Final Fantasy XIV: Stormblood Hype

I cant wait to return to Eorzea! My history with Final Fantasy is admittedly somewhat limited. On the PS4 I spent a blissful month playing through the base storyline of A Realm Reborn as a Lancer ,and later as a Dragoon. And while I eventually reached Heavensward content, and began my journey through Ishgard, life happened (or more likely other games grabbed my attention) and my subscription lapsed.

I’ve often thought of returning, but I suppose I just lacked the motivation. With the release of the upcoming expansion, Stormblood, that motivation has returned.

But I find myself in a unique position. While I played through ARR on PS4, I want to play on my gaming laptop, because A) It’s a beast and will look and play better than the PS4 version and B) the portability factor, as I travel a fair bit and would love to play XIV on the go.

And so we come to the controversial topic of jump potions. I will be using them, as I have played through ARR and don’t want to force myself to play through ALL of that content again. I think I will play through Heavensward though, as I missed that and agree with the majority of XIV fans that the entire point of this MMO is its story focus…

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But now I can play as a Samurai! I know, real original right? Rather than grinding Palace of the Dead to reach level 60, I will play through the Heavensward content as this new DPS class. I’m playing around with the idea of Twitch streaming this, maybe for new players who are jumping right into Stormblood, but want to see some Heavensward content.

So to do this, I have pre-purchased Stormblood on Steam and created a new character for this purpose. His name is William Adams (a little historical samurai reference that I was pleasantly surprised no one had taken), and I’m on Tonberry, with my fellow Australians.

So I’ll be jumping ARR, and boosting a Dark Knight to level 60. That will allow me access to the samurai trainer, and also let me play another new class (at least, new for me), while simultaneously avoiding the horrific DPS Duty Finder queue that will inevitably happen once everyone and their mothers start levelling Samurai and Red Mage.

So what do you think of my plan? Any tips for a newish player, or advice from any veterans? WordPress seems to have a vibrant XIV community and I look forward to hearing/playing with you all!

Final Fantasy XIV: Stormblood releases on the 20th June, 2017, with early access beginning on the 16th.

Waterfield Designs Gaming Cases – Nintendo Switch and PlayStation Vita

I love gaming accessories, I really do. And for me one of the most crucial accessories a portable gamer can have is a carrying case, to keep those precious devices safe from any mishap that life might throw at you. But there are just so many to choose from, and we as gamer’s have different needs and expectations of a carrying case. There are the heavy duty, almost military supply cases that seem like they might be a little bit overkill. On the other end of the spectrum we have the more light weight cloth cases that seem like they aren’t doing enough. Then of course we have branded cases, like the awesome Breath of the Wild Shiekah Slate case.

But recently I came across a little company based out of San Francisco that go by the name of Waterfield Designs. They make bags, awesome backpacks and even wallets. And they also make GAMING CASES, and they might just be some of the highest quality gaming accessories I’ve ever had the pleasure to own. What sets them apart, aside from the high quality of their make, is that they are stylish. They look cool, which is of course hugely important. They feel adult, like I’m not embarrassed to take them out in public. And while they are a little pricey, I truly feel like these cases are a long term investment I have made that to me seems extremely worthwhile.

Lets take a look at them, shall we?

 

 Nintendo Switch CitySlicker Case

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Material:
– Full-grain cowhide leather flap
– Ballistic nylon body
– Rear power mesh pocket
– Soft liner

Weight & Dimensions:
Switch CitySlicker: 10.5″ Length x “1.5” Width x 5″ Height; 7.5 oz.

Hardware:
-Optional 1″ Heavy Duty Shoulder Strap extends to 54″
-Optional 3/8″ Leather Shoulder Strap made from full-grain leather
-Optional 3/8″ Leather Wrist Loop made from full-grain leather
-Optional Aluminum Carabiner
-Optional Brass Nickel-plated Carabiner
– YKK locking zippers

Features:

  • Protects the Switch Joy-Cons from nicks and bumps
  • Optional attachments for carrying at an additional fee: carabiner, strap, or wrist loop
  • Includes a Microsuede lining for cleaning the screen when inserted in the case
  • Pocket for screen cleaner
  • Can be inserted into bigger bags or backpacks

The Switch case is actually what brought me to Waterfield, after doing a bunch of Google sleuthing. This thing is beautiful, you can really feel the quality and it even smells great. It starts out at $79 USD, which is pretty steep, especially as I am Australian and had to pay a bunch extra to get it half way around the world.

