September Hype!

Hello once again! Sorry we’ve been m.i.a. for the summer, the short story is there’s been a lot going on! But we’re excited to be back and talk about some recent developments in the gaming community. We hope you all have had a great summer and are ready for some fall releases!

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Secret of Mana Remake for PS4 first look and thoughts

I meant to post this immediately following this year’s attendance at Comic Con 2017 in NYC, but hey, better a little late then never. They had a couple of games to test out on the main floor, the lines of which were pretty long when I went on Friday and then even longer on Saturday! I had some time to myself Saturday and decided to go and play Secret of Mana which is coming out this February (15th seems to be the exact date they haven’t changed as of the writing of this) for the PS4, Vita and PC, which is actually just a few months short of the 25th anniversary of it’s initial release on the Super Nintendo.

 

I originally had loaded a save file, which found myself at Neko’s just south of the Water Temple and had begun exploring when I was told I had to start a new game and play up to the first boss (grrr, I had watched others play up to that point and was hoping I could get a little further without being noticed!). So, I complied. I was brought back to the familiar beginning on top of the large log overlooking a waterfall with 3 young boys, and your character falls (to what one would assume is his death, but against all odds that’s not the case) and you’re soon greeted by a ghost and pull out a sword beginning all sorts of terribleness in this world. You know, that old chestnut.


A few things I noticed; The graphics were very large and in your face, but also childish. It was a bit like Final Fantasy Explorers for the 3DS. This was a game aimed for a younger audience back in ’93, so I can’t fault them for going cartoony and I can dig it. Also, voice acting! A welcome change to what was purely reading in the SNES days, it’s nice to have something to listen to and not just read. However, it’s like a low budget voice addition. Everyone keeps the same permanent face their character has with words coming between closed, or frowning or smiling features. However they look, there’s absolutely no lip movement to match the voice work, which is odd at first but hey, it’s a remake of something that had nothing like that at all and I am not going to nitpick something like this. Especially when by the time you get to the first town, EVERYONE has something to say, and by that I mean speak, with voice acting, and for that first town anyway, no two voices sounded the same. This guy and that guy, that old lady, shop keeper, all unique and I’m happy about that. I can’t imagine every single person in the game will be unique. I’m sure random NPC in this town will sound like another in some other town, but to at least be unique in the same town is pretty outstanding.


Combat…. is very slow paced as it was on the SNES which is fine, they don’t need to reinvent the wheel here. The original system worked well and with a couple practice swings, you re-learn the ropes of letting the numbers on your status bar tick up to 100 to perform another attack at full power. Once you earn your first charge up,  I feel the area of hit for that first charge attack is less forgiving, making it so you really need to be dead on with where the enemy is to connect or you whiff and leave yourself exposed. I don’t recall if it was that way for the original, but it keeps you on your toes. That first boss…. the giant Mantis creature, it was really cool to see them larger than life, with detail, and more than just a static image of facing forward only. Now, he can turn his body towards you and move his limbs. I always enjoyed that first simple boss and defeating him brought back the same memories of joy I had when I first played decades ago (that is so much more painful to write years ago and then realize it was actually over 20… old!).


Anything I could pick apart from this playthrough is…. well I very much dislike some of the “straight from the original” movements that I encountered. When the bully, Elliot, starts to “punch” the main character after you return to the Village Elder, and then the earthquake begins causing him to run around in panic, you do not see him throwing any punches like the original, and he runs around awkwardly on his set path, the exact path he did in the original SNES version only now it looks incredibly out of pace, rigid and just poorly done. These graphics are updated, I don’t see why they can’t just make that scene look a LITTLE better. It’s very jarring. I was able to play a little bit more after the first boss to see Dyluck and the soldiers preparing to fight the Witch, and even their abrupt movement to the left off screen was just rigid and looked out of place. Also talking to someone’s back causes that jarring “they’re suddenly looking right at you unnaturally”. A person turns their body to face you, it was understandable in the 2D SNES sprites of the past, but to see if now is just weird.


Anyway, none of those little complaints are going to matter in February when I will absolutely play this game and love it and play with friends and for a little while relive some childhood memories together. I honestly can’t remember (which is why I should have wrote this sooner when the memory was fresh!) if the soundtrack sounded updated, I don’t recall hearing anything other than the original score (which for the record, has been on cds, music players, iPods, etc., since I was able to download or rip music, so I know the score well) and it sounded like what I love, but perhaps it was re-scored? If it was it certainly wasn’t fully orchestrated or anything, that I would have noticed. It’s available for pre-purchase on steam already and pre-order on the PlayStation store, both of which offer wall-papers and 2 sets of bonus outfits for the heroes to wear (the tiger bikini for the girl I remember as an actual outfit from the original… so I’m unsure if things you can equip change your appearance or if these are special re-skins that you can only get from the pre-order. I only bought 2 pieces of clothing from the first shop and didn’t see any difference so I’m thinking it’s the latter. Actually, that reminds me! The equipment and accessories all had stats, which is definitely a new feature, which showed more than just defense, but included passive defenses like being poisoned, ballooned, etc. I like that. Adding depth to the equipment is something I definitely appreciate. In any case, expect a full review of the remake once I’ve had the chance to really sink my teeth in after it’s release in February 2018.

