EWE’s Take On E3 2017 – Part 2

Greets, people!  After last time, when we took a look at individual publisher’s press presentations at E3, it’s now time for the Big 3 – Sony, Microsoft, and Nintendo.  However, unlike last time, and unlike many other places where you can find coverage of E3, I’m not going to go blow by blow with all the particular news, announcements, and other info from each conference.  This is primarily because it’s late, and I’m tired – but also because you don’t need me for that.  If you just want to know everything that happened, there are plenty of sources.  But instead, here are my general impressions of how each one fared in their particular event.

Sony

First up, we have Sony.  The purveyors of Playstation had quite the reputation to live up to this year, as their last few E3 press events have been absolutely stellar, culminating last year with having a FULL FUCKING SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA at their event and unveiling God of War 4.  Seriously – these weren’t just press events – they were epic live performance art.  So could Sony do it again this year?

So I think the best summation I’ve heard about Sony’s event this year in comparison to past years came from Kinda Funny’s Greg Miller, who said “I think of the last few years’ of Sony events as being grand slams, and this year they ‘just’ hit a home run.  So you see it and go, ‘oh, it’s just a home run’ because of all the grand slams but it’s STILL a home run!”  Look, at the end of the day, is some complacency likely settling in at Sony?  Sure, but they’ve kinda earned it.  The PS4 has won this generation of the console war, from an install base perspective.  They have an amazing string of first and third party exclusives behind them, and a number still to come.  So this year consisted almost entirely of additional footage and trailers of games that we’ve known about already.  The primary exception was a remake of Shadow of the Colossus.  That said, the principal complaint I hear about Sony’s event is essentially “hey, they had one or two things I liked, but the rest didn’t really do much for me.”  Except here’s the thing – those “one or two things” have varied from almost each person.  So essentially what Sony did is have something for everyone.  To me, that’s a damn good showing.  Special shout out to Monster Hunter World!

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I have an Xbox One.  I love my Xbox One.  I don’t think less of Microsoft because they are second in the install base behind Playstation.  But when your entire press conference is essentially “here is a $500 upgrade to your existing console, that is capable of 4K but will have no exclusive games, but some of your favorites will get 4K support like, um…Minecraft!” then you’ve fucking lost me.  I mean…I don’t have a 4K tv.  I’m sure I will one day…but that day isn’t today, or tomorrow, or, you know…soon.  So the only way you’re going to get me to give you $500 is to either have TREMENDOUS performance upgrades that I will actually notice, or games that I can’t play anywhere else.  This didn’t do either of those for me, and is far too expensive to warrant a mid-cycle upgrade for anyone without tremendous expendable income.  Lets assume I DON’T upgrade – that’s 8+ new games I can buy instead of a console.  I’m sorry – I know the hardware manufacturers are insisting that “it’s just like a cell phone!  Everyone buys the iterative upgrades!” but I’m just not going to support that in the console gaming market.  You want me to drop that kind of money?  Start the next console generation cycle.  Otherwise you’re going to have to do a lot more than handing out godawful t-shirts and talking about almost no games at your conference to get a passing grade from me.

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I saved what was, in my less-than-humble opinion, the best for last.  Nintendo essentially split its big news between two presentations – but damn did they kill it.  Mario Odyssey is going to be fantastic – we all knew that.  But Mario+Rabbids: Kingdom Battle is going to bring XCOM style tactics to a whole new generation.  While the excitement of Monster Hunter World on PS4 took a hit by the announcement that as of now Monster Hunter XX for Switch isn’t coming West, I quickly didn’t care anymore because METROID IS BACK, BITCHES!  And not just Metroid Prime 4 on Switch – I mean, that’s great, but for me the killer news was a full 2.5D remake of Metroid 2 from the original GB is coming to 3DS in September.  I’ve been waiting for a 2D Metroid since before many of you were fucking born, and the end of that wait is finally in sight!  Nintendo essentially announced major Switch entries in every one of their front-line first-party franchises.  I love the Switch, its launch has been a tremendous success, and if this software lineup continues as strongly as it has begun, Nintendo is poised to leap back to the prominence that it lost with the Wii U.  Strong, strong showing for Nintendo.

That covers the major news from E3, but before I go, I’ll quickly address this being the “first” E3 that is open to the public.  I say that somewhat sarcastically because since I’ve been a young EWE, fans have been finding ways to attend the “industry only” show, but this year marked the first year that they were officially invited.  While I am sure this was a dream come true for many, I think it could have been handled FAR better by the ESA based upon what I have heard from my friends in the game journalism industry.  Those folks work far beyond hard enough as it is in covering E3 every year – essentially it is the largest undertaking they have each year.  To a man and woman, each said that it was far more difficult this year due to the unchecked crowding and lines clogging the show floor and making getting to appointments and meetings incredibly difficult.  I’m not saying that the public shouldn’t be let in – and even if I did, who the fuck cares what I think – but the ESA needs to contact its friends at events like PAX and get tips on how to properly handle such a mass of humanity for next year.

