The Studly Superhero

As I’ve already mentioned in a parallel dimension, I’ve been very into the whole superhero / graphic novel thing as of late. I’ve also been into LEGO games, and as anyone following gaming would likely know, they’ve recently released a new LEGO superhero game – LEGO Marvel Avengers!

So anyway, I’ve been playing LEGO Marvel Superheroes instead.

LEGO Marvel Superheroes is fantastic, four many reasons. It exceeds x-mentations on multiple levels, such as the light plot, comedic narrative, and Avengeful cast of characters. I remember already being impressed with the list, and then it scrolled down to reveal more… and switched portraits to show variable skins. The puzzles are easy, of course, and the sense of reward and accomplishment from the myriad of collectibles is essentially crack. This is the kind of game that I highly anticipate going for 100% completion in.

It does fall down in some places. Whilst the open world is reminiscent of PS2 games such as the Spider-Man movie adaptions, it is also somewhat bland. Many of the citizen side-missions are similar, some of them asking you to simply find a character and bring them back to the quest-giver… and don’t run too fast, or you’ll lose them and have to start over. And the flying feels odd, as well. I’ve not yet piloted any flying vehicles (which I assume exist based on other reviews), but flying characters control very strangely. They’ll sometimes take a moment to register that you’ve told them to fly higher or lower, causing you to press B twice and stop flying altogether – very frustrating in racing side-missions.

That being said, other than minor nuisances and a slightly bland open-world, this game is still worthy of hours of your time. The open-world, whilst not the richest environment in a video-game, is still a huge step upwards from older LEGO games like LEGO Star Wars, and not a bad time-waster or sandbox to romp around in with your freshly purchased super-villains.

The levels themselves are as well-constructed and as fun as ever. There’s always plenty of things to come back to in free play, a mode wherein you can switch to any character you’ve unlocked to utilise powers you wouldn’t otherwise have, to finish up some collectibles. Whilst that may sound like a chore, when the game has legitimately fun replay-value it turns out to be anything but. Story mode offers good comedy, fighting (although sometimes I just want to punch a guy instead of watch a 10 seconds KO animation), easy puzzles which give you a real sense of progression through the level. There’s 15 main story levels in all (I’ve done 10), split into sections with save points that allow you to hop off and take a break – I’d say about each of these sections is maybe the length of the old LEGO Star Wars levels, or perhaps a little shorter.

It’s just good fun. And it’s given me renewed motivation to play LEGO Lord of the Rings and LEGO Harry Potter, having not played the former due to having not seen the movies yet (I’ve now seen the first 2), and having given up on the latter due to the overly cheerful feel of the early Harry Potter movies being magnified a hundred-fold in the game. That might sound like a bit of an odd remark to make, and I can’t really put my finger on why it bothers me, but I’m sure that once I make it past that hurdle it’ll be smooth sailing.

Quest for the Great Expanse

Spore’s space stage was the closest I’ve been to a fulfilling representation of space in a video game. Sometimes I still like to load the game up and pretend that there’s more to it than endless similar worlds and about 10 hours of gameplay (if you’re like me and chose military because it was the least boring).

For years now, gamers have been wanting an expansive universe to explore, colonize, terraform, and most likely subjugate. Something that has the customisability of Spore, has the expanse of that free universe-to-scale program that I cannot remember the name of (sorry, there was extensive googling), and is as heavily developed as Elite: Dangerous. And is, quite essentially, not boring.

No Man’s Sky is set to fit the agenda in that regard. If you’re not already familiar with the upcoming game, I’ll just stand aside and let you click that link and melt into a puddle of hype by your own free will. Otherwise, let’s continue. One of the main apprehensions surrounding this game is its ‘too good to be true’ factor, with everyone looking for the catch and wondering what about it is going to crash it down into the reality of being just another game. And in all honesty, I’m apprehensive too, though I’ve not been following the game’s development too much as I’m about 500% sure that if my laptop tries to run it, it’ll fart, fall over and die.

There are plenty of good space games out there, however. Space Engineers is a pretty cool and unique spaceship builder, focusing more on actual gameplay surrounding spaceship maintenance rather than chasing the myth of a never-ending astral playground. They recently added planets, too, which seems to be going good for them. Elite: Dangerous is, by my understanding, Euro Truck Simulator in space with the rare bit of non space-delivery-boy gameplay speckled through the cosmos. If you’re up for a bit of Minecraft in space, then Starmade might be for you… as a lefty, though, I personally couldn’t get to grips with a good control scheme. And, of course, there’s plenty of 4x strategy games if you’re up for some interplanetary conquering. The closest I get to strategy is turn-based RPG’s, myself, or maybe a bit of Civ 5 until I realise I’ve not bothered learning how to play and turning it off again.

