Review: Marvel’s Spider-Man

When I played Spider-Man for the first time at San Diego Comic Con this year, I walked away with questions that made me worry about the final product. I knew that they had nailed the swinging. Mere minutes with the game assured me of that. I knew that Yuri Lowenthal had nailed the snarky quips that Spider-Man is known for. I knew that I would be able to go almost anywhere in New York that I wanted, and tackle objectives as I saw fit. But other Spider-Man games before this have accomplished these without being very fun or memorable. What I did not know was if these unknown factors would be able to complete the package and make the final product live up to what everyone was hoping for.

Would the story be engrossing and engaging? Would Miles Morales and Mary Jane share the spotlight alongside Spider-Man? Will the combat be interesting?

The answer, which I arrived at well before eagerly completing  nearly every task, mission, and side mission the game has to offer was a resounding yes.

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It definitely did not take me 10 minutes to get this shot.

Peter Parker’s relationships with his friends are pivotal in transforming a generic New York City into one that feels like the Marvel universe. We see him struggle with changing careers with being on time to his commitments. We watch as he attempts to reconcile things with Mary Jane, and see Peter help strangers in his community. Combat may make some “feel” like Spider-Man, though I would argue that all of Peter’s relationships with the main cast make me feel like I’m “with” him throughout everything. I found my main motivation to keep playing and completing every quest the game threw at me was just to build and explore character interactions and watch Peter become a greater Spider-Man as a result.

Miles Morales and Mary Jane are not only central to the game’s story, but playable as well. Although they cannot engage in combat, they are creatively implemented to explore sequences and gameplay that really wouldn’t make a ton of sense if I was in control of Spider-Man.

Perhaps drawing inspiration from the Batman Arkham series, Spider-Man has hacked into the city’s radios, and as a result can listen in on J. Jonah Jameson’s conspiracy theory show where he talks to his listeners and brings people on so that he can trash talk Spider-Man, which changes depending on where you are in the game. This sort of touch made the world much more engrossing, and gave me an idea of how the world at large was reacting to the events around me.

NYPD captain Yuri Watanabe is in constant communication with Spider-Man and the two’s banter together quickly made their dialogue moments some of my favorite in the game and showcased just how much care went into the voice-over for the game.

A sizable rogues gallery is also on display and features some of Spidey’s most famous villains along with a new one made for the game.

Combat is something that ended up being more than my initial hands-on led me to believe. Just as the game is free roaming, so too is the combat. You are only limited by your imagination as you punch, kick, web, launch enemies into the air, dodge rocket launchers and then send them flying back at enemies. The possibilities are seemingly endless but it’s never overwhelming nor does it ever come across as unbalanced. I never felt that I was at a disadvantage for running out of ammo for a specific web gadget or if I did not have a full focus meter to activate my suit’s special power. I was only ever limited by my imagination. As cliche as that may sound, I truly believe that Insomniac created a fine tuned system that other developers can learn from.

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Like combat, photo mode is limited only by your imagination.

While there are many things that Insomniac has done right, there are a few annoyances. Though Spider-Man is an action game, many sequences require a puzzle to be solved in order to progress. The puzzles themselves aren’t difficult or boring, but there are only two kinds and we see them ad nauseam . The tediousness quickly became a negative and I hope that the upcoming DLC forgoes them altogether.

Another annoyance is stealth. Spider-Man is able to use high ground and distance to dispatch foes quietly with one button press. At any time I can see if my stealth take-down is “unsafe” and will alert enemies. However, once you clear everyone out, the game automatically triggers the next wave, who are already on alert and run straight for you. It’s strange that there’s little reward outside of fewer enemies to punch, and this made enemy hideouts a huge chore to clear out.

The game clocks in at just over 20 hours depending on how many extra missions you choose to accept and how quickly you can speed through everything. Overall the game feels short, but not to a fault.

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Is it cliche to describe the game as “Amazing” if it’s true?

The Verdict:

Spider-Man is a triumph by developer Insomniac Games and unsurprisingly earned the accolade of being the fastest selling PlayStation 4 title of all time. While there are occasionally small annoyances, the game is an absolute joy to play regardless of how much you enjoy superheroes movies or comic book stories. The combat and narrative alone make it among the most polished titles in the vast PlayStation library. I eagerly await the upcoming DLC missions.

Score: 9/10

 

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SDCC 2018 Hands-On Impressions: Resident Evil 2

Resident Evil 2 is an anxiety-sustaining, panic inducing, stress producing terror simulator that immediately reminded me how awful I am with the survival horror genre. Make no mistake, this is not the action packed boulder punch of a game that Resident Evil 5 was nor is it similar to Resident Evil 6. Fans of Resident Evil 7 and the slower,  more methodical gameplay found in Reisdent Evil 4 and, to some degree, Resident Evil Revelations will find themselves right at home.

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Of course the demo would lead attendees into a literal dark room. Of course.

My demo begins with Leon utilizing his sense of duty to walk straight into the absolute disaster that is Raccoon City.  But we can’t just leave and get to safety, we have to walk through flaming cars and screams of citizens being eaten so we can save our fellow officers at the police station.

So we get to the police station, and the lights are off, and the headphones that are supplied for the demo let me hear literally every creaking board and potential lurking threat in my vicinity. I’m armed with what I can only assume is a standard issue handgun and Leon’s sense of justice to explore a police station that I know is teeming with zombies.

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We could go into the scary police station, or you know, we could just not.

I round a corner and I hear a shrill demand in the form of a scream, “Unlock the door!” I make my way over and attempt to pry my fellow officer from the bottom of a gated doorway only to listen to him die as zombies on the other side devour him from the bottom up. Nice.

Naturally this isn’t anywhere near enough to deter Leon from leaving and never coming back, so it’s time to return to the main room.  The dimly-lit hallway we just made our way through is now filled with zombies. Try as I might to mow them down with my underwhelming weaponry, I take two huge hits before I make a break for the other side.

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Our way out of Raccoon City was sitting in front of us the whole time.

Finally we make our way to the police lieutenant who has also sustained injuries from our undead pals.  He tasks Leon with utilizing a notebook we found earlier to solve a series of puzzles that will open up a door to make our way further into the station. In my inventory box that reminded me largely of Resident Evil 7, I’m able to shuffle my items on a grid, combine or use my herbs and double check my ammo. My key items are also on display and I can use the notebook’s hints to find the medallions needed for the unlock. Sadly my demo fades to black and a “Thank you for playing” screen informs me my 20 minutes are up.

My time with Resident Evil 2 assured me that it will be following in the footsteps of Resident Evil 7 and will be a true survival horror game, rather than go back to the action genre that some of the past titles adopted. If you like being terrified out of your mind and constantly worried that zombies are about to take a bite out of you from behind, Resident Evil 2 will be available on January 25, 2019.

SDCC 2018 Hands-On Impressions: Kingdom Hearts III

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I purposefully skipped cutscenes to maximize my playtime

After more than a decade of waiting, Kingdom Hearts III is not only real, but playable and on its way early next year. After happily stumbling upon a ticket to come back and play the game, I was ready to team up with Sora in the Toy Story world to kick the Heartless out of Andy’s room.

