Video Game Reviews

Sifu Review: Finding Balance

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Sifu is an action beat-’em-up with light RPG elements developed and published by Sloclap (creators of 2017’s Absolver).

Sifu takes place in modern-day China, where you play as an unnamed martial artist out for revenge against the people who killed your family.

Fortunately, you have a magical medallion that will bring you back to life if you happen to die on your journey. Unfortunately, every time it brings you back, it takes its toll in years of your life.

But at least it gives you a sweet beard

This was a game that I was on board with from the start. The combat looked tight, the idea of death having real consequences for your character was intriguing, and I loved its overall aesthetic.

Well, it turns out that Sifu had a lot more going on than I initially thought, and I’d like to share with you the things that make this game both unique and worthwhile.

That Which Unites Us All

In most games, “death” is merely a bump in the road meant to slow you down and make the game more challenging. There are some games that play with having your death mean something, or impact the way the game plays, but usually these elements are curtailed in a way that will let you continue playing, or a way to reverse the effects while still moving forward. 

In Sifu, death has a myriad of consequences and interactions and will change how you approach the game.

Death Counts

The first time you die, and are subsequently resurrected, the game informs you that… 

This would be bad enough, but each death also increases your death counter. The more you die, the higher the counter goes, and with every increase, it takes away more and more years. So, if you die seven times in a row, you will lose six years of your life upon resurrection.

If you happen to age past seventy, your next death is your last.

There are ways to mitigate this. If you defeat enough enemies—or certain harder enemies—your death counter will go down, thus softening the blow of any future deaths. There are also points throughout each level where you can use experience to buy a death count reduction. 

Thus, a large portion of Sifu comes down to managing how often you die and figuring out ways to keep your age as low as possible.

So, now that you’re worried about managing your age-to-death ratio, let’s get into the other ways that age affects your character. 

Just a Number

The most immediate effect of age can be felt when your character turns thirty.

When you pass this threshold, you receive a notification that when you resurrect, you will have less health, but deal more damage. This continues every decade until you get to seventy and you have about half your life but do so much more damage.

Age also impacts which abilities and skills you can learn. Most skills can be learned at any age. However, there are some abilities and upgrades that are restricted by age. Meaning that if you die more than a couple of times, you could miss out on being able to get some very helpful skills and abilities because… 

This is actually where the game becomes both very interesting and much more complex than its simple premise would lead you to believe.

Wibbly Wobbly Time

If you get through the game’s first level and are unsatisfied with your age (I was 57 the first time I made it through), then you can simply repeat the level to try and complete it with a lower overall age, so you’re going into the second level without having to replace your hip first. 

What makes this so interesting, is that you can do it with every level. As an example: if you complete the first level at, say, 25, but you complete the second level at 50, well, you can replay the second level starting at the 25-year mark. Or you could go back and try and get your original age down.

This extends to all of the game’s five levels. So if you feel like you’re too old heading into a particular level, you can always go back and try and shave a few years off.

This structure of going back and forth between levels to get your age down is not only helpful, but necessary if you want to find everything in the game. There are certain items — mostly keys and the like — that you can find in later levels, that open doors in previous levels.

I feel like, maybe, the developers were just trying to give you an excuse to go back that isn’t just…

Everybody Was Kung Fu Fighting

Despite how integral age/death are to the overall gameplay, the combat is what we all came for. You don’t play a brawler unless you’re looking for a fight — or three hundred — and in this respect, Sifu does not disappoint. 

This is definitely a game where combat is easy to learn and hard to master. Your basic starting move-set is:

  • Heavy Attack 
  • Light attack
  • Dodge
  • Guard
  • Deflect
  • Takedown

There are a couple of others, like a palm strike and a throw, but those are the foundation upon which everything else is built.

You can also buy a ton of moves, some of which are offensive, and others that allow you to react to or counter your opponent’s moves.

Once you actually dive into combat, it is somewhat reminiscent of Sekiro—if Sekiro was a brawler.

When you attack, you can damage an enemy’s health, but what you really want is to break their stance so you can land a Takedown. You can absolutely defeat an enemy by depleting their health, but if you use a takedown, you will regain some health—which is essential, since it’s the only way to heal in the middle of a fight.

That’s not to say that takedowns aren’t without their drawbacks. Some enemies will rebuff your takedown by regaining all of their health and becoming twice as powerful.

Basically, every enemy thinks their Obi-wan Kenobi… and some of them kinda are

One of my favorite parts of Sifu’s combat is its use of the Inverse Ninja Law. In essence, the more enemies you face, the weaker they are. Therefore, if you are only fighting one enemy, they are as tough as an entire group of enemies.

So, sometimes you’re taking down a room full of chumps that you can beat in a couple of hits, but then you walk into a room with one guy waiting for you and you can almost feel how tough the fight is going to be.

Fists of Fury

Overall, Sifu is a remarkable game. Despite its short levels and simple story, it manages to be more than the sum of its parts. It could have been a simple beat ‘em up-style game, and that would have been fine. However, the developers managed to create a brawler with an alarming amount of substance, combat that feels amazing, and level design that pendulums between regular action set pieces and reality-bending mazes. 

I’m giving Sifu a masterful 9/10. Honestly, I don’t really have anything bad to say about this game. I had a couple of issues with the camera, and going back through the levels was sometimes tedious, but that’s about it. It was a wonderful, contained, experience that did exactly what it set out to do while simultaneously elevating its genre in a meaningful way.

I usually end with a joke, but this time it’s more of an anecdote and a request.

In Sifu’s first level, there is a table where the enemies were clearly playing mahjong… I have never not flipped that table over — because screw those guys — so, if you happen to buy and play this game, could you just… flip that table over every time you see it.

It would really mean a lot to me.  

Video Game Reviews

Anno: Mutationem Review – A Beautiful Mess

Anno: Mutationem is a 2.5D/3D action platformer with light RPG elements. It was developed by Thinking Stars and published by Lightning Games

The game takes place in the cyberpunk future of an alternate universe where cars fly, a good portion of the population has been turned into machines by a mysterious virus, and man-corn hybrids are trying to sell you their corn juice.

Not unsettling in the least

You play as Ann, a young woman who seems to work for some kind of jack-of-all-trades agency. She is afflicted with the terribly named condition, “Entanglitis,” which causes her to have dissociative episodes where she violently lashes out at anyone nearby.

The bulk of the story follows Ann as she searches for her missing brother, who disappeared while looking for a cure for Ann’s condition. The rest of the story is kind of a bonkers mess that involves shadowy organizations, Evangelion-style locations, and a reality-altering adolescent.

Also, there are dragons.

Now, I went into this game blind, knowing only that it was a cyberpunk platformer with graphics pulled straight from the PS1 era. It turns out, however, that the game was a lot more than that, and I’d like to share with you this bizarre, yet entertaining, little gem.

Dimensional Stability

Anno: Mutationem has two distinct playstyles, and each uses a different dimension.

The first playstyle is in the 3rd dimension. This is where you explore, gather information, interact with most NPC’s, and further the story. In this mode, you cannot jump or attack, and your movement speed is limited to a jog (though you can hit L1 if you would like to casually stroll everywhere). 

A button that all games absolutely MUST have going forward

The second playstyle is the 2D platforming and combat. In these segments, you can run full speed, but your movement is limited to left and right. You are, however, able to jump and use your weapons—which is good, because this is where all the enemies are. 

What really made Anno: Mutationem’s gameplay interesting, was how it would rapidly transition between these two styles.

As an example, you might be exploring a subterranean lab. You wander around in 3D mode, finding Items, and talking to some NPC’s who’ve been trapped there for a while. Then, you’re walking down a hallway, and BAM! the HUD elements pop up and you’re locked into the 2D combat/platforming mode. You mow down some bad guys with your hard-light greatsword, and then, suddenly, your person stops running and you can explore the next section. 

