Tuesday, May 14, 2019

Returning to Higurashi When They Cry 10 Years Later

Isn't it funny how fast time flies? Ten years ago I was a 17 year old getting ready to finish High School, and I had no idea what my future would be like. Heck, I don't even think I thought that far ahead. During that time I was more focused on the here and now, and a lot of that revolved around the friends I had made, and the new games and anime I had gotten into. It was also the first year my family's bakery was open, so a lot of my time was spent there too. But either way, my normal daily life was what I cared about most, and the last thing on my mind was what I should be doing next. Sure I knew I had to go to college, and I had an idea of what I wanted to be, but whatever. It was soon going to be summer vacation, and I wouldn't have to worry about such things for at least a few months. Yeah, that flew by in no time...

Anyway, during that time of my life, almost every day was fun, and I really didn't have any worries. I was free to do what I wanted when I wanted, and often that involved hanging out with friends. It really was a great time in my life... But now you may be asking, what does this have to do with anything? Well, it's because of those friends and free time that I stumbled across a little anime called "Higurashi." I didn't know it at the time, but this anime would leave a lasting impression on me, and change how I viewed the horror genre forever.



Now I've mentioned in the past that I used to not do horror at all. Seriously, if anything was classified as horror, I avoided it. So when a friend sent me a video from Nico Nico featuring a song called "Dear You," I was pretty shocked to learn what it came from. In the surface it seemed like some generic school life anime, but in reality I learned it was much more. Of course I didn't want to believe this "happy" series would turn into something in the horror genre, but there was no denying the truth. Heck, I still remember asking my friend Hayley at school about it, and she just laughed it off. "Yeah it's a REAL happy series" was her reply, which was obviously a lie, but I decided to try it out anyway. I'm still not sure if I regret that or not.

The thing about Higurashi is, while it may be an anime, it actually started as a video game. Or sound novel to be exact. It was the story of a kid moving to a small town in Japan, and the "adventures" he and his new found (all female) group of friends go on. Typically they spent their time playing games where they have to cheat to win or face punishment, but sometimes they'd go out to the city and get involved in different events. I mean, it really does sound like a typical school life anime when you put it that way, but things take a dark turn pretty quickly.

After attending a town festival, the main character learns of the dam project and the horrible murder that happened during the protests against it's construction. A man was mutilated and split up among multiple people, who then hid his body parts in places only they knew. After hearing this story the main character gets involved in a series of incidents that cause him to start suspecting his friends have something to do with it. This is when his world slowly becomes distorted, and the true horror begins.

While the original sound novel relied only on text and sound to get it's points across, the anime took a different approach. The visuals change from scene to scene, the character's voices change to an eerie tone as their eyes become dilated, and graphic scenes unfold before the viewer's very eyes. What was once a kiddie looking anime, eventually becomes something straight out of hell. Characters ram their necks into knives as blood covers the room and onlookers let out demonic laughs, friends flatten other friends with baseball bats, and torture devices are explained in great detail as they are being used on the innocent. The things this series did went beyond expectations, and each new chapter brought something worse than the last. Eventually it "broke" me. After that horror stopped being horror to me.

Although graphic as it may be, Higurashi was a rare mystery series that completely had me hooked. I never knew what to expect out of it, and each new episode handed me a piece to the puzzle. Why are these things happening? Who is really behind it all? These were questions I wanted to find an answer to, and the only way to do so was to keep going. Of course I didn't want to be alone in this, so I drug local NGR Writer Cat along with me. Yeah, maybe I shouldn't have done that...


Anyway, that was ten years ago, and still to this day Higurashi is one of my all time favorite series. I loved the characters, the music, and most of all the story; however it's also a story I was never able to fully finish. The original games were out of reach back then, and for whatever reason I never did watch the last few episodes of the anime. (Yes I'm a bad fan.) But now times are different, and Higurashi has officially made it's way to the west on Steam. So I figured, what better way is there for me to start my summer?

So anyway, here I am now. After a long (LONG) wait I finally have the original story. In a way it's a dream come true for me, but even then there were some road bumps when it came to getting the game. Although it's up for sale on Steam, this version is only the original sound novel release with a new OST (so it's not even fully original). Thankfully fans are crazy and a mod has been created to restore it to it's PS2/PS3 days, but it took some time to actually get everything downloaded and working as it should. Even so it was well worth it. While some may prefer the original all text version, I just can't go without the voices and creepy visual style I've come to know and love. It's a part of what makes Higurashi Higurashi for me, and I wouldn't want it any other way.

On the flip side, if you're the type of person who enjoys psychological horror and mysteries, I highly recommend checking out the series. Either anime or game, it's really up to you. It's a unique story filled with twists and turns, and it's one of the few series that asks you (the player/viewer) to figure out the answer for yourself before it's spelled out to you. It's a rare gem, and one that deserves to be seen.
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Thursday, February 14, 2019

Rune Factory NOT Cancelled And is Now Coming To The Switch!

So this is both sort of an announcement, and a follow up to some of our previous blog posts. Shockingly the news that Rune Factory 4 wasn't going to release in the EU is one of our most read posts here at NGR. We constantly get hits for the page (even after we updated it when the DID eventually release there), so it's clear that many of our readers actually care about the series (me included)! Now with that being said... Rune Factory 4 HD is coming to the switch, and Rune Factory 5 is now in the works!

Yep, that's right! If you happened to miss the Nintendo Direct from yesterday, here's a trailer to catch you up to speed:

(Special Thanks to GameTrailers for uploading this)


Although there's no information about Rune Factory 5, it's great to hear that the series is actually continuing. After the original dev team went under, the chances of a follow up to 4 were slim. Thankfully the team was reunited under Marvelous AQL though, and that's what makes both RF4 Special and RF5 possible.

So with that being said. I personally cannot wait! As a long time Harvest Moon/Story of Seasons fan, more games in the series is always welcome. Especially when it comes to the Rune Factory side of things.
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Saturday, February 2, 2019

Looking Back On Kingdom Hearts

I can't believe it. Kingdom Hearts III is actually out, and I've played it! A part of me still thinks this is some hoax, but it's not. The game is real, and our long wait is finally over. While a lot of newcomers to the series may not understand just how big of a deal this is, many of you out there do. This is more than just another big name game, it's something only those who have been there since the beginning can understand... (Well, maybe there are some exceptions.) Kingdom Hearts is a series that holds a special place in many of our heart's, and each one of us has our own "chain of memories" (yes, I went there) surrounding it. As for me, this series holds nothing but good memories, and every time I pick up and play one of the entries I'm brought right back. So in honor of KH3's release, I figure it's about time I share my story.

