Monday, July 17, 2017

Arc System Works Announces "BlazBlue Cross Tag Battle"

A day late on this one, but oh well! A few years ago it was mentioned that Arc System Works would one day like to create some sort of crossover game with BlazBlue using a tag team system. Originally the idea was pitched as being possibly BlazBlue x Guilty Gear, but after nothing was really said about it. Really this sort of thing isn't uncommon, developers pitch ideas all the time, so not many gave it another thought. Until yesterday that is.

It turns out that BlazBlue will be getting a crossover game, and it WILL be a game with a tag system. Dubbed: "BlazBlue Cross Tag Battle" (BBCTB -- apparently keeping with the "BlazBlue C." naming system for it's sub title), this new game is a crossover fighter that no one ever expected. Yes, it's BlazBlue, but what is the other game (in reality games) featured in this? None other than Arc System Works' very own Persona 4 Arena (the fighting spin off sequel to Persona 4/4 Golden and Persona 3), as well as a series they helped bring from the arcades to consoles -- UNDER NIGHT IN-BIRTH Exe:Late (or more specifically, the new "[st]" version).

From what we've seen so far, all three series will use the characters and their sprites ripped directly from their source game (which does create a bit of a clash with UNDER NIGHT and BlazBlue), but there will be new characters and content as well. More specifically, the fourth series this title is crossing over with -- "RWBY." Now that's a shock.

For anyone who doesn't know, RWBY is an online animated web series by Rooster Teeth that was created by the amazing animator Monty Oum. Sadly Monty can no longer be with us, but thankfully his memory and his dream will live on. RWBY has continued to gain popularity over the years (even getting it's own video game), and now Ruby herself has joined the fight along side the likes of Ragna, Yu, and Hyde.

Of course not much else is known about this game at the moment, but you can check out the first trailer below!
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Sunday, July 2, 2017

10 Games With Stories That Continue Outside Of The Game

And we're back! We have a lot of catching up to do, but I wanted to start off with something different -- a top 10 list. Now this list was originally published a few days ago on GameFAQs, but it was written with NGR in mind as well. So without further adieu, here we go! (And yes, this is a bit of a continuation of the Halo article from awhile ago.)

10 Games With Stories That Continue Outside Of The Game 

In today's world video games have evolved far past what they originally were. Back in early days you would be given some basic "plot" or understanding of the game, and then away you would go blasting or platforming your way through them without a care in the world. It didn't really matter what you were doing or why you were doing it, it was just something you were playing to have fun! However, as time went on things did start to change.

With the ever growing RPG market, and with games like Metal Gear entering the market, the way people saw and played games began to change. Sure, you still continued to have your "for fun games," and it was completely possible to play many of these new "story driven" games without caring about the plot, but the fact that games were starting to have more of a developed story was something that could not go completely unnoticed. Before we knew it the stories in games became deeper and deeper, and gamers were flocking to them to experience it for themselves.

Of course not everyone agrees with or likes these types of games, but that's not what today's list is about. Instead I'm going to be taking a look at 10 games that take this whole story thing a step further. These are games that either cannot be understood, or are continued outside of their original "game form." Games that fans may THINK they know the story of, but in reality they are missing large chunks, or possibly don't know the real story at all. With that being said, there were some rules I set for myself when writing this, that I'd like to quickly explain before anyone moves on with the list.

First of all, these following games were either originally created as games, or they became mainly a game series. In other words, series like Metro, or The Witcher will not be included on this list as their games are adaptations. Now sure, the Witcher games do continue where the novels left off, but it doesn't change the fact that it is still mainly a novel series with a game continuation (the reverse of this list). As for the second rule, I didn't want to include any games on this list that I personally did not have a great deal of experience with. As such, I left out series such as Splinter Cell, Gears of War, Star Craft, as well as Assassin's Creed. While I have played the games, I didn't want to do the series a disservice by trying to explain their expanded stories without fully experiencing them myself. So, if you're a fan, I'm sorry but they won't be included on this list... As such this list is my own personal opinion, so feel free to take everything I have listed with a grain of salt.

So, with all of that being said (assuming you read it), let's get on with the games!

10: Overwatch (PC)

Now this list isn't really in any order, but I figured I'd start with what I'd consider the "current" (it's June in 2017) smallest game -- Overwatch. Now Overwatch is mainly a player vs player online hero shooter arena game where team work is key, but that doesn't mean it is without a story. While the main game itself only has small touches of events that had happened in it's world, the actual story is almost completely told outside of the game in other forms of media. When the game was first being released, and even after it's release, Blizzard released multiple character videos online for fans to watch, and many of these videos provided an inside look at the game's world and characters. We got to see their personalities for the first time, and we were able to start to piece together what exactly is happening within this game's world. While it really wasn't too much to go on, it was more than enough for a game of this nature, and fans loved it. Of course, things didn't stop there.

To this day, Overwatch's story continues to grow in multiple ways. We still get videos from time to time, but Blizzard also releases comics and even short stories to help expand the game's lore. Characters also tend to be announced in some story related way before they make their way into the actual game, and at times fans will even be involved in these stories (such as the whole hacking thing that lasted for quite a long time). Blizzard has stated that they plan on continuing this trend, and because of that the sky is the limits. How will this story grow next? Will we get full novels? Full comics? Full movies? Who knows! All we can say for sure is that it'll continue to expand as long as it remains popular.

9: Final Fantasy XV (PS4)

Final Fantasy XV... Now this is a game that has caused a lot of mixed reactions, and the story itself is a large part of that. The thing is, in it's current state a lot seems to be missing from this world. Yes there's a "complete" story, but there are also many unanswered questions, and a lot that wasn't even shown in game -- and that's why it is on this list. Putting aside the massive lore book that was released in Japan, the story of Final Fantasy XV actually doesn't even begin in game, but instead in a free anime series that was released online on sites such as YouTube. Although, to call it the beginning isn't quite right...

While in most Final Fantasy games we get to see the story from start to finish in game (putting aside Final Fantasy XIII which actually starts in the novella, and finishes in a novel taking place after Lightning Returns' ending), FFXV didn't do that. Instead it used both the anime series and a full movie to tell it's beginning, and a lot of it's background. While the anime begins during the game, the episodes are mostly made up of flash backs to the main character's childhood. We get to see how Noctis meets each of his friends (again, something normally shown in game), and we get to learn just who they are before the game starts. Then, when the game actually does start, a second story is happening in the background that truly begins the game's events -- this is what the movie shows.

While the movie technically takes place at the same time as the first few hours of the game, it is still the beginning of the story, and key to understanding what is happening in the world. It follows Luna's story within the city when the empire attacks, and it also shows the fall of the king. The problem is, these events are only really mentioned in the actual game, so without seeing the movie it is easy to become confused... Although the same can be said for the other way around as well, as some of the things that happen in the movie don't seem to be reflected in game. Even so, it's an important part of the story, and together with the anime it actually makes up a large chunk of Final Fantasy XV. (Much larger than most would imagine.)

8: Tales of Vesperia (X360)

Another small game on this list, but it's an interesting one (and a fan favorite for series fans).

