Thursday, October 29, 2015

Backlog Gaming Review: Why I Loved The Last Of Us

I have been slowly but surely going through my backlog of games, so I chose The Last Of Us Remastered to play next because I have been curious about it and many of my friends have been telling me I needed to play this game. To them I say you were right. I did need to play this game because it wasn't just fun to play; it was phenomenal story telling. When a game's story has me getting choked up about something within the first few minutes, I know it's going to be a heck of a ride and be great. 

I couldn't help, but like Joel. This is a character that has been through something that is so devastating to him and yet somehow he's kept going on and had to do things that are not necessarily good, but that he felt had to be done in order to keep surviving especially since the world as everyone knows it has ended and a post-apocalyptic world is the new normal. 
Is Joel a good person? No, not really. He's not really a terrible person either. His partner Tess was interesting also and she's another character that's not really  good or evil. The Last Of Us really showcases that this world isn't really that black and white; there are varying shades of grey and not everyone is completely good or bad and that many of the people are just trying to survive any way they can. 

It wasn't long before the story progressed to meeting Ellie. I loved Ellie. She was this mouthy 14 year old kid, but you come to realize that a lot of why she's like that is because she's scared of losing those she cares about and having to parent herself. In spite of that, Ellie always managed to dig down deep and find the courage to do what needed to be done and I admired and respected that level of strength in her. The interaction between Ellie and Joel at first was rather terse, but I understood that was normal especially for Joel because he just wanted to finish the mission and not get attached. 

I really got into it because the game was that good for me. The combat controls are great; not clunky at all. Sometimes I would get nailed by an infected and have to start over from that point (I really HATE the Clickers and Bloaters, they're terrifying), but I didn't really mind because I was enjoying the story and wanted to know what happened next. There are human factions as well such as military, the Fireflies, and Hunters.  This is definitely a game for adults because of how dark the story can be at certain points and because of the harsh violence. 

Infected are scary!

The environments in the game are beautifully done. I found myself stopping and just looking at everything often. From riding a horse in the woods to an abandoned college campus with a herd of giraffes, all of it looks great and really stands out. The music in the game is perfectly done as well with some hauntingly beautiful melodies that add to the emotions of moments in the story.

Horse riding in the woods
Even an abandoned campus can be pretty
There were points in the story where I got pretty emotional because I came to care about the characters. I had to remind myself it was just a game, but it was difficult especially when it came to the characters of Henry and Sam. I actually had to walk away for a few minutes because I was so saddened by what happened to them especially with Sam because he and Ellie were close to the same age and they had bonded and became friends. 

The big thing that stood out for me is the relationship between Joel and Ellie. I loved how it slowly progressed from Joel being reluctant about getting to know Ellie to during some slower moments like navigating an area to look for supplies there would be a bit of talking between them back and forth about different things such as what a type of video game was like or that an ice cream truck was a real thing. I also found myself chuckling at some of the awful puns that Ellie would read from her book of puns. 

As I got further in the game I recognized that Joel is a very angry and desperate man, but when it came to Ellie he could have these moments of kindness and really seemed to look out for her. The story isn't in your face about it and it becomes this gradual evolution of Joel treating her like a daughter and her coming to trust him while they both support each other in a situation that is pretty dangerous and exhausting on many levels. It's poignant and the emotions from both characters is so incredible that it draws you into the story fully which shows how fantastic the voice acting was in this. 

Joel and Ellie watching some giraffes.

When I got to the ending of the game, it made me think about a lot. It made me ask questions like could I do what Joel had done? Was the leader of the Fireflies right about sacrificing a few for the many? It brought up a lot of ideas about the choices that people have to make in this world and not all of them are easy; much of it involves hard choices. I liked the ending, but it definitely wasn't a sunshine happy ending because that's not the kind of game The Last of Us is.

I played the Left Behind DLC also and I thought it was interesting to get a chance to see what Ellie was like before she met Joel. It also shows you some moments that are pivotal in the main story line that focus on Ellie which are also great.  I liked the interaction between her and Riley because it brings some lightheartedness to the game with them just being kids and having fun, forgetting about the dark things going on in their world for a moment. It also shows some great emotional moments between Ellie and Riley that don't feel forced and seem to happen quite naturally. Of course the cheerful stuff only lasts for so long and then it's back to some very sad things happening. The final conversation between Ellie and Riley just before Left Behind ends had me choking back some tears because it was this heartfelt moment between two characters that truly cared for and loved each other. 

Ellie and Riley having fun in a photo booth.

This is exactly why I loved The Last Of Us. It is hands down one of the best games I've ever played because of how intelligent the writing for this was creating a game that is perfectly story driven with some very memorable characters; characters that you find yourself caring about a great deal. The exploration of the various relationships are wonderfully executed making for a fantastic gaming and story experience. The game play is excellent and it shows that a lot of thought was put into getting things just right. The Last Of Us is a game title that I am thrilled to have in my gaming collection and it's absolutely worth playing.

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Dragon Quest Heroes: The World Tree's Woe and the Blight Below Fun To Play Once

Let me get this out of the way first. I do like games like Dynasty Warriors and they are fun to play when I just want to relax and do a few minutes of hack and slash, so I didn't mind that Dragon Quest Heroes seemed to be a mashup of Dynasty Warriors, Tower Defense, and Hyrule Warriors. It was different and not like Dragon Quest 8 and 9 which I loved, but I did find myself having fun with it. The graphics are beautiful and you have over 10 characters from the various Dragon Quest games to choose from to be in your party. There are a lot of references to the Dragon Quest lore which is fun as well.
First fight with a dragon!