The first time I saw Kingdom Hearts was when I was at my mom's work. I was sitting there watching TV in the living room, and suddenly I heard a (now familiar) song playing. It was the theme music for some new game coming out on the PlayStation 2, and for whatever reason it had Disney characters in it. Around that time was when I first got into watching anime as well (thanks to Toonami), and as I watched the commercial I couldn't help but notice the characters of Sora and Riku. Without knowing anything about the game I already thought they were the coolest characters ever, and I wanted to know more about them. Sadly I didn't have a PS2, and before long the commercial faded from my memory. Until Chain of Memories came along that is.

When CoM came out once again I was seeing commercials for the series, and even Nintendo Power was covering it. Again I thought the idea of having a Disney game was cool, but it wasn't something I could just run out and get. My parents would only get me specific games, and I didn't know enough about Kingdom Hearts to ask for it. Plus considering I only got a handful of games a year during special days (like Christmas or on my birthday), Kingdom Hearts on the GBA wasn't something I was going to ask for over the likes of Mega Man Battle Network. (Fun fact: Netto is the main character's Japanese name, and where NGR's name originates from.) Anyway because of that I once again passed on the KH series and went on with my day to day life.

Jump ahead to high school and things began to change. I got a PS2 for my 8th grade graduation, and now I was starting to hear more about the series once again. I can still remember sitting in band class as one of the senior girls was talking about trying to get the ultimate weapons in Chain of Memories. Hearing the things she had to say got me a bit more interested again, but I wasn't quite ready to run out to get it.

After Animal Crossing Wild World came out on the DS, me and a friend both got it for Christmas and we spent a lot of time playing it online. This is when out of nowhere (I have no idea where) he started bringing up Kingdom Hearts II. So once again I started asking questions about the series, and my interest grew more and more. Now that I had a PS2 I could actually get into it, but I wasn't sure how I would or where I should have even started. I remembered Chain of Memories on the GBA, but after doing some research I found that it wasn't a good idea. So instead I started reading the original KH manga, and began talking about it with other friends. Shockingly most of my friends, who had never mentioned the game before, loved it, and they were all trying to get me to play. This is when my friend Keith invited me over to his house that weekend, and he had me start up the game for the first time. And it blew me away.

Although I didn't get to play too much that day, the whole thing was still exciting for me. Here I was playing as this kid named Sora, and I was sitting at the start of some grand adventure that awaited him. It was an adventure I REALLY wanted to take on myself, and I couldn't wait till I could buy the game and do just that. Then the unexpected happened. "You know you can barrow it right?"

The next two weeks were simply amazing. It was getting close to the end of my freshman year, but the only thing I remember about that time was playing Kingdom Hearts. School work, studying for finals, etc... I can't recall if I even did any of that. All my memories are of me waiting for the school day to end so I could rush home and see what new adventure Sora would get into in the next world he visited. Then as I cleared each stage I'd come back to school to talk about it with my friends, and then head back home to repeat the process. Eventually I did finish KH1, and I returned the game to my friend before the end of the school year. And that's when I began thinking of a way to get Kingdom Heart's II.

I don't remember exactly how I went about it, but at some point I did get the money for the game. Up until then though I spent weeks looking up information about the game, and I kept trying to come up with a way to get my parents to let me have it. Before then I had been telling my dad about the first game, but I think he felt it was a bit too kiddish for me. As for my mom she knew nothing about the series, and I knew some of the game's content would bother her (mainly the whole darkness thing). It drove me crazy that I wasn't able to continue on with the series, and to make matters worse it seemed like the whole world wanted to rub that in. In fact at one point I was at Walmart and I saw this little kid run up to me with the Kingdom Hearts II guide book. He then proceeded to open the pages, and shook it in front of me as if to show off what he had and I didn't! Of course in reality he was just a kid excited to have the guide book, but still. It was a game I REALLY wanted to play, and not much I could do to get it. As an almost 15 year old I was limited in funds, and my parents had the final say in what I could or couldn't do. It wasn't easy for me... But then one day things changed. I took the leap of faith, and managed to come home successful.

Looking back on that Saturday morning, it was weird. I had spent the night at my mom's work on my roll away bed, and the first thing I thought when I woke up was "I'm going to get Kingdom Hearts II today." I remember laying there looking at the ceiling for a little bit before I got up, and shortly after I got dressed and ready to go my grandma showed up for her shift. Afterwords me and my parents went home, and we started our normal weekend. Which thankfully normally involved shopping.

I'm not sure why we decided to go where we went, but later that day we drove a little over an hour away from home, and ended up going to Target. That's where I found it. Sitting on the shelf was a copy of Kingdom Hearts II, and I wanted it. I had the money to buy a single game, and that game was going to be it. It's kinda funny actually. I remember asking my dad "do you think I should get that one?" And he told me "why don't you get something better?" Again I'm pretty sure he thought the series was for little kids, and not something I should waste my money on. However I didn't listen to him, and I bought it.

The car ride home afterwards wasn't the best. I was excited to play KH2, but I was starting to get a headache. I remember my mom asking to see the game I had picked up, but when I told her I didn't feel good she dropped the subject. Guess things worked out there too? Anyway because of how I felt, even after I got home I wasn't able to start up KH2. I remember laying on the sofa for awhile before I started feeling okay again, and then after my parents went to sleep I finally started up the game. This moment was something I'll never forget. I know a lot of people hated the long intro 2 had, but personally I loved every second of it. I became interested in Roxas' story, and I wanted to see where this character would go next. Then when I finally got to play as Sora again I was in full on hype mode. Sadly it was around 1:30 to 2:00 in the morning though, so I had to stop playing and save in front of the mansion in Twilight Town. Although Roxas' summer vacation was over, mine was just beginning.