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Souveneir

Kingdom Hearts games have been plentiful on handheld devices that, while good games in their own right, lacked the technical power present in the current XBOX One and PlayStation 4 consoles.  The visual fidelity was overly striking and Andy’s room looked just the same if not as good as the Pixar film itself. Seeing Sora’s jacket rustle as I moved and Goofy’s ears flop about while spinning around with his shield showed just how far the presentation had evolved from the past entries.

Combat will feel instantly familiar to anyone who has played a previous Kingdom Hearts game. The command list lets you attack, consume an item, or cast magical abilities at your foes. Sora is still an acrobatic maniac with flashy keyblade strikes and combos that last for days at a time. My AI pals Donald, Goofy, Buzz and Woody however, definitely did their fair share of fighting and were much more helpful than companions in past games. Partner moves are still a main attraction in fighting in tandem with Disney legends. Running up to Buzz had him equip Sora with a giant toy hammer that let me pound into my foes at a surprising speed. It was both silly and immensely satisfying laying into the Heartless and a welcome change of pace from Keyblade strikes. I was also able to ride a rocket with Buzz and Woody, where we could take flight and then lock onto a grounded enemy and unleash the rocket straight at them. This was very reminiscent of the climax of the first film where Buzz and Woddy are trying to get back to Andy’s car whilst “falling in style.” It was a great addition and I cannot wait to see this sort of homage implemented into the other worlds in the game.

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Needs more Randy Newman

Another welcome addition that I discovered while playing was the sheer freedom I had in Andy’s room and in the locations that followed. Kingdom Hearts games in the past have had very fragmented worlds with many “rooms” with short loading times in between. I was able to traverse Andy’s room in any way I chose. I could jump on his bed and weave through his trinkets that were on top of his dresser. Kingdom Hearts has had  large areas previously, but this was definitely a different feel than what had previously been done.

After dismantling the Heartless, Buzz told us that we had to go down the street to the toy store. So I jumped out of the window in Andy’s room, fought more enemies on the rooftop, jumped down onto the front lawn, and fought my way to the toy store all with zero loading screens or separated areas in between.

Finally at our destination, Sora took command of a toy robot where I entered a first person point of view and could run, shoot, and punch my way through opposing toy robots. The pace of combat was very quick and frantic and there was never a lack of action on screen. Should my robot be defeated, I could attack an enemy and steal their robot to get right back into the fray. It was very plain to see that with combat being very familiar, the environment was tuned to make encounters diverse and more distinctive than before.

The other part of the demo included a portion of Olympus, but my time ran out just as I began playing.

I was originally hoping that the eagerly and long awaited Kingdom Hearts III was going to live up to fan’s expectations, but I’m now confident that it will. January 29th isn’t soon, but it definitely promises what has the potential to be the best game in the series.

 

SDCC 2018 Hands-On Impressions: Shadow of the Tomb Raider

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XBOX one version

Having not personally played the previous two entries in the series that lead up to the events in Shadow of the Tomb Raider, I wasn’t really sure what to expect. My 20 minute demo took me into a Day of the Dead celebration where Lara encounters the organization Trinity, and it’s up to us to find their objective before they do.

I immediately find myself in a tomb where my platforming and puzzle-solving skills are put to the test. Lara is equipped with an array of tools to help her navigate areas such as these as I use my bow to tether ropes to climb across bottomless caverns and my rappelling gear to gain traction on rocky surfaces. These tools combined with moving platforms and crumbling surfaces make for tense moments and require precision timing. Quick-time events popped up to help myself balance on platforms should my jump fall short but never lessened the importance of correct platforming.

Most of the puzzles involved tethering my ropes to mine carts and having them roll into blocked paths so that I could move forward. It’s safe to say that the full game will have a larger variety of puzzles, especially as this was an area from the opening sequence of the game. Clever traps and deadly spikes also shoot out from walls that require a timely dodge-roll to avoid being skewered instantly. Underwater portions were also on display in the tomb, which came as welcome breaks to the dark corners and rocky cliffs that are typically traversed, especially when underwater life tries to hinder your progress.

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Worth the wait

After maneuvering through the tomb Lara finally discovers an ancient dagger that Trinity is so keen to get their hands on. Removing it from its pedastal, however, triggers a collapse of the tomb and the action immediately picks up. Trinity’s men are on guard and Lara’s experience she gained from the previous entries is on full display. From the shadows of tall grass and wall vines I’m able to stealthily aim my bow and dispatch of enemies silently or trigger a take-down with my dagger should they pass close to me.

Stealth wasn’t the only aspect of combat however, as more reinforcements arrived I pillaged a machine gun off of one of Trinity’s goons and forced myself forward.

After mowing down Trinity’s men a cutscene showed Trinity getting the jump on Lara and retrieving the dagger from her. Strangely, they’re angry at Lara for taking it and now feel responsible to end the apocalypse that she’s brought on.

The final sequence of the demo tasked Lara with jumping through flooded streets and ruined buildings in order to get to higher ground where it’s safe. Along the way a boy is trapped on a ledge and Lara watches him plummet to his doom, as she is unable to save him in time.

Shadow of the Tomb Raider promises to tell a poignant story where Lara has to deal with the consequences of her actions and to live with the major decisions that she’s made thus far and will make moving forward. Although I didn’t walk away overly impressed with Shadow of the Tomb Raider, the phenomenal motion capture, voice-over talent, and setting kept me engaged and interested in this upcoming chapter of Lara’s story. Shadow of the Tomb Raider launches for PS4 and XBOX One on September 14th.

SDCC 2018 Hands-On Impressions: Super Smash Bros Ultimate

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Demo units were Switch Pro Controllers only

Super Smash Bros. Ultimate immediately felt distinctive from Super Smash Bros. for Wii U. Matches were timed with 4 players and items on. I was able to play close to 25 matches and each one taught me that the new mechanics changes like directional air dodging or the added recovery to consecutive dodge rolling would be brutally punishing if I play without strategic thought. The offstage game is especially different now that air dodging has been changed. Battles are still chaotically frantic in when playing with 4 people and items tend to K.O. you at a surprising rate.

I am not an expert on frame-data or every single combo available to each character but as someone with a significant amount of hours on these characters over multiple years, I will do my best to describe what, if any changes I noticed to each character I played.

I was able to try out the following characters:

marth

Marth was very reminiscent of his Brawl incarnation with his new side special that unleashes a very swift flurry of slashes, unlike the slow and methodical side special from the WiiU version. His animations and moves were the same for the most part (if there were slight changes I didn’t notice) and his tipper mechanic seemed as strong as ever. He was very quick and it is possible that his aerial moves and jabs have less recovery on them now. I want to say that his forward air has been buffed but perhaps that was just a placebo effect I was feeling while having too much fun.  I hope that Lucina is equally strong.

corrin

Corrin seemed almost unchanged. The pro controller layout was so incredibly jarring and against my Gamecube controller muscle memory that I couldn’t consistently insta-pin with side special to test if it had changed at all. I want to say that their forward smash has less recovery on it than before and that up air has been strengthened to some degree as well, but Corrin largely seemed familiar in every aspect.

