Monday, March 27, 2017

I am Setsuna: It's a great big white world.

Last year I reviewed I am Setsuna when it was released for the PS4.

After spending a few hours with it on the Nintendo Switch I can assure you that is is the same game and plays just as well. If you liked that iteration of the game you'll still enjoy it now.

If you have a Switch and are looking for a solid RPG you can't go wrong with I am Setsuna.

After reflecting on the original score I gave it I think it might have been a little high. I still think the game is a solid 7.5 / 10.

Friday, March 24, 2017

Has-Been Heroes Review: A Little Washed Up Out of the Gate

Has-Been Heroes is a Roguelike action game with lane defense strategy elements  developed by FrozenByte and published by Gametrust. It is due out on March 28th for the Nintendo Switch, PS4, Steam, and XBox One.

(The footage in the accompanying video is from the Switch release and the Switch is probably the best home for this game.)

In Has-Been heroes you initially take control of a couple of washed up heroes and their young admirer who becomes their apprentice / third musketeer. You are tasked with the ultra important job of escorting the kings 2 young daughters to their school. Along the way you are waylaid by enemies under the control of a great evil that closely resembles a purple Flying Dutchman from Spongebob Squarepants.

There are a number of rogue like elements present in this game. Each time you play through Has-Been Heroes you will be presented with a new randomly generated map that is visible in the lower right corner of the screen. Locations are represented by a series of interconnected dots. The only location you know for certain at the beginning is the boss. What type of crossroads location a dot represents only becomes known when you occupy an adjacent location. These crossroads locations can be battles, rest areas, different types of merchants, chests, and other locations you’ll unlock as you play though the game.

When a party member dies it’s game over. Sort of. You’ll start a new game and won’t be able to carry over anything you were carrying from the previous game. What  does carry over is the unlocks you acquire from collecting souls. As you kill monsters in this game you collect their souls. Collect enough souls by the end of a run and you’ll be rewarded upon death with a soul chest. What exactly is inside the soul chest is random. These random rewards are the unlocks that add a bit of persistence from run to run.

You can unlock spells such as the Quickstrike which clears your melee cool-downs, Midas touch which grants more gold when you kill an enemy. Items such as the Masters Degree which grants you more health. You can also unlock new crossroads locations, regions, and endings. As you encounter new types of enemies along the way those are also shown in your unlocks on the start screen. It’s sort of like a Monster's Manual from Dungeons and Dragons.

The combat in Has - Been heroes is easy enough to understand but hard to master. Each of your heroes occupies a lane. These lanes will be attacked by waves of enemies. Your job is to kill the enemies. Your heroes can switch lanes allowing for them to unleash combos. Each enemy has a certain amount of stamina represented by a green square. If you hit them enough to remove their stamina you’ll stun them. When they are stunned you can unleash hits on them for a lot of damage and they will be knocked back in their lane. Some boss type enemies have the ability to switch lanes too but they are the exception, not the rule.  

The key is to hit your opponent with enough little hits to expose them to damage and then swap in one of your more damaging characters for the punishing hits when your opponent is stunned. Unfortunately that’s a lot easier said than done. You can only swap a new character into a lane once the current character in that lane has performed an attack and is out of position.  

You characters also each come with one spell standard but as your progress across the map you can  find new spells in chests or purchase them from merchants. Learning to use these spells to their potential is the difference between success and failure when it comes to a boss. Also it’s easy to look at a map and follow the critical path from start to the boss and sometimes fight no battles along the way. This is a trap. Always following the shortest route will leave your characters with few extra abilities and equipment and will ultimately result with their quick demise.

Has-Been Heroes is a fun game filled with silly humor and tense action sequences. It also exemplifies one of the greatest features of the Nintendo Switch. The ability to play a game anywhere even in short stretches of time and have meaning game play experiences. While at $19.99 it’s easy to recommend adding this game as a great match to your Switch library it is also a lot of fun on whichever gaming device your prefer.

(A digital copy of Has-Been Heroes for the Nintendo Switch was provided by their publisher)

Score 7.5 / 10

Friday, March 17, 2017

The post in which I linked my shrine videos

Shrine Videos Continued:

I've challenged myself to try and release at least one shrine video a day for The Legend of Zelda Breath of the Wild. I've released 5 so far. Hopefully I'll get to all of them. I won't end up linking to all of them from the blog. I don't want to saturate it with posts about Zelda. However, you'll be able to find them all on my YouTube channel.

Here are the three newest:

Hila Rao:

Daka Tuss:

Shai Utoh:

Monday, March 13, 2017

Rob's Rant & Review on: The Legend of Zelda; Breath of the Wild

Rob's Rant & Review on: The Legend of Zelda; Breath of the Wild

The Legend of Zelda is the reason I'm a gamer.

