Friday, May 26, 2017

Mother Gamer Plays Pokemon Moon

 I bought Pokemon Sun and Moon for my husband Ron for Christmas last year because he was interested in them. He was quite happy with his Christmas gifts. Ron started playing Pokemon Sun and he suggested I try out Pokemon Moon. I started playing and I have to say it was a lot of fun. 

You can play as a boy or a girl who lives on Aola island with your mother. The story goes from there where you can get a free starter Pokemon from Professor Kukui. You have three starter Pokemon to choose from: a flying grass type Rowlet, a fire type Litten, or a water type Popplio. I went with the fire type, a Litten. Kukui proceeds to tell you about the different island trials you must pass on each island as a Pokemon trainer.

Litten evolution.

Exploring the island is fun and you can have Pokemon battles with other trainers you meet on your journey which helps with level grinding and getting money when you win. You also have a Pokedex that helps you keep track of all the Pokemon you catch. There are Pokemon centers all over the islands where you can buy items you need as well as take some time to heal your Pokemon.

I had fun with the battles just choosing which Pokemon would work for the battle. There's even a group of funny villains like Team Rocket known as Team Skull. You run into them fairly often and have battles with them. 

Victory and a level up with one of my Pokemon.

The story is quite good as well (it is the same story in in Sun with a few differences such as the Pokemon are different for each game) and it kept me interested in what would happen next. The characters you meet are great and the locations are fun also. I found myself just stopping and exploring. There are a lot of shops too where you can buy different outfits for yourself. You can change your hair style also if you wish. 

Exploring one of the island towns.

Besides the main story and trials, you can also visit a place called Festival Plaza. You can interact with visitors helping them to visit a store or answer questions and earn Festival coins as a reward. You can build new things with the Festival coins such as new attractions for training Pokemon. With each level up you can add more things. 

 The side quests and main story are great and the game itself is excellent with easy navigation and a user friendly menu and battle system. There are a lot of fantastic things to do after the main game is finished like catching more Pokemon for your pokedex or visit a cafe and earn treats for your Pokemon. Pokemon Moon is one of those rare gems that is just cheerful and fun for everyone.

Having fun in Festival Plaza.

*Pokemon Moon is available to play on the Nintendo 3DS

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Persona 5 Great Story, But Not A Perfect Game

I really like the Persona series so I was excited for Persona 5. When I got my copy I was ready to play which leads me to the first big issue I had with the game. Atlus decided to block sharing screenshots. Apparently there was a big hullabaloo earlier about them not letting anyone share video streaming of game play or screenshots to keep the game spoiler free for others. I understand why they did it and yes, they have the right to do that. However, what happened afterwards is a bit much. They lifted the ban on sharing video of the game, but it came with all these insane rules such as you couldn't share any video past the game date of 7/7 because it would spoil the game and videos could be no more than 90 minutes long and if you did not comply with these rules you risked having a content ID issued and having your channel suspended. You still  can not share screenshots as it is still blocked. This is ridiculous because the game has been out for months now and this blocking did them more harm than good. I take a lot of screenshots for this blog and I do my best to make sure nothing is spoiled and if I feel there need to be spoilers, I do add a warning about it. I know that some people don't like things spoiled for them and that is fine, but others like to know everything about things and it helps them decide if a game is worth them buying or playing. I know that watching videos of Major Slack play Elder Scrolls Skyrim and watching my husband play it were what got me interested in playing, so this heavy handed ruling of no sharing of a game that has been out for months is nonsense. I had to take a ton of photos with my phone for this post which is not a big deal, but it could have been avoided if Atlus had let up a little. I mean, this video is as much as I can show you according to their damn rules and that's just an example.

Yep, this is all you get. 

Now on to the game itself. The opening credits are stylish and have a great opening song. You can select several difficulty options for the game ranging from safe to hard and you can change them any time during game play. There is also a new feature asking if you want to connect online to the Thieves Guild. This is actually pretty cool because what you can do is you can check what other players are doing and you can also call them to help you within designated dungeons. This can come in handy if you're stuck on a particular quest or not sure what to do next.

 The introduction to your main character is interesting and sets up the story really well. The setting theme for Persona 5 is dark, but it's done in a way that makes you invested in the story because there are a range of topics from rebellion to politics to discovering who you are. The character design and art style of Persona 5 is eye catching and beautiful. The musical soundtrack is great too with catchy tunes that match the settings for the various areas you explore.

Exploring a side street.

Eventually the protagonist makes some new friends and they become a group known as The Phantom Thieves thanks to a mysterious cat creature named Morgana who introduces them to a place known as the Metaverse where there are shadows and then a main shadow of a person in the real world and you fight to change their heart. The dungeons are a little different in Persona 5. The main story dungeons are known as Palaces and you have a limited amount of time to complete them. If you want more level grinding there is a place known as Mementos that has several levels to it and this usually involves a lot of side quests. The battles are not random the way they were in previous Persona games. You can see the shadows now and you can actually plan out strategies to get the advantage in battle by using a hide ability so you can ambush them. 

Preparing to ambush a shadow. 

How you switch Personas is different too. Since you're Phantom Thieves you wear a mask. Naturally, your main character can equip multiple Personas so each Persona has a different mask. It's very easy to switch Personas during battles according to what you need. Fusion of Personas is pretty standard, but you can also fuse Personas according to levels and sacrifice a Persona to add more power to a Persona of your choice. If there is a Persona you want back, you can summon them from the registry. There are so many combinations with the fusion ability that you can create many powerful Personas.

Battling shadows with a Persona.

 You can also recruit Personas during battles. You and your team can use guns in the Metaverse and there is an ability called Hold Up. You can use these to demand Personas join you, give you money, or give you items. Sometimes you have to convince them to join you by having a conversation with them or bribing them with items, but it's great trying to see what Personas you can get to join your cause. There is another ability you can use called Third Eye which allows you to find hidden items and treasure chests which can be quite useful. 

Using the holdup ability to recruit a Persona. 

 There are social links to strengthen and different people represent the different suits of tarot cards which is standard Persona fare considering the main character is always the Fool. This is where a bit of frustration set in for me because the calendar and timing is stricter than previous Persona games. I found myself longing for characters like the ones in Persona 4 because there were quite a few characters in Persona 5 that were completely unlikable even after some of their back story was revealed. There were characters I did like, but the ones who were awful really stood out.

