Tag Archives: Gaming

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

Can’t Stop Thinking About Nintendo Switch!

Hey folks, Matt here. I had the sudden urge to write about a few places that have written solid coverage of the Nintendo Switch and its launch day, which is rapidly approaching! We are 32 days until launch, March 3rd, and I am very excited to get my hands on the system. I’ve been reading system impressions, thoughts on the new control inputs, and have watched a few of the new game trailers numerous times; most notably Zelda: Breath of the Wild’s newest trailer, which I’ve probably seen at least 7 times by now. The music is so good!

Zelda BOTW wallpaper 6.png

Anyway, I wanted to give a shout-out to a couple of sources that have provided me with ample information to satiate my hunger for Switch knowledge. First up is a NeoGaf user who attended PAX this year, and was able to get a thorough hands-on of the system and its upcoming games. I’ll link his blog post right here, it’s a great read and there’s a few pictures provided to break up each paragraph.

One of my most anticipated titles of this year is Splatoon 2, and as a big fan of the first game, the sequel looks to expand upon everything I enjoyed about the original Splatoon. Being able to see your teammate’s loadouts at the top of the screen during matches is a nice touch, and all of the new special weapons and maps that they’ve shown off look very fun. Also, the ability to change weapons mid-match is a long overdue but welcome addition. With this in mind, this post from a different NeoGaf user with extensive information on Splatoon 2 has got me thinking about the exciting possibilities that the game holds. I’ll link the post right here.

splatoon-2-dualies

Lastly, I’d like to mention a YouTube channel that has recently got me hooked. The channel, known as Spawn Wave, has posted some interesting videos about the Switch, as well as other gaming news, and it’s helped the wait for March 3rd feel a bit less painful. Definitely give this channel a shot if you’re interested in some casual discussion about recent Switch news!

Anyway, that’s all I’ve got for now. Hope you’re all having a great weekend, and an even better time waiting for Switch goodness.

Thanks for reading!

  • Matt

Avoiding Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain Spoilers

Reviews have come in for Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain, legendary game-maker Hideo Kojima’s final outing in the Metal Gear franchise, and reception to the newest entry in the Metal Gear saga has been extremely positive. Across the board, journalists have praised the level of depth the game offers, citing the many varied gameplay options as wonderful selling points. Although Metal Gear has always had an emphasis on stealth-based gameplay, MGSV allows many different playstyles while tackling the next crazy mission on offer.

MGSV boat shot

Of course, the internet is still directing hate toward the game’s publisher Konami in light of their recent behavior (and rightfully so!) but that’s not what I’ll be writing about today. I’d like to talk about how to avoid spoilers for Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain leading up to the game’s release on September 1st.

So! Here’s a few tips on how to avoid spoilers in the lead-up to MGSV’s release.

  1. If you’re on Twitch, disable Twitch chat. I love reading some of the comments on Twitch chat, they can be very entertaining – but there are bound to be at least a few users hoping to spoil the story of upcoming titles for other people, and that’s no fun.
  2. Try to avoid YouTube comments. I mean, I usually try to do this most of the time regardless, but follow this advice NOW MORE THAN EVER. I know, this is a recurring joke, but that’s mostly because it is completely true – most YouTube users post terrible comments. Don’t let the accidental reading of one comment ruin MGSV’s story for you.
  1. Watch the launch trailer for the game at your own risk! I personally have not watched the launch trailer, in fear that it will reveal major plot points that I have not yet been exposed to. Of course, having not seen the trailer myself, I cannot prove that it provides any plot spoilers to speak of, but regardless, I’ll be playing it safe by avoiding watching the trailer until I finish the main story of The Phantom Pain, as silly as it may sound.
  2. Only read reviews for the game that have confirmed a lack of spoilers! For this, I’d highly recommend checking out Game Informer’s review of The Phantom Pain. Great write-up, and avoids any and all spoilers about the game’s story.

