Sunday, July 23, 2017

Mother Gamer Plays Final Fantasy XII The Zodiac Age

I remember playing Final Fantasy XII on the Playstation 2 when it came out and while there were one or two frustrating moments for me, I liked it a lot because I liked the story and I liked the characters. My favorite of course was the sky pirate Balthier voiced by Gideon Emery.

I was pretty excited for Final Fantasy XII The Zodiac Age because it was the game remastered with some new things added in. So what is different? Those who played the original like myself will recall the game had an unbalanced difficulty spike. You could see the enemies on the map so it was a real time battle instance and that took some players by surprise and took some getting used to. The battle system has been overhauled. It's still real time battle, but the balance is a bit easier so you can do what you're meant to do which is enjoy the game.

There is a trial mode for those who want a hardcore challenge. It's best to wait until you have a full part, but once you do you can give it a try. The game will ask you which save you want to use and then you can go nuts in a series of 100 arena battles pitted against fixed opponents and optional ones. Be warned however, it is best to be fully prepared before you attempt trial mode. There are no shops or breaks, so it's best to make sure you have all the healing items you need and plan your strategy accordingly. If you survive trial mode the rewards are worth it. While you don't earn experience points from it, you do get license points which are needed for unlocking gear and skills as well as getting to keep any treasures you find.

There is a high speed mode in the game. With the push of a button you can move your characters faster. There are also better guides in the game so you don't get lost with the quests highlighted. There is also an autosave feature in the game which comes in handy for boss battles.

The job system has been updated. In the original game, there was a license board and they were basically all the same for each character so they ended up essentially being the same which was a bit boring. That has changed with the updated job system. Now each character has their own board depending on the job you choose for them. Jobs range from Machinist to Knight to Red Mage.

Those are all the new things and they work, making the game more enjoyable and user friendly to those who have never played the game before. It's a nice change and it modernizes Final Fantasy XII in a good way.

As for the game itself. I found myself smiling at the nostalgia of it as I started playing as the main character Vaan and exploring the world of Ivalice. The colors in the game seem brighter somehow and the remastered music is beautiful. I actually sat there for a few minutes just listening to the music because they did such an amazing job with it.

Vaan exploring the city of Rabanastre.

The story is still the same of course and being able to pull up the map with the push of a button so I could see where I was going was nice because in a big city like Rabanastre it's easy to get turned around. The map will also mark on the spot where to go for your main story quest which is quite helpful. Just exploring can be fun in itself because there's so many interesting things to see in each area.

Final Fantasy XII also has one of my favorite Final Fantasy things, Moogles. There are Moogles everywhere and the design for them in this game is adorable. There are Moogles who you can rent chocobos from and there are even Moogles who can teleport you to anywhere in the city and they call it Moogling. I know. It's so stinking cute. I loved it and I enjoyed the fact that no two Moogles were alike. They were all different in their styles, color of their poms, and personalities. 

A Moogle who rents chocobos.

Besides the main quests, there are side quests you can do. There are also special hunts you can do via a special board in a tavern. Once you accept the hunt, you can get information about it and then go look for the monster you're supposed to defeat. Your adventuring primer can give you clues on where to find your target. Once you have completed the hunt, you can return to the NPC who hired you and get your reward usually in the form of gil and useful items.

Successfully completing a hunt. 

There are elite hunts too which you can get from the Clan Hall in Rabanastre from an adorable Moogle named Montblanc. These are more challenging, but the rewards from them are pretty great. As you go up in rank from these elite hunts, the more you'll unlock. Definitely be prepared while doing these especially in regards to making sure your party is leveled enough to take on an elite hunt.

Getting an elite hunt from Montblanc.

The areas you explore for the main story quests are interesting although some of them are a little dark like the Rabanastre sewers. The battle system works really well considering the updated changes. You can only have four in a party, but you can have three members in reserve so if one gets KO'd you can swap a party member in. The gambit function which can be used to program the other characters in your party on how they attack or heal can be turned on or off depending on what you prefer. It does come in handy when you're level grinding or handling a boss battle. As you progress, you can unlock more gambit slots so that you can add more commands making your party as streamlined as you like to your tastes and fighting style.