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Sheik also felt familiar and once again the rubix cube of a layout on the pro controller kept me from testing combos that I’m assuming do still work based off of what I was able to achieve after numerous trials and errors. Her up air felt much more powerful in terms of how the game registers hits and feedback but I don’t think it has changed percentage wise. Needles felt unchanged and I’m hoping that needles into bouncing fish still work. Sheik’s throw trajectories may have been altered a bit as forward throw to bouncing fish seemed to whiff at low percentages, making me think that combo may be character dependent now.

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Ganondorf was an absolute joy to play and he feels as powerful as the Gerudo King should be. There is a very keen swiftness to his neutral air and it has the damage to boot. His sword is a bit quicker than Ike’s but just as strong. The armor on warlock punch is no joke and I imagine players will be taken by surprise by it in the beginning when they go for a punish that isn’t optimal. His down smash is very reminiscent of Cloud’s and is powerful as well. I want to say that warlock kick has been sped up but I can’t confirm it. Ganondorf is easily one of the characters that excited me the most from the demo and I think he has the potential to be the strongest he’s ever been before in a Smash title.

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Ike, like Ganondorf, has a few noticeable and deserved changes. His up air is now a quick and powerful swipe that feels much more intuitive and gratifying than the awkward circular attack from the past games. He seems to be less of a heavy broad-swordsman and more of a slower version of Roy that hits harder. I wasn’t able to test his throw combos to any conclusive results as far as follow-ups were concerned but I think Ike mains have a lot to look forward to.

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Ridley. Wow. Ridley is an absolute monster who you should not underestimate under any circumstance. Ridley has speed that rivals Marth and power that would make Bowser look weak. All of their moves felt powerful and satisfying to land, with the side special that drags you across the screen being an absolutely hilarious (or frustrating for the opponent) move that launches you a comical distance even at zero percent. Down air is actually very similar to a ground pound and while slow, hits as hard as you would expect. Neutral air reminds me of Charizard’s and Ridley absolutely has the speed and aerials to make grab mix-ups a central part of Ridley’s neutral game. I think we can expect quite a few adjustments to make it into the final build but I expect to see a lot of this character in competitive play.

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Bayonetta doesn’t seem to have lost much of her steam in Ultimate. Witch twist combos felt intact, throw setups were all working and witch time still demands respect. Honestly I don’t know that she was changed for this demo build but I’m sure that hardcore Bayonetta mains with more hands on time would disagree with me. Regardless she’s still an awesome character and it’s good to have her back.

Smash Ultimate gave me every reason to believe it has the potential to be the most fun Smash yet, and although I don’t plan on playing many item based or timed matches, the new stages were fun and creative and the old stages reminded me of why I’ve kept playing all these years. As a reminder, if you’re like me and don’t mesh with the pro controller, new Gamecube controllers and adapters are being made for Ultimate and will launch alongside the game on December 7th.

Review: Ni No Kuni II Revenant Kingdom

When Ni No Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch released in 2011, it promised the look and feel of a Studio Ghibli epic. While the characters were charming and the locales were impressive visually, the game was not fun to play.  Fast forward to 2018 and after suffering multiple delays, Ni No Kuni II: Revenant Kingdom manages to reinvigorate the series and delivers on its promise to feel like you’re playing inside a Studio Ghibli world to a significantly greater extent than the original PS3 title.

When I first played Ni No Kuni II at E3 2017, it’s commitment to have combat be unlike anything offered in the first game was immediately apparent.  The real time action mechanics are reminiscent of the Tales Of series, with special moves and companions named Higgledies added extra layers of depth to encounters.

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Gather your Higgledies and defeat your foes.

Moving from the E3 demo to the final product, Ni No Kuni’s combat feels smoother and clearly benefited from the delays.  Battles are more fleshed out with Higgldies being able to amplify spells, and your special moves gain special attributes when your weapon is fully charged.  Players also have access to multiple party members and can mix and match all 6 as they wish. While the combat may not be at the frantic pace of other JRPGs in recent years, it still feels fun and is by far one of Ni No Kuni II’s strongest points.

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Goldpaw is one of many kingdoms Evan will travel to on his journey.

The narrative in Ni No Kuni II takes place hundreds of years after the story of the previous title concluded.  While it does acknowledge the events of its predecessor, Ni No Kuni II’s story focuses largely on a new tale featuring protagonist Evan Pettiwhisker Tildrum.  Evan’s kingdom was the victim of a coup, and now he must figure out how to reclaim his kingdom.  The story contains gorgeous cities and memorable characters who make the experience rich in personality and humor, even if it feels fairly formulaic.  Players will arrive at a new destination, acquire a new party member at said destination, defeat the boss, then move on and repeat.  This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, as there are an incredible amount of side quests and tasks to complete in the interim.  However, I found myself disappointed that not every new protagonist had more time in the limelight.  These characters travel with you everywhere, and yet some were definitely far more important to the overall plot than others.  There are your fair share of twists and turns, which does keep the tale interesting, and the ending is satisfying if not partially predictable.

Aside from its real-time combat system, Ni No Kuni II also features skirmishes with your kingdom’s army.  Unfortunately, these fights are quite bland and don’t add much to the already great combat system.  Fights are largely played out by ramming your army into your opponents so that your units fight with a weapon advantage over your opponent.  Take down structures and rout the enemy and victory is yours.

One of the biggest new features this time around is the ability to create and customize your new kingdom of Evermore.  Citizens can be recruited throughout the entire world via side quests and each bring certain strengths to your kingdom.  Everything from farms to weapon shops, to higgldie daycare centers can be staffed with citizens and leveled up to yield more items and equipment.  The amount of structures you can build is massive and the amount of micromanaging is almost dizzying.  That being said, you can get by without giving your kingdom an overwhelming amount of attention.  It’s definitely fun to manage everything and it’s rewarding to level up your kingdom, but outside of the essential shops much of it feels unnecessary.  Completionists will likely find a certain amount of nirvana in leveling and building every last structure, but I question just how many farms and mines one kingdom really needs.

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Evermore features an extensive amount of facilities to build and level up.

It would be remiss not to mention the phenomenal score that rounds out Ni No Kuni II’s stellar presentation.  Master composer Joe Hisaishi returns once more to breathe life into every aspect of the game.  Every main city has a memorable track, and I found myself humming along to my favorites every time I revisited an area.  His orchestral talent can be felt in every scene and truly gives the narrative the emotional gravity and genuine feeling it needs.  I can only hope he is brought on to do more video game music in the future.

The Verdict:

Overall Ni No Kuni II manages to outshine its predecessor in almost every way.  A fresh combat system and cast of characters flesh out a world that is packed with adventure and full of charm at every turn.  While it may be bogged down with some sidequests that feel like an elongated fetch quest or army skirmishes that lack any depth, let alone fun, it still manages to be a stand out JRPG that I think would be a mistake for anyone with any interest in it to miss.

Score: 8.5/10

 

 

Review: Monster Hunter World

After more than 140 hours gathering, slaying elder dragons and being wined and dined by the finest felyne chefs in Astera I still feel like I’ve got hundreds more ahead of me.

