The Shadow of the Colossus remake is everything the original was, but shinier

The original Shadow of the Colossus, released on the PS2 back in 2005, wasand I don’t use this word lightly hereepic.  The HD remaster on PS3 was the same, but with better resolution and textures. Now, we have the PS4 version. This has been entirely remade from the ground up, with next gen graphics. Let’s see how I feel about this, shall we?

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A brief plot introduction (I wouldn’t call this *spoilery* exactly but don’t read this bit if you don’t want to know anything about the story!)

It was a quiet, minimalist experience for the most part. A story of a boy, his horse, and a great open, quite empty expanse called the Forbidden Land. His goal was simple: to resurrect the girl he brought to the great shrine here, who had been sacrificed “because she had a cursed fate”.

We weren’t told who this girl was to him, or any more details about the duo’s pasts. We weren’t even told the boy’s name (“Wander”although the Japanese release was entitled Wander and the Colossus, and I’ve affectionately called him Not-Link on occasion), or the girl’s (“Mono”). We were only instructed, by the disembodied voice of an entity which introduces itself as “Dormin”, that it would be possible to bring her back to life here.

We were also told that Wander’s swordthe Ancient Swordhad the power to make this possible. All he had to do…was slay sixteen gargantuan colossi, who were the embodiment of the sixteen statues in the temple where Mono lay motionless. This would bring back her soul, according to Dormin.

I’m not going to relay the entire story here, but let’s jut say things don’t go quite according to plan, the result being that the narrative of SOTC has resonated colossally with myself and many others ever since.

 

The original was beautiful, the remake is breathtaking

Visually, the original game was a feat in PS2 graphics. The world was vast, as were the colossi. Details were hidden in every corner, right down to the turtles crawling near the ponds scattered throughout the Forbidden Land.

The remake takes this and runs with it; not only is every detail retained, but they are refined to a point where I’m sitting here with my mouth agape. Wander has eyelashes, people.

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The grass is rich and lush and alive; the fur on the first colossus’s hide is thick and I can practically feel its coarseness as I hold on for dear life while it shakes its beautiful, beautiful HD bottom at the camera. And yes, there are lizards. Gorgeous lizards with cute little toes and they’re even harder to find amongst the jam-packed goodness that are the new textures on the smaller shrines throughout the world.

 

Speaking of toes, Mono has not just toes, but TOES. Still creepy and dead, but look:

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OBLIGATORY TOE COMPARISON (PS2<->PS4 versions)

The gameplay is the same, and that is a good thing

The controls have been tweaked to bring them up to date a little, but you can change it to the original control scheme at any time, should you so desire. Personally I am finding the new controls refreshing, as they are a bit more similar to other games around today, so more familiar.

Other than this, Bluepoint Games have remained faithful to the original in terms of how Wander moves (okay, his famous silly run isn’t quite so silly). I’m still facing the same struggles climbing the colossi and it’s challenging to get a good opportunity to nip in a decent stab with my sword.

But I like this. SOTC was challenging to the point of being frustrating at times, and that was all a part of what made it unique. When you finally bring down the beast, that split second of adulation at what you’ve accomplished makes it worthwhile.

I say split second because, let’s face it, seeing these mighty creatures fall and become permanent rubble fixtures is quite wrenching on the old heart after a while.

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It has a photo mode

You can activate or deactivate photo mode from the game settings, and it is a dream. In a fast paced game such as this, a photo mode is a welcome addition as it takes the stress out of getting a decent shot. It’s not quite as detailed as the one in Horizon: Zero Dawn, but it is gratefully accepted and a lot of fun to play around with. Plus, it is also available during the cutscenes!

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Dat pout tho. Agro is not amused.
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Next gen fruit action. Brought to you by Photo Mode™!

I haven’t gotten far into the SOTC remake myself yet, having at the point of writing just slayed the first colossus, so my opinions on certain aspects may change as I play more. However, as an avid fan of the original I am stunned by the complexity and beauty of this remake, and I look forwarding to savouring the rest of the experience,  re-experiencing the art and superb narrative on the PS4.

