Ready Player One Review – 7.3/10

Let me start off this review by clarifying that I never read the book Ready Player One and I have no contextual understanding of how the movie compares to the book. So I’m going to write this review as if the book doesn’t exist or is not relevant to the discussion.

I went into Ready Player One very reluctantly. As I said, I haven’t read the book so I didn’t know what to expect. There was also a ton of hype, which for me is usually a turn off for IPs that I’m not already familiar with. I then read a review of the film from either Kotaku or IGN. I can’t remember but whichever site it was painted the film in a bad light. Or at least that’s how I read it. So I wasn’t very interested or that excited but I agreed to go see it at the behest of a friend. Before we get into the meat and potatoes, let me state very clearly that it was an enjoyable film that I’m glad I watched, but that’s only because of who I am or more specifically the things I’m interested in.

lead_960_540If I was to describe Ready Player One in a soft pitch, I would say it’s the 80’s pastiche of films like Back to the Future and the cultural outlook that spawned them, the modern cynicism of the current gaming community induced by greedy corporate interests in the gaming industry, and our hopes and dreams for futuristic technology a la Tron, or more appropriately Tron: Legacy, all mixed together into one dystopian landscape. Yes that’s a lot to unpack, so let’s get to it.

Ready Player One is a simple film. Plot wise it’s just any other good vs evil kid’s story with a dash of Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. The basic idea is that there’s a kid who comes from humble/poor beginnings and he wants to not be poor anymore. And by kid I mean young person who doesn’t have a real job or any actual responsibilities. The age of the main character, Wade Watts (Parzival) is actually 18, or soon to be, and since he doesn’t seem to be in school, legally speaking that makes him an adult. There’s a contest that can only have one winner, who will be made rich and put in charge of everything the kid cares about. There’s an evil entity (corporation in this case) trying to win the contest and take the prize for themselves. The kid teams up with other kids and they stop the evil corporation and win the contest. It’s Stranger Things. It’s It. It’s Star Wars. You’ve seen it all before. The plot isn’t really why you’re here. Yes this is a Spielberg film, but no it’s not a SPIELBERG film. Outside of effects and costume design, this movie will not be winning any Oscars. And that’s fine. But to be clear, this is no high minded plot about the future of technology. It’s just a kid’s fantasy story set to the backdrop of VR gaming in a world that actually looks like it’s on the horizon with the way things are going politically in the United States currently.

 

READY PLAYER ONE

The film was clearly written by a team of nerds who play video games today, but also played them yesterday. This is apparent because the film makes tons of references to games and pop culture going all the way back to the Atari 2600 and all the way to today with references like Overwatch. What I liked a lot about the movie was that it discusses and criticizes the direction the gaming industry has taken/is taking today. There are covert digs at companies like EA, Activision, and Microsoft for their predatory pricing and distribution practices. The movie mentions and complains about practices like in game ads, microtransactions, predatory pricing practices that turn people into gaming addicts and plunge them into debt, pay to play subscription schemes with cost based player rankings, paywalls, and other such modern industry bullshit. In many ways the movie is about an old schooler who created a video game that he thought was perfect, complaining about all the modern practices that turned his video game and gaming culture as a whole into the trashy money pit that it is today. This is very apparent in the fact that the villains aren’t actually evil in the traditional sense. They’re just a corporation trying to maximize profits at the expense of the public’s wellbeing and enjoyment. And while yes they are doing things that are extremely unethical, in most cases, just about everything they do is entirely legal by the standards of the world of the universe they’re located in. And sadly legal by our real life standards as well, for the most part. It’s not until way late into the movie when the stakes get super high that the “bad” CEO finally approves something blatantly evil and illegal. But even that was very believable by today’s standards.

As previously stated, there are tons of references to gaming culture of all types, but there are also tons of references to 80’s culture. This for me was kind of problematic. Now as a person who was born in 89, I enjoyed and appreciated literally every reference. I can say confidently that I probably got at least 90% of all references in the movie. And not just the gaming ones. There’s all kinds of stuff mentioned or shown in this film. Batman, Mortal Kombat, The Shining, Back to the Future, King Kong, Gundam, Godzilla, and the list goes on and on and on. But here’s the weird part. The gaming references span basically all of gaming history from the Atari 2600 all the way to today. You see tons of gaming stuff and you will know at least some of it. They even mention Twitch. But all the pop culture references outside of gaming seem to only span from about 1979 – 1999, with the latest overt reference being The Iron Giant (1999).

scoreboard

Understand that this is a world set in 2045 where there’s a fully functioning VR world where you can literally create anything you want and be anything you want. As you can imagine, most people would not be original. They would just be copying things they know from their favorite IPs. The movie actually goes out of its way to pretend that this wouldn’t be the case. There are lots of avatars that are pulled right out of other stuff like people walking around looking like Arkham Harley Quinn, Tracer, Master Chief, and even the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, admittedly the newer versions. But for the most part people are pretty original. The bulk of the Avatars you see aren’t from other stuff. We all know that’s not how things would actually be because most people lack originality. I assume part of this was licensing issues and part of it was just that it would be boring if everything was something you’d already seen even if that’s how it would actually end up being. But my point is the scope of history referenced outside of gaming is extremely limited. It’s 2018. The main character was born in 2027. The movie starts in 2045. Why doesn’t the film reference anything past 1999? It’s odd. It’s made even more odd by the fact that the kid was born in 2027 because he knows way too much about the 80’s while also being an active member of his current society at only 18 years old.

