We’re sharing what games are trending in our own personal zeitgeist in this week’s edition of We’re Just Playing…
This week, we all decided to dive into gaming franchises that have been around for decades now. While these venerable series’ have maintained their core gameplay, some have evolved more than others.
I managed to beat the original Jak and Daxter not too long ago. I think it’s definitely dated but still enjoyable enough for fans of Collect-a-thon platformers. I played about an hour of the sequel, Jak 2, where Jak goes all edgelord on us and grows a goatee (the two are not mutually exclusive). It’s pretty fun, and adopted the Grand Theft Auto structure of receiving missions from different people. It’s interesting to see a sequel that changes tones and genres so drastically while still managing to feel like a part of the same series. I haven’t played it too much yet, but I’m looking forward to more.
Additionally, I managed to beat Mega Man X4 as both X and Zero, closing out my time with the first half of the Mega Man X Legacy Collection. I’m undecided on whether or not I want to get the second half of the series, but I’ve heard that the fifth game is the last one really worth your time. As it is, the first four games are enjoyable and difficult old school action platformers, and it was cool to see their evolution over the years. Each one managed to add some kind of gimmick which helped it stand apart from the rest, and weirdly, the fourth game has become one of my favorites. Not only does it have the best overall collection of Mavericks to fight since the first game (Magma Dragoon, Slash Beast, and Storm Owl were all dope), but the graphics received a gorgeous upgrade with the series moving from the SNES to the PSX. In an era where 3D was all the rage, it’s nice to see that some developers refined their 2D art style. Mega Man X4 easily stands tall as one of the best looking 2D games on the console, right up there with Symphony of the Night. To top it all off, the game finally allowed players the chance to control Zero in his own story mode. He has distinct moves and advantages over X, making it worth playing through the game as each character. The story was also surprisingly very dark despite the comically bad voice acting in the cut scenes, and even though the series up to that point was mostly spinning its wheels (someone has resurrected Sigma again!) it was nice to see such an old school franchise attempt something greater than just “Dr. Wily is at it again.”
Upon beating X4, I immediately fired up Mega Man Zero/ ZX Legacy Collection on my Switch which, like Daemon X Machina, I received for free through a series of shenanigans. I have actually played through the Zero franchise before when the collection came out for the DS, but I beat them on the Easy mode since I was very bad at games when I was younger. Turns out, I still am. I played through the beginning of Zero on the normal difficulty and was walled so hard by the second boss that I decided to opt for the easier mode. I’ll fully admit that I am still very bad at this style of game. I love the aesthetics of the X and Zero/ ZX franchises, and quite enjoy the story of the latter, so having that easier mode makes the games much more accessible for people like me. The first Zero game in particular is absolutely notorious for how difficult it can be, and the margin for error on the second boss was painfully low. So yeah, ya boy is playing these games on their nerfed difficulties. I keep telling myself that I’ll go back on their standard difficulties one of these days and complete them that way.
Lastly, like Mr. O’Donnell last week, I have started playing the 2018 God of War soft reboot. It’s my first entry in the series, but I know quite a bit about the franchise history due to pop culture osmosis. The game looks fantastic, with gorgeous character models and environments that are almost photorealistic. I’m also enjoying the combat a lot. There’s a great sense of momentum and weight to it, with each blow feeling powerful and meaningful. It strikes a really good balance between wish fulfillment power fantasy and being strategic and methodical. I wasn’t expecting an AAA release of this nature to be as challenging as it is, but so far that’s a good thing. It’s carrying the game for me, because, and I’m sorry to once again be a contrarian, the story isn’t doing much for me. I often struggle to engage with “violent parental figure struggles to raise child in a bleak setting” stories, which is a big part of why The Last of Us didn’t work for me. Unlike that game though, God of War has a really strong combat system to back up the scripted story sections, so it gets a pass. I’m only a few hours in, but I can already tell I’ll enjoy upgrading Kratos and Atreus and fine tuning my combat loadout as more options become available to me.
I rounded off last week by mentioning that I was eyeing up my unopened copy of Dragon Quest XI S: Echoes of an Elusive Age for the Nintendo Switch. I also noted that it’d probably be a bad idea to start a hundred-hour JRPG from my backlog a week before Final Fantasy VII Remake lands. I’m now 12 hours into that bad idea and feeling pretty great about it. Dragon Quest XI might be the most easy-going video game I’ve ever played. I’m absolutely smitten with it; beguiled even.
