Ape Escape (PS1) – Review

Another classic PS1 game to play on my PlayStation 5. Oh how time flies. I have a lot of history with this game. I remember picking it up for PS1 when it came out back in May 1999 from my local Toy’s R Us. It was the first game to explicitly require you to use a DualShock controller. So not only did I have to buy this game, I had to get a controller with it just to play it. That’s a big ask for a kid with limited funds, but I was already sold on the possibilities this new controller could provid.

You have to see how crazy this scene is in motion, building move around, wobbling like they’re made of jelly.

What’s interesting about these times is that a full three years prior, Sega released their Saturn 3D controller to use with Nights into Dreams. That was a controller with one analogue stick, along with the traditional D-Pad, that would give you smoother control over the way your character would fly through the environments. Instead of a digital interface, like a keyboard, you got the smooth motion that only an analogue stick could provide. Sony just went to the next level and added another stick, forever changing the game. The history of console gaming has to give it up for the efforts of Sony and these developers for making it a requirement to play this game, it’s just sucks that the first person shooters of the time didn’t get the memo.

This is what I respect out of this game. I have to give it up for the fact that they were the first to go all in on this new standard of control. It’s a little harder to praise the rest of the game though. The new PS Plus subscription service allows you to play some of these old games on PS5, I’ve already played a few of the other PS1 classic games, but this title really highlights a main issue I have with these games. For context, the PS1 has some really weird graphical issues when you play them, polygons seem to be made out of Jell-O and textures warp left and right all the time. The texture warping doesn’t really bother me that much, it’s what 3D games on a PS1 look like, so I can overlook that (even though modern emulators have solved this problem). My main issue with the 3D games on PS1, and especially this one, is the way the PS1 handles vertex points. If you don’t know, a 3D object is made up of polygons, each triangle polygon is composed of three vertex points. The PS1 can only do integer translation of these vertex points, which means the hardware itself didn’t have support for floating point calculations. So what does that get us in the 3D games that came out? It means that vertices constantly snap as they move, it’s not gradual and can honestly be visually annoying and can cause headaches. I feel like this problem is exacerbated by the fact that we’re now playing these games at higher resolutions on 4K screens, the problem is just amplified to an insane degree. Modern emulators can solve these issues, but that feature is currently not supported on the emulator the PS5 uses at this time.

Ape Escape is almost hilarious to play today. As you go through a few stages, you start to realize just how small these levels are. You can catch all the monkeys and get the collectable coin(s) in about 5-10 minutes. The draw distance in the game is insanely short as well, with parts of the level fading into the skybox at about 50 feet from the character.

I ran through the whole game and got the platinum in this one as well, but I did use my trusty rewind feature. I would run up to monkeys and if they got away after a bad catch attempt, I would just rewind it and try again.

I wouldn’t say this is a great game in today’s landscape, especially considering the evolutionary leaps in controls and gameplay since this titles release. Even compared to Mario 64, which came out 3 years prior, the controls are no match to what Nintendo were already doing. The controls in this game are a little bit of a gimmick, the right stick is used to give directionality to your attacks, which makes the camera controls default to the left and right of the D-Pad. This feels horrible and actually made me change the controllers button mapping on the console level to swap the R2 and L2 for the left and right D-Pad. There wasn’t way to make this change in the game which was frustrating.

a cinematic scene without the draw fog.

Another one of those classic PS1 games that I am glad I went through and got the platinum but couldn’t see myself ever playing this again, perhaps in another 23 years or so. It feels like watching an old movie today, you have to understand the cultural context to when it was released to really appreciate it, and I appreciate this game for what it’s done. It really needed some quality of life improvements like better controls and the ability to map buttons differently. It would have also benefited heavily from modding the game to allow for floating point calculations, I really had a hard time towards the end of the game with the way the motion of the polygons were translating, it was honestly giving me a headache. I also did play this on a 77″ TV, which made the actual jumps between frames turn into inches of my screen. If you play this on a 13″ CRT monitor using VGA cables, I’m pretty positive those issues aren’t as noticeable.

The draw distance is funny.

Final Score – 6.8

Play it just to see and feel a little bit of the history of video games and to help understand where the industry evolved from. This is a landmark title that is a little rough around the edges by today’s standards. The story is basic as fuck, the graphics are hilarious, and the controls are frustrating until you adjust them on a console level, and then they’re just a bit better. It will be really interesting to see what the sequel did for the series though, so perhaps I’ll try that at some point. One more thing though, the main character Spike, sucks. I beat the game and can’t remember him having any sort of personality or even saying anything. I’m sure he must have, but this is not a mascot for Sony by any stretch of the imagination.

Big boss battle!
What until you see this in motion. The vertex points are popping all over.

Bluepoint Games Officially a Sony Studio

To the surprise of no one.

In what can only be referred to a as a shocking revelation, Sony has officially welcomed Bluepoint Games into the Sony family of studios.

The more interesting part of this all is that they are developing their own original IP now. Bluepoint is the studio behind the Demon Souls remake that launched with the PlayStation 5 along with the Shadow of Colossus remake for the PS4. They basically do those pretty remakes of games.

