Tales of Zestiria Review

ToZ

Hiyo, everyone! Today, I will review a game I recently finished playing – Tales of Zestiria! Like Tales of Xillia 2, this game is part of the Tales series, which I adore. Also, for reference, I played on Steam using a controller. I’ll be covering the premise of the story but, as usual,¬† I’ll avoid significant spoilers. That said, let’s get right into it!

The story begins with two friends, Sorey and Mikleo, engaging in their usual hobby – the exploration of ruins. Sorey is a human, but Mikleo, along with the inhabitants of Elysia, the town where the two grew up, are seraphim, beings much like humans, but who wield elemental powers and are invisible and inaudible to most humans. Sorey, having grown up with them, is an exception.

During their exploration, the two boys discover something most unexpected – an unconscious girl. They rescue her and allow her some rest, but their adoptive grandfather, the chief of Elysia, says she cannot stay for long. So, once she’s healed up, (and after revealing she’s a princess; there will be a few cliches in the premise of this story) the girl, Alisha, departs – and a hellion (creatures corrupted by malevolence) attacks one of the citizens of Elysia. After defeating him, he escapes, and Sorey and Mikleo learn his true mark was Alisha. Concerned, they leave in secret to warn her.

That leads them to the city of Ladylake, capital of the Kingdom of Hyland, where an event is going on wherein people try to pull a blade from a pedestal (told ya) and the one who succeeds is named Shepherd. The Shepherd’s role is to protect humanity, cleanse malevolence (a corrupting substance that can turn humans, animals, and seraphim alike into monsters) and eventually face the Lord of Calamity, who generates overwhelming malevolence. Naturally, Sorey succeeds at extracting the sword and becomes Shepherd. A seraphim named Lailah, who has been watching the sword for some time, makes a pact with him as Prime Lord and informs him of his duties – and that he musn’t let them consume him. But Sorey is a kind-hearted boy who is always looking out for others, so that’s a bit difficult for him. Regardless, that is the beginning of his journey, and he picks up several companions along the way!

Like most Tales games, Zestiria does a good job of developing its major characters, and expands upon them through small, mostly-optional interactions called skits, where they discuss anything from major plot points to completely trifling matters, like the meals they eat when they rest at the inn. Speaking of the plot, like most Tales games, Zestiria has a strong one with several twists, though in my opinion, it doesn’t quite hold up to Tales of Symphonia. (One of my favorite games ever.) Even so, both the story and the characters made me want to see more and more. I especially liked Mikleo and Edna.

The combat system is also similar to other Tales games, where you fight enemies in open areas, controlling one character at a time with a focus on combos. Zestiria’s iconic combat feature is armatization, which allows a human and a seraphim character to fuse and unfuse during combat; when fused, they become especially powerful, with a unique moveset. Armatization made for quite fluid and interesting gameplay!

Another of Zestiria’s features that I was less fond of was the use of special traits to boost your equipment. As an idea, that’s sound, but the 5 x 10 grid of traits you had to work with to line up traits for bonuses seemed excessively large and cumbersome, and it made gear customization a bit of a hassle. In my opinion, it’s a symptom of the mechanics bloating that has characterized some of the more recent Tales games. Still, even when you don’t worry about lining up or stacking traits, you can hold your own on lower difficulty levels. (Like most Tales games, difficulty is flexible and can be changed frequently throughout your run.)

Zestiria’s music was strong, and its visuals were quite pleasing. Overall, though I do have a few small gripes with the game, it was still an overwhelmingly enjoyable one to play through. Therefore, I rate Tales of Zestiria 4.7/5.

Have you played any Tales games before? If so, which did you most enjoy? If not, what are your favorite RPGs? I hope to hear from you in the comments! Have a wonderful weekend! Buh-bye!

Tales of Xillia 2 Review

ToX2

Hiyo, everyone! Today I want to talk about a game I recently got to playing, and found myself spending hours on most days – Tales of Xillia 2, of course! It’s one of many games in the large “Tales of” series of which I have been a huge fan every since playing Tales of Symphonia, one of my favorite games ever. It’s also a direct sequel to the original Tales of Xillia, so in discussing the premise, I will have to touch on some spoilers from the first game. I’ll keep them to a minimum, though, as usual.

