Octopath Traveler: First Impressions

Octopath Traveler was one of the games revealed at the first big Switch event way back in January of 2017. As a retro-styled JRPG from the same team at Square-Enix that did Bravely Default and its sequel, I was immediately interested. Over time, it even managed to become one of my most hotly anticipated major Switch releases, despite the fact that I ignored both demos for the sake of being able to get the most out of the full release.

And now, I have had the game for three full days and have only been able to put just shy of three hours into it. Which is weird, because usually when I get a game that I’m this hyped about, that’s basically all I’ll do during the release weekend. (Or for the next two months, if it’s a Xenoblade game.) Even though I haven’t been able to spend a lot of time with it, I’ve already got a lot of strong feelings about Octopath Traveler, and most of them are good!

Most importantly, the premise of the game is that you’re following the stories of eight different characters, who will (presumably) all meet up and join forces to defeat a greater evil, much like in Dragon Quest IV. The difference here is that while DQIV take you on a guided tour of all the characters’ stories in a predetermined order, Octopath lets you choose your starting character, and the order in which you meet up with everyone else. It’s almost like a Mega Man RPG!

I really like this format, as while the stories are always going to be the same, it’ll encourage replays, as you can try different paths through the game. I’ve heard that dialogue changes depending on who is in your party, and that your initial character choice will affect certain parts of the game. The freedom to go about as you please also makes me wonder if you don’t have to recruit everyone? Or if you can even choose to play the entire game with a single character? Who knows! I don’t! And I’m not looking it up ‘cause I don’t want spoilers!

Anyway, I started the game as H’aanit the huntress. At least to me, she seemed like the obvious choice. With weapon proficiencies in bows and axes (the best weapons), the ability to capture and summon monsters in battle, and a snow leopard as a best friend, why would you choose anyone else? H’aanit’s story begins with the hunt of a rampaging monster who has been killing people and (more importantly?) disrupting the ecosystem of the forest. Once that little introductory scenario plays out, you leave on a grand journey across the world to find H’aanit’s master.

The forest quest seemed fairly simple at first, as every encounter is one-on-one and you can usually just capture every monster to end fights quickly. But then I got to the boss and… it was a really rough battle! Balancing the need to break its guard with using your boost points at the right time was tricky, and I even needed to pop a couple healing items to survive. Who has ever heard of that? Having to heal at the first boss? Of course this all paled in comparison to the second boss I went up against, who wiped my party the first time around and forced me to use a bunch of revives (“olive of life” as they’re called here) to just barely claim victory on my second try. I get the feeling that Octopath Traveler won’t be pulling any punches!

Speaking of the battle system, it’s surprisingly awesome. Every monster has a little number representing their defense. When you hit them that many times with a weapon/element they’re susceptible to, their guard is broken and you get a free turn to wail on them for extra damage. If that sounds vaguely familiar, it’s because that’s basically how the battle system in Final Fantasy XIII worked. The main difference here is that you’re in complete control of your party, and not just telling them when to switch into a defensive stance or healing mode. Now I was one of those weirdos who greatly enjoyed FFXIII, so obviously when you take that and make it more engaging, it’s going to win me over big time. Plus you also get access to subclasses later on that lets you mix and match passive abilities like in Final Fantasy Tactics, which I am all about.

One thing I don’t really understand yet is the field abilities. Or, I should say, I don’t understand H’aanit’s field ability. Every character has one unique way to interact with NPC characters, and H’aanit has the ability to… have her monsters beat the crap out of people. Seriously. It makes you enter a battle with a common townsperson and then knock them out with your monster buddies. Ophelia the cleric can have people follow the party so you can summon them into battle to help out with random skills. But H’aanit just beats people up and takes their lunch money. I’m sure there’s a practical use for this skill, but I really have no idea what it is, and experimentation with it is making me feel bad.

So all that aside, I think the only problem I have with the game so far is that the mini-map is really just a radar. Like, it’s a foggy patch of black and grey with points of interest floating around in there all nebulously and whatnot. It’s not really a problem, because the maps aren’t especially complicated (yet), but the cartographer in me desperately wants to have a real map that fills in as I explore. And I don’t know, maybe one of the later characters will give me that ability. Or not, but I’mma keep my fingers crossed.