The gambit function is pretty useful for me. 

There are a couple of things that I'm not so thrilled with in Final Fantasy XII and that is the license board and not being able to change jobs freely. In order to be able to use certain spells, gear, (yes gear) and items you have to earn license points and then unlock them via the license board. This can be a little tedious and frustrating. It's not a huge deal, but it detracts from the enjoyment of the game a bit. With the job system you can only change jobs twice; at the beginning of the story and then a third of the way through the game. For example if one character is a Knight, when you get to the second point of choosing another job you can switch to another job like Black Mage. Those are the only times you can do it so you need to plan and really think about which job you want for everyone and how you want your party set up to be. I do wish you could switch freely, but again it's not a big deal.

The license board unlocks gear, spells, and items.

The story itself is good although some of the lines are a bit corny. The characters are interesting and there are some interesting villains too. The game is beautiful, perhaps more so with the remaster. There's all kinds of things to see and do with the main quests, side quests, and hunts. Most importantly, the game is a lot of fun to play. Veteran players like myself will relish in the nostalgia and appreciate all the new things in it while newbies will enjoy exploring and discovering all the great things Final Fantasy XII The Zodiac Age has to offer.

Exploring all the things!

*Final Fantasy XII The Zodiac Age is playable on the following platforms: Playstation 4

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

New Leash On Life With Jake Brady

Ron and I had decided it was time to have a dog again. We loved Sport dearly, but we were missing having a dog in the house. We went to our local SPCA and looked at dogs. Enter Brady. Honestly, I fell in love with him the first time I saw him. He had so much character, just wagging his tail and looking so happy to see everyone. He is a jack russell terrier mix.

We got to meet with Brady and he was so sweet and loved sitting with us. We decided we wanted to adopt him. Ron filled out all the paperwork and we had to wait because he had to be neutered. Then we hit a small snag. They called and explained that we couldn't pick Brady up on his designated day because he had kennel cough and in fact all of the dogs had kennel cough so they weren't letting any of them out until they were sure they were all okay. We had to wait one more week and then we got the call that today was the day we could pick him up. Ron and I had discussed what we wanted to name the dog and decided that we would name him Jake after Jake the Dog from Adventure Time. We liked Brady too though, so we thought that his full name would be Jake Brady. Ron joked that he was going to call him J.B. because it was cool.

We got the same lady that helped us last time and she was super helpful and so nice about everything letting us know that he was doing better and explaining the rest of the paperwork. She loved the name Jake Brady and said she was all for it with a smile on her face. She said that he's a year old and he was found as a stray, but they made sure he's up to date on everything. Jake was so happy to see us and when we went out to the truck, he hopped right in. He was excited to go to his forever home.

Jake enjoying the view.

We got home and we walked Jake around the yard and down the street so he could sniff all the new smells and see the neighborhood. He gave me a happy dog grin when I told him, "Welcome home, Jake!" He was very happy. We introduced him and our cat Loki. Loki hissed at first, but we sat with them and they did get used to each other. No one got hurt, so that's a good sign. It will take a little more time, but the first meeting went fairly well. 

Welcome home, Jake!

Jake is a year old so he's still a young dog. We're going to have to work with him on things like not jumping on the coffee table, but he's young enough that we have plenty of time to work with him and he has shown that he's eager to learn. He loved cuddling with Ron and he gave Ron a high five as Ron told him today is his birthday. He's settling in nicely. I think that perhaps Sport was with us in spirit and helped us find Jake; helped us find each other. We're going to enjoy our new dog and appreciate the differences. This is a new leash on life with Jake Brady and we're looking forward to having wonderful adventures with him. 

Jake and Ron high five celebrating his birthday and forever home day.

