Tuesday, January 16, 2024

Pokemon Scarlet and Violet: The Indigo Disk Review

Developer: Game Freak
Publisher: Nintendo
Platform: Switch
Price: $29.99

The Indigo Disk is the second and final bit of Pokemon Scarlet and Violet DLC included in The Hidden Treasure of Area Zero expansion pack. That's all, folks. Aside from any upcoming in-game events, this is the last Scarlet and Violet content we're going to get. As far as we know, at least. Pokemon Day is right around the corner. Maybe Game Freak is cooking up a lime-themed Pokemon Verdant or something. The Indigo Disk adds new story content, a new area, a new Tera type, 138 returning Pokemon, and 8 new Pokemon. And BTW, The Indigo Disk is all endgame content. All Pokemon are over level 55 and there's no level scaling.
The Indigo Disk adds a lot of content to the game, but just as I expected, there are zero performance fixes here. In fact, I think the new area, the Terarium (Get it?), has even more spots with bad performance than Paldea did at launch. There is no escaping the terrible framerate. It was probably a bad idea to cram all these different biomes right next to each other and add the ability to fly on top of it. Areas with mud perform the worst, with long stutters that make it look like the game is going to crash. There are also real crashes. More than I’ve experienced since the first few weeks after launch. It's a shame because there's a lot to like about this expansion.
The story of The Indigo Disk starts off by taking you through the Terarium while battling the Elite Four of the Blueberry Academy. It turns out that Kieran, the kid who thinks he’s the main character of this game and tried to take your legendary Pokemon in Kitagami, is the champion here and they have an Elite Four of their own. Of course, now you must beat them all and beat Kieran again and show him that he can never beat you, no matter how hard he trains.
After all that, you go back to Area Zero with Carmine and Kieran and this little jerk tries to steal another legendary from you! Unbelievable! So, what's the treasure of Area Zero? It's a Pokemon. Were you expecting a Triforce maybe? Well, it's that turtle Pokemon all over the new anime series, Terapagos. After you take your rightful Pokemon, you can go back to Kitagami and talk to the Cavewoman or Reed Richards professor and they basically say that there's multiple timelines and dimensions in Pokemon. And that's it for the Area Zero storyline. Kind of disappointing if you ask me. I was hoping we’d get to travel in time or something, but all we get is a few more caves in Area Zero and a new Pokemon.
There is one more story back in Kitagami. Remember that weird doll at the store that everyone thought was a Pokemon? Well, it turned out to be a Pokemon and it’s making everyone eat its mochi and dance like chickens in “Mochi Mayhem”. This is really just an excuse to get all your friends from Kitagami and Paldea (and Kieran) together for one final episode, but it also fleshes out the Ogerpon story. I liked it. It’s fun, goofy, you get to see all your friends (and Kieran) interact, and you get a new mythical Pokemon in the end.
That might sound like a lot of story content, but you can go through all of that in under 10 hours. The real meat of the game is in the new Blueberry League Club Room, which you unlock soon after getting to the new school. This club room has a bunch of stuff you can do and unlock with the new currency, Blueberry Points.
You get Blueberry Points from doing quests in the Terarium. These quests are called Blueberry Quests, or BBQs. These quests just keep popping up on a list as you complete them, just like the Nook Mile quests in Animal Crossing New Horizons. You don't even have to talk to an NPC. There's quests which require you to sneak up on a Pokemon, battle a wild Terastalized Pokemon, catch a Pokemon, and a bunch of other stuff. There's also multiplayer only quests that have you making sandwiches together, taking group photos, and other stuff. Basically, you get points for using the game’s mechanics.