And so finally, I can proclaim that yes, after three hours, Octopath Traveler is 2018 GOTY.

Well, maybe not. But it is very good! And now that I’m done work for the day, I have the rest of the week off, and I fully intend to play Octopath until I pass out from exhaustion tonight. Or until I run into an ever harder boss and need to step back for a while to collect my thoughts and plan out a better strategy. Whichever one comes first. Either way I am pumped!

(It also really bugs me that they don’t spell “Traveler” with two Ls, but what can you do?)

Halfway mark to GOTY

You know, I’ve been keeping this data current, so I might as well post about it.

Currently, there are 19 video games that are eligible for the inevitable Top X Video Games Beaten in 2018 article (I don’t know how many spots I’m going to have this year). That number would be reduced to a paltry five if I only included games released in 2018.

Of those, I feel like three have guaranteed spots, and only one is an actual 2018 game.

The rest are six maybes, four that I’m kinda meh on, and six that are definite nos.

The moral of the story is that I’ve clearly been playing too many games that I don’t really like this year. I may have to do a reassessment of the list with a more forgiving heart. Keeping in mind that I immediately cut 32 of the 54 games eligible for 2017’s list, so the ratio of definite nos to total games is still a lot better this year (32% in 2018, 59% in 2017).

Remembering the Cottage: Part 2

Happy Canada Day! To celebrate, let’s go way back and take a look at something that was an integral part of Canada Day for me for many years. Yes, that’s right, it’s finally time for the long-awaited Remembering the Cottage: Part Two

I have been slowly writing this article since 2007, which is not the longest that I’ve ever procrastinated on writing something, but it is a concept so close to my heart, so important to the foundation of who I am, that I feel terrible for not having finished writing it at some point in the last eleven years. During that time, many details have certainly been forgotten and memories jumbled up, so this is definitely not going to be as historically accurate as it should be.

To help illustrate, in the time since I posted Part One: two generations of Nintendo consoles passed; Obama’s tenure as US President began and ended; smartphones replaced flip-phones and human-to-human contact; I purchased two homes; I met a girl who I dated, married and divorced; and I bumbled my way into a job that eventually led to what darn well better be my career at this point.

I don’t know how long this article is going to go on for, but if the previous part is anything to go by, it’ll be a whopper. You all know the story anyway, and if you don’t, maybe go check out Part One and then come back. So let’s just skip the formalities and head right in, yes?

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Monthend Video Game Wrap-Up – June 2018

Yes, Monthend Roundup or whatever it’s called is being posted a day early. That’s because there’s a HUGE article coming out tomorrow, and it’s very important to me that it goes live on Canada Day. So that’s that. Why am I explaining this? You don’t care.

~ Game Over ~

Mega Man 8 (Switch) – I was never a huge fan of this one, and replaying it in 2018 only serves to remind me of how it just doesn’t measure up to the rest of the series.

Bloodstained: Curse of the Moon (Switch) – A truly immaculate homage to Castlevania 3. Maybe a little on the easy side, but at least it never feels impossibly difficult, like its inspiration.

Mega Man 5 (Switch) – Now this one, this game is way too easy. The one NES Mega Man that I can burn through without even considering a save state. But it’s still very charming and creative!

Mega Man (Switch) – I don’t especially like Mega Man One. Why are his feet so slippery? Why do those big stompy guys hurt so much? How do you beat Yellow Devil without cheating?

Shaq-Fu: A Legend Reborn (Switch) – I’ll just say this: I’m glad I got this for free.

~ Now Playing ~

Pokémon Quest (Switch) – It’s a grind. A never-ending and wholly unsatisfying grind. Luckily, you can just set it to auto and let it grind itself. I still wouldn’t recommend it. Grind.

Tales of Berseria (PS4) – I have no idea why Berseria isn’t jiving with me the way other Tales games have. Whenever I play, I get a strong urge to do anything else after about 10 minutes.

MGSV: The Phantom Pain (PC) – I have become obsessed with this game, and now whenever I see a cargo container, I instinctively want to attach a Fulton balloon to it to steal it away.

Fallout Shelter (Switch) – It reminds me a lot of Middle Manager of Justice, only more post-apocalyptic. I don’t know that I have room in my life for another “waiting” game, though.

