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7

I Finally Finished the Kingdom Hearts Series

As of last night my wife and I (I will now say "we") officially finished the Kingdom Hearts series! This is a huge accomplishment for us, and one we've been working on together for the past three year as we awaited the launch of Kingdom Hearts 3.

If you're uninitiated, the first game originally came out in 2002 for the Playstation 2. The series has since expanded with games releasing on the DS, 3DS, PS3, and PS4.  Since their original launches, all of the games are now available in some form or another on the PS4, contained with the Kingdom Hearts HD 1.5 + 2.5 ReMIX and Kingdom Hearts HD 2.8 Final Chapter Prologue. (Links are to the official KH website)

The Order to Play Kingdom Hearts Games

The order we recommend for playing the Kingdom Hearts games is as follows, and this is the order we'll share our thoughts. Note that this is not the chronological order, but rather the order we feel the series presents itself best in, and the order where everything will make most sense -- if that's possible.

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Kingdom Hearts: The Journey Begins

In anticipation of the eventual release of Kingdom Hearts 3, my wife and I are playing through the Kingdom Hearts games together. This is the first time either of us have played one of the most beloved and popular RPG franchises of all time. As always, I regret not playing them sooner.

We started this journey over a year ago when Bri got really into Kingdom Hearts Union Cross (formerly known as Unchained X) for iOS. We both love Disney, and the characters and stories from Square games have always been interesting to me.

So we set out on our journey to play through the entire series via the newer remastered versions released on PS3 and PS4.

The Order You Should Play the Kingdom Hearts Games:

  1. Kingdom Hearts Final Mix HD
  2. Kingdom Hearts Re:Chain of Memories
  3. Kingdom Hearts II Final Mix HD
  4. Kingdom Hearts 358/2 Days (HD Theater)
  5. Kingdom Hearts Birth By Sleep Final Mix HD
  6. Kingdom Hearts Re:coded (HD Theater)
  7. Kingdom Hearts Dream Drop Distance HD
  8. Kingdom Hearts 0.2 Birth by Sleep - A fragmentary passage

Games 1-6 are available for PS4 on the new Kingdom Hearts HD 1.5 + 2.5 ReMIX collection. There are older PS3 versions of 1.5 and 2.5 available as well.

Games 7 & 8 are available on Kingdom Hearts HD 2.8 Final Chapter Prologue for PS4.

KH HD Remix PS4

This order allows you to experience the story best. If you play the timeline chronologically, you will spoil much of the mystery behind the story and what's going on.

I want to do a review of sorts for each of the games. I want to talk about what worked, what didn't, what we liked, and what absolutely sucked, and the story overall without major spoilers. 

As I said, we started this journey over a year ago. We're now on Kingdom Hearts Birth By Sleep, which means I have a brain full of information on the first three games as well as the HD Theater version of 358/2 Days. 

This should be a fun way to work ourselves toward KH3's release! Stay tuned.

7

My Games of the Year 2016 Edition

It’s that time of year when everyone is putting forth their selections for “Game of the Year.” I do things slightly different than most. I don’t pick a single best or a top 10. I don’t limit myself to blockbuster AAA mega-titles. Instead, I look for reasons to praise games that had the greatest impact on me as a gamer, an opinion writer, and an avid fan of the video game industry this year.

Here are my Games of the Year for 2016:

Stardew Valley

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Stardew Valley proves there are still ways to refresh, innovate, and popularize an old formula. ConcernedApe (Eric Barone, Sole Designer, Programmer, Artist, Composer, ) showed the world the right way to make an indie game succeed. He worked on the game on his own for four years. He gauged interest back in 2012 by using Steam’s Greenlight system. When that showed to be a huge success, he was approached by a small publisher (Chucklefish) to help push him the rest of the way.

Stardew Valley has grown significantly since its release earlier this year. Patch 1.1 introduced many additions to the game. Stardew Valley was also ported to Xbox One, PS4, and will be coming to the Nintendo Switch.

I love the game, the story behind its development, and the example it sets for the rest of the industry.

Kingdom Hearts Unchained X

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KH:UX is a free-to-play mobile game that released in NA this past year. KHUX is one of my games of the year because it shines and leads as an example of how F2P (and mobile) games can be completely fair, balanced, and enjoyable without sacrificing scope of gameplay or the player’s experience.