You can then use these Blueberry Points on stuff like new photo filters, themes and music for the club room, and new Pokeball throwing animations. You can also use them to run the item printer, which is a machine that takes your Pokemon materials and turns them into items, like held items, Tera shards, vendor trash, and bottle caps. You can also get rare Pokeballs, like Master Balls and Friend Balls, from this machine if you randomly hit the “Pokeball Lotto”.
One of the coolest things you can buy with BPs is new Pokemon for the 4 biomes in the Terarium, which just means starter Pokemon in the wild, as far as I can tell. That means they can also appear in outbreaks, so you can easily shiny hunt them. All the starters from previous generations are available, but not the ones from Scarlet and Violet.
Another thing you can do with BPs is bring NPCs (or “coaches”) to the club room. You can host 2 at a time, and you can bring in all the Gym leaders, teachers, Nemona, Penny, and others. You can battle them and get rare items, emotes, and clothing, you can trade Pokemon with them, and they'll even talk to some of the other NPCs you bring in. You’ll have to mix and match to see all the unique interactions. It's not exactly a Battle Tree, but it's pretty cool if you like NPC battles, or just want to hang out with Iono again.
There's also an NPC who will give you special items that make legendary Pokemon appear around Paldea for doing BBQs. Most can be unlocked by doing solo quests, but there's also a bunch that require you to do group quests in multiplayer. These group quests aren't simply quests done in multiplayer, though. You have to do a bunch of quests in multiplayer for the group quests to pop up, and you have to do 12 of these to get the items for all the other version’s exclusive legendaries and all the group quest exclusive legendaries. It's a huge grind. I spent a lot of time doing solo quests and grouped up 4 different times for hours and hours of BBQing. All of these legendaries are 1 time spawns and they are shiny locked, BTW.
The new Tera type is Stellar, the type Terapagos comes with. This is a very complicated type. As if people didn't have enough trouble understanding what Terastalization did already. The Stellar type gives moves of all types the 1.5X boost from Terastalizing, but only 1 time for 1 move of each type. So say you have a Pokemon with 1 water, 2 fire, and 1 psychic move, you can get the boost once for all of the moves except the second fire move. Unlike other Tera types, Stellar doesn't affect your Pokemon’s typing at all, so if your Charizard Terastalizes into Stellar, it's still going to be Fire/Flying both offensively and defensively. There's no actual Stellar typing for Pokemon. Even Terapagos is a Normal type. All rumors of Pokemon changing forms while Terastalized into Stellar are false. Terapagos changes forms when it goes into any battle, but it doesn't have anything to do with the Stellar type. Stellar has a few other effects when using Tera Blast and Terapagos' signature move, Tera starstorm, but you should just go watch a guide video on that if you're interested.
After finishing a certain challenge from one of the Elite Four, you can unlock Koraidon or Miraidon’s flying abilities. Whenever you want to fly; you jump, start gliding, and then press L3 on the left stick. It's kind of an awkward button combination in practice, and the movement controls are weird because they change depending on where the camera is, but you can fly now! You can fly in any outdoor area, including in Mesagoza, and even in Area Zero. There are no weird World of Warcraft-like restrictions to it.
That's a lot of stuff to keep you busy until the next game comes out. You're definitely getting your money's worth with this expansion pack. I’d say it's a pretty good send-off for Scarlet and Violet. It would have been perfect if it also fixed the framerate, though.

