Tag Archives: video games

August Bonus Review: Pokemon Snap

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Pokemon Snap was first released in Japan in early ’99. A year and a half later, we got to play it. It’s been a fan favourite of the franchise since. Let’s take a look and see why.

Story:

You take on the role of a Pokemon photographer challenged with travelling through various locations to get wildlife shots of Pokemon. So, not a story driven game by any means.

Characters: 

There are two characters, the photographer who barely speaks and Professor Oak who looks through your pictures and measures them to make sure the Pokemon you photographed is in the exact centre. Honestly, Oak comes across as kind of an anal old shite in this. You can take a very nice sideways picture or action shot and have him complain because “the Pokemon wasn’t in the centre” or “Wasn’t facing the camera on account of being sideways.” I suspect he might not be much of an expert on photography.

Gameplay:

The game controls very simply. You’re on a rail, going at a consistent pace through various stages. As you progress you unlock items like apples, pester balls and the poke flute to make it possible to get better shots of certain Pokemon, unlock new paths and find secrets.

That’s one of the game’s strong points. There are a lot of secrets to uncover. And, to its credit, there aren’t any that are overly obtuse or finicky. About the most difficult they get is “use an apple to get Pikachu into position, play the poke flute, quickly photograph Zapdos.”

There are, however, enough to make the six main stages highly replayable. Yeah, I know there are technically seven stages. But the last one is just a stretch where you’re getting photos of Mew so I’m not counting it here. You also want to go through stages multiple times to get shots of specific Pokemon since you only have sixty possible pictures per stage and there’s always a certain window you have to get shots of any given Pokemon or special event. Some of which you can’t get in the same run. For instance, if you’re really going for pictures of the Charmander horde at the Volcano, you probably won’t get pictures of Moltres. Or if you’re going for the Arcanine pictures at the end of that stage you won’t get the Charizard pictures.

It really is impressive how much content they crammed into those six main stages.

About the worst thing I can say for the gameplay is that Oak’s ratings can be a bit stupid at times. He basically looks for a few things, the size of the picture, whether the Pokemon is facing you, whether it’s in the centre of the picture and if there are other Pokemon of the same type in the shot. Which can mean some nice looking shots get low ratings.

But it is a very consistent rating system, so you shouldn’t have trouble taking pictures he approves of. And there is the option of saving pictures even if you’re not using them for his Pokemon Report. So, you can keep the nice shots that he isn’t going to like.

Art: 

For the Nintendo 64, this was some very nice artwork. By modern 3DS/ Switch standards, it can look a bit polygonal but for back then, this looked fantastic. For comparison’s sake, when this came out Generation 2 hadn’t been released and the 3D models we were used to for the franchise were from Pokemon Stadium. Which came out shortly before this and looked nowhere near as good.

Sound:

The music is nice and fun. The Pokemon make noises both when they move around and when they cry out. They pretty much nailed the sound design. One interesting aspect is that the poke flute actually plays different melodies at different points. Which is a nice bit of variety.

Final Thoughts:

Pokemon Snap is a fantastic game. The photography element is pretty unique and the exploration is surprisingly deep given the limited stages. I’d give it a 9/10. That being said, I’m sure you all noticed the lack of “Areas of Improvement.” That’s not because the game has none and there’s a reason I’ve been wanting to discuss this game in particular.

In early July, an interview with Game Freak director Masuda Junichi resulted in him basically saying there wasn’t a sequel to this game in the works, because they can’t think of something very unique to do with it. After all, they can’t make the same thing again.

Now, putting aside how absurd that is when the Pokemon franchise itself is built on very small, incremental changes from generation to generation and the most unique they’ve gotten was trading gyms for trials that are basically like gyms only with fewer trainer battles.

We’ll ignore all that and focus on ways they could change up the Snap formula to make it more unique. Now, if anyone from Game Freak happens to see this, these ideas are free. Use all or some of them to your heart’s content. Which is why this time around I’m trading the usual “Areas of Improvement” segment for

Sequel Ideas:

  1. Add in various filters. Here’s the thing, I hate all those stupid filters you can put over your photos on your phone or when uploading them. However, a lot of people absolutely love them and I could see people sharing their in game photographs online using the in game filters and just having a grand time.
  2. Have various Pokemon in stages that you can feed to befriend. At this point, they can follow you around throughout the stage and do various special things. Imagine having a Growlithe following you, doing backflips and other various cute things you could snap pictures of.
  3. Have actual branching paths. I know, the N64 hardware wasn’t really at the level where you could do this. But on the Switch, you could absolutely have points in a stage where you could go down different routes for pictures.
  4. Give the photographer a partner Pokemon. I’m not going to say that this should be transferable to other games, but if you had a partner Pokemon they could help open various paths, be sent out to interact with wild Pokemon. Hell, you could even let players dress it up in little outfits. Eevee would be good for that. So would Vulpix.
  5. Have a Transforming pod. Here’s what I’m thinking. Give players a ride pod similar to the one you’re in in the first game, but this one can transform into a submarine for underwater stages/ stage segments or into a zeppelin for aerial parts.
  6. A proper zoom lens. The first game pretty much has no options for sizing pictures. In this one, let players zoom in a fair amount. This could be used to get some nicer close ups or get good aerial shots of Pokemon on the ground.

So, there you go. Any two of these ideas will give you more of a difference between Snap & Snap 2 than most main franchise Pokemon games have from their closest sequel. You’re welcome.

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November Bonus Review: Detroit- Become Human

Let me begin by just outright saying that I don’t like David Cage. As a writer, I find him pretty damn terrible and every time he talks about his work he comes across as either a pathological liar, someone with his head so far up his own ass he’s getting his food back before it can digest or both. Now, you might wonder why I’m going to talk about one of the games he wrote if I think so little of him.  Well, it’s because I have a lot of problems with this game and it’s been out long enough that I think I can vent about them without all the rabid fans going mad. Plus I don’t do game reviews often so, when I do, it’s always a game that’s been out for a while. I’ll warn you before we get into the gritty details, there will be spoilers.

Story: 

The set up is old hat for science fiction. Androids are an accepted part of daily life but some are gaining emotions, breaking free from their programming and starting to demand rights. We follow three different androids, Markus, Connor and Kara, on their separate but connected paths. Markus starts out serving an elderly artist before becoming robot Jesus. Connor is tasked with finding these deviants and putting a stop to them before they start voting, getting involved sexually with our flesh and blood women and shopping at our organics only stores. Kara is a house keeping android who runs off with a small child to stop her being abused. But it turns out the child is also an android so don’t worry about any “can an android love a human as its own?” story lines. That might have been interesting, if it were written by someone with writing skills.

My first big issue with the game’s story is just how trite the whole narrative is. We’ve seen the “what if AI was sapient” question addressed in a billion different works of media. And every single one of those has done a better job with it than this game. Some big examples have been, but aren’t limited to, Star Trek: Next Generation, The Stories of Ibis, Eve no Jikan, DC’s Metal Men, Astro Boy, The Hitchiker’s Guide, Doctor Who, Red Dwarf, Xenosaga, Transformers, Voyages of the Cerberus, The Twilight Zone, Marvel’s Vision, Blake’s Seven, Steel Angel Kurumi 2, Overwatch, Megaman and so many others I could put together an absurdly long list but I’ve made my point.

What especially annoys me about Detroit in this regard isn’t just that it uses a major story element that’s been done, it’s that David Cage talks about it like he did something completely new and absolutely unheard of. And not just because he deals with sapient machines but because they’re the good guys, for once. You know, if you ignore literally everything I just listed.

Another aspect of the game that annoys me is the heavy-handed slavery metaphor that immediately falls apart if you put ten seconds of thought into it. Because white people did not build black people in a factory nor have black people ever been emotionless.  Frankly, it’s a pretty insulting comparison. David Cage also likes to push this idea that the “proper” way to strike back against an oppressive group in power is through non-violent protest. The only way to save all the named characters you’re supposed to care about is to be non-violent. Which is nonsense. Peaceful protest has its place, but it isn’t easy or relatively painless by any means.

Another annoyance is the Public Opinion system. Throughout the game what you do impacts public opinion but it barely matters to the story. There are all of two characters who will act differently based on public opinion and you don’t see any other impact from it. The story is also full of things that are just stupid. For example, the androids have LEDs in their necks that basically serve to show when they’re getting distressed. Almost like this was an old B-movie where the lead actor can’t emote so they come up with some plot device to do it for them. What’s even dumber is that we find out androids can remove these lights and change their hair colours in order to better pass as human. So, why doesn’t every deviant android do that immediately? Seriously, these things are supposed to be smart but they can’t be bothered to take some simple, obvious steps that would help keep them safe? They deserve to get caught and deactivated.

The only narrative thing I’ll give Detroit some credit for is that it actually has choices that matter. Which does give it something when compared to, for example, a Telltale game. Although you probably won’t want to take more paths cause they’re all badly written.

