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So I finished the Last Guardian the other night and it's been on my mind ever since. It's one of those games I'm not sure that I could recommend to everyone since it buckles so much under the weight of its own ambitions, but I'm really glad I took the plunge and played it. 

You spend the entire game with this giant SO creature Trico, as you already know. It doesn't take long for it to click why this game had 8 years in development and needed a hardware upgrade to come out. The collision detection between you and him and the environment can be...awkward, at times. The framerate chugs every time he stumbles in an out of the unwieldy camera's view. At least once during my play through he bugged out entirely and wouldn't move.

But I feel like these problems are minor compared to what the game actually manages to achieve. Trico is a remarkably smart creature, pointing out the solutions to puzzles to the player with his eyes or gestures. If a player is lost or confused on where to go next, sometimes you can even hop on his back and let you walk him to the next objective. Very rarely did he misunderstand a command I issued with the only hesitation coming from natural impulses like judging the distance of a jump before he makes the leap. Sometimes he stops because he's hungry or he's a little worked up after the last combat encounter with the player required to find him food or console him. This could have been tedius but it happens just often enough to reinforce Trico's humanity and the player's bond with him without going overboard. They tow the line of making him responsive without just turning him into a vehicle very well. Even better than the animal companion in Ueda's previous game. 

Breaking things up are sections where the two are seperate, and if you find the bird annoying for one reason or another they do a good job reinforcing how vulnerable you are without him. Your actions alone are incredibly basic as you struggle to move a barrel from one room to the next or avoid capture by enemies. Good level design keeps the segments based in exploration interesting for the most part with a few exceptions. The combat boils down to avoiding capture,getting Trico in the position to fight enemies and nursing him rather than doing any of the fighting yourself. It's an interesting set up that reverses the traditional video game role, but probably the weakest part of the game just due to how repetitive it can be. 

The strongest part of the whole game is how all of It's parts come together to form a whole narrative experience. Trico's "arc" feels like one of the best executed ones I've witnessed in a game. When you find him he's gravely injured at the hands of manmade weapons.  The boy is able to see past the legends and myths about the creature and see a hurt animal that needs help, but Trico isn't as quick to trust. As the game progresses he gets stronger and more trusting. The game meanders in the middle, but the finale felt worthwhile. 

 

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Fallout 76 is free for the moment and I decided what the heck, I'll go in having really no expectations. And I mean so far I like it, I'm eager to explore and see what I'm capable of. It's kind of what I've been craving lately, I can't remember the last time I played and MMO a was genuinely wanting to grind/enjoy it. I hope it will be released a mobile version on apknite. 

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AI: The Somnium Files (Switch) - How exactly to classify the genre of Kotaro Uchikoshi's work except as "a Kotaro Uchikoshi game"?  But this game eschews Uchikoshi's usual visual novel roots for adventure gameplay that perhaps expands on the escape sequences in Zero Escape (plus a few crazy action sequences which almost read as parodies).  Scenes are stuffed with props to be exhaustively examined (sometimes with different responses on revisits, so one gets a little obsessive about it), dialogue with characters is conducted via choices but with very few lines truly optional.  The production values on show are obviously higher than those at work in Zero Time Dilemma, which the style evolves from, and it's more of a success here.  Character design, too, is more exciting, with bolder colours and almost sci-fi fashion designs in places, fitting the game's five-minutes-into-the-future aesthetic.

The plot, though, is classic Uchikoshi, covering more conceptual ground than half a dozen of your average games.  Augmented reality vision, entering people's dreams, net idols, serial killers - and far more that I can't cover without spoiling the story.  It maybe doesn't go in quite as deep as some Uchikoshi stories, but like all of his work, he prepares his ground by introducing a series of seemingly disconnected characters and then gradually revealing how they are all linked together by a buried truth.  Twists of one kind or another are abundant.  There are branching pathways, though not so many as in Uchikoshi's past couple of games; but they diverge perhaps more.  They are also selected unintuitively, almost blindly, by means of arbitrary choices in the dream sequences; something I actually quite like, as it means I can't predict what the outcome will be.  The plot itself may not be as wholly insane as some might expect - but the average level of the writing is utterly mad, with the characters zanier and bouncier than ever.  It makes for a more fun read, less weighty and portentous but rather filled with greater heart that helps drive the ultimate ending home.  I can't recommend it enough.  It's a wild ride, and while you can't know what to expect, it's everything I wanted.

