- Written by: Grady Owens
- Category: Switch
- Hits: 385
I feel like I need to defend myself from the outset on this one, and so at the very least, I'm including a disclaimer: I wanted to love this game. I genuinely did. I thoroughly enjoyed The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, and this was to be its sequel. I wanted to like it. I wanted to find some glimmer of hope, some aspect of good in the emerging quagmire of suck. But this game makes finding that glimmer near-impossible with all the Gloom it spews forth.
Initially, upon booting up the game, my fundamental issue with it was its narrative structure. It immediately begins by committing what I consider one of the Cardinal Sins of visual media: Assuming in the sequel that the consumer has experienced the previous volume(s).
The game opens with Link and Zelda venturing down into a dark cave, plenty of what this game calls Gloom seeping up from below. Zelda informs us we're down here to find the source of this Gloom, and that this cavern is beneath Hyrule Castle.
That's about all the information we're given. There's no recap of the previous game—within which, Link DEFEATED GANON. Link just HAS the Master Sword, which again, makes sense if you'd played Breath of the Wild, but for Zelda veterans who might not have, it's a bit jarring. (And, keep in mind, you can absolutely play through Breath of the Wild WITHOUT picking up, or even FINDING, the Master Sword. It is, in no way, required. In fact, this openness of the first title makes this all the more egregious an offense: It's possible to miss EVERY story beat in BotW, many of which this game simply assumes you know. The fact that Zelda is a studious history nerd, that Link had working relationships with many of the characters we see in this game... But I digress, I'll be getting to more of this later.)
The scene is basically exactly the first trailer we got for the game. And for the most part, it makes sense for Zelda and Link to be baffled by what they find there; it'd make more sense for we the players to be baffled too, except, we kinda already know what we're seeing here, purely on the merit of HAVING PLAYED PREVIOUS ENTRIES. Like the game EXPECTS you to have done.
Long story short, red-haired mummy shatters the Master Sword (which he recognizes), destroys Link's right arm, immediately recognizes Link and Zelda, then explodes in Gloom and causes an event known in the story as the Upheaval, sending Hyrule Castle into the sky and dropping ancient ruins from OUT of the sky. Zelda falls into a chasm before disappearing in a flash of light, Link is rescued by blue glow-y hand that had been holding that mummy in place, and fast-forward to... some time later.
You'll notice, not once have we seen a recap. In Breath of the Wild, this worked, because Link had total retrograde amnesia; he DOES NOT here. He's been living happily alongside Zelda for several years now. He KNOWS what happened in the previous game. We the players MAY NOT.
And even with the excuse of, "Well, you should've known, this is obviously a sequel, you should've played the first game," which, it wasn't really marketed as such but granted: The first game came out 3 March 2017. That's over six years ago. Someone could've easily breezed through the first game when it came out, missed some of those story beats I was talking about, and subsequently forgot much of everything else because it's been six freaking years.
But anyway, the game then dumps you onto what I not-so-lovingly refer to as Tutorial Island, a big floating island in the sky above Hyrule. Here, we meet Rauru, the first king of Hyrule, a member of the Zonai people, and the owner of the blue glow-y hand which has now replaced Link's own right hand. In order to get off Tutorial Island, Link must traverse this expansive landscape in the sky to all the different tutorial points, each introducing you to a new power contained in that hand.
Each of these powers is EXTREMELY clunky, particularly Ultrahand, a power that lets you move items around and stick them to other moveable items. These tutorials are, unfortunately, quite necessary. They're also incredibly poor as tutorials, as later puzzles are actually INCREDIBLY esoteric. Some of them aren't required in order to progress, but quite a few are.
In addition to this, as you traverse from one tutorial to the next (in an extremely linear fashion, because the traversal is part of the tutorial), you're occasionally attacked by Zonai constructs. This wouldn't really be a problem, except the game hasn't given us any sort of combat tutorial at all. (We'll get to this.) Also, all the weapons are either extremely weak, or extremely brittle; turns out, as we find out later, the Upheaval brought with it a total decay of all bladed weapons, making them effectively useless. This all combines to make combat a slough, and by the end of Tutorial Island, I was simply running away from encounters because they weren't worth the trouble. Also by the end, every time the game presented me with a puzzle, I was groaning. "Ugh. UGGGH." Because I knew I'd have to put up with those shitty controls again.