Thursday, June 29, 2017

Mother Gamer Plays Elder Scrolls Oblivion

Yes, it's true. Skyrim was my first Elder Scrolls game which as many of you know I really enjoyed and had fun with. A couple of friends suggested I check out Elder Scrolls Oblivion and Morrowind and that while they were older games and dated, they were good games because they had great stories. I went with Oblivion first for the Xbox 360 while I waited for Morrowind to go on sale on Steam.

I started the character creation and decided to go with a female Dunmer (Dark Elf) for my first time playing. I liked that there were a variety of choices for creating my character and I could adjust the hair color and facial features easily. Once that was done I was ready to choose the job class and went with a stealth character because that's what I like to do.

Creating my Dunmer character. 

The initial introduction is interesting and I was delighted to hear Patrick Stewart's voice as Emperor Uriel Septim. That scene gives tutorials on how the controls for the game work and how to switch the camera from first to third person. This was easy to follow and it jumped into the story right away once the tutorial was done.

The world in Oblivion is pretty big and with the game of the year edition there's so much to see and do. Besides the main quest there are a ton of side quests as well as quests for the different guilds. This led to a mistake on my part during my game play and a bit of a pain in the ass also. I had joined the Mages Guild early, but I was also doing Thieves Guild quests. I realized too late that one of the Thieves Guild quests required stealing from a mage and sadly I had to kill the mage. That got the Mage's Guild angry at me naturally. I also had forgotten about the fact that one of the quests had me fight some vampires and I forgot to use a cure disease potion and the fast travel made time move ahead faster and turned me into a vampire. 

Atoning for killing a fellow mage and curing the vampirism was ridiculously tedious. This is where your fame and infamy screw you over. If your infamy is higher than your fame, you can not cure yourself of any ailments at any of the churches. Trying to find all the ingredients for curing the vampirism is aggravating because there are so many alchemy ingredients to find. The atonement for the Mages Guild isn't so bad, just boring.  So I scrapped that game save and started over which wasn't a big deal because I wasn't that far into the game. 

I remembered from that experience and got it right the second time and I didn't join the Mages Guild until I was finished with the Thieves Guild and Dark Brotherhood quests. I also remembered to stock pile the cure disease potions. No becoming a vampire for me! I enjoyed just running around exploring and the game itself while dated is actually very pretty. Each town has its own unique look and the scenery out in the wilds looks great too. 

Exploring the Imperial City which looked impressive.

The voice acting for the game is excellent. Besides Patrick Stewart, I was delighted when I recognized the voices of Lynda Carter and Sean Bean. I also recognized voice actors that had been in games such as Fallout and Skyrim. The music for the game is great and fits a lot of the scenes really well.  Battle is pretty good and I liked that I could switch the camera easily when I was using a bow and arrows. Being able to adjust the difficulty level is great too because I tend to go on the easy setting first so I can just appreciate the story.

For the big cities and towns there is a fast travel option which is a nice thing to have. The map is easy to get to, but I wish I didn't have to scroll around to find what I'm looking for. I would have preferred it to open into one big map that shows everything, but it's not a deal breaker. 

Taking a look at the Oblivion map. 

Not everything is perfect in Oblivion. There were some aspects of the game I didn't like such as the lock picking and the persuasion mini game. I know this game came before Skyrim, but I found myself longing for the lock picking mechanics in Skyrim. There is no margin for error with the lock picking and I broke a lot of picks before I got the hang of having a light touch. It doesn't mean I didn't swear a lot whenever a lock pick broke. I did get it right eventually and once my skills increased that happened a lot less.

Early on lock picking is difficult at first. 

Nothing annoyed me as much as the persuasion game. Basically there is a roulette wheel with different actions and you have to watch the NPC's reactions to see which one is the best. You want the reaction where they're smiling a lot FYI and you want to max out the positive reaction as much as possible so they like you and will tell you things like juicy rumors about certain people or places where you can find treasure. You can bribe them with gold to increase your chances a bit. You want the largest section of color to go into the highest response. It can take some trial and error to get that right. Honestly, I'm glad they got rid of it by the time Skyrim came around because it is just annoying to do it.

