Final Fantasy Explorers Review [Pixelkin]

Fans of Crystal Chronicles and online RPGs may find some enjoyment, though the action can quickly grow repetitive if playing alone.

Read the full Review at Pixelkin

Final Fantasy Explorers Logo

Over a decade ago Final Fantasy fans were presented with an odd spinoff. Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles used a much more action-oriented, real-time combat system. The big hook was allowing friends to venture together in a static world, not unlike your typical online role-playing game.

Final Fantasy Explorers offers the same quest-driven gameplay with a threadbare story and piles of loot to collect and craft. Online multiplayer lets you play together with up to three other explorers using a variety of classic Final Fantasy classes such as Black Mage, Knight, and Ranger. Fans of Crystal Chronicles and online RPGs may find some enjoyment, though the action can quickly grow repetitive if playing alone.

Read the full Review at Pixelkin

Xenoblade Chronicles X Review [Pixelkin]

Xenoblade Chronicles X is a fantastic genre blend of the best elements of Western and Japanese RPGs.

Read the my full review at Pixelkin

xenoblade chronicles x

Platform: Wii U

You stand on a cliff overlooking the Grieving Plains. The grasslands and lakes of Primorida stretch out in every direction. Your eyes are immediately drawn to the fascinating native creatures. Humans are the aliens here. The domed city of New Los Angeles is your last bastion of safety in a dangerous world full of tyrants and treasures.

Welcome to planet Mira. Welcome to Xenoblade Chronicles X.

Read the my full review at Pixelkin

My Top Ten Games of 2015: #3

The astonishingly gigantic open-world RPG Xenoblade Chronicles X is my #3 Game of the Year for 2015!

My Top Ten Games of 2015

#10 MASSIVE CHALICE

#9 Starcraft II: Legacy of the Void

#8 Tales from the Borderlands

#7 Ori and the Blind Forest

#6 Super Mario Maker

#5 Yo-Kai Watch

#4 Fallout 4

#3 Xenoblade Chronicles X

xenoblade-chronicles-x

I’ve gained a real cynicism and disdain for Japanese games over the last decade. JRPGs were and are among some of my all time favorite games – back in the 90s.

Since then I’ve largely fallen out of love with them. Their storytelling goes in increasingly bizarre and goofy directions, and my distaste for anime is exemplified by grating cutscenes, voice-work, and writing that was previously the marquee of cutesy pixels and simple text.

So, it’s a pretty damn big deal that not only did I enjoy Xenoblade Chronicles X, but that I’ve ranked it so high on my Game of the Year list. Continue reading “My Top Ten Games of 2015: #3”

Yo-Kai Watch Review [Pixelkin]

Yo-Kai Watch is a solid contender to Pokémon’s dominance of the monster-collecting genre.

Read the full review at Pixelkin

yo-kai watch

A worthy contender has finally entered Pokémon’s monster-collecting genre. Yo-Kai Watch has exploded in Japan in the last few years, and American audiences finally get a taste of the action with the first game for Nintendo 3DS.

A likable, relatable story and modern setting combine well with the ghost-hunting and monster-battling formula to create not only one of the most impressive 3DS games I’ve played, but also one of my favorite games of the year.

Read the full review at Pixelkin

Will Yo-Kai Watch Be the Next Pokémon? [Pixelkin]

The semi-recent mega Japanese franchise finally hits US Shores. I explain both the localized anime and new Nintendo 3DS game.

Read the full article at Pixelkin

yo-kai watch

In the fall of 1998, Pokémon hit U.S. shores. The Japanese mega-hit descended on the West with a multi-pronged media approach. Eager kids and teens were bombarded with the anime TV show, Gameboy games, and an endless parade of toys and full-length films. This massive approach turned into a huge success, and Pokémon remains one of the most beloved and popular children’s franchises. Ask anyone (kid or otherwise) to identify the now iconic electric yellow mouse who’s become a staple at the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade and they will definitely know who he is.

Now we are poised on the precipice of an eerily similar situation. Yo-Kai Watch has been out for two years in Japan. It’s already spawned several 3DS games, a popular anime TV show, manga (Japanese comics), a feature film, and numerous toys and merchandise, including the watch.

Yo-Kai Watch just began airing on Disney X-D in the U.S. several weeks ago. The first game was released on November 6 for the 3DS. If Pokémon is any indication, Yo-Kai Watch could prove an equally big hit in in the U.S., despite having its roots in Japanese folklore.

Read the full article at Pixelkin

Gaming Backlog Final Thoughts – Child of Light

Ubisoft effectively distills all the best elements of a traditional JRPG into a fun and beautiful 10-15 hour package.

I have finished another backlogged game via Rogue’s Adventures. You can read my latest Final Thoughts below and also on my gaming blog on Game Informer.