Once you get through all the tutorials on Tutorial Island, Zelda gives you a magatama (presumably one of the titular "Tears of the Kingdom"), disappears again, and we jump off the island to Hyrule below. Here, we're directed toward Purah, where the story is located, but this is where the game opens up; you can literally go just about anywhere. But, going to Purah—a character from the first game who plays an important role in the overall story, but can absolutely be missed in a standard playthrough because you kinda have to go WAY out of your way to find her—you recap the events of THIS game thus far.
So, that's strike three for the narrative structure. Even if you say, "Well, but starting the game off with a recap of the previous game would grind the narrative to a screeching halt," the game has now done this for ITSELF. Recapping events we literally just fucking played, and absolutely nothing fucking else. (Also, what is an entire Tutorial Island if not the narrative grinding to a screeching halt for the sake of making sure the players can actually fucking play your game?)
The truly fun part? That combat tutorial I'd mentioned would be super-helpful? Yeah, you can find it after talking to Purah, if you take her quest to go find someone else; it's right on the way. You know, after you've already been running away from enemies because fuck all this.
The game then directs you to the Rito village first, which when you get there you meet Teba, another important character from the first game who's easily missable if you don't go to the Divine Beasts and who's introduced like you already know him because Link does. And it just continues on like this.
This isn't even what made me angry the first night I booted it up. No, that was an entirely-optional puzzle. In this puzzle, you have to use the clunky-as-fuck Ultrahand to craft a cable basket for a ball, so it can ride a short cable over to where it needs to go. In hooking the basket to the cable, the game thought I was trying to disengage having put the silly thing together, because the control for doing that is shaking the same thumbstick used to position things. So, the basket, ball, and everything plummeted into a bottomless pit. This wasn't SO bad, as the ball respawns right there on the same platform, except the materials you HAVE to use to create the basket do NOT respawn. You have to leave, reset the entire goddamn puzzle you've already solved 3/4 of in order to even get to that point, just to recover those items. That was like 20 minutes of progress—because everything in this game is just a slough—right down the drain because the game devs recognized the need to recover the key item, but not the need to recover the materials. Nothing pisses me off quite like a monumental waste of time like that. (And people were PISSED when FNAF Security Breach did similar things, punishing you with wasted time for relatively minor mistakes! Why is THIS okay!?)
It's ironic that I bring up Security Breach, because I believe Tears of the Kingdom's ultimate fundamental problem is actually quite similar to that game's. We'll get to that, but there have already been hints to it thus far.
The shrines are pretty bullshit. I understand putting challenging puzzles in your game and making them optional; that's more than fine. What's not fine is having a game where health management is paramount, and putting these puzzles in as roadblocks to increased health. Outside of Tutorial Island, there have been two shrines I've encountered—and I've encountered a total of nine off the island—where I didn't need to look up a walkthrough on how to progress. Those two were the aforementioned combat tutorial, and the progress shrine at the top of the Rising Island Chain.
I spent upwards of half an hour trying to beat the "first" boss last night, the boss of the Wind Temple, in quotes because you can probably go to any of the dungeons in any order. A big part of that time-sink was trying to find any goddamn arrows at all, because I started the fight with 12 and they are REQUIRED to beat the boss. There were no warnings leading up to the fight that arrows would be required; there are no reliable spawns of arrows, like you'd see in other arrow-centric boss fights in Zelda (including the fight in Breath of the Wild that is extremely similar in gameplay). You appear to be locked into this fight until you manage to succeed. Also, if you don't manage to deal enough damage to its weak points to cause ACTUAL damage to it, it auto-heals, meaning those arrows were wasted and you might as well die and start over.
Said boss fight wouldn't be quite so bad if literally everything weren't a one-hit KO. And this is where we get to the meatus of the problem with Tears of the Kingdom, its fundamental flaw that illustrates just how poorly it was conceived.
