Spearheaded by Sony’s Japan Studio and developed by Acquire, Rain is a somber adventure game available for the PlayStation 3. Released worldwide at the beginning of October 2013, Rain’s debut was no doubt overshadowed by the impending launch of the PlayStation 4. In fact, looking back on how I came to own the game, I didn’t even buy it; I received it through the settlement for the 2011 PlayStation Network outage. Unlike my ownership of the game, my decision to give it a go was intentional. Wanting to play through a batch of shorter games in the wake of Fire Emblem: Three Houses, and thinking it might tie into the Halloween season, it topped the short list of games I had put together. Continue reading Rain [PlayStation 3] – Review→
The God of War series never was my cup of tea. Without question the games featured unrivaled set pieces, fine-tuned gameplay, and epic storylines deserving of acclaim. But, my perception was that they were testosterone-laden gore fests. While I’m not puritan in my tastes, the way I perceived the series as relishing those aspects outweighed everything else, and I spent little time with them. The announcement and subsequent coverage of the most recent entry was different, however. It was framed in such a way that it seemed more mature, and not in an edgy “sex and violence” sort of way. Sure enough, the storyline, and the relationships and acting in particular, exceeded my expectations. It was entertaining to unravel the plot, and equally so to explore and survive the beautiful environments. Continue reading God of War [PlayStation 4] – Review→
Early in Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End, it’s evident that life’s changed for Nathan Drake. His days of globe trekking in search of lost treasure and fending off cunning thieves are behind him, relegated to artifacts and journals in the attic. Nowadays he works as a recovery diver and spends evenings at home with Elena, discussing their day-to-day lives in a pedestrian, unfulfilling manner. When his long lost brother turns up unexpectedly, this allows him an opportunity to quench his thirst for adventure, but at what cost? Developed by Naughty Dog and published by Sony on May 10, 2016, Uncharted 4 tops the efforts of its predecessors in every way and nearly two years later, stands in my mind as a masterpiece. Continue reading Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End [PlayStation 4] – Review→
Spurred on by my recent purchase of Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End, I’ve returned to the series after a yearlong hiatus. Picking up where I left off, I’ve now completed Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception, the final installment on the PlayStation 3. Debuting in North America on November 1, 2011, Naughty Dog attempted to top its predecessor, which I deemed a “greatest hits of the action-adventure genre.” In many ways, this entry does. The set piece events and ancient mechanical puzzles were more frequent and extravagant than ever before. Nate and company explored a variety of new, visually impressive and incredibly detailed environments. Gameplay was enhanced by an increased emphasis on melee and improvements to stealth takedowns. And, per usual the acting and storytelling was top notch. All that said, the multitude of “one-shot” cliff-hanger moments and the dependable presence of a perfectly placed ledge was wearing thin and eroding the veneer of realism. Continue reading Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception [PlayStation 3] – Review→
When I began writing about Uncharted: Drake’sFortune, I considered it the high-water mark of the PlayStation 3’s library, at that point in the platform’s lifecycle. Having completed its sequel, Among Thieves, I can testify that it unquestionably usurped that role, and deserves recognition as one of the best games of the contemporary cinematic era. Originally released in North America on October 13, 2009, Naughty Dog maintained the excellent blend of third-person, cover-based shooting and wowing traversal that put the series on the map with the first game. What carried my interest however was the engaging narrative. Characters both familiar and fresh intertwined with Nate’s search for Marco Polo’s lost fleet. Danger and drama kept Nate busy across the game’s dozen hour runtime and the numerous set pieces often had me in disbelief and culminated in an experience that played like a greatest hits of the action-adventure genre. Continue reading Uncharted 2: Among Thieves [PlayStation 3] – Review→
Something clicked. With the release of Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End this May, purportedly the final entry in Naughty Dog and Sony’s acclaimed action-adventure series, I knew it was time I checked it out. The first game that is, Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune. Yes, after nearly ten years of opportunities, I finally got around to playing the Uncharted series in typical fashion, by starting at the beginning. Released on November 19, 2007 for the PlayStation 3, a couple days past its one-year anniversary on the market, Drake’s Fortune was arguably the high-water mark of the platform to that point. Continue reading Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune [PlayStation 3] – Review→
When you have a video game collection like mine, it can be hard to play all of the games. This is especially true when additions are made on an almost weekly basis. Still, I appreciate nearlyevery game I’ve accumulated for this reason or that. In the hopes of improving my writing through continuous effort and promoting ongoing learning of these games, I’m going to compose brief, descriptive articles.
Now this is the sort of game that gets me excited about video games! There’s something about the zany concepts and systems that video games of Japanese origin tend to have that really excite me. So when I first heard about this title, I figured I’d be into. Fast forward to many months after its initial release and it happens to be discounted to $0.99 on a PSN sale and of course I bought it. Fast forward to today when I’m writing this, and I still haven’t played it. Jenny has played it somewhat, stating that she thought it was weird and kind of difficult. From what I gather, it’s a survival game set in a post-apocalyptic Tokyo where you play as an animal and attempt to procreate and ensure your future lineage. Pomeranian dogs seem to the favored avatar too. That’s what I’m talking about!