Until next time, humans! – EWE

EWE’s Take On E3 2017 – Part 1

Hello again, humans!  Good to see you all – except the ones I hate, in which case, less so.  But even the worst among you can’t bring me down now – no, because it’s that magical time of year, that Christmas-in-June for gamers called E3 season!  That’s right, this past week was the annual Electronic Entertainment Expo in sunny Los Angeles, CA.  Per usual, there was a veritable smorgasbord of gaming news, announcements, and conferences – and now you can find all my wicked thoughts on the E3 events right here!  Aren’t you lucky?!  In Part 1, I’ll focus on the conferences from the non-hardware-producing developers and publishers.  Part 2 will feature the Big 3.

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So the news kicked off with the EA press conference.  Now, I’m not going to go blow-by-blow here – if you want that kind of in-depth coverage, well, you can easily watch all the press conferences at places like IGN or GameSpot.  I’m just going to go over my impressions.  And when it comes to impressions, well…EA just didn’t really make one for me.  I mean, you got your requisite sports franchises – Madden, NBA Live, FIFA – and if the yearly iterations on those games is your thing, you already know when they are coming out and have already planned on getting them.  Battlefield 1 is also slated to get new DLC, but as I don’t play Battlefield 1, this didn’t do much for me either.

Battlefront II

That’s not to say that there wasn’t anything in the EA event that caught my attention. Having played Star Wars: Battlefront and finding it enjoyable but sorely missing the lack of a single player campaign, I was quite happy to find out earlier this year that Battlefront II would now include a full story mode.  Well, not only will I get to enjoy that when it releases this fall, but EA revealed during their conference that there would be no season pass for Battlefront II – all of its DLC will be free of charge for all players.  While the game will feature microtransactions, EA has insisted that these will be cosmetic and quality of life in nature only – they will confer no advantage over other players.  Time will tell if this claim holds true, but for now, the concept of not having to shell out money beyond the initial purchase price in order to experience the full game is quite nice!

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The other major announcement at the EA conference from my perspective was the unveiling of the new IP from Mass Effect and Dragon Age developer BioWare – Anthem.  This was the first look at this game, and I am thus far intrigued.  If I could sum up what I’ve seen of it in one phrase it would be “third person Destiny.”  This actually excites me quite a bit – as the biggest issue I had with Destiny was it’s first person perspective.  With BioWare’s impressive pedigree behind it, I am anxiously looking forward to what this title has in store.

Another publisher hosting their own conference at E3 was Ubisoft – and boy oh boy, did they hit it out of the park with their conference.  There was a lot of news, but since I’m kind enough to parse through all this shit and bring only the best of the best, here is what you need to know!

Mario & Rabbids

Ok, this is going to sound insane, or like some kind of joke, but it’s some kind of peanut butter and chocolate dream – Mario & Rabbids: Kingdom Battle is a crossover between the Big N’s plumber-in-chief and the batshit crazy Rabbids of Ubisoft in an XCOM style turn-based tactics game for the Nintendo Switch.  Let that sink the fuck in.  Then once it does – go preorder that shit.  Right now.

AC Origins

Another game I’m quite intrigued by is Assassin’s Creed: Origins.  The AC series has been on a bit of a hiatus from its previous annual release schedule, and it looks to be returning in a strong way.  Of particular note here is that while the previous entries have been action experiences with some light character building systems, Origins has much more firmly embraced role-playing elements and it shows in its much more deliberate, tactical approach to leveling your character and equipment as well as planning battles.  Keep an eye out as this title comes along.

Skull & Bones

Anyone that knows me knows that I would chuck this entire world to go pirating in a second if it were feasible and not likely to lead to death by scurvy.  So it’s no surprise that the persistent world pirate simulator Skull & Bones is firmly on my radar.  Between this and Sea of Thieves, I’ll be even more soaked in rum than I normally am – and that’s saying something.

South Park

I feel obligated to include this because of how much I adored the Stick of Truth.  South Park: The Fractured But Whole was given (yet another) official release date of October 17.  It isn’t that I don’t think this game looks hilarious and fantastic…but since it’s been supposed to come out several times already, I’m firmly in “I’ll believe it when I see it” mode on this one.

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Oh yeah…and a little game called Beyond Good and Evil 2 was given a trailer.  Now, this will effect you in one of two ways.  Either you are asking “So?  I don’t remember a Beyond Good and Evil 1.”  If that’s the case, stop right now and go buy and download the Beyond Good and Evil HD remake from the PS or Xbox store.  Go.  Now.  If you’re in the second group, with me, you’re still wiping tears of joy away after reading the first sentence in this paragraph.

Wrapping up Part 1 of my take on E3 is the conference by Bethesda Studios.  Would this finally be where we get some inkling of Elder Scrolls VI?!  Short answer: HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA.

