[This article was originally posted here at VGMOnline.net, and is archived here with their permission. Please go check their site out because it is wonderful.]
Few studios can modernize the ‘retro’ style quite like Zeboyd Games does. With releases like Cthulu Saves the World, Breath of Death VIII, and the last (and best) two entries in Penny Arcade’s On the Rain-Slick Precipice of Darkness, Zeboyd has shown that not only do they understand what should be in a retro-styled game, they also understand what should be modernized and streamlined for modern sensibilities. Their games have always had a sense of humor to them; homage and respect to what came before are delivered with tongue firmly placed in cheek. Their latest game, Kickstarter success story Cosmic Star Heroine, represents their first foray into ‘serious’ storytelling, and also their longest and most meticulously-designed project to date.
For the game’s score, Zeboyd turned once again to the Ireland-based Hyperduck Soundworks, who had previously composed the score to On the Rain-Slick Precipice of Darkness 4. In addition, they also composed the absurdly good soundtrack for Dust: An Elysian Tale, as well as the soundtracks for Kingdom Rush: Frontiers, A.R.E.S.: Extinction Agenda, and others. They also have several remixes on their Bandcamp page from such games as Chrono Trigger, Zelda, and Duke Nukem 3D. It’s obvious that they are quite enthusiastic about the blending of old and new, making the choice to once again partner with them for the Cosmic Star Heroine soundtrack seem like an obvious one for Zeboyd to make. Continue reading
Filed under Greg, Music, Reviews
Optimism is not easy. This is something that most people don’t really think about. Most would consider optimism to be the default state of a person who has not seen enough of the world to know any different. There is a reason, after all, that the word ‘childlike’ is usually placed before the word and used to describe a state of naivetè that comes from inexperience. It is assumed by a great many people nowadays that once a person sees the world for ‘what it really is’, that person will, at the very least, shift from a perspective of ‘glass half full’ to ‘glass half empty’.
This manner of thinking is shown in video games a lot. As games strive to be a more ‘mature’ medium for storytelling, the settings and stories can, in a lot of cases, become very grim. Not that games are the only representation of these attitudes; dystopian fiction has enjoyed quite a run of success, and film has in recent years taken to deconstructing childhood heroes and showing their dark sides.
It’s refreshing, then, to experience a plot that shows that optimism is not solely a naive reaction, but can be a mature and informed choice that affects the way one views the world. And it is even more refreshing that this depiction of ‘intentional’ or ‘pragmatic’ optimism comes from a game that is in a great many ways a throwback to the same era of gaming that brought so many other evolutions to the kinds of stories that are acceptable in the medium.
So, I have this friend. We’ll call her ‘Lauren’, because, well, that’s what her name is. She plays a lot of video games, and plays a lot of music from a lot of video games, and is generally very enthusiastic about them to a degree that borders upon indescribable. She tends to criticize video game plots and characterization and themes because let’s face it, no matter how far video games have come in the past couple years, there have been just as many steps backwards. And besides, if one loves a thing, one should criticize it in the interests of making it better. I guess what I’m saying is, when Lauren recommends a game, I tend to listen to her because she puts a great deal of thought behind her recommendations. So, when she recommended that I play a little indie game by the name of Undertale, I paid attention.
I know, I know, I said I wasn’t going to write about games that were popular and that everyone already knew about. And here I am, writing about a game that everyone has at least heard something about in the past couple of months. But here we are.
I return from the abyss! To commemorate, I wanted to return to a genre that I have a great deal of love for. While I tend to call it the Civilization genre, I’m pretty sure that the actual commonly accepted term for it is the ‘Explore, Expand, Exploit, and Exterminate’ (4X) genre. Personally, I think I’ll just keep calling it ‘Civlike’, because we call a bunch of things ‘Roguelike’ that don’t have anything to do with Rogue, and I like consistency in my genre naming.
