Catching up after a long week

I’m back from my 4 day business trip to Seattle — forgot to mention I would be gone. I missed SoCal quite a bit. All that wet stuff falling from the sky and people smoking everywhere took a bit of getting used to for me. Living in the suburbs in the Inland Empire (greater Los Angeles area) we see very little of either of those things these days. I caught some kind of cold from the trip which either came from all the people hacking up a lung on the plane or the rain.

miitomoI had my first experience with Uber while in Seattle, and proceeded to use it a dozen times. That was pretty cool. I was marveling at how incredible it is that I walk out of my hotel, tap a button on my phone, and a car pulls up. I get in the car, it drives me where I told my phone I wanted to go, and when I get there I just get out of the car and go along my way never having to exchange money or interact with anyone (if that’s my desire). Technology is getting pretty darn cool — especially where our handheld devices are concerned. Now if only gaming could catch up a bit. Seems to me we’ve stagnated a bit on these dumb time waster games and haven’t seen much for mobile devices.

Nintendo’s first official first-party app Miitomo launches next month. I’m once again a little confused by their direction with new products. Miitomo is going to be an app about dressing up your Mii, talking with friends, and taking photos with your Mii. I was hoping for more from them when Tatsumi Kimishima took over. Just not seeing any of that yet. Where’s the true first party GAMES rather than these awkward Japanese inspired social mechanics?

Interestingly enough, Nintendo continues to push forward with updating games they released in the past for use on the 3DS family of systems. FOr example, Pokemon Yellow Special Edition Pikachu Edition launches on February 27, 2016 ($9.99). Pokemon Yellow was released 18 years ago! I love that they are bringing back these titles, but I’d also love that Zelda open-world RPG we’ve been waiting on for a few years now. I’ll be a tad bitter if the Nintendo NX launches and all these Wii U games we could have had are pushed out a generation.

Settling back into my routine is nice. I’m going to pick Final Fantasy Explorers back up and continue pushing forward. I’m loving the Machinist and looking forward to the Red Mage. Also playing LEGO Dimensions, Just Cause 3, and way too many games — write ups coming soon. Several of you have joined us in Albion Online. If you need a guild invite let me know! Our island is awesome for free crafting on high-tier stations.

Final Fantasy Explorers Review [3DS]

Final Fantasy Explorers

Take the classes and abilities from Final Fantasy with the basic gameplay from Monster Hunter, and you get Final Fantasy Explorers. The premise of the game should be very familiar to Monster Hunter fans. Your goal is to advance your character by running quests, crafting better gear with drops, and mutating abilities. While really not even close to MH’s depth, FFE strikes a chord with me that MH wasn’t able to — FFE’s pacing is way more my style.

Basic Questing / Gameplay

The game takes place on an island with diverse areas/tilesets to explore. The main hub of operations where the player upgrades gear, obtains quests, and advances the very thin plot is in the town of Libertas. From Libertas you can accept quests to go out and slay summoned monsters, bosses, etc., in an overall effort to gain more crystals. I guess you might say it’s Crystal Chronicles meets Monster Hunter.

FFE OdinThe questing system is straight forward. You get to accept one main quest and any number of sub quests. The main quest is something like “Go kill Ramuh” and a subquest can be to use a certain ability during the fight.

Combat is much more intuitive for me than MH. Although deep enough to incorporate positional attacks and skill shots, the interface and execution are easier. Hold LB and RB opens up submenus with X, Y, A, and B for each. So you can basically bookmark 8 abilities, a basic attack, sprint, and item menu. This is way easier than having to remember combos, and it works so much better too.

Battles play out much like a standard RPG or even MMORPG in real time. Combat mechanics include tanks, heals, boosters, and damagers with a variety of ways to execute each. Monsters fight back using the typical, though a tad unoriginal, mechanics too. You’ll see lots of AOE attacks, charging monsters, and ‘get out of the red circle or instantly die’ mechanics. Despite being a little contrived, they work.

FFE Classes

Classes & Abilities: FFE has lots of them

Knight, Monk, White Mage, Black Mage, Dragoon, Paladin, Thief, Ninja, Red Mage, Time Mage, Bard, Hunter, Dark Knight, Beastmaster, Geomancer, Machinist, Alchemist, Sage, Blue Mage, Samurai, and Freelancer. Those are your class choices in Final Fantasy Explorers. As I mentioned earlier, there’s a variety of tanks, heals, dps, and boosters (buffers) to play, and a variety of ways to satisfy each play style. Want pure burst dps? Go Machinist. Want a traditional Tank? Go Knight.

I like how the abilities, in some cases, can be used cross-class. I can use Cure on my Knight to help heal myself in a pinch. Eventually you can master a class and obtain access to additional weapons and abilities.

