Final Fantasy XII
“A slog beyond slogs, yet one I sometimes enjoyed.”
I think I understand why people “ignore” this game: It’s oh so painfully average. It’s a game of full potential, with half of it realized. It’s a game about ambition and a vision towards the future of the series, with almost none of its aspects translated towards its successor. It’s a game that took great inspiration from science-fiction giants, Star Wars being the front and center of it all. At least, it feels like Star Wars.
I don’t think I can explain the most glaring flaw of FF12, for I have to explain what leads to when you experience the unsaid flaw. So, what needs to be explained? The battle system.
Oh god, I have to explain the battle system.
In short, followed by the long explanation: FF12’s battle system is as if the ATB system became an RTS game. It’s a stretch to call it that, but bear with me. You control one character in a party of three, within a group of six. You can have less than three people in your active party at any time, but not more than that. At some points of the story, you get a fourth person joining your party to make your foray into whatever dungeon you’re going to next a bit easier. However, I must reiterate: You control one character, at a time. The other two, you have less control of: You cannot move them around, only give orders. To give orders, you must bring up a menu that pauses the game (if you made it as such, there’s an option that makes the game keep going if you have it up). This menu will come up for every time you want a character to do a single move. And so, if you want to do a complex strategy involving multiple spells, items and various other attacks, be prepared to see the menu pop up a whole lot. It’s one of the only games where I can safely say that it is annoying to prepare yourself for an upcoming fight, cause bringing up that menu multiple times to buff my allies takes a lot of time.
So how did the developers attempt to remedy this problem? The gambit system.
The gambit system is unanimously* considered as the worst thing about this game and I don’t want to hear anyone tell me otherwise, because it is, indeed, a unanimous thought, no hivemind involved. The gambit system is, how I see it, a very basic way to “program your party members”. Gambits determine what moves can be done automatically by a party member, example being: A party member has a gambit, this gambit determines whether or not an enemy is nearby. If so, the party member will perform a specific move. That way, you don’t need to pull up the combat menu to make them do a move. This effectively trims off a whole lot of menuing throughout the game and the sheer number of ways you can program your party member to do specific things can also make fights much more easier and even coordinated.
So how’s it such a bad thing? You are saving a lot of time with a badly implemented system that plagues the game’s pacing, so what’s wrong?
For one, it’s primitive. For two, it’s inconvenient at times. For three, to implement a system like this is to admit that your entire combat system perhaps may not work so well in the first place.
Let's start with number one. The gambit system is as primitive as a salad without dressing. Food metaphors are everyone's favorite so I'll allow myself to use them whenever I feel it is needed. If you're to make a salad, you get your lettuce, your tomatoes, your onions, maybe cucumbers, maybe radishes and maybe even a protein in there. Each ingredient serves a different purpose in making a salad complete, mainly for nutritional reasons. The nutrition in the gambit system is, if you haven't guessed it yet: The moves and conditions. You assign a move and a certain case or reason for the character to use that move. Should your ally be affected with, say, Poison, you can make the gambit condition "Ally Status = Poison", then assign the move "Poisona", which makes the character with that gambit use Poisona on whoever on your team is poisoned.
So, you get the gist of it. You can automate parts of theoretically more than half the battles if need be. It's good to prevent carpal tunnels, after all! It's all fine and dandy until you realize that gambits could have been fleshed out so much more that you'll spend more time wishing it were so than spending time making your gambits.
And so we arrive at number 2. Gambits are inconvenient to the point where I didn't want to deal with them too much. Not that I wanted to do so, but rather that setting them up only created problems along the way. Ah fuck, I gotta make a sub-list of points on point number 2 now.
Can you believe that there's more than one way that the gambit system is inconvenient to use? I didn't! Not until I got to experience it and, when I did, it all went downhill from there.
So let's begin with the lack of practicality that the gambit system taunts us with. I said that you could assign a skill to perform whenever a certain event happens. However, that is the full extent of what a gambit can do. This is where I come back with the salad food metaphor: The gambit system is lacking a vinaigrette. The vinaigrette in a salad is what combines all of the ingredients together to form an entrée or even a meal in which you feel like you're eating a whole food, rather than five separate items in your mouth at once. There's so much more taste in a salad when using a vinaigrette or even a sauce and, of course, you can choose what kind of flavor you want to put on it. The gambit system does not allow you to combine gambits to make a fully functional combo of attacks and spells, which would result in even more well coordinated fights that require you to use even less of the menu. As an addition to this mess, gambits are set so that they have an order to prioritize. If you assign a Shell spell to cast on someone because you wanted to combine it with Protect, that spell will be cast whenever Shell goes off. If you put that spell in the highest priority, that could break your momentum during a fight. You have to pay attention to what your party does at all times to prevent any automatic no-nos that could result in a wipe.
Remember when I said that Gambits are a very basic way to "Program" your party members? This is what I meant by basic and by programming as well. Programming is all about setting variables, task executions and, every programmer's favorite part next to coding patterns: conditions. I'm getting ahead of myself here, but in short: Having gambits where you can stack groups of gambits or even spells so that they are performed one after another, based on only the first condition, would have entirely fixed the Gambit System, making it much more functional and, at some stretch of the imagination, bring up the game's skill ceiling. I avoided purchasing gambit slots for everyone but my casters, as the rest were simply told to attack. You only need one gambit to attack, after all. I might have played a very basic playthrough that way, but I can't imagine the stress and headaches one would have to go through by doing a playthrough where you attempt to use Gambits to their fullest of their potential. If only it had what I have mentioned before, I would have added more gambits in my party. That, I guarantee.
Oh, right, I almost forgot. You gotta buy your gambits. No, not just the slots, but the conditions as well. Point two of the list of inconveniences is that you don't have gambits at the beginning of the game. At least, you have a very limited amount of them. You can't automatically assign a certain condition for a character to perform something, you gotta buy it first, and oh boy, there's a metric fuckton of conditions to buy. Hundreds upon hundreds of conditions, even some of them not being useful at all, must be purchased in shops, one at a time.
You can see why there was little to no incentive to use Gambits. They were there, but only behind multiple walls. Using them only provided with less menuing as a result, ending up being a completely optional mechanic if you ever so wish to not bother with it. I used it throughout the game, but it was still something that I scratched my head over due to it being so unintuitive. I guess the first two points culminate in the third problem, which was that its use in the game wasn't the bread and butter of the combat system, but was still tasked to act as such. If you really needed pinpoint timing in your fights, you'd be relying more on using the option that pauses the game when you bring up the combat menu more than you would rely on Gambits. Because of that, Gambits failed in providing the game with a fun, interactive way of fighting enemies, leaving the door open for everyone to see that the combat system is slow and frustrating. It's not for everyone, but I still got enjoyment from it. The RTS approach (even if I ticked the pause on menu option for the whole playthrough) was something that scratched that itch of mine. That itch was to play an RPG where you had to meticulously coordinate a fight and perform actions at specific times while moving your character(s) around the field. There's no game like this one and I wish there was another to enter the fray and completely assert dominance with the solutions I have suggested earlier and maybe even more.
Also, once I finished the game, I tried some post-main story stuff and uninstalled it when I fought three slime monsters who did AoE multi-status effect moves on my entire party, rendering me unable to do anything. I wasn't about to deal with it the moment that happened to me.
Actually, that's another problem this game has with its combat. It's less about its system and more about the enemies and what they can do.