 

 

PlayStation Vita CitySlicker Case

PS Vita Case

 

Material:
– Full-grain cowhide leather flap
– Ballistic nylon body
– Rear power mesh pocket
– Soft liner

Weight & Dimensions:
PS Vita: 8″ x 4″ x 1″; 4 oz.

Hardware:
– YKK locking zippers

Features:

  • Assorted leather flap colors
  • Rear power mesh pocket for larger items including charger

Couldn’t leave my trusty old sidekick naked while his brother got a fancy new house, could I? The Vita case is awesome too, although you can tell that this  case is an older design, its buttons need some slight pressure applied to them to seal the case, where as the Switch’s are magnetic and lock into place by themselves. At $59 USD its a little cheaper, and fantastic value IMO.

Important to note, I’m not affiliated with WF, just a very satisfied customer. Take care of your portables people, look after them and they will look after you!

K.

WWII didn’t start on D-Day, and neither should Call of Duty

Or, why I’m tired of hearing the American side of the story.

Recently the newest iteration of the Call of Duty franchise was announced: CoD WWII. And with this latest entry the series is returning to its historical roots in much the same way that EA did with their Battlefield franchise. And personally, I’m a big fan of this. As a student of history, I always love to see developers delve into the past. The events of the 20th century shaped our modern world, with dozens of nation clashing in the most terrible conflict humans beings have ever engaged in.

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But if American portrayals of the war are to believed, the war was effectively won with the D-Day landings and the subsequent march on Berlin. With Allied soldiers closing in the suicide of Adolf Hitler would lead to victory in the European Theatre, and Matt Damon would get to go home. Similarly, this latest CoD will follow a familiar trajectory with its single player campaign being described thusly: “Call of Duty: WWII focuses on the actions of a squad from 1944 to 1945 in the European theatre of conflict, at a time when the Allied forces were starting to gather strength on their march into Germany. The campaign will cover fighting in occupied France, Belgium, and across the Rhine into Germany.”

During episode 490 of IGN’s Playstation podcast, Beyond, editor Marty Sliva (who saw the game behind closed doors) described the D-Day landing depicted in the game. This won’t be the first time CoD has depicted the famous amphibious assault, let alone the Normandy campaign, and it seems overdone to me. And that’s saying something, as I am an Australian, and we kind of wrote the book on glorifying botched naval landings.

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Speaking of which, Battlefields 1’s vignette style of storytelling allowed us to experience a lot of different perspectives that you don’t get to experience very often in video games. Being able to play as an Australian Digger during the Gallipoli campaign was a fantastic inclusion, not only because that particular battle is carved into the Australian psyche, but because I can’t think of another game off the top of my head that even allows you to play as an Australian, let alone an Italian or Bedouin.

And I think that’s the point I’m driving at here. Recently Polygon published an article titled “Call of Duty: WWII’s ‘diversity’ is nothing more than marketing”, in which the authors take umbrage with the diversity, or lack there of, in the CoD: WWII reveal trailer. That article is the reason I find myself writing this piece, just not for the reasons they were driving at. There IS a lack of diversity at play here, but it is not a matter of racism or sexism, it’s a matter of perspective.

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Let me preface this next part by saying that I appreciate the service of the military of all nations, not just my own. It’s a job I doubt I could take on, and I respect the sacrifice of the individuals who dedicate their lives to the service of their country, past and present. I also appreciate that the Call of Duty games are made by American companies, and have every right to depict their stories as they see fit. But the simple fact remains: the United States did not enter WWII until December 7, 1941, and did not land troops in Europe until November 8, 1942, with the advent of Operation Torch and the subsequent liberation of Italy. The D-Day landings, and the final push on Berlin wouldn’t begin until June 6, 1944. But the Second World War began on September 1, 1939, at which time the United States was determined not to be drawn into the war, maintaining a strict neutrality for the entire first half of the conflict.

That is not to downplay America’s contribution to the resolution of the war, the conflict would have ground on for years without them. And the United States were instrumental in the Pacific Theatre, doing a lot of the heavy lifting as far as combating the Japanese went. But I would like to see this conflict be explored BEFORE the bombing of Pearl Harbour. The darkest days of the war, and some of the most brutal, desperate engagements were fought without the aid of the United States. During the bleak early days of the conflict, when Hitler’s victory seemed almost a foregone conclusion, America remained neutral, despite the pleading of the Allied powers. There were three whole years of fighting before Americans arrived in Europe, and some of the heaviest fighting took place in areas that would be be fascinating to explore in a CoD game.

