Spider-Man Training Studio Was A Mistake

Spider-Man was and still is one of my favorite comic-book superheroes of all time. His fictional heroic acts have always inspired to do my absolute best in real-life, while also putting my best foot forward. In fact, I’m sure the character of Spider-Man inspired many kids growing up. With that in mind, it’s not too surprising that Spider-Man would get his own workout video! After all, almost every big-name celebrity and popular fictional character gets one.

This is where the “Spider-Man Training Studio” comes into play. The Training Studio was a Spider-Man themed mat that came with a inflatable punching bag. The goal of this was to get kids to exercise and be active, which is an admirable sentiment. The problem is that the exercise kit comes with one of the silliest and campiest training video DVDs ever made.

The video revolves around a pair of kids, “Lee” and “Stan”. Apparently, the parents of these kids were really into Marvel! Spider-Man then breaks into the house of these 2 kids, all so he could train them to fight dangerous super-powered criminals. Spider-Man trains them through the usage of the eponymous “Spider-Man Training Studio”. He puts the viewer and the two random kids through general exercises and tons of inflatable dummy punching.

The weirdest part of this sequence is that Spider-Man has named all of his attack moves after his villains. It’s an odd choice, especially because that could get him sued for copyright infringement! Then again, I imagine the courts would rule in favor of Spider-Man, due to all his villains being untrustworthy in a court of law.

Anyway, the video uses footage from the 90s Spider-Man cartoon. I found this odd, since Spider-Man 3 was released that very same year. Could they not afford to put footage from Spider-Man 3 in there? Maybe the price to use footage from the films was too high, so they just resorted to using the cartoon instead.

Aside from the cartoon footage, there was also a CG sequence made for the video. Near the end of the DVD, you are tasked with fighting off Venom. You somehow have Spidey’s abilities in this sequence, and he cheers you on for beating up his arch-enemy. It’s never stated what Venom was doing to deserve this, since he seemed to be mostly minding his own  business.

In fact, Venom SETS OFF Spider-Man’s “Spider-Sense” in this sequence. How? The Spider-Man comics and cartoons make it clear that Spidey’s Spider-Sense can not detect Venom. My guess is that Spidey somehow knew that Venom would be in town, so he sicced his fanboys on him no reason. Considering this Spidey broke into a house, it wouldn’t surprise me.

And that was the ridiculousness that was the “Spider-Man Training Studio”. Watching this video online definitely takes away from the experience, but I feel that I probably wouldn’t have been interested in this DVD at all back in the day. I would’ve been 16 at the time, so I would’ve been out of the proper age demographic. Regardless of what age I watched this at, I would still enjoy it just for the silliness alone. Outside of camp value, there’s not much here to enjoy. I say to just watch it for silliness alone, since the DVD is just lacking in quality.

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Dragon’s Dogma For Nintendo Switch Review

Fantasy adventures are the best kind one can have, at least in my opinion. Nothing beats a good old swords & sorcery quest over an ancient land, while fighting off giant monsters and collecting tons of gold. I’ll take a good medieval fantasy adventure to a sci-fi space opera any day! That’s why I dig Dragon’s Dogma, because it’s an epic fantasy adventure in its purest form.

This was an open-world RPG that focused on having great action, characters, and lore. The game started off obscure at first, but quickly gained a large and dedicated fan-base. As a result, this RPG has been ported to every gaming platform imaginable! This resulted in the game being brought over to the Nintendo Switch, which is currently the hottest console on the market.

Dragon’s Dogma is a hard game to describe to those who have never played it, especially for people who just look at videos or screenshots of it. A person may be fooled into thinking that this game is some kind of cheap cash-grab RPG made in Europe, due to its dated graphics and low price-tag.

However, Dragon’s Dogma isn’t really like that at all. In fact, it’s one of the most immersive and entertaining modern Japanese Role-Playing Games made in a long time! It does have its faults, but they’re outshone by the amazing feats the game displays. I feel it’s time for me to do a detailed review of one of my favorite RPGs of all time. After all, I need to do something special for this 400th post!

So, what makes this game amazing? Well, let’s start off with the game’s plot. The game kicks off with your custom character living in an average fishing village. A dragon comes by and attacks your village one day, prompting you to rush to defend it. The dragon easily takes you out, rips out your heart, and devours it. You survive and awaken much later, now lacking a heart and cursed with a magical ailment.

With an army of expendable magical humanoids called “Pawns” now backing you up, you set off on an quest to defeat the dragon and reclaim your heart. The game starts off as your typical “Chosen One” story, but evolves into something much greater near the end.

I definitely dug the story, even if parts of it felt a bit too obtuse or needlessly dark. However, the true appeal of the game was in its gameplay. The ability to grapple onto monsters in combat adds a level of verticality that most games wish they could achieve. Leaping off a cliff and jumping onto a griffin’s back in order to attack it is one of the most satisfying things I’ve ever done in a game.