Often I would have to really think about who I wanted to spend time with in afternoons and evenings because I would get multiple invitations from my social links and I could only do one at a time. It could be a little daunting trying to decide who I would hang out with. This was especially true for the romance options and trying to decide who my character would romance. I did pick one and I liked them a lot because of who they were, but the strict calendar put a damper on things way too much. You can also level up your personality skills with these social links such as charm or knowledge. The higher your skills the easier a lot of your interactions would be. The other thing I came to hate was that damn cat Morgana. After exploring a Palace or Mementos it would be evening and I'd want to go do something with my social links and Morgana would pipe up, "You must be tired. Let's go to sleep." I found myself wanting to yell at Morgana that I wasn't a little kid and I could do what I want. Morgana is the real prison warden in Persona 5 and I started to hate him every time he pulled that crap. It's why I worked on unlocking an ability via a social link that allowed me to ignore him and run around outside as much as I wanted after a dungeon run and Morgana couldn't stop me. 

Social skills chart is important to level up.

The story while dark is an excellent one. There are twists and turns that leave you sitting on the edge of your seat wanting to know what will happen next. The villains of the story are fairly interesting, but one of them is a bit lacking because the reasoning for what they're doing is rather stupid and it's a weak writing point honestly. There are some strange translation issues as well which make the lines come across as cheesy or nonsensical. Then there is the disappointment in how a couple of gay characters are represented. They're not in the main story, but they're part of a social link quest and I was sad to see that they were basically reduced to mocking stereotypes and basically implied that they're predators to young people. This was not okay with me and just from discussion with a few of my friends who have played it, this wasn't okay with them either and one of my friends wondered why there was no same sex romance because it's not as if there are no LGBT people in Japan and felt there was a lack of representation of everyone. I agree, that is incredibly problematic. The other issue was with some of the dungeons. The first one was how much backtracking was involved in some of the later ones. Having to constantly backtrack made a dungeon  feel longer than it actually was. Follow that with the ridiculous amount of puzzles that could make dungeons slow to a crawl especially in the final one which had constant irritating floor puzzles that sucked out all of the fun and made it tedious to the point where I just wanted to be done already. Both those things together detracted from the game experience a lot.

This isn't to say I didn't like Persona 5 because I did. It has a lot of good things such as a great story and fun game play within the dungeons as well as interesting puzzles. It's a good game, but not a perfect one. If you are a fan of the Persona series it is has all the bells and whistles that make it feel like a Persona game and it is fun to play through once just to see how the story turns out and getting the true ending. However, there are flaws that do stand out in a negative way and they need to be better than this. That being said, overall Persona 5 is an interesting adventure and worth checking out. 

Persona 5 has some cool art style. 

*Persona 5 is available to play on the following platforms: Playstation 3 and Playstation 4

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Our Adventures With Sport Come To An End

Honestly, this is one of the hardest Mother Gamer posts I've had to write. I actually sat staring at the screen for a good hour not typing anything. I just felt an overwhelming sadness and a tightness in my chest. I cried a bit too. I walked away and distracted my mind with other things and let it sit for a while. I came back when I felt ready to write. I still feel incredibly sad, but I feel that I need and want to do this.

Many of the people who read this blog know me and know our two furry family members; a mackerel tabby cat named Loki and a jack russell terrier named Sport. When I first became friends with my husband Ron I met his dog Sport who was so sweet and friendly. In fact, the first thing that dog did when he met me was promptly shove his head down my shirt and sniff my boobs. We laughed about it and Ron always joked that I was Sport's first ever girlfriend.

Sport was always lovable. 

When Ron and I were dating, Sport was there. He was sweet, loved everyone, and was just happy to be there with us. We got married and Sport was there. Ron's dog became our dog and I loved him. Even when I felt frustrated with him for not listening now and then, it was impossible to be mad at him because he would look at me and have a happy grin. It's hard to be angry with someone who is so happy to see you every time even when you're mad.

Time went on and thanks to our oldest niece, we adopted a 9 week old kitten and named him Loki. At first, Loki was not liking Sport at all and Sport would try to chase him. It was Ron who sat down with them and had them sitting together, working with them to help them get used to each other and explaining patiently that we were a pack so that meant they were family. He kept working with them until eventually they accepted each other. After that, Sport and Loki were always together. They would always sit with each other, go on walks together, and even nap together. They were brothers.

Sport and Loki in 2013

We were a pack, a family, and we had many adventures together whether it was just day to day routine or celebrating holidays together. Sport was always happy to be there for every one. He had a ton of energy and would jump with excitement. It was our oldest daughter who dubbed Sport the happiest dog in the world. It was definitely an appropriate name for him. She would also joke often that the markings around his eyes looked like eyeliner and made him look emo. Sport loved following her around and spending time with her. Our oldest is overseas at college now, but any time she would message me and talk to me about how she was, she would always ask how Sport was and Loki too.

Sport was with me for most of my gaming. In every single one of the games that let you have a pet like a dog (think Dragon Age and Fallout) I named them Sport every time. He was my loyal companion and my friend so of course he would be with me in my video game adventures. Loki would be in there for some as well. 

Ron and Sport - December 2014

The saddest thing of all is that our pets lives are shorter than ours and far too often we have to say goodbye. Sport was 16 years old and our energetic young dog had become an old sedate dog who liked to take many naps with his brother. Gone were his emo markings and there was more gray in his face and he now had to wear dog diapers because of a few accidents in the house. For Sport it started with a trip to the vet a couple of weeks ago because he hadn't been himself and Ron noticed that one of his teeth looked bad. It turned out not only was it his teeth, his back left leg was getting no circulation so the vet arranged surgery for Sport to take care of both things. Then things took a heartbreaking turn for us. The surgery never happened because after they examined him, they found there was a growth in Sport's leg and it had spread to the point where we had to make the most difficult decision for us, but one that was kinder for him.