And if you are lucky enough not to know anything about the game before playing this remake, you are in for an absolute treat.

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My First Week (and a bit) as a Monster Hunter Newbie

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Monster Hunter World is the first title in the MH series that I’ve ever played. I participated partly in the beta weekends leading up to the release on January 26th this year, but other than that everything has been entirely new to me. So how did I fare?

The short story is, I found it a steep learning curve (that I’m still traversing!), very challenging gameplay, but increasingly engaging and rewarding in lots of ways. See below for the slightly longer story!

 

First Steps

In the beta, I teamed up with others who were Monster Hunter veterans, and they introduced me to the very basics of how things worked. Apart from them, the explanations in both the beta and beginning of the full game were very helpful; they introduced basic concepts and built them up gradually over several missions so I didn’t feel overwhelmed.

I also learnt that it seems my choice of fluorescent cyan for my Palico (my cat helper … I don’t know why this is a thing either but I’ve come to accept it as the way) was a permanent decision that I cannot seem to change. So, rather than live with regret for want of a “normal” cat colour, I’ve decided to embrace the insane and turn my character’s hair acid blue. What a duo. At least they’re easy to see.

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Ready for the acid trip of a lifetime.

As I progressed from gathering materials, to hunting small monsters, to crafting and then onto larger and larger quarries, I have to admit I kept feeling out of my depth. I constantly felt as though my equipment wasn’t up to the task at hand, and that every battle was an immense undertaking.

I didn’t even really know how the heck to use my weapon of choice the Insect Glaive  properly (I picked it because it looked cool and it let me jump). Thankfully I’ve progressed a lot since then and at least understand how to utilise it correctly even if I haven’t mastered it yet! (If you really don’t get on with the weapon you choose you can change it anytime, luckily. In fact it serves you well to be able to change your weapon according to the situation at hand, but them’s more advanced things them’s are.)

Something which first struck, and continues to strike, me is just how blimmin’ beautiful the game’s world is. Monster Hunter World? More like Monster Hunter I Can Show You The World! *cough*

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So many sights to see~

Bait

There was a carrot dangling at the end of a rope which helped me keep coming back to MH regularly this first week, being the first round of unlockable Horizon: Zero Dawn content available until the 8th February (I realise it’s probably going to be available as DLC down the line, but hey I still wanted to unlock it this week!) It transforms my Palico into looking like a Watcher from Horizon. Neato!

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Watcher Palico unlocked! Since this picture was taken I also managed to craft the weapon too, so excuse the back-mounted spade.

Monster Hunter World also makes use of a multi-faceted quest system to help you in your hunting endeavours. “Assigned” quests are the main storyline, then there are “Optional” extra quests which yield various rewards for different challenging tasks, and “Investigations”, which are discovered whilst exploring the MH world and let you hunt, gather items, or anything else required for still more rewards.

There are also timed “Events”, for which you must have attained a certain HR (Hunter Rank) to participate in and are only available for set time periods. The Horizon content quests fall under this category.

And don’t even get me started on “Requests”. These are specific conditions that can be met during any quest and give you yet still more rewards (usually including items to upgrade armour).

All of the above is plainly designed to hook you in and keep you there, playing MH until your eyes are bloodshot and you’ve got to go to sleep but oh just one more quest couldn’t hurt…just gotta collect a few more mushrooms/plants/kill a few more lizards/get that specific item to upgrade your weapon…

 

Getting Crafty

…Which leads me onto the meat and potatoes of Monster Hunter. Or, what I gather to be the case. The reason you’re doing all this monster hunting…is to craft stuff!

Want that awesome helmet? Better go kill that boss monster a few times to get the materials needed. Need to progress in the story but you can’t beat that huge gazzonking dragon? Better go beat up other (smaller) huge monsters to beef up your sword.

I’m just starting to get the hang of crafting properly myself, but I’ve seen other players with some pretty swish threads hanging off their bods, which makes me jealous but also wanting to hunt/craft more extensively.

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One day … I will be so strong I would even be able to beat *you*, giant scary volcano dragon thing.

