I remember growing up when E3 was the biggest gaming showcase around, with all the big shots putting everything they had on display to excite eager fans. In recent years though, E3 has become just one of many huge events for gamers, with events such as PAX and Gamescom having game makers bring out their big guns. Though E3 is still the preferred spot for many developers to show off their huge, multi-million dollar AAA games, these other events seem to be getting better and better over the past few years. This year was no different, with Nintendo’s “Nindies@Night” showcase exciting me almost as much as any of the E3 conferences I had watched this year. Thought the games shown were smaller in scale, I wanted to play them just as much as anything shown during the Sony, Microsoft or Nintendo conference this year.
Perhaps the biggest game of the year, maybe even the past five years (or more), The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild has received so much praise that I don’t think this post will add anything that hasn’t been said by ten people already. Still, I feel almost obligated to write about it at least once. Every games media journalist and out there has had to give their two-cents on the game to let everyone know just how good it really is, so it seems like its just the thing to do. So let’s dive into what I personally liked (and didn’t like) in Breath of the Wild.
Oh god, the puns!
I haven’t done one of these in a while, so for those who haven’t been here much (or are new around here) this was intended to be a semi-regular series where I talk about what ever game I currently have sunk my teeth into. This time I’ll be talking about gashapon games and how Nintendo’s latest mobile game stands up to others I have played. Hope you enjoy reading it, hopefully I will have something new and exciting to talk about next time. I may even have to Switch things up a bit in the next Game Bytes…
What happens when you mix Japanese idols with a crazy fun jrpg? You get Tokyo Mirage Sessions is what! A stylish jrpg that is like no other really, mixing a great combat system, amazing visuals and character designs and Japanese pop all into one neat little package. I have only been playing for about 6 or 7 hours now but I am already in love with it!
Platforms: Wii U
At its core, Tokyo Mirage Sessions is a solid jrpg that combines elements of the Shin Megami Tensei and Fire Emblem to create a unique experience. Experienced SMT fans will instantly recognize classic spells such as Zio, Bufu and Dia while Fire Emblem Fans should be able to recognize the iconic weapons triangle. When combined, you get a game that feels very SMT but with added depth thanks to enemies (and your party) having additional weaknesses based on their weapon.
Another cool addition is the sessions system, which rewards the player for abusing an enemies weakness. In previous SMT games, hitting an enemies weakness would reward the player with an additional turn. Ensuring you had a well balanced team that could hit multiple weaknesses was always a key to success in previous SMT games. The same goes for Tokyo Mirage Sessions, where hitting an enemies weakness will trigger a session allowing for multiple hits to be strung together. By using a skill that the enemy is weak to (whether it be an elemental weakness or weapons based weakness) other members who have session skills that correspond to that type of skill will follow up the attack with their sessions skill. For example, if you use an electric type move on an enemy who is weak to it, and another member has the “Elec-Lung” skill (a session skill that triggers off of a electric skill), then the member with “Elec-Lung” will use their skill on the enemy who was hit. If then you have another member who has a skill that triggers off of lance skills (which “Elec-Lung” is) then he will follow up with his own. You can create some crazy combos if you have the right mix of session skills that work off each other, so ensuring you have skills that abuse enemies weaknesses and session skills that can trigger off of those weaknesses are key to ensuring victory.
Though the battle system is really fun and unique, perhaps my favorite aspect of the game is its rich idol flavor. You don’t really see Japanese idols in video games much outside of rhythm games, so the whole feel of Tokyo Mirage Sessions is special compared to other jrpg’s. Character designs are flashy and appealing, making each character stand out from each other. Everything from the menus to the backgrounds in the hub world are bright and colorful, giving the game the bright “pop” feel that is found in Japanese pop idols.
The game really comes alive during its animated scenes that happen throughout the main story. During these scenes, the music and animation blend together so well it feels like you are watching and anime or an animated music video for a popular Japanese idol. The fact that the songs were arranged by the composer for the famous idol franchise Love Live and sung by famous Japanese idols made these scenes stand out even more. As a fan of Japanese pop and idols in general (I was pretty addicted to the Love Live: School Idol Festival game for quite some time) these animated performances were amazing to watch. Even the animated scenes that weren’t accompanied with a performance and were just normal cut-scenes stood out to me because of how cool everything looked.
For anyone who owns a Wii U and is into Japanese idols or Japanese Pop in general, check out Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE. It’s a game nothing like anything else I have played, and it’s interesting mix of Shin Megami Tensei gameplay with Fire Emblem is quite a treat for fans of both. If your just looking for a good jrpg, I think Tokyo Mirage Sessions can stand up there with the best of them thanks to a fun and deep battle system and a unique style unlike any other jrpg’s I have ever played.
Developer: Silicon Studio
Publisher: Nintendo, Square Enix
It’s been a while since I last sunk my teeth into a good old JRPG. The last one I had played up until Bravely Default was Final Fantasy XIII, and although I liked it’s world and story (even though it was super confusing at times in the end) the gameplay was rather lackluster. I didn’t actually care so much about the endless hallways that funneled you through the game, but more so the battles which seemed to just play themselves out. For me, a good rpg needs both a great story and engaging gameplay in order to keep me invested through the full thing, so Final Fantasy XIII didn’t really hold my interest very well. Bravely Default on the other hand has me coming back day after day to grind through enemies on my quest to restore the elemental crystals and bring peace back to the world.