Now the movie tries to justify this by saying that in his research to win the contest he had to study the 80’s intimately because the creator of the contest loved 80’s stuff. But the creator of the contest lived into the 2020’s or later. So the idea that he didn’t like or care about anything after 1999 is odd. It’s as if pop culture history stopped existing outside of video games for 30 straight years. Since we’re in 2018 now, we know this not to be true. Where are the Marvel references? Where are the 30 years of film history references? Where are all the anime references past the original Mobile Suit Gundam (1979)? Where’s Harry Potter? It’s weird that these kids seem to only like 80’s stuff as if literally nothing past the year 2000 outside of video games was interesting to a group of kids born after the year 2020. Even most kids today don’t know what an Atari 2600 is. Yet this kid somehow had time to learn intimate knowledge of all 470 (including homebrews) Atari 2600 games while keeping up with his own contemporary pop culture, but literally nothing else? That seems unrealistic.

The Race

Now of course part of this comes from the fact that the book was written in 2011 by an author who was born in 1972. But we’re talking about a movie released in 2018. I would expect producers to have taken the time to fill in some history for the purposes of film making and reaching a larger audience. You know, to make money. For me, this closed bubble of history was fun because again, I was born in 89 and I like 80’s stuff. So I got and appreciated all the references. But a kid born in say 2002, who today would be about 16, won’t get most of it. Sadly they might not even recognize the car, which is the DeLorean. But that’s not their fault. They were born 12 years after the last time the DeLorean mattered (Back to the Future III) and 19 years after the original DeLorean went out of production. Of course they wouldn’t know what a DeLorean is. My point, which I’ve gone on for too long to make, is that the writing in this movie overall is just ok, that is to say at the caliber of 80’s mainstream film making. Things are done lazily when it comes to plot. There are inconsistencies in how history works. The main character falls in love way too fast, which I was glad the film took the time to address in the dialog. It’s just not a movie you should go see for plot. Unless of course you enjoy campy 80’s style plots. Then by all means.

Visually speaking, Ready Player One was phenomenal. That is the only word that can be used to describe The Oasis, the VR world that the bulk of the film takes place in. The idea is that the real world is so shitty that everyone, and I mean everyone, spends the bulk of their time in The Oasis. Again, very realistic based on the current trajectory of the United States. The whole of the movie takes place in a dystopian Columbus, Ohio. Even by today’s standards most people wouldn’t want to watch a move that takes place in Columbus, Ohio. People from Columbus, Ohio don’t even want to watch a movie that takes place in Columbus, Ohio. So it made all the sense in the world to set the movie there because then you wouldn’t think to yourself “Why don’t they spend more time showing me the real world?” Not once do you think that while watching this movie. In fact, the 20 or so real world minutes of this 2 hour and 19 minute film was probably too much time spent in real world Columbus, Ohio. But The Oasis was the most amazing thing ever, visually speaking.

RP1-ColumbusI almost went to see this movie in IMAX and I’m glad I didn’t because I think my head would have exploded. The race scene, which was probably my favorite scene in the whole movie, was insane. It was the way racing games will hopefully work one day. I would say the same thing for the FPS world scene. I hate online PVP games. I would absolutely play them if they looked and played like they do in this movie. When you watch this movie as a gamer, it almost brings tears to your eyes because you realize what we don’t have yet and that you might not live long enough to see it happen but know full well that one day it will. I was so overcome with disappointment when I got home from the theater and turned on my PS4. Because it just doesn’t compare. Our VR today is crap. I’ve said that so many times before I ever even heard about Ready Player One. And they actually do make an HTC VIVE reference in the movie, which I thought was cute. But once you watch the movie you start to really think about just how crappy current VR is . . . and make no mistake, it is crappy. It is a gorgeous movie. There’s tons of stuff happening on screen at the same time and it’s hard to keep track of it all, but it’s beautiful. And the war scene towards the end will break a gamer’s heart. Not because it looks cool, even though it does. But because as a gamer, you know that the community today is too greedy, toxic, and narcissistic to actually pull off something like what happens in that scene. The movie basically shows you the fantasy of every true gamer, but you know it would never happen that way in real life. I’m speaking vaguely here because I don’t want to spoil it.

The sound was also really good. I actually could see this movie winning an Oscar for sound editing. My girlfriend said the movie was too loud for her because of all the explosions and crazy stuff happening on screen at the same time. I thought it was awesome.