Unchained X tells more of the Kingdom Hearts story, and brings a new style of combat to the franchise that works perfectly on mobile devices. The game itself, though repetitive and times, features a great “get in and play, then get out quick” style of play.

The developers continually release new content every month — often multiple times a month. KHUX is simple, fun, and continually evolving with new in-game events. When it launched there were 200 quests. Now there are over 400, maybe even pushing 500 now. New medals (which act as abilities, weapons, etc) release congruently with popular Disney and Square media as well. The developers communicate incredibly well with players about the game’s roadmap.

My wife plays KHUX every single day (and has since it launched), and to this very day has yet to spend a cent. She says she will eventually, but hasn’t felt the need to yet. For as much as she plays, that’s high praise for a F2P game.

 Subnautica

Although not released in 2016 — technically not released at all yet — Subnautica captures a special place on my list  because of how its gameplay inspires my imagination and creates a sense of wonder I rarely feel in games today.

Gameplay in Subnautica is unlike any other game. Subnautica is an underwater world of exploration, crafting, survival, and mystery. As a sandbox experience, Subnautica really scratches that “let me do whatever I want” itch. You can build bases, craft vehicles, decorate, upgrade ships, etc. Though you can relate it to Minecraft or other open-world sandboxes, it’s simply in a league of its own. The developers have done a magnificent job of capturing the fear of deep, dark water, and sea monsters. I’m sometimes terrified to leave my base. The game is tense, but rewarding when I get brave enough to explore the unknown.

There’s even a bit of story involved, which you can learn about through the in-game data pads or simply read a wiki (which I recommend). I can’t wait until the entire experience is fleshed out and finalized in a release.

Subnautica is currently in early access on Steam. I have my qualms with the model of early access, but the team behind the game is releasing updates regularly and being open about their progress. They are bringing Subnautica to Xbox, and eventually PS4, but have noted the problems they’re having moving a game from PC to console.

Subnautica is not without its flaws ranging from bugs, performance issues, and arbitrary recipes that don’t make much sense, but the game is fun enough that I lost over 10 hours to it this past week. The time just seems to fly by.

Look for more posts coming soon on Subnautica!

What About YOUR Games of 2016?

Any gems you found this year? Anything inspire you, awe you, or drive you to care more about playing games? The year was jam-packed with many great and amazing titles. I’d love to hear which ones you enjoyed most and WHY.

Kingdom Hearts Unchained X Continues to Consume Us!

I’m still having a blast in Kingdom Hearts Unchained X. In fact, my wife is too. She picked up the game almost 2 weeks after me, and is now so far past me that I’m not sure I can ever catch up. She says it’s a mixture of the Disney and the gameplay where it’s simple to understand but more strategic at times. Knowing when to use special abilities, swipe, tap, and how to build a good Keyblade are all interesting to her — me too!

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I’m around level 120, and she’s pushing 170. We both have spent a great deal of time trying to maximize what we can get for free by making sure to play each day. Every day has new quests and events to do. For example, Tuesday is red (power) exp and evolve medals. Wednesday is Blue, and Thursday is green. Friday you get the evolve medals needed to go from 1-5 stars (Chesire Cat, Merlin, and Fairy Godmother). Saturday and Sunday are the more powerful evolve medals (Yensid and Sorcerer Mickey). Each day there are also events to get munny, improve your various Keyblades, earn gems, or get special rewards. Suffice it to say, there’s always plenty to do. In fact, I regularly feel overwhelmed.

[su_lightbox type=”image” src=”https://www.keenandgraev.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/05/KHUX-Synthesis-Chart.jpg” class=”pointer”]KHUX Synthesis Chart[/su_lightbox]There’s a lot of meta game surrounding the accrual, leveling, and slotting of medals. Leveling medals is pretty straight forward. You put Huey, Dewey, and Louie medals into them to get them basic experience. You can also fuse like medals together (for example putting a 3* Mickey into a 3* Mickey) to synthesize that medal to increase its multiplier. Human nature of course leads us to try and find the most efficient way of leveling and synthesizing medals. The chart to the right shows the most efficient way to get to a fully synthesized medal.

