Oh hi there. I’ve been relatively quiet as of late, so thought I’d put together a quick post as to why, as well as noting some other projects! To keep y’all entertained whilst doing so, there’ll be anime GIFs throughout, so stick around, yeah? This isn’t gonna be a long one. Either way, there is anime, so, yeah! We’re all a fan of that right?
OK so firstly, to explain my recent reduced frequency of posting; a storm of different life stuff has been going on, from moving where I live, to starting a new work position, to, erm, managing to damage the keys on my laptop and therefore making typing tricky… However! The first two are more organised now, and the latter I have sorta-fixed (don’t ask). I’m back in a position where I have more opportunity to write!
Also, I have been playing quite a few games recently, and have a lot of material ready. Expect quite a few reviews soon, as well as more Let’s Chat, and even some more one-off articles. I’m keen to start doing more list articles as well, but one thing at a time and all that. With it being the time of year that it is, also expect themed pieces…
Another exciting prospect is that I have been setting up my video recording arrangement, to the point where I am prepared for video capture and streaming. For those intrigued, there are two methods in which I am doing this; when I am recording gameplay, or streaming solo on Switch or PlayStation, I have a set-up of the Hauppauge HD PVR 2 Gaming Edition in combination with the OBS software. When I am playing multiplayer in party chat with friends on PlayStation, though – such as for Path of Exile at the moment – I go through the in-built Broadcast feature, as this is a straightforward way in which to get multiple voices into the stream.
This means I shall occasionally be online for you to follow along – predominantly the streams shall be through Twitch, and the bespoke videos on YouTube. My writing shall continue to happen here, with the videos as a complimentary channel of content that runs alongside. I have plans to stream the soon-to-be-released The Crown Tundra DLC for Pokémon Sword and Shield!
Those are the main topics I was planning to mention. Yet, I’m here now, so let’s discuss a couple other events going on. With new consoles on the way – I hope I can get a PS5 at launch! – there is going to be much to write, and I imagine a lot of this shall be done through Let’s Chat. I’m very excited for Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity and finding out more of the story at that point in the Zelda timeline; I have been avoiding much of the info released so far so that I go into that game as fresh as I can! Expect in-depth articles from me on potential story theories when that game is out.
I have many reviews planned, as I try to get through my backlog; finishing a game and then reviewing it is a process I find very satisfying for ticking a game off in my mind – perhaps that is just me, but maybe that is a feeling shared by others. Gotta get through that backlog, right? Also I shall continue my Film in 500 review series, which seems to have been well-received, and fit in anime too. So much great stuff!
Okay that’s enough rambling from me. I mean, I should get onto making headway with all these fun projects! I hope you have a wonderful day! See ya 🙂
Developed and Published by: Supergiant Games Platforms: Switch (Reviewed), PC Release Date: Out Now
They’ve done it again; and got me, too, coming back again and again. In Hades, Supergiant Games have crafted a masterful take on the roguelike that blends the brutal yet rewarding appeal of said genre with the immaculate, characterful art and music direction the developer is known for. I have never played a roguelike that encourages you on in such a way; not only are you seeking to better yourself on skill, but you’re motivated to find out more on the richly developed characters as well. If I was making a list of my top ten developers, Supergiant would probably be in there, and Hades is another example of why (again, a great idea for a list article there… I should start doing those)!
The story premise, whilst deeply layered within the Greek Mythology it employs, is quite straightforward in the goal set out to you. You play as Zagreus, son of Hades – the God of the Dead – and having grown tired of your constrained life within the Underworld, you set about trying to escape to discover more about your family. This means fighting through multiple areas, including Tartarus and Asphodel, in order to reach the surface and the secrets that await you there. It’s set out in familiar roguelike format; you battle through consecutive, randomised chambers of enemies and traps, with boss fights capping each of the sections; as well as this, there are surprise interludes; this includes fountains to restore health, and a shop run by Charon, Ferryman of the Underworld. If you die, you are kicked back to your starting point of The House of Hades, where you regroup (more on that below) before setting off again, undeterred.
Controls are deceptively simple; you play from a dynamic isometric perspective – it is reminiscent of previous Supergiant games, in particular Transistor – and this means that whilst Zagreus maneuvers around a open area with a sense of depth, it is in a 2D style (see the screenshots in this review). There is more surrounding space compared to roguelikes such as Rogue Legacy or Dead Cells, which are strictly from-the-side 2D and often claustrophobic – arguably to a fault. In contrast, Hades has a bit more freedom that is delightful to operate within; the game goes a long way to balancing out this extra space by throwing a barrage of enemies at you. Still, this approach does supply slight breathing room for the player, and I found it much less daunting – and, overall, easier (though not easy) – than other roguelikes, especially once you settle into the rhythm.
You have an attack and a special that are determined by your choice of Infernal Arms – there are 6 strains of weapon, from your starting sword to a spear, bow, and more. They each handle very differently and cater to different playstyles. Finding your preferred weapon (shock, I mainly go for archery) provides a sense of personal customisation to your repeated escape campaigns, especially as you unlock different Aspects to further fine-tune your loadout. Furthermore, you have a ranged cast attack, and in terms of movement, your dash is crucial to keep up momentum and avoid the smorgasbord of threats coming your way; the frenetic pace of the action means that mastering this is very important to being successful in Hades. There is then an extra ultimate-style move named a Call that you can only get as an offering from one of the Olympian Gods.
Which is a great way to segway into the Boons themselves. Another way that Hades brings distinct personality to the familiar roguelike set-up is with the way it portrays the Greek Mythology, especially the characters within it. You see, as you progress through an escape attempt, the Olympian Gods attempt to help you out; you will come across offerings from them – Lady Artemis (my favourite character in Hades), Lord Zeus, and Lady Athena, to name three – granting you Boons that affect the nature of your abilities. This may be a refinement of one of your attacks or your dash, or perhaps a passive improvement such as increased move speed. Two examples: Lady Artemis grants perks that focus on critical hits and pinpoint damage, whilst Lord Poseidon applies wave splash damage that pushes enemies aside and away from their trajectory. Utilisation and combination of these specific effects is the source of much possibility within Hades; experimenting to see the sets that work best for you is the source of long-lasting fun.
That fresh feeling on each attempt is supported by other elements too. Completing each chamber gives a reward: this could be a Boon, but also could be an increase to your Max Health that run, a modifier for your current choice of weapon, or another besides. You often get a choice of path at the end of each chamber, where you can see the next rewards on offer, again putting the initiative in your hands. Enemies along the way challenge you in different ways; at one moment you’re avoiding the close-range swipes of a skeleton, the next you’re dashing your way around incoming butterflies (no, really). It ensures that whichever set-up of skills you’re going with, you feel thoroughly tested. A subsequent pace to proceedings prevents encounters from getting stale – skipping from weapon to weapon, trialing different Boons, seeing how they work together in complimentary combos… It’s so, so enjoyable.
Importantly, this variety and sense of character is present whenever you go back to The House of Hades. Effectively a hub area that you visit before your next try, it is packed full of customisation, character interaction, and overriding charm. After appearing from the Styx, you’ll happen upon Hypnos and his sleepy demeanour as you approach the seat of Hades, who finds time away from judging the souls in front of him to berate you for one act or another – it’s not always the most healthy father-son relationship. Beside Hades is Cerberus, complete with petting option, and on the other is the House Contractor. The latter is the source of much longevity, as the resources you gather through your skirmishes can be exchanged here for a multitude of unlockables – some cosmetic, some very much gameplay-oriented.
From here you can explore more of the House; the Wretched Broker offers further options for currency exchange, fish you catch can be swapped with the chef, and Dusa – a Gorgon Head taking care of the House – is adorable. The more you progress in your escapes, the more facilities and conversations are available here, and this creates an air of anticipation for the content awaiting you here even when your fights don’t go as planned – there is a constant sense of progression that hooks you in for that one-more-go feeling. When the character interactions are so intrinsic to the feeling of reward, it means that the game needs to pack a lot in, as that approach could quickly fall apart if you started encountering repeat dialogue and repetitive systems. This, though, is where Supergiant has shined before, and that has translated to Hades in spectacular fashion.
Seriously, it is so impressive how much content is in this game. Even where I am now – post-credits and very much in the endgame – I still get surprises pop up in conversation and gameplay, and could perhaps count on one hand the amount of times I have run into repeated dialogue in well over 50 hours. Staggering detail is within Hades and goes towards maintaining the motivation to keep trying new escapes. The Darkness you gather can additionally be put towards new permanent perks, courtesy of Nyx, that affect every run – not just the one you are on at that moment. Therefore, your proficiency constantly rises and helps you to make more progress. Beyond this, from gifting Nectar to characters, you get Keepsakes in exchange that have traits of their own. You may be able to tell by this point that there are many ways to alter your experience and tactics in Hades, and well, you’d be right!
Ultimately, the narrative and the gameplay interweave beautifully to produce a story that feels as though it is always pushing on, just as you are always pushing gradually further in your escapes. At the heart of Hades is a touching story on family, and there are even multiple side quests where Zagreus is a driving force for improving the existence of others around him. If somehow that isn’t enough, the Fates’ Prophecies act as tracking for your advancement in different departments, whether that be acquiring every Boon from each God or getting two characters to reunite. There are sections later on I’m not going into due to spoilers, too! With engrossing combat and an expansive suite of progression, Hades has plenty to hold your attention.
Supergiant have really found their trademark style that makes their games distinctively theirs even as they hop across genres. It’s not a surprise at this point – Hades has artistic flair that takes all that which I have mentioned and presents it in a strikingly inviting manner. Stunning character artwork exudes eminent personality, even when static; and the models in motion are fluid and, as aforementioned, wonderful to control. The use of colour and stroke to make the world so vibrant allows the player to fall in with ease and start soaking the lore in. That clarity of art direction lends itself to the fast-paced roguelike genre too, as even when lots is happening on screen, it doesn’t descend into an undecipherable cacophony.
As much as visuals are a strength of Supergiant, so is audio design, and wowzas, the soundtrack is superb. Compared to the more dulcet tones of Transistor and Pyre, Hades is a slight departure in the more rock-oriented vibe. It’s as though the awesome Thrash Pack tune from Pyre has been expanded into a full soundtrack! Continuing on another Supergiant theme is the inclusion of heartfelt lyrical, voiced tracks, – this is another vinyl purchase to add to the collection… Similarly, the voice work throughout is another piece of the puzzle that gives Hades cohesive character, with the specific traits of everyone coming through as much in the speech as in the text itself, from the booming and often condescending tones of Hades to the endearingly sarcastic and witty Lady Artemis.
The energy of the audio suits the relentless nature of the game, and itself escalates to a peak as you get to the final fights. One endgame track is perhaps the pinnacle of this… Speaking of boss fights, they’re integral to the pace I have been talking about. They punctuate the different areas of the Underworld nicely, and include characters that impact the non-combat side of the game too; that is to say, referential and dynamic dialogue carries into these too. As instances where narrative and gameplay cross over, they’re exceptional examples of the strengths of Hades. Oh, and they’re very tough, so prepare yourself for that!
As I near the end of this review, a word on the way this game evolves with playtime. The roguelike nature is one the game stays committed to, but the way that your goal changes is part of how Hades regularly shakes itself up. Just be aware that the roguelike framework won’t disappear, even if your in-game position alters. Hades does a fantastic job of keeping this going, though to make another ever-so-slight criticism, the level at which it succeeds on that does fluctuate – never to the point of dissuading me from playing, but there was one section around mid-way where the main task felt slightly more repetitive than at other times.
The idea of a new Supergiant Games release is one that excites me, and I eagerly followed the route of Hades from Early Access to the recent 1.0 launch on Switch and PC. It’s remarkable that, even still, they surprise me as they glide seemingly seamlessly from genre to genre, maintaining their high quality and distinctive style as they go. With Hades, they have dived into the roguelike genre and put a new and unique spin on it to phenomenal success, not only nailing the gameplay cycle but giving it a personable and character-fueled element; it is currently the main contender to Resident Evil 3 as my Game of the Year. Is it my favourite Supergiant game? For me personally, no – the grace and precision of Transistor just edges it. A wonderful aspect of Supergiant is that it feels as though their releases form a lineage of evidence for how the studio has developed over time. Perhaps the greatest praise I can give Hades is that it fits into that emphatic aplomb.
With Season 2 of hit multiplayer game Fall Guys: Ultimate Knockout out today (8th October), the newest Let’s Chat is going to take a view of the game up to this point in a new way; that’s right, we’re going to be listing our personal ranking of every Fall Guys round. All of them. For this, Ashley Harrison is making his return to Let’s Chat after a hiatus in recent times! I shall say that if you are not familiar with Fall Guys then it may be tough to follow this article – it is more suited to those who are aware of most/all the stages. Furthermore, this piece was written over quite a bit of time, but here it is, ready for the new Season, where we shall have even more stages to play. Let’s go!
William Robinson: Hi again Ash! So, we were wondering about topics for Let’s Chat, and then we realised we were in the same situation of joy and pain in Fall Guys: Ultimate Knockout, huh?
Ashley Harrison: Genuinely, I think this is up there with in my top 3 Game of the Year candidates already, despite how frustrating it can be at times, especially in certain minigames. It’s genuinely pretty much the only Battle Royale I’ve actually enjoyed playing, and whilst doing “research” for this Let’s Chat, I actually finally managed to score my first win!
WR: Meaning that we two are now superior humans, right, for having won an Episode in Fall Guys? I’ve already talked about the game in my review, so I won’t go on too much here myself other than reiterating that I find it fun but a bit lacking in options. How would you sum up your time with it?
