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 →

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 →

The Witcher 3: Blood and Wine (DLC) Review

It was around 2009 when I started getting interested in catching up on PC gaming classics, but it was only in 2010 that I built a computer specifically for gaming that could handle the graphically demanding fare that my old laptop was too ancient to run. Among my first purchases for that computer was a little game from a few years beforehand that I had heard good things about called The Witcher, and it blew me away with its atmosphere despite being incredibly glitchy at times. In fact, I was so impressed that I committed the cardinal gaming sin of preordering the second game, and while it was different than the first and had a pretty unforgiving difficulty (which has since been drastically reduced to be friendlier to newcomers), I nevertheless came to love it just as much as the first game. The third game I was less enthusiastic about—yes, it delivers in several ways, but many things were sacrificed in the name of mass-market accessibility, and so I ended up merely liking it. The Hearts of Stone DLC is where I started to see the game come into its own and deliver on the promise that was always there, but never really came through in the base game. Sadly, the bigger expansion that is Blood and Wine reintroduces many of the problems Hearts of Stone fixed and ended up leaving me underwhelmed as the final story in the series. There are some great moments to be found here, don’t get me wrong, but the main story isn’t really anything particularly special and there are some questionable plot developments that don’t make a great deal of sense. At the end of the day, Blood and Wine is enjoyable, but I was yet again struck by the sense that it could have been much better. Read more →

The Witcher 3: Hearts of Stone (DLC) Review

I like to put off playing through DLC/expansion stuff until it’s all out, so I’m a bit late to the party on this one. Still, I can only learn and forget how to play this game so many times before it gets irritating, and my first steps in Hearts of Stone were every bit as embarrassing as you’d expect someone jumping into end-game type content having forgotten how to play to be. I died to everything as I fumbled around, desperately trying to remember how to do simple things like use bombs and potions, and the long loading screens (even on an SSD, weirdly) made that even more annoying than it’d be otherwise. It didn’t help any that I imported a save from my first playthrough, which meant that I was missing a bunch of items and pieces of helpful equipment that I only found on subsequent playthroughs. Despite those embarrassing initial troubles, however, I slowly pieced together how everything worked again as I made my way through Hearts of Stone for the first time. Read more →

Shantae and the Pirate’s Curse Review

I didn’t have access to a computer outside of my laptop for a little over a week (and I refuse to play games on it because it’s my baby and gaming can be pretty harsh on laptops since they’re not great at getting rid of heat), so it seemed like the perfect time to grab my 2DS and jump back into Shantae and the Pirate’s Curse. If you haven’t read my review of the previous game, this is something that I initially stopped playing in order to finish Risky’s Revenge—the second game in the series and the beginning of what could affectionately be considered “modern Shantae”—and thus have a better handle on how many of the characters know each other. It’s also helpful since the events of the last game are occasionally mentioned and could be considered spoilers for anyone sensitive to that kind of thing. Read more →

Sparkle 2 Review

I don’t remember when or where I first found this game, or even when the idea of cashing in my “hardcore gamer cred” (which is totally a real thing) for lighthearted match-3 marble popping became something I was willing to do, but at some point in the past I stumbled on Sparkle 2 and fell head over heels for it. In fact, it wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say that a lot of my disdain for the mobile platform melted away as I played through it for the first time. There’s just something about the game’s music, simplicity, and difficulty curve that struck me as being superbly balanced and enjoyable, with the game constantly straddling that line between accessibility and challenge that so many other games seem to struggle with. What makes this so much more surprising is the fact that the first game sucked. It sucked a lot, in fact, and yet its sequel takes almost all of the same elements and builds something genuinely entertaining and worthwhile out of them. Read more →

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