Stardew Valley

Hello fellow gamers! Sean here, with what I imagine most of you reading this already have already experienced it, and for those of you who haven’t, perhaps this will help give you a better understanding of what the excitement has been about since it released in February…. STARDEW VALLEY!!!! At it’s core, a farming simulator, but honestly it’s so much more than that. The concept is simple, especially if you are familiar with Rune Factory, Innocent Life or the Harvest Moon series (all of which I’m a big time fan of!). You start off an average city dweller going through the grind until you decide to open a letter from your now deceased grandfather revealing he’s left you the deed to his farm in Stardew Valley! You pack up and head to the valley to begin a new life and see what kind of opportunity farm life has to offer!

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In addition to growing and harvesting various crops, the availability of which is dependent on the season, there’s animals to raise (also a staple of the harvest moon series), fishing, mining, gathering various food, flowers and objects found in the wild. There’s various objects to craft for aesthetic purposes to make your farm look nice but most creations serve a very useful function on the farm, such as a keg for turning hops into pale ale, barley into beer or various fruit you grow to make wine, mayonnaise machine for turning eggs into mayonnaise and so on and so forth. You can do whatever you want. Hate growing crops? Go fish or forage or mine for things you can sell in your shipping box to turn a profit. How you choose to spend your time is up to you, so managing your time also becomes your responsibility. The day begins at 6am, and typically you want to be in bed before 12, staying up past 12 will result in you waking with less energy, which is your bar shown on screen that allows you to use tools such as your fishing rod, watering can to water your crops or axe to chop down trees. 2am is the absolute cutoff, you do NOT want to be caught outside bed at that time, or your character will drop to their knees and wake up in bed, with a letter from the local doctor with a bill for assisting you or sometimes from a local villager who claims they found you but not before someone was seen searching your pockets robbing you of some fundage!

There’s also an entire town of people who you can make friends with, each with their own likes and dislikes and personalities, and it’s fun to get to know their stories and interact with them on a daily basis. Gifting them food or objects they like will earn you hearts under the social tab of the menu, a maximum of 10 which will change in how they speak to you and after achieving a certain amount, they may even start sending you recipes, which you can make use of after you purchase your first house upgrade and earn a kitchen extension. There are also 10 eligible bachelors/bachelorettes available for wooing and ultimately marrying if you so choose to. ALL are available, regardless of your gender, which is also completely up to you to choose when you first start your game along with looks and name. I like that anyone can marry anyone, it’s 2016, about time! I will admit, the males don’t seem to be developed as well as the female characters, but that’s also a male’s opinion so maybe someone else disagrees, all I know is there are a lot of relationships to develop and I’m enjoying getting to know the townsfolk (some more than others of course… I’m talking about you of course Abigail).

I’ve played through an entire year as of writing this article and while I’ve seen and done so many things…. there’s still so many things I know I have yet to unlock and experience. Plenty of bundles to complete at the town community center (basically various items you donate as per a listed request which unlocks various things, such as the bus to the desert or mine carts which allow for faster travel around the town) as well as legendary fish which I need to hunt down and conquer…. because reasons dammit! I’m hooked and it’s honestly a miracle I pulled myself away long enough to write this out, there’s still so much I want to accomplish in the game it’s staggering!

The game’s creator, Eric Barone who also is known as ConcernedApe, worked on this game tirelessly for 4 years. After the amount of time I’ve already put into this game, to even imagine one person coming up with all of this is not only impressive, it’s inspiring to think about what indie developers are capable of in this modern age. He also can be found on his twitter directly talking to players when they send crash reports and he works very hard to fix problems, even going so far as to fix save files when the game initially released! That’s a level of dedication I’ve never seen, and he continues to improve the game, with updates (as of now, free) and what I’m most looking forward to is the multiplayer feature. Initially it was intended to be included upon release, but after 4 years I can imagine wanting to give players at least a taste of what he had finished and it blew expectations! Multiplayer will be just another fun way to enjoy a game like this with a friend, and I’m all about fun with friends. Check it out on steam right now, $15 is not a lot to drop on any game and that money stretches quite far with all the features this game has to offer you. I hope this gamer’s opinion has helped sway some of you, thanks for reading!