Earlier today, I had a thought that the game devs must have recognized the extreme strength of the enemies as a problem, and that's why they spread them out so much; you really don't encounter any enemies while out exploring the world unless you truly want to (outside Tutorial Island), and even in the Wind Temple, there are only like five enemies, not counting the boss—certainly a single-digit number.
But then I realized the truth is the opposite: They doubled down on weapon durability as a mechanic by making everything break after like three hits, a design choice that I believe most everyone agrees was made poorly. As a result of this limitation, they HAD to limit the number of enemies overall so you could actually beat the game, since you can't attack anything without a weapon (and the bow and arrow are ridiculously imprecise, and rather weak to boot). And, as a result, they had to up the difficulty of the enemies that were included, to try to balance that out. Simplest way to do that without making the game frustratingly difficult—because you could just have them become walls of attacks—is to make them physically stronger. They take longer to kill—unfortunately exacerbating the problem with the dramatically-decreased weapon durability—and can almost always kill you in one hit at four hearts.
The only incentive I've seen to actually engaging enemies at this point is, they usually carry weapons that have higher durability. The Zonai construct weapons in particular last for a good while—not nearly as long as they should last, but certainly longer than the decayed weapons you might find elsewhere. To me, that trade-off simply isn't worth it.
Security Breach attempted to fix a fundamentally-broken gameplay scheme by introducing new elements to balance it out, which resulted in a messy, near-unplayable kludge. Tears of the Kingdom has some good ideas, but in shoehorning in clunky-as-fuck "mechanics" masquerading as new powers, and doubling down on the weapon durability problem, they've fallen into the exact same trap. It's just that in this case, it's Nintendo who made that mistake.
The one positive I can give this game is, exploration in the game is actually fun. It'd be more so if there were enemies you could actually safely approach. Getting from point A to point B, if you can stand how slowly Link moves in general, is actually pretty fun. Discovering new things is fun.
- Written by: Grady Owens
- Category: Switch
- Hits: 326
I very much wanted to get this review out there earlier, but with life catching up with me, it's been hard to find the time. Well, this afternoon I'm making the time. (Hopefully that doesn't come back to bite me in the ass, like it does sometimes in this game...)
Arcade Paradise, from Nosebleed Interactive and Wired Productions, is a service management simulator game wherein you, the character Ashley Goldman, manage a laundromat--at least at first. As the game progresses, your focus shifts to turning that laundromat into a much more-profitable arcade, the games in which you are encouraged to play, both because they're part of the fun aspect of the game, and because completing certain goals and playing the games for longer periods of time boosts their popularity, in return boosting your income.
Others have called the game a love letter to management sims and arcades of old, and I certainly don't disagree. In general, the game is incredibly fun, and surprisingly addicting! I personally have been playing the game largely focused on the laundromat side of things--which the game lets you do--and using the profits from everything to slowly upgrade the arcade, so that once that does take over everything, that'll be my ultimate focus. Of course, we're nowhere near that point yet, but I've still been having fun with it in spite of that.
One of my biggest complaints with the game thus far would be with the games themselves. The controls are pretty janky, and especially if you don't read the instructions--which can only be done from your PDA as part of the pause menu--it can be a challenge to figure out how you're even supposed to play many of them. Blockchain in particular, while definitely a fun puzzle game once you get the hang of it, has a STEEP learning curve, a fact referenced multiple times in-game; the fact that they're this self-aware of the problem tells me that, perhaps, the game itself should have been tweaked a bit. Attack Vector, I still can't figure out how to get a score higher than a three because the controls are so slow. Line Terror, a re-imagining of the classic game Qix, has several issues, including an apparent AI that changes the direction of the floating line enemy at random, and a bug that can cause the game not to progress past a level success screen on occasion. The games are definitely interesting, and honestly I can't wait to be able to focus on them full-time, but at the set-out, they seem to be too problematic to worry about.
I'm playing the Switch port of this game, which might be part of the problem. I don't know if these issues persist in the PC port, or those on other consoles.