Fully synthesized medals lead to a mechanic called Guilt. (Still with me?) Guilt is a trait found on 6* fully synthesized medals that acts like a second multiplier, and comes in multiple tiers based on the rarity of the medal. Rarity is probably the simplest mechanic: Some medals are common (Goofy) and some medals are rare (Mushu). Rare medals will have ridiculous Guilt multipliers, but are so rare that you’re likely to never fully synthesize a 6*. Common medals may not have as good of a Guilt multiplier, but some Guilt is better than no chance of ever having Guilt — that’s how my wife and I look at it.

KHUX Mickey Synthesis

For having spent nothing on the game, we’ve both put in a ton of time and never feel like we can’t play despite there being restrictions on how many missions you can run back to back (action points deplete). The last event was for Zootopia and had lots of neat unlocks to earn, and every night from 7-9pm there was a raid boss event for two hours where we could kill raid bosses together non-stop. That was lots of fun, and we got lots of neat little Zooptopia cosmetic items. The “end game” is the Coliseum, which I’ll talk about once I catch up to my wife who is already conquering it without me.

6 Star Mushu

KHUx has a lot more importance to the story than I initially realized. If you’re a Kingdom Hearts fan, you really don’t have a choice on whether or not to play KHUx — you sorta need to play. There will be references to this stuff in KH3. It’s free, and fun, and definitely worth playing.

2

Kingdom Hearts Unchained X Tips

Graev KHUX

So apparently Graev is like a savant at Kingdom Hearts Unchained X (KHUx). He’ll downplay his awesomeness by saying he’s the worst player in his group (like a guild) but last I checked he’s in the top players (the above image is old) in the game. I started picking his brain for all kinds of tips and he schooled me on how to become great at KHUx.

Know Your Medal Types

I completely glossed over this earlier, but the medal types are Red (Strength), Blue (Magic), and Green (Speed). Red beats green, green beats blue, and blue beats red. Enemies will come in different varieties and can be countered more easily when using the appropriate medal type.

Level-up-medals

Level Up & Evolve Your Medals

Here’s something I didn’t really know much about, but apparently leveling medals is not only important — it’s imperative. Huey, Dewey, and Louie are used to level up medals corresponding to their color. Leveling up my Mickey Medal, I want to use Dewey medals. These get dragged into the Mickey Medal and combined into it (with some Munny) to create a stronger version of the medal. Once max level, the medal can evolve using special medals like the Three Fairies — also conveniently color coded for the 3 medal types.

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Get the Daily Deal

When starting out, the Daily Deal (600 Jewels for 3 Medals) is really good. I received several 5 star with ability medals that have propelled me waaaay ahead. Considering how easily they flood you with gems early on, this can be a good way to spend them.

avatar-board-in-khux

Unlock Bonuses on the Avatar Board

Definitely visit the Avatar Board and spend your Avatar Coins to get bonuses. Don’t worry about going for the cosmetic upgrades, unless you really want them. The bonuses are worth it because you’ll get more AP (used for running missions), more HP, and more Keyblade cost capacity.

Play Lots During the Grand Opening Celebration

All month long the AP cost for all quests is HALVED. That means you’ll be able to do twice as many missions before having to stop and wait for AP to recharge. Yes, this is a gimmick to get you to spend money to regen your AP. It’s a common mobile game tool to limit how much you play in order to get you to pay to play more. But when you unlock the Avatar Board bonuses and play during this event you’ll be grateful you didn’t wait — especially for those special evolve mission rewards.

2

Kingdom Hearts Unchained X

Kingdom Hearts Unchained X

Kingdom Hearts Unchained X released in North America this past week for iOS and Android. Unchained X reveals the origins of Kingdom Hearts, taking place before any of the other games in the series. Unchained X’s story will connect to the upcoming Kingdom Hearts III game.

You are a Keyblade wielder — one of many — on a quest to rid the world of Darkness and fight with your Union over control of the remaining light.When you start the game you get to choose a Union. This Union is your faction of Keyblade wielders and each week your points are tallied to see which Union wins. There’s a neat multiplayer element to KH Unchained X where you get to fight raid bosses with members of your union, though it’s not truly playing with others in real time.

