Category Archives: Video Game Reviews

Cover of D4: Dark Dreams Don't Die

D4: Dark Dreams Don’t Die Review: Just Let Go of the Past

If someone came up to me and ask me what D4: Dark Dreams Don’t Die is about, I would say it’s about letting go of the past, eating and relationships. These are the three themes I noticed quite frequently in the game and the three main ingredients that keep a person functional in the society. This game is about a broken man named David Young who is on a metaphorical journey from death to life.

David Young in D4:Dark Dreams Don't Die falling into the tub

Young lost his wife and we the players become the detective by diving into his dreamlike universe. One moment, we see Young falling into the bathroom, and then we see him reading a magazine on the bed casually, drinking coffee, crushing fortune cookies, changing music records, turning on the T.V, changing clothes, pushing little squirrel off the window etc. Everything seems calm and normal. Until Amanda, his cat, enters the scene. Then I realize, Mister Young is not okay. We are witnessing a man who is undergoing some severe trauma in the head!

Amanda posing in D4:Dark Dreams Don't Die game

And so, Forrest Kaysen (please see the picture below), an important supporting role in the game, is there to guide Young back to life, back to reality, the present moment. If you have played the game, you would notice once Young solved a particular mystery of his past, the memento lose its special power. This is a way for the game to tell the player–mystery solved. Now you can move forward into the present moment. Have you folks ever experienced that? When you are bothered by the past, but there is nothing you can do to change it, but live in regret? Leave it in the past, my friends, leave it in the past.

Kaysen chowing down food in the dinner scenes

Looking closely at Kaysen, he is like a philosopher and sometimes like a twisted version of Little Peggy, the protagonist’s wife. Speaking with him, opens up a dialogue about eating. It is important to nourish the body with food. How can any person function without food? Obviously, the game attempted to point out that people who are consumed by the past do not feed their bodies. Why would they? They are dead inside. So, it’s no surprise to me, when Kaysen confronted Young for not finishing his meal. Kaysen knows that Young has been drinking excessively to drown his misery. He is concerned for his friend’s physical and mental health, but he also wants some acknowledgement for his cooking ability. Did you know it is very rude to ask for a to go box in Japan if you can’t finish your meal in one sitting? Not only do we see Young playing with his food in the dinner scenes as if food is not a valuable source, but he also makes a point about how America is the land of the free. You are not obligated to finish a meal because you have a choice unlike Japan where the behavior is frown upon because it’s a sign of disrespect not only to the Cook but to life itself. This part of the game really highlights the differences between Japanese and American culture on food and the way human interact in a social setting in a twisted way. The game is after all directed by a quirky Japanese game director named Hidetaka Suehiro who is also known as Swery.

I know I mentioned a lot about the plot because I am assuming if you are reading this review then you’re the type of gamer who appreciate a good story. The plot and the colorful characters are definitely stronger than the gameplay; however, don’t be alarmed, the gameplay is creative and entertaining unlike some other cinematic games out there where gameplay is monotonously boring. The stunts with Amanda and the courier are quite funny. But my all-time favorite side game is taking Philip Cheney’s quizzes. His dialogue is interesting and his villain-like approach to the quizzes made me laugh hard. I am not surprised he is the fourth “D.”

Cheney on the plane

And yes, the game ends with a cliffhanger and is too short, but I didn’t mind it at all. The game is jam packed with timeless human drama that made me think even after I am done playing it. It made me think about human relationships as being the most important aspect of human civilization. We are like civilized social animals, resembling cats. According to a scrapbook article I found in the game, cats sacrifice the lone life to move in large group. Doing so will make them achieve social status. Hmm…we are like cats!

Lastly, the game made me think about relationship between lovers as the strongest bond between humans. Some of us argued that we don’t need it, but I think we do. Life seems more enjoyable despite the arguments that come with a relationship. Losing a relationship will drive us crazy as we see it with the Marshal who chases after the courier to avenge his wife’s death. He too, like the protagonist, is living in the past. But perhaps, Little Peggy is right: Things in the past need to stay in the past or else a person cannot move on and live a happy life. The only thing we can do is acknowledge our mistakes and practice for tomorrow as Young once said. Overall, the game gave me a good feeling. Most of the time, I was laughing with the game despite its dark plot.

I am still curious–who killed Little Peggy? I’m hoping for season 2. Let me know what your thoughts are on D4 if you have played it, and thank you for reading! Until next time, take care!

Note: Originally posted on March 4, 2017; revised and edited on August 4, 2022

White Knight Chronicles International Ed. Cover

White Knight Chronicles (PS3) Review

I still remember back in 2010, I know nothing about this game. I was at the gaming department of the store and I thought the cover looked cool and I am going to have a fun with it. So, I bought the game on a whim. Subconsciously, I already know that it’s a high-quality game. After all, if you are fan of Rogue Galaxy developed by Level-5 and Japan Studio, it has that same adventurous charm. I didn’t play the game as soon as I bought it. At the time, I was a college student who was overwhelmed with intense writing courses (whoever said writing is easy should really think twice). I waited until summer break to the play game. As I mentioned before in my previous blog post: Fashionable JRPG Video Games (PS3), the game has a high learning curve, and I didn’t feel like sitting hours learning the gaming mechanics when my time was occupied with school work. This is definitely not the game you can play with a breeze if you want to enjoy the game to its max, especially for someone as thorough as me. It really is a hit or miss game to some folks.