The story follows a man named Ludger Kresnik who, as of the beginning of the game, lives with his older brother, Julius, in an apartment in the world of Elympios. Having failed to pass the exam needed to work for the enormous Spirius Corporation alongside his brother, Ludger begins his new job working on a train. However, the train is quickly attacked by terrorists. Ludger meets with a strange little girl named Elle who seeks a mythical land, the renowned researcher Jude Mathis (who is one of the original Tale of Xillia’s protagonists) and Bisley Bakur, the CEO of Spirius Corporation. They advance through the train until they find the ultimate culprit – who appears to be Julius. He pulls Ludger into another dimension, where Ludger receives a powerful ability called Chromatus. Ludger defeats a version of Julius from that dimension; since alternate-Julius served as the dimension’s catalyst, the whole dimension is destroyed in the process and Julius returns to his world.

Ludger is greatly injured in the battle, but never to fear! The Spirius Corporation heals him, leaving him good as new – and with an enormous 20,000,000 Gald debt. However, having seen Ludger’s power, Bisley decides he ought to hire Ludger after all. The latter is tasked to enter even more alternate dimensions – called fractured dimensions – and destroy the catalysts within, thereby wiping out those dimensions in order to ensure the safety of the one he lives in.

Ludger’s journey then alternates between paying off his debt and destroying fractured dimensions. Along the way, he meets and joins up with several characters from the original Tales of Xillia, some of whom weren’t playable party members the first time around. They travel throughout the recently-joined worlds of Elympios and Rieze-Maxia, facing all sorts of foes along the way. I don’t want to spoil more than that, so if you like action RPGs, I suggest you play Tales of Xillia. (You gotta play them in order!)

The game does a good job of developing its characters; aside from Ludger, each playable party member has their own series of optional missions you can follow to learn more about them. Xillia 2 also touches on some surprisingly dark themes, such as what it means to obliterate another world and what people are willing to sacrifice to achieve  their goals.

As is usual for Tales games, Tales of Xillia 2 looks great and has a strong soundtrack, though I didn’t find a single track I really loved as I usually do in Tales games. The combat system is engaging and diverse – you can control 9 separate characters – but, to me, felt a little bit bloated with mechanics. Others may disagree, though! I had lots of fun despite that fact, so it’s all good!

Tales of Xillia 2 reuses many of the locations from the original Tales of Xillia, and it builds on characters starting where the original left off, so I strongly recommend you play the original first. Admittedly, Tales of Xillia 2 is a bit grindy. There’s certainly plenty of cool fights and powerful story moments to keep the player interested, but you may often find yourself retreading familiar ground, especially if you do all the sidequests.

My best recommendation is to play Tales of Xillia and continue on to Xillia 2 if you find you want to learn more about that world. I did, so I had a great time. I therefore rate Tales of Xillia 2 4.3/5.

Have you guys played any of the Tales games? If so, which are your favorites? If not, are there other RPGs you’re into! Please let me know in the comments below, and have an absolutely lovely week! Ciao~

Why I love Golden Sun and Golden Sun: The Lost Age

Golden Sun 1

Hiyo again, everyone! Today I’ll be talking about two of my favorite video games growing up – games that, sadly, now seem largely forgotten. Golden Sun and its sequel/continuation, Golden Sun: The Lost Age, both for the GBA. These games form two halves of the same story, so I kind of view them more as a single game; playing either alone is much less satisfying than playing them both. Back when they were new to me, I went through them over and over. In fact, they were basically my gateway to fantasy-heavy jRPGs. As a result, the nostalgia factor for me is through the roof, so I’m gonna totally fangirl over them. xD

The series begins when a storm hits the village of Vale, which sits at the base of a mountain. During the storm, our main protagonist, Isaac, and his friends, Garet, Jenna, and Felix get separated, and Isaac encounters two malicious and mysterious strangers who you quickly come to realize were involved in the catastrophe. A giant boulder falls from Mt. Alpeh, killing Isaac’s father, both of Jenna’s parents, and Felix, who is her brother.

