Polygon, Sorcery Saga, and Agenda Pushing B.S.

I think most gamers by this point are well aware of the sort of agenda pushing that sites like Kotaku and Polygon are known for. Remember that infamous Bayonetta 2 polygon review?

This article is going to focus on Polygon’s 2014 review of Sorcery Saga: Curse of The Great Curry God. Written by Danielle Riendeau, this piece highlights precisely why websites like Polygon and Kotaku are the butt of countless jokes amongst the gaming community.

The Polygon review contains two paragraphs complaining about the so-called “problematic” nature of the game’s dialogue and characters. As written by Danielle herself: “It’s colorful and goofy, though the story and writing contain problematic elements, like older male characters that hit on the teenaged heroine and plenty of tasteless jokes”


I’m not sure what game Danielle played, but to be offended and put off by Sorcery Saga‘s sense of humor is incredibly disheartening. We live in a world in which everyone gets offended and everyone needs to be politically correct all the time, otherwise you’re “insensitive” and an “awful” person. 

Where and when exactly this trend/ideology began is beyond me, but I do know that this kind of thought process is going to ruin games in the future and lead to unnecessary censorship in an attempt to appease easily offended types like Danielle. Censorship has already come to infect games such as Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE, Bravely Second: End Layer, and Fire Emblem Fates. Politics, ideologies, and personal agenda have no place in video game reviews. A review should be a critical assessment of a game’s quality. A review should not highlight “problematic” things like supposed “racism” or “tasteless” humor.

What offends someone might not offend someone else. What one person finds tasteless, another person might find funny or remain unbothered. You can say the same thing about reviews in general since everyone has a different opinion. The difference is that a review attempts to separate bias as much as possible(even though it’s impossible) and asses what the game tries to be and how close it comes to reaching that goal. There are ways to review games that are separate from personal feelings.

As Kyle Bosman of Gametrailers and now Easy Allies once said “I think you can love a game and still give it a 6”. Unfortunately, by stating what game content offends you, you’re essentially throwing that out the door and only letting your singular, narrow ideals dictate what kind of content people should find problematic. That’s not the kind of funneling that belongs in a review meant to inform consumers about how good or bad a game is. 

Later in the review, Danielle inserts a sidebar so that she can push her ideals onto others and have an entire dedicated space to complain. She writes: “Curse of The Great Curry God’s bizarre writing tries to be cute and sassy, but it’s often gross and off-putting. Pupuru attracts the attention of Gigadis, a much older man who pines for her and makes uncomfortable advances towards her throughout the game. She rebuffs him, but it doesn’t stop his constant marriage proposals and verbal fantasizing about her.

The script is lousy with poorly-thought-out molestation jokes and digs at people with mental illness. The cutscenes should have been a respite from the incessant grinding, but I found myself dreading them even more than my thirtieth crawl through a dungeon”


*facepalm*

People like Danielle Riendeau don’t belong in the industry reviewing games. Sure, believe whatever you want to believe, but do NOT air your personal feelings about these kinds of things out into a review. A consumer does not care about how easily offended you are by a work of fiction. A consumer wants to know how good the game is. If you want to write about how offensive a game is, then fine, write your own separate editorial highlighting how probelmatic it is. Do NOT, however, fill your review with this garbage. 

Gone Home Review(8/10)

Three years on from release and Gone Home has one of the most infamous reputations in recent memory. Sure, it was recieved well by critics, but consumers weren’t so kind to it. It’s one of those games with a huge divide between the general critic and consumer consensus. Those that swear against Gone Home claim it “isn’t even a game” among other things, but is it really that bad? Why all the vitriol over any game within the “walking simulator” genre? Are consumers so rigid in their expectations of what a video game is that once something challenges those expectations, said game is automatically dismissed as “boring” and “not a game”?