Sure, you can avoid certain situations if you equip certain items or buff your party a certain way, but the point still stands, where if something in a fight goes wrong, it only snowballs from there. If you end up having to buff your party the same way every time you start a fight, the gameplay can become stale very quickly. Adding status effects is supposed to add variety in fights, but when it becomes the centerpoint of later fights, you start to wish for more fights where numbers are dealt to each other and nothing else. Rarely does a game actually make me use items on the regular throughout the entire story, but this one has succeeded a bit too well. Many times where I was forced to use status cure items or, its magic spell equivalent, Esuna, to solve the multiple problems this game would throw at me in the form of monsters (looking at you, morbols). This game loves to throw status effects at you. Rare is an enemy that will deal loads of damage to you and, if they do, it's because they're a boss that has Enrage on after going under 1/3rd of their health bar. Enrage isn't a story I want to touch on, but it's still worth a mention. FF12 players know what I'm talking about.
Status effects are fine in RPGs. However, FF12 brings way too much variety in them. Here are all of the ways a character can be rendered useless in a fight; Sleep, Confuse, Stop, Disable, Slow, Immobilize, Silence. That's a lot of ways of telling your character that they're fucked and some of these are only curable through uncommon means. Esuna isn't a ubiquitous solver of status effects, as it doesn't cure Time Spells, like slow or stop. You'd need to use Haste on the affected person, or perhaps a Chronos Tear. I had to buy many status clearing items to even feel safe and, while that's just common sense to be prepared, I shouldn't be prepared to use 20 of them in a single fight.
I think I'm overstating the problems of the game's gameplay aspects, but that's because there's nothing much to talk about in terms of story and lore. The best I can say about it is: It's just Star Wars, just on a smaller scale. I can't really explain it because I've never seen a single star wars in my life (lynch me if you want), but I've had enough cultural osmosis to tell me that, yeah, this entire thing was just Final Fantasy's attempt at being Star Wars. If I am absolutely wrong at this, feel free to write a dissertation on my twitter DMs. I'll be waiting.
I think it's weird that I've written this much about a game that, despite it all, I've enjoyed enough to play through the main story. Its mediocrity is due to its combat system and lackluster story, one that it failed to give more detail than what was necessary. Its characters were, for the most part, forgettable. I also find it funny that Vaan is supposed to be the main character when Ashe is clearly the one leading the party around, doing things to fulfill her destiny that only she can fulfill. The other people are only there by sheer coincidence. Except for Basch, they just decided to find him cause he's important or something.
Is it insulting to say that Vaan's an even more pathetic version of Tidus? Perhaps more useless. Might be a bit harsh, but there's a degree of truth in there.
*The word “unanimously” is used in a facetious manner here.
In hindsight, I might revisit this review. There's probably much more to talk about here. If I had a shorter way of describing my experience with this game, it's that "It scratched my itch, but left a scab after it was done scratching." I still enjoyed it to some extent, but by the end, I was exhausted from its post-midgame intents.
Resident Evil 7
“A familiar face of Horror returns with full force.”
I told myself I'd wait to write about this game until I completely finish it, but I want to make sure I put my thoughts on my first playthrough before I forget about it.
First things first: This game owns. At the very least, the base content of the game owns.
I'll excuse myself for being one of those people who really doesn't do well with horror, mainly jumpscares more than psychological à-la Silent Hill kind of stuff. I knew what I was getting into, so as another preface for this review: Its horror elements were good and I've been spooked a few times. However, the reason for this game being so good goes beyond its scare factor.
I've watched a lot of playthroughs – Speedruns being the main type of playthrough that I'd watch – It makes sense that I'd know every heartbeat of its gameplay and story. However, as I've learned with Doom 2016 (I've yet to finish that game, either): Watching a game being played and playing the game by yourself are two entirely different experiences. Resident Evil 7 is a much stronger experience when played by yourself and not viewed as a third-party.
This section will be written in sub-chapters, as the game offers many different experiences. I’ll work my way on the order of how I played this game, which is First Playthrough, Not a Hero, Banned Footage DLCs, Jack’s 55th Birthday, End of Zoe, Ethan Must Die and, finally, Madhouse mode(s).
The First Playthrough The first playthrough will be the part where I start talking about how the story kind of sucks (but that’s fine). For the amount of praise I’ve given for this game in those previous paragraphs, it’s weird for me to start talking about the game with “Yeah, I’m not feeling the story.” but you can only trust me when I say that it does start strong, still.
I was very much online when Resident Evil 7 was first teased as an unknown demo (Kitchen). This demo and its subsequent teasers didn’t even have Resident Evil’s name attached to it. Best we knew was that Capcom was developing it. It should be noted that mainline Resident Evil never was a “First Person” game series, so the idea of these teasers being part of the mainline series never really crossed anyone’s mind. If you’re one of those people who figured it out on day 1, you’re also probably very pretentious and I don’t want to talk to you.
A lot of sleuthing occurred for this demo! Theories aplenty for those who were thirsty enough to know or, at the very least, understand what was going on. We knew something big was happening behind the scenes, and we wanted to know, stat. If you manage to make your short technical showcase for your new engine a smashing hit of curiosity, you have automatically succeeded in making big sales for your product. And so, when the name “Resident Evil 7” appeared at E3 2016, people went wild. I was super impressed as well, but I never really bought the game until this year, mainly because, well, I’m bad with horror games, so I decided to watch someone else play it. Saves me the money I didn’t have at the time AND I got to know what the fuck was going on.
I’ve come to regret this decision, despite me not being able to do much about it in the first place. Oh well.
Watching a streamer play the game day 1 was definitely a ride in the first half. Survival horror games haven’t been working a good formula for a long time, so seeing a game where the enemies are three people of a family (and some goons idk they’re just kinda there) and nothing else is fucking genius. For a survival horror game, you want your player to ration out ammo and health items, so how do you make it work when you’re against a very limited amount of enemies?
The inventory system. Also, make the family members super strong.
The inventory system is, what I like to call, Resident Evil 4’s suitcase but it’s pockets instead. You start with 12 slots in the inventory, each item takes one or two slots and that accumulates very quickly. There’s a whole lot of key items to collect, so you can’t just hoard weapons and ammo to your liking. Well, you could, but I hope you enjoy backtracking a whole bunch. Unfortunately, or fortunately, managing your inventory is part of the experience, so if you’re going to leave a slot or two for key items and the rest for ammo and health, you’re going to have a bad time. For me, it was fortunate, because I was compelled to keep a limited amount of resources while carrying key items that let me proceed forward. Perhaps you like it better to be safe with your progress, I won’t judge, but that’s what makes the system work so well: Proceed through the game your way. For those who think this system is unfortunate: I haven’t found anyone yet, so if you’re someone who doesn’t like RE7, please mail me, I’d like to know your thoughts about it. No, seriously, I’d like to know, no joke.
The combination of limited resources available to you at any time and super strong enemies makes for super tense moments. Having Jack Baker run at you while you’re slower than him really has you thinking about your options: Should you shoot him in the head to buy some time? Should you block his inevitable attack? Should you just dart for the safe room? Each option has its own risks and, sure, the answer should end up with you not dying, but when given this situation, RE7 will ask you that question, no ifs, ands or buts, and you must figure out how to overcome a situation with the high chance that you will spend something, whether it be ammo, health or time.
For those who know about this game to a certain degree, a lot of the enemies in this are very easily avoidable. For a new player, however, the game makes sure you're in a rollercoaster ride from start to… the boat section…
Alright, let's get this out of the way. The boat section sucks. It's a maze that's supposed to tie some unexplained plot points, but the only necessary plot point to tie is where Mia was when she told Ethan to forget about her, which, Iunno, I don't care. A lot of people say "Show, don't tell", but the boat deserved telling more than showing. For a lot of people, whatever happens after you get out of the Bakers three houses of horrors, this is where it goes downhill, mainly story wise. However, this is Resident Evil we're talking about, so things going out of proportion is not a first for the series. What's sad is that Resident Evil 7 was so close to not getting to that point, and it would still have ruled.