I must say that right now I’m just a little bummed that they’re making their own, original, titles for the platform. They are really good at taking an old property, sourcing out artwork and bringing it up to modern levels of graphical fidelity. You kind of knew that if they were doing a remake that it would be done to a high level of quality, and it seems like they could get them out at a pretty decent cadence.

Now, we’re going to have to wait 3-4 years for them to put out their own game. Maybe a little less because it seems like this acquisition has been in the works for some time. It was leaked out earlier this year that this was going to happen. They should have about a good year of development already done since Demon’s Souls came out as a launch title. Would it make sense for them to adapt that engine and make a Dark Souls style game? That’d be interesting.

I’m happy for the team of people at Bluepoint that want to create their own project, there’s a lot of pride and sense of accomplishment in doing something like that over remaking another teams work. So if that’s what makes them happy and get out of bed each morning, good for them. Hopefully their studio is big enough that they can have two teams working at once, that’s how I’d try to structure them. It does feel like a lot of the asset work in their remakes were done by other studios, which was a brilliant way of getting things up and running fast. Then again, that’s how a lot of studios work today, outsource the asset creation to studios in parts of the world where it labor costs are less.

It’s a little funny that everyone’s dreams of a Metal Gear Solid remake and Bloodborne have all gone out the window though. Perhaps one day!

Shenmue 2 – Review

I originally played through Shenmue 2 on the XBox when it came out in 2001, so it’s been a solid 20 years since I last checked in on Ryo Hazuki. The most interesting part of playing this game is just how small and insignificant it makes the first game feel, which I wasn’t expecting. That’s because when I remember back to playing these games I had all these great memories of playing through the first Shenmue, with it’s engrossing story and memorable scenes, with the second game being little more than a footnote in my memory.

To put all this into context, Shenmue 1 is the first chapter of the saga. Shenmue 2 covers chapters 3 to 5. The missing chapter 2 is a comic book story that covers the boat trip Ryo takes after he left Yokosuka, Japan. It makes sense when I go back to my review of Shenmue and take note of how short the story is and how it basically just feels like it’s the opening to a grander story, because that’s exactly what it is.

Shenmue 2 takes place in Hong Kong and then ventures a bit into mainland China in the final, brief, chapter of the game. This is probably where I have one of my biggest complaints about this game, the location. It feels a little odd that the game went into Hong Kong in these chapters. I feel a personal disconnect from what I felt when playing Shenmue 1, perhaps it’s my own bias towards Japanese architecture and culture.

When you get off the boat at the beginning of the game you’re in Aberdeen harbor, it’s honestly one of the ugliest locations in a video game I’ve seen in a while. The buildings are all this horribly textured red brick. The lack of geometric detail and lighting, combined with low quality texture work, just makes the whole image hard to look at. It starts to get a little better as the game progresses, but even then you’re mainly inside large buildings with repeating geometry and texture work.

A really ugly environment.

Yes, this game is pretty ugly to look at. Some of the NPCs will make you laugh because of the way they’re represented. It almost feels like the Japanese developers are kind of taking the piss out of the Chinese people in their game. You do have to take into consideration that this game is a port, not a remake. It was originally developed for the Dreamcast and Microsoft made a deal to get distribution rights for the XBox in the States, which means the game models aren’t improved or anything for this title.

I went back and forth on being impressed that a Dreamcast could render scenes in such detail, but other times I was really scratching my head at just how bad things looked back then. I can really see a remake of these games with the Dragon Engine from the Yakuza developers Ryu Ga Gotoku Studio. I would personally love a complete remaster, but I don’t see a world where that would be financially viable for a studio to commit those levels of resources and money for this brand.

So let’s talk about playing the game. The map system is almost completely useless here. You first need to buy a map for each and every area you load into. The city is broken up into multiple parts, so one map will not be enough. The names of building will not be on this map, they simply give you something in the corner of your screen to orient yourself with. If you want to find a specific place, you have to ask people for directions or find a map directory in the world that you can zoom into and look for your destination. I ended up just pulling up a map on my laptop and keeping that up, way easier.

A big complaint that I had on the first game was the amount of time I waisted just sitting around killing time as I waited for the next scheduled event to take place. In this game that’s almost completely eliminated. You can fast travel in specific instances, it’ll always give you the option to wait and speed up time. If you run out the clock on a day it’ll bring you back to your resting spot, then the next morning, it’ll give you the option to continue from yesterday and warp you back. It’s nice to see the evolution and problem solving at work. If you just want the story then this is a great quality of life feature added over the first game.

The fighting is better than it is in the first game. In Shenmue I felt like I had almost no control over a fight and just smashed the same few attacks and I’d eventually win the match. There’s a bit more strategy involved in this one, especially when you get to the later parts of the game and have to do a series of street fights to progress. It’s by no means a great fighting system. You wont have fun doing it and you wont look forward to fighting at all. Just keep at it and you’ll get through it.

Let’s not even get into the QTEs and how stupid they are. You have to do button presses at various story moments and fight sequences. This is not a good mechanic that holds up to the test of time. It was meant to provide a more cinematic experience but really it just frustrates the player if they mess up. You end up not caring about what’s happening because all you’re doing is trying to input a dumb sequence of button presses so you don’t have to start the whole sequence over again. This is a slam against all instances of QTE throughout all video games, it is simply a commentary on how they were implemented in this title.

