Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Checkpoints Roasting on a Backlog Fire

Video games are synonymous with my Christmas holiday. The vast majority of joyous, childhood memories involve waking up to a new console I had yearned for all year or big new release title that I watched the launch trailer for over and over again. Wish lists for the holidays are always easy to fill with triple A titles dropping in November or a game from my backlog that has recently dropped to a more affordable price. December becomes the month in which I plan which titles I will dedicate my time to going into the new year.

There have been a ton of happy Christmas memories, but a few of those times really stood out:

Ocarina of Time was teased throughout 1998 and it was getting to be one of the most anticipated games of the year. I made sure to place every hint known to man to my mother that she knew this was the biggest gift she could possibly give me. Sure enough, Christmas morning, there it was under the tree in all its golden splendor. I remember staying up late, running around in awe at the new 3D world, experiencing the fear when facing Gohma for the first time, and the joy of slicing chickens and running for my life. It made an already perfect game even more memorable.

Dramatic Re-Enactment of my Surprise/Joy (And classic internet video)
The Gamecube was Nintendo's latest achievement in 2001 and one I set my eye on after witnessing the slew of advertising. They even sent tiny promotional discs to my house to watch on the computer, and I remember replaying the videos of F-Zero and Mario over and over again, while marveling at the newly shrunken discs that would soon encapsulate some of my favorite games. The console itself was a blast, and releasing Smash Brothers Melee that December alongside the console just heightened the anticipation and payoff.

Even as recent as last year I was dying to get into the next generation of consoles. I jokingly mentioned the Xbox One to my then girlfriend, passing it off as something I would invest in with gift cards from Christmas. To my surprise, she took the initiative, purchasing the package with Assassin's Creed: Unity. It was a huge gift, that held a lot more meaning behind it than fulfilling a want in my life. That girlfriend is now my wife, and we constantly joke that she got me a next-gen console and I in turn got her an engagement ring.

Is my wife is trying to tell me to leave her alone for a few months...?

I could go on and on with the number of Christmas gifts that shaped my gaming library; Final Fantasy IX, Pokemon: Gold, Black Ops 2. There is an unmatched feeling when getting a gift like that from the holidays. Call it the spirit of Christmas, the general selflessness of giving, or the season's overall impact; but receiving a game as a gift holds a special feeling you just do not get from picking up a pre-order in the store...besides the obvious downsize in your bank account after making the purchase.

Every title was a distinct memory, every console a lasting appreciation, and no matter the gift it always brought a childish sense of bliss. As another Christmas passes, I find myself with three new big titles to complete, and a lot less time on my hands, but one thing remains; the giddy feeling of opening that rectangular shape of a present and knowing there is a new world to explore or challenge to complete is far from fleeting.

Which games or consoles do you remember begging for at Christmas and which ones really stuck with you?

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

The Star Wars Games I Grew Up On

I have already given a list of the games I missed out on, but the games I have managed to get to greatly outweighs that list. Anything and everything Star Wars was popped into my consoles at will.

Super Star Wars Trilogy - SNES (1992-1994)
This was my first real introduction of Star Wars gaming, and it was phenomenal. The side scrolling action game blended the joy of shooting your way through minions, to the fun of swinging lightsabers at stormtroopers, to the intimidating challenge of gigantic bosses that would take up half the screen. There were even vehicle segments of the trench run and speeder bike chase to vary the encounters. With the ability to choose your character (Gonna pick Luke every time game, cmon, let's be real), there was so much fun to be had with this simple, yet satisfying title.

Shadows of the Empire - N64 (1996)
Few people know who Dash Rendar is except those that played this game when it released for the Nintendo 64. A Han Solo-esque renegade, this third person action shooter was intense. There were vehicle segments, firefights, and a one on one showdown with the baddest Bounty Hunter of them all; Boba Fett. It was challenging, intimidating, and incredibly fun.

Rogue Squadron - N64/Gamecube (1998)
The space battles and speeder encounters were never quite fleshed out in the forthcoming titles, but Rogue Squadron came along and focused on that with a finesse other games could rarely emulate. Hopping in the cockpit of an X-Wing was never more satisfying, as the famous battles above Endor and the Death Star were replicated to the tee. It was fast paced, insane fun as you took down star destroyers and tie fighters amidst asteroid fields or the clouds of Bespin.

Star Wars: Starfighter - PS2 (2001)
While Rouge Squadron would dominate recreating the infamous space battles, Starfighter would open up new ones. The tale of three would be hero pilots coming together during Episode 1's events would make for one oddly satisfying title. The follow up, Jedi Starfighter, would further that in opening up force powers in space battle. It was fast, insanely fun, and turned out to be one of those lesser known hits that I came to love.

Star Wars: Battlefront - Xbox/PC (2004/2005)
Before the most recent release, there was Battlefront, and it was glorious. Memorable battle vistas, the ability to choose from a multitude of units, the fearful masses as Yoda enters the Battlefield; this game had it all. I loved the ability to drop in as a Droideka, roll up, and mow down the opposition. When it expanded to PC with a second installment, I was caught up in the Hero servers watching icons duke it out on Tatooine. The only game that allowed me to watch Darth Maul fight with Princess Leia...

Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic - Xbox (2003)
A game to rule them all, I absolutely loved this title. The ability to create a character to drop into the Star Wars universe was a blast. It had a gripping and surprising story, strategic and well thought out combat, and the option to move to the dark or light side of the force based on your actions. It would be followed by a less than impressive sequel, but this game sticks with me to this day.

Republic Commando - Xbox (2005)
A first person squad shooter was the last thing I expected to enjoy from the Star Wars franchise, but Republic Commando took the concept and blew it out of the water. The enjoyable squad personalities, the ability to issue out commands on cover, and the slew of weapons you can choose from make this one of the surprise hits for the Xbox. It is a game that ended abruptly, and left me pining for a second installment. *cough* please *cough*.

The Force Unleashed - Xbox 360/PC/Playstation 3 (2008)
The tale of Vader's secret apprentice was a typical hack and slash, but one with so much flair that it became a joy to play. Be it Force throwing TIE Fighters or crushing AT STs with little thought, being a powerful force wielding user was satisfying. Though the main gameplay became predictable, the story and plethora of force powers to toy with made it an overall fun experience.

Star Wars: Kinect - Xbox 360 (2012)
Look...it was not the best. I will be first to admit the faults with Star Wars Kinect. That being said, for mindless fun it was one of those games that was so bad it was good. The rancor mode was a hilarious affair as you flail around and destroy everything around you. The lightsaber segments were satisfying at times and just fun to play. The podracing was oddly satisfying, and the dancing...well we don't talk about the dancing...