Three years pass, and Isaac is training under an old man named Kraden to use Psyenergy, a sort of magic close tied with the four traditional elements: Fire, Earth, Air, and Water. Isaac, Garet, and Jenna seek to test their abilities and ill-advisedly decide to breach the village shrine, Sol Sanctum, where they meet the same two strangers from before and more. The encounter leads them on an incredibly dangerous journey spanning their entire world.

I now know that sort of premise is pretty typical for a jRPG, but, still, Golden Sun stands out from the rest. It features a strong combat system, excellent music, and extremely extensive world-building. Exploration is meaningfully rewarded, which I love to see in an RPG; there are expansive optional areas to be found, adding depth to the world. On top of that, the characters are well developed and the plot is full of twists and turns that will keep you guessing what will happen next. I should acknowledge that Golden Sun is extremely dialogue-heavy; it puts story at the forefront, which works wonderfully if that’s what you’re looking for but may deter those most interested in action.

I won’t spoil more of the story, since I recommend you experience it for yourself if you haven’t already, but to this day, Golden Sun remains one of my favorite jRPGs, up there with Tales of Symphonia. Golden Sun later received a DS sequel, Golden Sun: Dark Dawn. I found that to be a solid game, but it fell short of the first two, and ever since, there has been no word of further sequels. It’s always sad to see something you loved growing up decline!

Since this is a “Why I love” post, it basically goes without saying that I rate Golden Sun 5/5. =p

Have any of you played any of the Golden Sun games? If so, what did you think? I’d love to hear your nostalgic stories! If not, which jRPGs are among your favorites? Please let me know in the comments below! Thanks for reading, and have a wonderful day!

Hollow Knight review

Hollow Knight

Hiyo, everyone!

Today, I will be reviewing Hollow Knight, a Metroidvania (platformer with emphasis on exploration) style game a friend of mine kindly gifted me. For context, I played the game on PC (Steam) using an XBox 360 controller; if you’re playing on PC, the game itself recommends that kind of controller. I couldn’t beat all of the optional content in this game, so you’ll definitely want every advantage you can get – it’s quite hard!

Hollow Knight takes place in the dark and forlorn kingdom of Hallownest, which is populated by intelligent bugs (Don’t worry; they aren’t the gross types. xD) and has fallen into a state of decay. A labyrinth of tunnels lies beneath the village of Dirtmouth, which serves as a hub for adventurers seeking treasure below; much of the game takes place in those tunnels. Despite being a platformer, Hollow Knight tells the intricate tale of the fallen kingdom; there’s a lot of narrative depth hiding in nooks and crannies throughout the game, and in the backstories of some of the characters. I won’t say too much about the story, but if you’re interested in lore, you’ll find plenty here.

You play the game as a mysterious knight (depicted above) about whom not much is known at the outset. They control perfectly (with the 360 controller), as far as I can tell. The gameplay is quite challenging in places, as I mentioned before, and you may find yourself dying more often than you expected to. When you do die, you leave your Shadow in your wake, and, to regain your money and full abilities, you have to make your way back to where you died and reclaim it. That was probably my least favorite aspect of the game; maybe I’m just a wimp, but it irks me when I feel like the developers are going out of their way to add an extra “punishment” for failure, ’cause I mostly just want to play for fun. But, if you’re into tough games, you may find yourself right at home with Hollow Knight’s mechanics!

Hallownest is an extremely atmospheric kingdom filled with diverse areas to explore; don’t expect the game to be monotone just because you spend most of it underground! I found myself consistently impressed by its beauty, which is wonderfully complimented by its expressive soundtrack. As far as aesthetics go, Hollow Knight is near-perfect.

The game also comes with three free DLC packs, the last of which is slated for release in early 2018. I haven’t played very much of the DLC content, but based on what I have experienced, it provides more boss fights for intrepid adventurers and a bit of extra backstory.

I thoroughly enjoyed Hollow Knight despite it being a bit more challenging than I would usually prefer my games to be; I found myself exploring for hours at a time, hunting down every last treasure, and I had loads of fun doing it. Therefore, I rate Hollow Knight 4.8/5. If you like Metroidvanias and don’t mind a bit of difficulty, I strongly recommend you check this game out!

Have you played Hollow Knight? If so, what did you think? What are your experiences with Metroidvanias in general? I’m eager to hear in the comments below! As always, thank you for reading, and have a lovely day!