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Hope you’re ready to spend more of your time (and money…again) on the fifth entry in the venerable Elder Scrolls franchise, because as far as Bethesda is concerned it’s all Skyrim, all the time.  As we already knew, the complete edition of Skyrim is on its way to Switch this fall – and now we know that it will feature Amiibo support.  As you can see above, this means that you can roleplay a disturbingly realistic version of Link in your own Hylian tunic, shield, and wielding the Master Sword…if that’s your thing.  From my perspective, they could have added absolutely nothing to Skyrim and just brought it to the Switch as-is and I’d have gladly paid for it…again…to be able to play it on the go.  Hiding in the corner at a family reunion to play Skyrim?  Uh, yes please.

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A bit of a surprise, but a pleasant one for horror fans, underrated survival horror game The Evil Within is set to received a sequel.  It definitely looks creepy as all fuck, and it’s set for release on Friday the 13th (of October), so all the signs point to a pants-wetting experience!

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More up my alley, after several teases recently, Bethesda officially unveiled Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus.  Wolfenstein was one of my favorite FPS games of the past few years, and the sequel sees longtime series lead BJ Blazkowicz battling in the United States after it has been overrun by Nazi forces.  As we all know, killing Nazi’s is the only socially acceptable form of murder, so get those trigger fingers ready to go!

Dishonored 2 DLC

Last but not least, Dishonored 2 is seeing a new DLC pack released this fall.  This new story focuses on Meagan Foster, the popular NPC from the main game.  She seems set to try and take down The Outsider, who is the one that granted powers to the previous protagonists in the series.

And that brings us to the end of Part 1!  Next up – the conferences of the Big 3: Nintendo, Microsoft, and Sony!  Look forward to it, mortals! – EWE

Disgaea 5 Complete Review and EWE’s New Companion

Greets, people, non-people, literate farm animals – anyone reading this, really.  It’s good to see you all again, and for a change, I have some good news!  First and foremost, the Ominous Dark Tower has a new resident!  After engaging in a dark and arcane summoning ritual – or, you know, contacting my friend and fellow attorney Heidi – I have successfully gained a new familiar.  Now all shall kneel before the might of EWE and Zero!

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He plots your doom, mortals.
And as if that wasn’t enough, Z and I have recently gained access to a Nintendo Wii U – thus we can soon enjoy and bring you our thoughts on some of the exclusive titles for that innovative, but ill-fated system.  But before we get to the Wii U, let’s discuss the latest title for its successor that has been sucking up all of my free time.  If you like any combination of SRPGs, wacky anime-style slapstick, and penguins, then boy does NIS America have a treat for you!

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So, let’s get this out of the way – if you’ve previously played a game in the Disgaea series and did not care for it, this game isn’t going to change your mind.  NIS has recognized their target audience and steered firmly toward it, and while there are some basic quality of life improvements to this compilation of the previous PS4 release of Disgaea 5 coupled with all of its previously released DLC, those who have been put off in the past by this series’ quirks will only find more of the same here.  In fact, if anything, there are even MORE stats to build, subsystems to master, and over-the-top zany jokes to roll your eyes at than ever before.

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You want stats?  You got stats!
Like previous games in the series, the main gameplay here consists of turn-based, tactical RPG battles on grid maps between up to ten of your units and armies of enemy units.  Your army will not lack for diversity – as there are an absolute TON of different humanoid and monster classes to be unlocked, in addition to the plot-based characters and their own unique classes.   Each class has its own unique skills as well as the ability to learn weapon based skills for any weapon that they gain sufficient proficiency in.  Between battles, you can wander through your hub world, conversing with party members, buying weapons and items, powering up skills, and as is tradition for the series, journeying into each and every one of your items in order to level them up.  As before, every character, weapon, and item in the game can be raised to Level 9999, and while this is not in any way necessary to complete the main plot, you will be doing an incredible amount of grinding in order to complete the challenging post-game content.  And honestly, if you came into Disgaea 5 without a desire to grind…what are you doing here?

DDDD-noscale
If penguins with bazookas aren’t solving all your problems, you aren’t using enough of them.
Likewise, the trademark wacky demon humor of the series has been ratcheted up to 11 here – and while I still appreciate it for what it is, I can easily see how it is beginning to wear thin for many.  You can only tell the same joke, or do the same slapstick, so many times before the audience becomes numb to it, no matter how funny it originally was.  But while some SRPGs are heavily focused on plot (hello, Final Fantasy Tactics), the plot in Disgaea has always been there as an excuse to facilitate the leveling treadmill.  The real draw of this series has always been for that OCD impulse in many gamers to create a party of living gods that can inflict damage in the billions of points of HP, and on that front, Disgaea 5 on the Switch allows you to scratch that itch literally anywhere you go.