Tokyo Jungle was developed by Crispy’s! in conjunction with Sony Computer Entertainment’s Japan Studio. It was originally released physically for the PlayStation 3 in Japan on June 7, 2012, and had its North American release exclusively on PSN on September 25, 2012. I’m not familiar with the developer, although it appears they’ve developed a handful of other games – mostly Japanese only.
When you have a video game collection like mine, it can be hard to play all of the games. This is especially true when additions are made on an almost weekly basis. Still, I appreciate nearly every game I’ve accumulated for this reason or that. In the hopes of improving my writing through continuous effort and promoting ongoing learning of these games, I’m going to compose brief, descriptive articles.
This was the first brand new game I purchased for the PlayStation 2. I can still remember so clearly walking into the newly opened GameStop in my town and picking this game up. It had to have been six months to a year after release as it was about thirty dollars, if memory serves. This was the first “major” simulation racing game I played. I was enveloped in the experience as a result and spent so much time playing, unlocking car after car. That was one of the things that kept me hooked. Since I grew up on Pokémon, I can dig collecting, and Gran Turismo is one of those series where there’s an immense amount of cars to collect. I didn’t fully complete it, and I daydream about returning to it, almost instead of trying my hand at one of its sequels. This will remain a collection of some of my fondest PS2 memories.
Gran Turismo 4 was developed by Polyphony Digital and published by Sony Computer Entertainment. It was released for the PlayStation 2 in North America on February 22, 2005, following the original December 28, 2004 Japanese release. As is the case with every title in the series currently, its development was overseen by Kazunori Yamauchi. Also, in keeping with tradition, this game was subject to many delays. That being said, no one can dispute the quality of the final product.
Okay, Final Fantasy V hasn’t been released as much as its predecessor. In fact, the first time it was officially released outside of Japan was with the American release of Final Fantasy Anthology for the PlayStation. That was in late 1999 – basically seven years after it was originally released on the Super Famicom in late 1992. It took another two and a half years for the game to eventually be released in Europe. Since then, it has been released on the Game Boy Advance and on iOS and Android platforms.
As they did for the Super Famicom release of Final Fantasy IV, Square opted for a cutesy cover over the traditional usage of Yoshitaka Amano’s artwork. Again, he was relegated to the logo design. This cover hones in on the wanderer Bartz, and easily conveys this fact. The logo chosen for this game includes a dragon intertwined with the font. This is also apt as dragons play a significant role in the narrative.
The game was subsequently released on the PlayStation in 1996. This is my favorite cover that’s been used for one of the game’s releases. The cutesy character design again reigns supreme and this time it’s highlighting the many job classes. With the exception of two as there were twenty-two job classes in the original.
So this is the version of the game that I possess. I really dig the box art, but it pertains to Final Fantasy VI, so it’s not really comparable in this article. I will mention that I had difficulty playing the disc on the PlayStation 3. There is a save screen glitch that the game freezes at. The glitch is still a factor when playing the disc on the PlayStation 2, but on that system, it’s only a graphical glitch. The menu can still be navigated and the game doesn’t freeze.
For the European release of Final Fantasy Anthology, this game received the honor of selling the game. If it’s successor was included in this package, I’m sure that wouldn’t have been the case. Still, this is prime Amano displaying the cast on one of the many ships.
For the Game Boy Advance release, a slew of extra content was added including extra job classes and an extra dungeon or two. I’d like to play these versions of the NES and SNES titles (excluding 3which never saw an Advance release). The Japanese release included a lot of negative space, yet still left room for Amano’s character designs.
The cover used for the American and European releases however did away with that negative space and really zoomed in on the characters. Plus the large GBA banner on the left-hand side takes up much space.
Just as the case was with Broken Sword: The Shadow of the Templars, this game has been released on many digital platforms that don’t really have box art. As I mentioned above, I prefer the box art for the Japanese PlayStation release. It’s different enough from the rest to stand out, and the cutesy design works well when displaying the many job classes.
Before BioShock released, I knew very little about it. I heard murmurings that it was going to be an “important” game, but I didn’t pay any mind. Until the week it released. At that point, the hype surrounding the game was deafening; it was a literal echo chamber in the video game portion of the internet I frequented. I went from an ambivalent position regarding BioShock, to one where I needed to play it. Almost immediately, I knew I made the right decision. As you might already intuit, I approached The Last of Us in much the same way, and again, I made the right decision.