Monday, January 1, 2024

Game Of The Year 2023

11. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Shredder’s Revenge: Dimension Shellshock - This DLC adds 2 new characters and a survival mode with roguelite elements. That doesn’t sound like much, but it’s only $7.99, and one of those new characters is Usagi Yojimbo. This little expansion adds a lot of replay value, and adds the final missing piece to the dream TMNT game. What more could you ask for? Well, I still want to play as the frogs, but this is still pretty awesome.
10. Double Dragon Advance - My favorite Double Dragon game and one of the best beat ‘em ups of all time, and after 20 years, it finally has a console port! The emulation options are kind of weird, with options that don’t seem to do anything different from some of the other options, but there’s nothing really wrong with the port. It plays well, it has the display options you need, and you can play 2 player co-op without 2 GBAs and a link cable. The game is awesome too! It’s a re-imagining of the original Double Dragon arcade game. It has all-new graphics, new levels, a deep combat system with lots of moves and no leveling up, new weapons, enemies from all the arcade games, new enemies, new cutscenes, and new music.
9. Star Wars Jedi: Survivor - Horrible performance aside, I really enjoyed this game. I think they improved on pretty much everything I had a problem with in Fallen Order. The only thing that I don’t think is better is the story, but that might just be that I see these games as non-canon stories. I just don’t trust that anything that happens in these games is ever going to matter to the rest of the Star Wars universe. I’m not even sure if the High Republic stuff is going to show up in the High Republic. And that’s in the past!
8. Pokemon Scarlet and Violet: The Secrets of Area Zero - Another game with horrible performance. This game would be much higher if the framerate was a steady 30. Regardless, the content in this expansion is pretty great. New stories, new battles, new Pokemon, returning Pokemon, and 2 huge new areas to explore. It’s a shame they never fixed the framerate because this might be the best Pokemon game ever made.
7. Advance Wars 1 + 2 Reboot Camp - It’s 2 very faithful remakes of the first 2 GBA games for the price of 1. They have 3D graphics, beautiful new versions of the soundtracks, and online play with friends. It’s honestly more Advance Wars than I could handle in 1 go because it’s 2 pretty big games. I got through the first game and haven’t really touched the second one. It’s a shame this game was delayed so many times because it would have probably gotten more attention if it was released earlier.
6. Vengeful Guardian Moonrider - Here’s a really cool game that went under a lot of people’s radar. It’s from the developer of the awesome Contra-like run ‘n gun shooter, Blazing Chrome, and it’s basically Shinobi III meets Mega Man X. It’s fast-paced, old-school, 2D Ninja action, with robot masters, special weapons, and a gritty 90s sci-fi-inspired story.
5. Gravity Circuit - This was a good year for games with big Mega Man X vibes. Gravity Circuit takes a lot of inspiration from classic action platformers, like Shinobi III, but I think the simplest way to describe it would be to say it’s like Viewtiful Joe meets Mega Man X. It has beat ‘em up-inspired combat, lots of Mega Man X-like platforming, and robots. That might sound a lot like Moonrider, but it’s actually very different. Gravity Circuit is colorful, light-hearted, and the beat ‘em up combat gives the gameplay a completely different feel.
4. Pikmin 4 - This one caught me by surprise. I liked the previous Pikmin games, and expected it to be good, but I didn’t expect it to be this good. It’s all the little changes they’ve made while still making it feel like Pikmin that make it so good. The dog mount, Oatchi, underground areas, new modes, and the removal of the day and juice limits are all great. It's also a huge game with tons of stuff to do. I really wasn’t expecting to be playing this for over 50 hours. This is hands down the best Pikmin game yet.
3. Gal Guardians: Demon Purge - I don’t know why Inti Creates made this part of the Gal Gun universe and not a Bloodstained game, and I’m not a fan of the comedic anime hornyness, but I can’t deny that this game is incredible. It’s the 16-bit sequel to the Bloodstained Curse of the Moon games I wanted. It’s the modern day Classicvania Konami won’t give us. It plays like a mix of Castlevania Bloodlines and Rondo of Blood, it has good music, lots of replay value, and it looks fantastic. It even has co-op. I think it’s even better than the 2 Bloodstained CotM games.
2. The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom - This is a tough one. On one hand, I love this game. I like it even more than BotW. The new powers are fun, exploring the sky is fun, the remixed Hyrule is awesome, the Shrines are great, the story is much better, and so on. It also has one of the worst things I’ve ever seen in a Zelda game, the Depths. I hate dark sections in games, and they literally made a dark version of all of Hyrule. I spent hours and hours fumbling around down there trying to uncover everything, hating every second, and all I got was a medal! That’s worse than Korok poop! At least exploring Hyrule and doing puzzles to get all the Korok seeds was fun!
1. Super Mario Bros Wonder - The best 2D Mario game since Super Mario Bros 3, as far as I’m concerned. The controls feel great, the graphics are awesome, it has ALMOST all the playable characters you could want in it, it’s full of Mario fan service, it’s trippy, it’s huge, and it has some super challenging levels. I 100%ed it and enjoyed every second. This game is a masterpiece.