The amount of cool and interesting skills you can buy in this game is staggering, which allows for even more ways to customize your playstyle. Speaking of customization, there’s a ton of that in this game! You can customize your player character and your “Pawn”. The height and weight of your character determines their level of competency in the game. For example, shorter characters can run faster, and larger characters can carry more.

This is something that most games will never try with its customization. This means that that almost every character you create will have defined strengths and weaknesses, depending entirely on how you design their body. On top of designing your own Pawn, you can also recruit the Pawns of others to help you through the game’s various quests.

The pawn system is one of the most fun concepts introduced by the game, due to how unique it plays out. You’re constantly switching out new Pawns as you level up, while gaining many party members over the course of the game. It’s not uncommon for a player to have gone through hundreds of Pawns by the time the game ends.

One of the best elements of this game is its exploration. Being an open-world RPG, there’s a lot of locations to explore in this game. From giant caves to sweeping dungeons, there’s a lot of variety on offer here. It also helps that locations are well designed and most of them even have realistic layouts.

Dragon’s Dogma on Switch plays like all the other versions, but on a portable device. Being able to un-dock the Switch and bring it anywhere means that you can play Dragon’s Dogma on the go! Having the game finally be portable is definitely a great thing, since now I can play it on the John!

To me, Dragon’s Dogma is what I want in an action RPG. It has a fairly solid story, good characters, great customization, and tons of areas to explore. Sure, the graphics are old and dated, getting to places is annoying and frustrating, and there’s a lack of direction in the open hours. In spite of the game’s many flaws, it’s still one of the most engaging RPG experiences I’ve ever played. The fact that I can now take it on the go just adds to its greatness! This truly feels like the definitive version of the game.

Front Row Joe: Cinema’s Coolest Cat

Believe it or not, there was a time when I thought that theaters were a magical place of wonder. These were places with fun arcades, tons of great movies to watch, and a generally solid atmosphere. Nowadays, theaters have devolved into this rather cynical experience. All the drink dispensers have been turned into barely functional I-Phones, arcades are pretty much dead and few theaters have them, and most of the movies that are shown nowadays tend to be of dubious quality.

I’m not saying theaters are terrible, but things have definitely fallen far from what they used to be. With that in mind, let’s flashback to a simpler movie-going time: The 80s. The year was 1988 and “Cinemark Theaters” had only been running for about 4 years at that point. Cinemark made the genius move of creating something new for their “Policy Trailers”, which tended to go over the theater’s rules for the audience.

It’s not always easy to get people to follow the rules, so Cinemark came up with a genius idea for their policy trailers: Animated musical shorts! Cinemark’s advertising agency created  “Front Row Joe”, an anthropomorphic cat in a world filled with other two-legged felines.

Joe was your average theater-goer, at least to an extent. Joe obeys all of the theater’s rules and regulations, but is rewarded far beyond what a regular follower of the rules would gain. Joe obtains a girlfriend, a best friend, the admiration of his peers and fellow patrons, and a fancy car. Why? It’s all because he wasn’t a dick at a theater!

In real-life, you’ll never receive much admiration for being a nice guy at the theater. These trailers make good behavior at the cinemas seem more rewarding than it actually is. Heck, nowadays few people obey the rules at a theater as is! To be fair, these trailers were probably more effective back than they they would be now.

So, what makes the trailers so good? Well, the animation and characters are pretty good. Sure, the animation was slightly above TV quality, but it had a lot of energy and passion put into it. It featured Joe heading to his local Cinemark theater, while being a nice guy to generally everyone he meets.

While this is happening, the local jerk “Clyde” and his sidekick “Wyatt” show up and generally break the rules. Well, Clyde breaks the rules and Wyatt just tries to enjoy the movie. In fact, Wyatt only ever broke one rule. This probably explains why he ends up becoming Joe’s friend in later shorts.

Throughout all of these shorts, Clyde continually did bad things at the theater and was cruelly punished for each individual violation. Good thing this was a cartoon, since I imagine this level of violence in live-action would scar the kiddos watching these films. Years went by and even more shorts were made, though the later ones varied in both quality and length.

The first 3 shorts were all 2 minutes in length, while each one after that was between 40-60 seconds long. On top of this, the animation quality took a nosedive in some of the 90s shorts. The 2D animation was done in digital cells during the late 90s, while early CGI animation became prevalent in the later shorts as well. As a result, the animation eventually became a mixed bag of mediocrity.

The songs in each short remained good throughout, due to covering a mix of different musical genres. From 50s pop to classic rock, there was a ton of good musical styles on display here. Sadly, all good things must come to an end. In 1997, a whopping 9 years after the original short came out, the series was discontinued.

This all changed in 2004, when Front Row Joe made a return in the most mind-numbing way. The shorts were brought back, but without the catchy musical numbers and heart that it originally had. The animation took a huge nosedive in quality, which resulted in it looking like poor quality art that wouldn’t be too out of place in a Microsoft Paint parody.

The FRJ shorts eventually went full-on 3D with CGI animation, before disappearing from theater screens in 2009. Joe and friends still make their way into some of the theater’s international advertising from time to time, but still remains mostly forgotten. It’s a shame too, because the FRJ shorts were truly entertaining for its time.