In Summary

After my first week or so I’m really enjoying Monster Hunter World  even if its difficulty can infuriate me to no end, and I can never seem to find enough time to put into the farming items and crafting side of things.

I should also mention the multiplayer feature, which I haven’t managed to explore a whole lot yet but in brief excursions it has proved to be lots of fun. I’ll be visiting it more often as I get better at playing!

Monster Hunter World is probably going to be a slow burner for me, a title to keep coming back to after breaks and slowly get better at. That is, until the next leg of Horizon unlockables are released, then I’ll be stuck to it again like Pukei-Pukei’s tongue gets stuck on my face (hint: that’s a lot).

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Pukei-Pukei, or, as I affectionately call it, Pukey.

Dissidia Final Fantasy NT Beta

Just a wee post today to give my thoughts on Square Enix/Team Ninja of Koei Tecmo’s newest offering Dissidia Final Fantasy NT. This won’t be an in depth review, just a quick overview of my experiences during the beta last week (from the 12th21st January 2018). Oh, and this is all my own opinion, so I’m not saying I’m 100% correct about everything!

First, a little catchup. What exactly is Dissidia?
It’s a fighting game series. More specifically, it’s a Final Fantasy fighting game series. Different characters from FF are pitted against each other in combat, and RPG elements are incorporated as well. The first installment was out on the PSP in 2009, followed by Dissidia 012 in 2011. NT started as an arcade title in Japan in 2015.  It has since been tweaked and prodded and developed on, and will be seeing a worldwide release for PS4 later this month (it has already been released in Japan).

What I liked
The characters. They’re so beautiful. And we also get to see full HD visages of characters from older Final Fantasy games. Zidane is my personal favourite!

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Zidane Tribal/Dissidia Final Fantasy NT

The combat. Actually, I have to be honest: I’ve always been so terrible at playing Dissidia (or most fighting games) that even I get impatient at myself. And in NT I was also pretty awful. But once I made it through the generously detailed combat tutorial and started mucking around in combat, I found myself employing genuine proper strategy and all that, and wanting more.

Different classes. Each character belongs to a class (eg. Ace from Type 0 is a Marksman, Cloud from FF7 is a Vanguard), and each class plays very differently. Even within each class, every character is unique. There is a lot of choice to play in a manner that suits you best.

Unlocking story segments. NT doesn’t have a story mode like previous games in the series, which I was a bit miffed about at first but now not so much. There are still story cutscenes, but you unlock them through playing the game. And playing the game is pretty fun!

Online play. I love the idea of teaming up with friends and working together to (hopefully) win.

Summons. They look awe(inspiring)some and can really turn the tide of a match.

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The summon Shiva

What I didn’t like
The HUD during a match is very busy. Overwhelmingly so, if you are new and haven’t grasped what to focus on yet. It has been simplified somewhat from the arcade HUD (which I believe you can still use if you wish), but it will still take a while to get used to.

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So much going on!

The battlefield during a match gets hectic. This is, naturally, to be expected during a brawler. But I found it hard to decide what to do next with so much going on all at once. There are indicators to tell you who you are targeting, who is targeting you, and when they are going to attack, but with the said hectic-ness I found it difficult to pay attention to them at first.
The controls are hard to get used to. There are a lot of them, and will require a lot of practise to master. The flip side is a lot of controls means a lot of strategies can be used to the player’s advantage.
How abysmal my Dissidia skills are. Why am I so generally bad at Dissidia *cries*

Am I going to preorder Dissidia NT? No. But for someone who is more of a fighting game fan, I’d say go for it. And if they’re a Dissidia fan, definitely. I will likely buy the game a little down the line, but it’s not on my priorities at the moment. I’m really happy to have had a decent go at the beta for now, as it gives me a good idea of what to expect.

That is, HD Kefka smacking his behind in my face.