Monday, November 13, 2023

Star Wars Jedi: Survivor Review

Developer: Respawn
Publisher: EA
Platforms: PS5, XBSX, PC
Price: $69.99
Version Played: PC

A long time ago, back in April 2023, right here on Earth, the sequel to Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order, Star Wars Jedi: Survivor, was released, and it really shouldn't have. It's been 6 months since this game came out and the PC version still feels like it's held together with duct tape. I've had crashes, plenty of bugs, and horrible performance. And this is after a bunch of patches. I shudder to think what this game was like on launch day.

My biggest problem with this game is the framerate. My PC is much more powerful than the recommended specs, yet I still can't get a solid 60 at 1080p, even with ray tracing and HDR turned off. I can't get a solid anything since there is no option to cap it, like in Fallen Order. I don't think it's just one thing, like the big open areas in Koboh, I saw the framerate tank in a lot of small areas, too. And to top it all off, the graphics options are all messed up. I couldn't switch resolution at one point, using windowed full screen is a huge hit on performance for some reason, and the DLSS quality option doesn't even work. The DLSS performance option actually lowered both the resolution and the framerate by at least half. That's the opposite of what it's supposed to do.
The actual game is pretty good, though. I think they addressed most of the issues I had with the first game. This game has bigger and more open areas, it's less linear, has more puzzles, and more NPCs to talk to. This one feels a lot more like an action adventure or action RPG than an Uncharted game, and I think that's definitely the right direction for the series.
At its core, Survivor still plays a lot like Fallen Order. You travel from planet to planet as the story progresses, acquire new abilities, and travel back to previous planets to access new areas with your new abilities. There's still a lot of combat, platforming, and exploration. The introduction of the planet Koboh really freshens things up, though. Koboh is the biggest planet and it acts as your home base throughout the game. It has a small village with shops, a stable for your mounts, and a cantina full of NPCs with quests and little stories to tell you. It even has a bathroom. Koboh has a large open area in the center and it connects to a bunch of other areas, which are structured a lot like the planets in Fallen Order, with that more linear, wrap-around back to the save point kind of level design. There's also a bunch of caves and enemy bases all over. I wouldn't say Koboh is quite “Open World” since a lot of it is locked behind story progression or abilities, but it’s certainly leaning more in that Zelda OOT-like direction. I probably spent 25% of my game time just running around Koboh while exploring, hunting down treasure chests, and doing sidequests. The planet Jedha has a similar structure, but it's much smaller, and there isn't nearly as much to do there.
I thought the first game could have really used more puzzles, and I guess I wasn't the only one because this game has a lot more puzzles. It’s not just the Force pulling doors open kind of stuff, either. There’s real puzzles here. A lot of which revolve around using your new gadgets. I think Cal is done with the blocked memories stuff, so Instead of having him remember more Jedi skills, you just get items and upgrades for BD-1. There's a grappling hook, an electric dart, and this thing that makes BD spray some kind of gunk everywhere, like FLUDD in Super Mario Sunshine. You can use this gunk to route weird purple electricity around to burn down these black vines that block a lot of doors in the game. Cal also gets a dash, which comes from an item and is not a Jedi skill. You can use this dash to go through barriers. Mostly while platforming. There's a lot of platforming, too. Maybe too much. I think it gets kind old halfway through the game.
There are also some new Zelda BOTW-like shrines called Meditation Chambers. They’re just little bite-sized dungeons that are all about puzzles, just like shrines. Some are part of the story, but most are optional. They’re fun and have good rewards, but there’s only 7 of them in the whole game. I would have liked these to have been a bigger part of the game, but I guess they had bigger things to worry about, like getting the game out the door.