This ability to switch between the two is what made the game’s areas interesting to explore. There were times when you could see more of the level behind a 2D segment, but you’d get to it using a 3D hallway.

Sure, sometimes it was clunky or seemed unnecessary, but the juxtaposition of the two is what kept it fresh throughout.

Just a Bunch of Junk

Anno: Mutationem has a metric ton of items to find… most of which are quite literally junk. The bulk of the items you pick up in-game are just trash items that you can sell for money or break down for crafting materials.

Honestly, this game was too short to include a crafting mechanic, and finding junk items all the time — as hilarious as some of them are — was never fulfilling in any way, shape, or form.

Pretty early on, the game establishes that you can buy weapons or you can craft them. Unfortunately, you can’t really craft anything of value, save for some consumable items, until you get near the end of the game and have acquired enough junk.

Almost…. almost… just a little more and I can make that sword

I appreciate what the developers were trying to do, but the whole crafting system felt pointless, and left me feeling disheartened every time I visited a workbench and couldn’t make any of the weapons I wanted to try. 

Bills to Pay the Skills

Another element of the game that suffers from its short length is the skill tree.

Don’t get me wrong, I love making my character stronger and unlocking new moves, but most of the upgrades to health, damage, armor, and item carrying capacity were restricted to certain points of the game anyway and might as well have been rewards for beating certain bosses or for completing certain tasks.

You see, there are two types of unlockables in the skill tree. Actual skills, which require a blue currency that drops off of regular enemies, and upgrades which require red currency that the bosses drop.

Take that King Pinata! Now give me that sweet upgrade currency

Skills are mostly related to your weapons and give you different attacks, or improve upon attacks that you already have, while the upgrades merely increase your overall stats.

The problem with these two things is that the game is only about twelve hours long, so I felt like I was buying a new skill every few minutes, and even then only a few felt truly worthwhile.

I will say that, as a concept, I did enjoy the two-currency system, and think it could have worked well in a larger, less contained experience.

Disproportionate Proportions

When I finished this game, I came away with a sense that I didn’t get enough combat, and at the same time, I didn’t get to explore as much as I would have liked.

The truth is that both elements were equally important to the overall experience, and breaking them down into two separate things is probably the wrong way to view the game.

Unfortunately, this is exactly how I perceived my gameplay experience. This made getting new weapons and abilities a bit of a letdown sometimes because I would really want to try out my new sword, but I’d have to go through a bunch of 3D segments to get there, and then the combat would literally be one hallway filled with worms… which squish fine under a greatsword, but aren’t all that thrilling to fight.

I feel your pain, Saitama

So, if you’re going to play this game, I recommend viewing the experience as a whole, and maybe don’t get too bogged down if you haven’t fought an enemy in a while. 

Cons and Pros

I just needed a segment for all of the little things that didn’t fall into any particular category, or things that I just wanted to draw attention to. 

And now that I have it…

Cons

  • Bad translations, typos, and confusing dialog
  • Too much telling, and not enough showing
  • Most of the combat is simple (yet still fun)
  • Some real bad voice acting
  • Story beats that feel a bit out of place
  • It was kinda buggy

Pros

  • A solid, if convoluted and hard to follow, story
  • An amazing array of dynamic and interesting sprites
  • Some really good voice acting
  • A great setting, and good use of various levels of graphics to convey the overall tone
  • An assortment of interesting things to do and see
    • Bartending minigame
    • Fighting tournament
    • The ROM videos

Download Interrupted

Overall, Anno: Mutationem is an alright game. It has a serviceable combat system that is enjoyable throughout, even if it’s a little buggy sometimes. The way they combined 2D and 3D elements was interesting, and somewhat impressive, but fell a little flat due to the game’s short duration. And the story was good enough to keep me entertained, but too confusing to tell what the hell was actually going on… I’m honestly still a little confused about some of it. 

I’m giving Anno: Mutationem a cyber-tastic 7/10. This is, honestly, probably more than it deserves (which is probably closer to 6-6.5). But I really liked the amount of little things that they put in to make things interesting. Could they have spent that extra time making the actual game better? Maybe. But then we wouldn’t have a little horror ROM to watch from time to time. 

Also, if anyone has any idea what a Mutationem is, please let me know. I’m not even sure I know how to pronounce it. 

Video Game Reviews

Elden Ring Review – A New Age

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Elden Ring is an open-world action RPG developed by From Software — creators of Dark Souls, Sekiro, and Bloodborne — and published by Bandai Namco Entertainment.

You play as a Tarnished of no renown, who has been tasked with reforging the legendary Elden Ring — which was shattered sometime prior to the start of the game — and becoming the Elden Lord. Unfortunately for you, the shards of the Elden Ring are all held by petty, vindictive — and often insane — demi-gods.

Now, being a From Software game, there are some things you know you’re going to run into. So, let’s just go through that checklist now:

  • Tough-as-nails, high commitment combat
  • Obtuse sidequests and storylines
  • Enemies that one shot you, no matter your build
  • Bonfire equivalents
  • Souls equivalents
Oh… and lots of dying

There. With that out of the way we can move on, and talk about what makes Elden Ring different from its predecessors in a big way. That being…

A Whole New Open World

The open-world is far and away the most outstanding feature of Elden Ring.

In order to convey a lot of information in a succinct way, I’m going to say something that’s a bit reductionist: Elden Ring’s open world is what you would get if Dark Souls and Breath of the Wild had a baby. The combat, movement, and general game elements are ripped almost directly from the Dark Souls franchise, and the design of the world itself is heavily reminiscent of Breath of the Wild

This combination is powerful for a few reasons. 

The first is that the BOTW style of open-world puts you in charge of your adventure. There were very few quest markers, almost no flashing icons, and you didn’t really have to do anything you didn’t want to do in order to beat the game.

This works so well for Elden Ring, because that’s how From Software games have always been. They give you the gameplay up front, but keeping track of the story and quests is up to you. 

Results may vary

The second reason the open world works so well is that it makes Elden Ring more accessible to new players. Usually, in a From Software title, you are given a couple of paths, and you can follow those paths until you run into a boss that is actively stopping you from going any further.

In Elden Ring, if you run into a boss that’s kicking your ass, you can just pack it up and move on to something else and tackle the ass-kicking boss when you’re ready. You can literally explore four of the game’s five main regions without beating any of the mandatory bosses. Sure, it takes a little bit of looking around, and finding the right items, but it can be done. 

The only real shortcoming to this particular design is that the different regions of The Lands Between (where the game takes place) are clearly made for characters of a certain level. While you can muscle your way through almost any enemy with sheer will and a little pluck, it means you can end up in an area where almost any hit will kill you instantly.

Choose Your Character

Now, as with other From Software titles, the only thing that truly defines your character is the stats. 

Unless you’re playing Sekiro, in which case it’s about your sweet-ass prosthetic limb.

If you choose the “Warrior” at the beginning of the game, that’s just picking your starting stats and equipment. What really matters is how you choose to build your character after that initial decision — and boy howdy does Elden Ring offer a veritable cornucopia of choices.

There are five basic stats on which to build your character:

  • Strength
  • Dexterity
  • Intelligence
  • Faith
  • Arcane

Of course, you can mix and match these to make your character whatever you want, but for most character builds, at least one of these is going to be your main stat. 

What I found during my playthroughs is that I had no clue what I really wanted to build until a specific weapon fell into my lap. For my first playthrough, it was “Bloodhounds Fang,” a curved greatsword. I liked the way it felt, I liked its move-set, and I’d already sunk a bunch of points into Dexterity, so all I needed were a couple of points of strength to get me started.

The problem is that there are sooooooo many cool weapons and spells in this game, but most have requirements so specific that building your character to wield one in particular will leave you unable to use eighty percent of the other items in the game. I was on my third full playthrough when I realized that the cycle would never end, because there were just too many cool builds I wanted to try.

