Lucien’s Review: Kingdom Hearts II.8: The Final Chapter Prologue

Kingdom Hearts 2.8Alright, time to dole out some tough love.  Because this is a game that has some good parts, but some horrific and glaring flaws that REALLY need to be pointed out and analyzed.  It’s nice to have a final act to the plot as it’s understood now, however, the cruel truth is that for all the positive elements in this game there are some truly unpleasant realities about this three-pack that I think need to be accepted.  Let’s get down into this.

As with all the other culmination packs, this game is three games wrapped up into one.  Well, two games, really.  Actually, not even that.  One game, a piece of what should have been free demo DLC, and a long-ass cutscene.  That what it is.  Let’s break them down, one-by-one.

For anyone who says that Hideo Kojima has written some convoluted narratives, you don’t know what Kingdom Hearts’ story has become.  The first game is Dream Drop Distance.  In it, we have Sora and Riku taking a mastery exam to become true Keyblade masters.  They enter a dream world where they have to open seven keys that will unlock seven sleeping worlds.  In doing so, they will somehow prove that they are masters of the keyblade or some shit.  Yeah, the narrative is bunk.  This was a cash-grab game.  And as cash-grabs so…it’s pretty standard.

We have our two iconic characters reprising their roles.  We even have a ton of the extra case reprising their roles from the other games.  Really hoping that we get to have Axel’s iconic voice and tagline in Kingdom Hearts III.  Got it memorized?  Though, it seems that Hayden Penettiere didn’t want to reprise her role as Kairi.  Bummer.  I was really hoping that would work out.  Jesse Carter comes back as Roxas, which I love.  Dying to see him come back as Ventus in the last game.

Which brings us to the gameplay.  Anyone who has played Birth By Sleep will get this combat sequence pretty quick.  It’s not hard to follow.  We get these little spirit creatures that you can create who mix things up, but it really isn’t any different from Birth By Sleep.  Add to that more worlds that are so damn empty.  Why are all the worlds in these games devoid of npcs?  It’s so weird to me that in 2017, with limited level space, we have so little happening.  If that’s the case in the third game, I’m strangling a bitch.  This game widened out the areas a lot more, which just made it that much more noticeable how there is no one in these places but the main characters and villains.  Weird to watch Quasimodo at the center of the Festival of Fools and have it be nothing but empty space.

However, when the plot of this game rears its ugly head, it drags its ass so hard.  Granted, I am happy to see old chums from previous games coming together to kick ass.  Seeing Axel fighting against his old comrades is pretty sweet.  However, it’s not worth the painful exposition-dumping that this game has all over itself.  But the worst offense – the parts that shine of brilliance and go nowhere.

For example – anyone remember what I said would make for an awesome Kingdom Hearts III?  I said that there should be a world like Fantasia, where it’s nothing but music, without dialogue, and you get to just take in the visuals and gameplay with it.  They did it!  They fucking did it!  And I was in love!  Each of the areas themed after the areas in Fantasia were awesome!  For those scenes, I was enraptured.  But it’s so short!  Give me some Rite of Spring!  Give me some stuff from Fantasia 2000!  Go nuts!  Or even worse, you go to the world of Tron Legacy.  And they have one of the most fun segments in any of these games – light-cycle fights!  You alternate from the awesome energy ribbons to laser guns.  That was amazing!  More of that!  But then it’s done, and you can’t even play it like a racing game later!  What the hell?!

This game had a ton of potential, and there are a few moments that truly do realize it.  Then others that go fucking nowhere.  It’s such a shame.

Speaking of, let’s talk about Birth By Sleep 0.2, the second “game” in this collection.  Although, I am going to come right out with it – this isn’t a game.  It’s just not.  It’s a tech demo for how the third game will play.  And just on those merits, it is actually a lot of fun.  No joke, I had a hell of a time just going around and getting a wow out of the crazy awesome visuals in the game.

The plot goes that Aqua has been wandering the Realm of Darkness ever since Terra was taken over and Ventus’ heart was lost to the darkness.  Now she is trying to find her way to her friends, but time has no meaning in this place.  She’s been wandering for almost ten years, and it’s worn her down.  You can clearly see that she is tired of this endless drifting through shadow, and wants to go back home with her friends.  However, when the darkness beckons, and destiny comes into play, we get to see Aqua do random shit that goes nowhere.

As I said, it’s a tech demo.  A very pretty tech demo.  On visual and gameplay merits, it actually is a lot of fun.  If this is what to expect in the third game, then color me impressed.  However, the cruel reality is that this game clocks in at under 3 hours long, and the plot is weak as fuck.  This game should have been DLC for $5, or a free demo for the third game.