Gone Home is an incredibly simple game. Like others of its ilk, you won’t find many genre conventions. Gone Home is devoid of combat and puzzles that never go beyond finding the right key or combination code. There’s also no fail state. Traditional gamers will be instantly turned off by the lack of tangible gameplay mechanics that could be considered fun, but that’s not what Gone Home is.


It’s a directed story driven experience that hinges upon exploration and the player’s own curiosity. The game begins with Kaitlin Greenbriar returning to her childhood home after spending years overseas. Upon returning home, Kaitlin finds the house deserted with a note attached to the front door imploring her to shy away from investigating what happened in that house.

The intro sets an expectation for an eery horror game when in reality, Gone Home is nothing more than a relaxing stroll through a harmless house. Once players acclimate to the fact that no danger resides in the house, the game settles into a comfortable groove.Gone Home rewards thorough exploration. The crux of the experience lies within finding notes and other scattered items around the house left by the various family members and learning about them as individuals. The main plot line involves Kaitlin’s sister, Samantha, though there is much more to delve into than just her story. The attention to detail is staggering. Rarely has a video game seen such an organic and lived in environment. Save for the slightly odd layout of the house, each room tells a story in a convincing manner.


Players that soak in the environment will find a lot to delve into. It’s not always incredibly deep and emotional plot lines that you’ll find either. Sometimes the beauty of Gone Home lies in the smaller details. For example, the family living room has a television guide with different real world shows on them from the 90’s. In that same room, shelves are littered with labeled VHS tapes; recorded episodes of tv shows. 

The nonlinear structure ensures that anyone that wants to experience the meat of the story can get right to it and finish the game within less than an hour whereas those looking for more context and narrative can find it. Unfortunately, the main story is also the weakest element of the game. Notes left behind by Samantha are accompanied by voiceover which gets the job done, but the delivery is a bit hamfisted. In lieu of the emotional highs and lows, the impact of her story is lessened dramatically by how much is spelled out to the player. Too often a monologue by Kaitlin will detail exactly what she’s feeling and exactly what happened to the extent that it leaves no room for interpretation. Whereas some of the other subplots from the Greenbriar family require a degree of mental exertion to piece together different parts of a whole, Kaitlin’s story requires none of that exertion.


If Gone Home had chosen to employ the same degree of restraint with its main plot as the rest of the experience, it would have hit home a lot deeper. As it stands, though, it’s still a worthy experience for anyone that doesn’t mind a “boring walking simulator” and wants to be immersed in an environment. 

SCORE: 8/10

Titties and Dead or Alive 5: Last Round

It’s no secret that Dead or Alive 5: Last Round, and the Dead or Alive series as a whole, prides itself on tits and ass. Over the years, the sex appeal has become inseparable from the franchise, be it the mainline fighting game series or the XTREME spin-offs. Dead or Alive loves to show people tits and it makes no concessions to adhere to any politically correct sensibilities. 

Even after the controversy since the series’ inception in 1996, Dead or Alive has never been as sexualized as it is today with Last Round and XTREME 3 and there is nothing wrong with that. The developers have stuck to their guns and chosen to ignore the outcry from naysayers, pushing the sexiness as far as it can go without veering into full frontal nudity. Despite the bigger push for sex appeal, the Dead or Alive series has only gotten deeper, proving that tits and ass have no bearing on a game’s quality. Those that disagree are judgmental twats that are afraid of the human body. 


With the abundance of fighting games on the market today, one needs to find a niche in order to thrive. Considering the genre is so reliant on the competitive scene and fans to carry the torch, there are only so many fighting games that can remain “relevant”. Dead or Alive sets itself apart from other fighters in more ways than one…and I’m not just talking about the tits. 

Dead or Alive 5: Last Round is one of the best fighting games around to ease newcomers into the genre. It strikes a balance between accessibility and depth that other fighters don’t manage to the same degree. Most characters’ move lists are simple and require very limited directional inputs. Most characters will only ever require pressing a single direction and sometimes a quarter circle to pull off a move. The core mechanics are easy to understand with the fast paced nature of the combat lending to it a degree of entertainment and flash for players that just want to button mash.