So Resident Evil 7's story and plot follows similar rules to the other main entries of the series. To say that we should embrace it as such, I would have disagreed. However, with how Village is going based on what we were shown (It is Mid-March at the time that I am writing this), I think that RE7's almost goofy last half will prepare us for RE Village's most likely balls to the wall setting. I mean, come on, it's all based on fairy tales, how can it not be an absurd story?
Alright, I've diverged a bit too long on this. Where do I go from here?
Oh, right, the first playthrough.
This game was definitely focused on first time experiences. A lot of the game's notes hit high, but only when it's your first time playing. After that, the cracks start to show up, but they only show up after you've finished the main campaign. What I absolutely loved is how it immediately begins by shoving very squeamish scenes in your face to tell you that, yes, there are fucked up people in that house willing to kill and maim you. The slow walk into the old house, leading to Ethan finding his wife, locked in a basement cell (A basement in a Louisiana house? Uh oh.) Once his wife starts going crazy, that's where all hell breaks loose.
Not knowing at all what's going on is this game's strongest story point. You see your wife die at least 3 times, two of them from your own hands, and every time you see her die, you hope it's the last, but no, they just keep on going, like Energizer batteries. Initial reactions from me always were "Holy shit, they just keep going! Oh my god, how are they not dead yet." and so on. The story exposes you to its antagonists, and the way it does it is by telling you that you're not going to kill them. Try as you might, they'll just keep coming back up.
So when you fight Jack in the garage for the first time and he seemingly dies in his car, only to get out of it WHILE ON FIRE to come choke you to death, only to get blasted away and get absolutely smoked with burnt skin all over, only to surprise you ONCE MORE just to show you that he's gonna shoot himself in the mouth… You know that he's not fucking around and, despite whatever arsenal you have, you should be fearing him.
Oh, and, if that wasn't enough, you see him shortly after, looking fine, just missing a piece of his head, is all. So you get the point: Jack Baker and whoever's with him is basically immortal. Any injuries they get will instantly heal back, as if they never happened. If you get that, you know that you shouldn't waste bullets on them. When they see you, you know that you've got to lose them somehow, and that's why this game works so well as a survival horror game: The main antagonists will keep you on edge, sometimes make you waste resources, so you can maybe have a chance of progressing through the mansion. That whole exposition of seeing Mia and Jack die over and over again, only to come back up like it was nothing, had me hyped up. It was so absurd, but it got the point across, and getting the point across that your monster is scary and can't be dealt with using regular tactics is the one thing that needed to be done right, so good job, Capcom.
It helps that you properly start the game with a somewhat trustworthy pistol and a knife that you'll only use on non-enemies (the knife sucks ass at damaging enemies). With such a small arsenal, the idea of shooting the big bad guy to slow him down isn't very enticing, so you tend to keep your ammo for the common enemies instead. However, if you're stuck with the big bad guy on your ass for a few minutes, chances are that you'll want to shut him up with a bullet or two.
Briefly explained: Your resources are a bit scarce, so don't play recklessly. In normal mode, you'll manage. Managing your ammo and health in that difficulty shouldn't be much of an issue as long as you know what you're doing. I already said all of this earlier in this review so now you know how organized I am when writing reviews.
Once you start collecting funny animal pieces, you'll eventually encounter Jack himself, only this time, he forces you into a fight. No way out of this, so you better figure out how to beat him! Turns out that a couple of shots will make him open a fence, giving both you and him a chainsaw, except he doesn't have a chainsaw. He's got, like, a humongous scissor. But god DAMN does this pump you up: With a chainsaw in hand, you're going mano a mano with the guy you were doing nothing but run away from just minutes ago! The fight's fierce, but eventually, you get to see Jack's obvious weak spot. This is it, you get to show him who's boss. You start going to town on him while he's vulnerable, sawing his mutated flesh as he screams in hair raising agony. Eventually, you win, but you know what? Jack wants you to know that this ain't over. His final words: "You're gonna die here."
He then explodes into pants. Only his legs remain. You sigh as you're finally do-
Are the pants actually walking right now?
What the fuck.
Thankfully they drop to the floor, inanimate. You saw the door till the saw breaks and you're free from the cage fight.
The entire segment with Jack Baker is an entire crash course on making your story as captivating as possible. The number of times this man SHOULD have died goes beyond counting fingers on one hand, which, maybe I need to give a refresher: That's a lot of death. Don't bother counting, I'm doing a bit here. The whole game got so absurd that you must have at least yelled (or muttered under your breath) "Jesus Christ." as any moment you had with Jack ended with either of you put to the ground. And that is how you get people interested in the story even more: What made this guy so fucking unstoppable that he needed to die multiple times, to the point of becoming pants?
Unfortunately, the absurdity has already peaked, but the atmosphere remains. Resident Evil 7 does pride itself in mixing up its types of horrors. Jack Baker's whole arc was slasher movie adjacent. The next person(If they are one, at this point?) you get to meet is Marguerite, who is all about the grotesque. Well, it's all bugs. There's probably a better category than grotesque for her. Lucas' horror is adjacent to Saw and Hostel. That way, you get to feel horror in different ways as you trek through the treacherous land of the Baker mansion.
With that said, the horror elements from now on get less and less… interesting? It's weird, cause the game still has tricks up its sleeve to scare you or, quite frankly, gross you out. If the bugs don't gross you out, at the very least, Marguerite will.
Entering the 3rd house of the game… Wait, why are there so many houses? What's up with the Bakers for them to have this much land? Jack was a military man so he probably got that veteran money but come on, now.
Entering the 3rd house of the game, the sense of scale has been diminished by quite a lot. Sure, this house is much more destroyed in general, but the lack of multiple floors and general knowledge of which room's which makes it feel like you're treading inside liminal space. Something's amiss in all of this, but if you're asking me to pinpoint what it is, I wouldn't be able to tell you.
This old house is also home of the second worst weapon in the game: The Burner! This is the game's flamethrower and you're only using this either as a bug exterminator or a last resort, cause this thing doesn't do much damage and greatly obstructs your view whenever you use it. It's cool to have new weapons at this point cause I don't wanna waste bullets on flies, but when it comes to the point where your weapon is only efficient at killing bugs, you're missing out on giving the weapon more potential. You might use it later in the game, but in the long run, having 2 or 3 slots taken for this weapon to be in your inventory really irked me whenever I had to have it for the old house segment. The moment I was done with that, it'd be the first thing I'd bring to the storage box. I'm not saying that the burner is useless, but I am saying that it is heavily underwhelming to use.
Despite my complaints about this part, it still captivated me as I wanted to know more about what happened to the Baker family, and why these houses turned to shit like they are in the game. The first iteration of this series had a location similar to this one as well, so it's a subtle little nod that I can accept, especially when I don't have to deal with snakes and dogs here. Just bugs. Thank god. However, the bugs aren't very menacing. They don't hurt much and they die very quickly.
After running in circles around the old house, you'll eventually end up with all of the items you need (plus a backpack, neato) to proceed. That's when the first Marguerite fight happens.
This is gonna feel weird to say but I got Dark Souls vibes from the first fight with her and this has nothing to do with difficulty! Dark Souls always had unique arenas for you to fight in. Some of them were even very unconventional, like how the Capra Demon's area had a set of stairs that would lead to nowhere and then the spot in the back where nobody would go because all you had to do was dodge the dogs using the stairs a whole bunch. Or perhaps in 2, where you had to fight a bunch of rats in a claustrophobic area. The arena in which you had to fight these bosses had to make you think of your surroundings and figure out how to maneuver yourself to fight the boss. The area's design was always made to fit the area you were in as well, which helped immerse you within its universe.
