(Q2) Quagmire

The first quarter of the year is always a struggle for me due to my job. My busy season at work typically runs from January through March (sometimes well into April), so I don’t always have time to game. The second quarter of the year has always been a time of reflection and relaxation, however. From  late Spring to early Summer, I try to catch-up on the games I couldn’t make time for during the first quarter of the year. 2018 has been a relatively strong year in terms of exciting new releases, but I’m still playing games from last year! I’m also committed to an online forum challenge where participants attempt to finish 52 games in a year. Despite my lack of focus and my ability to juggle way too many games at once, I’ve somehow managed to complete 30 games and we’re already more than half-way through the year. With that said, I’ve once again commissioned my graphic design friend, Kevin Quigley, to make me a banner image for this post.

MattyJohn Q2 Pass 12
Check out kevinquigleydesign.com for more info on his work!

To be honest, I struggled conveying my thoughts for this banner image, but I ended up being relatively happy with the results. I wanted to capture the essence of an old-school, dot-to-dot world map from the 16-bit era (think Super Mario World or Donkey Kong Country). Each quarter of the year is an area on the map that’s supposed to reflect my mood, the games I typically play, how I’m feeling or even the weather during that time of the year. We’ve had some record-breaking heat up here in the northeast over the past few months (hence the sun and sweat-mark over my head). The treasure chest and the three games inside are Squaresoft’s Summer of Adventure titles from 2000, which included Chrono Cross, Legend of Mana and Threads of Fate. I recall playing these games extensively during one summer break when I had zero obligations/responsibilities and I have nothing but the fondest memories from that period of my life.

From Super Mario World on the SNES: I used to draw world maps like this as a kid.

Not much has changed as it’s been 18 years and I’m still playing role-playing games (RPGs) during the Spring/Summer months. In fact, I’ve been playing Square Enix’s very own Octopath Traveler, Monolith Soft’s Xenoblade Chronicles 2 and Level-5’s Ni no Kuni II: Revenant Kingdom. I used to be able to focus on a single RPG back in the day, but nowadays with “Games as a Service” (GaaS) and smaller, more digestible independent studio projects, it’s hard to maintain focus on just one game. So, without further ado, here’s what I’ve been playing during during the months of April, May and June! Enjoy!

Ongoing Endeavors (a.k.a Part-time Jobs)

As someone who’s always preferred single-player experiences, I’ve never been one to invest my time into games that arguably have “no end”. As much as I’ve wanted to try them, I’ve avoided playing Massive Multiplayer Online (MMO) RPGs like World of Warcraft or even Final Fantasy XIV because I know I wouldn’t play anything else but those two games. With that said, over the past few years, I’ve broadened my horizons, to a degree. I can appreciate and enjoy games that are MMO-lite, so-to-speak. With only so much valuable gaming time at my disposal, games like Destiny 2, Overwatch, and Monster Hunter: World are the types of investments I’m more willing to entertain.

I wrote about Destiny 2 briefly in previous posts, but now that I’ve been playing the game off and on for nearly a year, I’ve finally been able to wrap my head around its allure. Although Bungie’s signature run & gun gameplay is still satisfying and fun, Destiny 2 has become a glorified grind-fest that’s becoming somewhat of a love/hate relationship. Despite putting the game down for a month or two, I’ve finally returned to my routine shenanigans on a consistent basis in order to complete my weekly milestones. Whether it’s the occasional seasonal event (such as Iron Banner or Faction Rally), the chase for ornaments or the simple joy of seeing my power level increase ever so slightly, Destiny 2 has its hooks in me again (for better or worse).

Took advantage of a double valor weekend and clawed my way to max rank.