AH: Like I said, it’s up there in my GotY discussion personally, so to say anything other than I’m really enjoying it would be doing it a disservice. If, however, I had to give criticisms, I really wish there was more variety in which minigames you play, because I keep seeming to play the same ones over and over. I believe it changes what games are more likely to appear every day, but it’s not great having Gate Crash as your opening game 7 times in a row.
WR: Not sure if that was intentional, or just a sign of how synced up we are now, but that is a nice segway into the specific purpose of this Let’s Chat: you may have heard many opinions about the game, but here we are going to somehow attempt to list all of the stages from best to worst. Now, to prevent us loading the back of the list with Team games, we’re gonna split this into two lists, one for Team games, one for Solo. Sound good with you, Ash?
AH: Given how awful all of the team games are (that’ll be fun trying to rank them from best to worst, haha) I’m fine with that. I definitely think we’d both be putting all of the team games at the bottom of the list because, in my opinion, there isn’t a single one that holds a candle to the solo games.
WR: That doesn’t seem an unpopular opinion, either. It’s just that feeling of your result feeling out of your hands, right? While at least in the solo games I can only blame myself.
AH: When you get put on Yellow Team, you know you might as well just quit out of the game there already.
WR: Ahaha, yeah, there was a game of Egg Scramble where Yellow ended with a score of 1. ONE. It’s cruel.
AH: So, going back to what I mentioned about feeling like you’re always playing the same minigames? Just today, after who knows how many games played, I actually played Egg Scramble for the first time ever. I’ve genuinely just had to look at a list of all the minigames to find out which it actually is.
WR: OK, so as there are less Team games than non-Team, let’s tackle those first. I’m immediately suggesting either Jinxed or Team Tail Tag for last place. As reference, here is the list:
Rock ‘N’ Roll
Team Tail Tag
AH: I finally got to play a game of Jinxed and that was enough for me to decide it’s undoubtedly the worst mini-game in the whole thing, so I’d put that below Team Tail Tag because it’s just awful. Team Tail Tag is another I am not a fan of; the fact that you can have your tail grabbed from seemingly miles away, yet you can literally go right up to people and have the grabbing animation play when pressing R2 but not steal their tail whilst trying to get one for yourself, is enough to make me quit any time I see it come up.
WR: I’ve played quite a bit and only had Jinxed appear once, so it does seem rare – it’s similar to Team Tail Tag in terms of it essentially being a game of “it”. Not only is there the baked-in advantage or disadvantage of starting with or without being Jinxed or having a tail, but your teammates can drag you down without you being able to do much about it. So let’s put Jinxed last, with Team Tail Tag next. Of the other 5, which is your next one to knock off the list?
AH: For me, the next one I’d have to knock off is Hoopsie Daisy. Not only is it yet another game where you’re relying solely on your team (let’s be honest, you can be the best player in the world, you’re not single-handedly carrying your team to either 1st or 2nd place in this without them) but you also have to get lucky with RNG in terms of where the rings themselves spawn. If you can’t even reach the rings before someone else does, it’s another easy goodbye.
WR: Yeah, I can agree with that – also, if the Golden Hoops spawn in a spot that favours the other team, that skews it as well. I’m noticing we’re gonna have the games with a focus on ball games towards the top here!
AH: Who’d have ever seen that coming with the two of us haha? Even real life sports interests put aside, I do genuinely think the ball games are the best of the team ones.
WR: The question is, does Egg Scramble knock one of the ball games out of the top three? I’m saying no. Though, it is close with Hoarders for me.
AH: I’m not a fan of Rock ‘N’ Roll, so for me, it does. The first half of Rock ‘N’ Roll is a great team exercise forcing you to work together, but the second half? Man, it’s so annoying. I don’t think I’ve played a game of it yet where the 2nd half hasn’t just turned into 2 teams stopping whichever team is last to get their ball to the ramp from being able to push their ball to the goal. At least with Egg Scramble, the whole point of that game mode is to try and literally steal the win from your opponents; in Rock ‘N’ Roll, people just do it for fun.
WR: You know, it may be because I’ve generally done well in Rock ‘N’ Roll, but that has often been an aspect I haven’t considered. It does bring out the bad side of players, eh? I guess for that, we should knock it down. So we have a Top Three of Egg Scramble, Fall Ball, and Hoarders. We reckon Fall Ball as the best? It’s essentially Rocket League…
AH: Yup, I have to agree there. I always love a good football mini-game (give us a new Mario Strikers dammit Nintendo), so it has to be at the top for me. There’s no luck involved with it, it’s purely skill-based, being able to work with your team to outscore the opponents. When it’s as simple as that, you can’t dislike it.
WR: There also tends to be less players involved when it pops up, so less of a random element. Very satisfying to score from the ball first being dropped too! If Mario Strikers ever returns, Let’s Chat is gonna be very excitable.
AH: Yeah, I only ever seem to get Fall Ball when there’s between 10-14 people remaining, so there’s enough people on the teams to make both attacking and defending at the same time possible, but not too many people so that it’s impossible to score because they just play the Mourinho way and have everyone in defence.
WR: Park the… Guys? Aha! OK, so that leaves the fight for 2nd between Egg Scramble and Hoarders. Not sure about you, but I prefer Egg Scramble, if only for it being so different.
AH: I’m with you there too, Egg Scramble definitely wins 2nd place for me. Not even for being so different – because they’re both essentially Capture the Flag minigames – but because it’s easier to steal the eggs to place in your team’s goal than it is to control the balls in Hoarders.
WR: Nice, so this is our list. You all in agreement for this?
1: Fall Ball
2: Egg Scramble
4: Rock ‘N’ Roll
5: Hoopsie Daisy
6: Team Tail Tag
AH: I see no issues with that if you don’t.
WR: Onto the second list, of all remaining Rounds. This should be fun… So, the rounds:
AH: I mean, I can start there easily with the worst game in that list and I don’t think it’ll take a genius to work out which. By far the worst solo game is Tail Tag.
WR: I’d actually say that Royal Fumble is lower for me. It’s essentially Tail Tag but for the final, so whoever has the tail at the end wins. It often occurs when there are not that many players left for the final, too – and it is such an advantage for whoever is randomly selected to start with the tail, as with less players around, it’s tougher to get the tail from another.
AH: There’s an even worse version of Tail Tag? Oh Jesus, thank God I’ve yet to come across that. It sounds awful. Yeah, I’ll put that as the worst of the solo games for sure with you. Tail Tag with even less players and only one having a tail sounds absolutely horrible to play.
WR: More than once, I have gotten to a final, really excited, seen it is Royal Fumble, and just internally sighed. Give me either Jump Showdown or Hex-A-Gone for the final, yeah?
AH: I’m quite partial to Fall Mountain for the final round to be honest with you, because it’s just pure platforming skill. Although I might be biased on that because it’s the course I won my first crown on, and I haven’t really come close to winning on either of the others.
WR: You won on Fall Mountain? Woah, impressed here, I’m not great at it. Tell us more about your victory?
AH: Yeah, I won on Fall Mountain! Should actually have won twice on it, but for my first should’ve-been-guaranteed victory, I forgot to press R2 to grab onto the Crown, and as such, bonked into it and ended up losing when I’d had such a clear run up until that point. My actual victory though: I got there as the Crown was at the top of its possible height, so I had to wait for it to come down which allowed people to catch up, but luckily I still managed to grab it first through the wave of people jumping.
WR: Oh man, that first one sounds agonising. One mistake can ruin your whole chance there, so as I say, impressed. My victory was on Hex-A-Gone, I scraped it; literally as I was falling off the final floor, the other person fell first. It was so close that my screen initially didn’t register it as my win! I had to wait to get my rewards show up.
AH: Man, that sounds so intense. To think you’ve lost it, only to realise that you actually haven’t and had scored the win. Crazy that, though I do kind of have to feel for the other guy if it was that close.
WR: Pfft, no time for sentiment in Fall Guys. Give me that Crown! OK, so we’re putting Royal Fumble last, and Tail Tag second last. I’d personally put – based on how tough I have found them – Fall Mountain and Fruit Chute quite low, though that may be skewed by me just not being great at them.
AH: I won’t agree with Fall Mountain being low down – however, I will agree with Fruit Chute. There’s been too many times I’ve been trying to climb, gotten near the top, then just been absolutely sniped by the fruit from seemingly out of nowhere, so I have quite a lot of disdain for that game mode.
WR: It’s just so hard to predict. My only real strategy is running behind others and hoping they take the hit instead…
AH: That’s such a cheap way of getting through though, and even if they do take the hit, you still gotta avoid them otherwise they’ll take you down with them.
WR: I mean, it doesn’t really work. I’ve only made it through Fruit Chute once! OK, so let’s put Fruit Chute there. Of the remaining, which would you suggest next?
AH: Honestly, I don’t think I’ve ever actually not qualified from Fruit Chute, but it has come far too close for my liking on some rounds; more than once I’ve qualified last. My next one I hate to put here, because Takeshi’s Castle is one of my favourite TV programs of all time, and this is just one of their games, but it has to be Door Dash for me next. I hate the games that just descend into as many people as possible trying to squeeze through a gap, and unfortunately this is the biggest culprit for it, so it has to go low on my ratings.
WR: I can agree that it should go further down the list, but for me there are stages that aren’t as fun – Perfect Match, for instance, which to me is too easy and often doesn’t do much to whittle down the player numbers. Though I am very impressed if you are that successful at Fruit Chute!
-at this point there are several days where the conversation is on hold-
AH: Alright, so in the time in between these, I’ve not once qualified from Fruit Chute, so there goes that brag I made – typical that, ain’t it? I think I can agree on Perfect Match being next on the list. It’s essentially just an autoscroller with zero strategy to it; just pile onto a tile people are all going to. What annoys me then, is that because it’s such a small space (especially in the later rounds) there are people who try and push you off. It’s happened more than once.
WR: OK, so with Perfect Match there, perhaps we should put the other two rounds with a similar format – staying in roughly one place and avoiding the obstacles – next. Of Block Party and Roll Out, which do you prefer? My main issue with these levels is that they aren’t that challenging; often either not many people are eliminated, or it is a while before the limit of eliminations is reached. I personally prefer Block Party, as there are many intense moments and the music is awesome.
AH: Yeah, I definitely agree Block Party is better than Roll Out. Like you said, the music is incredible, and it also does increase difficulty to make you do more than just switch between 2 sections of the Roll Out tube until they reach the other side.
WR: Also, and perhaps your opinion is different, if we are going to place Door Dash after these, then we should also consider putting Gate Crash with it, as they are quite similar; though the latter does have a bit more skill and timing to it with the moving barriers, and is in a way more rewarding as a result.
AH: Yeah, I was gonna do that.
WR: Almost all of the ones remaining are obstacle courses, aha! We’re getting close to the top and giving our own Crown to one of these levels. I’ve already mentioned Fall Mountain; or is there one you would place below that?
AH: You’re going to hate me for this, but I would honestly put Fall Mountain towards the very top of the list, because it’s pure platforming and nothing else; I’m a big fan of that. There’s no randomness like Fruit Chute, only the balls to avoid and you can track them (and alter your path) for basically the whole length of the course. Having said that, it is heavily reliant upon where you start, but I still find it one of the best Fall Guys levels.
WR: I agree it brings a challenge, but it can quickly put you way back if you get hit. We’re gonna have to find a compromise! If not that next, then I reckon either See Saw or Tip Toe. I find the former can be quite, erm… Well, it is shocking how we humans have such a tough time with those contraptions, I’ll say that.
AH: See, now we’ve got the ones that’re easy to dismiss out of the way, I’m gonna say that Tip Toe would definitely be the next worse in my opinion, because there’s literally no strategy to it other than just wait for everyone else to discover the path and hope you can cross the finish line in time. At least with See Saw there’s actual physics to throw a challenge into the level, even if you do come across people who somehow don’t seem to know how a see-saw works.
WR: I mean, I am okay with either of those two being next. Tip Toe we agree on then, you okay with See Saw following it? I guess as we get to the higher places, these disagreements are gonna get more intense, aha!
AH: I’m happy with that, yeah. It’s definitely going to be interesting to see whether or not we have the same top 3 courses or not, I’m going to vote “most likely not” already haha.
WR: 8 Remain! It’s getting very tough to pick now… There are a bunch of obstacle course levels here, how do you order them?
AH: I definitely think it’s smart to bunch a group of obstacle courses here, so from worst to best I’m gonna put: Hit Parade, Dizzying Heights, Jump Club, Jump Showdown, and then The Whirlygig. Hit Parade is one that I am genuinely indifferent on, but the reason I put it below everything else is because it’s such a short level so you don’t spend basically any time on it. Jump Showdown and The Whirlygig are basically just Jump Club and Dizzying Heights (respectively) but better and more challenging, so they have to go above their standard forms. That leaves me personally with an alphabetical final 3 of Fall Mountain, Hex-A-Gone, and Slime Climb.
WR: I’ll agree with most of that, but not Jump Showdown specifically; in comparison to Jump Club, the tension of how long Showdown – being a final round – can go on for is so fun and tense; there is genius in the simplicity of it, and blimey, that spinner gets fast. It’s definitely in my personal top three, at the expense of Fall Mountain. So, erm, we have 4 levels and a top 3 to decide…
AH: Alright, I’m gonna admit something here. The only reason I haven’t put Jump Showdown higher is because I’m absolutely awful at it haha, but I wouldn’t disagree with you putting it in your top 3, because it’s definitely one of the most tense games, especially considering it’s a final round, so you know the Crown is within touching distance.
WR: In my opinion, for the originality of the idea – it doesn’t seem to be close to many other games out there, whilst a game such as Jump Showdown is clearly similar to Total Wipeout – then in my opinion Hex-A-Gone is the best stage. After that my next pick is Slime Climb, for how refreshing it is to have a stage where surviving and making it to the end is the priority, as often the amount of people who can qualify is not reached.