Raging Loop (Switch) - So what did I go and do?  Play another branching-paths visual novel straight afterwards!  This is a more basic visual novel, though, where interaction is limited to advancing the text and, occasionally, to making choices.  What distinguishes this game's "gameplay" is that choices are in continuity; deaths and bad ends, by and large, unlock "keys" which represent new information to the protagonist, which he can then recall at a previous route split to select a previously unavailable choice.  What this means is that most "choices" are nothing of the kind and the game is actually very linear, with the major exception of a few infodump branches towards the end; but the keys and locks element contextualises the protagonist's ability to make different decisions by making those decisions informed and reasonable.  It's not a bad idea, but it does mean you're likely to go into the game expecting more freedom than you'll ultimately get.  Visually, the game is perhaps a step down from top-notch; it has a vaguely muted, lumpy sort of style that isn't especially appealing on its own merits, but it's appropriate to the subject matter and the occasional CGs are sometimes much more invigorating.

The meat of the plot is a sort of Higurashi-Umineko-Werewolf mashup, a Shinto interpretation of a Werewolf (or Mafia) game transformed into myth and played out as deadly serious among the characters trapped in a lonely and impoverished mountain village.  The characters are a better spread than they first appear; the customary visual novel standard of gradually exploring all the characters so they prove to transcend their apparently simple presentation is fully in play here.  Much of the game's story, then, is taken up with battles of logic and deduction as the characters try to deceive and expose one another through careful ratiocination - or its opposite.  This works brilliantly, and it's genuinely fascinating following the string of logic and trying to figure out everyone's true roles and motives.  It's just towards the end that I feel the game is let down a little; the wrap-up, while clever, doesn't really follow quite the same logical or generic strand as the rest of the story, and makes some dubious decisions in terms of what it ultimately attributes to the natural and the supernatural (which is then complicated yet more by the game's bonus material).  The game itself is aware of this problem, and I sympathise, but I think all or nothing would have been vastly preferable and self-consistent.

Additionally, the game is stuffed with bonus material and extras.  After completing the game, there are five bonus stories, special messages from every single voice actor, hidden endings - and even an innovative sort of visual novel New Game+, where an additional mode can be activated to unlock extra scenes showing the characters' inner thoughts and events where the protagonist was not present.  There's actually enough of this that I haven't yet played it; from the looks of things, it's basically the size of an entire additional playthrough, so you might view it almost as a very extensive postgame.  In other words, what you're getting with Raging Loop is a generous package; flawed, but giving its all.

Coming up next: Innumerable; my back log has returned, more powerful than ever.  But one game heads the list, and it's the one everyone's talking about right now.  Bring it on, Pokémon Sword (Switch).

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On 10/29/2019 at 1:09 AM, Zaysho said:

As I was playing UltraMoon earlier in the year, I just felt a sense of burnout even trying to get through the game. I didn't care about doing things that I spent hours in Sun doing (in which I logged over 300 hours), I regretted my starter choice but didn't want to lose my Dusk Lycanroc (because haha timed event--fuck off, Pokémon Company), even when I was trying to balance my usage of the Exp. Share I was overleveled and steamrolling anything that wasn't a Totem Pokémon. Trainers all have one or two Pokémon and are too numerous that I stopped caring; I did all this shit in the previous game and ran through the same exact beats.

Figured I'd update this because I decided to force myself to pick the game back up. Around when I wrote my thoughts on playing the Platinum fan hack, I had left off at the beginning of the Poni Island trial, so I know I didn't have much left of the game until I eventually faced the Elite Four. By that point, finishing the game just felt like an obligation. UltraMoon only underscored issues that I acknowledge were also present in the original 2016 versions of Sun and Moon, but issues that I was willing to ignore or forgive because I was actually having fun the first time around and built a team I really loved using.

Without railing on about what I didn't like about Gen VII as a single-player experience (which is primarily how I experience Pokémon), I'll just say it was too much of a slog and not at all fun the way I tried playing the game: I usually have a few restrictions in place with newer games these days, and among them is using newer Pokémon I hadn't before for the story. This can have mixed results, as I often do find Pokémon I gain a new appreciation for by doing this (my Sun team had a lot of new-to-me mons but they were all so much fun to use), but I was so overwhelmed by the available choices in UM and had trouble actually composing a team I was satisfied with. I decided to toss this restriction aside and from there I got ideas on how to actually form a team I would like, what types and looking at what was available, and even went to start breeding a few new additions to swap out with my currently used Pokémon. When I realized I could farm BP early with the new Mantine Surfing and get move tutor moves before even the postgame I started working toward that too. It's all definitely very extra and not the most optimal way of playing a Pokémon game's story, but I did all this before. If I'm going to steamroll through most of the game anyway, I might as well have some fun with the tools the game provides instead of dreading playing it and constantly falling asleep.