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For example, the fall of France. Once thought to be the greatest land power in Europe, and thus the world, the French were caught completely off guard by the stunning speed and ferocity of the German’s never before seen Blitzkrieg tactics. In just six short weeks, France would fall to the Nazis. I think we are far enough removed from the conflict now to explore the German side of the conflict and the elation they must have felt at this stunning victory. But to play from the point of view of the French forces, desperately trying to counter this new style of warfare and fighting for their very survival, would make for an incredibly emotional narrative experience.

Likewise, the contributions of the Red Army are often overlooked in the mainstream narrative of WWII. Long before American boots landed on the shores of Normandy, the Russians broke the back of the German army in the battles of Stalingrad and Kursk. Historians have often described the battles of the Eastern Front as having been fought with a desperation and ferocity that was virtually unknown to the soldiers of the Western front. To be fair, earlier CoD games in the series have touched on these events, like Stalingrad, but they barely scratched the surface. The Russians engaged the most elite divisions of the German Wehrmacht at the height of its terrifying power, and won (despite being woefully ill equipped, and suffering hideous casualties).

And personally, and admittedly somewhat selfishly, I would like to to see the African campaign explored, and play as soldiers of the Commonwealth. For example, Erwin Rommel, commander of the Afrika corp and arguably the finest German commander of the war, was undefeated in his conflict with Commonwealth forces in North Africa. Until he came upon the town of Tobruk, which was defended by a small garrison of several Australian brigades, some British artillery and a small contingent of Indian troops. Ordered to hold the city for a minimum of eight weeks, Tobruk was held for five months, despite Commonwealth forces being vastly outnumbered and under-supplied. Known as the Rats of Tobruk, because of the way in which the defenders would emerge from their trenches and foxholes and scavenge supplies from the fallen Germans and Italians, this name would (in typical Australian fashion) be worn as a figurative and literal badge of honour, who would afterwards take on a golden rat as their insignia.

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These are just a few examples of areas of the war that did not feature American soldiers. And while I imagine Americans make up a majority of the audience of gamers that buy Call of Duty games every year, even they must be tired of playing out the same tired scenarios. Take a page out of Battlefield’s book and let us see this conflict through different lenses! Some diversity, but not for diversity’s sake, could reinvigorate the franchise. After all, isn’t that why WWII is the setting this time around, because we all got tired of futuristic shooters?

What do you think, would you like to see a different side of this conflict? Let me know in the comments below, and as always thanks for reading!

K.

Inspiration: Wednesday 26th April

I thought it might be cool to write a little post about the things that are inspiring me at the moment. Games and books, movies and social media, I constantly feel like I’m fully engaged. At the moment I am on holiday, and have nothing but time. So here are some things I’ve been into!

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The Imjin War – by Samuel Hawley

Lately I’ve been on a real samurai kick, its kind of all consuming. And this was the book that started it all! The Imjin War is the tale of just that, the Japanese attempt to invade and conquer China and all of Asia in the 16th century. Landing in Korea, the Japanese expected the Korean’s to simply let them march on Beijing. Instead, they would fight tooth and nail, making the Japanese pay for every inch of ground they covered. Impeccably well written, Samuel Hawley tells the tale from the point of view of the three main belligerents: the invading Japanese, the Koreans, fighting for their very survival, and the Chinese, initially dismissive of the entire affair, but forced to mobilise to stave off the very real Japanese threat. Incredibly readable, with very likeable characters and deeply informative, the epilogue in particular really stays with you.

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Samurai William – by Giles Milton

Samurai William is a book that had been on my to-read list for quite awhile now. I’m really glad I got to it, as its one of the better books I’ve read in recent years. William Adams was the first Englishman to reach the shores of Japan, in 1600. The two year journey itself is fascinating, but what follows is nothing short of incredible. Born into poverty outside of London, Adams was made samurai by Tokugawa Ieyasu, the Shogun himself. Adams taught Ieyasu about the Western world, and in return earned his trust and respect. Adams is still remembered today in Japan, there is even a district in Tokyo named after him (Anjin-cho). Also, the video game Ni-Oh is VERY loosely based on the events of the book. Its an incredible story, and a fantastic read!

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Sabriel – by Garth Nix

Other than history, I really only read sci-fi/fantasy (which is something I’m trying to change). Sabriel is a book I started reading years ago, and picked it back up on a whim. I’m glad I did too, because Garth Nix creates a really interesting unique and interesting world, in which the modern meets the fantastic. The first novel in the Abhorsen trilogy, Sabriel tells the tale of the titular heroine as she comes into her birthright as the Abhorsen, a sort of holy necromancer that banishes the restless dead that wander the world. It has a really interesting magic system involving bells, and the depiction of the afterlife (that is a place the protagonists regularly travel too) is truly unique. Really looking forward to continuing the series!