Initially, I thought the story to this game is generic. To some extent, yes, but I didn’t mind it so much playing the second time around. The male protagonist, Leonard is a shiny white-knight armor who has come to rescue a princess named Cisna who happens to be a reincarnation of a queen from an ancient civilization. He later learns that he is one of the 5 knights who was chosen during infant for the purpose of an ancient war that never did got resolved. I think I said more than I should about the plot but the game only takes about 30 hours to complete if you just focus on the story. It’s not so long for a JRPG and this is where it might turn off some JRPG fans who emphasize on story. Keep in mind though, there are three parts to this series: White Knight Chronicles II and White Knight Chronicles Origins (available only on the PSP). However, unlike Tales of Arise, which I thought has a mediocre story, the game has so much to offer in terms of gameplay and stage designs, which often go unnoticed by video game reviewers because most people review games from a player and not from a creative perspective. Some of the stages reminded me of going through a maze. It’s pretty massive for those who love to explore. It’s a puzzle in itself. It’s biggest selling point, however, is the ability to create your own hometown and upload its online server for other players to visit, join and create quests. For someone who doesn’t play MMORPG, it was actually exciting. I get to meet other random players.

I have never played Monster Hunter, but it is sort of similar to that. You grind to get rare drops to enhance your armor or weapon, and oh boy when you do finally get the rare drop from so many attempts, you get that adrenaline rush. I wonder is that the same feeling that gamblers experienced? Anyway, you can see how addictive the game is. Sometimes not for the better. I had to say NO to online games because of this game, which apparently, I didn’t play many of them beforehand, but it only takes one to let me know if it’s the type of game I want to invest my time in. Also, the social part of the game can be quite entertaining because we all know that players are more unpredictable than playing with an AI. The downside is that time is precious and I got other games to complete, which is why I tend to stick with single-player games.

For some JRPG fans, this is a terrible game, but for a few of us–this game is really fun. It’s a hybrid game: half single-player game and half-multiplayer game. It’s an interesting concept for the Playstation3 that offers a seamless, relaxing game experience. The combos and moves are pretty fun to execute. It also has an excellent soundtrack. On top of that the cutscenes are far more charming and impressive than Tales of Arise. I hope someday, this franchise would return. It has a lot of potential and it’s definitely a work of art.

Last of Us cover for PS4

Last of Us Remastered Review (PS4): A Good Father and Daughter Relationship Video Game

Sometimes when a game is overly hyped, I can fall into the trap of dismissing a game entirely due to its popularity.   Back in 2013, there was this huge hype about The Last of Us. At that time, I was too busy playing Dark Souls II to drop the game to see what the hype is all about. Thanks to my purchase of the PS4 back in 2015 (the main reason I bought the console was for Bloodborne), it came with a digital copy of The Last of Us.  I decided to give the game a whirl because I want to challenge my preconceived notion about the game. Is it really a masterpiece?

To my surprise, I must admit, I did enjoy the game to some extent.  The biggest strength about the game is progressively watching the father and daughter like relationship grow.  I find the bonding between the main protagonist Joel and Ellie more believable than the father and daughter relationship in Resident Evil Revelations 2The Evil Within 2 and even Nier Gestalt (another topic I will go into detail at a later time).  As the saying goes, “show but don’t tell” is a popular saying when crafting a good story. Obviously, the same rule applies to video games.  The presentation in Last of Us is cinematically engaging. Throughout the game, Ellie is seen side by side with Joel most of the time, allowing the audience to feel close to the characters overtime. Even in combat, Ellie is not useless like Sheva in Resident Evil 5.  Throughout the game, teamwork is heavily emphasized in order for the two characters to survive. The most memorable part in the game to me is when player has to switch from Joel to Ellie. At that point in the game, a scene takes the player into the future without giving much details of what has happened from the previous dramatic scene where it appears as if Joel has been shot (my memory is getting fuzzy here, I played this game back in 2018). I couldn’t tell if she is all alone, until later, she is seen nursing Joel back to his health. That section of the game gave me a sense of relief. I didn’t realized I was becoming emotionally invested in the two characters’ relationship. I wanted to see them succeed.  I wanted to see them survive.

Ellie with a cross bow in Last of Us

Another section of the game that is memorable is where Ellie has to drive out the bad guys away from harming the injured Joel. I know I would do the same for my dad without a doubt. There is that urgency to protect. When the role is switched to Joel, likewise, I feel the very same urgency to protect Ellie. That part of the game really did strengthen their bond and implies how much they need each other to survive, but more importantly, how much they trust each other.

Joel and Ellie petting a Giraffe

As Joel and Ellie relationship deepens in the game, it’s not hard to empathize with the characters. Toward the end of the game, I suppose the game has already turned me into a monster. The only option given to me is to shoot the doctor if I want to save Ellie. Similarly to Joel, Ellie is no saint either when she hesitantly accepts Joel’s answer about the fireflies. For one, Joel is all she has in the world. She couldn’t bear the thought of losing him as we see in a scene in the game where she throws a little tantrum and runs off with the horse.  But at the same time, she feels tremendously guilty for not being able to save human lives as she mentions her best friend is the first to go, and of course there is Tess, an important character who has died in vain along the way for the sake of humanity.