They went into detail on proper theater behavior and did it in a way that was both educational and entertaining. There’s nothing evolutionary about the shorts, but they were definitely fun little cartoons from a forgotten era. I’d love for Joe to make some kind of return to the silver screen, but it’s doubtful. Truly great policy trailers are a rarity nowadays, due to the lack of effort theaters tend to put into them. Regardless, I’ll never forget the classic FRJ shorts, even though I never actually went to the theaters that aired them.

Champions Online’s Wasted Potential

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Totally not Silverbolt!

Who doesn’t love a good board-game? There’s nothing more fun than having a few friends over, downing a couple sodas, and playing some good old Scrabble! Board-games have existed for over a century now, but video-games have been around for a lot less than that. Board-games and video-games are different in a lot of ways, but this hasn’t stopped the two pieces of entertainment from crossing over.

Adapting board-games into video-games isn’t something that’s new, especially when it comes to tabletop RPGs. I can’t tell you how many Dungeons & Dragons video-games there are, due to new ones coming out with each passing year! D&D isn’t the only tabletop game that gets adapted into video-game form, but it’s definitely one of the bigger ones.

One tabletop game that got the video-game treatment was the “Champions” board-game, which was a part of the “Hero System” brand. This was a board-game in which you could create your own superheroes, and go on your own adventures with them. It was a basic superhero setting, but it definitely had room to develop into something greater.

Let’s flash forward to 2007, which is often heralded as “the best year in gaming”. Cryptic Studios had just sold off the rights to their immensely successful superhero MMORPG, “City of Heroes”. It didn’t take them too long to bounce back, since they ended up snatching up the the rights to “Champions” the very next year. They purchased the ENTIRE franchise, including the boardgame itself. This was a genius move, since it meant they weren’t restricted by any license holder.

Champions was now in the hands of a talented development team and things were looking up for fans of superhero MMOs! At least, it was at first. The game ended up coming out in 2009 to generally positive reviews, which definitely made the game appealing to a lot of people.

However, things started to fall apart once people actually played the game. While Champions Online had superior graphics and gameplay to City of Heroes, it lacked the heart and soul of what made that game special. It was also lacking in meaningful content upon release. Even to this day, the game’s quests and the characters who give them to you are both painfully bland. The heroes in this game were just generic comic book fodder, while the story was as bland as you can get. The voice-acting was hammy, but lacked the charm that made comic book dialogue so endearing.

Worse still, the missions lacked any weight or significance. For example, the tutorial was just you entering a VR simulation of an alien invasion. Nothing you do in it has any consequence on the world or story, and the repetitive dialogue makes it a chore to get through. Compare this to City of Heroes, which has 3 different tutorial scenarios to start off your game with.

One has you breaking out of prison, while another has you help some heroes during a “real-life” alien invasion. Unlike the one in Champions, you actually get to team up with a bunch of players to fight a giant badass monster. Heck, that tutorial even gives you the choice to either save or kill another superhero, which will define your alignment for a large chunk of the game. Meanwhile, in Champions you end the tutorial by fighting a generic guy in a mech suit.

While this free-to-play game certainly wasn’t restrictive in allowing you to engage in its story or gameplay, it did feel like a far cry from what City of Heroes pulled off. Don’t get me wrong, this game is still amazing on a technical level. Its cell-shaded graphics meant that the game would age well, regardless of what year it was played in. The combat was fun and fast, despite playing like a typical MMO. You could do attacks by pressing the numbers on your keyboard, but your character would react faster than he would in CoH.

Is it unfair to compare this game to CoH? Well, it was made by the same people and using the same general concept: A superhero MMO where you create your own hero and do missions. Champions is so identical to CoH in so many ways that it kind of feels like Cryptic was just doing the same thing all over again, just in a less entertaining way.

The thing is that Champions never really took off like CoH did in its heyday. The game enjoyed its popularity for a few years, but dropped off in popularity once other MMOs started dying. Nowadays, barely anyone plays Champions. The game is basically dead and I only bump into a few people online when I play the game nowadays.

Traffic for this game has died down and the servers are barren. It’s especially sad when you consider that City of Heroes’ private server saw way more traffic in the past 2 weeks than Champions has seen in over a year. CoH just has better characters, a better world, and a grander scope.

Champions isn’t a bad game, but it just lacks the things that make a really good superhero MMO shine. While the game is great, it was missing the ambition and uniqueness of its spiritual predecessor. While Champions Online did manage to outlive CoH by a large margin, it sadly does not change the fact that the game feels lacking in meaningful stories and character. The game manages to be a fun comic-book-ish game, but fails to do much more than that.

City of Heroes RETURNS!

 

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The character creator in this game is just pure insanity… AND I LOVE IT!

You ever wonder what happens after a piece of fiction dies? What happens after a story concludes? What do the characters do next? How does this world live on? For popular franchises, the chance for a full-on revival is usually there. This stands true for video-games, movies, anime, cartoons, and comics. However, what about Massively Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Games?