After the half-hour introduction, it was already apparent to me that The Last of Us would go down as another “important” video game. In that time span, Naughty Dog gave me a view of what day-to-day life might be like for the primary protagonist Joel, his daughter Sarah and his brother Tommy. This normalcy was brief though and within minutes all hell broke loose in their suburban Texas town. The group was soon on the run in order to survive against their mutated, zombie-like neighbors and townsfolk. Just when it appeared that they had escaped the town to safety, Sarah was accidentally murdered by a man following orders above all else. Whatever semblance of a normal life had already ended for the group, but much of Joel died that day.
Fast forward twenty years and the country, and most likely the world, has seen humanity consumed by a viral fungus that transforms the host into a violent zombie-like creature within days. Although it’s never directly explained what happened in that twenty year period between the introduction and the remainder of the game, it was easy enough to piece together information and interpret the rest. Some pockets of Americans live in complacency in government-controlled quarantine zones and others hoof it in the wilderness. Alone, in groups, or within the ranks of the Fireflies – a revolutionary militia squad wanting a break from the government’s status quo – it’s a tooth-and-nail fight for survival.
Joel, and his female cohort Tess, operate somewhere in between. As smugglers living in Boston, they transport goods in and out of the quarantine zone to make a living. Events quickly transpire and they’re confronted with a decision that they don’t get to make. The leader of the Fireflies, Marlene, has something they want, but she needs a favor. She needs them to smuggle a young girl, Ellie, out of the city and into the care of the Fireflies in a safer area. They reluctantly accept and before they make it out, they realize why Marlene wants Ellie to reach a safe haven – she is immune to the fungus. This is unheard of, making Ellie the Holy Grail in a world without hope.
Tess saw that. She bit the dust early on but urges Joel to finish the job and get Ellie where she needs to be. Despite being a hard-ass that wouldn’t take any scruff, Tess seemed idealistic and hopeful for the future. Joel is also a short-tempered hard-ass; however he cares little for anything related to hope. He pisses on the government as much as he does the Fireflies. All he cares about it making it to the next day and it seems the only reason for that was his relationship with Tess. Why else would he slavishly travel halfway across the hellhole that America has become with a girl he doesn’t want to care for? If he is one thing, he’s devoted.
That journey across America comprises the rest of the twenty or so hour campaign. It was a hellish trip for all parties involve; for Joel and Ellie and for me, the player. What made it so for Joel and Ellie were the impossible odds they routinely found themselves up against and the hostility they encountered from the country’s remaining survivors. The highlight of the game for me was probably these survivors they’d run into. The bulk of them were hostile but there were a scant few who allied with Joel and Ellie and aided them on their journey. So many of these characters seemed like real people, with, what I can only imagine were problems I could relate to in the post-apocalypse. That sounds strange – that I feel these video game characters are lifelike – but I guess that’s a testament to the talent at Naughty Dog and the evolution of the medium.
What made the journey hellish for me as the player was the difficulty I encountered. The game’s difficulty could be construed as a continuation of the philosophy present in From Software’s Demon’s Souls, which in turn was a response to criticism of Naughty Dog’s own Uncharted series and other blockbuster video game titles. Regardless of inspiration, the sometimes stressful difficulty is a spot-on match for the always stressful situations Joel and Ellie find themselves in. Through all of their run-ins with enemies, there wasn’t one where I was able to go in guns blazing and succeed. I might get one or two enemies, but their numbers would overtake Joel and Ellie quickly. I had to be smart when approaching a fight because the enemies were. They could hear and see Joel so if I guided him wrong, they’d group up on him and I’d be paying for it.
For the most part, I snuck around as much as possible and tried to quietly take out enemies by killing them with a makeshift shiv. If I was ever spotted, I’d use cover to break line-of-sight with the enemy, flanking them so I could use another shiv or resort to a handgun, rifle, or bow. I say that honestly too. Although I didn’t have any trouble coming across ammo on the normal difficulty, or any supplies for that matter, I was always very cautious. I wouldn’t use a health pack until I was able to craft another, unless I direly needed it. Same for the use of Molotov cocktails and smoke bombs; I avoided using these unless an encounter just called for them.
Although the entirety of the game was astounding, the last two sections in particular I thought were brilliant. The first begins with a role reversal for Joel and Ellie as she becomes the protector for a brief period in a harsh Colorado winter. Here the duo encounters David, the leader of a local pocket of survivors and an absolute madman who’s played by none other than Nolan North. The final section sees Joel finally delivering Ellie to the Fireflies but having a change of heart when the circumstances aren’t to his liking. The game ends in a provocative way that prompted my friend and I have long conversations about the decisions made.
Just as I felt after completing BioShock, I’m glad I decided to buy into the hype and experience The Last of Us. Naughty Dog crafted a riveting video game that has perhaps set a new high-water mark for video game narrative. The characters and relationships on display were qualitatively better than 99% of any other game out there. The game’s brutal, but honest, gameplay was nothing to warrant as much praise for, but was immensely tuned and enjoyable enough that it didn’t bring the experience down, but amplified it. This is a game that has to be experienced.