Review of Zelda: Link’s Awakening

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I don’t usually double dip on video games, but for Link’s Awakening I decided to make an exception. It’s my favourite GameBoy title of all time after all. Come to think of it, it’s probably my fave Zelda game too; narrowly beating out the likes of Ocarina of Time and Wind Waker to the number one spot. In this remake of the 1993 classic, players have to help a marooned Link in escaping from Koholint Island. To leave the isle Link needs to awaken the mysterious Wind Fish, who slumbers within a giant egg situated atop Koholint’s tallest peak. Unfortunately for him the only alarm clock that can wake said fishy are eight mystical instruments, which are each stored in monster infested dungeons.

OVERVIEW

Zelda: Link’s Awakening is exactly what a remake should be. The game is virtually identical to the original, but has been beefed up with modern day visuals and several quality of life improvements. My favourite enhancement comes courtesy of the Switch hardware. Thanks to the system’s extra buttons, players no longer need to pause every few seconds to rearrange their inventory. I also appreciated the addition of extra warp points, which makes travelling across Koholint Island much quicker. Content wise this edition contains all the levels from the original GameBoy release, plus a bonus dungeon that was added to the GameBoy Colour re-release a few years later.

Difficulty wise I don’t think Zelda: Link’s Awakening is too tough. The puzzles will stump you for a bit, but are solvable with some thought. Should you get stuck inside a dungeon seek out the owl statutes, as they offer tips on how to overcome certain obstacles. On some occasions, when traipsing through the overworld, it isn’t always clear where Link should go to advance the story. Fear not though, as there are phone booths scattered across the island. You can visit these to ring up an old geezer who will point you in the right direction. Helpful, if perhaps a tad redundant in this modern age where we have been spoiled by free online guides that tell you how to complete any game.

One thing that disappointed me about Link’s Awakening was the Dungeon Creator, which Nintendo promoted in their trailer. When I first saw footage of this feature I got excited about the prospect of constructing Zelda levels. Sadly what we get is no Super Mario Maker. It’s pretty much a glorified sidequest, were you earn rewards by clearing stages assembled from premade chambers. You can’t even share your creations online with other players, which would have given the game some replay value. Pity, as Link’s Awakening is short by Zelda standards. You can complete the whole adventure in under ten hours. Modern gamers may expect more content, but you need to understand that back in the day squeezing a game of this size into an 8-bit cartridge was impressive.

VERDICT

My rating for Zelda: Link’s Awakening is four stars. The game isn’t quite as epic as I recalled, but was a lot of fun to revisit nonetheless. I dug the cute graphics, the funny characters Link meets and the emotional ending. Should you be one of those players who found Breath of the Wild’s open world to be intimidating I recommend giving Link’s Awakening a try. It’s a more linear experience that focuses on puzzle solving rather than exploration. Like I said earlier, this is a great remake. Developer GREZZO has ported a great game and polished it even further. The only change that I disliked was adding physics to the previously easy crane mini-game. Now, just like a real arcade machine, the claw sometimes drops your prize. How I raged when the Yoshi doll, Link was trying to win, escaped from my grasp.

Untitled Goose Game Review

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Geese love to torment humans. If you don’t believe me just do a quick search on Youtube and you’ll find countless videos of park goers fleeing in terror, after crossing paths with an irritable goose. The star of Untitled Goose Game is no exception to that rule. Players guide said goose, as he waddles through a tranquil English village on a mission to commit “fowl” play. The village is broken up into five areas, but when the game begins you only have access to one zone. In order to unlock entry into other parts of the village players will need to commit various pranks, which are listed on a digital notepad.

OVERVIEW

Untitled Goose Game is unlike anything I have played before. If I had to pick a genre for this title my answer would be “puzzle game mixed with some stealth elements.” The above mentioned pranks require some thought, as they depend on working out where and how to use objects the goose finds in the environment. The puzzles aren’t too difficult, but may stump some “bird brained” individuals. What I like about the game’s design is that some of the brainteasers can be solved in multiple ways. For example, one early puzzle demands that you soak a pesky gardener. This can be achieved by turning on some nearby sprinklers or alternatively the goose can snatch a valuable item and force the greenskeeper to chase after him into a lake.

The stealth portion of the game involves sneaking past certain villagers, who have no patience for a trouble making goose. Don’t expect Metal Gear Solid depth from the stealth parts though, even if getting into the pub does require that the goose conceal himself inside a cardboard box! For the most part you can usually progress just by walking slowly at the right moment or distracting a foe with a well timed honk. As someone who dislikes stealth games I was okay with Untitled Goose Game’s more casual approach to sneaking. I don’t believe it is possible to suffer a game over at all. Should the goose get caught he’ll just be shooed away from the vicinity and have any item he is carrying confiscated.