Characters:

Like the narrative itself, the characters are based off of old, boring stereotypes without anything to make them interesting. Markus is the “saviour” who gains the mysterious power to awaken other androids and has to lead his people to… Silicon heaven, I assume. Where they can hang out with all the calculators. Connor is the eager young recruit. Kara is the motherly woman. Hank is the grizzled old officer and so on. I’ve felt more of an emotional connection to the plastic toys I’ve found in kinder eggs.

Gameplay:

Like most Quantic Dream games, the gameplay is very minimal. You go to places, examine things, do busy work (like laundry), make decisions and there are some shitty quick time events. It’s like Cage wanted to make an animated film but didn’t want every single Razzie so he begrudgingly made a game instead. So, it’s exactly what you expect from Quantic.

Art:

Here’s the one element I can give some actual praise. The artwork in this game is very well done. It uses a realistic, motion-captured style and, unlike any other aspect of the game, actual effort went into making the animation flow smoothly, putting in nice backgrounds and just making it visually appealing. If you paired this artwork with a narrative that wasn’t complete trash and compelling gameplay, you could have a real winner.

Sound:

The music is decent enough. In terms of acting, you can tell that the actors are trying. I can’t say their performances are good. If they had characters with some level of depth to them, they might be able to display emotions and have strong performances instead of an emotion and having kind of sub-par performances. I’m sure part of that is David Cage’s directing since he’s awful at that too.

Areas of Improvement:

Now comes the time where I list three ways the work could be improved, and I am spoiled for choice here because there are so many awful aspects to go after.

  1. Tone down the message for some subtlety and nuance. I know that those are two terms David Cage will never comprehend, but for an example of what I’m talking about watch the Next Generation episode, Measure of a Man. In which Data’s rights are at stake and Picard defends those rights as well as his status as a sentient being.
  2. Alter the gameplay. As it is, Detroit is basically a shite visual novel with QTEs thrown in. I would say either throw out the busy work & QTEs and make it a straight up VN since those gameplay elements are just obnoxious or put in some gameplay that can fit with a story that has branching paths. Maybe an action RPG since several of those do have choices that matter. And get rid of the QTEs and busy work while you’re at it.
  3. Develop the characters beyond stereotypes. As the game is, we’ve seen all of these characters. We’ve also seen them all used as a base for complex characters. Which Cage might’ve done, if he wasn’t a complete hack.

Final Thoughts:

Ultimately, Detroit: Become Human is tripe. The story is a complete mess riddled with clichés on one end and idiotic nonsense on the other. The gameplay is horrid. The characters have nothing to them and it’s just a generally bad experience. A bad experience that looks quite nice but looking nice kind of becomes meaningless when that’s all you have working in your favour. I give it a 3/10. And the only reason I’m going that high is because of the art. If the graphics weren’t so nice, I’d take two points off of that.

Makai Senki Disgaea: Based on a much better game

The Disgaea franchise is, generally speaking, fantastic. They’re RPGs with a strong sense of humour & endearing characters. Sort of like another RPG franchise that I reviewed an anime based off of. The anime for this came out in ’06 from OLM. That’s right, the Gunsmith Cats, Steel Angel Kurumi 2 & Pokemon studio. Let’s see how they managed with this one.

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Story:

we open with an angel, Flonne, faffing about in the underworld to assassinate its king. She comes across the king’s son, Laharl, who was poisoned and left in a casket. She heals him and the pair swiftly learn that his father died while he was snoozing. After some confrontations with other demons, and finding a companion in Etna and her Frobisher… I mean prinny squad,  they decide to head for the castle so that Laharl can claim the throne.

The biggest issue with the narrative is simply that it’s extremely abridged. Things like strong pacing, atmosphere building and some of the more amusing but frivolous dialogue get tossed out in favour of trying to hit all of the major plot points from the game. To be honest, I’m not sure it was the best way to go about it. It might have worked better if the anime was slower and only covered a quarter or a third of the game.

I will give the anime credit for fleshing out the Big Sis Prinny reveal a bit better than the game did. And that’s literally the only thing I’ll credit it with over the game. It is also kind of nice to see the big scenes in a fully animated form, even if they are shortened in order to cram it all into a twelve episode series. And I’m kind of glad they don’t use the game’s best ending since it gives viewers more incentive to actually play it.

