Mother 3 Review

Mother 3

The legendary Mother 3 is known for never coming out in the US. Nintendo may never release it, but dedicated fans have translated this turn based RPG into English for anyone with an emulator. After completing Mother 3 I was left with a whirlwind of emotions. The emotion most prominent was anger because Mother 3 is one of the greatest RPGs ever made and Nintendo not releasing it in America is a disservice to the history of Video Games.

Mother 3 Dragos

Mother 3 opens with the disappearance of mother Hinawa and her two children Lucas and Claus. Their father, Flint goes searching for his family near their home on the Nowhere Islands. The Village of Tazmily is unique with the whole town living harmoniously with the earth and living selflessly. Everyone is kind to each other and extremely polite. This completely changes while Flint goes into the woods North of the village searching for his family. Strange men in Pigmasks set the woods on fire and begin to introduce many new concepts to Tazmily Village. The pigmasks introduce money, which therefore creates both greed and crime. Each chapter of Mother 3 stars a different character until Lucas takes over as the main character. Each new character offers a unique perspective on the ongoing change of the world around them. Eventually, Lucas and a group of misfits go against the modernized corrupted world around them and seek a way to stop the leader of the Pigmask Army (Who ties the series together.) Mother 3’s story is a roller coaster of emotions as the game explores the worth of happiness.

Mother 3 Sunflower

The gameplay is very similar to the previous game Earthbound (Mother 2). It is a turn based RPG that has a few unique twists. The health points are on a countdown so even if you take mortal damage you can still make actions or heal yourself as your health points deplete. You can also tap to the music during battles to perform combos. With the soundtrack in Mother 3 being as great as it is, this mechanic is tons of fun as you try to find each enemy’s unique beat. Each enemy is bizarre and unique just like Earthbound (Looking at you Jealous Upright Double Bass!) and the Mother series’ signature Psychodelic backdrops. It creates an experience unlike any other as you travel to many diverse locations from the crumbling ruins of a castle to the futuristic town of New Pork City.

Mother 3 Battle

The presentation is excellent with Mother 3 easily being the most beautiful Game Boy Advance game ever. The art style is timeless and the animation is top notch. Special kudos go out to the translation team for the English writing and script. It is heartfelt, hilarious, and every word keeps the player invested with this wacky group of characters.

Mother 3 is a lost classic that has found new life thanks to some dedicated fans. Mother 3 constantly keeps the player on their toes with amazing writing, active combat, and a colorful presentation that is oozing with personality. Nintendo better give Mother 3 a chance in the West because many gamers are missing out on this timeless classic.

Final Score: 9.8/10

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Review: Super Smash Bros. for 3DS.

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Every 7-8 years high lord Sakurai blesses us with a fighting game that doesn’t hold back. From polished gameplay to an overwhelming number of gameplay modes to a plethora of fan service, Nintendo’s mascot fighter is back. Ladies and Gentlemen, it is time for Smash Bros.

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Smash Bros. on 3DS raised a lot of eyebrows when it was first announced since it will be the first time we can smash on the go and for the most part it doesn’t disappoint. With a staggering 51 characters this iteration of Smash Bros. has easily the largest roster with many of the newcomers proving their worth. The 31 stages however, don’t have the same impact with many stages returning from past games and the new stages are dull in design. Luckily, the competitive Smash Bros. scene has left it’s mark on Sakurai since every stage has it’s own “Final Destination” version for more competitive play.

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The game modes have also been tweaked for the 3DS hardware. The main attraction this time around is “Smash Run,” a 5 minute rush through a massive level grabbing stat boosts to prepare yourself for a final showdown. Unfortunately, this mode is a novelty at best with the big finale being only a minute long rendering the previous 5 minutes pointless. Classic mode returns with an overworld map similar to the “Find Mii” minigame on the 3DS. All-Star mode is here as well with a unique twist where the player smashes through each character based on the year they were created. Customization is now much larger than it was in Brawl with the ability to change character’s stats and special moves. This goes one step further with the inclusion of Mii’s for complete customization. These new options can make fights pretty hectic if Bowser is running faster than Sonic and Jigglypuff hits like a truck on steroids.