In today's world the Tales of series is once again taking off. After the release of Tales of Vesperia on the Xbox 360 many feared the west would never see a Tales of game again, but that all changed when Tales of Graces f finally made it's way here. Even so, the series has always been quite large in Japan, and it isn't too uncommon for these games to have spin off games for their characters (or even anime adaptations). However, in Tales of Vesperia's case things were a bit different. Rather than getting a retelling anime like Tales of the Abyss, Namco decided to expand it's story in a few ways instead. Sadly these expansions weren't as large as other games on this list, but considering the game itself can easily last 80 or so hours for one playthrough, it's understandable.

After Tales of Vesperia originally released on the Xbox 360, a PlayStation 3 version went into the works as well. This version included an expanded story, as well as new main characters, and improved the game in many other ways; however, this extended story wasn't only seen in game. "Tales of Vesperia: The First Strike" was a full anime movie that went back and showed us the early days of Yuri trying to become a knight. This movie not only introduced new characters that would be seen in the PS3 version of the game, but it also filled in other blanks and answered questions that were left out of the game itself. Finally fans got to see exactly what lead Yuri down the path he walks in the game, and it gave fans a different look on the world they already knew and loved. Although this movie wasn't needed as much as other entries on this list, it was still something nice for the fans, and it didn't actually stop there.

On top of the movie, Tales of Vesperia has also received multiple novels and manga to help flesh out the world. Both Judith and Raven received their own mini novel series, and a story focusing on Yuri's childhood was released as well. Just like with the movie these aren't really required to understand the game, but again, it's great for fans.

7: Deus Ex: Mankind Divided (PS4)

Deus Ex, the popular PC RPG series that made it's return with Human Revolution, and finally continued in a mainline game with Mankind Divided. Deus Ex has had a bit of a rocky release history, with old fans loving the original but not liking the later releases, and with new fans liking the newer releases but being put off by the older game's "dated" mechanics. Even so, the series has done pretty well over the years, but with the release of Mankind Divided mankind really was divided. The thing about this game is that it doesn't really feel "complete." It starts off strangely, and it's ending doesn't feel like an ending. Well, what if I said that's because it's a part of the Deus Ex Universe project and it really is only just a small part in the story?

The fact is, Mankind Divided isn't the direct sequel to Human Revolution as there is a pretty large gap between the two games -- a gap that was filled by the novels, comics, and technically even the mobile game that came before it. While the novel "Icarus Effect" told the story behind the scenes of Human Revolution, Black Light takes a more direct approach and picks up the moment Human Revolution ended. This story follows Jensen as he returns home to Detroit after the original game's ending, and shows us exactly how he got involved with the events center stage in Mankind Divided. This isn't a simple background story though, as the events of this book are in fact KEY to understanding what is happening in Mankind Divided, with even the opening act of the game being a direct ending to a story arc from the novel.

Now sure, you can play Mankind Divided without reading the novels and comics, but you can expect the opening of the game to feel like the half way point -- considering it technically is.

6: Final Fantasy VII Remake (PS4)

I really, REALLY, didn't want to include a second Final Fantasy game on this list, but this is one that's hard to overlook. With so many fans considering this to be their favorite game in the series, it's no wonder that Square wanted to keep the ball rolling by expanding it as much as possible... After the release of the successful original game, Final Fantasy VII actually continued on. While most Final Fantasy games remained as single games, there was no stopping Square when it came to VII (and there still isn't).

Taking place after the events of VII, "Advent Children" was a full CGI movie that finally showed fans what happened next. It showed our heroes living their life after the events of the game's ending, and it also introduced us to a new threat that was sweeping the planet. There's really not much else to say about this one other than it being a sequel to the game, but it was something Square would revisit years down the road.

Besides the movie, multiple anime OVAs were released for VII as well. One such story showed the events that lead up to the start of the game (as well as flash backs to a key moment shown in the game as well), while the other helped fill in gaps that lead up to the start of Advent Children. To further add to this, multiple novels for FFVII were released as well, including a "retelling" of the story from the character Aerith's point of view, and they too became key to fully understanding the events of the game as well as the movie. Of course you didn't actually have to watch or read any of this, but the expansion of the game's story still didn't stop there.

On top of all of the novels, OVAs, and the movie, multiple side games were released. One was a third person shooter that continued past Advent Children (while showing flashbacks from a key character's point of view), another was an action RPG following Zack's story leading up to the events of FFVII (although it skips over the moment shown in the earlier OVA), and the final being a mobile RPG titled "Before Crisis" taking place around the same time. These three games greatly expanded the overall story once again, and before long it lead to Square revising Advent Children.

Advent Children Complete was exactly what it's name suggested. It was a "complete" edition of the movie that added tons of new content, and filled in plot holes the original story had. It also took the changes made by the previously released side games, and included those story elements to make things more... Well... "Complete." Although it was still the exact same movie story wise, the new content really did make the whole thing a lot better, and helped tie up lose ends. Of course, things still didn't end there.

Currently the latest part of Final Fantasy VII has been left off in a cliffhanger, and the Final Fantasy VII Remaster project has basically overtaken any hope we had at seeing what comes next. Although, a lot of people may consider that a good thing.

5: Fate/Stay Night (Nasuverse)

Now, this is one I was debating adding or not. This is a "series" that's not so easily explained, but I figured I'd try to do my best without turning this into a massive 10 page paper.

The Fate/Stay Night series is one that has been popular in Japan for quite some time, and it is now slowly picking up in the west with games like Fate/Extra, Extella, Melty Blood, and Grand Order seeing western releases. The thing is though, this Visual Novel is much more than just a game series, and in reality it's not even the first game within this "series," nor did it even start as such. In fact the "Nasuverse" (as fans call it) all began many years ago as a series of stories called "The Garden of Sinners." This series of stories would serve as the foundation for Kinoko Nasu's later works, and it is also the story that introduced us to the dimension hopping Aozaki sisters that appear throughout many of the titles (including Tsukihime, Melty Blood, Fate/Extra, and so on).

As for Fate itself, it too is not fully told within it's original visual novels. Putting the connection to the Garden of Sinner novels aside (which have also been turned into multiple movies rather than an anime due to their graphic and explicit nature), it too has multiple stories that were created as other forms of media. Fate/Zero is one such series of novels that was written by Gen Urobuchi (the writer behind anime series such as Puella Magi Madoka Magica, and Psycho-Pass), and tells the background events that lead up to the start of Stay Night. With it's popularity in Japan, it too eventually was adapted into an anime series, and was brought over to the west. There is also Fate/Apocrypha (which is currently being adapted into an anime) as well.

In short, the entire Nasuverse is massive, and it spans more than just multiple games and series. It's taken it's form in a wide verity of media, and it shows no signs of slowing down. Which is a good thing for fans!

4: Drakengard & NieR (Series)

Like the Nasuverse, the world Yoko Taro has created for his games is massive, and not something that can be easily explained. So, once again I'll only cover the basics.
With the release of Nier Automata, the series has really gained quite a reputation for itself. Although the series has always had it's core fanbase, now that group has greatly expanded and many people are now in the dark. What some many think is just a game that's a sequel to a game, is really a small part in a greatly expanded on series that could take a very long time to get caught up on. So, here's the quick run down.