Although a lot of my grievances with Destiny 2 are about to be corrected with the Forsaken DLC and its numerous quality-of-life updates, I couldn’t help but to be bewildered by some of their design decisions since launch. To preface this discussion, I started playing the original Destiny long after its prime, less than a year before Destiny 2 first launched. The clan I’ve since joined for Destiny 2 was around for most of the original game’s lifespan and I’ve been informed of the first game’s highs & lows. They showed me a raid or two and I got to experience what the first game ultimately had to offer. As someone who’s been more invested with the sequel, however, I’m both fascinated and surprised to hear that Bungie has more or less walked a similar road with Destiny 2.

The after-party at the Tower, post-raid.

For a game that’s deep-seated in lore, why hasn’t there been an in-game lore book/menu with references to the characters and universe of Destiny? Monolith Soft’s Xenosaga even had an in-game “bible” that housed all of the characters and lore of the universe and that was an offline PlayStation 2 (PS2) game! Why also isn’t there a quest log/summary of all of the optional adventures? The same can be said about the scan-able objects scattered about the environments, too. They’re fun to discover and offer interesting tidbits on the story/characters, but because they’re not archived anywhere, everything is in-one-ear, out-the-other. Again, a lot of these complaints will be addressed in September, but it still baffles me that these weren’t addressed at launch. Finally, I was able to complete the Leviathan Raid (and one of the raid lairs) with the help of a different clan!

A different clan carried me through the raid, but it still felt relatively rewarding.

Although I previously managed to complete a few rooms with my own clan near-launch, our endeavors quickly fell by the wayside due to scheduling conflicts and lack of interest. As someone who didn’t get to experience the original Destiny raids during their prime, I felt compelled to at least see the Leviathan Raid to its conclusion while the game was still relevant. Now that I’ve got to experience a few raids from the original game and the Leviathan from Destiny 2, the raids feel like a final dungeon from an RPG (complete with puzzles, enemy encounters and sub-bosses), only you’re playing with people online… and it’s a first-person-shooter (FPS). For those who have played MMOs for years, raids are nothing new. For me, however, it’s been nothing short of a revelation.

Overwatch is another on-going affair I started playing last year and it’s another game I still enjoy routinely booting-up. Although I don’t necessarily play competitively, I find myself logging on for a quick match or two each week. Blizzard’s hero shooter is super polished and each character is simply a joy to play/learn. I typically find myself choosing a character (sometimes based purely on aesthetic) and playing/learning them until I unlock each of their respective ability-related trophies. I also typically gravitate towards offense-based characters, but I will sometimes choose a different character/role I’m not too familiar with if the team’s unbalanced (as it should be played). Fortunately, there’s a common through-line between all of the playable characters.

That one time I was good at Overwatch.

If you generally know how to play one character’s role (whether that be offense, healer or tank, for example) then you’ll most likely be able to assimilate rather quickly to any of the other characters within that same class. Overwatch, like many online games today, rotates special events throughout the year, too. I managed to participate in both the Blackwatch/Retribution events and the 2018 Anniversary (which included all past events on a daily rotation). During these periods, I would typically save all loot boxes I earned and would open them all on the final day of the event. Unfortunately, I never obtained anything I was looking for, but that’s just the nature of the random number generator (RNG). I’ll likely be playing this game off and on well into next year as Blizzard seems keen on supporting the game indefinitely.

Finally, there’s Monster Hunter: World, another game that arguably has no end. Whether I was playing the game with a dedicated friend or using the SOS signal for help, I’ve slowly made my way through the assigned quests (while taking the occasional detour to complete optional quests and hunt for specific materials). As of the beginning of July, I completed the final assignment and saw the credits roll! Mission Accomplished. Monster Hunter: World is the second title in the franchise I’ve spent the most time with (next to Monster Hunter Tri). I’ve been primarily using the Insect Glaive and have yet to try a different weapon, too. I also managed to play during the Spring Blossom Festival, which offered unique gear, quests and other daily login bonuses.

Punished Dante.