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How saving someone’s life leads to indentured servitude.
If you are a fan of the series, then this game is the ultimate way to experience everything great about Disgaea.  The DLC chapters give you access to a plethora of bonus characters for your party drawn from across the other games in the franchise, as well as from other NIS SRPGs.  And the Switch’s blessed portability is the absolute best way to play a Disgaea title.  I have owned and played every entry in the series on every platform it released on, and I have always enjoyed the PSP and Vita ports of the prior Disgaea titles – a game so dependent on jumping in, grinding a few maps, and jumping back out before it gets tiresome is absolutely MADE for a portable platform.  I honestly can’t say enough about how at home this game is on the Switch, and the beautiful screen is perfect for the hi-res sprites and beautiful 2D cutscenes.  The voice acting is a mixed bag – Killia has a cool, calm voice perfectly suited to an aloof anti-hero, Red Magnus is a hilariously obnoxious knock-off of the Rock…but word of warning: Seraphina’s voice, laugh, really any sound she makes is tooth-grindingly aggravating.

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Goddammit, don’t you people know how shonen anime works?!  It’s the 5th game in the series!
Bottom line is this – if you weren’t a Disgaea fan already, this game isn’t going to change your mind.  But if you’ve liked the series at all in the past, even just a little, then this is probably the best game it’s produced so far, and this is the ideal, definitive version of it to play.

EWE Says:

EWE Says Dood

That’s it for now, doods and doodettes!  See you again soon – and that’s not a promise, it’s a threat! – EWE

Dungeons & Dragons and MORE Dungeons & Dragons

Salutations, creatures!  I’ve missed you, too – so much so that I’ve found myself slaughtering villages out of irritability rather than solely for funsies, like I normally do.  But now here we are, together again, and just in time to discuss one of my favorite all-time subjects – Dungeons & Dragons.  Now, what brings this on, you may ask?  Well, answering that leads us to the first recommendation I have for you this week!

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A while back, I was in the bookstore and saw this sitting there and realized I had never before explored the Dragonlance campaign setting of D&D.  Also, I have a tendency to read several books at a time, and I wasn’t reading any fantasy novels at that moment.  And since this was the first book in the campaign setting, I couldn’t help but jump headfirst into YET ANOTHER fictional universe that will end up costing me lots of time and money to fully explore.  But…should I even bother?

So, the story behind the Dragonlance setting is that Weis and Hickman decided that classic Dungeons & Dragons was somewhat lacking in the dragon part of the equation, and so they decided to remedy that.  Now, this series was originally published beginning in 1984, and it wasn’t exactly the most original of works.  Tanis Half-Elven, a (gasp!) half-elf jack-of-all-trades, his surly dwarven warrior ally Flint, stoic and honorable knight Sturm, and twin brothers Caramon (a kind, gigantic, and simple-minded warrior) and Raistlin (a laughably evil mage) are a classic adventuring party who find themselves drawn into a quest to protect barbarian princess Goldmoon and her love, Riverwind, after the pair discover a mysterious crystal staff and subsequently rediscover the clerical magic of the lost gods of Krynn.

This is all about managing your expectations.  If you’re looking for the next coming of Tolkien, well, keep looking.  But even though this world and it’s characters feel like they were taken from ye olde grab bagge of fantasy tropes, just because they are tropey doesn’t mean they aren’t well-crafted and developed.  As the first book in a trilogy, Autumn Twilight does a fantastic job of resolving it’s own internal plot while still introducing plenty of elements to set up the larger conflict.  All-in-all, if you’re a fan of classic fantasy settings and stories, Dragons of Autumn Twilight is a fun, breezy read.  Recommended!

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All the reading about D&D had me hankering for some classic D&D video gaming, and it doesn’t get more classic than Baldur’s Gate!  I originally played it way back in the day, but the great folks at Beamdog decided that it was time to update this classic masterpiece for modern gaming systems.  And what a fantastic job they did with that – maintaining the classic elements of the game while retouching the visuals and adding some quality of life improvements that the original release lacked.  Hence we have Baldur’s Gate Enhanced Edition.

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Ah, the sweet Infinity Engine.

Now, for you younger people out there, Baldur’s Gate was designed off of the classic Advanced D&D 2nd Edition rules, which are very different from the modern rules many of you may be used to.  While the mechanics are all handled by the engine behind the scenes, it still results in a much higher early-game difficulty level than any modern equivalent.  Expect to spend lots of time in combat watching everyone swing and miss everyone else.  But that isn’t to say that all of the archaic elements of the game are left untouched – the previous journal in the game was next to useless in keeping track of quests, but the new journal function is much better.  But that isn’t the biggest news – Beamdog, in addition to releasing Enhanced Editions of Baldur’s Gate and it’s sequel, it also developed and released an entirely new expansion – Siege of Dragonspear.  Intended to bridge the gap between Baldur’s Gate and Baldur’s Gate II, I can’t wait to finish running my half-elf cleric/mage through the first game so I can see what this new adventure has to offer.

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These are clearly absolute classics, but that isn’t to say they are perfect.  Inventory management is still pretty awful even with the efforts Beamdog took to improve it.  You will still be loading saved games after your party is decimated by gibberlings.  You’ll still probably swear several times that you’ve rolled a useless character and start over.  But in the end, you’ll love it, because they just don’t make games like this anymore.