Monster Hunter has enjoyed a wealth of changes with each subsequent entry into the series.  Never before, however, has the franchise been gifted such a massive amount of tweaks and adjustments that make everything from combining items, managing your resources, and crafting gear feel better than ever before.  These “quality of life” improvements make the overall feel of the game far more appealing to veterans of the franchise, and simply more enjoyable.  I never have to worry if my item pouch is full, or curse myself if I forget to eat prior to loading up a quest because the game is doing these extra micro managements for me.

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Astera is a tad larger than Moga Village

 

Adjustments to armor and weapons have been made as well.  Armor is no longer split into Blademaster and Gunner sets but rather between Alpha and Beta sets.  Alpha sets include more skills and skill points from the get go, whilst Beta sets are more limited but offer a wide range of customization you can take advantage of later in the game.

All 14 weapons have been adjusted in some way, whether it’s changes to attack animations, new additions such as ammo types, or new moves altogether. Monster Hunter Generations introduced “hunting styles” to change how people play, but this change feels much more organic in how it’s implemented.  Each weapon feels new while still retaining the core aspects that drew players to them in the first place. A fully equipped training grounds is also a great addition to familiarize yourself with every new addition.

World is no slouch in the content department either.  For the first time, a fully voiced story mode has been included.  This is the first time Monster Hunter has told such a poignant and thoughtful story.  They examine what it means to be a hunter, and their steps to understand the new world around them. The voice acting is great and I’m hopeful we see this as a regular trend moving forward.

Quests are plentiful, and a new addition called Bounties, similar to expeditions in Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate, are a great way to find new challenges and greater rewards than that of standard quests from the guild. Bounties also reward you with resource points just for playing and completing specified requests, giving players a resource system that is interconnected and seamless in its efforts to both encourage players to grind and accept challenges they may not otherwise be motivated to complete.

Event quests are back and are updated on a weekly basis. Collaborations with other popular franchises such as Mega Man and Horizon: Zero Dawn follow in the footsteps of the previous Nintendo themed content from the 3DS titles. All of this DLC is still free just as it has been throughout the franchises’ history.

 

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You could make a time lapse of the sunsets and sunrises in Astera. Seriously.

 

One specific direction that is very new to world is the way in which players actually hunt a monster.  Enter a quest and you’ll be tasked with tracking down monsters using your scout fly companions.  Discover tracks, examine mucus and follow the trail of your flies to hunt down each beast.  Gone are the days of awkwardly hurling paintballs at monsters and hoping they don’t run out at the worst time. Environmental factors such as paratoads, vines, and flash bugs offer an extra layer to Monster Hunter’s combat system, and make each area feel distinct and alive as a result.

The lifeblood of the series has always been the monsters themselves, and Monster Hunter: World introduces an strong variety of new predators to slay. Although bird wyverns such as Kulu-Ya-Ku and Pukei-Pukei are reminiscent of monsters from past games, their feathers are as colorful as their personalities, and are fantastic additions. Some of my favorite new monsters include the swift Odogaron, whose weapons and armor have some of the best designs I’ve seen yet. Nergigante, the new flagship monster, is just as aggressive and fun as I’d hoped, and his equipment doesn’t disappoint either.  Monster behaviors and designs are obviously done with much care and it makes every fight fun. With Deviljho lurking in a future patch, the amount of monsters to hunt is impressive to say the least.

The music direction of this entry is reminiscent of its past while also quite different.  Each area is accompanied by new themes that act as the perfect ambiance to your environment. While some of these themes may not sound quite as grandiose as some themes before them, they rank with some of the best scores produced in the series.

If there is one thing that Monster Hunter: World misses the mark on, it’s the changes to it’s online mode.  Previous games have had 4 player lobbies that were explicitly marked with goals for the hunters to work toward.  One lobby might be for a high rank Rathalos for example, and the sub-goal may be to consistently cut it’s tail off for specific parts. Players could label them as they saw fit and hunters of similar goals and ranks would join lobbies and work together.  Monster Hunter: World changes this and discourages players from even attempting this, but unintentionally.  Players can now send up an S.O.S. flare during a hunt.  This is designed so that hunters who are having trouble with a quest can ask for aid. Players can access a menu where they can search for flares and aid those i need.

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The Gathering Hub is great, why not encourage players to use it?

The problem is twofold.  First, the game never teaches players to use the lobby system to find players that have similar hunting goals in mind.  You can still set up a lobby marked with specific monster goals, but only if you go out of your way to figure out how. The game only encourages the use of the flare.  It cuts the wait time in half for finding partners, but it’s also a luck of the draw.  You won’t know their hunter ranks or what their equipment is, and there won’t be any expressed objective either.  The other issue is that the lobby system has now expanded to 16 players.  While this may allow larger portions of communities or groups of friends play at the same time, quests are still locked at a maximum capacity of 4.  So there will be an odd man out or a fragmentation of whatever objective the original lobby maker created.  Previous titles also had players respawn back at the gathering hub while playing in online lobbies, but World takes you back to the village every time. This is not to say the game is worse off or implements online play poorly, but it doesn’t seem like a step in the right direction for what has previously been such a smooth online infrastructure.

I’ll concede it may just come down to my personal preferences, but I’m nonetheless baffled at how the old lobby system was subverted by an effort to add an interesting new feature to pair players together who need help.

While it’s a bit counter-intuitive, the new online system luckily doesn’t deter friends from logging on and hunting as a group.  You can still easily invite friends via an invite button on the menu, as well as create squads so that finding each other is easier. It’s still fun, and that’s what matters.

Overall, even with my gripes with the online, Monster Hunter: World is easily the best title in the series to date and I believe it will be recognized as one of the best games of 2018.  It’s massive amount of small improvements combined with phenomenal new monsters and brand new features make it ideal for veterans looking for a refreshing take on the almost 14-year-old franchise and a fantastic starting point for new players. It’s earned it’s record breaking sales numbers and every accolade awarded to it thus far.  Now if only Capcom could announce the exact release date for the Deviljho DLC.

Score: 9.5/10

GP Santa Clara Tournament Report: Modern Abzan *23rd*

I’m going to try to keep this as concise as I can since a 14 round GP with Abzan isn’t the most interesting thing to read by any means.  Going into the tournament I chose Abzan for two reasons.  Firstly, lingering souls is a very strong card against Death’s Shadow and is just strong in general.  Secondly I’ve been playing the B/G/x archetype for several years and it was a comfort pick.  For reference, our standard player was on Esper God Pharaoh’s Gift and our legacy player was on BUG Delver. Here’s the list I played:

garbage

I know some card choices may seem strange so:

3x Grim Flayer: This card can be awful in some matchups (burn, eldrazi tron, company decks, etc) but it does exactly what I want Dark Confidant to do in Jund: get me cards I want to see.  Didn’t have room for a 4th. The card ended up being fantastic every time it dealt damage. I’d play it again.

2x Siege Rhino: This is the worst card in the deck and I don’t think it’s close.  However, In this version of Abzan I wanted to have some sort of top end that can get damage through.  Also it beats Worship, which is almost relevant. This card in my opinion is unplayable and wouldn’t play it again.

1x Twilight Mire: This was from a last minute decision to remove the 4th Blooming marsh and it paid off immensely.  Coming into play untapped with no life loss is broken.