Mutating and upgrading abilities adds a whole new level of customization. As you use crystal surges (special abilities on timers) you can then use other abilities that, when used in tandem, spark a mutation. Mutations can stack and build custom abilities. Let’s say you use Guard during a mutation opportunity and it adds Haste. This creates a NEW abilities that will give you both Guard and Haste at the same time. It’s like ability stacking, and you can ultimately walk around with all of your abilities no longer basic simple skills but mutated abilities. The customization here is overwhelming, but if you simply focus on making abilities you think are cool and useful then you’ll get by just fine.

Single-player & Multiplayer

Graev and I have been playing FFE together almost exclusively. Multiplayer works flawlessly without any lag at all. Final Fantasy Explorers works great solo, don’t get me wrong. You can create monster pets to act as a companion and do just fine in the game solo, but I think the true spirit of the game is best felt in multiplayer with up to 4 players.

FFE teamwork

Again, combat is designed for that typical ‘group’ gameplay. Graev is playing a Time Mage with lots of support abilities and heals, but a healthy dose of damage too. Remember, you can customize your character quite a bit, so he has made a character that fits his style. I’m playing a Knight (standard tank) until I unlock either Red Mage or Dark Knight. I think both of those sound most fun to me.

Teamwork and synergizing together, planning attacks, etc., are all beneficial in FFE. We did a boss fight against Ifrit and realized we hadn’t properly planned. Neither of us came in with the abilities we’d need to synergize a good combo or to output enough damage. Fixing that issue, we defeated Ifrit again in half the time.

More to Come…

There’s a little much to put here in a review. You know me, I like to keep these short and to the point with a bit of info to satisfy your questions and whether or not you should buy or skip. While FFE’s scope is easier to grasp than MH, the depth is there for at least 100 hours of gameplay. I’m going to try and rig up a way to stream FFE and/or record a video so that you guys can see it in action from my perspective.

I highly recommend Final Fantasy Explorers. Go into it expecting a game all about playing interesting classes and beating bosses. This is a game about grinding for loot drops to craft that perfect weapon, customizing your abilities to make your character feel just right, and simply enjoying to thrill of the hunt. Just don’t expect a plot — there really isn’t one — or anything close to a traditional Final Fantasy game. But trust me, you won’t miss it. Looks for whatever videos I can come up with soon as they’ll answer more questions and provide more insight into gameplay.

P.S. I highly recommend you purchase FFE on Amazon. Gamestops are sold out, and Best Buy laughed at me. Amazon had it to me in 2 days.

The Legend of Zelda: TriForce Heroes Review

TriForce Heroes Review triforce-heroes-3dsThe Legend of Zelda: TriForce Heroes just came out on Friday, but Graev and I have logged numerous hours in what I think is one of my favorite 3DS games yet. TriForce Heroes is a multiplayer experience designed for three players to work together to complete levels comprised of various platformer puzzles and challenges. While the game does allow people with absolutely no friends internet connection to play by themselves, the heart of TriForce Heroes can only be found in its multiplayer experience.

You take on the role of Link. And your friends (or random online people) take on the roles of… Links. That’s sort of where the story in TriForce Heroes begins to break down. You’re all heroes, but at the same time you’re not. Apparently Nintendo has said (these?) are the same Link from A Link Between Worlds, but you’ve come to Hytopia and decide to hide your heroic origins by dressing up in what can only be considered fantabulous outfits. Oh yes, the story gets better… or worse… or better?

triforce-heroes-totemThe gist of the story here is that Hytopia, a kingdom passionate about fashion, has been plagued by this awful witch (known only as “The Lady”) who has cursed the beautiful fashionista princess with the most unimaginably horrible curse of all: To forever have to wear this ugly brownish bodysuit thing. It is up to you (or the three of you) to save Hytopia from this awful curse by entering the Drablands (eye roll) and fulfill the prophesy to stop “The Lady.” So yeah.. the story sucks. It’s worse than any story in any Zelda game ever–and has matching dialog too. But if you completely ignore the story, the gameplay is phenomenal. Oh, and I can’t forget to mention that your goal throughout this entire experience is to also acquire crafting materials to make yourself some chic outfits with bonuses.

Gameplay is similar to just about every handheld Zelda game thus far. I personally think it handles like a dream. You’ll queue up with any combination of 3 whether it be people you know or randoms or any mixture. Your goal in every level is simply to get to the end, and to do so requires utilizing unparalleled amounts of teamwork combining different items and strategies. You’ll be coordinating attacks, movements, and abilities that rival the coordination of a WoW raid boss–not kidding. Sharing the same hearts for health and being able to hurt each other with bombs makes the whole thing

triforce heroes carrying teammates

Graev (in green) carrying this guy (red) who was so bad. He flailed wildly with what could only have been the maddest of attempts to free himself.

Solving levels can be quite a challenge, and doing so with absolutely no voice communication is the best part of TriForce Heroes. Some reviews I’ve read consider the lack of communication a negative, but I think it might be this game’s biggest strength. Spamming the emojis of “Throw!” “Over Here!” and “Item!” etc., have brought on tears streaming down my face. I was laughing so hard last night that I got a massive headache. I haven’t laughed so hard in months! Graev and I were playing once level and the guy we teamed with was so unbearably bad that Graev finally said screw it and picked him up, unwilling to put him down, and forcefully carried him over his head like a bomb through half the level.