I mean, you can re-spec your character with a specific item — after beating a specific boss — but I like to build my characters from the ground up, so re-specing wasn’t really an option in my case.

A Sense of Scale

One aspect of Elden Ring that continued to impress me, even into my second playthrough, was its sense of scale.

Everything in this game is huge and beautiful and terrifying. Just walking into the open world for the first time will have you staring at the grand Stormveil castle — one of the game’s amazing legacy dungeons — and the Erdtree — a world tree so large that you can literally see it from almost anywhere in the game. And that’s just within the first few minutes of gameplay.

There are castles mired in poison swamps, magical schools atop towering plateaus, and shining golden cities.

In any game in the Dark Souls series, it would be impressive just to see these things. What makes Elden Ring so much more impressive is that if you see a cool location, you can go there. Hell, not only can you go there, but you get to explore, basically, the entire thing.

This sense of scale pairs perfectly with the open world.

I spent most of my first playthrough trying to figure out exactly how to get into all the cool places I could see. Some of them were harder to get into than others…

…looking at you, Volcano Manor.

Copy and Paste

One of my big gripes with Elden Ring was the alarming amount of assets that were reused. 

While playing through this game, you’ll see the same shack ad nauseum. You’ll see the same dungeons, with the same walls, and the same clutter over and over and over again. You’ll see the same enemies and bosses – albeit with slight differences to make them harder. Basically…

I know it’s a big game… Insurmountably huge is probably more accurate… but I really hate when developers reuse assets so heavily.

It didn’t really ruin any part of my playthroughs, but it did start to get a little stale from time to time. 

The only upside to this is that it made the legacy dungeons and unique bosses all the more memorable when put up against the relentless sameness of some of the minor crypts and caverns. 

Not-So-Jolly Cooperation

The absolute worst part of Elden Ring is its obtuse-ass multiplayer.

It is literally garbage. 

I understand that From Software has always had very restrictive multiplayer, but for fuck’s sake, couldn’t they have made it even a little bit easier?

You see, in order to play this game with a friend, first, you both have to have online play activated. Then, the person you want to play with has to put a symbol on the ground in their game (or send the symbol to a summoning pool)…

Oh, you also have to activate the multiplayer statues for the area where you’ll be playing.

Then, once the symbol is on the ground, you have to use a specific item so that you can see your friend’s summoning symbol. Then you can summon them into the game. 

But wait!

If you didn’t set up your multiplayer password in the multiplayer menu, you can see every summoning symbol placed in the area, and anyone else can summon your friend inadvertently. So, make sure you both put on your multiplayer passwords. 

Then you can play together… until you beat an area boss. After, your friend will be de-summoned, and you’ll have to summon them again using this whole insane process.

Oh, did I mention that you can’t rest while your friend is summoned? So no restocking your healing items.

You also can’t ride your horse, so you and your buddy will be on foot the whole way.

Hope you brought your coconuts

 Also, your friend can only accompany you near where you summoned them. So if you want to explore somewhere else together, you have to de-summon them, and then summon them again in the next area. 

To add insult to injury, anyone who is summoned to another player’s game only gets half of their healing items rounded down. So if you have three healing flasks, that means you only get one when you’re helping a friend.

I would like to say, however, that the only reason I’m throwing this much shade at Elden Ring’s multiplayer is that they marketed the game as being “Multiplayer.”

I don’t know how many ads I saw before the game came out, and some that came out after, that implied that I could play co-op with two of my buddies throughout the entire game.

Getting started, and finding out that the multiplayer was this unwieldy mess of items and restrictions, was a huge disappointment.

A Horse of a Different Color

This is just a quick shout-out to my new favorite horse in video games: Torrent. 

He is, hands-down, the best horse in video games.

I’ve heard a lot of people hating on this magnificent beast, and I’m not sure why. Especially since he has so many great qualities. 

  • He can sprint
  • He can double jump
  • You can summon him damn near anywhere with a single button press
  • You can de-summon him just as easily
  • He can tank hits for you (it’s best not to rely on this, but when it happens, it’s great.)
Let’s see Epona do that

Rise Ye Tarnished

Overall, Elden Ring is a truly magnificent game. It combines the endless wonder of Breath of the Wild with the crushingly difficult, yet rewarding, gameplay that From Software is known for. Sure, the multiplayer is the usual mess, the PVP is constantly being rebalanced (at least currently), and the game was so big that most of the assets were reused to the point of frustration, but none of that could take away from how genuinely fun it is to play. I mean, I’ve played through two full times, and could seriously go for a third or fourth if I didn’t have other games to play (and, you know, a job, a wife, and a kid). 

The bottom line is that this game is great for the old guard of souls fanatics, and the open-world gives some leeway for anyone who’s looking for a way into the world of From Software’s games, but doesn’t want to be forced to “git gud” by bashing their head against the same boss for several hours at a time. 

I’m giving Elden Ring a shattering 9.5/10… I know it has its issues, but it still manages to be worthy of this rating despite those shortcomings.

I’ll tell you what though, almost the entire .5 comes off of the score for the literal hours I wasted trying to figure out how the multiplayer works. In fact, I think my summon symbol is still down somewhere. 

[You are being summoned to another world]

Well Fuc….

Video Game Reviews

Late to the Game: The Last Guardian – How to Train Your Catbird

The Last Guardian is an action-adventure puzzle game developed by Japan Studio and Gen Design, and published by Sony Interactive Entertainment. 

It is the third entry in a spiritual trilogy that started with ICO: a beautiful minimalistic game that followed a young boy as he rescued a damsel in distress. It was followed by the similarly styled Shadow of the Colossus. 

Unfortunately, The Last Guardian was released over ten years after the previous game. I remember seeing little snippets about it for years and thinking “Man, I really want to play this game.” 

When it finally came out in 2016, I looked at it in the Playstation Store and thought…

Needless to say, I didn’t end up getting it

With its release as part of the Playstation Plus Collection, which was free to PS5 owners, I’ve had the opportunity to play this game that I was excited for so long ago.

A Boy and his Trico

The premise for The Last Guardian is elegant in its simplicity. It’s about a young boy and a strange beast trying to escape from a mysterious tower. The relationship between the two is the focal point of the entire experience. 

While they start off at odds with one another, they soon become completely dependent on each other to survive and escape the crumbling tower complex. The boy provides food and direction to the enormous creature (Trico) and Trico protects the boy and helps him traverse gaps and ledges that would have been unreachable otherwise.

We could all use a Trico

Watching the bond between the two grow was the highlight of the game. In fact, it was basically the entire game. Since The Last Guardian is a minimalistic puzzle game, it really didn’t have much else going on, so it was nice that its two main characters were a joy to get to know.

Man’s Best Frenemy

Unfortunately, you have no direct control over Trico’s actions. 

This is both amazing and terrible in equal measure. This means that something as simple as getting Trico to stand on its hind legs, so you can reach a high platform, was a bit like pulling teeth. This is especially true near the beginning of the game when you haven’t built up your relationship.

There does come a point when you develop the ability to give Trico basic commands like Jump, Push, or Stomp, but even then you may not get the results you want.

Trico’s response to every one of my commands

There were multiple times when all I wanted was for Trico to jump up on a pillar. Instead, he would jump in place. Cute, but not all that useful. I would hazard that at least a third of my playtime was spent pantomiming a jump and pointing in the direction of where I wanted him to go.

However, I think that this process was kind of the point of The Last Guardian. It was supposed to give you the feeling that you were dealing with a living, breathing creature that acted independently of the game. Boy howdy, did they succeed…

Game Interrupted

Despite my occasional (read: constant)  frustration with Trico, my biggest gripe with The Last Guardian is actually with the level layout and controls. 