Joel and Ellie bonding

Presentation and story wise, this game gets a decent grade. The story flows well, however it has been told several times. What it excels at is speaking to humans on a primitive survival level, drawing out what matters most to the heart. Every day, humans make sacrifices and tough decisions. With a stern face, Joel already made the decision to carve his own fate.  Any normal human being who underwent a traumatic event of losing a loved one will never be the same.  He never recovered from the tragedy of losing his daughter but at least he has someone like Ellie to fight for.  It makes perfect sense why the title is called The Last of Us.  The game is about two people who lost everything–and they are not willing to give up on each other even at the expense of saving humanity. And as  f*cked up as it sounds, the argument made in this game is pretty valid to me. Is a strong family man such a bad thing in society? I rather have that than a narcissistic, ambitious father who treats his children like second class citizens. 

In terms of gameplay, the gameplay is cheap and unoriginal, which makes the entire game feels like a book, but plays like a movie.  There’s nothing really exciting about the gameplay. Typically, I am not much of a stickler for story in video games.  Most of the time, if the gameplay is fun, I will keep playing. After all, I bought games to play.  The gameplay in The Last of Us is very stale and tedious. There were only two instances I thought were exciting.  One part is when Joel is separated from Ellie for a brief moment, forcing him to dive into the water and navigate in the dark enclosed area to find a keycard. In the area, there are clickers.  At first, I experience a little nervousness because nobody likes dark places filled with lurking monsters! But then, I realize I have many different types of weapons so my nervousness instantly goes away as there aren’t many obstacles to overcome in order to reunite with Ellie. I blast the enemies away with my shotgun.  Once I obtain the key, I bypass all of them and quickly get to a safe place.  Not much of a challenge there.  The other part is when Joel is hanging upside down shooting the infected. That part reminds me of a section in Resident Evil Revelation, where Chris Redfield fell from the cliff and is pinned down to the ground, having to defend himself from the approaching wolves while waiting for Jessica to make her way down to help him. The only difference between the two games, is that Last of Us gameplay is forgiving. The game autosaves frequently.   So, if you die constantly, it puts you in a decent spot in the game to try again. If you get stuck in the game, push L3 button when it appears. This will give you a hint.  The game is very generous, but that consideration actually kills any challenges the game has to offer, and what is even worse, it makes the gameplay becomes dull quickly as gameplay becomes predictable.  I think I would be just content watching a movie version of the Last of Us than go through all those unnecessary troubles. On the positive side, there were some breathtaking, beautiful wild scenic landscapes.  I am not complaining much.  It’s a nice little escape from the noisy city life I was once used to.

Joel and Ellie riding horses

Overall, the game feels genuine as it amplifies the American identity–a free and rugged individual who has a choice.  Is that a good thing or a bad thing? That’s for you to decide.   The more I think about it, the game is just a political statement going against big pharmaceutical companies.   I was entertained while the game last, but not entertained enough to demand for a sequel.

Note: Originally posted
July 1, 2018; revised and edited May 30, 2022

 

Alphen and Shionne standing side by side

Tales of Arise Review: A Pretty Mediocre Game

I was watching Bambi, the Disney cartoon, and I am reminded, “If you don’t have anything nice to say then don’t say at all.” But I sort of disagree with that statement. Agreeing for the sake of keeping good company is a bad thing for mental health even if your opinion goes against the consensus. After all, the game did preach to the audience that we shouldn’t be slave to someone’s ideas (critics). I wouldn’t be creating this blog if I didn’t somehow feel like it’s the only safe place where I can voice my opinions. I do this out of my own terms as a gaming enthusiast. All of my posts, I have been very civil about my dislikes and likes. And sometimes, I do feel bad for not liking a certain aspect of a game, film or book because I know that it’s easier to critique than to create. However, I still stand by what I believe: Tales Arise is just a pretty mediocre game.

First off, I won’t into go into lengthy details and point out all the things I didn’t like about the game because anything that is considered unpleasant means work to me, and I don’t want to do that unless I get paid to critique. Instead, I will talk about the positives. Where Tales of Arise shines is its powerful political statement: It stands for friendship, warmth, love, freedom and all the good things people seek in life. On top of that, it has an epically beautiful open world. What more can you ask for in a JRPG? Well, this is where it becomes a matter of taste and preference: If video game is art then I didn’t feel a connection with this artwork. I prefer the works done by the folks on Tales of Xillia and Vesperia more.

While playing the game, I had to remind myself that it was the franchise’s 25th anniversary and there is something to celebrate. The entire game is just epically flashy from the dialogues, cutscenes, battles, music to the overall atmosphere. It’s undeniably a well-polished game that went as far as giving out an epic speech about liberty and freedom and challenging the very existence of one’s being in the universe. And yet underneath it all, Tale Arise is really nothing new in the JRPG department. It’s just a really pretty game to look at with a polished gameplay (if button mashing is your thing, that is). But it made me wonder, if it was directed by a different game director, would I have enjoyed this game more?