Beyond that, the game is littered with mechanics that hardened fighting aficionados will want to dig into. While the competitive players are certainly the beating heart of any fighting game, Dead or Alive 5 is simple enough for anyone to pick up and have fun with. That above all is one of the most integral pillars to the Dead or Alive philosophy. It’s maintaining this ideal that a game can appeal to lower level players while equally suiting the higher level players. The interactive stages of the series also make Dead or Alive one of the most entertaining fighters to watch with a level of spectacle that goes unmatched. 


Typically speaking, the kind of person to watch a fighting game tournament is someone intimately familiar with that particular game’s set of rules and fighting games in general because fighting games are hard to understand. Fortunately, Dead or Alive 5, with its fast paced combat, fluid animations, and unsurpassed interactive stages is an enjoyable watch for both the casual and the pro alike. .

Dead or Alive 5: Last Round is far from one of the best or most technical fighting games of all time, but it has a lot to like and titties are only a small part of the equation. It is an accomplished fighting game that deserves more recognition, but likely won’t ever reach the popularity it deserves because contemporary society is afraid of sexuality. We live in an era in which publications actually deducted points from Last Round‘s score just because of the sexual content. What a ridiculous time for such a good game to be alive in. 

Project X Zone 2 Review (6/10)

This sequel to the 2013 crossover title aims to right the wrongs of the original, but does it actually make a marked improvement?

The original Project X Zone was a mediocre game that suffered from a lot of problems. It was plagued by repetitive combat/missions, excessive dialogue, and an insultingly easy difficulty along with the most boring maps ever conceived in a strategy RPG. Project X Zone 2 begins on a positive note for the first few hours, but by the midway point, repetition sets in yet again with another 15-20 hours of playtime still to go. The writing and character interactions have seen the biggest improvement. Dialogue is more consistently funny with some fairly subtle references to beloved and obscure franchises/titles alike. Players are treated to a pleasant experience for hours, but as the in-game cast grows, dialogue begins to suffer. Every character needs to have a word in and basic scenes that should move along briskly grind to a halt when 20+ characters have to iterate upon the same message one after the other. The writers of Project X Zone 2 need a serious crash course in restraint.


Gameplay has seen minor improvements. The addition of the mirage cancel, which allows players to expend 100 XP to cancel any attack mid-combo and slow down time, does add extra strategic options to combat. However, that’s essentially the extent to which the core gameplay has seen any revisions and it’s not necessary to complete the game at the default difficulty. Every map still boils down to finding the best combo set-ups that work for each pair and very rarely deviating from that. The cross break system has also been slightly tweaked.

In the original, having a pair and solo unit  attack an enemy at the same time would initiate a cross break, freezing the enemy in place. This made timing combos significantly easier. In Project X Zone 2, the cross break system still locks enemies in place, but it’ll short out more quickly. This places a different emphasis on the use of cross breaks. Whereas one used to intimate cross breaks for reliable to hit combos, it now serves more as a tool to fill up the XP meter. Beyond that, the core of Project X Zone has remained unchanged. Players still will acquire more gold than they know what to do with and items can still be used on the map with no limit. This generous item usage along with the mostly basic maps means the “strategy” in this strategy RPG is all but nonexistent. Careful attention to a unit’s positioning isn’t required. Some maps in the story mode have interesting hazards and gimmicks that need to be either avoided or manipulated, but these are too few and far between. Out of the 42 chapter total, less than ten make use of the environment in an interesting way, leading to a dull experience. 