It’s been a while since I’ve been this frustrated with a game because of anything other than sheer difficulty. The Last Guardian, however, brought me to the point of yelling at the screen simply because sometimes… I had no idea what to do. 

There was one particular section near the end of the game where I found myself stuck with no apparent way out. I threw myself at every wall hoping that the boy would grab onto something so that I could move on.

Why. Won’t. You. Work

I eventually broke down and looked at a Youtube video of the section I was in and saw that the solution was… to jump at the ledge that I’d already jumped at several times.

Now, I’ll admit that a couple of times I got stuck due to my own shortcomings, but more than once it was clunky controls that led to me not being able to get through a section on the first couple of tries.

Trico Come Home

Overall, The Last Guardian is a beautiful game with a fascinating–and often frustrating–mechanic at its core. Watching the bond between the boy and his monster is often heartwarming, and sometimes tragic, and the payoff is worth it in the end. While it is marred with clunky controls and some wonky camera work at times, it is well worth the time and effort to complete. 

I’m giving The Last Guardian a 7.5/10 for being a very good boy…

Wait, no, I didn’t say “Jump” Trico… I said “A very good boy”… No. Stop jumping… 

You know what? Now it’s  7/10

Video Game Reviews

Final Fantasy VII: Remake – A Stepping Stone

The original Final Fantasy VII is one of my favorite games of all time. Most of that may be due to an excessive amount of nostalgia, but I have played through it more recently and it’s still a fairly solid game.

A few years ago I saw a technical demo that showcased the opening scene of the original FFVII but with a massive graphical update. I understood that it was just to laud the hardware of the PlayStation 3, but I was still disappointed. A small part of me hoped beyond hope that we would get a remake of FFVII. But, the reasonable part of my brain said…

I like that the reasonable part of my brain is an old lady.

Well I did, sort of, but a few years later Square-Enix decided to actually make a remake. I was over the moon. I also made sure to keep an eye on the release date.

Well, it finally came out back in April of 2020, but I was not one of the people who bought it upon release. 

There were a number of factors involved. It was really only going to cover the first several hours of the original game. The story was padded in order to bulk it up to the size of an entire game. It was pricey, given the fact that it was essentially one-eighth of the story of the original. Lastly, the more action-oriented combat was not exactly what I was looking for. 

Well I finally took the plunge, and I’m here to let you know if the wait was worth it. 

A Visual Feast

The one unequivocally good thing I can say about FFVII: Remake, is that it is beautiful. It’s amazing to see what the polygons of my childhood have evolved into.

What a difference over two decades can make

The characters are amazing to behold and stay true to form. Being able to see Barret, Tifa, and Cloud with PS5 graphics was just the best. Even some of the lesser characters such as Biggs, Jessie, and Wedge were a delight and a surprise to see with updated graphics (did you know Jessie was a girl… I certainly missed that the six times I played the original).

The environments, with the exception of some weird skybox images, were works of art in their own right. Seeing the sector seven slums, Wall Market, and the Shinra building as fully realized places caused some serious explosions of nostalgia that I’m still grappling with.

The animation was also a noteworthy addition to this smorgasbord of visuals. Watching the Guard Scorpion wall run as it shoots a barrage of lasers and missiles was a particular high point during the game’s opening sequence. Even the little things, like the kids running around the slums, or the people arguing about collectible items in Wall Market were detailed enough to breathe life into the world, a feature that the original was sorely missing. 

Active Time Battle

I did not like the combat in this game…Like, at all. Yes, it was impressively animated and super stylish and flashy, but it was absolutely no fun for me. Now there were three modes of combat, and I stuck with the one I picked at the beginning. I tried the other two briefly, but none of them really struck a chord with me. 

My biggest issue with combat came when Aerith joined my team. I really wanted to have her as my main playable character, so that I could control the battlefield from the back and have Cloud do all the heavy lifting combat-wise. This did not work for a number of reasons. 

The first reason is that when you are controlling a character every enemy — and I mean every enemy — immediately knows it. They drop whatever they are doing, and whoever they are attacking, to gang up on the person you are in control of. This is fine when you’re playing as Cloud, who can take a punch, but when you’re Aerith it means you are next to useless. I almost quit playing the game a couple of times because the combat pissed me off to an extent that I haven’t experienced in several years.

A visual approximation

There is a difference between tough but fair combat and combat that’s just unfair. This felt like the latter. 

I often found that dodging did not work, Blocking was not a good plan because you’d get stuck in a perpetual cycle of blocking, and it was sometimes hard to figure out what was going on in some fights.

My Mind on My Materia and My Materia on My Mind

Materia was one of my favorite parts of the original FFVII. It was decidedly less than that in the remake. 

I really wish that the developers would have used a different system for magic and skills, but I understand why they didn’t. Materia is/was a huge part of the central story of FFVII and to remove it as the main progression of skills and abilities in the remake would have caused a…

Not that that’s hard to do

In the original, leveling a piece of materia felt like an achievement. It gave you stronger magic, better skills, and, if you mastered it, a brand new baby materia of the same kind. It is still one of my favorite magic/enhancement systems in a Final Fantasy game. Unfortunately, all of that has been stripped away with the new combat system. 

In the remake, materia felt gimmicky. I think it’s probably due to the fact that what once took hours and hours to level, happened nigh instantaneously. It could be that If I had never played the original game, none of this would have been an issue. Unfortunately, I did play the original so having Fire 3, or Firaga if you’re going with the new names, by the time I made it to Wall Market was unsettling. 

My favorite part about materia, in the remade game, is that I could see it slotted into the weapons that my characters were using. Not the greatest of achievements, but it was something that made me smile.

The Very Simple Plot of Final Fantasy VII

While most of the story and plot elements of Final Fantasy VII: Remake are essentially the same as the original, there were some changes made. Some big, some little, but all remarkably obvious to players of the original. To keep things simple I’m going to divide certain elements into things I thought were good changes, and things I thought were bad changes. (might be specific spoilers so read at own risk)

Bad Changes

  • Padding entire sections with unnecessary gameplay (Under the sector 5 plate and Hojo’s lab
  • Removing a large portion of the Wall Market quest and replacing it with a dance segment
  • That kid who gives you materia for completing battle requirements
  • The second run on the sewers under Wall Market
  • Combat; all of it

Good Changes

  • Seeing Aerith save Marlene
  • Getting more of an opportunity to know Biggs, Wedge and Jessie
  • Showing that Avalanche was more than just Barrett and Co. 
  • The Shinra building ascent

Now there was one other change… and it really is the biggest, and most interesting, part of the entire remake. However, since it is also the biggest spoiler, you might want to scroll down to the next heading if you would like to experience it for yourself.

WOOP WOOP!!

So, the biggest change from the original is the addition of “the whispers”, strange cloaked figures that show up at seemingly random parts of the game. For a while, it’s unclear what their purpose is. Sometimes they help you. Other times they hinder, or actively attack, you. 

Once you approach the end of the game it is revealed that these “whispers” are the avatars of fate, and they have been trying to make sure that the remake lines up with the original. Cloud and Co., however, are not having any of that and slay the Whispers and destroy the Arbiter of Fate in a sequence straight out of Kingdom Hearts.

In the closing moments of the game you see that by doing so, the story has been irreparably changed. So, going forward, there is nothing to keep the story in line with the original FFVII. This means that the developers of the remake have basically given themselves permission to change the story completely if they so wish. This makes the remake a mere stepping stone for the rest of the series. 

I cannot stress how much this changed my opinion of this game.

Please Insert Disk 2

Overall Final Fantasy VII: Remake is an ambitious start to what will, likely, be a game that is several installments long. It often hits you right in the nostalgia before smacking you in the face with one of its many bizarre choices. Though it is not a completely faithful remake, I applaud what the developers are trying to do and I’m looking forward to seeing exactly what the second game has to offer. 