Until next time, kiddos, remember – as great as D&D is, sometimes you roll a 1…just like the entire United States did in the last election. – EWE

The Empire Falls, The Phantom Thieves Rise, and What You Should Be Reading

Greets, humans!  Please excuse any typos or less-coherent-than-normal ranting – maybe it’s the combination of inability to sleep and crippling exhaustion, I don’t know.  But if there is one benefit to using almost all of hours in the day to not rest, it’s that there are just SO MANY good games to play and shows to watch and things to read right now!  So, let’s get right to it!

Cape Westwind

My journey through Eorzea in Final Fantasy XIV continued, as I finished eliminating the threat of the Primals by defeating the beautiful and sadistic Garuda…only for the Garlean Empire to finally make it’s move at conquest, unleashing Ultima Weapon, which promptly absorbed the powers of Ifrit, Titan, and Garuda with little effort.  As my Warrior of Light – side note, I find it hilarious when NPC characters greet me with some variation on “ah, most heroic Evil Wizard!” – and his allies regroup, it was determined that the only way to respond was to, you know…kill a bunch of Imperial officers, sack their bases, and destroy their Weapon.  And since wanton death and destruction are kind of, you know, MY THING, I gleefully slew my way through their ranks toward leader, High Grand Poobah Gaius Something-Or-Other.  Basically, my dungeon and raid parties looked something like this:

Ah, Richard…you truly are my spirit animal.  Anywho, after spilling rivers of Imperial blood, I finally found myself face-to face with Gaius and his shiny new toy.  Admittedly, he cuts an impressive figure.

Ultima Weapon

But, as I am wont to do, I melted his face.  And with that, I had completed all of the original Realm Reborn content of FF XIV, and I am now ready to start on the bridge content leading into the Heavensward expansion.  Cheer me on, maaaan!

Now, said progress may be somewhat slowed due to the absolutely phenomenal PS4 release of Persona 5.  Quite simply, this is one of the best, most stylish, and addicting JRPGs that I have played in years, maybe ever.  The combat is the deepest I’ve seen since SMT: Nocturne (yay demon negotiation!), the interface and graphics are incredibly slick, the soundtrack is pure bliss, and the “day in the life” sim elements are amazingly engrossing.

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The writing is absolutely stellar.  From the main plot to the individual stories of all of your various “Confidants” – this games version of “Social Links” from prior entries in the series – every character is well developed, with a perfect balance between lightheartedness and gravitas.  The bottom line is this – Shin Megami Tensei is Atlus’s Final Fantasy, and some gamers may argue that it has equaled or even surpassed Square Enix’s venerable series.  Even more impressively, the Persona series is the rare offshoot series that has developed into something stands equal to, if not even surpasses, the entries in the main series.

EWE Says:

EWE Says P5

So, that’s what you should be playing…but hey, sometimes you just want to kick back and watch some anime, right?  RIGHT?!  (Editor’s Note: Just agree.  He’s not in the mood to argue.  There are only about four people he wouldn’t set on fire right now.)  AND YOU’RE NOT ONE OF THEM, SO SHUT UP!  Ahem…so, if you’ve been an anime and manga fan at all over the past 20 years, you should be familiar with Naruto.  Well, our lovable orange-jumpsuited ninja and all of his friends are all grown up following the end of their series, and conveniently paired up and bred like rabbits off screen in order for the adventures to continue in a new manga and anime series entitled Boruto: Naruto Next Generations.  The titular Boruto is the son of Naruto and Hinata, and is entering the Ninja Academy alongside all of his friends who look suspiciously like mashups of their fan-ship parents.

Boruto

Now, while this could easily be dismissed as simply a retelling of Naruto in an attempt to cash in on the original series popularity with minimal effort, this would be a mistake and a discredit to the new series.  The world has truly evolved and become more modern since the end of the Fourth Great Ninja War, and the dreams, aspirations, and motivations of this new generation of shinobi are definitely not the same as that of their parents.  Speaking of which, all of your favorite characters that survived the war are accounted for in the new series, and watching them mature into leaders and parents is just as compelling as seeing the adventures of their children.  As a new anime series, the animation and production values are top-notch.  While I haven’t yet read the new manga, I intend to do so, as I read the entire original Naruto series and count myself as a fan.  Is it perfect?  Of course not – it’s a shonen manga so you know kind of what you’re getting, but as long as you know that going in, the world of Naruto and Co. is still a fun one to spend time in.  Recommended – find it on Hulu or Crunchyroll!

Now, I am always very pleased that all of you feeble mortals (Editor’s Note: WONDERFUL READERS) whatever, that you all come and partake of my wisdom here.  But, and I know this may come as a shock, there are other blogs that you should be checking out as well.  I know that I normally only want to talk about me – and I mean, I AM a lord of darkness – but I feel like it has been a while since I properly recognized and called attention to some of the other wonderful blogs out there, as well as the amazing people behind them that I have become fortunate enough to consider my friends.

