While it’s mostly known for powerhouse Western RPG franchises like Mass Effect and Dragon Age, it’s easy to forget that Canadian developer BioWare started making games based on the popular tabletop RPG Dungeons & Dragons. A favorite of VB’s Jeff, Baldur’s Gate and its sequel are still considered the gold standard for D&D-based games, and the acclaimed Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic pulled its infrastructure from Wizards of the Coast’s Star Wars d20 (literally just D&D but with lightsabers).
The appeal of making a video game based on tabletop is clear to anyone who enjoys both hobbies. There’s nothing quite as interesting, exciting, and memorable as a good game of your favorite pen and paper system, but the time, resources, and schedule coordination necessary to make an ongoing campaign happen means that it’s rare you’ll be able to play more than one good, meaty adventure every few years. In this regard, BioWare’s attempts at emulating the expansive glory of a good campaign is admirable. However, I feel like they have never quite hit the nail on the head of a strong D&D game, always being just a little too serious or a little too game-y to make it work. Until now.
This week sees the release of Kingdom Hearts HD 2.8: Final Chapter Prologue, a game that is somehow not the most ridiculously-titled entry in the popular JRPG franchise. It includes an HD remake of Kingdom Hearts: Dream Drop Distance, a new movie that examines the events of Kingdom Hearts Unchained X from the perspective of the Foretellers, and Kingdom Hearts 0.2 Birth by Sleep – A Fragmentary Passage – , which is a direct sequel to Birth by Sleep following Aqua’s adventures in the world of Darkness.
…okay, sorry, let’s backtrack.
With all the hype surrounding Kingdom Hearts III’s development, a lot of new or lapsed fans are flocking to the franchise, wanting to see what all the fuss was about back when the girl they liked in 9th grade was talking about it. Unfortunately, Kingdom Hearts is a franchise that tries as hard as it can to be completely inscrutable, so even people who have played all the games can get lost in its complicated plot.
So you want to get to know Kingdom Hearts? Let me help you out with this handy guide. Just skip to the questions that apply to you!
Last night, I finished Final Fantasy XV. There’s been a lot of concern, even on this blog, that the game might not be able to live up to the series’ reputation. I’m happy to say that Final Fantasy XV is simultaneously an evolution and a tribute to the series, evoking the spirit of Final Fantasy through story, gameplay, and aesthetics. SPOILER WARNING: From here out, I will be discussing FFXV in its entirety, including major plot points, character development, and the ending. You’ve been warned.
It’s no secret that the Final Fantasy brand has been reinventing itself, and that trend doesn’t seem to be slowing down with the upcoming Final Fantasy XV. After spending most of the decade in development, in less than two weeks the story of Noctis and company will finally be unleashed on the world for their judgment. I’ve written before about the pressure riding on this game, how it seems to be the make-or-break title for Final Fantasy’s legacy, at the very least in this new generation of consoles.
However, one of the (many) easy ways to piss off a group of gamers is to change something they liked. Jumping onto any news about FFXV will undoubtedly yield at least one comment assuming the entire game is going to be a trash heap simply because it is trying something new. While I disagree with these sentiments, it is true that FFXV (or any new FF game moving forward) could learn a thing or two by looking at its predecessors.
Over the last generation or two, there has been a notable shift in the way video games are written. It’s not just enough for a game to have strong mechanics and pretty graphics. Gamers now demand that their games deliver an engaging story – in particular, one that transports them to a well fleshed out world. The escapist nature of video games has been covered extensively by Volcano Bakemeat, and the easiest way to establish that element of wonder is by making sure your world has interesting, in-depth lore.
We have all experienced strong lore: a universe that you want to jump into and never leave. We all know what house we’d be sorted into at Hogwarts or which side of the Force we would favor. Many of the same elements that make for strong lore in other media also works for video games, yet many games get it wrong.
The way I see it there are five rules of thumb to making lore that pulls gamers in instead of putting them to sleep:
Everyone knows the story of Konami and the Metal Gear franchise. After removing his name from the title of the MGSV and refusing to let him accept the award at the VGAs, Konami fired MGS auteur Hideo Kojima for reasons that will likely forever remain unknown (although let’s be real, he’s probably a huge pain to work with). This year, they announced their first Post-Kojima Metal Gear game, Metal Gear Survive, in which a group of MSF soldiers get pulled through a wormhole into an alternate universe where they fight zombies made out of crystals.
