Monthend Video Game Wrap-Up: May 2020

Pikmin 2 (GC) – Did you know that I’ve never actually finished Pikmin 2 before? But now I’ve beaten the final boss (twice) and claimed every treasure. Huzzah. I win. It’s still not really 100% clear because I didn’t do the 2-player mode to get the secret ending, but I have actually done that before, so… we good?

Ocarina of Time Randomizer (Wii) – It was exciting to play through a very messed-up version of OoT, and I appreciate how it really tests your knowledge of the game. I think I need to do a second run with Master Quest dungeons, because I still feel like it’s not making me work hard enough.

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I’m really feeling it

Xenoblade Chronicles Definitive Edition came out on Friday, and the very fist thing that I did after leaving work was to go out and purchase myself a copy. And it wasn’t easy, mind you.

It seems that there may have been a bit of a shortage of boxed copies going around, presumably somehow related to to good ol’ Coronavirus. Or maybe it somehow has to to with the horrible goings-on in the USA right now. But I doubt it’s the latter. Awful, awful stuff though. #BlackLivesMatter, guys.

Anyway, my first stop was EB Games in the mall, because I thought that for sure that would be the place that would definitely have copies in stock. But then the woman working there told me that every EB in the city had only received enough to fill pre-orders. So I suppose that “a global pandemic” can be added to the very short list of reasons to pre-order a high-profile Nintendo game.

Fearing that most other electronics- or entertainment-focused shops would also be sold out, because those would be the first targets for savvy shoppers, I decided that my next stop would be Wal-Mart. Also you can just stroll into Wal-Mart without having to sanitize your hands and hear the rules for navigating the store. I sanitized my hands no less than four times in less than half an hour that day.

Long story short: Wal-Mart was also sold out of copies. Or at least that’s what the guy who helped me figured. They certainly didn’t have any on hand, but there was also no proof that there had been any in the first place. I’d also like to point out that for every employee I dealt with during this adventure, I was super nice and understanding when they told me that they did not have any Xenoblades or had no idea what I was asking about. I’m always nice to people who are just doing their jobs, but… I think that especially right now, we all need to be extra nice to each other. even when mildly frustrated by first-world problems.

After that, I jogged across the parking lot to Toys ‘R’ Us, a place that I secretly wish that I had a reason to be at more often. You know, because I’m far enough away from that job that I didn’t like very much, that it’s all pleasant memories now. Anyway, the girl in the electronics department did a very good job of looking every which where for the game I had asked for, but came up with nothing. It seemed like they hadn’t gotten any in at all, which doesn’t surprise me in the least. Late new release shipments are the Toys ‘R’ Us way.

It was at that point that I was about to give up, go home, and just buy a digital version of the game, when my brother sent me a text suggesting that I give Best Buy a try. Now, I had heard that Best Buy had been closed to shoppers and doing curbside pickup for online orders, so I didn’t know what to expect. Lo and behold, not only was Best Buy open to the public, but they also had copies of Xenoblade Chronicles DE to go around, and the woman who helped me knew what I was talking about. Talk about your hat tricks! So there it was, in the place that I should have gone directly after EB failed me. So much for outsmarting the average consumer.

Walking back to my car after my small victory, I mused on the fact that I had actually had a fun little adventure that afternoon. It’s been forever since I’ve had to literally run from store to store looking for a copy of a new video game. It used to happen all the time, but pretty much anything that comes in a physical edition is a high-profile title that gets millions of copies printed, or licensed trash than I couldn’t care less about anyway. All those weird, niche games that I love so much are exclusively digital releases these days, so there’s never a hunt.

Anyway, I guess that’s what passes for an exciting story in my life these days. Not exactly edge-of-your-seat material, I know. But when I’m looking back on this post six years from now, it’ll serve a a nice reminder of that one time I had a moderate amount of trouble finding a video game because of Coronavirus. And how frivolous and carefree I was in 2020, a year that will probably turn out to be one of the bleakest in human history.

Back to the Bionis

The last couple years have seen a wealth of high-profile remade and remastered video games… but few have gotten me quite as excited as Xenoblade Chronicles: Definitive Edition. Xenoblade is easily one of my favourite games of all time, and I am so very looking forward to a version that irons out a bunch of the kinks, improves the visual presentation, and adds a big chunk of new content.

To help put this into perspective, I’ve already spent close to 150 hours on the Wii version of this game, and I am thrilled at the idea of doing it all again. Although I hear that the quest system has been streamlined to remove a whole lot of back-tracking, so it’ll be probably way less than another 150 hours, but you get what I mean.