And dull is perhaps the best summation of what it feels like to play Project X Zone 2 through to completion. It starts strong with genuinely funny dialogue that doesn’t overstay its welcome and the soundtrack is a fanboy’s wet dream. The combat also has its moments. Earning a new pair unit and attempting to figure out the most efficient combo can be surprisngly engaging, but these qualities can only carry the game so far. It takes a hard left turn by the mid-point. Fans of Project X Zone will like its sequel even more, but anybody that hated the original isn’t going to be convinced by this slight iterative installment. The franchise still has potential to grow and be something truly special. The question is whether or not the developers will capitalize upon that potential. 

SCORE: 6/10

Bioshock Infinite: The Game That Fell Into The Triple-A Trap

Bioshock Infinite was one of 2013’s critical darlings, however after playing through the game multiple times, I couldn’t help but feel dissatisfied with the end product.

Let’s travel back to 2010. This is the year consumers saw the first ever gameplay footage of Bioshock Infinite and it looked amazing. The gameplay consisted of a short walk through a burned down city before leading into a battle against some crazed preacher and it continued to escalate. By the end of the demo, players saw Elizabeth conjure up a massive boulder consisting of miscellaneous objects to be flung at enemies by the protagonist. Shortly thereafter, Booker fends off a giant mechanized beast that looked to be this game’s equivalent to the Big Daddy. Audiences were subjected to a game that appeared to be targeting a deliberate mood with intense action set to punctuate that mood. 

Then, the state of game remained dormant for a while until we saw it again in 2011. The 2011 footage gave us more insight into what we could tangibly expect from Bishock Infinite. We learned that an NPC would follow the player through the majority of the game and serve as an aid in battle. We saw a firefight in a huge open environment and we saw more of the sky hook traversal. 


Unfortunately, much of the promise from 2010 and 2011 fell by the wayside. The developers promised highly intelligent AI that would react to her environment and situations around her along with what appeared to be a progression of Elizabeth’s character. In the 2011 footage, the protagonist pointed at a rift for Elizabeth to tear open, at which point she stated something to the effect of “I’m not strong enough for that yet”. What did we get in the final game? An AI buddy that sits down and leans against walls sometimes with very basic rift-opening options. 

Unfortunately, Elizabeth’s AI and combat prowess wasn’t the only downgrade with environments being the biggest culprit. What we saw were open environments. We were promised an open world with a sky line system that players could use to traverse any part of the city. This is a far cry from the linear structure and cramped environments of the final build, not to mention the butchering of the skylines. In the version of Bioshock Infinite audiences got, the skylines served as either a straight path forward or they circled around obviously designed combat arenas. The organic nature of the early gameplay demos and even the original Bioshock was lost.

This brings us to the heart of the problem. Yes, Bioshock Infinite promised more than it delivered. Several gameplay and design elements were pared back due to the hardware limitations of the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360, but that’s not the only sin to Infinite‘s name. Even if we were to excuse and forget what was promised, the end result still feels like a product that wanted to be more. Part of what made the original Bioshock such an enduring game is the connected nature of the world. A lot of care was put into making Rapture feel as organic as possible within the constraints of a first person shooter. Most of Rapture feels like a place that could have in its prime existed as a real underwater city. The gameplay, story, and environment melded together well enough to paint a convincing picture of this once great underwater city.


Bioshock Infinite eschews all that care and subtlety in favor of catering to the triple-A shooter space it seemed to be competing in. Some of the best moments of the original Bioshock were the quieter moments that allowed players to reign back in and observe the environment. Bioshock Infinite has very little of that. The game is littered with endless amounts of action to the point that the last 2 or so hours felt like a completely tacked on addition to meet some quota of “okay, the game needs this ratio of shooting things to not shooting things. Add more shooting.”

There are not enough moments that allow Bioshock Infinite to show its true colors as an intelligent piece of art. It comes very close on multiple occasions. Namely, the opening and the extended gameplay sequence with Elizabeth on the beach. Bioshock Infinite is a game that pined for less action and more story, but studio bigwigs funding the whole shebang said “nah, you guys have guns in your game so you’re going to shoot a lot of things, okay? We need these many confirmed deaths at the least”. Even if the game had more of the environmental storytelling and pacing that made the original so successful, it still would pale in comparison because of the level design. Nearly every environment feels like a very “gamey” video game level. It’s obvious to the player when a shoot out will happen and when the game will settle into a smaller moment. The disconnect between story and gameplay is a crux that cements the disappointment of Bioshock Infinite.