Which brings us to the final part of this game – Back Cover.  A cutscene that decides to fill us in on the events which led up to the original destruction of the world and the Keyblade War.  As well-voiced and beautiful as this digital film is, the cruel and honest truth is that it isn’t a game, and I could have watched this shit on YouTube.  Hell, most people will do that.

I am trying to be nice here.  I really wanted to like this.  However, the unfortunate truth is that this collection was INSANELY over-priced and not even remotely worth what they are asking for.  If you want, wait for the price to go down if you are truly a die-hard Kingdom Hearts fan.  For the rest of you, just skip it.  A YouTube synopsis will get you caught up the rest of the way if you have gotten this far.

Final Verdict
5 out of 10

Peace out,

Maverick

Critical Examination: Gameplay Growth vs. Narrative Growth

This is one of those things that I have seen a few forum posts arguing about.  Which is better?  Is it better when a game helps a narrative grow, or one where the gameplay evolves in some way?  After all, we’ve seen how that can go wrong.  Just look at the Resident Evil franchise.  After RE4, the franchise was irrevocably destroyed.  The newest entry looks to be going into a whole different extreme.  Maybe to have a fresh start.  Maybe to capitalize on the success of P.T.  Or the new fad that’s sweeping gaming – VR.  And yes, that is a fad.  What I’ve seen from it gives me no reason to think that it won’t be a novelty.  For gamers like myself, the appeal is non-existent.  I’m a story-seeker.  What does virtual reality mean to me?  Nothing.  Nothing at all.  Man, there was a digression.

Which of these two things is more important?  I’m going to highlight each and then I hope you all will have some swell arguments in the Comments (I get so few.  Maybe that’s for the best, but whatever).  You all probably know where my opinions lie.  I’ve gotten way ahead of myself already.  Let’s talk about the distinctions.

Gameplay Growth

Assassin's CreedThere are several franchises that show this off to varying success.  The one that comes to mind the quickest in Assassin’s Creed.  Each of these games was supposed to be an evolution of the franchise.  For the first four games, I argue that that was the case.  Each game gave you new elements to play around with.  The first game was raw, and the people who made it knew that.  Many of the flaws were fixed in the sequel.  Gameplay-wise, at least.  The reason I put it firmly in this category is that anyone who has played these games knows that the plot is ridiculous.  The plot was never meant to be the driving force.  That’s something Ubisoft forgot, along with what made the games good.

In Assassin’s Creed II, all of the problems that most players had with the original got fixed.  Your character could swim.  He could swoop down on people from above.  He could use other elements to hide from guards.  It was a lot better than the original.  Plus, we had a much better protagonist.  The half-baked semi-sequels to the game also had their own improvements.  I will say that the combat in Brotherhood was infinitely better than in ACII.  Were it not for how limited that game was in its scope, I honestly would have had a load more fun with it.  But by that point, the franchise was becoming Ubisoft’s version of CoD.

Assassin’s Creed III had a lot of cool elements, but the problem was that it felt half-baked.  You get the ability to climb trees, and the parkour elements work a lot better.  That was awesome.  It made being able to set up some awesome assassination options very interesting.  But the real addition that was the ship battles.  Battles on the high sees was amazing.  Everyone who played that game thought it was the best part.  There was just one problem – far too little of it.  There was far too little of a lot of stuff.  The plot of this game took over, which is never a good sign, considering how absurdly stupid it is.

Then we got what I will virulently defend is the best of the franchise – Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag.  That game got absolutely everything right.  Instead of the stupid crap having to do with the Assassin’s and the Templar, you are now a nameless employee of Abstergo.  There is plot stuff, but all you are doing is helping it be done by someone else.  That’s awesome!  I love that!  But the gameplay here is the best in the series.  It nailed what made the franchise so good.  Something Ubisoft forgot ages ago.  The reason we loved these games is because they allowed us to explore a world that was unique and diverse.  Lots of things to see and a culture to get to know.  Here, you are given a ship and told to go explore the Caribbean to your heart’s content.  And I did.  I so did.  I went everywhere and did as much as I could.  Even the side-quests that Ubisoft is infamous for making into busy-work were fun.  The diving bell stuff, the ship battles that just fill out a completion meter.  Each time I took on a fort was a great experience.  Which was the other thing that was awesome – the ship battles.  The formula the last game had was perfected here.