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Ran – Akira Kurosawa

I have a thing where I find it really difficult to watch older movies, basically anything pre original trilogy Star Wars is out of the question. I’m trying to break out of this though, and combined with the aforementioned samurai thing, I arrived at Kurosawa. Ran is an adaptation of Shakespeare’s King Lear, interspersed with segments based on the legend of Sengoku era daimyo Mori Motonari. It’s a long movie, but I actually really got into it. Its a very vibrant movie, with a lot of colour being thrown around. Most of the major characters have a colour theme that is used really well throughout the course of the movie. It even has pretty impressive battle sequences, Ran having the biggest movie of any movie made in Japan at the time. I’m a fan now, and after Ran I immediately moved on to…

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Seven Samurai – Akira Kurosawa

A timeless classic, and of course one I hadn’t seen. Released in 1954, this movie is over 60 years old, and is surprisingly watchable! I might sound really ignorant, but I truly thought movies of this era were unwatchable. But it turns out its a fun movie, and surprisingly really funny! The action is fantastic too, and the story has been adapted countless times: villagers, rather than giving their harvest to the roving bandits that demand it from them every year, instead use it to employ samurai to defend them. The Clone Wars animated series had a really great episode that was an homage to this, but with Jedi instead. That’s all the Kurosawa I have seen so far, but will definitely be exploring his other films.

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Persona 4 Golden

God, I love this game. Still plugging away at that platinum trophy, but I really forgot how vast this game is, and you really cant just steamroll through it. Even on normal difficulty I’m having some troubles with some boss’s, and having to grind a little. Still really enjoying this playthrough, and I’d say im a little past halfway (Void Quest dungeon). The plan is still to get a full review out, but I think I will save that until after this run, and maybe comment on the platinum process. Spoilers, its pretty difficult, and sometimes obtuse. Gotta have it done by the time I get home and start on Persona 5 though, so about two weeks left. No pressure!

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Twitter

Kind of weird thing to be inspired by, but I’ve really been into Twitter lately! I’m trying to make a conscious effort to engage with people, write some jokes and generally get involved with the platform. And while its still early days, I’m noticing an increase in followers ever since I started making a conscious effort, which is kind of rewarding in its own way. I guess I’ve never been a big Facebook or Instagram guy, so I’m seeing the addictive nature of social media. Feel free to follow me @ https://twitter.com/KhaylAdam, its mostly jokes, Persona memes and Star Wars ramblings.

 

What are you into at the moment, got any recommendations for me? Let me know in the comments below, and thanks for reading!

K.

My Personal Top 5 Video Games of All Time

Alright, lets do this. If I’ve learnt anything from the video game community, nothing goes down better than a biased, subjective list of video games. I thought this might be a nice way to let people know where I’m coming from, like a gaming resume of sorts. It wasn’t easy to whittle this list down to just five, so I have taken the liberty of adding some honourable mentions, in no particular order. And of course, this list is subject to change, as there are some incredible games coming out in the near future. Keep in mind, this is more of a why I love these games kind of deal, so I wont be explaining story lines or gameplay in depth, and there certainly wont be any spoilers. So without further ado, lets get into it!

Honourable Mentions

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The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel

This game, man. So a bit of backstory on this one, I took a trip to Tokyo back in 2014, and I couldn’t turn around without seeing posters for this game (in Akihabra, at least). Known in Japanase as Eiyū Densetsu: Sen no Kiseki, everything about this game intrigued me from the get-go. The characters just seemed to pop, and from all the research I did, the battle system and adult story line told me this was my kind of game. But I don’t speak Japanese, and of course there was no English localisation at that time. So, like an idiot, I bought a copy for my Vita with that noble intention that I think all JRPG fans have at some point or another: to learn Japanese in order to play a particular game. Well, I still haven’t learnt Japanese (despite studying it at university), but luckily for me Cold Steel was released in English in January of 2016, and at long last I was able to play through this fantastic game.

Trails of Cold Steel has a lot of the cooler social aspects of Persona 4, which is something I still find novel and new. Spending time with your classmates at Thors Military Academy in between missions is a great way of mixing up the gameplay, and while admittedly it isn’t done as well as in the Persona series, its still something I appreciate. Combat, while maybe a tad too slow for such a long game, really shines. There is a lot of tactical depth in the way characters can be placed on the battlefield, and it even incorporates an upgrade system strongly reminiscent of Final Fantasy 7’s materia system, which I’m surprised we haven’t seen more games using. The story itself is right up my alley, more of a political thriller along the lines of Tactics Ogre: Let Us Cling Together than standard JRPG fare. It might take a little too long to really get going, though, and kind of overstays its welcome,. Seriously, this is a LONG game, and while I do recommend it, this one is definitely for people looking for something substantial to sink their teeth into.