I’ve also heard that one particular part of the combat system has been completely removed, which is super exciting to me. Namely, the part where your character’s accuracy is reduced when facing monsters with higher levels, which made fighting stronger enemies almost literally impossible. I always though that was a really stupid “feature” and I’m so glad they’ve done away with it. Taking out a foe that is way more powerful than your party is always incredibly satisfying, and I strongly disliked how Monolith Soft went out of its way to take that way from players.

Mostly I’m just really excited to go back and explore the Bionis again. I’ve been longing to replay Xenoblade for some time now (roughly since my playthrough of the 3DS port stalled out), even without the graphical overhaul of the remastered version. It’s just going to be all that much better now. Looking out over the incredible vistas was mesmerizing even when it was rendered in blocky Wii graphics, it’s going to be so nice to revisit all those memorable locations in high definition.

One last thing I need to point out is that it’s an insane coincidence that Nintendo decided to release Xenoblade DE on the same week as what would be my wedding anniversary (which is today, in fact). Why is this relevant? Because our first dance as a married couple was to “Beyond the Sky”, the song that plays over Xenoblade Chronicles’ credits. Kinda nuts, right?

Kingdom Hearts 3D: Dream Drop Distance

The Kingdom Hearts franchise and I have a… complicated history. When the first game came out in 2002, I was in a very angsty teenage phase; I had little interest in anything Disney that wasn’t a theme park, and my passion for Squaresoft was burning out quickly. I was far from the target demographic at that point. I tried playing it a bit, but it never really clicked.

Two years later, somehow the card-battling sequel for GBA, Chain of Memories, grabs my attention. I fall hard for it, and wind up obsessively playing both the original game and Kingdom Hearts II when it releases in 2006. I was deep into the franchise at that point, totally immersed in the lore (despite/because of the fact that it was completely bananas) and then… I completely fell off and didn’t play any other KH games until the PSP prequel Birth By Sleep on a whim in 2013. I don’t even remember why I picked that one up, other than giving my PSP a reason to exist.

Very recently, I found myself eager to catch up on the series. What spurred this on? Well, I purchased a copy of Kingdom Hearts III for very cheap, and thought that I had better play any important games that I had missed along the way. The good news is that the only one I’d missed (that matters) was Dream Drop Distance for the 3DS. The bad news (as I would find out) is that I would have to play Dream Drop Distance for the 3DS.

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[Insert paper pun]

Nintendo released an announcement trailer for Paper Mario: The Origami King out of nowhere yesterday morning. Oh and also it’s out in two months from now? I have thoughts about this, and they are as follows:

This game looks RAD AS HECK.

I hope the writing is as perfect as it was in Paper Mario: Color Splash.

That is all.

The Opposite of Cowabunga

You know what I really enjoy? Typing up a long, unnecessary story to set up an otherwise underwhelming thing that I want to share.

To clear up any uncertainty, yes, that’s what’s going to happen right now.

I’m a big Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles fan, as we all should be well aware. There’s always something TMNT-related going on in my life, from watching one of the shows, to reading the comics, to listening to soundtracks from the video games. Things from TMNT are also probably my most common drawing subject. Well, that or Mega Man. It’s a real close race, there.

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The Coffee Fountain and the Damp Sleeve

Gather ’round, children. It’s time for Old Man Ryan to tell you a story.

Ryan was on his way to work like any other day. He had gotten off the bus a little bit earlier than expected, because of the decrease in traffic and bus ridership caused by the coronavirus pandemic. With that extra time, he decided to go into the Tim Horton’s at the bus stop and purchase a coffee.

Having made the transaction, and now the proud owner of an excessively large cup of coffee, Ryan continued on his pilgrimage towards his workplace. The cup was leaking ever so slightly, as Tim Horton’s cups always do, so he was constantly adjusting his grip on it to avoid having the droplets get all over his hand.

But then, about halfway through his journey, the coffee spontaneously exploded. Without warning, the structural integrity of the cup gave way, causing the lid to jet off into the sky, followed by a glorious shower of scalding-hot, brown liquid. Fortunately, Ryan’s reflexes were sharp enough that he was able to dodge the worst of the eruption and save himself from being drenched in coffee. His hands were covered and one of his sleeves was mildly sprayed, but the situation could have unfolded much more unfavourably.