I started to loathe this mini game. 

You do get a mount in Oblivion. I liked the Dark Brotherhood horse the best. The mechanics for horseback riding aren't that great however. The horse kept wanting to veer left for some reason and it was horribly awkward. I just started running everywhere rather than deal with bad horse steering. I'm glad the game had a fast travel option because that helped a lot too.

One of the rare moments my horse didn't try to kill me. 

The big thing I had an issue with was the thing that was the main part of the story. That's right, the Oblivion gates. The idea is intriguing and the story explanation for them is good, but the execution is severely lacking. Part of the main story is you have to go around and close these Oblivion gates so the Daedra (see demon army) don't invade the world of Cyrodiil and end the world.

I did not have fun doing this. In fact, it was a part of the game I detested. The thing is each Oblivion gate when you're on the other side of it everything looks exactly the same. It's essentially a giant maze with all these towers, monsters that try to kill you, and a gigantic pain to navigate. One of the bigger issues was the fact that sometimes there would be doors I couldn't see because they blended into a rock wall. I found myself backtracking a lot just to find the right tower that would lead up to the mechanism that would close the gate. 

Getting ready to enter an Oblivion gate. 

The Oblivion gates are not a fun part of the game. They're too long and tedious to find your way around them. The only good thing that comes from them is all the sigil stones you get after you close a gate because you can use those to craft fantastic powerful armor or weapons. Towards the end it got to the point where I would just race through the Oblivion gate realms and get to the end, close the gate, get a sigil stone, and repeat.

The world inside the Oblivion gate is pretty in its own way. I just didn't enjoy how it felt like one repetitive giant maze and there weren't a lot of variations between them. I was glad when I was done closing them all.

The sky in an Oblivion gate is pretty at least. 

The things that do work far outweigh the things that don't and I did have a lot of fun playing Elder Scrolls Oblivion. I liked running around simply exploring and picking up extra side quests because they were interesting and the characters were interesting. I loved the story as well because the characters were great and the story itself was well told. I liked the extra DLC also because that was fun and gave me more things to do in the game. I'm glad I decided to play Elder Scrolls Oblivion because it was worth it and in spite of it being an older game, it is a good one. 

Morrowind did go on sale on Steam so I bought it and it looks like that may be next along with some other older games I have in my backlog. So there will be a lot of gaming goodness for me to choose from!

*Elder Scrolls Oblivion is available to play on the following platforms: Microsoft Windows, Playstation 3, and Xbox 360

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Final Fantasy XIV: Stormblood Game Changes and Info

I know that I was pretty excited for Stormblood for Final Fantasy XIV especially with the reveal of some new job classes. The one I was most excited for was samurai of course. When I played Final Fantasy XI samurai was my first advanced job class and I loved it. Bard was the next one and I enjoyed that as well.

With new content and job classes, there are changes to things. The changes for bard make me really happy. While I do like my bard in Final Fantasy XIV, I found myself frustrated often with the fact that it had basically been made into a ranger/mage class. I missed my old bard where it was about the songs and being a great support job. I wasn't thrilled with the idea of being a DPS mage type. The changes with bard now involve more songs and it feels more like my bard from XI which I'm thrilled with.

Siliconera has a great article with videos sharing a lot of good information about what has stayed the same and what has changed with the job classes and with the mechanics of the game itself. You can check out all of it here:

Which of the new jobs is everyone excited to try? What changes do you like best and which are you unsure about? If you've already started, how are you liking the new content? Let me know in the comments. Until next time, gamers! 

Saturday, June 10, 2017

Farewell, Adam West

I am really bummed to hear about Adam West's passing at the age of 88 from leukemia. He was my first Batman. I would watch his Batman TV series after school when I was a kid. Yes it was campy, but it was fun and I loved it. He was amazing and I loved that he could poke fun at himself in shows like The Simpsons, Family Guy, and The Big Bang Theory.

