I almost can’t believe that it is finally here. I have waited so long — we have all waited so long! But finally the Final Fantasy VII Remake is upon us, and personally it’s more than I could have ever hoped for! I will try to keep this mostly spoiler free, but for those of you who have not yet played and want to jump in with nothing spoiled at all, I suggest you put off reading this for now!
As most of you will know by know, this is only the first release of what will be an episodic remake of VII, and it is based on your time in Midgar (which in the original game was just disc 1 of 4!). It feels so good to see so many of the places we know so well get a full makeover, fleshed out and teeming with life! Many new aspects have been added to the game to achieve this including new places, people, plot points, mini games and features.
We will get to meet all the existing characters who we are already so fond of, as well as a whole host of new characters, all of whom fit into the world we know so well.
One of the biggest changes between the remake and the original is the battle system. For those of you who are unfamiliar with the original, Final Fantasy VII was before the time of active battles in the franchise, and so it worked on a turn based system. This meant choosing whether to attack, cast a spell, use an item etc. once each party member was ready to do so. But now, everything has been totally revamped to fit in with the current style of the franchise. This means totally active battles, controlling only one character (but being able to switch between your party members), moving around the battlefield, dodging, parrying, experiencing a true battle. So where do spells and such come into it? Well, as you battle your party will each have an ATB gauge that fills overtime. The gauge is split into segments, and these segments are used to perform abilities, and use your spells or items. No more spamming potions and phoenix downs! You’ve now got to have your characters be strong enough to survive taking a few punches if you want to heal up in a dire situation!
One of the many things that the Final Fantasy franchise is known for is have beautiful soundtracks. FF7: Remake is absolutely not an exception to this rule. The original game has some iconic tracks itself, and of course we will have to wait for future episodic releases before we can hear it all, but what I have heard so far is exceptional. A perfect balance of nostalgia from the redesign of existing tracks, and pleasure of experiencing the new tracks for the first time. Besides the actual background music, there are also CDs to be found around the world, all of which have a retro/nostalgic feel whilst also having their own themes.
There were many pivotal moments for me whilst playing – meeting the characters that I already knew so well and seeing them truly brought to life, being surprised by how much I suddenly adored characters I already knew and didn’t care about (shout out to Jessie, Biggs and Wedge), and seeing iconic scenes and places from the original.
So of course, being the same game but remade, the plot is virtually the same … right?
You are of course following the same characters and the same story, but it is not entirely identical. In fact, I noticed some key additions (and even differences) as I played. How about the mysterious ghost-like entities that seem to harass the party at pivotal plot points? And Avalanche … weren’t they just a tiny group? Now apparently a small delegation of a much larger group? And Aerith … I don’t know about the rest of you that have played, but something feels different. Of course, she is much more fleshed out just like everyone else, but in a way that just makes it more obvious. It’s almost like she has an awareness of some sort. I have a theory in mind, but I’m not going to get into that here.
So in short, Final Fantasy VII Remake really is everything that I hoped it would be, and that much more on top of that. I totally recommend it for anyone who enjoyed the original game, and for any RPG fans who never got a chance to play the original! In fact, the game is so good that I actually payed full retail price for it just because I wanted to get it as soon as it came out. Trust me, that almost never happens.
Eight long years we have had to wait, but Animal Crossing: New Horizons is finally here, but was it worth the wait? Anyone who has played will most likely join me in saying … Yes. Without a doubt, absolutely yes.
New Horizons is Animal Crossing as we have never known it before. Previously we have been a new villager in an existing town, New Leaf had us become the mayor of the town which brought some innovative new possibilities to the gameplay, so how does New Horizons build from this? It does so taking you right to the very beginning of it all!
You have opted in to Tom Nook’s brand new deserted island package, where you and two animal villagers have decided to settle down on a deserted island, giving you the opportunity to build a new town completely from scratch. I don’t think I can remember any other game that provided such a chilled out experience right from the beginning of the game! The first several days will serve as your sort of tutorial while new features are brought to your attention one at a time, alongside all the regular features that Animal Crossing fans have come to love and expect.