Upon first glance gameplay is pretty solid with the thought of “Yup. It’s Smash.” running through your head. Dig a little deeper and the flaws begin to surface. The game itself doesn’t have any flaws gameplay-wise, but instead the 3DS hardware is the main problem. The circle pad on the 3DS isn’t as precise as the accepted smash controller (Gamecube) and can lead to some frustrating moments of “That’s not what I meant to do!” as you play. The game’s camera doesn’t do any favors either with it pulling out so far sometimes that you can easily lose the small dot that resembles your character on screen. When these issues are absent Smash Bros. is Smash Bros. You will beat the daylight out of other Nintendo Mascots with a massive grin on your face as the game runs smoothly at 60 fps.

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To many Smash Bros. is a multiplayer fighting game and this is where Smash Bros. on 3DS falls apart. Couch multiplayer is still accessible with local wifi, but the lag is unbearable at times. It happens so frequently that the game becomes unplayable. Things only get worst when you go into full online matches. Their heart is in the right place with online modes emphasizing party play as well as competitive play, but the lag on this precision fighting game ruins everything. This was a problem 7 years ago with Brawl’s multiplayer on the Wii, but the fact that 7 years later the online functionality is just as bad is unacceptable. With so many issues plaguing Smash Bros. multiplayer I can’t imagine this game having the same longevity as previous games in the series.

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Smash Bros. for 3DS is good, but it should be great. Hardware limitations and poor online hold it back from reaching the heights of previous installments. When it works Smash Bros. is a blast and will put a massive grin on your face. Even with the flaws Smash Bros. is still Smash Bros. and shouldn’t be missed by any 3DS owner.

Design: 7/10
Gameplay: 8.4/10
Presentation: 9.0/10

Final Score: 8.1/10

Final Fantasy X HD Remastered Review

Guardians of  Yuna ready to rock!

Guardians of Yuna ready to rock!

The classic PS2 role playing game has received an HD upgrade by Square Enix. Final Fantasy X has been beloved for over a decade for its excellent turn based gameplay, elegant story, amazing graphics for the time, and one of the best soundtracks in a video game. Do Final Fantasy X hold up after 12 years or should the Fayth have kept dreaming?

Final Fantasy X tells the story of Tidus, an ace athlete with daddy issues who witnesses the destruction of his home town of Zanarkand. He is sent away during the disaster by his father’s friend Auron and a massive beast named Sin. When Tidus awakens he is in the world of Spira 1000 years later. Sin has become a constant threat and the only hope to stop Sin are the teachings and religion of Yevon. Yevon is the religion that governs Spira and requires certain citizens to become summoners to make pilgrimage to defeat Sin…even if Sin’s defeat is only temporary. The story revolves around Tidus as he becomes a guardian to the summoner Yuna and aids her quest to vanquish Sin. The story is excellent as Spira struggles to fight the looming threat of Sin while politics and religion clash over the big question: Should we honor religious tradition or seek a new way to stop Sin? The story itself is great even if the moment to moment voice acting and writing isn’t up to scratch…I’m looking at you Tidus’ laugh scene.

I will liberate you from the disease that is life.

I will liberate you from the disease that is life.

The world of Spira is a sight to behold taking influence from Southern Asia. Even though Final Fantasy X is more linear than most Final Fantasy games there are still many things to do. From secret side quests to the addicting and fully fleshed out Blitzball games, Final Fantasy X isn’t short on keeping the player busy. With tons of collectibles to find, now beasts to capture, and Celestial Weapons to hunt Final Fantasy X is the king of Final Fantasy side quests. The only downsides are the requirements and design flaws of the Celestial Weapons. Nothing is more frustrating than trying to dodge lightning 200 times in the Thunder Plains for Lulu’s Sigil or having to go through the living hell that is the Chocobo Catcher mini-game for Tidus’ Sigil.

Hell is Real...

Hell is Real…

The Chocobo Catcher mini-game is easily the worst gaming experience I’ve had in my entire life. This mini-game requires Tidus to pilot a Chocobo through a race against another Chocobo. Hitting balloons negates 3 seconds off your time, while hitting flying birds adds 3 seconds to your time. To obtain the key item for his weapon the player must beat the race with a time under 0:00 seconds. The problem is the horrible controls of this mini-game make it nearly impossible to achieve this time. The randomness and horrible AI of the birds take the experience from painful to nearly unbearable. This mini-game is completely optional, but if you’re a completionist then prepare for the worst mini-game in history.

In contrast, the Blitzball mini-game is quite possibly the greatest mini-game in video game history (It’s up there with Mario Party Bumper Balls). Blitzball is a simulation of soccer, except it is played underwater, and is a number crunching RPG. What makes it so fascinating is how the developers were able to implement a full league with players to scout and free agents to sign to make your team stronger. It’s so amazing that Square Enix should have made Blitzball its own spin-off game.