VERDICT

My rating for Untitled Goose Game is a three out of five. It’s funny to see how this indie game, that was put together by just four people, is presently outselling the latest Zelda release. It would seem that gamers cannot resist the temptation to cause mischief. The game’s appeal may also come from the graphics. When I first laid eyes upon the trailer I couldn’t help but be charmed by the children’s book style visuals. On the sonic side of things, we get limited sound and music. The audio we are treated to however does its job well. Pressing the honk button never gets old and I dug the piano tune that plays whenever the goose is pursued by one of his honking mad victims.

I can’t give Untitled Goose Game a higher score, as it can be completed in one or two hours. Even if the game isn’t a full price release, I was expecting a bit more content for the money I paid. All that said, once the main campaign is finished some bonus objectives get unlocked, which extend the playtime somewhat. If value for money is a concern, my recommendation would be to wait for the game to go on sale. Alternatively fun can be had just by checking out an online Let’s Play of the game. If you want a giggle hop over to Youtube and give an Untitled Goose Game video playthrough a “gander.”

Sunshine Blogger Award Challenge

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Thank you to Richard “The Deviot” Hossan for nominating me to answer some questions, as part of the Sunshine Blogger Award Challenge. Although I don’t normally respond to tags, The Deviot deserves the effort. He has supported my blog for the longest time and even spreads my posts on Twitter. If you are looking for a site that covers video games I highly recommend Comma Eight Comma One. It’s packed with detailed reviews written by a Splatoon fanatic, who is knowledgeable on the subject. He’s been a gamer since the Commodore 64 days.

1.) When you’ve had one hour of sleep and need to do a full-time shift do you reach for: Coffee, tea, soda, or something else to stay awake and why?

Lack of sleep is something I contend with on a regular basis. Although I am a good boy who goes to bed early, I have a bad habit of waking up a few hours later and not being able to get any shut eye after that. From the beverages listed coffee gets my vote. I drink a lot of the stuff these days, as I do intermittent fasting. Black coffee is something I can gulp down, during the sixteen hours that I don’t eat, and it doesn’t count as breaking the fast.

2.) What is a video game/series you really wish had more attention than it does and why?

Back in 2015 I named Eiyuu Senki: The World Conquest my game of the year. Sadly no one played it, as the game came out for PS3 at a time when everyone had already migrated over to the PS4. I think it’s a strategy game that many Fire Emblem fans would enjoy, as it features combat that revolves around weapon weaknesses and the generals you recruit are all cute waifus. 

3.) Pair your favorite game with a proper wine or beer.

I am so not qualified to answer this. My knowledge of alcohol doesn’t extend beyond ordering whatever cider the pub I am visiting sells, on the rare occasions that my pals drag me out of the house. I guess I will pick playing Shephy (a ewe themed PC/Switch card game) with a bottle of Sheep Shagger Scotch Ale.

4.) Pick one game that came out “Before your time” that you think looks interesting and tell us why.

The selection of games that came out before my time isn’t that big. Despite what my immature ramblings may suggest, I am an old fart whose first experience with video games was the Atari 2600 console. From the list of notable releases that came out before I was born, I am going to pick Zork. The fantasy setting should appeal to my RPG tastes and I am curious to see what the progenitor of the text adventures I played on Amstrad was like.

5.) Pick one game that is outside of your comfort zone that you think you might be willing to check out.

I had to rack my brain to come up with an answer for this one. When it comes to games I have a clear idea of what I like/dislike. I seldom stray outside my comfort zone, because there isn’t any point trying a genre I usually loathe… especially when my backlog of unfinished games is so huge. For the sake of answering I will pick Euro Truck Simulator 2. Driving isn’t usually my thing, but I think Euro Truck Simulator could be relaxing. After a bad day at the office just chill, listen to a podcast in the background and enjoy the scenery as you cruise through the continent.

Okay, that’s all the questions done and dusted. Tradition demands that I ask some questions and make some nominations. Here are my plagiarised queries and victims

Questions

1. What is the worst film you’ve ever seen in theaters?
2. What is the best film you’ve ever seen in theaters?
3. What do you feel is the greatest compilation of collected works in your collection?
4. What is your favorite opening theme to a television show?
5. Have you ever been invested in a series only to be heartbroken when it was cancelled?

