First Impressions: Ultra Moon

Double Jump Kris MiiHappy Monday! How was everyone’s Thanksgiving? I hope you all had a great weekend filled with family, friends, and fantastic food!

Our Thanksgiving was wonderful… then Rachel and I spent the rest of the weekend playing Pokemon Ultra Sun and Ultra Moon!

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Rachel and I tend to try to “reward” ourselves with new video games around Thanksgiving for completing NaNoWriMo. After Thanksgiving dinner is over, our family rents a house in the mountains for the weekend where Rachel and I spend the time playing our games (with the occasional break for going out to eat and maybe shop with our parents).

Last year, we had Pokemon Sun and Moon. This year, it’s Ultra Sun and Ultra Moon.

It was fun getting back to Alola, especially since I haven’t really played Sun and Moon since this time last year. However… I expected a much different opening.

Honestly, when I first turned on Ultra Moon and saw nearly the same opening story, I paused and wondered if I had accidentally put last year’s game into my 2DS. The only difference seemed to be the appearance of the Ultra Retcon Squad, or whatever the robotic characters are called. I expected the Ultra pair of games to have more of a different story, like how Black 2 and White 2 took place after the original Black and White games. Instead, the story so far seems to be remarkably similar and it was disappointing.

Don’t get me wrong, Ultra Moon is still fun, and it’s been nice seeing the plethora of Pokemon that inhabit the islands, but I’m looking forward to when the story really starts to pan out. Otherwise, it feels as if I just paid for the same games as last year, almost as if the Ultra pair are expensive DLC. If the Ultra pair are supposed to be an improved version of Sun and Moon, I almost wish that Nintendo would have waited the extra year and just released the Ultra pair rather than the original games.

I’m about halfway through the trials at this point. Let’s see if it gets more exciting from here!

How are you liking Ultra Sun and Ultra Moon so far?

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New Pokemon Forms

Double Jump Kris MiiThe majority of Pokemon change forms as they grow, evolving into usually stronger creatures. It’s one of the main components to the games, enabling players to create all sorts of strategies for their adventure to play out.

While evolution usually happens when a Pokemon levels up, there are different criteria for some species, such as Lycanroc, whose form depends on the time of day…

Lycanroc was one of the first Alolan Pokemon to be revealed to the public and, within the games, its pre-evolved form Rockruff is one of the first wild Pokemon the player encounters when starting their journey in Pokemon Sun and Pokemon Moon. With Ultra Sun and Ultra Moon coming out in November, more information regarding the new forms of the Alolan Pokemon is starting to slowly make its way onto the Internet.

Where Lycanroc is concerned, there will be a new form to go along with its Midday and Midnight appearance: Dusk Lycanroc.

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It’s a decent design, in my opinion. As Rachel pointed out, “It looks like a sunset!” Caught between the Midday and Midnight forms, the Dusk Lycanroc looks as if it’ll fit right in.

Yet, I wonder how many Pokemon are going to get new forms for the games. Most likely due to its werewolf motif, Lycanroc was one of — if not the only — Pokemon with an alternate form based on the time of day in the seventh generation to go with the day and night aspect of the games. Will other Pokemon get more forms for Ultra Sun and Ultra Moon?

With Mega Evolution, then Z-Moves, Alolan variations of first generation Pokemon, now Ultra forms for the Sun and Moon legendaries, I’m curious as to how all of this will play out.

What do you think of Dusk Lycanroc? Are you hoping for other Pokemon to get different forms? Or do you think these are too many forms and variations to keep track of?

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Dream Harry Potter Game

Double Jump Kris MiiIf you’re a Harry Potter fan, guess what? It’s Harry’s birthday today!

Besides gaming, I’m also a big reader, and the Harry Potter series is a favorite of mine. There’s a television channel called Freeform that never needs a big excuse to run a Harry Potter movie marathon. It tends to play at our house whenever the marathon happens, usually in the background in the kitchen, and it’s the kind of series that makes my family feel warm and fuzzy inside, no matter what medium it’s in.

The Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling is massive. Everyone knows who Harry Potter is. The series spans across so many mediums — the books, the movies, toys and, yes, video games.

Most of the Harry Potter video games are the usual licensed games, the ones where you control the main character through the story, sometimes with glitches or weird controls. People eat them up enough, though, if only to get that taste of performing magic at Hogwarts.