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The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild

Hey look, another “Legend of” game. But really, what more needs to be said about the new Zelda? Unless you have been living under a digital rock of some kind, you’ve heard about all the things this game does right, and read the rave reviews. Of course, this was slightly marred by the lacklustre Season Pass offerings that Nintendo pushed out, and occasional stuttering whilst playing in docked mode, at least at launch. Some people didn’t like this games approach to dungeons, or confining the more challenging puzzles to shrines. But really, these are minor quibbles when talking about a game of this calibre.

I’m admittedly not a die-hard Zelda fan, and I fell off the wagon a long time ago. Some of my favourite gaming memories, though, are of getting Ocarina of Time for Christmas for the N64, and playing it for what seemed like an eternity with my older brother. Breath of the Wild really brought those memories back to me, and I really enjoyed it in a way I find hard to describe. Definitely a nostalgic title, despite being revolutionary for the series. I think the highest praise I can heap on it, was the way it made Horizon: Zero Dawn (which I was playing simultaneously) seem empty in comparison. While I could see a world in which this game made my top 5 list, I think it is just too recent, and would feel disingenuous to give it a place so soon after playing through it. But with that being said, Breath of the Wild has truly set a new benchmark for open-world games, and I’m excited to see where the series goes next.

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The Last of Us

Now here is a title that I really struggled with placing. In the end, the games lower down on this list just resonated with me more personally, but I’ve got to give credit where its due. The Last of Us, a masterpiece of storytelling and gameplay from the wizards over at Naughty Dog, is an immensely important video game. When it was released, a lot of reviewers heralded it at as the title that would elevate the medium. And while a very cinematic game, TLoU is first and foremost, just that, a video game. Apparently there is a movie adaptation floating around in development hell, but I personally hope it never sees the light of day. While I could certainly see TLoU’s narrative working well as a movie, it could never do justice to the gameplay.

And gameplay truly is king here. You really feel like a survivor of this awful world. Combat, for the first time in a video game (in my experience), had a weight to it that could be sickening at times. From the incredibly gruesome death animations, to the simple act of breaking a brick over a guys head, the violence here feels dirty, visceral and a little bit too real. This was backed up by a looting and crafting loop that made you feel like a scavenger just scraping by.  Stitching together a Molotov cocktail on the fly while you run from a horde of Clickers is an incredibly tense experience, something that is helped by a truly unique world that feels like a real place. The journal entries that you come across are equal parts heartbreaking and hopeful, and are usually framed by fantastic environmental storytelling. Walking into an area and knowing something terrible has taken place is exciting, because more often than not, and with a little detective work, you really feel like you can recreate the last moments of the people that lived there. And that ending? Hot damn, I cant wait for Pt II.

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#5

BioShock Infinite

And now we come to the list proper. BioShock Infinite is a game I see a lot of revisionist history for, which is ironic, given the plot of the game. And while I can certainly see how people may have problems with its gameplay, or the narrative for that matter, for me this was the pinnacle of the series, and a truly unforgettable game. Dealing with themes like American Exceptionalism and the worship of America’s Founding Fathers as religious icons, BioShock Infinite goes to some exceptionally dark places. Its melding of real-world history in this fantastic, dystopian setting was something that really appealed to me, and its characters and storyline have stayed with me ever since. It sparked in me an interest in American history that I had never really had before, and the games take on actual events like the Boxer Rebellion and the battle of Wounded Knee are riveting, especially with the propagandist twists that are everywhere in Infinite’s Columbia.

Gameplay is what we have come to expect from the BioShock series, with gunplay and Plasmid (or Tonics) use being the majority of what you spend your time doing. But its the plot here that earns Infinite its place on my list. Its anachronistic tale of alternate dimensions and timelines is far and away the most thought provoking of any game I have played. And while I will admit Infinite’s big twist could have been more meaningful with another game or two in the series, its one that still gives me goosebumps just thinking about. And again, the world building here is just phenomenal. People have told me that they find this game hard to replay,  but I personally think this game is even better on a second or third playthrough. All of the major plot points are hinted at and foreshadowed from the very beginning, and all those strange little coincidences make perfect sense with the benefit of hindsight. Plus, this game had the Luteces, who are just the best. Constants and variables, anyone?