I think for many of us he was our first Batman and he'll always be our Batman. He may be gone from this world, but we will never forget him. Thank you Adam West for sharing your amazing gift with all of us and thank you for being our Batman and for many of us our first superhero.

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Tales Of Berseria A Mix Of Dark And Light

Before we get started, the screenshots were taken from my phone. Again, share play is blocked from the PS4 which is frustrating because it means no screenshots and no streaming. The claim is that it's blocked because of licensing issues. They used two songs from the Japanese band Superfly so instead of just blocking where the songs were used, they blocked the whole game. The only area that wasn't blocked were the battle arenas. They did this for Tales of Zestiria too and it's ridiculous.

 Tales Of Berseria has been an interesting game for me in the tales series because it was a bit different right from the beginning. The Tales stories are varied with different themes and lately a few of them have been a bit dark, but Tales Of Berseria may be one of the darkest ones story wise. It changed things up, but did it in a way that made it work really well.

If you have never played Tales of Zestiria I suggest you play Tales Of Berseria first and then Zestiria because Tales Of Berseria is a prequel to Tales of Zestiria. Berseria takes place in the same world a thousand years before the events of Zestiria so there is a lot of history and connections with certain characters who appear in both games. It gives you a lot of origin story goodness with those characters as well. It also shows you what the world of Zestiria looked like before and how certain towns evolved and their names changed. It's quite interesting to see the differences and recognize the historical connections between both games.

You can select the difficulty of the game ranging from simple to difficult. You can also choose which language you want the character voices to be in, English or Japanese. The voice acting for both the English and Japanese cast is well done and you can switch between the two depending on your preference. There are some add ons too with character costumes such as swimsuits and Alice In Wonderland themed costumes.

Another thing that is different is the fact that the protagonist of the story is female. After many male heroes in the Tales series there is now a female one; Velvet Crowe. Velvet isn't really a hero however. She feels more like an anti-hero because of the events that happen to her in the prologue. Velvet feels like a normal girl when you're introduced to her living in a small village and taking care of her younger brother who is sick with an illness known as the Twelve Year Sickness. They live with their brother in law Arthur and it's revealed that their sister who was married to him died the year before. It sets everything up so you get an idea about who Velvet is and what her family means to her as well as her friends. You get to explore the village and the surrounding scenery is very pretty and the atmosphere definitely feels like a Tales game.

Velvet exploring the woods near her village.

The happy feeling doesn't last long because of a traumatizing event that turns Arthur into a villain who betrays his family in the worst way and causes Velvet to go from being a human girl to a demon that feeds on other demons known as a Therion. Three years after this happens we are shown a prison cell where we see a Velvet that feels nothing except for rage and a need for revenge on the very person that betrayed her.

There is an escape and Velvet meets a couple of people who become her allies on the way with the same goal, escape the prison. She gets a new set of armor and honestly it made me raise my eyebrows. While I understand that Velvet is a demon now so she doesn't really feel the cold or feel anything, I found the armor to be incredibly impractical. For me it didn't offer a lot of protection and felt like needless fan service. The nice thing is you can change the costumes for everyone in your party so I switched back to Velvet's original villager costume which I liked better and seemed to offer more protection during battles. I know it's a matter of aesthetics, but I like what I like. 

I was not a fan of this armor. 

Once the prison escape is out of the way, you get to explore the world of Berseria. It is vast and there are a lot of things to see and do. Your party grows as you continue the adventure and it adds a couple more things to the battle system. One new thing is that you swap skills and mystic artes in and out easily via the item menu which is convenient. The second thing is the soul gauge which I really detested. Basically you have a meter that shows empty red slots and you need to fill up the meter with blue slots by stunning or blocking enemy attacks. When the meter is full of blue slots showing that you have consumed enough souls you can unleash mystic artes attacks or special attacks known as break soul attacks. When done right, you can chain together devastating damage on your enemies.

