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HelenBaby

What game are you currently playing?

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I just got Skylanders Imaginators with the Crash pack for about thirty bucks. I'm playing through with Crash mostly and having a really good time. The levels are well designed and the combat is satisfying. Planning on getting DK, Bowser, Spyro, and maybe Cynder.

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Putting the finishing touches on Valkyria Chronicles 4 and Pokemon Ultra Sun so I can move onto Lets Go.

 

VC4 was such a great game. I still need time to sit back and digest what I just sat through. The story alone is worth the price of admission - let alone the fantastic strategic gameplay. I'll be back once a few more of the DLC maps drop later this year.

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Currently playing Overlord on the 360 for the past 2 weeks and have been really enjoying the game. Surprised too as I thought when I picked it up that it might be okay. It's got a charm to the game, plenty of irony, looks great (for the time when it was made) and just liked the gameplay. If I have to describe the game to a stranger, it's like Zelda mixed with Pikmin if it was made in Europe. It started hard but once that I leveled up and got regenerative armour, it has been more balanced. Still die but not as often. I was also glad that I didn't trigger the Brewery glitch because that would have been a downer but then again did that in almost one go anyway. Even though they aren't related at all but it is giving me a little bit of practise for when I get to play Dark Souls (or Demon's Souls) due to learning about attack patterns and timing as the Overlord. Like there was a boss but all my minions were killed and still managed to beat it.

Literally right now, on the desert part of the game and know that its getting towards rushed out of the door/running out of time moment where the polish dropped, the area is much smaller, recycling enemies and have a suspicion that there isn't much more to the game. I mean there are 7 bosses in the game and 5 have their own areas, the early ones have been pretty big after all.

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Octopath Traveler (Switch) - A wildly ambitious tech demo which overstays its welcome.  The hand of the designer is conspicuously present in Octopath Traveler.  With its emphasis on individual choice and an almost open-world map, there is a clear system to the construction of the game.  Each character has four chapters, spread across three concentring rings of towns; an inner circle for Chapter 1, a middle circle for Chapters 2 and 3, and an outer circle for Chapter 4.  The map connections between these locations and the positioning of short optional dungeons are strictly regular; there are a few deviations, but they only serve to highlight the overall rule.  So the map construction is almost ritual, artificial.

The characters and their stories are equally ritualistic in construction, but considerably varying in quality.  Each chapter consists of a short series of interactions followed invariably by a boss fight, no matter how little sense it makes for there to be a boss fight; and several chapters rely on the contrivance of a monster suddenly leaping out of nowhere, or in one case, Team Rocket leaping out of nowhere.  Story objectives are marked on the minimap, making the whole exercise feel rote and handhold-y, especially as characters' individual talents often feel only thinly-utilised or, in some cases, flat-out abandoned.  Tone and importance of incident vary wildly; one character's Chapter 2 might confront you with "the villagers are being kidnapped and their blood is being drained and turned into occult blood crystals," while another is "oh no a child got lost in the woods" - but the variation is joyous in its unpredictability; nonetheless, there are distinct dud chapters where the moral and overall theme seem confused (Alfyn's Chapter 3 ignores the existence of town guards and systems of law and order generally, and Primrose's Chapter 4, while it's great theatre, I simply can't comprehend the point of).  Final chapters tend to have a link to the hidden overarching story, and these too vary in how organically they're worked in; Primrose's story is essentially one big nod to the overarching narrative, while Olberic and Tressa's links are dropped in more awkwardly, particularly in the latter case where the sudden intrusion of the grander picture has essentially nothing to do with the rest of her story at all.  Because of the emphasis on individual choice, character stories individually have zero interaction and zero crossover, which feels like a waste; postgame side-stories and the final dungeon reveal a great number of hidden connections, and in a way these feel like what the game should have been.  The story might have been better off structured like Dragon Quest IV: Chapters Of The Chosen, or the more recent Alliance Alive, where you'd go through every character's introductory storyline and then they would all meet up and join together - at which point the storylines could merge more organically.

