Tag Archives: Gaming

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.

resonance of fate cover, white knight chronicles cover, and Dragon's Dogma Cover

3 Fashionable JRPG Video Games (PS3)

I have been feeling nostalgic about the Playstation3, the console that started to show a decline of good games and started to behave like a social platform (PC). Whatever little hope I have left, I did try to scout out those hidden gems. Today, I would like to share three fashionable JRPG video games that I really enjoyed on the PS3 and I just realized that I platinum all 3 of them!

Not only do these games are fun to play but they are fashionably cool to look at. I like to dress up my characters quite often which is why I enjoyed Code Vein (2019) a lot for being a Dark Souls (2011) knock off. They took all the good things and sort of make it into their own, and oddly, it’s not as generic as you might think to take ideas from a great game. Great things inspired after all. As the saying goes, “imitation is a form of compliment.” Style do really matter if you want to attract the ladies.

Anyway, back to the main topic! Here are 3 fashionable JRPGs for the PS3.

Resonance of Fate (also known as End of Eternity in Japan), NA released date 2010

Why did I pick Resonance of Fate? Well because I like gun and clothes. Okay, that didn’t sound right. I only like guns in video games. This game really did make me grind for clothes. The Boutique serves no additional incentive. It’s all just aesthetic, which is perfectly fine by me. The world is much prettier when everyone dresses nicely. I enjoyed shopping for Leanne the most since there are a few nice wardrobes you can dress her in. However, there was one skirt that shows her underwear when she does her flip in the air during battle. Go figure. Nice shot for the male gaze. Despite that, I still thought it was a neat idea. If I am going to grind in a game, I am going to want to look at something pretty. I suppose that was the logic of the game design. Trust me, this game can get repetitive at certain point. Battle-system wise is not bad. Just time consuming, but hey I can brag to other gamers that I (a girl) 100%the game and I deserve a cookie. Actually, I did bake myself a batch of cookies. The only person I did impressed was me.

White Knight Chronicle’s International Ed, NA release date (2010)

Like many people, I find wide-eye cartoons very cute and attractive. The characters and monsters in this game is nothing but cute. Players are prompted to create an avatar which you could use to play online (Geonet) to complete quests and farm materials. Unfortunately, the server is down. And yet, here in 2022, I still find it an enjoyable game. Combine cuteness with fun gameplay you get an addiction. I spent so much hours on this game grinding for better equipment than I didn’t realized how great the gameplay and stage design are. Sometimes we enjoy things without knowing why; just think of a puppet who is unaware that he or she is being manipulated by its master. Great game design is seamless. In fact, I would say this game has a high learning curve that would look pretty impressive on your work resume. For your money’s worth (I spent about 1000 hours), it’s a high-quality game that teaches you to learn a gaming system, which shows off your mental agility and willingness to learn. It offers fun adventure, attractive cutscenes, and addictive gameplay which it’s no mere hack and slash. Quite frankly, I sort of like turned based games that reward players on their skills in memorizing monsters’ weaknesses and strengths. Some people have argued that the playstyle is a bit too slow. I suppose it’s a matter of preference, but I like to think and strategize my kills and not pray on luck. Isn’t that the point of a game? You can play as LS (Long Sword), SW (Short Sword), Mage (support or offense), Bow, Spear, and Axe. It is so fun to try different classes. You can check out the trailer to the combat system: For a trophy hunter, this game is super addicting and fun.

Dragon’s Dogma, released date 2012 and Dragon’s Dogma Arisen, released date 2013

If you are wondering what’s the difference between the two, well second one to the right (Dragon’s Dogma Arisen) has additional content. That means more monsters and more dungeons. I platinum the first one which wasn’t so difficult. Just annoying that I traveled so long in the game to reach from point A to point B. I don’t recall that there’s a teleport ability. On the positive side, gameplay wise, it respects player’s time. In this game, you create a pawn (avatar) and your pawn can be used by other players as well. I thought it was an interesting game design. If you don’t have a group of gaming buddies to play with like me, it’s hard to find a decent person to play with online. Dragon’s Dogma solve that problem. I could enjoy that multi-player experience at any time of the day–without having to wait on real time player to help me complete a quest. On top of that, what I really enjoyed about the game is the classes and its customization (skill sets or skill branches). The character’s appearance customization was also attractive. It makes the whole gaming experience personal and well worth the money. Glad this game is finally getting the recognition in the gaming community as a hidden gem.