The Old Republic- PC (2011)
The most anticipated MMO turned out to be okay at launch, but has evolved into a powerhouse of a game. The multitude of classes and skill trees and the open ended nature of the game is a blast to play. I started with a Smuggler healer, and my journey involved fighting rancors, tearing through a terror from beyond, and going toe to toe with Sith in PvP. There was a lot to do, a lot to explore, and a lot of fun to be had. With the latest movie, I am tempted to hop back into the game.

Monday, December 21, 2015

The Star Wars Games I Missed Out On

Everyone has their favorite Star Wars title, be it the decision filled Knights of the Old Republic or the dog fighting Rogue Squadron; there is one game that captured the feeling of Star Wars perfectly for you.  There are also a multitude of these games, and despite playing a ton of the greats, I missed out on a few of them. Instead of compiling a "here is my top Star Wars list" I thought I would assemble the games that intrigued me, but I never had the time or capability to play.

Star Wars: X-Wing/TIE fighter(1993/1994)
Developer: Lucasarts
Publisher: Lucasarts

Star Wars X-Wing and TIE Fighter were best sellers, and was one of the first games to faithfully capture the feel of being behind the iconic space crafts. Unfortunately, I still had no computer in my home at the time capable of running any amount of gaming. I found myself looking at screenshots and reading praise of the game in magazines.

The franchise offered a variety of missions in one of the first 3D environments; with escorting, dogfighting, and even recreating the iconic Death Star trench run. Eventually, later titles would offer multiplayer and improved targeting capabilities, along with a library of ships to choose from in each mission.

I would have to wait until Rogue Squadron to get that feeling, but X-Wing and TIE Fighter would remain king in the hearts of many, and it is still a game I have neglected to make time to play.

Star Wars: Dark Forces (1995)
Developer: LucasArts
Publisher: LucasArts

First Person Shooters are not typically associated with Star Wars, and Republic Commando on Xbox was the first time I was able to experience that kind of action. Dark Forces, however, was one of the first games to brave that frontier.

It gained nothing but praise for its engaging first person action and diverse levels. You went across a slew of notable locales including Jabba's Space Yacht and Coruscant, shooting your way through hallways of stormtroopers utilizing thermal detonators, land mines, and an assortment of blasters.
A sequel would follow in 1997 that would gain just as much acclaim, opening up your options with Force powers and a lightsaber.

Advertising was everywhere for this game, but once again, I did not have the means to play without a Playstation. Sadly, this title would be left in the dust for other titles by the time a Playstation would make it into my home.

Star Wars: Galaxies (2003)
Developer: Sony Online Entertainment
Publisher: Lucasarts

The same team that worked on creating Everquest were excited to be behind the first ever MMO game for Star Wars. With ten different species and ten different specialties to choose from, the game was an open world for players to finally pick and choose their path in the Star Wars universe. With planets ranging from Tatooine, Hoth, and the forest moon of Endor you could go anywhere and be anything.

Expansions would add more to the experience including vehicles, events, planets, and a host of other content that kept players hooked into their Star Wars creations. It kept players going from launch all the way to its inevitable shut down on December 11th, of 2011.

So what kept me away? World of Warcraft. The following year, this game would hook the masses in, including myself. While the appeal of the Star Wars franchise was there, the combat and overall look of the game was not something that my wallet cried out to purchase. It would be Old Republic that would give me the experience I was yearning for in a Star Wars MMO.

Star Wars Jedi Knight: Jedi Outcast/Jedi Academy (2003)
Developer: Lucasarts
Publisher: LucasArts

Though technically part of the Dark Forces franchise line, Jedi Outcast and Academy were on a level all their own. Both placed a strong emphasis on lightsaber combat with multiple styles and combos, a variety of Force Powers, and a strong story to accompany both installments.

While Outcast focused primarily on the single player, it was the multiplayer on Academy that was highly praised. The chaotic modes like Capture the Flag or Power Dual unleashed some of the craziest matches as lightsabers flailed and force powers would send players flying across the screen.

Thought briefly delved into thanks to a Steam Sale, other big named titles have gotten in the way of fully completing this game.

With the excitement surround The Force Awakens, I know I want to delve back into the games that capture the thrill of the movies. Despite missing out on these few titles, I try to get into everything I can, since re-enacting scenes in Jedi robes out on your lawn is frowned upon by my wife. I will have to settle for a solid video game to handle that passion for reliving my favorite scenes.

Friday, December 18, 2015

Friday Spotlight: Matterfall

Playstation 4
Developer: Housemarque
Publisher: Sony
Release Date: TBD

With just a trailer alone, Matterfall looks to be a game PS4 users should put on their watch list.

Not a lot is known at this point besides it being an arcade shooter. From Sony's official blog: [1]

MatterFall follows an unexpected hero fighting for survival on a ravished sci-fi world infected by a mysterious and deadly alien material known only as “Smart Matter”.

We can expect more information in the months to come, but Housemarque usually does pretty well with arcade titles like Resogun and Dead Nation. With them at the helm, you can bet it is in safe hands moving forward.

Monday, December 14, 2015

Destiny's SRL Sparrow Races - Initial Impressions

Destinys' sparrows have become a drastic afterthought. Blindly throwing up a sparrow to get from point A to point B is second nature. The latest update has begun efforts to make more of a change in utilizing these in the way most have yearned for since their inception; racing.

The SRL League features two races thus far: Mars and Venus. These two tracks feature six guardians racing against each other for bragging rights. Instead of just navigating the turns and twists of the maps, players gain boosts to speed by passing through gates littered across the track. The gates vary in size depending on your current place in the race; leading the pack makes them smaller and harder to hit and losing the lead gives them a wider span to help close the gap.

Handling sparrows, it turns out, is a lot harder than expected. Often you will slide past a gate or drift into a wall. Getting the handling takes time, but soon you will follow example and become adept at hitting gates and taking the lesser known paths. The sparrow is still subject to random crashes and flips, which can become fairly frustrating when you have a clear lead and the lift you take to cross the chasm decides it would like to flip you this time around...

The most disappointing facet of the event is the missed opportunity. This is an enjoyable new mode but is incredibly stripped down. Adding in powerups or weaponry could make the races more interesting, but the predictable placement of the gates and limited number of tracks produces the similar feeling of grinding for rep. The main quest line is over before it even begins in most cases, leaving you with three daily bounties to accomplish.