MMORPGs are something that very rarely get revivals. At most, they may get a spinoff here or there. When an MMO dies it usually stays dead, but there are some exceptions to this rule. There’s this thing called “Private Servers”, which are emulations of dead servers done by fans. This allows people to play a long dead game and enjoy it, while also giving the game a new lease on life.

One such game that is getting resurrected is “City of Heroes”, which is one of the best MMOs I’ve ever played! City of Heroes was a special game, due in large part to it being the first superhero MMORPG ever made. Long before DC Universe Online and Champions Online; City of Heroes was the game that introduced PC players to a superhero world like no other.

This world was filled with interesting lore and likable characters. Missions that seemed generic at first would open into large grandiose adventures. For example, a simple meeting with a business-man could turn into a tournament against several powerful super-villains.

Not only were the missions fun, but the game allowed you to tailor your superhero/supervillain to your own preferences. Want to use electrical powers and invulnerability? You can do that! How about having the ability to fly and punch people with fists made of stone? You could also do that! Couple this with the amazingly extensive character creation system, and you have a game with unlimited customization options.

There was so much content and improvements made to the game over the years, to the point where it became something completely different from what it was when it launched. The game enjoyed a large community of fans throughout its life-cycle, but it was sadly not meant to last. NCSoft pulled the plug on the game back in 2012, while not giving any reasons as to why they discontinued it. Being the publishers of the game, they could do whatever they want with the license.

This meant screwing over both the developers and the fans, while not telling them why. Fans believe it was because the game bombed in NCSoft’s home country of Korea, which prompted them to write it off as a complete failure. We will never know if that was the main reason, but it seems the most likely.

NCSoft’s shutdown of the game forever tainted their name and drove fans away from their future products. The game’s shutdown also meant the loss of not only the game, but all of the user created content as well. Custom characters, costumes, and missions were all lost in the great purge. If you didn’t back up your character’s costume on your hard-drive, it was lost forever. I will always miss my original heroes and villains: Rom The Death Knight, Earthwolf, and Dr. Kickandsmack.

All of this amazing work and the game it spawned from were gone forever… Until two weeks ago. The existence of a private server that’s been operating in secret for six years was revealed to the world. This private server was created using City of Heroes’ data files, which were given to the team by an anonymous developer. With the framework for the game back in the hands of the fans, they reconstructed the game for all to play.

The team called “SCORE” were able to bring this game back from the brink of extinction, so that the players could one again partake in it. Will it be up forever? It’s doubtful, but one can hope that they’re able to keep the servers running for quite a while. Here’s hoping they can find a way to curb the large server costs, such as giving the fans a way to donate to them to help keep it running. Regardless, I’m just glad to have this amazing game back at all! It’s great finally being able to return to the greatest game of my teenage years.

The Return of Dragon’s Dogma

There’s nothing I love more than a good medieval fantasy setting! I’m a huge fan of swords and sorcery, so pretty much anything involving the two always gets me interested. I love a good fantasy adventure, especially when it’s in video-game form! My favorite fantasy games include Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion, Risen 1, and Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning.

However, there’s one game that stands above them all as my favorite fantasy game of all time: Dragon’s Dogma. The game was similar to a lot of other fantasy RPGs at the time. It had you leveling up, defeating giant monsters, and slaying a dragon. However, Dragon’s Dogma sets itself apart from its competition in a number of interesting ways.

For one thing, the story revolves around your heart literally getting ripped out by a dragon! Your custom hero doesn’t die, but rather becomes an undead warrior known as an “Arisen”. You are then given a “Pawn”, which is a secondary custom character that acts as your sidekick. You can then recruit Pawns made by other players, who will help you in combat and exploration.

Your Pawn can also be recruited by other players, which will often result in her/him coming back with a ton of awesome items! Another unique feature of Dragon’s Dogma was its epic boss fights, which usually revolved you jumping onto a monster and grappling them. Once you’ve clung onto a monster, you can then slash at their vulnerable areas.

Taking down monsters in this game felt both epic and gratifying at the same time! Toppling the fowl beasts over and taking them out was one of the most satisfying aspects of the game. Couple that with the massive open-world, great character designs, and fun combat, and you’ve got a recipe for a fantastic game!

Dragon’s Dogma was one of those fantasy games that just felt right and worked well. Despite this, the game initially sold poorly in America. However, it was saved by its sales in Japan and the “Cult Classic” status it accrued over time. Despite low initial sales, the game eventually gained the attention it deserved.

As a result, the game evolved into a franchise. It received an MMO spinoff called “Dragon’s Dogma Online”, a standalone expansion, and several ports to many other consoles. Not only this, but an anime and sequel were also announced. With Dragon’s Dogma making a comeback, it was only natural that it would make its way to the hottest console available right now: The Nintendo Switch.

Yes, the extremely popular fantasy game is finally going handheld! To me, this is a great thing for the series. Having a handheld version of Dragon’s Dogma is going to bring in so many new fans, which would be a fantastic achievement for the franchise. Having a larger playerbase would definitely help for when they churn out the sequel.