The first fight with Marguerite has her pushing you into a very small hole and you have to fight her and her bugs. It's such a small hole, but it fits so well with a lot of thematics of her character and the place you're in. You know the house is run down, so getting pushed down what is essentially a hole in the middle of the floor gives you that sense of immersion that you are inside a haunted/debilitated house. I don't know, I just liked it a lot and I tried to find a reason why. Oh, and the sense of height, too. Marguerite's looking down on you, as you try to struggle in the hole. As you pelt her with bullets, she gets frustrated and sends bugs at you. What was already a super claustrophobic place is now riddled with insects, so now you have a bunch of things to look out for. This whole chaotic situation has you struggling with your fear of bugs, if you have any. If you don’t, you’d just use the flamethrower and wait for Marguerite to show her face again. Defeating her has you go back up to where you were and you are now able to explore more of the old house. Well, sort of.
There's a long corridor in the new room you get to. It's weird. This house is weird and its architecture doesn't make any sense. The second part of the old house feels like the mandrill maze, except that it’s a long corridor that keeps getting blocked by obstacles. This entire segment would have been cooler if those silly obstructions weren’t there, because a bit more exploration would have been neat. That, and the old house arc didn’t feel that long, compared to the previous one. I find it cool despite it all.
So you get more info on how to deal with the entire situation you're in. You find out that Marguerite is not dead. In fact, she looks fucked up now. You notice an arm super-extending towards a lantern, so you go chase it and see a fucking insect's nest lodged inside Marguerite's nether regions.
I did say the absurdity peaked with Jack's arc, but this is a close second! Marguerite's 2nd form is straight up gross. Once you chase her through the dirt tunnel and up a well, you find that there's a fourth house in the Baker property. So you go in and fight her after she jumpscares you. For new players, this is probably the more nerve wracking fight, but that's a good thing! Marguerite crawls around the greenhouse, pouncing at you or making really squishy sounds while writhing in pain, which, perhaps you get what's going on if you hear it for yourself. It's fucked up. The fight can be intense because she takes a lot of hits and, if you weren't careful with your ammo, you could very well have spent it all on her.
Lucas' theme is traumatic horror, where, I say again here, he forces people in fucked up schemes and contraptions, all Saw-like. You don't even fight him. Instead, you have to solve his puzzles. There are still a few parts that involve shooting big guys, including a monstrous, bloaty mold man. However, the fights aren't as memorable. The game introduces you to wire trapped explosives, but this isn't fleshed out as well as it could have been. It made for one good scare on unassuming players (You notice the wire before it's too late, crouch under it, wondering what that noise is about before you turn around and get slapped by a crawler.) but after that, there's no fight that truly mixes wire traps with combat. It's used a bit more in the DLC stuff, but it definitely could have benefitted from a few fights involving them.
There is a whole escape room scenario in this segment, which is at the very end of Lucas' part. If you've found the "Happy Birthday" tape and played through it entirely, you can already solve the escape room and even skip some parts to avoid the bad end. It's cool, but that's about it. The puzzles here are thankfully the best ones of the game, cause god forbid I do another one of those light projection sculpture puzzles.
At this point, the game only goes downhill from here. What was a horrific journey inside a family house is now a bigger scaled plot device that just kinda sucks. Nobody's interested in the main monster, but you're forced to know more about Eveline and the only thing I'm thinking of is how I just killed Jack Baker for good, for the 5th time this time.
After the boat segment, you get to walk around a salt mine? There is zero explanation as to why that's there, so… whatever. Evelynn tries to throw everything but the kitchen sink at you. You kill a bunch of molded monsters and eventually land back at the first house's basement. That house just kind of has access to a salt mine. Again, no explanation.
You find Evie and stick a needle in her. She melts into mold and turns into a wall with a face, which is the most pathetic fight ever. You can unload on her with disregard towards your health and you'll always win. This whole segment is such a downer, as it could easily have been something much more interesting and in theme with Eveline being the main antagonist. Bigger isn't always better, after all.
So you finish the game and Chris Redfield shows up. The game teases DLC where you play as him and whoop dee doo the day's saved. After all that has happened with Ethan, what story could possibly be squeezed in a DLC?
Not A Hero
At this point, you've faced the horrors, so now you get to play as a badass or, honestly, you're playing as a boulder-punching badass turned pretty boy. Chris is sent back to the neglected-ly mentioned salt mine (which is located at the Baker estate… for some reason) to go deal with Lucas. Guess there was a story to squeeze in after all.
You're equipped with a semi-automatic shotgun and a modified big boy pistol for this DLC. Additionally, you get a bunch of grenades as you go. It goes without mentioning: Resident Evil 7 is now an action game, replacing horror. After all the bullshit that's been sent at your helpless main character, you now play as someone who knows how to fight, and so you get new abilities to deal with the enemies you encounter down at the salt mine.
I've definitely talked too much about the game's mechanics at this point, so I'll go for the story first, then talk about some of the gameplay changes that were made for the bonus content.
The story in short: It’s ok I guess. You’re told to go in the mine without your filter mask on, poor Chris forgot to put it back on when he met Ethan. Because of that, the moment you find one of your soldiers, he gets executed by one of Lucas’ traps. What’s weird about the main campaign is that Lucas’ whole arc didn’t have any real gruesome moments, save for seeing Clancy get burned alive. However, you don’t see anything happen in front of you. I guess that this DLC solves the non-issue, because a bit of shock factor can go a long way. Lucas is still the asshole we know and hate, and the game made sure you didn’t forget about that.
It's also called Not A Hero for a reason, as well: Chris fails to save his crew, as he watches all of them die, one by one, in awful ways. What a dumbass, not being able to save them. How's he a well known paramilitary man if he can't even save his crew?
Sarcasm aside, the title overmines the whole point: Chris is trying to sabotage Lucas' work and, by extent, an unknown group of potential terrorists. It's quite weird to be told that Chris is not a hero when, in the end, he does some serious work in sabotaging some wider scale plans.
Not A Hero's biggest change in gameplay lies within Chris' arms: Not only can he block attacks just like Ethan, but if you time the block just right, Chris staggers enemies with the block, leaving them vulnerable for a very powerful counter punch!
I never used that move on my first playthrough. Probably because I didn't notice the tutorial prompt for it, so I never knew. Could have used it for a certain boss, who was very annoying to deal with sans my knowledge of parries. So, if I've beaten this DLC without this so-called biggest gameplay change, how is it the centerpiece trick in beating this mode easily?
Just… trust me, I guess.
Progression in this game mode is a bit weird because it's very akin to metroidvania: Find a room you can enter but cannot proceed through because you either lack an item to go further or you will straight up die no matter what you do if you go past a certain point. I guess it's like that in the main story as well but the linearity here is much less pronounced, you can basically go anywhere you want, but you need certain items to get to the end of the paths given to you.
The DLC ends with Chris killing(?) Lucas in a very mediocre fight with a limited oxygen meter you can fill up from time to time. It's not very stressful once you find out that the two tanks in the room can replenish oxygen if you wait long enough (and not deplete them one after another so shortly in between replenishments). Lucas was in contact with some connections, people we don't even know who they are and they don't get explained, so expect some of that in RE:Village.
Alright. Here we go.
The "Banned Footage" DLCs are small segments involving Clancy, the cameraman from the Sewer Gators crew, attempting to escape the Baker family's clutches. That, and a prequel short story detailing how the family got infected in the first place.