2x Tireless Tracker: This card is insane and I hate that it’s good.  It let’s you play an even more grindy game than before.  It’s slow, but so is the deck.  I boarded them out against most aggressive decks.

1x Gideon, Ally of Zendikar: Gideon is absolute trash and unless I lose my next 5 mirror matches in a row I won’t play it again. He was meant to be a clock against tron and control decks that just ends up being too slow.  I played with a 14 card sideboard for this tournament essentially.

1x Sorin, Solemn Visitor: Sorin’s my pet card that I use to break midrange mirrors.  He ultimates very quickly and he has insane synergy with lingering souls to gain you dumb amounts of life.

1x Stirring Wildwood.  I don’t know why I thought this card was even remotely playable but I’m not good at building decks.  This should be a 3rd Shambling Vent or a 2nd forest.

Round 1 vs Mill

Our opponents came all the way from Italy which was pretty neat.  What wasn’t neat was playing against Mill at Comp REL.  The matchup isn’t bad by any means, but you can get archive trapped out of the game sometimes and it’s annoying in general.

Game 1 I beat him down with Tarmogoyfs and stripped his hand of cards he needed.  Wasn’t very close.

Game 2 I kept a very slow hand and got milled out.  Nice meme.

Game 3 I kept a very suspect hand that needed one more land to be great.  However, the match was over after we resolved mulligans as my teammates had already won their games.  Unless he milled me early, I had no 3rd land in my next 6 or so cards.

Team is now 1-0

Round 2 vs U/R Through the Breach

There isn’t much to say about this round but I actually put my opponent on storm until I saw Cryptic command from a Thoughtseize later in the game and then I realized I needed to be scared of Emrakul.

Game 1: He died to threats he couldn’t interact with.

Game 2: He had more staying power but his can trips never found him anything.

Personal: 1-0-1

Team: 2-0

Round 3 vs Grixis Shadow

My opponent was actually a really cool guy.  His standard teammate told us that he just started playing constructed and my legacy teammate literally was teaching their legacy player how to get Craterhoof into play in elves where it wasn’t intuitive.  He was literally playing 3 games of magic at once a few times.

Game 1: I’m able to snag a snapcaster with Inquisition and he discards some of my threats as well until I can get some lingering souls and other threats out to kill him. This is a very good matchup in general for me and one I was prepared for.

Game 1: Opponent struggles to keep threats on the table as I deploy mine.  Tarmogoyf hits hard.  Shoutouts to him for being such a good humored person.

Personal 2-0-1

Team: 3-0

Round 4 vs UWR Control

No not the Geist version.  This was my game to lose since I constantly trash talk this deck.  I think it’s durdle city and I cannot fathom how pooping out a singleton Torrential Gearhulk with Nahiri is stronger than just playing U/R Breach or the UWR Nahiri deck that feel out of favor a while back.

Game 1: His draws are very well equipped to beat all of my threats and I scoop with no cards left in the interest of finishing the match time.  HOWEVER, I made an egregious error in trying to take back a play.  He got gearhulk from nahiri ultimate and I forgot that it gained haste.  Opponent said “take 5?” and I said OK.  I said that forgetting I had a path to exile in hand and then in a panic tried to do it before damage.  I shook my head and said “No I said damage resolves and I’m at 5” and I path’d it on endstep.  I should have, in hindsight, called a judge on myself, or my opponent should have called one on me, as that is never ok at this level of competition.

Game 2: Tireless tracker is a dumb card when they get you 3 or more clues and your grim flayers have found you every threat you could want.  I made another really loose mistake and tried to attack with a tracker after my flayers had been blown up by an engineered explosives, which my opponent pointed out to me.  Oops. I’m more than confident I would have won that game, but my teammates had won theirs already and the match was over

Personal: 2-0-2

Team: 4-0

Round 5 vs Eldrazi

Games 1 and 2 I got completely stomped and it wasn’t even close.  I made a huge error by not holding Liliana in my hand for a threat and instead developed her pitching Damnation.  Nice. Top deck reality smasher ended me.

This is already a bad matchup and I played path to exile almost specifically for this, but It ended up not getting me there.

Personal: 2-1-2

Team: 5-0

Round 6 vs Coralhelm Company

Luckily this is a matchup I have a ton of experience in and was prepared for.  I don’t think it’s a great matchup but when you play a deck that’s a pile of removal it never feels unwinnable.

Game 1: Tarmogoyf beats a very slow hand from my opponent.

Game 2: He companies like a god and spell quellers my answers.

Game 3: I can’t remember if this was in game 3 or 1, but I was able to maelstrom pulse 2 birds when he was on 1 land and fatal push his 3 drop.  Opponents mana was bad in this game either way and lingering souls is a good card.

Personal: 3-1-2

Team: 6-0

Round 7 vs Storm

My opponent had the most energy I’ve ever seen in my life and was jamming out to stuff on his headphones. He was very animated until I started playing and he got quiet very fast.  If you can’t interact with Tarmogoyf you probably will lose.  Abzan really has no excuse to lose against storm unless you draw terribly.  I 2-0’d this one quickly.

Unfortunately my teammates lost xd.

Personal: 4-1-2

Team: 6-1

Round 8 vs Reid Duke on Jund Shadow

OH BOY THE BIG ONE.  Anyone who I talk to about magic knows I’m a huge Reid Duke fanboy and I had been joking ALL DAY about the possibility of running into the Peach Garden Oath team consisting of some of the best players in the world.  And here we are.  My teammates let me know this was my fault.

I knew Reid was on Jund Shadow splaying lingering souls from observing a match of his a few rounds prior to this one, and I’ve played various mirrors over the years so I was prepared but not confident. I just wanted to give him a good match.

Game 1: Oh boy time to give him a great game I think to myself.  Then I mulligan to 5 and just hope I can prove I’m not trash. He beats me pretty soundly but it wasn’t a stomp like I had imagined. Lingering souls tokens quickly finish the game for him.

Game 2: I’m able to draw an insane amount of removal and Reid takes a ton of damage just through his own cards, making my threats a priority to kill no matter what I play. Sorin Vampire gets me there.

Game 3: Reid keeps a hand of shockland, street wraith, street wraith, thoughtseize you on his first turn and I’m on the draw.  I fight back as best as I can but at one point, either I wasn’t paying attention to his traverses or what but the turn I felt I had the game he deploys 3 threats in one turn as my Sorin is about to ult.  I’m able to clear a few of them and I know if I can ult Sorin I don’t think I can lose.  Reid draws his card for turn and I see Owen Turtenwald go wide-eyed and start cheering while making this face:

pogchamp.jpg

 

Reid had drawn a fatal push to clear the way for his Death’s Shadow to kill my sorin in one hit.  And I promptly drew blanks as he drew more threats.  I thanked Reid for great games and he agreed to answer a few of my questions about B/G/x.  I asked him if he thought Bloodbraid Elf was getting unbanned next month and he chuckled and told me he’s really not the person to ask about that, but he did feel it would be unbanned in the next 2 years.  Ok. During the match Reid thoughtseizes me and sees path to exile in my hand.  For those who don’t know, Reid is not a fan of path in this archetype whatsoever. In every article he writes about Abzan he reiterates that it’s unecessary and counter intuitive to the resource denial plan. So when I revealed my hand after telling him at the beginning that I was a fan and appreciated his articles, it was incredibly embarrassing.