I’m glad Dragon’s Dogma is coming back. The series definitely needs more love and attention, which it has slowly been garnering for over half a decade now. I’ve been looking for a reason to get back into the series, and I think Dragon’s Dogma for Switch is going to be that reason. Here’s hoping it’s a fantastic port like the PC version is!

Super Dragon Ball Heroes: World Mission Review

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Crotch lasers?! What crazy concept will Dragon Ball come up with next?!

Yep, I’m talking about Dragon Ball for the 100th time on this blog! For some reason, I always find myself being drawn back into the crazy misadventures of a super-powered farmer, and his unquenchable desire to beat people up. Of course, Dragon Ball games featuring Goku and his many pals isn’t anything new. There are 100s of Dragon Ball games already out there with 3-5 of them being released on a yearly basis.

One DB game that’s been big in Japan for almost a decade now is “Dragon Ball Heroes”, which is an arcade card game that has you collecting thousands of cards to battle others with. Dragon Ball fans outside of Japan have wanted this game for the longest time, due to it having the largest amount of characters in any Dragon Ball game ever!

After years of begging Japan to release the game stateside, they finally caved in and did so. After releasing several trailers directly to their YouTube page, they released the game itself on April 5. I actually got the game on release day and I decided that it’s a good time to talk about this awesome semi-obscure game.

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Only in Dragon Ball Heroes can you see the likes of Super Saiyan 4 Goku and his Ultra Instinct counterpart hanging out.

After all, I’m just as obscure than this game, so that makes me more than qualified to talk about it! So, let’s get down to discussing “Super Dragon Ball Heroes: World Mission”. World Mission plays identically to the arcade game from which it is based on. You start the game off with a set of beginner cards and gradually obtain new ones as the game progresses.

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Never thought a mouse-god could look so cool!

There are over 1100 cards in the game, which is an immensely staggering amount. The game will shower you in “Gacha Tickets” as you play it, which will allow you to buy the game’s many cards. Thankfully, you don’t have to pay a single cent for any card in the game! That’s right, this game has 0 micro-transactions in it!

The fact that you can obtain any card without having to shell out any cash at all is rather impressive. This is especially crazy when you consider the fact that all of these cards would’ve cost the Japanese equivalent of 17,800 dollars. What’s better than the lack of micro-transactions is the game’s massive amount of fan-service.

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That awkward moment when you realize this attack did barely any damage.

Almost every Dragon Ball character is playable in this game, which is absolutely crazy. There are characters from the movies, Super, GT, and even other Dragon Ball video-games! The only downside is that several characters don’t have cards attached to them, but the game thankfully has us covered there.

One of the best parts of this game is the ability to create your own cards! This game couldn’t just settle on having 1100, and decided top give the plays the ability to create their own! The card creation system is extensive, yet very simple. It’s easy to create cards that not only look legit, but are actually really overpowered! On top of this, you can also make cards out of characters who don’t have cards attached to them. This gives you free reign to use normally inaccessible characters. You can also create missions for other players to take part in, which is an incredibly fun thing to do.

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It’s sad that the highest rank custom missions are just lame farming quests…

Let’s move onto the game’s combat, which is both simple and complex at the same time. Both you and your opponent have up to 7 cards in a deck at a time, most of which have their own abilities and skills. Creating a team with perfect synergy is the key to winning a lot of the later missions.

Battles arenas feature two areas: One for support and one for attack. Any card you put in the attack area will act as your “Attackers” for the round, while the support area is used to help recover your cards’ stamina. Your characters will get stunned if they lose all their stamina, so be sure to make good use of the support area!

There’s a lot more to the combat than that, due to the sheer amount of different deck combinations you can make. Experimentation is the name of the game, and it’s the only way you’ll make it through the main-quest and the various other modes. Oh yeah, did I mention this game is packed to the brim with content?

You have a main quest that will take you 40-60 hours, an arcade mode with over a dozen varied and unique campaigns, offline and online tournaments that the player can participate in, special “Side Stories” focusing on the various party members your recruit, the aforementioned ability to create custom missions and cards, and online PVP with players across the world. There is so much here that it’s almost overwhelming! You are definitely getting your money’s worth for a game that costs 60-80 dollars.

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Yamcha-mania will forever be a thing.

Of course, it’s not a perfect game by any means. The graphics and engine are ported over from the arcade game, and end up being extremely dated as a result. However, the game’s bad graphics allow for the game to have as many characters as it does. Higher graphics would mean far less characters, which I think would kill some of its charm.

Speaking of the game’s charm, it’s impossible for me to talk about Heroes without mentioning the killer soundtrack. World Mission utilizes several of the theme songs used for the game’s many trailers over the past decade. On top of this, the game boasts some rather catchy original tunes as well.

Lastly, I wanna talk about the game’s story, which is unfortunately a mixed bag. The game is set in a universe where Dragon Ball is one of the most popular things ever, and everyone knows the entire story forwards and back. You play as a young boy who is just getting into the game for the first time. The nameless protagonist meets a mysterious swordsman named “Great Saiyaman 3” on one fateful day, and is hurled into an adventure that involves all of your favorite Dragon Ball characters.