Would I recommend this game to those who have not played Tales games? Yes and no. No, if I were a 14 year old girl and this was my first JRPG, I probably would not have liked it. It feels as if I was sitting in Sunday’s School class being lectured on morality, but yes, if you want to play a high quality JRPG. It’s really a pretty game and I can see the huge effort put into it. However, it’s definitely not the game for those who want to escape into solitary away from society; or who is looking for some good humor to laugh at life itself; or who want superb storytelling; and/or most importantly to a gaming enthusiast like myself, a fun innovative gameplay.

Since I like to leave on a positive note, one thing I like about this game is the message that you don’t have to walk alone all the time. Needing one another is not a form of weakness, it’s a form of strength. Life is so much better when we are in pairs. Don’t be the lonely villain who is full of hatred.

A picture of a doll

Spirit Hunter: Death Mark Review (PS4)

I finished playing Death Mark (PS4 version), a visual novel game. I was pleasantly surprised by the game because I didn’t expect what I was expecting. No, this game did not give me the chills, did not mess with my mind, or give me a cheap haunted house thrill. Instead, the game left me pondering about Japan’s society as a whole. There were many mature themes posed in the game. It’s not a bad thing because it made me think.

There are 6 chapters total in the PS4 version (I don’t know about the vita version). The content of the game is decently proportioned (not a fan of playing long games due to having adult life’s responsibilities). Story flows well into each chapter. One thing I really enjoyed about the game is the characters illustration. All of them are interesting, including the monster designs. And of course, the sound production which most often go unnoticed but it matters a lot in horror games. In the game, people just keep popping up in the mansion at night. The mansion resembled the mansion in Resident Evil. Unexpected visitors arrived at the mansion after obtaining a mysterious mark. To get rid of the mark they must defeat the spirit that gave it to them in the first place. Time is ticking. So there is some urgency in the game; your life and those around you are on the line.

Oddly, the gameplay reminded me of a guessing game. You have to read between the lines to answer the questions correctly. You can see honne tataemae taking effect in the game. If you don’t know what honne tataemae is, it means knowing how to read air. For instance, in Chapter 2, we find a suicidal man in the woods, on the verge of killing himself. Player is given a selection of choices to answer his questions. Given the situation, you don’t necessarily speak what you really think, which is very Japanese, although I heard that the idea of honne tataemae originated from China, but don’t quote me on that. Basically, you don’t speak your true thoughts around strangers. In this section of the game, I suppose lying to him is the better route–just so we can keep that harmony because the average American person would have responded in this way: “Yeah you got it rough. Your life sucks, man. You should chase after your dreams and not live for someone else, especially for a h0e.” And the suicidal man would replied: “Thanks man, for making me feel better. Now I want to go kill myself even more.” You get my point, I hope.

Due to the cultural context, I have found some of the choices sort of irrelevant from time to time and wouldn’t say the gameplay is its biggest strength. After all, this is a visual novel (don’t worry visual novel fans, I am not discrediting it as a game). The game, however, is engaging enough to keep me “flipping the pages”. It’s the player duty to read the text in each chapter carefully. Reading the text in each chapters closely provides clues on how to defeat the boss. The gameplay style is definitely not for the adrenaline junkies who are used to relying on their reflexes to push buttons to get by. Instead, the game leans toward using detective skills, which oddly makes it a relaxing horror game to play. This is the type of game would be fun to play with a group of female friends or with your significant other, or alone in the dark is okay too.

Overall, I enjoyed the game. My only gripe about this game is the portrayal of women. Then I can’t complain too much because the story is told from a male perspective and is intended for the male demographic. Patriarchal society likes to think frail women are not just physically weak, but also in mind and soul. So there’s a little bit of a sexism undertone–a mistrust toward women in the game. But that’s okay. I’ll just sit still like the evil doll I am and watch Satoru Mashita go through all the trouble for laughs and giggles. After all, this is Japan we are talking about. Nonetheless, it’s a good horror game.

 Note: Originally posted in 2019. Revised 4/11/2022.

Lorelai Review

It’s good karma to give back to the universe by writing reviews and why not write one for Lorelai, a game released back in 2019, developed by Harvester Games, published by Screen 7. So let me spread the news about this game!

Great indie horror games that deserve more attention

This game may not be flashy and sophisticated like those Triple AAA titles, but it sure has a lot of soul and depth than a lot of these pretty-face remake games (I am referring to Final Fantasy VII. Better not throw eggs at me now). I suppose saving time and energy by making remasters and remakes than coming up with something original is the wiser route to avoid commercial failure. Well, I am not entirely against the business practice. Look at the Shenmue series for instance. It’s one of my favorite games and in terms of grandness this game blew my mind away. However, sadly, it was a commercial failure. Creating new things is quite risky even if it sound like a good idea. But let’s get this straight, I am not comparing Lorelai to Shenmue. No way! My point is that I am quite sad that passionate video game creators often don’t get enough recognition even if they put all their heart and soul into making a video game. Clearly, the creator of Lorelai has that ability to make things interesting, but without advertisement–sometimes good things will never be known because if there is one thing this game has that other popular gaming titles don’t have is taking risk. Aren’t gamers a bit of a gambler themselves? It’s no fun to play it safe all the time (wow, I sound so dangerous).

Minor spoilers alert!

