This review contains spoilers
After about 85 hours, the curtain doth close on this first leg of my FFXIV journey. The prior patches kept hinting at our eventual trek into Ishgard, and I'm glad it's finally coming. There's a lot to unpack here, and quite frankly, I don't think I have the energy or mental capacity to do so in writing after that absolutely killer ending. For the ending alone, I'd rate this patch a 10, but I have to be objective.
The first third of the MSQs here (patch 2.5 proper) are alright aside from the fun dungeon and trial (which is something I've come to expect all the time now). The loss of Moenbryda was a shame, but I felt like I barely got a chance to grow attached to her. Patch 2.55 is where I became more invested; and right as I get near the end... I get hit with the mandatory Crystal Tower quests/raids. I know this wasn't always mandatory, and it's something that was already introduced in one of the earlier patches, so I'm not counting it against this patch's score; I just don't see where else I'd get the chance to talk about it. I might have liked it better if I had played FF3, but as of writing this, I have not, which made for some somewhat insipid backstory and an underwhelming introduction to alliance raids.
But once that was out of the way and I progressed a bit more, I got stabbed with so many emotional daggers that I couldn't even process it. I literally sounded like a dying dog as I took a fetal position in my chair watching the absolutely unhinged clusterfuck that was unfolding before my eyes.
I'm angry. I'm depressed. I'm flabbergasted. I might hate Yoshi P.
But you know what? At least Teledji finally got what he deserved. Burn in hell, bitch. You won't be missed.
P.S. - Yugiri and Yda are hot. What a surprise...
This review contains spoilers
As multiple threads continue to be woven, this patch feels like a direct response to my main complaint for the last patch, which was tonal whiplash; a problem which also resulted in a boring first half. This patch is consistently interesting, and granted, I have enjoyed the previous patches, but this is the first one to truly get me excited for Heavensward; more specifically, the narrative highs that said first expansion can possibly provide.
To break away from the prior patches' tradition, we finally get a MSQ dungeon in the form of Snowcloak, and while I don't usually like snow-themed "levels" much, this one was good, especially its boss. But the real highlight was the Shiva trial. The music bro... THE MUSIC!
Anyway, my boiling hatred for Teledji continues, and Ul'dah is honestly so corrupt at this point, that I'm lowkey wishing for a Sodom and Gomorrah style cataclysm on this joint if things don't get better. Raubahn and the Sultana deserve better and I just want to give them the biggest hug; I weep for my two precious friends. I'm eager to see the rammifications of The Sultana's decision to step down as monarch, both in relation to what that means for Ul'dah's government moving forward, and also the general populace's reaction.
This review contains spoilers
I have to agree with a few reviewers on here about this one. Patch 2.3 seems incredibly unfocused, to the point that I felt like I was playing through pieces of three different patches in one. The first half was especially uneventful and pretty boring. But once I got to the Ramuh fight (my favorite trial so far), things really picked up.
And can we talk about the Sultana's sudden breakdown? I don't think I've ever been as quick to shed tears as I did with this scene. And when she hugged Raubahn... ohh my heart! I literally want to see Teledji dead now. If not for treason, but just for making the cute Lalafell cry!
This patch would be the best so far if it was more consistent. As it stands though, the second half is at the very least interesting and offers the best chunk of story in these post-ARR patches so far (except for the lame recruiting mission).
This review contains spoilers
Wait, racism is bad? Wow, who knew? Patch 2.2 continues to serve as more set-up, but this time with a larger focus on compelling storytelling (actual voiced cutscenes, hooray!). Yugiri seems like an interesting character, and it's funny that I just so happened to unlock Ninja during this time, as its quest line makes mentions of Yugiri and Doma as a whole (it is their fighting style, afterall). I can't say that I'm too invested in the Ascians subplot, yet. As of right now, they're just giving me Organization XIII vibes, but without the personality.
Leviathan made for a cool trial boss, despite our party getting wiped on the first attempt. I'm starting to wonder how anyone is supposed to figure out these attack patterns without any explanation or multiple re-attempts. I didn't even notice the tail on Leviathan until someone pointed it out to me. Maybe I should tamper with my lock-on settings again. But I digress; I'm a sprout, and this is mainly a skill issue. I'll get there.
And oh boy, I got chills when Teledji stared at the camera and said: "Revolution..." I honestly did not see his role as a villain coming.