Although Monster Hunter: World is still the most accessible and on-boarding entry in the franchise, it’s an incredibly hardcore game that’s extremely demanding. If I’m hunting difficult monsters consecutively, I typically tap-out between 3 to 5 quests. Unless you’re fighting in the arena, a standard hunt can take 20 to 30 minutes to complete (and that’s if everything goes smoothly). What I adore about these games is the fact that it’s more dependent on player skill than anything else. Although there are passive skills, stats and gear that influence your character’s ability to survive, it’s your understanding of the game’s mechanics and how you learn/approach each monster that reigns paramount. I would love to earn the Platinum Trophy for this game, but time will tell if I have it in me to ride out the inevitable grind.

Quick Switch-Hits

Fairune is an overhead 2D action-RPG developed by Skipmore. At first-glance, the game may resemble The Legend of Zelda, but in-terms of design philosophy, the developers clearly took inspiration from Falcom’s classic action-RPG franchise, Ys. For those who aren’t familiar with the original Ys games, the character does not actively slash their sword to defeat enemies. Instead, the player simply “mows-down” their foes by walking/running into them. Whether or not you do damage to the enemy is dependent on your character-level (as there’s also no traditional gear/equipment to influence stats). Otherwise, the player will either take damage or will be unable to eliminate a foe (which typically ends in death if you’re under-leveled).

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I can do better!

Fortunately, there’s an in-game book/codex which will present the player with the recommended enemy. The combat is essentially a simplified rock-paper-scissors system that’s oddly satisfying and lends itself to the portable pick-up & play nature of the game. Although navigation and puzzle solutions were rather straightforward, there were a few instances of trial & error in order to make progress. Fairune originally released on the Nintendo 3DS eShop, but has been recently ported to the Nintendo Switch in the form of a collection (which includes its sequel and a few other games). I completed the original Fairune in a couple hours, but I look forward to perhaps 100%’ing the game and checking out its sequels in the coming weeks.

Speaking of the Legend of Zelda, the developers behind Blossom Tales: The Sleeping King, Castle Pixel, LLC., released their tribute to Nintendo’s classic back on Steam/PC in 2017. It wasn’t until the studio ported their game to the Switch in 2018 when word-of-mouth spread of its fame & fortune. In fact, the Switch port’s revenue surpassed Steam’s lifetime revenue by 20 times and inadvertently saved the studio from closing shop! Needless to say, Switch has been the place-to-be in terms of finding success in an otherwise overcrowded marketplace (how long that will last has yet to be seen, but feel free to read my thoughts on the subject in my other post regarding Switch’s first year here…).

Nice logo, okay game.

Much like any other Zelda-like, the overworld is filled with monsters, hidden items (which sometimes require upgrades to unearth), towns and fetch-quests. Located in each corner of the map is a main dungeon, too. By conquering a dungeon and defeating its corresponding boss, the player will obtain a key-item which allows them to move to a new location. It’s a relatively straightforward affair, but it’s not without its faults. My main issue with the game is that there’s an overabundance of monsters on each screen and because of this, each encounter feels way too chaotic. The puzzles, while sometimes clever and relatively engaging, are repeated often which doesn’t help distinguish any dungeon or area from the other. The structure of the game is also very similar to the first-half of most 2D/3D Zelda titles and Castle Pixel didn’t stray too far from the formula.

Hyrule King… I mean, Blossom Kingdom!

As an avid fan of A Link to the Past and Zelda-likes alike, I’ve been playing Blossom Tales since its Switch launch back in December of 2017. Although I’ve now completed the game, I can’t say that I’ve enjoyed it as much as the rest of the fan base/community has. It’s a competent, well-polished game, but aside from its somewhat unique approach to its storytelling, Blossom Tales struggles to distinguish itself from the very same game it aspires to be. It’s not really an asset-flip, but at times, it sure does feel like one! I’m hoping Castle Pixel takes their newfound success and creates a unique IP or a sequel that has a much stronger identity. Regardless, it’s great to see an indie developer find success in a new market.

