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.