But in the end we are all playing this for a reason - the gear. You gain exclusive armor and shaders by racing and gaining reputation with the SRL faction. Upping your "license" is achieved through a main quest by racing efficiently, hitting gates, and placing in top three. You also have daily bounties that range from taking out enemies with your sparrow to keeping your sparrow in tact for an entire race. The bounties are finished relatively quickly, so expect to grab three of them every day.

So far the races are fun, but are already growing stagnant. I find myself caring little about victory after hitting Rank 3, grinding to get there in order to get the 320 helmets that can drop randomly. The shaders are nice, the event can be fun, but the limited tracks and variations in the races are sure to have you diving back into the raids.

Friday, December 11, 2015

Friday Spotlight: XCom 2

XCom 2
Developer: Firaxis Games
Publisher:2K Games 
Release Date: February 5th, 2016

XCOM: Enemy Unknown became one of my favorite games from 2012. It offered in depth strategy action and big decisions in allocating resources; giving you the feel of being a general facing an invasion.

XCOM 2 takes place 20 years after the events of the first game. New enemies, new factions, and new units will be at your disposal. Much like the previous game, you customize every person in your squad, and death is permanent for them if left behind, making their loss more personal.

The gameplay shows a much more cinematic, story focused experience than the first installment. The approach is similar, you are dropped into a dark zone, and must go from cover to cover to unveil the map and enemies, being careful about every move. You also have the ability to carry downed soldiers, possibly for revival?

There is a lot of potential with this title, and if it is as fun as the last title, we can expect to sink a lot of hours in stopping an alien menace.

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

GCON - Convention with Heart

Comic Con, E3, PAX Prime, Dragon Con - there is a plethora of conventions you can attend if you have a passion for gaming or nerd culture in general. Halls flooded with cosplayers, booths littering the show floor, and demo stations for upcoming video games are a standard. Most of these you hear about in the headlines, but one popped up this morning that I had never known existed...in Saudi Arabia.

GCON is an annual convention focused on female gamers and game developers. [1] Female gamers were barred from an all male convention in 2011. Tasneem Salim and Felwa al-Swailem soon set out to form their own convention, persuading big names in gaming to back their convention. Playstation, Nintendo, Microsoft; they all hopped on board and in 2012 the first ever G Con was held.

This year marks the fourth annual event, and the crowd has been growing. Over 3,000 attended the con event that took place in November.

"This is not the Saudi Arabia most people know" Salim says. "It's definitely not. It's a side of Saudi Arabia that people rarely get to see, but it's real and it exists. And here we are."

Competitive tournaments in games like Black Ops III and FIFA, cosplaying attendees sporting their favorite characters; all the elements make this an open place of self-expression, something unheard of in the more conservative society of Saudi Arabia.

GCON is not just about gathering like-minded individuals, it also aims to encourage girls to pursue careers in science and engineering. Female college students in Saudi Arabia tend to outperform men in the tech related fields. They even encourage game development by holding competitions to nurture that growth further.

It is wonderful to see a convention that is not only bringing together female gamers, but takes small steps toward encouraging women to pursue their dreams and express themselves. For more information you can check out the full article from NPR [1] as well as the video interview posted above from Wamda. [2]

[1] - NPR - For Young Saudi Women Video Games Offer Self-Expression - http://www.npr.org/sections/parallels/2015/12/09/458806442/for-young-saudi-women-video-games-offer-self-expression

[2] - Wamda - Building a Gaming Community for Women in Saudi Arabia - http://www.wamda.com/2013/07/building-a-gamer-community-for-women-in-saudi-arabia-wamda-tv

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Child of Light Review - Retro Radiance

Score: 8.5 / 10
Child of Light
Xbox One - PS4 - Wii-U
Developer: Ubisoft
Publisher - Ubisoft
Release Date -April 2014

  • One of the most captivating soundtracks for a game, start to finish
  • Visually stunning look compliments the storybook tale approach
  • Classic RPG combat tailored for new and veteran players altogether
  • Oculi system allows you to strengthen each character your preferred way
  • The rhyming scheme quickly goes from charming to annoying
  • Abrupt ending with little payoff
  • Characters added late to the roster get little use 
  • 2D segments lack the depth of the combat 

Charming. That is the first word that comes to mind with my experience in Child of Light. A storybook inspired tale told in rhyme, a varying cast of fantasy characters, and large scale creatures that stand in your way. Your journey with Aurora is a classic tale of a heroine that rises up to fight a great evil, trying to find her way home and restore order. This Wizard of Oz like tale has a few bumps along the way, but is so wonderfully crafted and light hearted you cannot help but be drawn in with wonder.

...still cannot find Mr. Tumnus

The most powerful aspect of Child of Light is not the gameplay, the visuals, or even the story. The part that sticks with you most is the soundtrack. Catchy, soft, and wonderfully crafted; it sets the tone for the entire game. The main theme's soft elegance is catchy and hooks you into the fantasy world, as a violin and piano carry forth an emotional tune that echos over the entirety of the campaign in varying intervals. At the same time, it is able to provide upbeat melodies for villages, and intense music for the decisive battles. It was so catchy and simple, that I often found myself humming the theme after playing.

Coupled with the soundtrack is a mythical world you slowly unravel. You take the role of Aurora, a princess who many think dead, but instead has become trapped in the world of Lemuria. This world, once ruled by a queen of light, is overtaken by a new evil queen and darkness has spread over the land. It is up to Aurora to gather the elements of light, and find a way home. The plot is nothing too deep, but works with the overall poetic tone of the game, appealing to the mother/daughter relationship that tugs at your heartstrings. The rhyming scheme is a simple touch, and although it gives the game more character, it often limits the dialogue to pure simplicity. The visual tones of light and dark intensify the setting as you dive into vast forests, bright villages, and brooding dungeons to uncover a way home.

Not an RPG without larger to scale spiders

Child of Light is primarily a turn-based RPG. A timeline bar is displayed on the bottom of the screen, and evolves the fight into a game of micromanagement. You can interrupt enemies by attacking them in a short window before they attack, and likewise, enemies can do the same to you. Constantly you are working to manage the enemies, defending big forthcoming attacks,and boosting your potential to attack first. You are limited to two party members at a time but the game does well in allowing you to swap party members on the fly, adapting to your enemies who may be weaker to more physical or magical damage. It is fast paced, challenging, and always keeps you on your toes to adapt. 

A classic leveling system is in place in addition to an Oculi system for equipment. Oculi gems have a specified color, which can be combined to create new colors or stronger gems. Three red gems can make a stronger red gem, or a red and blue gem can make a purple gym for new effects. These gems range from increased fire resistance to faster spell casting time. Each party member is proficient at some aspect be it Finn's proficiency in elemental magic or Robert's speedy physical attacks. You find yourself constantly switching characters to adapt to enemies' strengths. You acquire some members pretty late game, which gives little time to develop or work with these characters before the game's conclusion sneaks up on you.