I’m giving Final Fantasy VII: Remake a 7/10 for just barely hitting the nail on the head

I’m giving Final Fantasy VII: Remake an 8/10 for attempting something different and branching out in a new and interesting way.

Unfortunately/Fortunately, both scores are now canon and there’s nothing you can do about it.  

Video Game Reviews

Late to the Game: Deep Sky Derelicts – Not Quite Space Junk

Deep Sky Derelicts is a turn-based deck-building RPG with roguelite elements developed by Snowhound games and published by C1 Company. Now, if that sounded like I just made up a bunch of words and mashed them together, I think you might be in the wrong place. 

In which case, take a seat, and welcome!

In Deep Sky Derelicts you play as a crew of salvagers. You have been tasked by the Sub Governor of Deep Sky station with finding “The Mothership.”  In order to accomplish this task, you board a series of derelict alien spacecraft to obtain their navigational data. The hope is that if you can find enough data, you can piece together the location of your objective. 

Your reward for completing this task: Citizenship on one of the coveted “Mirror Worlds.” For you are “Stateless,” which makes you a fourth-class citizen. The only problem is that the Sub Governor has made this offer to literally every other stateless person on the station, and it’s first-come, first-serve. 

So, you cram your crew into the nearest space taxi and blast off to your first derelict. 

Now, the only things standing between you and your sweet upper-class life are space pirates, space zombies, killer robots, deranged Artificial Intelligence, a space quiz master, and — of course — aliens.

The Humanity

Now, whether you’re thinking “That sounds like an edge of your seat thrill ride” or “Can I go now?” I would say the same thing…

“No. Now let me finish…”

Having taken the time to chew through this game, I can provide you with some perspective on a couple of the game’s various aspects and how they work (or don’t work, depending on where you stand… or sit). 

Pure Tone-Deaf 

The art style and combat of Deep Sky Derelicts were clearly inspired by, and a love letter to, Darkest Dungeon. The art is gritty, dark, and has plenty of skulls; and the combat is harsh and somewhat unforgiving. If I were to base my opinion solely on those two aspects, I would say the game was a successful homage. 

Unfortunately, there is a dichotomy that looms over Deep Sky Derelicts, and it’s one that I often found jarring. 

Imagine this: you’re low on energy, your medic “unconscious,” your other two crewmates sit at critical health. Something stalks your every move through the darkened halls of the station. All you need to do is get back to the landing zone and everything will be okay. 

In your haste, you run straight into an enemy encounter. The screen goes dark and…

A dandy space pirate struts up to you. He says that he represents a group of space pirates dedicated to robbing people with style. He gives you a speech on how his organization is trying to bring back the class and elegance robberies used to have–none of this shiv first ask questions later nonsense. 

He then gives you a business card, tips his hat, and whistles a jaunty tune as he walks away.

There is a constant battle between light and darkness in this game, and not in a fun way. The art and gameplay give a cosmic horror feel, but then a space-hobo quizmaster wants to play Family Feud with me.

My mind can’t handle the horror… of how many people did not say potato salad.

It’s off-putting at the best of times and leaves the game feeling tepid throughout.  

Like Space Poker, But Everyone Dies

The gameplay of Deep Sky Derelicts is actually pretty solid. The map system is simple and easy to figure out. The station menu (the only location other than the derelicts) is effortless to navigate, and the menus, while slightly cumbersome, are well-thought-out. 

However, I’m going to put all that aside and talk about what really sits at the core of this game, holding the whole thing together through sheer force of will: the battle system, which was a combination of turn-based RPG mixed with a deck-building system that pulls its cards from the equipment your crew is carrying. 

If you were to strip away the art and story from this game, you would have a very solid framework. The deck-building is easy to learn, albeit hard to master, and pairs perfectly with the battle system. While turn-based RPGs are nothing new, the infusion of cards spices things up, and the attack animations, while rudimentary, add some pizzazz to your moves.

There was nothing quite like having the perfect starting hand. You’d throw out an amazing combo and watch the enemy disintegrate before they could even look at their cards. Conversely, there was nothing quite as infuriating as starting with a handful of shield enhancers and having your limbs ripped off before you could attack.

I will be up-front and say that at least half of my time playing this game was spent trying to build the perfect deck. Do I take the level four blaster with two E.M.P grenades, or the level three blaster with two E.M.P grenades and focused shot. 

The answer is: Whatever fits best with your playstyle. 

You’ll probably be on your fourth derelict before you realize exactly what is important to you. However, once you find what makes you happy, you’ll be well on your way to the Mothership… Or, you know, starting a new game and remaking your team to really get the best bang for your buck.

The one gripe I have about the combat system is that it is not always apparent what a status effect does, and finding out is harder than it should be. You will have to consult the codex, which can be found in the start menu. However, you’ll be hard-pressed to find a straight answer. Most of the time, I gave up sifting through the codex, crossed my fingers, and hoped that I was right about the little skull over my medic’s head. I’m pretty sure it was blight… or was it poison?… 

Meh… He’s fine

Tips from a Deep Sky Vet

Now, in order to construct your best deck, there are some things you might want to know first:

  • Bigger is not always better. Have too many cards and you might never see the ones that really help.
  • Experiment with different combinations. Sometimes, a card that you’d labeled useless is actually something amazing. Give it a try and find out. 
  • Keep your gear current. Are you level five with a level two weapon? Upgrade. The stat bonuses conveyed by higher level gear is almost always worth it. 
  • Illustrious doesn’t necessarily mean good. Most of the illustrious gear gives you amazing bonuses, but really take a look to see if it’s worth it in a couple of levels.
  • Class Cards are broken (in a good way). The most powerful cards in the game are found within the class system, which really comes into play around level four.
Now you’re ready to … Du Du DUEL!!

Final Approach

Overall, Deep Sky Derelicts was slightly better than nothing. It shot for the moon but ended up landing in Wisconsin. It’s not bad there, but they don’t have much going on. 

The story is barely there, the sidequests are either too quirky, too simple, or aren’t worth it, and there isn’t much of a payoff. However, the combat manages to keep the whole thing afloat despite its shortcomings. 

It is a solid RPG hiding under a game that desperately wanted to be the next Darkest Dungeon but had neither the flair nor the gravitas of its predecessor. 

I give it a wobbly 6.5/10.

Personally, I would rather have had them build a game around the space quizmaster… or the dandy bandit. I’d play the crap out of those games.  

Video Game Reviews

Deep Rock Galactic Review – It’s Off To Work We Go

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Deep Rock Galactic is a cooperative, mission-based, first-person shooter developed by Danish developer Ghost Ship Games and published by Coffee Stain Publishing.

This game was — like most games I end up playing — one of the Playstation Networks monthly free titles. Even though I added it to my library, I was not entirely sold on this particular title. The trailer was a bombastic mess of explosions and gunfire, to which the only redeeming characteristic seemed to be a wealth of fully destructible environments.

So, I let it go, thinking I would play it eventually.

You know. If I found time in my busy schedule.

Then I got a call from my dad (hi dad!) who really couldn’t speak highly enough about the game. After our conversation, I decided to fire it up and give it a try. I was pleasantly surprised to find that Deep Rock Galactic wasn’t quite the game I thought it was.

Its premise is simple.

You play as a Tolkien-style, wildly-bearded, gold-loving dwarf that works for the deep space mining company Deep Rock Galactic. The company is currently stripping any and all resources from Hoxxes IV. Unfortunately for you, Hoxxes IV is home to the Glyphids: a race of spider-like insects that are hell-bent on killing anything that moves. 

Still, gold is gold, and you and your buddies aboard the Space Rig aren’t going to let a couple of bugs stop you from getting your pay.

Gear Up

The first, and most vital thing you do in Deep Rock Galactic is select your class. There are four classes in total, and each one is unique because of the equipment they carry. So, I’ll do a quick breakdown of their unique starting gear to give you an idea of what each class is capable of.

