Tag Archives: Video Games Reviews

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 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.

Fun adventure Horror game

The Cat Lady PC Game Review (2012): Great Game to Play to Beat the Blues

Sometimes great games are not always pleasing to look at. The characters in this game have long limbs and are colorless and tend to look like a man even though it’s meant to be a woman. How do I know? The voice dub gives it away. Also, the background in this game is unflattering. Solid colors such as black and blue can be quite boring for someone who is used to pretty vibrant games. He or she may pass on it because it’s not cute enough. Well, I almost did!

This game is great and what is even more shocking is that I bought the game for $1.99 (on sale) and had a very good time with it! You can call Cat Lady, a point-n-click adventure game. It’s developed by Harvester Games and published by Screen 7. What intrigued to pick up this game? Well, it was the game description:

The Cat Lady follows Susan Ashworth, a lonely 40-year-old on the verge of suicide. She has no family, no friends and no hope for a better future. One day she discovers that five strangers will come along and change everything.

Game description from Steam

Back in 2019 when I was browsing games, I was on the verge of becoming a Cat Lady myself or more like a homeless cat roaming the streets in downtown, feeding off of dead mice found in the dumpster. Okay, I’m exaggerating; however, the city life did sort of affect my mood. Mental illness and homelessness are a growing problem in Seattle that I thought I might go insane myself eventually. There were multiple times where walking in the city felt like walking into a horror game. It was not uncommon to watch the mentally ill yelling out in the streets to themselves or doing drugs out in the open. My last incident was when a homeless woman started following to my apartment and yelled at me to get out of the country (I am Asian-American. I am used to it). So even before social isolation, I stayed in door most of the time and I often wonder was I to become a cat lady myself? It’s not so bad if you’re an introvert. I rather be alone than participate in the chaos outside my door. So, The Cat Lady was purchased out of pure curiosity. Why is Sudan Ashworth suicidal?

For such a serious topic like suicide, I was pleasantly surprised that I found myself laughing more than being scared. This game is packed with dark humor. Yes, game is depressing and the gore is a bit unnecessary for those who have a weak stomach like myself, but I found that the adventure, the dialogues and the pacing of the game make up for it. Plus, the soundtrack and the voice acting are great. It got that English vibe. Give this game a try if you enjoy dark humor. It’s a good friend to those who literally suffer from depression.

13 Sentinels Aegis Rim Review: The Future of Humanity Is in Space

Are you a fan of Science Fiction? Mystery? Video games? Think there is more to life outside of planet Earth? Curious about venturing out into the void? Do you have a robotic brain? Those with a mind of an encyclopedia will sure enjoy this game. You know, the type of gamer who enjoys absorbing facts as a hobby. Then this is the game for you. Players will get to pilot a giant robot and destroy aliens called Kaiju. To unveil the story, one must go into battle to obtain Mystery Files to piece the story together! As for me, too many details drive me nuts! This is partially why I dragged my feet to complete this game, but I stick with it anyway because the artwork is just beautiful. No need to go to an Art Museum. I will play this game. It’s more suited for the time we are in anyway. Think of art as a fashion statement for the current human psyche. There are some of us who are terrified of AIs taking control of humanity, but at the same time, technology is just so cool!

I think the idea of robots saving humanity is pretty epic. I often envisioned myself while walking to work (once upon a time before Covid-19 hit) crashing from out of nowhere, piloting a heavy armored machine. I have a need to save humanity…nah I am just an adrenaline junkie (some people don’t deserved be saved. They caused more problems than good on this planet). I like to be in the battleground. It can be exciting especially if it involves some strategic planning. There are some serious firework damage to be done. Those armor suits have some serious guns.

In most games I have played, the game is challenging in the beginning but gets easier once you get the hang of it. This is the opposite. My mind was dozing off when I pressed randomly on any battle command to attack Kaiju in the first few stages. The goal in each stage is to protect the terminal. I was getting S with a star easily without putting much effort until the 3rd wave. Then I was shocked I got a “D”! I started to pay attention to the objectives for each stage (don’t laugh. I can be a bit of a muscle-head). Satisfying the objectives for each stage will reward player Mystery Files. So you have to work to unveil the mystery of this story! Not a bad idea in terms of game design. It forces the player to play the game and not go through the story. After all, aren’t video games meant to be played? But don’t fret! If you are not good at games, you can always play on Casual setting to enjoy the story. It’s a fair game that keeps all type of players in mind.

The story on the other hand, player will get to explore 13 protagonists. They are all unique and different in their own ways. It seems that humans are always motivated by desire to be with someone. The need to protect and love is strong. And yet, it’s all so irrational for AIs. Robots don’t need to procreate, but why do they need to have romantic feelings? Overall, the story is a lot to take in when you are just jumping around like me from protagonist to the next, which is why I highly recommend playing this the game a second time around. Or the best solution is just to stick with one protagonist at a time so the story is easier to follow.

It’s a good game, but it’s not a great game, but it might just be that I don’t have a strong scientific background to enjoy the game. Time traveling, clones, androids–those things are cool but it’s not my field of expertise. Hence, I didn’t enjoy it to its maximum.

In conclusion, I hope I will never meet a clone of myself from a different time. I am afraid of myself more than aliens. It’s just creepy. I wonder though, is it really a bad thing if we can save ourselves in the form of data?

Until next time, bye bye for now.