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The presentation is in the form of a fairy tale. In the very beginning (while the game is downloading a good amount) you are presented a fairy tell in popup book format. Kairi’s Grandmother is telling her a favorite story from the past (the story you’re going to be playing) about how the whole thing got started.

KH Uchained X is free to play. The cash shop doesn’t appear to be too invasive. I’m not super far into the game by any means, but from what I can see it all appears to be cosmetic/”I want to be in the top 100 players” kind of stuff. It  doesn’t appear necessary for the story gameplay at all. Medals can be purchased with in-game currency in a form of random packs, and I feel like the game gives you plenty of in-game currency to avoid needing to spend money.

Gameplay happens in “quests” or missions. So far they seem pretty quick, taking no more than a couple of minutes to complete. These missions involve a main objective like killing a particular encounter. Combat is handled well. Tap the screen to attack, swipe to area attack, and drag medals off of your Keyblade to use abilities. Combat in general is somewhat turn-based. Each action you take rotates the medals in your Keyblade. When the enemy’s action comes around, they take a move. So you’re trying to utilize your actions knowing that the enemy’s action is likely to come around soon.

Customization is pretty good too. You’ll get to slot the medals you want, customize our character’s looks/outfit, and level things up with a bit of choice as to what you combine. Overall, a decent system. It’s like a mix of Days and CoM.

Kingdom Hearts Unchained X comes across very well on mobile devices. The story telling methods they use work for both mobile and the KH narrative. There are plenty of familiar faces, lots of Disney which is great, and the feeling of Kingdom Hearts is all there. The price is right, and KHUx is one of the most ‘complete’ feeling mobile games I’ve played.

6

So Many Games. So Little Time.

I hope you all had a great [Labor Day] Weekend whether you spent it gaming up a storm or spending time with family. I managed to do a little bit of both. My wife and I did the family BBQ thing on Saturday, then went to Disneyland yesterday and managed to get into the park an hour early during their “Magic Hour” that is supposed to be reserved for Disneyland Hotel guests. A sweet elderly cast member let us in saying, “They usually don’t let us do this, but come on in.” We went on 5 rides before the gates opened and the apocalypse was upon us.

In terms of games, I haven’t been in this good of a spot in years. I have this anxious happiness about me now that was previously filled with this “ugh” feeling. The days of having nothing to do are like a distant memory. I now have a massive onset of games that I am trying to wade my way through.

SoraKingdom Hearts -> I’m playing through for my very first time. I probably won’t get to any formal writeup on this, unless enough people express interest, so this is where I’ll deposit some thoughts. KH is hard. Not necessarily in the fighting mechanics or beating bosses — though those can be a challenge — but in the ‘figuring things out’ kind of way. Just finding our where the game wants me to go next requires exploring guessing.

My wife and I are playing through this together, and as huge Disney fans its doesn’t get much better than this for gaming. The story is complex, nonsensical at parts, but slowly coming together. If you like Disney, Square, and a good RPG/adventure game of sorts then give the series a try. Warning: It starts slow.

Some other games I’m playing:

  • Diablo 3 – Currently able to solo T9 GRifts in Season 4 with absolute ease. T10 is doable, but a challenge. I have all of the items I need for my build, and now I’m just trying to get lucky and find better versions of them.
  • Disney Infinity 3.0 – Lots of write-ups coming your way for this one, and a few videos too. I’m even doing some Let’s Plays.
  • Rare Replay – So many games…. so little time.
  • World of Warcraft – I’m level 98 and leveling faster than I would like. I’m still in the 3rd zone and will be 100 long, long before I come even close to being done with quests. Mobs I’m currently fighting at 4-5 levels below me. Having a great time with the story.
  • Mario Maker – Not yet playing but will be in 3 days. Make almost any Mario level, play levels other people make? Oh yeah.

Reviews Coming Soon

  • Disney Infinity 3.0
  • Mario Maker

This might be the first time I have ever had games going on this many consoles and the PC at the same time. #FirstWorldProblems

Lots to come on my experiences. I just have to find time to take a breath and come up for air every once in a while.

Adventure Log: Kingdom Hearts, Batman, and Orcs!

Keen – I’m Batman and I’m killing Orcs!