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#4

Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc

I never would have guessed that a visual novel would make it onto this list, but here we are. Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc got under my skin in a way few games have before. I played through this dark and disturbing tale in just a couple of sittings, which consisted of me cocooned amongst my blankets until the wee hours of the morning. And this mysterious, incredibly dark tale of murder, suspicion, and hope drew me in, until I just had to know how it ended.

While initially very trope-y, the cast of Danganronpa very quickly break from their cookie-cutter moulds, and take on a lot of nuance. You spend a lot of time with these characters, some you hate, and others you root for. And then of course you have too watch them die, one by one, inevitably, until the conclusion of the game. And its legitimately hard, seeing characters you’ve grown to care for being forced to kill each other, all for Monokuma’s twisted enjoyment.

And while others will level (fairly valid) criticisms at this title for the class trials and the kind of gimmicky gameplay found therein, it wasn’t really an issue for me. The writing was just so solid. The sequel too was fantastic, but repeats a couple of plot points first seen here, and so I have to give this place to Trigger Happy Havoc. If you own a Vita/PS4, and haven’t  played Danganronpa, you really owe it to yourself to try it out.

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#3

Total War: Shogun 2

Every computer I have bought in my adult life has been in preparation for the imminent release of a new Total War game. This series is, without a doubt, my most played. I have spent countless hours (although Steam does count the hours, to my eternal shame) across every title in the series, and I love them all, but Shogun 2 is special.

The time period in which it’s set ranges, across all DLC, from the Gempei war, the Sengoku Jidai, and finally the Boshin war of the Meiji restoration. It chronicles the rise, the golden era, and the fall of samurai culture in Japan. It is a period I am incredibly fascinated with, and that fascination is mostly because of this game. Hell, I’ve aced history tests because of my time with this title.

And that’s saying nothing of its infinitely re-playable campaigns. I’m playing through two separate campaigns at the time of writing, and considering another one for the future! Its multi-layered strategy, from building economies and monitoring taxation, arranging marriages for the heirs of your clan, to commanding massive formations in combat, is something I don’t think I will ever get tired of. Sometimes I’ll even catch myself humming some of the tunes from the soundtrack, which at this point is baked into my psyche. I cant wait to see what the team at Creative Assembly come up with next (Total War: Victoria, fingers crossed).

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#2

Persona 4: Golden

Persona 4: Golden is the reason I love the PlayStation Vita as much as I do. It proved to me that long form gaming is not only possible on a handheld but that it is actually preferable, at least to me. P4G is a monster of a game, and the ability to pick it up and play through a week or so of in-game time lent itself perfectly to the Vita, and is largely responsible for the amount of time I have sunk into this game. Two full playthroughs and I’ve just started a third: still trying to get that platinum!

More so than narrative it’s the characters and their development over the course of this game that has earned it a place on this list. P4G’s characters really come alive in a way I wouldn’t have thought possible. Maybe it’s because of how long you have to get to know them, or that each is given their own private story arc in their respective Social Link, but Golden’s cast stand out more to me than any other. And that isn’t to say that the storyline of the game isn’t interesting, it certainly is. I love a good murder mystery and the supernatural twist that Persona games are known for really compliments it. But it’s Yosuke, Yukiko, Chie, and all the rest that really give this game its heart.

And that’s without mentioning the addictive Persona collecting and fast-paced traditional turn based gameplay which somehow doesn’t wear out its welcome despite repeated playthroughs. It will be interesting to see how I feel after playing Persona 5 as a lot of people are saying it’s an improvement in every regard. If that’s true then it would have to be an incredible game, and certainly worthy of a place on this list!

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#1

Final Fantasy VIII

And here we are, where it all began. I played a lot of video games before playing Final Fantasy VIII, but it wasn’t until I played it that I realised what their potential could be. That they could be this massive, and this immersive, was completely new to me. That they could look this good, or be this deep (I mean, for 1998) was truly eye opening. It was also the first JRPG I ever played, and there is a lot of nostalgia involved. But man, it was just so COOL to teenage me. The story, spanning multiple continents (and multiple DISCS!!!) absolutely blew me away. Witches and their Knights, floating schools for mercenaries, monsters falling from the moon. It all sounds like a fever dream. But it really made an impression on me, and that’s why it earns the #1 place on my list.

Now, I don’t have total fanboy blinders on when it comes to this game. I am aware of the criticisms, and I share some of them. The junction/draw system can be tedious, and Squall is kind of a jerk at times. But there is just something about FFVIII. It came along at the right time in my life, and introduced me to what would become my favourite genre. I appreciate that it’s not the most popular Final Fantasy title, in fact it seems downright loathed by some, but that’s never bothered me.