I’ll probably get No Man’s Sky on PS4 someday… which will have to be preceded with getting a PS4 someday, and making time for it after I’ve decimated Ratchet and Clank. If there are any good space games you think I might be missing, let me know! Other than that, I’m going to go back to obsessively playing Stardew Valley, for that game is consuming any ability I may have to function as a human being away from my PC.

Nintendo Badge Arcade

A little while back, Nintendo released Nintendo Badge Arcade for the 3DS. And goodness. It was the biggest money-grabbing scheme I’d ever seen from Nintendo. For only 90p, they’d allow you 5 turns at their virtual claw machine in an attempt to gain badges to put on your 3DS start menu! They promised the odd free play for whenever they made any large update, but other than that it was a completely microtransaction-driven enterprise, all for the sake of putting a picture – because let’s be honest Nintendo, it’s not a badge, it’s just a little icon – on your start menu.

It saddened me. It was the biggest, most obvious money-grab I’d ever seen Nintendo make.

Now, where do you draw the line? Because even before the Badge Arcade existed, Nintendo were selling themes for the 3DS. And I understand that a little more, because other consoles have been doing that for way longer, and the themes are pretty cheap and pretty snazzy. But even then, I don’t have to pay money to change the background on my PC, so why should I have to for my 3DS? In the end, I decided that I’d probably only buy a theme if I had some spare money from topping up my wallet and after buying a game.

Now, whenever you open Nintendo Badge Arcade you’ll be greeted by this overly-talkative, overly-cheerful pink goddamn bunny rabbit. He says quirky things and asks you questions (probably information for Nintendo to collect and survey for themselves), and is the most unshakable goddamn anthropomorphic rabbit I’ve ever met. He’s built to be a likeable character who’s just happy to help whether you’re buying plays or not, and reminds me of every shady dealer stereotype to ever exist. You want to buy some plays? Excellent, he can help you out with that? You don’t? Well, that’s fine! He’ll just be over here if you change your mind! Oh hey, by the way, there’s this great deal on, but nah, don’t worry about it, it’s cool, he understands and he’s on your side. (And when I say he talks too much, I’m not exaggerating. You can’t press left and right in the menu sometimes without him popping up with 10, maybe more lines of dialogue, most of it fluff.)

In the spirit of honesty, I’ll admit that I bought plays from the Badge Arcade once. I’d just bought Pokemon Blue and Yellow, and had some money leftover in my wallet which I was going to use on a theme. The arcade at the time was running a promotion that gave you an exclusive Animal Crossing theme if you bought 10 plays (which was essentially the same price as a theme anyway), so I did it for the theme. And it felt dirty…

Nintendo Badge Arcade recently got an update that allows you to earn real plays from the practice machine (playable once a day), and since then my stance on the Badge Arcade has changed. Now it legitimately does feel like a free-to-play venture, as I think that you earn at least one free play if you don’t earn the super bonus (from what I’ve seen so far). So that’s 1 free play a day, and as the machines are physics based, it’s easily possible to get more than one badge per play if you play your cards right. (And just as easy to get none.) Once you talk your way past that damn rabbit you’re good to go, and my badge collection has been steadily growing over the last week. (Today I got four!) Funnily enough, this has also given the badges less worth in my subconscious, so I’ve often forgotten to use my daily play anyway.

My feedback to Nintendo now would be to assign a rarity to each badge, so as to indicate how infrequently they’re available for grabs. Maybe even make some one-time-only badges based on anniversaries and such. Make the rarer ones harder to get to entice people to buy more plays, and you’ll probably be good to go. And maybe calm that damn rabbit down a bit…

The Fighting, Fishing Farmer (Stardew Valley)

I’ve never played a Harvest Moon game before. I’ve eyed up the games on more than one occasion, but Nintendo typically doesn’t like to sell any of its big franchise titles below £20 and the very minimum. (Steam may have spoiled me in this regard.) I have, however, played my fair share on Animal Crossing games (Wild World, City Folk, New Leaf) and am a sucker for this genre of game.

