The end of 2019 is upon us. It’s been a great year, giving me some of my favorite games. While I haven’t played as many games as I would have liked, I am pleased with the games I have discovered during the year.
Considering my lukewarm feelings about Fates and Shadows of Valentia, Three Houses renewed my love of Fire Emblem games. I was hesitant with the academy angle from the pre-time skip, but I grew to enjoy the exploration, the characters’ growth and goals, and the supports. It was nice to have the supposed downtime activities to bolster relationships and stats alike, as well as giving the option to do skirmishes every week. That, and the cast of characters in Three Houses has been one of my favorites in some time.
We’re huge Pokemon fans on this blog, if you haven’t noticed. Despite the criticism that had surrounded the eighth generation of Pokemon, I’ve really enjoyed Pokemon Sword! The new character designs are great, the world is fun, and the Wild Area has been an amazing feature to the series. I’m also certain that the Galar region has my favorite gym battle music!
A visual novel set in a video game arcade sounded right up my alley, and I was not expecting the variety of choices and outcomes Arcade Spirits offered the player. With fun characters — both in personality and design — a great plot, and conscious enough to cater to non-binary and aroace folks, Arcade Spirits was an awesome experience.
I was enraptured with the images of the art style of this game before I even knew what it was about. This bittersweet tale of grief and moving on was wrapped up beautifully in its unique graphics and accompanying music, and was the first game of the year that made me tear up.
What were your favorite games of 2019? Let me know in the comments below! If you liked this post, please share it around.
Title: Gris Developer: Nomada Studio Publisher: Devolver Digital
Platform: Nintendo Switch, PC
Release Date: December 13, 2018
How we got the game: Downloaded on Nintendo Switch
Gris was a game that was on my radar since I first some some screenshots of the game way back in August. With the help of some Nintendo eShop gift cards that I had gotten for Christmas, I finally bought and downloaded Gris, and it did not disappoint. Be warned, there will be some spoilers of this game in the review!
The gameplay is fairly simple in Gris. It’s a light platform-adventure game where the character is exploring a world while trying to return color to it. As the character, you explore the world around you, collecting beads of light that in turn will help you reach farther places. The controls are as smooth as the art as you direct your character to run and jump while searching the world.
Throughout the levels, your character will also gain a few power-ups, new abilities that will be used to explore more, and most of which will manifest with the help of the character’s dress. The first is a solid, block-like phase, where your character’s dress solidifies into a block that is used to smash through crumbling structures or to help you stand your ground against unrelenting winds. The second ability grants you a double jump, the character’s dress unfolding likes wings to give an extra boost to reach far ledges. The third ability has the dress envelop the girl to give her a silhouette resembling a stingray, with wing-like fins to glide through underwater caverns.
The fourth ability is found at the pinnacle of the game. The character regains the power to sing, her echoing voice bringing back plants and animals to go with the color that is now blooming in the world.
The art style of this game is what captured my attention in the first place. I found the screenshots to be amazing, but I was not expecting how breathtaking the graphics would be when we first turned on the game. The art resembled watercolors with how smoothly it flowed. When you completed a level and successfully brought a color back to the world, it was amazing seeing the color bloom and transform around you.
The music was spot-on and just as gorgeous as the art style, and isn’t a stranger to being played on our Spotify accounts now. Considering the game has no dialogue or narration, the art and music are what’s telling the narrative, and it is wonderful. The mood brought on by the music was always right no matter where you are in the game.
The underlying theme of Gris is grief.
The game starts out with your character — a young woman named Gris — who awakens in the hand of a crumbling statue depicting another woman. Gris attempts to sing out, but her voice is gone, and the statue splinters into pieces. Gris then traverses the land, finding beads of light — of hope — to restore color back into the world and to help bring back the statue.
Each level, if you will, represents a stage of grief. The black and white, dusty gray world at the beginning could be shock or denial at what has happened. Red is the first color you restore to the world, laying the ground for plains and desert where Gris fights against angry winds as you push onward. When green is found, Gris explores a lush forest where she finds and helps a creature as she traverses the land, as if striking up a bargain in order to keep moving. Blue leads Gris to water-filled caverns and rain soaking the world, making the character feel a bit waterlogged and, possibly, depressed. Yellow is the last color that is found near the climax of the game and brings about the level that even the game calls Acceptance.
Throughout the silent story, Gris will see and encounter bits and pieces of the statue of the other woman, finding her gray, crumbling, and in various stages of weeping, laying down and, finally, standing up again. The major enemy of the game is within Gris herself, as a giant, shadow bird and eel appear and attempt to prevent her from moving forward, threatening to consume her. The grief tries to swallow Gris once more near the end but both she and the statue find their voices. Together, they sing in harmony for the last time as they banish the grief away. Once the grief dissolves, Gris bids the statue one final farewell as she walks up the stairs of light to the sky.
When we first turned on the game, we had heard the story was one of grief. As we played, we guessed that the statue of the woman was the one whom Gris was grieving for, as if the woman was the one who had died. However, at the end when Gris took those steps up towards what may have been Heaven, we believe that it was Gris who had died. Gris was trying to find her voice to help soothe the statue woman who was grieving for her, making the ending that much more bittersweet.
