Monthly Archives: May 2017

Nier: Automata – A Leg Up On Its Predecessor (Review)

nier automata carnival

Note: Spoilers ARE present. I played a total of 40 hours, finishing the game three times and experiencing the three main endings of the game (including the two big choices that are made at the very end of the third playthrough). I also completed about 90% of the game’s sidequests, and plan to finish the rest of them soon.

 

Before I start this review, I should note that I have not played the entirety of the first Nier game. I own the PlayStation 3 copy of the game, and have booted it up once, but decided to watch my favorite group of people on YouTube play through the game instead. Why did I do this? I believe it was during a deluge of other game releases that had me preoccupied, and it saddens me that I didn’t play through the first Nier myself. However, after watching the entirety of the first game (yes, multiple endings and all!) I believe I have a good grasp of the story and gameplay. Because of this, I felt prepared to give game director Yoko Taro’s latest installment in the Nier franchise Nier: Automata a shot, especially after hearing the positive press that the game has received.

Nier Automata enemy and 2b

From my understanding, the gameplay systems present in Drakengard and Nier are not usually the reason people are so fond of these niche titles. Instead, it is the beautiful and unique stories told that capture fans’ hearts and keep them wanting to play.

 

When it was announced that the world-renowned Japanese game developers at Platinum Games would be creating a new Nier title with Yoko Taro at the helm, many fans of the first game, myself included, were enthralled. The brilliant storytelling from Yoko Taro’s pen and paper, brought to life with the advanced game systems that Platinum is known for, could combine to create a truly remarkable new entry. Thankfully, these expectations have been met, and dare I say it, surpassed. Nier: Automata is a beautiful game with likeable characters, an unforgettable story, and an engrossing gameplay hook that fans of the action genre have come to expect.

 

The plug-in chip system used to tailor the player’s gameplay style, both in combat and out of combat, is satisfying and flexible. Players collect a variety of skills, called electronic chips, that can be applied to their character to enhance a multitude of abilities. A custom chip set can be crafted, or the game can be told to create a balanced chip set – regardless, the system is well thought out and a fun place to craft your own unique playstyle. Whether you specialize in mid-air combos, ranged attacks, or hacking your opponents, there are a decent variety of choices for the player to take down enemies that keep things from getting stale.

nier automata reverse cover

Do I need to say anything about the game’s soundtrack? It’s phenomenal. I’m listening to it as I write this review, and will probably be listening to it six months from now, as I did with the first Nier game. If nothing else, the soundtrack needs to be heard and appreciated even by those who do not plan to play Nier: Automata. There are a few remixed tracks that crop up in the sequel from the first game, and they are interwoven in a smooth way that I appreciated.

nier automata trees

Actually, I do have one more thing to say about the soundtrack. There is a fair amount of the hacking minigame present in Nier: Automata, and it is almost exclusively present in the game’s second playthrough. Players will probably notice that any background music perfectly transitions into a chip-tune sound when the change from combat to hacking minigame occurs. Every time this musical transition happened, I was impressed. The way this is implemented at any point of gameplay is satisfying, but the way this transition occurs within the game’s final moments during the credits sequence is absolutely amazing. Some of Nier: Automata’s vocal tracks are sung in both English and Japanese, and feature a bit-tune version of these songs as well. The end credits sequence had my jaw hung open when there were transitions between not just the bit-tune and vocal versions of the same song, but also the multiple languages being sung. For example, a few lines of a track were sung in English, and then a few lines would be sung in the Japanese track, all in a seamless transition. To say it is breathtaking would be an understatement. This game has one of my favorite soundtracks not just for games, but to anything. The game features truly marvelous music that should not be missed.

nier automata 2b and 9s

 

Oh, and on that credits sequence – it’s one of my favorites in any game. Wonderful way to wrap up the story and feature an intense battle before the final cutscene.

 

To be completely honest, I’m rather intimidated to write about the story that is present in Nier: Automata. Similar to its predecessor, the story is engaging, complex, and features multiple likeable characters that have plenty of screentime. I am afraid that I cannot give the multiple narratives at play enough credit where the credit is due. With this in mind, I will do my best to provide a short write-up of my favorite bits of the story. Perhaps my favorite moments in the game’s story are the real-world questions that the game asks. What is the meaning of our existence? Do we have desires worth fighting for, and are those goals ultimately worth the sacrifices we make? These questions are addressed by the main characters as well as side quest characters that bring the world in Nier: Automata to life. Both friendly and hostile machines show a startling level of humanity that I did not at first expect from the game’s characters, and the fact that this is accomplished with zero humans present in the story is a remarkable feat in my eyes. For a better look at the themes that I most appreciated in this game’s story, I think George from SuperBunnyHop can provide a more detailed explanation. I’ll link his Nier: Automata video right here.