Quickening his steps to get into work and begin cleaning himself off, Ryan mused on what a happy coincidence it was that he’d chosen to wear his brown sweater that day. He was also relieved that the coffee was hot enough to be uncomfortable, but not so much that I would actually cause any damage to his now coffee-drenched hands.

Ryan later recounted his tale to his boss, and boss made him feel less inept by saying that he himself had had this happen before, and it had most likely been caused by the lid having not been affixed properly. Ryan still kind of liked the idea that he didn’t know his own grip strength, but he was happy to accept this version of reality where he was not at fault.

And that’s the tale of why Ryan never went to Tim Horton’s ever again.

Trials of Mana: The most faithful remake of April 2020

Last night I began playing the remake of Trials of Mana. With that other big remake that came out last month, I can’t help but feel like Square-Enix just kind of sent this one out to die. Because, man, Trials was definitely given to the B team.

I should probably set the stage before I get into this, though. Trials of Mana is generally better known as Seiken Densetsu 3. It’s the sequel to divisive SNES classic Secret of Mana that had never been released outside of Japan, until last year when an official translation was included in the Collection of Mana. It’s really too bad that it took so long, because it improves on Secret of Mana in pretty much every way. I spent a lot of time playing a fan-translated ROM of SD3 back in the day, but never finished it despite liking it quite a lot. To say that I was hype for this remake would be to put it mildly.

So now the remake is here, and if my memory can be trusted, it’s shockingly faithful to the original. Which is a nice contract to Final Fantasy VII Remake and Resident Evil 3, which diverge significantly from their source materials. I actually prefer when developers use a remake as an opportunity to do something new with an established game, but there’s also a certain charm in seeing a beloved game from your past being brought up to modern standards.

Or, modern standards of the early 2000’s, where Trials of Mana is concerned. The fact of the matter is that it feels a heck of a lot like a Wii or PS2 game. It runs really smoothly, but it just feels off. Character animations are a little clumsy (at best) and the controls are stiff. If only one game I’ve played recently could qualify to be called “janky”, Trials of Mana is a strong front runner.

But despite the jank, the hour or so that I’ve played has been fun. Combat is a little stiff, yes, but it still works very well and it’s satisfying. It’s actually not too far removed from FF7Remake, just with less polish. The character models are lovingly rendered and the environments look pretty darn good too. Again, I also really appreciate the care taken to recreate the original game, but in a 3D space. The voice acting has been mostly good, though it seems like some characters may have been voiced by localization staff when the budget for professional voice actors ran dry. And last but not least, the remixed soundtrack has been an absolute delight so far. Even if it wasn’t, there’s an option to switch to the classic (and fantastic) original SNES soundtrack. Everyone wins!

One really strange thing I’ve noticed while I explore the opening areas is that I’m getting a really strong Xenoblade Chronicles vibe. It’s hard to pinpoint why, exactly, because the two games aren’t especially similar. It may just be the general vibe; the combination of exploring a pretty world while pretty music plays in the background.

Obviously these are just my very early impressions, so I don’t know how it’s all going to roll out. I haven’t even really begun to dip into the character customization options. But I’m having fun so far! If you’re looking for a AAA-style game, you might want to mosey past this one, but I’m thinking that there’s still plenty to appreciate about Trials of Mana.

Oh man, and despite the lack of care put into almost all the other animations, the shopkeeper dance in Trials is epic.

Monthend Video Game Wrap-Up: April 2020

~ Game Over ~

Mega Man Zero 2 (GBA) – I played it again, this time using cyber elves to blow through the game like it weren’t nothing. Also I finished getting all the styles, except the one for collecting all the cyber elves. Because… I just don’t care enough.

Resident Evil 3 (PS4) – Fantastic remake. I never really got into the original RE3, but this one is just made for me. Yeah, it’s a little linear, and yeah, it’s a little more action-oriented, but those are things I like! At least, they make for less of a headache when you’re trying to route out your S-rank runs. Anyway, my first run was far from S-rank, and I died a spectacular number of times because this game is ROUGH.

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How Can One Be Bored?

Over the last month and change, people all over the world have been self-isolating and/or forced to stay in their homes to stem the tide of the coronavirus. Along with that came torrents of social media post proclaiming how bored people were now that they were confined to their homes.

To that I say… how?

I genuinely don’t understand. Last week I was on vacation, and like most, I spent almost all of that free time at home. However, I had so much going on to keep me busy that I didn’t even make time to write up any blog posts. There are dozens of other things on my to-do list that remain undone, because even when you aren’t losing a third of your day to work, there just isn’t enough time.

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