg

     

    Naturally, SteamWorld Quest is a bit heavier on the narrative than previous games due to being an RPG. However, the cast is wisely kept smaller and contained versus large and unwieldy, thus giving each character just enough focus and attention to keep them interesting. The writing is downright hilarious at times too, once again showing that Image & Form really does have one of the best localization teams on the indie side of the industry. And though the plot is a little formulaic (yet entirely self-aware), the writers do subvert a few typical story tropes – the two main leads are both female, for one -- and ultimately, there are fulfilling arcs for each of the characters by the time the credits roll.

     

    Unlike many other 2D RPGs where a top-down or isometric view is standard, the out-of-battle sequences in SteamWorld Quest take place in a side-scrolling manner where you’ll mostly move from left to right (and vice versa) and screen to screen, coming across the occasional treasure chest and/or puzzle, a shopkeeper, and scores of enemies. Touch an enemy (they’ll be alerted to your presence if you come too close) and you’ll initiate a battle, which is far and away the best part of this game. In fact, I’ve never played a card-based battle system that I enjoyed more than this one.

     

    SteamWorld Quest_02.jpg

     

    The mechanics are kept surprisingly simple: at the beginning of each battle, you’re dealt eight “punch cards” randomly from your deck of 24 (which you can customize throughout the game), and you can play up to three cards each turn. Playing base cards (usually lower level attacks that have no number) will help you build up your steam power gauge, in turn allowing you to play even stronger cards that unleash powerful attacks, restore health, or cast buffs that help your team (or debuffs on your enemies).

     

    What really propels the gameplay in a big way are the variety of options at your disposal. Sure, you can play your cards as they’re dealt, but you can also strategically choose to pass on some in order to get the right combination to line up special combos that can, at times, save your bacon entirely. The battle system is also amazingly well-balanced. I played on the Normal difficulty, but the challenge remained consistent throughout, picking up toward the end.

     

    Image & Form did a great job making boss fights feel alive and engaging thanks to a number of different scenarios you’ll have to play through. For example, one boss poisons your characters every five turns, forcing you to constantly switch between damage control and going on the offense. Other bosses might have lackeys or pawns whose extra attacks and damage can add up over time unless you defeat them. Creative scenarios like this kept me looking forward to each and every battle, which is a rarity for me when it comes to RPGs.

     

    SteamWorld Quest_03.jpg

     

    If there’s one thing that disappointed me, it’s the lack of activities and interaction with the world outside of battles. There’s little to no interaction with NPCs due to them being sparse, little to no side quests that you can carry out that either reward you with more loot or delves deeper into the game’s lore, no interesting minigames to shake things up, and no engaging puzzles aside from the ‘lite’ ones you come across (find a switch to open a gate, or rotate images a certain way to open a door, etc.). While the battle system is near perfect, the out-of-battle activities and exploration are the biggest aspects Image & Form could and should expand upon should they give the game a sequel (or create other RPGs like it).

     

    Still, the game has so much going for it that it’s easy to overlook this aspect this time around. The art, like in other recent SteamWorld games, is fantastic and draws on the strengths of Image & Form’s talented and creative team while the music keeps the story suspenseful and allows for some lighter moments as well.

     

    If you’ve played other SteamWorld titles, then it shouldn’t come as a surprise to you that SteamWorld Quest is another great entry. And if you’re hesitant because you’re not sure what to make of the card-based battle system, be assured that this is easily one of the best battle systems I’ve ever played in an RPG; it’s both fun and engaging, as is the deck-building element. While the game still has some room to grow for next time (more out-of-battle activities, for example), SteamWorld Quest is a tremendous first step into the RPG genre for Image & Form’s ambitious franchise and more than lives up to the lofty expectations the studio has set with its prior games.

     

     


     

    Overall Score: 8.5 (out of 10)

    Great

     

    SteamWorld Quest is fun, zany, and boasts what is possibly the best card-based battle system in any game to date. Though not without room to improve, this is yet another genre Image & Form has shown considerable skill and expertise developing in, and I can't wait to see what's next.