Finally, we have the most recent two entries in the franchise.  The ones that made the whole thing go to shit.  Instead of moving the franchise forward and letting us explore some interesting parts of history and get to know the culture by traveling around, we were put into a single city, and that was it.  Hell, even Brotherhood gave you side-missions that allowed you to go see other places.  It took some of the monotony away from being stuck in Rome.  That was something that died with the Ezio games – the side-quests that either took you into structures to find secret stuff, or the missions to deal with some random, likely-absurd thing in some other city.  Groj how I missed that.  Especially since the secret stuff was puzzle stuff, and puzzle platforming in those games was great.  At least I thought so.

This franchise is where the growth of gameplay over time was done right and then done wrong.  All within nearly ten years.  That’s impressive.  The franchise forgot what made it good, and instead became a mishmash of the worst things about the franchise.  The reason is because Ubisoft has been making the same game for so long that it’s all they can do.  Even when they claim to be shaking things up, they don’t.  It’s part of why their company is going to die.  Here’s hoping someone who is better at open-world games can pick up the Assassin’s Creed IP and remember what made these games great.

Narrative Growth

Before we get too far into this, let me point out that I’m not saying that focusing on this kind of growth means that all of the games in a franchise will play the same.  Not at all.  I am saying that the growth of gameplay is far second to how the story progresses.  In other words, the gameplay elements can have tweaks, but are not substantially changed, while the story has to be the focus on moving forward.  Where better to look than the franchise Uncharted 4that recently wrapped up – Uncharted.  These games have been pretty uniform throughout.  Both the primary gameplay elements, and the typical twists in the plot.  But what makes this franchise work so well in how it grew was that we were able to see the growth of these characters, over time.

The story is about the growth of Nathan Drake.  From when we first see him, as a young thief, to him being a married man who is dissatisfied with his domestic life.  We get to see how it progresses.  Between the first and second game, he doesn’t grow especially much.  Just enough to see his relationships develop.  But then we see him in the third game.  Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception has Nate getting on in his years.  He’s looking to settle an old score with a woman that he had a beef with earlier in his life, and solving what may be the greatest heist yet.  It’s a game that highlights his ego, and how he is unable to stop himself pursuing treasure and his willingness to get his oldest friend/father figure Sully in danger in the process.  The game ends with him finally being able to let things go.  Sully gives him a ring that he thought he got rid of, and tells him to make things right with the woman he loves.  At long last, he is able to set aside the thief he had become and be a better man.

We get to the last chapter, Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End, and we see Nate is now living the domestic life, but he can’t get away from his life as a thief.  It’s calling to him, and he’s finding it harder and harder to pull himself away.  When his brother comes back into his life, Nate is given a chance to jump back, head-first, into that life again.  He tells himself that what he is doing is to help his brother, but even his wife can see through that front.  What he’s doing is for himself, and no one else.  He wants to be back in the thick of this.  When he’s finally confronted with this reality, he fights it and ends up nearly destroying his marriage and oldest friendship in the process.  But then he is reunited with is wife and both of them realize that this is a life that neither could walk away from.  Both of them need it.  However, since Elena is a clever sort, she wants to seize the day in a way that doesn’t leave them as criminals.

The franchise ends with Nate having gotten to the end of his dream and gotten exactly where he wanted to go in life.  He’s telling the story of what got him there to his daughter.  It’s a perfect way to go out on.  Nice and wrapped up.  That was the ultimate narrative growth done right.

Now let’s look at a franchise that does it wrong – Kingdom Hearts.  I do love these games.  For real, they’re loads of fun.  But I won’t lie – the plot to these games is so damn convoluted, and it just gets moreso as you go along.  I found myself scratching my head so many times.  What’s more, because there are so many spinoff games, following the plot becomes a complete mess.  I’m hoping that the final entry in the franchise is able to avoid that somehow.  It’s a small dream, I know.  But there it is.  It’s very easy for a franchise to get bogged down in its own lore.  The way the Mass Effect games were able to avoid that was by having a Codex.  This helped keep its lore and its rules very clear.  But then that series fumbled and crashed at the end.  The most unfortunate thing.  Games that focus on narrative growth have to make sure not to stretch the limits of what their narrative can handle.  It’s easier than you think.  Just ask Stephen King.  His books, while fun to read, can become so damn convoluted.

So, which is better?  That’s the biggest question.  A YouTuber I follow said that plot in a game is like plot in a porn.  I know that plenty of people agree with that.  I don’t.  At all.  Yeah, the plot in The Last of Us.  What porn plot that is.  The plot in A Wolf Among Us.  I’m sure that was on par with a porn.  The truth is that it all comes down to your preference.  The truth is that it does take a bit of a mix in order to get right.  You can focus on one more than the other, but you still can’t have a game that is too much like playing the last game over again.  It’s hard, but it can be done.