I played a lot of video games growing up. I piddled around on a Commodore 64, Atari, Intellivision, and other assorted systems but it was the Legend of Zelda on the Nintendo Entertainment System that made me a gamer for life. The open world, not knowing what was around the next corner. The sense of excitement to push into the next area and discover the unknown. You could spend hours setting random trees on fire and blowing up rocks to discover if they housed a hidden cave or items.

Then there were the dungeons. They were not presented in any particular order. Many of them were accessible from the start even though an item from a different dungeon would be required to complete it. Trial and error. You had to learn what worked and what didn't on your own. Exploring those dungeons, pushing on into the next room reminds me of the best things about Dungeons & Dragons. 30 years later I'm still chasing that dragon.

"Miss me?"

Nostalgia is strong but that's not the only thing propelling this game into the pantheon of greatness. Breath of the Wild captures that sense of adventure from those early Zelda games on the NES. The world is vast and full of things to do. Not all of them are readily apparent either. It pays to wander off the beaten path. You never know where you can find a small puzzle that will reward you with access to a new shrine or seeds to expand your inventory.

Major landmarks will have markers on your map once you discover them. Shrines and towers will also act as fast travel spots. You don't need to complete a shrine to unlock this feature so there is no need to worry if you get stumped by a puzzle. You can always quickly come back later and try again. Even with the shrines marking up the map, and there are well over 100 of them, the map is so large it won't be riddled with dots. Not everything shows up on the map. This is a good thing! It allows the world to maintain a sense of mystery. It's hard to strike that balance between too busy and not enough going on. Nintendo has managed to find that sweet spot.

The world of Hyrule feels real... just disregard the fact it's full of moblins and walking skeletons. The game makes exceptional use of physics and the environment. Your arrows won't shoot straight indefinitely. Gravity will affect them and cause them to arc. If you see an enemy camp down a hill you can roll a bolder or bomb down onto them. You can set your wooden weapons on fire and use this for bonus damage against your targets. Some puzzles will require you to burn things down with flame arrows. The world isn't just there to be looked at. It's there to be played with and the more you interact with it the more you'll discover and the more fun you'll have. It feels like if you can dream it up you can probably do it.

                                              "The world is there to be played with"

Cooking is another fun diversion that is as easy or complex as you make it. It also provides exceptional bonuses and is worth your time to familiarize yourself with. If you find a pot, you can cook. Sometimes you'll get lucky and a camp will already have a pot set up. Other times you'll have to get some wood and flint. Put the wood under the pot and set the flint next to the wood. Strike the flint with a metal weapon and the resulting spark will set the wood on fire and now you are cooking, literally. Gone are the random hearts found throughout the world cutting grass. To restore health now you'll have to rest or eat. An apple will give you half a heart but a cooked apple will give you a full heart. An apple, wheat, butter, and sugar makes a pie and will give you 5 hearts. Add special spices and you may get a bonus effect. Stamina, stealth, frost resistance. The game doesn't come out and tell you this either. You have to go looking to discover this information.

                                                             "There be dragons"

Gone is the hand holding. There are parts of the game that are easy and others that are brutally hard. Gone too are the typical dungeons we've grown accustomed to in the series. Those have been replace by the shrines and Devine Beasts. These are an evolution of Zelda dungeon and some will really make you think to solve their puzzles before you encounter their boss.

                                                   "There will be no hand holding"

The Legend of Legend of Zelda is expanded upon and carried forward with Breath of the Wild. The story of Calamity Gannon and Princess Zelda are as familiar to us as any game in the series. Yet the story is presented in a new and unique way. Clearly this game takes place after Skyward Sword but what isn't clear is if it's the last in the series.

Breath of the Wild is an instant classic. It is the first must have game for the Nintendo Switch. From the moment you complete the opening plateau until the moment you save Hyrule the game is full of wonder and amazement. The level of detail from the interactive environments to the puzzles in the shrines are extraordinary. This game on its own could justify the purchase of a Switch.


The first post with shrine guides.

A Quick Shrine Guide

The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild

From time to time I'm going to do short guides. I threw one together for Akh Vaquot. This is a shrine. Enjoy

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Rob Rants on the Switch: Is This the Nintendo We Deserve?

Rob Rants on the Switch: Is This the Nintendo We Deserve?

After over a year of rumors and speculation Nintendo revealed to us just exactly what the Switch is earlier this year. Last week Nintendo finally released the system into the wild. I’ve spent more hours than healthy with it since then and I still have mixed, but strong, emotions about the system overall.

First let’s dive into the good:

While the launch titles are not the most robust selection (for those keeping track at home it’s 1-2-Switch, Snipperclips - Cut it out, together!, The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, Just Dance 2017, Skylanders Imaginators, Super Bomberman R, The Binding of Isaac: Afterbirth Plus, Shovel Knight: Treasure Trove, Fast rmx, and I am Setsuna) they do have a couple of hits on their hands already. Snipperclips is more fun than it should be and The Legend of Zelda has been getting rave reviews from everyone. At the time of this writing it’s sitting at a 98 on metacritic with 67 critical reviews. That’s just unheard of for a video game. More on Zelda in a bit.