My Favorite Video Game Series I First Tried in 2017: Danganronpa

Danganronpa 1

Hiyo, everyone! When I was thinking about my blog post for the week, I considered talking about my 5 favorite video games I first played in 2017 – then realized my list would have been largely dominated by just one series I quickly became addicted to: Danganronpa.

Before I get any further, I should make one thing clear: This series is not for the faint of heart. Danganronpa thoroughly earns its ratings of ‘M’ for Mature. If you play one of the (currently four) games in the series, you’ll be exposed to sexually explicit content, extreme violence, and various dark themes.

With that out of the way, I’ll discuss the first game, Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc. It shares a visual-novel format with two of the other games in the series, and it molded Danganronpa into the franchise it has become.

The story focuses around Hope’s Peak Academy, an extremely prestigious school in Japan that recruits only the best – each of the students has an ‘Ultimate Talent’, something they do exceptionally well. Some examples are ‘Ultimate Pop Sensation’, ‘Ultimate Clairvoyant’, and ‘Ultimate Martial Artist.’ The protagonist, a relatively ordinary boy named Makoto Naegi, possesses the title of ‘Ultimate Lucky Student’ – he got into the school by winning a drawing among all incoming high school students in Japan.

Makoto enters the school, passes out, and finds himself sleeping on a desk. After meeting his classmates – a varied cast of well developed characters who are a pleasure to learn more about – he learns that the truth is crazier than he could have guessed. The only people present are the incoming students. All exits are securely sealed. And, in the gym, Makoto and his classmates meet Monokuma, a mechanical “teddy bear” who claims to be their headmaster – and tells them they’ll never be allowed to leave the school again.

With one exception. Any student who murders another and gets away with it will be freed.

The ensuing game is rife with intrigue, humor, violence, and devilish plot twists. The students must cope with their new lives and do everything they can to cling to hope in the face of Monokuma’s beloved despair – and, in doing so, learn more about each other and themselves.

I won’t go into many details; this series is best experienced on your own. (And don’t look to the anime adaptation as a replacement for the first game; the anime doesn’t do it justice.) The main draws for me are squarely story,¬† characters, and the mysteries surrounding each event. Honestly, those things were so compelling to me that the gameplay felt like a distraction; I just set the games to their easiest difficulties to make the relatively few hurdles less obtrusive. If you enjoy dark themes, anime-style story-based gameplay, and interesting characters, I highly recommend checking out the series starting from Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc.

Have any of you played a Danganronpa game before? What were your favorite games you first played in 2017? Please let me know in the comments below! I don’t feel like many games can offer stories capable of competing with Danganronpa’s, but I would certainly like to hear about any that might!

 

My Top 5 Favorite Mega Man Games

Hiyo, everyone! As some of you may have heard, yesterday Capcom announced Mega Man 11, currently slated to be released near the end of 2018. Since I have always loved the Mega Man series, I thought I’d celebrate by posting a top 5 list of my favorite Mega Man games and why I like them! By the way, I’m making this post in addition to another review I plan on posting this week, so keep your eyes open for that!

For this list, I will focus only on the Mega Man Classic and X series. That’s because, while I’ve played some of the games in the other 5 Mega Man series, I haven’t given them the same amount of attention as I have Classic and X, so I feel that if I included them, my judgment would be biased. I’ll also avoid using any compilation games on this list, ’cause that would just feel kind of cheap. =p

Of course, this list reflects only my opinion, so don’t worry if your favorite isn’t on my list; that may just mean I haven’t had the same experience with it as I have with these!

So, without further ado, let’s begin!

5. Mega Man X3 (SNES version)

Megaman X3

I first played Mega Man X3 ages ago, and, boy, it was tough! I remember struggling to kill my first boss even though I was aiming for the ones people said were easiest, and at the time, the experience made me very cross! xD But, once I was finally able to get my foot in the door, I found myself with a vast set of levels to explore and a diverse cast of enemies to defeat. I’ll never forget how hyped I was the first time I found Vile’s Lair!