FRAMED, developed by the independent Australian studio, Loveshack, is a puzzle game with a noir-like setting/aesthetic and a minimalistic presentation. In FRAMED, the player guides a spy screen-by-screen while manipulating various panels in order to progress. It’s an incredibly short experience, but each panel offers interesting scenarios and “ah-ha” moments to keep the player interested. FRAMED first released on mobile back in 2014 and it was notorious for being Hideo Kojima’s game of the year. I played and finished the game through the collection on Switch and I’m looking forward to checking out the sequel soon.

Who Framed Roger Rabbit?

Woodle Tree Adventures: Deluxe was developed by Chubby Pixel, an independent game studio based in Milan. Woodle Tree Adventures is an extremely short 3D platformer with little to note, unfortunately. Judging by the developer’s history, the game feels rooted in its mobile heritage, too. The controls are sloppy and the camera perspective is not ideal. Given some of the precision required to navigate each level, some more attention to the game’s camera system would have been appreciated. The game’s relatively cheap and the developer seems to be experimenting with ideas and finding their voice still, so-to-speak, so it’s hard to judge the game too harshly. Check it out if you’re only morbidly curious.

Not having maxed out berries (9999?) is kind of bothering me…

The Adventures of Elena Temple, developed by GrimTalin, is another throwback 2D platformer to the games of yesteryear. Elena Temple is set in a sprawling, screen-by-screen dungeon packed with branching paths, hidden items and obstacles. Your goal is to collect gems and escape from the dungeon’s depths. Upon booting the game, the player is greeted by a selection of display options and photorealistic backgrounds. Each display option allows the player to enjoy the game on their “hardware” of choice, complete with a nostalgic backdrop, a satirical story and an appropriate arrangement of the game’s music. Elena Temple is a rather short experience (I completed the game with everything collected in about 2-3 hours), but the developers recently updated the game with some in-game medals to earn based on your performance.

Legend of the Hidden Temple.

Minit to Win It

Minit, developed by Vlambeer, is a top-down, 2D Zelda-like/micro-adventure with a unique gimmick. Upon the retrieval of a cursed sword, the player will die at the stroke of sixty seconds. Safe havens (checkpoints) are scattered about the environment which act as anchors (re-spawn points) to the world, however. The player’s goal is to find the source of the curse by interacting with certain NPCs and resolving their requests. There are also simple environmental puzzles that require certain items to be found first. Shortcuts and wraparounds are cleverly placed, which allow the player to complete their 60-second goals once discovered, too. It’s an extremely short experience that’s meant to be replayed as there are a slew of secrets to uncover and additional modes to challenge. I enjoyed my brief time with the game and would love to see a sequel!

“Washing the dog! Washing the dog!” – Beavis and Butt-head.

Bloodstained: Curse of the Moon, developed by Inti Creates, is a retro-inspired side-story based on the much larger Kickstarter version of Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night due out in 2019. For anyone who grew up with Konami’s classic Castlevania franchise, Curse of the Moon doesn’t try too hard to hide its inspiration. It’s essentially Castlevania III: Dracula’s Curse with a new ensemble and a fresh coat of paint. Curse of the Moon utilizes an “enhanced” 8-bit style as the parallax-scrolling and boss-scaling on diaplay here wouldn’t have been possible on the original Nintendo (NES) hardware. The player begins the game as the lonesome Zangetsu, but three additional playable characters can be recruited (or slain), which allows the player to discover new routes and hidden challenges.

Castlevania: Circle of the Moon… wait what?

Curse of the Moon is a rather short experience, but it’s highly replayable due to its branching paths and character-specific routing. Each character brings a unique ability to the table (such as a high jump, magic spells or a bat transformation) and can be switched to on-the-fly, which allows the player to tackle stages in different ways. Franchise favorite sub-weapons make a return and are character-specific this time around, too. The game also features many composers, including the legendary Castlevania composer, Michiru Yamane. I completed the game twice, one of which was on Nightmare mode with Veteran mechanics activated (knockback on hit). Curse of the Moon was both a nice surprise and a delicious appetizer for the main course next year.