But, in spite of the jank of the arcade games themselves, the outside game, the management sim, is incredibly fun. (I enjoy this kind of game! It's been a while since I've played a good one.) It's thoroughly enjoyable to build up a business like this, while certainly not from scratch, still from a low point. The consistent rewards of new games, higher profit margins, and the eventual expanded arcade space, all provide plenty incentive to continue playing. Once I get this Master of Science under my belt, I look forward to returning to this game for a significant amount of much-needed unwinding.
- Written by: Grady Owens
- Category: Switch
- Hits: 757
I’ve decided I really don’t like Metroid Dread for the same reason I really didn’t like Metroid: Samus Returns. Aspects of the game implemented to solve a prevalent problem make the game not fun. I am, of course, talking about the aiming problem, and the melee counters.
Enemies can attack from every direction. In past games, the resolution was so low, you didn’t have to aim: if the enemy or weak spot was in the same square as the beam shot, it registered as a hit. But now, the resolution is so high, you can’t get away with that.
Aiming in this game is pretty piss-poor. Because there's really only one usable direction input (while there are two on the Switch, you can't use the second and also fire the gun), you have to press a button to enter "aiming mode", then push the analog control stick in the direction you want to aim. Because it's analog, and because its resolution is ridiculous, it's unbelievably difficult to aim precisely.
Retro Studios already solved this problem, and rather eloquently: locking on. By pressing a button, Samus locks on to the enemy. Even in Metroid Prime 3 / Trilogy, where the controller’s movement was incredibly intuitive to aiming, you could lock on. It worked VERY well. But, I guess Nintendo didn’t want to “rely on a crutch”, so they give the player another crutch, and then force you to use it.
The melee counter is actively the only way to defeat MANY enemies, in both games. Yes, you can use charge or missiles, but… not really.
Melee counter incentivizes you to use it in a number of ways: most enemies against which it works can’t be harmed otherwise, or it would take too long. You get significantly more rewards for killing with a melee counter. But why did they incentivize it so hard?
Because it SUCKS.
Holy crap, does melee countering suck. If there were another way to defeat these enemies, literally everyone would use it, even if it meant taking the time to aim (which is SUPER-awkward).
The way the melee counter works is, an enemy will telegraph an attack with a little sparkle, and if you hit the melee button within the correct time frame, you "counter" the attack and auto-aim on the attacking creature, giving you another brief window in which to fire once, instantly killing said creature (the game explains this off as "the creature's guard is down from being surprised by such an attack")—in other words, an even bigger crutch than just giving the player an auto-aim feature. Hell, even Other M had auto-aim, and it's WIDELY panned!
And the timing is TERRIBLE. This is literally, wait for the enemy to flash then hit X, but only in this brief window because otherwise you could either get hurt (regular enemy), get SEVERELY hurt (boss), or be instantly killed (E.M.M.I.). And yes, the E.M.M.I. are one of the enemies susceptible to the melee counter, although in their case, they aren't killed, simply stunned long enough for you to run away. And that's assuming you nail the timing, because that's the tightest timing in the game. You know, something that's introduced to you within the first ten fucking minutes, because it's THAT important of a mechanic.
But, if that’s how they fixed the aiming problem, doesn’t that still have the problem?
It sure does! Which is why fully three fourths of the enemies in both games (Metroid Dread and Metroid: Samus Returns) can only be attacked with this method.
A method they HAD to incentivize, because it fucking sucks.
Who thought this was a good idea?
This is most exemplified in the first boss fight in Metroid Dread, a creature called Corpius. They really should have just called this fight QuickTime Events: The Boss, because that's all it is.
In the first part of this fight, we see the aiming problem presented whole-hog: You need to hit the bastard in the face, which is a ridiculously small portion of its total body. Any hits registering anywhere else on his body, including missiles and charge shots, are absolutely worthless. Hits to his face MUST be missiles or charge shots to do damage. And, of course, he can move his head around, like literally any creature you'd expect to encounter. So, RARELY is the head at a level where you can just hit it. This means you have to actively stop and aim, and if you're out of missiles you have to PRAY you have enough time to charge a shot. There is exactly one good window for this: Corpius attacks by stabbing down with his tail, which predictably gets stuck in the ground. If you're inside the tail's radius, you have a second or two of free-range to aim and fire at his (still constantly-moving) face. If you're outside the range of his tail, tough titties: You can't shoot through or around it, and while you could use the opportunity to charge up a shot to unload once the tail is free, good luck AIMING.