AH: That your top 3 then? Hex-A-Gone, then Slime Climb, then Jump Showdown?
WR: Yeah, that’s my personal top 3. Depends how much you’re fighting for Fall Mountain though, and whether you’d change the order.
AH: That’s a solid top 3 that, I can’t lie. Although, considering we share 2 courses in our top 3, I don’t really think I can say anything other than that, can I? For me, I think that the order I would put it in is Hex-A-Gone 3rd, Fall Mountain 2nd, then Slime Climb as the best Fall Guys minigame.
WR: If we go by averages, then overall, with a 2nd and a 1st, Slime Climb emerges as our top choice. Then we have Hex-A-Gone 2nd, and a tie 3rd of Fall Mountain and Jump Showdown. To be polite, though, I’ll allow Fall Mountain 3rd. A word on the top two and why you are such a fan?
AH: Hex-A-Gone takes my 3rd place because of how fun it is to play at a glance, but also because of how technical it is, making it befitting of a final round. Not only do you have to pay attention to the level that you’re on and which of the hexagons you can move between to survive, but you also have to keep an eye on the level below to ensure that you don’t fall down into another hole and potentially into the slime if you get that low. And that’s assuming you’re playing it the “proper” way; it’s also fun to just fall down to the very bottom of the tower at the start of the round and clear as much of that floor as possible to troll the other finalists as they move down the tower. Slime Climb takes my top spot because it’s the minigame I find myself wanting to play as the level select reel spins – I’m always hoping it’ll come up. There’s so much that can go wrong in the level that’ll potentially eliminate you, and for me, knowing that I could potentially lose thanks to the rising slime at any point makes me focus more, rather than playing nonchalantly like I do with the other games. There’s also so many elements in the level, so you’re not just facing the same obstacle throughout. There’s the rising slime, the moving blocks, the rollers, the hammers, the moving poles, and then the swinging balls at the end; I think that’s the most you face in a single minigame in the whole of Fall Guys. Each section requires a different playstyle, and it just helps break up the repetitiveness, in my opinion.
WR: Yeah, there is a certain skill to each that really creates suspense. My victory on Hex-A-Gone I mentioned is an example of how tense that level can get. Slime Climb often eliminates so many; you know you have to focus. That better balance of skill and randomness has those two levels rise to the top. So our final order for the solo games… Happy with this?
1. Slime Climb
3. Fall Mountain
4. Jump Showdown
5. The Whirlygig
6. Jump Club
7. Dizzy Heights
8. Hit Parade
9. See Saw
10. Tip Toe
11. Gate Crash
12. Door Dash
13. Block Party
14. Roll Out
15. Perfect Match
16. Fruit Chute
17. Tail Tag
18. Royal Fumble
AH: On the whole, yeah, I’m happy with that list. Don’t think there’s anything there that I could complain about whatsoever.
WR: Well, then, I think we have actually managed to do it! Just in time for Season 2… I’m excited to try new levels, and depending on how it goes, perhaps we shall update this list at some point.
AH: Yeah, we’ll definitely have to revisit this for Season 2 once we’ve played enough to be able to rank them. Honestly though? Rather than levels, I’m more looking forward to the new costumes that Season 2 is gonna bring, the ones we’ve already seen look hella dope.
WR: It’s gonna be fun to have the refresh! Until the next one, Ashley; time to practice at Fall Guys…
AH: I apologise how long it’s taken to finish this article, but we’ll be back soon enough. Have a good one, Will!
There you have it, our list. You can let us know if you agree or disagree with our choices in the comments! For more Let’s Chat, you can go here.
Certificate: U Directors: Hiromasa Yonebayashi, Giles New Production: Studio Ponoc Distributor: Altitude Film Entertainment Platform: Viewed on TV with English Dub, and on Blu-ray with Japanese Audio Release Date: Out Now
Such a delight of a film. Whilst straightforward in terms of plot, Mary and the Witch’s Flower shines by telling that story of magic and adventure with distinct personality and endearing characters. Adapted from the novel The Little Broomstick by Mary Stewart, it follows Mary Smith (Hana Sugisaki/Ruby Barnhill), a young, energetic, and clumsy girl living in the English countryside with her Great-Aunt Charlotte (Shinobu Ôtake/Lynda Baron) and Miss Banks (Eri Watanabe/Morwenna Banks). Mary clearly yearns for excitement, searching for ways she can contribute to activities of adults around her – with an adorable range of success.
Mary finds that excitement when she follows two cats, Tib (Ikue Ôtani) and Gib (Lynn) into the woods, discovering a glowing, mysterious plant – the Witch’s Flower itself! In picking a bunch, she sets off a chain of events; the flower grants temporary magical power, allowing Mary to reinvigorate a broomstick that, ahem, sweeps her skywards to Endor College. This magical school combines the captivating appeal of Harry Potter with the otherworldly essence of Spirited Away – Mary, caught up in the rhythm, makes questionable choices and initially doesn’t realise the underhand goings-on. Consequences drive Mary to amend the situation and help those compromised by it, such as similarly-aged Peter (Ryûnosuke Kamiki/Louis Ashborne Serkis).
Two extravagant major figures at Endor College are Madam Mumblechook (Yûki Amami/Kate Winslet) and Doctor Dee (Fumiya Kohinata/Jim Broadbent) – each is a charismatic and formidable presence. As aforementioned, the narrative is quite linear in terms of obstacles encountered and solved. Though, I found this worked well. As there aren’t many side characters, screen time is centred on those we’re most invested in; it felt as though Mary was in almost every frame! It builds a strong connection, where I was rooting for her, her family, and her friends to make it. A plot doesn’t always have to be extremely layered for a film to be compelling.
Furthermore, art and music direction is stunning. The founder of Studio Ponoc is the former Studio Ghibli lead film producer Yoshiaki Nishimura, and carry-over is keenly felt, with a different edge of contrasting clarity. Use of painterly backgrounds with more clearly defined animation on top creates effective immersion – a duality emphasising emphasises the merging of Japanese style and English setting.
In a similar vein, the music has welcoming charm, subtle yet striking – there is the air of referencing tradition and also striving for the new. Whilst mentioning audio, I must bring up the fantastic, expressive Japanese and English voice casts. I shall reiterate that Mary is the star here, with a fiery, determined approach to tackling hardships and accepting change.
So much charm is in Mary and the Witch’s Flower. The plot may not be the most complex you will ever watch, yet the spellbinding setting and likeable characters produce an adventurous spirit, compounded by joyful creativity of sight and sound. A certain marvel is in a wondrous story well told; it’s hard to ask for more when you’re having this much fun.
Another week, another Let’s Chat! Once again, with Ashley busy, I have called in support; Pokémon fan Stephen Brown joins me to discuss the recent video presentation for Part 2 of the Expansion Pass for Pokémon Sword and Shield, The Crown Tundra. We got new info on the features included, as well as announcements elsewhere in the Pokémon franchise! So, let’s get into it!
William Robinson: It’s time to, yet again, say hi to a new voice! Welcome, Stephen Brown – similar to the introductions for Jordan Senior, Jed Harling, and Toby Court in the previous Let’s Chat, give us a quick summary of where you currently do your gaming, and your favourite game series!
Stephen Brown: Hello and thank you for having me; I’m Stephen, and currently do all my gaming on my Nintendo Switch. However, I do have a PlayStation 5 on pre-order, so it won’t be long until I expand my gaming experience further past Nintendo. I am very well suited to this conversation, as my favourite game series is Pokémon! The very first game I ever played was Pokémon Gold for the Game Boy Colour, and since then I have been hooked with the series. I’ve always loved the fact that there are so many different Pokémon, and that when new Pokémon are revealed they become the instant favourite for someone, perhaps such as for the long-awaited Galarian Slowking we saw in this video!
WR: Thanks for that! Without further ado, then; prior to the airing of the Expansion Pass Updates today, which content were you hoping to see?
SB: I was expecting an in-depth announcement about The Crown Tundra DLC pack, similar to the trailer we got for The Isle of Armor earlier this year, opening up with Galarian Slowking to mirror the reveal of Galarian Slowbro for the latter. Then, panning shots of the area, with a sprinkling of the returning Pokémon, followed by more details on new mechanics such as the Dynamax Adventures and Galarian Star Tournament. Furthermore, I was hoping for it to end with a closer look at the new Legendary Pokémon Calyrex, hinting to their role, and then a release date. I would say we definitely got the majority of that, and more, all within this almost 11 minute video.
WR: That covers it quite well – and then there was me, with my prediction of Candice returning from Diamond/Pearl/Platinum because we have a snowy setting and the presence of Regirock, Regice, and Registeel, reminding me of Snowpoint City! Which, actually, in a way, I actually got correct with her appearance in the music video that ended the Updates! Presented by The Pokémon Company President and CEO Tsunekazu Ishihara, we opened into a new trailer for The Crown Tundra, and immediately got those landscape shots of the Wild Area free-roam setting – I am drawn to this sort of cold, atmospheric environment, and am therefore excited to explore it. You?
SB: Well, indeed, we did get to see Candice – so you were technically right! Maybe we should add Galar and Sinnoh being connected to copious piles of Pokémon fan theories that are out there! Yes, the snowy setting and variety of ancient, mysterious buildings/temples are a big appeal. I can’t wait to explore all the new areas and find hidden TMs or a Hyper Potion tucked away in some secret corner. I wonder if we’ll see the return of finding Diglett, which was part of the Isle of Armor Pack. There could be another 150 Diglett to find!
WR: Or perhaps 150 hidden Vanillites? Find the ice creams! The more mystical vibe relative to Isle of Armor intrigues me, and ties into the clear emphasis on Legendary Pokémon for The Crown Tundra. We already knew there would be new Forms of the Kanto Legendary Birds Articuno, Zapdos, and Moltres, but now we know that every Legendary in the series is going to be available upon this release!
SB: Oh now that would be cruel, but also so satisfying to complete; Vanillite was designed by the Art Director for Sword and Shield, James Turner, so that would be a nice Easter Egg. Yes, it seems that with the introduction of new Legendaries, Regional Forms, and the Dynamax Adventures, The Crown Tundra is going to be focused on giving players the opportunity to catch various Legendary Pokémon. I wonder if this is the role of new character Peony; some kind of Legendary Pokémon expert? I also noticed that there is a shot where the player runs up to a cliff edge and we see Galarian Articuno in the overworld flying away into the horizon. Do you think this could hint at the return of roaming Legendaries?
WR: I’m not sure… It is possible, but could also be a one-off moment. Chasing them around the area could be a fun new twist on the roaming Legendary Pokémon though, yeah! Here I shall express my concern of whether including all these Legendary Pokémon is going to act as a distraction from a lack of content elsewhere; I am not going to judge before I play, and I hope that it is not the case. There is spectacle to the returning Legendary Pokémon, which ideally are backed up by longevity in other areas and don’t seem to be covering up deficiencies, which was an issue with Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire. We haven’t seen much of the main narrative yet – it could be that they are holding quite a bit back still.
SB: True, it could be similar to Crystal, where you simply see Suicune at various points within the story and then battle at a certain point. However, with the Wild Areas and Pokémon appearing in the overworld, this could be a fresh take on roaming. No more tedious planning to enter the right area at the right time and then lock Pokémon into a battle with Mean Look! On the distribution of content, I think that’s a fair point to raise. It does seem as though including Legendaries is a shiny distraction for perhaps a shorter story; a reward for completing a 4 hour narrative that some will easily get through in one sitting, encouraging you to keep exploring the new area. Their inclusion could also be to make up for the lack of a National Pokédex, which still seems to be some peoples main hang up with these games (it’s been almost a year now people stop whining about it). The inclusion of Legendaries may be becoming a post game staple for Pokémon. We saw this in Ultra Sun and Ultra Moon, entering Ultra Space to catch them, and now we have Dynamax Adventures for Sword and Shield.
WR: Aha, another great segway into the next topic! It’s as if you’re doing it on purpose… So, yeah, Dynamax Adventures are a new addition to the Raid Battles of Sword and Shield. They make Raid Battles into more of a dungeon-crawling mode, where you go up against consecutive battles in a row to either get to an end goal or even try the Endless mode! This is going to be a way to meet many Legendary Pokémon; it seems really fun, adding extra intrigue to the Raid Battles and offering even more ways to team up for multiplayer. I’m glad they are expanding this side of the experience – and it should offer a challenge too, as you go in with rental Pokémon!
SB: Definitely, I’m really excited to try this out and team up with my friends for evenings of Dynamax Adventures, in the hopes to catch epic Legendary Pokémon! Additionally, I think only using rental Pokémon for these adventures is a really clever move on Game Freak’s part. At first I was a bit shocked that – unlike regular Dynamax Raids – we couldn’t battle with our own Pokémon (who, let’s face it, are all probably Lv100 and EV trained by this point). However, the more I thought about it, the more it made sense. With Legendaries from all previous games coming back, and the idea that at this point players will have at least completed the main story, using rented Pokémon will allow Dynamax Adventures to remain a challenge and feel even more satisfying when you get to the end and capture a Legendary Pokémon. You won’t be able to go in with a team of Eternatus’ or other Legendaries to quickly sweep through with relative ease. I think it will add a layer of strategy and longevity to the new mechanic and stop people falling off of the DLC within a week.
WR: Yeah, that’s a great point, it’ll add lasting challenge to the Raids, and hopefully make them more similar to how the recent Mewtwo Raid was a really tough battle. It reminds me of the Battle Factory from Pokémon Platinum, too! You were hoping for a glimpse of Calyrex, and we got that, though we don’t know much on them yet.