    Diamond Dogs

And there we have it! These points might seem like common sense to some of you, but I thought I’d provide a write-up on how best to avoid spoilers for upcoming media, in particular Metal Gear Solid V. I’ve probably said it before, but I am looking extremely forward to getting my hands on this new title. I have a lot of love for the Metal Gear series, and so I’ll most likely write a review for the title within the coming weeks as I binge-play the new game!

Thanks for reading! I hope you all enjoy the final chapter in Big Boss’ story come September 1st, and have an awesome week!

CQC hug

Maybe we’ll get another CQC hug! Who knows!?

I’ve Entered the World of PC Gaming

These past few weeks, I was considering replacing my laptop with a more powerful one. Seeing as Killer Instinct on PC is nearing release (I hope!) I figured now was a better time than ever to splurge on a brand-new computer. I had been rocking an old 2008 Samsung notebook for about seven years, and when the thing started to have trouble playing YouTube videos at 60FPS, I had a feeling it was time for an upgrade.

MSI notebook

I’d considered building my own tower, but then a friend of mine recommended I check out the MSI line of notebooks. My current living situation at the moment is a bit up in the air, and if for some reason I needed to find a new place to stay, lugging over the tower might have been a hassle. With that in mind, I decided to look into the notebooks that my friend recommended. MSI seems to offer a great number of solid notebooks, with many of them receiving high marks from critics.

I wanted something that can play recent releases, as well as a couple of upcoming titles that I’m eager to check out in the future (Killer Instinct and Gears of War Remastered immediately come to mind). However, I still keep my PlayStation 4 and Wii U close to heart; they’ll most likely remain my two main gaming platforms in the years to come, with some PC gaming on the side.

MSI notebook 2

The notebook that I decided to purchase is the MSI GE62 APACHE-002, with a 15.6 inch display. So far, I’m really enjoying this computer. Every game I’ve ran on here works flawlessly. Also, Windows 10 just released, and after installing and playing around with the new update, I can say that it is miles ahead of Windows 8. A clean interface with (mostly) easy to navigate menus make this update pretty slick. Plus, it was free, so that’s cool. Only issue I’ve encountered so far is the lowered resolution of the Steam app; for whatever reason, when I open up Steam, the application’s resolution is much lower than that of what it used to be. It’s very odd because Steam is the only application affected by this issue. I’ve tried finding a solution online, to no luck. Hopefully I can find a fix soon.

Steam sales are going to be the end of me (again).

Steam sale spongebob

Thanks for reading!

E3 2015 – My Favorite Games of the Show

Hey everyone! This post is a bit late, seeing as E3 2015 was last month, but here are my favorite games of the show, in no particular order, except for my game of the show at the end. Here we goooo!

Cuphead1

  • Cuphead: This game debuted during Microsoft’s E3 2014 press conference in a brief snippet showing co-op gameplay, but this year the developers behind Cuphead showed even more gameplay, proving to any doubters that this game is BEAUTIFUL. The visuals in this game are phenomenal, and dare I say it, one of my favorites yet in gaming. Screenshots don’t do this title justice, and I urge you all to watch a video of the game in action. I grew up watching old Mickey Mouse cartoons, and seeing a game utilize that similar visual style was very refreshing. I hope we see another title or two attempt to replicate the classic Disney-esque art that Cuphead achieves. Right now the game is slated for a PC + Xbox One release, and I’m hoping Wii U and PS4 owners can get a taste of this artistic little title.