Ron told me when he got home and we cried and cried, just hugging each other. Sport was not just a dog to us. He was our fur kid, our family, our pack. Ron told me that in the future he saw all of us there together and you know what? I did too. There was no life ahead without Sport in it. He was always there so it was heartbreaking to receive that news. We agreed that even though it was hard, we had to do what was right for Sport to ease his pain. We got to go pick him up at the vet's office and I cried the whole way there. We made the appointment for Sport and I realized we had one week left with our dog. I held him on the ride home and cried some more and I don't know how Ron made that drive home because I know he was upset too. 

Sport and I home after the vet visit.

There was a lot of crying last week and a lot of hugging. I wanted to make sure that we spent all our time with Sport, take lots of pictures, and make sure he got to do all the things we told him no about and let him have all the foods that we usually wouldn't give him. I was grateful to my Aunt Robin for suggesting that we take video of Sport also so we could have those memories of him moving around. I wouldn't have thought of it in my emotional state.

We did things such as letting Sport come upstairs something he wasn't allowed to do before and he explored to his heart's content. He got to take a nap on our bed and he really seemed to love the soft blankets. He got a plain burger for breakfast which he ate happily. He also got to eat some yogurt which he loved. Sport always liked my yogurt and would often beg me for some. This time he got his own while sitting with Ron and he was happy just being with everyone. Loki stayed close to Sport during that week and often I would see Loki curled up with Sport just napping with him. 

Ron sitting with sport while he enjoys some yogurt.

We did the best we could making sure Loki got to say goodbye to his brother and preparing ourselves to say goodbye. It was not easy and I found myself suddenly bursting into tears a lot. I struggle with depression and anxiety. I have for years since I was a kid. On what I call my gray days, Sport would always be there just for hugs and pets until I felt better. Later on it was Sport and Loki together who helped me so often as well as Ron. Needless to say my depression and anxiety were through the roof last week as I tried to get ready to say a final farewell to Sport. I know Ron was feeling awful as well and we shared a lot of tears and hugs.

I sat with Sport on his last night because he was in pain and pacing a lot. He paced so much he got himself a little confused and got stuck behind a shelf in our living room. I had to get him out and I sat with him afterwards stroking his ears the way he liked. I told him that he would get to go to Doggy Heaven and run and play with other dogs and make new friends. He gave me a look and I told him, "Yes, you'll make kitty friends there too." He settled in his bed listening to my voice and drifted off to sleep.

I know that Ron loved Sport. He had watched him being born and he chose Sport out of all the other puppies. They were together from then on. Then I came along, then Loki, and we were happy to be together, to be a family. I told Ron that I feel that he and Sport made my life better. Ron hugged me and told me that I made my life better and that he and Sport were simply happy to be there with me every step of the way.

Sport and Loki spending some time together.

On Saturday April 22, 2017 we took one last ride with Sport. I held Sport on my lap just hugging him and petting him right up until we got there. He seemed content to just look out the window and I felt tears streaming down my cheeks. Everyone at the vet's office was incredibly kind and understanding about all of it. Sport seemed calmer as we got to the little room and he sat on a fluffy blanket and towel. I don't know if it's true, but to me he seemed quite serene and like he was ready. Ron and I promised him we'd stay with him until the end. I stated that he had always been there for me so I would not break my promise to him and I would be there for him. 

I was relieved that they had plenty of tissues in that room because we cried a lot. I know I cried so much to the point that I removed my glasses deciding that I would put them on when we left because there was no way they'd survive all my crying. One thing that stood out to me even now is that when I started crying again and I laid my head on Sport's side sobbing, Ron gently placed his hand on it and just petted my head. It was comforting. I knew his heart was breaking as much as mine, but he took the time to do that for me.

One last ride with Sport.

We did stay until the end. Sport laid his head down and we kept petting and hugging him, telling him we loved him and that he would always be our sweet boy. Eventually he closed his eyes and he went peacefully with his characteristic lovable smile. Ron and I knew it was the right thing to do, but we were so sad and the drive home was heartbreaking.

Loki has stuck close to us the past few days, happy to cuddle and offering comforting purrs. As strange as it sounds, our house feels somewhat bigger and emptier without Sport in it. I stop myself as I realize I think I have to feed him or let him out. I find myself looking for him too when I look at his dog bed. Ron said he does the same thing sometimes and it does feel strange that Sport isn't with us. We will adjust eventually, but right now we are sad and missing him. I said that it hurts and wondered why it hurts so much. Ron in all his patient and kind wisdom said, "Because it makes us appreciate the love we had that much more." How true that is. 

I will try to remember him the way he was, happy to be there and always loving to run after his ball. I will remember him always greeting us at the door when we came home or walking into the kitchen each morning happy to see us. I will remember how much he loved being with his cat brother Loki taking naps together or sitting at the window watching everything outside. I'm sad that our adventures with Sport came to an end, but I am grateful that he thought we were worth sticking around for 16 years. 16 years for Ron and 9 years for me of unconditional love from the world's happiest dog. I just know he's running around up there making new friends and happily having new adventures. That thought makes me smile through the tears. 

We love you, Sport.
September 8, 2001-April 22, 2017

Monday, April 10, 2017

Mass Effect: Andromeda, A Fun Adventure In Space

I like the Mass Effect series a lot and I was excited for Mass Effect: Andromeda. Set between the events of Mass Effect 2 and 3, this was a whole new space adventure with new heroes and villains set in a different galaxy. Once the game arrived I was raring to get started. The character customization offers a lot of variety and diversity which is great. I tinkered around until I got my female Ryder to where I wanted. I also thought it was great that you could customize how your twin looks (You can play as the male Ryder twin or the female one) and I was thrilled that Ryder's dad Alec looks like his kids depending on your customization. You can select the difficulty to what you want and if the game is proving to be too challenging, you can lower the difficulty quite easily in the game settings.

My female Ryder rocking the purple hair.
Customized my twin with awesome red hair. 

The introduction to Ryder and the story is interesting with the idea of exploration and looking for golden worlds which are locations that are strong candidates for settlement or would provide resources for survival. This being Mass Effect, of course things don't go as planned and that's where Andromeda begins. There really isn't much of a tutorial when you start, but the game does give you tips here and there for how to do certain things and where you can find things in your items menu. 

The environments for Andromeda are beautiful and there's lots of exploration. I had the most fun just exploring and scanning planets which looked amazing. The Tempest looks a lot like the Normandy ship with a few differences such as it's a bit smaller and sleeker meant to be a scout ship. You also spend a lot more time on the Tempest as you explore this new world. 