 Matching shapes is what children excel at...

Though you are limited to a 2D side scroller, you still have a small amount of exploration you can do. Chests are scattered throughout the world, sometimes tucked away in corners of the map that you must truly explore to uncover. There are also a few puzzle segments, but these are limited in difficulty, often matching shapes or some similar task. This proves to be the most disappointing factor, as you are given the ability to fly right at the end of the first chapter, allowing you to avoid pretty much every enemy and taking away any real platforming element that could have been utilized to make traversal much more interesting. There are some sidequests to invest time into and fast travel to encourage revisiting older segments, but it can be easy to overlook.

The simplicity of Child of Light is both enticing and limiting. On the one hand, the simple turn based combat is easy to pick up and challenging enough to warrant thoughtful gameplay on the harder difficulty. On the other hand, the 2D side scrolling segments can be a lot less eventful and the simplicity of puzzles and lack of platforming have you breezing through the game. Despite the shortcomings, the game is still a wonderfully crafted title that will satisfy any classic RPG veteran.

Friday, December 4, 2015

Friday Spotlight: Deus Ex: Mankind Divided

Deus Ex: Mankind Divided
Xbox One - PC - PS4
Developer: Eidos Montreal
Publisher: Square Enix
Release Date: 2016

Human Revolution was a fantastic title in the Deus Ex franchise, offering combat and stealth with sandbox rooms to experiment with both approaches. Two years after the events of Human Revolution, Mankind Divided will bring back Adam Jensen with a slew of new features.

Not much is being revealed as of yet, but the 25 minute gameplay demo shows off some interesting features:
  • Swapping bullet types for each weapon, using EMP ammo to disable a camera for example
  • Multi-path options are approaches are still viable in this game, with branching corridors for your preferred approach.
  • Non lethal tesla gun arm - targets four enemies at the same time, allowing you to stealthily take out multiple targets
  • Icarus Dash - allows adam to traverse terrain out of reach, or rush enemies
  • The takedown animations are still as awesome as ever, going into third person for a flashy takedown
  • Remote hacking opens up pathways, takes over robots, or disables camera
  • Nano-blade is a long range projectile capable of sticking enemies to the wall
  • Combat has been reworked to be as fluid and enjoyable as the stealth approach 
  • Titan Shield has been added to allow Adam to become a human tank in facing enemy weapon fire
The game looks promising, and if it is as much fun as Human Revolution, it will be a must-play for next year.

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Warlock Solos Oryx...Puts Shame to Us All for Messing Up Platforms

User The Great Gatsby has successfully done what many have been working toward, killing Oryx by himself. This six man encounter required a lot of coordination, and he is able to manipulate a few things to make it all happen. [1]

-Rounding up Light Eater Ogres by lowering their health to sliver then having them enrage and charge him to group up the bombs.

-Ignoring the Knight completely and instead relying on Radiance to revive. This negates even having to do platforms.

-Using an up close Super Good Advice to stun Oryx before he claps.

While the Radiance perk seems like a cheat, this is still insanely impressive and validates having a Warlock handy from now on...

[1] - Casually Soloing Oryx - The Great Gatsby - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0eBhv4bP8fk

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

New Releases for December are Slim

The same pattern follows every year; November releases an insane amount of big name titles and December trickles in a few surprises. That is not to say December is void of game releases, but it certainly slowed.

You can check the New Releases tab to see the biggest games for the month. Or click here.

Monday, November 30, 2015

What Are You Thankful for in Gaming?

Nothing is perfect in the gaming industry, and through drama and disappointments, it is easy to overlook the joys that modern day gaming has to give to us. Instead of focusing on "oh no another Call of Duty" or arguing about the justification of DLC pricing, let us use the holiday season to instead reflect on what we can be thankful for this year:

Always a Party

Putting games online is huge. The ability to hop on to most games and know full well there are thousands of others playing that same game is something you really have to take a step back and appreciate. There was once a time when you had to gather friends, controllers, even televisions just to be able to host a game with more than four people. You can now hop into matches with up to sixty four players or more.

Matchmaking, clans, social spaces; there is an endless supply of resources that make sure when you play, you are not alone anymore. These have even evolved into friendships extending beyond Gamertags or Online IDs. Anytime, day or night, someone else is losing sleep right along with you to hop online for a few hours of playtime.

More Variety Than Your Thanksgiving Dinner

MMOs, MOBAs, Fighting Games, First Person Shooters; there are a plethora of genres to explore. The list is ever expanding, and the sheer amount that is out there to play is astounding. Limitations are lifting in what hardware can do, and it is pretty impressive to be able to tackle whatever you desire. Want to go on a pirate adventure? Maybe Assassins Creed: Black Flag is what you are in the mood to play. Feel like being merciless and trash talking? Fire up some Crucible mode in Destiny. Or perhaps you just want to unwind and explore a vast land? Fallout 4 has plenty to offer.

No matter what mood you are in or what kind of experience you wish to have, there is something out there for you. From the triple A titles to the indie platformers, there is so much out there to explore.

On Demand

If you want to buy a game, you can instantly do that. No waiting for the store, no lines on Black Friday, no worry if a game is in stock; directly downloading a game is a standard. It is a luxury we very easily take for granted.

Be it through the Xbox Store, Steam, or PSN there are pages of games to navigate that you can purchase and download instantly. The ability to be able to delete games as needed for your hard drive and retrieve them whenever you would like is convenient not only to storage space but allows you to keep an expansive library on hand.

Steam Sales

Big name games for half off? Check.
Big titles from a year ago for only twenty bucks? Check
Time to play all the games you end up purchasing? ...working on that.

Whenever a big holiday comes around I always look forward to the sales that Steam offers. From the biggest titles to the smaller indie games, nothing is immune to a price slashing, and the growing library of unplayed games leaves potential for lazy Sunday afternoons.

User Created Content

Mario Maker, Minecraft, and Garry's Mod have revealed that when you hand the tools of a developer over to the gaming masses, you get some of the most hilarious and interesting content you could ever hope to find. From scare maps, to insanely difficulty Mario levels, and even to new game modes; Mods and user generated levels are becoming increasingly popular. Like a kid with LEGOs, the possibilities are endless and new experiences are gaining popularity time and time again.

Mods have influenced some of the biggest games you can play, and may even inspire a future developer to pursue his/her passion. Letting the player craft their own experience showcases the dedication and passion many out there have for this medium.