You will need to play each day for several days to get through this tutorial before the game can really start in earnest. This will include learning about the new crafting mechanic, collecting materials around the island in order to make your own tools, handing in bugs and fish that you catch which will bring Blathers to the island, and there is plenty more to do after that.
It is so satisfying to see the Animal Crossing world on the Switch, with stunning visuals – the animals all look spectacular with their fur textures, the water looks beautifully serene, and even has waves crashing against your cliffs! And it’s not just visual improvements that we’ve been treated to, there’s lots of practical improvements too! Previously you would need to get your hands on some sort of storage furniture to be able to be organised and store things away … but now every house has closet space for you to fill up as you see fit! Do you own a mirror? Well if you do, you can change your appearance whenever you want! How about a wardrobe? No need to put on items of clothing one at a time, trying to figure out a good outfit – you can now look in your wardrobe and take part in some sort of point and click fashion show, with poses that really make it as adorable and charming as you would expect from Animal Crossing.
It’s not an exaggeration to say that so far I am pretty much in love with this game already, and we’ve only just got started! A new layer of life has been given to the villagers, as they interact with the world around them much more. Previously you would either find them at home, or wandering about the island aimlessly, perhaps holding a tool to insinuate that they were doing something. But they’re going to be a lot busier from now on! Head into their homes and they might just be busy crafting something, or if you find them outside they could be exercising in the plaza, sitting on the beach and relaxing, or even sat down reading a book! One of the excellent new features is that you can freely place furniture and items around your island, as opposed to just in your home. It’s never been easier to make the town your own! We even have the luxury of being able to build fencing around our island – once you collect some recipes for them, you can craft them and start plonking them down to make yards, walkways, whatever you want with them!
One of the best new features is the online accessibility: it is by no means a new development to be able to visit your friends’ towns, but it has never been easier, and furthermore you can now have up to 8 people on an island at once! I have had a great time with my friends so far, visiting their islands, seeing what villagers they have, sharing resources, catching bugs and fruit together.
Speaking of fruit, there is finally a reason for you to actually eat fruit instead of just selling anything you get your hands on. Remember when you were told as a child to eat your fruit so you could become big and strong? Well New Horizons takes that message to a whole new level! Eat your fruit so that you can be instantly strong enough to dig up an entire fully grown tree with your shovel, and plant it somewhere else entirely! No longer must we wastefully chop down trees if we find it to be “in the way” or “unsightly” … wait, is that just me? I like my town to look nice okay!
Tom Nook has outdone himself with the Nook Miles program – there are many achievements that you can get, and in return you will receive Nook Miles! These can be exchanged for a wide variety of things – extra inventory space, DIY recipes, special items and clothing, and plenty more. It’s the perfect way to encourage players to take part in everything the game has to offer!
There is a lot more to say about this amazing game, but I suppose that will come in time! Animal Crossing is a game to be played a day at a time, and so I haven’t yet come across all the amazing features that New Horizons has to offer.
Wow, that is quite the lengthy title isn’t it? I’ll admit I have to keep looking it up to make sure I’m getting it in the right order!
Pokémon Mystery Dungeon! I imagine there are plenty of Poké-fans out there who have never ventured into this little spin off series. Let me be the first to tell you, that if this is you … you are missing out!
DX is a remastered Switch version of the original Red and Blue Rescue Team games that released on Gameboy Advance and Nintendo DS respectively. Red was the first one that I got my hands on, and I was so impressed with everything about it that I made sure to buy any future Rescue Team title (and so far I have never been let down).
So here’s the premise. You’re a human. You have somehow managed to enter the world of Pokémon — but not the world where they are captured by trainers, a world without humans! You will answer a personality test which will then determine what Pokémon you are from a small list of potential candidates. Historically, you would be stuck with whatever the result is, but in recent titles (DX included) you are offered the chance to decline and choose for yourself. You then pick your partner Pokémon and it’s time to get started!
Once all the intro to the game is out of the way, you will find yourself forming a rescue team with your partner. You will spend the game journeying to the randomly generated mystery dungeons, where Pokémon have been driven wild by natural disasters, rescuing lost Pokes, defeating boss Pokes, picking up loot and fighting the wild Pokes as you go.