If you intend to play this game I recommend that you use a guide to get you through the story. I don’t have time in my life to play this game the way you were supposed to when it came out. I don’t want to run around asking people where to go and piece together all the clues. Modern games would just give you waypoints on your next objective, pointing you to a restaurant you’ve never been to, this game makes you figure all that out yourself. I didn’t just want to beat this game or see the story, I was aiming to get the platinum trophy for both Shenmue 1 & 2 so I followed a trophy guide. Luckily, it was a fairly straightforward platinum and doesn’t require you to have to do a bunch of extra tasks, which is really nice.

I did come to this game for the story. I wanted to play through all three titles just to see what happens at the end of the third game. I think I owed it to my younger self to experience all the Shenmue that I can and to at least get the platinum trophy in the first two games. I’ve been looking at what’s involved for the third game and I’m not sure I care that much about collecting herbs, but I’ll see what happens when I get there.

What can I really say about the story in this game? It’s slightly better than the first game. I’m simply talking about the story itself here, not the way it’s presented or anything like that. There’s a bit more action towards the end of the game that really makes you feel like you’re actually in the second act of the game. Things are happening, granted, there all happening in a 17 story building that seems to go on forever and everything looks the same. You start to learn about the mirrors and what they do. Some mystical/magical things happen with the mirror that isn’t physically possible. Lan Di is talked about a lot and you get to see him at the end battle, but he’s not involved and just hangs off a ladder attached to a helicopter. This is literaly the weirdest game ever made.

The final chapter of the game has you going into mainland China to rescue a girl in a river chasing a deer. She seems to have magical capabilities or something and keeps reciting a poem that references you coming to her. You get to run around a forest for what seems like forever. You see the Shenmue tree and use a sword and the mirror to make a sword float in mid air. What does it all mean?!

I don’t even know…

Do you see what I’m saying? I have no idea. This is what I was left with 20 years ago, an image of this. This is what all of us Shenmue fans had to go on. Then Yu Suzuki crowdfunds a sequel to this game and it gets greenlit. I hope he can wrap up this story in the sequel because I really don’t think he’s going to get another shot at it.

Final Score – 7.1

I think it’s a better game than the original. As hard as it is for me to say that it is a better game. The setting and the sheer volume of memes from the first game make it more memorable by a mile. Is this a good game that people should actually play in 2021 though? No. Only people with a soft spot for this series should even think about going back to these games. It’s fascinating to see what they were trying to do with the technology they had at the time. They were clearly overambitious and bit off more than they could chew. If you have never experienced a Shenmue game then you really need to give it a try, it’s interesting for sure.

Shenmue – Review

When Shenmue came out on December 29, 1999, you bet I was ready to play it. Who didn’t see the trailer as a kid and say “I want to experience a F.R.E.E. game?!”. If you don’t know the history of all this. The Director of the game, Yu Suzuki, created a brand new genre that he called “Full Reactive Eyes Entertainment”. It basically meant that you were supposed to be playing a game so realistic that you’d basically think it’s a movie, and it has quicktime events.

When you get down to what Shenmue is, it’s the seed in which not only a Shenmue sequel grow from, but a series of Yakuza games did as well. I haven’t played through Shenmue in a number of years, but I remembered so much of it. The launch of Shenmue meant a lot to me when it came out, from both a personal level and that of a gamer. It fostered a love for Japan and it’s culture as well as the types of games being developed there. They were attempting to push the medium of video games into scripted stories with “fully interactive” worlds to explore. It was on a completely different level from anything else being released, or that’s how it felt at the time.

Replaying this game on my PlayStation 5 and on a 4k OLED TV really brings everything into a sharp focus. You realize that there were severe limitations to the Dreamcast hardware at the time. Even though this is considered to be the most expensive game ever made at the time of release, it’s almost comical at the level of detail on display compared to any modern title released today. That doesn’t hinder my enjoyment of it, it’s just examining what it is in the social context of today.

The game really feels like the first arc in a modern game or story. Time moves in the game as it does in the real world, just at a slightly faster pace. I was able to complete the story in about two weeks of game time. If you stretch out the game and take too long to complete it you’ll be given a bad ending on April 15th. I finished the game with about four months to spare, so you have plenty of time to get every little collectible if you happen to have all the time in the world.

The story is just bare bones to be completely honest. You set out on a journey to find your fathers murderer, Lan Di. This is done by talking to people in town, investigating and trying to get more and more clues to where Lan Di is. Ryo will hit a roadblock here and there, eventually landing a job moving crates at the docks and finding passage on a ship. This is where the game ultimately ends and the next game picks up, simple as that really. Apparently, in Japan, they even took all the cutscenes in this game and made them into a movie that they played at certain theaters after the game came out. What a simpler time.

I’m not really knocking the game any for it’s brevity, I have so much love and fondness for this game that nothing can really spoil it for me. The simple fact that Ryo goes around asking people where sailors hang out is worth the price of admission. What surprised me in this playthrough was just the shear amount of downtime you have.

