I usually take very thorough notes when reviewing a game. I keep my notebook next to me at all times, pen ready, and will often take a break between rounds to jot down my thoughts. That didn’t happen with Valkyria Chronicles Remastered. Maybe it’s because I already played it back in 2008, when it originally launched on the PS3, but I found myself without words as I made my way through its early battles and story set-up. When I did finally pause to write something down, it was simply this: “This game is still so good.”
Many years ago today, Morrowind hit the shelves, giving us much more than a sequel. It gave us a content-packed living and open world that was set a standard even above those set before it and become the new bar by which all other games like it would be judged.
Square Enix fans often complain about seemingly contradictory things when it comes to their favorite RPG company. "Square Enix experiments too much," say some fans, "they redesign each Final Fantasy game so much that each one barely resembles the last." Other fans complain that Square Enix's other big RPG series, Dragon Warrior, doesn't experiment enough, and that its latest entries are still far too similar to the NES games of decades past. When Bravely Default arrived in 2012, it satisfied both camps thanks to its bold, yet familiar, RPG framework. Bravely Second continues in the footsteps of its predecessor, trying again to find that magic oasis of fun which balances out the old and the new.
It seems like only yesterday that Bloodborne came out. Indeed, it’s actually only been a little bit over a year since its initial launch and its last DLC came in late November 2015. Nonetheless, here we are at Dark Souls III, and despite that alarmingly short timeframe, this game doesn’t feel rushed in the least. In fact, it feels like a culmination of all of From Software’s experience brought in at the highest level. However, where Dark Souls II felt like a continuation and natural evolution of the original Dark Souls, Dark Souls III feels more like an extension of Dark Souls II mixed with a few fresh lessons learned from Bloodborne to create a richer and more powerful overall experience.
When we talk about brand crossovers in any sort of media, it’s always a sketchy question of licensing issues, getting the material correct, and presenting it in a way that’s new and enjoyable. Disney hadn’t been any stranger to video games for better and for worse, but when Square-Enix Final Fantasy character Tetsuya Nomura and producer Shinji Hashimoto reached out to Disney to create an action RPG themed around Disney characters and worlds, Kingdom Hearts was born and it became a match made in heaven. The game came out to critical acclaim and had a great spinoff follow it with Kingdom Hearts: Chain of Memories, but for the next core entry in the series, they needed to once again turn heads in a way that never had. Lucky for all of the series’ fans, they were up to the task. In 2006, the United States was about to fall in love all over again with Kingdom Hearts 2.
Dark Souls is supremely crafted, unique action RPG. Its difficulty, which is an amalgam of stamina and item management, patience during combat, and deciphering cryptic mechanics are things that are unique to this series of games. Playing through a Dark Souls game makes you feel like you accomplished something with your skill alone. Once you learn your move set with certain weapons or learn how to properly time your spells the game feels easy but not because you just mashed the correct attack button. It still feels satisfying because you learned how to beat those enemies. Boss fights in Dark Souls are an extension of that at a much larger scale though. Going up against a giant knight or Dragon and slaying them with just a sliver of health is exhilarating in a game that rewards skilled play and punishes impatience more than anything.
When mash-ups endeavor to become something bigger than simple art, it will often go one of two ways. Either things fit together and complement one another or they don’t. Even then, to go about making a mash-up idea into an enjoyable product is a much more arduous process than simply slapping one enjoyable brand together with another. It’s certainly been the source of both good and, at best, mediocre products over the last few decades. That said, who would have thought that back in 1996 around this time, one of the biggest success stories of one of these mash-ups would have come from applying the Final Fantasy RPG formula to the Super Mario universe?
It’s been just about 20 years since the first 151 Pokémon were unleashed on the world. Nintendo is celebrating such a monumental event all year round with events that are revisiting the last 20 years of Pokémon such as releasing legendary Pokémon from every generation every month until the end of the year. Pokemon is also going all the way back to the beginning with their generations TCG booster set that is a reprint of the very first Pokémon Trading Card Game set. It’s only natural, then, that Pokémon would want to go back to the games that started it all--the original Pokémon games: Red, Blue and Yellow (which came a year later).
By now it’s hard to escape the phenomenon that is the Dark Souls series. Despite being fairly well-known among just about anyone that has played a video game, it is still seen as something of an obscure game. This may be due to its seemingly impossible difficulty, the incredibly vague narrative and sense of direction, or even its admittedly abrasive fanbase. Whatever the reason might be, Dark Souls is the game everyone has heard of but hardly anyone has really played. Whether you’ve played these games or not, one thing is hard to dispute: the Souls series has a level of aesthetic that is unmatched. From Software takes the typical, and at this point almost generic fantasy theme, and puts its own spin on it. The result is a unique and dark fantasy world, an oppressive atmosphere rivaling that of Game of Thrones, but more of an emphasis on fantastic and horrific creatures.
Super Mario RPG: Legend of the Seven Stars is one of the best Super Nintendo games ever made, introducing Nintendo’s plucky plumber to the grand world of the Japanese role-playing game. Nintendo was so pleased with its performance that it has since created two separate branches of spin-offs in Paper Mario and Mario and Luigi that try to emulate that classic feel. Apparently the creative juices aren’t flowing quite as freely at Nintendo as they usually do, as the latest Mario RPG game Mario and Luigi: Paper Jam takes those two spin-offs and simply mashes them back together.