The portability of the Switch is great. This weekend I was at a local park with another dad in the neighborhood and while our kids were riding their bikes we were playing Snipperclips. It was like a scene straight from a Nintendo commercial. It really was that easy and fun. While the battery life of the Switch might be questionable for more intense games. Reports of “only” 2.5 hours with Zelda this is easily solved with external battery solutions and a USB cable. I can see limited scenarios where 2.5 hours wouldn’t be long enough as a commuter device. Those 2.5 hours should be sufficient to get you back and forth from grandma’s house or work on the train.

The screen is better than expected. I was worried that it would not be big enough but there is plenty of space. It’s also not too big. You can comfortably hold it in your hands. The screen is also touch sensitive. While Nintendo isn’t pushing that as a major feature it’s nice to have when in handheld mode and entering text. Heck it’s nice to have period. When entering passwords or usernames I’ll walk over and undock the Switch for a second just to enter in text. It’s pretty convenient.

The display works well outside for some games, and not so well for others. Snipperclips with its bright backgrounds was easy enough to enjoy. Trying to complete a temple in Zelda was impossible. The display was too dark regardless of the brightness setting.

The Joycons add a new level of innovation. Having two controllers packed into the device is a great selling point for consumers that want to have multiplayer games. With titles like 1-2-Switch, and Snipperclips it’s clear that Nintendo is interesting in bring back multiplayer gaming to the home and not just online. As a parent I appreciate this. I love having games to play with my kids and not because everyone is taking turns. The Joycons do take a little getting used to due to their odd shape but I and my children quickly got a grip on the controls.

It appears the Switch might become a target for Indie development. Currently Nintendo has stated that there are 60 indie games in development for the Switch. Not all of these are new, some are ports like Stardew Valley, but this is a boon for the as yet unproven system. Others like Shovel Knight will also provide time exclusivity to the Switch. Now you’ll just need to get a bigger SD memory card to hold all these gems.

There is a parental control app that allows you to monitor what your kids, or yourself, are up to on the Switch. While the system isn't specifically designed for kids we all know a lot of them will use it so good on Nintendo for helping us parents out limiting access to social media, friends lists, and the amount of time the device can be used in a day. And don't worry if you want to sneak behind your kids and play when time is up, or reward them with extra time for whatever, you can simply enter a PIN you create to override the protection.

On to the not so goods:

There is a desync issue with the Joycons effectively making them useless when trying to play Breath of the Wild while the Switch is docked. This also affects other titles but Zelda has been the most prevalent. Your choices are to play in portable mode or purchase and play with a Pro Controller. The good news is the game still plays well in portable mode and it corrects the Joycon issue so all is not lost.

The Pro Controller is $70, a set of Joycons are $80, the Switch is $300 and doesn’t come with a game. The system only has 32g of built in memory. Bottom line everything is bit overpriced. The Pro Controller doesn’t even have an audio out jack which at this point should be standard. Both Sony and Microsoft include them. It does come with a RF scanner though for Amiibo support. If you want the Switch as a Zelda only box you are looking at $430. $300 for the console, $70 for a Pro Controller, and $60 for the game. For only $19.99 on the eShop Snipperclips should have come as a packin. That or the Switch should have only cost $250. I think this would have been a much more reasonable value proposition.

There are noticeable frame rate issues playing Zelda when the system is docked and at 900p resolution. While in handheld at 720p it’s fine. I think we all knew this system wouldn’t be as powerful as the PS4 and the XBox One but showing technological issues on your marquee launch title is a major faux pas.

The eShop and their online systems are still major question marks. Will players be able to import games or upgrade them from their Wii U purchase? Probably not. Nintendo does love their money and in the past has shown they aren’t afraid to sell the same game to a customer 3 or 10 times.

Friend codes are back. These are horrible. Nintendo should bring in some outside help here. They really keep getting their social systems wrong. They also need to add in trophy or achievement support. Gamers like to accomplish goals and share those accomplishments (humble brags?). The good news it's not too late to add those in. The Nintendo network is clearly a work in progress.

Remember that there was an app for parental controls? Where this is also an app for chat. That’s because there isn’t voice chat native to the Switch. This is another area where the Switch is showing its technology weaknesses.

Right now it’s impossible for me to recommend anyone run out and buy the Switch. It’s not a must have... yet. The only game that IS a must have is also available on the Wii U. The Switch has a lot of nice things going for it and is a decent upgrade over the Wii U but the addition of things like taking screenshots and sharing them over social media should be table stakes at this point. Not features to get all excited about. Don’t get me wrong I’m glad they have them but it’s not like anyone else doesn’t. The single biggest selling point is the portability. Hopefully they get the digital ecosystem figured out and some firmware upgrades quickly and the Switch will be worth the purchase.