 

War

Overall I really enjoyed the movie. I didn’t think I would going in, but it was just a really fun time. My girlfriend said she didn’t get more than a third of the references but she really enjoyed it too. It’s not a movie to go watch for expert film making and award winning acting. It’s just a playful homage to gaming culture and history written for actual gamers who grew up playing proper games and are now having to deal with the fact that things have gotten rather disappointing and expensive in exchange for considerably better graphics, but actually not that great by comparison to future VR prospects. If you’re a gamer and you started before the XBOX, you’ll love the movie. If you’re not a gamer and you didn’t grow up in the 80’s or 90’s, you probably won’t like it or even totally understand why anything happening is important.

Blog Logo
As always, thanks for reading. Please take the time to follow my blog, leave a comment, and check out some of my other channels if you enjoyed what you read.
Advertisements

Sea of Thieving Devs

Last week I wrote a blog post about people incorrectly defending games and I lightly touched on gaming apologists, a group/practice I can’t stand. Now in that post I stated that we were almost assuredly going to see apologists defending Sea of Thieves. To hopefully no one’s surprise, considering both my track record with gaming predictions and the beta reviews, this is of course what is now happening. Sea of Thieves was released last week for the XBOX ONE and Windows PC. I was very interested in it, but reluctant based on what I saw and read of the betas. Now that the game and initial reviews are out, I can say with certainty that I will not be purchasing this game. If I’m honest, I knew this was going to be the case. When I first heard about it and watched the alpha footage I could quickly see that this was going to be another pointless, endless shared world experience devoid of any actual substance. Sadly, it’s not even as fulfilling as Destiny as far as content is concerned and that’s saying a lot, or more to the point, a little.

Sea of Thieves Metascore

I haven’t personally played the game, but I have read and watched quite a bit about it. From my understanding it’s a fairly decent sized world of sand and water with little actual content. There are only three types of let’s call them tasks because the word quest seems a bit too charitable for what they really are. These tasks, which can be done countless times, net you loot. You can also get loot by stealing it from other players while they try to complete these same three tasks. Basically this game is a glorified chat room where you can sail ships around some water, occasionally team up with other groups to fight a giant squid, and fight other people for pretty much useless treasure. All that is to say, this is a pointless game that charges you $60 to make a pirate themed avatar and joke around with your friends. A Reddit user by the name of calibrono summarized it best. His entire post is a bit long and I do encourage you to take the time to read it, but allow me to quote a passage from it.

“Sea of Thieves is an experiment. “How little content can we stuff in a $60 title and hey away with it” kind of experiment. The same kind of experiment EA did try with SWBF2, except not with microtransactions, but with content.”

Paper Mario Color Splash Screenshot 2017-10-08 16-58-04

This is very sad. Once again a developer/publisher has decided that instead of making a proper game they can take advantage of the bored masses and offer them nothing in exchange for a AAA price tag. I’ve actually seen a number of people compare Sea of Thieves to No Man’s Sky, which seems very appropriate. One Twitter account I follow referred to it as “No Man’s Sea”, which is just brilliant.

Microsoft trying to take money out of our pockets for little actual work is nothing new. They’ve been nickel and diming us for Windows, an OS they didn’t originally create to begin with, for more than 30 years. But gamers falling for it, yet again, is the much bigger issue. This game has literally no content. It doesn’t even have a giant map to explore with endless islands of differing environments to discover and explore. There’s literally only one type of land based enemy, skeletons, and they can’t even hurt you if you’re standing on a rock. Yet people happily paid $60 for it and are defending it like it’s a legitimate game. I even read an article today, which you shouldn’t take the time to read, where someone tried to compare it to The Last of Us, which just sounds ridiculous and it is. If anything, this is worse than Star Wars Battlefront II because at least that was/is a playable game with a single player campaign and match based PVP with clear objectives. This is little more than a glorified server test for the pre-alpha stage of an actual pirate game. Why are people putting up with it and even going out of their way to argue it’s a good game? This is exactly why things only seem to be getting worse in the gaming industry. People need to stop actively helping publishers take advantage of them.

Pirates Black Kat

I’m angry because I actually really like the pirate theme. One of my favorite PS2 games was Pirates: The Legend of Black Kat (2002), which Ubisoft clearly was inspired by in the making of Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag, which I loved. Nothing would make me happier than to see another great pirate game with solid gameplay and a well written plot. And RARE is/was a studio that I would have trusted to do that. They could have done that. They should have done that. But of course they didn’t do that. So here we are with yet another shitty cash grab game that will make a butt load of money in initial sales compared to what it cost to make, then they’ll add paid DLC and make more money, telling publishers that this is a viable model for game development, ultimately leading to the further detriment of the industry and lowering the general quality of future games. What do we learn? Apparently not a damn thing.