With Virtual Reality becoming a main form of gaming on the market nowadays, I’m curious if franchises such as Harry Potter will ever reach that platform. The game would be massive, of course, even if it only allows the player to go through one year at Hogwarts. A Choose Your Own Adventure type of visual novel, if you will, it could start off with a small quiz (or choice) to allow the character to get sorted. Classes can be small mini games, allowing players to level up with their magic, with a larger plot looming in the background. There can be key main NPCs that your character interacts with, his or her or they’re choices affecting how well you maintain your relationship with the NPCs.

Perhaps we can’t all be Harry Potter, but I wouldn’t mind playing a character that joins Dumbledore’s Army and defends the Wizarding World against Death Eaters.

It’s just a thought. Whenever we do get a chance to purchase a decent Virtual Reality system, the Harry Potter world is definitely a place that I want to visit.

Do you enjoy Harry Potter? What kind of series or world do you think may adapt well to Virtual Reality? Anyone know if this will be an actual thing one day?

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A Kingdom Hearts Medley by Rush Garcia

Here, have some more music!

As you can probably imagine, music plays a huge role in our love of video games. Not only does music in video games help set the mood, we adore hearing how people can remix or put their own spin on iconic medleys. This one, for example, is a Kingdom Hearts Medley by Rush Garcia.

Rush Garcia takes beautiful video game music and rearranges them as orchestra pieces, coming out with amazing results. Not only does Rush Garcia do fan compilations with video game music, there’s also plenty of original pieces to listen to. We hope you enjoy Rush Garcia’s work as much as we do!

What’s your favorite piece of music by a video game fan? What did you think of the video? Let us know in the comments!

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Best Games To Bring On Vacation

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We’re going on a relaxing vacation next week, one where we just rent a cabin to lounge beside a lake. It’s the best kind of vacation for hanging out with family, reading books and, of course, playing video games. Aside from a suitcase full of books, our 3DS systems are always packed with plenty of games whenever we go away.

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I always tend to bring more games than I plan on playing. I never really have a specific game in mind when I go away, but I tend to bring as many games as I can. I mean, I’m not really a light packer anyway.

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I try not to pack too many, especially since we don’t take the cases for the games. Rather, the games all get shoved into a little Ziploc bag before going in the suitcase. I’m paranoid that I’m going to lose a game or two! That fear doesn’t stop me from always packing certain games, however. Whenever we go away, I need to bring one or two of my favorite Harvest Moon games. There’s just something about a relaxing farm game that goes hand-in-hand with vacation.

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Meanwhile, I always tend to bring a Pokemon game. I always plan on starting a new journey and beating the game before the week ends. That usually never happens, but one vacation I beat HeartGold from start to finish. I also tend to bring Pokemon Conquest, but I beat that a long time ago. I don’t know if I’ll bring it this time.

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Pokemon is another good franchise to bring. One of my old favorites that I used to bring all the time was Sonic Battle for the GameBoy Advance. It always had great replay value, because the little robot character could mimic moves from all the other Sonic characters, letting you customize its fighting style however you wanted.

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I don’t remember that game. I don’t think I’ve ever played it. But going off your Harvest Moon, Animal Crossing is a great game to bring as well. It’s calming and relaxing and the perfect thing to wake up and play right away.

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Harvest Moon and Animal Crossing do seem like the perfect vacation games, don’t they? When I want something with a little more adventure and strategy, though, I tend to reach for Fire Emblem. Awakening will probably be the one to come on vacation with us! There are also a couple of games that I’ve had for months but haven’t had the time to try playing them, like Monster Hunter Generation. I’ll have to bring that and give it a try!

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There are just too many games. In addition to these games, we now have the Nintendo Switch. We’ll see how much of our time is taken up by that.

Which games do you bring with you when you go away? Let us know in the comments below!

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Fire Emblem Echoes: Shadows of Valentia Review

Double Jump Kris MiiHello everyone!

Being a sucker for the Fire Emblem franchise, I was very excited for the release of Shadows of Valentia, a remake of Fire Emblem Gaiden that was released only in Japan. As always, this is just my personal opinion. Feel free to share yours in the comments!

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Title: Fire Emblem Echoes: Shadows of Valentia
Company: Nintendo
Release Date: May 19, 2017
Console: Nintendo 3DS
How I got the game: I bought it.