The story in this game cannot be rushed. You will be told to come back at 7PM to meet a character and have nothing to do for the whole afternoon. This is why you’re allowed to explore, shop, buy capsule toys, and visit the arcade. You’re meant to be enamored by the depth of the world to keep you occupied. I, however, have played this game before and have played the arcade games many times in the past. I only wanted to get enough capsule toys for the associated trophies. So I just ended up leaving the game sitting idle as I did other stuff non gaming related. When the time came I’d pick up the controller, make a save, and trigger the next cutscene.

Let’s now talk about work. Ryo will eventually head down to the docks and start working a forklift to make some extra cash and learn about the Mad Angels. You have to spend a few days going to work, starting with a race around the docks where you can earn little capsule toys for winning. You then get instructions on where to pick up boxes and where you need to drop them off. So you just drive around on your forklift until you get a lunch break where you can buy some more toys, work again and clock out at 5pm. Going back to this game and playing it now, this part of the game really felt like a bit of a slog. Compare that to playing this back when it launched on the Dreamcast, this part of the game was an opportunity for my brother and I to slow down the story and earn some money while buying all the toys, music tapes, and items in the store. The reality of it all, you come to find out, is that you don’t need any of that crap (besides 50 unique toys for the trophies).

When looking back at this game, the interesting aspect is the fighting mechanics. Shenmue was originally meant to be an offshoot of Virtua Fighter, but it doesn’t feel like it translated that well. I absolutely hated the combat in the game this time around. The controls in combat just felt so slow and unresponsive. You have no way to effectively counter or control your opponent. Instead you just try to do some sort of move and hope it lands. Sometimes you’ll win your fight the first round, sometimes you die and have to replay it, it all feels like luck whether you win or lose. You get to the point where you just want to try and cheese all the enemies by spamming some moves you think will land. I tried training in some of my downtime, but it just ends up feeling pointless after a while. You go into a parking lot and just do the same moves over and over, hitting the air. What’s the point? If you’re coming from some of the Yakuza or Judgment games and are expecting a fun arcady style beat ’em up, this is not that.

Final Score – 7.0 (biased opinion)

I have a soft spot for this game so it’s hard for me to recommend it to others that are coming in new. I’m not sure if I could honestly make that call. Part of what makes this game so special is knowing all the history behind it and knowing the state of video games when it was released. You see the seed of the Yakuza franchise here. You understand that people who worked on this game went on to create the Yakuza games. I would have loved if this title was remastered by the Ryu Ga Gotoku Studio like they did the first two Yakuza games. Until that time, this version allows a wider group of people to experience this classic and historical game, whether you have the same connection to it as I do is a different matter. I do find it hard to dismiss the historical context of this game and what it was attempting to accomplish at the time. My score would have been higher if I reviewed it when it originally came out, and I still feel like this score is a tad high for what it is, but it would hurt me too much to bump it down even further.

Mass Effect Legendary Edition (PS5) – Review

Having played the original Mass Effect on the XBox 360 when it came out, the second game on PC, and not having a solid memory of playing the third game on anything, I had to pick this collection up. This was a day one purchase and a series I truly enjoyed replaying.

This is my Shepard, there are many like her, but this one is mine.

Over the years I forgot most of the story of Mass Effect. I remembered bits about splitting up your team on a suicide mission, Mass Effect relays, sexual relationships, and scanning planets for hours on end. Having just completed the collection, I’m drawn to the relationship with Liara that my fem-Shep carried through all the games. How I spurned the advances from my other team members. How we took down the shadow broker and revived a Prothean all while saving the universe.

The games do need to be played back-to-back to get a true feeling for the brilliance of this series. If you pick up the Legendary Edition, make sure you have the time to commit to the whole series, the payoff is all the better for it. The amount of time needed to beat each ones goes up with each game. Depending on trophy hunting and completion ration, you’re looking at 15-30 hours per game.

The first game is a little rough around the edges. The environments are really basic and there isn’t much depth to any aspect of the game besides the storytelling. While that sounds like a negative, it’s not a knock against the game. You’re already jumping into a massive trilogy, so feeling this first game out and seeing that it’ll be a relatively short and easy romp provides a good sense of motivation. There aren’t a lot of side missions to mess around with. Levels are pretty basic so you’re not going to get lost or frustrated. Just dig into the fantastic story and start learning about the lore of the universe. Spend some time getting to know all of the squadmates and engross yourself into the world.

I started the game thinking that I’d go renegade (dark side), as apposed to paragon (light side). From my first interaction I realized that I just can’t be a dick to people. I wanted to help everyone out, be the hero, get my girl, and save the day. So Paragon it was.

STNG reference?

The first game has one really major choice for your character to make, it has to do with the squad-mate you send to die. You get to chose between Ashley and Kaiden, needless to say the guy took the bullet for the team on this one. He was a good soldier and understood the risks involved and was wiling to make a sacrifice for the galaxy.

I’m not going to dive deep into the story in this review because that’s the whole point of the series. The story is the main driving force and the relationships you form with your crew are all the flavor your little ice cream shop needs to stay in business. The first game does start surprisingly well. The voice acting holds up, even though the character animations and graphics don’t. It would have been really nice to have seen this series get the Demon Souls treatment and brought into the current generation of graphics. As it is, it’s a nice lookback of the evolution of the series and how their engine evolved over the three games.

