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