Competitive Streaming

I never thought I would enjoy watching competitive gaming. Now I look forward to events like EVO every year. Watching professionals at their best is something one could only do by attending the actual events years ago, something that was hard to come by in most states. You can now have a front row seat to world competitions on games like League of Legends, DOTA, Counterstrike, or Street Fighter through streaming websites.

You can even just watch professional streamers casually playing your favorite games. Maybe you want to see how Battlefront plays before purchasing the game or simply like the personality of someone who plays a variety of games. With hubs like Twitch, you can watch any recent game any time.

When you realize how far video games have come over the past decade it truly is remarkable. It is easy to complain about the nuances, but taking a step back to truly see the growth and impact that gaming has had over the years really sets it in perspective. So as you fire up your new games this Christmas, try to take a moment to be thankful for the little things we take for granted every time we turn on our consoles.

Monday, October 26, 2015

Destiny: The Taken King Review - Wake Up, Guardian!

Score: 9.0 / 10
Destiny: The Taken King
Xbox One - Playstation 4
Developer: Bungie
Publisher: Activision
Release Date: September 15th, 2015

  • Plenty of quests and items for the asking price
  • The Taken are a much more formidable foe
  • The new raid is challenging, and requires true teamwork
  • Plethora of new weapons and items to try out and obtain
  • Intriguing story in which Nathan Fillion steals the show
  • Old armor cannot be upgraded to Year 2 standards
  • Not all quests are as engaging as the main story 
  • Old subclasses pale in comparison to the new subclasses
As I finished the last story mission for Destiny, I stared at a screen loaded with quests. A slew of tasks left to accomplish, a raid to undertake, and new PvP maps beckoned me back to my console again and again. New weekly rewards and hidden secrets to each mission would be revealed in the weeks to come, with difficult challenges rewarding brand new exotic weapons. Through all the new gear, subclasses, and weaponry I had to take a step back to really take it all in; this is not the same game I played earlier this year. Bungie has managed to use the year of mistakes to forge a game that both new players and veterans alike can enjoy.

 The only weakness is an exhaust port on the...wait

The most obvious addition is that of a central story. The Grimoire is still around with more detailed, and often overlooked lore, but the focal point of your journey begins with the new story missions. Pre rendered cinematics offer an explosive opening as the Taken King decimates a powerful ally and sets his sights on you. You are tasked with his end, a journey that is not as lonesome as before, with a healthy amount of banter between the ever present class trainers who take the stage with Eris Morn in quelling the threat. The chatter is lively and helps give purpose to your tasks, but it is Nathan Fillion's performance as Cayde-6 that really steals the show. Every mission you partake you understand its significance, providing a more driving purpose than the previous story missions.

Bungie has given Destiny a much needed facelift in terms of pacing and presentation in the missions. From the initial frightening encounter with The Taken to the daunting size of the Dreadnaught, you find yourself exploring corners and taking in the breathtaking new sights and set pieces. The single player missions feels more involved, with enemies that require more than just aiming down the sights and pulling the trigger, and even a stealth segment appears briefly for one mission. You return to old raid locations, explore new areas of the Dreadnaught, and even discover new areas from old planets. Though the latter missions after the main story return to the old style of laundry list play, you never know what to expect on your journey to Oryx's throne.

This place smells like a Waffle House sink

Once you hit level 40 it is the thrill of getting new gear that will keep you coming back. The lottery system keeps players intrigued, and it has been reworked to become more efficient in making tasks more rewarding. Armor is plentiful in missions, rewards from the team focused strikes, and even awarded at the end of PvP matches. Whatever you do in Destiny, you are getting something for it. Legendary Marks will be your focus, and you will find plentiful opportunities available to gear up for the end-game content.

The primary focus of the expansion is the raid, and in that, Bungie has delivered ten fold. King's Fall is a light level 290 raid, and it is far from being a pushover. The encounters in that mode require not only perfection, but high amounts of communication and teamwork. One boss requires a team to split into two players grabbing an ogre's gaze, and four others to damage the boss by knocking down and standing in pools of water while being set upon by exploding Thrall. Where the past two raids could be overcome with a few players carrying the team, this one demands that everyone pull their weight. The platforming segments can prove slightly frustrating after finishing the raid and returning, but the complexity and difficulty of the boss fights makes up for that.

 This is awkward...sorry bout your son.

PvP players will also find solace in the new maps and re balanced gameplay. Gone are the days of cursing the devastating "Thorn" gun as it chips away your health, as the game is still exploring a multitude of weaponry. Snipers, shotguns, and hand cannons; there are a multitude of new weapons that are rocking the PvP verse as players explore the rebalanced settings of each weapon. The new maps are also a joy to explore, with wide open courtyards and close quarters segments of the Dreadnaught; Iron Banner alone has showcased the multitude of new favorite pathways and firefight grounds. Out of the eight new maps, Crossroads stands out the most, with teleporters, launchers, and both open and tight quarters; it had a very "Halo" feel to it all. The only issue...Sunbreakers. Even playing as one, I felt very very overpowered as my hammer sought out targets across the map, though Bungie is addressing the balancing concerns as it moves forward with Trials of Osiris.

Taken King is a hefty price for an expansion, but if you are just getting into Destiny or have been playing for a year, the new combinations are worth it in the end. As we speak, I am still running around trying to get the new exotics through their long quest lines and working to get an exotic sword. There is always something to do in Destiny, and that list is growing longer as weeks continue. It may not be perfect, it may not be groundbreaking, but Destiny is indeed a fun journey with friends by your side.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Destiny Emotes are Making Cruicible Hilarious

Just a few samples of the hilarity that is following the release of new purchasable Emotes.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Halo 5 Launch Trailer Brings the Action

Halo 5 is still a few weeks away, but the latest launch trailer showcases an action packed campaign. Chief going rogue, Blue Team on the offensive, insane action that rivals Red vs Blue cinematics, and the classic firefights we have come to know and love all make an appearance.

Halo 5 is set to release Tuesday, October 27th on Xbox One.

Monday, October 12, 2015

Star Wars: Battlefront Beta to Last Until Tuesday

If you had a chance to enter the Beta this past weekend, then you have gotten a taste of the Star Wars goodness to come later this year. Gigantic AT-ATs lumbering toward your objectives, authentic Star Wars sound effects that bring you back to your childhood, and the impending fear as Darth Vader charges you across the battlefield.

The Beta was suppose to end sooner, but is extending an extra day to test servers under high frequency to Tuesday, October 13th.

The Beta is currently open on Xbox One, PS4, and PC for download. If you miss this chance, you will have to wait until the retail version which will be released this November 17th.