A Summer Surprise

Despite releasing in the summer of 2017, the Last Day of June, developed by Ovosonico, could potentially be my biggest surprise of the year.  On paper, the Last Day of June appears to be just another narrative-driven adventure game. It’s a story about love & loss and how the relationship between a man and a woman is influenced and ultimately affected by the people in their lives. Visually, the art-style and presentation evokes a Time Burton-like atmosphere. Despite the game’s beautiful watercolor aesthetic, each character’s face is featureless, almost hollowed, which provides a stark contrast to an otherwise cheerful-looking game. All spoken dialogue is also delivered in a gibberish-like manner, but unlike other games that have adopted this style over the years, the sound design and character animations perfectly convey everything the player needs to know without a single word ever being spoken.

Too sad. I just can’t.

The goal of the game is to prevent the loss of your loved one by defying fate. As the player interacts with a handful of non-playable characters (NPCs), you’ll solve simple environmental puzzles by utilizing a time travel-like mechanic, which will change the outcome of the story. A single day will repeat if the incorrect solution is chosen, however, the game will cleverly cut-corners on repeat attempts in order to maintain a decent pace. Although the game, at times, is very dark and extremely depressing, there are heartwarming vignettes sprinkled throughout the narrative which bring harmony and balance to an otherwise tragic story. I completed the game in two sittings and I couldn’t stop thinking about it for days. Do yourself a favor and experience this game if you haven’t done so already!

**** the Oscars!

A Way Out, developed by Hazelight Studios and spearheaded by the now-infamous Josef Fares (known for both his rant on the 2017 Game Awards and for his successful indie game, Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons), is an action-adventure crime drama which (presumably) takes place in the  60s. It’s essentially a b-movie centered around two characters who got mixed-up in some bad business. Nearly every single type of gameplay system is present here, too; from quick-time-events (QTEs) to brawler sections and high-speed chase sequences. I played the majority of the game couch co-op with a person near and dear to me and it’s been a relatively interesting affair so far. Although you can play the game single-player and swap between the two protagonists, A Way Out is best played as a cooperative experience, preferably split-screen with a friend or significant other. More thoughts on this game when we eventually see it to its conclusion.

More exciting than a Phillies game.

Oldies But Goodies

Both Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze and Bayonetta, developed by Retro Studios and Platinum Games, respectively, got ported to the Switch earlier this year. While I’ve played these two games extensively back on their original hardware, they are two of my favorite games of all time. Enough time has passed where both games feel somewhat new to me again, which is always a wonderful feeling to have. I’ve been playing them off & on since their release and I’m about half-way through both games. Tropical Freeze is still the pinnacle of modern-day 2D platforming and Bayonetta is still the reigning queen of character-based action games. More gushing over the two respective champs at a later date!

Love dynamic camera angles. Still one of my favorite shots from Tropical Freeze.

On-going Affairs

God of War, boy, what a game! While Sony Santa Monica Studio has already received enough praise from both critics and fans alike, God of War truly is a remarkable evolution to a series that has been rooted in familiarity and fatigue for far too long. The new God of War is what Resident Evil 4 was to the original Resident Evil. Gone are the fixed-camera angle perspectives (a la Devil May Cry circa PS2 era) and say hello to the over-the-shoulder 3rd-person action-game! Director Corey Barlog adopted a single-shot camera approach (think Birdman or that one episode from It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia) and it’s quite novel and effective here. The narrative is also much stronger and more mature than the previous entries to date. The score, composed by Bear McCreary, is appropriately epic and the game is quite large in scope, too.

Me being artsy-fartsy.