Drakengard is the original series, and it's where the game's timeline splits. While the game's main endings lead nowhere, the final "joke" ending is what lead into the original Nier and it's "new world." Along with all of this though, the original Drakengard series is FILLED with multiple manga and novels that take place in different universes and timelines that are all key to understanding the overall plot. This story grew even larger with the release of Drakengard 3 (the game released after Nier and before Automata), and became even more complex. With even more endings of it's own that go nowhere, the version of Drakengard 3 that actually leads into 1 was told in a novel and not in game, and short stories for each character was released to expand on who and what everyone was. On top of all of that, Drakgenard 2 takes place within it's own universe loosely based off of ending A in Drakengard 1, and it too has it's own story related content shown outside of the game. But this is only scratching the surface.

With Nier (which, again, has ties to Drakengard's world) that story greatly expanded yet again. This world has it's own history that is key to understanding the games, and it too was told outside of the two games. Many stories have been written for Nier, and without reading each and every one you are missing a large chunk of what is really going on in this story. It gets even worse when you realize the version of Nier that leads into Automata was never released outside of Japan (again, this is 2017 as I'm writing this, so who knows), and the stories themselves mostly use the Japanese exclusive version (Replicant) as a base. But even so, just playing the original Nier (any version) and Automata isn't enough to get the full story, and those who do so will never know what is actually happening.

3: BlazBlue

BlazBlue is a fighting game series that was sort of seen as a "reboot" of Guilty Gear at the time. Arc System Works decided to start a new series rather than continuing with their existing one, and this was the result. Originally being a simple arcade fighter that eventually came to home consoles with an included visual novel style story mode, it was a lesser known game that only had a core fanbase. Then, it exploded.

While the series isn't as big as other fighters out there, there's no denying that BlazBlue is popular, or that the series has become something much larger than many of us would've dreamed. While each game includes a pretty large scale visual novel story (which can be often very complex), these stories are actually only a small part of what makes BlazBlue BlazBlue. In fact, even the visual novel series "XBlaze" is only a small part of it, as a lot of the game's story is actually told across multiple manga and novel series.

Although BlazBlue does follow it's main plot and gives some inside looks to events that happened in the past (example, BlazBlue: Chronophantasma contains a part of the "Phase 0" novel's story), the games are still made in a way that just about expects you to know the full story -- especially the later games. Novels like the Phase Shift series (and Phase 0) are key to understanding the events that lead up to the start of the first BlazBlue game, and then you have series such as Bloodedge Experience that focus on characters like Naoto who seemingly just "appear" in Central Fiction. Without knowing about these characters before hand, their stories will not make sense, and the events referenced throughout the game will be lost to the player. The Remix Heart manga series (yes, two of them) is another example of BlazBlue's expanded story, and it's sure to cause some confusion for those who have never read or at least heard of it. This is something that is sure to only get "worse" for fans who don't fully follow the series (or cannot follow the series) as this universe will most likely continue on for years to come -- even if BBCF is the "ending" to the current arc.

(On another note, Guilty Gear is the same way to an extent, but I settled on BlazBlue for this entry... Sorry GG fans!)

2: .hack//

With the announcement of the new .hack//GU collection, I'm sure many people will be asking "what's .hack!?" Well, hopefully this answers your question.
.hack is a very unique video game project. Starting in the early 2000s, the game series was conceived as a completely new project unlike anything before it. While the game itself would be a game about a MMORPG, the way this story would be told wasn't going to be limited to JUST the game (as in, both the game versions and the MMORPG the game is about). Instead .hack was to be an extremely large project that would span many different forms of media, and it would tell a long interconnected story. Rather than just focusing on the MMORPG "The World," it put a large focus on the game's players and the way they would change over time. The entire story actually begins with a novel called AI Buster, which would then lead into an anime titled "SIGN" (although SIGN actually released before AI Buster), and that would finally lead into the first set of four .hack games. Other novels such as AI Buster 2 and Another Birth would also be released, and even manga series such as Legend of the Twilight would soon come out. All of these stories provided insight on what was happening both in game and in the real world, and would become key to unraveling the mystery plaguing this world. But of course it didn't stop there.

With the original .hack projects ending, a second series for Project GU would begin as well. Taking place years after the original set of games, novels, manga, anime, etc, the GU world allowed us to see just how everything changed since the original events, as well as experience a completely new story. Once again .hack would see a wide verity of anime, manga, novels, and even movies to go along with it's new series of three games (which will be included in the new collection), and it was used to pave the way to yet another future. A future that is yet to fully be seen.

While the PSP game .hack//LINK was released, as well as a few more manga and anime series (and a full CGI movie), this is currently where .hack ends. Needless to say if the GU rerelease does well it wouldn't be too shocking to see it continue in the same way that it always has, but for the time being this is currently the end. Even so that doesn't change the fact that .hack is a series where most of it's story is actually seen outside of the games, and if you don't follow it fully you won't fully understand what is going on.

1: Halo

Now here's the big one. List wasn't in any real order, but I wanted to do this last... So, what would you say if I told you that many Halo fans have no idea what Halo's story even is? Or if I told you that even you non fans who may HATE Halo might actually like it's story? That sounds crazy right? But it's actually true. Sure, this doesn't apply to those of you who are full on fans who follow everything about the game (or used to follow), but those who simply play the games and take it for what it is will never actually know the game's story.

The thing about Halo is, it's seriously a novel series with a few games in it. While the games have you run around as "super soldier Master Chief" shooting everything in your way, the reality of the story isn't something that glamours. Instead it's a story of a young boy named John, who was kidnapped as a child, had his body replaced with a clone that would die young (to trick his parents), and was forced into the Spartan-II project with many other children around his age. Halo is a story of his struggles as he deals with the extremely harsh experiments done to his body, the extreme tests him and his friends are put through, and the feeling of loss as he's forced to see people he loves get taken from him time and time again. It's a story of the rise of the Spartan-IIs, and the eventual first contact with aliens. All of that is only a small part of the Halo story however, as this is a series rich with lore, with many stories to tell. A lot happens all within the first novel alone, and that story is continued further into the second novel -- this second novel being the retelling of Halo 1, or rather, the FULL story of Halo 1.

While the first Halo game only showed the basics of the story, the second novel shows everything. It follows the point of view of multiple characters, and it fully explains what happens to important characters such as Captain Keyes and the rest of the crew from the original novel. This novel continues to do so from start to finish, up until the moment Halo 1's ending plays, and fans were left wondering what was next for our hero. That is when the confusion set in for many.

Halo 2 begins with characters who should be dead returning alive, and we see the Chief heading back to Earth as the aliens attack. Many players just accepted things as is, but the reality of it all is that there is a massive skip between Halo 1 and 2 that was only told in the third novel. This novel is once again key to understanding the events of Halo 2, and answers any questions you most likely had about the game or it's story. It's such a large part of the original Halo trilogy's storyline that skipping it may be even worse than skipping an entire game. And it doesn't stop there.