The guy is old.

The second game immediately feels tighter in the gameplay area. Combat is more strategic, you don’t have to just run around with a handgun shooting people in the head. The AI in the first game is pretty horrible, characters would just move left and right like big idiots, the second game bestows them with more of a brain and they’re now capable of using cover.

The biggest addition the second game makes is the introduction of the Illusive Man played by Martin Sheen. It’s a cool concept to have this perceived enemy, with crazy eyes and a room looking over a star that is controlling your characters actions and all that it implies. You get a mix of old and new crew along with DLC characters that are all included in this game.

Illusive Man.

The game world itself expands from the first, now worlds are more detailed and not as cookie-cutter like how the first game felt. The universe is a bit bigger and has more places to explore. You now get bespoke loyalty missions with each of your squadmates. These missions allow you to get some one-on-one time with your crew to help them out and learn more about them. They are each a great chance to play a cool mission while hanging out with your crew and making them happy.

This is the game that made planet scanning a thing. The thing is, and here is a tip for all you trophy hunters, you don’t need to scan that many planets. Just take it easy, every solar system does not need to get 100% scanned or drained of resources or anything like that. It’s a waist of time, trust me. It’s funny how scanning planets is a memory I clearly have from over a decade ago…

Choices.

The hacking in this game is also so much better than the first one, you don’t have to do that simple puzzle game anymore, now you get a few different options based on the type of device you’re getting into, and they’re a little more stimulating this time which is good.

Some highlights from this game are taking down the Shadow Broker, Jack’s storyline, and the final assault where the whole team comes together to do a mission. Nobody on my team died because I looked at a trophy guide and made sure I ticked all the boxes, but it’s just fun to finally have everyone you’ve met get involved in a big mission. It made the stakes feel even that much more important to the story, especially for the player.

Old Friends.

After taking down the second game, I was almost about to stop playing and mix it up a bit with another game. I am so glad I didn’t do that and just started up the next one. Now remember, I just got the platinum in two games in a row, even though they are much easier to get now than in the original trophy list, which was something I never even considered doing. So I had a few more hours invested in each game than someone else who just wants the story. I was immediately hooked in the story and just wanted to see it through the end. I loaded up my save character and got to work!

The best thing about this game is that you get to start with a bunch of level up points that you can spend on skills, and you start with a bit of money which makes everything a little easier.

Choices

Immediately you can tell this is a new game. It just felt even better to play than the second game. Movement felt fresh and you weren’t confined to the running stamina bar you had in the second game. Character models all look pretty good, the females in this game have bodies out of magazines, which is a look. The weirdest thing I found in all these games is the way Shepard walks, there is something about her gate. When you think about it you can figure out what is happening, I think they have one skeleton that they use for all their characters. That means that everyone will have the same basic proportions and the joints will be in the same places. To accommodate certain species and genders using one rig, something has to not look right, and it’s definitely female Shepard. As she saunters around the galaxy, looking like a cowboy or something. She has one of the oddest gaits of any character in a game. It’s not a huge deal, just an interesting artifact to uncover.

Another thing that shocked me was when I saw Ashley Williams. I guess being a Specter suits her well. She cleaned herself up, got a haircut and learned how to put on makeup. It’s pretty hilarious to see how her character evolved over the games. I wonder what happened in the meetings with the character artists as they were putting this game together.

Ashely, meet Ashley. She’ll be replacing you from now on.

The thing that blew me away with the third game was just how many different environments and art assets you see in your journey. You go from a mission on a crashed ship in the middle of an ocean where you dive down in a mech suit to the bottom searching for your goal to a densely populated city where you’re helping freedom fighters take back a city. It just adds to the world building and makes you feel more connected with an actual universe of people who are all counting on the success of your mission. Compare that to some of the previous games and it does feel like there is a bigger budget on this title.

This game adds a war assets feature where every good deed you do and every alley you recruit adds to a growing pool of assets. The more you get the better your outcome is in the end. Needless to say, you kind of want to get as many forces together as possible. Not just for the number or for the outcome it provides, but you want to stay in this world just a little bit longer. You want to get that flotilla together because you’ve been hearing about these people since the first game. You feel a need to make the rounds, to touch base with everyone you can and to join hands in stopping this genocide from happening.

Perhaps it’s because Liara is my girl and I stayed faithful to her throughout the series, but I did feel a connection to her. It’s a little sad that you can’t go full dating sim with her and that you only get a few scripted moments to have any real sort of connection. It would have been nice to get that a little more fleshed out, but that’s a criticism I have for a lot of games with this type of mechanic. In the end, they did do a good job with her relationship, so I’m not complaining too much.

If you have a problem with Jack dancing on the table, you tell her to stop.

Another great moment in this game is when you get to bring everyone to your apartment to have a party. It’s a great time to just have the whole crew together for a celebration, where characters can loosen up and get drunk. It was fun seeing everyone interact with each other, which doesn’t happen that often with the dynamics of ship life.