The intricate puzzles you’ll be solving, and the hilarity of doing it while having to rely on two other people to often be completely in-sync make for a chaotic yet addicting experience. Even when you come across someone who is so bad it makes you want to cry, you’ll be jumping right back in to see how much better you can do on that level the next time around. TriForce Heroes is just that kind of game. The attention to detail is so finely crafted around this multiplayer experience that it’s simply a masterpiece in that regard. You’ll easily put in 20+ hours before feeling anywhere near like you’ve played the same level twice. That’s the beauty of that multiplayer interaction.

Skylanders SuperChargers Review

Skylanders SuperChargers Wii U Starter Set

The toys-to-life genre has absolutely crushed the second half of 2015 with one major wallet-busting launch after another, and Skylanders lands right in the middle of the fray with their strongest entry yet: Skylanders SuperChargers. SuperChargers introduces big change to the Skylanders franchise with vehicles, online co-op, and a Mario Kart-esque racing system. Let’s dive in and take a look!

Skylanders and Adventure Mode

Much of the core gameplay still revolves around the Skylanders figures themselves. Many of our favorite Skylanders return as one of the 20 new Skychargers, each witch a matching vehicle, but a few new characters join the ranks of the Skylanders which I’ll get to in just a moment.

The story is rather thin, as all Skylanders stories tend to be, but that doesn’t detract from the point of each mission: Explore, beat up the bad guys, collect lots of coins to upgrade, and beat bosses. The gist of the story this time around is that Kaos has destroyed much of the islands by harnessing the power of darkness. The Skylands are shattered apart and it’s up to the SuperChargers to use their vehicles to save the day. They’re totally up to the challenge, of course.

In terms of time to complete, the campaign is roughly 10-12 hours for those looking to do a full clear on a harder difficulty. Graev and I played the entire thing co-op, and each mission ended up taking easily 1.5-2 hours. I don’t want to gloss over this point: ONLINE co-op in two different houses with our own copies of the game and our own consoles. You can play finally play with friends!

Each mission definitely had a unique feel with unique looking bad guys and gimmicks. That’s not to say the levels were really all that different in terms of the way in which you went about completing them. The real flavor comes in the form of the new vehicles. [Read more…]

Pokemon Shuffle Review & Pokemon Go Preview

The world of “mobile” gaming is surely evolving (accidental pun intended) as the gamer demographic expands. Mobile gaming used to be my brother and I playing our Gameboys in the backseat of the car during family vacations. Mobile gaming used to be restricted to the few who owned handheld systems. Now, mobile gaming is done on just about every device in our pockets or on our wrists.

The Pokemon Company has dabbled recently into how their namesake can be implemented onto other devices. Previously, Pokemon as a video game was a Nintendo handheld gaming franchise. Then, it lightly expanded into guest appearances in other games and occasionally a few standalone console titles. Now, Pokemon is being taken to the masses on mobile games.

You might recall that Nintendo partnered with DeNa back in March of this year to start bringing games to smartphones and other devices. So far we havent’ seen anything come from this partnership, at least not that I am aware of anyway, but we have seen Pokemon begin its journey into the mobile space much more aggressively in the past few weeks. I attribute most of this to how Pokemon is owned partially by three main companies: Nintendo (33%), Gamefreak (33%), The Pokemon Company (33%-2% or so to some anima people). I think I saw that Nintendo owns 54% of Gamefreak, therefore putting Nintendo technically in big control, but it just gets too complicated. Suffice it to say, Pokemon gets around.

Let’s first take a look at the just announced Pokemon Go.

Sensationalized in every imaginable way. Obviously the city of New York will not band together to defeat Mewtwo, and Blastoise won’t be making waves in any major bodies of water. You won’t see these things in real life, and you won’t throw or even mimic throwing anything to catch a Pokemon. This will all take place on the phone, maybe utilize the camera, but at best still be a digital experience.

Pokemon Go Plus Watch

Wearing this bluetooth device will alert you when there’s action happening in your area.

The point they’re trying to get across in this video is that Pokemon can transcend a game you play on a device where you control a trainer. YOU can become the trainer. YOU can set out on the adventure. Just a few problems with that…

I don’t want to go out and adventure. I’m simply not going to bust out my phone and geolocate Pokemon. I’d rather sit at home in the air conditioning and explore a fantasy world.

Gamers — specifically Pokemon gamers — aren’t into traversing mountains, seeking out vistas, or exploring the world. They are definitely (especially in Asia) into the whole street pass thing where people carry their system around with them. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen a group of Japanese tourists at Disneyland all playing on their 3DS while waiting in line for rides. That’s a far cry from seeking out the experience of hunting pokemon by traveling to different locations. [Read more…]