Although Halo is a game series, as I said before, it is technically a novel series more than it is a video game. At the time of me writing this there are around 20 full novels that cover nearly every inch of this world, with more to come. While the story of the other Halo games were never told in novel form, they are only a small part of the story. This is a series it is completely possible to be a fan of without ever even touching a Halo game in your life. Although the first few novels do follow the story of Master Chief, the other novels soon break off and begin telling of events happening elsewhere. We learn about the Spartan-IIIs, we follow Johnson's story, and we even get to dive into the distant past of the universe. It's a huge science fiction story that not only Halo fans but sci-fi fans should really look into, and it is only going to get bigger as time goes on.

(And if that wasn't enough, there are also comics, movies, and an upcoming TV show as well.)
Although it is pretty rare to see a video game continue on into other forms of media, the ones that do tend to be pretty enjoyable. They are typically either well told stories that are worth seeing through to the end, or nice fan service for those who simply can't get enough of their favorite games. Now sure, maybe not everyone will like the way a story goes after the initial game's release (Final Fantasy VII can be pretty controversial among it's fans), but you never know if you'll like it unless you try it out. Of course this sort of thing is also a lot more common in Japan so not everyone can experience it (which is why the above list is made mostly out of Japanese games), but there are quite a few western series that do it as well -- with Halo easily being the biggest.

With that being said, if you're a fan of any of the above series and have never checked out it's expanded history, then why not change that? There's a lot out there for you to see and read, and it might just give you the answer to those questions that have always bothered you.

So, what about you? What are your favorite games with an expanded story or history?
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Thursday, June 8, 2017

E3 2017 Schedule

It's that time of year again, time for E3! This year things are being changed up a bit, so I figured I'd go ahead and post a full schedule before it's too late -- as it's actually starting in two days. These times will be listed in order, and under PT to make things easier for everyone (especially those who may actually get to go to E3).

EA - June 10th 12PM PT

Microsoft - June 11th 2PM PT

Bethesda - June 11th 9PM PT

Devolver Digital - June 11th 10PM PT

PC Show - June 12th 10AM PT

Ubisoft - June 12th 1PM PT

Sony - June 12th 6PM PT

Nintendo - June 13th 9AM PT

As you can see, rather than having most shows on Monday, this time around we are starting on Saturday, with the Microsoft show and PC shows being flipped from what we typically expect. Like always we here at NGR will be sharing news updates, trailers, and our thoughts on the announcements.
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Tuesday, May 23, 2017

The True Story of Halo

When someone mentions the video game Halo, what do you think of? Green super soldier running around shooting aliens? An amazing first person shooter? A game that's over hyped and not that good? What about Bungie, do you think about them and all they've done? Well whatever comes to your mind, the fact is Halo is a widely popular series that has been very love or hate among gamers. Some like it, others don't -- simple as that. But whatever your feelings are on the series at the moment, I ask that you put it all aside because today I'm going to tell a lot of you that Halo isn't what you thought it was -- or rather, it's story isn't. This may sound strange to you at first, but a lot of Halo fans out there today don't even know the story! And I'm not just talking about those who only play it for multiplayer, but those who have completed the game's campaign as well. Now of course that statement doesn't apply to everyone, and there will be many of you that already know what I'm about to say -- but feel free to keep on reading anyway!

(Also, spoiler warning)

If you ask someone what's the story of Halo, what do you think they'll tell you? For those who have actually played the game, I'm sure it goes a little something like this: Halo is a game about the Spartan Master Chief who is attacked in space, and crash lands on a strange object that looks like a Halo. With his AI Cortana, Master Chief explores Halo, fights against the aliens, discovers the truth of Halo, and escapes after destroying it. It's a pretty basic story, and people accept it for what it is... Except, that's not actually the story. In fact, it's only a small part! The real story of Halo begins with The Fall of Reach, and is what one could call a tragedy. Rather than being your standard space marine war story, Halo is actually a story of a group of children kidnapped from their homes, and forced to become the new "Spartans." It's a story of their struggles, and the eventual outbreak of war. It's a story never told in game, and it all begins with a novel.

The Fall of Reach:

At the beginning of the novel "Fall of Reach" we learn about the current state of the universe. Humans have left Earth and began colonizing other worlds, and many groups have gone rogue to fight for their own independence in space. To fight back against this a scientist by the name of Catherine Halsey sets out to put her new project in action -- the Spartan II project. The idea behind this project was to basically create a new "300." They would look for young kids who showed promise in their eyes, kidnap them, replace them with clones (that would in return die young at an early age so their parents wouldn't suspect something), and then force them through extreme training to create the best soldiers possible. It was sort of an expansion to a previously failed attempt to create super soldiers, but using kids trained for it rather than adults. One such child was a young boy named John, who had his life changed forever after a chance meeting with Dr. Halsey and Captain Keyes (yes, the very same from Halo 1).

After being taken, John was forced to adapt to his new life. He became good friends with another young boy named Sam, and a girl named Kelly. The three would become like family over the years, and along with the other children they would constantly be forced to fight against the odds. Strict training missions had them look death in the face, and horrible experiments, that were done to enhance their bodies, either left them broken beyond repair, or dead. Those who survived such tasks eventually went on take part in real missions for the military, and those who didn't were either sent away, or died from their injuries. It was a brutal project, and John did whatever he could to ensure as many of his friends survived it. However, he also learned that loss was sometimes necessary. Saying goodbye to his Spartan family never became easier for John, but it's something he would see time and time again when the Covenant entered the picture.

During the war against the rebel forces, things took an unexpected turn. First contact was made with another alien race, and things went bad. The Covenant was a group of alien invaders that seemingly only sought the destruction of humans. Destroying entire worlds wasn't a problem for the Covenant, and humanity didn't stand a chance. That is, until they mobilized the Spartans.

The Spartan IIs were kept a secret from the public, but with the Covenant threat they quickly became known. Equip with a new type of armor that would turn a normal human into mush if they were to put it on (as explained in the novel, even tiny movements were enough to snap normal human bones and kill a person as they reacted to the pain and made other slight movements), the Spartans headed out to fight the alien forces, with John as their Master Chief. The battles that followed would mostly result in human losses, but they never gave up and continued the fight. Eventually a plan was hatched to capture a Covenant ship, and the events that lead to the beginning of Halo began to unfold. Equip with the brand new AI Cortana (whom was created from a scan of Dr. Halsey's mind), John teamed up with Captain Keyes and his crew to go about this mission; however when the Covenant reached Reach (the location of the military's main base -- and the planet the Spartans considered home), things went bad.

Splitting his team between air and ground, John and his fellow Spartans joined the battle to protect their base. While John joins the fight in space, he sends many of his team down to Reach below with his trusted friend Fred in the lead. Although at the time John thought Fred and the others would have the easier job, he soon learned this was not the case. Reach became a total loss (those who have played Halo Reach would know more about this), the fight in space was a failure, and Captain Keyes had no choice but to order a jump to safety -- using coordinates taken from the Covenant earlier. This is where Halo 1 begins.