LightningEllen’s Release – Friend, fellow INFJ, and my favorite Amiibo-collecting ninja LightningEllen shares her thoughts on gaming, life, and the ever-shifting, never-ending backlog.

Cheap Boss Attack – Video game writer, reviewer and friend Brad shares his insights on games old and new.

The Shameful Narcissist Speaks – Amazingly talented writer and deliciously evil cohort Ash1Rose puts her talent on display with fanfictions, essays, poetry and more.

The Well-Red Mage – A friend and one of the first people to welcome me into the blogging community, The Well-Red Mage and his majestic menagerie of mages are some of the most informative and entertaining authors of news, interviews, and reviews of video games both classic and contemporary.

Retr0pia – A friend who shares his thoughts on many a classic game, movie, or show, as well as the all-too-common modern reboots of them.

These are just the first group, just a few of the many wonderful writers out there sharing their gifts and talents will all of you humans.  Don’t miss the opportunity to enjoy their blogs!  See you all next time, mortals – but until then, remember: if we DON’T see each other again, it’s because a psychopathic man-child conned enough foolish, simple-minded fleshsacks into voting him president despite having no ability to handle the job and has likely started an apocalyptic war that has left the world in ruin and the human race extinct.  And that pisses me off because that’s MY schtick, and I don’t take kindly to gimmick infringement.  – EWE

Switch Quick Hits, FF XIV Update, and a Sweet Treat

Hello again, kiddos!  It may seem to have been a while since I was last with you, but worry not – I’ve been busy putting together all sorts of fun for you since I spoke with you last.  And a big part of that has been to sample several of the titles on my Nintendo Switch.  So what do I think of the initial batch of take-anywhere titles?

Binding 1

For those unfamiliar with The Binding of Isaac, you control the titular Isaac – a terrified, naked toddler who is trapped in a nightmarish hellscape after his mother tried to murder him, trying to escape and combating the horrors there by weaponizing his tears.  So, yeah…it’s fucked up.  Not bad, mind you – in fact, it’s one of the best twin-stick shoot-em-ups that I’ve played in a long time – but clearly the minds that concocted this scenario are in serious need of some therapy.

Binding 2

There are a couple of things that stand out here.  First of all, this came is brutally difficult.  In true bullet-hell fashion, shit is flying everywhere all the time, and you will die, a lot.  And permadeath is in full effect – you die, and that cool gear you’d been racking up is gone.  But this is somewhat offset by the second thing that stands out – the randomly generated maps and powerups lead to near-endless replayability, and keep you coming back over and over.  For anyone that has played this on PS4 or PC, you already know this – but here is where the Switch gimmick shines through, letting you take poor, abused Isaac with you wherever you go.  So long as high difficulty doesn’t bother you, a definite recommendation.

Shovel 1

Next up, we have a modern-day love letter to classic games.  Shovel Knight: Treasure Trove collects the original Shovel Knight game, and adds the two expansions, Plague of Shadows and Specter of Torment, all in one package.  For fans of classic 8-bit and 16-bit action/adventure games, picking this up should be a no-brainer.  And since I’m incredibly old and a fan of those types of games, there was no question that I would want to be able to take the heroic Shovel Knight and his quest against the Enchantress and the Order of No Quarter on the go with me.

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Fantastic platforming and action are the order of the day, beginning with the original Shovel of Hope base game, and just being further refined and perfected in the two subsequent expansions.  A well written and witty story are the icing on the cake.  In particular, the newest expansion, Specter of Torment, is just a joy to play, incorporating all of the feedback received and improvements that indie developer Yacht Club made since the release of the original game.  If you like pure gaming goodness, get and play this game.

Setsuna 1

Another love letter to the past, I Am Setsuna was developed by Tokyo RPG Factory, a studio set up by Square Enix with a simple mandate – make games in the vein of the beloved 16-bit RPGs of yore.  For their first effort, they chose a very good game to look to – the seminal SNES classic, Chrono Trigger.  I Am Setsuna, from a gameplay perspective, is a RPG that you’ve played before.  Turn-based active-time battles, combination Tech attacks, spells and abilities learned from equipping magici- er, sorry, spritnite…but again, all distilled and refined from years of experience into their purest form.

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What sets I Am Setsuna apart from the predecessors that it emulates is a heartfelt, emotional story and a beautiful, haunting piano soundtrack, both of which you will remember long after you’ve completed the game.  It isn’t the longest RPG you’ll ever play, but this feels more like a trimming of fat and padding that has become all too common in many modern games, rather than anything missing from Setsuna.  Square Enix has gone on record that it intends to strongly support the Switch, and this is a tremendous first effort toward that goal.  Highly recommended.

Zelda 1

Ah, here it is – the one everyone wants to hear about and talk about.  And for good reason – Breath of the Wild is without doubt a tremendous game.  Beautiful, artistic, breathtaking – all of those adjectives definitely apply.  The visuals and score are absolutely stellar.  Story is a timeless (pun completely intended) Legend of Zelda tale, and at the same time turns that classic formula in some surprising new directions.  It is most definitely the star of the Nintendo Switch launch lineup.  BUT…is it for everyone?