It was too afraid to show restraint. It had the potential to be a work of art on the level of something like a Team Ico project, but Irrational Games fell into the Triple-A trap of senseless action over intelligence and devolving organic environments into “gamey” levels. When people say Triple-A is ruining the industry, Bioshock Infinite is one of the prime examples for that argument. 

RPG’s Are Fantastic on Handhelds

Gaming is a huge commitment as any avid gamer can tell you. It isn’t as easily digestible as forty minute music albums or two hour films, both of which are generally meant to be completed in a single sitting. By virtue of the fact that video games are so long and cost more money than other forms of entertainment, it can be daunting trying to finish them all. 

Life is life. It can be hectic, unfair, and stressful. When we’re escaping the real world, we want our free time to mean something. That’s why so many gamers end up with huge backlogs of games still yet to be completed from their day 1 purchases years ago. Simply put, games, specifically RPG’s, are too long and life doesn’t wait for us.

This is why handhelds have always been one of my gaming safe-havens growing up. The comfort of knowing I can play anywhere at anytime is something console and PC games can’t match. Of course, that’s not to discredit the significantly better hardware on home machines which does allow for more complex simulations and games. You won’t be seeing an RPG on the scale of The Witcher 3 on handheld devices any time soon. 


Regardless, there’s something special about playing Persona 4: Golden or Dungeon Travelers 2 while waiting for a restaurant to finish my order. Maybe I’m on a bus or in a waiting room and take out my 3DS for a bit of Etrian Odyssey or a Shin Megami Tensei game. Life hasn’t given me the opportunity to sit down in a comfortable environment and enjoy engrossing adventures on a big screen in recent weeks so i’ve taken this situation to jump back into the 3DS and Vita.

There’s this common misconception that handheld experiences need to be designed to be played in small chunks. This is why we see so many console franchises make the jump to handheld in a more bite-sized fashion; more due to the portability rather than hardware limitations. This is a trend and a misconception I hope dies off quickly. I’m not dismissing games that can be played in shorter bursts on the go. Fighting games, racing games, and puzzle games are genres perfectly suited to the handheld. I’ll even go on record as stating that Mario Kart 7 is possibly one of my most fondly remembered handheld games of all time. 

I don’t want bite-sized experiences to go away, but rather, hope they can peacefully co-exist with more involved adventures. One needs to look no further than handheld ports of console rpg’s. On the 3DS, we have Tales of The Abyss 3D and on the Vita we have Persona 4 Golden. These are two of the finest contemporary console RPG’s and despite that, made excellent conversions to their respective handheld platforms. The success of these two games alone proves the viability of the genre on the go. Rpg’s and all their off-shoots are the longest genres in gaming. Tackling a new RPG is a nightmare. With only so much free time available to sit down at home in front of a tv or monitor, it’s nigh on impossible to make a dent in any of these kinds of games. We can have our Mario Kart’s and our One Minute Hero’s, but we can also have our incredibly engaging and complex RPG’s that won’t go unfinished because there isn’t enough time at home. In fact, the only reason I finished Dungeon Traveleres 2 over a total playtime of 80+ hours is because I spent all my downtime on campus between classes sinking into that game. It was one of the most gratifying gaming experiences of my life and to have that game as a sort of “comfort food” I could carry with me everywhere cemented my love of handheld RPG’s. 