For the next few months KH was a huge part of my life. I'd talk about it with friends online, post in message boards, and even convince others to give it a try. I loved that game, and I couldn't wait to play it every chance I got. But then it ended, and I joined the many other fans that were waiting for a sequel.

After KH2 was over, Kingdom Hearts news became pretty scarce. We had a secret ending that teased an upcoming game, but we didn't know when that would happen. Heck I still remember watching this ending at my mom's work, and thinking that I would be playing it on the PS2. I couldn't think that far ahead into the future with how much technology would change, and all I was concerned about was the here and now. So of course I was wrong about what the next game would be, but I'm pretty sure we all were.

When KH2 Final Mix + released in Japan the news from the game quickly flooded the internet. All of us here outside of Japan were able to learn about new pieces of story because of this, and we even got our first look at the FULL secret ending teasing "Kingdom Hearts 3 The Keyblade Wars." But then even more news leaked out, and we learned of the Birth By Sleep, Coded, and 358/2 Days projects. These were the next three KH games to be released, and none of them were what we expected. BBS would be a PSP title and the next "mainline" entry in the series, while 358/2 Days would be a DS game about Roxas, and Coded would be a cell phone game. Although they weren't KH3, most of us fans were just glad to hear something was coming, and the fact that it was actually THREE somethings and not one made us pretty happy. Then to top it off Re: Chain of Memories (which came with FM2+ in Japan) was also being released in the US so we had something to hold us over until the next new game came out. And thus started my Kingdom Hearts filled college years.

The first game I got of course was none other than Re Chain of Memories. It came out during my senior year of high school, and during the time I was branching out and trying new game series. I had got an Xbox 360 the summer before and was mainly spending time playing that, but the release of a new KH game was something I couldn't pass up. I still remember going to Walmart with my parents and picking it up, and I still remember the awkward conversation I had with my mom's coworker shortly after. They were standing there at the front of the store when I walked up, and her and her husband (who were both Xbox 360 gamers) asked me what I bought. When I told them it was Kingdom Hearts and not something like Call of Duty, they really had no idea what to say. "Oh um... That's cool. Yeah, ok." It was just strange... But I didn't care! It was a series I loved, and I couldn't wait to play it.

Jump ahead a year or so and college me was once again in the same boat. 358/2 Days was releasing on the DS, and I was waiting for classes to be over for the day so I could go to GameStop and get it. Spent a lot of time talking to friends on MSN in between classes about it as well. Then when I was finally able to come home and play it, the moment I turned it on I got a call from my grandpa asking me to come help him close his pool. So I lost another hour or so that day before I was actually able to play it, but thankfully I had the day off from school the next day so I was able to stay up as late as I wanted playing. Then that weekend I was sick with a cold, so I was able to stay home from working at the bakery to continue playing. Needless to say I blew through that game in no time, and I couldn't wait for the next to come out. That wouldn't be until a year later though.

Birth By Sleep released in September of 2010, and wouldn't you know it? My grandpa needed help closing the pool again. That day I was off from school so I was able to run over to GameStop to get it as soon as they opened, so things actually worked out better for me that time. I had most of the day to myself to play, and I was able to go help him close the pool later on. The game did take me a bit longer to get through though since it was longer than 358/2, and I wasn't sick that week. In other words I had to actually work on the weekend, and I had classes throughout the week. Of course I did finish it however, and once again I was sad to see it be over... On the plus side I did get a cool Kingdom Hearts BBS theme for my PSP, and it's something I STILL use to this day.

Re: Coded wasn't too far away shockingly. January 11, 2011 was when I picked it up, and that's about all I remember. I got it from GameStop after college, but the only thing I really remember about that day was playing it in the car at night as me and my dad drove to see my mom who was working at a different home at the time. I believe I was still on winter break from school, but for the first time I wasn't that motivated to play the game. I just wasn't a big fan of the block and bug system, and the levels got repetitive. I did beat the game pretty quick, but it felt more like a chore than anything. That's about all I can say about it really. The ending had me excited for the release of KH3, but that's about it.

When Kingdom Hearts Dream Drop Distance was announced I was filled with excitement. Finally a NEW KH game I didn't know about, and apparently the final game to come out before the release of KH3. I was sitting at college in the math building when I came across the articles, but it wasn't until July of 2012 that I was able to play it. Thankfully I had the Nintendo 3DS Circle Pad Pro for the right analog stick (making it the first KH game to use the classic controls since KH2), and I wasn't going back to school for quite awhile still. This gave me plenty of time to finish the game nearly 100%, and it also was the game that finally got me to play The World Ends With You. It was the perfect way to end my final summer vacation, and it was a great way to start my final year of college.

That summer Kingdom Hearts III was announced for the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One, and everyone went nuts. On top of that the Kingdom Hearts 1.5 collection was coming to the PS3, with a 2.5 collection coming out sometime after. I knew it would be quite some time before I got to play either, but it was a great way to start that summer, and a great way to end it before I started my first real job. In fact I bought 1.5 HD on September the 10th, the day before I started work. Little did I know what the future held for me...

Anyway jumping ahead to today and KH3 is FINALLY here, and thanks to our historic cold I was able to stay home from work to play it! Funny how things sometimes work out that way for me, especially when concerning Kingdom Hearts. It's been a LONG journey to get to this point, but I'm glad I can now experience the "ending" to what I started way back then.
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Saturday, January 26, 2019

Looking Back At Resident Evil 2

It's finally here everyone! The REmake everyone (at least fans) have been waiting for. Resident Evil 2 has released on current gen consoles, and it's more than we could've ever hoped for. That being said, I am especially looking forward to playing this one, as Resident Evil 2 is one of the few games that hold a special place in my heart. I already brought this up a couple of years ago, but looking back I feel like I didn't do my nostalgia for this game justice. Nor did I actually tell about how much trouble I went through to even get RE2 to begin with. So today I'm going to do just that.

To recap my previous post, the Resident Evil series was something I got into on a whim. I was sitting at college playing on my laptop before class, and I felt the urge to look into a "new" game series I could start. At that point I had already checked out quite a few major ones, so the list of ones I was willing to try was quite limited. Then out of nowhere I remembered that Resident Evil was a thing, and shortly after I was at the wikia page doing research. I also had quite a few friends who were already into the series as well, so it wasn't hard for me to find out everything I needed to know before I decided to buy it. So needless to say, I liked what I heard, and I started coming up with a plan on how to buy these games.