Zelda 2

Here is the thing – Nintendo’s latest magnum opus is a game that requires something that has become a lost art among many modern gamers – PATIENCE.  It is almost intentionally trying to frustrate you.  You can only carry a handful of weapons, and they are going to break after only a few solid hits against your enemies – probably in the middle of a fight.  There is a huge open world to explore – but many times it will feel too big, too empty, as you struggle to determine how to get to your next quest objective.  You can climb any surface – but if you run out of stamina, which seems to disappear as if Hyrule were located in the Bermuda Triangle, you’re going to take a long, fatal fall.  And even if you get to the top of that mountain, I hope you’ve brought some cold weather gear or food, otherwise, you’re going to freeze to death.  These are all elements of many of the survival games that have come into prominence among hardcore gamers in recent times, but those same elements are likely to completely frustrate gamers who just want to play a Zelda game, rescue the princess, destroy Ganon, and all that.  Do I recommend it?  Yes I do.  Do I enjoy it?  Yes, I do…when I am in the right mood.  It isn’t a game you can just pick up and play for a few minutes – you have to have a good chunk of time to devote to it in order to feel like you’ve accomplished anything.  So be warned – while a great game, this isn’t a Zelda game like any Zelda game you’ve ever experienced before.

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So, you may ask, “EWE, that’s all great, but you still seem to be gone a lot lately?  Has your personal life improved?”  Well, there are a few answers to that – the first being WHO THE FUCK DO YOU THINK YO- Ahem, sorry, I mean, I suppose it depends on what you mean by “improve.”  If you mean, have I finally turned the head and won the heart of my maiden fair…no.  No I have not.  So thanks for reminding me of that.  Assholes.  BUT, if you meant spending time with cool people and having fun – well yes, because I’ve fallen headlong back into Eorzea with my beloved summoner, appropriately named Evil Wizard.

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Currently, I’ve been trying to power through story content in an effort to see most, if not all of it before the new expansion, Stormblood, drops this June.  I’ve managed to get to level 47 on my main class (as I said, summoner) while only minimally indulging in my normal penchant for leveling absolutely EVERYTHING there is to level equally (also known as OCD to normal people).  For the first time in a long time in an MMO, I am very pleased with the community and player base.  Long ago, I was a member of an absolutely fantastic World of Warcraft guild and community, with people that I loved playing with and interacting with even outside of the game.  Alas, due to complicated personal circumstances, it became best for them that I step away.  I quickly found that I disliked most of the player base outside of my friends, and left the game.  Since then, I’d never quite been enchanted with a player base in an MMO – but FF XIV just seems to have a predominantly kind and encouraging community.  There will always be exceptions to the rule – but by and large I’ve thoroughly enjoyed my time with the game.  More updates to come – I’m currently trying to get to level 49 so I can continue to wage my personal war against the Garlean Empire!

oatmeal raising cookies

Last, but not least – you didn’t think I’d let you leave hungry, did you?  Silly humans.  Have some chewy oatmeal raisin cookies!

Ingredients:

  1. 1 1/2 cups old-fashined rolled oats
  2. 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  3. 1/2 cup raisins (or craisins)
  4. 1/2 tsp baking soda
  5. 1/2 tsp salt
  6. 6 tbsp butter, room temp.
  7. 1/2 cup packed brown sugar
  8. 1/4 cup sugar
  9. 1 large egg
  10. 1 tsp pure vanilla extract

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.

In a medium mixing bowl, combine the oats, flour, raisins, baking soda, and salt.  Mix together and set aside.  In a separate bowl, combine butter, sugar, and brown sugar and mix until fluffy.  Add egg and vanilla and mix until thoroughly combined.  Slowly add in the oats mixture, mixing until combined.  Use a tablespoon to drop the dough onto two baking sheets, placing each cookie about 2 inches apart.  Place in oven and bake approximately 12 – 16 minutes, until cookies are golden brown but still soft.  Remove from oven and cool for 5 minutes on the cookie sheets, then transfer to wire racks to cool completely.  Pour a glass of milk – and if you’re me, add some Kahlua – then enjoy your dessert!

And with that, you’ve reached the end of this bit of my ramblings, mortals!  Thanks for sticking around, and see you all again soon! – EWE

Horizon: Zero Dawn Review

Hello, humans.  I hope you are all doing well (except the ones I hate; I hope you all are literally on fire right now).  I realize that I did, indeed, miss #FrozenFoodFridays this past week.  While I truly enjoy that segment, as I know many of you do as well, I think I may need to slow down a bit on it for a few reasons.  First of all, my two sons spend every Friday night with me, and by the time we are done hanging out together and they are in bed…I’m usually so tired that I don’t have it in me to do the post.  Secondly, I simply haven’t been in the kitchen quite as much lately – other things tend to pop up and prevent me from engaging in much culinary therapy.  But rest assured that it will still be a near-weekly segment here – I just won’t be able to update it EVERY week!