Nier automata cavalry

Now, I’ve done enough gushing about all of the game’s good. Although I think Nier: Automata is a simply astounding game that should not be missed, I think a lack of intricate combos like those present in other Platinum games like Bayonetta is a missed opportunity. The combat is more than serviceable, but I found it to be on the more simple side. As a big fan of seeing vast button combinations that can be executed in battle, I could see a list of unique combo attacks being a positive addition to the game. Something akin to Bayonetta or Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance’s combo system would add a great deal to the game’s already satisfactory battle system.

Another criticism I can provide is the over-reliance on fetch quests in the game’s side quests. Although most of the side quests provide an interesting narrative to accompany them, some of the quests feel to rest a bit too much on collecting a certain resource for an NPC, or going off to slay the machines they ask you to kill. These issues are not as big a problem as they would be in other games, thanks to Nier: Automata’s satisfying movement, but they are still worth noting.

nier automata emil

To wrap this review up, I think that if you own a PS4, and have either played Nier or are okay with doing research in that game’s story to better understand Nier: Automata’s universe, you owe it to yourself to play this game. Yoko Taro and the wonderful folks at Platinum have crafted an experience that I will not forget anytime soon, featuring extremely engaging characters, a gripping storyline, and some of the best music in today’s modern world. Yes, I just said that. True, it is a bold claim, but I believe that Nier and Nier: Automata’s soundtracks offer music that rivals the best of the best, both within and outside of video games.

 

If you’ve made it this far, thank you greatly for reading my review of Nier: Automata. I had a good deal of fun writing this review, with the game’s soundtrack accompanying my writing. If you’re interested in seeing my other work, feel free to follow me on Twitter or here on WordPress. Have a great Memorial Day, all.

 

  • Matt
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THOUGHTS ON: ARMS ‘Test Punch’

 

Arms global testpunchI just finished playing my second suite of matches in ARMS, Nintendo’s brand new fighting game that is slated to release for the Switch next month on June 16th. I wrote a previous blog post here stating why I was excited to play ARMS, and after battling a myriad of foes during the game’s ‘Test Punch’ as Nintendo has called it (essentially a free, online-only demo of the game’s mechanics) I can confirm that my excitement was well justified, and I’ll tell you why.

 

The ‘Test Punch’ that Nintendo has released for ARMS began yesterday in multiple time zones across the globe, and I patiently waited to play the game at 8PM EST last night. Hey, I didn’t have any plans on Friday night, I figured why not give the latest Nintendo game a shot? I have a Switch, after all. Don’t make fun of me!

 

Anyway, to say that I performed poorly during my first few matches of ARMS would be selling it short. In a word, I was dreadful when I began playing. I started my playtime using the two separated joy-con controllers to try out the game’s oft-advertised motion control scheme that critics have been praising, and initially found it to be disappointing. The motion controls felt somewhat precise, sure, but my lack of full understanding in the game’s mechanics meant that I lost way more games than I won. I also felt somewhat tired by the end of my session (to clarify – I later realized I swung my punches way too hard and more forceful than necessary) and this diminished my enjoyment with the game. During this first session, I did not think of giving the Switch Pro controller a go, considering the game’s marketing has so far centered solely on using the motion controls within the joy-con controllers.

arms fight

Earlier today, I corrected that mistake. I started up my second session with ARMS by utilizing the Switch Pro controller, and I found myself landing hits and throwing out grabs at my opponents more easily than before. The controller mapping took some getting used to, despite the game’s surprisingly low amount of required button presses. Seriously, if you’re playing ARMS using a standard Pro controller, the game doesn’t require all of the controller’s buttons to play; certain attacks and combos are mapped to multiple buttons on the controller.

mechanica

The game’s complexity is not at first noticeable. There are a wide variety of weapons (or arms) to choose from, but within the Test Punch, each of the seven fighters only has access to three. This gives you a good idea of the different playstyles that each fighter can utilize, and what their abilities and body types have on offer. For example, the heavier characters Master Mummy and Mechanica can take multiple hits without flinching but are slow, while smaller characters like Ninjara and Ribbon Girl can nimbly dash around the battlefield but take bigger hits of damage from attacks. The level of variety with just the seven fighters on offer made each match I played feel different each time, and forced me to think of a strategy to effectively take out the opponent. I found myself gravitating toward Mechanica, with her large health bar and jump-jets appealing to me. 

 

The Test Punch offers a few different game modes. 1v1, 2v2, 1v1v1, and volleyball are the game modes present. They are all pretty self-explanatory, but as expected, I found the 1v1 battles the most enjoyable. The 1v1v1 battles are a pain in the butt, because the game does not tell you how to cycle between opponents during targeting. When playing with the upright separated joy-con controllers, opponents can be cycled through by clicking the ABXY buttons on the right joy-con, or the directional buttons on the left joy-con. This made the three-player as well as four-player battles much easier to manage amidst the flurry of punches being thrown across the battlefield.