Nominations

AK
Dreager1
I Love Code
John Jr
Krystallina
Man in Black

If you don’t wish to take part, no worries. As someone who seldom accepts these challenges I understand. Okay, enough blogging. Back to playing my fourth run of Fire Emblem Three Houses!

Fire Emblem: Three Houses Review

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For many months my Switch has lied dormant, gathering dust on a wardrobe shelf. Now, like a homosexual who refuses to keep their sexuality a secret, it has come out of the closet. The release of Fire Emblem: Three Houses has given me a reason to once again play on my Nintendo handheld. How fabulous! In this game, players assume the role of a mercenary named Byleth, who has been recruited by the church to teach at their monastary’s military academy. The students Byleth mentors include nobles and commoners from three rival kingdoms. Choose to guide the Blue Lions, Golden Deer or Black Eagles in a fantasy tale that will determine the fate of Fodlan.

OVERVIEW

Despite what the title may suggest, there are in fact four campaigns to play through in Three Houses. Thankfully you can tackle them all without any additional cost. Intelligent Systems, on this occasion, didn’t pull a Fire Emblem Fates and make consumers buy the same game multiple times to get the full experience. Three Houses’ story is divided into two parts. During the first stage players pick a house of rookies to lead and command them in various missions. The early skirmishes pit Byleth’s class against bandits and an army led by the mysterious Flame Emperor. Part two takes place five years later after a big event occurs, which plunged the continent into an all out war.

Unlike past Fire Emblem games, which had you fighting through a series of levels, there is a lot of downtime in between Three Houses’ monthly missions. During the weeks Byleth isn’t on the battlefield he/she can rest to recuperate motivation, organize seminars to raise the skills of his/her class or partake in optional battles to earn experience. Alternatively it’s possible to explore the monastery, where Byleth is based. The monastery acts as the game’s hub world. It’s here where players can complete fetch quests to earn various rewards or dabble in a spot of fishing/gardening. Other activities available at the monastery include fighting tournaments, choir practice and cooking. This is starting to sound more like Animal Crossing than a strategy RPG!

GAMEPLAY

Who cares about catching trout at the pond or growing vegetables? I am a bloodthirsty chap who predominantly plays Fire Emblem to slay hordes of enemies. Well, for those of you who share my sentiments, fear not because the core gameplay is as fun as ever. On a surface level Three Houses handles like past titles in the series. Players take turns to move their troops across a map and lose their temper when bad RNG causes their characters to only improve one stat during a level up. Eagle eyed players will however spot that numerous changes have been implemented. These new mechanics give commanders more freedom in how they choose to customize their soldiers.

For a start characters can now wield any weapon they wish. Using a particular armament will cause a character to become more proficient in it. This will permit them to use stronger weapons of that type and when they rank up they shall unlock new abilities too. Once someone becomes skilled enough they also get the option of promoting to a better class. For example a character who improves enough in bows could take the exam to become a sniper. Someone who fists a lot can become a porn star… um I mean a grappler. Aside from weapons, Byleth’s troops can train in things like riding and magic. Spells are no longer tied to tomes and staves. Instead, what someone can cast is based on their faith and reason magic rating.

VERDICT

My rating for Fire Emblem: Three Houses is five stars. It’s easily the best Switch game that I own and right up there with Blazing Blade and Awakening, as a contender for finest title in the series. At the time of writing I have finished one of the fifty hour campaigns and have already started a new game plus to see how the story differs from another faction’s perspective. If you are a fan of strategy RPGs picking up Three Houses is a no brainer. Long time fans of the franchise may feel that the monastery content is just fluff designed to pad things out, but I am certain they will appreciate how much depth the new mechanics have added to character growth. Even the loading screen in this game is fun. I have yet to tire of using the gyro to move 8-bit Byleth across the screen when waiting for a load to finish. Yeah, I am easily amused.

In terms of story Three Houses compares favourably to its predecessors. The Game of Thrones style twist sandwiched between parts one and two caught me by surprise. Graphically, thanks to the power of a current gen system, Three Houses holds the honour of being the best looking Fire Emblem to date. I think the character designs are a little on the plain side though. No maids or half naked sorcerers in this one I am afraid. Personality wise however I have no complaints. I enjoyed learning more about the cast through the fully voiced support conversations that trigger when you build up relationships between characters. Speaking of relationships, it’s possible for Byleth to marry one of his/her students in the finale – providing that you get their support rank high enough. The marriages include some same-sex possibilities. Is all this gay stuff a side effect of me bringing my Switch out of the closet?

Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night Review

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I am proud to report that I completed Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night on Saturday. That’s quite the achievement, as I rarely finish Medtroidvania games. Just like when I play first person dungeon crawlers, I tend to have fun for a while until my terrible sense of direction strikes. Sooner or later I get lost in said title’s digital labyrinth – forcing me to eventually give up in frustration.

For those of you who aren’t aware, Bloodstained is the latest game from long-time Castlevania producer Koji Igarashi. The Japanese video game maker parted ways with Konami, years ago, as the company had no plans to make any new Dracula slaying titles for the foreseeable future. Apparently the management at Konami don’t think that 2D action RPGs are profitable. Koji proved them wrong with a successful Kickstarter campaign and positive sales figures, once Bloodstained was released.

In this horror themed adventure, which feels a lot like the excellent Castlevanias I played on the Nintendo DS, players control a cute waifu named Miriam. In my opinion she is a very attractive lady. Should you disagree fear not, as it’s possible to change her default appearance once you locate the cursed barber shop that lies hidden in the castle Miriam is exploring. Said castle is teeming with monsters. Thankfully for the protagonist she is a skilled fighter who grows stronger with each foe she vanquishes.

One way that Miriam increases her might is by upgrading her gear. Better weapons/accessories can be picked up from slain enemies, purchased at the shop or crafted using the materials Miriam finds on her travels. The arsenal Miriam can wield include various types of blades, whips, firearms and footwear. If physical combat isn’t your thing worry not, as Miriam can command magic too. The creatures she kills sometimes drop shards, which allow Miriam to mimic the deceased’s powers. My favourite ability transforms Miriam into a bunny girl, who is capable of delivering devastating Chun-Li kicks and Super Mario style head stomps.

It took me around twelve hours to complete Bloodstained’s story. My time with the game is far from over however. At the time of writing I still have loads of optional quests to complete, secret bosses to beat and stat boosting meals to cook. On the horizon there is also a bunch of free DLC to look forward to – including new playable characters. The first character that has been announced is a badass samurai who is voiced by David Hayter (of Metal Gear Solid fame). A co-op mode has also been promised, although I don’t care about that as I have no friends.

My rating for Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night is five stars. It’s by far the best game I have played this year. Be aware though that my score is based solely on how much fun I had with the game. If I factored other things into the equation I would have to downgrade that assessment slightly. Gameplay wise Bloodstained has few flaws, but on the technical side of things it suffers from the occasional overly long load time. It’s something I can live with on the PS4 version of the game, but I hear the performance is even worse on the Switch port. With that in mind, it’s probably for the best that the Vita edition got scrapped. I can only imagine how much it would have chugged, had it ever seen the light of day.

Review of World End Syndrome

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I have been playing a bunch of visual novels lately. Reading a VN is relaxing and almost feels like watching an anime, if you set the text to scroll automatically. With that feature enabled one can simply sit back and watch the cute cartoon girls rattle off their lines in Japanese. The latest visual novel that I recently completed is World End Syndrome on the PS4. Buyers can also purchase this game on Switch, but sadly the Vita version never made it across to the west.

World End Syndrome sees players take control of a transfer student who has relocated to a small rural town situated next to the sea. He hopes the new setting will help him get over the death of his sister, who sadly passed away in a traffic accident. When the story begins the protagonist moves into a mansion, owned by his uncle, which he shares with his distant cousin Maimi Kusimose. Cohabitating with an athletic teenager, who excels at tennis, sounds sweet – until you realise that Maimi is a messy slob who expects the main character to do all of the house-work.

On his first day at school the main character is befriended by class pervert Kensuke Asagi, who convinces the lead to join the after school Mystery Club. Given Kensuke’s personality it should come as no surprise that said club is filled with hotties, including club advisor Kaori Yamashiro. The aforementioned teacher is also a famous novelist who penned a book that revolves around the town’s Yomibito folklore. Said legend states that every one-hundred years a deceased resident will arise from the grave, with no knowledge of their past demise. When summer concludes the revived party loses their mind and goes on a murderous killing spree.

Although the game’s trailer pitches World End Syndrome as being a horror tale, it plays mostly like a dating sim. Over the course of August the player attempts to unlock the game’s various endings by boosting their relationship with the Mystery Club’s assortment of members. For example players could set their sights on ice queen Miu Amana, who works part-time at her brother’s cafe (where she serves patrons dressed as a maid). Alternatively, it is possible to swoon bashful pop-idol Rei Nikaidou who is in town filming scenes for a movie. Loli-cons may prefer instead to date wealthy heiress Saya Kamishiro. Those looking to court someone more mature can set their sights on reporter Yukino Otonashi, who is on a quest to uncover the town’s dark secrets.