Ryder exploring a new planet.

The story for Andromeda is interesting although it feels like a familiar one especially when it comes to the enemy aliens, the Kett. Their attitudes and ideas feel very much like the Borg from Star Trek. I still found the Kett interesting and I found myself wondering if it was possible that their society was influenced by the Reapers in some ways.  

The introduction of the new alien race the Angara I loved because their society was intriguing and to me they seemed like a beautiful alien jungle cat race. I really liked the character Jaal because he was a great character with an inquisitive spirit, but he was also brave and kind. I genuinely liked him the moment he was introduced. 

Jaal and a fellow Angara. 

There are opportunities for character romance also and they aren't just limited to your ship mates. There are a few romance options on a couple of different planets. You can also do loyalty missions for your friends which will make your relationships with them stronger. One of my favorites was a mission for my Krogan friend Drack. Drack was another favorite character for me because he was gruff, but underneath it all he actually cared about others a great deal. I also just love the Krogan. They're a pretty badass race and Drack reminded me a lot of two other Krogans I really liked, Wrex and Grunt. 

Drack is cool without even trying.

Combat in the game is fairly standard. There are cool down timers for some of your abilities which can be a bit frustrating, but it's not a deal breaker. I did have fun with the combat and some of the fights I had the most fun with were fighting giant AI robots known as Architects. You can direct where your squad goes if you want to, but it's a little clunky. Generally I just let them handle themselves and they were fine. 
I do wish the user menu was a little more streamlined, but it wasn't such a big deal that I couldn't figure out where things were. Leveling is pretty easy and you can upgrade your skills depending on your fighting style and those of your squad. There are strike team missions also where you can send a team out while you're adventuring or you can team up with your friends and play together on multiplayer. There isn't much of a tutorial for it, but they are fun to play. 

Architect fights are fun! 

There are a ton of side missions. I like side quests and they're fun for exploring, but with Andromeda this was a mixed bag for me.  Many of the side missions are fun to do and some of them not so much. There are also side quests known as additional tasks. Unfortunately, a lot of these are tedious and far too many are glitched. On one task it would not complete at all so I could never finish it which was frustrating. 

These were not the only things that weren't great in the game. No, it wasn't the animation. Honestly, I didn't think the animation was that bad. I noticed maybe one or two characters not emoting enough, but that's about it. They have since fixed that with a recent patch. Anyway, other things that bothered me were that every now and then the game would lag horribly to the point that I could not interact with anything or it would just freeze completely. That is incredibly irritating when I'm trying to play a game and then I have to reboot because of something like that. Sometimes the map marker was inaccurate and I would have to run around trying to figure out where to go because it would either be next to the location or it didn't properly identify that the location was a cave.

The other thing that was frustrating were all the damn sudoku style glyph puzzles; Remnant puzzles. I seriously hated the Remnant puzzles. Yes they were inherently part of the main story, but they were time consuming and terribly repetitive. I was grateful when I had completed my last Remnant puzzle. They detracted from the fun of the game. 

I hated these puzzles.

In spite of those flaws in Mass Effect: Andromeda I still had fun playing the game and liked it a lot. I feel that perhaps Bioware should have waited a little longer to release the game to address those issues, but it's still a good game for what it is. My favorite part of all the Mass Effect games has always been the exploration and there was plenty in this game for me. I also loved the beautiful views of all the planets I visited. Mass Effect: Andromeda isn't a completely perfect game, but it is a fun adventure in space. 

You can't beat the view!

*Mass Effect: Andromeda is playable on the following platforms: Playstation 4, Xbox One, and Microsoft Windows

Monday, March 20, 2017

Horizon Zero Dawn, Amazing Story With Robots!

When I first heard about Horizon Zero Dawn I was intrigued and let's be honest, incredibly excited by the idea of robot dinosaurs and robots everywhere. I love robots and this was right up my alley. Once I got the game I was ready to play. I can't even hold it in. I loved Horizon Zero Dawn. I absolutely loved it! This game was so much fun to play. Let's get down to why.

The beginning of the story has a great introduction that shows the world a thousand years in the future and humans have regressed to primitive tribal societies. Everywhere you look, it's clear that a massive calamity has happened and large robotic creatures known as machines are everywhere. The machines are dangerous because they will attack humans. This opening lets you meet Rost who is from a tribe known as the Nora and Rost is an outcast taking care of an infant who is named Aloy at the instruction of the Nora Matriarchs. The circumstances about Aloy's birth and where she come from are mysterious and this causes her to be an outcast as well.

A lesson with Rost about hunting and tracking when Aloy is a child provides some insight into how the controls work which includes hiding from the machines and sneak attacking them. That part was a lot of fun. This also gives Aloy a new tool called a Focus where she can use it to scan the area and get information about the machines and even track their pathing.

Little Aloy hiding from a machine known as a Watcher.

There is a time skip and Aloy is grown up (19 years old) and participating in an event the Nora have called the Proving because if she wins she will no longer be outcast and she can get answers about where she came from and who her mother was. Things don't turn out quite the way everyone expects and that is where the big story and adventure of Horizon Zero Dawn begins.

There is a sense of urgency to the story because there is a big mystery to be solved and Aloy wants to know the answers. I loved Aloy. Her independent spirit and intelligence were great. I really liked that there was a strong and smart female character and no one had an issue with it. There is a wonderful progressiveness to this game in the fact that there is gender equality all across the game. There's no one disparaging Aloy for being a woman who knows how to fight or complaining about how smart she is. It's Aloy being herself and she's accepted as she is and even admired for her fierce bravery and fantastic intelligence.

There are strong female characters all over the game. I loved it. Aloy herself comes from a tribe that has a matriarchal society and all the women are smart and strong fighters. One of my personal favorites was the Nora war chief Sona. She was cunning, a great fighter, and the mutual respect between her and Aloy was perfect. It's not just the women who are free of gender bias; the men in the game are as well. Take Rost for example, who had no qualms about raising Aloy and loved her and in all regards she was his child. It's a wonderful insight into the father-daughter bond and the bond between Rost and Aloy is a beautiful thing. There is also tons of diversity. I kept stopping and talking to everyone in the game because I was so impressed by how much of it there was in the game. Everyone was from everywhere: Black, Asian, Latino, Native American, White, and Mixed. Honestly, it made me ridiculously happy to see these things in a video game.I love that the developers for Horizon Zero Dawn understood that representation matters and went above and beyond to showcase that and it was a beautifully realized normal and real world.  