So what did these games have in common and what did I learn about myself? If game is visually attractive with addictive gameplay, I would spend hours playing. Don’t underestimate style and aesthetic in games! You have to give credits to those who design these games (Level-5, Sega, Capcom). You can tell there is a lot of thought and craft put into the making of these games, which make them masterpieces to me, and for that, they are my treasures that deserve more recognition.

A Little Rant about Games and Food

I have been going through my video games backlog. I finally beat Nova-111 , developed and published by Funktronic Labs. It was a fun addicted little sci-fi puzzle game. I still have yet to collect all the scientists! The game was originally released on 2015 and I bought it a few years ago. I played it on Steam which it’s currently on sale for $2.49 until July 7, 2022! Woah what a deal. For that price, it’s better than going to the theme park and/or it is a good substitution for anti-depressant pills. It’s a feel good game that gives you that lighthearted solitary escape. Then again, this game appeal to me because I’m an introvert who don’t do well in crowds and no, that doesn’t mean I suffer from social anxiety. It is also available on Switch, PS4, Xbox One (I just read this paragraph again and laughed. I wish I was advertising but I am not. I can only sell what I genuinely like).

I thought I would do a little review for it, but I didn’t have much to say about it other than it’s great if you are looking for a turn-based game that progressively gets harder. The end boss took me about an hour before I finally learned the moves and strategy. I became so good at it that when I played the stage again, it only took me 5 minutes or so to beat. It’s just show that practice makes perfect. No one is born good. Anyone can get better if they keep practicing. I am only saying this because I realized that as a kid, I used to be very harsh on myself. Everything had to be perfect. Isn’t it a silly mindset? If you always feel inadequate, you will never find happiness or contentment. This realization makes me a lot more happier.

I still feel that I could go back and replay the game, but I decided to move on because I don’t really care about improving my scores/grades and getting all the trophies like I used to. Actually, I don’t care about ranking up in leaderboard. I am just glad that I am reducing the size of my gaming backlog, but more importantly playing games thoroughly until I am satisfied.

Ending for Nova 111
Noval-111. I appreciate when devs say thank you to the player; after all there is a human behind the screen

The sad truth is that when you become an adult it means your life priority changes. The little things I used to take for granted– my parent’s cooking. I have not came across a restaurant that serves pine mushroom soup. Let alone, my mom’s recipes. I am missing it a lot. I do struggle finding a good meal that I noticed my attention lately have been leaning toward researching recipes and prepping meals rather than researching on how to defeat a difficult boss. I learn tons and feels accomplished when I do find a decent meal, but so far none hit the spot like my parents’ food. I don’t know why, but eating well has been my top concern. There’s something about fruits and vegetables and lean meat that I gravitate towards (I am not a vegan or vegetarian as some people might mistake. I do enjoy seafood), I learned that Western diet, particularly American is not the most healthiest (my body can only take so much diary products). So, my attention these days has been focused on food and not games-which means I don’t have much to write about. Unless you want to read up on my cooking progress? I definitely no expert when it comes to cooking/baking, but at least I am trying.

Attempted baking on 2018. . Even though cookies weren’t pretty, it was still good with a glass of milk.🥛 I still have yet to find a good cookie recipe that won’t clog my arteries.

Speaking of games, I went back to playing Dark Souls DLC and Drakengard 3 and plan to focus on my unbeaten games for Playstation3. Finally, I might be able to write something about Yoko Taro games in greater detail. They are thought provoking and weird. You can find my notes here. However, a part of me feels like I have outgrown all that “deep thinking” stuff. Not to say, I have the answers to life’s mystery (woah such a bold statement. I feel like I know nothing at all), but the older I get, the more pragmatic I become and I am okay with that. It keeps me curious. It keeps me entertained because I get bored easily. Did I just contradict myself? I am only human. Why do we have to be so complex?

That is it for this week’s rant. Thanks for listening to my shenanigans. It’s not much. Normally I post on Monday, but it really depends on my mood now. Until next time, see ya!

Code Vein Avatar in Photo shoot
Halsdoll in Code Vein
Pausing to read a book when playing game?

Gameplay Is Just as Important as Story

If you click on this post thinking it’s about Dark Souls II because of the featured image, I apologize. I couldn’t find a good featured image for today’s little rant.