I have so many fond memories of playing this as a child, I can’t wait to get this on the Switch. The demo allows you to play out the first few days of your adventure, giving you just enough of a taste for what DX is all about.
One thing that I feel will be slightly controversial is the style of graphics used. Personally, I’m actually undecided. When I first heard about this remaster, my gut reaction was to hope for something along the same lines as the Link’s Awakening remake, with a diorama/clay model feel. I felt like that would be a cute and appropriate style for the series. Instead a simplistic style which is almost sketch-like has been used, and while it’s a long way from what I originally hoped for, I can see a certain charm to it. I’m sure I’ll be used to it, and even happy with it, as I play more of the game. Hopefully anyone else in a similar situation will also learn to love it.
Although the graphics might be questionable for some, I’m sure many would agree with me when I say that the soundtrack couldn’t be any better! The Mystery Dungeon series has always had strong soundtracks, and there’s no exception to be made here. Hearing music that was once made for a system as old as the Gameboy Advance revitalised for modern systems is always a treat!
For anyone who has not tried the series before, I seriously suggest downloading this demo and seeing what you think of it. It’s a lot of fun, it has so much charm, and even a surprising amount of challenge!
Here we have a game that sort of appeared out of nowhere for me – I hadn’t heard anything about it until maybe a week or so before release, and I was intrigued enough to do a little digging, and impressed enough to preorder it.
Greedfall is a fascinating take on what colonial times would be like in a fantasy setting. You are De Sardet, a noble of one of the continent’s great nations, and you set out on a voyage to a new land, where colonisation has already begun. You will face exotic beasts, native tribes, and other nations who have settled on the shores of the island.
The combat is something that in particularly enjoy, as it offers a lot of fluid choices, and certainly some challenges in places. As you level up, you will be able to invest points in your skill tree, and you probably won’t be shocked to hear that the tree is roughly divided into a sort of Warrior/Rogue/Mage categorisation. Greedfall allows you to have two melee weapons set, and a gun always available to use, so you have the potential to create a truly well-rounded character. You can have a magical ring set as one weapon to cast spells, then at the press of a button swap to your melee weapon to allow your mana to recharge. You will also need to dodge or parry to survive, as some of the native creatures are particularly deadly… Luckily you are able to take two companions with you as you travel the island, so you won’t be on your own against these perils!
There is some strategy that goes into leveling up, as on certain levels you also get Attribute Points and Talent Points. The former are spent in De Sardet’s Agility, Strength, Endurance, Willpower, Mental Power, and Accuracy. Assigning points into these attributes will allow you to equip the best equipment as you progress through the game. The Talent Points are used to further De Sardet’s vigor, charisma, science, lockpicking, craftsmanship and intuition. Each is important in its own way, such as vigor which allows you to regenerate health and mana quickly outside of combat and gives you access to secret areas through climbing and balancing across certain obstacles. Science is also a good one to invest in early, as a single point in science allows you to explore weakened walls to access even more areas!
Without a doubt I have been fascinated by the plot – as much as I love Fantasy RPGs in general, there’s no denying that storylines can often mirror each other in certain aspects. It’s interesting to experience this colonial fantasy adventure, mixing a fascinating period of human history with an excellent and imaginative genre. Instead of medieval huts, peasants, and dragons, we have native settlements, colonial cities, rising tensions, and even wars.
Something that I always admire is the work that goes into creating a fictional tribe. The natives of Teer Fradee have their own language, and a particularly thick accent when speaking in the common tongue, even with occasionally bad grammar as you might expect from a native tribe learning a new language. These are the special kind of details that make a world feel convincing and alive.
As much as I like Greedfall, it isn’t without its flaws. Probably the most glaringly obvious of these flaws is the unfortunate fact that some of the settings do feel somewhat copy and pasted. Maybe there was just one architect on the island at the time, but all of the new cities have within them Palaces, taverns, barracks, all with perfectly identical layouts. Even the settlements of the island’s various tribes of natives have identical lodging for their Chiefs – down to the last stone! It’s sad that this is the case as the rest of the world seems to have been so painstakingly crafted, these copied details just chip away at my immersion into this world. My only other gripe is the companion quests – upon accepting a quest from one of your companions, they will be locked into your party until you have completed all stages of that quest. It’s a pretty minor complaint, but it bugs me as I’m usually one for accepting lots of quests and then working through them in whatever order I like – preferably without having to be worried about my party members being locked in.