     

    Disclosure: This game was reviewed using downloadable Switch code provided by the publisher


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  7. On 4/11/2019 at 6:06 PM, Sailor Liztress said:

    I'm not sure I want to wait for Diablo 4, lol. And I do think that Anthem has potential. Which is why I'm not doing like I've heard others do and get a refund for it. I mean, I'm not sure I got my money's worth from it yet. But I want to give it a chance to improve. 

     

    Tbh, I'm a little scared for Blizzard's future atm, especially after Activision finally made their first moves on putting checks and balances on them (with layoffs and such). Also, did I see that Overwatch is trending downward now (both in perception and sales)? Fortnite is really disrupting that whole scene, unfortunately for other developers.

     

    But yeah, if Blizzard doesn't knock it out of the park with Diablo 4, I really wonder what'll happen to them. 😕


  8. Saw Shazam last weekend. It was pretty good; DC is finally on a roll with their movies, even if I thought Aquaman was a little bit messy with its story and runtime yet still enjoyable.

     

    No story-specific spoilers here, but one of the cool things is that Shazam actually focuses more on the human drama element of the movie more than the superhero part; I'd say it's ultimately... 60/40 in that regard. The superhero parts aren't bad either (the villain is a lot better than I thought he'd be; Mark Strong really leans into his character here), but the film is obviously made stronger by Billy Batson's story as a boy who discovers who his true family is.

     

    All in all, it's a pretty strong superhero origin film, and one that actually builds up the villain from the start and gives them the screentime they deserve.


  9. Image & Form's upcoming title, SteamWorld Quest: Hand of Gilgamech, has officially been dated for release and it's heading exclusively to Nintendo Switch's eShop (for the foreseeable future) on April 25th for $24.99 / €24.99 / £22.49.

     

    While the SteamWorld games are primarily known for action and platforming (and even tactical strategy!), SteamWorld Quest: Hand of Gilgamech is the developer's first foray into the world of RPGs.

     

    You'll lead a group of aspiring Steambot heroes in a world where steampunk meets high fantasy, with treasure chests full of gold, dragons, magic, XP, colorful worlds, and all of the usual good stuff that comes with the genre.

     

    Oh, and the turn-based battles are card-based as well. You'll craft your own battle deck from over 100 different punch-cards in order to take on your enemies.

     

    Also, if SteamWorld Quest sounds familiar to you, the game's title was originally leaked back in 2016 by way of a European listing. It would appear Image & Form has had this SteamWorld entry in the oven for a good while now!

     

    At any rate, you won't have to wait much longer to get your hands on the next game in the SteamWorld saga, so get ready for plenty of steam-driven RPG goodness coming your way soon.

     

     

    Source: Press Release


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  10. Many 3DS owners are likely familiar with Gunman Clive, a 2D action game with a Wild West theme that caught worldwide attention after it rose to the top of the Japanese 3DS eShop charts and was noted for its relatively inexpensive price ($1.99 USD) when compared to the game's high quality.

    The game’s developer, Bertil Hörberg, went on to develop a sequel and, more recently, the Gunman Clive HD Collection, which just released on Switch in January. Now Hörberg has revealed what his next project is, a game called Mechstermination Force.

    Like the Gunman Clive titles, this is also an action game though this time it has a unique twist: the gameplay is comprised of boss rush fights against giant robots. Hörberg describes it as a “mix of Contra and Shadow of the Colossus” and also mentions that the game is quite a lot bigger than the Gunman Clive titles, adding that this is the first of his projects where he’s hired additional people to help.

    Mechstermination Force is currently scheduled to release on the Nintendo Switch this Spring. Hörberg recently mentioned that the game has entered lotcheck (one of the last processes before a game releases, which involves certification) so expect a release date soon.