Unlike some other visual novels, which follow a linear storytelling structure, World End Syndrome is broken up into days. Every morning, afternoon and night the player selects a place in town to visit. Once they arrive at their destination the protagonist will bump into one of his acquaintances, triggering a short cut scene. These segments advance the story or increase your affection with a particular character, which ultimately determines which ending you’ll get. Thankfully a playthrough doesn’t take long to finish, by visual novel standards, and it’s possible to fast forward past scenes you have previously witnessed – so replaying the game to 100% doesn’t feel like a chore.

My rating for World End Syndrome is a four out of five. In terms of narrative there are stronger examples of the visual novel genre out there, but I still had fun with the game. The cast are a likable bunch making each of the available routes, where you grow closer to a particular girl, an enjoyable experience. Players who are more interested in the horror themes hinted at in the trailer will get more satisfaction out of the later chapters. The true ending ditches the mushy stuff in favour of exploring Mihate Town’s supernatural mystery and the prologue caps things off with an emotional twist. Apart from the writing I was also impressed by World End’s character designs, which come courtesy of BLAZBLUE artist Yuki Kato. Once all the stories have been cleared their is still extra content to be enjoyed, in the form of optional missions and collectible items to find.

 

Top Five Games I Played In 2018

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This blog may be dead, but the tradition of me listing my five favourite games of the past year lives on. See below for the titles I enjoyed playing the most in 2018.

5. Batman – The Enemy Within: This sequel to Telltale’s 2016 release kicks off with the Caped Crusader battling a version of the Riddler, who wouldn’t look out of place in a Saw movie. The later episodes however focus on Bruce Wayne’s love/hate relationship with the Joker. Harley Quinn, Bane and Mr Freeze also make an appearance in what has to be one of Telltale’s better interactive stories. I love their take on this DC Comics property, so it’s a real shame that the developer has since gone bust. Their storytelling and easy platinum trophies shall be missed.

4. Super Mario Odyssey: Unlike most people, the Switch has yet to win me over. Believe it or not, I still play the Vita more than Nintendo’s console/handheld hybrid. Many of the games I bought for the system (Xenoblade 2, Breath of the Wild and Octopath Traveller) have disappointed me. On the flip side Super Mario Odyssey exceeded my expectations. Once again Princess Peach has been kidnapped by Bowser, so it falls upon a mustached plumber to rescue her. Aiding our hero in this adventure is a sentient cap who is capable of possessing Koopa’s minions.

3. Doki Doki Literature Club: I seldom play PC games, but I am glad that readers convinced me to give Doki Doki Literature Club a try. At first glance this looks like another of those generic visual novels that clogs up Steam’s marketplace. Get past the first two hours however and you will soon discover that there is more to this VN than simply deciding who, out of the club’s four waifus, the player will end up with. It’s hard to believe that a release of this quality is available to download for free. I highly recommend giving Doki Doki a go… or at the very watch a Let’s Player tackle it. Their reactions to the twist are certain to amuse.

2. Tales of Berseria: This is only the second Tales game I have ever managed to finish. On paper I should love this franchise, but the combat system has always put me off. Berseria is no different in that regard. In order to complete the game I set the difficulty to easy and automated all of the battles. Despite disabling a good chunk of the gameplay I still had a blast with Berseria. I enjoyed exploring the world, engaging with the characters and most of all the story. Unlike other Tales titles, where a group of plucky youngsters save the world from evil, the protagonist of Berseria is out for revenge. She will stop at nothing to secure vengeance, even if it means murdering the kingdom’s saviour.

1. Valkyria Chronicles 4: It’s great to once again play a Valkyria Chronicles game, after the west was denied a localization of the third installment. Part of me fears that this may end up being the series finale, as poor financial results are forcing Sega to scale back on their games output. From what I hear they may be pulling a Konami to cut costs. If you ask me they should just stop butchering Sonic’s legacy and focus more on creative titles like VC4 instead. The blend of anime cell shaded visuals and military strategy is right up my alley. Still, who am I to criticise Sega? They have technically won my Top Five contests two years running. Valkyria Chronicles 4 follows in the footsteps of 2017 champion Persona 5. Perhaps, if I can clear my PS4 backlog and play Yakuza 6, Sega will complete a hat trick in 2019. Time will tell.