Each character has a path action, a specific means of interacting with the many and varied NPCs; and these vary widely in usefulness, with Inquire/Scrutinise and Steal more or less essential, Guide/Allure dropping off enormously after the early game, Purchase only really being viable in the endgame, Challenge being only of use in occasional artificial moments, and Provoke being inferior to Challenge in just about every respect.  One respects enormously the attempt to make what is essentially a town-based RPG rather than a dungeon-based one; but the path actions really need rebalancing.  Perhaps the summons produced by Guide/Allure and beast capturing should be infinite-use, and/or of higher strength generally; perhaps Challenging/Provoking could get you the rewards from Purchase/Steal as victory profits, or perhaps Scrutinise/Inquire could also log an NPC's aptitude in an overall index of recruitable characters.  There are ways of intertwining these actions, ways which aren't taken.

"Noble" path actions are level-gated or restricted in other ways; "rogue" path actions are probability-based (which in effect is also just level-gating, but level-gating which can be savescummed), and failing the roll results in a loss of "reputation"; but a small donation is enough to restore your reputation.  This seems like a missed opportunity for a more sophisticated system of interactions.  Challenge unpopular characters to gain reputation; give items and money rather than taking them; reputation-gate story developments.  Turn the reputation system into something which can be gamed in multiple ways to ingratiate yourself with different factions for different ends in particular character storylines.

The battle system is deceptively simple, with just the right level of complexity and flexibility.  Boost to gain more powerful actions or multiple attacks, attack enemy weakpoints to drop their defences, add extra job abilities with the crucial restriction of there being only one spare copy of each job, so you can't just overload the party with the "best" (as you might in, say, the Bravely Default games).  This system carries the entire game and creates a myriad party-building options as well as enemy-construction options, and experimenting is a great deal of fun; the downside is tedious amounts of equipment micro-managing, but it's hard to see how they could have avoided that.

The major flaw in the battle element is a tragically wonky level curve combined with the stingy decision to only give experience to active party members; by their respective Chapter 3s, my main party members were overlevelled for everything in the rest of their storylines and had already defeated the high-level optional bosses, while my non-main party members languished in the low levels.  The intention is presumably that you would in fact be swapping out party members regularly; but if that's the case, why offer the illusion of choice at all?  This could all have been avoided by rewarding full experience to all party members, and holding back on the experience gains for higher-level characters so they wouldn't zoom wildly ahead of the story.  But the fact that you have eight sets of chapters to go through, each stage of which assumes you're at parity with every corresponding stage, inevitably means you'll either be underlevelled or overlevelled; which is another reason why it would have been better for storylines to merge.

The graphics, as I believe I've noted before, are beautiful and a fascinating attempt to merge the game's SNES-era inspirations with modern 3D and HD design; the result is uncompromisingly stylised and quite unique.  The large-scale boss illustrations, which ignore the usual sense of scale between human characters, create appropriately imposing and striking designs.  I don't have much of an ear for music, but it made enjoyable listening, appropriate to the mood of each scene; and a good thing too, as they sure got a lot of milage out of some of those tracks...

Last but not least, a few words on the hidden postgame dungeon.  Ordinarily I am not fond of postgame bonus dungeons which are in fact the true ending of the story, though in the case of this game I think it was the right decision.  Nor am I fond of high-level, intricate bosses which require a ton of level-grinding and a pretty narrow set of strategies in order to defeat, though even this I could live with.  But what I can't forgive is busy-work.

Spoiler

The decision to place a point of no return, not after, but before a boss gallery of eight not-very-improved villains from each character's story, with no saving, is inexcusable.  Sure, they're just busy-work to any party capable of taking on the final boss; but then, why ask players to take them on again every time they fail the real enemy?  What's the point?  It's just a waste of time that disincentivises the player and saps their will; and sadly that's exactly what happened to me.  If I'd had a save point directly before the final boss, I might have been willing to give it more than a single attempt; might experiment, try some alternative strategies.  But having to wade through the eight preliminary bosses every single time?  I'm sorry, but I don't care enough.

...I also have to question the fact that half of the redux bosses are actually Chapter 3 bosses, not final; and in every case the actual corresponding Chapter 4 boss would have made more sense.  The argument some have made, that Redeye would have been inappropriate and that Esmeralda and the Ogre Eagle aren't actually dead, I could live with; but that doesn't explain Yvon, and it doesn't explain Tressa's Chapter 4, either.  Can I understand that chapter on my own, yes; but that's not the point.  Simeon's lore drop didn't tell me anything I didn't already know, either.