     

     

    Source: Press Release


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    • Like 1

  11. I finished Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood recently and I gotta say, it's amazing. Possibly the best anime I've ever seen. The pacing is great and never lets up, and even the more character-centric episodes are really good. But man, the last 15-20 episodes are pretty dang epic. Also, its epilogue episode is also one of the best I've ever seen; I wish more anime (and TV shows in general) would dedicate an entire episode to what happens after the final conflict. :D


  12. 2018 always had an uphill battle going for it. After all, how do you compete with an amazing year in video games like 2017 had?

     

    And yet, even though it predictably did not reach those lofty heights, 2018 still had its share of good video games. Especially indie games, which really seemed to get more of the spotlight thanks to a lesser amount of super high profile AAA games out on average.

     

    A few of the titles that didn’t quite make my list but deserve shoutouts include No Man’s Sky, which had a great update that added a lot of content and made the story way more meaningful. Surviving Mars is an excellent simulation game where you attempt to build and sustain your own colony on Mars. Swords of Ditto is a neat little game with a creative twist in that you play as a new hero in a changed world (100 years in the future) each time you die. Runner 3 is great fun and much improved from its predecessor. Miles & Kilo is a neat, 8-bit-esque runner that could almost be summed up as “Uncharted action setpieces if they were attempted on the NES.” And The Gardens Between is one of the most creative games I played this year that I didn’t get to spend quite as much time with as I wanted.

     

    But I digress. Here are my top 10 games of 2018.

     

     

     

    Sushi Striker.jpg

     

    10) Sushi Striker: The Way of Sushido

     

    If I’m being completely honest, Sushi Striker almost didn’t make my list. I didn’t fully understand the nuances behind the gameplay until maybe about halfway through, meaning I was coasting on my knowledge of the basics until that point.

     

    That said, developer Indieszero did an admirable job creating something entirely new and fresh. Amidst the fast-paced (and admittedly stressful at times) puzzle gameplay there is a full-blown anime that has a completely ridiculous yet fun and self-aware story about sushi and a resistance that is fighting against an empire trying to control it. Sadly, Sushi Striker is likely a one-and-done deal since it didn’t sell well, but I’ll cherish my time with it as one of the more interesting chances taken in gaming lately.

     

     

     

    Kirby Star Allies - Jason.jpg

     

    9) Kirby Star Allies

     

    Star Allies is the first game since Kirby’s Return to Dreamland to really make me feel like a kid again. Having three allies fight alongside you seems like an unnecessary gimmick at first since Kirby titles aren’t usually known for their difficulty (at least not upfront). But HAL really found a way to make having four characters on-screen at once compelling, and it’s just plain cool to see Meta Knight or other series stalwarts fighting alongside Kirby (especially in boss battles). This might also be the most beautiful game in the series to date (Epic Yarn and Rainbow Curse aside), thanks to the increased capabilities of the Switch. Also, this particular entry has the most Dragon Ball Z-like ending ever and it’s something you need to see to believe.

     

     

     

    Mini Metro.jpg

     

    8) Mini Metro

     

    Mini Metro is a great example of a game that’s simple to play, yet difficult to master. I love how simple it is; you literally drag your finger across the screen to create lines for trains. And... that's pretty much it.

     

    At first, you’ll have only a few trains to work with, but as both the city and your infrastructure grow, you’ll need to allocate your resources in such a way that you can meet the needs of all the people needing to get to their respective stops. I do wish the game had more achievements and was more goal-oriented, but the basic score attack mode is so addictive that I lose hours at a time just trying over and over to create the best train system I can. If you love strategy games, you can’t pass up Mini Metro.

     

     

     

    Overcooked 2.jpg

     

    7) Overcooked! 2

     

    Somehow I didn’t play the first Overcooked! until shortly before 2 came out. I think it’s because I always viewed it as a multiplayer-only title and since I don’t have many other people to play with locally, well, you get the picture. However, the critical acclaim of the first original spoke to me and I was determined to play the sequel when it launched.