Now I’m sure more content will eventually be added to this game. I hope it’s added for free from an ethical standpoint, but at the same time I’m always in support of people learning their lesson the hard way. But adding content after the fact because people are unhappy doesn’t excuse the fact that in their ideal scenario Microsoft wanted people to happily pay them for nothing and get away with it. So in my book new content as a reaction to user complaints is a step in the right direction but too little too late.

Blog Logo
As always, thanks for reading. Please take the time to follow my blog, leave a comment, and check out some of my other channels if you enjoyed what you read.

Star Fox 2: The Soft Review

In 1993, one of the greatest and most influential flying based rail shooters ever made was released. This was of course Star Fox for the SNES. I’ve always had a love hate relationship with the game. As a kid, I poured many hours into it, but never was able to beat it. In fact, I’m fairly confident I never passed the third level as a child. I struggled consistently with level two, the asteroid field. It was too fast paced and difficult for me to play it confidently as a boy. But I kept playing the game anyway. And I kept losing. But I never stopped liking the game. Some years later the N64 was released and in 1997 my favorite of the Star Fox games, still to this day, was released. Star Fox 64, like every other core Star Fox game, is just a fancier recreation of the original SNES game. It doesn’t matter which version of the core game you’re playing on whatever platform. You’re always playing the same general game. The graphics, controls, and available vehicles change and improve over time, but it’s always the same story, levels, and characters in the same basic order and the same awesome looking map. For a different Star Fox experience you have to go to one of the few alternative titles like Star Fox Adventures (2002) or Star Fox Assault (2005), both for the GameCube. Both excellent games, in my opinion, because they are so different from the core games. They are also made by different teams than the core games.

The Legend of Zelda - Breath of the Wild Screenshot 2018-03-14 19-43-53

While most people have probably played at least one core Star Fox game, very few have had the pleasure of playing Star Fox 2 (2017). This game has an odd and colorful story. It was originally developed for the SNES to be released in 1996 but was cancelled with the impending release of the N64. It wasn’t until 2017 with the release of the SNES Classic console, and much pleading/begging from fans, that the public was finally given access to this game. This is the main reason I bought that console. As a diehard Star Fox fan, I absolutely had to play this game. I was fortunate enough to find a store that had imported the American version of the console to Taiwan, because I can’t read Japanese . . . After first finally beating the original Star Fox on the SNES Classic, I immediately played Star Fox 2.

StarFox 2

I want to talk about this game, and honestly I meant to weeks ago, but haven’t had the time to do a proper write up before now. But I don’t want to do a formal review. Let me be perfectly clear. If you are given the opportunity, and don’t already run emulators, you should buy the SNES Classic. This is one of the best gaming purchases I’ve made in a long time. If you grew up in the SNES era, this is a must buy console whether you’re a Star Fox fan or not. This console has given me the ability to go back and play some of the best games from my childhood and I’m actually beating them finally. Of the 22 games provided on the console, I had actually only completed one of them (Donkey Kong Country) on the original SNES. To be fair, I only owned four of the games provided on the SNES Classic, but this console has just about all the must play titles. And I am so happy that I’m finally getting to beat them. So again, even if you don’t give two shits about Star Fox 2 you should still buy an SNES Classic if you have the chance. But I want to take the time to discuss Star Fox 2 specifically in greater detail.

I wasn’t exactly sure what to expect from Star Fox 2 going in. It could have been just another rails shooter or a completely different genre altogether. I didn’t know what the story would be or who the villain was. Assuming it was directly connected to the original Star Fox, Andross was supposedly dead already. So really I had no idea what the game was going to be.

The Legend of Zelda - Breath of the Wild Screenshot 2018-03-14 19-41-08

Star Fox 2 is a completely different animal from Star Fox, but it, like all the core sequels assumes no prior games have taken place. You go up against Andross like in all the other core games, and have a very similar all range mode fight against his head. But that’s pretty much the only similarity other than recurring characters and the Lylat System setting. For starters, the game is not on rails. Every level is in all range mode. The levels are different. You do not follow a strict pre-mapped path and the levels on the new map aren’t the same as those from the original game. The map is open, meaning you can travel around it freely and complete levels in whatever order you want, with a few caveats. Also very notable, you don’t have to play as Fox McCloud. There are six playable characters, two of which are never before seen female characters. You choose two of the six at the beginning of the game and can complete the entire game with just those two. There are also three difficulty levels, one of which is locked at the start of the game. This game plays more like a real time strategy shooter than a mission based rail shooter. You are given the ultimate goal of reaching and defeating Andross but to do that you have to accomplish certain key tasks on the map as well as prevent enemy forces from destroying Corneria. The game keeps you active even in the map portion of the game. You have to take into account shield levels, enemy locations, incoming missile strikes, and there’s a timer. It’s like no other game I can remember playing in that era.