Characters:

The major characters are pretty decently represented in this series. They don’t have all the development they get in the game proper nor do they have all their best lines but, for a short series that’s trying to cover everything, they do a pretty good job. And it does feature one of my favourite aspects of Disgaea. Demons with a lot of redeeming qualities and angels who are kind of scumbags. Call it heretical if you like, but I enjoy the subversion and I like that the execution in this franchise is a bit more nuanced since the characters are fleshed out enough that the angels do have positive traits as well, Flonne especially while the demons are significantly flawed.

My biggest issue is that the anime might be too heavy handed with that aspect. The game was better about putting it in and not really drawing a huge amount of attention to it whereas the anime feels the need to shove it in your face.

Art:

The series looks good. They captured the game’s aesthetic nicely. Unfortunately, the animation is pretty lazy. There are a lot of scenes where someone talks and their mouth doesn’t move or where an action scene starts and ends very abruptly and I’m not sure whether it’s because they were “hard to animate” or because they were just rushing to get to the next plot point. Either way, it’s not a good impression.

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Sound:

This is one aspect where I can give the anime full credit without any “but…” involved. Mizuhashi Kaori, Hanba Tomoe & Sasamoto Yuuko are all fantastic. The soundtrack is really damn good as well. The sound design is just on point all around.

Ho-yay:

There are, maybe one or two scenes where Etna & Flonne read as having tension but it’s not exactly a significant thing.

Final Thoughts:

Ultimately, this anime has its strong points. The sound is fantastic, the characters are close enough to their game versions to have a lot of the endearing factors intact, the story has its moments. But its pacing and atmosphere suffer from being too abridged, the big subversion is too heavy-handed, the animation is lazy and it ultimately ends up being an inferior version of the game’s story with some changes that do work and others that don’t really matter. I give the anime a 6/10. It’s decent enough and it might be worth watching if you love the game or if you’re on the fence about trying the game and you want something that can give you a good idea of whether or not you’d like it. Because if you enjoy this anime well enough the chance of you enjoying the game is very high. Next week, Ninja Batman. Because I’ve looked at a few Marvel anime already and it’s time to give DC a chance.

December Bonus Review #5 Dragon Quest VII

I’ve reviewed exactly one game before this, Nintendo’s  Miitopia. I was less than impressed with it. To end December’s bonus reviews, I thought I’d go with a game franchise that’s near and dear to my heart, Dragon Quest. We’ll be basing our review on the 3DS remake and not just because it’s the version I was able to buy legally since the Playstation version wasn’t released here. We’re also doing that one because it’ll probably be the easiest for you all to find at a reasonable price.

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Story: 

We open on the small island of Estard. Our protagonist, I named him Lulu, is the son of a fisherman. One day, his father brings home a mysterious map fragment. This leads him and his childhood friend, Prince Kiefer, on a quest to open up the door to a strange shrine. They’re quickly joined by their friend Maribel. The three activate an ancient pedestal that leads them through time and space to an island they’ve never seen. They quickly discover that the world was once populated by a great many islands that were, through various machinations of the demon lord, lost. They also discover that through travelling back to pivotal moments they can restore the islands and reshape the world itself. Which may eventually earn them the strength necessary to defeat the demon king himself.

I have two issues with the story, neither of which is a major deal. They’re more of small annoyances. The first is the lack of player agency on the ending. Throughout the game, they ask Lulu questions about things like his plans for the future and how he feels about Maribel (if you’re me you always answer positively because Maribel is amazing) but, ultimately, your answers don’t matter in the slightest. Honestly, this game would have benefited from multiple endings based on your answers. You see the same basic issue with Sir Lysalot, a fraud who you have no real choice but to cover for because the game won’t let you expose him and believe me, I tried. The second issue is also with the ending. So, you get to the end and your party goes through a long victory tour where you stop at various places and find the people you need to talk to to move on to the next place. It gets pretty tedious and, honestly, this part really doesn’t need to be interactive. It actually gains nothing from having you play through it. They could’ve made it quicker and cleaner by just showing the important conversations and then automatically moving you to the next spot.

In a strange way, this narrative reminds me of Doctor Who back when Doctor Who was good. I suppose it’s the journeying through time and space aspect. Plus there’s always some new problem to face our heroes. I actually really like that story set up. I also appreciate that the various islands you go to provide different kinds of obstacles. It’s not always going through dungeons and fighting the big bad. Sometimes it’s more about information gathering or puzzle solving. Which leads to some nice variety. I also like the way the reborn islands differ. In some, you’ll find that your party has become heroes of lore. In others, you’ll be forgotten. In one case, you’re even vilified. And in all the cases the response tells you something about the culture of the island’s people. It’s actually a really effective way to do some world building.

