NieR: Automata – Not Quite NieR or Far Enough

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.

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A Fear of NieR: Automata

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Aside from the initial reveal, I’ve largely ignored of NieR: Automata. I’ve got nothing against it, I just don’t get much out of preview coverage. Demos, trailers, etc. all present an image of a game, yet the lack of information leaves me more uncertain than confident. It’s up to the consumer to fill in the blanks, whether they be positive or negative. Nonetheless, I succumbed to temptation and played Automata’s Demo 120161128. So, I guess we’ll go down this rabbit hole of speculation and assumptions, because I can’t stop thinking about it and probably not for the reasons others can’t.

NieR: Automata is developed by PlatinumGames. That’s a simple and well-known fact that brings joy to many. There are few developers that could contest with their pedigree when it comes to third-person melee-focused action games. Mixing their high intensity combat with the world of NieR is a promising combination and likely the reason why so much hype is building around Automata.

However, PlatinumGames’ involvement and Square Enix’s expectations of the title mostly cause me distress.

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Bloodstained: Weighed Down by the Baggage of Castlevania

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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.

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Love Ruins Everyday Life in Sword Art Online: Hollow Fragment

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Role-playing games usually lead the main characters as far away from the starting town as possible. They explore distant regions and visit new villages while rarely looking back. That being said, it isn’t too uncommon for a game to have a home base or main area players come back to. Sword Art Online: Hollow Fragment isn’t too far from the latter structure with a central city the characters return to after each expedition. However, I’ve never seen a game bring forward the day-to-day aspects of living as much as Hollow Fragment.

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When Worlds Collide in Sword Art Online: Hollow Fragment

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From the 38 hours I’ve played of Sword Art Online: Hollow Fragment, it seems like the definition of an average game. The battles are simple, the structure is repetitive, the zones lack compelling designs and excessive enemy placement can slow your progress to a crawl. Yet no single element of Hollow Fragment keeps it from being enjoyable. The one thing that might have stopped me from continuing is that every female character has magnetized breasts that latch onto to the protagonist in cutscenes. Still, outside of the lazy design and fan service, SAO has a unique taste because it’s essentially two games crammed into one.

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