 

While the plot certainly presents a lot of fun and entertaining “What If” scenario, you probably won’t get much out of them unless you’re a Dragon Ball fan. World Mission does a poor job at explaining all of these pre-existing characters, and the arcs that they originated from. Still, the amount of variety in the main quest’s silly scenarios makes up for its lack of proper explanation. The plot itself isn’t too original or unique, but it gets the job done.

With that being said, the game is certainly worth its seemingly high price tag. If you can get past the dated graphics and somewhat lacking tutorial, then you have a game with hours upon hours of great content to partake in. This game has a fantastic variety of characters to collect and things to do, an amazing card creation system, and a battle system that seems both fresh and familiar. I normally hate card games with a passion, but I couldn’t stop myself from falling in love with Heroes. It was great to finally play this game, especially after waiting nearly a decade for it to be brought over here. All in all, I’d say it was certainly worth the wait!

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Some snazzy outfits!

 into a quest to

Xenoblade 2: Torna ~ The Golden Country Review

Prequels are something that are hit-or-miss for a lot of people, since they often feel superfluous in the grand scheme of things. After all, most people come out of a film or show knowing most of the backstory already. Having the backstory expanded into its own larger thing can be aggravating for casual audiences. Look at Star Wars, which is a series that is 50% prequels.

Episodes I-III, Rogue One, and Solo: A Star Wars Story are all prequels to the main ongoing series. You don’t need to watch any of them to understand the story, but a lot of them are written with the intention of filling in gaps that the main series doesn’t. As a result, the films act as small bonuses to those who are keen on the franchise’s lore.

It’s not just films that do this, as video-games also like to explore what happened in the past as well. There’s no bigger example of this than the standalone expansion pack for Xenoblade Chronicles 2, which goes by the name “Torna ~ The Golden Country”. Set in the universe of Xenoblade Chronicles 2, this expansion takes place a whopping 500 years before the main game.

Torna takes place on two “Titans”, which are giant monsters that act as continents for the world’s many denizens that live atop them. The game takes place on two of these continents, which are “Gormott” and the titular “Torna”. You play as a young woman named Lora, who travels with a guy called “Jin”. Jin is a “Blade”, which is a being created by a magic stone that follows her around and acts as Lora’s bodyguard. Lora is Jin’s “Driver”, which is a human being that a Blade swears loyalty to.

Along their journey, the pair meet up with several other Drivers and Blades. Together, they join forces in an effort to save Torna from an evil man known as “Malos”. That’s a brief summary of the plot, and it’s all I’ll say on the story. Spoiling any more of the plot would risk spoiling both the expansion and the base game, which is something I wish to avoid.

Regardless, Torna tells a complete and very interesting story. Torna’s gameplay itself is its real draw, however. The game features a very similar combat system to the base game, while adding in several changes. You character still auto-attacks the enemy, and you still have to wait for your moves to recharge before you use them. The biggest change to this is that you switch between the Drivers and the Blades they control in mid-combat, which have their own unique movesets.

Every time you switch out your Blade and Driver, they will inflict a status effect on the enemy. On top of this, switching out your party members allows the others time to heal. This adds a lot of strategy into choosing when and when not to switch out your teammates.

However, it’s not a perfect system. Since there’s only a single healer in your entire party, your options for reliable healing are very limited. Even switching out your teammates isn’t the most helpful during the really tough boss fights. There’s also the fact that the ally CPU is really dumb. I can’t tell you how many times Lora used an ability WHICH SPLIT HER HEALTH BAR IN HALF, resulting in her dying in 90% of the fights we were in.

It got so bad that I had stopped using the other characters and relied solely on controlling Lora and her Blades, even though I didn’t want to. Keep in mind that the game had two other sets of Blades and Drivers to control, both of which I’d rather use. Due to Lora’s tendency to use her suicidal ability however, I had to take control of her directly to stop any possible dumb actions.

Regardless, I still found the combat a lot of fun. It was simplistic at first, but the ability to stack status effects really added to it. I also dug how fast combat tended to go, and overall I found it fairly balanced. Let’s move onto my favorite part of the game, which is its open-world. While Torna’s open-world is much smaller than that of Xenoblade 2’s, it’s still packed with an insane amount of things to do and see.

There are tons of side-quests to do, secret bosses to fight, and secret areas to discover. While all of this stuff is fun to do, the game sadly makes a fair bit of it mandatory. In order to beat the game, you need to complete at least 50 different side-quests. This means that a lot of the side-stuff you would’ve done voluntarily is now forced down your throat.

As a result, it pretty much destroys the “optional” nature of these side-quests. Regardless of them being mandatory or not, I did find a fair bit of the side-quests to be fun. Now, let’s get down to the game’s visuals and sound, which is one of its stronger aspects. The game looks gorgeous, sporting fantastic character designs and detailed graphics. The characters look great most of the time, but had a strange glow around their bodies in most cutscenes.