This review contains spoilers
First, a preface. It's nice that all the patches recently got added to the database. I'll call that great timing on my part. I figured I'd log these as I go, mainly to keep track of my progress through this massive game, but also to share some brief thoughts on the main story, which is what I'll be basing my scores on.
Moving on; after the ending of ARR's base game absolutely convinced me to see this story to its conclusion, how does the first post-game patch hook you in? Well, it really doesn't. A Realm Awoken is a transition of sorts. With the Scions of the Seventh Dawn moving their base of operations from the Wakings Sands to the Rising Stones, it really does feel symbolic of the group's progression, but also, of the player. Nothing particularly exciting happens here, but I'm not one to typically hate on some set-up for better things to come, especially after I already pushed through ARR.
Minfilia's reunion with her adoptive mother was cute, and also, this is the first time in the main story where you get a chance to experience an 8-player trial; this one particularly, in the form of a giant moogle. That was kinda fun.
This review only accounts for A Realm Reborn base game, without the post-game patches
What makes a good MMO? That was a rhetorical question. Quite frankly, I have no clue. When it comes to these things, my only real experience prior to FFXIV was Toontown and Club Penguin, with only the former having RPG elements. It was a simple game, and I sank hundreds of hours into it as a kid. Since then, the concept of MMORPGs fascinated me, but rarely did I ever feel the motivation to actually get into one because I knew the time investment would be great, and I lacked the proper motivation to try.
FFXIV has become bigger than anyone could have really imagined back in 2010. A game that was plagued with technical issues, terrible UI, and just plain boring gameplay. I wasn't there for it, but I've heard the horror stories and watched analysis videos. Those were dark times. It amazes me how Yoshi P quickly turned things around. A Realm Reborn was, as the name suggests, a new beginning for this game; a rebirth that kickstarted one of the most interesting and successful comeback stories in gaming. Despite the hype, what ultimately convinced me to try it is my love for the franchise, and, as a new player who jumped on the free trial bandwagon, I have some thoughts so share.
First of all, it took me a long time to finish A Realm Reborn. Not because the story is actually that long, but because I kept taking really long breaks. As someone who's pretty much a MMORPG noob, a lot of XIV's systems and its UI felt very overwhelming from the start. I had to consult Google on multiple occasions just to figure out menial things like how to change my hotbar size. It admittedly turned me off, initially, but as I kept trudging through the main story quests and started getting used to things, I found myself getting into a cathartic rhythm. I was genuinely enjoying my somewhat relaxing newbie experience at first, but, I'm not gonna sugarcoat it... it's true what veteran players say: ARR is a slog. This is something that I didn't really come to terms with until I got about halfway through the MSQs, and this is where those multiple long breaks come in. I would be playing this game for an hour or two at a time and then just forget about it for a few months.
ARR focuses on worldbuilding, and this is what it excels at. You're definitely not going to get a top-tier FF story here (at least, not yet, as I have been told). It all feels like set-up for bigger things to come, and this is definitely exemplified with some pretty foreboding foreshadowing in its ending. By that point, I was fully on board. I would say that in terms of story, ARR took a solid 35-40 hours to "get interesting," and even then, it's still not as balls to the wall as one would expect or would probably hope for. But the small taste I got of Eorzea's vibrant world and its political struggles was enough to satisfy my curiosity for what's to come.
You know, I really didn't think that I'd ever get invested in another MMO quite like I did with Toontown. While these are two very big contrasts, there were times while I was playing this game that I felt that same sense of childlike wonder and intrigue I experienced with TT. There's just something that hits quite different with these massive online worlds that you just don't feel with other games. It's this sense of community; a sense of belonging. You feel like you're there and like you're a part of this world; moreover, you feel appreciated, especially with how welcoming this community is. I'm still not sure what makes a great MMO, but perhaps this is a start. I truly look forward to where this journey through Eorzea's bustling world will take me next and beyond.
They say that Sonic 3 and Sonic & Knuckles are solid games on their own, but combined, they form what may very well be the greatest game of the classic series. Honestly, this doesn't make much sense to me. Two lukewarm beers do not make a cold and refreshing one.
Both halves of this game have some admittedly solid zones (I'd argue that Sonic & Knuckles more-so), and some really vibrant backgrounds that makes it stand out from the previous two games. Unfortunately, the attractive package is severely hampered by plenty of other subpar, and even downright terrible zones (I'm looking at you Carnival Night). The problem is made even worse by the fact that most of the zones are just too damn long. I actually ran out of time while doing one of the Acts in Carnival Night. That has never happened to me before in a Sonic game.