I beat Batman: Arkham Asylum this week!  It’s the same feeling I had when I beat Mass Effect a few years after it launched: I’m now apart of a special club.  Now I’m working my way through Arkham City, and I’m enjoying the open feel of the outdoor prison.  Playing these games on PC is actually much, much better than I thought it would be.  Games for Windows gets a lot of flack.  I hated using it for the Dawn of War games, and at first it got in my way while trying Age of Empires Online, but for Batman it is integrated so seamlessly I can’t complain.  not only does it automatically handle all the logging in, but it gives me credit for achievements on my Gamertag as if I played on the Xbox 360.  Top it all off with magnificent Xbox 360 controller integration, and the whole experience gets an A+ from me.

I also beat Orcs Must Die! 2.  Great game, as I mentioned this week in a previous post.  I thought it was brutally hard at times to 5 Skull a level.  Orcs Must Die! 1 felt like it was designed to allow players to do their best the first time through, but in this sequel it’s like they know you will struggle the first time until you come back later with better traps.  The levels are also designed to accommodate 2 players easier than one.  And just when I thought the game was as hard as it gets, I found out it has a Nightmare mode that just unlocked.  Sheesh!

Graev – Kingdom Hearts Dream Drop Distance, Assassin’s Creed 3, FF13

I love my Dream Eaters in Kingdom Hearts!  They are cute neat little buddies that can be trained to fight alongside you.  They basically take the place of Goofy and Donald.  I beat the first world (Traverse Town) which is neat because it has new areas we haven’t seen before.  The 3D quality is good, and so far I’m really enjoying the game.

I picked up Final Fantasy 13 this week.  I told you last week how I picked up FF 13-2, but before I play it I decided to replay FF13.  Currently on the last disc of this three-disc game.

Last but not least, I finished up Assassin’s Creed Revelations.  I ended up liking Revelations a lot more than I thought I would.  I figured it would just be a  fun diversion, but I ended up getting drawn in to the experience.  Definitely worth playing because now I’m really, really excited for AC3.

18

Adventure Log: GW2 Weekend, Kingdom Hearts, Skylanders, and more

Keen – GW2 ramblings and Steam Sale backlog

Sylvari jump puzzle

Sylvari jump puzzle

I thought I was sure about playing a Ranger when GW2 launches, but this weekend has thrown a wrench in my plans.  I blame the structure PvP — battlegrounds — for my flip-flopping.  Classes behave so different when put in an isolated frag box.  There is a ‘best spec’ and a ‘best team comp’ for winning tournaments.  I’m told it’s just like the original Guild Wars, and I can say from experience it’s similar if not worse than WoW’s Arena min-maxing.

I think what I’m going to do is forget I ever played in battlegrounds.  I had fun — lots of fun — but there was another side to it of frustration thinking about how it’s unfortunate you can’t win a tournament without a a particular class in your group or even being in your group can be a detriment.  I love the Ranger in PvE and in WvW.  Maybe I’ll just leave it at that and have fun.

The Steam sale has decimated my funds.  I bought the Batman Franchise 88% off then picked up the Fallout New Vegas pack that came with all the DLC and saving a fortune.  I also bought Arma 2: Combined Ops because it was 40% off and I want to give DayZ a try.  This has officially created the biggest backlog I’ve ever had, and ensures I will not be bored one minute until GW2 launches.

Graev – Skylanders, Kingdom Hearts, and adventure games

Kingdom Hearts 3D Dream Drop Distance MusketeersI played Kingdom Hearts Birth by Sleep and prepared myself for Kingdom Hearts 3D Dream Drop Distance by finishing off loose ends with the Kingdom Hearts franchise.  I put in about 15 hours getting ready this week.

I’m still on my adventure game kick.  I played and beat Back to the Future, and I’m working through Sam and Max seasons 1 and 2 (which I’ve already played in the past) as a refresher so that I can play season 3 for the first time.

Keen and I also played Skylanders a bit this week prepping for Skylanders Giants in the Fall.  I’m leveling up some Skylanders that I want at max level for Giants, and finishing up some expansion pack content.

Last but not least, I just started playing Final Fantasy Theatrhythm.  It’s a lot of fun and very nostalgic.  It has music from the first 13 FF games and, like the title alludes, it’s a rhythm game.  It’s the first 3DS game to have paid DLC.

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