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Games I Grew Up With That Weren’t Mario — Dragon 32

Firstly, Happy New Year!  Now that’s out of the way, let me introduce this post:

I have to make a confession: I didn’t grow up playing the Mario series.  I never had a NES, SNES or N64. I was aware that Mario existed, but never touched one of the games until I was encouraged to try Super Mario Sunshine around my friend’s house at the tender age of 15.  But still, I never developed a love of Mario that so many other people foster, probably due to not having developed a nostalgia for the series at an early age.

Despite my futile, Mario-less bringing up, I managed to develop nostalgia for many other games which I was exposed to, and I have a feeling in researching these I’m going to discover some are even more weird and obscure than I was aware of.

I’ll try to keep them in chronological order, so not necessarily in the order I played them.  This time around, I’ll be looking at games on the first computer we had in my family, the Dragon 32! And as we only had two games for it, this should be easy peasy:

 

Chuckie Egg (1983 / A&F Software)

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Genre: Arcade, but a platformer (in the purest sense).

Players: 1 or 2, but you take turns as opposed to playing cooperatively.

Plot (from what I remember): You are a farmer. You must climb around each barn collecting eggs before time runs out, without being touched by the (I’m assuming) chickens or falling to your death. Sometimes, the caged chicken at the top of the screen gets loose and flies around, which is terrifying.

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Hen-House Harry (from the ZX Spectrum version)

Factoids from the internet: The farmer is called Hen-House Harry. The red triangles you can pick up are piles of birdseed and momentarily stop the timer. The caged chicken is actually a duck, and only gets out once you complete the game once.  There are eight levels in total, but to “complete” the game you must play through them all five times (at increasing difficulty due to the duck getting involved and the speed increasing), plus a bonus level.

Nostalgia: The first game I ever played (at around the age of 4), so despite its mediocrity I remember it dearly. As we had the Dragon 32 version as opposed to the ZX Spectrum, the background was an extremely bright acid green colour. And the game ran off of a cassette tape, which you had to put into a cassette player, then connect to the Dragon. Ah, memories.

 

Mysterious space game (198x / Unknown)

Now, I cannot for the life of me find anything that looks like what I remember from this game, and I have no idea what it was called so I drew a marvelous Microsoft Paint replica of what I remember. DISCLAIMER: May not be entirely accurate:

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Genre: Arcade racer, possibly shooter but maybe not

Players: 12, unsure as to whether it was co-op

Plot: You are the pilot of either a pink(?) or blue spaceship, flying very fast through white caverns of increasingly jagged stalactites and stalagmites.

Nostalgia: I wish I could remember the name of this, because I enjoyed it more than Chuckie Egg if I’m honest! If I ever manage to find any references to it I’ll update. The closest thing I could find online was Starfighter, but it isn’t the same.

Special thanks to The Dragon Archive!

Trip to EGX 2017

Note: This one’s a little late considering that EGX was SOME TIME ago, but better late than never right? I thought of writing this before even making this blog, and then never quite got around to completing it once said blog was created (flu, busy-ness, stuff and junk) but here! I’ve done it now!

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It was dark, it was crowded, it had every type of neck and beard for half a mile in every direction; it was great.

I thought I’d make a small list of things which were particularly memorable for me during the EGX show in Birmingham this year:

 

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Potato phone camera strikes again

Ni No Kuni II: Revenant Kingdom (PC/PS4 – Bandai Namco Entertainment/Level-5)

I’ve got a certain rage against being spoiled for games that I’m particularly looking forward to story-wise (hence why Detroit: Become Human won’t be on this list despite it being shown at EGX), so even though I was SO EXCITED to have my first proper look at the game, I intentionally skipped over cutscenes and generally tried not to get too engaged with the plot. That being said, the battle gameplay I took part in was super!

I played Ni No Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch for the first time recentish-ly so I had memories from that to compare it to, and it felt like this time around it was more focused on the main characters taking active roles in the battles, which I’m all for if true. Plus adorable cat prince. One thing I wasn’t so much of a fan of were chibi characters being used on the world map this time around, but this gets trumped by everything else.

