News, Video Games

Final Fantasy IX Going Mobile

Square Enix has announced that Final Fantasy 9 will be on iOS, Android, and PC sometime soon, at least in Japan. However there is no direct date tied to the news, or any news as to whether or not North America and Europe will get this version of the game either. There is some hope though, as Square Enix does a fair number of western releases for their products. Not only that but a few Final Fantasy games can already be played on PC in the west. Here’s hoping that IX will join the ranks of those that western audiences can already play.

We will bring you more news on this development as it becomes available.

Impressions, TV

Impressions: Master of None

Aziz Ansari, know largely for Parks and Rec, created and stars in this show. In addition he writes and even directs a few of the episodes. The Netflix original was recently added, and I was hesitant, worried that it would be a dime a dozen sitcom staring a comedian.

Plot Summary

Aziz plays a man aging and discovering that while he’s not old, he has started to reach that point in life where he has big choices to make. He moves through his life in New York as a struggling actor trying to find his passion in acting and relationships. He has a close network of friends, and meets some new and interesting characters on the way.

Impressions

The show is surprisingly clever. The plot is nothing entirely new. The idea of being in your 30s and reaching a crossroads that will decide your future has been done before. Also done before is a show focused mostly on comedy, featuring a semi-auto biographical main character who is a comedian. Despite the fact that the foundation is familiar the show is surprisingly clever, funny, and manages to hit on important topics.

One of the best things the show does for itself is really focus in on something serious for one episode at a time. One episode features Aziz and a close friend finally realizing that their immigrant parents must have sacrificed a lot for them and they haven’t given back. The episode then tells the parents story, and an attempt by the boys to make up for the distance they have put. Another focuses on Aziz having an eye opening experience as to what the struggles for women are versus men. These pocket episodes allow the show to really focus on that issue, work through it, and see a changing perspective. The result is that each episode stands on it’s own for it’s own reasons. Some are more heartwarming, some come with a stronger message, and some are just funny. No matter what the end result of that episode though you feel like you’ve progressed through the experience with Aziz.

Despite the fact that the episodes can stand largely on their own, the over arching story is not lost. Aziz’s struggle is easy to relate to. He is not unhappy, in fact more often than not he seems very happy. However, he does still feel a certain level of being trapped, and wondering what chances he has missed or what chances he even still has. It speaks to a lot of people who are either in their 30s, or approaching it, and wondering if they still have that moment where they can make huge life changing choices.

His friends are unique, and though seem largely there to offer different perspectives they are well written. It features a wonderful cast of actors, many of whom are only in one episode, but there are few that I would say are forgettable. The comedy is subtle, which surprised me. Aziz’s stand up doesn’t appeal to me because it’s often very in your face. This show has it’s loud moments, but for the most part is moves in a very slow, subtle, and intelligent way. You find yourself laughing at the end of longer jokes, but being thoroughly impressed with them. It also maintains a style that is unique to Aziz, it might not be the same as his other works, but you can tell it’s his.

Bottomline

I have no problem being proven wrong, and was happy to have been proven wrong in this case. Everything that made me hesitant to watch this show was silenced. It was 10 of the best comedic episodes I’ve ever seen, and each one left me something to think about. The show is well done, and I would recommend it to a lot of people. Be warned, part of all that “intelligence” though will leave more than a few people saddened by some outcomes. Though in the end something that manages to make you laugh, and think is more than worth it. The soundtrack is also killer as a side note, such a great blend of music.

News, Video Games

Games with Gold and Playstation Plus: January 2016

Xbox Live Gold and Playstation Plus members will have a chance to get a number of free games in the month of January. Here is what you can look forward to.

Xbox One

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Killer Instinct Season 1 Ultra Edition, all of January

Zheros, January 16th- February 15th

Xbox 360

DiRT Showdown, January 1st-15th

Deus Ex: Human Revolution January 16th-31st

PlayStation 4

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Grim Fandango Remastered, all of January

Hardware: Rivals, all of January

Vita

Grim Fandango Remastered, all of January

Legends of War Patton, all of January

Nihilumbra, all of January

PlayStation 3

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Dragon Age: Origins

Medal of Honor Warfighter

Video Games

The State of Horror in Video Games

With the news of Silent Hills being canceled, and Del Toro swearing off of game design. The question over the state of horror games is once again being brought up. I would argue that for a long time there have been two types of horror genre. Horror Action, and Survival Horror.

For me the divide between the two comes from where the emphasis lies. Action Horror- Combat, Survival Horror- Well survival. It doesn’t mean that all action horror doesn’t include instances of just having to survive, but that is not the emphasis of the game. Or that survival horror doesn’t have combat, but again not it’s important feature.

