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A nostalgic roadtrip with Graev

super mario land gameboy

The other night I was doing my usual binge-watching of Netflix when I suddenly felt like pulling out my 3DS. I opened it up and searched through various virtual console games that I had purchased, and probably never played, until I finally settled on Super Mario Land. Ah, now that game takes me back. So with The Office playing in the background I proceeded through Super Mario Land at a steady pace. For those of you who might not be aware: Super Mario Land is an old GameBoy game. Most of it is exactly what you expect from a Mario game- Well, that’s not really true at all. SML is actually a whole lot different from regular Mario titles. You do run around and jump on stuff and hit blocks like normal but that is pretty much where the similarities end. You are trying to rescue Daisy (who turns into a bug for some reason), Koopa Troopas leave behind exploding bombs when they die, there are weird bug enemies, sphinx guys, creepy kung fu grasshoppers, rock dudes, rock riding, a submarine vehicle level, and an airplane vehicle level. It’s pretty strange but a lot of fun all the same. Also the Star Powerup music is the can-can song and that’s just weird.

I actually made it all the way through the entire game and only died a couple times. I sat there feeling pretty satisfied when it finally hit me: I’ve never beat this game before. I’ll always be reminded (especially by my family) of the time when I lived¬†back east in Massachusetts. My family would take weekend drives to Vermont and other places; point out leaves and various historical sites all around us. The joke is that while we were supposed to be taking in all of the sights I instead had my face glued to my GameBoy. They joke around and say that all I remember of living there was my Gameboy and that’s not entirely untrue. Some of the best games I ever played were on those car rides. Super Mario Land, Wario Land, Donkey Kong 94, Kirby’s Dreamland, TMNT: Radical Rescue, and so on.

So there I sat having just completed one of my favorite childhood games for the first time. It wasn’t even that hard at all, which is a lot different than how I remember things. I had this moment and feeling that things had come full circle and that my childhood was now, somehow, officially over. It was a strange and sobering experience and something that I entirely made up just now. Seriously though, it’s a fun game. You should check it out.

Starlight Inception on PlayStation Vita

I have many fond memories of playing TIE Fighter when I was younger and it is still probably my all-time favorite Star Wars game. You’d think that it would have turned me onto other stuff like Wing Commander, but I actually never gave those a try. TIE Fighter is pretty much the only space combat “sim” that I have played but I still really enjoy the game type. It was just the other day when I was browsing the weekly PlayStation store update when I noticed that something called “Starlight Inception” had released on the Vita. I checked it out and apparently it was a successfully funded Kickstarter project and also released on the PC. Since I’ve been drifting more towards handheld gaming lately I was more interested in the Vita version so I reached out to Escape Hatch Entertainment and they were kind enough to drop us a review code. I can’t speak for the PC version of the game but these are my thoughts on the Vita version.

starlight inception space combatVisuals & Presentation

I knew that the Vita version was obviously going to be a downgrade visually but that doesn’t really bother me. TIE Fighter still looks great to me. The visuals are pretty rough, though. When walking around the interior of the main ship (which you do entirely too slow by the way) things look rather plain. However, after I actually got into my first mission I was pretty impressed by the space visuals and how everything looked. The game may not look as nice as its PC counterpart but it gets the job done. Honestly the only things I wish it had were a few particles here and there to give me the feeling that my ship is actually moving but that’s just me nitpicking.

The second mission was pretty awkward. You fly around near the surface of a city which had just recently suffered an explosive attack. The problem is that it mostly looks like a large gray wall with buildings sprouting up as if the view distance was incredibly short distance. I actually tried to find a youtube video of this scene for the PC version and after viewing it I kind of understand what they were doing for that mission. The problem is that pretty much all of the extra effects that actually make that scene work are missing from the Vita version. [Read more...]

Weapon Shop de Omasse

Weapon Shop de Omasse

This was a curious little title that showed up recently during a Nintendo direct. The concept is immediately interesting: You help run a weapons shop that rents out swords, axes, etc. to various heroes and characters within an RPG. Things get even crazier once you actually start playing the game which is some kind of weird combination of rhythm game and store management with elements of a sitcom and twitter. Yeah, that’s not a typo.

Weapon Shop de Omasse GameYou can forge several different weapon types for your shop and each has different stats that are also increased on how well you do during the forging process. When making a weapon you tap on the hot ore in time with the music to beat it into the right shape.¬† You can’t just tap anywhere however and will need to actually follow the shape of what you are trying to make.

Once you have your weapon you can rent it out to a hero. Some of them seem to be scripted to show up while others are just random NPCs. They will usually have a specific weapon preference and affinity and it’s let up to you to decide what will be best to give them for their specific quest or to even recommend a different quest. You will want to match the right weapon with each person because if they fail their quest you will lose your weapon. Sorry, just store policy. If they do complete their quest they will come back with your weapon and pay you. Then you can polish up the weapon and increase its overall stats for the next time you rent it out.

One of the more fascinating parts of the game is the Grindcast. It’s something attached to every weapon and acts like a sort of Twitter feed that constantly updates you on what NPCs are doing with your weapons and how their quest is doing. So while you are busy making weapons, polishing them, or managing other aspects of the store you will get to read constant updates from people. These can have some pretty hilarious moments and the characters are zany enough that it never seems to get boring.