It’s certainly not the longest game, but there is still the potential for you to sink quite a lot of time into it, and I have had a lot of fun while dedicating my time to it.
One of the stand-out titles on the Nintendo Gamecube for me was Luigi’s Mansion, and I was so excited when the announcement would be made that the third game would be coming to the Nintendo Switch! I knew instantly that this would be a game that would be added to my collection without much delay.
Without a doubt, the game has not been a disappointment in any way for me. The Hotel that Luigi finds himself in looks so good, and it’s quite fun navigating all the floors with their different themes. The boss ghosts to be found on each floor are fun characters, all of which offer a fair amount of challenge to catch.
The floors themselves also offer plenty of challenge with lots of puzzles to solve, and every now and again I have actually been stumped and had to come back to a puzzle to attempt it with fresh eyes.
Probably one of my favourite things about the game is the pure destructive power of Luigi with his Poltergust G-00! I can’t help myself – every single time I enter a room, the first thing I must do is vacuum everything. It’s just … SO … MUCH … FUN! If you’re anything like me, you’ll find yourself wondering what the overpowered vacuum is capable of sucking up, and what survives. There’s just something ridiculous about watching Luigi point the Poltergust at a sofa and decimating the cushions!
Another great thing about the third installment to the series is the multiplayer, a returning feature from the second game, Dark Moon. If you feel like a little break from exploring the perilous hotel, why not team up with other plucky plumbers to vacuum up some ghosts in the ScareScraper? And if you’re not feeling cooperative, you could always head to the ScreamPark, where you can pit yourself against others so you can see who is the best Luigi!
While there is very little to complain about here, there is one thing that I miss from the original Luigi’s Mansion. The mansion was split into different areas, and each area had a boss ghost for you to capture. The thing that’s missing for me is the other portrait ghosts and the challenges that they brought with them.
Luigi would enter the room, see the ghost but would be unable to capture them until they expose their heart. All you had was a single clue and your own wits to figure out how to use the surroundings to manipulate the ghost into showing their heart.
I found this to be a fun, imaginative challenge that always kept you thinking on your toes! While Luigi’sMansion 3 certainly isn’t lacking in challenges, I just miss this as a format, as I feel it was something that really worked.
All in all, I’ve enjoyed playing this so much, I couldn’t recommend it enough for any one else who has a soft spot for this cowardly hero!
I have played the Smash Bros. series since Melee on the Gamecube – I was instantly taken with it back then, and here and now in the present day, I’m pleased to say that Smash Bros. have only grown to loftier heights.
One of the things that I love about Super Smash Bros. Ultimate is how it caters to so many people. If you’re a newcomer to the series, or a beginner with fighting games in general, then you can very quickly get the hang of the simple controls and features of the game. If you’re a returning fan then this new installment to the series is just more of what you already love, with the added bonus of every single fighter that has featured so far in the series.
This will most likely always be my favourite series of fighting games, there’s just something so fun about taking some of your favourite characters from gaming and pitting them against each other to see who comes out on top! And let’s not forget about the abundance of items that will randomly spawn on the stages for you to use! Some items can absolutely change the tide of the battle in your favour, so it’s important to know what they do and how they can help you!
One thing that I really missed from the previous installment on the Wii U is the story mode. I was so pleased to see the return of a story mode in Ultimate, I have easily spent hours and hours on this! A dramatic intro cut scene shows all of the fighters being deleted by a mysterious force made of light – all of the fighters except Kirby, who managed to escape on his Warp Star just in time. As Kirby you will travel through the world defeating evil spirits, and rescuing the fighters. Everyone you rescue will be added to your roster, so if Kirby doesn’t do much for you as a character, you won’t be stuck with him for long.
There were number of new fighters added to the roster for Ultimate, such as the long-awaited Ridley, the fiery Incineroar, super cool squid-kid Inkling, and the most adorable addition to date – Isabelle!