The combat has been completely refined and the new primary weapon, a one-handed axe, can be tossed and retrieved, much like Thor’s hammer from the Marvel Comic Universe. It’s extremely satisfying and rewarding, to say the least. With that said, the game’s not without its shortcomings. I’m nearing the end of the journey and I can’t help but notice the similarities to other modern, “AAA” action-game titles (such as The Last of Us, the new Tomb Raider games and even the aforementioned Resident Evil 4). While there’s nothing wrong with borrowing ideas from the aforementioned titles, I feel like God of War, at times, carries an identity established by those who have walked before it. Despite still being a character-based action-game, God of War is also much more of an RPG this time around and I’m not quite sure if it’s a better game for it.

These wasps were buzzing in my ear and I couldn’t take it anymore!

God of War has equipment, level-ups, stats, skills, elemental weakness and the like, however, there’s far too much of it. Often have I found myself utilizing tried & true battle techniques during most, if not all of the encounters (and I’ve been playing on the highest difficulty, Give Me God of War, from the beginning). The enemy variety is decent and the game does an okay job at mixing encounters with a concoction of enemy types, but there’s just way too many options available to the player and there’s little incentive to use one skill/technique over the other. Having combat choices and a range of abilities at your disposal is great, but it’s even better when a game calls for experimentation and utilization of such offerings and I don’t feel like God of War particularly hits those notes. My final thoughts on Sony’s fastest-selling PS4 title are forthcoming!

Stand Tall and Shake the Heavens

I just reached Chapter 5: Masters and Slaves in Xenoblade Chronicles 2 and at around 60+ hours, I’m still making my way towards Elysium. As someone who grew-up with and loved Squaresoft’s Xenogears and Monolith Soft’s Xenosaga, respectively, I’ve yet to grow tired of Tetsuya Takahashi’s visions. Although Xenoblade Chronicles 2 appears to be more anime-like and trope-ridden compared to their previous efforts, there’s always an interesting philosophical/religious through-line present. The cast of characters and overall story-arc haven’t quite captured me yet, however, I’m dedicated to see the game to its conclusion. More thoughts on the combat system and soundtrack (as I’m still wrapping my head around it all) at a later date!

I still can’t get over how early I got her in the game! Lady Luck was on my side!

Ni no Thank You

I wasn’t the biggest fan of the original Ni no Kuni back on the PlayStation 3 (PS3). Presentation-wise, the game’s visuals and animations were a delight to behold (with animated sequences done by the legendary Studio Ghibli) and the soundtrack composed by Joe Hisaishi was nothing short of amazing. Level-5, the developer, hasn’t always been the most competent game-maker, to say the least. To put it bluntly, Ni no Kuni’s Pokémon-like battle system and AI-controlled allies were a mess, the dungeons felt like uninspired corridors and although the story started off on a strong, emotional note, the narrative fell short towards the end of the journey. At least the world map looked gorgeous, though! I’m only about 10 hours into Ni no Kuni II: Revenant Kingdom and I’m still far too early to develop any meaningful thoughts on the game.

Lisa Simpson is in this game.

My initial impressions is that Ni no Kuni II looks/sounds amazing (although I’m not the biggest fan of the new chibi-style overworld). The combat is much more action-oriented and I’m happy to see that they removed the monster-catching mechanics from the original game, too. Although the first 10+ hours have been incredibly easy so far, they’ve recently updated the game, which allows players to opt for harder difficulties (and I’m extremely tempted to start over…). The Suikoden-like skirmishes and castle-building features seem really interesting as well and they are a nice addition to an already fairly dense package. I’m liking the game, but I’m not fully enamored by it. Time will tell if I come around to Level-5’s shenanigans, but I’m happy to have yet another RPG to sink my teeth into as time/willingness allows!

“It’s Ys, not Y’s or Whys!”

Falcom is one of my favorite developers of all time. I was first introduced to their games with Konami’s PS2 port of Ys VI: The Ark of Napishtim. Since then, I slowly discovered their back catalogue and fell in-love with their work. Ys VIII -Lacrimosa of DANA- is the latest installment in their long-running flagship franchise. The latest installment doesn’t stray too far from the last few games and that’s not necessarily a bad thing, either. Adol, the main protagonist, is yet again accompanied by party members who can be switched to on-the-fly. Much like the last few titles, each member comes equipped with unique weapons and abilities. Weapons carry different attributes and certain enemies are weaker to particular damage types, so it’s best to form a diverse team of combatants. Flash guards/dodges make a return as well, but they seem much more forgiving this time around, too.