Long time ago, my brother and I were playing Xenosaga for the Ps2. I remember I would watch him play. It’s a cinematic JRPG with long cutscenes and I liked the story a lot! But when it was my turn to play the game for myself, I skipped all the cutscenes. He gave me a nasty stare and said, “Oh, you are one those people.” I shot back at him and said, “Why go through all the cutscenes again when I have already watched you play?” Then he responded, “You have to pay attention to the story to know why you are fighting. It’s part of the game.” With respect, he has a valid point. Having a story can make a game interesting. In fact some people only play for the story. I don’t think less of those who enjoy video game for story because my brother is one of those folks who is good at games but mainly play for story.

However, these past few years, dipping my feet into the indie game world. I noticed a lot of story driven games that don’t emphasize on gameplay, and there is a group of folks who defend such games. I am not all that bothered by it, however, it feels like a slap in the face when someone I come across on WordPress, calling folks like me unsophisticated muscle-heads who think with their fist because we don’t stress about the story.

Avatar inside of a cave in Dark Souls II

I suppose story driven games help people think and make them more socially aware, more socially sophisticated and civilized as it opens up a dialogue among people. I am not entirely against it. Humanity has came a long way from monkey brain through years of exchanging ideas, although I don’t think having a monkey brain is such an insult because there are some people out there who are so rational that they start to remind me of a machine (PC) with arms and legs. And if you ask me, I don’t know if they are any better than monkeys because if they are so smart, why are they trying to outsmart each other through debate to the point they destroy the planet altogether with their sophisticated killing toys? I digress.

2b and 9s with Robot in Nier Automata

Anyway my point being is, video game can be a great place where you don’t have to think and at the same time, think. It’s such a paradox but that’s why I love the medium. Solving problems and strategizing are considered thinking. The point I am trying to make is that gameplay is just as important as story. For me it’s a stress reliever. Take gameplay out of the equation, you get nothing more than just an interactive story with some pretty visuals. I have no qualms about it, but just don’t go around hating those who do want a little challenge, a little strategy, a little conquest. Gaming requires a lot of patience. Trials and errors my friend, that’s how we get better.

A-set looking through her social media

For the record, this post is not directed toward anyone in particular. It’s just the information I have gathered over the years observing vocal gamers through WordPress community attacking things I like. I often ask myself many times as well, why I love horror and challenging games. I don’t know, but it sure doesn’t make me a monster.

Picture Credits: Dark Souls II: Scholar of the first Sin; Nier Automata; and AI_TheSomniumFiles.

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.

Avatar from Code Vein sitting and thinking

Hmm… What Are My Top 3 JRPG Games?

I am a bit late with scheduling posts. Just feeling a bit under the weather. Haven’t had much energy to write. I have been playing Tales of Arise off and on though, and I know that I am coming to an end. I have already spent 40 hours plus to know whether I like it or not and I am just unimpressed with the execution so far. I won’t deny though it has a good political statement. Unfortunately, it falls under my Pretty Face but No Character list of games. In other words, it just means that it’s all for show and not much substance. It’s kind of epically disappointing. Let the audience decide if it is an epic tale rather force feed it to us. I don’t feel immersed in it and I am just waiting until the credits start rolling to give it a fair review. Not sure whether I will take the time to write a review for this game though. I did feel a little deceived by gaming critics for calling it a good game. The hypes always lead to disappointment. Perhaps, I am just not in the right mental state.

So to vent my disappointment with Tales of Arise, I am replacing my negative emotion with the more positive emotion I had with JRPG. So, I present you my list of my 3 top favorite JRPG games. I really had to think about this one since I enjoyed a lot of JRPGs. Unfortunately Code Vein didn’t make it to my top 3, so if you clicked on this post because of my featured image, I apologize. In no particular order, I make my list:

  1. Suikoden III (PS2)

2 Trinity: Souls of Zill O’LL (PS3)

3) Baten Kaitos: Eternal Wings and the Lost Ocean ( Gamecube)

Honorable mention: Xenoblade Chronicles (Wii)

The trailers can’t capture the scope of these epic games. It was hard trying to find a high quality trailer because I know some people out there care so much about graphics. Graphics are great but it doesn’t make a game. That’s how I feel about Tales of Arise. If you haven’t played any of these JRPGs, I do recommend them. These are the games that made me fall in love with the genre. Hope you enjoy the list and the game trailers. In the future, I may elaborate on the games above, but for now, making a list will suffice. Until next time, see you!

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.