What are your thoughts?  Let me know down in the Comments.

Until next time, a quote,

“These are some of histories greatest pirates.  And they all perished, in and instant.  At this very table.”  – Nathan Drake, Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End

Peace out,

Maverick

Lucien’s First Take: Kingdom Hearts III E3 2015 Trailer

It’s been over ten years since we saw a numbered sequel in the Kingdom Hearts franchise.  Between those points, there have been a TON of spin-off or prequel games.  Almost triple the numbered titles, now that I think about it.  Some of them have been excellent.  Like Birth by Sleep, one of the most depressing games ever made.  Others have been garbage.  Like Recoded or Chain of Memories or 358/2 Days.  But, this franchise has built a story that is epic, with characters who every fan of the series loves.  It’s a testament to the love and passion that went into the first two numbered games that this franchise is as beloved as it is.  It’s because of that passion that the fans of the games have been growing ever louder over the years, demanding a numbered sequel.  We want to see where the story goes from here.  And there are hints that this isn’t the end.  That the end of the franchise will be in a fourth numbered game.  I can’t wait.

This year, at E3, since Square Enix decided to waste a perfectly good opportunity to pimp out the other project that people are fawning over, they did give us a trailer for Kingdom Hearts III.  And before any of you get on me – yes, I saw the trailer for the remake of Final Fantasy VII.  I’m stoked too.  I bet most of you thought I was going to do my First Take about that, didn’t you?  Let me tell you why I’m not – because it’s not an actual trailer.  It’s a teaser.  A cool teaser, don’t get me wrong, but still a teaser.  When a real trailer, that features the story and gameplay comes out, I am all over that like stink on cheese.  Until then, I am stoked, but let’s wait and see.  Moving on.  Let’s see what Square Enix has done with their latest trailer for Kingdom Hearts III.

Okay.  This trailer got a lot of things right and a lot of things…so-so.  For starters, am I the only person who thinks that they gave Sora a new voice?  I don’t know what it is, but there’s something off about his voice.  But maybe it’s because Haley Joel Osment is in his 30’s now, if they did keep him.  Regardless, that is the first thing that stood out to me.

Second – this trailer is GORGEOUS!  I was hoping that they would make real use of the current gen’s hardware, without sacrificing the cartoon-y look of the game, and they did just that.  The visuals are half of the selling point on their own.  I could watch this game all day.  Well, more like play it, but if there is cool scenery, I’m on that!  Gonna take me a TON of screenshots on my PS4.  Finally put that share hardware to use, eh?  I also like how they have a brief moment where they show you that all the little separate areas in the worlds are gone.  It’s all one giant map.  When Sora jumps off the cliff, and they show his descent, that was a either a dumb coincidence, or a VERY cool hint at how this game plays.  I’m hoping that it’s the latter.  Still, this game is so fucking beautiful.  I’m not one of these people who thinks that good graphics make or break a game.  One of my favorite games of all time is Ocarina of Time, after all.  But it certain does help.

The combat also looks pretty cool.  I remember reading about how each keyblade is going to have alternate functions.  The way they showed that is pretty cool in this.  Can’t wait to see how that plays.  Here’s hoping that it doesn’t make battles all cluttered.  The seamless style of combat was one of the best features of Kingdom Hearts II.

However, this gets me into my negatives.  Just let me make my case.  First – if you are going to pimp how well this game looks, why do I only see two, maybe three world?  And two of them are worlds that I’ve seen before – Olympus and Twilight Town.  I love the latter more than the former, but whatever.  They spend so long on this game’s combat, when they really should have been pimping the worlds.  Now, maybe they don’t have much done there.  But the whole point of an E3 trailer is to make something with spit and polish to pimp out your product.  They could have made little snippets where we just see worlds.  Part of the magic with players were getting to explore worlds that we love.  This trailer would have been miles better if the would have cut out about thirty seconds of the combat and just given us some panoramas.  Let me know if you agree with me there.  If you don’t, and think this is the most awesome thing ever, I get that.  For real, I do.  I think it’s pretty cool too.

This is a good trailer.  It’s a lot better than the teaser from last year.  But it’s still missing something.  Maybe it’s the worlds.  Maybe it’s the story.  Maybe it’s the magic.  Here, I saw a bunch of cool fights with cool enemies and cool visuals.  That scene where the two kids are playing chess was the thing that interested me most.  Because it felt like there was magic.  The simple game felt like more than a game.  That’s good story-telling.  Plus, the way that the light reflected off the pieces are amazing.  Let me know what you think in the Comments section.