Summons are still awesome!

Summons are still awesome!

The core gameplay of Final Fantasy X removes the Active Time Battle System in favor of a more traditional turn-based battle system. This system focuses on the different classes of characters who are strong against different classes of enemies. Tidus is strong against agile fiends, Wakka can snipe out of reach flying enemies, and Auron can pierce the strongest armored foes. This paved the way for more modern RPG systems like Shin Megami’s “Press-Turn” system. Each character also has special moves called Overdrives, which increase in power if the player inputs certain commands. Tidus’ Overdrives require you to stop a meter similar to Mario Golf, Auron requires you to quickly input a Konami-esque Code (UP UP DOWN DOWN Etc…), and Lulu requires you to rapidly rotate the control stick. Yuna’s Summons are easily the highlight of gameplay as these massive beasts appear and decimate the enemy. Considering how I am not a huge fan of the Active Time Battle system I must say that FFX has the best battle system of any Final Fantasy game. I’ve never had so much fun just grinding for levels.

Final Fantasy X uses a unique level up system called the sphere grid. Each character collects spheres for different attributes such as strength, magic, agility, and defense, while ability spheres allow for characters to gain new abilities. The freedom of selecting which attribute or ability to get is refreshing and allows for some incredibly unique character growth. This is especially true if you choose the expert sphere grid at the beginning, which doesn’t immediately lock certain characters into classes such as warrior or thief. Want to build a warrior who can heal while stealing items from enemies? Well you totally can.

SD versus HD

SD versus HD

The presentation is nearly perfect with each vista being so breathtaking that it’s hard to believe the PS2 could handle this game. From the amazing HD graphics to the amazing landscapes, Final Fantasy X is one of the most beautiful worlds ever created. Spira is a world that goes beyond immersion and feels real. This fact is made even more solid by the game’s outstanding soundtrack. I enjoy Final Fantasy X’s soundtrack so much that I’m positive it puts the legendary soundtrack from Final Fantasy VI to shame. The downside…is the voice acting. Being Square Enix’s first FF game with voice acting it is clear that things were a bit rough. Many characters talk like they’re William Shatner having a stroke and some performances go way over the top for no reason. It is so jarring with the rest of the game that the voice acting can’t even be seen as humorous.

Final Fantasy X is an amazing experience and the core game holds up great after 12+ years. Unfortunately, the rough edges that were present in the original game haven’t been improved on at all for this HD remake and are just as terrible as they were the first time around. Luckily, most of the flaws are minor or optional making Final Fantasy X HD a must buy for any fans of Japanese Role Playing Games.

Story: 9.3/10
Design: 8.4/10
Gameplay: 9/10
Presentation: 8.8/10

Final Score: 8.9/10

Dark Souls II Review

Prepare to Die…again…and again…and again.

100 hours, 3 characters, 189 levels, and 896 deaths later…I finally was able to pull my head away from the deeply rewarding Dark Souls II. The anticipated sequel to the 2011 cult action RPG Dark Souls had me deeply immersed in the world of Drangliec. The game isn’t without its flaws, but with a blueprint as solid as the Souls series you will easily be able to look past them. Darks Souls II reminds us that it is not about death… but what you learn from death.

Sunbro Majula

You are undead. A cursed being who is immortal, but is slowly going insane. After arriving in Drangliec you discover that your search for a cure is a small conflict within a much larger picture. Dark Souls II’s plot is both less and more obtuse than its predecessor. The main objectives of the plot are much more clear to the player, but sacrifices much of the mystery that was present in Dark Souls. The plus side to this is the speculation formed by the community since the ending leaves the player grasping for more plot.

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The Souls franchise has always been designed (almost) flawlessly and this high pedigree makes Dark Souls II’s design the black sheep of the herd. This sequel takes more cues from 2009’s Demon’s Souls than its own predecessor. Majula acts as a hub world similar to the Nexus in Demon’s Souls. From here the player can upgrade weapons, buy equipment, and level up with the Emerald Herald. This is annoying since the loading screens are quite long and forces the player to sit through them every time they want to level up. Fast travel is available from the beginning, which is nice except for making the game feel more “gamey.” Weapons now degrade much faster, but refill their durability at every bonfire. Bodies also no longer act hilarious as ragdolls…which I kinda miss for some weird reason. The covenants that were very popular in Dark Souls (Praise the Sun!) have been revamped with much more PvP aspects. The notable new covenants are the Bellkeepers as well as the Rat Covenant. These PvP focused covenants are easily the worst design choices of Dark Souls II since many newer players are invaded/summoned against their will every couple seconds. This happens so frequently that these optional levels are best left alone unless you’re a masochist. (Which you most likely are if you play Dark Souls).