The thing is, getting the RE games back then wasn't that easy for me. Although I was in college (so I was an "adult"), I still lived at home and that limited me somewhat on what I could do. We didn't have the best internet (a few hundred MB took me hours), my job didn't pay a whole lot so I was limited on how much I could spend, and I kept most of my money as cash rather than depositing it. So if I wanted to buy anything online at the time, I had to take an extra trip to the bank, and my parents would see whatever it is I deposited/spent because our accounts were connected. Now why was this a problem you might ask? Because Resident Evil wasn't exactly the type of thing they would've liked. Now sure, at the time I was an adult and could make my own decisions, but at the same time I didn't like to do things that made things awkward at home. Even so I still really wanted to play Resident Evil, and I felt it was worth the risk.

Now I don't completely remember how it went down, but when I had the money required in my bank, I told my parents about some really good gaming deals on Amazon, and let them know before hand that I was thinking about buying some things. They gave me a "why are you telling us? Just buy it!" type of answer (as I was hoping for), so that's what I did. Bought Resident Evil Zero, REmake, and 4 for the Wii. After I told them a similar story for Resident Evil 2 on the PSN store, and once again I go ta similar reply. This made it so they knew I was in fact getting some things, but they had no idea what. Now I know, it sounds like a stupid kid plan and all, but that is pretty much what I was. A dumb kid. Sure you might think you're all grown up around the age of 18 or 19, but trust me... You have a long way to go. Anyway, with all of that settled I then went off to download my copy of RE2 to my PSP, as well as to my PS3. It took quite a bit of time (again, my download speed was BAAAAAD), but eventually the download finished on one and I was able to transfer it over to the other. Although I would've liked to play it more on my big screen TV, I used my PSP simply because it hid the game from everyone around me. Although in general I did prefer handhelds, PSP games were often hard to see on such a small screen, and that made it a bit of a challenge to play. I pushed on though, and eventually completed the entire game before my Amazon orders even arrived.

The thing for me about Resident Evil 2 though, is that it made me realize horror games weren't what I had initially thought they were. I was scared of anything called a "horror" when I was younger, and even looking at Resident Evil scared me. Blood and guts got to me, and I wouldn't even LOOK at the screen when I saw my friend playing similar games at his house. Of course by this point I had grown out of that (in fact the crime drama Bones was one of my favorite shows that I actually watched with my family), but still. When I went into RE2 I was expecting non stop horror that would give me nightmares, and make it hard for me to progress through the game. That wasn't the case though. Instead the zombies/monsters were nothing more than a threat of me losing progress if I died, and the game itself focused more on the puzzle solving and the mystery of what had happened. It kept me invested from start to finish, and only a handful of jump scares actually made me jump. Even then it never did freak me out though, and that's what brought me to give the horror genre a try. Although I did have issues with the tank controls at first (as I knew I would considering the few minutes of RE3 I played at my friend's house was hard enough), eventually I got used to them and they stopped being an issue. Once I passed that point though, RE2 became one of my favorite games of all time.

I really can't say more than enough about Resident Evil 2. It was the game that introduced me to Resident Evil, and one I could always go back to and still have fun. I loved the characters, the story, the setting, and pretty much everything about the game. It made me even more excited to play the later entries in the series, but even then they never fully replaced 2 for me. Sure, I did prefer the 3D camera and controls from later entries (I'd also consider Revelations 1 one of my favorites), but 2 was a special game. Now with RE2 finally being remade in 3D as well, it has become everything I could only dream it'd be. It's a game I can't wait to play non stop once again, and I can't wait to experience all the new content that awaits me. Thanks Capcom, you made one of my dreams come true.
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Thursday, January 17, 2019

Ben's Game of the Year 2018

I know I'm a bit late, but it's that time of the year again! Time to look back on 2018, and pick out what was my personal "Game of the Year." Now 2018 was a pretty hard year for me for a lot of reasons. I was let go from my job at the end of 2017 due to a lack of work, and shortly after my dad's brother passed away. He had been in a nursing home for quite awhile due to his stroke some years back, but it was negligence that ended his life early... After the funeral I did have a few months of a "break" while I searched for a new job, but even this time was cut short. My grandpa suffered a stroke and was diagnosed with congestive heart failure. I spent the next few months running back and forth to the hospital with him, but sadly he too passed away last September. During this time I did manage to find a new job however, and I even met some new friends there! So things weren't all bad, but with how crazy everything has been I haven't had too much time to play video games. Things have gotten better since my grandpa's funeral however, so I did get at least some gaming in this year. Even so, it makes it a bit difficult to choose an actual GOTY because of this.

Although a lot of really good games came out in 2018, there's only one I can call my personal GOTY. Before I get to that however, I'd like to just mention a few of the others.

Dragon Ball FighterZ -

This is the game I basically started my year off with. It's a very solid fighter by ACW, and one of the best Dragon Ball games I have played. Really worth checking out if you're into fighting games at all, or if you're a fan of the series.

Radiant Historia Perfect Chronology -

This one wasn't exactly a "new" game, but it's a good one none the less. Perfect Chronology is a remake of the DS classic JRPG "Radiant Historia." The game features a unique time travel mechanic where you can jump between different branching paths to help shape the future. This time around many quality of life improvements have been made to the game's systems, story scenes now have voice acting, and a new story path has been added into the mix. It's a game 3DS RPG fans shouldn't pass up.

Sea of Thieves -

Despite the initial hate for the game, SoT is actually a really fun online game. It's one where you get to create your own stories, and because of that you never know what'll happen to you out there. It's a game that is completely depended on the other players playing it, so people's experiences with the game will vary. Of course since it's launch the game has received multiple updates and expansions, so it's not exactly the "same" game it once was. While I can't call this my GOTY, I will say that I enjoy playing it, and will continue to come back to it throughout the years.

God of War -

A really fun one, but also one I haven't had the time to finish. It's something I'd like to talk more about in the future, but for the time being I'm going to pass on it. All I will say is that it's a pretty fascinating adventure across the world of Norse Mythology, and it's a game that only continues to get better the further you progress. Even without finishing it I can already see why many would consider this one of the best games to come out this year.