The Legend of Zelda - Breath of the Wild Screenshot 2018-03-14 19-42-15

Visually speaking, it’s on the same level as Star Fox. But because of the smaller all range mode levels, there’s a lot less detail in specific stages. Much of the game is played in first person view for your space flying missions and the planetary missions have you switch between Arwing and Walker modes in real time. It does have a much more advanced HUD though, including a mini-map. Plot wise there’s not as much going on as the first game, but that’s because the game is active the whole way through. You’re kind of writing the plot as you go. There is dialog though. The game controls fairly well for the SNES era. I would say it’s on par with Star Fox but also calls for finer movements in a number of indoor missions that require but don’t force you to use the Walker mode. All in all, I think it’s very different but actually a really solid game for the time.

Monster Hunter World Beta Screenshot 2017-12-28 21-57-41

The true shame of Star Fox 2 is that it wasn’t released as planned in 1996. In my honest opinion, it was very revolutionary for the time. For instance, the Walker is a key part of the gameplay. In the core games the Walker was only just made available in the latest version, Star Fox Zero (2016), for the Wii U. I was shocked to discover that they had this vehicle playable all the way back in 1996. Looking back, I think of all the great games that never were because this game didn’t get released to inspire them. Playing it today, there’s really nothing new here, except for maybe two playable female characters in a Nintendo game that’s not Smash Bros or Mario Kart . . . You’ve seen all the stuff this game has to offer by 2017 if you’ve been gaming since the original Star Fox. But you really hadn’t seen it all in 1996. Even Star Fox 64 didn’t have everything Star Fox 2 has to offer. Certainly no vehicle morphing and multiple space based levels in all range mode. I feel like this game would have inspired a ton of games that we never got to play and it could have easily influenced the Star Fox franchise more than it already did. Imagine if there was an entire second branch of Star Fox games based on Star Fox 2 that released in each gen along with the core games. Or they could have eventually merged the two into one bigger, more versatile game. As a big Star Fox fan, I feel kind of like I was cheated out of some great games all because this game was never released in its heyday.

The Legend of Zelda - Breath of the Wild Screenshot 2018-03-14 19-41-22

Ultimately I’m glad that I got the opportunity to play Star Fox 2. I’m glad they released it and I’m glad I got to experience it. I hope they do make another game inspired directly by this one. In reality it’s not very long and can be completed in less than 40 minutes so technically they could just add a mode to the next core Star Fox game. If you get the opportunity, I definitely recommend you give it a shot.

If you’re curious about seeing the game in part or its entirety, I published the entire Normal Mode playthrough on my YouTube channel.

Blog Logo
As always, thanks for reading. Please take the time to follow my blog, leave a comment, and check out some of my other channels if you enjoyed what you read.

Final Fantasy VII Finally

I finally played and beat Final Fantasy VII. That’s right. Before this year I had never played Final Fantasy VII before. I had played other Final Fantasy games and plenty of other titles from Square Enix, but I’d never actually played the renowned FFVII. I actually had the chance to play the original version on PS1 when I was a kid but I passed. I remember when a used version of the game was given to me and I immediately handed it off to my cousin. I was not going to play a three disc game. That task just seemed too daunting to me. To this day I’ve only ever completed one three disc game other than now FFVII. That was FFXIII. I started but never finished Blue Dragon and Star Ocean: The Last Hope. But the three discs were just too daunting. I spent years being ridiculed for having not played Final Fantasy VII. People constantly stating it’s the best one (until you play it and then have everyone tell you actually it’s FFIX, which I also haven’t played) and how it’s a must play. I got to a point where I legitimately regretted having not played it as a kid because I was tired of not being included in this fan club. But I decided I would wait because I wanted a remake.

Final Fantasy VII Screenshot 2018-01-27 23-37-21

Remakes are the in thing and have been for the last several years. It’s easy money. Less than half the work of normal/original development and guaranteed sales from both the nostalgia crowd and the younger generation of gamers who weren’t around when a game was originally released, assuming the game already carries prestige. We’ve seen this happen recently with games like Shadows of the Colossus (for the second time). It’s a cash cow scenario. That’s what I was waiting for with FFVII. I got to a point where I really wanted to play it but I also really didn’t want to deal with those old graphics and text based dialog. It’s actually the most demanded remake in gaming history and has been for many years so I was sure a remake would happen, and it is. They finally announced a full HD remake of FFVII back in 2015. It’s still not out but the rumor mill currently predicts a 2019 release. So I was happy . . . for a time.

I was glad that a true FFVII HD remake had been announced. Not just a port of the original game to the PS4 with a bit of upscaling, but an actual legit remake. This made me happy because after so many years of waiting and ridicule I was finally going to play the game in glorious HD with voice acting. Then, in true Square Enix fashion, they started talking about the game and dashed all my hopes.