Gris itself is only about three and a half hours long, and I have heard there are a couple of completionist elements to it after the main game is through. It’s a short enough game that can be played in just a couple of sittings, and the story, music, and graphics are gorgeous enough to warrant you in picking up the game again.
5 out of 5 lives.
Have you played this game? What did you think? Let us know in the comments! If you like this post, please share it around!
The narrative and storytelling techniques in video games are generally a big factor in whether or not I enjoy said video games. In fact, there are definitely some games where I enjoy the story more than the gameplay itself.
I am a writer. Not just of blog posts, but also of stories, short ones and novels alike. As such, I’m always interested in the narratives of video games I play. I love to devour a game’s story just as much as I love to devour a good book.
With that said, there are a good handle of games that I would be perfectly happy with reading like a novel. I play these games for the story and the characters rather than the gameplay itself. Sure, the gameplay mechanics may be amazing, but if the story has snagged my attention, the gameplay is always going to be second fiddle. Fantastic gameplay mechanics will not redeem a game with a dull story line in my eyes.
Take Undertale and Deltarune, for example. There is so much lore and theories behind the developed stories of these games. Especially in Undertale’s case, there are multiple ways you can take the story through your actions, whether or not you decide to do a peaceful or violent run-through of the game. And if you played it through a second time? There are characters that remember your first playthrough. There are characters that remember if you killed them before. I didn’t care much for the game’s battle mechanics, but I continued to play it to see how the story ended.
Fire Emblem Echoes: Shadows of Valentia is another example. War and faith are the general themes of the story, like many Fire Emblem games, but I was intrigued by the characters and definitely impressed with the voice acting. It was enough to keep me playing until the end, even though I found some of the battles repetitive and the dungeon sequences unappealing.
The most recent game we played through was Gris and we went into it knowing that it was a game with minimal enemies (if any at all). I picked it up first for it’s gorgeous art and stayed for the music and haunting narrative of trying to figure out the main character was searching for. My sister and I both teared up at the end once we realized how heavy and bittersweet the story was.
Thinking on all of this, it’s no wonder that I’ve gotten a newfound appreciation for visual novels and simulation games.
How important is story to you in games? Or do you prefer amazing gameplay to the story? Let me know in the comments below! If you liked this post, please share it around.
The holidays are coming, with radio stations already playing Christmas songs and the scent of snow in the air. Mom is already asking us to fix up our Amazon wish lists, and she’s a little annoyed that we tend to pre-order our games nowadays, haha!
Pokemon Let’s Go Pikachu/Eevee
This game is coming today! Rachel and I have been waiting for this game to come out since it was first teased. It’s a major nostalgic trip for me, seeing as Kanto was where I started my “Pokemon journey” a couple of decades ago. We’re hoping the co-op mode will be tons of fun!
Super Smash Bros. Ultimate
Who isn’t waiting for this game? Admittedly, much of the surprise and speculation seems to have already been shown off and/or leaked onto the Internet, but I’m still looking forward to seeing how this game plays out. While I’m also not looking forward to shelling out extra cash for additional DLC characters, I am very curious as to who else is going to be on the roster.
Gris just looks to be one of the prettiest video games we may ever see. It’s boasted as being a platform game with no enemies or lives. Rather, your character explores the beautiful scenery and puzzles, being in tune with their emotions after going through a difficult experience in their life.
Spyro Reignited Trilogy
We are not PlayStation girls. We grew up mainly with Nintendo consoles and, even now, we have an Xbox One that we turn on occasionally while our PlayStation 3 that was generously gifted to us from a friend has yet to be powered on, despite how long we’ve had it. Nevertheless, we did have the original PlayStation and the original Spyro trilogy. If memory serves me, we enjoyed being the little, sassy purple dragon, so I think it’ll be fun to play the games again!
Lately, I’ve been finding myself more and more drawn to games that have unique art styles, something that is different from the norm. The graphics of Cuphead were what drew me to that game, the imagery of Octopath Traveler was what piqued my interest, and there’s another game that I just found out about that looks amazing…
So, there’s this game that I recently heard about — from the article linked in the caption of that beautiful game image above — and that I’m gearing up for come December, presuming Smash Bros. Ultimate doesn’t take over my life.
The game is called Gris. It’s a 2D platformer with one of the most gorgeous and unique art styles I’ve seen in a long time. Catalan artist Conrad Roset, a freelancer whose clients include Disney, is credited with the game’s watercolor and Indian ink style, and the screenshots I’ve seen just look so damn pretty.
Aside from the art of the game, the other aspect that intrigued me was the article detailing how the game was supposed to be a smooth experience. Someone looking for a challenging platform may not find Gris to be their type of game. Instead, Gris has light puzzles and emphasizes the art and wordless story of loss and grief more than fancy jump combos.
It just got me thinking about the different types of video games out there. Certainly, a majority of gamers enjoy the challenges, saving the world, testing their skills and knowledge. On the other hand, there are more casual games, games that tend to make one think or just relax, and with these games comes the stigma of the players not being “true gamers.”
I personally believe that gamers are gamers — it doesn’t matter what kind of games you enjoy, be they hardcore or casual or somewhere in between. We all have our different reasons for wanting to play games and we all like what we like.
What do you think of the initial information on Gris? What kind of games do you prefer — challenging, casual, or somewhere in between?