Rockin’ that 80s Adol outfit. It’s hard to keep your eyes off it.

The most interesting thing about Ys VIII, however, is that it takes place on a deserted island. Survivors from a shipwreck can be recruited and a base of operations can be upgraded/expanded. The rescued villagers not only offer slices of backstory, but they also serve as functional members of your new home, providing resources and other accommodations to the player. New areas can be discovered by locating more people, too. Debris, rocks and other barriers prevent the player from accessing new areas, but these obstacles can be cleared if a certain amount of villagers have been found. The tried & true combat system and base-building loop is extremely satisfying, to say the least. I’ve been playing the game on Inferno difficulty since its launch back in 2017 and I’ve logged around 20+ hours so far. I can’t wait to see the inevitable plot twists unfold!

Ground Zeroes

There was a time where I was up-to-speed with the Yakuza franchise. I’ve been there since the original game back on the PS2 and I have invested 100s of hours between the first four games (including Dead Souls). For those who are unfamiliar with the franchise, Yakuza is sort of like Sega’s very own Shenmue, but with Streets of Rage-like combat and a semi-open world structure. For a long time, I was always disappointed that no one saw the appeal/potential in these games. There was a time when Sega would not even localize the games in the west, but due to the sales and success of Yakuza 0, Sega has seemingly reversed their outlook on the franchise outside of Japan and I couldn’t be happier!

Dancing the grind away.

I’ve been playing Yakuza 0 off & on since its release last year, but I think I’m still burned-out on the formula. I’ve got 20+ hours logged, but as per usual, I keep getting distracted by the (extremely funny and well-written) sub-stories and mini-games. I need to focus on this game and nothing else to remind myself why I loved these games in the first place. My fixation on Destiny 2, Monster Hunter: World and Overwatch hasn’t helped, either. I’ve found it difficult to make time for single-player experiences lately, but I’m going to do my best to finish this game before year’s end. If you haven’t played a Yakuza game before, do yourself a favor and give Zero a whirl! It’s the perfect entry-point in a long-running franchise that isn’t going away anytime soon.

Hakuna Matata

I played the original Kingdom Hearts back on the PS2 when it first released. As someone who was a huge Squaresoft fan growing-up (and only watched Disney films on occasion), I enjoyed the cross-over for what it was worth. I’ve always been a fan of action-RPGs and I’ll play any game that’s scored by Yoko Shimomora, so Kingdom Hearts was a no-brainer. In fact, I actually completed the original PS2 game at 100% back in the day, but I only dabbled with its sequel, Kingdom Hearts 2, for so long. When Birth By Sleep first launched on the PlayStation Portable (PSP), I did somehow manage to finish the game, secret ending included! That’s been the extent of my journey through the wonderful world of Pooh, Gummi Ships and spiky-haired heroes, however.

The stuff of nightmares. I’m never playing this game again under these conditions.

With Kingdom Hearts III fast-approaching, I wanted to start fresh with the franchise and make an attempt to experience the series in all of its convolutedness. Kingdom Hearts HD 1.5 Remix is yet another port/re-release of the HD collection first released back on the PS3. I decided to play the game with the sole intention of simply enjoying the story and watching the cut-scenes. I didn’t want to do a full, 100% playthrough, but I did want to try and get as many of the more difficult trophies as I possibly could. I set the game to the easiest difficulty, but opted for the “no continue”, “under 15 hours” and “no equipment changing” goals. What a horrible idea that has been! I’m at the very end of the game and the majority of the late-game boss encounters have been nothing short of a nightmare. Never again!

See you next quarter (Q3)!



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