I know, I know. I've said it a hundred times on this site by now, but I love the Metal Gear Solid series. The Phantom Pain is something I've been anticipating for a long time as it's effectively the end of the series. Thankfully, it goes out with a bang. Action, Espionage, science that doesn't totally make sense, if it's in another MGS game and you like it, it's probably here. That is, unless you enjoyed long cutscenes. Those are gone now. Thankfully, the cassette tape system they've been replaced with actually isn't terrible. Being able to actually play The Phantom Pain while the story is unfolding is incredibly freeing. Not only is the story delivery top notch, but the gameplay is wonderful. This is definitely the most polished and expertly crafted third person action game that I've played to date. In fact, even if you don't like the MGS series, I'd say that this game is worth the play purely if you're just a fan of third person shooters. The only bad thing I can say about this game is that its ending leaves a little to be desired and that since it's the end of Kojima's work at Konami, we'll likely never get satisfactory answers. Outside of that, this game is as close to perfect as I think you can get. It's the end of an era. Eat it up.
I've played every entry into the Disney Infinity series so far and I've found most of them lacking after serious time with them. Thankfully, Disney Infinity 3.0 has staying power. Pretty much everything that you can think of that lacked polish in the previous games has been almost completely redone and the game feels so, so much better for it. The combat, especially, is a ton of fun now. Not only that, but this is the one that finally adds Star Wars to the mix! The Twilight of the Republic playset that comes with the starter set immediately sets itself apart from the playsets offered with the past games by giving you a wealth of things to do. Coolest among these things has to be the space dogfighting that feels like a slightly toned down Rogue Squadron. I could literally spend hours just doing the space battles and thanks to the ability to replay whatever missions I want, whenever I want, I can do just that! Outside of the actual game things, this game made me like Ahsoka Tano, a feat which I previously thought was impossible, so this game has all of the thumbs up that I could possibly give it. If you're a Star Wars fan you shouldn't deny yourself any longer. Buy this.
Buy the soundtrack. Seriously, go buy it. The music of Beatbuddy is phenomenal and can totally stand on its own. That's kind of a sad statement to make for the rest of the game, though. Despite how awesome it is to see the levels come alive in time to the beat, the gameplay is pretty disappointing. This can be attributed to the fact that you spend so little time in the submarine. It's the submarine sections where the rhythm gameplay truly shines, but these don't last long. You frequently have to scout ahead as Beatbuddy, something that brings the momentum to a screeching halt. Without the submarine, Beatbuddy's movement is too "underwatery," and the puzzles he must solve boil down to two variations: find a thing and carry it to another thing or re-position trampolines to bounce off of. It's maddening how slow and tedious this is compared to cruising along in the submarine. Maybe the submarine stuff alone wouldn't have been enough to carry the game, but if the goal was to make players look forward to those moments, it would have been nice if the downtime in between—the Beatbuddy sections—were just as fun in their own special way. But they're not, leaving Beatbuddy as an uneven experience whose soundtrack is the best thing about it.
Maybe I just have shoot 'em up fatigue, but I'm not really finding anything special to like about this Judgement Silversword compilation. I get that these are Wonderswan classics, and if you're one of the lucky few who actually knows the games from their original place, you'll probably be super delighted to have them available again. For newcomers like me, though, there are far too many other shoot 'em ups on Steam already (both modern and retro) that at least provide something new or refreshing. Judgement Silversword is about as old school as it gets with no additional power-ups and a black background that rarely changes. I do like that you can freely switch between a focused and spread shot, though, and that you have a limited shield that can slow down (but not necessarily stop) bullets. The Cardinal Sins game/mode also adds an interesting spin by giving you certain tasks to complete in each round, like collecting 1-ups before you accidentally destroy them. But the lack of an online scoreboard kind of kills any goodwill that may have brought.
Do you often find yourself pining for the good old days of spending hours in an arcade playing shmups? If so, Eschatos is something you'll love. I'm not particularly good at shmups (especially bullet hell shmups), but I seriously appreciate one that does what it does well. Everything in Eschatos' presentation makes it feel like it's coming to you straight out of a mid-90's arcade and I really adore that. The graphics seem dull for this day and age, but combined with the light, electronic-y music they feel perfect. I'm not normally one for ports that make a game seem super retro, but somehow Eschatos fills the random need I have now and then to be reminded of getting up early on Saturday morning and playing my PS1 when I was a kid. The gameplay is also probably what some would consider dull due to its lack of power-ups and flashiness, but those are really just more things that lend to its greatness because you end up being forced to rely solely on your skills and not on that one really overpowered power-up. If you like bullet hell shmups and feel like putting your skills to the test, Eschatos is one to play.