 

DISSIDIA Final Fantasy NT (PS4 – Square Enix/Koei Tecmo) Tournament

We didn’t win the tourney sadly, but at least we managed to get our first hands-on experience with the game. Fighting games generally aren’t my forte, but I genuinely enjoyed the way this spin-off played and could imagine myself getting into it once I was more acquainted with the controls. Still a little sad it won’t have a single player campaign, but hopefully this means the multiplayer will be more of a realised experience as it is the front-and-centre focus.

For the record, my favourite fighter was the Onion Knight :9

 

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The Occupation (PC – White Paper Games: http://www.occupation-game.com/)

I was aware of this indie title before I attended EGX and was pretty excited to get my mitts on it.

I initially found it hard to grasp how to interact with the world/my inventory. However, once I overcame the nervousness of being watched by people around me and just got stuck in, everything started to fall into place.

In a small but significant way it reminded me of Papers, Please where you play the role of a seemingly powerless individual but every decision you choose has a massive impact on the direction of the story. Oh, and the overbearing dictatorship factor, too. I’m interested to learn more!

 

Fire Emblem Warriors (Nintendo Switch – Nintendo/Koei Tecmo)

The only Warriors game I’ve ever played is Hyrule Warriors on the Wii U, and I love that, so I went along for a go at Fire Emblem Warriors despite knowing next to nothing about the Fire Emblem series.

It gave me the same therapeutic hack ‘n’ slash ‘n’ take-over-the-red-dots-on-the-map-with-your-blue-dots feeling that Hyrule did, so it was all good. I particularly liked, once I got used to the idea, being able to switch between different main characters at will and having more control over my map domination that way.

It frequently interrupted my flow (re: more of a trickle) with “level up” screens, however. I’m not sure if that’s an option that can be toggled off but I put my annoyance down to just not being used to it.

Still unsure if I’ve been won over to buying a Switch at some point though!

 

The Mystery Box (Milo Keeble: https://twitter.com/Ragepyro)

One minute we were playing pong together, the next I was trying to find the buttons it was telling me to push before the timer ran out. Every opening was a different adventure. Every house needs a Mystery Box.

 

This happening:

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Yep.

There were countless other amazing things to see and do, but I’m going to leave it here!

Distant Worlds: Music From Final Fantasy — London 2017

Just a quickie today to say I went to the 30th Anniversary Distant Worlds: Music From Final Fantasy concert at the Royal Albert Hall in London last week, and it was **incredible**!

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My tablet camera’s not that super, forgive me 😮

I was ecstatic that they gave Final Fantasy VIII lots of love this time around and, despite not utilising the massive pipe organ for any pieces this time, they still managed to blow me away with their rendition of the opera The Dream Oath / Maria and Draco from possibly my favourite of the series, Final Fantasy VI.

 

I’m certain I’m not the only one whose throat was pretty sore afterwards from when they got all 5000-odd of us to shout “Sephiroth!” during One Winged Angel!

Short Trip by Alexander Perrin

During some routine use of WeTransfer today, something amazing popped up in the background while I was waiting for some files to upload.

ST-1‘Hah!’ I thought, ‘A cat in an anorak! Great!’ And then I was prepared to move on with my life.

But then those oh-so-tempting words faded onto my screen:

Use the directional arrows to move.

Or something like that. I can’t quite remember, I can’t get WeTransfer to show the wretched thing again.

And then began the Greatest Journey of All Time.

I walked my little cat man over to the right, and before I knew it …

 

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I was driving a tram!

A little further ahead, I overshot it a bit but noticed there were some fellow cat people waiting at a station. Cue slamming the tram into reverse and …

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Yes! They got on!

I continued, picking up more cat people (and letting a few alight). There were some really gorgeous sights to behold along the way:

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I think I even saw a Triforce at one point, whilst sailing by at top velocity (sorry to any cat people at stations who I didn’t see).

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Yep, I’m pretty certain. Anyway, the journey continued and even had an ending eventually.

It turns out this adorable, charming wotsit was a project by Australian artist/illustrator Alexander Perrin entitled Short Trip. I love it! And it’s just about enough of a game to post about here.

You can play Short Trip here.

Perked up my Monday!