SB: I thought about the Battle Factory as well (Gen4 Remakes Confirmed haha). Yeah, compared to the Isle of Armor and its Legendary Pokémon Kubfu, it seems that Calyrex is less pivotal to the storyline of The Crown Tundra, sharing the spotlight with the Regional Legendary Birds and the new Regieleki and Regidrago. It’s still too early to tell how Calyrex will affect the story, but with their being on the official logo artwork, it may well be a big role. I’m excited to find out more on the mysteries that surround Calyrex; how they interact with the player and other characters in the story.
WR: In terms of the narrative, there isn’t much else we know; you have mentioned Peony, but we are going to have to wait to find out more on him. There is a bunch of more intrinsic mechanical introductions as well, including the new Ability Patches that bring out the Hidden Abilities of Pokémon. This further opens up training options, which is an area Sword and Shield have put a clear focus on, for example with the Mints to change Natures. Personally, I am very excited for the new fashion items and League Card customisation options!
SB: The introduction of Ability Patches is going to contribute to shaking up the competitive meta game. Like you said, Sword and Shield did a lot to help get more players involved with online competitive battles. With the addition of Mints, Ability Patches, and new terrain setting moves – to name three – it’s now easier than ever to build up a strong team full of your favourites. Shiny hunters are probably rejoicing at the fact they will be able to give their special Pokémon Hidden Abilities. It does make me wonder how we will get this item. Will it be purchasable through Battle Points (BPs); some new Ore based item similar to Armorite Ore; or will this be a limited item with only 3 or so in the game, making it more critical a decision? The little additions of new fashion items and League Card options are great for keeping the game fresh, trying out new styles that show off your personality! One thing we can see from the trailer is that Peony has a Dynamax band, and appears to have a pre-battle animation screen, so it’s more than likely we will have to battle him at some point. I wonder if he will have a Gigantamax Pokémon as well; maybe G-Max Melmetal to help tie in the upcoming connectivity between Pokémon HOME and Pokémon GO.
WR: BP in exchange for Ability Patches would be okay with me, as I have so much to spend from my time with Shield! I imagine that we will indeed be battling Peony, and I hope that he is challenging. Was there any other details from this part of the video which stood out to you, or should we go on to the Galarian Star Tournament?
SB: Same here, I have an abundance of BP from all my time on Sword. Let’s go onto the Galarian Star Tournament, another new mechanic coming with this DLC where we can pair up with Pokémon Trainers from the core game and the DLC in 2-on-2 battles. Do you think there will be a reward for competing, or is it mainly a fun way to develop the lore of the characters? Also – I can probably guess – who are you going to pair up with for the Star Tournament?
WR: I mean for me, that extra lore is the reward! The characters in Sword and Shield are wonderful; finding out more details on them is a fantastic prospect! Hopefully, there are various different combos of characters, with it taking quite a few goes to hear all the different dialogue. Personally, I am confident that there will be other prizes as well, for example perhaps items or awards for your Pokémon. Of the characters we have seen in the Galarian Star Tournament so far, Marnie is the one I am going to be prioritising teaming up with. Though, I am still hoping for appearances from other regions too… Do you know who you are going to pair up with?
SB: I couldn’t agree more! I love reading the League Cards you get from the other trainers, learning about their personality and goals. Same here, I think there shall definitely be a variety of combos, which will unlock new dialogue for already established pairings. Marnie and Piers, Melony and Gordie, Bede and Opal, Hop and Leon, Leon and Raihan, Leon and Mustard, Leon and Sonia… Leon sure does get around for someone who’s constantly late and bad with directions haha! Oh! I hadn’t thought about other regions, that’s a good point, we could have something similar to Pokémon World Tournament in Black 2 and White 2; if so, that would be pretty awesome! On the other hand, I do think because it’s called the Galarian Star Tournament and not the World Star Tournament we might just be limited to those from Sword and Shield. For me, I’m most excited about teaming up with Bede or Opal and using my all Fairy team with theirs!
WR: You reckon Professor Sonia is going to be in the pairings? It’d be great, but I doubt that. Having so many options for battling characters again is one of the endearing aspects of Sword and Shield, and this is an emphasis on that. I imagine you are correct on the characters in Galar being the only ones participating, but hey, I can dream right?
SB: You’re right, I was just pointing out how many pairings you could get with just Leon and someone else – he’s a popular guy! Maybe we shall see a return of Sordward and Shielbert, the post-game antagonists with the, um, unique hairstyles? You certainly can dream, and there isn’t anything to say trainers from other regions couldn’t join the tournament; we may have even seen a hint to this in the music video that premiered at the end of the presentation. After this, we found out that The Crown Tundra comes out on October 23rd in the UK, and the 22nd in other parts of the world. We also learned that a physical copy of Sword and Shield with the DLC included will be available on 6th November. I’m curious to see how well it does in terms of sales, and if it will be enough to help boost Sword and Shield‘s overall sales positioning. It’s currently the third best selling Pokémon game, after recently overtaking the sales of Diamond/Pearl/Platinum.
WR: I’m glad; the 22nd gives a decent amount of time to play before the many releases in November, with the new consoles and Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity. I can now put aside time to play The Crown Tundra! I really hope it builds upon Isle of Armor; the first DLC was very enjoyable as a base platform for them to progress with new ideas. I may be disappointed if they don’t continue to innovate with The Crown Tundra. In retrospect, how did you find Isle of Armor?
SB: Don’t forget Pikmin 3 Deluxe comes out the following week! I’m glad it’s not a new Pikmin game, otherwise I would be torn on which to play. Considering that Isle of Armor and The Crown Tundra were announced together as a package, it wouldn’t surprise me if we didn’t get anything too different from one to the other and the parties involved use the two to test the waters for future endeavors. However, I could be wrong; there is still so little we know about The Crown Tundra and the potential surprise features, such as how in Isle of Armor there was the return of Pokémon following you in the overworld. Isle of Armor was not only challenging at points, it was also packed with cool details and great humour to get you invested. As well as this, the story really helped me build up a bond with Kubfu. If I had been given them as a Mystery Gift, as with other Pokémon in previous games, I wouldn’t have battled with them as much or struggled over which form of Urshifu to choose. There were definitely some aspects that felt a bit tedious, mainly the fetch quests, but overall I really enjoyed Isle of Armor and I think that’s down to it being a DLC as apposed to a repackaged Sword and Shield with added content.
WR: For me, Pikmin 3 Deluxe isn’t a game I shall purchase, as I have played the Wii U original. There are so many other games to play – I am confident I shall be busy either way! After this, we got the news of the distribution of Ash’s Pikachu with 8 separate hats, the first of which can be downloaded now with the code P1KACHUGET! I’ll continue on past this soon, and onto the Pokémon HOME and Pokémon GO news, but a quick word on this? Excited?
SB: I actually found out that there are two Cap Pikachus now available; the second one is through the code 1CH00SEY0U, and both are available now until November 30th. Honestly, I’m not that excited as I already got all these Cap Pikachus when they did a similar distribution for Gen 7, with the exception of the new World Cap Pikachu that reflects the cap Ash wears in the latest anime. Either way, I will be getting them again because who can resist a unique, free Pikachu!
WR: Right, onto the next part of the video, where we got news of Pokémon HOME now being compatible to connect with Pokémon GO, allowing you to send over Pokémon from the mobile game. Yet, there are caveats. It is confirmed that after sending over Pokémon, there is then an allotted time you have to wait before being allowed to send over more, unless you pay with PokéCoins, which does seem unnecessary and monetary-minded. Is there a reason for this other than creating extra financial gain?
SB: The only reason I can think is to stop a flood of Pokémon ascending onto the HOME servers and overwhelming them. Remember GO is one of the most successful and longest-running Pokémon apps, with people having collections ranging in the thousands. If everyone tried to upload all of those in one sitting, I can see it causing a lot of technical issues. So, it could purely be from a logistics point of view, with the addition of money-making on the side. Who knows.
WR: But in that case, why allow it at all? Monetisation doesn’t need to be there. It appears really dodgy to me; do they really need another source of income? The aspect of how many Pokémon could be making the journey over from GO I get, but how they are implementing the restrictions is the side I do not agree with; it isn’t a pro-consumer move.
SB: It is really bizarre, especially with the changes they made when lockdown began, allowing players to keep playing from inside their quarantined homes. However, from what I hear, they have been making some strange decisions, turning some players off the app completely. Most notably, the Mega Evolution mechanic being overly tedious and complicated, all for a one-use battle boost. I think if sending over Pokémon was entirely monetary then I’d have a real issue with it. Again, as someone who’s not played the game in over a year, it doesn’t really affect me – but I imagine this has ruffled a few feathers for all the avid Pokémon GO players out there.
WR: Indeed, and now taking away the alterations they introduced so players could play at home seems badly timed, as it isn’t as though we’re all allowed back out… I shall say I am excited to finally get Melmetal, though, which is possible after sending Pokémon over to HOME from GO. I also have a certain friend who can send me them… I wonder who, aha! The Gigantamax form is awesome, appearing in a liquid metal style; with my favourite type being Steel, this is exciting for me. We were informed that the HOME/GO functionality is going to happen this year, too!
SB: Yeah, as of October, Pokémon GO will get rid of the changes they implemented… Let’s hope they decide to go back on that decision. Haha, I wonder who this friend is, I have a feeling they may have a few Meltans spare for you! Another Steel type for you to play with, and a new Gigantamax form as well! We were shown Gmax Melmetal earlier this year by accident in a Pokémon Showcase in Japan, but since then its appearance in the game has been a mystery. You couldn’t even transfer over a Melmetal and feed it Max Soup on the Isle of Armor to give it Gigantamax capabilities. I’ll be interested to see if they fix this with an update, or if we will have to find some new Max ingredient to allow Melmetal to Gigantamax, maybe Max Metal or Max Cake!
WR: The presentation was not over though, because we ended on my personal highlight, the “GOTCHA!” by BUMP OF CHICKEN music video that celebrated the history of Pokémon, with appearances from many different characters and a delightful art and music direction; BONES Animation Team were involved! It includes Jasmine, so yeah, it’s amazing.
SB: It was a brilliant and fun video celebrating the history of Pokémon, packed full of fan favourites from all the regions, and also celebrated the current generation of Pokémon with a big focus on Galar near the end half of the video. Previously, I mentioned that characters from other games might be returning, and we may have gotten a hint to this; at the end of the video, we see two billboards with Isle of Armor and The Crown Tundra landscapes depicted on them. In addition, on the billboards closest to us, the Battle Subway Duo Ingo and Emmet appear on the left and on the right we see Nita, Evelyn, Dana and Morgan from the Battle Maison. Both of those locales have a focus on chain and double battles, so do we think we will see those characters appear in the Galarian Star Tournament?
WR: I’m not sure, that is possible, and would be really fun to see! Pokémon has such a wonderful history, and I hope they lean into that more and more. Seeing all the characters in that video was just delightful, and it is no surprise to me that the physical single is selling very well! It is tempting to get it…
SB: My opinion is that it would be great to see them – and possibly other characters – return in a Battle Tree-style way, and that could be a secret we don’t learn about until the release of The Crown Tundra. We know with the success of Pokémon Masters that players love seeing trainers from all regions come together to compete in customisable teams; it would be great to see that reflected in the main series games. The physical edition is tempting, I wonder if that will ever come with some great big poster with all the trainers from the video featured – that would be epic!
WR: Maybe with the success of “GOTCHA!”, they shall make extra merchandise around it. I really appreciate the detail and references that went into the music video. It was a fantastic way to finish this presentation – I eagerly await October 23rd! We’ve covered most of the info now, so I’ll end with this: in your opinion, is this the end of the DLC plan for Sword and Shield? I personally don’t see them doing another DLC, with focus going on to the 2021 game; perhaps you see it differently.
SB: I could see extra merchandise happening – for now, though, I’m happy about the success of the music video and all the amazing references and detailed shots that capture the heart of the Pokémon series. In my opinion, another set of DLC for Pokémon Sword and Shield isn’t out of the question. If we combine the success of this DLC set and the fact that next year is Pokémon‘s 25th Anniversary, I think we could potentially get one or two more DLC packs quite early on in 2021, around February 27th, Pokémon Day. The rest of the year could be dedicated to the Pokémon Unite rollout, a summer release of Pokémon Snap 2, and then a mainline game, remake, or something else later in the year. All I know is that next year is definitely going to be packed filled with some great Pokémon content, and I can’t wait to see it!
WR: Don’t forget Pokémon Sleep, aha! February seems a bit soon for DLC in this vein, but perhaps it is dependent on how The Crown Tundra does. Either way, yes, I am excited for future Pokémon releases! This seems a fitting place and sentiment to end on, so unless you have any other comments, we’ll close out here.
SB: Ah yes, Sleep! I’m sure we will get further info on Sleep and more unique Pokémon app ideas soon. Nope, I think we’ve covered everything; hopefully we’ll now see a steady stream of short trailers as we run up to the release date of The Crown Tundra. I’m already super excited, and can’t wait to embark on another adventure!
WR: Awesome, thanks for joining me!
SB: Thank you for having me! It’s been great discussing Pokémon with you, and I hope your readers enjoy our thoughts.
Here we are, in the end segment of a Let’s Chat article once again! For official info on the Expansion Pass for Pokémon Sword and Shield, then you can go to this link. For more Let’s Chat articles, you can go here. I hope you have an awesome day!
Here we are with another tag post! I am working on a few different articles at the moment but felt as though I needed a break of sorts from that rhythm, so this is a welcome opportunity for that. I was first tagged for this by Nora over at IT’S YOUR FAULT I’M NOT POPULAR!, so am going to respond to that; to Aizen_Kuro over at It’severythinganime, I also appreciate you mentioning me, but as this is already quite an extensive tag I thought I wouldn’t stack them up. Thank you to the two of you, and for those reading, go and view their blogs!