Basically I told him I felt the eldrazi matchup suffered a lot without it, and he agreed with me.  He told me he just hates it as early interaction against company decks where mana dorks are so prevalent.  So basically he wants to beat company, I want to beat eldrazi.

Personal: 4-2-2

Team: 6-2 and live for Day 2

Day 2

Day 2 we were a bit nervous as the standings had us sandwiched between 2 teams that we really didn’t want to play against

uhoh

Luckily we dodged them but we constantly saw pro teams, hall of famers, and pro tour regulars on either side of us the next few rounds, which was pretty surreal.

Round 9 vs Storm

This storm player was very meticulous and seemed to SCRY EVERYTHING TO THE TOP holy moly.

Game 1: I get dumpstered by insane tempo and couldn’t win quick enough.

Game 2: I brought in the spicy anti empty the warrens package of zealous persecution and flaying tendrills.  Ironically I drew maelstrom pulse to kill 12 goblins and kill him.

Game 3: I get there with threats that can’t be interacted with.  Storm’s a good matchup.

Personal: 5-2-2

Team: 7-2

Round 10 vs Burn

Every time I think I have a read on what an opponent is playing based on their mannerisms I get memed.  This guy was fairly quiet and reserved, and then his turn 1 is lava spike you.  Magic is hard. Context: I hate losing to burn, and Kitchen finks hasn’t left my sideboard for several years. Apparently this guy also is a regular on the SCG tour.

Game 1: Opponent seemingly keeps a terrible hand that can’t be beaten by my draws

Game 2: I curve into finks and other lifegain shenanigans and as I win game 2 I find out both my teammates have lost their games.

Personal 6-2-2

Team: 7-3

Round 11 vs Dredge

I didn’t actually know people still played this after Grave-troll got banned again.

Game 1: He keeps a slow hand and I Tarmogoyf is a good card

Game 2: He crushes me and I die on turn 3.

Game 3: Almost identical to what happened in game 2.  This matchup is pretty atrocious and very difficult without either graveyard hate or removal with an exile clause. Our team lost as well.

Personal 6-3-2

Team: 7-4

Round 12 vs Burn

OH BOY good thing I stubbornly always prepare to never lose to this deck.

Game 1: He’s creature heavy and I’m able to turn the corner quickly after he runs out of cards.

Game 2: I get the most disgusting lifegain curve: triple escalate Collective Brutality to kill your Goblin Guide, drain you, and take your burn spell, Kitchen Finks, Sorin, finks in that order.

Personal: 7-3-2

Team: 8-4

Round 13 vs U/R Breach

Oh no not again. Thankfully my opponent was incredibly nice and it was actually a pleasure to play someone so late in the tournament who was this relaxed.

Game 1: He can’t take my threats off the table and his cantrips don’t get him to his combo

Game 2 and 3: Kind of a blur but I remember him having insane amounts of tempo that awkward mana on my end can’t handle.  I do remember making a sequencing mistake where I could have avoided a remand by playing a 2 drop and replaying it with a land I had topdecked but instead tried to keep forcing out Lily to keep him down a few cards. Flet bad to lose this one.

Teammates were able to get us there.

Personal: 7-4-2

Team: 9-4

Round 14 (Final Round) vs Tribal Zoo

My opponent in game one fetches for two shocklands that typically aren’t seen in the same deck, looks at my face and asks if I’m confused.  I’m not, I just haven’t played against this in literally 3 or 4 years.

Game 1: I stabilize at 6 life and My threats end him as my removal gets me through his creatures.

Game 2: Triple 1 drop is way too fast for me to do anything about. Tribal flames for 5 is a great meme.

Game 3: Oh boy I find out I’m the deciding match and there’s potential money on the line.

My hand is actually insane and I snap keep 7 with all the removal I could want.  Interestingly my opponent has thoughtseize to make it less great, but we’re still ok. My opponent is taking damage from his own cards constantly, so I know any threat I draw is going to be really hard for him to beat.  I manage to get kitchen finks and 4 lingering souls tokens to put me in a position where my next swing is 100% lethal.  Opponent sighs, draws, and WINDMILL SLAMS PYROCLASM?????????????? I think pyroclasm is terrible against abzan and I never would recommend anyone bring it in no matter how badly you hate lingering souls.  My opponent casts it leaving me with kitchen finks persisted and he has a swiftspear.  Sorin comes down and makes me a guy so I can try to end the game.  Opponent then draws his card, and his teammate shakes my teammates hand as they concede and we end our tournament at 10-4 for 23rd place. The cutoff for prize money was 24th.

Personal 8-4-2

Team: 10-4

Overall the tournament was a ton of fun and I hope wizards does more team events.

As far as Abzan goes, I think the deck is ok but it can be way too slow for it’s own good.  I don’t know how I dodged  regular Tron, Valakut, and affinity all weekend but I won’t complain.  Death’s shadow likely is just a better verison of what I’m doing.  I don’t think I’ll be playing this going forward as I’m hoping Bloodbraid is unbanned next month. (UPDATE FEB 12: WOOOOOOOHOOOOOOO)

TL;DR Abzan is medium and team events are a blast.

 

Nintendo Direct 9/13 Thoughts and Impressions

Nintendo used their Direct today to showcase their upcoming Switch and 3DS titles aimed at releases throughout the rest of the year and early next year.  While some were duped into thinking there might be Smash Bros. info, I myself was baited by a troll retweet from a beloved game developer that there may be some Bayonetta news.  Either way, the Direct delivered quite a bit and left some to be desired in other aspects.  I won’t be going over everything, as there was a lot of information mentioned that was already known, but I will touch on all the bigger announcements.

Nintendo 3DS

  1. Pokemon Ultra Sun/Ultra Moon: Nintendo reconfirmed that the new entry will focus on Necrozma’s interactions with Solgaleo and Lunala, whilst having numerous new additions to the game to keep it fresh and interesting.  The biggest announcement is probably the New 2DS XL Pokeball edition that launches prior to the games on November 3.pokemonds
  2. Kirby Battle Royale: Kirby is getting a neat new game packed with multiple mini-games along with a single player and online multiplayer mode on January 19. This is in addition to the mainline switch title that was announced at E3.
  3. Mario Party: The Top 100I don’t like or enjoy Mario Party in the slightest, but it’s difficult to ignore the nostalgia from I get from the original N64 titles. Nintendo’s bringing back the top 100 mini-games across every single Mario Party game, and it’s sure to delight fans of the series.  Everyone can party to their heart’s content on November 10.
  4. Orange and White New 2DS XL: We may never know why both colors of the new system didn’t release simultaneously, but Nintendo is finally giving North America the system some fans were hoping to get originally.   This 2DS XL lands in stores on October 6.

Nintendo also announced details about a 3DS Minecraft port, a port of Apollo Justice: Ace Attorney, several different Atlus RPGs and new Yokai Watch 2 content. I think it’s a healthy way to round out the system announcements aside from reminding us about games like Metroid: Samus Returns and other titles that we already are aware of and are so close to releasing.