Fran Bow (PC) – A horror-themed point-and-click adventure game about a sick little girl who abuses pills to hallucinate solutions to puzzles. Also she may or may not have killed her parents.

I Am Setsuna (Switch) – Picked this back up because I want to finish it before Octopath Traveler next month. Unfortunately, I was saved right before a ridiculously hard boss…

 

Top 6 surprises in Kirby Star Allies

Before Kirby Star Allies was released, I wasn’t sure if I was really going to buy it or not. Kirby has always been one of my favourite Nintendo mascots, but the last three main-series Kirby games have been basically the same game with a new gimmick and different sub-games. And honestly, you can say that about most of the series in general. But Star Allies’ big hook is that it is a multiplayer-focused game (very similar to Return to Dream Land), and me being more of a lone wolf, I didn’t see a ton of appeal there.

Obviously, I did end up buying the game in the end, because that’s what I do. And I turned out to be pleasantly surprised with the result! While the core gameplay remains faithful to what you’d expect from the Kirby series, HAL turned the formula on its ear just enough to make Star Allies feel like a fresh take on Kirby. So today, I want to take a quick look at five of the things that surprised me the most about Kirby Star Allies.

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Nintendo @ E3 2018

This is it: the big collection of video game commercials that I’d been aching for since March. Okay, yeah, with that qualification, it’s obvious that I was 90% in it just for the Smash. But hey, there were other neat things, too! Let’s take a look at the sentence or two that I had to say about them!

Daemon X Machina – OOH ANIME MECHS. I LIKE. It’s like the best parts of Xenoblade X but made by Platinum and Suda51. (Except not. It’s actually Marvelous making it.)

Xenoblade 2 DLC – Speaking of Xenoblade… Hey it’s that promised story expansion DLC for the game that I’ve still only seen like 50% of. It’s a prequel with a new titan, I guess? I don’t know, the narration was Japanese and my phone was sitting on a stand that obscured the subtitles. Obviously I’m going in on it, because Xenoblade 2 is freakin’ sweet and yeah I’ll take any more of it that they’re willing to give me.

Pokémon Let’s Go – No new information here. Just Reggie pimping the lame Pokéball Plus accessory. But it does give you a free Mew, so…

Super Mario Party – I don’t have friends, so I don’t care. And even if I did, I’m sure they’d just dump all over it instead of playing with me. Dig the logo, though.

Fire Emblem: Three Houses – It’s Fire Emblem on Switch, which is so cool, which I’m down with. But I have played exactly one Fire Emblem game ever, and I have my doubts that I’ll be adding this one to the list any time soon.

Fortnite – Nope. Don’t care. I do like how not-gritty it is, though. And cool that it’s out NOW.

Overcooked 2 – I’ve heard many times that Overcooked is great, but again, with the lack of friends and all.

Killer Queen Black – Like, seriously. No friends. Okay, one friend. But that’s still not really enough to care about multiplayer party games.

Hollow Knight – Ah! A single-player game! There we go! But I’ve played it already, so… oh, what? It’s available today? And only $17? Hey, I mean, it’s not like I paid money to play it the first time…

Octopath Traveler – New demo with carry-over data… but I really don’t have time to fit that in at the moment. I don’t even know that I’ll be able to make time for the full game come July.

Sizzle reel – Mostly things shown at other presentations, or that are already out, or are getting DLC soon. Nothing that made me shriek with joy. Dark Souls still doesn’t have a release date, and Monster Hunter Generations Ultimate made an appearance. Hi, 5 seconds of Mega Man 11!

Super Smash Bros Ultimate – There was a lot to process here, so rather than trying to clean it up, here’s my stream-of-consciousness notes, hastily typed as I was watching: Oh Sakurai, you joker. Link has new moves!  Zelda is Link Between Worlds style!! (<3) Ice Climbers are back! Pokémon trainer! Lucas! Ryu! Ganondorf looks better than ever! Cloud! SNAKE IS BACK! Pichu! Toon Link AND Young Link! Wolf! MEGAMAN! Every fighter ever is back! This is amazing news!  BIG BLUUUUE! Daisy?? (Aw, dangit.) Inkling seems awesome, and I love the Squid Sisters assist trophy. But where’s Off The Hook? Bomberman assist trophy? Nice! Ooh and a deadly Fake Smash Ball! GOOD LORD RIDLEY MURDERED MARIO AND MEGA MAN.