Characters:

Lulu is pretty much like every silent Dragon Quest protagonist. He’s there as the character you project onto. The antagonist is the same kind of thing. He’s the bad guy who wants to exterminate the Almighty and rule. It’s the other playable characters who keep things compelling. Maribel, Aira, Gabo, Melvin & Kiefer all have a strong sense of personality and some interesting arcs. Even some of the more minor characters like Estard’s king or Sefana have a nicely built sense of character.

Honestly, it’s like a lot of other games in the franchise. Provide the kind of blank slate protagonist you get to make decisions for and the big bad who’s just evil while putting effort into making the rest of the party and a bunch of side characters interesting to compensate.

Gameplay:

if you’ve ever played a Dragon Quest title, you know the basics of how the controls work. You’ve got the usual turn-based combat with the usual interface and menus. It also uses the mechanic that the newer games are fond of where monsters appear on the world map and you get into battle by running into them. There are two things that separate VII from a lot of the other games in the franchise. The first is the mechanic of travelling to the past. Which is used to great effect and there are several instances where you need to go back to a specific place in order to find something or get help from a particular person. The second is the job system.

VII isn’t the only game to give you vocations, but it does execute them in an interesting way. Each vocation has levels of mastery where you earn new abilities, some of which carry over. And you gain that in addition to ordinary levels. So, you don’t have to significantly weaken yourself to start a new path. It also features prestige classes, which require certain conditions to change to. Mastering certain classes or gaining specific skills. Perhaps most interesting are the monster vocations. Throughout the game you find monster heart items that enable your characters to take on the aspects of that monster and these come with their own levels of mastery.

In terms of difficulty, VII is pretty challenging. There are times when you may want to pause in your quest to grind up some levels or just go out exploring and gain some more experience in the process. This game does have a massive map with a lot to do in it.

Art:

The designs are what you expect from Toriyama. They look pretty damn good. The 3DS version also updates the sprites when moving across the world map so that they look considerably better than the old school PS versions. One unfortunate side effect of that, however, is that the map itself and the boats you encounter look a bit blocky. The special attacks are also a bit lacklustre. Overall, though, the game does use the 3DS hardware pretty effectively.

Sound:

You’ve gotta give Sugiyama Koichi credit. He’s pretty much done the musical score for every Dragon Quest game and they’ve always been excellent at complementing the atmosphere and just being really good. The sound effects are pretty standard fare.

Final Thoughts:

Dragon Quest VII isn’t the best game in the franchise. It has some things that could definitely be done better. That being said, it’s still an excellent game. If you’re a fan of turn-based RPGs, like I am, then you’ll probably enjoy it quite a bit. The mechanic of going through time and space is really good. The characters have strong senses of personality. The soundtrack and designs are oh so good. My final rating is an enthusiastic 9/10.

September Bonus Review: Miitopia

For those of you who don’t know, I’m a big fan of Rpgs. I’ve been playing them since I was a small lad and I’ve invested more time in them than any other game genre. Enter Nintendo’s latest attempt to make Miis relevant, the RPG Miitopia.

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Story:

We open with our first mii, who is just a random traveller. They arrive in town and talk to people when the Dark Lord descends and steals faces from most of the townspeople. Our hero goes out to retrieve them and is visited by the voice of god, who gives them a class and abilities. To start out with, you can choose from Fighter, Rogue, Cleric, Mage, Pop Star or Chef but you get more as you progress. Three other adventurers join you and you go on a quest to stop the Dark Lord from stealing faces like a total wanker.

The story is very basic. Which isn’t bad, given that this is basically set up as an early RPG for youngsters. What is a problem is that it gets repetitive. There’s a pattern where you start alone, get your companions joining you one at a time at the conveniently placed Inns and then you chase after the Dark Lord until he unleashes something powerful. Then, once you’ve accomplished something by beating that, he captures your companions and you start back at level one and have to pick a new class. This plot point is repeated twice, thrice if you count the final time where he takes your companions but doesn’t seal your class, with your original character ultimately travelling with three different groups.

Characters:

Here’s another issue with Miitopia. With most RPGs you’ll get a group of defined characters with their own personalities. Even if you create the main lead, as you do in the Fallout games or Knights of the Old Republic, you generally get defined companion characters and choices with your lead to give them a sense of character. In this, you assign every random role to Miis that you’ve made or you can pick one that someone else has made. And the “characterisation” consists of picking from a list of seven personality types: Cool, Kind, Stubborn, Air-headed, Cautious, Energetic or Laid Back. And their effects are largely shown through quirks in combat. For instance, a stubborn character might attack a second time, defend against incoming attacks or refuse to let themselves be healed. There’s no connection to the narrative.