[1] - Forbes - 'Star Wars: Battlefront' Beta Ends Tomorrow - http://www.forbes.com/sites/davidthier/2015/10/11/star-wars-battlefront-beta-ends-tomorrow/

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Halo 5 Official Commercial

Halo's latest commercial shows off a fallen Master Chief...but this is Halo, so I would not count him out so quickly.

Monday, September 28, 2015

Twitch Beats Dark Souls in 43 Days

Twitch already bested Pokemon, but their latest feat is one of wonder.

It took 43 days for Twitch community to beat Dark Souls, but they were able to finally defeat Gwyn, Lord of Cinder yesterday. [1]

It was not an easy road, and starting out they were barely able to even get into the first boss room. Running into walls, getting stuck in pools, the encounters were numerous and frustrating to the roaming spectator.

This changed the voting system, turning Dark Souls into a turn based RPG to accommodate the traffic and lag. They would freeze the game, allow the next turn to be voted on, let the action occur, then freeze again. This turned out to be the only true way to progress and not get stuck as quickly. You could say this is cheating, as Pokemon was played without such accommodations, but still, it is an impressive feat nonetheless.

Now they are turning their attention to Dark Souls 2, and they are already 12 hours into the game, which you can watch here.

[1] - Kotaku - 43 Days Later, Twitch as Beaten Dark Souls - http://kotaku.com/43-days-later-twitch-has-beaten-dark-souls-1733380079

Friday, September 25, 2015

Friday Spotlight: Fable Legends

Fable Legends
Xbox One - PC
Developer: Lionhead Studios
Publisher: Microsoft Studios
Release Date: 2015

Fable is a series known for a single player story, but Fable Legends looks to change that pattern. Similar to Evolve, four players will take the role of the heroes, while one takes the role of a villain. All of the games story and quests can be played solo with AI partners. The goal is for the Heroes to complete their objectives, and the Villain to ruin their progress with his army of minions.

Each Hero and Villain is unique in their abilities and equipment. Heroes range from the daring Sterling who uses melee based attack to Winter, who utilizes will based ice attacks. The diversity will play out in the game, as each Hero will have to pull their weight in order to overcome what the Villain has in store.

The Villain chooses where the enemies will spawn, their aggression, traps to separate the Heroes, and even when the lumbering Boss makes its way out. You become the director of the show, so to speak, dictating when everything happens to impede the Heroes from completing their objective.

For those fearful their villages and items will be set aside for presets, fear not. You will still interact in villages and have the ability to customize your character, even setting aside time for a few pub games.

Fable: Legends is a bold shift from the single player centered focus, but brings about a nice change to the expected formula of the game. The biggest factor will be how the Free to Play model will be utilized. Will it lock out heroes or customization options? Is there a payable option? We will find out later this year!

Monday, September 21, 2015

GTA V C4 Tricks You Wish You Could Do

Youtube user Blacksmoke Billy has a pretty impressive playlist of trick videos for GTA V, and the latest one looks like something out of a Bollywood film.

Friday, September 18, 2015

True Life: I Married a Non-Gamer

Almost a month ago, I got married.

Believe me, I am still soaking it all in. The wedding day went by in a whirlwind; vendors were paid, an insane amount of photographs were taken, and all the outstanding wedding debt is getting cleared up. I expected the stress of it all, I expected costs to be outrageous as soon as you tack the word "wedding" onto any item (Seriously, how can venues cost this much? It is four walls and one ceiling.), and I expected to nod along as my fiance showed me flowers and table patterns that she liked and I could care less about.

There is one caveat I never expected; I got married to someone who does not play video games.

"Just one more Strike, pleeeeease!"

It is nothing that surprised me, and my time with gaming is nothing that surprises her. Since we have been dating that was one of the things that was well established and one of the things that she knew took up most of my time. She also knew that since we have been dating that time with gaming has slowly diminished in favor of doing the things we both like.

It started easy, especially since she used to lived in a city that was an hour and a half away. Once a week or so I would drive up to take her out. We would go out, usually to dinner, and then either a bar or some other event. I would drive home, lose some sleep; but continue my usual regime through the week in whatever MMO or RPG I delved into that week. It was a lot of driving, but I never got upset about it. I never looked at that drive as a hindrance, I looked at it as a temporary inconvenience that would eventually be reduced to a memory.

Part of me loves gaming, but the other part loves doing new things and traveling, and that is where she shined. We ended up doing a lot of non-video game milestones through the year; We trained for and ran two half-marathons, we attended The Kentucky Derby for the first time together, went to concerts, kayaked on the river, swam in fresh water springs, and visited almost every state in the south east to see friends she new and stay in places we read about.

A year passed, then this past Christmas a simple act I never expected occurred; her gift to me was an Xbox One console. This was big for me, not only because of the sheer cost of the bundle and my reluctance to purchase one until funds came my way, but the gesture itself. She knew that I loved playing video games, and I knew full well she would rather do something else. Despite all of that, she wanted to make up for all the time and money I sacrificed traveling with her with a simple gesture toward something I loved. She never once asked me to stop playing video games, she never told me not to buy a game or console, she knew this meant something to me and, through this gift, that she would support it.

Continuous acts like that settled it. She moved to my city, I bought a ring, we got engaged, and the rest is now part of our story. My stuff has become her stuff, her stuff has become my stuff, bank accounts merged together; the whole shabang.

As I get older, I have come to terms with the fact that my video game schedule will continually change. I remember binge-playing Donkey Kong on my SNES for hours at a time as a kid, coming home from school and dedicating a night to completing Legendary difficulty on Halo in high school, and staying up late to explore every corner of Fallout 3 in college. Real life hit with a 8-5 job, and I found myself playing a ton over the weekends and less during the weekdays. Dating hit and that decreased even more. Married life has adjusted that further, with one day established as "date night" each week which is void of video games and focused on having fun together. Kids? That is sure to change it a ton (RNG gods willing, not for a while).

Despite the entire environment of change and adaptation, one constant remains; my will to continue playing video games is far from dead, and I still find myself excited by upcoming titles. I do find myself yearning for the days when I could come home, plop on the couch, and play the new Batman for four hours straight hunting Riddler trophies or knocking a chunk out of Final Fantasy 9's story progression; and sure, it now takes me a month to finish a game I could usually do in a week! However, when the console turned off, I always had that feeling of "now what". I remember wishing I had something else, or someone else to share my time with outside of gaming. She has given me that and then some. That is something I look forward to in our marriage.

Will we fight about this? Oh I fully expect so, but the fact she knows what it means to me and the fact she has purchased something to fuel that passion...well that is something I expect to pay back in kind. Marriage is all about sacrifice, and that will have to come from both of us.