I found this odd, and didn’t really understand the purpose of it. I wasn’t sure if it was a stylistic choice, or some kind of design bug. I found the sound design for the game to be truly fantastic, which featured a strong soundtrack and some good sound-effects. Unfortunately, the voice-acting just isn’t as good. A lot of the VAs tend to stumble over their lines, or just sound bored when reading them.

There are some standout performances here or there, but most of them definitely missed the mark. Another thing to note about this game is that it’s an expansion to Xenoblade 2, but you don’t need the original game to play it. You can easily play this as its own thing, and get the base game at a later date. Torna definitely does enough to stand on its own, while also being its own thing.

Torna is definitely a great game and expansion, while also being the game that brought me back into JRPGs. I stopped playing them for so long, but Torna got me really interested in them again. Torna certainly has its flaws, but they don’t detract too much from the final product. The game’s dark story, fantastic combat, and vast open-world make it a joy to play. This is definitely a prequel that’s worth your hard earned cash!

Morrowind In 2019: A Great Gaming Experience That Will Never Die

If there’s anything that Super Mario Bros. taught me, it would be this: Truly classic video-games never die. A game can be old, but still fun to play in the modern age. There are few games that encapsulate this more than Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind, which is often heralded as the “Greatest RPG Ever”. Reading through this right now, I’m sure you have many questions.

Why is Morrowind still considered good to this very day? Why do people gush about it so much? Well, let’s backtrack back to 2002 and find out! Back in 2002, gaming was on its way to evolving into something completely new. We had Metroid Prime, Warcraft III, Grand Theft Auto: Vice City, Age of Mythology, Hitman 2, and many others.

The market was flooded with many great games, and the gaming medium was on its way to becoming something far less niche. While 2002 wasn’t as good of a year for gaming as 2007 was, it definitely was one that would impact video-game market greatly. During this time, the world was introduced to “Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind”.

At the time, no one knew what Elder Scrolls was. The first two games were incredibly obscure, and the fan-base for them was very small. However, this third entry is what changed all that. Morrowind introduced the world to the concept of a “Fully 3D Open-World RPG”. It wasn’t an isometric RPG, a dungeon-crawler, or an isometric game. Instead, it was a game that involved free-choice and building the kind of RPG experience you wanted!

You could be a spell-slinging Argonian Wizard, a Khajiit Thief, or a Nord Barbarian. You weren’t restricted by the character class you chose, and nothing stopped you from completely changing your build halfway through the game’s story. Now, Morrowind didn’t invent this genre of RPG.

Ultima Underworld helped craft that open-world RPG experience, while Elder Scrolls simply took it and refined it. The first two Elder Scrolls games were heralded at the time as being immensely solid and entertaining RPGs, but hard for the average player to get into. Morrowind was made more simplistic than its predecessors, but still kept a lot of the older games’ more complex systems.

For example, most of the “Skills” from Daggerfall made their triumphant return in this game. Skills like “Unarmored” and “Hand-To-Hand” were slowly phased out as the franchise progressed, but they were on full display here! I found myself focusing a lot on Unarmored, due to the fact that my character couldn’t wear boots by default. It’s the curse of being an Argonian reptile; armored boots just don’t fit lizard feet.

Morrowind’s skills aren’t its only draw, just one of the big ones. The game’s biggest asset is the alien world it presents, which feels far different than any other fantasy game on the market at the time. You start the game by getting off of a prison shop, right before being thrust into a strange and bizarre world. You are dropped off in a swampy town, while a giant monstrous insect looms over you. The insect isn’t some kind of giant monster, but rather just a vehicle for people to get around on.

This sets the stage for Morrowind’s aesthetic, which involves embracing the weirdness of its setting to the best of its ability. You’ll come across tons of bizarre monsters, interesting adventures, and odd scenarios. One of my favorite moments in the game is when you leave the starting village, only to be caught off guard by a mage falling out of the sky. He lands on the ground, allowing the player to loot his corpse of magical flying scrolls. Using these “Scrolls of Icarian Flight”, the player can take to the air and soar into the sky. However, you’ll be in for a rough landing as well if you attempt this, unless you use a special spell to break your fall.

The game is full of awesome magical spells like this, which actually make for some fantastic gameplay. You can levitate high up in the sky, walk on water, or even magically unlock treasure chests. The game also lets you create your own custom spells, which increases the amount of crazy magical things you can do in this game! The only limitation is the fact that spells fail most of the time, at least until you’ve leveled up the skills associated with them enough.

Morrowind is a game that lets you create your own experience, but it definitely takes a while before you fully get to that point. Morrowind’s biggest problem is its lack of accessibility, at least for beginners. Morrowind was a game designed with a more “hardcore” RPG audience in mind, and caters more to those ideals.

You’ll find no quest markers, dedicated “Fast Travel” system, or fair combat system here. This is a game where 90% of your attacks are guaranteed to miss, while your ass gets kicked by enemies far weaker than you. Morrowind throws you into an unforgiving world with minimal guidance, and expects you to fight your way through it on your own.