Final Fantasy VII Screenshot 2018-01-31 01-40-00

What I wanted was a purist HD remake of FFVII. That means the same exact game with the same exact story and gameplay down to the letter. All I wanted was for them to recreate the exact same game in glorious HD. That’s literally all they had to do. But since when do developers do what we actually want them to do in 2018? Square Enix started giving details about this FFVII remake and it all sounded terrible. They said the gameplay was being radically changed, the game was being broken up into multiple episodes (presumably at premium pricing), and the POV and storytelling was going to change between episodes. This is not FFVII, and I can say that confidently having now actually played the game. This is some other game with an FFVII coat of paint. That’s not what I wanted at all. I wanted the authentic FFVII gameplay experience so I could finally say that I played the game and truly understood what everyone else was going on about. So after hearing all this depressing news I ended up just buying the upscaled PS4 port, because then I would at least get the authentic experience. Then I actually played the game . . .

Final Fantasy VII Screenshot 2018-02-22 02-08-00 1

 

Having now beaten the game, I have to say that I understand, at least in part, where Squre Enix is coming from with the FFVII HD remake changes. Let me be very clear in stating two main things. First, FFVII is one of the best written Final Fantasy games I’ve ever played. It may even be the best one. Certainly the most mature. Second, FFVII has outdated, irritating gameplay that doesn’t even compare to FFX, which is also a turn based RPG. I had so many complaints while playing FFVII. For starters, the game has no direction. There’s a huge open world and not nearly enough clues about where you’re actually supposed to go. I got lost so many times that I eventually had to turn to online walkthroughs just to progress forward in the game. I don’t have time to walk an entire map hoping to find some totally inconspicuous house with a specific character who offhandedly sort of mentions where you need to go. It’s 2018. I’m 28 years old and have a backlog that can literally reach up to my knees when stacked. I’m more than six feet tall by the way. I don’t have time for a super inefficient materia system that requires hours upon hours of mindless grinding just to have a sporting chance against a boss that holds the item you need that would actually make said boss more manageable. I don’t have time for annoying mechanics like having to play carnival games in order to win points so you can use a save point. It’s 2018. I honestly don’t think a game that plays like FFVII could make it in today’s market without the prestige of FFVII. So having now played it, I’m glad Square Enix has decided to modernize the gameplay. I still hope for some level of original authenticity but the whole process definitely needs to be sped up for a modern audience.

Final Fantasy VII Screenshot 2018-02-19 23-51-34

Writing wise, FFVII is an excellent game. But let’s not pretend the whole thing isn’t full of holes and cliffhangers. I had so many questions during and at the end of that game. A lot of stuff just happens and never really gets an explanation. I don’t like the idea of paying for multiple episodes but I can now absolutely get behind the idea of a more thorough and detailed narrative that actually fills in the holes. Being able to play as multiple characters in a leading role will hopefully give some clarity to a number of events that took place in the original game that are never really explained.

Final Fantasy VII Screenshot 2018-02-22 02-45-02

For once I’m on the side of change in remakes, but I had to play the original game to discover that. I don’t know how these changes will affect a modern audience because without the context of knowing what they’re not suffering through with the original game they won’t truly be able to appreciate a better version of the game, assuming the remake actually delivers. I can’t say that I’ll be buying the remake because I don’t tend to purchase them. But if it is drastically different then I might have to give it a shot. For now, I’m just happy to finally be able to say that I beat Final Fantasy VII and now I understand . . . sort of.

cropped-blog-logo.png
As always, thanks for reading. Please take the time to follow my blog, leave a comment, and check out some of my other channels if you enjoyed what you read.

Nintendo Switch IS for Families

This week is/was Chinese New Year/Lunar New Year depending on what type of Asian you are/know. In America that doesn’t mean much. At most you go to dinner at a Chinese restaurant or possibly cook dinner at home and maybe a few relatives and friends come for the meal. Here in Taiwan that means no work for a week, multiple family gatherings, and buying gifts for people ranging from your girlfriend’s grandmother to your land lord because you just kind of have to do it. So I really didn’t have time to delve into any serious topics for my blog this week and haven’t beaten anything recently to do a Gaming Photography post because I happen to be playing both Final Fantasy VII and Super Ghouls’n Ghosts currently, both of which are nothing but long, drawn out headaches. Granted Super Ghouls’n Ghosts isn’t supposed to take more than 90 minutes but it absolutely is because it’s the most unfair, bullshit game ever made and if the SNES Classic didn’t have save states I would surely never be able to beat it. I’m currently stuck on the boss of the game. So it seemed easier for me to write a short anecdote about a gaming moment that happened to me this week rather than try to do something serious.

At one of the multiple Chinese New Year gatherings I attended this week I was asked to bring my Nintendo Switch. For me this was a special occurrence because I had yet to actually take my Switch anywhere. Since I got it in November, I have used it quite a bit but not once had I played it portable or taken it anywhere else. It’s been a dedicated home console just like my PS4. So I was kind of excited to see how the whole experience would be.

switch contents
All this plus an extra Joy-Con set and Grip and Cartridge Case.