Right, then, here we go, time to find out more about, well, me? Here are the rules, as copied from the post I was tagged in:
Display the award logo on your blog.
Thank the blogger who nominated you and provide a link to their blog.
Notify your nominees by leaving a comment on their blog.
Ask your nominees 5 questions of your choice, including 1 weird or funny question.
Share the link to your best post.
3 Things About Myself
Profession: People who read this site may not know that I am a graphic designer, so this seems a suitable place to mention it! I have a Degree in Design for Publishing and 2 years of experience in industry. My focus is on printed products such as magazines and books, which matches my personal trait of collecting physical media. The tangibility of beautiful printed products holds so much value to me, and being involved in creating in them supplies this to me as well.
Gaming: It may be clear I am a fan of gaming – considering this site! – but here is some trivia for you: all the way back in 2010, I took part in Britain’s Best Nintendo Gamer, where after qualifying locally, I got to the finals with 15 others. These were held in London, and Nintendo treated us very well on our trip there. The game for the finals was Goldeneye on the Wii, which hadn’t been released yet! I narrowly missed out on the final 4, placing 2nd in my match, but still, I won a year of free Nintendo first-party games, as well as a Super Mario Bros. DSi XL for winning at a Guitar Hero side tournament they had there! I also got to know some new fellow gamers, which was great.
Activity: I have done quite a bit of field archery in my time, and know my way around a bow! In games and other mediums, I am drawn to archery and those who wield a bow, so it seems right that I have done it myself. My focus was on recurve – I prefer this to certain modern bows with many extra devices such as weights. I am considering Green Arrow for future cosplay!
Following are my answers to the five questions asked; I have copied the questions from the post in which I was tagged:
I mentioned something I started doing thanks to anime. What about you? Have you ever took up on or tried something that you saw in anime?
I mean, I guess the clearest example would be when I got into Trading Card Games around the time that Yu-Gi-Oh! was ascending into stratospheric popularity. The anime and the card game were much more intrinsically tied together than, say, Pokémon, where the anime and the TCG were – to me – more separate from the success of the games. I played the Yu-Gi-Oh! TCG from early on, eventually starting to go to a local club where I met new people who would become friends. I actually found quite a bit of success, winning promotional cards, sleeves, and more. I really enjoyed that, but did drop off around the time that XYZ was introduced – in my opinion, they started to over-complicate the game. I still collect the cards, but I don’t currently regularly go to a club as I used to.
Any general bad habits/a type of prejudice that you have when you’re first starting an anime series? Example: I am very picky about genre, thus I don’t start a series from *insert the genre you don’t like* unless I read very good things about it.
Hmm… Perhaps art style. I often find myself watching anime with detailed and soft aesthetics, such as Your Lie in April, with stunning use of colour that is not in-your-face. Other anime that have that perhaps more intense, flatter style can initially sway me away. I should be more open to watching them and seeing how they are in movement though, as perhaps I would enjoy them differently to how I reckon beforehand. A few examples are My Hero Academia, Kill la Kill, and Naruto – they’re not as high in my list of to-watch as, say, a show such as Violet Evergarden is, and the art style is part of that.
Any title that you think should exist in another form? Ex. a manga that needs an anime adaptation, an anime that needs a game adaptation etc.
Great question. I reckon a Kakegurui game could be awesome! They way that world is constructed, with the tiers of status, could make for a satisfying progression system as you try to survive your academic life, playing the different games that appear in the manga and learning more on each character. It could be a mix of visual novel and puzzle game, with these various matches to make your way through and a story that is constantly evolving as you do so. It’d also be a reason to get awesome new artwork of the characters!
What’s one character you think is greatly misunderstood by fandom or a series that is paid dust but it should change?
This isn’t so much for anime or directed at the fandom or series itself, but I found the way certain people reacted to Shadow of the Tomb Raider in 2018 disconcerting. For the final game in the origin trilogy, Eidos Montreal and Square Enix made the choice to explore how the quest for answers Lara Croft is on is in some ways hurting her and the people around her, resulting in multiple points where she shows her vulnerabilities and flaws. I saw some people react to this in a disappointing way, as though she had to be constantly endearing and happy. In my opinion, the game handles itself very well and treats this aspect of itself with class. They did not have to delve into the character in this way, yet they did, and that should be applauded.
Something personal: what is one thing that you didn’t think would enjoy/it wasn’t your thing but out of utter boredom you took it up and enjoyed in the end? I’m sure quarantine life had us do otherwise unreasonable things.
To apply context again, this isn’t an idea I was against, but one I just hadn’t put enough into pursuing, and that is Discord. For years I have heard of people using it for chat and easier discussion with friends, especially for gaming, but for some reason I had just not gotten into it. However, during this year and the obstacles of contacting others it has brought, my friends and I tried it out. It has replaced much of my other social media since for keeping in touch with said friends, and allowed us all to converse in a more cohesive and satisfying way. The multiple chat channels, with an efficient combination of text, audio, and video, has been a personal revelation and helped to be a daily source of communication in a year where doing it face-to-face has been tough.
Bonus question: Terry Eagleton once said “Evil becomes sexy, when virtue becomes boring,” in a discussion on our fascination with evil characters. What are your thoughts on this? This isn’t easy to just answer under an award post and I intend it to be more of a conversation starter, or a new blog post idea that you may want to play around with.
This is a question I may indeed go into elsewhere in a separate article. It extends on from my point on Lara Croft; characters facing personal setbacks, and then learning and improving in those areas, can be very rewarding to view, endearing them to us for their determination to be better. For antagonists, they are there to be people with opposing ideals that we may not agree on, and so that conflict is built-in; therefore, they inhernetly have that space in which to change in a positive way, and when they do that they can be fascinating for the audience. I mean, take my favourite TV show, Buffy the Vampire Slayer; Angel and Spike are amazing examples of character development and redemption arcs.
Right, now time to nominate people! Seems plenty have been tagged already elsewhere, so I am not going to tag 10-20 here, so as not to repeat tags already done. Instead I am going to tag 5 people; if you are mentioned, don’t consider it an obligation, but a suggestion! My 5 questions for you all are then below.
Is there a particular genre of game, anime, or otherwise that you previously did not have much experience with, but over recent times have found yourself discovering an enjoyment of?
Have you ever considered getting into cosplay? If so, which character(s) do you reckon you would embody?
Which is your favourite gaming-time snack and drink combo?
Is there a particular game series you have never played that you plan to soon get into?
If you could go on holiday with any fictional character, who would it be and where? You can choose the tone of holiday!
Finally, for my best post, I am going to include a link to one I did on Celeste back in 2018, named: Celeste Tackles Anxiety in a Way Only Games Can. That is a game that is very special to me in how it handles certain mental health issues in a way that is interwoven into the gameplay itself, and has really helped me personally in tackling certain internal thoughts. Firstly, I recommend that you play the game, but then afterwards I would point you to read this, as it is an article that means a lot to me. It is awesome that Lena Raine – who did the music for Celeste – mentioned it on social media too, a wonderful moment for me!
-SPOILERS FOR CELESTE AHEAD- On January 27th 2018, a game named Celeste released on Switch, PS4, Xbox One and PC. This game first came onto my radar with an appearance in the January 11th Nintendo Direct Mini. The fast-paced platforming, … Continue reading →
Well, there you go, I hope you feel as if you know me a bit better! This was a fun one, and perhaps a great way to change up the format of writing. As aforementioned, I am working on several exciting articles that are on the way soon. I hope you have a brilliant day!
As is becoming regular occurrence this year, a huge bit of gaming news was announced out of the blue on 21st September, in the form of Microsoft planning to acquire ZeniMax Media Inc. for the price of $7.5 billion (wowzas); for those unaware, ZeniMax owns the renowned games publisher Bethesda Softworks, who are behind such iconic game series as The Elder Scrolls and Fallout. Whilst we are currently unaware of the full extent of how this might play out – it is feasible that now future Bethesda games could be Microsoft-exclusive – it is clearly a statement of intent, especially with pre-orders for Series X/S going up just one day after this news, on the 22nd September. Could this sway people away from PlayStation 5?
Now, regular Let’s Chat co-writer Ashley Harrison is busy and going to be away for the short-term, so we have multiple new voices this time around to discuss this news: friends and fellow gamers Jordan Senior, Jed Harling, and Toby Court. Read on…
William Robinson: There’s been sudden gaming news during 2020, but still, I wasn’t expecting this from Microsoft and Bethesda! Before we get more into the details of this revelation, it might be a suitable idea for each of you to concisely introduce yourselves. Let us know where you currently do most of your gaming, and your favourite game series!
Jed Harling: Thanks for asking for my input Will. I’ve basically been on the PlayStation train since I was a youngun, but I’ve dabbled on the Wii and the Switch, and recently made the big jump to getting a PC. Though, I would still describe myself as a console gamer through and through! I really couldn’t say what my absolute favourite game series was; that’s such a tough question! But let’s just say that if you wanted to avoid a deep-dive into Metal Gear Solid lore, you shouldn’t invite me to your party.
Toby Court: Hey! I am primarily an Xbox gamer but am finding myself playing more and more on the Switch. I think we can all agree (pre-COVID-19) that adult life can make it difficult to park yourself before a console for any lengthy amount of time! My favourite game series has to be The Legend of Zelda. Few games have impacted me as those have; I still vividly remember the first time that I plucked the Master Sword from its plinth in Ocarina of Time. Nothing gets the blood pumping like picking up a magic blue sword that turns you into an adult! That, and the fear that my parents could return home from the pub quiz at any moment and send me to bed.
Jordan Senior: Gaming has been a huge part of my childhood, and has taken me through to the present. Growing up, my earliest experiences have been playing my Dad’s original PlayStation, and spending countless hours of classics like Tekken and Crash Bandicoot, so Sony’s been in my blood since I was a kid. Between my Dad, brother, and I, we’ve owned every PlayStation console – although I did rebel and get an Xbox 360. So, PlayStation has been the only console I’ve considered for the most part; however, last year I bought a Switch as there’s too many games I want to play, Breath of the Wild being one on it that I love. For me it’s all about the games, so hardware doesn’t bother me as much as other gamers. Sony and Nintendo always knock it out of the park in terms of first party games. Instead of series, my favourite game of all time is a toss up between The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion or Hitman: Blood Money!
WR: Awesome, great to get that intro from all of you, thanks for that! Now the formalities are done, it’s time to get into the Bethesda news proper. Firstly, were you at all predicting this happen? Microsoft has been purchasing many studios over recent years, but Bethesda is quite the acquisition.
JH: There’s no doubt that Xbox’s acquisition of Zenimax and Bethesda is a seismic move, but I can’t say that it was wholly surprising? If we park the discussion about teraflops and tech-specs regarding next generation hardware, I think there is a huge elephant in the room for Xbox. What games has it got? Purchasing studios is a response to that.
JS: With Microsoft buying Bethesda, this is a great move for them and will give them a slight edge on Sony. It’s hard to predict what exactly they will do from here on out, but I have a few theories: firstly, that The Elder Scrolls, Fallout, and Starfield will not be exclusive to Xbox and PC, but they will perform better on Xbox consoles than PlayStation consoles. Even if PS5 sales of the games are high, Microsoft will benefit greatly as they now own Bethesda. This can also put Bethesda Game Studios themselves in a better direction; they have been on a slippery slope, especially with Fallout 76 not doing as well as expected. Secondly and alternatively, I can see new Bethesda-published games being exclusive, as it will make Microsoft a formidable foe in years to come. So, games like Dishonored, Wolfenstein and Doom will become exclusive.
TC: I think, oddly enough, this news comes as both surprising and unsurprising. Had this not happened during the current height of the console war (and a day before Xbox pre-orders are made available), I don’t think this would have been as groundbreaking. I say it’s no surprise because I feel that Bethesda has always favoured Xbox over PlayStation. My one and only argument for that is how the DLC for The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim was released earlier on Xbox than it was PlayStation. Though, when you think about it, that doesn’t make much of an impact. Maybe I’m biased! Regardless, I go back to my initial point; as exciting as it is because of the console war hype, I don’t think we’re going to see the ramifications anytime soon. PlayStation will draw first blood and win on initial sales; they have such a brilliant library of exclusives. That being said, there is a new The Elder Scrolls on the horizon, and everyone is asking the same question: will it be an Xbox exclusive? Answer: probably not. That would be a serious hemorrhage of money, but it does leave that tiny nibbling thought in the back of your mind of what DOES this mean? I think the likelihood is that Xbox will get certain priorities and benefits. Anything from earlier releases maybe even to minor exclusive games (Fallout: New Vegas remaster anyone?). Yet, hey, nothing stays exclusive forever (we’re looking at you Cuphead) – none of it is off the table.
WR: As we have been referencing, announcing this after a very strong PlayStation 5 showing recently, and a day before Series X/S pre-orders, has to be a statement of intent right? For me, it doesn’t actually sway me that much, because I am – relative to you three – not that much of a Bethesda fan; my plan remains to get a PlayStation 5 first, as that is where most of my friends play, and it has exclusives such as Horizon Forbidden West that are system sellers in my eyes. However, with all of the pro-consumer moves and the exclusives on the way for Series X/S, I am confident that I am going to invest into that ecosystem again – I mean, Everwild, The Gunk, Fable… The future is exciting! My question is, then, whether this Bethesda news is going to alter your purchasing plans?