I replay this game fairly often and I really hope there is some kind of HD remaster for it one day. But the odds aren’t great, lets be honest, and I’d prefer Square Enix work on new titles. Still, Final Fantasy VIII is my favourite game of all time, and I doubt that will ever change.

 

So that’s it, that’s my list. Thoughts? What are your favourite video games? Let me know in the comments below, or just lambaste me for loving FFVIII, I revel in it. As always, thanks for reading!

K.

The Age-Old Question of What to Play Next

So I’m in something of a funk right now.  Currently I am in Asia, relaxing with my girlfriend. It’s been beautiful, I have no commitments and all the time in the world to play some god-damn video games….

But I cant decide what to play. It’s aggravating me beyond all reason, I’ll fire something up, and stare at the title screen for a couple of minutes. And that’s as far as it gets. I feel like the short-sighted guy in that old Twilight Zone episode.

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I have with me the following gaming-enabled devices:

  • 1x PlayStation Vita (Black, 1000 Series.) My faithful steed. Tried and true, packed full of games that have seen me through countless hours. Never leave home without it
  • 1x Nintendo Switch (Grey, because why would you not.) A new friend, stylish and slick. While there currently arent a lot of interesting games for the system, its fast on its way to winning my heart.
  • 1x Asus Republic of Gamers GL502VM gaming laptop, a beefy little machine that is used almost exclusively to play strategy games from the Total War series.

I suppose I’m hoping that by writing this post, inspiration will strike me and I can make some headway on my backlog. Keep in my mind, if I was home, with my PS4, this would not be a problem. Persona 5 would be destroying my life, it would be my everything. I’d also like to see what Mass Effect: Andromeda is really like, even with the recent facial animation hullabaloo and surrounding controversy. And last but certainly not least, Dark Souls 3 has quietly been putting out quality DLC, and I think I’m ready to revisit Lothric. But I’m on holiday for another month yet, so that will have to wait. In the meantime, our options are:

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Total War: Shogun 2: Fall of the Samurai

Ok, so I’m a HUGE history dork, and the Total War series has always scratched that itch/fulfilled my fantasies of commanding thousands of soldiers locked in glorious combat from the comfort of my own home. And while I own every title in the series, Shogun 2 as a whole has always been something very special. I have a frankly embarrassing amount of hours logged in this game, and even joined the modding community for a brief stint, in one of the nerdiest periods of my life. Its the era, and Creative Assembly’s flawless vision for this game that keeps me coming back. Sure, the AI can make some careless mistakes, and it can be somewhat anachronistic, but this might be the perfect game for me.

But specifically, its the standalone Fall of the Samurai DLC that is calling to me lately. Ever since seeing Tom Cruise’s magnum opus, The Last Samurai, in my youth, this period of history has fascinated me (The Boshin War, leading up to the Meiji Restoration). The samurai tradition of Bushido, with all its millennia old legacy of honour and uniquely Japanese style, smashes headlong into the West’s industrial revolution, and its modern ways of war. There is just something so iconic, and tragic, about samurai with katana drawn, bravely charging into massed rifle and cannon fire. It’s the old against the new, East meets West. Its inevitable, bloody, and glorious. And its a fantastic video game.

And with all those hours I’ve sunk into this title, I’ve never completed a FotS campaign. I’ve been thinking about firing up a Satsuma campaign, and going for the Republic victory condition, where instead of fighting for the Shogun or the Emperor, you attempt to create your own government. Of course, this means all the other factions on the map turn against you, and is certainly not for the faint of heart. Still, that challenge might be just what I need.

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 The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild

Sweet, sweet Zelda, you have been so good to me. These past few weeks I’ve dumped nearly 70 hours into this incredible game. Like many folks out there, it was the reason I bought a Nintendo Switch. Really, what more needs to be said about this game? I had originally intended to review this game myself, but in the end I’m glad I didn’t. This was a pure, perfect gameplay experience that I don’t think I will ever forget. While I’m sure BotW will be remembered as a modern classic, it couldn’t have come at a better time for me. I was just finishing up at my last job, I had been there for a couple of years, and was finding it hard to put in a lot of effort. You know how it is, when you know you will be quitting shortly, you kind of start to phone it in. But coming home, putting on my headphones, and just getting lost in Hyrule, really got me through it.

But, after all that time, after defeating Ganon, freeing four Divine Beasts, 60 or so shrines and God knows how many Korok seeds, I still have the urge to go back. Maybe just for the shrines, or maybe just to roam around the fields on one of my many mounts (named after notable figures from the 1800’s), and enjoy that beautiful world. Part of me knows that I shouldn’t, though, as there is DLC coming, and a hard mode that is very intriguing to me. That will mean an inevitable second playthrough, so I really should just wait. And its not like Napoleon is going anywhere, right?