Y'all can laugh all you want and say it's skill issue (hell, I didn't even know you could jump in the special stages until someone pointed it out), but I still beat it, didn't I? I just really don't think the level design is up to par with what I expect from a good Sonic game. It's ambitious, I'll give it that. And you certainly get a lot more content than your average classic Sonic title. This game is like crab legs, though. If you wanna enjoy the meaty bits, you gotta really work for it, and I honestly don't think it's very much worth it. I'll just go back to the superior game: Sonic 2.
I hope whoever designed Wing Fortress Zone has had a horrible life. Between this and some of the other bullshit in the final third of the game, like the terrible enemy placement in Metropolis and being forced to beat the final 2 bosses without any rings, I ended up feeling a bit conflicted on what to rate this one. Overall, this is definitely a huge improvement over the first game. Gone is the slow and tedious platforming that was often required. This is the beginning of the faster-paced gameplay we have grown accustomed to with the 2D series. Also, there's a spin-dash now!
There are also more zones here, most of which are pretty darn good, but despite what many people say about this being peak Sonic, I can't help but feel it's just a tad overrated. My heart may already belong to CD's level design, but I was hoping I'd be blown away with this one, and the final few acts didn't help. But you know what? The soundtrack kicks so much ass that I'm willing to partially forgive it. Very rarely does a game's soundtrack greatly enhance the experience for me, but this one did, and it's not even a JRPG! Color me surprised.
P.S. I heard the special stages are worse here than in the first game... Well, I can't comment on that because I didn't find a single special stage on my first playthrough. Not like I ever really cared about them anyway.
I distinctly remember playing this game quite a bit when I was a kid. Whether I ever finished it or not back then remains a mystery, because the final stage with the H.R. Giger looking alien looked so familiar, but the actual ending wasn't ringing a bell. If I did in fact finish this back then, then it only stands to reason I've gotten worse at video games, because there is no way in hell that I would have finished this right now without the blessed Konami Code.
Funny enough, I did not realize that the 30 lives cheat remains in effect even after selecting continue. I just assumed you went back to the regular 3 lives upon losing the initial 30. So there I was, reloading save states like an idiot and cursing this game under my breath. Some of the enemy spawns in this game with the graphical pop-in and relentless hordes are just near impossible to avoid at times. I guess that's NES era difficulty for ya. That said, this game would have rated much lower for me if I didn't learn the truth about said Konami Code, which essentially gives you 120 lives to complete its 8 eclectic stages, which I feel is plenty unless you are actively just trying to brute force the game and rush it.
It's a pretty decent game, with the core run-and-gun gameplay being satisfying enough, though it's nothing particularly special. It makes me curious to try the co-op (again?), though. I can't really remember if I ever played co-op with my dad or something, but regardless, it seems to make for a chaotic and fun time with a friend.
While it's a tragedy that this ended up being the final game that I completed in 2022, it feels strangely apt to end on such a sour note. I don't mean to sound like a pessimist, but I'll admit I haven't been in the right headspace for quite a few years now. 2022 was no different, and while I continue to grow as a person and learn to appreciate the little things in life, I'm still dealing with personal traumas and my subpar mental health as I go. But, how exactly is this relevant to Sonic Boom?
Well, every year I think to myself, "This will be my year. Great things await." But nope, every year is the same as the last. Certain ambitions and expectations that are ultimately shattered by disappointment. And that's what Sonic Boom is, really, and with a title like that, it seems highly appropriate. Rather than it being the smashing success that the team probably hoped it would be, it was an explosive failure that somehow managed to make Sonic 06 look competent. In a way, it also parallels the tiny bit if shattered hope I had of 2022 being good.
The funny thing is that I don't really have any major complaints. But it's such an incredibly bland experience that it feels insulting to even play. When I set out to finish every Sonic game, I never expected the series to reach such banal levels of insipid game design, despite knowing full well of this game's infamy. This was a game I could tell was going to be horrible within the first 10 seconds of actual gameplay.
Imagine this: You are running on rails through some uninspired floating roadway as is typical of these games, but suddenly the framerate drops to 15 through some loop or some other janky transition, all while Sonic says any of these phrases and more:
"Built for speed!"
"This is what speed looks like!"
"Can't slow Sonic down!"
"This is what speed looks like!"
"Can't slow Sonic down!"