     

    And I couldn’t have been more wrong about it. Even as a single-player experience, Overcooked! 2 is a blast to play. You’ll need patience to master controlling two characters by yourself; just imagine it as a sort of relay race that goes on for a few minutes each time. Preparing each meal and keeping up with each order is fast and frantic fun, especially when combined with the way each level throws different curveballs at you and tries to impede your progress in different ways.

    Overcooked! 2 is easily a strong contender for the best co-op multiplayer game of the year; it’s that good.

     

     

     

    Monster Boy and the Cursed Kingdom - Jason.jpg

     

    6) Monster Boy and the Cursed Kingdom

     

    I grew up in a Nintendo household so I really had no experience with the Wonder Boy/Monster Boy series until last year’s excellent Wonder Boy: The Dragon’s Trap. Playing through it made me feel like I had pretty much experienced all I needed to from that series, but boy was I wrong. Although Monster Boy and the Cursed Kingdom still feels like a SEGA Master System/Genesis game at its heart, it’s also a much more in-depth experience. It’s a happy marriage between Metroidvania and Zelda 2 with so much exploration, new skills and abilities, and puzzles to solve that it’s impossible for me not to love every moment of it.

     

    Cursed Kingdom is also gorgeous; I can now see why it took some 5+ years for this game to finally come out. All of the callbacks to previous games in the series, whether through new musical arrangements of older themes, visual nods, and cues also help make this one of the most memorable and charming games of 2018, if not a bit difficult in spots.

     

     

     

    Octopath Traveler - Jason.jpg

     

    5) Octopath Traveler

     

    Going into 2018, I thought Octopath Traveler had real potential to be my favorite game of the year. Upon playing it, there are a few things that unfortunately prevent this, but I really can’t complain too much since most of the characters have compelling stories to tell and the game features one of the best battle systems and possibly the best soundtrack of the year. Octopath Traveler is that rare game I couldn’t put down because I just had to see what was next; hopefully its success means it won’t be too long before we see another entry.

     

     

     

    Super Smash Bros. Ultimate.jpg

     

    4) Super Smash Bros. Ultimate

     

    Super Smash Bros. Ultimate absolutely lives up to its name as the best Smash game to date. An insane 74-character roster (at least starting out) with great new additions (shoutout to King K. Rool in particular) gives this game tremendous replay value. It also offers some of the most entertaining, challenging, and creative fights I’ve played thanks to the new Spirits mode and World of Light, which acts as the game’s single-player campaign. We might not get another Smash for a long while now, but that’s okay because Smash Ultimate will be played for a long time to come.

     

     

     

    Octo Expansion.jpg

     

    3) Splatoon 2: Octo Expansion + Season 2 content

     

    With over 750 hours of game time and counting, Splatoon 2 is still my most played Switch title by far, and it’s gotten even better in its second year. The free updates that have been provided for the main game have added everything from new levels to new weapons and gear, great Splatfests, and even new Salmon Run stages.

     

    But let’s talk about Octo Expansion for a sec. To date, it’s the single best piece of DLC I’ve ever played. It’s what Super Mario Galaxy 2 was to its predecessor. Forget the main campaign -- the creative scope of Octo Expansion’s 80 levels is nothing short of incredible. Not every level is a winner, mind you, but most are thoroughly enjoyable. Octo Expansion also adds a great new piece of lore to the Splatoon universe with the Deep Sea Metro and all its weird inhabitants. If you thought Splatoon had a weirdly cool, urban vibe to it before, the DLC dials it up to 11. And the story and final boss make up one of the most memorable and unique moments in the series so far. If you’ve ever been a fan of Splatoon 2, Octo Expansion is a must-play.