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Persona 4: Golden

And finally we come to my dirty secret. I have played through Persona 4 before (and at around 100 hours logged, I feel like I know it back to front), but I got the bad ending, and that has never sat well with me. Add that to the fact that I only need a couple more trophies for the platinum (even if one of them is Hardcore Risette Fan, fml) and the knowledge that once I get home its going to be P5 all day, every day, it feels like it’s now or never. Plus, its always hard to go back to older games like this after playing the newest iterations. I mean, I love P3, but P4 is just SO much more playable…

But its a commitment, you know? I love the grind, but this is a LONG game. Still, its been a couple of years, and I have nothing but time. Its probably worth it for the soundtrack alone, and of course, Dojima. I fucking love Dojima. Its not often that I feel like I really owe it to a game to see it thorough, like, to completion, 100%. Persona 4 is one of those games. If you have never played through it you really should, its something special.

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Well that’s where I’m at, a virtual crossroads of sorts. The beauty is, I can fire up all of these games at once, create a filthy den of gaming on the couch. Grind out Social Links in Persona in between Total War turns, while listening to Princess Zelda’s terrible voice acting like some kind of animal.

How about you guys, ever feel that gaming malaise? Or, do you have any suggestions for me? I’m open to ideas. Let me know below, and thanks for reading 🙂

K.

Persona 5 – Review Roundup

Take Your Heart

The long wait for Persona 5 is over, and the reviews are in. The highly anticipated next entry in Atlus’s fan favourite JRPG series, known for its stylish visuals and complex character development, is a game I’ve been looking forward to for what seems like an eternity. Its predecessor, Persona 4, set an incredibly high standard for the genre. With its addictive mix of gameplay elements and refreshingly adult themes, combined with its wicked soundtrack and slick aesthetic, P5 has some incredibly big shoes to fill. Initial impressions have been overwhelmingly positive, but lets see what the industry’s critics think:

thumb-1920-656813“A strong story and tremendous sense of style make this the best entry in the series yet.”

 Andrew Goldfarb, IGN. 9.7 / 10  – Amazing.

@garfep

“With more to do than ever and the series’ strongest story to date, it stands out as an extraordinary, memorable experience and easily one of the deepest JRPGs of the last decade”

I’ve been following Andrew Goldfarb ever since his days as the Dark Knight of News, on IGN’s PlayStation podcast Beyond. His passion and admiration for the Persona series is, at this stage, world renowned. This positively shines through in his review, and as a proven series veteran (seriously, anyone that earned the platinum trophy in Persona 4: Golden is deserving of respect) his opinion carries a lot of weight with me.

persona_5_wallpaper_2_by_de_monvarela-d8ho6fh“Style and substance.”

Lucy James, Gamespot. 9/10

@lucyjamesgames

“There’s an overwhelming level of artistry in every part of Persona 5, making it a truly standout entry in the series. It’s a refined, effortlessly stylish RPG that will be talked about for years to come.”

I really appreciate Gamespot’s more longform written reviews. Lucy James isn’t a reviewer I am particularly familiar with, but I really enjoyed her review of Persona 5. It’s insightful, wonderfully worded, and I’ll be following her work with interest. While this is another very positive review, Lucy draws attention to an at times problematic camera, and issues with context sensitive climbing prompts, but admits these are very minor complaints in the grand scheme. I appreciated her description of the game’s lighter moments. Persona games have always balanced darker themes with moments of levity, and I’m glad that trend continues in P5.

maxresdefault“Yes, this is exactly how I remember high school”

Kirk Hamilton, Kotaku.

@kirkhamilton

“Persona 5 is one of the most stylish video games I’ve ever played. It restlessly pulses toward the corners of your TV screen, as if unable to contain its overabundance of verve. This game doesn’t run, it bounces, helped along by a giddy and unusually cohesive audio-visual aesthetic.”

While Kotaku’s review system eschews numbered scores, Kirk Hamilton’s review was definitely positive. He was particularity impressed with the music and artistry of the game, and his descriptions are incredibly vivid, the sign of a great writer. While his review did stray into what I thought were unnecessary plot spoilers for a couple of paragraphs, his writing style is striking and infectious, and I can respect that.  

thumb-1920-678024Persona 5 hits store shelves on April 4th, and from all accounts looks to be an outstanding game in a year already overloaded with high quality releases. Are you excited for P5’s launch? Sound off in the comments below, and let me know who wrote your favourite review! 

K.