But what this game is really about is combat. It might look the same at a glance, but there's been a lot of little tweaks that make it feel different. I think it actually gets a lot harder in this game. It's not necessarily slower, but it does feel like your combo, parry, and dodge timing is stricter, and enemies are much more aggressive. Cal’s lightsaber fighting styles are also a lot more focused. He’s not switching from double bladed to single or dual wielding for different attacks, for example.
There's also 2 new lightsaber fighting styles; the blaster and crossguard. Blaster uses a lightsaber in one hand and a blaster in the other, like some kind of Jedi pirate. You don't need to pick up ammo for the blaster, but you do have to hit enemies with the lightsaber to recharge it. It's kind of a weird mechanic, like something out of World of Warcraft, but I guess they still want you to be a Jedi and not a Mandalorian. Shooting the enemies you want to shoot requires a lot of messing around with the lock-on, which still sucks, so I wasn't a big fan of this style.
The crossguard basically treats the lightsaber like a giant broadsword. I guess it's inspired by Kylo Ren, but it's also like Baylan Skoll’s fighting style in Ahsoka. Big slow swords really aren't my thing, so I didn't use this a whole lot either.
Like I mentioned, the lock-on system is still terrible. The biggest problem is that it's on R3(RS), which is the worst button for it because you have to take your thumb off the attack (face) buttons to use it. You also activate your super ability by pressing L3(LS) and R3(RS) at the same time, so every time you do that, you lose your target. You could change it, but then you’d have to put something else on there, like your Force abilities, which would suck too. There's too many abilities and not enough buttons on the controller. The lock-on is also very finicky and sometimes changes targets on its own. I guess it's switching depending on who’s hitting you. There is some sort of auto aim going on when not locked on, but that does the same target switching thing and it doesn’t let you strafe around your target.
Something I thought was pretty cool, but not used enough is the AI companions. Someone from the Mantis crew usually tags along on story missions. They fight alongside you and can be used like a sort of extra ability. For example, Merrin tags along on Jedha and she can use her Nightsister magic to rewind time on certain parts of the environment, so she can clear caved in paths and stuff. Merrin will always tag along with you on Jedha, but you can't bring her with you while exploring anywhere else. You don't even get to choose whether or not you want someone to come with you. It would be cool if this feature was expanded on in the next game. Everyone wants to spend more time with Merrin, right?
I don't know if the story in this game was actually worse or if I’m just still mad at the first game’s ending. I don't think I can ever believe that whatever happy ending is promised for Cal is going to come true. He's just going to win the fight and flush the lottery ticket down the toilet, so to speak. Or destroy the Holocron. He spends the whole game fighting for something he doesn't seem to actually want. I also can never believe that anything that happens in these games will affect anything else in the Star Wars universe, even though this game is nothing but fallout from things that happened in Revenge of the Sith and the High Republic. I thought the big twists near the end of the game were pretty bad too. They were (poorly) explained eventually, but they just come off like they're there for shock value when they happen. At least they made Cere a lot more badass and Cal a little less lame than in the first game.
I think everything about the sound in this game is great. I love the soundtrack. It sounds like a Star Wars movie score, even though it's not just remixing the classic tunes, and the cantina songs give us an interesting look at what in-universe music sounds like. The voice acting is also really well done. I wasn't too fond of the Mantis crew after the first game, but their performances in this one make them hard not to like. Cal’s performance especially is much better than in the first game. All the sound effects are spot on, too.
There's a lot of good things about this game, but all the issues really bring it down. I could never be immersed in the game for too long before running into a bug, seeing the framerate drop by half, or having the game crash. I guess they just bit off more than they could chew. This game came out around 3 and a half years after Fallen Order, and here we are 6 months after release with a game that still doesn't feel like it's ready. Maybe it'll be awesome by the time the 3rd game comes out.