     

     

     

    Yoku's Island Express.jpg

     

    2) Yoku’s Island Express

     

    Every year there is at least one game that resonates with me in a deep way, usually because it has a great atmosphere that I connect with. Yoku’s Island Express is that game in 2018. I can’t fully express to you why, but it hits all the right notes for me. The art style is superb, the characters are charming as heck, the gameplay is a wonderful marriage between Metroidvania adventure and pinball, and the plot is like something out of a Pixar film (even if it’s a bit anticlimactic in the finale). Even the soundtrack is possibly my favorite from the whole year, borrowing from more lighthearted Polynesian/Hawaiian fare to trip-hop and more; it’s wonderful. Heck, I even platinumed the game, which is only my second time ever.

     

    Yoku’s Island Express is an incredible debut for developer Villa Gorilla and I can’t wait to see what they do next.

     

     

     

    Marvel's Spider-Man.jpg

     

    1) Marvel’s Spider-Man

     

    I knew Marvel's Spider-Man was going to be a good game. Heck, I even imagined it’d be great. How could it not be after those incredible E3 demos, two years in the running?

     

    What I didn’t expect, however, was for it to completely shatter my expectations and give us the best cinematic Spider-Man story to date (save for Into the Spider-Verse, which just recently released at the time of this writing and is amazing, no pun intended).

     

    Spider-Man really is the complete package. It offers a fully-explorable New York, tons of sidequests and enemies to fight (too many, some would even say), lots of collectibles, and a combat system that is extremely fluid and well done. But at the end of the day, it’s the story that really makes the game special for me. To explain why would delve into spoilers, but there’s an emotional narrative that’s pulled off extremely well, and the climax and final battle are a huge payoff for the story arc that slowly builds throughout the game.

     

    This is the single best representation of Peter Parker as Spider-Man and, without a doubt, the best superhero game to date. Bravo, Insomniac Games.


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  13. On 10/15/2018 at 12:37 PM, Rex705 said:

    I watched the Solo Star Wars movie it was pretty cool. The spin offside stories are good but the main series is just blah. They could have done so much with Star Wars but they just went with copy paste.

     

    I was surprised by how much I liked Solo. So far, everything that has come out of the Original Trilogy era has been golden as far as I'm concerned (Episodes IV-VI, Rogue One, Solo). I'm hoping the next spin-off movie they do (if they do another one) is the Obi-Wan film.


  14. On 8/27/2018 at 6:27 PM, Sailor Liztress said:

    I have my guesses too. But the main thing that I want is something that I don't expect to happen. Have you read/heard of some of the various theories people have? There are some that really seem plausible.

     

    It's kind of all but confirmed that...

    Spoiler

    ...the Quantum Realm has a lot to do with how they circumvent what happened in Infinity War.

     

    If you've seen Ant-Man and the Wasp, they tease it in the post-credits scene (stop reading if you haven't seen it yet and don't want to be spoiled). Before Ant-Man is trapped in the Quantum Realm, Jan warns him not to go towards any time vortexes because she can't help him if he gets stuck in one. My guess is he escapes the Quantum Realm by going into one, coming out 6-8 years after "the Snap." His daughter is mostly grown and helping what's remained of the Avengers, and Ant-Man explains how he can use the time vortexes to go back in time and warn the Avengers about what's about to happen.

     

    Supposedly, rumors have said that Avengers 4 will have the Avengers trying to collect the Infinity Stones before Thanos does, so we'll see what happens. There is also another rumor that Doctor Strange actually sent the Time Stone into the future, and the one that Thanos is using is actually just a distant version/visage of it, which is why the Gauntlet broke at the end of Infinity War since it wasn't using the full strength of the Time Stone. If this is true, it means that the Avengers will find some way to get it and use it to go back in time.

     

     


  15. On 8/22/2018 at 4:35 AM, DarkCobra86 said:

     

    I too have a lot of DC shows to catch up on Netflix. The punisher, season 2 of JJ, LC, and IF. Then comes daredevil season 3 as well. So much, not enough time. I get your strange pun :).