JS: As mentioned before, it’s all about the games. As I’m becoming time poor and not having lots of disposable income, I feel like I need to be more selective over my choices. While this news will change a lot of things, I’m still sticking to the PS5! Spider-Man, Horizon, Ratchet & Clank, as well as God of War are games I would love to play, so there is more incentive there. Getting both consoles would be quite difficult for me, but I could work around this by getting the cheaper Xbox Series S. I might strategise and get the PS5 as my main console for exclusives and third-party games, and then the cheaper Xbox purely for the first-party games. The hardware is great on both sides, so either is a worthy purchase; it is mainly considering what is a priority. Whilst exclusives are a driving force, there are also other factors such as technical performance and quality of life aspects to consider. If, for example, The Elder Scrolls VI is a better experience on the Xbox, then it is clearly going to be better to get it on that platform and vice versa.
TC: I am nothing if not a Bethesda fan. I’ve poured hours of my life away to The Elder Scrolls and Fallout, and I plan to again in the future. In the unlikely event that Bethesda comes out and says that all future games would be Xbox exclusives, I would go Xbox without hesitating. I don’t plan on getting either console on day one, I need time to make my decision, and will probably get one a year or so down the line. Aside from seeing how each console performs and continues to perform after its release, it will give me opportunity to see how this new partnership will pay off.
JH: Likewise with Toby, my time in Oblivion and Fallout 3 have no doubt crafted me into the washed-up freak I am today. I wouldn’t trade it for the world. I’m sure Xbox PR has been loving the industry-shake-up juice this announcement provides; I think this merger doesn’t technically finalise until the end of next year, though such a big move will have been planned and talked about behind closed doors for a while. Perhaps even why Xbox might have been pulling their punches a little recently, knowing their “one more thing” this year was actually one of the largest acquisitions gaming has ever seen? If things are kept multi-platform, and Microsoft try and hit me with the marketing line that “Bethesda games play best on Xbox”, the simple truth is that they won’t. The Elder Scrolls & Fallout are PC games through and through – they simply can’t try that route. So, we’re in danger of them starting to get into the realms of imposed differences instead. If an Xbox is able to get a better technical performance out of the games than a PS5, by all means, go for it and market that. I don’t think that’s enough to make me change systems. If all future Bethesda titles do turn console exclusive on Xbox, in a sense I’m entirely immune to that being damaging to me through having access to a PC. However, that would be such a heart-breaking blow to all PlayStation owners everywhere. It would also be monumentally contradictory to all the Xbox press releases and philosophies stating that bridging players wherever and however they play is now a high priority. Side note: notice how that ideology has only really come to the forefront since they were trailing behind this generation – I don’t think that’s a coincidence.
WR: I do reckon that Microsoft will try and keep that pro-consumer feeling going; it would indeed go against recent messaging to suddenly take Bethesda games away from PlayStation owners. I see more of a Minecraft situation here, where they make lots of money from it across platforms, but it doesn’t necessarily become a lead exclusive in the way Halo is. This news takes on different meaning depending on whether you play on PC or not, as for those such as Jed who have that option, they know that version is there. But for those who are focused on console, there is more uncertainty of whether future Bethesda releases are going to be on the machine they own or not. There are potential downsides, but I imagine Microsoft is going to play this very carefully. Let us go glass-half-full for a bit; in your ideal situation, where does this go? For example, could Microsoft actually help Bethesda with some of the issues they have had in recent years with glitches and problematic releases? Are we suddenly going to see other first-party Microsoft studios working on Bethesda intellectual properties – such as, y’know, having Obsidian Entertainment return to Fallout?
TC: If all this meant was Obsidian returning to Fallout, it would be a worthy partnership in my eyes! Last year The Outer Worlds showed us just exactly what Fallout 4 was missing, and reminded us what it was about New Vegas (which Obsidian developed) that we fell in love with. If we could marry those two together again in the future I would die a happy man. Microsoft bought Obsidian back in 2018 and with the likes of New Vegas being a Bethesda IP, a sequel wasn’t possible. With Microsoft now owning both parties, they’d be fools not to develop a sequel to one of the highest rated games not just in the Fallout franchise but in the genre. Overall, I’m optimistic. I think this will help Bethesda make cleaner, tighter games. But hey, let’s face it, barring the game-breaking/crashing kind, silly glitches are what gives these games character.
JS: Going forward, I would like to see Microsoft help Bethesda fix their ongoing issues and make sure that their games are of a really high quality. Prior to this deal, Bethesda were their own company and relied too much on the name of their IPs. In 2020, that is not enough, and they have to make sure that their games are fluid, seamless, and most importantly playable at launch or soon after. With Microsoft there, they will be a fresh pair of eyes, and also new ideas can be implemented as they’re not relying on the same talent as before – a shake up will be a good thing. Not saying that they should ditch their core gameplay values, but instead evolve and adapt the brand and games for this new generation. What excites me about, say, Starfield, is that it is a new IP and doesn’t have the same expectation and recognition as Fallout and The Elder Scrolls. They have a chance to be really experimental and implement mechanics that will feel distinct yet familiar. I want to feel like I’m playing a Bethesda game with Starfield, but don’t want it to just be Fallout in space. They can do something very special with this, and hopefully this will inject new life into Bethesda and make them a more trustworthy company again.
JH: If you’re thinking that the acquisition will mean the end of Bethesda glitches, I think you’re in for a bad time. It really depends on how much control (or meddling) Xbox is going to have. The fear is that they own it, so they can do what they want; they have all the control. Hypothetically, if Microsoft decides they want Bethesda to work on Kinect 2, then they will work on Kinect 2. Don’t assume that just because they’re big companies with similar values that everything with be fine. Look at Bungie/Activision: after their split, Bungie came out of the basement and spoke about how Activision was bullying them into business models they didn’t approve of, but were powerless to do anything. That’s all worst case scenario though, and I don’t see that happening. I’m getting hopeful! If we can get Obsidian to work on Fallout again, I think that’s really exciting. Not sure how Todd will feel about letting someone else show him up on stage with a better game (again), but I don’t see Bethesda coming out with anything more Fallout related for a very long time, bar those updates for Fallout 76. So, maybe they can bounce development off someone else in the interim. Going by Obsidian’s Twitter (see this post), I think there’s hope for this going forward. But again, this is going to be a long way down the line, with Avowed taking their attention. I’ve got to be honest, I struggled to get into The Outer Worlds on first try, but I’m excited to give it another go.
TC: I will say in rebuttal that the Kinect is dead, Xbox Series X/S offers no support for the camera or the games that required one, so fear of a Bethesda Kinect 2 Electric Boogaloo is RIDICULOUS Jed, what were you thinking?!
JH: Hypothetically, if Microsoft decides… That’s all worst case scenario though. I don’t see that happening.
WR: Yeah, with Avowed their focus, if we do see Obsidian on Fallout it may not be for years, but the possibility is there to keep us excited! Though, don’t give them ideas with Kinect and such, see what happened with Rare when they became owned by Microsoft… On the other hand, Rare is recovering now with their gameplay-focused creations of Sea of Thieves and the upcoming Everwild, showing that perhaps Microsoft has learned a lesson there. This also adds even more value to Game Pass going forward, as if the Day One availability on Game Pass for first-party games continues, this means games such as Starfield are going to be there immediately to play through that service. If Game Pass is the area Microsoft is pushing, the whole console-exclusivity idea may not be their priority. Even considering that I lean towards physical copies of games, it is evident how amazing Game Pass is.
JH: There’s no doubt about Game Pass’ value for money. It’s a great offering, and I’m able to play some past Xbox offerings right now on the computer.
TC: I think both Xbox Game Pass and the new features of PlayStation Plus have a lot to offer both consoles. I was having this conversation with Jed the other day; I’m slightly underwhelmed with Game Pass, but that would only be because I’m used to and aware of the games in the Xbox library – even when the games on there are impressive. When I look at the PlayStation Plus library, it looks amazing because I’ve never had access to these games, having never owned a PlayStation past the PS2. So there will no doubt be people like me on both sides that will be impressed by the other consoles’ games, and that’s nothing but a good thing.
JS: In the future, I can see streaming services such as Game Pass and PlayStation Plus Collection (a library of PS4 games available to play for Plus subscribers) be at the forefront in years to come. As concepts, I really like them, but I haven’t yet utilised the services to their full potential. What makes it enticing is the fact that you can play a bunch of games for a certain amount a month rather than individually buying games – prices will have to accommodate this though. Everything is becoming more streamlined and adopting a one size fits method, which I think is great. It won’t be a complete overhaul instantly, but I can see it becoming more commonplace than not. In all honesty, I’ve never explored Game Pass, but if I get an Xbox, I might dabble. I’m quite slow to new tech surprisingly (I still use wired headphones) but if the streaming approach is explored more, then the convenience plus quality will equal a rich and easy gaming experience!
WR: I’m right there with you Jordan on the wired headphones, aha! Your comments on how it isn’t an instant change, but is certainly going in that service direction, are apt; you can see how the industry is gradually going that way, similar to how streaming services are emerging as progressively prominent for TV and films. You could say that Microsoft are a key part of pushing that and making the rest of the industry go with them; without Game Pass, would a PlayStation Plus Collection have happened? I am not so sure, it seems a response to Game Pass – which is great for gamers as there are options on either side. Healthy competing! As mentioned previously, if Microsoft keeps adding well-known names to connect to Game Pass – be it Halo or now Bethesda – then that push is going to get stronger and stronger. We have covered quite a lot here, so I may close us out now. Has been fun getting new voices in here! Any closing comments from each of you before we go?
JS: To close off, I think it’s a great time to be a gamer in 2020, despite challenging times. New gamers will not have an alienating time getting into the medium, as it seems more accessible now then ever before. I can’t wait for the next generation of console gaming and to see its development in the future!
TC: It’s true everything seems to be going to a premium streaming service nowadays, all you see online and on TV are adverts for some new collective service. And in respect to gaming, a solely digital console being pushed more as a viable option could see the death of physical games at some point in the near future. Thank you for having me Will! Been interesting hearing everyone’s points, and I think overall the prospect of Bethesda and Microsoft’s partnership should be exciting no matter which console you play on.
JH: Yeah, just as a closing comment, it is strange to see that Will seems to be swayed so much by the prospect of Game Pass, given your dedication to physical media. I’m looking forward to being able to play more and more games that have not been accessible to me in the future, but I am aware that all of these digital libraries are, at best, temporary. I guess we just can not afford to be complacent.
WR: It is an internal debate for me; I have such a connection to collecting physical games, but I can see how much value Microsoft are putting into Game Pass – including now acquiring Bethesda – and trying to recognise it, even if I am not sure whether or not to dive in. What it may do is, similar to how you say, get me to try games that otherwise I may not have because they are there and so efficiently accessible, in which case the Series S could be a fun machine for experimenting with that library. The physical side is my priority, so my head and heart are clashing slightly here. So, I am gonna go and see if I can make a decision, aha! Thanks for joining me everyone; until next time!
These guest editions of Let’s Chat may become more frequent, especially in the immediate future with Ashley busy. He will be back, though! You can click here for previous entries in the Let’s Chat series.
Developed and Published by: Capcom Platforms: PlayStation 4 (Reviewed), Xbox One, PC Release Date: Out Now
Jill Valentine (Nicole Tompkins) is improvising. After the monstrous Nemesis (David Cockman) spontaneously smashes into her Raccoon City apartment amid the beginnings of the T-Virus outbreak, she has seconds, if that, to make choices that keep her alive. Instinctive dodges, reflexive decisions to block the path behind her, and a fiery determination to avoid the clutches of the closing tentacles leads her outside, where she discovers the extent to which the situation has escalated. Infected residents are all over the streets, amid survivors running desperately for safety. Fellow Special Tactics And Rescue Service member Brad Vickers (Darren O’hare) appears and informs her about the creature she just narrowly avoided; it is set upon hunting down those in the S.T.A.R.S. group with relentless tenacity. In the following sequence, Jill makes her way through more infected, meeting Nemesis again in a brutal face-off with another narrow escape before the first moment where you can catch your breath.
Know Your Enemy
This is the brilliant, heart-racing opening to Resident Evil 3, the remake of Resident Evil 3: Nemesis that was initially released in 1999 on the first PlayStation. It’s been revamped with the same RE Engine introduced for the recent remake of Resident Evil 2, switching the fixed perspectives up for a contemporary third-person over-the-shoulder viewpoint of 3D environments. Just before the sequence described above (and after a delightfully stylised opening roll), you spend a few first-person moments as Jill in her Raccoon City apartment that immediately makes clear not only the production value, but the intricacy of the visual upgrade. The character-informing posters, the detailed notes of her investigation into Umbrella Corporation, the food left on the table; it’s all-encompassing. From there, you go to the bathroom window, switch to third-person, and away you go, soon into that first meeting with Nemesis.
If I was making a list of the top ten video game openings, Resident Evil 3 would be in there (that’s actually a fun idea, may do that!). It grips you with immediate effect and does not let go, even after the credits roll! On my journey through the Resident Evil series this year, this has undoubtedly been the high point, combining the tense survival horror and incredible, dramatic action of the series into one cinematic package. Pacing is exceptional, never lingering too long in a tone or setting; the balance makes the game very malleable to differing play styles and speeds. My first run took around 4-5 hours, similar when on thorough collectible searches, but you can also feasibly finish the game in under two hours if you know how to operate. Put it this way: I have played through this game 5 times so far, and am enthusiastic to go again!
The majority of Resident Evil 3 is spent playing as Jill Valentine; the game is set post the Mansion Incident she was caught up in from the original Resident Evil, which is part of why she is now investigating Umbrella. In the Resident Evil series, Jill Valentine is my favourite character, and she is awesome in the protagonist role here, self-confident and evidently skilled but also clearly fighting internal issues. This very human strength and solidarity drew so much empathy from me – I would say that further insight into those images troubling her could have added even more of an emotional edge to Resident Evil 3. We follow her attempts to save and escape from Raccoon City whilst being hounded by Nemesis; the events happen concurrently to those of the Resident Evil 2 remake, with clever crossovers here and there, but 3 is structured quite differently. Whilst 2 had two campaigns, one each for Claire Redfield and Leon Kennedy, 3 is focused on Jill, though there are admittedly sporadic sequences playing as Carlos Oliveira (Jeff Schine) that hint at inspiration from the previous remake.