The segments range from fun to outright unpleasant. Can you guess which one sucks the most?
Let's start with Nightmare. Nightmare is a short horde-wave game mode, where you have to accumulate scrap to create weapons, ammo, what have you. You're stuck in the basement of the main house and you can only leave once you beat all of the waves, killing molded monsters and, eventually, Jack himself. Well, you don't actually kill him. This probably doesn't even canonically happen if you recall what happens in one of the tapes that you find in the main campaign. This game mode is the most fun out of the bunch! Collecting scrap and maintaining your resources is pretty tough, so you need to be careful with how you spend your bullets and health kits throughout the waves. The fine balance between the amount of currency and the number of shots you have left to finish a wave is quite tight, which lead to stressful moments that I've managed to live through every time. It's tense, it's dynamic and it never bores.
Like I said, you eventually have to fight Jack, which is why saving your bullets for later is very important. You can't just keep on buying bullets, either, as their price increases the more you buy them. It's a great way to incentivize either getting other weapons or upgrading the ones you have, which also means you're not pack ratting the whole way through. Once Jack appears, it'll be apparent if you've played well, cause you need a decent amount of bullets to dispose of him for the first time. Of course, he appears once more at the very last wave, and that's when both bullets and upgrades start costing a lot. Being smart with your resources means buying traps as the game goes on, as they help to either deal damage to Jack or dispose of one or few molded. Traps, or really, automated turrets, are a godsend that will help you in a pinch. Everything in this game mode helps, actually, which is probably why it's so much fun in the first place.
The harder version of nightmare makes resource management even tougher, too! But you know what? It was the perfect blend of difficulty, skill and resource management. I highly recommend you try this one out. With the advent of Mercenaries mode in Village, I'll be looking forward to that, now that I have a taste of modern horde-like gameplay in Resident Evil.
Next up is Bedroom, a puzzle type game mode where Marguerite locks you in a bedroom, forcing you to eat her "Food" while she goes to make some more. Being held against your will to the bedroom's bed (using very flimsy materials), you easily escape, but a bunch of puzzles surround you. You have to recognize the initial location of every object in plain sight, because you will need to put everything back to where it was before Marguerite comes back after you accidentally make loud things happen, and it WILL happen.
It's intense, but it's also not my kind of game. I've honestly consulted a walkthrough because my memory is way too spotty to properly play and enjoy this type of gameplay. However, I do appreciate the gimmick, which is that not only must you solve puzzles, but you're also forced to put back everything in its rightful place afterwards to not get a game over. It's well done, and I bet that playing this in VR must be terrifying and tense to say the least.
Alright, now this is the shitstorm. The worst of things this game can give to us. 21 is a game of Blackjack, but with CRUTCHES. As Clancy, you are held down to a chair, forced to play one of Lucas' fucked up games. This time, he will cut your fingers off till you die (?) if you fail a game of blackjack against an unknown individual with a bag on his head.
Lucas will put you against a man who has a reason to live, and a family to go see. So of course, the game will fuck with you for trying to live, by making you watch a poor, innocent man slowly get tortured to death, granted that you win your hands. On a horror standpoint, this is the strongest moment of 21, the rest can suck my dick and then balls.
At some point, you'll be given these little trump cards, which enhance your hand or the bet against the opponent, things like "gives you the optimal card to get the closest to 21" or "increases the bet against the enemy by 2" and a bunch more. Alright, so there's a bit more than luck involved. You can use these trump cards any time during the match, which can work in your favor at any time. What's so bad about that?
Well, let's keep going.
Once you defeat the innocent man and cut all the fingers of his one hand off, he persists and asks for a rematch. Lucas is thrilled, so he makes you guys play another one. How fun.
And so, Lucas brings up a shock machine. Instead of 5 fingers being cut off, you have ten levels of shocking pain before you go croak, which means you gotta play an even longer game of blackjack. Nothing wrong with that.
There are more crutches (trump cards) added in the mix, which can severely fuck you up when you can't do anything about it. Same goes for you, so really, the odds are sort of equal. And so, you eventually beat the guy and watch him get shocked to death.
Lucas is not pleased with this, for some reason, and asks for (forces) yet another rematch. This time, a saw will straight up just cut your head apart if you lose. If you lose, the saw will get closer to you. This is where the bullshit starts beginning. I'll say that again: It's where the bullshit starts beginning. There's multiple phases of bullshit in 21 and, believe it or not, it persists after you've finished the game mode.
Survival is the part where you need lots of luck to clear. You must defeat 5 opponents in one life, all health points lost are transferred by the opponent, so you need to lose even less if you want to get to the end. Enemies also now have thematic trump card decks: Some of them focus on not losing health when losing, someone them want to one shot you and some of them really wants to fuck with your trump cards.
Considering that you unlock more trump cards to use (and you will use them), it's not that bad. If you play the trump cards right and understand how to count the cards in this game, it shouldn't take long for you to clear survival.
Alright, so you've passed survival. Now do survival+. Go fuck yourself.
Survival+ is survival but now you need to beat 10 opponents in a row. More gimmick decks will be played and you'll have a much greater chance to lose lives and trump cards forced out of you. If you know how to deal with certain enemies, you'll be fine. At least until you get to the final opponent.
The final opponent will throw everything but the kitchen sink at you. Actually, no, the kitchen sink is included. Your opponent has unique trump cards that you can't even play. For the most part, these trump cards are played to prevent you from playing. You will lose the majority of your health here, so if you enter this fight with barely any health, you'll most likely die and have wasted an hour of game time, maybe even more, forcing you to start from the beginning.
Never have I ever told a game to suck my dick before. When the very last possible hand being dealt (where we were both at one health point left) and the bastard tried to prevent me from playing anything. I had one more trump card to use to remove his guaranteed win. However, all he had to do was draw it back. In a miracle that can only be described as an "AI defect", my opponent drew the wrong card and stayed when he could have picked another one to guarantee a win. I almost wasted 2 hours on that run and I wasted another 2 on a failed one. You can see why I don't want to spend 2 hours per attempt just to finish a simple minigame. It was too frustrating, you need to be lucky to win and the end result of it all is that it's so unsatisfying that the AI had to fuck up for me to win. What a load of horseshit.
And that was 21. Never again will I play this.
The last banned footage is a prequel to the events of the Bakers getting infected with mold. You see a fully functional family (+ Lucas) having a fully normal conversation, and yes, you get to witness a humble Jack Baker talking about doing normal family things. It's endearing. Marguerite's here too, but uh, I don't care, I wanna see Jack some more.
There isn't much to talk about here. There are two endings, one where the game misleads you into the bad ending, and the good ending where Eveline jumpscares you twice before being told that you did it, you made Zoe escape(?) the family.
I want a show about the bakers without the whole mold bullshit. Give me humble Jack back, I miss him.
End Of Zoe
Well, I'm glad that Capcom thought of this one.
End of Zoe is the best DLC of the game. You get to play as Jack Baker's brother, Joe Baker. He's as redneck as it gets: The man punches creatures to death, he eats bugs for breakfast and he will kill alligators… with spears. Man knows his limits, he can't wrestle an alligator and, frankly, so do you. He finds Zoe in the middle of the woods, lying down and crystallized and also there are army men surrounding her. If there's one thing Joe hates, it's seeing army men surround a family member. He immediately knocks out one and captures the other, bringing him to the shack where Joe lives I guess. After being told that Zoe's crystal body can be cured, Joe sets out to find a serum, which, apparently there is one nearby.