Warning — there may be story spoilers!

gameplayLike the majority of Fire Emblem games, Shadows of Valentia is a turn-based tactical RPG franchise with a myriad of characters that the player raises into an army. Shadows of Valentia is based off of the Japan-only released Fire Emblem Gaiden. Considering I had never played any form of Fire Emblem Gaiden — emulated, translated, not even YouTube videos — the plot of Shadows of Valentia was completely new to me.

Despite the perma-death aspect that Fire Emblem games are famous for, I played the game in the Casual mode, allowing characters to come back after falling in battle as opposed to being out of the game entirely like they would on the Classic mode. While there is a special item called Mila’s Turnwheel in the game that lets players turn back a turn in the game should a mistake be made, the Casual mode allows me to fully enjoy and get to know the characters while also doing my best to unlock as many Support conversations between them as possible.

Unlike previous games with Support conversations, where various characters could be paired up, gain spouses or best friends, depending on how strong their supports were, Shadows of Valentia has a limited number of Support conversations. Characters have good or bad endings that are mostly dependent on whether or not their predetermined spouse or best friend lives until the end of the game.

Shadows of Valentia has plenty of the same character classes as previous games, with fairly strict class tiers. Unlike the Fates trio, Shadows of Valentia had gender-locked classes again, with Pegasus Knights and Clerics being female only, while males were the only ones who could be Mercenaries, Soldiers, and Archers. Mages and Cavalier class trees were accessible by both genders.

Tactical battles are similar to previous Fire Emblem games, with each side taking turns to move and attack. Each character class had access to specific weapons and magic, with many weapons unlocking special skills the more the character grew and used the weapon. Shadows of Valentia also had a navigable world map as well as dungeons that one could explore through a third-person behind-the-back perspective and towns that were explored like a visual novel, talking with villagers and allies, and point-and-click interaction with the backgrounds. I enjoyed this unique exploration take, even if some of the dungeons took a little too long for me to get into the next battle.

 

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As usual, I was pleased with the graphics of the game on the Nintendo 3DS. The few anime cut scenes were fun to watch, as was the opening video, and the character models were on par with the previous Fire emblem games. The battle maps and dungeons were mostly unique as well.

I definitely enjoyed the music too, the battle scores always leaving me eager to beat the map. This game also had full voice-acting, which was a pleasant surprise. I found myself really enjoying the voice acting, with each character’s tones being really well done. Exclamations, questions, pauses, everything said sounded full and natural.

story

Fire Emblem games revolve around wars and revolutions. Shadows of Valentia is no different, keeping the classic story formula that works so well for Fire Emblem games.

As a brief summary, the main plot involved warring gods, where each one ruled over one part of the continent of Valentia. The god Duma ruled Rigal to the north while the goddess Mila ruled Zofia to the south. Duma believed in strength while Mila believed in peace and pleasure, and the truce that the pair had was broken when Rigal’s Emperor Rudolf invaded Zofia to seal Mila in Falchion, a divine sword. It’s Mila’s disappearance that prompts Celica to start her journey to search for the goddess, while Rudolf’s invasion of Zofia compels Alm to leave his village to fight for the country he calls home. Eventually, Alm’s and Celica’s armies join up to take down the final boss to bring peace throughout the continent.

Shadows of Valentia has dual paths, letting the player switch back and forth between Alm’s and Celica’s routes with ease. Alm’s path consists of leading the Deliverance, a band of Zofia’s last remaining soldiers fighting to free their country from Rigal’s invasion. Even after Zofia is free and the larger plot looms before them all, Alm continues to lead his army into the heart of Rigal in order to break the land free of Duma’s influence. His path was my favorite regarding a variety of battles and scenes, along with plenty of interesting characters to recruit and speak to. However, his motivation for quite a few of his battles were saving a “damsel in distress” — literally all of the female recruitable characters except for Faye (who is even an optional recruit for Alm’s side) could be recruited after being rescued. Saving people is a fine motivation and all, but a little variety regarding who was saved or how the ladies were recruited would have been nice.

Celica’s route involves… mostly pirates, to be honest. Her path is about traveling to Mila’s temple and, upon finding Mila missing, searching for the goddess, pitting her against Duma’s most faithful follower Jedah. About half of her battles in the second act of the game took place on boats, which got monotonous for me quickly. The speed of the characters and their limited movement on boat maps were tedious unless I had the Pegasus sisters on my side. While her story and characters were more engaging to me than Alm’s was, there was in the second half of the story that bothered me about Celica’s character — she didn’t communicate as well as she could have with her closest allies. In order to move the plot forward, she needed to keep a secret, and it’s a common enough trope that just annoys the hell out of me. These people are putting their lives on the line for you, Celica, you owe it to them to tell them everything that’s going on!