Aloy and Sona having a moment together.

The diversity in this game is fantastic.

The gameplay in Horizon Zero Dawn is terrific. The controls are easy to navigate and the menu for items and crafting are user friendly. You also get a new ability for your Focus, overriding machines so you can make them friendly for a bit of time and this even allows Aloy to have a machine mount. Fighting machines was so much fun. There's a variety of them and Aloy is able to scan them with her Focus to track their pathing as well as find out what their weaknesses are so she can defeat them. Some are more dangerous than others of course, such as the Thunderjaw. The game definitely makes you plan out strategies for the best way to take down these machines and the rewards for defeating them are worth it because you can get parts for crafting as well as modifications for your armor and weapons.

Aloy nabbing a machine mount with the override skill.

The world of Horizon Zero Dawn is beautiful. I loved the open world and just exploring. You can find a lot of interesting things ranging from finding things from the old world to finding more information about the machines. One series of quests that I liked was climbing machines known as Tallnecks that looked like sci-fi giraffes and you can override them and unlock the map areas fully. It's also quite a stunning view from the top of them.

Beautiful view from the top of a Tallneck.

There are tons of side quests in the game as Aloy continues her adventure. There are also side quests known as errands where Aloy just has to do one task for the person. There are Hunting Lodge quests also where you can hone your hunting skills and get rare weapons as rewards. The variety of weapons Aloy can use are impressive and each one has a use for defeating machines. Crafting is a vital part of the game as well because Aloy can make traps and bombs for a slingshot weapon she has. All of this is geared for battling the machines and trying out different fighting styles. 

Aloy taking down a machine called a Rock Crusher.

The story for Horizon Zero Dawn  is amazing. I was completely engrossed in the story and each reveal to the plot was so interesting, I found myself playing for hours at a time. Aloy is such a great character perfectly voiced by Ashly Burch because she got the nuance of Aloy's emotions and tone so right and I found right from the start of the game that I loved Aloy and I wanted to know more about her and I wanted to know her story. She was interesting and the characters that she meets are interesting adding so much great depth to the story. The voice acting in the game is great and the music for the game is wonderful as well. Sometimes when you play a game you run into glitches. With Horizon Zero Dawn that was not the case for me. This was a game that had all the bells and whistles, no glitches, and was something I genuinely enjoyed playing.

After you beat the game, if you haven't finished everything such as errands and side quests you can go finish them up. You can also explore any areas you might have missed or finish up Hunting Lodge quests if you haven't already. Horizon Zero Dawn is an amazing story with robots, but it's also a terrific game that is absolutely worth playing. 

Rawr, robot dinosaur! Aloy fights a Thunderjaw.

*Horizon Zero Dawn is playable on the following platforms: Playstation4

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

World of Final Fantasy, Fun With Stacking And More

I was intrigued by World of Final Fantasy when I saw all the chibi characters in a trailer for it. I bought the game and was ready to check it out. The introduction to Lann and Reynn, a brother and sister is interesting. Lann and Reynn are known as Mirage keepers which is all explained in the introduction when they meet their fox companion Tama, who is a Mirage. Mirages are creatures that Lann and Reynn can capture with a tool called a prismarium. It definitely has a Pokemon feel to it with capturing a variety of Mirages and leveling them up and evolving them into bigger and faster Mirages.

Lann meets Tama. 

There is a tutorial to get the hang of the game and the battle system. This also shows you an ability that Lann and Reynn have to switch from a big form known as Jiants or to a very small size which is known as Lillikins. Depending on the battle you're fighting you can switch. This also shows another unique aspect of the game, stacking. Big or small, Lann and Reynn can stack Mirages. You can mix and match the variety of Mirages depending on what you need for different battles. While big, they can have Mirages stack on top of them and when they are small they can stack on top of larger Mirages. 

Stacking, the Jiant's version. 

Stacking is a lot of fun. There's all kinds of combinations to try and it makes you think about what strategies you want to plan out while battling enemies and bosses. For example, if you have a boss that is weak to lightning you can stack Mirages with the ability to cast powerful lightning spells and gain the upper hand to victory. Capturing Mirages takes finesse as well in some cases. For a few you have to cast certain spells in a certain order to have the option to capture them. It can be a little frustrating because sometimes it takes a few tries, but for the more powerful Mirages it's definitely worth it. 

Stacking Lilikin style. 

The battle system is well done. You have the option to choose active or wait depending on your play style. I chose wait because I like having time to plan out my battles. The nice thing about that is, you can speed up the battle with the touch of a button so you can get to your turn faster. This was great for me in the longer dungeons when I wanted to get to the end a little quicker. You also get a bit of help in the form of Champion medals. You can carry up to three at a time and they all do support things in battle ranging from increasing your defense to casting healing spells and yes, they are in chibi form. Many of them are characters from the Final Fantasy games such as Sephiroth (Final Fantasy VII) or Tidus (Final Fantasy X) and you can get more medals from a character known as The Girl Who Forgot Her Name. 

Everyone sing the Sephiroth song! Champion medal summoning go!

The story itself for the game is very interesting set in the world of Grymoire where everyone is chibi while Lann and Reynn are known as the keepers who are Jiants and there is a prophecy about them. They can change size from big to small at will and that is part of the story as well. Lann and Reynn start their adventure with Tama in tow. There's so much to see and do and hundreds of Mirages to capture. Lann and Reynn meet and make many new friends during their adventure. I found myself smiling at the fact that many of them are characters from the Final Fantasy series. I was delighted to see Rikku and laughed when I saw Shantotto from Final Fantasy XI. 

Chibi Rikku is adorable. 

The exploration of the different areas is pretty straightforward, but each one is a lot of fun to explore. They are colorful and pretty. Some of the Mirages have an ability called Joyride which means you can summon them and hitch a ride so you can travel in style. Just running around seeing what Mirages you can find and capture is a lot of fun. I was determined to get myself a Moogle and a Chocobo and I succeeded. The Mirages you capture can also offer up items you can use such as jewels that can allow you to use certain spells. 