Min min

Despite this oversight of not explaining how to cycle through targets, the game does a decent job of explaining its mechanics to new players. It took me two different play sessions, but I eventually found myself zipping through the air and across the ground, capable of performing the correct punches and grabs that I wished to do.

 

ARMS is a very unique fighting game with a great premise. If this first Test Punch is a sign of the game’s online multiplayer quality, I am satisfied with the result. I experienced zero perceivable lag throughout my playtime, and suffered no disconnects. There were a few opponents of mine that dropped from the match, and it cannot be said if they were forcefully disconnected or left of their own will, but my own online experience worked flawlessly. I hope (and expect) in the final release of the game that we will be able to tailor our online gameplay experience in the ways that we enjoy most, instead of being forced to play all of the Test Punches available modes, despite how fun they can sometimes be. This first free experience of ARMS leaves me wanting more, and I think I’ll be there for day one of the game’s release.

arms logo

Did you have the chance to play the Test Punch? Have any thoughts after playing ARMS, or are you waiting until the game’s full release to play? Or, do you have little interest in the game? Feel free to let me know in the comments, and thank you for reading. Have a great Memorial Day weekend!

 

  • Matt

Nintendo Has Officially Sold Me On “ARMS”

Hey folks, Matt here. I watched the Arms-focused Nintendo direct from the other day, and I wanted to share a few thoughts here.

Arms direct

When Arms was first revealed back in January for the Switch, I was intrigued but not immediately sold on the concept. The character designs were solid, the stages looked fun, and the mechanic of swinging multiple variants of arms forward to strike down your opponent seemed satisfying, but I still did not feel much anticipation to learn more about the title.

 

Fast-forward to May 17th, when Nintendo revealed more fighters, stages, the game’s business model moving forward, and types of arms to choose from in battle, and my excitement level for the game’s release has skyrocketed.

 

First up, Nintendo is planning free content packs to come to Arms shortly after the game’s launch, similarly to what they did with Splatoon back on the Wii U. As long as there’s a steady trickle of content coming to players, I am a big fan of this plan for the game’s future. I thought it worked wonderfully for Splatoon, as it kept me invested in the game for months after the game’s launch, and I imagine it will work similarly well for Arms as well as Splatoon 2, which should also be taking advantage of a steady stream of free content. Any free additions and improvements to a video game’s online community is often welcome because it keeps the online community of that game intact, and thus improves the game’s online longevity. I am very happy to see Nintendo is embracing this ideology with more of their games moving forward. Now release some more tracks in Mario Kart 8 Deluxe! (I don’t see this realistically happening, but you never know, especially with Nintendo).

master mummy

I think the thing that impresses me the most about Arms are the fighters that make up the game’s roster. You’ve got your standard boxer in shorts and a t-shirt, as well as a ninja that can disappear in a cloud of smoke, and a… Mummy? That hops around the battlefield and hurls purple spike balls at you? And to top it all off, his name is Master Mummy. Huh, I suppose the fighters in this game are pretty different from other fighting game characters, in a good way. Every character appears to offer a unique approach to combat, with some of them focusing on dodging quickly on the ground or in mid-air, and others favoring a full-on assault with their increased power armor and heavily damaging attacks. However, if you ask me, none of these fighters compare to two of the three characters that were revealed in yesterday’s Nintendo direct.

 

 

I’m talking, of course, about Twintelle, as well as Byte and Barq.

Twintelle

Twintelle is the internet’s latest craze, offering some… Interesting variety in the game’s visual department. She’s got curves that rival Bayonetta’s and her hair holds boxing gloves used to smash other fighters’ faces in. Oh yeah, and in that promotional shot, she’s sipping tea while floating in mid-air. If that’s not bad ass, I don’t know what is. If you do a quick Google search of Twintelle, you will find a number of fan art pieces that capture all of the reasons why people enjoy Twintelle’s design in Arms.

 

All sexy fighter jokes aside, I think Twintelle looks like a fun addition to the roster with a unique take on her ‘arms’ that are used to dish out combos. I’m looking forward to playing as her in the final game, and possibly in the free demo for Arms that is set to be playable in over a week’s time. Check out Nintendo’s Twitter account for the date and times to play it!