Although this is the basic story of Fall of Reach, this summary only scratches the surface. The novel itself is actually more about John and his friends as they grow and learn about the universe around them. We see the characters develop over time, we see their struggles, and we get to see all of the events that would eventually lead to other story elements featured later on. The story also introduces us to Dr. Halsey and all of the things she's involved with, and Captain Keyes and his crew. Despite being such important characters to the story, it's possible those who play only the games will not even remember them (or possibly not even know they exist). Of course it doesn't stop here though.

The Flood:

The second novel in the series is the story many will know. The Flood is based off of the story in Halo 1 and picks up the moment Captain Keyes makes the jump and ends up in front of the strange floating object "Halo." Here is where the game also opens, but the novel takes a different path. Rather than following Master Chief 100% of the time, The Flood tells the full story of the events of Halo 1, and actually follows multiple groups of characters. You have the Master Chief story of him and Cortana exploring Halo and fighting the Covenant, you have multiple groups of soldiers (that do eventually meet up), and you even get to see a team of Covenant aliens as they search for the humans and try to prevent them from escaping Halo. This set up allows for the full story to be told, and explains everything that happens in the first game. What was originally a simple escape story that lead to the discovery of the parasite creatures known as the Flood and the destruction of Halo, becomes a fully fleshed out story of mystery as each group fights to survive on the strange object.

Although this is a retelling of the game, with only around 1/3rd of the story being shown in game, this can be an issue later on. The things that Keyes does, as well as the other soldiers on Halo did are once again lost to the player, which can make things very confusing going forward. Sadly Keyes and his team (whom many may become attached to during the first novel) meet a tragic end, but the actions of other characters do make a huge difference in the end, and help lead the story into Halo 2. However the biggest impact on the story happens in the 3rd novel, and it's what will answer so many questions and fix the "plot holes" some fans may have realized. Although, they technically were never plot holes to begin with, but many don't know that.

Third Book:

The third book titled "First Strike" is the real game changer in the Halo story line, or rather, it's the book that makes everything else in the series possible. When fans go into Halo 2, they are greeted with more story than in Halo 1, but that story is also a bit "off." Fans playing the games, once again, just accept it and go with it, but in reality they are missing out on a lot (to say the least). On top of everything that happened in Fall of Reach, and during the events of Halo 1 (and it's book), there is a massive gap between 1 and 2 where a lot of key story events happen. This includes how Master Chief escaped from the space around Halo, the reason Johnson is still alive when he clearly "died" in Halo 1, and it also shows us how characters such as Linda survived the events of Fall of Reach as well... Although, many may not have even known who she was until Halo 5 released... Either way the story is massive, and is the reason Halo 2 even happens.

In First Strike, Master Chief comes across another ship in space. On this ship is Johnson (again, who should be dead), as well as other soon to be fellow teammates. It turns out Johnson suffers from a rare illness caused by exposure to the Covenant's plasma weapons. Normally a soldier would be taken off the field and be locked away for MANY months of treatment, but Johnson refused and continued his fight. Because of this sickness though, the Flood was unable to infect his body as seen in Halo 1, thus leaving him alive. Afterwords he, the Chief, and the others come up with a plan to steal a Covenant ship, and make their way back to Reach. While it may not seem like much at first, this ship was actually commanded by a well known character, and is the reason half of Halo 2 even happens. Who was this commander who abandoned his own ship and charged as a criminal? I'm sure you know. (And if you don't, it's the second main character of Halo 2... The one you spend a lot of time playing as...) Because of this event though, a lot of things were set into motion, and the future of the war was all but decided.

Because John was able to capture the ship and get the commander branded a heretic by the Covenant, he was able to make it back to Reach to help his fellow Spartans, he was able to find Linda frozen in space and get her back to Dr. Halsey for surgery, he was able to help get Fred, Kelly, and other Spartans off of Reach before it was 100% destroyed, and they were even able to discover that the Covenant had found the location of Earth (by mistake at that), and destroy a massive fleet to buy Earth more time to get ready for it. All of this became possibly only because they captured that Covenant ship, and the events of Halo 2 would eventually even lead that commander "heretic" to join John's side as well. All of these events plus more unfold all within this third book, and despite being how important it all is, many fans have no idea this story even exists.

Fourth Book and Beyond:

Halo and it's story doesn't stop there. Although Halo 3 ends the original story arc, there is actually much more to it. There have been many books, side stories, comics, and even movies and anime OVAs released for this series, and all of them add something to the overall plot. One book actually follows Johnson's story back when the war first began, while others tell the stories of the Spartan IIIs and connect even more with games such as Halo Reach. The overall story of Halo is one massive sci-fi adventure, and the games themselves only show a small fraction of it, while leaving a lot out as well. Because of this a lot of people who play the games don't even know the full story of Halo, and there's a chance that they never will. On the flip side, because Halo's story is mostly shown in other media, it's a story non shooter fans can enjoy as well. Really if you're a fan of sci-fi at all, and want a good book series to get into, then Halo really is something you should check out. Although the newer entries in the series since 343 took the games over may be hit or miss for some people, the original series of books are still a great read.

So, again I ask you. What is the story of Halo? Honestly I've only scratched the surface. If you want to see the story, you're going to have to read it yourself!
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Friday, May 19, 2017

Destiny 2 - Official Game Trailer and Info

Miss the Destiny 2 announcement? Well don't worry, the official trailer is now live, and you can check it out below!

Although we still don't know a whole lot about Destiny 2 (of course they're not going to spoil the wole game), Bungie did have some new info to share with us along with the trailers. Some key points include:

  • The PC version will be releasing on Blizzard App (Battle Net) and will make full use of it's features. This includes the ability to talk with friends across multiple Blizzard games from within the game, as well as use their other social features. Of course this also means your Blizzard wallet will be used for the game as well, so it'll be easier for those of you who already play Blizzard games to buy Destiny related content.
  • Clans will be included in game this time!
  • Weapons are no longer locked to specific slots, allowing you to take multiple of the same "type" of weapon with you to freely switch to.
  • PvP is being revamped to include 4v4 modes across all game modes, and will be more competitive.
  • New locations! Now this one is a given, but it's good to hear either way.
For more information, as always, here's the trailer!

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Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Custom Characters come to Sonic Forces!

A little bit of shocking news was announced today by SEGA, and it's something that no one could have ever seen coming. It turns out that the so called "3rd character" for the upcoming game "Sonic Forces" isn't a standard character at all, but instead it's your OWN character! Yes, that's right, Sonic Forces will have custom characters! Although this isn't the first time a Sonic game has allowed you to customize a character (looking at you Sonic Battle), this is the first time to give us a truly unique character for each player. Although not too much is known about the system, what has been said is that we can choose from multiple animal types (each with their own abilities), we'll be able to change things such as their fur (or feather) color, and there will be many different types of clothing and accessories to equip to give them a unique look. These characters will also be able to use new items and equipment during gameplay, and in some ways seems to resemble ideas that were seen in games like Sonic Unleashed, and even the doomed Sonic Boom. These gameplay elements seem more action and combat focused than the Classic Sonic and Modern Sonic sections of the game, but it's still too early to tell just how this will play out.