Initial Verdict
7 out of 10

Peace out,

Maverick

You Shed the Blood of Saxon Men, and You Earned Your Rest

Today, one of the greatest actors who will be remembered for one role, when the truth is that this man should be remembered for so much more.  Christopher Lee was one of those actors whose talents were used all over the place.  He wasn’t above doing something strange, because he could.  He wasn’t above doing what he felt was a good idea, even if it was ridiculous.  This guy recorded fucking metal, in his 80’s!  Metal that talks about history!  That’s fucking awesome!  Using heavy metal to tell the story of Charlemagne.  I am so impressed by this man.  Everyone’s talking about Sarumon, but for me, the man that I remember was so much different.  He wore a cloak of red and hid his face, until the moment was right.  But first, look at this fucking video!

God is he cool!  There are not words to describe how cool he is!  Even in the corniest of music videos, he’s still epic.  Telling a true story about a fucking maniac who ethnically cleanse a ton of people.  I have so much respect for this man.  Much the same as Vincent Price, he wasn’t given nearly the respect he deserved throughout his life, but perhaps, in passing, he finally shall.

There are a lot of roles that I can talk about.  He’s been in a TON of movies!  This man’s acting career goes all over the place.  Given the fact that he is tall and foreboding as fuck, he tends to be the ominous character in stuff.  But he also has a voice that was made for another market.  Sadly, I only ever got to hear that voice once in said market.  Let me tell you about a character called “DiZ.”

DiZIn the Kingdom Hearts series, this character was a very secretive one.  He worked in secret, to destroy Organization XIII.  Indeed, he had a very serious bone to pick with the Organization, didn’t he?  Anger and hate drove him.  Hate that became consuming.  It is inevitably revealed, in the final level of Kingdom Hearts II that DiZ wasn’t always a man hiding his face.  There was a time when he was a man that had been one of the wisest and driven of scientists, eager to learn the secrets of all world.  He had been Ansem the Wise.  However, when his apprentice, Xehanort, and those who followed him began to question the nature of the darkness, they unleashed upon all worlds the Heartless.  However, it seemed that his betrayal had method.  Having been cast down and turned on by those he trusted, he waited in the shadows for years.  Concocting a revenge against them.  As is common in the Kingdom Hearts universe, the key was Sora.  That one innocent was meant to make his revenge work.

However, he realized just how much he had to learn, as Sora becoming an active force unraveled everything he had worked for.  In the final level, his last moment, the man realizes just how little he truly understood about the Heart, and the power that it gives people.  The final confrontation between Xemnas and DiZ is one of the most emotionally charged that has ever been.  And only the voice of Christopher Lee could make it come true.  That gentle, yet stern voice was the only one that could have confronted the cold darkness that was Xemnas and the rest of the Organization.

The world of acting has lost one of its best.  He shed the blood of Saxons, and destroyed a heart-shaped moon.  This man was something special

Until next time, a quote,

“I’m a fool.  I spent years studying the workings of the heart, yet it seems like I still haven’t learned a thing.”  -DiZ, Kingdom Hearts II

Peace out,

Maverick

Top 10 Ways to Make ‘Kingdom Hearts III’ the Most Awesome Thing Ever!

Kingdom Hearts IIII’ve been playing Kingdom Hearts II.5 ReMIX again.  I am in love with this game.  It was my favorite game of last year, without a single competitor.  For real, nothing even remotely came close.  It blew past the competition without a backwards glance.  Sure, there was that annoying third game that was nothing but cutscenes, but I don’t even care about that.  It doesn’t exist, in my mind.  All that exists in the first two – Kingdom Hearts II: Final Mix and Kingdom Hearts: Birth by Sleep: Final Mix.  Both of those games are absolutely stunning.  The amount of content and great narrative just combines to make great games.  The former is one of my favorite games of all time.  What’s more, the HD remix version blows away the original.  As I sit here, watching Tron tell the MCP who’s boss, I can’t help but think about the next entry in the franchise.  I keep hearing about it.  Some of what I am hearing is unsettling.  Like, it’s going to be released this year?  That makes no sense.  They just began production in earnest.  How can they be ready to release it already?  Also, I am hearing talk about making Marvel and Star Wars worlds.  We’ll get to that in a few.  I compiled a list of the top 10 ways that the next entry into the franchise could be one of the greatest games ever made.  I doubt Square Enix will ever read this, but if one of you could send it their way, I’d be very grateful.