After finding a (partially used) serum, he goes back to his house to stick the needle in Zoe. Unfortunately, this does nothing, cause that serum wasn't enough. The captured army man then mentions that there's more around the swamp. He then fucking dies to a mysterious (lol) swamp man, like, he gets fucking killed. Absolutely gruesome death.
The rest of Joe's journey becomes a search for the serum, and fighting that swamp man from time to time. You'll be fighting some generic mold men, but this time, with fisticuffs.
End of Zoe is all about using Joe's fists to fuck up some mold monsters, and it feels gooood. You can attack with fast punches or some strong hits, depending on what you want to do to your enemies. Either way, landing combos on these monsters feels satisfying. Joe's made to be a badass, at least, within limits.
The one thing Joe will not fuck with is gators. Even he knows that you simply cannot wrestle one, especially when drudging through swamp water. The only way you're gonna kill one is by using ranged weaponry. Thankfully, you get to make spears using branches and metal that you'll find as you explore the swamp. Although limited, the game designer(s) also made sure you can stealth through all of them. I highly suggest you don't do that. Just kill them. I've made the mistake of getting 100% achievements in this game, which has shaved 5 of the 20 years shaved off my life from stress alone.
So the fighting is awesome, you fuck up enemies with your fists. Eventually, by the end, you're given a really powerful glove that lets you charge your punches for devastating damage! It's awesome, it owns and you're only gonna use it for a total of 5 minutes or so. Well, you could always do another playthrough, where you unlock a weaker version of the glove. You beat up the final boss and save Zoe from being a crystallized naked mannequin.
The strongest point of this DLC is damage feedback. As stated before, using Joe's fists is satisfying and, while he's not the ultimate badass, punching enemies has weight and impact put into it. I never got tired of going for the one two punch or the rapid flurry of punches. Knowing you can fucking kill the crawlers in one go with a stomp from behind is also satisfying. You could have him in a Devil May Cry game and I'd be playing this dude just to punch some demons in the face. It's almost like therapy.
Ethan Must Die
Roguelikes are killing video games, Ethan Must Die is a great example of this.
You can justify all you want about making the best of what you got, but this game doesn't even let you do this, and this is for one good reason: The knife fucking sucks.
You start with a Knife in the Bakers' backyard. You have to go through the house in a set path while avoiding and/or killing enemies along the way, however this time, tricks and traps are all around the place, and the only way to obtain more items is to open crates of various rarity that you may or may not get. Sometimes you'll get a green (2 star) crate containing a shotgun, sometimes you'll get nothing at all, sometimes you'll get a fucking bomb that will kill you if you slash it.
Random generation is some of the laziest things you can do to a game and yet people gobble that shit up. I've gobbled that shit up with The Binding of Isaac, until I gave up when the ultimate brain genius Edmund McMillen decided that bosses' health scales with your damage, so now the OP build that you probably put effort in getting means nothing at all now. I gave up with Ethan Must Die because you are almost guaranteed a run that cannot be finished.
This isn't even a question of "Was I good enough at this game?", no, this was a question of "was I given the resources to overcome this trial?", where I have died countless times because a good run was ruined by either a random bomb or the game simply refusing to give me ammo for my weapons. And still, you can't hoard too much, because you'll be carrying key items that you need to progress!
In other words, have a good start and wish that you get some good stuff along the way or you're fucked. You will be stuck in some rooms, forced to fight enemies. If you think you can handle a room of enemies with just a knife, you are probably that same poser I complained about at the beginning of this review. It's suicide to go on a melee fight against an enemy that can sucker punch you dead in .15 seconds. If you're lucky, you can survive a hit. If you're even luckier, you'll get a healing item. If you're the luckiest person around, you'll get a gun to deal with obligatory fights.
There's also the point that this predetermined course that you will take is riddled with traps. Yeah, it's tough, but at least it's not randomized. I've been caught by a few of them, but these were traps that I at least knew about afterwards. I was able to learn how to get past certain situations after dealing with them multiple times. In a sense, you do develop a speedrun the more you play through it, but the problem remains: You can't complete that run if you don't have what you need to complete it. Enemies will kill you if you approach them, you will not outsmart them. Not being able to go for another approach because the game decided that you're gonna starve on ammo is not an indicator of difficulty: It's an indicator of fucking piss poor game design.
I have given up on this game mode once, and it was only by denial of being defeated that I eventually got through and beat it. You know what my winning run was like?
I got good weapons, lots and lots of ammo and healing and I still depleted it all and had to resort to using the machine gun turrets at the end to have them shoot Marguerite, who is the final boss of this game mode. I also had to run with my knife around for a few minutes. It’s not like I missed a bunch of shots either, I was careful with my aiming. That's how brutal and unfair this game mode is. Even with a good build, it can still not be enough.
This is a message to the games industry: Stop fucking making everything with roguelike elements slapped into them. You're not a genius. You're not making a good game. Following a trend won't make you successful, then again, you never listen and you never learn from your mistakes.
Jack's 55th Birthday
My hands are hurting. This entire review has been going on for very long. Courage, however, for we are almost done.
This is the goofiest game mode of them all, but it's also one of the best! Unlike Ethan Must Die, the core strategy for this mode is to figure out the perfect build and pathing to get the most efficient score possible. The best part? It’s not randomized! It works so well that you could almost make a game about it.
Well, maybe not, but this has a decent amount of replayability. Customizing your loadout and figuring out the best pathing to get an optimal score is satisfying! You also have to manage your inventory so you can’t just hoard weapons to pick up the necessary items to get a high score, so it becomes this huge multi-management game that quickly becomes an easy speedrun the more you play it.
Oh, I should probably tell you what this game mode is about.
Jack’s 55th Birthday has you play as Mia. Jack’s super hungry, so he sits at a table, whining about having some food, so you go get some for him. You’re on a time limit, but you gain time whenever you hurt/kill molded, so you get to do that while you go find some food. You also get a sort of “safe house” where you can plan your route before the timer starts, so you pick up whatever weapons and perks you think are necessary to get the best score possible.
Yes, that’s right, perks! You can put perks in your inventory to improve your character, whether it is better speed, attack, defense, whatever. These take slots in your inventory, so you have to choose wisely! I know I’ve been raving about management but that’s the name of the game, and it works super well!
If you manage to get the highest score possible on all of the levels (there are but a few), you get to unlock fun perks and weapons that completely break the balance of this minigame. Unfortunately, you can’t get them for other game modes. Bummer, I could have used an infinite ammo super powerful pistol for Ethan Must Die, maybe then it’ll be bearable.
Bottom Line: This game mode owns. Play it.
And so, the last thing to talk about here are the hardest difficulties. I'm making this one short, because there is only a bit to talk about here.
This shouldn't be called the madhouse modes (plural) because the hardest difficulty of each game mode has a different name. The main story's hardest mode is madhouse, Not A Hero has Professional mode and End of Zoe has Joe Must Die.
Madhouse has a few changes, notably that item spawns and enemies are placed differently and most hits are fatal. It has provided a tough but fair enough challenge, although some of the moments within it were a bit too stressful for my liking. Nothing to really complain about.
Not a Hero has Professional Mode, which does more of the same with Madhouse. You won't be using much of your weapon but, if you were like me, you'll eventually learn that parrying enemies is the easy way to finish this mode. Fun if you know what you're doing.
Joe Must Die is a motherfucker. The feeling of being a badass is completely lost here. You'll be forced to learn how to maneuver around enemies when melee fighting them because they take a LOT of hits, but you can only take two at most. It's a tough challenge that I thought was near impossible, but after learning about enemy patterns and taking my sweet time to punch enemies to death, I managed to get through. I highly suggest you unlock post story weapons, because you will need them 100%. This mode is the most different of the three, because it makes you completely rethink how to play through the story.