Verdict: Super Smash Bros Ultimate is out on December 7 and that’s all that matters. Everything else was gravy at best, or I just didn’t care. Smash is all I wanted from this presentation. It’s all I wanted from this E3. And by God, they delivered!

Migraine Watch – June 11, 2018

After a long day of work and E3 excitement, I laid down on the couch at the end of the day to watch some YouTube before going to bed. I was drifting off a bit, and noticed that my arm was going all tingly. I naturally assumed it was because I had laid on it funny. But then the tingliness moved up to my face, and that’s when I knew that a migraine was coming.

I mean, it’s not like I had been resting on my face in a way that would make it go numb. Right? Is that a thing that can happen?

Anyway, I managed to beat this one to the punch again, as I immediately turned off the TV, popped an ibuprofen, and went to bed. As the tingling faded, I could feel my brain try to scream out in pain, but it was too late, the medication had worked. While it was still a little annoying and made me take a little longer to fall asleep than expected, all was good and I slept soundly through the night. I had a little residual pain the next morning, like you do, but nothing that would stop me from going about my usual day.

As for causes? Honestly, I’m not sure. Work has been a little stressful lately, and I’m definitely feeling worn out from class, but neither one feels really overwhelming. Diet and activity levels are about the same as ever.

It may have actually been the garbage stream of the Playstation E3 showcase, which skipped back two seconds every seven seconds, making it actively stressful to watch and difficult to follow. Or maybe the fact that I was watching it on my phone with one earbud in, with The Bachelorette on in the background and my parents talking rather loudly about the show. Sensory overload, too much for my brain to try to take in all at the same time, and then it just crapped out a couple hours later.

Hey, I don’t know. I’m not some kind of brain doctor. I’m just keeping these logs to try to figure out what my migraine trigger is. And to document the more exaggerate auras. This instance of tingly arm/face was actually pretty tame. I was weirdly disappointed.

Playstation @ E3 2018

Normally, I don’t really care all too much about E3 presentations that aren’t Nintendo’s, especially now that I have a stricter budget for video games, and I’m better off being excited by as few games as possible. That and I have a long history of not really giving a damn about most of Sony’s tentpole franchises. Despite all that, I found myself getting pretty excited to see their big show last night, and I have some very brief impressions of the commercials that I saw.

And before I actually talk about games here, I’d just like to point out that I really couldn’t stand the whole SportsCenter discussion thing they were doing for the first half of the presentation. When CEO man was up there on his own doing his hurrah-hurrahs and bad jokes, that’s okay and expected. But the between-trailer cheerleading was just blah.

The Last of Us Part II – Nope. I wasn’t even that into the first game, but this one seems to have removed all the mushroom zombies and doubled-down on mutilating humans in the most violent ways imaginable. So I just can’t even be bothered.

Call of Duty Something or Other – I don’t know, man. I literally got up and walked away while they were talking COD. But at this point, I think I’d be more into playing a COD campaign than something like The Last of Us Part II.

PSVR sizzle reel – No, I can’t afford a PSVR headset and I don’t really want one either.

Ghost of Tsushima – Another game focused on hyper-violence. But at this one has a cool samurai theme, and looks gorgeous. But I would like to say that I dislike the pre-recorded tutorial mission playthrough as a “trailer.” Just give me the usual highlight reel, please.

Control – I don’t really know what this is. I guess it looked kinda neat, but then again, maybe not?

Resident Evil 2 Remake – YESSSS. I forgot this was a thing! Then it came out of nowhere! The lead-in was a little overdone, and there was no gameplay footage, but HOT DAMN am I ever excited that this is finally coming in January! RE2 is my sentimental favourite Resident Evil, so this is a really, really big deal to me.

Kingdom Hearts III – Oh! Another new trailer! Back to pirate world! And there’s ship-to-ship battles? Heck yeah! There was something else in there that I was really into, but it’s slipped my mind at the moment. Also, did I see two Rikus?

Death Stranding – It’s so weird, and I still have like zero idea of what even it’s about. Just footage of Protagonist wandering across different biomes, with assorted things and mummies strapped to his back. Also giant ghost fetuses? And some kind of radar baby? I won’t lie, I really want to know more about it, but I’m not expecting it to end up being something I go wild about.