So, an amazing game, but let down in parts probably by the sheer weight of work involved in creating what is a frankly enormous title; and this is where that "overstays its welcome" part comes in, because if I'm honest I was getting fatigued with this game by the eighty-hour mark, and by the time I quit I was at literally double that.  I would be happy with a sequel that's only half as long and much more tightly and organically-constructed; the Bravely Second to this game's Bravely Default, if you like, and on that note I'm certainly looking forward to whatever this team comes up with next, whether it's Bravely Sword or Nonaquest Journeyer.

Coming up next: Well, it's been a long journey, but at last I have only one game in my backlog, and it should be relatively quick to beat before yet more long RPGs start coming out in the New Year.  ...So naturally I'm not doing that, I'm doing something I've been meaning to do for years: Replay Golden Sun: Dark Dawn (DS).  I want to refresh my memory on what went wrong.  Well, according to my completed save file from my original playthrough, it's only a quarter of the length of Octopath Traveler, so it can't take that long!

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Recently I started playing Fallout 4, Forza Horizon 4, Battlefield V, and Destiny 2 on my PC more often than my other games. They’re all pretty fun to play but it was a hassle to be able to play Battlefield V (blame Origin).

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I've temporarily tabled Let's Go Evee! for Katamari Damacy Rerolled on the Switch.  I only ever played the PS3 Katamari, so most of these levels are new.  Having the sticks at different levels on the Joycons takes a bit of getting used to, though.

Still No Man's Skying on PS4, interspersed with Ni No Kuni 2.  My NEXT save (started for the NEXT update in August) in NMS has now passed 100 hours, while my original save is well over 200 now, and another 150 on Permadeath.

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Been playing some games I've been curious of for a while now. Since they are on the Switch, I'd get them for that.

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Bright and colourful characters, cartoonish style and an interesting looking puzzle game. Those three reasons are what got me to finally give this a try. To think, I had no idea that it was originally a Game Boy Colour game.

So Toki Tori is the name of the protagonist. He's on a quest to rescue his siblings that are still in there eggs. He has a vast range of tools at his disposal, but you can't use them as much as you want. This is a puzzle/platformer game, so you've gotta traverse the environment while using your tools wisely.

I've only made it to the second world and I'm starting to struggle. You have a Wildcard, which you can use to skip a particularly tough puzzle, but you only get one, the only way to retrieve it is by completing the puzzle you used it on.

Toki+Tori+2+Plus+PC+game.jpg

The other game I got is it's surprisingly different sequel. Toki Tori 2+ is an open world puzzle/platformer. In the first game, you just pick a puzzle and solve it, then move onto the next. With this, you are traveling to the puzzles which act like a part of the levels.

Gone are the tools from the first game, but TT still has some tricks up his wing. He can now stomp and whistle. Those two things alone are all you need to solve every puzzle in the game, it doesn't give you anything new as you progress. Though you will be taught tunes that can assist in various ways. One acts like a fast travel, able to fly back to specific places you've been to once before and another rewinds you back to the last checkpoint you passed. Which for me, has been very useful.

It's possible to mess up a puzzle in such a way that it's unsolvable in that state. You have no choice but to restart.

What I find interesting is how varied the stomp and whistle effect the other creatures you will meet. At the start of the game, you'd often come across areas that are unpassable, but as you keep playing, you'll learn new ways to use the stomp and whistle, so when you return to those unpassable places, you find that you can actually get across with what you had, all along. That's some pretty clever design work, if you ask me.

Though it's also a tough game, just like the first. I'm determined to see them both through to the end. Somehow.....

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Golden Sun: Dark Dawn (DS) - See here.  Better than I remembered, but only mediocre in comparison to the originals; and simply incomplete without the sequel which was never made.  A true shame; but the developers got complacent.