Etrian Mystery Dungeon: How it Killed My Motivation to Play and Why I Love That 

  

I should preface this article by explicitly stating that I’m not well attuned to rogue-likes as a genre. I’ve dabbled here and there with games of that ilk such as Tower of Guns and The Binding of Isaac, however I hadn’t played a more traditional turn based rogue-like until my exposure to Etrian Mystery Dungeon. This is an injustice I hope to rectify at some point by going back to older Mystery Dungeon games such as the enhanced SNES port of Shiren to the DS, but that’s a story for another time.

With that said, Etrian Mystery Dungeon has become one of my best impulse purchases in recent memory; a purchase based solely on my adoration for the Etrian Odyssey series. Despite my relative inexperience with the genre, I consider myself an avid lover of rpg’s and all subgenre’s that stem from it. As such, I had reserved expectations going into the game. 

The first three story dungeons were alarming in the worst way possible. After acclimating to the controls and gameplay style, I was able to power through the initial dungeons with little effort. It got to the point that I had to take regular breaks every few minutes to do something else with my time. After all, a game of this type ultimately lives or dies based on its difficulty. People don’t play a turn based game because it’s easy. People play turn based games because they want at the very least some degree of strategy; something the first several hours weren’t giving me. 

 
My faith in the product began waining at this point only to be restored upon reaching the fourth story dungeon. The introduction of DOE’s and the fort building mechanic along with more difficult run-of-the-mill encounters gave me the strength to push onward. By the 25th floor of the sixth main dungeon, that restored faith was taken back and held captive behind an elaborate, impenetrable vault and you know what? That’s perfect fine.

I made a stupid decision that cost me several hours of progress and the game made me suffer as a result. For the uninformed, dungeons in Etrian Mystery Dungeon can inhabited by DOE’s, incredibly powerful boss-type enemies. It’s never wise to fight a DOE upon first encountering it, therefore players will want to avoid DOE’s at all costs while making it to the bottom of their first excursion within a dungeon. 

Every time a player progresses by a floor in a dungeon, the DOE can also progress a floor. If the DOE reaches the first floor, it will destroy the hub-town and wipe away hours of progress spent upgrading various districts in town. This sounds like an unstoppable nightmare, though that’s where the fort building mechanic comes into play. Forts of various types can be set down on most floors of a dungeon and will ward off DOE’s, though they will be destroyed in the process as well. 

 
The sixth main dungeon was the largest and most difficult area up until that point and as such, I built multiple search forts(which allow fast travel to that floor from town) to ensure steady progress through the labyrinth. I even had multiple forts destroyed by DOE’s.

Unfortunately, the game tested my patience a bit too far. I knew all too well that a DOE was heading upwards and yet I continued my descent, hoping to reach the boss floor before the DOE could do anything. As soon as I hit the 25th floor, the game instantly transported me back to town. All the districts I worked so hard to upgrade were destroyed and a lot of my gold was wiped. Even most of my currently equipped weapons and armor throughout the party disappeared. I was furious to the say the least.

In the interest of saving time and money, I chose not to place down a fort at the first floor because the majority of the game had been a cakewalk. I figured “hey, I can do this.” Due to my carelessness, hours of upgrading shops, acquiring money, and forging gear went down the drain. Regardless of my initial frustration, Etrian Mystery Dungeon served as a wake-up call for difficulty and consequence in gaming. Not every experience needs to be punishing, but I’m glad a game like this exists and let me suffer such a consequence over a glaring oversight on my part. Even though I quit Etrian Mystery Dungeon to spare my sanity, I haven’t given up for good. My tried and true party of landsknecht, protector, medic, and gunner haven’t retired. They’re simply on vacation and will one day return to finish what they started. 

Etrian Mystery Dungeon reinforces why difficulty is so integral to rpg’s as a whole. The lack thereof is why games like the Project X Zone series won’t be revered years down the line as essential strategy/tactical rpg’s while games like the mainline Etrian Odyssey franchise have that staying power. This isn’t about elitism or the whole “git gud” the industry is infamous for. This is about player engagement relative to a genre and difficulty is an essential element to an engaging turn-based RPG.