So, I will tell you why I like Lorelai and why you should play it too! One, Lorelai, the protagonist, is not a princess because we all know that princesses rarely do the saving in video games. She’s a fighter, which makes perfect sense since she is “a powerful unstoppable being”. Hey! Anything that endorses female empowerment is cool in my book because I like feeling strong.

Playing Horror Indie Game

Secondly, this game is funny! It tackles real life, mundane situations without sugarcoating the brutal truth about how “life is so fu*king hard” without being overly dark even though it’s a horror story. I must admit that the gore is it bit too much for my liking. I rather stare at pretty flowers, but I kept playing this game anyway because of the metaphors and the symbolism. Some of the scenes in this game kept me intrigued and curious because we all know that we don’t always need words to tell a story. For instance, I like how Lorelai’s father is referred to a scummy pig. At one part, Lorelai has to put a pig’s head on her on her stepfather’s headless body and then electrocute him with a blow-dryer in the bathroom. I found that scene quite satisfying and a bit disturbing. I can only imagine how often her perverted stepfather walked in on her multiple times while she was taking a bath for Lorelai to wish him a painful death. It’s this type of visual ques that keeps the game interesting. I wanted to see her get away from that pig as far she can with her baby sister even if it’s in a dream. The entire game felt like I was going through a surrealist painting.

Strong female protagonist in video game

In the game, Lorelai dies but comes back alive to kill the Queen of Maggots. Along the way she meets interesting people. My favorite chapter has to be Chapter 2 where Lorelai goes to work as a caregiver at a nursing home. It’s a sad but funny scene. Least favorite chapter is when Lorelai tries to break the chef’s spirit at the request of the Queen of Maggots. But there’s an option to save the character as well. I only did it to get the trophy. Why not? It’s achievable and plus I like to extract everything I can from a game.

Strong female lead in video game

Overall, I enjoyed this game. It’s like diving into a friend’s mind and having a personal conversation with someone who knows what it is like to struggle in life. Someone who is honest and not overly optimistic living in the clouds (I have nothing against girls in mech suits like in Sakura Wars, it’s just a matter of taste). Someone who can pick herself up and laugh at reality and all of its ugliness because the world is filled with routines and uncertainties. Lorelai is that game. It’s horrifically funny while at the same time adventurous, uncomfortably depressing, but nonetheless charming. There’s plenty of humor mixed with horror and a bit of romance in this game. Just my cup of tea, and hope it would be yours as well.

A survival horror game

Remothered:Tormented Fathers Review

So, these past few days I have been playing some indie games, trying to give the smaller titles a chance to be recognized. Plus, I sort of got addicted to browsing games on Steam and added a few games to my Wish List. I will tell you what I find at a later time. For this post, I want to write a critical review on Remothered: Tomermented Fathers, developed by Stormind Games, published by Darril Arts, released in 2018. I enjoyed the game very much.

I bought this game a couple of years ago. It was one of the first game I bought on Steam but never got around to playing it. At the time, I recently had purchased a new laptop specifically for gaming and writing. Unfortunately, my laptop is not strong enough to run the game. Game crashes two times but I managed to beat it by quitting the game frequently for it to cool down. Oh, the experience was painful and it would have been better if I were to play it on PS4. I could have purchased a copy for the PS4 like I did with Tokyo Dark (you can find my review here). Instead, I stick with the PC version, risking my laptop to blow up in my face. I am just being dramatic. Actually, I have high toleration for minor nuisances. Rarely do I get mad if I have bad user experience, but I can see how this can be a glaring problem for some people.

A Classy Survival Horror Game

But let me tell you. This game is pretty intense. It’s that scary because you are being chased by a barely-naked old man who is wearing nothing but a butcher apron. The most difficult part of the game is trying to explore without being seen. Play with headphones is recommended. The sound effects are on par and intense like the sound from the Silent Hill 2 game. Don’t think about lowering the volume because you would need to listen to the psychopath’s footsteps and his humming of Old MacDonald had a farm song, which ties into the story. It’s like a game of stealth and hide and seek, which I really enjoy. Apparently, the little girl in me never dies. I like hide and seek games in horror style. I even found myself starting to sing along with the psychopath:

Old MACDONALD had a farm
E-I-E-I-O
And on his farm he had a lamb
E-I-E-I-O
With a baa baa here
And a baa baa there
Here a baa, there a baa
Everywhere a baa baa
Old MacDonald had a farm
E-I-E-I-O

Lyrics source: Musixmatch

If you enjoyed Clock Tower series for the PlayStation, you will appreciate this game. The difference is you play as a strong, professional woman in her 30s by the name of Rosemary Reed, which I find the game to be refreshingly intelligent and classy for its kind. The balance between gameplay and story is sophisticated. It feels like a cinematic game but it’s not. A few cinematic cutscenes between story and gameplay give me enough room to breathe without feeling overwhelmed. The story is full of suspense enough to keep me on my toes but unfortunately failed to captivate me. The plot is not very clear. I still have questions on who did what and what. Perhaps a second play through would dispel my confusion. At times, the dialogues between characters tried to be too deep that it felt a bit staged rather than immersive. This result in a disconnection between me and the story. But honestly, I could care less what is happening because I grade survival horror games based on gameplay not story. If I want that experience, then I’ll I just watch a horror flick as a passive observer. Still Remothered:Tormented Fathers is still a good game. The strongest point of the game is oddly, its presentation. I felt like I was playing inside a film. Artistically, that’s a good thing.