And that was Resident Evil 7! I've completed the whole thing and it was, for the most part, enjoyable. It's strongest suit is the first time you play the game, as all the quirks and thought out parts have a first time experience as its main design. Despite that, you still have lots of replayability with this game. As you beat game modes with certain requirements, you unlock more game breaking weapons that make the game more fun and easy to just breeze through, if you so want to do it. Just steer clear of 21. That game mode was a mistake.
Say No! More
“No! I’m not writing a hook for this. Wait...”
The severe lack of indie games in my list is a bit heretical. Heretical in the sense that I’m only currently enjoying games made with corporate interest. To that, I say no!
Well, for now, I’ll say no. I’m playing an indie game now.
You’re a customized character who just got accepted alongside two other people into [COMPANY] as an intern, and as such, you are expected to become a yes man, doing all sorts of menial tasks for the sake of higher ups having control over you because they’re lazy or whatever. Your character, however, can’t even utter words. As shy as shy can be, you waddle around the office, being shown your cruddy little desk space, which probably stinks of sewage and what have you. Your floor manager seems to be very perky and likes to joke around being a bossy man who doesn’t take no for an answer, but of course, you’re an intern at a massive company, so that joke turns into reality in an instant. The lunchbox you’ve been given by your roommate has been stolen by your floor manager and, as luck would have it, a walkman drops on you, with a tape labeled “NO” on it. You play the tape and are transported into a new world.
A buff figure appears before you, instructing you on how to say NO and how to mean it. The game truly starts here.
What's weird is that Say No! More tends to give you an arsenal of… ways? To say no? However, your arsenal is, in a sense, homogenous: You can start and finish the game but using the same first "No" you get at the beginning of the game. It's interesting, but I fail to understand why I need a tutorial on how to say no in different ways as the game progresses. You start the game with one way to say "No", and that's the angry way. Later on, you get other moods of "no" to suit your response towards a very irate or sloppy higher-up. The different ways of saying no should have been unlocked from the very beginning, and that's because the game is made to be played with friends.
Wait, played with friends? What do I mean by that? It's a single player game.
I should rephrase here: It's a game to show to your friends (or stream it), because the game lets you direct your comedic style as you play. There's no one way (save for a few moments) to say no to people, so when someone asks you to fetch some coffee for them, you can figure out the funniest, or, if you hate people, the coldest way to say no to them. This can lead to a bit of replay value, as you can showcase this game to other groups of people and not have the same playthrough because of how you can make people laugh based on your playstyle. It's weird to say it like that, cause it's just your character saying no (in various accents), but it still goes a long way.
Speaking of long (or the lack of length), this game took less than 2 hours to finish. Technically, I could refund it from steam right now, but I won't, but I could. This is where the replay value comes in. At about 15 dollars, it's a bit of a steep price, but you still get a decent amount of enjoyment from it. I want to avoid spoiling what happens in the story. It's better if you experience it for yourself.
On a final note, I do want to put a bit of attention to the message of this game. It's fairly obvious what the message is, but it still gives you a few more things to think about. It's heartwarming and I do appreciate that a bit of nuance was put into it. Pick it up if you want a quick game to play.
Resident Evil Village
Ethan just can't catch a break.
Spoilers for this review. For once, I'm reviewing a game that has been released this year.
So let's start with my reaction of this game:
That's a positive wow, if you couldn't tell. I've pretty much called it: This game is balls to the wall. The action is fast paced, the story goes all over the place a mile a minute and you end up facing the most absurd enemies you can get. While the absurdity doesn't trump anything the Resident Evil series has done so far, it's still a recognizable kind of absurdity. The scares are much fewer here, making place for more appealing things, mainly the village and how it looks. This game is pretty, well, in the sense that there are a lot of breathtaking landmarks.
At the time that I am writing this review, I can safely say that all of the problems 7 had are not in this game. The sucker punches of the mold monsters are gone, the pacing from start to finish is more consistent and there's no one section where I dread to get through. No, not even the windmill. Additionally, there is no DLC out yet, so if I start talking about how this game owns and all of a sudden I become the most depressed person in the world as I have to sit through 21-2, you'll at least understand why.
I'm gonna start this review for real now with this statement: I'm a fucking hypocrite.
Remember when I had this whole song and dance about 7 not being out yet and complaining that the people who already figured out the whole thing? I was the product of my own hatred for this game. I genuinely thought I figured out the entirety of Village before I even got to play it. I was also WRONG.
Village does NOT play with your expectations, rather embraces them and pats you on the back, telling you that you're gonna have a good time. And I did. I even smiled and audibly yelled "WOW" at some parts. There's a surprise at every corner and god damn if it isn't my birthday party every time. These surprises are half fanservice, half fan service. What's the difference between the two? Fanservice is when you refer to a previous moment in the series as a little nudge nudge wink wink nod, fan service is when the devs give the players what they have wanted and perhaps even more. It's a bit deliberate, but come on, it's Resident Evil. No slack needs to be cut here, that's just the nature of the series.
The new characters are cool as well! However, some of them suffer from not getting fleshed out syndrome, perhaps because of the time restraints given for the development of this game, or perhaps for the sake of the game's pacing. It's a bummer, but it's not as bad as I am making it sound like. These underdeveloped characters still get flavor text in many places, so you can still appreciate them if you care hard enough. Perhaps they'll gain more screen time in the DLCs.
The difference between 7 and this game is all about pacing. I've already mentioned pacing multiple times, but whatever. The pacing also affects the gameplay: Guns are more powerful, ammo is less scarce, there are plenty more enemies to fight, everything's tuned up, although not necessarily to 11. Shooting enemies feels just as good, mainly because the feedback when you hit them ranges from pistol hits making a small squishy noise, to throwing a grenade and hearing thousands of appendages getting ripped off. Pistols, while a useful weapon for a good chunk of the game, definitely could have benefitted from better hit feedback, both in the sound department and the impact it leaves on the enemy, staggered or not. Other weapons feel very good to use, especially in Mercenaries mode, which I’ll talk about later.
One thing about fights that sucks is that most of the enemies' attacks, if they hit, trigger a short cutscene of Ethan getting hurt, rather than just making Ethan flinch and seeing the screen flash a bit as a result. It kind of ruins the flow and I'm not sure of the intent of such a mechanic. All I can say is that it could have been not a thing and the game would have been better as a result, although not by a lot.
Because this is a 2021 game, I’ll refrain from talking too much about the story and plot and characters and whatnot, so this review won’t be as detailed and long as my RE7 review. Play the game for yourself, I don’t want to spoil what happens, at the very least, I don’t want to spoil the story in detail.
Neo: The World Ends With You
Time doesn’t heal all wounds.
Cursed to be in the Epic Games Store. I pre-ordered the switch version in the hopes that it'll run well.
Verdict: It ran… ok? Slowdowns aplenty, but the game was still playable otherwise. I didn’t feel hindered from playing to my full potential whenever I encountered slow downs, and this game does have quickly paced fights. The PS4 version must run just fine. I might just pick up the PC version because I’m a fucking sucker.
Here’s what I think about this game: It’s my disappointment of the year. Uh oh!
Should you still get this game? Yes. Why do I think it’s a disappointment? Time hasn’t been nice to the series, and, as much as I loved the gameplay (again, it’s really good!), the story is very, uh… bad.
To explain why the story is bad, I’d have to talk about the first game of the series: The World Ends With You: Final Remix. No, not the DS game, that one’s not canon anymore, you whore. Well, it is canon, but it doesn't have the extra content that Final Mix has: a new day which involves a new character, which is there to set up another entry in the series, eventually.