I’m not going to lie, I had to resort to using a strategy guide multiple times for this game. The directions it gives are often obtuse, and are even wrong in some cases. On top of this, the game doesn’t run well on modern PCs. Be prepared for lag, bugs, and slow loading screens. Thankfully, the OpenMW mod fixes a ton of these problems.

That’s another good thing about Morrowind: Its modding capabilities. Morrowind was made by Bethesda after all, which means people will automatically mod the heck out of it. You have mods that add new landscapes, monsters, cities, dungeons, etc. All of these mods make this already extremely long game even longer, while giving the player mountains upon mountains of new content.

You can even use mods to fix a lot of Morrowind’s dated issues, such as making the clunky combat much better. Regardless of whether you consider Morrowind bad or good, you can’t deny how popular the game still is to this day. Despite how poorly most of the game has aged, people STILL play it. It has a sizable player-base, one that still thrives to this day.

Heck, Bethesda just gave the game out for free earlier this week! On top of this, Bethesda went out of their way to set some expansions for their most recent games in Morrowind itself. It’s clear that the interest in this game is still there for its many fans, myself included. While I can admit that Morrowind has aged poorly and that a lot of its mechanics are horribly dated; I still find it to be a fair bit of fun. I don’t ask for perfection from my game, just a fun experience. To that end, this makes Morrowind a grand success in my book.

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You know people love your extremely old game, when they make massive multiplayer mods for it!

Why Neverwinter Nights: Enhanced Edition For Switch Is A Bad Idea

I’ve spent the last couple weeks gushing about the Nintendo Switch I got. I love the Switch and it’s definitely become one of my favorite consoles, but I’d be lying if I said it was perfect. The Switch’s online game store is bloated with too many games, the “Joycons” that come packed with the console don’t last long, and the amount of really good first-party games is surprisingly low.

Worst of all, I’ve recently gotten word of a game coming to Switch, one that I feel wouldn’t fit on the console at all. I’m talking about Neverwinter Nights, a game that I’ve gushed about quite a bit. Neverwinter Nights was an old-school RPG made for the PC back in 2002. It was Bioware’s third attempt at a big RPG, and was definitely a daring one.

It was a game that focused less on its single-player content, and more on letting the fans create their own experiences. The game thrived on mods and player-run servers, which allowed it to foster a strong community. It also helped that it was based off a Dungeon & Dragons campaign setting, which already had a large built-in audience.

Of course, the game’s focus on multiplayer and modding weakened it a bit. The main-quest suffered greatly and ended up feeling stale, leaving the “Expansion Packs” and “Premium Modules” to pick up the pieces. While the add-ons had much better stories than the base game, it still wasn’t on the same level as Bioware’s previous entries.

So, what we have is a game that was built with multiplayer and modding in mind. This begs the question: How well would this translate to Nintendo Switch? My answer for this is a bit complicated, so let’s go over the basics. For one thing, Nintendo is adamantly against the modifying and altering of their products. They are against mods and fan-made projects of any caliber, so it’s doubtful that the game will have modding support on Switch. Unless Nintendo and Beamdog find a way to have the modded servers playable on the Switch, then they sadly won’t be able to bring the “pure” experience over from the PC.

Neverwinter Nights relies heavily on its fan-made content and support, and it would most likely flop without it. Gutting out the game’s mods and modded servers will just dissuade more players from wanting to give the game a shot on Switch. Worse still is the multiplayer, which will have to be heavily altered in its entirety. Without any sort of keyboard peripheral to use, there just won’t be any way to properly communicate with other players.

While there is an app for your phone that lets you communicate with other players in-game, I doubt this functionality would be available for the Switch port. After all, most people just tend to play their RPGs without voice-chat, so downloading the app may be seen as “unnecessary” to most. As such, it’s doubtful that there will be any meaningful way to talk with friends during gameplay.

So, is there any way they can craft a fun experience around the Switch port of Neverwinter Nights? Maybe, but it’ll require a lot of work. One thing I’d like to see included would be a bunch of fan-made modules packaged in with the game itself, which will allow non-PC players to experience what other fans have created. Also, it’d be great if they could find a way to somehow include the modded servers from the PC release. I know it would be impossible to include all of them, but it’d still be nice if we Switch owners could get a taste of Neverwinter Nights’ modding scene.

Furthermore, I’d like to see some good revisions to the multiplayer. Maybe find a way to include text-chat of some sort, or create a better voice-chat option. Lastly, I’d like to some new content exclusive to the Switch. How about giving us a new campaign based off the “Legend of Zelda” games? Or how about a module inspired by “Xenoblade Chronicles”? I’m not asking for anything too big, but I would like something that could help the Switch port of Neverwinter Night stand out.

Regardless, I probably won’t be getting Neverwinter Nights on Switch. I already own the PC version and don’t feel the need to take the plunge again. It would take a lot of additions to the pre-existing game to make me consider buying it twice. I hope that Beamdog can put something interesting together for the Switch release, but I doubt they’ll be able to make a port that perfectly captures what the PC version did. I’m holding out hope that they can do something good with it, but I’m going to remain skeptical up until its release.