Character relationships are similarly unimportant. You build up your Miis relationships by having them room together. Which doesn’t serve the plot whatsoever, but does unlock behaviours in combat. Such as the ability to help an ally attack, perform a pincer attack rise up and avenge a fallen ally, take a hit for an ally and others. Your Miis can also end p in a quarrel, which causes problems when they’re together in battle. Which makes the Pop Star super useful since they have a class ability that instantly ends quarrels.

Gameplay:

I’ve already discussed the personality system  a bit. But I do want to add that I do like the idea behind it. I do like the idea of your characters building relationships and having quirks that affect their performances in combat. I just think it could stand to be more robust. As it stands, other RPGs have had systems where party members build relationships with actual characters that impact their combat performances and they’ve worked better. The Neptunia franchise and the bonuses you get from raising your Lily ranks comes to mind. For that matter, Fire Emblem gives you increased bonuses when two characters with higher support ranks work together.

The gameplay, overall, is pretty basic but kind of addictive. You basically have an over-world where you move from stage to stage. You go through a stage, possibly encountering monsters and random events or treasures, choose from branching paths and eventually arrive at the Inn and move on to the next. Or you can go back and check the path you didn’t take.

In combat, you’ll get to select the actions of your main Mii. The others will act independently. Actually, here’s something I have to praise Miitopia or. As a rule, the AI is really good about taking actions that make a lot of sense. It’s very rare for them to make a move that’s just a bad idea. Usually they make moves that are pretty optimal. Which is nice when you compare it to the AI in a lot of games where you basically have to babysit your party because they royally screw up otherwise.

I also do like the class system. I like that you’ve got your kind of standard classes but there are some strange classes in this. I’ve already mentioned Pop Star & Cook but later on you also get Imp, Scientist, Cat, Tank, Flower & Princess. It’s interesting trying different ones and seeing how their abilities work. I also like that you can change how your Mii looks so that if you get stronger armour, but it looks awful, you can make it look like your older armour while keeping the increased stats. And there are some absolutely terrible looking pieces of armour in this. The “Macho” equipment, for example.

One thing that is annoying about the classes is that some of them get abilities that damage their relationships and can cause quarrels. The Cook can feed everyone spicy dishes to make them breathe fire, which makes everyone mad and the Tank can shoot one of their companions at an enemy. Which the companion is not going to like.

But that brings me to the shopping situation. Shopping in Miitopia is a pain in the arse. What happens is you have to wait until your Mii wants new equipment and you have the money for it. Then you give them the money and they go off to buy the next upgrade for either their weapon or armour. And there’s a chance they might return with a healing item instead. In which case they return the extra gold and you have to wait until the next time they want their upgrade or until you find it in a treasure chest. It gets incredibly frustrating when you’re sending the same Mii to buy the same armour you’ve sent them to buy twice before only to have them come back with candy like a small child with no impulse control.

Although, speaking of the candy, I do like that you keep the same restorative items throughout the game but they upgrade after you use enough of them. It does get a little tiring in other RPGs when you have an inventory full of a hundred types of healing items and some are useless because you’ve far outgrown them. This is an elegant solution.

The game is very easy and not all that long, when compared to most other RPGs. You have a safe spot that heals status ailments, sprinkles that restore HP, MP, grant a free revive (one only), shield you from damage and can grant a berserk status effect for your Miis, although they don’t call it that. You also have the ever upgrading HP bananas & MP candies. If you have any healer, Cleric, Cook or Flower, in your party it’s going to be easy to not have your party wiped out. The only times I ever had trouble were when I encountered these shadowy imps who have an instant kill attack. Even then they became easy to handle once I got the shield sprinkles.

Art:

I’m not super fond of the artwork in this. I don’t really like the whole Mii aesthetic and the game is very much built around that. I do like the super sentai-inspired armour you get for the characters and there are other interesting looking armour and weapons here and there.

Sound:

The music composition is quite nice. I liked hearing the new tracks when I got to different areas. The squeaking sound of Miis talking, in contrast, gets a bit grating after a while.

Final Thoughts:

In terms of simple, introductory RPGs for younger audiences, Miitopia does its job really well. In terms of appeal for your more serious RPG fans, I don’t know that it has it. The very basic plot, non-characters & lack of difficulty are probably going to be a problem for your more seasoned veterans. It’s still a bit of a laugh to play around with and I would like to see a sequel that better refines its better ideas but, now that I’ve beaten the Darker Lord, I’ll probably erase my data and give it to my little niece instead of doing the post game stuff. For myself, the final rating is going to be a 6/10. It’s okay.