Spider-Man – Again with the tutorial mission playthrough trailer. But it’s offset here because SPIDER-MAN and WOW! Releasing on Sept 7? I know what I’m asking for for my birthday!

And there may have even been more that I forgot because I was so disinterested in the first half of this show. Honestly, the stream quality was terrible and totally ruined my experience, making me less receptive to these trailers than I would have been otherwise. But at least the second half was full of really cool things that I’m really interested in! Anyhow, tune in later for the rundown of the show I’ve actually been waiting for!

Square-Enix @ E3 2018

I listened to Square-Enix’s E3 press conference at work today. To say that listening to this video showcase instead of watching it took away some of the magic is an understatement; I registered so little hype from just listening to these trailers. To be fair, most of these games I probably wouldn’t have cared about too much anyway.

Shadow of the Tomb Raider – I still haven’t played either of the previous games, so I have very little stock in this. It seems an awful lot like the kind of thing I’d like, but there’s currently a 100% chance that I will never actually find the time to play it.

Final Fantasy XIV: Stormblood – Nope. Still don’t give a single flip about online Final Fantasies. The new Monster Hunter crossover content seems neat, but not enough to make me care at all.

The Awesome Adventures of Captain Spirit – So this is a free not-prologue to Life is Strange 2? Okay, cool. If it’s free, why the heck wouldn’t I try it? I liked Life is Strange quite a lot.

Dragon Quest XI – Yeah, I already know I want to play this. And the trailer did nothing for me because… it’s Dragon Quest. JRPG story trailers are all dumb cliché lines and I doubt the gameplay would be especially exciting to show off. Strange that they only showed off the PS4 version, but I guess the Switch version is just that far off.

Babylon’s Fall – I have no idea what this is outside of the fact that it’s developed by Platinum Games. So I’m definitely interested, but I’ll have to wait and see more before I invest myself emotionally or financially. (Apparently they showed no gameplay. Always a great sign.)

NiER: Automata – It’s on Xbox One now. Good for them. I love this game.

Octopath Traveler – The only Switch game in this presentation, but the only one I need to see. I am so hype for this, and it’s only a month away!

Just Cause 4 – I’m not going to start caring at the fourth game. Tornadoes are neat, though.

The Quiet Man – A mute guy who punches dark-alley punks. I’m going to need a lot of very good reasons why I should even begin to care about this. At least it’s not another sequel?

Kingdom Hearts III – Yep, mm-hmm. On board, obviously. I love the Sora & friends designs for the Monsters Inc world, and I genuinely cannot wait to goof around in the Toy Story and Wreck-It Ralph worlds. I don’t know if I’ll actually buy it, though. I’ll likely just borrow it from my brother like I did with all the other Kingdom Hearts games.

And that was that! Overall: underwhelming? Yeah. 3.5/10. The three games I’m strongly interested in, I was already sold on months or years ago, and Captain Spirit is mostly getting my attention because it’s free. I really hope the Sony presentation tonight is more exciting! Nintendo’s show (which airs tomorrow) automatically gets a pass because it’s going to have Super Smash Bros, but I have no idea if whatever else they show will be enough to stand out next to Smash. I just want a Metroid Prime 4 trailer.

Last Month in Movies – May 2018

Avengers: Infinity War – Luckily, it didn’t take me nearly as long to get to this one as it did to finally see Black Panther. Because holy cow this was probably my movie of the summer. But we’ll just have to wait and see how Solo is.

Let’s start off by saying yeah, there’s a lot going on here, and you’ve got at least a dozen movies to watch if you really want to understand what’s going on with most of these characters. But since I’ve seen them all (except Ant-Man, but he wasn’t in Infinity War) it was all good for me. To give the very most basic gist of it: you’ve got three groups of super-heroes going about their business to stop the warlord Thanos from exterminating half the life in the universe. Iron Man and friends in space out to stop Thanos at his base of operations; Captain America and friends on Earth trying to destroy Vision’s infinity gem to thwart Thanos’ plan; and Thor, Rocket, and Groot out in a different part of space on a quest to forge a weapon strong enough to defeat Thanos.