The funny thing about the ending is that I can’t say I was overly happy about the way it turned out. For those that want to know, you get to choose between three different outcomes for the universe, or go down a secret path were it’s basically game over and you fucked up. I don’t like how ambiguous the ending feels, no matter which one you choose. I got a little beacon of hope at the end, but I still would have liked just a bit more. It’s a little sad knowing that the new game, Andromeda, doesn’t really pick up on this character arc and they team decided to start so far away from this world and everything that was established in this trilogy.

My girl.

Final Score – 9.4

This was a fantastic series. Playing through this legendary edition made me really love Mass Effect all over again. Time had worn down my appreciation for the series. It left it as a memory of something that was good, but today probably wouldn’t hold up. I was wrong. These games do hold up, and they tell a science fiction story full of depth, heart, and intrigue. I finished the series and had the same feeling I got from finishing a good TV show or movie series in which you’re fully invested in the characters and world for an extended period of time. You just want to live in it a little longer and digest everything that just happened. The only thing left for me to do would be to play through again as a renegade asshole. Here’s hoping that a remake of this series, similar to Demon’s Souls on PS5 is in the works.

The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening (Switch) – Review

Another one of those games I played while in quarantine upon arrival to Japan. At least I had my Switch with me to get some games in. The last time I played this game was on my original Game Boy sometime in the 90’s. I remember just sitting on the couch at night playing this as a little kid, not sure If I ever beat it or anything. I should probably try to load it up and see if I have a save file still on it, that would be a real trip.

I had the magnifying glass and light attachment for the handheld. It’s so insane thinking about what we had to go through or the crap we bought in our gaming history. First, the screen on the original Game Boy was total trash, and to think that you could buy a magnifying glass and light attachment to improve the user experience is mind-boggling to me. As a kid in the early 90’s, I was so juiced to finally get my hands on that setup. If I could have bought an even bigger magnifying glass attachment I probably would have.

Don’t have to use this anymore.

Being a remaster of an game released in 1993 makes this a really interesting title to play in 2020. First off, the new graphics make the game feel completely new and relevant, minus for the fact that the game will stutter and slowdown when moving through the environment. It just shouldn’t do that, turn down some sort of effect if need be because it takes you out of the experience.

The overworld is a beautiful and interesting place to explore. While the graphics are really nice and the tilt-shift aesthetic with a deep bokeh effect on the camera really suits the art style well, especially when playing in handheld on the Switch. This makes you feel like there is this little world to explore in your hands. This isn’t the best Zelda map out of all the games, and it does get confusing if you’re really trying to do as much as you can. You might have to look up a guide to figure out what to do next. You can also use the phone booths to get hints or you’ll end up having to explore the island over and over to see what new section is available for the newest upgrade you obtained.

I started off really just taking the game in, not looking at a walkthrough or anything. That lasted for the first 3/4 of the game. After that, I just wanted to see it to the end and was tired of walking around the overworld finding my next thing to do or dungeon to explore.

Hints? haha!

The dungeons are not balanced well at all, which might be more a sign of the age of the title. I found every dungeon except the last two to be really easy. They all feel straightforward and don’t through too many challenging puzzles at you. The last two will require you to backtrack and drop items through floors to pick up on different levels and do a bunch of random shit like that. If you’re frustrated at it, just look up a guide and keep it moving. That’s why Nintendo Power existed back when these games were coming out, you had to buy the magazine to get the strategy guides and learn how to beat the game. If you’ve played a Zelda game before this will be a walk in the park, which is not necessarily a bad thing.

Final Score – 7.2

A nice little throw-back to those that remember the original. If you’re coming in brand new to the 2D Zelda series, I wouldn’t say this is the best one to go for (A Link to the Past is still great). Try to find a cheap copy for the Switch and have a nice little trip down memory lane. I really wish they would just keep this series going and redo all the old top-down Zelda games.

Shadow of the Colossus (PS4) – Review

I played this game back at the end of January of this year and just needed to put some words down about it. I did play this game when it was first released on the Playstation 2, and I still have my copy locked up with my old games. It was originally released back in 2005 and fans were clamoring for a remake ever since. This version was put out for the PS4 and I ended up playing it on my PS5.

What makes this game special in my mind has a lot to do with how slight it feels. The game can be beaten in one day, easily. There is no voice acting and hardly any story at all. The bosses can be killed relatively easily. This all works together to encapsulate the feeling you get from playing this game, which is unique. A lot of modern games are just so bloated that any sort of feeling you might have is eroded away through a constant grind of game mechanics that are solely there to keep you playing.

This title respects your time and doesn’t try to do more than it has to. You quickly grow an attachment to your character and horse. It feels wrong what you’re doing to these colossi, but destroy them you must for the princess is what matters most to your character. That feeling you get from playing the game pulls you through the journey of your character and by the end of it you can honestly say that you’ve had an emotional connection to the story. Not a lot of games can make that claim.

Different quality modes present. Added resolution and shadows can be seen in the right image.

This title is special. The remaster done by BluePoint is fantastic, it’s a beautiful looking game that plays great on the PS5. The controls and camera can be frustrating at times, but if you’re grown up with this title you know exactly what you’re in for. I didn’t attempt to get the platinum trophy or anything like that, not really necessary for me to feel good about this game.