It’s only something like $7.99 on the 3DS eShop and it’s totally worth checking out. I’ve never played anything like it.

The Second Half of Bravely Default: How to Almost Ruin a Great Game

*NOTE* If you at all care about spoilers then you might not want to read this. I’m going to try and be as vague as possible but read at your own risk.

Bravely Default ReviewI just completed Bravely Default a few minutes ago and I’m left feeling mixed emotions. Not because I’m sad that it’s over or because I found the ending good or bad, but because I can’t quite decide how I felt about the experience as a whole. Earlier I made a post about game length, and at that point I was near the end of the game’s fourth chapter and around 40 hours in. To be completely honest I think the game should have ended maybe a little after that.

The problem with the second half of Bravely Default is that for some unknown, but assuredly unbelievably stupid, reason they decided to make the final 4 chapters a quicky version of the first four. I don’t mean as a whole, either. Chapters 5, 6, 7, and 8 have you very quickly replaying the events of the first four chapters FOUR additional times just at a quicker pace. All of the side missions are just to defeat the bosses you already defeated but the main goal is to awaken every crystal again. All of this happens with very little dialogue change as well. I won’t bother going into the details of why this is happening in the narrative but that wouldn’t be an excuse for it anyway. A game that has you replay content over and over until it makes you ill can’t be justified even if it fits within the story. I mean, even the characters start to remark about the ridiculousness of this.

I feel conflicted because I still really enjoyed the game. The combat and jobs and all other aspects of the game are top notch. I just cannot understand why they felt the need to pad the game out with extreme levels of repetitiveness. Bravely Default seems to have received many great reviews but I have to wonder how many of them only take into account the first half of the game and not the whole experience. I won’t say that Bravely Default is a bad game because it really isn’t. However I think the second half of the game keeps it from being truly exceptional.

Unexpected side effect: I think I finally understand why Bill Murray’s character in Groundhog Day started to lose his mind.

First Impressions of Bravely Default

bravely-default-boxartI’ve been playing a lot of Bravely Default these past few days. So far it has been a very positive experience and is almost certainly the best 3DS RPG I’ve played. Rather than wait dozens of hours until I finish and possibly review it I decided I’d offer some fist impressions of the game. Most of it is good stuff but there are a few things that are starting to irk me.

Beautiful visuals. The little chibi characters are cute and funny but I’m actually more impressed with the backgrounds. The cities you run around in have a very interesting look to them. They have a somewhat hand-drawn look to them like they were pulled straight out of a fantasy/fairytale book and presented in a three-dimensional papercrafty sort of way. Maybe that’s not a great way to describe but it does look very nice.

The BRAVE and DEFAULT combat system is actually pretty interesting. Choosing to default acts somewhat like a guard and prevents some damage done to you while also giving BP. Most regular actions require at least one BP but if you choose to you can BRAVE to gain additional actions for that turn. You can even go into debt and take extra points that your current BP doesn’t cover. You may have to skip a few turns if you go negative but it lets you do several different actions in 1 turn. The battle system gives you a lot of strategic options and there are several fights where you need to make smart use of the system.

Tons of jobs. The game uses classic final fantasy jobs and they are awesome. You acquire new jobs by defeating the holder of the current job asterisk which then lets you adopt that job. Along with exp that increases your regular level you get JP to increase your job level. Higher job levels give you more abilities to use, both active and passive. Another really cool thing you get to do is equip a second set of job abilities. So if you are a thief, for example, you could also equip white mage abilities. Then there are the passive abilities that can be equipped which leads to a whole lot more cross-job awesomeness. Sometimes you might want to get several levels in a job just for ONE specific ability which might help out another job.

A world map and airship! I can’t remember the last time we got both of these things. It’s funny how this isn’t technically a Final Fantasy game and yet it is the best Final Fantasy game in many, many years.

Most of my negatives seem to revolve around the village rebuilding mechanic.

bravely-defaultIn order to build up your village, which is required to unlock a lot of stuff, you need to devote workers and real time to build them. It’s a similar mechanic to a lot of iOS games where it might take 10 real hours to build something. Fortunately you can attach additional workers to make it go faster but this is still the kind of mechanic that I was hoping to never see on portable systems. I absolutely hate this kind of progression.

In order to get more workers for your village you need streetpasses, which I’m liking to rarely ever see in North America unless I attend a convention. You do get 3-5 workers per server day if you connect online but it’s still somewhat frustrating. I’m not a big fan of the streetpass feature at all.

For time to pass you need to have your 3DS on or in sleep mode. It’s not like animal crossing where time passes whether you are powered on or not. Sure, they may be entirely different kinds of games but they both still deal with the passing of real time. I’m not personally a fan of leaving my electronics in sleep mode for long periods of time especially when I sometimes might not play my 3DS for weeks at a time. So if I want to chip away at some of these buildings that take 99 hours to build then I need to have the system at least in sleep mode.

Really most of my complaints are just a small aspect of the game and some just boil down to personal preference. Bravely Default is still an incredibly fantastic game from what I’ve seen so far. If you have a 3DS you should definitely check it out.