The Scout

The scout is all about mobility and ease of access. He has:

  • A grappling hook that permits zipping across huge gaps or quickly reaching high places
  • A flare gun that can light up entire caverns
  • Grenades that slow enemies within a limited sphere of influence

The Engineer

The engineer is all about preparation and defense. He has:

  • A gun that allows him to shoot platforms against any surface, allowing him to make footholds against walls or bridges across gaps or to cover any kind of hazardous surface 
  • A deployable turret that automatically attacks nearby enemies
  • A grenade that creates a decoy to distract enemies

The Driller

The driller is all about digging and explosive damage. He has:

  • A pair of large drill gauntlets that allows him to bore through any surface at several times the speed of the standard pickaxe.
  • A satchel charge that creates a moderately sized, yet devastating, explosion
  • A throwing axe that stuns and electrifies foes. 

The Gunner

The gunner is all about damage with a dash of support thrown in. He has:

  • A deployable zipline that does not disappear automatically and that any party member can use
  • A deployable dome shield that reduces damage received while inside it by 50%, stops projectiles, terrifies enemies, and gives a small amount of automatic shield regeneration
  • A sticky grenade… 
It’s exactly what it sounds like.

Each of the available classes is, generally, just as viable as any other. So, I advise that you try each and discover which class you enjoy the most. 

It should also be noted that you can level up your class and pick from different upgrades for their various equipment pieces.  

As an added bonus, if you decide to play alone, you are given BOSCO, an upgradable drone that can attack enemies, dig through dirt, and mine minerals for you.

If You Choose To Accept It

Once you’ve selected your class you are ready to start your first assignment. 

Assignments are basically groups of missions that confer a reward when all of the missions have been completed. The very first assignment is ten missions long and designed to get you accustomed to the variety of mission types that will be available to you throughout the game. 

Missions include, but are not limited to:

  • Mining Expeditions: You mine a certain amount of minerals 
  • Egg Hunts: You dig alien eggs out of biogrowth and secure them
  • On-Site Refining: You cap at least three liquid Malkite geysers and build pipelines for mineral extraction.
  • Salvage Operations: You go to collect gear and equipment left behind by a group of Deep Rock Galactic employees that failed to complete their mission. 
  • Escort Duty: You escorte a large drill rig on its mission, making sure it stays fueled and in good condition.
  • Elimination: You find and destroy at least two Glyphid dreadnoughts

In addition to the main objective, each mission has a second objective that boils down to “grab 20 additional things.”

Because that’s always a fun addition to your game

Risk vs Reward

There are several factors that add layers of complexity and decision-making when selecting a mission. 

The first is location.

Some places are just easier than others. For example, the Salt Pits are generally a pretty straightforward place to explore with little diversity of terrain. The Azure Weald, on the other hand, is a glittering blue-on-blue Lovecraftian hellscape where you’ll have a hard time figuring out which way is up.

The second complexity factor is the hazard level.

Before each mission, you can select its “Hazard Level”—which basically boils down to its overall difficulty. For each hazard level, your rewards are increased by 25%, so you have to balance the difficulty with the location and decide how hard you really want your mission to be and how much money you want to receive.

Think twice before diving head-first after that hazard pay.

The third factor is twofold: warnings and anomalies.

Warnings are variables that negatively impact a mission and include, but are not limited to:

  • Low Oxygen: Raises hazard Level 20% and forces you to resupply O2 occasionally
  • Haunted Cave: Raises hazard Level 30% and causes an invulnerable enemy to stalk your every move
  • Shield Disruption: Raises hazard Level 30% and causes your shields to be inactive

Anomalies are variables that have a neutral-to-positive impact on a mission and include, but are not limited to:

  • Gold Rush: The mission area is filled with extra rich gold veins
  • Rich Atmosphere: Everyone’s voices are funny
  • Double XP: The mission will grant double experience upon completion

When you add procedurally generated maps on top of all of the areas, missions, hazards, warnings, and anomalies, it ensures every assignment is a completely different beast.

It’s Called Ambiance

I would like to shine a quick spotlight on the lighting and biome design. 

As every mission takes place within a subterranean cavern, light is very important. Your main source of light is from medium-intensity flares that illuminate an area for a short time when thrown. This means that, unless you’re the scout, you will spend a lot of time throwing flares so that you can see in the pitch black of Hoxxes IV’s depths.

Just be aware of what lurks in the shadows

The development team did an excellent job of balancing light and dark to create environments that can look one way when partially lit by your flares and completely different if seen with the high-intensity light offered by the scout’s flare gun. 

I should note that while you do spend a lot of time in sparsely-lit areas, I never felt a sense of unease. Mostly, I was left marveling at the immense caverns. Even the Azure Weald, a place that makes me want to throw up because I can’t tell which way I’m going, was still an enthralling place to explore.

Oh, also, keeping track of spent flares is a pretty good way to figure out if you’ve been somewhere before. So, don’t be afraid to throw flares all over the place.

Sure, they do have a cooldown period, but other than that they are infinite. 

Heigh Ho! Heigh Ho!

Overall Deep Rock Galactic is a great game. It managed to take a simple premise and weave a complex web of missions, upgrades, and classes to ensure that every time you step into the drop pod, you’re going to have a different experience. While the controls can feel a little wonky, and the button layout takes some getting used to, it is never really too bothersome.

Now, this game will never be a deep contemplative game that muses about the meaning of life, but it is very fun when played together with a buddy or two – or some complete rando’s. It’s even fun when playing alone, as the BOSCO drone can actually make your life easier than an extra teammate.

I’m giving Deep Rock Galactic an 8.5/10. It is a very good example of its specific genre. And, aside from some control issues, and a couple of irritating bugs (the computer kind, not the glyphid kind), it is an immensely satisfying experinece…

…except the Azure Weald. 

Seriously, fuck that place.      

Video Game Reviews

Chronos: Before the Ashes – Age is Just a Number

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Chronos: Before the Ashes is a third-person action-adventure game originally developed by Gunfire Games, but published by THQ Nordic

The original game, Chronos, was released in 2016 and required a VR headset to play. The updated version of the game eschewed the VR element in favor of the tried and true soulsborne formula, albeit with some slight differences. 

I bought this game for one reason, and one reason only: I really liked Remnant: From the Ashes. It was a great game that was fun to play and only seemed to get better the longer that I played it.

I was a little reluctant to move on to a new game, but just as I was finishing Remnant; low and behold, I saw Chronos: Before the Ashes in the Playstation Store.

At first, I didn’t really know what I was looking at, but when I watched the trailer and saw the familiar World Stone…

This doohickey right here

…I knew that the two games were connected.

A short internet search later, and I discovered that Chronos is actually a prequel to Remnant. 

Needless to say, I was sold. 

Now that I’ve played through Chronos, I’m a little sad that I didn’t play it first. Not playing it first didn’t diminish my enjoyment of either game, but I think I might have had more of an appreciation for Remnant when I first started playing it if I had played Chronos first. 

Anyway, let’s get into the things that make this game unique, and whether those things make Chronos worth your time. 

Tis An Adventure

In Chronos, you play as a young hero who has been chosen to enter a mysterious labyrinth and slay an evil dragon. That’s really the only story to the game. There are some journal entries and computer logs to read, but they don’t quite paint a whole picture. 

Basically, you enter the labyrinth and just sort of wander around and solve puzzles until you find a boss. Then you go to the next area, rinse, and repeat.

So, basically what Link has been doing since 1986

While that sounds a little underwhelming, the interesting thing about this game was the way it mixed genres. It was mostly an action-adventure game that followed the soulsborne rules. However, there were times where it felt like a straight-up adventure game from back in the day. 