One small thing I like to do is collect the different costumes for the custom Mii Fighters. There are so many different options, most of which are referencing characters from various games. It can be a lot of fun to make your own characters this way, as if the roster wasn’t already big enough for us!
Playing by yourself, playing with your friends, either locally or online … no matter how you play, this is a fun game for everyone!
I barely even know where to start with Sword and Shield, the latest installment to the Pokémon series. I have a lot to say about them, so I guess I should start somewhere!
First, let’s talk about the theme.Sword and Shield are set in the region of Galar, which is inspired by the UK! As a Brit, it means there are lots of little nods here and there that I find quite amusing to say the least, and other things that I just find very satisfying to see.
From the very beginning I could immediately feel a sense of English countryside, starting off in the sleepy village of Postwick, moving onto Wedgehurst, the aesthetic was captured perfectly with the fields of crops, and grazing Wooloo (the sheep Pokémon!), and the villages and towns themselves hold a certain charm which I think reflects that of the rural countryside villages we see here in the UK perfectly.
And this aesthetic just grows more and more the further into the region you go! We have a town which seems to have taken inspiration from our famous landmark, Stonehenge, and it also has a Geoglyph on the hillside (a large design/pattern on the ground usually formed by chalk, small stones or other such materials) which is something that can be found surprisingly often in England, usually in the shape of a horse!
The PokémonCentres also have their own English charm added to them. They have a quaint decorated exterior which seems to fit in just about wherever you would find one, but it’s the interior that impressed me the most. I was simply shocked to walk inside for the first time and see on the left hand side of the room … a pub! Every PokémonCentre has its own little pub, and I couldn’t help but laugh when I saw the tiny pictures of the berries on the taps!
The town names are another thing which I feel have been perfectly captured – I genuinely could be at home looking around for nearby villages to visit! Postwick, Circhester, Hulbury, Stow-On-Side, Wyndon … all you need to do is have a look around the UK on Google Maps, and you’ll see just how well these fit the theme.
The next thing I would like to talk about is some of the new features that I have come across so far! First, let’s talk about the updated mechanics for wild Pokémon. It seems as though Game Freak have taken the classic mechanics of the main games, the new mechanics introduced in the Let’s Go titles, and put them together to make a fantastic combination. Wild Pokémon will pop up in the grass, and they also react to you in different ways. Some will walk up to you with curiosity, others will charge at you and commence battle! And more still will flee as soon as they see you, you’ll have to sneak up to these flighty fellows! And besides these, you’ll also see an exclamation mark followed by rustling in the grass as you pass through – if you run into that small patch, you’ll find yourself in a classic random battle! Furthermore, you can even whistle or sound your bicycle’s bell to attract the attention of Pokémon – even those who might be flying in the skies above you!
Next on the list is the Wild Area. My goodness … I can hardly pull myself away from this new area! This is the first time that us fans have experienced such an overwhelmingly large area in a Pokémon game. The Wild Area has plenty of Pokémon for you to track down and catch – with a hefty level range! You have to keep your wits about you, otherwise you could find yourself being wiped out by one of these powerhouses.
A big part of the Wild Area is the dens which are scattered across the plains. You will occasionally spot glowing beams of light piercing the sky – these are emitted from the previously mentioned dens, and if you journey to one of these, you will be able to enter a raid battle! I have to say, I really, really enjoy these. Four players will take one Pokémon into battle against an enormous wild Pokémon – a Dynamax Pokémon. It is possible for one trainer to dynamax their Pokémon, but this will only last for three turns. There are many things to gain from completing these – besides the chance to catch a Pokémon that you might not be able to find easily otherwise, you will also get a nice haul of items, including a TR or two, an item which is used to teach your Pokémon a new move, but it breaks after one use (a throwback to the old school games where TMs weren’t unlimited use).
The last feature I want to mention is the camping. While you’re travelling, you can set up camp and let your team run around for a bit of fresh air. While in camp, you can observe them as they plod along, occasionally interacting with each other, you can throw a ball about for them to either catch and bring back to you, or kick around, you can take a toy out which seems to encourage a bit of rough-house play, and finally you can get cooking to feed yourself and your team! This is something I really enjoy – it’s just so fun to watch as you and your lead Pokémon take that suspenseful first taste, and then react in awe at the taste of your concoction! One of the benefits of doing this is a nice experience boost for your party, as well as any fainted Pokémon being revitalised enough to carry on for another battle!