Five Changes I’d like to see in Fire Emblem

So, Fire Emblem Fates finally released two weeks ago. At least it did in the EU. The American version’s been out for months. The Japanese version’s been around for close to a year. Anyway, I’ve managed to ply through both routes and I’ll play the third when that comes out in the 9th. Overall, I quite liked it. I like some of its new concepts, liked the story and it had some strong characters. That being said, there are some things I think could or should be done a bit better. So, here’s my list of those. As is my usual, they’re in no particular order, except with some points coming earlier because they’ll factor into later things I discuss. 

1. An Improved A+ rank.

I actually really like the idea of assigning your characters “best friends” with the whole A+ thing. However, I also think it could be done better. For one thing, I’d like to see some support conversations to go with it, actually elevate it above the A rank in a more meaningful way. For another, I’d like to see some potential male/female A+ ranks. Not every possible permutation of a male/female pair has romantic chemistry but they always go S-rank with the possible options anyway, unless they’re related. So, why not forget about trying to force romantic chemistry and just have them be friends instead? There are certainly plenty of best friend pairs like that in real life, including ones where both people involved are straight. 

2. On the Subject of support log unlocks… 

In both Awakening & Fates, you have an avatar character who can be male or female. And, in both games, the support conversations for most of the characters are the same regardless, except regarding who you can reach S-rank with. It’s always been strange to me that 1. you have to unlock these support logs separately when the only differences are whether you can reach S-rank at the end and whether they use feminine or masculine terms to refer to you. 2. That there’s somehow potential romantic chemistry in one case but not the other. If Gaius, Tharja or anyone else has the exact same conversation with your avatar regardless, why does your avatar being the opposite gender suddenly give it romantic potential? 

That brings me to what I’d like to see. First off, I’d like to see the support conversation unlock in the library’s viewer for both the male and female avatar in cases where it’s the same, regardless of which one you actually unlock it with. On the positive side, it would make things much easier for completionists. And, if one of these characters is romance-able, I’d like to see them be romance-able regardless because if one of these conversations illustrates potential chemistry, then they both do. As they are the same conversation. 

3. Group Activities

One addition to Fates I actually really liked is that you can invite a character to your avatar’s “quarters” to interact with them and build your support conversation in a more relaxed environment, as opposed to having them just bond on the battlefield. However, I think this could be expanded on. I think the series could, in fact, really benefit from giving you the occasional option to invite two different characters to spend time with your avatar and have the support ranks go up all around. It would make it much more viable to try and unlock the supports for your other allies without necessarily having to join them at the hip during battles. It would be especially helpful for routes like the Nohr one where you don’t get random encounters and the amount of time you have to get those supports up is very limited. 

4. No more child characters. 

Here’s the thing about having your S-rank characters’ children join your party and fight alongside you. It worked just fine in Awakening when the story was about that. However, in the Fates routes it seems really contrived. Almost like it’s only there because it worked in Awakening. It’s not even necessary since you can beat the game without having a single S-rank couple, or while having your only S-rank couple be male Corrin & Zero/Niles. So, I’d like to see them not keep coming up with flimsy justifications for the children of your characters to show up. 

That being said, the missions to unlock these characters are kind of a big part of the game. So, what do I suggest, besides just having more missions in the story? Well, I’d actually suggest having an apprenticeship system. Have certain characters who, once they reach a certain number of kills, or unlock a certain number of supports or whatever, take on an apprentice. You can have whoever that character is S-rank, or A+ rank if they don’t have an S-rank support, with help them out, hence resulting in a unit with both their skills. On the positive side, it would be a more compelling explanation for the shared skills than them somehow being inherited. Plus, it would provide more potential for interesting skill combination sets. 

5. About the Avatar’s Romance Options…

There’s actually a good reason some people call the newer Fire Emblem titles “waifu simulators.” Your avatar character can marry anyone of the opposite sex and, in two cases for Fates, some characters of the same sex. Including your siblings in Fates because Nintendo & Intelligent designs are a bit fucked up like that. Yeah, that’s actually my biggest criticism of Fates.