If you do manage to get through Phase 1, Phase 2 introduces a weak spot on the tail. Corpius is then shown to have a sort of cloaking ability (which, naturally, you obtain upon his defeat), but this weak spot glows even in that state. In this case, it's a simple matter of aiming at the weak spot and firing literally anything—this spot is vulnerable to regular, uncharged shots. In spite of the aiming problem, this is hands-down the easiest part of this fight.
Then, we get a third part: The creature knocks some paneling off the wall, revealing a spot to grab that's elevated from the floor. This is important because this is where Corpius begins breathing a toxic gas along the ground, forcing you to seek refuge higher up. Alas, staying here for very long makes you a sitting duck—you can't move, so while aiming is significantly easier, the boss can easily just wail on you. This phase can't really be damaged; you simply shoot it enough to get it to go into its "vulnerable" state, which allows you to slide under the creature and—you may have guessed it—it telegraphs a stab-down of its tail with a sparkle, meaning you have to melee counter. You do this TWICE to finally, FINALLY defeat this singular first boss of the game.
After I finally beat this boss, which took something on the order of ten tries—for the record, I don't suck at video games, and in fact made it through the entirety of Metroid Prime 2: Echoes, a game notorious for its steep learning curve, in a matter of a few hours on my FIRST playthrough—that was kinda the point where I stopped having fun with the game. Because I saw this aiming problem as the crux of the issue I had with it, and realized that the melee counter was Nintendo's rather shitty way of trying to deal with it.
Several months later, I was watching a Let's Play-er play through the game on YouTube, because at that point I'd basically decided I wasn't going to play it long enough to ever see the story myself.
Something incredibly edifying about watching him play it was, he was having a lot of the same issues I did, and identifying them as such. He correctly pointed out that the overabundance of counter-attack opportunities (something else he pointed out as being the case) was likely due to the fact that aiming sucks, especially while you're trying to play an action segment.
He also encountered a problem I had, that I hadn't thought of as a major issue with the game until I saw him run into it: There are many, MANY multiple points in the game where it feels like you might've soft-locked yourself. (Soft-locking is where you have locked yourself into a situation through software; the alternative is hard-locking, where something in hardware goes horribly wrong and the game stops playing. In both cases, you cannot progress.)
The game plays extremely linearly, to a massive fault in terms of a Metroid game, more so even than Metroid Fusion, a game noted for its problematic linearity. However, the game also wants the player to backtrack and re-traverse large swaths of the map, in order to make the game feel less linear. As a result, there are many points where it is extremely non-obvious what the game expects you to do next, and especially if you wind up in a spot where you can't backtrack—EXTREMELY common in this game—it feels like you've made a massive mis-step and are now proper-fucked.
I got into that state in an early part of the game, where it was not at all obvious I was supposed to break some blocks in the ceiling; the room looks like a pickup room, just with the expected item hidden, so while it's absolutely a dead end, it doesn't FEEL like a dead end. Earlier, the game informs you that, if it ever feels like you're stuck, you should try shooting the walls to see if there's some hidden block; unfortunately, this then means that these shootable blocks are incredibly hidden, and not at all obvious. Because the game tries SO HARD to have realistic, immersive settings (which work, and are absolutely stunning as the game progresses), things like breakaway blocks just blend in with the scenery. This is then made actively WORSE by blocks that can be destroyed with Speed Booster, since those are all incredibly obvious.
In the player I was watching's case, he got stuck because a door he was expected to go through, he'd already been through, but at the time he went into it, the room was super-heated and he couldn't progress without taking massive damage. What wasn't obvious was, a room much much later that dissipated that heat, dissipated it from that specific room. So he spent upwards of half an hour scouring the map, looking for the one little spot he must have missed, because otherwise it felt like he'd soft-locked himself.
NO GAME (least of all one based on exploration) SHOULD EVER, EVER EVER EVER, MAKE THE PLAYER FEEL LIKE THEY'VE IRREPARABLY FUCKED UP FROM SIMPLE MOVEMENT. This, right here, is the BANE of Metroid Dread.