 

I also really dig the design and character philosophy behind the game’s other unique addition, Byte and Barq. This robot police officer and his dog act as the game’s duo fighters, similar in some respect to Ferra and Torr from Mortal Kombat X. While the player controls Byte and dishes out hits toward their opponent, Barq is able to move around the battlefield and distract the opponent with his own attacks. This is just my own guess, but I think that the way this is balanced is by Byte’s attack power being lower than other fighters’ to account for his robotic little buddy. I could be wrong, but we’ll be able to confirm or deny this guess when the game releases in June! I’m a sucker for dogs in video games, and well, dogs in general, so Byte and Barq immediately piqued my interest.

byte and barq

I think if Nintendo keeps this momentum going and shows off some of the things that will come to the game post-launch, Arms will be poised to be the Switch’s next big hit game, similar to how Splatoon was a big win for the Wii U. Although I was hesitant on the motion controls at first, all hands-on reactions from players testing out the game have confirmed that throwing out attacks and dodging in Arms is an accurate and quite satisfying experience, which couldn’t make me happier. Let’s hope it all leads to a major success when the game releases in June.

 

Be sure to look at Nintendo’s Twitter account for the date and time on when you can try out Arms for yourself on your own Nintendo Switch! I’m certainly looking forward to it. Oh, and before I forget: LISTEN TO THIS SONG.  It is so damn good. I imagine this will be the game’s main theme, and it makes me extremely hyped to play the final release of Arms

Arms global testpunch

Thanks for reading, everyone. Have a wonderful weekend. 

  • Matt

Oh, by the way, I don’t know if anyone will see this, but if you have Mario Kart 8 Deluxe and would like to have some races/battles online this weekend, feel free to let me know! I’ll share my friend code here.

Why Do I Keep Returning to Titanfall 2?

Titanfall 2 released on October 28th, 2016 for the PS4, Xbox One, and Origin on PC.

On the day that I am writing this, it is the 15th of May 2017, and I still find myself picking up the game every few days in between playing Persona 5 and Nier Automata.

Why is this? What does Titanfall 2 do so well that keeps me coming back for more online multiplayer action? I’d like to answer this question with a few reasons as to why I find Respawn Entertainment’s latest game so enticing.

titanfall-2

Firstly, and perhaps most importantly, the game is extremely satisfying to play. Running at a buttery smooth 60 frames-per-second on all platforms compliments the fast reflexes required for the constant jumping and shooting you’ll be doing as a Pilot. Pulling off just the right angle for a well-timed grappling hook shot can mean the difference between life or death as you propel yourself through the sky, shooting down baddies and dodging their returning fire. Or better yet, use your grappling hook to pull an enemy pilot to your position and kick them in the noggin, sending the enemy flying. The combination of fast aerial movement, double-jumping, and utilizing your grappling hook makes for many memorable moments as you fling yourself through the sky. The grappling hook isn’t the only effective Pilot ability in your arsenal, but it has grown to become my favorite of the bunch. The high-speed thrills of running fast with a stim ability usage is another favorite pilot skill of mine, as it allows for incredibly-large jumps through the air to gain the advantage on your enemy. There have been so many moments – no, too many moments to count – that have had my jaw hang open with the awesome action that was happening both around me, and because of my actions. Your actions on the battlefield as a Pilot offer an adrenaline rush like no other online shooter. 

lego-titanfall

Secondly, future map packs for Titanfall 2 are completely free of charge. This is a somewhat recent trend among games with large online communities, and it is one that I welcome with open arms. It ensures the player base is unfragmented by paid DLC barring entry for players unwilling to pay extra money for maps, thus improving the longevity of a game’s online community. It’s unfortunate that another EA game from last year did not follow this trend (Battlefield 1) but I am very happy to see that Titanfall 2 has taken a more consumer-friendly approach.

 

Thirdly, it is extremely fast and easy to hop into an online match and begin playing. Depending on the game mode, online matches can be completed anywhere from 8-12 minutes, offering many opportunities to feel like a badass as a Pilot. This is in stark contrast to the other EA title that I mentioned earlier, Battlefield 1. While I have enjoyed the online matches of BF1 that I have played, the initial load time for the game’s first battle can be a bit on the lengthy end. I found myself sitting on the futon for a solid two minutes before the game finally finished loading. Thankfully, this hasn’t been the case every time I have played the game, but it definitely makes me second guess booting the game up (for context, I’m playing on a PS4 Pro. I’m not sure how the load times compare on other platforms).

 

Lastly, I know this is commonly part of the praise that the game receives when it is brought up, but I have enjoyed Titanfall 2’s single-player campaign enough to have finished it three times. It is not a very long campaign, but it encourages replayability via the multiple routes that can be taken in most levels to take down the enemy. I also found the writing and set-pieces to be solid and engaging enough to want to experience them multiple times.

tf2 ye

There’s multiple reasons why Titanfall 2 was my game of the year 2016, but this short piece summarized some of the biggest reasons why I keep returning to play this game into the next year. As long as Respawn continues to provide support for their incredible game, I can see myself playing Titanfall 2 for even more months to come.

Now excuse me, but it’s time for me to hop back into the pilot seat at least once more.

Thanks for reading!

  • Matt