The idea of the first game ending where it did was supposed to be a definitive endpoint for the main character. Neku fought the final boss, returned to the RG and is enjoying his life to the fullest with his friends. The message of that game was strong and remains one of the best stories of any RPG game out there. That says a lot when that game is from Square Enix, too.
Much like Resident Evil Village, however, the game has been released this year and I'd rather not spoil things. I've been a fan of the series since the beginning, but my thoughts on it have been very polarizing compared to what I've heard other fans say about it. Whether you're a TWEWY veteran or not, I'd rather not be the person to discourage trying it out at the very least.
So instead, I'll talk about the gameplay.
Neo TWEWY is fully 3D! I went back to the DS game to compare how it was back then to now and, god damn, wow, Shibuya is much, much bigger now. Going around town feels great, walking around and scanning through the crowd and noise alike hasn't given me any issues and, like I said, the frame rate does drop on Switch, but it has not hindered my enjoyment of the game as a whole. The art direction has given the city a new, fresh coat of paint. Where the first game's very small maps had insane detail, NEO bunches up some of the maps, although without as much detail, giving them enough cohesion so you don't look at a garbled mess. Yeah, it feels emptier, but I think it's for the best, for if the game's maps had as much detail as the first one, I'd probably get some sort of motion sickness out of it.
Instead, the maps all have somewhat fixed cameras, with some places having cool effects when going from one point to the other. How the camera works on every location makes them much easier to remember, so running around Shibuya feels like you know the ins and outs of the city. It works, it just does.
Fights are super dynamic and full of depth! I've enjoyed playing through the game whilst swapping pins on the regular. There's a lot of combinations to try out to pull out insane combos. Enemies are much much tougher this time around, and they've given me a hard time on Hard difficulty…
...Especially the wolves. What the fuck.
It's no spoiler to mention wolf noises. They're quite a staple in the noise bestiary. However, they've been buffed to hell and back: They now have an invincible, untargetable, hyper fast dash attack where they just bounce everywhere and deal lots of damage for a long time, they have a grab attack to incapacitate one of your teammates, they usually come in packs and they also move very fast, making some combo opportunities impossible. Wolves deserve their own paragraph here because as of yet, I've not found a way to counter them, other than to focus them first and pray that I do enough damage to them so that they die in one shot. They are a nuisance and a threat to any player. They're also the only reason why I had to switch to Normal difficulty. I don't know who thought these wolves were a good idea, but my money's on that person being a sadist.
The other enemies range from cool to a bit annoying. The chameleon being the latter, but at least they're not the fucking wolves, I can actually avoid their attacks, for one.
Another thing about these enemies is that they are quite spongy and can give a beating in Hard mode, even if you grind a bunch and eat a lot of food to boost your stats. This game has a very unforgiving difficulty setting and will beat you up if you're not prepared enough, and you probably won't be prepared enough anyways.
So, the difficulty's there. That's nice, but if I'm 10 levels over the recommended amount in a fight, I shouldn't be dying like it's nothing. The balance favors the enemies, but perhaps that's what makes you winning those fights much more satisfying. You can't win by button mashing, you need to figure out the enemies' patterns and attack when the opportunity presents itself. It wouldn't be bad game design if it WEREN'T FOR THE FUCKING WOLVES
Again, there are some other enemies that cause problems, but none of them are as bad as wolves. However, you are guaranteed to be hit if you fight some of them, especially bosses. Some of the bosses have dodgeable attacks, but you also have to deal with making 3 or more of your characters move at the same time. It gets hectic, and seeing a side character move into a deadly attack that will shred the entire team's hp is not fun. Hope you have enough health!
I’m being a bit rough on the AI. They do dodge a lot of attacks very well. However, I’m thinking of one boss fight where your friends can easily get caught in an attack that WILL drain your entire team’s HP if you’re not careful, and that boss fight is already bullet hell. You can dodge so many lasers until your dodging trajectory leads you into another stray laser. It’s bound to happen.
So you’ll probably need better stats to survive inevitable hits. Eating food is the way to actually boost your characters' stats. Levelling up only gives them more health, but Attack and Defense are still very important. I enjoy the original game's system better however, due to how much simpler it is to plan your fights. One fight is one block, so if you eat a food that's 12 blocks, I'll grind for that many fights. In Neo, you are given a percentage and you can only eat at restaurants. As long as you're not over 99% fullness, you can still eat at restaurants. Afterwards, you have to fight a bunch of times to get that meter down to 0. That meter feels a bit arbitrary in how many fights you have to do, as it is unclear on the amount. This makes planning things a bit tougher, although trivial to some people. It's not a big deal, but something worth mentioning anyways.
Other than that, for the fans of the series: please give this a go. I’m hating on it, but you probably won’t. I understand that I’m giving it a harsh point of view but that’s because I waited more than a decade on this game, technically. Sure, it didn’t get announced until like, what, some months before it was released? But deep down, I was waiting for a sequel ever since I beat the first game back in 2008.
Wario Ware: Get It Together!
The shortest, yet most jam packed game in the series.
I find it weird that Nintendo just doesn't know how to make a multiplayer game. Of course, they're known for their single player experiences, but the idea of making a local multiplayer-only game in 2021 is… lackluster. I can't think of a good word here to describe "Completely bereft of understanding the gaming market and its consumers."
This instance of Wario Ware has a bunch of multiplayer games… That you can only play local. In 2021. The COVID virus is still around, buddy, perhaps you should have considered that?!
I had to bring this point up at the very start, because the multiplayer part takes up almost half of the game's content! The other half is your usual little story mode and micro game collections. Hell, they've heavily advertised this game as a multiplayer game (look at the name). I wouldn't mind such a thing back in the wii days (which, by the way, Smooth Moves is a really good game), but we're in the present day right now. Nintendo is as archaic as ever and by god do I wish for them to change that mindset of theirs.
So with that out of the way…
Wario Ware: Get it Together!'s twist this time around is that you control a character to perform the tasks. Rather than having a set of controls for each micro game, you get a set of characters to play whatever micro game this game has.
As you can guess, balancing is hell.
But why care about balancing? It's a casual game where you just have fun, am I seriously going to take it this seriously? Believe me that I'm not too serious about this, but it's a point I'd still like to address, as I feel like the devs could have avoided certain of the problems I've seen with this game.
Some minigames are outright impossible to complete with certain characters.
Every character has a different way of moving: Some of them have the freedom of flying around as they please, some of them have to jump, some of them will not stop moving and, hell, one of them just doesn't move! Because of how microgames work in this game, they have to be created with the mindset that all characters can complete it. That isn't even true.
5-volt is a character who falls asleep and lets her spirit teleport her to wherever it is. Some microgames require you to move precisely or, worse, push things. A spirit cannot push things, and so you have to constantly move and appear next to objects to push them. For a microgame to last an average of 5 seconds, you don't have much time to do that sort of stuff.
This problem obviously extends to other characters as well, but I think the previous paragraph is enough of an example.
For its price point, for single players without friends to play this with I guess, it's a bit steep. I bought it to sate my microgame cravings and, for the most part, it does its job just fine. Microgames have the Wario Ware charm, albeit a bit more restrained, a lot of playstyles and types of minigames are introduced, and you get to see Jimmy T. bust some sick moves. However, with the bad balancing and a somewhat lacking number of microgames, was it worth it in the end? Eh. Maybe. If you want to play microgames, it's fine. I still think Smooth Moves or Touched are the best ones of the series. If you haven't played those yet, go do that and see if you're craving for more.