Despite having to jump back and forth between several different plot lines, Infinity War never gets muddled. A lot of characters barely get any screen time outside of fight sequences, but you expect that. I was just happy that Spider-Man and Dr. Strange got to be pretty focal characters. But speaking of focal characters, I think the most important thing to take away from this whole movie is Thanos himself. They did an amazing job of giving him a ton of personality and making him unexpectedly sympathetic even though his endgame is to exterminate 50% of all life. And it’s all in the sake of bringing “balance” to the universe, because his own home planet was destroyed by overpopulation. He’s not really evil, he’s just grossly misguided and unfortunately, has the power to achieve his goals. My knee-jerk reaction is that Thanos is probably one of my favourite movie villains of all time. Right up there with Darth Vader and Freddy Krueger.

TMNT: Out of the Shadows – I was browsing through my Netflix queue on a Friday night, and nothing there appealed to me. So instead I watched this. I think I made the right choice.

It’s the second live-action TMNT movie from Platinum Dunes, and hands down the better of the two. For one, the Turtles get a lot more screen time. Secondly, it’s got wonderful, cartoony incarnations of Krang, Bebop, and Rocksteady. I also quite like Tyler Perry as Baxter Stockman. Shame they’ll never make a third movie, because I really want to see what they do with his mutated form. Anyway, this is one of those “fun summer action movies” which I guess wouldn’t grade as an Actual Good Film, but certainly I don’t regret having watched it three times now.

Deadpool – No, I hadn’t seen it until now. I know, I’m the worst. I had been meaning to forever, and only finally got around to it because a friend invited me to go to see Deadpool 2.

I liked Deadpool, but I think that too many people giving it too much praise made me go in expecting too much. Like, it was really good, but it didn’t change my life. I still think the Guardians of the Galaxy movies are the best Marvel has to offer and Thor: Ragnarok is the funniest. Also, I have no idea why being in the oxygen deprivation tube thingy made Wade’s skin all gross? Maybe I missed the line explaining it, or just don’t have the scientific knowledge, but it didn’t make any sense to me. Whatever.

I’m sorry, that’s too much complaining. Deadpool is great! Watch it!

Deadpool 2 – People seem to be pretty strongly split on it, but I am firmly in the camp that believes Deadpool 2 is highly superior to the first film. Because it is. That’s a fact.

While the first one was very good for an origin story (they’re always so formulaic), Deadpool 2 goes a long way to mix things up. …Okay, it does a few things here and there to mix things up. It still follows the typical superhero formula, but at least there are a few surprises along the way. Like how the whole X-Force thing plays out. I honestly didn’t see that one coming. And now I’ve kind of spoiled it for you by even saying that something unexpected happens. Whoops!

Anyhow, this movie obvious shines brightest through its sense of humour. The jokes are fast and furious, as expected, and there are plenty of great fourth-wall breaks. In particular, I was happy that there was finally a little payoff for DP whining about how there are never any X-Men besides Colossus and Negasonic Teenage Warhead in Xavier’s mansion. And the mid-credits scenes… ah, beautiful!  Yes, you may have heard some internet rumblings about some “fridging” issues, but to that I say… whatever. It’s not like it turned the movie into a clichéd quest for revenge. It broke Deadpool with guilt and pushed the plot along by making him be an even bigger jerk than usual. But that’s a whole other can of beans. For now, just know that I highly recommend Deadpool 2.

My Friend Dahmer – Somehow, Saturday evening has become a time where my mother and I watch movies together. Which is fine, except for our tastes couldn’t be any more different.

This is the story of Jeffery Dahmer, infamous serial killer and cannibal. Except it’s not really about all that stuff. It’s about how he was in high school. And, I wish I had know that ahead of time, just so that I knew nothing was really going to happen. My mom also wishes she knew, because she never would have even watched the film in the first place.

I don’t think it’s bad. It’s an interesting look at how this guy was before he was a monster. And he was still a big ol’ weirdo, though mostly in ways that wouldn’t make you think he’s someone to be afraid of. At least until later on when he starts being preoccupied with what people an animals’ insides look like. I do wonder how much of this is factual and how much was played up to make a more captivating movie. In either case, it made me wonder how Dahmer would have turned out if he’d had a more stable family life. You know, nature versus nurture and all that. But I guess that’s why it’s a debate; we’ll never really know which way the other path would have gone.