- Written by: Grady Owens
- Category: Switch
- Hits: 1961
It's been a long time since I last played a Pokémon Mystery Dungeon game, in fact way back to the first pair. I owned Blue Rescue Team, and I remember enjoying it. The story was interesting, though I didn't get very far; the game came out during a rough time in my life, so I didn't spend a lot of time playing video games. Even so, the premise is hard to forget: It's a Rogue-like, but with Pokémon! And also you're a human who has inexplicably turned into a Pokémon. Pokémon Mystery Dungeon: Rescue Team DX is a remake of those first two games, Red Rescue Team and Blue Rescue Team, and from what I can tell so far, it's pretty faithful to the source material.
This game starts off in exactly the same way as the original on which it was based: You wake up in the Pokémon world, discover you're the selected Pokémon when your chosen partner finds you, and start your journey. A mother Butterfree runs into the two of you, terrified about her child, a Caterpie that has fallen into a newly-opened fissure in the ground and is now surrounded by hostile Pokémon. The two of you rescue it, and thus start your Rescue Team: A group of Pokémon that take it upon themselves to rescue others in trouble.
Truth be told, I'd wanted to play other Mystery Dungeon games, but the timing was never good for me. So, now that this game is out, I look forward to attempting to play through it again, with updated graphics. These graphics, incidentally, are pretty nice, designed to look and feel like a children's picture book; on the opening menu even, you can hold the minus button to "Admire Illustration", to get all the menu items off the screen so you can see the illustration being used as a backdrop. It's a nice touch! It means Nintendo recognizes aesthetics are an important part of this experience, if they want to make it feel new and fresh.
That having been said, I'm a touch disappointed that there doesn't appear to be any new material, at least not thus far in my playthrough. I've gotten to a point where, without giving away too much, a Diglett gets kidnapped by a Skarmory; this is still quite early in the game, and there's plenty of the old material to still work through. It was my biggest complaint with the Secret of Mana remake Square Enix released two years ago, that, while it was nice they'd updated the graphics, they brought essentially nothing new to the table, that it played exactly like the original and might as well have been just a straight port. I don't know; we'll see.
As of right now, I can say the game is every bit as charming and intriguing as I remember the original being, so it does have that going for it. Alas, since Blue Rescue Team was a DS release, and DS games can still be played on 3DS systems, aside from the admittedly-wonderful graphical update, I'm not seeing a huge draw to playing this over the original on still-current hardware.
- Written by: Grady Owens
- Category: Switch
- Hits: 2045
When I first saw this game originally on the XBox One, it actually almost made me want to get that console, just for the one game. It's an adorable-looking platformer from an independent studio — always a plus in my book — it looked like an amazing, fun time!
And then they announced it for the Nintendo Switch, except this was NEW Super Lucky's Tale. Which is, apparently, actually kinda new? I don't know; I never followed through on the XBox. But what I've heard is that there are new elements to this title. I couldn't begin to say what those elements might be.
But it's amazing! New Super Lucky's Tale is just about the perfect game for the Nintendo Switch. It's every bit as cute as the cover art made it look (plus looks fantastic besides, with an amazing style), and it's a lot of fun! I've only played the first area, but even with that, it was wonderfully fun to collect everything and 100% the area. It appears at first glance that every area has four "pages" to collect: One for a certain number of coins collected in the level (the first was 300, but that might vary), one for collecting the letters LUCKY, one for completing the mission of the area, and a "secret" page given by a puzzle.
I do have a few complaints, but they're minor. In particular, the speed Lucky walks at is rather slow, and there doesn't appear to be any way to "run"; the speed works really well for the platforming puzzles, but then when you just want to move around the world it's kinda painful. The other thing is the loading; while this happens kinda rarely, it takes a long, long time. I understand loading things takes time and I'm certainly not faulting that, especially since the game doesn't dump you into a loading screen for every single character interaction like some other, well-known, AAA games *coughSonic'06cough*, but they do take quite some time.
Still, the game is a blast to play, and with how few collectibles there are in each area, it's definitely a good game for just about anyone. Give it a shot, especially if you like platformers!