Lucien’s Review: Life is Strange: Before the Storm Episode 1: Awake

I’ve talked at length about how my favorite game of 2015 was Life is Strange.  While it had its flaws, it told an interesting narrative about a girl with time powers and a mystery that unfortunately had a lackluster conclusion.  The outright-terrible ending of the game, however, didn’t ruin the entire experience for me.  I still love everything leading up to it.  It’s kind of like Mass Effect 3 in that regard.  When I saw the announcement for this, I was more than a little pissed.  I mean, why would I want a prequel?  It’s a story I already know!  Rachel and Chloe were tight as fuck, Rachel was secretly in love with Frank, she gets killed.  What more could they fill in?  I said in my First Take post that if this was just some stupid prequel telling us crap we already know and nothing else, I would ream this game a new one in a way that Square Enix would feel.  I’m happy to say that this prequel challenged my skepticism.  It’s not perfect, but for the flaws it has, it has some things done better.  Let’s talk about it.

This game is still a prequel.  Set four years before the events of the original game, we see a much younger and much more vulnerable Chloe.  She’s trying to get into a concert where a band who is weirdly playing the tune of another band (did the actual band not want their name associated with this game?  You’d think they at least would have had to have the song licensed, so why not just play as yourselves?  Odd).  After getting in trouble, it’s here that we see her meet Rachel Amber, the most popular girl in her school.  From there, our young protagonist gets involved in a new life of freedom, friendship, and maybe something more.

There’s a lot to say about this prequel, and it’s a lot of the same stuff one could say about the original game.  For starters, the dialogue is just as bad as the first episode of the last game.  Maybe this is a trend with this game.  I don’t know who their writing staff is, but no teenager anywhere talks like this.  But just like the original game, that grows on you after a while.  It sure as hell grew on me.  So there’s that.

The visuals are much better.  They’re using the Unity engine, and it really stands out.  The faces in-particular.  My biggest complaint with the original game was that the faces were so inexpressive.  Better facial animation would have made some of the best scenes of dialogue even better.  Here, there is much more expression, and it makes the dramatic climax of the episode really good.

One thing I do miss is that the time powers are gone.  Now, instead of being able to rewind and make a choice about whether or not you want to follow through with something, you have to basically own it.  Not gonna lie, that does bother.  You also can’t restart episodes from various chapters.  That’s kinda frustrating too.  Here’s hoping future episodes fix that.  But you do have some new mechanics.  Like this back-talk mechanic that makes no sense in reality but it is kinda cool that you get to play mental games with people.

Let’s talk about the characters.  There are some REALLY weird voice-actor changes that totally take away from characters.  For example – David.  I grew to like him at the very end when you finally see under the hood of his mental problems if you tell him that Mr. Jefferson killed Chloe and he shoots him.  Whoever they got to replace him as a voice actor does NOT sound at all like a torn-up veteran.  The first guy they got was a douche, but you believed he’s a tormented veteran haunted by what he saw.  This guy sounds like a fucking doofus.  There is no presence with this guy.  Same with the dude they got to replace William.  I can at least forgive that because you only see William in dreams.  His weird speech patterns fit with the scenes they are in, but still.

Ashly Burch is back to play Chloe, and I genuinely do like her character more.  It’s pretty clear that the voice actress is older, but the performance feels more genuine.  Stereotypical punk Chloe is cool and kinda hot, but young and vulnerable Chloe is genuinely more interesting.  One of my biggest complaints from the first game was the fact that we never got to meet Rachel Amber, since I assumed that the power Max had has some connection with her.  Thankfully, I at least know that’s right.  But that gets into spoiler territory for this game.

Something I’d like to add is that there is one genuine improvement over its predecessor.  So many choice-based games make it so that the choices feel meaningless.  This episode doesn’t!  There are a ton of variations, little things that change in scenes because of choices you make.  It was surprising when I’d go through the same scenes over again and have them play out differently because of things I’d done.  That’s pretty cool.  It gives me some hope that the decisions I make in the end will actually amount to something.

Overall, this game is about growing up.  It’s about Chloe accepting that her dad is dead and making a new friend and how she can’t deal with how alone she is.  We also get to peek into the life of a character who I always wanted to meet.  But I am glad to see that it isn’t just a prequel to stuff we already knew.  They actually go back even further than recent history and give us some stuff.  We get some hints as to the nature of the supernatural in Arcadia Bay, which I am desperately hoping they run with.  I’m curious to see where this goes, and while I do hate how much Max gets shit on, we have two new characters to see where things go.