     

    Honestly, the strange pun was purely coincidental and I didn't notice it until you brought it up, haha! :lol:

     

    17 hours ago, Rex705 said:

    In the movie world, I watched the comedy Tag that is based on a true story and it was fun. I watched Deadpool 2 in 4K and it was awesome even better than the first. I would love to see more Ryan Renolds Deadpool but now that Disney is taking over Fox that probably won't happen.

     

     

    I remember seeing an article somewhere that quoted a Disney insider or executive saying that Disney won't change Deadpool but who knows. If they know what's good for the franchise, they hopefully won't try to touch it and instead just let Ryan Reynolds run with it.


  16. I've been trying to get into the habit of watching at least one movie each week on Netflix. It started with Finding Dory (which I really enjoyed) at the end of July, followed by The Cloverfield Paradox (which was not bad) and then Doctor Strange, which I had strangely not seen until now.

     

    This last Sunday I started watching Aggretsuko, which is pretty good! I also intend to start Daredevil Season 2 soon. Got a TON of Marvel Netflix shows to catch up on (pretty much everything outside of DD Season 1), not to mention the Hulu stuff like Runaways and Cloak and Dagger. The Marvel shows are almost outpacing DC's TV output these days, at least in terms of quantity! 


  17. Developer: Bromio

    Publisher: Bromio

    Platform: Nintendo Switch, PC, PS Vita

    Release Date: July 9, 2018

    ESRB: T for Teen

     

    Note: This review is based on the Nintendo Switch version of the game

     

     

    I’ll be the first to admit that the description and press material for Pato Box was more eyebrow-raising than intriguing at first. A spiritual successor to the Punch-Out!! series starring an… anthropomorphic boxing duck? A black-and-white comic book art style? I was more than a bit puzzled but decided to roll the dice and see what wackiness Pato Box had in store, and I can genuinely say I wasn’t prepared.

     

    Pato Box is a fusion of game styles, mixing the classic boxing matches of Punch-Out!! with a semi-3D explorable environment. It’s a wholly unique experience that’s only out-weirded by the story. The plot immediately tosses the titular 'Patobox' into a pickle. The popular duck boxer isn’t so popular with his promoters at Deathflock, and they attempt to off him in a rigged match. Patobox sets out on a quest to get his revenge on Deathflock, punching everything that stands in his way in the face.

     

    Pato Box 01.jpg

     

    Much of Patobox’s out-of-ring time is spent exploring the Deathflock headquarters and prepping for his bouts. The duck can talk to various building inhabitants and occasionally has to solve small puzzles, avoid obstacles, or play minigames to progress. Deathflock’s place of residence is pretty large, and there all manner of hidden goodies and sight gags for players to dive into. For whatever reason, Pato Box also decided it’d be cool to make your primary source of interaction with the gameworld a punch.

     

    If you feel like breaking chairs and dishes, go right ahead! No one seems to care that Patobox can break everything in sight.

     

    The matches, of course, are where the game makes its true home. Like Punch-Out!!, players assume the perspective of Patobox from behind and have a few basic jabs and punches. However, Pato Box spices things up with different dodge mechanics, some tactically-important punch types, and interactive objects that are often themed after each boss. Every match is a puzzle to unravel, exploiting the mechanics to best take down the opposition. Make no mistake, Pato Box is hard. You’ll lose more than a few fights as you work out how to face each boxer.

     

    This probably comes as no surprise, but Pato Box is full of camp and humor. The story never takes itself seriously and revels in the weirdness of a duck boxer. Patobox never really talks and seems to only convey his thoughts by staring at things. Somehow, his allies always seem to know what’s on his mind, which makes his silence all the more amusing. Patobox lets his fists do the talking, and that’s all that really matters.

     

    Pato Box 02.jpg

     

    Beyond the protagonist, the art style will probably be the first thing to grab your attention. Pato Box is a gorgeous Mad World-esque comic book dreamland. Characters communicate with comic word bubbles, and the coloration looks like a black-and-white newspaper cartoon.

     

    The developers have done a great job conveying the feel of a graphic novel in Pato Box’s style, and it lends a lot more credence to the idea that Pato Box is truly its own beast apart from Punch-Out!!