It is easy, then, to see why Stardew Valley caught my eye. To this day, it remains as one of the only games I’ve bought upon its release without waiting for it go on sale in a year’s time. (Other games in this special category include Rocket League and Robot Roller Derby Disco Dodgeball.) After seeing approximately 5 seconds of a little pixellated guy planting some seeds of whatever, I leaned in intently for a closer look. 5 minutes later and it was downloading.

So here’s how my day begins: I get up, I water the crops. Preferably I’d like this to be automated eventually, as my ever-expanding farm takes longer and longer to water, but for this I need iron, and that’s a whole other enterprise. After watering the crops, I say a quick hello to Tocco the dog, before trotting into town. When I get there, I typically stop and realise that I’ve no idea what to do with my day. Should I go fishing? Foraging? Monster slaying and mining? Try to make friends and woo potential future wives? (Yes, marriage is another goal to work towards in-game.)

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This game is a little too realistic for my liking.

Currently, my main demand is making money. I need to buy a silo, and a chicken coop. I need to buy more crops to sell more crops. I need to buy a house upgrade to get a kitchen and delve into cooking. I need to buy tool upgrades, too, and I’m torn as to whether I should do that first or continue saving up. The game’s economy is a perfect balance of not having enough money to race through the game, and being able to make money fast enough to the point where you actually feel like you’re doing something.

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Having not yet grasped the workings of the gifting system, I’d become convinced that you could gift any villager anything and it’d raise your friendship. Mayor Lewis was not impressed with the rock I gave him.

Never before has a game simulated the whole “not enough hours in a day” problem as Stardew Valley. (Well, maybe Harvest Moon, but I’ve never played those games.) I mean, at least in The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask you could play a handy little tune to send you back in time. In Stardew Valley, I’ll sometimes be in the middle of cave diving and monster slaying when my character suddenly yawns, and I realise it’s midnight and I need to get home before I collapse at 2AM. Then it’s a rushed 6 hours sleep in which I dream about how much money the stuff I’ve dumped in my box has sold for, before it’s time to get up and water the crops again, bleary eyed and wondering how to spend my day.

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Had I known that the change of seasons would outright kill my crops, I’d have perhaps planted them a little earlier.

You may worry that Stardew Valley would get a bit routine, then, but the depth of the game counteracts this problem. Not only do you have plenty to do regarding skills, people and dungeon-running, but the game also has a good story, day-specific events and, of course, the changing of seasons to keep you occupied. Sometimes characters give you quests, asking you too find them a specific item and thereby rewarding you with gold and friendship. Sometimes you’ll walk into a room and a cutscene will start, cued by either storyline or level of friendship. There’s plenty to keep you busy, immersed, and out of a rut.

I have few criticisms, but I’ll express them anyway. Firstly, the controls. It’s difficult to explain, but sometimes when you click on a tile, you’ll instead interact with a different tile due to your character’s positioning. I feel that clicking on a tile that’s next to you should override the current position you’re facing and turn you, so that you don’t accidentally smash your potatoes with a pickaxe rather than that inviting looking stone behind you. My other small gripe as that, although the game’s soundtrack and ambiance is mostly perfect, the ambient noises they’ve included in forests for summer namely include flies buzzing loudly around the place. This might be realistic, but games like the Sims have conditioned me to believe that this noise is of negative origin, and I spent an embarrasingly long time trying to track down the source of the flies. It’s also just a, er, annoying noise.

 

That’s it, though. My two criticisms. Weighed against hundreds of points of positivity, I think it’s safe to say that Stardew Valley will be one of my longer-lasting companions in the gaming world.

 

I Choose You! (Pokemon Yellow)

I’ll be honest. I was going to get Blue. But at the last minute I read up on the benefits of Yellow and thought, “I guess I can stick Pikachu in a box somewhere. Yellow is far superior.”

Before you get mad at me, I’ll agree with you that yes, Pikachu is adorable. He is rather cute. But he is also not very strong, and Yellow takes away his ability to evolve into Raichu for… anime… reasons… But worry not. When I named him (for I’ve decided to nickname all 151 as I obtain them), he turned around and said, “Pikachu!” And goddamn it, that little yellow bastard is never leaving my party.

I’m currently six and a half hours into my playthrough, and I’m only just about to depart from Cerulean City. I know, that’s astonishingly slow progress, but I’ve decided to take things slowly, grind levels for my Pokemon when necessary, try to collect as many as I can on the way through the world, and perhaps destroy all the trainers while I’m at it.