For more information, check out the official trailer below:

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Saturday, May 13, 2017

The PlayStation Aim Controller

The next major PlayStation VR release will be here in just a few short days, and Sony has released a video showing off one of the major new additions the game brings with it -- the PlayStation Aim Controller. Although this isn't the first time Sony has released a gun like controller for a Sony console, this is the first time they've created one that was designed to be a full controller for multiple games to use, and not just some plastic shell to stick a Move controller into (looking at you PS3). So, what does this mean exactly? Well the PS Aim Controller is in fact a full on PS4 controller. It has an analog stick and D-Pad in the front for your left hand (or right hand if that's what you prefer), a right analog stick and the four face buttons at the front of the controller, a physical trigger for shooting, and the other L and R buttons tucked away in an easy to reach spot as well. It has every button needed for a first person shooter, and it has the PS Move tracking ball in the front to simulate 1:1 gun movement in game.

Although this controller is launching with Farpoint, it's something that was made to be used for everything shooting in PSVR. The tech is fully open source for other developers to make use of it, and quite a few others already have began adopting the technology. Some existing games will be receiving updates to allow the use of it, while other new upcoming ones have already announced that they'd be using it as well. It really is a great add on for PSVR, and is sure to be a much better control system than the current twin Move controller set up other games are using -- as the Move controllers do not even have analog sticks.

For more information, check out the official PS Aim Controller video below:

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Friday, May 12, 2017

Netto's Beginnings: First RPG

When I was a kid, I was like many others at the time and I quickly got caught up in the whole Pokemon craze. Kids at school would talk about it, I'd see the previews for the show on TV, and stores would be filled with the toys and cards. Seeing all of this pulled me in, and before long I was yet another fan. I can still recall the first episode I ever saw of the show, the one with Todd and the second Team Rocket group, and I can still remember the day I discovered Kids WB was showing reruns of it after school. Funny enough, just after watching only two episodes, I began drawing the Pokemon I knew of, and I was even cutting them out and putting them inside a plastic Easter egg I had laying around. I was hooked, and I wanted to play along in any way I could. Eventually I got the cards, I caught up on the episodes I had missed, I started talking about it at school with other kids, and finally I asked for the big one. I wanted a Game Boy, and Pokemon Red.

Back then I had no idea what a Role Playing Game was, and I had no idea that Pokemon was considered one. It was purely out of my love for the anime, cards, and toys that I wanted the game, and because of that Pokemon Red ended up becoming my first RPG. It was my big gift on Christmas that year, and it was a game I would continue to play for the years to come. Although, not everything was "happy fun time" for me, and there were a few moments that really hung me up. Playing Pokemon wasn't as easy as I thought it would be, but looking back now all I can really do is laugh at myself for being the way that I was.

The first thing that happened to me when starting up Pokemon was my fear of not being able to play. I got a Game Boy Color for Christmas, and the Pokemon box just said "Game Boy." Going by the NES, SNES, and N64 before, I figured that was it for me. I was so worried that the game wouldn't work, that I actually tried putting it in BACKWARDS at first. "NO! IT'S NOT GOING TO WORK!" My fears were coming true right before my eyes, but then I decided to flip it around and hope for the best. And it worked! Pokemon Red played just fine, but what wasn't fine was my reading skills.

Being in elementary school at the time, I wasn't the best reader in the world, and being new to RPGs and RPG systems didn't exactly help. I could read and understand most of what was going on in the story, but every once in awhile an attack or some sort of mechanic description would completely go over my head. This didn't actually stop me from beating the game, but early on it did cause one major issue... I had no idea what save meant!

Years later I mentioned this to friends at school (high school) and found out I wasn't alone, but somehow I completely overlooked that you could save your game. Rather than getting as far as possible and shutting it off (only to then restart), the game was actually made to be saved so you could continue your adventure. Just imagine my shock when I randomly clicked the "save" option in the menus, and it let me keep going right from where I left off! It was one of my best discoveries when playing, but it's also something that would come back to haunt me later on.

As months and weeks went by I slowly got used to the idea of getting into random battles, and choosing my attacks from menus, but I still struggled with the idea of leveling up more than one Pokemon, and learning special moves like "Flash." For most of the game I used my starter as my only "real" Pokemon, but after finally getting a Beedrill thanks to the day care, I switched focus over to it and it became my new "main." That moment was another highlight of the game for me, and I still remember that I was sitting in a darkly lit restaurant trying to play as it happened. I don't know how I managed to see enough to know what I was doing, but somehow I got by and Beedrill was mine. (Glad those days of finding a light source are over...)

Speaking of the dark and game mechanics, Flash was something I didn't understand... And that wasn't good. The caves that lead to Lavender Town were pitch black, and all you could see was your character's sprite as you slammed into walls and other objects along the way. In reality you just use Flash to make it so you could see, but I didn't know that, and I continued to push on. Somehow by following walls I eventually reached the end, and then freaked out. Lavender Town... The colors on the GBC, the music, the look of the town, and the talk of death scared the CRAP out of me, so I saved and shut the game off. Yet, it still continued to bother me! So rather than leaving my character there alone all night, I turned the game back on, made my way BACK through the dark cave by slamming into walls and following them, and eventually I once again saved and quit once I was back on the other side. Of course this meant I'd have to go back again later... But at the time I didn't care.

Eventually I would go on to conquer my fears and finish Lavender Town, and I'd even eventually take out the Elite 4 with just my Beedrill and some potions (I don't know how...) By that point I was finally done with the game, and ready to move on with capturing the big one -- Mewtwo. Getting to him wasn't too hard, but catching him was another story. After I failed the first time, I decided to leave it till later, and instead I started a "new game." I had learned that you can play new games without using save to delete your old game, and I would do so pretty often just to mess around. I wanted to show my dad Mewtwo before I caught him, but I didn't want to stop playing, so I hit new game and went about my adventure. Then, I slipped up... As part of my messing around I decided to change my PC Box number, and that was the end of it. You see, back in the old days changing your PC Box number for Pokemon storage actually forced a save, and that's something I didn't realize until I turned on the game to show my dad Mewtwo, but instead ended up showing him a PC screen with all of my Pokemon gone instead. I lost everything, and I never got it back.

Losing it all in Red crushed me, but I took what I learned from it into Pokemon Yellow. I now knew the importance of leveling all Pokemon, I knew not to kill the legendary birds, I understood the RPG mechanics a lot better, and my reading skills had vastly improved. I was older, more experienced, and ready to take on the Pokemon world once again. This time I would go on to capture every Pokemon possible within that version (including the legendaries), and I would destroy the Elite 4 without issues. I became a true "Pokemon Master," and I couldn't wait till my next adventure. Little did I know, it would be coming sooner than I thought. Within about a year Pokemon Gold and Silver would be out, and I'd once again dive into the world I loved.

After going through many Pokemon games, it wouldn't be until much later that I realized they were RPGs or that there were other games similar without Pokemon. It was actually a friend at school who told me about this, but it wouldn't be until I was older that I experienced it for myself. But that's a story for another time.