Hold on, I hear you say, who is Carlos Oliveira? Jill meets him after one of the encounters with Nemesis, and discovers Carlos is part of U.B.C.S. (Umbrella Biohazard Countermeasure Service), trying to get survivors onto a train and out of the city. Despite friction due to their Umbrella origin, Jill agrees to help them out, as there are innocent lives at stake. Other members of U.B.C.S. we meet around his point are the directing voice of Mikhail Victor (William Hope), the efficient and supportive Tyrell Patrick (Sterling Suliman), and the suspicious Nicholai Ginovaef (Neil Newbon). These scenes of the characters conversing are another example of the remarkable visuals of Resident Evil 3; the character models are detailed and expressive, moving with wonderful fluidity, and the voice acting is on-point as well, suitably serious, charismatic, and just that slight bit melodramatic!
Inevitably, going back to the surface of Raccoon City escalates into many tense instances – I mean, this is Resident Evil, after all! A variety of threats arise to hamper progress as Jill tries to get the train back up and running, from the expected – y’know, zombies – to the not-so-much of a particularly gruesome nest of spider creatures. Though the game is much more linear than the Resident Evil 2 remake, there is satisfying depth to each locale; alternate routes are there to discover, and as you acquire equipment such as the Lock Pick, you can access hidden items previously out of reach. The RE Engine makes inventory management streamlined, snappy, and smooth, letting you put your focus on surviving and getting to know area layouts. This is especially important in 3 as Nemesis can suddenly land in front of you and throw your carefully-considered plan out of the window!
Nemesis completely changes the situation. In addition to the imposing build, hard-hitting close combat attacks, and tentacles to grab Jill, it also has frightening speed when running, meaning for much of the game – and especially on harder difficulties – dodging is your main form of defence. A tap of the mapped trigger causes Jill to take a cautionary step or roll which, if you time it just right, causes a slowdown effect with more opportunity for retaliation. It’s so gratifying, requiring exquisite timing to successfully perform. Otherwise, intense damage can lead to Nemesis temporarily pausing the chase, but do note the word temporary – when in pursuit, Nemesis is tough to shake off. Furthermore, the presence of Nemesis adds complications to other infected – there is not the same leeway to line up a headshot when you can hear thundering footsteps close behind. The instinct of fight or flight vividly kicks in as your priority becomes the next point of relative safety. Not that save rooms necessarily stop Nemesis…
I’ve really got to emphasise the feat of achieving this gameplay feeling. It isn’t common; there are plenty of hard games, plenty of scary games, but to strike the balance of the thrill of the chase, the suspense of the intermissions, and the energy of knowing you have a way to retaliate – it’s incredible, leaving you scrambling to react from moment to moment, without any sense of unfairness. After the Resident Evil 2 remake, the return to Raccoon City could have been samey, but that is not the case; as the game continues you move to intriguing and occasionally vibrant new settings, whether that be a waterside confrontation, a creepy hospital, or a clinical but blood-tainted facility. This contributes to maintaining the air of surprise – the opposition also responds to the change of location.
On the Same Side?
With so many threats all around, making use of the firepower available to Jill is crucial; as well as her iconic Samurai Edge, Jill gets access to a shotgun, grenade launcher, and more. When playing as Carlos, this differs. He has more of a military vibe, with the rifle and how he lunges forward instead of dodging. It is refreshing in that it encourages a slightly different approach, less reflexive and more about raw damage. There are other subtle differences – for example, Carlos does not have the option of using a Lock Pick, so in one location later on, only when you go through as Jill are certain locks made available to open. It’s a fun form of Metroidvania puzzle design mixed in as Jill and Carlos make their way through the story and continue to have their paths meet.
In just a few scenes, a respect is built that Jill and Carlos have for each other based on their individual qualities, not the affiliations they have, which I really appreciated. They help each other out in the game, but it’s a friendly and proactive sense of camaraderie that drives it more than an antiquated romance story. Tyrell Patrick is a great foil to the two as well, bouncing off each well and stopping it being just the Jill and Carlos show. There are enough moments of downtime interspersed in Resident Evil 3 to allow the characters to have those important quieter moments – and for you to catch your breath! – but also not so many that Nemesis, and other threats, lose impetus. Agh, just writing this makes me excited to jump back in yet again! OK, William, finish the review first…
At first impression, Resident Evil 3 being around 2-5 hours could be an issue, but I really disagree. In my eyes, a game is not valued on the factual hours of the length of the narrative; it is the potential in that for enjoyment, for affecting moments, and for longevity and replayability, and in that regard Resident Evil 3 is exceptional. No one scenario is lingered on to the point of getting too comfortable, and even the types of infected you meet aren’t repeated much, and when they are, they’re in a new scenario where a new approach may be needed on the player side. It keeps you on your toes, as you’re never quite sure on that awaiting you around the next corner, Nemesis or otherwise.
I’d say that in the Resident Evil series, the entry that Resident Evil 3 is closest to is – despite the shared engine – not the Resident Evil 2 remake, but actually Resident Evil 4. The more linear path and fusion of horror with action are similarities, though Resident Evil 3 also has the intense Nemesis chases. To go back to the game length again; I found myself really connecting to Resident Evil 3. The idea of a story that knows where it is headed with a laser-focus on the narrative and gameplay is one I am very much here for. It may not be to the taste of everyone, but for me it clicked into place as the pinnacle of interactive storytelling within the Resident Evil series.
All Over Again
The question is, then, quite why have I played through Resident Evil 3 so many times? For starters, it is because I garner such joy from the experience. As well as this, there are plenty of rewards to further push you in this direction. First I did my initial playthrough, then on the second occasion I paid especially close attention to trying to find as many collectibles as I could. Next, I started the harder difficulties, and woah-oah. Wow. The easy option would have been just to up the damage you take and lower your health; but no, depending on which difficulty you play on, Resident Evil 3 becomes a very different type of game.
Enemy placements change. Different enemies spawn in different areas. Items are moved around. Traits of enemies themselves markedly deviate. It’s as though the puzzle has been shaken up, and all your knowledge is put to the test as the early encounters immediately become incredibly challenging. Infected react much more violently and appear in places you might not have even considered before, cutting you off in Nemesis meetings and literally falling from the air over your head. Again, though, it never feels unfair, it’s just as though you’re being asked to demonstrate your proficiency at the game.
The final fight in particular turns into an utter test of gaming skill as you dance around the attacks flying in, using every trick you have learned from playing Resident Evil 3 to that point. Seriously, that sequence on the hardest difficulty is so tough, so brutal, but oh-so-satisfying. Helping out is the Shop which – wait, hold on! – is to my delight completely transaction-free! You earn points from completing challenges in the Records menu, such as defeating a set amount of enemies, finding collectibles, and completing the game in certain ways. Several of these, such as completing the game using one or less of the healing items, are also requirements for the Trophy list.
With these points, you can purchase item that have in-game effects. Increasing stats, having access to a new weapon, crafting more ammo at once; the shop is very helpful to ever-so-slightly soften the harder difficulties. The means of getting those points to spend also bring with them extra unlockables, in the form of Concept Art and Models that are fascinating to view. There is a coherent sense of longevity in Resident Evil 3.
From All Sides
Now, I am going to put aside space to mention more on the audio. As aforementioned, the voice acting is superb at capturing the essence of the characters and the tone of the game, with Nicole Tompkins as Jill Valentine the standout, but no weak points in the cast either. David Cockman is the supplier of the intimidating roars and growls of Nemesis; the sound design for the roster of enemies is, as is often the case for Resident Evil, effectively ambient, often signalling their arrival before you see them!
The audio design is so key to the suspenseful exhilaration sustained in Resident Evil 3. With the way that this game carries itself and constantly pushes you, the sounds resonate through you and contribute to that energetic flow that fluctuates depending on the situation. The reloading of a gun, the groans of zombies, the sounds of Jill short on breath when injured – it all goes together, signposting you through sound of where your attention should be going next. It is masterful, and matched with the beautifully extravagant camerawork and polished visuals, makes for a breathtaking presentation.
Before I get to my Final Thoughts for Resident Evil 3, a note on Resident Evil Resistance, which is only playable through purchase of Resident Evil 3 but is intentionally split from it as a separate game. It was worked on by a different developer, namely NeoBards Entertainment, and centres on a group of new characters taken by Umbrella who try to escape in 4-against-1 multiplayer gameplay; the RE Engine is again in action, and since launch there has been the addition of Jill Valentine as a playable character. Going by how the two games have been released, I have decided to keep my reviews apart. Yet, as the acquisition of Resident Evil Resistance is so tied to Resident Evil 3, I have put a link to that review below:
To make it clear, Resident Evil Resistance is not being included in the consideration of my verdict for Resident Evil 3. You can sense that the development teams of the two games were not the same, as Resident Evil 3 is considerably more cohesive and successful than Resistance. There is fun within Resistance though, so if you’re intrigued by that game, my review is there for more detail.
Resident Evil 3 is a showcase of how it isn’t the extent of a game, but the content within, that counts. Jill Valentine leads an engaging cast of characters caught up in a compelling scenario; this is a game that is keenly aware of the style of story it is telling, and leans into it with phenomenal effect. It never gets complacent, constantly challenging you with new enemies and situations that are all heightened by the Nemesis factor. In addition, the impressive longevity of difficulty modes and unlockables opens up such enthusiasm for repeat playthroughs. For me, Resident Evil 3 is my Game of the Year so far, a seamless, stunning combination of narrative and gameplay, classic and contemporary, horror and action. Right, time to start that 6th playthrough…
Developed by: NeoBards Entertainment Published by: Capcom Platforms: PlayStation 4 (Reviewed), Xbox One, PC Release Date: Out Now
Via purchase of the phenomenal Resident Evil 3, you additionally gain access to Resident Evil Resistance, a 4-against-1 multiplayer game. In this, a group of Survivors attempt to escape from an Umbrella Corporation experiment – meanwhile, a villainous Mastermind sets up all manner of monstrosities and traps to run down the clock and stop them. I debated whether or not to integrate my thoughts on Resistance solely within my review for Resident Evil 3, but as Capcom saw fit to split them into two games, it does define them as separate entities that should be discussed likewise with separate verdicts. However, because Resistance is simultaneously intrinsically tied to Resident Evil 3, with the same engine and how you need that game to even play it, I am publishing my two reviews at the same time and linking to this one with a fancy new WordPress block in my review for Resident Evil 3. How exciting! New features! Be impressed?!
Do I Know You?
Whilst developed by a different team – NeoBards Entertainment – to that of Resident Evil 3, Resistance uses the same RE Engine, which originated for the remake of Resident Evil 2 and was then utilised for Resident Evil 3. So, it does have a similar feel, especially when playing as a Survivor; the refined inventory and third-person over-the-shoulder movement are present here and remain a delight to control. Motion is fluid, direction change is responsive, and aiming is precise. Resistance has new ideas too, and introduces characters with their own traits and gameplay quirks to shake the situation up, which I shall get onto more in a moment.
Where Resistance really deviates is in the role of the 5th player, the Mastermind. In this position, you control many aspects of the map, starting with the initial set-up of where enemies and items are placed; from there, using cameras around the map as your viewpoints, you can select which infected and traps to add in, and where they are positioned. If you have ever played the multiplayer of ZombiU – or another dual perspective tower defense game – it is very reminiscent of that.
There is a story of sorts, though don’t expect much narrative progression past the initial set-up. A group of six characters – Valerie Harmon (Alex Ryan), January Van Sant (Melanie Minichino), Tyrone Henry (John Eric Bentley), Samuel Jordan (Clayton Froning), Martin Sandwich (Nicolas Roye), and Becca Woollett (Tara Sands) – have all in one way or another been taken away from their lives by Umbrella, and are now being subjected to horrors in order to gain data on the infection the villainous Corporation is manufacturing. Jill Valentine (Nicole Tompkins) has also become available as a playable character since launch, a welcome addition bringing gravitas of a well-known Resident Evil series regular to the roster.
Now, the new characters are very much the classic horror movie tropes; Natalie is the more studied and reserved girl, January is the rebellious spirit, Tyrone is the respectable friendly type, Samuel is the sporty guy, Martin is the less confident yet smart one, and Becca is the country girl who knows her around a gun after all those days at the ranch! After initially being worried about how hollow the group might be – and don’t get me wrong, they’re not masterworks of character development – they’re actually a really fun set of personas who each have their own personalities, evident through expressive voice lines as they embody that B-movie charm. Side note: if you are after a subversion on this, go watch Cabin in the Woods!
The stereotypical nature of this group extends to their unique Personal and Passive Skills; the former is a mapped action you can choose when to use, and the latter is always active in the background. You also have a Fever Skill that is powerful but takes a while to recharge, similar to the Ultimate move in games such as Overwatch. To focus on one character as an example: January has Passive Skills to use Disruptor Rounds that are especially damaging to cameras and to hack the prices of Armory items; a Personal Skill to put specific cameras out of action; and then a Fever Skill to impair all cameras and interfere opposition Skills. Fret not, Mastermind players, you get customisation as well; the five playable characters even have their own specific Bioweapon. This ranges from Resident Evil 3 villain Nicholai Ginovaef (Neil Newbon/Mark Hill) bringing in Nemesis (David Cockman), to nostalgic returns such as Alex Wesker (Mary Elizabeth McGlynn) and the botanical Yateveo she can set upon the Survivors.