All in all, the story was okay. The plot twists were simple enough to figure out long before the game revealed them, but it was still on par for a Fire Emblem game. I had fun creating strategies for the myriad of battle maps and raising my little army, which is what Fire Emblem games are all about.

replay-value

Like other Fire Emblem games, Shadows of Valentia has a decent replay value if one considers the different combinations one can use to create an army. However, in Shadows of Valentia, every recruited character is used in battle until the last dungeon where the player must pick nine additional members to go with Alm or Celica, depending on which side you are playing. Generally you pick and choose which members of your army joins you in a every battle in Fire Emblem games, giving them more replay value than Shadows of Valentia.

In addition to that, there are more varieties to character classes in previous Fire Emblem games than Shadows of Valentia had. In the beginning of Shadows of Valentia, players are able to choose a handful of classes for the few villager characters that join Alm’s side, allowing players to switch up what their beginning army will be like, but other than that, most classes are static and, depending on who you recruit, one side can get all swordsmen while the other is full of mages. Each presents their own challenges, of course, but I would look forward to replaying Shadows of Valentia more if I was given the chance to really choose my army with the classes and characters for each battle.

Of course, there’s plenty of DLC for the game as well, pricing at about $45 dollars for it all, which is more than the game is going for now on Amazon.

In my opinion, though, there are other Fire Emblem games that I will replay again before Shadows of Valentia.

Fire Emblem Echoes: Shadows of Valentia gets…
Video game review: 3 Lives
3 out of 5 lives.

Have you played this game? What did you think? Let me know in the comments! 

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Friday Favorites: Unexpected Endings

Double Jump Kris MiiThis post will contain spoilers on the endings of some games, but said games have already been out for a while now. The oldest game on this list was published in 1998, for example.

This particular Friday I’m sharing a few games that have surprised me, either by giving me deep thoughts or freaking me out, in some way or another with their endings.

Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker

Okay, so we all know the ending of the game was going to be Zelda and Link teaming up to kick Ganondorf’s ass, and the final battles are always amazing. What I found unexpected about Windwaker’s final battle was the nature of the last attack. Windwaker’s graphics were a cute, cartoon-y style, so to see little Link leap up and embed the Master Sword directly through Ganondorf’s eyes was startling, to say the least. There was no blood or gore, of course, but in a game that has monsters disappear in a puff of smoke after a few smacks, such a violent end to Ganondorf was unexpected.

Pokemon Sun and Moon: Professor Kukui as the Champion

With Sun and Moon revitalizing the formula for the Pokemon games, it wasn’t even certain that there would be the traditional Champion at the end of the game to battle. When we did go through the new Pokemon League, seeing Professor Kukui at the end was a surprise to me. Never before in a Pokemon game have we battled the professors, except for Professor Sycamore in X and Y to obtain a Kanto starter. There’s a glitch in the original Pokemon games’ code to let the player battle Professor Oak, but having the professor as one of the final tests in a game was new to Sun and Moon. I had expected Hau, Gladion, or another story-centered character to be the Champion that we would battle. Having Lillian be the Champion would have been an interesting twist as well!

Ace Attorney: Trials and Tribulations

The Ace Attorney games are rife with tricks and red herrings, making them some of the most suspenseful games I’ve ever played. When Rachel and I put our heads together during the last, tense courtroom level, we can generally figure out how to nail the final culprit, yet Trials and Tribulations continued to keep us guessing as we puzzled out the answer little by little (and a lot of saving and restarting). The game had characters that could channel spirits, so not all the suspects were even alive! Once we realized who had been the real mastermind behind every connected case of that game, we were shocked.

Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time

Yes, another Zelda game that I felt fitting for this list. At the end of Ocarina of Time, not only is Sheik revealed to be Zelda all along, but she sends Link back to the past to live out the time he had lost. Considering all of the harrowing dangers Link had put himself through to protect Hyrule, I was surprised when I first finished the game to see that he wouldn’t even stay in the peaceful timeline, to help rebuild the land he saved. Now I find the ending bittersweet, especially since he returned to the body of young boy with the memories and nightmares of a young man without his constant fairy companion to boot.

What video games have your favorite endings? Any that particularly moved or frustrated you?

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