Around August last year, I bought a Switch. That’s far from a surprise. I’ve focused on Nintendo platforms my entire life and know there will be a at least a handful of titles I’ll want at some point. However, there was one particular draw that I was excited for – the Joy-Cons themselves.
About a year ago I wrote an impressions piece on Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night’s E3 2016 demo. The ultimate point was that it’s a title that dares only to find how close it can get to Castlevania: Aria of Sorrow without receiving legal action from Konami. Unfortunately, what has been shown since has done little to sway my position. I stand by that original article in full, outside of Inti Creates no longer being involved in development.
In presenting this argument, I’m often asked “well, what do you want from Bloodstained, then?” It’s a hard question to give a direct answer to. Nevertheless, just looking at Castlevania’s history shows that there’s definitely room to wiggle around within the pre-existing formula. However, the example I’ll be using is from a game Koji Igarashi had little to no involvement with – Circle of the Moon.
From the outside, it can be difficult to tell when a series has gone off the rails and into rehash territory. For years Call of Duty was criticized for being the same game released every 12 months, but almost everyone has a beloved franchise that only an active player can see the minute differences in. This is especially true when new ideas get buried in familiar elements.
If there’s one thing that stands above anything else for me in a game, it’s if they achieve something unique. When focusing on the most recent releases, this is largely limited to looking at what has come before it. However, sometime later you can also start to take into account what comes after. I’d say it’s similar to the whole phrase “____ hasn’t aged well.” Yet instead of from perspective of how the ever moving bar leaves some titles behind, it’s more about about how the level of iteration dilutes the original.
This article contains significant spoilers regarding NieR and NieR: Automata.
When I played the original NieR more than half a decade ago, I don’t think I could have ever have foreseen how much it’d resonate with me or that it would be one of many titles essential in changing how I view games today. While flawed, the variety in level design, off-kilter writing, fantastic music, and its surprisingly vulgar yet compassionate cast made a huge impact on me.
I hardly expected NieR to get a proper sequel, nor could I have imagined how disappointing the final result would be.
Although not exclusive to the medium, one of my favorite things about video games is how many elements are includes within a single work. Everything from level design, artistic style, story telling, cinematic direction, music and numerous other bits contributes to the title as a whole. Each aspect can pull from different inspirations as well as individually succeed or fail, while still coming together as one product.
The game-focused aspects of video games are likely most important to the majority of people. However, sometimes developers simply use them as a vehicle for the overall experience rather than the main draw.
Being an fan of older versions of Final Fantasy XI is somewhat of a sad situation. Many titles that people are nostalgic for exist in their entirety today. While you may not be able to recapture that exact point in your life, where you played Super Nintendo on a Saturday morning with few worries, the game itself is intact. You can have almost an identical experience today to the one you had ten, twenty or thirty years ago.
Final Fantasy XI is fortunate. Unlike many MMORPGs, the servers are still alive. Though, if you log in and expect to re-live the passion you had for it as it existed in the mid-2000s, you’ll likely be sorely disappointed. Your Final Fantasy XI no longer exists. It’s the nature of an online-only world that is constantly updating for a changing market.
The Wii U GamePad’s intended purpose, as a second screen experience for console gaming, is a failure. Aside from a few examples, Nintendo has largely floundered to find much of a reason to use the device. Because of this, I was drawn to ZombiU, a third party Wii U release that makes full use of the controller. However, I was cautiously optimistic.
Initially, I expected a more modern survival horror experience that empowers the player with a large arsenal of weapons. The genre’s evolution in this direction is something I’ve always disliked, although it did produce many enjoyable third person shooters. Surprisingly, I found ZombiU hearkens back to more traditional entries in the survival horror genre.
Kickstarter has been great for developers launching spiritual successors to their dead franchises. While they may not be able to continue the beloved worlds and characters these series offered, they can at least keep working with the core design and bring the fans with them. It also acts a fresh start – letting developers experiment and create new elements without being tied down by franchise expectations.
In the case of Koji Igarashi’s Bloodstained, it’s unabashedly Castlevania to an extreme.
I’ve had a rough experience with Xenoblade Chronicles X and, after clocking in 100 hours, my time with it ended prematurely. I overwrote my save with a new file. Whoops. Even before my stupidity ruined my playthrough, I had a lot of trouble coming to terms with my feelings about the game. It wasn’t until the last 30 hours that I really started to enjoy what the title had to offer.