The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild Switch Review

The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild Switch Review

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It took me over four months to finish it but I finally reached the end of The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. I’m not 100% done with the game — there are so many shrines, side quests and a true ending to see – but I’ve played more than enough to render a verdict. There was so much to love and a handful of design decisions that assaulted my patience but in the end I ended up enjoying my time with Breath of the Wild and intend to return to Hyrule. 
  
There’s a level of expectation that comes with Nintendo first party efforts with regards to polish; everything needs to work well. Cramming a bunch of systems into the game and having them all interact with each other seamlessly may seem like a simple expectation but when I see the likes of Skyrim, Fallout, The Witcher 3, and other open world games mill about with its share of “jank”, I know it’s not so easy. 
  
The very fact that Link can climb anywhere and nearly anything was a mind blowing addition. He’s only restricted by his stamina gauge and if I decided that I didn’t want to wait until I leveled up my stamina gauge to climb a tower, I could cook cup a bunch of stamina food or potions and brute force my way up tower or mountain. It may seem like I’m pulling a fast one on the designers, but they really did fabricate a game where Link and I can go or do anything we want however we want.  
  
The unfortunate side effect to this open ended approach was the less than optimal experience for me early on. I ignored the Kakariko Village objective and bumbled my way through the most punishing Divine Beast who dwelled in Gerudo. I didn’t have any meaningful armor, didn’t realize I could parry attacks, didn’t get the camera, missed the ability to unlock additional inventory spaces, missed out on armor enhancements, and missed out on easy shrines to bolster my health and stamina. I may have made it more difficult for myself by ignoring the main objective for so long but I’m so glad Nintendo allowed me to make the journey so arduous for myself.  
  
Setting things on fire is fun and it’s about time Nintendo embraced that past time. I don’t think setting wooden weapons or arrows on fire and subsequently using them against Bokoblins ever got old for me. I also loved the fact that if I equipped a fire sword, it would keep me warm in the frigid lands of Hyrule. Systems like those kept me on my toes. What did wear out its welcome quickly was the weapon breakage and cooking.  
  
I felt weapons shouldn’t have broken so easily on the flesh of Moblins or other fleshy enemies. If I were striking rocks, shields, or the undead, I can see why my swords and spears would shatter in time. Thankfully as I unlocked more and more weapon slots, I was no longer fumbling around for weapons as frequently.  
  
Unfortunately there wasn’t much of a reprieve from cooking. I understood the need to combine different ingredients to create a dish or potion for Link to consume but it wasn’t necessary to force me to do that each and every time. If I discovered the recipe once, I should be able to select it from cookbook and be able to create whatever dish I had ingredients for with a press of a button. I wasn’t being more creative with my cooking as time wore on; I was becoming lazy and just tossing in the same ingredients over and over again.  
  
I cannot say I had a consistently enjoyable time with Breath of the Wild but such is life in the real world or Hyrule. For every piece of meat that I had to roast there was an awesome moment of floating through the sky or shield surfing down some slopes in Hedra. For every broken sword, there was a brilliant little puzzle shrine to be found and unravel. These aren’t the gives and takes that I’m used to encountering in a Legend of Zelda game and that alone makes it very special.  
 
Verdict: 
I like it 

Ratings Guide
 
 

Yakuza Kiwami Review

Yakuza Kiwami Review

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I loved Yakuza 0. It’s probably the best Yakuza game to date. It filled in the backstory of key characters like Majima and Nishikiyama by giving them more depth and nuance then I would have ever imagined. But as someone who started with Yakuza 2 and only experienced the first game through the included retrospectives, the game that started it all is a mystery to me.

Yakuza: Kiwami is a fine remake of the PlayStation 2 title from a gameplay and presentation perspective but I feel it’s a remaster from the story standpoint. Yakuza 0 placed its arm around me, showed me the sights around Kamurocho and introduced me to new friends. We sat around, had drinks, and took our time to soak in what this series has to offer. By comparison, Yakuza: Kiwami stumbled around for a bit and then sprinted towards the end. I felt like the game had a big story to tell but didn’t have enough time to tell it.

I knew key plot points, characters, and what happened to them but I didn’t realize that would be sufficient to move forward with the series. I discovered tidbits that colored certain characters in a slightly different light but none of it was earth shattering. Events certainly transpired but if I didn’t play Yakuza 0, I doubt I would have felt much sympathy for any of the characters involved in this game outside of Haruka.

Yakuza 0 built up Kiryu’s enemies throughout the game’s arch. It even built-up other characters that wouldn’t have made significant contributions until this game. But then there were folks like Jingu who were thrusted into the limelight and I’m supposed to conjure hatred for.

I didn’t delve into the side content like I did with Yakuza 0 because the idea of more pocket racing was just too daunting so soon after the deep dive I took with 0. What little side stuff I caught wind of failed to entertain like the ones found in 0 though. That’s not to say I wasn’t entertained by tidbit though. I got a kick out of seeing modern recreations of Yuya, Kazuki, and Detective Date. This trio of characters were among the first that I met in my very first Yakuza title, Yakuza 2.