Just a guy, riding on his shark. 

There are side quests you can do known as Mini ventures. You can fulfill requests for townsfolk or visit the Girl Who Forgot Her Name to do quests that are known as Intervention quests. These quests feature many of the characters Lann and Reynn have met during their adventures and basically let Lann and Reynn step in or intervene to help them with a battle. Just a heads up, you should do all of the intervention quests as it does determine whether or not you get the good ending or the bad ending in the game. You can also visit a place called the Colosseum and battle Mirages for rewards. This is an added bonus because you can capture many of the Mirages you battle here. You can also fight special secret bosses in cubes known as Murkrifts. These Mirages are more challenging and you have to really plan out your stacks and strategies. If you're truly successful you can capture some of them and earn mementos from them for evolving your Mirages.

Giant Cactuars are just one secret boss challenge.

My only complaint about the game is the fact that every time I needed to restock on supplies I had to go back to Nine Wood Hills (Lann and Reynn's home) and get items from the only shop there. That would often feel a bit inconvenient whenever I had a dungeon to explore and I had to go all the way back to a portal and jump through to restock. It detracted from the exploration a bit, but it wasn't that big a deal that the game wasn't fun for me. 

Don't let the cute little characters fool you into thinking this is just a cute game and nothing more. World of Final Fantasy is a solid game with a smart combat system, easily navigated inventory, and a good story. The characters are interesting, there's a lot of fun humor, and even after the main story is completed there are more quests to do and extra challenges. World of Final Fantasy is fun with stacking and more. It's a game that definitely gives you your money's worth and you'll find yourself smiling and enjoying the experience.

Celebrating has never been cuter.

*World of Final Fantasy is playable on the following platforms: Playstation4 and Playstation Vita

Friday, March 3, 2017

I'm Not Going To See The Ghost In The Shell Movie

Let me tell you why. I love Ghost in the Shell. It is a personal favorite of mine which was why I was disappointed that Scarlett Johanson got cast in the role of Motoko. I feel that there are so many great Asian actresses that could have done this role really well. I like Scarlett, but this role should have gone to an Asian actress. I've seen all the people defending this casting saying the Major had a mechanical body. I understand that and it is a good point. However, I can not agree with what has been done to the character for this movie.

There were tests to see if they could manipulate her face to look more Asian. They were scrapped, but in the trailer for the movie it's obvious they used makeup to make her look more Asian. Again I ask, why couldn't they just cast an Asian actress? As I am watching the trailer I hear them call her Mira. That's right, Mira. Motoko Kusanagi has become Mira for the movie. Honestly, I feel insulted by this. It was controversial and bad enough that they cast a white actress in a role that is clearly Asian, but now our Asian names aren't good enough either.

I'm tired of the constant message that POC aren't good enough for main roles, that we're not good enough to be heroes of our own stories. I'm tired of the message that our names are too ethnic so they need to be changed to a nice vanilla name. Representation MATTERS. Our stories, our culture, and our names matter. To basically be told that they don't for projects like Ghost in the Shell, Death Note, Speed Racer, Dragon Ball Z, The Last Airbender, and the Great Wall is not only insulting, it's disheartening.

Look, I get it. Scarlett Johansson's name is a big draw for movies. She's a talented actress and just having her name attached to this film is a possibility for them making a lot of money for the film. That doesn't mean that I have to be okay with the pretty blatant whitewashing and the ignorance. I'm sure plenty of people will go see the movie and probably enjoy it. That's how it works. Some people like a movie and some people don't. That's what makes variety awesome. Personally, I'm not going to see the movie because I feel that it just doesn't seem to respect our diversity or our culture. I can't respect something or someone that can't grasp the concept that representation matters; that we matter.

That's just my opinion though. I'm sure many people will disagree with me and that's fine. If you want to go see the movie, you go right ahead. I won't stop you, but I will be sitting this one out. 

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Harvest Moon Skytree Village, Fun But Boring

I love the Harvest Moon games. One of the first Harvest Moon games I ever played was Back To Nature for the Playstation 1. Who knew a farming game could be so much fun? It wasn't just about the farming though. You played as a boy who returned to your grandpa's farm to take over and start running it yourself. There were also the interesting townspeople, seasonal festivals, and different girls you could talk to and romance and choose to be your wife. There were all kinds of neat upgrades for your farm too like a greenhouse so you could have things like pineapples all year long.

The last Harvest Moon game I played was A New Beginning and I loved it. It was a little different, but in a good way because in this one you could choose to play as a boy or a girl. There were the interesting townspeople and one of them could do magic. There were the fun seasonal festivals and of course the farming. In this one though, you could have new animals like llamas and alpacas and make yarn with a yarn making machine. You could also pick a boy or girl to woo and get married. It was a lot of fun and I still pop it into my DS and play it.

I was genuinely looking forward to playing Harvest Moon Skytree Village when it was released because as I said I love the Harvest Moon games. The story explains that the land you're in is known as the Oasis of the Harvest Goddess. There were many people living in Skytree Village before and it was once lush and green, but the power of the Harvest Goddess waned and the land became dry and parched. It's up to you to help the Harvest Goddess by reviving the seven skytrees which will give the Harvest Goddess her power back and restore the land back to being lush and green again.

I started playing and you can play as a girl or a boy in this game. I chose a girl. I immediately noticed how different it was. Different is not necessarily a bad thing, but the tutorial did not need to be as long as it was. It's a bit slow and clunky and sometimes the camera angles aren't that great. You can turn the camera at least so you can get it to where you want it, but sometimes it looks very blocky and feels like you're playing Minecraft instead of a Harvest Moon game. The land you're farming can be a bit uneven, so you have to dig and move the soil around so you can have a flat surface to work with which can be a bit tedious. Once you get it to where you want it, you can till the soil and plant the crops for that season which is Spring when you start the game. There are also Harvest Sprites (servants of the Harvest Goddess) who can help you with your farming endeavors. One can help to make your crops flourish while another can help you water all your crops. They can only help once per day, but it is a nice bit of help to have.

Work those fields, honey!