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Some examples. DOOM can easily be defined as action horror, combat is clearly the main focus of the game. As such the game supports this with a large variety of weapons, and gives you incentive to fight as often as you can. There are still moments in DOOM where you have to just run though, that combat is not the solution to the problem.

Survival Horror on the other hand seems to have spawned from the days when gameplay didn’t really allow for much combat. As such it’s not the main focus. Silent Hill was really in control of this genre for awhile, the games focused heavily on puzzle solving, and running from enemies instead of fighting them. There is of course combat, but facing off against too many enemies will actually punish you in this game rather than help you.

These days though the line between the two is getting more murky and really action horror has taken over, but under the guise of being survival horror. For me the most notable example is The Evil Within. The Evil Within promised that it was going to bring back to real and true survival horror, and in some ways it did. There are plenty of enemies that you can’t in fact fight, lots of having to run, hide, then run some more. This feels like survival horror, but it’s not. At the end of the day regardless of how much running and hiding you do in this game the emphasis rolls around to being on combat. You fight wave after wave of enemies and for the most part the solution to problems ends up being “fight” rather than “survive”.

Yet this game really held itself in the esteem of being a true “going back to the hay day of survival horror” game. The question is how did we let this happen? And why?

I think it’s because on the side of action horror the divide of what makes it what it is has gotten blurry, while on survival horror side it’s gotten more strict.

Survival horror seems to exist almost exclusively in indie games, and when it says survival horror it means it. You cannot actually fight your enemies you can ONLY survive the encounters. Games like Amnesia, and Among the Sleep are notable examples. There is no such thing as combat, you are a character that can only make it through by running, hiding, and puzzle solving.

This type of survival horror is great, it’s scary, challenging, and interesting. I personally love playing these games. However they shouldn’t be the only survival horror that gamers get to experience anymore.

While on the other hand action horror has been divided into true Action Horror, and Action Horror that wants to disguise itself as survival horror. I mentioned The Evil Within as a notable offender in this instance. The game simply put wants to pass itself off as survival horror while still wearing all the dressing of an action horror game.

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This leaves fans in a rather hopeless state. We either get the most extreme version of survival horror, or we get what’s really action horror just trying to pass itself off as something else. Gone are the early Silent Hill games, Fatal Frames, Clock Towers, etc.

Silent Hills PT really seemed like it got it though. It didn’t say “yeah we know what you are looking for” like The Evil Within, then just handed more of the same. PT was really just a survival mode but it felt like old Silent Hill, it felt like it was on the path to creating Silent Hills: We Actually Can Give Fans What They Want. Only now it’s canceled and the PT part is being pulled from consoles. So fans are once again snapping their fingers in disappointment because oh man so close.

So what do I think the state of horror is in video games? Good for the most part. Indie developers are thriving, the action horror market is bringing some good titles. You can even find some good scary levels in non horror games. However we are missing that one piece, it’s a piece that is important and that many gamers (myself included) are salivating over… hoping that it will show up. Maybe Silent Hills wasn’t the answer, but it did certainly raise the question so perhaps some other developers will jump on that missed opportunity and bring us what we’ve been waiting for.

News, Video Games

New Series from Level 5

Level 5, the rather popular video game company, has said that they will be doing a new series sometime in 2016. In the past the Japanese Game Company has done such games as the Professor Layton series, Dark Cloud, and Rogue Galaxy. There were no details given on the new series, as they mentioned this during an interview blitz. However fans of the company will be eagerly awaiting what comes next. Level 5 has a large number of hits in their game library so it’s likely that whatever comes next will be a hit as well. We will bring you more as news becomes available.

Impressions, Video Games

Impressions: Rise of the Tomb Raider

In 2013 developers Crystal Dynamics, and publishers Square Enix decided to reboot the famous Tomb Raider series. The attempt was meant to give Lara Croft more of a backstory, and make her slightly more realistic in her design. The game was over all well received, believing that it brought the old series into modern times, in very successful and entertaining ways. Now the rebooted series has continued with Rise of the Tomb Raider.

The plot is the further development of Croft into the “Tomb Raider” that we know. In the first game she comes face to face with the reality that mythical beings are real. In Rise of the Tomb Raider, she is attempting to finish her father’s last project. She often rejected his work, not believing that the seemingly unrealistic things that drove his research could possibly be real. What she faced in the first game though has opened her eyes, and she wants to make it up to her father. Along the way to discovering the truth of his final project she unlocks a greater conspiracy, and must fight to find the mythological “source” of immortality before it falls into the wrong hands.