My relationship with Pokémon has always been one of equal parts joy and frustration. As a child of the 90s, obviously a lot of my early gaming memories revolve around Nintendo’s virtual cockfighting simulator, and in the last few years it has drawn me back in. I enjoyed my playthroughs of the Gen VI titles, and plan on getting Sun and Moon, especially since they’re making cool changes like a more transparent battle interface, regional variants of Pokémon, and finally ditching the “Collect Eight Badges and Become Pokémon Master” main quest.
That said, replaying the classic formula through the eyes of a modern JRPG fan has brought a ridiculous amount of frustration. Pokémon (and Nintendo in general) is notoriously set in its ways, but the following are things that are inexcusable after 20 years of urging us to catch ‘em all. In honor of the upcoming Generation VII, here are 7 ways that Pokémon still needs to get with the times.
In case it hasn’t been made obvious by two of my previous articles, I am fighting game enthusiast. I’m not going to enter tournaments and win prizes, and I’m not going to spend hours upon hours in training mode practicing new options and setups, but I also try my best to learn a character enough that I can get by without having to just mash buttons until the match is over. I find fighting games, and the technical skill required to truly master them, fascinating, and enjoy the competitive aspect in a more friendly setting that can only come from playing Smash Bros. on the couch with your friend.
My slightly-more-than-passing interest in the genre has led me to tune in to the Evolution Fighting Game Championship (or EVO) for the past several years. EVO takes place in Vegas, but it streamed on several different Twitch channels all weekend. Players from all over the world compete in several different fighting games, with each game crowning a champion by the end of the weekend, earning a large prize pot and bragging rights until next year.
EVO has become a much-anticipated event in our house now, with Paige and I anxiously counting the days and planning our schedule around what games are going to be on stream and when. I think anyone who loves video games can appreciate the phenomenon that is EVO (at least the Top 8s on Sunday), and here’s why:
Odin Sphere was one of the best and most underappreciated games on the PS2. If this month’s PS4 re-release Leifthrasir had simply been a remaster of the original game, with higher resolutions and framerates, you would still be reading a wholeheartedly positive review. It is a visual delight, a unique tactical experience, and the perfect example of how expert presentation can make a by-the-numbers story a thoroughly enjoyable experience.
To those of you who are already familiar with the original game and wondering if the PS4 version is worth your money, let me just say two things: Mercedes doesn’t suck, and picking up a book you’ve already completed puts you at the start of the Epilogue, not at Chapter 1. There. Go. Stop reading this and buy the game.
The lightweight combat system, position-based strategy, agile and easy to learn controls, and host of memorable characters make Nintendo’s fighting game franchise a core part of my identity as a gamer. I have fond memories of endless hours spent playing Melee with my friends, I love learning and strategizing with new characters, and I will never miss Smash on the main stage at EVO.
The “Uncovered: Final Fantasy XV” event in Los Angeles ended with a grandiose trailer showing off the story, environments, characters, and combat of Final Fantasy XV. The tagline for this trailer urged the player to “Reclaim Your Throne”, clearly referring to the game’s central premise of Prince Noctis taking his kingdom back from the invading army that has occupied it while he was out on a road trip with his bros. However, this game is about much more than that; it’s the culmination of a ten-year journey that Square hopes will end in a much more important throne being reclaimed.
Fighting game characters breaking out into their own solo games is not a new concept. Mortal Kombat has done this several times (namely MK Mythologies: Sub Zero, Special Forces, and Shaolin Monks), the Ninja Gaiden games could technically be considered Dead or Alive solos, and even Tekken’s Nina Williams had the game Death by Degrees, which overcame the incredible obstacle of nobody giving a shit about Tekken.
The common thread between all of these games is that they weren’t very good (bunny Fatalities from Shaolin Monksaside). That’s a real shame, because the tendency for longevity in fighting game franchises means that some of the most interesting characters in video games come from franchises who have the storytelling structure of the WWE.