Filed under Greg, Reviews
Every so often a game comes along that presents a series of choices to me, the player, that I absolutely agonize over. This isn’t completely because of the immediate consequences of those actions, which are usually pretty obvious, but more because I know that the choices are going to have an additional level of unforeseen consequences much further down the line. Games like this make me sit there on the dreaded ‘branching choice selection screen’ for an embarrassing number of minutes because I know that no matter what decision I end up making about my character’s immediate future, I am going to regret it in some manner down the line.
It’s interesting to me, then, that as rare as it is to have a game do that to me, I have managed to play two of them in quick succession. One of them was from a very expected source. Dragon Age: Inquisition was a game that I always expected to provoke this reaction, this choice-anxiety in me. Player choice in narrative is kind of Bioware’s thing, after all. It’s what they do. Even if no other part of the game lived up to my expectations of it, I had been confident even without playing it yet that Inquisition would give me personal narrative by way of selecting exactly which part of my emotional gut I wanted to be punched in.
Filed under Greg, Reviews
Normally, I don’t review multiple versions of the same game. These days, if a game comes out on multiple platforms, a) those versions aren’t terribly different from each other, and I’ll note any differences I do know about in my original review, and b) I usually only have time to play a game all the way through once. It’s only in a very special kind of circumstance when I play the same game through more than once on more than one platform.
It does happen though, and this is one of those times. I happened to come across a copy of Diablo III: Reaper of Souls: Ultimate Evil Edition for Playstation 4 (which from here on I will just call Diablo III for ease of conversation). I knew that the game was different now than the original was when it launched, so I was looking forward to seeing just what those differences involved.
Secret time–I adore innovative tactical role-playing games. They are my favorite video game genre. So when a mobile video game is developed by Mistwalker (yes, the company of Hironobu Sakaguchi–may you worship at the altar of all that is Final Fantasy), you may color me intrigued. Terra Battle is for iOS and Android, and is a tile-based TRPG. It functions as a collectable card game and a puzzler as well as its headlining genre.
The game itself is populated with content released based on how many people have downloaded the game via a “Download Starter” created by Sakaguchi (based on the success of Kickstarter campaigns, but without the players directly financing advancement). For example, Nobuo Uematsu composed music for the game after 1,000,000 downloads. Familiar names and a genre I love formed a sort of careful optimism that I carried as I started to play the game.
Child of Light is a twist on a very classic method of storytelling: the fairytale. With a storyline that seems familiar, and yet different enough to stay engaged, the narrative arc of this game is one that is as broad-sweeping as the tales from our childhood. This is a coming of age story, where our protagonist Aurora learns her life lessons through an epic journey. At first, she strives to go home to the familiar and safe. As the story progresses, she makes hard decisions and grows, mentally and physically. Aurora has her trials and finds friends in he most unlikely of places.
Child of Light is a game for one or two players. Player one takes on the role of Aurora, the princess far flung from her family and home. If there is a second player, they take on the role of Igniculus, a spirit of light (‘firefly’). This co-op mechanic allows one player to control the heroine, and the other to shine the way and help get to places that the heroine cannot travel alone. Without the second player, a singular player must control both Aurora and Igniculus.
Ubisoft Montreal developed this piece, and it was published by Ubisoft. Released in early 2014 , Child of Light can be played on Windows, PS3, PS4, PS Vita, Wii U, Xbox 360, and Xbox One.
Filed under Becca, Reviews
We all have our favorites when it comes to video games. Be it for the artwork, the soundtrack, the mechanics, plot, character development, or style–we have our reasons. To be sure, there is the occasional nerdgasm over a franchise as well. These are the games that stick with us, and usually with good reason. They have components that are done so well that it is something we then go looking for in other games.
When talking to my gamer friends, I am learning that quite a few of my favorites are lost gems; games that don’t have nearly the popularity or following, but are beautifully executed in their own rights.
Kartia: The World of Fate
Kartia: The World of Fate came out in 1998 for the PlayStation in North America, published by Atlas. It was originally released as “Rebus” in Japan. One could go so far as to consider it a “retro” game, by modern standards. Kartia is an isometric tactical roleplaying game, with a very high level of customization within battle. It is a beautiful game, with stunning character art by Yoshitaka Amano and haunting soundtrack by Kenichi Tsuchia and Masaki Kurokawa.