Final Verdict
7 out of 10

Peace out,

Maverick

Advertisements

Lucien’s First Take: BioMutant: Gameplay Trailer

I first heard about this the other day, when a leaked image showed a one-eyed cat person holding a sword.  And immediately I wanted to know more.  2017 has been kind of a slow year for gaming, but it’s clear that the best is yet to come.  2018 already has some big things in its roster.  There’s the God of War reboot, Insomniac’s Spider-Man game, and now we have a game which is being advertised as a kung fu game with furry creatures, guns, and mechs.  All of these things sound good to me.  And this trailer, while definitely leaving me wondering a lot of things, has at least got me intrigued.  Let’s take a look.

We begin seeing a little robot grasshopper.  That’s kinda cute.  It hops away to its master, a furry creature waving its hand over a pool of what looks like nuclear waste.  I’m assuming the title ties in to that.  What is the story with this universe?  I’m hearing that it’s some kind of post-apocalyptic sorta place, but that doesn’t jive.  There are places in this game’s world that look like real world dilapidated places.  Is the story here that the mutant ooze turned animals into kung fu furries?  You know…I can dig it.  This game clearly is meant to make little sense, so let’s go with it.

Our little furry friend then has a giant furry monster show up looking to mess up his day.  Pulls out a pistol, but that doesn’t help.  Then we see him whip out a katana and charge it up.  Game on!  But really, the gameplay section is the part that got my attention more.

There are good parts, and there are bad parts.  The good parts are the environment.  This is definitely not maximum fidelity, but you know what, that’s fine by me.  I kind of miss the undercooked look of RPGs from back in the day.  Has it really been so long.  And it won’t be too demanding on my hardware.  Still got the first generation PS4.  I also know that high fidelity doesn’t always mean great content.  My favorite game of this year is perfectly capable of running on the PS3 (which it was also released on) and was damn-near flawless.  I’m willing to give this game a chance.  But the water looks amusingly low-tech, not gonna lie.  Oh well, the sunsets are glorious.  Plus, seeing how you get around is very fun.  You can fly in giant dirigibles, use gliders that remind me of the one Aang had, or even board a jet-ski!  Very nice.

I love this little section where you have your furry friend inside a mechanical hand walking around and then transforming into a finger pistol and shooting things.  It’s a sign that this game isn’t going to take itself too seriously.  Have mechanics that are silly and maybe a little stupid.  After all, is the finger robot wind-up?  That looks like a wind-up thing on its back.  Cute.  As is how some of the little furry friends you come across method of speech.  Seems they are taking cues from 90’s platformers, like Banjo Kazooie.  Interesting.

Something that does make me wonder is the combat.  How is this going to work?  What are the mechanics?  They are saying this game will use martial-arts, gunplay, mech combat, and customizable weapons.  That’s am ambitious roster to have.  I honestly wonder how that will pan out.  Is there a HUD?  If this game is trying to hang its hat on deep combat, getting to see more of how that worked would have been nice.

All-in-all, I’m curious.  An open-world RPG with furry creatures fighting with katanas, guns, and mechs has all the ingredients for one hell of a game.  Apparently the studio making this is THQ Nordic.  Didn’t THQ go under?  Someone let me know what the story of this is in the Comments.  I’m gonna wait for reviews, but I think this game is going on my Most Anticipated Game of 2018 list, when it comes out.

Initial Verdict
Promising

Peace out,

Maverick

Lucien’s First Take: Marvel’s Spider-Man 2017 E3 Gameplay

I meant to talk about this months ago, but I am finally getting around to it, because there is a lot to unpack.  Here’s the thing about probably 95% of superhero games – they suck, or are really mediocre.  Especially the ones licensed to films.  Licensed games are the worst thing under the sun.  After the SNES and Sega Genesis, they were all nothing but crap.  So when I heard that Insomniac is making a Spider-Man game that is officially licensed by Marvel, I was groaning.  I mean, Insomniac games are awesome.  They made the Ratchet and Clank games, which are awesome.  But a superhero game to come directly from Marvel?  This has bad idea written all over it.  This year at E3, however, they released a gameplay trailer that has taken all my skepticism and destroyed it.  It looks awesome, so let’s take a look at it now.