Detroit -

This is a game based off of a tech demo I posted about all the way back in 2012. Following in the footsteps of their previous games (like Heavy Rain and Beyond), Detroit is an interactive movie that asks the question "what is human?" It's a unique story with many branching paths, and it is one that is packed full of shocking and emotional moments. Well worth checking out if you're a fan of these types of games -- especially considering how cheap it is now days. (You can even buy it in a bundle with the two previously mentioned games.)

Muv-Luv and Muv-Luv Alternative -

Not even kidding. It's an old PC VN in Japan, but we finally got it on the Vita here in the west. It's a story well worth seeing, but that's all I'm going to say about it here. Instead you can check my review over here if you want more info.

Octopath -

Really solid JRPG, but also one I haven't been able to finish. Following the story of 8 unique characters, the game is both a throw back to classic 16 bit style games, and something all it's own. It's one of the few games I'd consider a "must have" for Switch owners.

Spider-Man -

Simply amazing. Spider-Man PS4 is a game we waited years for, and it was worth it. This open world sandbox game is the Spider-Man adventure fans deserve, and is a must have for PS4 fans of the series. Honestly I could sit here all day talking about how great this game is, but I'm going to leave it at that.... If it wasn't for my actual choice of GOTY, it would've been this game for sure.

BlazBlue Cross Tag Battle -

A BlazBlue fighting game with Persona 4, Under Night, and RWBY? All of these series are special to me, so this game was a dream come true. Might not be as good as other BlazBlue games, but it's still a solid game none the less.

Dragon Quest 11 -

A game I wish I had more time to really give it a chance. Earlier in the year I played through DQ5 while my grandpa was in the hospital (downloaded it on iOS), so DQ11 was a game I was really looking forward to trying out. Sadly it came out the day he went back to the hospital for his final time... Afterwords I only managed to pick it up a handful of times, and so far I really like it. Could've been my GOTY, but I still don't think it would've topped my number one choice.

Red Dead Redemption 2 -

Getting closer to the end now! Red Dead Redemption 2 is the sequel to the game I wished I could've played. That's right, I never got to play the original RDR (Redemption, not Revolver), but I always wanted to. RDR2 was my chance to finally jump into that world, and so far I'm really enjoying my time in it. Maybe I'm not as into it as others, but I still think it's a fun game, and it's something I'll keep playing off and on for quite awhile.

Super Smash Bros Ultimate -

ANOTHER game I couldn't wait for. Smash Bros Ultimate is the game I wished Smash 4 would've been. All the characters, nearly all of the stages, characters like Chrom being included, and actual single player content. It's pretty much the "perfect" Smash Bros for me, and it's a game I'll continue to play as the years go on. Even so... Monster Hunter World is what takes the cake for me.

Monster Hunter World - 

It's not really that surprising is it? Monster Hunter is one of my all time favorite series. I got into it back when Tri first released, and I've played every release (including some Japanese exclusives) since. When this game came out, I was simply blown away. I loved the quality of life improvements, I liked the new SOS system (which let your friends join you on your hunts at any time), and I loved the new mechanics. Although the game is quite a bit different (and easier) than past entries in the series, it quickly became my new favorite out of all of them. In fact I liked the game so much that I bought it for myself twice, and even got it for a friend! Just everything about World had me hooked for hours on end, and it's a game I plan to continue to play off and on like I did with all the others. On the flip side, Monster Hunter Generations Ultimate also came out this year, and it too is a really solid entry in the series. While I still prefer World over it, it too is an amazing game. It's a game that lets me go back to the classic style of Monster Hunter whenever I want, and it has thousands of quests to complete. With these two games together, I'm pretty much set for quite a long time! Then you have the fact that MH World will continue to receive free updates, and then a full expansion is on it's way later this year! It's just a really good year to be a Monster Hunter fan, and I can't wait to see what 2019 brings to the series as well.

So yeah, I think that's about all I can say about this one. Mainly because I've already said it all during my review of the game! Man, it's such a good one. Completely blew away my expectations.
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Saturday, January 5, 2019

Battlefield V - The Game That's Shocking Fun?

(I have no idea what this means.)
You know, sometimes you just have to take a chance on a game. This Christmas I got quite a few things video game related, but one of them wasn't something I really expected -- Battlefield V. Now when this game was coming out I was one of those people who didn't even watch the trailers. I like Battlefield and all, but I had a hard time getting into BF1, and everything I was hearing about V was completely turning me off. There was the whole controversy with a female character being on the cover in a World War II game, and then it came out that they rewrote actual history to make it more inclusive. Things like this were seen as disrespectful, and the game was quickly blacklisted by most. As for how I felt? Well, I could understand why people were mad, and seeing this made me feel as if the game would never be a success because of that. It sounded like the developers were more focused on things like this than the actual gameplay, and I figured that the player base would be low and never reach the levels of BF4 or BF1. So why even bother playing it?

Jump ahead a month or so after release and no one is even talking about the game. It was just out. That's it. No discussion of the new Battle Royale mode (which is because it's not even out yet, but why would anyone know that little detail?), nothing was said about the game's maps and other modes, and even the discussions about women being in WWII came to an end. It's like the game was already old news the day it launched, and that no one even bothered getting it to see how it was. And again, I was the same. I had no plans to go out and buy this thing myself, but when I got it as a Christmas gift I instantly felt as if I had to at least give it a shot. And man, I'm sure glad I did.

So the thing about me and Battlefield is that I have a lot of nostalgia for the older games in the series. I always wanted to play BF2 myself but had no way to back in the day, and it wasn't until I got Bad Company for the Xbox 360 that I was finally able to experience a BF game. Because it was my first that game was pretty special to me, but it wasn't until BC2 that I fully got into the series' online scene. I spent so much time playing that game online, the weeks after just flew by for me. Heck one of my biggest gaming scares was the day I came home from work at the bakery and booted up my copy of BC2 to a blank profile cleared of all my stats! Thankfully the devs did fix this issue and I got everything back, but for a few hours there I thought I lost it all. Anyway those were some fun times for me, and ever since I've been interested in the series as a whole. Eventually I moved onto Battlefield Play4Free on PC, and then onto Battlefield 3. Each of these games were something I invested a lot of time into, and something I planned to return to time and time again. Then things changed.