When I bought Mario Maker, I expected to spend most of my time playing other people's levels and only occasionally dabbling in the level editing tools. But just the opposite happened. I love making new levels. The process is really easy, and while there are some annoying limitations in place, the game gives you a lot of fun obstacles and power-ups to work with. The built-in sample levels alone showcase some neat stuff. Of course, you'll need to check out the user-generated content to see what's truly possible.The user levels are all over the place, though, ranging from super easy (so much so that many of them are just Rube Goldberg devices) to extremely punishing. I actually find myself losing interest in the user levels pretty quickly and switching back to "make" mode, where I'll tinker with my idea of the day for hours at a time. If you've ever found yourself infatuated with the level editor of any other 2D platformer, Mario Maker will tickle you pink. On the other hand, if you have absolutely no interest in level creation, you may actually be better off sticking with Nintendo's official Mario games. But then you'll never get to play my level where Mario must carry a Koopa shell from beginning to end!
Dead Rising 3 is probably one of my most anticipated games in years. After Keiji Inafune leaving, Capcom taking the series away from their homebase dev teams, and slowly giving it to their new Capcom Vancouver development branch (formerly Blue Castle Games) I was cautiously optimistic. Thankfully, my hopes have not been totally dashed. Dead Rising 3 is great for the most part. The gameplay is fun and actually fixes most of my major gripes with the later entries in the series, unfortunately in the transition from East to West, it does feel like it's somewhat lacking in flavor. Sure, there are still crazy weapon combos and plenty of Psychos to fight, but it's missing a lot of that trademark weirdness that made the original Dead Rising games such a joy to play. The lack of flavor doesn't ruin the game, but it does mean that it feels less memorable than the last couple of outings. Also, despite the fact that it came out nearly two years ago, Dead Rising 3 still has some of the worst glitches I have seen in a released game. Thankfully, these glitches never totally kill the high you'll be getting during your zombie genocide, though they will come close. If you're looking for a solid first wave release for the Xbox One, this is definitely it.
Sunset Overdrive is a game I've been looking forward to for quite a while. Insomniac and Microsoft coming together to create a game just for the Xbox One sounded like one of the coolest things ever to me and was a major motivator for me to get an Xbox One. Unfortunately, this is probably the most disappointing game I have played this decade. It is really sad to admit, but this game tries way too hard in everything that it does. The story tries really hard to be random and funny, but it really only tries to do this by very liberally sprinkling obscenities around and being weird. The craziest thing is that despite how funny the Ratchet and Clank series was this is just horrible. But good gameplay can save it all, right? Well, theoretically it could, but the gameplay is surprisingly bland. Oddly, Sunset Overdrive's gameplay mix of bounce, grind, and shoot feels nice, but it's not substantial enough to ever feel like it's something to write home about. The fact that the narrator and characters all keep telling you that it's like the coolest stuff ever doesn't help it be better either. Honestly, unless you already feel like you have to play it, this is a game that you should just skip.
Being a huge fan of fighting games, Killer Instinct was one of the first things I grabbed when I got an Xbox One. Was that a good idea? Totally. I'll admit, I wasn't a big fan of the original KI games (partly because I was super young when they came out), but I LOVE this game. The fighting feels heavy and fast at the same time, which is really something I've only ever seen the Mortal Kombat series ever really pull off. I must say, the one thing that sticks out is the oddness with the presentation of the game as everything from the menu design, concept art, and even the fonts used scream "HEY, REMEMBER THE ORIGINAL XBOX?" I don't know if this is just me at all, but this is literally the only thing I think of every time I boot the game up. It's funny, for a game that was one of the opening shots fired in this new generation of console gaming, this feels exactly like a remake of an original Xbox game and as such doesn't really make a good argument for why you should have an Xbox One. Still, Killer Instinct is super fun and totally worth playing if you like fighting games.
FullBlast is a by-the-numbers shoot 'em up that's hardly original but is still a welcome addition to the eShop channel. I can't really fault the game when it doesn't necessarily do anything wrong. It's just not going to wow you. So if you're a hardcore shoot 'em up fan who's already seen it all, this one's a pass. But for everyone else, FullBlast provides a decent amount of entertainment. There are 12 levels in all, and you're not forced to beat them in one sitting. Once you've unlocked a level, you can start from that point on your next turn. Unfortunately, your power-ups aren't saved, so there are instances where you may actually want to backtrack first. Despite its casual appearance, this can be a difficult shooter. Bumping the difficulty down doesn't seem to reduce the number of bullets, either; it only makes the enemies weaker. But I actually prefer it that way. This never reaches "bullet hell" ridiculousness, anyway. The levels are a little repetitive, though, and the game has a tendency to reuse the same bosses. Again, it's not groundbreaking by any means, but it's okay for what it is.
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