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Hello there! (All images will be this level of quality. There is no alternative!)

Allow me to give you a rundown of my team, in order of when they were obtained:

Leading the party we have ZAGONAL, my level 15 PIKACHU. He currently knows THUNDERSHOCK, THUNDER WAVE, QUICK ATTACK and DOUBLE TEAM.

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I forgot to take a picture of this fated encounter, so uh… here’s the first obstacle I came across in the game.

 

Next up we have AERGUL, the obligatory PIDGEY, level 16. AERGUL knows GUST (which is, infuriatingly, a normal type move in gen 1), QUICK ATTACK, and SAND-ATTACK, which may be the only stat-affecting move I commonly use. That shit is overpowered.

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Level 5 and looking live. Many Pidgeys were fainted in the making of this image.

Following the mighty, erm, pigeon is REGIPIN, my level 16 NIDORINO. He knows HORN ATTACK, DOUBLE KICK, TACKLE and LEER. I look forward to the day he evolves into the frankly terrifying NIDOKING.

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I didn’t skip AGGRO. He just didn’t stay on the team.

Somewhere along my travels I picked up RAZCRAG, my level 16 SANDSHREW. For years now I’ve claimed to love Sandshrew / Sandslash, but I’ve never actually used one. He’s an absolute bastard to level due to his sparse moveset, but he’s starting to finally be worth his while. He currently still only knows SCRATCH and SAND-ATTACK, but I’ve just recently obtained TM28-DIG, which I’ll quite happily hand over to him.

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I was experimenting with playing the game in its native resolution when I caught Sandshrew. You can do this by holding SELECT as the game starts.

 

During my travels through Mt. Moon I encountered MELUNA, my level 16 CLEFAIRY. Quite amusingly, I found a MOON STONE right next to him and immediately went for the evolution, before stopping to check and see if I should wait for him to learn some moves first. It was with some horror that I learned Clefable won’t learn any moves by itself, and that one should most definitely wait a while. Luckily, I’d saved just beforehand. MELUNA still only knows POUND, GROWL, and the ever-useful SING, and so I shall hold off the evolution for a while longer. I’ve never actually used a Clefairy before – younger me thought it was too pink, and older me found it too annoying – but I finally stopped to consider that if Clefairy is an annoying Pokemon to fight, it must certainly be a prosperous one to train. Thus far, I have no regrets.

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I wonder what determines the colour the Pokeball turns when the Pokemon is caught on this screen? All balls thrown here have been regular.

 

Finally, BURGEON is a level 19 IVYSAUR, who gained many of his levels through the decimation of Misty’s gym. (Sorry ginge.) I typically go for Bulbasaur as a starter, so he’ll be accompanying me throughout the rest of the game. He currently knows TACKLE, VINE WHIP, LEECH SEED and GROWL, but hey, what do you want from him? He’s got a lot to learn.

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This special snowflake was encountered OUTSIDE of his Pokeball. We got a regular Pikachu over here.

I’m fairly certain that my team will remain as-is, for the most part, unless I find a good flying type to replace AERGUL, the obligatory Pidgey. I did originally have a Mankey named AGGRO, but sometime after Brock’s downfall he began to fall off in terms of usefulness, and I needed room for BURGEON, so… I boxed him. Sorry, bro.

As you can see, I’ve been having an intensely enjoyable time with the game so far, even if the going is slow. I’d actually been worrying that after all this hype, I may have been disappointed to find that the classics didn’t live up to expectation, as I’ve not really played them outside of their gen 3 remakes. These worries proved completely unfounded, however, with me enjoying most of the aspects which worried me. For instance, the lack of an XP bar was a quality-of-life addition in later games that I worried I couldn’t live without, when in actual fact I almost prefer it not being there to constantly remind me I have more grinding to do. The lack of a run feature has me slowing down to appreciate the, uh, scenery, and speaking of which the graphics have more charm to them than I’d originally anticipated; there’s something satisfying about that battle screen which reminds me of when you finish giving colour to a drawing on a previously blank piece of paper.

I plan on sinking many more hours into this game through completion of story and Pokedex, so expect a more journey-esque blog post within a few weeks, months, or years (for sometimes I take Pokemon games real slow). For now, though…

Ah, damnit. It’s official. I’ve become a genwunner.