 There is a small village in this game. It starts with only a couple of townspeople and as you progress with the farming and reviving of skytrees, more people move into the village. Even after that, you only have a small group of people, about 18 of them and that's it. The villagers can give you requests like growing a certain type of flower or catching a specific type of fish in the river. For fulfilling those requests you get rewards like money or in one villager's case a recipe for grilled salmon. Some of these requests were fun for me (I loved growing all the pretty flowers), while others were an exercise in frustration. The fishing requests alone were a bit of a pain because you catch different types of fish at different times of day. So if I wanted to catch a Tilapia or a Perch, I had to know exactly what times they showed up in the river in order to catch them and fulfill the request. There was a lot of experimenting with this. The one good thing that came out of it is my fishing skill increased a lot. 

 The village itself is rather small and it feels like it's just there so you have something to explore and break up the tedium of farming. There really isn't much to explore in this game which for me was disappointing because I loved the exploration in A New Beginning and all the things you could do. It's sadly lacking in Skytree Village. You can upgrade a few things to your farm and you do have cute farm animals that add to the fun. There are a couple of mines in the game where you can find minerals and upgrade your farm tools which is pretty neat. I just wish there had been more to explore besides my farmland, the village, and two mines.

Making a run into the village.

This Harvest Moon game does have the option to romance a girl or boy to marry as well. You have to do different requests for them to increase their affection towards you. Once that is done, it's back to farming and reviving the skytrees. This isn't to say that Harvest Moon Skytree Village isn't fun because it is, but it is a little boring in places which is a little disappointing. I found myself playing for short periods of time and then saving my game so I could go do something else where as with New Beginning, I would play and play because I was having so much fun with it. For what it is Skytree Village is a nice game, but there are moments where it just doesn't feel like a Harvest Moon game and that's really too bad because I do like the series a lot. 

Hug your cow today!

*Harvest Moon Skytree Village is available to play on the following platforms: Nintendo 3DS

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

The Last Guardian, A Beautiful Disaster

I had been waiting for The Last Guardian to be released so I could play for what felt like ages. When I got my copy, I was ready to get started. The opening for the game is quite pretty and the introduction of the boy who was mysteriously kidnapped and left in a mysterious castle called the Nest and the beast he befriends called Trico is interesting. The boy notices spears in the side of Trico's body that he removes. He also removes the chained collar holding him there. This gives you a quick tutorial of the games controls before you start your adventure.

The boy and Trico meet.

 The boy and Trico must work together to escape the castle. Much like Ico and Shadow of the Colossus there are a variety of puzzles to solve ranging from climbing to jumping. This is where commanding Trico comes in. The boy can have Trico stand up on his hind legs so he can reach high ledges or ride on his back and have him jump across broken bridges. It's all about teamwork throughout the entire game.
 The environments in The Last Guardian are beautiful as well as the game itself. Everything appears like a lovely painting and the musical soundtrack complements the elements of the game as well. Trico is very cute and his budding friendship with the boy is quite endearing. That is why it is so disappointing that The Last Guardian is a beautiful disaster. I need a game to be more than pretty. If the controls are terrible to the point of making the game frustrating, that sucks the fun out of it. The big thing was the camera. Many times the camera angles would be terrible and there were times where it would suddenly spin uncontrollably depending on where I was standing or moving. For the first time, I actually got motion sickness from a third person view game. I had to take frequent breaks from playing because of it. 

Trico gets stuck and looks cute doing it.

 The controls themselves are terrible. It kills me to say that because I did like the story and the characters, but when the controls are this clunky for a game it detracts from it. Sometimes the controls are slow to react when commanding Trico. I didn't mind that it took a few tries to get Trico to listen; he is a wild animal after all. I did mind that the controls were so difficult to deal with that at times I would miss a jump, or mashing all the buttons was a solution. It lacked finesse and I found myself incredibly frustrated often. Clunky controls and a bad camera made The Last Guardian suffer as a result. 

A touching moment with the boy and Trico.

For all the struggling with the camera and the controls, there are a lot of great emotional moments in the storytelling. The friendship with the boy and Trico is a wonderful thing and I did enjoy the mutual bond that grew between them as they worked together. I stuck it out until the end and I'm glad I did because the story itself is a good one. I just don't feel that playing through it again is an option. One round of frustrating game play is enough. I wish I loved the game because I waited for it for so long and the artwork and music are beautiful, but the execution is lacking. There are some people who might like the game and there are some who may want to try it out.  Everyone is different, but this game was not for me. If you do try it out, wait for it to go on sale because it is not worth paying full price for.

I want to make one thing really clear, because a couple of people have mentioned it. I have played a ton of games in my life. I love gaming, it's something I enjoy a great deal. I love talking about games with fellow gamers and Mother Gamer is something I am proud of because it is something that is a labor of love for me, celebrating things I'm nerdy about and the biggest is gaming. I try to be conscious of sticking to talking about my gaming experience in every single Mother Gamer post I've ever written. I will never tell anyone that they should or should not buy a game no matter if I liked it or not. I may tell you that a game is worth having in your gaming collection if I love it or tell you to wait for it to go on sale if it wasn't as good as expected, but that is all I would do and it is all I do. Ultimately, it's up to you dear readers to decide if you want to check out a game or not. I've played a couple of games that I have really not liked and written about that others have played and loved. As I said when I first started Mother Gamer, these are just my opinions based solely on my personal gaming experience, no one else's. I made a promise to myself that I would never lie and say a game was good if I personally felt it wasn't because there's no point in writing a great review for a game I did not enjoy. I write this blog because I love gaming and I enjoy sharing that passion with other gamers. I know some may not agree with every single review and that's okay, because we're all different. That's what makes gaming so much fun. There are a variety of games for all types of gamers and it gives us a lot of options to explore and enjoy. That's a wonderful thing. Until the next blog post, happy gaming everyone!

Trico splashes in some water.

*The Last Guardian is available to play on the following platforms: Playstation4

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Mother Gamer Plays Witcher 2 Assassin Of Kings

I enjoyed the first Witcher game so I was looking forward to trying out the second one. I played the enhanced edition of Witcher 2 on the Xbox 360. Once the introduction to Geralt was underway at the beginning, the game started with a tutorial of the basic combat controls and information about how to use the items menu as well as upgrading Geralt's abilities. I liked that everything was concise and easy to read and I could scroll through everything pretty quickly.