Developer: Ubisoft Montreal

Publisher: Ubisoft

Release Date: April 24, 2014

rogue's adventure

Charming, fairy tale-like indie games are all the rage right now – even AAA publisher Ubisoft had to get in on it. Child of Light isn’t an indie game at all. Instead it cleverly distills the best parts of the normally long and bloated JRPG into a tight 10-15 hour experience. It’s lovingly wrapped up in a beautiful hand-drawn art style and expressed through a constant rhyming structure throughout the whimsical dialogue. The story is a bit basic and linear, but overall the condensed RPG experience works remarkably well. Continue reading “Gaming Backlog Final Thoughts – Child of Light”

Gaming Backlog Final Thoughts – Cthulhu Saves the World

I have finished another backlogged game via Rogue’s Adventures. You can read my latest Final Thoughts below and also on my gaming blog on Game Informer.

cth1

 

 

Developer: Zeboyd Games

Publisher: Zeboyd Games

Release Date: July 13, 2011 (PC), December 30, 2010 (XBLA)

My Cthulhu knowledge is rather limited. I’ve never read a Lovecraft novel nor played any of the other games. I do play and enjoy the Elder Sign board game, which is a streamlined, dice-based version of Arkham Horror, and contains all the elder gods as well as thematically dark, poetic writing and artwork.

No prior knowledge is necessary to enjoy Cthulhu Saves the World, a lovingly styled retro-RPG created to emulate the style of old console RPGs. Zeboyd Games has carved out a fun niche combining humorous, self-aware writing with 16-bit styles. I’ve previously played their later games, Penny Arcade’s On the Rain Slick Precipice of Darkness 3 and 4 and based on the fun I had with them, backed Cosmic Star Heroine on Kickstarter. CSH is now one of my Most Anticipated Games of the Year, and I wanted to dive a bit into their back catalog with Cthulhu Saves the World.

This is definitely a developer that has iterated and built upon each of their releases; each game has gotten progressively better with more features, options, content and animations. Unfortunately this makes the older Cthulhu slightly worse than the Penny Arcade games in just about every way.

Cthulhu uses a pixelated overland map to walk around. You start off controlling the former elder god as he washes ashore on a beach, having all his cosmic powers drained. The disembodied narrator gently informs our hero that he must save the world and prove himself a true hero in order to be admitted back to Mount Olympus (Err sorry, that’s Disney’s Hercules).

The story and plot are mostly unimportant as Cthulhu follows a familiar path of dungeon – town, dungeon – town, picking up a colorful cast of allies along the way. Towns offer some funny dialogue and a place to rest and buy better equipment, but otherwise they’re devoid of any personality, quests or content.

The real meat of the game comes in the dungeons and the combat. Combat resembles the old NES Final Fantasy games as your party of up to four takes on brightly pixelated foes. There’s very little animation during combat and you don’t even get to see your own party on the screen, so it mostly relies on the dialogue box to move things along.

Like all their titles, Zeboyd wasn’t content to simply recreate the old JRPG systems of combat and really innovated and streamlined many aspects, such as enemies getting stronger with each subsequent round, fully healing at the end of each fight and full details on exact damage numbers for the power of your abilities and the health of your enemies. Combat’s designed to be extremely quick and extremely deadly, which plays well into the limitations of the engine – though on Normal mode in the latter stages of the game I could blaze through most fights in two to three turns, making them more of a minor annoyance than a challenge.

I found the very first dungeon to be the most challenging as I was still learning the new and interesting concepts behind the combat. HP fully heals between battles but MP does not, so you still need to regulate your powers and balance defeating your foes as efficiently as possible while still holding back if you can. A little MP regenerates depending on how quickly you win the encounter, and thankfully there are save points sprinkled at the end of dungeons (and sometimes in the middle) that fully restore your MP. Oh and you can also save anywhere (YAY!) and teleport to any previous towns at any time (woo!). Options like these prove that Zeboyd is both lovingly nostalgic about retro JRPGs while still willing to add modern conveniences that makes a return to this style much more fun than frustrating.

The majority of the game is spent crawling in dungeons. Dungeons have a nicely diverse range from haunted forests to volcanoes and even a spaceship. The level designs are mostly just giant mazes, but thankfully you rarely reach a dead end as most paths lead to either treasure chests or the exit.

Still, some of the later dungeons are just way too big – an issue they freely admit on the nifty developer commentaries sprinkled throughout. I also enjoyed the fact that each area has a limited number of random battles – once you hit it (anywhere from 20 to 50) you can explore at your leisure without running into monsters. You can still select Fight on the menu, but I never once felt the need to grind.

Enemy types are varied but for the most part didn’t seem all that different when it came to actual attacks. Your party on the other hand is nicely diverse, including a meaty talking sword, a gothy necromancer, a crazy old man healer and even a fire dragon at the end that lets you fly around the world map like an airship. Picking the right combination to maximize your abilities is a fun tool to play with throughout the adventure.

Cutscenes help flesh out the action and the writing stays fun and funny throughout, but all the action takes place in stock pictures overlayed on a black screen. Cthulhu Saves the World wears its indie budget proudly on its sleeve and while charming, I can’t wait to see what they can do with a bigger budget and several more years worth of gameplay design under their belts.

Pros

  • Funny writing that made me laugh out loud several times
  • Tons of skills and options in combat, including Tech, Magic and Unite attacks
  • Lots of varied areas and dungeon types
  • Perfect length

Cons

  • Combat is mostly crunching numbers
  • Reverse difficulty curve; difficult in the beginning, fairly easy at the end
  • Side content is limited to a few optional dungeons

Final Say: A cleverly written, lovingly retro-styled JRPG starring everyone’s favorite elder god.