The tutorial for the controls is easy to follow and the game play controls handle really well. The battle system for the most part is pretty decently thought out and you can play a quick mission here and there. You can switch back and forth between your party members with a quick press of a button which is handy. The story isn't as good as previous Dragon Quest games with a pretty thin plot and a rather sub-par ending. The thing that really shines is the various special battle moves characters can do and the tension gauge. As your heroes land hits on monsters, the tension meter builds up and once it's full you can unleash a chain of powerful attacks that will defeat your enemies.

Tension attacks really pack a punch.

There are side quests you can do while doing the main story; mainly fetch quests or defeat a certain number of monsters. That can get tedious after a while because you revisit some of the same dungeon areas. There's a lack of exploration as you basically just go from one dungeon crawl area to another. Sure the airship town is cool, but I would have liked an opportunity to at least get to check out areas freely rather than have a go from point A to point B situation. Level grinding is pretty easy especially with the live weekend events they have where you can get extra EXP for your heroes (20% this weekend), rare items, and bonus gold. With all the battles your heroes do you can earn more than enough gold to buy weapons and gear for your party which is pretty great. The addition of monster medals is also a plus. Monster medals drop off any monsters you defeat and you can use the medals to summon those monsters to fight alongside you.

A town with everything you need all on one ship!

While I did like Dragon Quest Heroes, I did not love it the way I have the previous games. It is good, but it's not perfect. I understand they went in a different direction and for the most part it works and is fun up to a point. In many of the missions there's usually an object that must be protected from the onslaught of monsters and strategy is crucial here as well as deciding your party setup and which monsters to summon. However, sometimes the strategy isn't enough because there can be hordes of monsters that can overwhelm your party and as you're struggling to zip to and from different areas, it can be frustrating as you try to read a very cluttered map. Sometimes you will fail a mission and have to try again from the beginning. The one good thing about that is all your EXP and items you've gained carry over. It can get repetitive and I did find myself a little bored as I progressed. I tried different tactics if I had trouble with a mission and trying different things does help to an extent. The AI can also be incredibly stupid. There were a few times where I had a party member just standing there doing nothing while they would be attacked by enemies. 

Early dungeons start out okay and then it gets complicated.

The game play overall is good, but it's not great. Dragon Quest Heroes is fun to play once and not at full price especially with only 30 hours of play time. I'd suggest waiting until it goes on sale or buying it used. It pains me to say that because I love the Dragon Quest series, but this game could have been better and it just felt so much like a Dynasty Warriors/Hyrule Warriors clone in places which left me a little disappointed.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Animal Crossing: Happy Home Designer, Endless Fun

Happy clients are the best!

I love the Animal Crossing games because for me they are a lot of fun. I really enjoyed Animal Crossing: New Leaf, but I didn't like some of the time constraints that were involved. Plus that Tom Nook really has a racket running the town. I was pretty excited for Animal Crossing: Happy Home Designer the more I read about it. Then I started playing it and I absolutely loved it because there are no time constraints and it's so much fun to play. In the game you are an employee of Nook's Homes and design homes for the various animal villagers based on their interests and suggestions. You can also decide where to place a client's home when the map pops up. A mountain home, a beach house, or a desert oasis are just some of the choices. You don't just design homes however. You can also design a variety of buildings for the town such as restaurants, shops, and a school. Dragging and dropping items is a nice change from the pushing and pulling items to move them. This also makes it easier to fix mistakes or undo something. It's also easier to customize colors and patterns and as you progress you can unlock even more items for your designs.

Oh, a cute little cafe design!

You can also decorate the outside of a client's house, choosing a variety of roof colors, house colors, and items for their yard like gardens and swings. You can also revisit clients and do things like a house upgrade or even redecorate their home for them. Another cool thing is the Happy Home Network. You can upload any house or building you've designed and you can visit other people's homes and rate them. You can take pictures of your designs and post them to social media as well showing off your creative skills which is pretty neat too.

You can design an awesome yard for your clients.

There are also themed contests via the Happy Home network such as a candy house or a Halloween house. There are also Amiibo cards which look like Pokemon trading cards and they work exactly the same way that the Amiibo figures do without all that extra bulk. The Amiibo cards work exclusively with the New 3DS and New 3DS XL. If you want to use them with the old 3DS, 3DS XL, and 2DS you can use the NFC Reader/Writer accessory.
 After you've designed a couple of homes, you'll get the whole introduction to the Amiibo cards and how to use them as well as having an Amiibo phone in the Nook's Homes office. You'll be prompted to use an Amiibo card and when you do you'll be sent to the client's home where you can design to your heart's content. Each Amiibo card has different characters that you can design for. Another cool feature with these is if you have friends who have Amiibo cards, you can share furniture simply by visiting a client by tapping the Amiibo card to your friend's screen and if you do it twice the character will remember all their furniture. It's a fun way to socialize and get more items for your designs. 

A forest of books!

I do wish you had your own house to decorate as all the designing only happens in town or in a client's home. That's not a big deal though because you can design the buildings any way you want and I put a lot of my own personal touches in things like the school and a concert hall. There's also lots to choose from with the designs and items making for a unique and entertaining experience. This is all about creativity and just having a good time with it. I'm still playing the game, trying out all these different things as well as checking out other people's awesome designs. Animal Crossing: Happy Home Designer overall is a great game full of endless fun. 

Designers unite!