Nintendo Switch

Switch software was clearly the biggest winner from the Direct and had quite a few surprises.

  1. Xenoblade Chronicles 2: Alongside a new trailer, Xenoblade Chronicles 2 is also getting an awesome themed Pro Controller as well as a special edition that comes with a soundtrack, steel book case and 220-page artbook.  The trailer also did a much better job at coherently explaining the battle system and introducing the world than any of the Gamescom demos I watched. I think the price is a bit hefty at $99.99 but it’s cool that the hardcore fans have a cool edition of the game if they so choose. Xenoblade Chronicles 2 arrives on December 1. xenoblade2
  2. Fire Emblem Warriors Lyn Announcement: I never thought anyone could instantly defeat Persona 5, Nier: Automata, and Breath of the Wild for my game of the year contender but announcing my favorite Fire Emblem character is a pretty good way to do it.  In all seriousness the game will hopefully be a bit more diverse in roster and hopefully won’t be “Fire Emblem Warriors: Awakening and Fates Edition featuring Marth.” Nintendo let us know that not only are the conscious of fan demand, they devoted a whole minute and a half to letting us know about one character roughly 5 weeks prior to the game’s launch. This Warriors title is still set for October 20.lyn (1)
  3. Arena of Valor: A MOBA is being developed for the Switch.  I don’t really know what to say other than it look’s strikingly similar to League of Legends and will be an eShop exclusive this holiday.
  4. Doom and Wolfenstein 2: Doom for the Nintendo Switch will be a part of the holiday lineup while Wolfenstein 2 will release sometime next year and not in October as it will on PS4 and Xbox One.  I do still think this is quite important as everyone loves to point out how Nintendo systems lack “hardcore” titles.  The fact that Wolfenstein 2 is making it onto the platform hopefully will encourage developers to release and develop their larger AAA titles for Switch as well.
  5. Breath of the Wild Championship Amiibos: We finally got information about what they actually do and when we get our hands on them! In addition to getting special equipment and items, the amiibo will unlock special divine beast helmets relative to the beast they protect.  These amiibo release on November 10, and hopefully the second part of the DLC will launch alongside them.Switch_ZeldaBotW_amiibo-Urbosa_helm
  6. Project Octopath Traveler: In what I think was one of the cooler surprises this Direct, Square Enix is developing a peculiar new RPG for the Switch.  As the title alludes to, there are 8 protagonists each with special talents that let them perform special actions.  As we see in the trailer, one character has the ability to challenge anyone to battle, while another character can lure other characters to other locations.  The game is being helmed by the producers of Bravely Default and sports what the devlopers are calling “HD-2D,” which I think looks fantastic visually.  Theres a demo of the game available for download right now, and I’ll be posting my impressions of it soon. 
  7. Kirby Star Allies: The Kirby title announced at E3 finally has a title! Though not slated until Next Spring, fans get to look forward to making enemies allies and teaming up with 3 other friends for 4 player co-op.  The game definitely seems like it could be one of the more interesting local multiplayer Switch titles.
  8. Super Mario Odyssey: With roughly six weeks until launch, Nintendo showed off several new worlds and even a few story details in a new trailer of what’s shaping up to be the biggest Mario title since Galaxy 2.  I’ll let the trailer speak for itself, but this is game is surely a game of the year contender and anyone who misses the days of Super Mario Sunshine, Mario 64, or Mario Galaxy needs to make sure this is on their radar.  I’m pretty eager to run around the different worlds in a sombrero when the game launches on October 27. A Mario Odyssey Switch bundle with red joy cons, a carrying case and a digital copy of the game will also be releasing alongside the game. I also wrote about my hands-on time with the game at E3 which you can check out here.  

Just as it did in the 3DS segment Nintendo reminded us that there are a plethora of other titles releasing soon as well as several exclusive to the eshop.

I wouldn’t expect another Nintendo Direct for quite some time unless there’s more information to be talked about prior to the holidays, but it was definitely a solid Direct overall in my opinion, even if I’m only looking forward to a handful of what was talked about personally.

E3 2017 Recap Part 1: Hands-On Impressions

As someone who has been following the games industry for well over 10 years and got to attend E3 for the first time ever, describing the show in a few words would be impossible.  I think I’m more equipped to describe what I saw played, and what I played myself, in many words and enough detail to give you guys a better idea at what to expect come release date.

I want to preface my impressions by clarifying that part one is all “hands-on,” meaning that I played the game myself, with a controller in my hand at a demo station.  Part two will be “Eyes-On,” which refers to a live demo I viewed behind closed doors and watched a developer of the game play in real time.

Hands-On: Super Mario Odyssey

Let’s start with what I feel was far and away my game of show.  The demo units inside the Nintendo booth featured a level where you got to explore New Donk City as well as a desert level.  Having witnessed almost everyone before me in line play around in the city, I tried the desert for a change of pace.  Fans of previous Mario adventures such as Galaxy and Sunshine should feel right at home as soon as they pick up a controller.  All of Mario’s signature jumps have returned including the triple jump, turnaround jump, side jump, and crouch leap.  Mario can also throw his hat Cappy via a simple button press or a flick of a joy-con.  Immediately upon exploring it was apparent that the level was expansive and didn’t just feature ways to advance and reach a goalpost.  Small shops and hidden alleyways are home to NPCs that give you clues as well as stores that let Mario obtain fancy tuxedo outfits and the like.

mario e3

Platforming is as solid as ever, and this time around Mario has the new ability to capture certain enemies by throwing his hat at them.  At one point I faced an obstacle that required me to jump onto moving platforms that rotated on a cadence.  I happened to throw my hat and hit a bullet bill, allowing me to capture it and fly above the platforms and reach the other side with ease.  It may seem like it cheapens the platforming experience, but it felt like a refreshing way to use my environment and enemies to my advantage.  Another point in the level featured hidden pathways and collectibles.  By inhabiting one of the stone golems nearby, I could tap a button to put on the sunglasses the golem was wearing in order to see the hidden paths that lie ahead.  These instances were both completely optional, I never had to utilize Mario’s new power, but they were definitely a welcome inclusion and made it feel distinctive from Mario’s past adventures.

One of the most interesting new features was when I discovered an 8-bit warp pipe that transformed me into the pixelated Mario we’re all familiar with.  The game briefly transitioned into a 2D sidescroller that had me jumping and avoiding enemies in order to reach the top of a building, where Mario then assumed his regular form.  It was a brief aside in an already expansive and secret-filled level, but it was also a seamless integration of Mario’s history that felt like a fun way to incorporate 2D platforming in a 3D game.  I can’t wait to see what other mechanics lie within other levels in the full game.

mario e3 2

I think many people, myself included, had mixed feelings of Mario exploring a city with humans.  I’m glad to say that when viewed live, none of that detracts from the overall experience.  Pauline (who fans may remember from the original Donkey Kong games) makes a return as the mayor of New Donk City, and the inhabitants are lively and will serve to aid Mario in several different ways.