If my groom's cake is any indication, that time to put the controller down and walk away is far from over.

Monday, September 14, 2015

Starcraft II: Legacy of the Void hits this November

Starcraft II remains the beacon through the swarm of recent MOBAs of an RTS that captivated a generation. The latest expansion to that game will be here soon.

Legacy of the Void will be released November 10th, 2015. Much like the previous expansion Heart of the Swarm, you can expect new units, maps, and a continuation of the campaign.

Friday, September 11, 2015

Batman: Arkham Knight Review - I Am the Night

Score: 9.25 / 10
Batman: Arkham Knight
PC - Xbox One - PS4
Developer: Rocksteady
Publisher: Rocksteady
Release Date: June 23rd, 2015

  • Stunning performances drive a powerful conclusion to the trilogy
  • The Batmobile is a fun addition to travel the city in
  • Combat is fluid, and complex enough for challenging fights
  • Clever camera play adds a lot to the experience
  • Side content provides plenty to do and contributes to Gotham's liveliness 
  • Batmobile feels like lost potential
  • Lackluster secret ending for efforts of finding all trophies 
As I stared at the credits for Arkham Knight, stills of past installments adorned a gigantic team of names and the nostalgia of first entering the asylum hit me all over again. The joy of wheeling in Joker as I passed iconic Batman villains, the fun of stealthily taking out Mr. Freeze in Arkham City, and the overall joy of flying over Gotham and swooping down to save a citizen. This franchise has been a love letter to fans of the animated series and comic books alike, and not only proved how superhero games can be done, but the incredible impact a game can have with characters and villains you have known since you were little. The third installment is full of surprises, heartfelt goodbyes, and non stop action; closing out one of the greatest gaming trilogies to grace a console.

Gravelly Voice Not Included

The great appeal of Arkham Knight comes from the clever play on presentation. Batman is in a darkened state of mind after the events of the previous game, and without giving away too many spoilers, he is becoming a bit disheveled since the death of the Joker. Including the mystery of the Arkham Knight's identity, Scarecrow acts as the main protagonist and is all about hallucinations of your biggest fears, which the game plays on through clever camera placement; oftentimes you will look down a room, turn around, and find the walls have disappeared or you are walking through a memory without even realizing it. The story kept me guessing as to what was real, and what was morphing into an illusion.

The city, despite being primarily evacuated, is a living, breathing entity compared to Arkham City. Cop cars chasing down thugs, riots overtaking a street corner, and the alarm of a bank to signify a heist is underway; driving through Gotham is an unpredictable and wondrous thing. The visual detail extends from breathtaking views to intricate character models, bringing the animated series to a grittier life. The familiar soundtrack acts as a compliment to the previous two installments, while gaining its own identity in heightening the dark overtone of the game. As you glide over the city or boost around in the Batmobile, you never know what could await you at each corner.

Not a single gas station nearby...

The franchise keeps the familiar gameplay approach it became famous for, mixing action and stealth with open world gameplay. Enemies are faster and more brutal than previous installments with medics that revive fallen troops, electrical auras that protect enemies, and tougher generals requiring you to adapt on the fly with the multitude of gadgets to open them up for attack. The stealthier segments offer the same approach, with new overflying drones that you can hack and the potential to be flushed out of hiding spots to adapt on the fly. It is engaging enough for new players to pick up, but with enough subtle changes to keep veterans of the franchise on their toes.

Spicing things up this time around are the multitude of new features. The Batmobile makes the most obvious new addition to the arsenal with the ability to be used for traversal and combat, offering a new way to travel across the city and is prominently featured in many missions. Though the combat can be fun and tearing through Gotham is a blast, the standard use of the Batmobile loses its luster after a time. It is hard to beat flying through the cityscape, grappling from building to building with no limits. Additionally, new dual team events occur in which Batman will fight with an AI controlled ally, capable of switching on the fly mid combo. It works well with the free flow combat, and provides for some variance in certain situations to fight as Robin or Nightwing while an AI takes over for Batman. These segments were short lived, but memorable.

Alley-oop with a side of justice

Most of the side content offered rivals the main storyline, and eventually becomes a requirement to get the best ending. Each task offers an encounter with a familiar Batman villain, oftentimes through investigations or elimination of enemy threats. You will be tasked with stopping bank heists, dismantling mines scattered through the city, and even helping Catwoman escape The Riddler's latest game. There are also smaller tasks like solving all of Riddler's trophies, once again scattered through Gotham. Even at three games in, the puzzles proved enticing and the big green questions marks that stared me in the face beckoned me over plenty of times to abandon my current task in favor of beating Riddler at his game. Outside of the story are plenty of Challenge maps, most plucked from in-game segments or encounters that can be played for record times/combos to gain medals.

It is hard to say goodbye to the Arkham series, but when you close a blockbuster out as well as this game it is easier to let go. Arkham Knight hits all the high points where it matters; a solid story, easy and challenging gameplay, and a multitude of content to keep you coming back for more. Though the necessity to unlock all three hundred or so trophies from Riddler was a slight buzzkill, the side content still manages to entice you to see it through to the end. Arkham Knight is a game not soon forgotten, and a franchise worthy of the Dark Knight.

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Let's Play Syndicate w/ Unabridged Gamer

Recently I teamed with Unabridged Gamer to revisit the classic title, Syndicate. We laughed, we cried, we realized how much everything looks like Chicago; but overall we had fun with a highly underrated titled.

You can see my review for it from way back in 2012 here.

Friday, September 4, 2015

Friday Spotlight - Scalebound

Xbox One
Developer: Platinum Games
Publisher: Microsoft Studios
Release Date: Late 2016

Fans of How to Train Your Dragon will soon be able to live out the movie. In this action RPG you control a dragon sidekick that you are bonded to in fighting a multitude of enemies. You are not completely helpless, as the main character Drew can use swords, arrows, and other weaponry to combat the enemies as well. He even has the ability to use a super form to shapeshift and increase strength to go toe to toe with larger, more intimidating enemies.

Enemies range from helpless soldiers to larger more intimidating creatures of Draconis, hinting at large scale boss fights or massive battles with armies of troops.

With any RPG, customization is available to tailor your inventory and weaponry to your liking. Your companion dragon can be chosen and evolved, customized in both look and battle approach.  Skill points can be assigned after gaining them from battle performance, strengthening Drew or boosting his healing to his bonded dragon.

The game will also feature a four player cooperative mode, though not much is known about it at this time.

More details are sure to come, but the gameplay video alone looks promising with potential for massive bosses and memorable encounters.

Scalebound is currently set to release late next year.