While I liked Battlefield 4 a lot, I never did get into it as much as I had been into 3, and Hardlines was just a let down overall. There was still some fun to be had with it, but it wasn't quite what I was looking for. BF1 was the same thing. While the maps and WWI setting were great, it didn't completely click with me. It was a good BF (which was a huge improvement over Hardlines), it just wasn't one of my favorites. On one hand I liked that it stood out from the other two, which gave you a reason to go back, but on the other it made me want to play those games more instead. So again, it just wasn't my thing... And that was another reason I wasn't so sure about the WWII setting in V. However, after starting up BFV all of that changed.

At first I didn't think much about BFV either. I tried out the war stories and thought they were just okay. Putting aside the changed history and controversies created by it, it wasn't anything that bad or that special. Of course the same can be said about most BF game's campaigns. With the exception of Bad Company, BF has never been about it's single player mode, so for me the war stories were exactly what I expected. Not a deal breaker, but not something I was too interested in to begin with. The multiplayer modes on the other hand, that's what I was worried about and was almost instantly turned off by... Until I gave it a chance that is.

When I first jumped into online I came face to face with the character customization, and the classes. This time around you can pick what character you want to play as for each cast (which does include women), and you can unlock different costumes and color schemes for them. Of course this takes currency you earn in game to do, and is actually better off being used on the new weapon specialization system instead. Battle Pack loot boxes are now gone, basically all dog tags are earned as rewards for completing different challenges, and all items are either bought outright or unlocked as you level up a class or a gun in said class. There are also extra assignments you can take on for bonus exp and rewards, but these are mostly depended on the day you play, or on how much you use a specific weapon. For example one day of the week might ask you to revive so many players within a mach (which is something every class can do now), but then the next day you might be tasked with capturing flags. On the other hand weapon mastery assignments ask that you get good with your favorite weapons, and they unlock weapon skins as you progress through them. Of course none of this is really new to Battlefield, but it's still nice to see it included. What is new however is the new specialization system in general.

As mentioned before, when you use weapons and level them up you unlock new things for them. Outside of your typical attachments and what not, this also includes the ability to work your way through an upgrade tree of sorts to buff up your weapons. These buffs do cost money to use, but they are well worth the price. Of course this system doesn't just apply to all the weapons you use, but to the vehicles you can drive/pilot as well. Being able to trick out your personal tanks is a pretty cool feature, and it means you never know what sorta vehicle you'll actually go up against in the field. It helps keep things interesting, and rewards those who use vehicles for all their hard work.

On top of all of that, a few changes were made to the classes in this game in general. The Assault class can now build sand bags, supply stations, barbwire, and other obstacles to help reinforce bases and hinder enemy movement. Medics can revive fallen teammates faster than any other class can, and they can also throw med kits to heal teammates, or to resupply other classes single med pack (as everyone now carries around one). Then you have your Recon and Support classes which specialize in long range combat, and supplying/repairing vehicles. They haven't changed too much, but the support class now has a wide verity of weapons to fit basically any situation.

So with all of that being said, what is it that makes this game good or bad? Or what makes it stand out from all the others? Well, at first I honestly didn't see much. I jumped into some game modes like Team Death Match just for some quick rounds, but found myself being spawn killed non stop in maps that felt like they didn't belong in that game mode. However when you break away from those modes and let Battlefield be Battlefield with modes like Conquest, things get much better. Although games like Battlefield 4 had some impressive maps with sky scrapers you could jump out of, and even bring crashing to the ground, Battlefield V does something I haven't really seen in awhile and am happy to see them go back to. They've returned to the more diverse and grounded maps I came to know and love in games like Bad Company 1, 2, and even Battlefield Play4Free. Sure BF1 was similar in some ways, but for me BFV's maps are a big step up. Every one is completely unique, and for the first time in a BF game there isn't a single one I dread playing on (at least not yet). One map is out in the country with small houses scattered around, another is in the ruins of a city with a giant church in the middle of it, and there's even one that is out on the snowy mountains which presents a completely different challenge when getting into shoot outs. Thanks to the game's graphic engine snow will fly up into the air when shot, and as it blows in the wind visibility decreases greatly. It's things like these that cause you to constantly rethink how you go into battle, and thanks to the destruction system you are always forced to adapt. Of course this is how all Battlefield games have been, but it's nice to see they've taken it a step further here.

Teamwork in Battlefield V has also taken a step up from past entries in the series. Before you could run off on your own and try to do things yourself, but now doing so is much more of a challenge. Only having one med pack on non medic classes seriously limits how much you can heal yourself, and running out of ammo is still as much of a pain as ever. However now both ammo stations and med stations can be built across the map for you to return to, but that relies on your teammates actually taking the time to set them up. The same can be said for when you're trying to defend a base. If an Assault Class doesn't fortify the base, you may not have any cover to hide behind. On the flip side if they do fortify the base and you lose it, then you'll have to fight back against your own defenses as well. Then you have the vehicles which mostly require at least 2-4 people to operate fully, and a new spotting system that is used to warn people of what may be hiding just around the corner. It's things like these that encourage you to work with others rather than being a one man show, and that's nice. It also means you're rewarded more for helping than just for killing. Something most shooters lack.

So, what exactly is wrong with this game? If you put aside the controversy of having women in WWII and the altered history (which is only an hour or so of single player gameplay), then there's really not much. This game does feel like the next big Battlefield, and it sets itself apart from the others enough to not completely replace them. It's a game that can exist along side the modern day of BF4, and one that complements the older style of warfare seen in WWI. Sure there are some bugs that pop up from time to time, but by the time I got a hold of it many of the major ones were already worked out. The "worst" glitch I've seen is when I got hit by a frag and was sent flying across the map. Ended up crashing through a window of a building that was filled with enemies trying to camp, and all they could do as look at me as I slowly died in my downed state. Other than that, any glitches I've come across have been extremely minor. Although I will admit that I'm sad to see only one dog tag on our profiles (and the lack of the old full on ribbon system), overall the game has been a lot of fun to play, and I'm actually looking forward to the future. Most of the other game modes are a lot of fun as well, and I'm actually interested in seeing what this Battle Royale mode will be like. In short, this game completely caught me off guard, and it's the first time I've had this much fun with an online based shooter in a long time. Sure it's not perfect, nor will it fully replace the other BF games for me, but it is one that'll be front and center for quite awhile.