New moon-shaped star pieces and other collectibles were also present in the demo, though it isn’t clear how they tie into the story just yet.  It seemed as though there were several per level, and may be similar to items such as star coins from the past.  Overall, Super Mario Odyssey played great, looked phenomenal, and most importantly was fun to play.  My time with the game was brief at just 10 minutes, but it was enough to convince me that this is a title I cannot miss.  Had Zelda not released the same year as Mario Odyssey, I’d expect it to be a heavy game of the year contender, and for some it will be.

Hands-On: Marvel VS Capcom Infinite

MvCI was the game I was most excited to play on the show floor, but I left my demo session with mixed feelings.  It should be immediately noted that this game does not feel like Marvel 3.  I would describe it as an interesting medium between Marvel 2 and Tatsunoko VS Capcom.  The game features 4 buttons, light punch, heavy punch, light kick, heavy kick and buttons for your infinity stone and tag-in.

Although the game has no assist attacks like previous titles the tag-ins in this game makes up for it, especially with all of the options you have at your disposal.  Likewise, Infinity Stones feel very core to the overall gameplay and may have the potential to give characters a boost in areas they’re lacking, be it a projectile game or mobility.  Speaking of mobility, air-dashing was noticably absent from many characters.  Players like myself will definitely need to rely on other tactics in order to close the distance between you and your opponent.  I opted to try out Strider, Ryu, Captain Marvel, and Zero whom was the only one with an air-dash.

The returning characters I tried felt very similar, and my opponent obliterated me with Spencer combos I had seen in Marvel 3.  I’m hopeful that there’s more tricks up these characters’ sleeves as I’m very much a novice when it comes to Marvel, so I’m sure there were things I missed.  As much as I would like to go into detail about input lag, frame data, ground bounces, and other hardcore jargon I’m simply not qualified to do so. The main reason I left my play session with mixed feelings was because the game failed to really wow me.  I enjoyed it and had fun, but that was it.  Overall MvCI still feels like a VS game and I’m looking forward to picking the game up come September.

Hands-On: Dragon Ball Fighter Z

Dragonball Fighter Z is already the incredibly fun and exciting fighting game that I hope Marvel Infinite ends up being.  I am by no means a Dragonball fan.  All of my interest left in the franchise stems from nostalgic memories from my childhood.  Dragon Ball Fighter Z nevertheless manages to captivate my nostalgia in an endless fury of explosions, ki blasts, and incredibly flash combos.

The demo features Super Saiyan 2 Teen Gohan, Goku, Vegeta, Majin Buu, Perfect Cell, and Frieza in his final form.  Luckily, I was on the demo unit in the corner with the least supervision, so I got to sneak in an extra game and try out every character as the game is 3 versus 3.

Visually the game is easily on par with the 2.5D artwork of Guilty Gear Xrd.  It’s incredible how phenomenal the game looks this early on in development.  DBFZ does its very best to be as flashy as possible while being as accessible as possible.  Long combo strings can be executed with one button and ki blasts can be executed rapidly with another.  Special moves are executed similar to street fighter’s “hadouken” input or reverse hadouken inputs.  All characters were able to dash, fly, teleport and pummel the crap out of each other pretty effortlessly.  Granted, those who try to execute a game plan will be rewarded while players relying on single button combos will struggle to win consistently.

I can easily see this game bringing in novices to the genre in addition to bringing in fans of the series with its accessibility, especially with how well it replicates the over-the-top action of the anime in glorious visuals.  I still am shocked by just how much I enjoyed my time with this game.  I can only hope that a switch version becomes a reality as it would be fantastic to enjoy this in portable form.

Hands-On: Shantae Pirate Queen’s Quest DLC

Shantae: Half Genie Hero is due to get it’s first bit of DLC very soon, and Wayforward was kind enough to have the Nintendo Switch version available to try out for fans and backers alike.  This DLC features Shantae’s nemesis, Risky Boots, who is playable for the first time.

Risky feels very unique compared to Shantae.  She brandishes a sword, and wields a gun with different types of ammo that you can toggle through via the shoulder button.  Some explode on impact while others fire in multiple directions when you shoot it.  Risky also has a grapple hook that she fires directly above her.  You can’t change the angle, but it’s still very useful for ascending to platforms.

Because Risky isn’t a genie like Shantae, she cannot transform into any animal forms to advance.  Instead, Risky must fire her gun at targets that reveal platforms.  These platforms appear for a short amount of time, where you must navigate Risky across before they disappear.

The levels are the same locales that players will remember from the main game, but Risky felt distinctive enough to bring something new to a game that was already great to begin with.

Wayforward obviously took their time with this DLC as it looks great and is animated incredibly well.  Fans of this game have a lot to look forward to, and backers get it for free!

Hands-On: Ni No Kuni 2 Revenant Kingdom

I still remember how excited I was for the original Ni No Kuni.  It promised to be Studio Ghibli inspired world that I could explore and experience an incredible narrative.  But no matter how fantastic the characters were, no matter how visually pleasing the game was and despite having a story that was compelling, the entire game was completely marred by the atrocious combat .  It kept me disengaged and I stopped caring about completing the game and exploring more of what it had to offer.

ni no kuni 2

I’m elated to say that Ni No Kuni 2 completely ditches everything about the combat from the previous title and has switched to a real time action style in the vein of the “Tales-Of” series.  Gone are the days of training familiars and seeing the main characters in the background. The protagonist is now playable and offers a slew of ways to dispatch enemies that are both interesting and fun.

Ni No Kuni 2’s demo stations offered a look at two different fights from two different parts of the game.  I opted for the arena trial that tasked our main character Evan to defeat a beast-like monster in order to continue on his quest.  There was clearly very little context provided so as not to spoil anything from the main game, so I can’t say much more in regards to the story.  What I can explain in detail, however, is the combat.

ni no kuni

As previously mentioned, Ni No Kuni 2 has adopted an action style combat system where you execute attacks in real time.  You have light and heavy attacks, which when pushed in succession offers quick multi hit combos to take down foes.  Evan also is adept in magic, and can blast enemies from a distance.  There is also a guard button, a dodge roll button, and holding R2 brings up a subset menu that allows you to push any of the face buttons to perform strong special moves.  One of these moves (R2+Square) had Evan unleash a fury of slashes with his sword, while another (R2+Triangle) performed a healing spell.  I didnt notice any sort of drawback to spamming these moves, whether it be a meter or another resource that drains from these commands wasn’t clear from my time with the game.  I imagine there was something I missed here, but I couldn’t tell what exactly that was.

The best news is combat is simple yet enjoyable.  I was easily able to conceptualize what I wanted my character to do and execute it with little trouble.  The controls were responsive and I always felt like it was my timing that was off or a mistake on my part if I got hit.  One thing of note is that hitstun seemed to be absent while fighting.  I definitely took a few hits but my character did not seem to flinch if they were light.  At one point I was knocked down for several moments, but that was what made me realize I hadn’t flinched before that.

Another layer to the combat in this title is the supporting spirits called Higgledies.  These will let you apply buffs to your party including healing, attack boosts, defense boosts and shield barriers.

Overall I walked away excited to dive back into a world coated in the art style of a studio I adore.  The story this time around promises to be more mature and from a more adult perspective.  JRPG fans truly have a gem on the way this winter.