The first thing I’ll say is that this is the easiest home console to transport I’ve ever owned. Packing it up, including the dock, into the official carrying case is a breeze. It’s such a fast, easy, and efficient process. I was able to fit the console, dock, four joy cons, two joycon grips, a cartridge case, and the necessary wires all in the very compact carrying case from Hori. I can definitely see myself taking the full console setup to other places in the future simply because of how easy it is to do.

This gathering consisted of about 15 people, including me. All 15 people enjoyed the Switch. Not all 15 actively held a controller, but everyone present enjoyed seeing it in action and watching the various hands on participants play the games I had. We only played the local multiplayer games I have, which consists of Just Dance 2018, Overcooked, Snipperclips, Super Bomberman R, and ARMS. Mario Kart 8 Deluxe would have been a perfect game to have present but I refuse to rebuy a game I already own on the Wii U.

switch travel bag

Just Dance was the most fun for the people present. Even the older adults gave it a try and got really competitive. My girlfriend’s parents even challenged us to a couple’s dance off, which was absolutely hilarious. People were recording various members of the family playing and there were even bets placed on who would get the best score. Of course I got first place in every round, except for one where my girlfriend managed to sneak by me.

Super Bomberman R was a big hit because it, more than any other game, bridged the age gap between all the people present. Local PVP Bomberman has existed since 1983, meaning that just about everyone present with any gaming experience had played it at some point. Even my girlfriend’s dad was totally into it and actually quite good because the rules of engagement have changed very little in the more than three decades that people have been playing Bomberman PVP.

bomberman

Overcooked and Snipperclips are both hilarious and nightmarishly difficult to play when you can’t communicate well in the same language. I have all the knowledge and experience but can’t speak Chinese which made coordinating three other people to be able to complete team based challenges super irritating and nearly impossible with some levels of Overcooked. It also doesn’t help that my girlfriend finds both games super irritating in general because she hates teamwork based games. Or at least playing them with me . . .

All in all, I was very impressed with how the Switch performed at a family event. It was convenient, inclusive, entertaining, and versatile. I absolutely don’t believe that the same amount of fun could have been had with either a PS4 or an XB1. And it certainly wouldn’t have been as convenient or efficient as far as space and setup time for either of those two consoles. So if you don’t have a Switch and you do want something to use with other people in person, I highly recommend it for people of any age group. It definitely did exactly what I needed it to do in this scenario.

Happy Chinese New Year!

Blog Logo
As always, thanks for reading. Please take the time to follow my blog, leave a comment, and check out some of my other channels if you enjoyed what you read.

Gaming Photography – Super Mario Odyssey

A few weeks ago I finished Super Mario Odyssey. This was actually the first game I beat on my new Nintendo Switch, which I absolutely love, by the way. So I wanted to share my experience playing the game visually with another Gaming Photography post.

I have to say that Super Mario Odyssey is objectively the best Mario platformer ever made. For the longest time I have said that this is Super Mario Galaxy, and I continue to hope for a Super Mario Galaxy 3. But Odyssey truly revolutionized Mario and 3D platforming in almost the same way that Super Mario 64 did back in 1996. It’s almost a perfect game. I got a full 100% completion. That’s all the power moons, all the costumes, all the purple coins, all the souvenirs, and all the possessions. It took me about 50 hours of play, which by today’s standards is great for a platformer. The game is innovative, imaginative, and beautiful. The gameplay works well and the audio, both effects and music, is top notch. I cannot recommend this game enough to Switch users and really platformer fans in general.

I took more than 1000 pictures in this game because there are just so many great moments in it. But the bulk of them were actually taken on my Switch directly rather than with my Elgato like I usually do. This is because the Switch is just so convenient for taking screen captures in games. So now I’d like to present my top 20 photos from Super Mario Odyssey. While this game actually does have a photo mode, I didn’t really use it because I prefer the natural lighting and appearance of the game in most cases. I also post game photos on my Twitter and Instagram often.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

*If you’d like to see the full resolution image please right click and press “view image”.

Please let me know what you think of my shots. Any feedback is appreciated because I would like to improve my gaming photography skills.

Blog Logo
As always, thanks for reading. Please take the time to follow my blog, leave a comment, and check out some of my other channels if you enjoyed what you read.

Tapei Gameshow 2018

Every year, for the last three years, I have attended Taipei Game Show. And every year I take the time to recount/review my experience. This year will be no different. For those of you who aren’t aware, Taipei Game Show (TGS) is an annual video games event held in Taiwan. It’s more like PAX than E3. It’s open to the public, there are no press conference style presentations, and usually they demo unreleased games to the public, but rarely if ever announce new titles. Or at least no new titles that will be important in the Western markets.