UltraMoon is still, overall, a pretty average if underwhelming experience as far as Pokémon games go, but it feels so much better when you finally have a team you like and everything clicks. RPGs are about player choice, so find what you like, but don't be afraid to experiment either; I did find some keepers I hadn't thought of before, and they're being mixed in with more familiar Pokémon to make a team I'm much more satisfied with. It's just not worth forcing yourself to play them a certain way because you need to keep some imaginary score of how you play that no one cares about.

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Pokemon Sword

I did finish this game during the first weekend of release but I'm still playing it, due to Max Raids and trying to complete the Pokedex on top of another playthrough of it. To give my quick thoughts about it. The story is ok, your typical Pokemon fare. I do feel while there's a lot of character development and great characters I do feel like some characters are underutilized or just flat out there compared to Hop, Leon, and Sonia. The gameplay isn't too bad either, its what you'd expect from a Pokemon game. They did a good number of balance changes between the available Pokemon to moves and abilities. I will say I don't like what they did with TMs and made them mostly gimmicky stuff; You have no idea how underwhelming it was to receive the rather weak Whirlpool (which also was a HM in Gen 2) from the Water gym leader instead of something decent like Bubblebeam or Water Pulse. They also locked the better moves in something called TRs or Technical Records which act like TMs prior to Gen 5, ergo one time use, which kind of sucks. Thankfully it isn't too bad when you can get multiples of a move at least and they usually drop from Max Raid Battles but I still have that "too awesome to use" mentality, mostly because I want to make sure I'm slapping it onto something I'm gonna use meta wise. And finally Dynamax is an OK gimmick; It doesn't break anything but its nice to know that everyone can use it at least. I do wanna see where this meta would go with the smaller amount of Pokemon. I've been hearing Corviknight, Darmartian, and Dracovish are making waves which I find interesting.

Atelier Ryza: Ever Darkness & the Secret Hideout

Out of all the games on sale I went for the game that wasn't on sale. I just really wanted to play a new Atelier game is all. For those who don't know about the Atelier series, think of the Persona series meets idk Harvest Moon or Minecraft in a sense. You play as a cute girl who's trying to make it big in her world through alchemy. Its a JRPG with a heavy focus on a crafting system for both battles and taking requests for the local townsfolk but you have to time manage because nearly every action you do takes up time and you usually have a strict time limit to accomplish the story of the game much like Persona. Failing to do so either gives you a game over or a bad ending. The battle part of the game is pretty simple as well since you have either attacks, skills, or items to use but there isn't too much of a focus on weaknesses like in Pokemon or Persona so you can do fine as long as you keep up with grinding and crafting.

Now that established that what about Ryza? Well it does things differently. For one the strict time limit I mentioned is gone so you're more free to do what you want without having to worry about a cosmic deadline of any sort so go crazy with the crafting. Crafting itself has been revamped a bit, giving you a grid instead of a list of what you can go through which leaves you more customization options available to you. And the last big gameplay change is that the combat is now in real time instead of being turn based so you have to think on your feet. I do like how battle is controlled by a button press at least but it does have somewhat of a Persona 3 problem where your allies just do whatever. You can control them but you can only control 1 at a time, meaning you have to make even faster decisions. One thing I did noticed too is that the story is also heavily different from other Atelier games where instead of one big goal on a time limit, it focuses more on individual character goals. Ryza wants to adventure more and learn alchemy, Lent wants to train to be strong and reach this tower he couldn't before, and Tao wants to translate his book. Its smaller scope from previous games but I think that's what makes it personal and it might be leading up to something bigger. I love how its trying to experiment more with the Atelier formula and trying more things; that's the kind of ambition I like to see. I've barely scratched the surface though and I'm sure there's a lot more to this game but I will say this is looking to be one of the most beautiful games out there and I love its chilled attitude. Its a nice change of pace for me to say the least and I really appreciate it. 

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Finally got some time to play games recently and currently have Attack on Titan 2 installing. Still haven't played Crash Nitro Fueled or finished Batman The Enemy Within, though.

Meant to actually play the game, but got hit with an update. Fml

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