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The core fantastic gameplay has been tweaked and may take some getting used to. Dark Souls II is an action RPG focused on patience, timing, and execution with your weapon of choice. With a new physics engine Dark Souls II feels more fluid and faster. This change affects the players poise (or lack there of) and ability to stagger enemies. Fall damage is now much greater with half of the players health disappearing from drops over 10 feet. The largest change though is the new death penalties. As you die your character becomes more and more hollow, which means your health bar decreases by 10% every death until you become human again.  These changes make the games opening levels frustrating since the fragility of the character discourages exploration.The boss fights in Dark Souls II are very underwhelming for long-time fans of the series. If you enjoyed the innovative fights of the past games such as Artorias or the Tower Knight, then you will be very disappointed here. Most boss fights boil down to dude in armor with a big sword. Many bosses are also reused with just more of them (Dragonriders), and the Church Congregation boss fight makes Pinwheel from Dark Souls look like a badass.

AND COUNTING...

AND COUNTING…

The game’s accessibility had many fans of the series concerned about the evil word “Easier.” Luckily, this is not a problem as Dark Souls II is still brutal in difficulty and vague in concepts. The accessibility is surprisingly welcome allowing players to understand the use of items better as well as manage the game’s difficulty through Bonfire Ascetics. The main objectives are directly given to the player, but the confusion comes in by not knowing where the finish is located if there is even a finish line at all. This contrasts the first Dark Souls with the first half of the game being linear until after Anor Londo is completed. In Dark Souls II the game starts much more open and doesn’t become linear until after Drangleic Castle.

Dark Souls 2 bridge

Dark Souls II is a much brighter game than Dark Souls with many set pieces that will have your jaw firmly planted on the floor. The frame rate issues that were obnoxious in the first game are now gone except for minor PvP lag and the animations of the characters and enemies are fantastic. The music and atmosphere are still fantastic keeping From Software’s signature immersion in tact, but I did experience many audio bugs when speaking to some characters.

Dark Souls II takes many new ideas and expands on 2011’s Dark Souls. While some of these new additions aren’t fully fleshed out Dark Souls II does not suffer for it. It is still one of the most rewarding RPGs out there and should not be passed up. Death has never felt so good.

Final Score: 8.8/10

 

 

Broken Age Act 1 Review

Adventure Games are completely dead. No one would pay money for those games. Why would anyone even bother making one? Well Double Fine made one with the help of 3.5 million dollars from Kickstarter backers. The audience spoke with their wallets and Double Fine responded with Broken Age. As the game to kick start the Kickstarter craze does Broken Age’s first act deliver, or is it one of the many failed Kickstarter projects?

Vella (Left) and Shay (Right)

Vella (Left) and Shay (Right)

Broken Age tells the story of Shay and Vella. Two teenagers with entirely different lives. The only thing that ties their destinies together is the fact that they want to escape their destinies. Shay lives alone in  a space station with his computer parents. The computer mother is overprotective about Shay’s safety and constantly treats this teenager as a toddler. Shay desperately tries to break from his mundane daily routine of space missions that have no true conflict to them. With the help of a mysterious stowaway on his ship Shay finally attempts to break from the clutches of his “mother,” while in the process discovers what true responsibility is. Vella is a teenage girl who is living out the last day of her life. With her village’s culture revolving around feeding teenage girls to a giant monster named Mog Chothra. Vella learns to stand up for herself and rebels against the traditions of her culture. Vella’s journey leads her to many locations as she attempts to kill Mog Chothra. The story of both characters is well told with great “moment to moment” writing, but the ending leaves way more questions than answers with a huge twist to shake things up. The problem is that the main plot of the game is danced around for 3 hours and then abruptly ends without the main plot being clearly explained. It leaves the plot up for interpretation as we wait for act 2 which keeps Broken Age fresh within our minds. However, the vagueness of the main plot disappoints and leaves a sour taste as the credits begin to roll.

Vella's campaign is less focused, but provides more to explore.

Vella’s campaign is less focused, but provides more to explore.

