Freemium trash: Fire Emblem Heroes

Something like three years ago, I spent a little time delving into the waters of freemium apps in a small series I called “one hour impressions.” The series of experiences that followed filled me so much soul-crushing cynicism that I was able to write off the entire model as something best avoided, and yet my short impressions failed to truly capture just how predatory and disgusting such games can be. Then, a bit of serendipity: a new Fire Emblem game descended from the heavens onto mobile devices, dipping into the freemium model and deciding to show even less restraint when it comes to poor writing and fan service than even the Fates games employed. I’d seen it claimed that the game could be played without in-app purchases, which piqued my curiosity, so I dived into the game with an open mind to get a feel for just how far one can get without paying for anything. Now that I’ve finished (or at least come as close to finishing as one can get when the game itself is unfinished), though, I can’t pass up such a beautiful opportunity to highlight the many things wrong with both modern Fire Emblem and the freemium model. Rest assured that both are in ample supply here. Read more →

Gravity Rush 2 Review

If you’ve played Half Life 2 all the way to the end, you probably have fond memories of using the upgraded gravity gun to pick up enemies and launch them across the room. It was an absurdly fun, criminally short section that highlighted how much fun wielding that kind of godlike power can be in games. Gravity Rush 2 taps into this very same feeling of power, giving you the ability to pick up soldiers and use them as ammo. Need to take out a mech surrounded by soldiers? No problem—use your gravity powers to pick up the soldiers and then launch them at the mech’s weak spots, at which point shrapnel will come off that you can pick up and use as further ammo until it finally explodes. This isn’t the kind of thing you can do throughout the entirety of Gravity Rush 2, of course, but it’s certainly an example of the kind of thing that makes it truly special. That’s not to say that it’s without flaws, though, because many of the first game’s problems that ruined the experience for me are still present (even if they’ve been somewhat remedied in many cases); the game’s good moments are just so good that they more than make up for its many infuriating problems. Read more →

Gravity Rush 2 Screenshots

The first Gravity Rush wasn’t good. It just wasn’t. The second Gravity Rush, on the other hand, is half incredible and half groan-inducing, retaining several of the story and control problems from the first game, but giving you just enough freedom over what’s happening to mitigate the annoyance most of the time. With a couple huge exceptions, the awful missions exist as easily-ignored sidequests rather than main quest stuff, and there’s so much more variance in what you’re doing and how that even the annoying missions have to be appreciated for the clear amount of effort that went into them. Even the story, while eventually devolving back into stupid god magic and shooting itself in the foot by introducing plot-crucial characters in the final few missions rather than building up to them, spends its first half making you really like several of the characters in a way that simply wasn’t possible in the first game. Despite some pretty glaring flaws, I really like Gravity Rush 2. Read more →

Final Fantasy 15 Review

When I was young, my family used to go on road trips in a conversion van that had a VHS player in it as its sole source of entertainment, and so I wound up watching a bunch of the same movies over and over again since the VHS tapes were too bulky to bring a bunch of them. One of these movies started with a skit featuring The Lion King’s Timon singing a cover of Stand By Me that caused Pumbaa to get pummeled by increasingly improbable cartoon violence, and seeing this hundreds of times over countless road trips caused me to associate the song with impending disaster. It felt apropos, then, when Final Fantasy 15—a game I went into expecting the worst of after playing two-thirds of the terrible FF13 trilogy—began with a rendition of Stand By Me. It certainly lived up to the expectations the skit had imprinted in me for the first 10 or so hours, presenting an unremarkable open world littered with shameless fan service and endless busy work. It eventually opens up and smooths out some of the initial rough edges, and there are some parts that were good enough that I even considered making this a positive review for awhile, but at the end of the day, this is a game that borrows so heavily from other games that it’s entirely bereft of originality or creativity. That’s not the same thing as being bad, of course, but Final Fantasy 15 takes so many cues from other games that it lacks any kind of individual identity, and considering how many games have done the same things better, you’re best off just playing those instead. Read more →

Final Fantasy 15 Screenshots

Considering their incessant hard-on for irritating DRM, killing off of the first three Chaos Rings games, and constant re-releases of classic Square games (like they’re totally the same company) that invariably have ugly new art or translations or other problems that ruin them, Square-Enix spent the latter part of 2015 and the rest of 2016 going out of their way to make me hate them. Imagine if Picasso had been possessed by some kind of mischievous spirit that granted him immortality, but also caused him to run around smearing excrement all over his most beloved paintings. That’s a window into the way I’ve come to view Square-Enix these past few years, and so I resolved to buy Final Fantasy 15 both used and at a price low enough to handle another Final Fantasy 13-tier disaster. The stars aligned and that happened surprisingly quickly, as it turns out, but don’t confuse my hatred of Square-Enix as a sign that I’m not willing to give their games a chance: Final Fantasy 15 is quite a bit better than 13 in terms of story (and as a result, better overall in my book), though its shameless forays into various types of “modern popular” trends and mechanics cause it to be unfocused, poorly paced, and frustratingly tedious. That’s not to say that there’s no fun to be had, of course. That fun is merely suffocated under 40-odd hours of maddening sidequest busywork. Read more →

Shantae: Half-Genie Hero Review

I picked this up having enjoyed the previous two Shantae games and wanting to start 2017’s reviews off on a positive note before the inevitable parade of mediocrity that typically has to be waded through before finding another genuinely good game. Apparently this was the result of a Kickstarter campaign from back in 2013, which means I was three years too late to get in on any of those backer rewards, but it’s kind of nice to be able to experience one of these games around the same time as everyone else instead of years and years after the fact. Now, reviews generally exist to answer the question of whether something is good or not, but the answer to that question is a bit more complicated than a simple yes or no in this case. In fact, if my notes are any indication, the answer is “yes, then kind of, then yes again, then no no no no why is this happening, then ehhh, then yes again,” which is a roundabout way of saying that the game is worth it overall despite having some pretty glaring issues. Read more →

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