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The actual plot itself is nothing worth getting too excited for. It’s entertaining enough, but it’s been done before. However Lara’s development in dealing with why she is searching for this source, and her guilt over her relationship with her father is well developed. The game does a good job of connecting the Lara we saw in the reboot with the Lara we will likely be seeing in the future. She no longer questions whether these greater things exist, but accepts them as fact. She is stronger than the last version of herself, though is still struggling somewhat, making her a believable and developed character.

The gameplay is also solid. It follows a lot of the same path of the last game with tweaks. There is a blend of stealth, fast pace action, and parkour platforming like gameplay. The game has a series of side quests, optional tombs, as well as the regular missions. Overall the bulk of the game hasn’t changed much since the first, though that’s not a bad thing. The first was largely entertaining and fun to play, so repeating a lot of those things is good. Where the gameplay actually starts to suffer is where it departs from the first actually. There are a lot of upgrades to weapons and gameplay that come with the game, almost too many. For instance towards the end of the game you are given the ability to use arrows to climb walls. This is a interesting idea, but it’s one of an already large number of wall climbing things already given in the game. It’s slow paced, and breaks up action when it’s used. Not only that but since it’s introduced so close to the end of the game it seems like developers attempted to force gamers to use it over and over just to justify it. It’s just one of a few examples where “less is more”. A handful of upgrades aren’t that well fleshed out, and the game would have stood on it’s own (maybe even taller) without them.

The game also suffers from a number of bugs and control issues. Lara can be extremely unresponsive, which in moments where you are using her to climb up long towers it can be more than a little frustrating. There is also one major game breaking bug towards the end involving the QTEs. While I don’t mind QTEs when developers decide to put them in games they need to make sure they are perfect as there is no way around them.

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Despite the few bugs, and the control issues, the game is just a lot of fun though. It’s a great blend of gameplay styles, and seems to bring the best of other popular series together in this one. The game also encourages you to find your own way to solve different problems, which I always appreciate. Very rarely are you given just one approach to battles, but various ones to suit different game styles.

The game is also beautiful. The graphics are amazing, and show off what the Xbox One can actually do as far as graphics. The lighting is extremely well done giving more life to the overall game. There is incredible attention to detail with both the setting and the various characters. Little things shine through to make the game pop, for instance Lara fixing her hair occasionally. It can seem so small, but small little things add up to something extra that give the game life.

Overall when stacked against the first in the reboot it does some things better and some things worse. It’s not a bad follow up, though I would have liked it to shine a bit more as a sequel. However it continues to make me excited to see where this new “Tomb Raider” series is going, and hopeful for more. Beautiful, good character development, and entertaining gameplay, though with it’s own hiccups.

Movies, News

Star Wars Still Number One

It probably comes as no surprise but another weekend has passed, and Star Wars: The Force Awakens is still number one at the Box Office. The movie set a record for reaching 1 billion in sales worldwide faster than any other movie in history, and it doesn’t seem to be slowing down. Many other movies are doing well in the box office, especially over the holidays, but it’s hard to beat that Star Wars hype.

Number two was Daddy’s Home, followed by Joy, then Sisters, and Alvin and the Chipmunks rounded out the top 5.

Taratino’s Hateful 8 managed to just break the top 10 even though the movie has only seen a limited release.

Mini Reviews, Video Games

Mini Review: Goosebumps the Game

Over 20 years ago R.L. Stine introduced the world to Goosebumps and changed horror, and children’s literature forever. He managed to take themes and elements normally reserved for adults and put them into horror for a younger audience. It managed to be scary for kids without being too much for them to handle. Over the years the series has spun off into tv show, spin off books, movies, and games.

The latest game is a point and click adventure game, that follows the general plot of the movie. The creatures from the books have escaped, and it’s up to you the gamer to solve the mystery and get them trapped again. It’s a cool concept though feels more than a little incomplete. There are a LOT of little cookies from the books that show up in the game, but none of them are really fleshed out. You interact with a character from the books for a few short seconds then move on. It’s more than a little disappointing, just a few characters with more detail would have been a better direction.

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There also seems to be some confusion over the audience. The game is clearly meant to be kid friendly, as the books are. Though it seems all the details are meant to appeal to adult audiences. The puzzles themselves are also slightly difficult to solve at times. It leaves a confused feeling because the game is not enough for the older adult audience, but might be too much for kids.

Yet the game is still enjoyable. It’s nice to even have the small interaction with the characters from the books. The story is interesting enough, and if you like point and click games the gameplay is solid. It’s short and feels a little incomplete, but enjoyable. The new generation of potential Goosebumps fans should enjoy it, while there is nostalgia for older players.