Firstly, the game is utterly gorgeous with one of the most striking art styles I’ve seen in a JRPG. The colourful cast of heroes, NPCs, and monsters have been designed, modeled and animated beautifully, bringing the vibrant land of Erdrea to life. I find myself gleefully charging into combat with every new enemy I see just to enjoy its design and animation. There’s such a wacky variety too including the aptly named Cruelcumbers, Bunicorns, Platypunks and Funghouls.
The main cast are equally endearing too, each with unique and easy-to-love personalities. The English VO is fantastic, with a great range of accents on display to compliment the diverse characters. The writing is great and often hilarious. The music is incredible, recorded from a live orchestra—a huge improvement over the original midi soundtrack on the PS4 release from what I understand. Okay, I’m gushing far too much here…
There are certainly aspects where the game doesn’t exactly excel. The combat is very simplistic with your only control being over the main character whilst the rest of the party take their own actions. In most fights I’m spamming the A button to attack, only really bothering to think tactically in boss fights. Another thing that surprised me a little was how limited the open spaces are in the game. Perhaps I’ve been spoiled by some of the huge open environments in other similar games but the narrow, linear, corridor-like areas between towns were a little jarring at first.
These couple of niggles are almost irrelevant for me, however. I’m just enjoying being in Dragon Quest XI’s world. When I play it, I feel like I’m on holiday. Each town and its surrounding areas have distinct themes with stunning architecture and beautiful vistas to explore. I find myself constantly reaching for the capture button to take snapshots, or spending 5 minutes at a time trying to line up the perfect group shot in the game’s photo mode. It won’t be long until I’ll be boring family members with my Switch’s photo album, regaling with tales of my travels.
Sadly, it’s a holiday that’s destined to be cut short because my Final Fantasy VII Remake pre-order has now arrived. I’ll be back soon to continue my adventure in Dragon Quest XI, but Final Fantasy VII is where my love JRPGs began, and the remake can’t wait.
I’m glad you guys are enjoying two games that made my Best of the 2010s list. God of War had surprisingly deep combat, in that you start off unsure about this weird boomerang ax that you slowly grow to love based on how you upgrade it. I loved that the game shows little demos of what each power up can do before you choose. Often times, I’d see the type of damage it would do, and that would sway me over choosing another option. Had the upgrades only been written descriptions, I probably would’ve gone a different way.
I know for a fact you’re not a contrarian, Collin, so the fact you aren’t connecting with the story interests me. I often play through games, love them, but can barely remember the plot. In God of War, I loved the plot, and I described why in my Best Of article, and I think the fact I’ve played all the previous games where Kratos gets more and more alpha a-hole helps me appreciate what they did with his older, grayer character.
Sean, I am a huge Dragon Quest fan. I played all the old Dragon Warrior games on the NES. I have played all of them except VII and X. Every fan of the series knows they rarely change the DNA too drastically, and XI is certainly not revolutionary, but it’s just so damn well made. The animation, the voice acting, the battles, it’s all typical DQ goodness. And I am a master craftsman. I love crafting. Not only that, I love crafting perfectly. Also, I managed to move on past the casino area. DQ games are notorious for sucking me into the gambling aspect and leaving the main plot in the dust.
Also, Funghoul is the best enemy name, Sean.
So what have I been playing? Well, I finished Resident Evil 3, and I loved it. I don’t often replay these because replays are all about doing everything better and faster, and I am not a fan of feeling rushed, however, this game is so breezy, I am doing just that. But I have a final review to write about it, so I’ll just leave it at that.
Johnny, I actually went back and reread your Best of 2010s article about God of War. I can appreciate everything the game is trying to do, but I think it’s entirely a personal thing, not necessarily the game’s fault. Just something about the methodical pacing and objectives are getting in the way of enjoying the story for me. Another problem is I haven’t really played the original trilogy at all, so I don’t know that I’m fully appreciating what the game is doing. And again, that’s entirely on me. There have been a small handful of times where this kind of story has really resonated with me, primarily with The Road and Logan, but those weren’t huge 20 hour experiences either. I’ll give it a few more chances to really grab me (I’ve heard something really awesome happens near the part I’m at) but I’m not terribly engaged by it as a whole.
I agree, Collin, some games move at a pace that doesn’t always align with my current mood or tempo, and it’s more about me than the game.
Lastly, does anyone recall the lawsuit Lindsay Lohan brought against Take-Two for a GTA V character that looked (according to her) just like her? That suit was tossed out. I doubt Justin Bieber cares all that much, and doesn’t need the money, but I assume he’d have a much better case against Capcom for the actor featured in the posters for the fictional Mars Carlisle’s Off Duty that you see in the Resident Evil 3 remake’s version of Raccoon City.