Gamplay in Remothered Tormented fathers

I could drown myself inside the mansion for hours because the sound of high heels is quite soothing against the creaking floor. The lighting in this game is beautiful. There were certain shots in the game I really admire. Just look at how beautiful Dr. Reed is skipping into a nightmare in the picture below.

Classy Survival Horror Game

She is so dedicated to her job that she is willing to risk her life? She’s so brave and a tad bit crazy. But who am I to judge? I suppose I am just as crazy as she is to find her admirable. After all, I am playing a survival horror game here. Throughout the game, it was so difficult not to laugh nervously when the psychopath from the mansion kept mumbling in the background something along the line: “This place is not open to the public!” and “Are you working overtime?” Strangely, these little minor details make me appreciate the aesthetic of the game as an art piece in itself. For one, a professional eloquent woman like Dr. Reed is quite attractive. Female protagonists don’t always have to be a young Barbie doll like in Haunting Ground, a PS2 game developed by Capcom, to mesmerize the audiences. However, there were a few minor issues that were a bit of an eye sore—the protagonist’s facial animation which looked more theatrical than natural and her internal dialogue: “This can’t be real”.  I often wonder why she was so persistent to trespass a private property in the first place only to find her desperately trying to get out of the mansion. Perhaps, I just didn’t find the plot convincing enough or else I wouldn’t have had this question in the back of my mind. The game has potential in the story department and the pacing of the game could have been extended. So, it wouldn’t feel like the player rushed into a nightmare—only to want out as soon as possible.

Gameplay wise, the game is pretty straight forward. The horror takes place in the mansion and if you follow a guide, you can beat the game in 1 or 2 hours. Running time is similar to that of a film. But quite frankly, I am not against it. It took me over 10 hours to complete the entire game because of trials and errors and obtaining all trophies. My only big complaint with the game is that the gaming mechanics can be quite frustrating sometimes. Do expect to die frequently. I rarely use any of the diversion items in the game, which are supposed to distract the psychopath. Perhaps, it’s my fault that I couldn’t read the in-game description correctly, but I just had no time to read or learn how it works when I am busy trying to run and hide from my pursuer! The entire structure of the game revolves around hide and seek and some QTEs (quick time events) which can be frustrating for those who don’t have high reflexes. Some gamers are dissuaded from continuing the game when they keep seeing the Game Over screen as oppose to someone who see it as a challenge. Luckily, this game doesn’t acknowledge the player’s failure, it just reloads from the last autosaved saving point. Finally, while hide and seek is the main gameplay’s concept, I find it a bit annoying that the enemy seems to appear from one place to the next conveniently. Players would naturally assume, it takes a certain amount of time to walk from point A to point B. Apparently, the enemy doesn’t follow the same physics rules; I don’t believe it’s the game intention to make the enemy a supernatural being either. There were times when I would hide in the closet, waiting for the area to be clear of the enemy, but it always seemed like the enemy was nearby no matter what floor I was on in the mansion. When it comes to technical aspects, it needs some work, however, for the most part, the game’s concept is great!

I remember now why the game started with Dr. Reed smoking. Smoke while you can because you are going to be underwater for quite some time until you get another break!

Dr. Reed smoking in survival horror game Redmothered: Tormented Fathers

Overall, the game is good. The concept is intelligent. As a survival horror game fan, I enjoyed it and wish I had a physical copy of the game to put beside my collection of horror games, which sadly, aren’t many. Finally, I will tell you why I enjoyed this game, after all I am a bit of a wordsmith: Dr. Felton, the psychopath in this game is pretty sick. He’s a sickle. Get it? A sicko. And to his question, “Is it really worth it to put yourself into this story? No, but I am grateful it’s only a video game and it was fun! Now, I will go back to singing Old MacDonald had a farm song and go to bed happily because I found myself a good survival horror game to play.

fishingformetaphors in survival horror game

Tales of Xillia for the PS3 Review: ‘We All Just Want to Live’

May contain minor spoilers. This is a story focused structure-like essay review with some criticisms. May be the longest review I have ever written for this blog. I suppose it’s a nice way to end the year.

If you are a do-gooder who cares a lot about living organisms (yes, that includes destructive human beings) and you enjoy reading science college textbook, you’re going love this game. First off, you probably took an introduction course to biology and came across the term symbiosis. If I were to sum up the entire story to Tales of Xillia (developed by Namco released 2011), that is the structure to the story of which it involves. So, despite what some professional reviewers said about this game, it’s not just another generic JRPG story saving the world. In fact, I would even argue that there’s no saving the world in this game but rather protecting it. Tales of Xillia is about how life forms help each other to exist: humans and spirits coexisting and working in harmony or humans and an advanced technology called spyrites coexisting and working in harmony. I think you get the gist. In this story, there’s no real main evil villain and there’s a lot of philosophical conversation that happens among the characters, on top of the added humor. Does that sound like your cup of tea? Hey, I could always play a feel-good game in this day and age. The skits among the characters got me laughing hard; apparently, I did not view all of them as there is a trophy for it called Obsessive Skit Viewer. It is awarded to Xillia’s most dedicated couch potatoes. Wow, what a lovely way to mock your audience. You should be happy that your game is being purchased and played or else you wouldn’t have a job. The joke is on you too! I digress. Whatever happens to the concept of symbiosis that the game was so focused on preaching.