It is definitely a different way of doing things, but the soul gauge could be incredibly irritating and hamper battles a lot. Battles that should have been over in a couple of minutes would end up dragging along because of trying to chain attacks to build up the soul gauge meter. It took a lot of fun out of battles for me and made them pretty tedious. That's not a good thing for a game. 

Battling with the soul gauge is not fun. 

It wouldn't be a Tales game without the usual anime skits that pop up. There are many relating to the main story, side quests, and character side quests. They're always fun to watch and it shows some great character interaction and adds a bit more depth to some of them too showing a bit of their back story or how they are feeling about things. There are also some extra anime skits with the costume add ons that are pretty hilarious.

There are a couple of characters who are rather unlikable at first, but once you get to know more about them as the game and story progresses you come to understand their reasons for their actions and it does change how you feel about them slightly. The big theme of the game is emotions versus reason and you get to see a lot of that with the characters and the people they interact with during their adventure.

Anime skits are always a fun thing in every Tales game.

You don't have to only explore the main story. There are a lot of side quests that you can do. You have a ship in Tales of Berseria so you can sail all over the map and discover new areas such as different battle arenas. These are on remote islands and you fight waves of monsters to earn extra money, costumes, accessories, and weapons. You also have a scout ship which you can send out to explore for a set amount of time, usually 30 minutes. When it returns you receive items such as new recipes for cooking, treasure to sell, and a variety of armor and items for your party. Your party numbers have skills that will increase your luck during these scout missions so the more successful they are, the more loot you will get.

Another familiar face from Tales mini games are the Katz. These feline creatures appear again and you collect an item known as Katz spirit orbs. When you find a Katz chest, you need a certain number of Katz orbs to open each one and find a Katz in each. For each Katz you find they gift with you costume accessory items like x-ray glasses. 

Finding a Katz is just one side quest you can do.

You can also participate in mini games with the Katz you find in different towns and earn Tales Coins. You can trade the coins to the Katz for Normin (a special type of seraphim in the Tales games) costumes for each character and other costumes. There is a card game you can play as well and you receive items for each game you win. Then there are code red hunts. These are elite monsters that Velvet and friends can hunt for bragging rights and a lot of money during their travels. Each one is a little more difficult than the last, but it's a fun challenge and it's a good way to level grind.

Velvet tries on a Normin costume.

The big thing is the story for Tales of Berseria. While it is the darkest story a Tales game has had, there is also a great balance of light within it. Yes at first Velvet is focused solely on hate and revenge, but gradually that changes because of certain characters. The story shines here with how it paces that change and allows it to happen slowly and naturally. It's nice to see the changes in Velvet and how they happen, but it's also great to see that her interaction with her allies causes them to change as well.

Exploring the world of Berseria is interesting and never boring. For the most part the dungeons are easy to navigate and as with previous Tales games the enemies are visible on the map so you can approach them and battle. I just wish the soul gauge was not a part of the battle because it continued to irritate me especially in the final dungeon. The final dungeon was awful. It was way too long and it was an overly complicated maze of warp portals. It dragged the game out longer than it needed to be and felt like an exercise in futility. I was relieved by the time I got to the end of it and was ready to face the final boss.

The story itself is rather depressing and I felt that this seems to be a theme with the Tales game of late. While I understand that not everything has a happy ending, I am really hoping the next Tales game has a happier ending because it's a bit of a letdown to have another story with a bittersweet ending in the Tales series. That isn't to say that I didn't like Tales of Berseria. I liked it a lot in spite of the darker story. I think the reason I liked it was not just for the game play and fun side quests, but for the right mix of dark and light. Yes there were many moments of darkness, but there were also quite a few moments of light that were beautiful. Tales of Berseria had a nice balance of adventure and action. It also had some great story telling that helped fill in some of the story gaps in Tales of Zestiria, but it also did a wonderful job of telling its own story even if it was a bit darker than others. It is a welcome addition to the Tales series. 

Some lovely Tales of Berseria art at the end credits.

*Tales of Berseria is available to play on the following platforms: Playstation 3, Playstation 4, and Microsoft Windows

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