27479353_10156225566227975_836165569_o

Certain companies take TGS very seriously and make an appearance every year. This includes big names from multiple industries such as PlayStation, Ubisoft, Bandai Namco, HyperX, Twitch, and many more. There are also a ton of smaller names, mostly developers, and tons of indie projects from the known like Aragami, to the completely obscure. One thing I always find very interesting is the focus on mobile gaming. Mobile games, as in Android and iOS, are huge in Asia. Much bigger than in the West. They even have mobile eSports and take it seriously. As much if not more space is taken up at TGS by mobile gaming than PC gaming. But console is always king simply because PlayStation, Bandai Namco, and Ubisoft always show up in grandiose style. And yet, Square Enix had their own booth where all they showed was a single mobile Kingdom Hearts game that is only available in Asia, just to exemplify how important mobile is in this event and in the Asia market in general.

27484574_10156225566092975_1307900693_o

What I find interesting is that XBOX has no real presence at TGS. Microsoft doesn’t even try to show up. There are plenty of XBOX ONE controllers used at booths for PC gaming, but XBOX makes no real appearance other than in the store where they sell every type of current gen gaming product you could want. This makes sense because XBOX has almost no market share in Asia. It’s not the platform people game on here. But I find it odd that Microsoft doesn’t at least show up for the PC gaming aspect of the event. But in a way I guess it’s not really necessary because no one in Asia legitimately tries to game on Apple and Linux isn’t a huge thing here for gamers like it is in the US. What I find very disappointing though is that year after year Nintendo makes no appearance. This is Asia. It’s an even stronger, more loyal market for Nintendo than the US. The Switch is big here, especially in Taiwan and Japan. Even higher ups in my company own Switches because Nintendo is a favorite in this region and it happens to be an amazing console. I was happy to see that the Switch had a big presence in the Ubisoft booth this year though.

27479184_10156225566202975_2123352829_o

The free swag was good this year, but it’s not the best I’ve seen it. Ubisoft swag was amazing this year. They went above and beyond everyone else at the event. But the other booths were pretty underwhelming for the most part, save for a few exceptions. Even PlayStation was pretty weak on swag this year, offering only a sticky note pad. Of course the memorabilia available for purchase from PlayStation, and other companies, was quite nice.

27534956_10156225337527975_1906443314_o

As far as the games shown, talking only mainstream AAA titles right now, I was underwhelmed. Usually they present demos and/or videos of unreleased stuff that you may have heard of but haven’t yet had enough time to really make a decision about because not enough had been shown to the public at that point. This year it was mostly stuff that you already knew about, and quite possibly played. A lot of it had already been released or at least had an open beta take place. Some examples of this that were on display to try were Assassin’s Creed Origins, Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle, Dragon Ball FighterZ, Dissidia Final Fantasy NT, Monster Hunter World, and Metal Gear Survive. I’ve played every game on that list in my apartment, with the exception of Assassin’s Creed Origins, at least one time. And AC Origins was released months ago. These sorts of titles should not be shown at an event like this, with the exception of maybe Dissidia Final Fantasy NT and Metal Gear Survive because those games aren’t actually on the market yet. But they both had open betas before this event so there was really no reason to display them here. I was also shocked to find that other than in the PlayStation brochure, there was absolutely no trace of God of War at TGS this year. I don’t know how that’s possible. The game is being released in less than three months. This seemed like the perfect opportunity to show a playable demo. In past years at TGS I’ve gotten to try pre-release games that went on to be huge including Horizon Zero Dawn, For Honor, Attack on Titan and The Division. So it seemed very odd to me that God of War wasn’t featured with such a nearby release.

27479977_10156225566107975_826153064_o

That’s not to say that there were no new games that hadn’t been played before, because their certainly were. New games on display with demos included Far Cry 5, The Crew 2, Hokuto ga Gotoku (Fist of the North Star), Attack on Titan 2, Detroit: Become Human, and Dynasty Warriors 9. There was also a large number of new mobile games you have never and probably will never hear about as well as a bunch of PC games and lots of HTC Vive VR titles. There was also a huge section of board and card games. This is the case every year and it’s interesting to see. Happy to report that they still carry Settlers of Catan.

27398914_10156225566262975_2053775668_o

Personally, I was happy to get to try Far Cry 5, Hokuto ga Gotoku (Fist of the North Star), and Attack on Titan 2. I’ve been considering buying these three games, once released, for a long time now and I’m glad that I got to actually try them so I can make final decisions about each game.

27479974_10156225566317975_1558254895_o

This was a good Taipei Game Show, but it was not the best year I’ve ever attended. In a lot of ways it made it seem like the best games currently on the docket are already out, Monster Hunter, Dragon Ball FighterZ, Assassin’s Creed Origins, and so on, rather than that we have some amazing games coming soon, which we absolutely do.  Maybe the timing was just a bit off this year or the very recent releases seemed more important than unreleased titles, but this TGS felt like I paid more for atmosphere than gaming news compared to previous years I’ve attended.

Blog Logo
As always, thanks for reading. Please take the time to follow my blog, leave a comment, and check out some of my other channels if you enjoyed what you read.