10. No ‘Let it Go’, or musical levels
I swear, if I hear that god-awful song in this game, I am going to beat someone to death with their spine.  I get that Disney wants Frozen in this game.  They are big on whoring out their stuff.  But for the love of God, no more musical levels!  They suck!  We know this!  Let’s leave it at that.

9. Pixar Worlds
Why has Pixar been avoiding your love?!  I know that Disney has rights to Pixar’s stuff.  Their logo wouldn’t be in those movies if they didn’t.  So why have we not seen any Pixar-based worlds?!  That kind of animation lends itself easily to the style of Kingdom Hearts.  So let’s get on that!  With all the great selections to choose from, why not go bold?  Toy Story comes first to mind, but they could all be great.  Call me crazy, but part of me would love to see a Ratatouille world.  I know, just thinking outside the box.

8. More NPCs
I get why the original two games didn’t have a lot of these.  The second game pushed the PS2 hardware to its limits.  It was a marvel of digital creation.  But as I play Birth by Sleep, I can’t help but be a little put off of how deserted all these worlds feel.  With how rich some of these environments are, they don’t feel lived in.  The next game is going to be for current consoles.  There is NO excuse why the worlds should feel barren.  It’s time that we get people to interact with.

7. Take Your Time!
Why am I hearing about this game coming out this year?  It was just announced!  Unless you all have been busting ass without anyone knowing about it, it sounds like you are rushing to get this out there, now that Square Enix is on people’s good side again.  That’s not cool!  I want the next game in this franchise to be a powerhouse!  I want it to wow my eyes and blow my fucking mind!  You can do this, Square Enix!  Just tell them to chill and to get this thing right.  You’ve put almost a decade into a game that you are hedging your company’s future on (no joke, if Final Fantasy XV sucks, their company is probably going down with it), so take the time and get this thing right.  Polish the edges to a smooth shine.  Cook it to perfection.  Metaphor for getting it right!  Get it right!

6. Bring in Final Fantasy Villains
Now, I am hearing that this game will not be the last in the saga.  It will end the Xehanort saga, and then end with them finally sealing the Door to Darkness and stopping the Heartless problem for good.  If that is the case, then maybe this can wait for the last entry in the franchise.  But the universe of Final Fantasy has some awesome villains!  You brought in the most iconic, but how about some others?  Like Seymour from Final Fantasy X, or even better – Kefka!  He would be awesome!  I had this scene in my mind of the next game introducing him.  He’s like this perplexing character, who you have no idea whose side he’s on.  Is he evil?  Is he good?  What is he?  Then, in the end, he kills the final boss, after you beat him, and busts open the Door to Darkness and lets it all out.  He lets the Heartless run totally effing nuts in all the worlds.  Effectively making shit get real.  That would get me so pumped for the next entry!  Wouldn’t it you?!  So yeah, just putting this out there, it’s a big catalog of great villains.  Use them.

5. More Side-Quests
I couldn’t help but notice that pretty much every side-quest in the original two games was either collecting stuff or doing jobs for cash.  In all the worlds that we could visit, give us stuff to do!  I will say that it never felt like busy work, but you can do better.  Have character interactions and random assortments of shit to get done.  Just putting that out there.

4. More Creative Levels
I touched on this with my post about the worlds I want to see in the next game.  However, I thought I would clarify here.  In Kingdom Hearts II, there was a world based on the old Disney films.  It was rendered in an old Disney style.  You even had Sora done in old-school Japanese animation.  That was clever!  That kind of creativity should come into the next game.  I still hold that I would love to see you all play with the concept of Fantasia.  Have a place without dialogue, where the music tells the story.  I have a million and a half ideas about how that could be done, but it’s you all’s show.  I know that it’s easy for you to just give Disney what they want by whoring out their shiny new stuff.  But you all can do better than that.  A sprinkle of mad-crazy creativity will go a long way.

3. More Final Fantasy Characters
An extension of the previous idea, we need more characters from Final Fantasy.  And not just the 3D ones.  Give some love to the 2D games!  Let’s get Edge in there!  Or Shadow.  Or Locke.  I’d say Terra too, but you already have a character with that name in the franchise, so that’s out.  Also, let’s throw the SJWs a bone and have Lightning be in the game.  I really liked her character in XIII, and it sucks how she got milked in two terrible games that followed.  Now’s a chance to have her shine, fighting side-by-side with Cloud and Leon.  The three could be a trio of ass-kicking badasses.  Or have a girl power moment with her, Tifa and Yuffie fighting it out.  We need more characters from this franchise in this game.  It’s time.