    Star Wars Battlefront Gameplay Shot

  • Star Wars: Battlefront: I still have my doubts about this game, but Dice has piqued my interest. I think we’ve all been waiting for a solid new Star Wars game for quite a while now, and for those interested in classic Battlefront and new Battlefield games, this title seems to scratch the itch for both types of fans. The manual on-the-fly switch between first and third person viewpoints is a welcome addition, and as I former Battlefield fanatic, I am looking forward to see what Dice does in the Star Wars universe with the expertise they’ve accumulated from Battlefield.Fulgore
  • Killer Instinct and D4 (PC releases): Yes, Microsoft. Yes, good. Keep pumping out those Xbox + PC releases! As someone who had very little interest in purchasing an Xbox One (personal preference), seeing two of my favorite games on the system make their way to the PC is very welcome. D4 was one of my favorite titles of last year, and Killer Instinct is a blast to learn the mechanics of each fighter. I’m highly anticipating the release of Killer Instinct on PC, and waiting to purchase D4 on PC. Right now, my backlog is rather large. I should probably upgrade my rig in time for Killer Instinct…

And now, my game of the show.

Horizon zero dawn shot 1

Horizon: Zero Dawn: Aside from my displeasure with this game’s title, Horizon: Zero Dawn looks like an awesome addition to the PS4 lineup in 2016. Guerrilla Games has been working on the Killzone franchise for the past ten years, so seeing them invest work into a brand new IP is very nice.

I enjoy the Killzone franchise for the most part, but even I was getting tired of the series.
Aloy, this new game’s protagonist, quips witty lines as she battles giant mechanical beasts hell-bent on destroying her kind. The game’s setting and atmosphere appears top-notch, with gameplay focused on bows and many different types of arrows to fire. I feel like this weaponry is a solid choice, because machine guns and other heavy weaponry might feel a bit out of place within the tribe that Aloy is part of. Time will tell what other types of weaponry will be available, but after hearing about the game’s reported four-plus years of development time thus far, I’m extremely excited to see and hear more about this ambitious title. Also, it’s a single-player focused title! Hooray!

Anyway, that’s my list. What were your favorite games from E3 2015? Let me know in the comments below or via my Twitter handle @matt_mancuso12.

Thanks for reading! Have a great weekend, everyone.

E3 Anticipation – Sony

After a great presentation by Bethesda earlier, I am looking even more forward to seeing what Sony and Nintendo have rolled up their sleeves for their E3 showcase. Let’s get started with my expectations for Sony’s PlayStation 2015 conference!

Expectations:

Uncharted 4 Wallpaper

1. Uncharted 4 gameplay demo, announcement of release date and/or multiplayer beta. I think this one is pretty much a given, seeing as the main banner of E3 2015 is a poster of Nathan Drake, and we received a gameplay trailer last year, so it’d be a bit strange if Mr. Drake didn’t show up on-screen in his new game at one point or another. It’ll most likely be the show’s opening or closing demonstration.

Bloodborne werewolf

2. Bloodborne expansion! Maybe a short teaser, or an expected release date, I’m expecting something Bloodborne-related to be shown during the show. After the high sales figures of the base game, this is the perfect time for Sony to keep the Bloodborne hype train flowing.

Morpheus dude

3. Morpheus VR stuff.

Guerrilla Games LogoMedia Molecule Logo

4. Media Molecule and Guerrilla Games new IP unveiling. These ones have been a long time coming, and I hope we get to see the new projects they’ve been working on.

No Man's Sky image

5. A release date for No Man’s Sky, along with a few other notable indie titles including The Witness.

PS4 controller

6. Gameplay demonstrations for Assassin’s Creed Syndicate, Mirror’s Edge: Catalyst, or Star Wars Battlefront 3. Andrew House mentioned the company is focused this Fall on third-party offerings, so I feel like the company is going to focus on making these games appear as PlayStation-focused as they possibly can. (I wasn’t quite sure to what to place as the bullet point image, so please look at this Dualshock 4 controller.

More than anything, I hope we see new IP unveiled by Sony’s first party studios. Even though the first-party offerings for the end of this year are slim pickings, I’m hoping that Sony proves to us that their own studios have been hard at work on killer new games that release in early to mid 2016.

Thanks for reading, and I hope to hear your impressions on the show! Happy E3!!