You see, in Chronos, you have the ability to combine items in your inventory, and to use those items at different places in the world. So, in essence, the game feels like a point-and-click adventure broken up by purposefully hard combat.

At first, I thought the juxtaposition of the two elements would be jarring, but it actually worked really well. I think this is because once you kill your enemies, they stay dead until the next time you die. This means that once you clear an area, you can work at the puzzles to your heart’s content.

The Ticking of the Clock

The standout feature of Chronos was the way it handled health, progression, and death in terms of gameplay.

When you get hurt in Chronos, there are two ways to heal yourself for the majority of the game.

The first is to use a dragon heart — a reusable healing item. Each heart will heal you to your maximum health, but becomes inert until after you die.

The only other way to heal is to level up, which will also restore you to full health.

So, if you run out of dragon hearts and you’re nowhere near leveling up, you’re out of luck. This means that you’re almost guaranteed to die more often than not. 

Basically, the game wants you to see this a LOT!

At first, this might seem strange, since most games give you the opportunity to keep up your health in some fashion. However, once you understand that death plays a role in your character progression, it makes sense.

You see, when you die in Chronos, not only are your dragon hearts replenished, but your character also ages one year. This is tied directly into your stats, of which there are four. 

When you are young, it is easy to upgrade:

  • Your strength ( which governs your damage with heavy weapons and your ability to block)
  • Your agility (which governs your damage with light weapons and your dodge)
  • Your vitality (which governs your damage resistance and overall health).

You only need one point to upgrade each. However, your arcane stat (which governs magic attack and defense) requires three whole points in order to upgrade. 

However, as you age, it becomes harder to put points into strength, agility, and vitality, and arcane becomes much easier.

This means that you have to balance how you are putting the points in so that you don’t become a feeble old person incapable of defending yourself.

Another aspect of aging is your traits. Every decade, starting when you turn 20 and ending when you turn 80, you can choose one of three traits.

These give you much-needed bonuses, especially after facing a string of defeats.

Amateur Hour

The absolute strangest thing about Chronos is the overall feel of the game. From start to finish, it felt almost like the project of some very talented amateurs — and I don’t mean that in a bad way. It was a very tightly-constructed experience. There were just some things that stood out to me in a weird way. These  included, but were not limited to:

  • The camera work being a little shoddy, especially when ascending or descending ladders
  • The menus being stark and weirdly static
  • The button prompts on screen feeling oddly basic
  • The animations, outside of combat, being a little robotic at times.
  • Some items not loading, leaving me swinging around a sword that didn’t exist

I think most of this was due to the fact that it was originally a game developed for the Oculus Rift. I mean, THQ Nordic did some real work to un-VR-ify it, but I think it might have needed a bigger overhaul in order to scrub that directly-ported feel.

It’s like seeing a 3D movie without the glasses

Return to Ashes 

Overall, Chronos: From the Ashes was a solid game. The combat was tough but fair, and the puzzles were inventive and entertaining. It could have been longer, as the three available areas were on the small side, but it was reasonably long without overstaying its welcome.

I absolutely loved the way that they used death as a gameplay mechanic, and how it affected the way that you play the game. But I didn’t like that you couldn’t die (permanently) of old age. 

I’m giving Chronos: Before the Ashes a rooted 7/10. It didn’t wow me, but it was perfectly serviceable in almost every way.

Oh, in case anyone was wondering, my biggest gripe with this game was that I didn’t die enough to see what all the traits were… and I wasn’t willing to kill my character over and over just to see what they were. 

I’m not a monster. 

Video Game Reviews

One Piece: World Seeker – More Like Half Piece

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One Piece: World Seeker is an open world, action RPG that was developed by Ganbarion and published by Bandai Namco Entertainment.

I bought this game for one very simple reason: I love One Piece. I love the characters. I love the world. And I love the story. 

WE ARE!!!

I was going to give a little description about what One Piece actually is, but It’s sort of irrelevant. If you don’t know what One Piece is, you probably won’t buy this game. If you have a passing knowledge of One Piece… I can’t really recommend this game to you. If you love One Piece… Well, I’m about to let you know if this game is really worth it.

One Piece Film: Prison Island

One Piece: World Seeker is basically one of the One Piece films, only it’s a game. This means that it is definitely not canon. Aside from the fact that it clearly takes place after the “Whole Cake Island” arc, there is no logical place it could fit into the actual story of the show. This is much like the Film Z and Film Gold that take place post-timeskip. So, you can essentially enjoy some One Piece goodness without having to think about it too hard. 

World Seeker takes place on Prison Island (formerly Jewel Island), which has been taken over by the World Government and is controlled by the Marines. Rumors of a legendary treasure being held on the island have circulated throughout the world, and the Straw Hat Pirates are hell-bent on getting it for themselves. 

Unfortunately, so is every other pirate crew on the Grand Line. 

The main focus of the story is actually on the struggle of the Islanders themselves, who live under the thumb of the Marines and in fear of the ever-increasing number of pirates. 

Jeanne, the young woman who leads the island’s Anti-Navy faction, and her brother Issac, the warden of Prison Island, are the only two characters worth caring about. Every other original character is forgettable and basically not worth your time. So much so that, other than the actual One Piece Characters, I couldn’t tell you the name of any of the other characters in the game.

Except maybe Fred… He came up a couple of times.

Good for you, Fred

Anyway, Jeanne wants the Pro-Navy and Anti-Navy factions to work together, but tensions are reaching a boiling point. This is when she meets Monkey D. Luffy and the game starts.

A Pirate’s Life

Playing as Luffy is definitely the highlight of this game. I want to say that it was pure joy, but that would be an embellishment. It was, however, incredibly fun. Using the power of Luffy’s Gomu-Gomu No Mi was immensely satisfying for the majority of the game. Sure, the combat was a little clunky… and sometimes irritatingly repetitive, and the means of locomotion was hackneyed at best, but… 

LUFFY!!!

Unfortunately, that’s really the summary of the gameplay. Without the One Piece name and characters, this would have been an abysmal game. 

It’s the kind of gameplay that would have been celebrated at the end of the PS2 era, and maybe the beginning of the PS3, but seeing it today is really kind of laughable. It reminds me of playing the original Infamous game, but with clunkier mechanics. 

I will say that the animations for the special attacks and the general feeling of the combat was spot on. Using Luffy’s Elephant Gatling was amazing every time. However, once you were out of combat the gameplay was… lacking in every aspect of the word. 

A Deserted Island 

Prison Island seems interesting as long as you don’t look at anything too closely. The environments are bright and shiny, but ultimately, they lack the polish of games of the current generation. This manifests itself in some glaringly obvious ways. 

  • The islanders rarely move from their designated positions, and hardly speak unless spoken to
  • There are only about twelve character models used throughout the island, and they are only differentiated by slight wardrobe changes
  • Items you find are just blue shiny things that dot the landscape, instead of looking like part of the terrain 
  • The few towns on the island are woefully underpopulated with only a few people to the dozens and dozens of houses
  • Everything feels a little sterile, or barren, as the majority of the island is mostly trees with very little undergrowth
  • While everything generally matches the aesthetic set up by the show, it looks and feels off when seen in 3D

Any single one of these would have been hard to swallow, but having them all together makes for an experience that is devoid of the wonder that today’s open world games generally instill in me. 

A Cavalcade of Cameos

The whole game seems like it was basically a vehicle for One Piece cameos. While it was entertaining near the beginning of the game, once you run into basically every single character from the show, it starts to feel a little contrived. I mean running into literally every known Admiral on a single island is not only insane, but should have resulted in some of the greatest fights in One Piece history.

What makes these Cameos so frustrating is that they are very, very, very, VERY clearly cameos. Most of them show up, attack you, and then… they just leave… for almost no reason. These are some of the most powerful people in the entirety of the show, and they just give up because they got a phone call. What’s worse is they always leave with a “I’ll leave you alone for now, but next time… just you wait”. 