As I reference a Nintendo Life article, former Sega of America producer Stephen Frost gave a few reasons for the game's failure, "one of which is that based on focus tests, people were "sick and tired" of Sonic going too fast and wanted to slow him down."
My guy, what the fuck are you talking about? Even if this was accurate, that doesn't also mean literally dropping the framerate. That's the power of CryEngine on Wii U, I guess. And no, I never expected this game to be anything more than somewhat mediocre, but truly, this is much worse than I could have imagined. At least the other bad Sonic games I've played were short enough and didn't subject you to 6 grueling hours of some piss poor excuse for entertainment.
So yeah, 2022 was not at all the year I hoped it would be, but there's always next year. To end on a more positive note, I have to admit that it was not all doom and gloom. There were actually a lot of great moments that happened this year, mostly involving time spent with family. As a coaster enthusiast, I was also able to get a lot of new credits. It's those small and joyful moments that make it worth pushing through life's harships. But anyway, here I am, with only a few minutes to go 'til the start of 2023, fireworks going off outside my window, finishing up this write-up. I am once again hoping 2023 will be my year, but even if it isn't, I can still look forward to the little things I'll certainly continue to enjoy out of life, and I can also find some solace in knowing that I won't ever have to touch this game ever again.
If you do enough research, you'll actually find no shortage of praise for this game from various corners of the internet. A lot of this praise seems to be directed at its hardcore nature and inclusion of atypical mechanics for its era. Even Hideki Kamiya cited Super Hydlide as an inspiration during the production of Scalebound. Yeah, Scalebound. Makes you wonder, huh...
Look, credit where credit is due. The game was for sure ahead of its time with its gameplay. A 24-hour day/night cycle, a weight system that accounts for everything you carry (including money), and the survival-lite mechanics in the form of having to eat and rest after a certain amount of time has passed. On paper, these sound like cool ideas, and they would certainly come to be used more effectively in future RPGs, but they only serve as a major nuisance here. They contribute to this game being jank incarnate, and between your character not even having a fluid walking cycle, and the main environment fluctuating between a vomit green and piss yellow color scheme, it's not a very pleasant game to even look at, much less actually play.
But to explain more in-depth what makes this game suck, I'll cover those so-called "far-thinking" mechanics a bit more in-depth.
24-Hour Day/Night Cycle - What could possibly be wrong with this? Well, apart from dawn turning the environment into the aforementioned piss yellow gradient, staying up for too late will eventually exhaust your character, which makes you weak to the point of not even being able to kill the easiest of enemies, so you're forced to sleep at an inn. Make sure you don't head towards a dungeon before catching some much-needed ZZZ's.
Weight - As I said before, everything you hold in this game holds weight. Realism my ass. A dagger weighs twice as much as a club in this game. Leveling up allows you to carry more weight, but the early game is especially brutal as a result. Holding too much weight slows you down significantly, and increasing the speed isn't really an option because it also makes the in-game time speed up, which means you'll probably need to head back to an inn before you even get a chance to kill a handful of monsters. But hey! There's a bank where you can deposit all that heavy money in! That's cool, I guess...
Hunger - This is probably the dumbest mechanic, and this is totally bias, because I'd often forget to buy food rations and it screwed me over quite a handful of times. I'll be in the middle of a dungeon when I suddenly notice my health draining. Well, shit. Gotta backtrack to a town with an inn. Except I made sure to learn the "move" spell early on which lets you teleport to an inn. But even this wasn't an option a couple of times, because I'd either run out of herbs to refill my magic or I'd get magic sealed... by an enemy? The game doesn't even tell you this, but that's what I imagine happened to me a couple of times that I couldn't use magic for seemingly no reason. If so... seriously? No status effect message or indicator for that?
I got a little sidetracked there, but there really are a lot of issues I have with this game, many of which lead to other problems. So many in fact, that I don't even feel like bringing anymore up. This may seem like a half-assed review, but that's okay. Half-assed games deserve half-assed reviews. Well, it's more of a mini rant than anything.
Despite all that, I still think it's worth a playthrough out of curiosity alone. I would have never gotten through it without a guide and without putting on albums in the background while I grinded and suffered through its horrendous dungeons and cryptic progression. But at that point, it really did become a sort of cathartic journey. It's an awful game, but an interesting experience, nonetheless.
It's my understanding that the first game in this series is very rough around the edges, and you can tell just from looking at it. I've seen gameplay of the other PS1 games, and the difference is night and day. Still, as my first proper exposure to Ace Combat (outside of a brief stint with Assault Horizon on subpar hardware years ago), it's surprisingly competent.