With this new generation comes a whole host of new Pokémon for fans to discover. So far, I have been totally bowled over by the designs of these Pokémon … for the most part at least.
There have been some incredibly solid designs, and so many of them fit the theme perfectly. From squirrels to foxes, sheep to ravens … We even have Pokémon that have been inspired by Welsh Corgis, Vikings, knights, and even tea pots! This is just a small number of examples though, there are so many more that I could mention!
Next thing on my list is the GymChallenge. In a Pokémon game there are usually two main goals. Catch as many Pokémon as you can to complete your Pokédex, and defeat all the Gym Leaders and then the Elite Four. Sun and Moon saw a brief switch-up from this regular format through the Island Challenge, but otherwise the format is largely the same throughout the main series games.
I don’t know how controversial this opinion will be, but here it is: this is the best Gym Challenge I have ever faced.
I love everything about it. It is introduced to us as a rather exclusive, but nationally adored event (a rather obvious parallel with real-world sports). In order to enter, you must be endorsed, and we receive our endorsement from the champion. Every challenger is to have their own number for their uniform, and yes, you will be wearing a uniform. The Gyms themselves are massive stadiums! They must be tackled in a specific and official order with no deviations, and each Gym has a Mission for you to complete before challenging the Leader.
The best thing is without a doubt the battles with the Gym Leaders. The battle takes place in the main stadium, with endless crowds watching and cheering – they even react to the battle! The soundtrack is just out of this world, I get so swept up in it. And then once the Gym Leader has one Pokémon left … time for Dynamax! Not only that, but the crowd goes wild with excitement, and the soundtrack actually changes as the crowd sings along! You can also Dynamax at any point in this battle, but it only lasts for three turns, so choose carefully!
The way that the challenge is set out makes me think of the anime and how the Pokémon League is usually depicted – I always felt that was how it should be presented and that the games sometimes fell short of that. I may not have completed my copy of Shield just yet, but so far I have not been disappointed.
There has been a fair amount of complaint amongst fans in the run up to release day. I have seen complaints about the choice to not include all Pokémon, about the lack of innovation in the graphics, the shortness of the routes and the story in general.
I have to admit that while I understand and respect these opinions, I can’t say that I share them. It is a shame that not all Pokémon have been included, but at the end of the day, there are 400 Pokémon available for us to catch and train. That’s more than enough for me, I know I will spend plenty of time hunting them down and training up my favourites. It will be sad to see that certain Pokes didn’t make the cut, but I can still appreciate what we have been given.
I really can’t find an issue with the graphics personally – I think the environment is absolutely gorgeous. I have seen mentions about how the trainers and Pokémon pop up onto the screen as you get close to them, so that they don’t need to be rendered the entire time, and it just doesn’t bug me. They appear on screen in a very smooth way, so as not to be too jarring.
I can see why people are annoyed at the length of the routes, some of them are admittedly short. This hasn’t stopped me from spending plenty of time in each one though – with so many different Pokémon to come across, particularly with the changing weather, there is plenty of reason to hang around, see what you can find, and even to return to places that you have already been to! I have literally spent hours in the Wild Area catching anything I hadn’t already found.
There are only two things that really bother me, the first being the battle background when you are indoors. The outside and the stadiums have fantastic backgrounds that make you feel as though you’re really battling out there! But if you battle inside a building, it is a strange, hazy background which does break the immersion. It’s somewhat disappointing to see, considering they were able to achieve this with Pokémon Coliseum on the Gamecube.
The other thing that bugs me is the lack of a feature that was done so well in Let’s Go, that I really hoped it would be a reoccurring feature. You can’t pick a Pokémon to follow you around anymore! It feels like the foundation was there, with the wild Pokémon roaming around the world, but the feature itself wasn’t implemented.
My final word is that while this may have been a disappointing entry for some Pokémon fans, it ticked all the right boxes for myself personally, so PokémonSword and Shield get my full recommendation.