After the third time I was like…

No Stakes

The hardest part about playing World Seeker, to me, was the lack of stakes. 

To Luffy, it was the lack of steaks

I was often told what the stakes were, but I never actually got to see them. 

Jeanne would explain to Luffy that the Island was in turmoil, but when I went to each town, everyone was still just kind of hanging out, telling me the things they always told me. In fact, most of them were still smiling ear to ear in true One Piece fashion. I have to say that it really put a damper on the main story beats. 

Toward the end of the game, when the excitement was supposed to be ramping up, it really just felt like more of the same. I never once felt like things were getting dire. I really, really, wanted to feel like the whole island was about to be destroyed, but I never got that feeling. 

Of course, the show spoiled me for this particular aspect. I mean, the entire Island of Dressrosa, in the show’s canon, was completely destroyed except for a few city blocks near the palace. So, having someone explain to me that things are getting bad without actually seeing it isn’t exactly thrilling.

Not Really that WANTED

Overall, One Piece: World Seeker was completely underwhelming. I really wanted to like it because it’s One Piece, but I just couldn’t do it. The majority of the game was terrible side quest after terrible side quest that amounted to little more than “Go to this place and fight some guys.” 

I will say that the last twenty minutes of the game were spectacular. The climactic final fight and the ending sequence felt like what the rest of the game should have been. If that much effort had been put into the rest of the game, it would probably have been worth the time that I put into it. 

As it stands, One Piece: World Seeker is a mediocre game that is entirely propped up by the franchise it’s based on. 

I’m giving it an unapologetic 4.5/10, and it only gets the extra point five for giving me the opportunity to send a Hawk Rifle into Akainu’s face. 

Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to go and watch some actual One Piece where the stakes matter and every character is lovingly crafted. 

Recommendations

5 Kids Shows That Need a Mature Reboot

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There are a lot of shows that we all loved as kids. Most of those shows do not stand up to the ravages of time, nor the march of progress, and get left by the wayside. Sure, you probably look back on them fondly, but that’s about it. 

But what if we could look forward to them again?

I know that reboots, preboots, prequels, and sequels can be touchy subjects. On the one hand, we really like to see more of our favorite characters and settings. On the other hand, we crave original content. I don’t know if there is a balance that can be struck between these, but what I do know is that sometimes (read: most times) nostalgia wins out.

The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, while not a perfect show—it definitely went downhill in its later seasons—was proof that those old intellectual properties could be infused with new life. It took something I’d known for most of my life and it made me look at the story and characters from a different perspective. 

A REALLY different perspective

Granted, I don’t think every show needs this kind of treatment, but here are five blasts from the past that, I think, deserve a second chance.

1.) Scooby-Doo

This show has been around since 1969… 1969!! There are so many different versions of it that I can’t even deign to list them all, lest I get heckled for forgetting one. It also means that it’s still around, so the big question becomes, why reboot a show that’s constantly being rebooted anyway?

My answer to myself is that it’s always being rebooted for children. Sure, Be Cool Scooby-Doo had humor for adults to enjoy, and Mystery Incorporated managed to have a truly grand overarching story, but for the most part, they were still created for children… 

…and me. 

What we need is a mature version of Scooby-Doo. I want to see the gang solving a murder that occurred in their hometown. I want to see them solving smaller mysteries every episode as they try to learn who killed old man Jenkins. And I really want to see them running from a guy in an old diving suit through the corridors of an abandoned aquatic research lab. Not sure why, but that last one is non-negotiable. 

Basically, I want to see Scooby-Doo done by the guys who made Veronica Mars

Come on, you know it would be great. 

2.)The Secret World of Alex Mack

I’m not sure if this one is too obscure, or too old… or both for that matter. 

Either way, the original Nickelodeon show was pretty good. It was about this girl (Alex Mack) who was involved in a chemical spill on her first day of junior high. Shortly after the accident, she realizes that she has some amazing new abilities. 

Like the ability to move things with her mind. Or turn into a puddle of liquid. 

While the original show focused mainly on Alex’s school life, it did have a large subplot involving her trying to avoid the company that owned the tanker of experimental chemicals that gave her powers. 

Now, imagine moving Alex up to high school, or even college. You could still have the interpersonal drama (my least favorite part of any show) and whatnot, however, you could really play up a cat and mouse narrative. Like, they are looking for her so that they can perform experiments, and she’s investigating them at the same time. 

It would basically be a superhero show, but without all the tropes getting in the way… 

Or at least I would hope that they wouldn’t let the tropes get in the way. 

3.) So Weird

So Weird was a monster-of-the-week show that aired on the Disney Channel in the late ’90s. 

It was about a young girl named Fiona Philips who traveled from town to town with her mother’s band. While they were crisscrossing the country, she would encounter various strange and bizarre phenomena, including, but not limited to:

  • Ghosts
  • Tulpas
  • Changelings
  • Time Warps
  • And Trolls

Basically, it was Supernatural, but for 90’s kids. The main story even had Fiona looking for clues about her father, who died while investigating strange occurrences. 

I propose that, for a mature reboot, the show focus on an older version of Fiona who lived with her father until his recent death. He was always into the occult, and though she loved him, she always thought that he was a little crazy. Now, she is forced to travel the country with her mother’s band, but she begins to see strange things that may prove that her father wasn’t crazy after all.

You could basically take all the best parts of Supernatural, sprinkle in some X-Files, and then serve with a side of angsty teen.

4.) Space Cases

 This was basically the show that started my interest in sci-fi. 

It’s about a group of kids who attend a school in space. One day, while everyone else is attending a lecture or something, a group of problem students—and two teachers—accidentally make their way on board a mysterious alien ship that warps them to the other side of the galaxy. 

If that was not problematic enough, the ship registered the kids as the main crew, leaving the adults in a bit of a sticky situation. 

What I loved about this show was that it was silly and bizarre, but also had some weirdly grounded aspects. There was an entire subplot in the first season about how the human character’s dad fought and died in a war against the andromedans. This makes the human kid prejudicial against one of the other kids, who is an andromedan. While it was played pretty seriously in the show, it was still undercut by the low production value and spotty acting. 

Basically,  I want this show to be Farscape, but with better graphics and a slightly younger cast. I mean, it was basically the precursor to Farscape anyway, since it came out three years before Farscape even started.

Okay, I say that, but Farscape was nearly perfect (to me, anyway). What I really want to see from a Space Cases reboot is a show with more focus on the relationship between the crew members while they try not to die in a distant corner of space… 

So I guess it would be more like Stargate Universe, just with a younger cast… of aliens.

Yeah, that sounds about right.

5.) Wizards of Waverly Place

This Disney Channel original was always a bit all over the place. It eventually settled into something resembling a coherent show, but for the most part, it was just slapstick magic fun. 

However, If you delve into the story and lore of the show, you start to see the potential in creating a more mature version of this children’s show. 

The main story focuses on the Russo family. The mother is a normal person, but the father was born to a wizard family. Now, he is not a wizard, and that’s because only one child per wizard family gets to keep their magical powers. So of his three children, only one will get to keep their magical abilities. 

Now, this is where the true potential of a reboot comes in. 

You see, it’s not a genetics thing that lets a kid keep their magic as an adult. Nope, they basically have to compete against their siblings for the right to keep their magic. The other two are left to live normal lives and know that they will never again be able to perform even the simplest of spells. 

Can you imagine a gritty retelling of this story? It would be amazing. It would be like a less lethal Hunger Games, pitting a bunch of wizard children against each other while their parents basically help train them to ruin each other’s lives… to a certain extent. 

If you add all the vampires, werewolves, and such on top of that, you have the potential for a pretty riveting show.  

So, Netflix idea curators, if you’re reading this—and I know you are—you need to get on this shit. Chop chop.