It’s tough to make a direct prequel like Yakuza 0 without it completely overshadowing the game the game that comes after it but that’s what it did. Advances in technology and gameplay design are one thing but the lessons learned in story telling and presentation makes me wish Sega would go all in and commit to a full remake. It would give the likes of Yumi and Nishikiyama more screen time to breathe. A full on remake would also give the developers an opportunity to rethink Majima’s role without breaking continuity. I didn’t mind randomly seeing him pop up in Kamurocho to fight Kiryu but not 3 seconds after seeing him get stabbed in the gut by his own lackey. I think his forced inclusion to Kiwami may be the most egregious offense.

But for $39.99 CAD, it’s tough to argue against picking up Yakuza: Kiwami. It’s the best way to experience the game that started it all without digging up a PlayStation 2 copy. Just remember: for better or worse, despite the fresh coat of paint and refinements, the story is still faithful to the original. I have nostalgia for Yakuza 2 and knowing it will also receive a Kiwami treatment of its own, I’m wondering how I will receive it. I guess we’ll find out next year when I expect it to make its North American debut.

 

Verdict:
It was okay

Ratings Guide

Thanks to Sega for providing a copy of Yakuza Kiwami for review

LTTP: Firewatch (PC)

LTTP: Firewatch (PC)

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I spent a lot of time reading maps, exploring the surrounding wilderness and dealing with the usual public park happenings that would crop up. Rowdy teens? Illegal fireworks? Missing persons? They certainly made it feel like I was working in a giant public park. All these mundane activities were broken up with radio communiques with Delilah, a veteran lookout who acts as a guide at first but slowly develops into a companion for Henry.  

The dialog options gradually evolved from cordial and business like to flirtations. I’m supposed to believe Henry begins to fall for Delilah despite only hearing her voice on the radio. I bought it and believed the possibility of falling for someone in this manner but I wasn’t sympathetic to Henry’s emotional affair. I wasn’t convinced to even consider the flirtatious options. While Delilah sounded like a perfectly nice lady, time progressed in jump cuts and the slow build-up towards a connection was a bit too rapid for me to develop any emotional connection with her. I can see Henry growing that kind of relationship 60+ days into the job in the middle of nowhere but a couple of hours in real time on my couch? I wasn’t sold. 

The precarious nature of the Unity engine also struggled to keep me engaged. I was okay with not being able to run the game at 4K60 on a NVIDIA GeForce GTX1070; I was fine with settling with 1440p60. I was less forgiving of the minor hitching and game’s inability to maintain application focus with Steam Big Picture Mode. I wasn’t too keen on the handful of crashes I experienced either. I felt the entire game’s technological foundation was coming apart at the seams at times.  

I am enamored by Olly Moss’s art so when I heard there was going to be an entire game filled with his touch and style? I paid attention. But pretty scenery and art could only get me so far. What pushed me forward was Delilah and Henry’s conversations. What were they going to talk about next? By only sitting in on snapshots in time, enough loose ends and questions were raised along the way to entice me forward. I may not have bought into the idea of Henry abandoning his wife and falling for Delilah, but I was very curious to discover more about her and her experiences on this job.  

If Firewatch was supposed to make me think about my views on commitment and unconditional love then Camp Santo succeeded. If Firewatch was supposed to engross me in a situation where I’m supposed to develop a relationship with this woman on the radio then it’s a bit dicier. There were beautiful vistas to behold and a genuine believable person on the other side of the radio but unless a person can be convinced to ponder the topic of relationships and commitment, there’s not a whole lot to be gleaned from Firewatch. 

Ratings Guide

Verdict: 
I liked it

Nier: Automata PS4 Review

Nier: Automata PS4 Review

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I like the idea behind Nier: Automata more than the actual game itself. I like feeling and vibe that Square Enix and Platinum Games were going for but I could have done without the tedium. I would rather hear someone tell tales of the ridiculous things that Yoko Taro and company went attempted in this game than actually experiencing it for myself. Because the action and moment to moment gameplay powering Nier: Automata was tedious, mindless and — if developers were being honest with themselves — not the point of Nier: Automata.

What is the meaning of life? What is the point of living? What does it mean to be human? Why were the androids in this game programmed to feel? How are they different from humans? Nier: Automata was about raising questions from the player and it does that very well. One standout question tied directly to the conceit that I had to play the game multiple times in order to unlock true endings. I had to put up with a repeated content and tedious activities in order to get to the “good” stuff. And I did. I didn’t retread with 999 nor the original Nier but I dove back into Nier: Automata to unlock the multiple endings and see if the outcome was worth the journey. 

I was underwhelmed.

Perhaps it’s because I already knew the answer but what was the point of this 43 hour journey? The combat was much improved compared to the first Nier but it pales in comparison to Platinum Games’ proper efforts like Bayonetta or Metal Gear Rising. The music was wonderful but I derived more enjoyment from listening to it on the way to work than in the game. And while there were amazing vistas and ideas drip fed to me throughout the game, the bulk of it was in the end and by the time I witnessed said ideas, I already checked out.

I wished I liked Nier: Automata more. It’s stylish, it has wonderful ideas and provokes discussion but I would have been happier without 10-15 hours less fluff. Or perhaps that fluff was essential to conveying their message. I’m not certain. Maybe or maybe not but in the end of the day, I was hoping to play a more engaging game to go along with all that wackiness.

Verdict:
It was okay

Ratings Guide

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