Even if I'm not as big of a fan as I once was, Pokemon will always be special to me, and it's where I got my start on RPGs. It's a genre that I'd now consider my favorite, and I'm glad I was introduced to them the way that I was. I have so many fond memories coming from Pokemon, and I wouldn't trade them for anything.
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Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Resident Evil VII - Review

Since it's release in the early 90s, the Resident Evil series has gone on to become quite the hit. Back in the PlayStation 1 days it was known as a must play nightmare for horror fans, and in the era of the GameCube and PlayStation 2 RE4 was seen as a revolution for third person shooters. With each release the fan base grew and grew, and eventually even a long running movie series spun off from it. Resident Evil was something that showed no signs of slowing down, and fans couldn't wait to see what came next. Then, things changed.

While the original Resident Evil games were "horror survival" with a fixed camera angle, limited supplies, and a limited number of allowed saves, the latter entries started to change their focus. With Resident Evil 4's shift to full 3D, the save limit was lifted, supplies became more available, and the game took more of an action approach to the formula. While the game did retain some of it's horror survival elements, it wasn't quite the same as the games that came before it, and each release after RE4 continued farther down that path. Resident Evil 5 was pure action with a huge focus on the brand new co-op mode, and Resident Evil 6 took a cinematic approach with co-op once again being the main focus along with it's crazy story set pieces. Now sure, there were some games that were throw backs to the original style, such as Resident Evil 0 on the GameCube, but such games only added to the already split fan base. On one hand many fans still loved the classic survival games, but on the other many also preferred the newer action and co-op spin on things as well. So, what was once a series loved by many, soon became one filled with criticism, with a fan base that wasn't sure what they wanted.

When Resident Evil 7 was first announced, many fans were unhappy. The trailer hinted that the game may have a focus on ghosts rather than zombies and bio weapons, and rather than being action like 4-6 (and Revelations 1-2), it appeared to be a "generic" first person horror game without combat -- something that had become popular in indie horror games. These misconceptions fueled fans for quite some time, and the release of the combat free demo didn't help. Sure it had some puzzles, but it wasn't enough to appease fans.

Jumping ahead to today, and Resident Evil 7 is finally here, but what's it like? Capcom promised us a game that returned to Resident Evil's roots, but was that really true? Is there combat? How is the story? Is it scary? And above all, is it fun? Well, after spending quite some time with the game on both the TV and in VR... I'd have to say... I'll get back to that!

The Story:

Resident Evil 7's story is one of mystery. The game begins with our main character Ethan receiving (or not receiving) a video message from his wife Mia. She's current on a ship working as a "baby sitter" and she assures her husband that she will be home soon -- then, things change. Shortly after the original message plays, it switches over to one with Mia in a panic, warning Ethan to stay away and forget about her. Apparently she has something she's been keeping from him, and wants him to never come looking for her.

A few years later Ethan gets a letter from Mia telling him to meet her at a house. Assuming she was dead, Ethan quickly accepts the invention and heads out to find his long lost wife. He's not sure where she has been all of these years, or why she would send him a letter now, but he is determined to find out... Completely unaware of the nightmare about to unfold in the "Baker's Home."

The main story of Resident Evil 7 follows Ethan as he tries to find his wife, and escape from the strange new world he has walked into. Shortly after arriving at the house, Ethan is knocked out, tied up, and is forced to come face to face with the family that lives there -- the Bakers. The moment Ethan sees them eating human remains at the dinner table, it quickly becomes clear that all is not well, and that he must fight for his life to survive. Of course, they're not going to let him leave that easily.

While Resident Evil 7 does include full cutscenes with character interactions, a lot of it's story is told by the world itself. Similar to the original RE games, you'll find notes and other things to read and examine around the Baker home, and even the environment will hint at events that happened there. Eventually you'll start to piece together the truth, and even start to see connections to the past of the series. Although RE7 is very much it's own game and story, it is still part of the Resident Evil universe, and it shows.

The Gameplay:

RE7 is a true return to the series' roots. Although the game does take place fully in first person, everything else is what fans remember. The Baker home is a large open area, that players are asked to explore to uncover it's secrets. There are puzzles to solve, hidden areas to find, and supplies to scavenge for that are key to your survival. While the immortal Bakers stalk the house in search for you (similar to what was seen in games like RE3), there are also monsters to deal with, and often it's up to you to decide if you want to run or fight. As resources are limited, sometimes using that last healing item can be the difference between life and death later on -- although thankfully the game actually isn't that strict.

Unlike other pure horror Resident Evil games, RE7 does in fact have a large focus on fighting. You get your standard knife as a melee weapon (which can be used to break boxes with supplies in them), you'll find a handful of different guns, and you'll even unlock the ability to craft different types of ammo to use. The game has you covered in every way you can possibly think of, and it actually encourages you to use these tools to fight. On the default difficulties there's more than enough ammo to kill everything in your path (as long as you've taken the time to find it that is), and every boss fight supplies you with what you need to win -- sometimes even killing bosses with things other than weapons. While the rest of the game is more along the lines of the classic entries in the series, combat isn't much different from the likes of RE4 which is sure to make some fans happy. Of course the same cannot be said for the "Madhouse" setting that's unlocked later, but that's basically a game of it's own (complete with different item layouts, and limited saves).

Other than the fighting and the setting, RE7 also features other returning features from the days of old. Item boxes are back for you to store your equipment and found items, herbs are once again your main way of healing, your inventory space is limited, and you must find a save room if you want to save your game. These systems not only force you to further think about your actions, but they require you to learn the house and remember exactly where things are located. Often you'll come across times where you'll need a key item, but the ammo sitting next to it will be just as inviting. At times like these you'll have to decide which to take with you for now, and when to come back later after you've made it back to your item box. It's the same sort of item management RE fans know and love (or hate), and it feels great to have it in RE7 as well.

The final piece to RE7's gameplay is something quite different. Throughout the game it's possible to find old VHS tapes that follow the stories of multiple characters. These tapes often offer different types of gameplay, and help fill in the backstory of the main game's events. Sadly though not all of these tapes can be found in game, as many of the other gameplay mode tapes are in fact paid DLC. While this shouldn't be a deal breaker for most, it is a bit of a let down that the mercenaries like "kill everything and survive" hoard mode wasn't in the main game. Even so the tapes in the main game are still fun, and most can be replayed time and time again.

Stepping into the world of Resident Evil (VR):

When Resident Evil 7 was first announced, Capcom also mentioned that the game would be fully playable in VR. Many people were unsure of how this would actually be, or if it would even change anything. How would playing in VR be any different than on the TV? Is the VR version better? Is the TV version better? How does it even work? What about motion sickness? There are a lot of questions about VR, but hopefully this will clear it all up.

To put it simply, RE7 is a complete nightmare in VR -- in a good way! What many who have not played a VR game before cannot understand, is just what VR actually does to you. Take a moment to look around the room you are currently in, and try to convince your brain what you are seeing isn't real. Tell your brain what you are currently seeing in real life is just a game, and that you are actually seeing a virtual world. Can you do it? Most likely not. Putting on a VR headset isn't much different than how you see the world every day. Your eyes and ears both send signals to your brain to convey where you are, and your brain simply accepts these signals as fact. So what happens when a VR headset changes your vision and hearing to that of a virtual world? The same thing happens. Although YOU know what you are seeing and hearing isn't real, the brain will not agree with that. It will be tricked into thinking the world before you is real, and it'll react in a realistic way.