Now, does this mean you should run out and get it? Honestly, that's up to you. I could never tell someone to get this over something else they might like more. However if you are a fan of Battlefield games, don't let the controversy of this one scare you off like it did for me. Personally I feel the game is worth a shot, but I also wouldn't buy it at full price. Since it's launch it's been going up and down due to poor sales, and I'm sure that'll continue for quite awhile. Although, even that is actually kinda funny. Despite those "poor sales," I've never once waited more than 20-30 seconds to get into a match, and that's something that rarely happened in the others. Considering this is a "dead" game in many's eyes, it's shocking packed full. But anyway, that's enough of that. My point was this game is Battlefield, and one that shouldn't be ignored if you're a fan.


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Thursday, November 22, 2018

Ben's Gaming Memories - Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving is the time of year when friends and family get together, and everyone sits around a table to have a big meal. Everyone knows that, and although that's the "standard," many people do celebrate it in their own way. As for me, Thanksgiving and gaming has always gone hand in hand, and today I wanted to share some of those memories with you all.

The first time I really considered playing games on Thanksgiving was when my uncle invited us all over to his house for a change. He had a PlayStation 1, and a copy of the brand new Spider-Man PS1 game. To put it simply, that game was amazing. The moment I sat down and started playing, the rest of that day flew by. Heck even AFTER we finished eating and everything, I wanted to stay and keep playing that game. I loved it. It was the first time I had play a game that actually made me feel like Spider-Man, and there was so much to do. So many costumes to unlock and use, most of Spider-Man's greatest enemies were in there, and the voices from the cartoon only helped make it even better for me. It quickly became one of my favorite games of all time, and one of the best Christmas presents I would ever receive from my uncle.

Another one of my earliest memories of playing games on Thanksgiving comes from my days of playing Mega Man X5. That's a game I'd return to a lot, but the Thanksgiving after I received the game is one moment that really stands out to me. While any other day I would just turn the game on for a few hours and mess around with it, that day was the first time I really tried to complete it. Yeah, that's right. I played Mega Man X5 almost every day and never actually finished. I didn't have a memory card, some of the parts were too hard for me, and I had no idea how to get the different types of armor the instruction book mentioned. This time however, I actually tried. I'm sure I spent most of the time just trying to get through the bike section in Volt Kraken's stage, but oh well. It became a fond memory of mine either way.

After that my family started jumping around for Thanksgiving. Many times it would be at my house with just me, my parents, and my grandparents, but sometimes we'd go to their house, my uncle's house, or even the family bakery after it opened. On days like those I typically didn't get to play much of anything, but sometimes I'd wake up early to do something before we left. I can still recall the days of playing Zelda OoT and Shadow the Hedgehog before setting off, and when I got older there was that time my cousin left Call of Duty Black Op's at my house and I speed ran the thing. There was also the year I got to play Donkey Kong Jungle Beat at my uncle's house, but that was only for a little while as well. Of course these are all still fond memories of mine, but the next big thing didn't really come until a few years ago.

When the PSVR came out two years ago (yes, it's been TWO YEARS) everyone in my family was excited. My parents, my cousins, my grandparents, and even my neighbors! Everyone was interested in seeing the new technology, and they were all blown away from it. Although the day started out just like many of the others (with us meeting up at my grandparent's), once we all finished eating everyone piled into multiple cars and headed over to my house. There everyone got to experience things like PlayStation VR Worlds for the first time, and even some horror games like Here They Lie. Although VR is fun to play yourself, seeing others experience it for the first time is even better, and it was something I got to see time and time again that day. Making it one of my favorite Thanksgivings of all time.
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Happy Thanksgiving Everyone!

It's that time year of again. Thanksgiving! And you know what that means? Four day weekend (if you're lucky)! So go out, spend time with friends and family, and use those extra days to do whatever it is you enjoy. As for me? It's time to hunt some turkeys in Red Dead while I wait for the real thing.


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Saturday, November 10, 2018

Devil May Cry 3: Special Edition - Review


As many may know, Devil May Cry is a popular series created by Capcom, and it's main character Dante has become iconic in the video game industry. The original game's unique "devil may care" attitude helped it stand out from other games in the same genre, and fans quickly fell in love with it. However, after the release of the first game, the DMC series sadly took a sharp turn. Devil May Cry 2 was handed off to another team, and they were told to recreate what DMC1 had done before it. So they did... Sorta...

Although DMC2 was still an action game, it was much easier than the original, and it stripped away much of the game's personality. While DMC1 featured a Dante who cracked jokes and really didn't care what happened to him, DMC2 went down the serious route. This didn't go over well with fans, and the future of the series was put into question by many. That is until DMC3 came around.

Devil May Cry 3 is "the" DMC title that most fans will recommend others to play. It's the game that returns to the roots of the original game, while also expanding on everything that came before it. It's the game where Dante's personality really shines, and it's also one of the more challenging titles out there. Of course this did cause some backlash from fans, as the US release's normal mode was actually the Japanese version's hard mode, but thankfully this was fixed in the Special Edition release. But putting that aside... Just how is the game? It's considered to be one of the best action games out there, but is it a game you should check out for yourself? Maybe? Who knows! Let's find out if this one is a bust, or a jackpot.

The Story:

Unlike the previous entry in the series which was a sequel to 1, DMC3 is a prequel. Taking place even before Dante opened his Devil May Cry detective agency, the game focuses on Dante and his rivalry with his brother.

In the distant past a demon by the name of Sparda turned against others of his kind, and became a hero of justice. He fought back against the of the demon world, and then sealed it off from the human world as well. Because of this act Sparda would go down in history, and tales of the evil power located in the demon world would be passed on for generations. Sure, not everyone believed the stories they heard, but there were others who did...

Being the sons of Sparda, both Dante and his brother Vergil were not like other humans. They gained super human powers from their father, and neither of the two see eye to eye. While they were closer as kids, the two quickly become rivals, and eventually things take a turn for the worst. While Dante works on setting up his demon fighting detective agency, Vergil seeks the power of the demon world. This goal of his is what eventually sets the events of DMC3 into motion, and what brings Dante to face him once again.