Frankly, there are two possible ways I’d like to see this changed. The first is for them to just let your avatar character marry anyone they aren’t related to, regardless. Here’s the thing, if you’re going to just open it up for basically all the romance options, you might as well just open it up for all romance options. It doesn’t make sense to say “Oh, anyone of the opposite sex is fine but when it comes to same sex options, those have to make sense. Gotta have those strict standards.” Clearly, you have no standards as far as that’s concerned. Might as well embrace it and have all the yaoi/yuri/het your players could want. And if this was combined with the second point I made it wouldn’t even be harder for completionists. So, that’s good. 

The second possible thing I’d like to see happen, and the one I’d honestly prefer, is to have a more limited number of romance options but have them all well developed and make sense. Have some characters your avatar can only be friends with and a limited number that they can marry. Preferably with some being same sex or het only and others being available regardless. Because, frankly, in some of the cases where the support conversation is different based on the avatar’s gender, it’s not the opposite sex one that has romantic chemistry. 

So, that’s my list of things I’d like to see in upcoming Fire Emblem titles. On the off chance that someone from Nintendo or Intelligent Designs reads this, feel free to steal any and all of these ideas. If you have your own ideas for the franchise or berate me for my eccentricities, feel free to leave a comment. I’m going to get back to my second Nohr play through. I’m really close to getting Corrin and Peri up to S-rank.

Combining games for fun and profit

Lately, we’ve seen quite a few games released that combine the mechanics of two different games. Dynasty Warriors with both Zelda & Dragon Quest. Etrian Odyssey with Mystery Dungeon & Persona. Tekken with Pokémon. And that’s just to name a few. On one hand, it’s easy to understand why this happens. It’s an easy way to do something new with a franchise while also using game mechanics that are tried and true, even if they are such for a completely different game franchise. It’s also undoubtedly true that some of these combination games have been really good, melding elements of the two games for something that manages to be, strangely enough, unique.

Yeah, I’m not going to slag off the practice itself. Instead, I’m going to give you a list of five game combinations I’d like to see. Sorted by the one I’d like to see the least to the one I’d like the most.

5. Pokémon & Endless Ocean.

For those of you who aren’t familiar with Endless Ocean, the idea is that you’re a diver mucking about underwater in various areas, interacting with marine life to learn about them including feeding and petting them. You even get dolphin friends to swim around with you. It’s a very relaxing game. Imagine how perfect that format would be for a game where you take the role of a Pokémon professor. You could explore various environments, not just the ocean but the forest, mountains and such, while studying wild Pokémon and gaining information for your Pokédex in the most world-building Pokémon game to date with an emphasis on exploration and environment rather than on battling. It wouldn’t be for every Pokémon fan but I’d certainly buy and sink hours of time into it.

4. Metroid & Borderlands

It’s no secret that I love most of the Metroid franchise, except that one game that basically nobody liked where Samus had Daddy issues for some reason. The games are about exploration and making your way through hostile worlds. However, one thing they haven’t really taken advantage of is the fact that Samus is a bounty hunter. Which is why I think it could benefit from taking some cues from Borderlands. Giving us a Metroid game with city hubs and quests. They could even adapt the gold rewards system to have Samus unlock armour, missile and weapon upgrades instead of just having her lose her power-ups and have to relocate them, usually attached to random statues.

3. Dragon Quest & Dissidia

Having a Final Fantasy based fighting game, that isn’t Ehrgeiz or anything like Ehrgeiz, was a brilliant move on Square-Enix’s part. And I’d love to see the same kind of treatment given to their other big RPG franchise, Dragon Quest. just tweak the mechanics a bit to be more suitable for the franchise and you’d almost certainly have a hit.

2. Persona & X-men Legends

The great thing about this combination is that it would work either way. You could have a more action-oriented Persona game where you can switch between characters readily and summon your personae for special attacks or a more traditional X-men RPG with an emphasis on the character dynamics. Which would also have the benefit of letting characters who don’t really work with the Legends style of gameplay, characters like Shadowcat, Mirage & Karma, take active roles in the party.

1. Fire Emblem & Neptunia

I know, I’m weird. That being said, I would love to see a more action-RPG style Fire Emblem game  where enemy soldiers are scattered throughout a map and you can avoid or engage them while making your way through the map. Where scavenging for materials is a big deal. With a female cast and where the Support conversation system is combined with Neptunia’s Lily rank system for a bit more of an involved dynamic when your ladies reach C, B, A or S-rank. Honestly, it could easily replace Blazing Sword as my favourite Fire Emblem title if it had characters and a narrative on par with it. Even if it couldn’t really include perma-death with a more Neptunia style battle system.

There you have it, some game combinations I, in all my eccentricity, would personally like to see. Feel free to leave your own ideas for cool combinations that haven’t been done yet in the comments.