Upon setting foot into the Baker home, your brain is instantly screaming "I want out." Suddenly all the smaller details you never noticed before is right in your face, and you never know what is around the next turn. Even after memorizing the game's layout without VR, telling your brain that "there's nothing there" isn't an easy task to do. Your senses are heightened, and even the smallest thing can be enough to strike instant fear. This feeling gets even stranger when enemies start to show up, and combat becomes a thing.

In VR combat is actually much smoother than with a controller. Aiming is done by simply looking at your target, and you can actually tell where your body is and where the enemy is. While your movement is still limited by the controller's analog stick, its still not much different from actually being there face to face with the creature in front of you. Just how immerse this is becomes even more apparent when an enemy goes to hit you and your reflexes cause your body to tense up and lessen the pain of the blow. Of course the hit never actually comes (as it's fake), but even though you don't feel the pain, you are often left feeling numb. It's actually a very strange feeling, and not something you'd expect from playing a video game.

Although the VR mode is possibly one of the best experiences out at the moment, it isn't without it's issues and cut backs. First of all, the graphics have been downgraded. While everything still looks really good, sometimes reading notes hanging on the wall and looking at smaller detailed objects can be a challenge, and some of the earlier areas in the game (specifically the opening scene) are pretty blurry. Thankfully it's not a major issue that takes away from the game, but it's not as nice looking as the game in TV mode. The second issue though is the fact that your character's model is completely removed from the game while playing in VR, and floating hands appear instead. Although it's not a big deal considering the game was in first person anyway, it can be a bit strange not seeing your arms and you also miss out on seeing some animations. For example, a piano lid closes on it's own as you reach for it in the intro, but since you can't see your hands during that scene it looks like you were the one that closed it. Again this isn't a big deal, but it can be a bit odd at times. Also due to the nature of some cutscenes being true cutscenes, not all of them can be viewed in VR. Instead a floating screen will appear in front of your face, and you'll watch it just as you would on a TV.

The only real issue with RE7's VR mode is one that will depend on the player. Since this is a full VR game where you get to move your character through the world freely, motion sickness is possible. There are modes to help cut back on this (such as a snap turning mode), but it's really going to depend on you if you can handle it or not. While it's true that over time you'll build up tolerance to VR sickness, RE7 may not be the best game to try to get over this. You'll often be moving through enclosed and cramped areas, and it'll feel as if the walls are flying at your face if you're not used to VR. On the other hand, it's also possible the fear alone will help you get past the sick feeling, but again it depends on who's playing.

In short, if you can play in VR then it is very much worth it, but it isn't required to enjoy the game. It's one of the best experiences out there, but it can also be sickening.

The Good and the Bad:

Resident Evil 7 is a solid game and a nice return to the series' roots. Although it's focused on new characters in what some may consider a side story to the main story line, it's still interesting with a mystery you'll want to get to the bottom of. The setting is well crafted with a good sense of horror, the inventory and resource management works perfectly, the combat is smooth, and the game never overstays it's welcome. It constantly throws something new at you, and by the end of the possible 12-15 hours you may spend on the initial run, you'll feel compelled to dive back in and work on the extra challenges. Madhouse with it's changed item placements, and limited saving is also a great challenge for classic fans, and the standard difficulties are perfect for both old timers and newcomers alike. The game is a lot of fun (especially when playing in VR), and well worth the time. However, it isn't perfect.

Putting aside possible motion sickness in the VR mode, RE7 does have a few other things that brings it down. Sadly enemy verity is pretty limited this time around, and is very similar to Resident Evil Revelations. Rather than white slime zombie monsters, RE7 features the black molded creatures which also only have a few forms to fight. Some are fast, some are slow and strong, and some jump -- that's about it. The bosses are also not quite up to par considering previous entries in the series, but they are at least entertaining. At least, in VR they are. Other than that there are some shaky moments in the story (specifically near the end), with some questions going unanswered, but it's nothing that ruins the story as a whole. All of these issues are actually pretty minor, and shouldn't stop anyone from enjoying the game.

If you're a fan of Resident Evil, are an owner of a PlayStation VR headset, or like horror games, (or all three), then RE7 is a must play. Yeah, it's not perfect, but it is fun.
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Friday, May 5, 2017

Netto's Beginnings: First Simulation Game

As a kid, I really liked going to see my aunt and cousins out of state. I mentioned this in my previous "Netto's Beginnings" posts, but they were the ones who always seemed to have some sort of new and exciting game for me to try out. Blockbuster video was actually pretty close to them, and because of that they would often go out and rent a game to play with me whenever we would come for a visit. Of course I liked seeing them also, but getting to play a new game was always a fun bonus. This is how I actually played my first simulation game as well. Sim Ant.

Although I also played Sim City and The Sims over at their house for the first time, the game that I actually sat down to play before any of them was the lesser known Sim Ant. In Sim Ant, you got to take on the role as a little Ant, and try to work to expand your colony. Most of the game takes place with a top down view where you click where you want your ant to move to, but when digging underground in the ant hill everything switches to a 2D view.

The goal of the SNES version of the game is to actually make it through the full story mode. When you first begin you start as a queen ant digging an ant hill and laying her first egg (you). Once you've ate away as much dirt as you think is needed (doesn't really matter honestly), you give birth to yourself, and then set out on your ant adventure. To keep the colony alive you must go out and find food, and feed yourself as well. The queen will keep doing her thing, laying eggs, and eventually you'll have a full army of ants at your disposal. By sending out cries for help, you can call other ants to your side to attack other bugs for food, and you can use them to defend yourself against spiders as well. Of course if you die you just switch over to one of the living ants so it doesn't really matter, but if your colony fully dies from hunger or what not, then it's game over. In order to advance through the game you have to kill the rival ant colony in the area, and afterwards you get to move onto a new part of the yard, and even the house. With the story mode in the SNES release I was playing, seasons eventually started to change as well, and you were tasked with surviving in different conditions. In the house you had to worry about things stepping on you, and outside you had other hazards like the owners cutting the grass. While you couldn't do much to actually avoid these things, it helped add to the feeling of being an ant -- a poor helpless ant.

Maybe Sim Ant wasn't the best game in the world, but it is one I had a lot of fun playing. I can still remember the time me and my cousin broke into the red ant hill and stole their baby, only to watch it transform into a black ant when we brought it back, and I still remember just how much the spider freaked me out as well (that... sucking sound.... and death image....). The game left a lasting impression on me, and many years later my cousin eventually bought the PC version for me off of Amazon (funny enough, that was the first time I ever used the site -- my main source of buying games now days). While the PC version lacked the SNES story mode, I still had fun playing it. It had cheat codes that let me not worry about energy or dying ("JENN" if I recall), and I was able to fully take over the yard and house at my own pace. I spent a lot of time playing this version on my own, but sadly lost it when I switched over to my previous PC. Although I really have no intentions of going back to it, it was still a part of my childhood that I loved, and the game will always be special because of that.
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