One Way Out
Similar variety cannot be praised upon the selection of game modes. After the initial tutorial, you are left with either Practice or jumping into online. As the former doesn’t grant progression, there is little reason to play, outside of getting a hint of the potential a PvE version of Resistance has. Seriously, with these vibrant characters and the way the remakes of Resident Evil 2 and 3 have improved the gameplay mechanics to impressive degrees, a version of, say, the Raid Mode from the Revelations games could have been very successful. Alas, we’re left with only an online PvP. After choosing to play with randoms in Quick Match or with friends in Custom, you select to either be a Survivor, the Mastermind, or alternatively let the game figure that out for you. As far as modes go, that’s it. It is really disappointing that the game feels so empty – even if this was a multiplayer mode within Resident Evil 3, you’d hope for more spins on the base formula, so as a standalone game, it’s even more pressing an issue.
In my time with Resistance, I personally gravitated towards the Survivor portion, and is where I found most of my enjoyment. From this viewpoint, you start out in the safety of the Armory area where you can purchase supplies with Umbrella Points, before entering the first Mastermind-controlled space. To get past this, you must successfully retrieve three puzzle parts placed and defended around the map before gathering at the gateway to the second portion; the more players that are there when progressing, the more time added on to the impending timer. Then there is another Armory for you to kit yourself out, before searching for a Security Guard zombie holding a key to access three terminals that open up the way to the third and final part. After another opportunity to make purchases, you then try to destroy three bio-cores and make your final dash for the finish line.
You may find that an unusually specific description; there is a reason. It’s because that is essentially always the set-up. There is no mix-up of even the puzzle task going at the end and vice-versa – there are subtle differences depending on how the Mastermind operates and organises placements, but mostly the structure stays static. As with the lack of modes, it makes the game feel very restrictive, and frankly, that it needed more development time. It’s almost as though it is a fleshed-out tech demo instead of a full, finished product. After a few games, this can create a stale impression as you resign yourself to how each instance might play out.
Even so, there is fun to find here, though it is very case-specific. Each character has a separate Rank that is increased through gameplay, and this has a key effect on how the subsequent game shall play out – especially for the Mastermind. See, the Skills unlocked on the Mastermind side have noticeably more impact on how tough a scenario they can provide. When in a group with 3 other Survivors, those with more experience can help those with less, but as the Mastermind is alone, the options available to them completely tilt how proficient they may be. For example, if there are a team of Survivors against a Mastermind who is playing for the first time, it is very likely that it is going to be hard for the Mastermind to significantly halt progress with the initial spawns and abilities available to them.
It works (or rather doesn’t) the other way too; if the Survivors are all quite new to the game and are set against a Mastermind of – to throw a number out there – Rank 100+, it might be almost impossible for them to make it far. There is the whole “get good” opinion, but it doesn’t cut it – it shouldn’t take multiple 5-15ish minute games to arrive at a point where you have more of a reliable expectation of enjoying the game. It’s especially daunting when in your first games as the Mastermind; in the Ready Up screen, your Rank 1 against higher levels of the Survivors can immediately set out a sense of how easy escape may or may not be.
This isn’t to say there isn’t a sweet spot though, and when the experience of the 5 players coincides, Resistance can find a momentum where it captures some of the thrilling tension that makes Resident Evil 3 such a masterpiece. Playing as the Survivors, fighting through enemies as the timer ticks down, reviving teammates, avoiding sudden spawns of zombies… it can work to enthralling effect; and there can be an excitement to keeping them pushed back just enough as the Mastermind, too. Resistance has the ingredients required to strike that tension, but it just does not happen at a frequent enough rate to sustain a one-more-go appeal.
Escaping in Style
That inconsistency opens up opportunity for the surrounding framework of Resistance to be rewarding enough to encourage bearing with it – but again, it is lacking here and only exacerbates the issue. Every time you Rank up you get additional Result Points added on to those you earn in-game; I found myself getting roughly 1000-10000 on each go. Compare that to the expensive pricing of the Shop, where Equipment Chests start at 3000, but Cosmetic Chests are 50000! Let’s be serious, the Cosmetic Chests and the awesome outfits that you can get from them are the main appeal. Not only that, but you only get one item from a Cosmetic Chest, which could be an outfit, sure, but also could be a much less impressive weapon skin or dialogue line. When it can take around an hour to organically earn a Chest, the satisfaction isn’t where it could be.
Therefore, I found that the imbalance that is so prevalent in gameplay was reflected in the Shop! It’s actually counter-productive, as being more generous with in-game rewards would provide driving motivation to keep playing through the matches that aren’t clicking as much. Instead, Resistance just makes the idea of earning enough to purchase a Cosmetic Chest seem overly time-consuming. Further to this, it causes cynical thoughts too, when the option to purchase RP Boosters – which increase how many Reward Points you get – with real money is there. For me personally, I am not going to go that route, so the end result is that I am turned off from playing Resistance at all. There are Daily and Weekly Missions that earn you Reward Points and Cosmetic Chests, but they’re not enough to fix the problem. It’s such a contrast to the store in Resident Evil 3, where you earn currency solely through gameplay to unlock items that are specifically listed, not hidden in Chests.
By being so intentionally separate from Resident Evil 3, Resistance invites more expectation upon itself. As an idea, the central dual perspective is one with potential, a potential that every now and then is sparked into fulfillment; all too often, though, a lack of balance in multiple areas prevents this from happening. The presentation is there – the RE Engine is again impressive, and the new characters surprised me with how endearing they were, but the core of the game just is not there to back it all up. Taken as a bonus multiplayer mode to Resident Evil 3, it’s a fun experiment that can pass the time, but as a game itself, it needed more work. Can I go back to Resident Evil 3 now?
Y’know, on occasions, games just don’t click with you. Earlier this year, the latest entry in the Animal Crossing franchise, subtitled New Horizons, was launched to enthusiastic praise and stratospheric sales, providing enjoyment to many that was especially poignant during the beginning phases of the COVID-19 lockdown. Whilst I wouldn’t say Animal Crossing is my favourite franchise, I’ve put many hours in across DS, Wii, and 3DS, but for some reason I just did not forge a connection with the Nintendo Switch-exclusive New Horizons. However, I did put around 10 hours in, enough to give an opinion on my experience, but not necessarily to justify a score. In this case, the 10 Hours With… article series that has been dormant on this site since early 2018 (!) is an apt way to put down my thoughts.
Home Away From Home
Initially, for context that applies later on, a run-through of my history with the series. My first game was Wild World (the original on GameCube is admittedly a gap in my knowledge) on the DS, which broke Animal Crossing through into the mainstream. The mixture of life simulation combined with the distinctly charming world of animal residents (you’re the only human… what sort of dystopia is this?) was so inviting, subsequently keeping you playing whether it be to upgrade your house or to complete your collections of bugs, fish, fossils, and more. The young, unaware me then traded Wild World in… Why, me? WHY? Ahem… My next game was Let’s Go To The City on Wii, again one I played regularly; I often visited my town daily and the new features such as being able to visit a City centre introduced new shops and characters, which is actually an area in which I found New Horizons to be lacking.
The DS and Wii entries are probably the ones I have put the most time into, each having their own strengths, be it the portability on the DS or the improved visuals on Wii. Following on from these, the 3DS entry New Leaf arrived. In certain areas, it was a step up from the games prior, bringing back convenience of portability and combining that with a visual jump from the DS as well as more in-depth customisation. Though, even then, the very similar core gameplay began to cause me fatigue for the series; I stopped playing much sooner than on DS and Wii. Until New Horizons this year, New Leaf served as the most recent main series entry, whilst Wii U got a bizarre stop-gap board-game in amiibo Festival, and then there were additional spin-offs: the decoration-focused Happy Home Designer on 3DS, and the mobile game Pocket Camp as Nintendo started bringing their IP to new platforms. So, the anticipation for a new main series entry on Switch, where the portability and home console advantages were set to meet, was high.
Leading on from this, now we get to New Horizons (only took me several paragraphs). There criticisms I have of the game, but in many ways it does deliver on expectations; visually it is remarkably crisp and vibrant, the soundtrack is soothing, and it has multiple quality-of-life improvements to streamline the gameplay. This time, instead of setting up an inland town, Tom Nook brings you to an island, where you and a handful of other residents – but, y’know, mainly you – set about kitting out the place from the humble beginnings of your tent. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise, though; whilst Tom Nook may have a disarmingly pleasant demeanour this time around, he’s still very much after your Bells.
As I say, there have been many refinements to the core mechanics of Animal Crossing in New Horizons. These range from smaller changes, such as more storage space and an equipment selection wheel, to more prominent alterations such as finally being able to cross natural waterways, either with a pole vault or by making a bridge. There have also been extensive revamps on how much you can shape your island – you can unlock the ability to sculpt it square by square how you see fit, adjusting water, hillsides… essentially any part! This side of New Horizons has a vibe of the freedom and utter control in the Creative Mode of Minecraft, especially now you can place furniture outside your home! If you also consider the custom outfit and floor designs, New Horizons has more creative leeway than any previous Animal Crossing before it.
You know what, though, and this may sound strange, but that may be part of why I struggled to get into New Horizons. There are so many positive tweaks, solving issues that irked in previous games, but all this, and the new wrapping of the island getaway, disguise that there isn’t actually much deviation in the central goal. Once again, you are working to pay off the amounts Tom Nook asks of you for each house expansion, which means gathering and selling fruit, seashells, and other items. You can spend time away from that decorating or collecting, again, similar to before. The presentation is refreshing, but the gameplay itself is not quite so, with many of the same characters and targets involved. The Switch has hosted many a series revolution, from The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild to Fire Emblem: Three Houses, but in this case I found that Animal Crossing: New Horizons was disappointing in that regard. I’m very appreciative that it goes for evolution not revolution, but for me personally, I was really hoping for more of a shake-up beyond the literal Bells and whistles.
Do It Yourself (Because Tom Nook Ain’t Gonna)
Let me express that I don’t take pleasure from the disappointment; I was cautiously optimistic about New Horizons, but my concerns of it being a newly packaged edition of a similar experience were founded. In my 10-ish hours of playing, the game ran me through tutorials that were all-too-familiar; on the other hand, there is one new feature that is a marked departure for the gameplay side of Animal Crossing, in the form of the crafting system, which again brought Minecraft to mind. You can now gather materials by, for example, chopping down trees and picking up stones, and then take them to a workbench – either near Tom Nook, or one you have built yourself – to craft equipment and furniture. It’s a noticeable focus early on, and I am glad that it is there to slightly mix up the gameplay.
Therefore, if there are particular items you are after, you can attempt to collect the various materials needed; there is initial novelty in this, with endearing animations of Tom Nook and co. applauding you for, well, doing their work for them, I guess? Yet, I quite quickly got tired of it, and found myself drawn to speeding up the process by buying the equipment outright from shops when I could. It gets to the point where Tom Nook asks you to collect the materials required to set up three houses with the correct furniture for new island-goers, and the idea of gradually going through the lists and getting each item wasn’t one that particularly sparked excitement in me. Not to mention that Tom Nook is committing fraud, as this happens because he *mistakenly* sells these houses to people as if they are already built, then asks you to build them for him! The audacity.
I imagine that if there was end reward for this type of task that wasn’t so similar to past games, I would not mind as much. But bringing in new villagers isn’t – in the scope of the series – an innovation, so making the way to do it more complex just felt a roundabout way of doing the same activities. This is an issue elsewhere; as much as Blathers is awesome, a celebration of him arriving and setting up a museum isn’t that thrilling when there have been museums in these games before. I enjoy meeting characters again, but there is such a reliance on them, with not that many new faces so far. Where this is done better is the villagers that can move onto your island, as the way different islands get different residents encourages that feeling of your game being unique. Furthermore, the dialogue is frequently hilarious – the localisation is impressive in the inherent wit and sense of personality.
At this point, the awareness that I may have sounded quite grumpy at times in this post is hitting me, but I shall put emphasis on how I suspect the problems I have with New Horizons are due to my own taste in games and experience with the series – not necessarily the fault of the game itself. Firstly, the way New Horizons leans towards the more open, limitless creative potential of your island isn’t a direction that directly appeals to me; I prefer to play within set rules. For comparison, I am more drawn to the design vision of New Super Mario Bros. U than I am the creative blank canvas of Super Mario Maker. Secondly, the sheer amount of Animal Crossing I have played over the years has led to the appeal of the repeated set-up wearing off, and said set-up is mostly unchanged in New Horizons.
If you are a fan of detailed customisation and/or are new to the series, it’s a game that could offer you hours upon hours of fun. Which, clearly, it has this year, going by how well it has done critically and commercially. Multiplayer should be mentioned too. I tried out the functionality of visiting a friend to walk around their island – which was much more organised than mine – and it worked well. There are wisely barriers in place to decide who can do what when they arrive on your island, and the connectivity was proficient, so I have no complaints. Just wandering around a new island has a certain positive energy to it!
To reiterate, let me again say how glad I am that people found joy in Animal Crossing: New Horizons this year. During such turbulent times, for a game to be there as a delightful source of entertainment is incredibly valuable. I’m disappointed I personally wasn’t able to click with the game as much as others, but we don’t all have the same opinions on every game, and that is part of why it is so fun to read alternate takes! I am glad I gave New Horizons 10 hours, but in the end it isn’t a game I envisage myself soon going back to.
Did you play Animal Crossing: New Horizons? If so, feel free to put your personal opinion on the game in the comments below! This article series is suited to games where I start them and have thoughts to put down on this site, yet have hours and hours left until I can finish them and be in the position to review them with a score (see: Persona 5). Until next time – have a great day!