Broken Age is split into two campaigns  that last between 1 to 2 hours. Shay’s story is much shorter and compact, which makes it easier to follow. His puzzles are more straightforward and based around gameplay. Vella’s story is longer with many different locations and puzzles based around experimenting. Both campaigns suffer from a main cliche within Adventure games; the frustrating puzzles. Each puzzle doesn’t give players an “AHA!” moment, but rather a “How the hell did that work?” feeling. Some situations require you to think so far outside the box that you go back in the box. Many Adventure games did this back in the day, leading to many players just clicking everywhere on the screen until the solution magically happened. The fact that Broken Age doesn’t break free from this problem leads to many frustrating moments, while never fully understanding the rules of the game.

Shay's "Runaway" Train Ride.

Shay’s “Runaway” Train Ride.

The pointing and clicking within Broken Age is top notch (Like that was hard to do.) Highlighting a usable object changes the pointer and reveals what the player can interact with. It is another feature that keeps the traditional feel of Broken Age cemented. The main progressive element of Broken Age is the presentation. The voice acting is incredible featuring Elijah Wood, Wil Wheaton, Jennifer Hale, and Jack Black among others. The writing and voice acting is top notch selling each personality with flying colors. The art direction and environments are completely gorgeous and compliments each campaign well. While Shay’s world can seem repetitive, the design fits perfectly with his mundane lifestyle. Vella’s world is much more varied and has many amazing locations with the cult cloud village being the stand out. It is clear the funding went towards the incredible presentation of Broken Age and that is perfectly okay within this story driven plot.

Jack Black Voices the Hilarious Cultist Lightbeard

Jack Black Voices the Hilarious Cultist Lightbeard

Broken Age Act 1 suffers from a short length, convoluted puzzles, and some awkward storytelling. None of this makes the game truly bad, but instead highlights Broken Age’s great writing, acting, and art design. The emotions felt as Broken Age’s first act ends will vary from joyful bliss to raging frustration because of the cliffhanger. I am both excited and frustrated for the release of act 2 and my anticipation isn’t dying anytime soon. The 1st act’s shortcomings only make the hype skyrocket as gamers grow impatient for the full finished story. If that’s what Broken Age was going for…then it does a damn great job for the revival of Adventure Games.

Final Score: 8.0/10

NES Remix Review

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With many of Nintendo’s popular franchises being based on nostalgia it is no surprise that Nintendo has grouped these 80’s classics into a bundle of mini-challenges. While it is great to see some sparks of greatness with Nintendo modding their own games, it is unfortunate that even nostalgia can’t keep NES Remix from being a horrible game.

NES Remix is simple enough. The player chooses a game and challenge from the main menu and has either a certain amount of time or lives to complete said challenge. For example one challenge has Mario trying to beat Koopas within a time limit as the screen zooms out or Link must kill Moblins without taking damage. When the challenge is finished the player gets scored by a three star system based on the completion time similar to Angry Birds. They also get points to unlock more stamps for Miiverse. The main issue is that the game is insulting in terms of challenge. The skill level required to complete some challenges are designed for toddlers, such as Link having to find the wooden sword on the first screen of Zelda. I understand that it is Nintendo’s way of introducing a newer generation to NES games…but the entire game feels like a tutorial for infants. What’s more insulting is that each game within NES Remix has an E-shop button, which shows the true intent of this game…BUY THE ORIGINALS. NES Remix isn’t a challenging trip of nostalgia for long time fans…it’s a cash grab for young children who have their parent’s credit card hooked up.

Seriously that's it... Take the Sword.

Seriously that’s it…
Take the Sword.

The game’s only sense of challenge is getting used the physics of each game. After that it’s a total cakewalk. Even the modded “Remix” levels are insultingly lazy with many challenges having a different color swap, or they mirror a Mario level. NES Remix is so lazy that they were better off just having a start button that links to the E-Shop page for each game. What’s worse is that any joy of finding secrets in say a Mario or Zelda challenge is gone when Nintendo Failed me for using the Warp Zone in World 1-2…WHAT THE HELL!? With every challenge’s score based on time it sometimes becomes confusing why you didn’t achieve all three stars. Especially when the challenge didn’t have a time element to begin with.

Modding=...Spotlight on Mario.

Modding=…Spotlight on Mario.

With amazing NES mods such as Super Mario Crossover available for free on the internet it is easy to pass on the $15 NES Remix. With it’s incredibly lazy design, E-Shop pressure, and lack of any challenge NES Remix is a failed experiment for nostalgic fans. You are better off just emulating these games on your laptop for free.

Final Score: 4.4/10