Joke aside, I did spend enough time with the game to have the characters grow on me. What I like the characters in this game is how imperfectly admirable they are. They got a lot of evolving to do which makes them a charming bunch. Yes, that includes Milla Maxwell who is a spirit that takes the form of a 20 year-old woman and who learns that there are limitations to being a human such as hunger and emotions; Jude Mathius an indecisive med-student who cares too much and lacks direction; Elize, an orphan child who suffers from verbalizing her thoughts and thus making friends, which is why she is accompanied by a “talking toy” named Teepo; Alvin, a lonely shady mercenary who changes sides like the unpredictable weather; Rowen, an old passive, self-conscious military tactician who fails to lead; and lastly, Lei, a childhood friend of Jude who lacks femininity and grace to attract a partner and start a family of her own. They are not the ideal heroes and heroines you see in most video games and that is exactly what I like about it. In fact, they are a bit on the “special” side. In other words, they are unevolved human beings. They are characters you can sympathize and relate with. After all, as a human being, “There’s always room for improvement,” says Rowen, the character who is often referred to grandpa by the other characters because of his age.

In contrast to the heroes and heroines, the “villains” aren’t all that evil as they appear. What’s separate them from the heroes and heroines is their outlook in life. And here I will mention again, where I came to the conclusion about the plot and how I refer it to symbiosis. The “good” and the “bad” guy have the same mission and that is to protect what they hold dear to them. In fact, when life forms help each other to their benefits it’s called symbiosis. One does not have to kill the other in order to survive. They just co-exist and even strengthens one another. So, it’s no surprise that the villains seem a bit one dimensional and stiff to my liking and even laughable and unrealistic. They could have been explored a bit more. At times, I felt as if they served a purpose only to give depth to the heroes and heroines by highlighting and contrasting their weaknesses. As absurd as it sounds, the heroes and heroines can learn some useful traits from the villains such as having a clear mission in life. They are “evil” for a reason because they stay true to their conviction. For this reason, the characters are not the game’s strongest strength rather it’s the concept of symbiosis and its humor that take the spotlight in the story.

But of course, the game has more to offer than its creative storytelling. The gameplay is flashy and fun! There are enough places to explore and gather materials to enhance shops. I found it quite addictive, just collecting materials and galds (video game currency). I like how I am rewarded for unlocking more items in each shop (foods, items, accessories, weapons, armors etc.) so I can make characters stronger in battles because the game battle system is entertainingly fun. I could easily get sucked into grinding for materials to expand these shops which may reach to level 99 or 100. The furthest I got with one of the shops is level 90. I stopped there since story is the main reason, I played the game for and I already clocked in 88 hours! So here I give my 2 cents on game design: I find it ironic how the male protagonist is as an honor med student. I bet he doesn’t play video games during his break because he is too busy hitting the books. If you are going to preach to your audience (which is probably your typical 20 year-old college student), you got to learn how not to slap his or her face at it. Only hardcore trophy hunters would spend hours on this game. Yeah, in life you can’t please everyone. Perhaps, you should practice what you preach and take Milla Maxwell’s route: stick to a point. As for the boss fights, they were challenging but not too difficult. There’s some strategy involved for those who like to tinker and customize their characters. And for those who just want to experience the story, the player can always select the option to optimize their character skills automatically. The only effort from the player is to mash certain buttons while in battle. Yep, this game is for you button masher! Not so difficult to learn. In fact, gameplay is quite generous. If you failed a boss fight, it opens the battle menu for players to re-strategize the characters. I found that extremely helpful and rewarding when I do finally defeat the boss. It’s a casual game that is manageable towards the end of the day. However, the down side to the gameplay is that on your second play through, the enemy and boss encounters can get pretty easy and boring fast until you meet the final boss, which makes me question the game’s development and its consistency. The only reasons I can think of is to play the game the second time around with less effort since most players might just want to experience the story in their chosen protagonist (you can either start off the game as Milla Maxwell or Jude Mathius), and view the cinematic cutscenes and collect some materials to max out the shops for trophy purpose. The game was meant to be played twice. Regardless, I didn’t think it flow well from a player’s perspective, especially if the story is the focal point of the game.

Overall, I really did enjoy my time with this bright colored game and its colorful casts even though it’s not a perfect seamless game, but still quite impressionable and ambitious. The greatest thing I got out of this game is the reminder that we have the freedom to decide for ourselves what is our life’s mission; whether it is to protect our family, support your love ones, make friends or lead a country etc., it’s important to stick to a mission and not waver. You can say that is a form of strength. In the end of it all, we fight because “We all just want to live,” I quoted Jude, the main male protagonist. From a gamer to another gamer, I highly recommend this game to any JRPG fan.