While it's graphically very plain, I'm not one to complain much about that, especially since the gameplay still holds up fairly well, even considering the lack of analog support. And despite its short length, Air Combat certainly turned me onto the series and I'm looking forward to checking out the rest of the games, which I have no doubt will be generally much better.
By the way, did anyone really play test the final mission here? Absolute bollocks.
If you had told me earlier this year, or anytime in the last few years for that matter, that I'd have a Kirby game in my top 10, let alone my top 5, I would laugh at your face and go back to gawking at Super Mario Galaxy. So, what happened here? How can a game from a franchise that has eluded my admiration for many years suddenly come out with a new entry that surpasses Galaxy as the king of 3D platformers?
To understand this, let's talk a bit about Mario Odyssey. Easily one of my most anticipated games when it was announced, and the main reason I wanted a Switch (not including BOTW since I could play it on my Wii U if I wanted to). While it ended up being a good game, it was ultimately a disappointment for me and a far cry from what I expected of it. This can be attributed to my general distaste for open world/sandbox games. When it comes to platformers, I prefer more traditional "reach the goal" level design. Ultimately, Odyssey kind of left a void in the Switch's exclusive library for me, where I was craving a great AAA 3D platformer, but there was none. And then came Forgotten Land...
I was very hesitant to even get this game because of how lukewarm I've been on the franchise up to this point. Sure, Robobot was pretty good, but seeing as it seemed to be a fan favorite, I was doubtful that Forgotten Land could barely be as good, let alone exceed it, especially since this was Kirby's first 3D outing. This was something that hadn't been done before, but all the good reviews + my friend's insistence finally got me to budge. I had no idea I would end up loving it as much as I did.
First of all, the presentation. It's a gorgeous game, even with the Switch's limitations. The world is vibrant and super charming, and despite its often-formulaic environmental design (you got your desert levels, ice levels, etc), they're still brimming with enough creativity to make it feel fresh. This extends beyond just the art direction and includes level and boss design, as well. They're fun! I could have done without the recycled mini bosses at times, but no biggie.
Kirby feels right at home in 3D, and if I had no prior knowledge, it would be hard to believe that this is the first 3D Kirby game. You still jump, float, suck, and transform with fun abilities. I especially love the new gimmick of Kirby sucking up objects to traverse terrain and/or access secret areas. I know people love to meme about "Car Kirby," but it is genuinely so much fun driving around as a car despite only being able to in short bursts on rare occasions.
For each land, you need to save an X number of Waddle-Dees to unlock the boss at the end of it. But each level has its fair share of bonus objectives that grant you more Waddle-Dees. The general short length of the levels makes it so that it's not at all tedious to go back and replay them for the sake of finding secrets and completing optional objectives you may have missed. There's also optional timed challenges scattered around the overworld that grants you "rare stones" which allow you to upgrade your abilities. And here lies the reason I prefer this game over Galaxy. The fact that I actually want to go for 100% in this game, and even beating the target times in these challenges (which do not count for 100%), says a lot. I'm not usually a completionist, even for games I really like, unless actual achievements/trophies are concerned.
Heck, as of writing this review, I still have a lengthy post-game to go through with tougher challenges, but I'm already looking forward to it. If it wasn't for Elden Ring releasing this year as well, then Kirby would have certainly taken the spot for my GOTY. It may not be as mind-bending as Galaxy, but all a platformer really needs to be for me is fun, and this game has it in spades.
Fear not, for I have seen beyond the dreaded Marble Zone at long last and it's... alright. There's a certain charm that comes with the original game. Not having a spin-dash feels really strange and cumbersome, and for a game that was advertised on the notion of having to go fast, you honestly rarely get a chance to, especially with the amount of tight platforming you have to do in the later zones (and frankly, Marble Zone is a patience tester that is almost inexcusable).
In the year 2022 of our Lord, I cannot say that this game holds up very well, especially when I have been spoiled by modern Sonic mechanics. Though, if you think of this less as a game focused on speed but rather as a traditional platformer with "speed-focused" physics, you might come to appreciate it better. I'm just glad they had the decency to at least include a level select cheat code, because having to repeat zones again and again would be a miserable experience. Heck, continues are tough to come by unless you're good enough to consistently get high scores in acts or unlock the bonus stages and do well enough in them. But if so, would you even really need the surplus of continues in the first place?