While the original DMC featured a Dante who would sometimes make wise cracks, DMC3 is the first time we really see Dante's characterization brought to life. Rather than being angry at the demons who try to kill him, he does what he can to have fun with the situation. Jumping off of buildings, using the ends of weapons that have impaled him, using a motorcycle as a sword, eating pizza DURING a fight, you name it! Dante doesn't care, and nearly everything he does is over the top. And that's just one part of the game's charm. Of course Dante isn't the only character in the story. A girl Dante calls "Lady" has also shown up for the party, but her motives are unknown to him. The only thing that is certain is that she is almost as crazy as he is.

The Gameplay:

Like the previous games before it, Devil May Cry 3 is an action adventure game. Although the game is split into missions that act as chapters, it takes a page out of Resident Evil's book and has a nearly fully connected world. Most areas have fixed camera angles, and those from previous chapters can be accessed at almost any time, and often you have to back track through these older areas to achieve your new goal. Sometimes you'll come across a room you cannot access until you've found the correct key or item, and other times you'll have to solve a puzzle if you want to progress. This is where the exploration aspect of DMC3 come into play, as most of the time the game will not tell you where you need to be. On top of that there are also hidden "Secret Missions" for you to find, which will lead you to new areas with specific goals you need to complete. They are a nice distraction from the main story, and they reward you with upgrades if you complete them. Of course all of this is only a small part of what DMC3 really is.


Although the exploration is nice, the real main focus in DMC is none other than it's combat. This time around Dante as a bit more customization than in previous entries. Just as before he starts out with his long sword and twin hand guns (which have unlimited ammo), but he has new style options as well. These styles give Dante new moves and abilities, and they become stronger as you use them. For example the Trickster style allows Dante to quickly dash to dodge enemy attacks, but when it levels up it eventually gives him the ability to warp in front of the enemy he has targeted. Meanwhile styles like the Doppelganger allow you to create a clone of yourself to help in combat, and the Gunslinger increases the effectiveness of ranged weapons. Each of these styles have their own use, and by switching between them you can change up your play style to keep things fresh. This also gives you a reason to use the built in chapter select to replay previous areas, or possibly even try the harder difficulties.

Outside of styles, the rest of the combat has gone mostly unchanged. Dante can freely switch between his melee attacks and range attacks by simply pressing the designated button (triangle for melee, square for ranged), and the two types of attacks can be mixed together to create all kinds of combos. Depending on what directly you're pushing the analog stick, if you're locked onto an enemy or not, and when you press the attack buttons, Dante will preform different attacks, and these attacks can be chained together. As you pull off these different attacks the game will grade you on your combos, and pulling off longer ones (without repeating too many of the same attacks) will give you a better score at the end of each mission. Higher scores will give you more currency to buy items and upgrades, and that will in return help you progress through the game. Although the Special Edition of DMC3 is easier than the original release, it is still a challenge.

Besides your standard sword and guns, Dante does unlock multiple weapon types during his adventure. One of the earlier weapons he unlocks is a set of dual swords, and a shotgun. These weapons are more useful in different combat situations, and can be swapped in and out whenever they are needed. Dante can hold up to two melee and two ranged weapons at a time, but others can be equip by visiting the statues located throughout the game's map. These statues are also where you can buy items and upgrade Dante's abilities, and are often found near extra puzzles that require specific conditions to clear. In other words, even if you didn't bring the correct weapon with you in a stage, it's no big deal to just stop by and equip it.

On top of having different weapons and styles to use, DMC3 SE also has a second playable character to unlock. Vergil is usable once you complete the game, and he offers a new challenge all his own. While he doesn't have an actual story (as he simply replaces Dante), he has a complete new move set and play style. His gameplay mode is also more challenging than the main game, so it gives players a new way to push themselves. There is also a "Bloody Palace" mode to fight your way through, but it's something only the most hard core players should attempt.

The Good and the Bad:

Devil May Cry 3: Special Edition really is a fun game, and a huge upgrade over the previous entries in the series. While the main tower might not be as interesting of a location as the castle from DMC1, the gameplay itself more than makes up for it. Dante feels great to control, the style system gives you a reason to experiment, and the weapon selection is sure to have something for everyone. The story is fun and entertaining, it's filled with unique characters, and you never know what Dante will do next. The game makes you want to keep going, and no one part ever feels like it drags on too long. Although there are moments you may get confused on where to go, being lost often leads you to discover worth wild secrets, and you'll never feel like you've wasted your time. The combat itself is also spot on, and the second playable character gives you even more of a reason to return even after the credits roll. However, that doesn't mean the game is for everyone.


There's no denying that DMC3 is an older game, and some parts of it might be challenging for others to overcome. The fixed camera angles can still sometimes cause you to get hit by enemies off screen, the dodge roll takes some time to get used to, and the game IS a challenge. Thankfully the Special Edition adds in some options to help with that (such as an easy mode), but if you're not willing to learn to get better, then a lot of the game's enjoyment will be taken away. Even so, DMC3 is still a great game, and it's one that action game fans should really give a chance. It's really no wonder why fans of the series like it so much.
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Saturday, November 3, 2018

MediaMoleclue Recreates LittleBigPlanet in Dreams

This is something interesting I came across. In honor of LittleBigPlanet's 10th birthday, the original developers behind the series decided to do something special. Using their brand new Dreams game, they actually recreated some levels from LBP itself! Although there's actually quite a bit more to it than that. While LBP was a 2.5D platforming game with a level editor and logic chips to create your own games, Dreams takes this all a step further and is nearly a full on game engine. It's a game that allows you to shape and mold the world as you like, and design and code your own features and mechanics. This is how they recreated LBP as well. Rather than using a simple level editor, everything was built from the ground up. The character models, the physics, the menus... Everything! It's truly an impressive tool, and the fact that it supports PlayStation VR only makes it even better.

But anyway, enough of that. Check out the video for yourself! (Or videos.) The first one is a little trailer for what they created, while the second is a full walk through with the dev team showing off what they exactly did. Skip to around the 25:00 mark in that one if you'd like to see the logic side of things.



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