Great feel good game

What I Learned from Playing Fragile Dreams: Farewell Ruins of the Moon

Originally posted on Aug. 24, 2017; Revised Dec. 12, 2021

Perhaps, I am a child at heart but I really prefer the simplistic gameplay approach, especially when the story is the focal point.  The content of this game is quite mature but with light gameplay, which is both suitable for adults and children. Fragile Dreams: Farewell Ruins of the Moon, an action-adventure RPG, developed by Namco and Tri-Crescendo, is about a boy’s journey towards finding warmth in the post-apocalyptic world. It has a typical story but it took advantage of the video game medium to produce a unique experience.

What I enjoyed about the game is that it’s beautiful and atmospheric.  According to the trailer, it is supposed to have horror elements, which ironically, it’s far from scary, but more so cute like Casper the ghost, but a little lonely.  Player plays as the protagonist, a young man name Seto who is on the search for human civilization.

Throughout the game, Seto is accompanied by caring loving companions who are not humans.  The most memorable companion to me is Crow, who appears to be a big tea drinker like myself based on his clothes. His encounter with the robot is my favorite part of the game.

It was fun chasing and  hunting down Crow because it reminded me of  playing hide and a seek and playing tag. For a moment, I didn’t mind taking a break from trying to find the silver hair girl.

That section of the game illustrates an important point made by one of the characters, Chiyo:

“It’s the sunbeams, the wind rolling over grass and the idle chit chat with friends [are] the gems of life.”

The moment where Seto chased Crow to get his locket back is special and left a huge impression on me. It made realized how we must not forget during our journey in life to enjoy the present moments. That is called living. However, the game also wanted to make an another important point: Crow is a robot. Even if  we find happiness in the substitution of artificial life, including digital ones–it does not replace the real life human interaction.  Thus, it’s the silver hair girl that can offer Seto the real authentic relationship even if it involves conflict and misunderstanding between both people.

Lastly, Sai, one of the main supporting characters, helped me understand that words may not always be the best form of expression, but it’s not entirely useless. Words fill in part where visual cue fails to communicate simple things such as Seto wants Ren, the silver hair girl, to be his companion. He wants his memories to live on by sharing it with someone.

Overall, the game provided a philosophical explanation for the continuation of existence, despite the dark side of humanity where most people would want to withdraw and disconnect with all forms of human interaction. The world would be a pretty lonely place when we only answer to ourselves. I thought the game successfully illustrated these points through gameplay and atmosphere. If you haven’t played this game already, check it out. And if you have played it, let me know what you think. I’d love to hear them.

Credits: Picture sources found at fragiledreams.fandom.com/wiki

Ice Stages are the coolest in video games

My Video Game Shopping List: More JRPG Games

Looking back this year, all I played are RPG games and going forward I will continue to play lengthy games which require big time investment. There’s something addictive about it, especially when you started learning and appreciating the battle system of the game on top of great storytelling.

So far, I have put in 49 plus hours in Tales of Xillia. And just finished the game as Mila Maxwell. I have yet to play Jude Mathius’ route. Yes, you can select either one to complete the story. The replay value is great for gamers who want to get the most out of their money. I remember I only spent 20 dollars on the limited edition which came with an artbook and a soundtrack which is so cool because these days we don’t get artbook or a video game instruction pamphlet anymore.

Like books, I do feel accomplished for beating a great game. And will probably look into other Tales games afterwards. Its cinematic cut scenes are high quality and refreshing. I found myself sometimes just watching the opening trailer over and over before hitting the Continue button. Games like this reminded me why I started hunting for quality games in the first place. Will give Tales of Xillia proper review at a later time.

So here are three games in my shopping cart:

1) Sakura Wars

Videogame shopping list

Out of pure curiosity, I want to see what the hype is all about. A few random gamers on Twitter kept praising the game saying how it missed the radar. You know how fanatic gamers can get defensive about their games. It’s like religion. So, being the skeptic that I am, I want to play the game for myself. Then I can make the decision and write it on my blog because I’m a passionate gamer and I don’t have anything else better to do such as wasting time on social media! Oh wait, I think I am a hypocrite. I did hear about the game on Twitter where busy adult gamers randomly tweet video game stuff.

2) Neo: The World Ends With You

video game shopping list

My brother told me about this game and anything brother likes is most likely good. In fact, I used to go to him for video game recommendations and it never fails. So, this one is going on my backlog once I purchase it! Plus, according to an article I read recently, it didn’t sell well. I’m all for advocating for niche games so they are definitely getting my business.

3) Tales of Arise

Well…no mystery here. I actually enjoy the Tales series and appreciate quality games so I know the chance of being disappointed is slim. Unless, the series becomes like Dynasty Warrior games, then I might get tired eventually. Right now, a good story and some pretty visual gameplay that are manageable is what I’m looking for. Games like Elder Ring can wait. I’m just not in the mood for another soul-like game. All thanks to the git gud fan base. I still have not completed Dark Souls II DLCs. It is a shame because I love Fromsoftware as a game developer. They produce some high- quality games for sure. But like any business, you got to cater towards your customers to keep them coming back and sometimes that’s not always good for developers and gaming enthusiasts.

Yes, I know it’s all PS4. I am not in rush to buy PS5 and I am a PlayStation fan. It’s really all about the innovation and the story for me more than the competitive play. It just happens that PlayStation console wins my time.

Well, that’s it for now. I know I am a little late, and a little tardy as I normally post on Mondays. I am only human. Hope you found something interesting on this list!