Final Score – 8.3

This is a rare style of game that draws an emotional response from the player using minimal storytelling elements. Those limitations help make it one of the more memorable titles you can play. A true classic and something all gamers should experience.

End

Assassin’s Creed Rogue – Remastered – Review

Boy oh boy, where to even start with this game?

Sleepy Hollow

Okay, so let me just say that I have a weird predilection to want to play and platinum every AC game that is made, aside from the sidescroller things they did. Why do I have this feeling? I’m not sure. So this game came out for the PS3 and Xbox 360 way back when AC Black Flag was launching for the new PS4 and XBox back in 2014. So it’s been out there for a while, and the remastered version for PS4 was on sale so I thought it was finally time to give it a go.

I knew all along that this was not a big tentpole AC title, more like an offshoot or something. That’s what made this game so weird to me. You have three big maps that you can run around in, one is of New York and the other two are just parts of the North East of the US that focus around sailing and hitting up little villages along the coast. Sure, okay. You got a little of the old AC and some of the, then new, sailing that everyone was in love with. The two maps with a lot of sailing end up just feeling like a random assortment of islands and doesn’t actually feel like a real-world location. It’s a little uninspired.

Escaping the Lisbon earthquake.

What makes this an offshoot title is that the story and the missions are all a little short and don’t really draw you in like other titles. They’re boring to be honest, you don’t actually care about any of the characters, which is an odd thing for an AC game. The old historical figure you get to meet up with is Ben Franklin, like what the fuck. He doesn’t even get to make you cool tools or be an actual relevant part of the story like DaVinci did in AC 2. The plot was poor at best, you turn from being a member of the Assassin’s to joining the Templars. Which is a cool concept to start with, but it was never really fleshed out enough to make me want to care. It’s just a bit of a muddled mess that I stopped caring about until the end. The biggest eye roll in the game came from getting your book back from a character, only to then entrust that book with the same character because it would be safer in his hands. 10 minutes later that character is mortally wounded by the hands of the Assassin’s and the book is missing… Like, let me wright your next story please.

So that’s the main story, just a bunch of little missions you have to do. I decided that I’m going to platinum the game. This means that you have to get 100% sync in all the missions, which is a little boring and dumb, but that’s how the older AC games are, so sure.

How is this gate keeping this armor secure? You can literally break into it with a match…

The biggest drag on the game, while going for a platinum, is the amount of collectibles and all that bullshit you have to do. While this isn’t really a mainline game in the series, they sure spent some money on a team of people to scatter 200 fragments around the world and shanty songs and chests and all that shit. God damn people. Luckily, I had a bunch of podcasts to catch up to, so I just put in headphones and listened to podcasts while I ran around the maps collecting shit, killing idiots, and sailing my boat around.

That reminds me, the enemies in this game are really stupid. Perhaps this is just how dumb they used to be in the last generation of consoles. I wonder if they were this hard of hearing in Black Flag also? I do still have AC 3 to get through at some point so I’ll be curious to see what they’re like in that one also. Definitely not up to the Origins standard set in this gen.

Starter ship vs upgraded destroyer.

It might sound like I hated this game and you might be wondering why I even spent the time to get the platinum. Sometimes it’s just nice to play a game that has collectibles. There’s an odd sense of accomplishment from clearing out a map. The game isn’t bad, it’s old school AC, so there’s a bit of comfort and ease in that. You get the weird mechanics of the older games where you can’t scale everything, which can lead to more frustration than needed. And hey, you get ship combat and can upgrade all aspects of your vessel, who doesn’t love that?

This is the games protagonist, such an uninspired and generic person.

Final Score – 6.3

In the end, it took just over 30 hours to get my 74th platinum trophy with this game. The game itself wasn’t that bad, it was just uninspired and filled with boring collectibles. I’m glad I played it, if that makes sense. This is a game in the series that I always felt like I missed out on simply because of the platform it was released on. In the end, I just needed to see the game for myself to really understand what it was and what it wasn’t. So now I’ll never have to play it again. Cheers!

Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 Remastered – Review

If you ever want to see a stark contrast between the quality of two games, try playing Star Wars Battlefront II and then play this game. This game only has the single player portion of MW2, which is all I wanted from it. That’s because I only play the single player portion of the Call of Duty games so this was perfect for me.

Time keeps on ticking.

I’m going to keep this little review short and sweet. I played through the whole campaign in one day, just like I did with Battlefront II. The game just feels right. Activision and the studios working on the CoD games, along with the engine they utilize to build these games, are just a winning combination for this style of game. The shooting, running, and aiming all work in beautiful harmony with the controller to make the action feel just right.

Sometimes it’s nice to not have sprawling maps with quests and shit like that to have to worry about.

The variety of weapons that you pick up are all distinct in firing, as well as the animations and sound FX that go along with them. I noticed that I would get attached to the performance and shooting patterns of certain weapons and would carry them along with me through a mission. It makes the experience feel more personal. There is also something to keeping the load-out you start a mission with throughout the mission. It feels more like your characters personal weapons; why would you want to lose those during a mission?