As I said above, a good JRPG needs both a good story and gameplay to keep me invested. The story of Bravely Default is rather simple and generic on its exterior, as the world has been plunged into chaos after a darkness has engulfed the elemental crystals that keep the worlds elements in check. With the crystals corrupted, the seas have become corrosive, the winds have stopped, and a giant sinkhole engulfed an entire village. Of coarse, it is up to our four heroes to save the day and restore the crystals to their original state. It ticks every box in the “generic JRPG storyline” that countless games have used in the past. Once you get a bit deeper into the game though, themes of corruption in the ruling class and breaking away from religious backgrounds arise. As it turns out, the crystals and their vassal’s have been worshiped for generations in order to keep the balance of nature in check. It is the goal of the Eternian Sky Knights to break away from this “crystal orthodoxy”. So far the story is passable, with the aforementioned themes spicing up the otherwise generic JRPG story featured in Bravely Default.
The gameplay of Bravely Default is like the story in the fact that at first it seems like a rather generic JRPG battle system, but a few changes to the tired and true formula help make it interesting. It uses a classic turn-based battle system where each character takes a turn attacking, defending, using items or spells and abilities. The main difference is the fact that blocking (called a “default” in the game) doesn’t only reduce damage dealt to your character, it also gains you an addition battle point to spend in a future turn. Basically, defaulting lets you take extra turns later on in the battle by using a “brave” allowing for explosive turns for damage or a turn to buff everyone and heal up all in one go. You can store up to 3 battle points, so it is up to you on how you want to make your moves.
This battle system proves to be incredibly interesting in battles, as figuring out when it is safe to move on your opponent and what you should do with your moves is different for each enemy. If its a weaker enemy, you can brave past the battle points you currently have available (making your character do nothing on turns afterwards until their battle points return to 0) in order to try and close out an early victory. Against bosses, it is usually smart to have everyone heal up and default until you have an opening to attack. Some classes even benefit from storing up battle points for big turns. The monk for instance has an ability called invigorate which boosts attack by 25% for only 2 turns, meaning if you use it with a full meter of battle points, you can start dishing out serious damage. The knight has an ability called ironclad, maxing out his defense for a single turn, making it a useful ability when facing an enemy that deals a lot of physical damage and you need to heal up your other characters or deal a little bit of damage to chip away at them. There are countless strategies to take in any given fight depending on your character classes and how well you stack up against your enemy.
A great feature included in the North American release of the game was the inclusion of the original Japanese voice acting. I have nothing against dubs in general, but in this case I just couldn’t stand the voice of one of the main characters, Agnes, so I just had to switch it over. The voice acting on the Japanese side has been great so far, so for those of you who are purists and love to play your games in Japanese, Bravely Default has you covered. I wish I could tell you guys how well the English cast stacks up to the Japanese, but I didn’t get to hear much of the English dub before switching over.
Bravely Default is the game that totally scratched the JRPG itch I have been having lately. It is some good fun, and should be something super easy for any JRPG fan to get into. It doesn’t really bring much new to the table, but sometimes you just want to play a classic JRPG that sticks to its roots. Bravely Default is totally that game, so for those wanting something to sink your teeth into while you wait for the awesome looking Final Fantasy XIV, then give Bravely Default a try. Bravely Second is actually coming out rather soon, so now is a great time to jump in and try it out.
Time for a new Game Bytes, where I talk about whatever game has got me sinking my teeth into as of late. This time, I want to talk about Metal Gear Solid V, which I have been playing since it launched back in September. I just recently finished the last mission of Chapter 1 in the the main story, and there have been a few things on my mind I want to talk about.
Developer: Kojima Productions
Platforms: Xbox One, PS4, PC, 360, PS3
First off, I have to give my utmost praise to the man named Hideo Kojima. The man has created a masterpiece of a game, at least from a gameplay and technical standpoint. I haven’t played a stealth game before where everything felt so open and the possibilities so endless. Each mission felt like it was going to be a unique experience to myself that no one else could possibly replicate, from the method of entry (silent killer, going in loud or not killing a single person) to the point of entry I choose to take and who to take down.
The open world presented in Metal Gear Solid V is my absolute favorite aspect of the game, as it allows for countless possibilities and allows the user to tackle each mission how they see fit. I also love the fact that we were not given one, but two maps to play around in with Snake. Each map had its own unique characteristics and locations to infiltrate. Different camo patterns and sneaking techniques had to be used in each one, as the terrain was vastly different for both maps.
The gameplay complemented these open worlds, by allowing the player to use various weapons, tools and hand-to-hand combat methods in order to infiltrate each area. From the beginning of the mission, the player has complete control on how they want it to go down. The gameplay loop of scouting out an area and slowly making your way through it was also crazy addicting, making me want to go “one more level” after each successful mission.
Unfortunately, the story didn’t live up to the gameplay as it left much to be desired. The first chapter ended the way I expected the game to end, with Snake rising victorious over his enemies. Instead, the game continues on past this point with chapter 2, with the notion that there is still “unfinished business” and that the hardships were not over. Instead of a flushed out second chapter to the story however, we get what feels to me to be more like bonus missions that were added to make the game feel longer and keep everyone playing longer. There are a few story related missions sprinkled in there to serve as follow ups on characters and events that transpire after Skull Face is taken care of, but compared to the first chapter of the game the second chapter leaves a lot to be desired. It does answer some important questions for series fans, but in doing so also creates new questions that are left unanswered (at least for myself that is).
If you have yet to get your hands on Metal Gear Solid V, I highly suggest doing so. The only games you really need to play to understand what is going on are Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater and the Prologue to the Phantom Pain, which is Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes. I would even go as far as to say that you only really need to play ground zeroes if you don’t care too much about the story, as it isn’t really the drawing point of the game. What you really want to experience is the amazing gameplay and open worlds that Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain has to offer.