2. A-Game Voice Actors
Now, here is where it gets sticky.  Part of this is due to Square Enix putting Kingdom Hearts on the back-burner for so long.  Haley Joel Osment is in his 30’s.  Hayden Penetierre isn’t far behind.  David Gallagher is too.  The three biggest names in the franchise, and they might not sound the part.  If so, honestly, I am not against replacing them.  I know, I know!  It would be terrible, in some ways.  But I’d rather have a good game that has great voice acting than bringing them back.  Not to mention, they might not come.  Not sure what any of them are doing, these days.  I know that Penetierre is starring in a new survival-horror game that is based on old slasher movies.  So maybe she’s still got it.  But if changes have to be made, do what you have to do.  Though get people who can sound the part, eh?  But aside from those three, it’s time to bring the A-Game to the table.  For real, I want this to have the best people you can find.  Whoever ends up dubbing this game, you have a lot riding on you.  Get it right!

And the best way to make this game awesome is…

1. No Marvel and Star Wars!
Why do so many people want this?!  Am I the only one who saw how ugly the world of Pirates of the Caribbean was?!  Not to mention, why do a Marvel world, when you could do a world based on The Incredibles?  That would be totally awesome.  But, for real, all worlds based on real-life places look awful.  I find it so amazing that you knew to adapt Final Fantasy character models to fight in the game’s style, but didn’t do the same with real-life characters.  I get that Disney wants to whore this out right now.  But you must resist!  For the sake of not making worlds that suck!

So, what do you all think?  What would you all like to see in the next Kingdom Hearts?  Do you want to see Marvel and Star Wars in there?  Let me know in the comments section.

Until next time, a quote,

“It isn’t how often you see each other that’s important.  It’s how often you think about each other.”  -Hayner, Kingdom Hearts II

Peace out,

Maverick

SIONL: Final Fantasy XV English Trailer! At Last!

It’s finally here!  Something I’ve been wanting for so fucking long, and it’s finally here.  I cannot begin to tell you how happy this makes me.  For real, this is so freakin’ amazing!  Already, the video is generating controversy.  Some people are saying that this is typical anime voice actors.  I personally am in love with a couple of the roles.  And this isn’t the greatest trailer to showcase these people in, but still.  It is quite something.  I won’t keep you waiting, here is the trailer.

It’s funny, they tell us that this trailer is “unlisted,” asking us to be “considerate when sharing.”  Yeah, because this trailer wasn’t going to go viral.  Nope.  Hand to God and all that.

But yeah, first things first – in LOVE with the voice of the driver.  It’s British, and British people automatically sound better than normal people.  I can’t tell you how much I love it.  Still, everyone is good.  The blond guy is all excitable, which makes sense, given his character.  Noctis sounds all broody and melancholy.  The dude with the giant sword has this kind of boss attitude that is just too cool for school.  I love every single person.

That pegs it – this game is coming out in 2015!  We’re getting an English voice-over trailer, it might as well be in the bag!  I am so unbelievably-stoked for this and all they have to do now is set a date to release and every single fan will be marking their calender.  For real, Square Enix, now is the time!  Get the hype train going!  Make this train leave the station in such a way that we won’t be able to think twice!  There has never been a better time.  The last game show of the year is in four days.  Get the party started!  We’re already biting, so feed us some fucking bait!

With all the shit you’ve done, I have seen a side to you that reminds me that you can do great things.  After playing Kingdom Hearts II.5 ReMIX, I am in love with your company again.  Don’t fuck this up!  Now is the time!  We got your invitation, now show us what you got!

Until next time, a quote,

“Now this is what I call a party!”  -Joker, Batman: Arkham Origins

Peace out,

Maverick

SIONL: Kingdom Hearts II.5 Remix

Man, I simply do not get why Square Enix waited so long to get into the HD remake business.  Because man, when they do it, they DO it!  Where has THIS Square Enix been?!  For real, this HD version of three games has got to be one of the best that I have ever seen.  I couldn’t gush the way I wanted to in my review, but here is where I am going to go absolutely nuts.  Because there is one part of this HD remake that is almost flawless.  For real, with everything they added, it is nearly a perfect game, and I could teach a class on how to design a good video game based on how good it is and how well it is designed.  What am I talking about?  Well, let’s get down to it.