Iconoclasts (Switch) - I understood this game, more or less correctly, to be one of those once-in-a-lifetime indie games, a uniquely personal one-man project of a high degree of both quality and idiosyncrasy.  It's a game that riffs on a number of popular styles whilst somehow defying easy description; it wouldn't be wrong to describe it as a level-based 2D platformer with Metroidvania elements, with an adventure plot about fighting religious and social oppression and discovering the truth about the world whilst leaving an awful lot to the player's interpretation - but at the same time that somehow feels inadequate, too.  The one point I think nobody would disagree on, and which everyone seems to mention, is that the story has extremely strong main characters who spend most of their time suffering; and they're what I'll remember, I think, long after the game itself fades.  Normally I write pretty long reviews; but I think I'll round this one off here.  It doesn't feel right to go into intricate detail, even where it concerns my qualms about things like invisible passageways, the unambitious tweak system, and the often rather chaotic fights - because they aren't corporate-produced, so in a way that's not the point; or rather, there's no point in the criticism.  Iconoclasts is every bit as much an experience as a game, and one that you have to play for yourself to truly understand.

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So ever since I've gotten my SNES Classic I've been playing quite a lot of Earthbound, the first time in years actually. The last time I've played it was when I was in love but I digress. But now that I'm older now somehow I feel like I appreciate this game a lot more now and I've been looking at it critically at least.

Firstly besides my nostalgia for it this game feels so wonderful to play again. I do like how colorful and cheery it is. However there is one thing that I realized about it, namely its an more urban fantasy over the medieval settings in usual RPGs like in Final Fantasy, Secret of Mana, and Fire Emblem and that makes it pretty unique. Even then no other RPGs, including ones with a similar setting don't have the same child like glee it does. Instead of swords, guns, and the like you're armed with baseball bats, slingshots, frying pans... Needless to say Earthbound plays around with the typical RPG tropes. Heck it even leans a lot on the 4th wall and its actually pretty endearing that this is a game with a kid's perspective. However I did notice there's a lot of dark elements here and there which is somewhat jarring like someone brandishing knives on a kid, an evil cult is around, and there's domestic abuse. I'm not taking points away for that, its something interesting to point out. The cheerful world that our carefree protagonist isn't so bright in a way but our hero still goes on trying to save the day regardless. Its a typical coming to age story and I do like it.

But with that said I think this game might be ahead of its time in some aspects. There's no random encounters since you can see the enemies on the map. I will note that Earthbound also has the ability where if you're too strong you'll automatically end the battle when you encounter an enemy. This is something I rarely ever see and its a very unique mechanic RPGs should honestly take note of, if to make grinding less tedious as well as not wasting time getting from place to place. Another unique mechanic I also never see is the rolling numbers mechanic. Whenever you take a big blow your health goes down but if you're fast enough you can heal yourself before you end up dying. I think that's pretty neat. Also like I said I think the setting of the game is also pretty unique and again ahead of its time. Even today RPGs go for either fantasy or futuristic settings where Earthbound is "today." The closest thing I could think of that's very similar is the Persona series namely it has a hero going around a modern day setting and saving the world in some way. If anything Persona 1-2 is pretty close to Earthbound but even then Earthbound's child like atmosphere can't be replicated. However despite that the game has a few flaws that aged terribly, namely the inventory system. Each character can only carry so much but some items are necessary to keep in for the space, namely the ATM card, the Sound Stone, and Equipment. Not only that but managing it can be a pain whether or not you have to go through the party members or call Escargo Express to take stuff at a time. Still though I still this game is unique, even to this day.

I feel so happy revisiting this game again. Its just giving nostalgia all over again and I still think it holds up to this very day. I'm sorry if I'm rambling too much about it but that's how much I love it. I'd put it on my top 10 if I were being honest. But that's been a nice hot minute of CROW talking about Earthbound.

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Been playing through a few games recently:

- I completed Spyro 1 Reignited (120%) just a couple days ago. It's an enjoyable game, if a bit easy for the most part, though he "bosses" are definitely one of the weakest parts of the game. I'll be moving on to Spyro 2 soon.

- I've also been revisiting Spider-Man PS4 every now and then, and it's still an absolute blast to play. Currently going through New Game +, then heading into the DLC.

- Finally, there's Smash Ultimate. I've recently been going through the World Of Light mode, and after finishing it I can say that I'm... not really a fan of it. I found it to be pretty dull at some points, then awfully frustrating at others. The time it took to finish it all also didn't help. But at least the rest of the game is still a lot of fun!

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