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Resident Evil 0 Retail Release Date

Hot off the heels of the Resident Evil 2 remake announcement, there is now an official date for Resident Evil 0 - This January,.

This title will be bundled with Resident Evil HD Remake and will retail for $39.99 for Xbox One and Playstation 4. If you already own a copy of the HD remake, then a digital version will also be available for $19.99, but the release of this is unclear as of now. [1]

It also turns out that Albert Wesker will be available in this mode, coming with his own abilities to be more than a simple skin to choose.

[1] - Gameinformer - [Update] Resident Evil 0 HD Has a Retail Release Date in January, Digital Timing not Finalized - http://www.gameinformer.com/games/resident_evil_0/b/xboxone/archive/2015/09/01/resident-evil-0-hd-has-a-retail-release-date-digital-still-early-2016.aspx

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Uncharted 4 is Charted for Release This Spring

The latest installment in the popular Uncharted franchise, Uncharted 4: A Thief's End, finally has a date to put on your calendar. Playstation 4 owners will be able to play the much anticipated installment on March 18th. [1]

There are two special editions to choose from:

In the Uncharted 4: Special Edition you will find:
  • Uncharted 4: A Thief's End Blu Ray
  • Collectible Steel Bookcase
  • 48 page hardcover art book
  • Naughty Dog and Pirate Sigil Sticker Sheet
  • Naughty Dog Points to unlock multiplayer content

Uncharted 4: Libertalia Collector's Edition
  • 12" Nathan Drake Statue
  • Three multiplayer outfits
  • Three custom weapon skins
  • Three custom ball caps
  • Madagascar Sidekick Outfits
  • Exclusive dagger taunt
  • Thief's End Dynamic Theme
You can also pre-order Digital Standard Editions/Deluxe Editions featuring a lot of the aforementioned content. 

[1] - Playstation Blog - Uncharted 4 release date announced, collector's editions detailed - blog.eu.playstation.com/2015/08/31/uncharted-4-release-date-announced-collectors-editions-detailed/

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Kingdom Hearts 3D: Dream Drop Distance Review - Drop it Like It's Hot

Score: 7.5 / 10
Kingdom Hearts 3D: Dream Drop Distance
Nintendo 3DS
Developer: Square Enix
Publisher: Square Enix
Release Date: July 21st, 2012

  • Classic Kingdom Hearts combat alive and well
  • Disney inspired worlds are true to their source material
  • Dream Eater mechanic is enjoyable for collectors at heart
  • More challenging boss encounters than previous titles
  • Drop mechanic does little besides interrupt your current session
  • Worlds can feel empty and closed off
  • Command List is tough to navigate on the fly to the ability you want
You know that feeling you get when you are playing a game, and you are completely in the zone but the batteries in your controller give out and the game pauses, interrupting the very intense fight you were just about to overcome? Square Enix decided to make a game based around that premise with Kingdom Hearts: Dream Drop Distance. The fun of Kingdom Hearts combat is there, and the enjoyable atmosphere of classic Disney films are ever present; but all of that is tucked away beneath a game mechanic that adds little to the experience besides the continual glance at a clock, wondering how much time is left before your narcolepsy takes over and you are forced to live out the plot of The Hangover in piecing together what you were doing.

Careful with that sword Minnie!
Following the events of the second game, you pick up with Sora and Roku as they work toward their Master Class Training for Keyblade Masters. This is all to prepare for the events of the third installment. They must both "wake the ones who sleep" and dive into the dream world in order to complete their training. If you are new to the series, prepare to be overwhelmed by six games worth of backstory and terminology. If you are an active follower of the series...prepare to be overwhelmed by six games of backstory and terminology you forgot. The plot is an intriguing journey, but requires a lot of previous knowledge to truly enjoy. There are still the simple tales of each dream world you visit, playing out events of the movies almost shot for shot; but the overarching premise is the central focus of your mission. While new players can eventually piece it all together, those who have been committed to the franchise will have a true appreciation of how it all plays out.

The basis of the game is swapping between Riku and Sora as they fight their way through waves of dream eaters, ultimately facing a boss before saving the world and moving to the next Disney inspired tapestry. The primary drop mechanic is meant to intertwine these two tales, but ultimately feels like I am playing two separate save files of the same game. There are items to hold off from dropping and each time you drop, you can boost the other character depending on how much you gathered during your set time. Despite all of this, the mechanic does too little to have any real effect other than interrupting a boss encounter or story progression. Luckily you can drop at any time, so if you prefer to finish out a world you can drop immediately after taking control of the other character.

Please don't fall asleep at the wheel...
The worlds you explore are what makes Kingdom Hearts so memorable, and the variety offered in Dream Drop still leave you feeling a sense of childish excitement as the title card for each world lights up. The disappointing beginning worlds of Tron and Notre Dame left a lot to be desired with repeating hallways and textures, but soon the animated world of the Mousekateers or wonderment of Dumbo takes over and reminds you why you enjoy the series in the first place. Though fun to look at the worlds themselves feel less lively than previous games, with empty corridors and towns. There are a few open areas to encourage exploration and many chests tucked behind corners or tops of buildings.

Veterans of the series should feel right at home with the combat system. You vary between hacking away at enemies or abilities from your command list, which are automatically shuffled to your ability button while others are on cooldown. You pick from a wide range of abilities to put on this command list, with the potential to tailor it for bosses or multiple enemies. The issue is that it can be difficult to cycle to the command you really want, oftentimes trying to find a cure spell while being harassed by a boss. There is also a free-running component that allows Sora/Riku to grind rails or fly off walls, adding much more speed and ferocity to traversing the maps.

New to the series are the Dream Eater companions. Gathering materials from fallen enemies you can create a Spirit that acts as your second and third party member. Each Spirit is akin to Pokemon, with varying abilities and effects that grow stronger as you fight with them. There is also the ability to fight with your spirit in Flip Mode, an arena like mini game that allows you to battle AI controlled or player controller spirits using the bottom screen to play a numbers game to attack or defend. While an interesting concept, I miss being able to fight alongside the Disney characters, and the lost opportunity of fighting alongside the Three Mousekateers or the Hunchback of Notre Dame left me ultimately disappointed.

Snorlax and Snubbull, I choose you!

Dream Drop is a game that is constantly interrupted, but still enjoyable for fans of the series. There are a ton of Spirit customizations, treasure chests, and side collectibles to power and strengthen your team as you see fit. The worlds, though initially dull, soon become much more alive and unique. The lost potential is hard to shake off, but all in all, if you love Kingdom Hearts you are able to look past the bizarre outer shell to what makes the series fun.