Start of the game, menu system is nice.

The story itself was interesting for me and of course I like Geralt a lot because he is a complex character who isn't really good or bad, but he does try as often as he can to do the right thing and stand up for others. That's not to say he doesn't have flaws because he does, but at least he owns up to them.

 The armor was pretty cool and I liked that you get a special armor that ups a lot of stats right from the start and it was the Blue Stripes special forces armor. I did find better armor later on, but that one did nicely for the early part of the game. Alchemy is a constant of course in the Witcher games and during my adventuring I grabbed all the things that could be used for it as I went. Some things were specifically quest related so I was ready with all the right items when those happened. 

Geralt in the Blue Stripes armor.

 The battle system is well done and if a battle was challenging, I could easily switch the difficulty level to easy. For me, it was just fun to explore and look at everything because the scenery looked amazing. I put off doing main story quests just to do side quests and explore everywhere. One of my favorite side quests was with trolls because it was fun and it also showed that Geralt doesn't feel it necessary to kill every monster especially if it's not harming anyone.
 Naturally with  all the quests there are choices to make and this rings very true for the main story. Who you side with and what you do can wind up with a variety of results towards the end. I ended up playing Vernon Roche's path (humans) first and then Iorveth's (elves, dwarves, and other nonhumans) path the second time. 

Geralt helps a troll. 

While I liked both paths for different reasons, I felt that I liked Iorveth's path better. There was just a bit more depth to it for me and there were some very interesting reveals about Iorveth himself who I liked and Saskia who I thought was a great character. Some of the decisions weren't easy at all and that's par the course for the games. There's no good or bad choice, it's all a bit of gray. It definitely made me think carefully about my decisions during the game.

* Okay this is the spoiler warning. There is going to be some spoilers about the books coming up next so if you have not read all of the books yet and don't want anything spoiled, don't read past this point. If it doesn't bother you, read on.

 One thing that bothered me was something the narrator said in the game. It was a moment where it was said Triss told Geralt about Yennefer and his toxic relationship with her. I felt incredibly annoyed by that line because once again this was something that was incredibly unfair to Yennefer and implied that Triss is just so sweet all the time. She isn't. While I understand this is set at the point where Geralt still hadn't recovered all his memories and Triss is manipulating him so that she's the only romance option, I thought that was a pretty crappy thing to do. I don't hate Triss, but I don't like her either because of some of the things she's done. I know Yenn isn't perfect either, but neither is Geralt. These are all characters who are flawed and make mistakes. 

My issue is the treatment of Triss in the games just glosses over or willfully ignores what she did. It explains why so many people claim Yennefer is a terrible person and go for Triss. Triss is not so nice.  Instead of helping Geralt recover his memories, she manipulated him and seduced him with magic even though she knew that this was her best friend Yennefer's lover. Then there's the fact that she betrayed Geralt and Ciri to the Lodge of Sorceresses because they wanted to use Ciri's powers for themselves. Wow, how nice of her. Yet there's no mention of it at all until Witcher 3 and they just hint at it which is ridiculous. 

The thing is I have read the books so I know why Yennefer is like that and it's not because she's as some have put it, "a cold bitch" it's because it's a defense mechanism for not getting hurt. That cool facade is just that. The people who actually know her very well like Geralt and Ciri know her to be a truly caring person about those she loves. You don't give up your life for someone else's if you don't love them. Yes, Yennefer did that and the other side of that is Geralt traded his life for hers to the Wild Hunt. These are two people who deeply love each other.

 Yes, they had issues and they were at points in their lives when they got together where it seemed they were not ready to be in a real relationship. I mean for goodness sake, Geralt cheated on Yennefer something she does bring up and Geralt didn't fight back because he knew he screwed up. Yennefer faltered too in the relationship when she couldn't decide between a mage she had known for years and Geralt. They would part ways often, but ultimately they would always come back together. In the books it shows so much more about their relationship and you see that Geralt and Yennefer are two sides of the same coin. Both are stubborn to a fault, incredibly intelligent, and understand each other because they both had a really rough childhood. They genuinely love and respect each other. I think people who have played the game and never read the books don't get a chance to see that Geralt and Yennefer are meant to be together and the big thing is Geralt doesn't see anyone else. He only sees Yennefer because this is a person that challenges him, that is his equal, and isn't afraid to tell him when he's wrong and it works both ways. Again, these are two people who truly love and respect each other. 

 Look, I understand why they tweaked Triss a bit. It was a matter of aesthetics and adds a bit of drama to the games and that's fine. However, I wish they had been more evenhanded with both characters an show that they are both flawed, not just Triss is so angelic and Yennefer is evil because that is not the case at all. That's the only thing that really bothered me in the game and I did not romance Triss and I did not go to save her either. I'm not sorry. 

*End of book spoilers

 That bit of irritation aside, I did have fun playing the game. The Dice Poker mini game is playable here too and once again I found myself having to reload saves to be able to win the quest related matches. It wasn't a big deal and I did win after that. The matches are fairly quick and easy. I mean, it could have been Gwent. Oh yes, I went there. There are also arm wrestling matches. I did have fun arm wrestling my Dwarven buddy Zoltan. There is also the fight club mini game and that one is always fun for me. What can I say? I like having Geralt knock the mundanes around. 

Geralt kicking ass and taking names.

Doing all the side quests and main quests in Witcher 2 for both paths I did notice that the game is rather short. There's only 3 chapters of main story which isn't a big deal, but I was surprised when I was at the end of the game the first time playing. That's not to say I didn't enjoy it. I had fun exploring, fighting monsters, and making difficult decisions that would shape my story. Both my play throughs were interesting and I never found myself bored at all. I think I noticed more in Chapter 3 because 3 itself was so short. There were only 3 quests in it and then the ending so it felt a little abrupt. That being said, I liked Witcher 2 and had fun playing both paths and seeing the different endings. I also loved the artwork and music in the game. I'm glad I got to play it because it was interesting and made for some fun gaming.

*Witcher 2 Assassin of Kings is playable on the following platforms: Xbox 360, Microsoft Windows, Linux, and OS X