A plethora of hidden items are strewn throughout the game, which I love; scavenger hunts have always been my thing. The only downside was the existence of a few upgrade capsules that, if collected, prevent you from later obtaining the best armor in the game. Not cool, Capcom! But the thrill actually getting that armor on later playthroughs (as well as a certain green buster upgrade~) was lovely, and the ending was cool. Speaking of, the reason I singled out the SNES version of this game as a favorite is because of the music that plays during the start of the credits, while all the enemies from throughout the game are displayed. That music always got me so hyped up, but they changed it for the re-release! So silly!

4. Megaman and Bass

Megaman and Bass

And here we move on to a less known gem! Megaman and Bass, released only for the GBA in the U.S., is graphically similar to Mega Man 8, and even reuses a couple of MM8’s Robot Masters, but there’s one key difference – at the start of the game, you choose between Mega Man and Bass and play through the entire game as that character! The two have very different abilities (Mega Man can charge his attacks and slide, whereas Bass can rapid-fire his weapon in 7 directions and double jump), and throughout the game’s stages, there are paths open to only a certain character. Many of those paths lead to some of the 100 collectible CDs, which I took great pleasure in hunting down! (Mostly. >.>)

The thing about this game that really hit me was that, even compared to X3, it’s hard. It took me a really long time to finally clear the game on the GBA, without the use of save states or anything, but victory was so gratifying! I ended up beating the game several times with each character, and every time I did, it cheered me up a little! If you haven’t played Megaman and Bass before and you’re able to get a hold of a copy, I highly recommend it!

3. Mega Man 4

Megaman 4

I think I may be considered a bit weird for liking Mega Man 4 more than 2 or 3, but I can’t help it; I’ve just always liked this game! It’s definitely easier than Mega Man 3, but not yet as easy as Mega Man 5 and 6 would prove to be. I thought the difficulty was a good balance and enjoyed exploring the game’s many stages. And, to my delight, there were things to be found! Mega Man 4 hides two completely optional abilities, and I found figuring out the best uses for them to be an absolute joy.

This is also the first Mega Man game to feature two fortresses at the end. Even though it was pretty obvious that Wily was behind everything, it was nice to have twice as many stages to play through, and some of the bosses featured in them were quite unique. Of the first four classic Mega Man games, this one sticks with me most!

2. Mega Man Powered Up

Megaman Powered Up

Here’s a game you may not have heard of! Mega Man Powered Up is a remake of the original Mega Man exclusive to the PSP. While its chibi art style may be off-putting to some (personally, I liked it =p), the game makes up for its visual change in direction by offering completely new stages in place of the originals as well as adding two more Robot Masters – Oil Man and Time Man. Despite being a remake, Mega Man Powered Up offers a truly unique experience. You can also play through the game on three separate difficulties, so an appropriate challenge is available to newcomers and veterans alike.

Then there’s my favorite part of the game – the playable characters! Not only can you play as Mega Man, but also Protoman, all 8 Robot Masters, Roll (who attacks with a broom), and Rock (an unarmed, unarmored version of Mega Man who kicks his way to victory!) This gives the game an incredible amount of replayability and also adds to the challenge; there’s nothing quite like playing as a Robot Master and fighting the one who weakens you!

Mega Man Powered Up also offers a mode where you could construct your own levels, but due to the limited amount of available pieces and some silly restrictions, that mode didn’t really take off. Nonetheless, if you haven’t played this game and can get your hands on it, I highly recommend it!

1. Megaman X

Megaman X

Okay, no surprises here. Mega Man X is among the most beloved games in the franchise, and it’s my favorite, too. Everything about the game is just tuned so marvelously; when I first played, everything from the ability to dash to the chargability of Maverick weapons felt ultra cool! Mega Man X starts off strongly with an intro stage ending with an unwinnable boss fight with a very cool enemy. That got me hooked from the outset, and the game just got better and better!

Difficulty-wise, Mega Man X is unexceptional for a Mega Man game. It’s tough in places, but not brutal, and if you choose to tackle the “correct” first boss, it’s easy enough to make progress. There are items hidden throughout the game that incentivize exploration, and the soundtrack is just killer. From my first time playing and to this very day, Mega Man X is a blast to play through, and for that reason, it is my favorite Mega Man game!

What about you? What are your favorite games in the series? Have you played all the ones I listed? Feel free to leave your thoughts in the comments below, and thanks for reading!