I am only really talking about one part of the game.  The II.5 ReMIX is three games in one.  There are the Final Mix versions of Kingdom Hearts II and Birth by Sleep.  Not even talking about the third of the bunch, because they only included cutscenes.  A retarded decision, by the way.  Anyway, not going there.  The game that truly makes this collection worth it, that truly shows what this franchise could be, is Kingdom Hearts II: Final Mix.

Oh my god!  I played the original game, and it was awesome.  But it was lacking on a lot of things.  All of those things were wiped away, with this mix.  Though the additional changes for the HD version were part of it.  This game has one thing that sets it apart from the original – CONTENT! For real, I have logged an insane number of hours looking for all the little bits and bobs in this game.  They added so much stuff!  There are new missions, new enemies, but my favorite thing – new areas to explore!  It’s all secret stuff.  No hand-holding here.  You find this stuff randomly, and it is awesome.  Just when you think you’ve found all that there is to find, they give you more!  My favorite thing is a secret area where, after a BRUTAL fight to get there, you reach a place where you can do ALL the Organization XIII battles over again!  I loved those fights, and getting to see it again, with difficulty tweaks, makes it better.  I love this game so much.

There is a lesson to be learned when you are making a video game.  If your game is really worth its salt, you will immerse your players in the world, make it feel like somewhere they could go.  The way you do this is by having a lot of content.  And it has to be good content, not just stuff to keep players busy.  Now, this content can take many forms.  It can be story content.  If your game is linear, that isn’t so bad, if there is a rich narrative with good characters.  Mass Effect 3 might have had very little side-quests, but what it had was so good (aside from the god-awful ending) that it kept your going.  It can be a playground, where you have lots of toys to play with, like in Borderlands 2 or Crysis 3.  For real, give me stuff to try and you’ve got me.  It can be a sandbox, like in Minecraft or EVE Online.  All of those are good ways.

With Kingdom Hearts II: Final Mix, it has ways to enrich yourselves in its universe.  In a way, it’s the playground approach, with a lot of rich narrative and characters spliced in.  That’s good too.  You can mix and match.  In a game where you have lots of worlds, you want to enrich them by having each world have plenty of ways to make them feel alive to the player.  Now, that does bring me to one of the biggest flaws of the Kingdom Hearts franchise.

These worlds have so few NPCs that it can get kind of weird.  Like in Disney Town, in Birth by Sleep.  You are told that there is a huge carnival going down, yet the entire town is almost deserted.  It’s like Dawn of the Dead or something.  For the next iteration of the franchise, there is NO excuse for the worlds to be barren.  With all the possibilities that lie on the PS4 (which I will be playing it on), there is no excuse for the worlds to not be flowing with personality.  There is no excuse for anything less.

Not to mention, can you imagine it?  If the level of polish that I saw on this game, where you go from a Halloween outfit in Halloween Town to a Christmas outfit in Christmas Town and a change of music, were applied to every single world on the next game?  Those little bits make it feel real.  They make it feel alive.  They make me want to visit the worlds myself!

But I would be remiss if I didn’t talk about how the characters also make each world come to life.  Aside from the worlds that were not particularly interesting (like the Lion King one) or the worlds that were straight-up disasters (like Atlantica or Port Royal.  For real, no Marvel and no Star Wars!  Learn from your mistakes!), the characters in each world sucked you into that world.  They all had personality and charm.  Some of them didn’t have the greatest voice actors, but they were still solid.  That’s more of what we need!  We need even more worlds, even more characters and even more immersion!

Don’t blame me for wanting the world.  For the first time, I played one of these games and I was sucked into it.  This HD update was so good and added so much that now I want more and more!  Give me more!  You’ve shown that you can do this along with weaving a very rich narrative.

Which brings me to something that troubles me – I am hearing stuff about Kingdom Hearts III coming out next year. The last article I saw on this was them talking about making worlds for Marvel and Star Wars (No!  Bad Square Enix!).  That tells me that the game is still in development.  We haven’t gotten anything more than a teaser trailer.  No story trailers, no dub work.  Nothing.  Was Tetsuya Nomura working on this while he was pouring all his time into Final Fantasy XV?  It doesn’t add up.  I don’t want this game rushed to market.  I really don’t.  I can wait another year or two.  Take the time, get it right!  Make this next entry into the franchise the best one yet!  Make us drool with anticipation with the next trailer.  I love this franchise.  Please don’t fuck it up.

But yeah, if you love this franchise, buy the II.5 ReMIX.  Trust me, you can’t go wrong.

Until next time, a quote,

“It’s like the first time you fall in love.  You won’t ever love another woman quite the same way.”  -Montgomery Scott, Star Trek: The Next Generation

Peace out,

Maverick