The campaign is really strong in this game, easily making it my favorite of the ones that I can remember. The story is pretty strong as well, even though I wasn’t really focused on it all the time. The last time I played this game was about a decade ago and I still remembered some of the levels. The only thing that is missing from this remaster, for me, is the Spec Ops mode. I loved playing the Spec Ops challenges in single player mode, trying to get all the stars for each level on my own was a fun challenge.

Final Score – 9.0

The single player campaign is great. It’s one of the best linear FPS campaigns you can play. Sometimes it’s nice to not have sprawling maps with quests and shit like that to have to worry about. Focus on the feel of combat, action set pieces, and feeling like a badass.

Resident Evil 2 Review

When I was a kid I played the crap out of Resident Evil Directors Cut and when it came out Resident Evil 2. My brother and I would play these games over and over again at our friend Mike’s house and when we got our PS1 we’d kick it off in our bedroom. I still have my old Versus Books strategy guide with the hand drawn images of the map. I’d sit there and pour through the book analyzing all the drawings and figuring out how I’d make it through all the rooms. It’s my first real memory of figuring out level design in a more complex manner than the Mario levels I used to draw.

RESIDENT EVIL 2 – The Police Station

Last year I played Resident Evil 7 and even got the platinum trophy in it. That was a game I initially thought was changing what the series was all about, it was going into a more first-person horror style game. After playing it I felt like that was the wrong assessment. It kept the puzzle aspects I wanted from the series and it retained the routing aspect, getting through the game as efficiently as possible, that I used to enjoy as a child.

RESIDENT EVIL 2 – Sad times in the gun shop

Resident Evil 2 remastered or remake, whatever you want to call it, or even RE 2: 2019 is just a treat. The police station setting is so iconic and wonderfully realized in a fully 3D environment. The characters are super cheesy but still somehow a bit lovable. You can run through the whole game in two hours, or even less, if you want to; and it’s still fun to do the 3rd or 4th time around.

The game is super solid, I love it and would recommend it.

RESIDENT EVIL 2 – The lovely (and badass) Ada Wong

The story in the game isn’t the best, it’s serviceable to the gameplay I’d say. The amazing facial animation from RE7 is back and it’s a thing of beauty, especially coming from a Japanese studio. The only real issue I had with the characters is with Claire’s eyes, she can seem a little psycho sometimes. They just needed to lower the intensity and close them a little more and I think that’d help.

RESIDENT EVIL 2 – What a creepy fucking look

I love the way the game feels to control. It runs at 60fps on PS4 Pro and I never had an issue with the performance. If you look around closely you can tell where they had to make concessions to hit that frame rate but if you’re just focusing on the game it’s a stunner.

RESIDENT EVIL 2 – Some of the nicest facial animation today

The most welcoming change to this version is that there are no loading screens while playing, you open a door and just go into the next room. Not only does that help making the environment feel like a real space it adds to the scares as well. Zombies can now knock on doors and bust through them, no longer are you safe just from making it to the door.

What will really get your anxiety up is when Mr. X (the tyrant) finally shows up. This unstoppable enemy will search for you and listen for any gunshots to pinpoint your location. Playing this game with a nice set of headphones, you can detect where he is in the police station just from his thundering footsteps. It’s a little terrifying at first and made me dread running into him.

RESIDENT EVIL 2 – Shouldn’t have been talking shit

I actually enjoyed all of the boss battles in this game. They mostly gave me a reason to let loose on my weapons and spend some ammo. I spent so much time hoarding gun powders and ammo that by the end I was just using all my good shit on anyone I came across. It’s a little funny how during the first section of the game, the police station, I would try my hardest to conserve ammo on each run that I did, only to eventually have way too much handgun or shotgun ammo in the later sections.

RESIDENT EVIL 2 – The dude is tripping hard

This game is meant to be played over and over and that is actually an enjoyable experience. I haven’t achieved platinum status as of yet, I’m getting a little burned out on it to be honest. I do see myself taking a break on the game for a while and then going back to get the hardcore runs and complete the plat.

A stupid thing the developers did was create the best outfits for the characters and put then into a 15 dollar DLC pack, and you don’t even get that many outfits. Seems like they’re just trying to nickle and dime the customers just like every other triple-A videogame out there.

RESIDENT EVIL 2 – The End?

I also played through the Hunk mission, which is basically get from point A to B as quickly as you can with limited resources. It wasn’t too hard and could be beat in about 10 minutes. That unlocks playing as Tofu, a giant piece of tofu and all you have are a bunch of knifes to defend yourself with. As you take damage large chunks of your body get torn off, it’s pretty funny.

RESIDENT EVIL 2 – She got those red bottom heels girls! Oh yea, she wears heels the whole time…

Some of the dialogue between Leon and Claire though…it’s like, do they know they’re in the middle of a zombie filled police station? Why are they just so nonchalant all the time?

Final score – 9.6

This game is a banger. It’s beautiful, runs great, and respects your time. You can get in, do a section and get out, or you can run through the whole thing in one sitting. The puzzles are well laid out and logical, and the combat feels fun. What a great remake of a classic game.

RESIDENT EVIL 2 – Hungry? Why wait?