     

    I only have a few minor quibbles, and most concern the fights. It was a bit tricky to tell how much damage I was dealing or being dealt, with very visual cues to suggest my health situation until it was almost too late. It also artificially inflated the difficulty at times, and I wasn’t always sure if my punches were landing. Eventually, you get used to the rhythm of bouts and the mechanics become second-nature, but folks who haven’t played Punch-Out!! may have some initial struggles. The exploration segments are also fun, but a tad slow and occasionally lacking in things to do. Again, it’s a fairly minor complaint about an otherwise great game.

     

    Pato Box isn’t weird just to be weird. All of the quirky sights and sounds feel relevant to the game’s universe, and everything just “works”. The marriage of adventure games and Punch-Out!! is out of left field, but the concept is well-executed. That Pato Box finds ways to innovate on the Punch-Out!! formula only enhances the quality of the matches. Every boss is unique, and the developers have done a great job forcing players to change strategies. Don’t sleep on the next Rocky. Give the boxing duck his due and pick up Pato Box.

     

     


     

    Pros

     

    + Zany concept that actually succeeds

    + Visually-striking and artistically unique

    + Well thought-out boss battles

     

    Cons

     

    - Exploration occasionally drags on a bit too long

     


     

    Overall Score: 8.5 (out of 10)

    Great

     

    Pato Box does its own thing and does it well. If you love the Punch-Out!! franchise or weird, surrealist art pieces, Pato Box should be up your alley.

     

    Disclosure: This game was reviewed using downloadable code provided by the publisher


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  18. On 7/29/2018 at 9:20 AM, archangelreb said:

    The most recent thing I have seen was Solo. It was awesome the actors really did their homework as Han and Lando had the mannerisms down pat.

     

    I actually really enjoyed Solo and can't wait to watch it again when it comes out on streaming and Blu-ray. I totally agree on what you said about the actors, and overall I found it to be a much more enjoyable experience to watch than The Last Jedi (especially the train sequence in the first half).


  19. On 7/19/2018 at 7:56 PM, Rex705 said:

    I just watched an old movie from 1973 called Westworld and it was pretty cool. Yes the HBO series Westworld is a remake of an old movie. It was a cool movie just like the show and turned into Terminator with an evil gunslinger. Those silver eyes are super creepy. Yul Brynner is an awesome actor.

     

    Now I need to watch the sequel movie FutureWorld.

     

     

     

    I still need to see this movie. Shortly after the HBO show premiered, I was surprised to find out it was actually an adaptation of an earlier film.

     

    I love Yul Brynner too, so this sounds like a match made in heaven, haha. Didn't know it had a sequel either. I'll have to check out both. :D


  20. On 7/6/2018 at 10:49 AM, Rex705 said:

    I got Tomb Raider on 4K it was pretty cool way better than those other Tomb Raider movies. I wish they spent a little less time at the start building up the character and put in some more action but it was good. Nothing compared to the game of course. 

     

    I'm wondering if it'll get a sequel or just stop there. Apparently, it didn't do great in theaters (or just not big numbers at least), but there's always a chance it'll do well in DVD/Blu-ray sales.


  21. 24 minutes ago, Venom said:

    I finished Cyberdimension Neptunia: 4 Goddesses Online and Past Cure. I ended up going for the Platinum in 4GO, which was probably a mistake seeing how many quests the game throws at you after the main story ends. Past Cure was so bland that I don't even know what else to say about it.

     

    What is Past Cure? Is that DLC for it? Or is it part of the game's title?

     

    Nm, just looked it up, lol. It's a different game (and I've never heard of it till now!). xD


  22. I'm trying to watch this on my Xbox One but the SyFy app keeps giving me an error despite my cable service provider carrying SyFy.

     

    Heard it's really good though. Good on SyFy for having a decent show of this calibur; it's on my list to watch next after the current season of Supergirl ends.

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