Another reason for this is that I’ve been in a bit of a funk lately.  It seems that when I am labeled “pathetic” to my face for the horrific crime of showing kindness to someone, and I restrain myself from obliterating said individual, the result of that internalizing is a period of depression.  Thankfully, I have coping mechanisms – including my weekly nights of coloring books and Buffy the Vampire Slayer with my Best Bitch (her phrase), Malevolent Moogle.  And another, being the introvert I am (INFJ FTW), is to escape from my world into others, via games and books.  The upshot is that I hope to increase my reviews of those treats in place of the edible ones I may be lacking at the moment.

And what better way to begin than with the PS4 exclusive Horizon: Zero Dawn.

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So, in case you ever wondered, in the future, mankind has dwindled to the brink of extinction, and giant cyborg dinosaurs are the dominant species on the earth.  In other words, everything will go exactly as I’ve been planning it for a long time now.  Essentially, someone at Guerrilla Games seems to have gotten a look at my diary and decided “what a fucking good idea for a video game!”  They are, of course, correct, but does their take on my vision of the future stand up well enough to satisfy me – and avoid my wrath for stealing my thunder?

Well, they certainly nailed the main character.  Aloy is a dream come true (for me) – intelligent, strong, brave, but also sarcastic, wry, and witty.  She’s even a redhead – although given the scarlet witch I last dealt with, perhaps that last fact should give me pause.  But hair color aside, Aloy stands out to me among the relatively bland main characters in many open-world games as being a warm and genuinely relatable protagonist.

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That she is not unpleasant to look at is also ok with me.

But no matter how sassy, how savvy, or how seductive Aloy may be, it is all for naught if she can’t handle herself in battle.  Because let’s face it – when a giant mechanical dinosaur sees you, what do you think is going to happen?  If you answered, “rush toward me with terrifying speed and ferocity while I think ‘holy shit I’m going to die'” then that is an appropriate reaction.  There is an impressive variety of species in the vicious cyber-beasts that you will face, but they all share something in common – if you rush in unprepared, they will fucking kill you.

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If this is your view, something has gone horribly wrong.

Luckily, Aloy is likely far more competent than the average meatbag in these types of situations, and she has the tools keep herself alive.  Combat in Horizon: Zero Dawn is by far it’s greatest joy.  Aloy has access to an ability with the storyline name of Focus, which amounts to using heightened senses to detect enemy weaknesses and environmental clues, ala Witcher 3 or the Batman: Arkham games.  Each and every enemy that Aloy encounters can be taken down in an efficient manner – but what that manner is, and how best to do it, are left to Aloy and the player to determine.  That’s right – no tutorials pop up when you encounter a new species to walk you through how best to kill them – you need to look for weaknesses and then test out ways to exploit them.

And the tools to exploit them are there.  Aloy’s weapon of choice is a highly upgradeable bow and various elemental arrows, combined with the ability to temporarily slow time and take precise aim at her targets.  Over the course of the game, she will also come upon several other tools, which she can use to immobilize or set traps for her prey ala the Ratchet & Clank series, but also like that series, while these are fun to play around with in random throwaway fights, they generally aren’t that useful in the main story battles.  But if hte concept of leaning primarily on your bow and arrow doesn’t appeal to you, fret not.  Aloy can also gain the ability override the mechanical minds of her prey, rendering them docile enough to ride or even turning them against their own kind.

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Is she aiming an arrow up his…oh, Aloy, you magnificent bastard!

When you aren’t on the hunt for Dinobots (please don’t sue me Hasbro) then you can retreat to one of the scattered settlements of humans in the world.  Here you will accept quests and missions for fun and profit.  While the primary narrative question to be answered in Horizon: Zero Dawn may seem obvious (“What the fuck is up with the robot dinosaurs?!”) the writing is tremendous and the performances put in by the voice actors is equally well done, elevating the tale far above the somewhat Sci-Fi channel premise that it may seem on the surface to a tale of humanity on the brink and what we will do to survive.  I’ll be honest – going in I had no expectations for the story whatsoever and was sure I’d just power through it in order to go kill more Dinobots (seriously, how has Hasbro not sued anyone over this yet?), and I was happy to be proven wrong.

That isn’t to say the game is perfect – while the story is well written, it does occasionally suffer from some hokey or awkward lines, which DO make me think it should be Bruce Campbell delivering them.  And while the combat is very satisfying, I’d have preferred if they had made some of the weapons and tools outside of the bow more useful, or excised them from the game entirely.  But these are nitpicks.  The reality is this – Horizon: Zero Dawn was touted for a long time as one of the PS4 exclusives that would define the system, and it lives up to that hype.

EWE Says:

EWE Says Horizon

And that’s it for tonight, my friends.  Go get yourself a copy of Horizon: Zero Dawn and enjoy!  Thanks for putting up with me for another day! – EWE