Right out of the game, the visuals for this game are amazing.  The level of detail is just perfect.  It’s pretty standard, for a modern console game, but you know what, it’s great.  Definitely hoping we can either customize or get new suits for the web-slinger, but I do like this suit.  Not too worried about that.  Switchable suits has been a standard for Spider-Man games since their inception, so it’s all good.

The control scheme for this game looks pretty simple.  I can clearly tell that almost all of it will be about staying above your targets.  The stealth elements look absolutely phenomenal.  One of the things I always thought was kinda dumb about Spider-Man games is that they don’t take advantage of the elements of getting enemies from above.  Sure, his suit ain’t exactly made to sneak, but you can still hit an enemy from above without them seeing you coming.  Since Spider-Man never kills his foes, we don’t have to worry about non-lethal runs of the game.  Exciting stuff.  The controls for getting back up to beams or on top of objects are taken right out of the Arkham games.  No problem with that whatsoever.  It’s totally fitting for our friendly neighborhood hero.

We also get to see some potential gadget stuff in this game.  Another thing I am digging that seems to have come straight out of the Arkham games.  Desperately hoping that they don’t just copy that formula beat-for-beat though and give you some freedom to customize the stuff you use and be able to craft specialty stuff.  Really wondering how the leveling up system is going to work.  You also can use the environment to fuck up enemies!  That’s awesome!  I love it.  Later on we get to see that done even in combat scenarios.  Manipulating the environment in active combat and not just for stealth is a break from the mold they clearly are going off of, and I think that’s a great one.  But the stealth aspect of this game is really something.  Not gonna lie, the more potential I have to be stealthy, the happier I’ll be.  It’s my favorite way to play a game, and it looks like I get to scratch my itch here.

Then we get our first peek into the combat.  Now here’s something where I want to elaborate on how this game is using the Arkham formula.  A lot of people are saying that that’s unoriginal, but you know what, I think it’s goddamn brilliant.  There’s a reason why.  When you fight, it’s clear that you are using the same kind of system they used in Arkham to dodge enemy attacks before they happen.  To me, this formula makes even more sense for Spider-Man than it did for Batman.  Why?  Because of the Spider Sense.  That talent gives him the ability to see what’s about to happen when danger is close.  He gets an almost perfect ability to perceive incoming problems and react to them.  So the indicator system from the aforementioned series is perfect for that!  It also lets you dodge machine gun fire, which, for those who read the comics, is something that Spider-Man could do when he’s at his best.  Since this game isn’t attached to any film or thing like that, keeping it true to the comics is kind of awesome.

From there we get some stuff with a helicopter that shows this game is also taking cues from the old God of War games with quicktime events.  Not gonna complain about that either.  Clearly they are doing the concept right.  Kinda curious to see what all this “HEX” stuff in that clearly is some kind of energy.  This should be interesting.

This game went from being something I figured wouldn’t be worth my time, to one of my most-anticipated games of 2018.  That’s pretty awesome.  Let me know what you all think down below.

Initial Verdict:
Hyped!

Peace out,

Maverick

Lucien’s Review: Observer

I find myself in a very strange position – having a game where there is nothing wrong with it in terms of appearance, gameplay, or performance, and yet I was totally and completely bored by.  This is a game that has nothing fundamentally wrong with it.  I just got so bored playing it.  How is that possible?  Maybe it’s just not the kind of game for me?  I honestly don’t know.  There could be a lot of self-reflection in my future as I think about this game and what it represents to me.  This review may end up with me just stroking my own dick as I think about why I didn’t really enjoy this game as much as the Steam community seems to, but so be it.  I do want to talk about it.

The story goes that you’re in a 1980’s style dystopian future horror movie.  Everything about the aesthetic screams old school horror films.  This game seems to have taken some cues from Alien: Isolation in that regard.  You play as Daniel Lazarski, voiced very well by Rutger Hauer.  I like the voice acting from this character.  Rutger isn’t known for being able to boom.  He plays the broken down old man very well.  He is an Observer.  They’re a new kind of law enforcement who can go into people’s minds and take information that they don’t want to give up out of their heads.  It’s a dark concept, that admittedly has a lot of potential.  Now he’s on the trail to find his son, with whom he is estranged, and gets involved in a plot of murder and deception, all inside the heads of the dead or dying.

This game has a very unique look.  I liked the retro feel of the tech in this game.  You have all these holgraphic displays, mixed in with computers that look like they were coughed up from the 80’s.  It’s cool stuff.  Seeing games willing to eschew the modern film convention of making all the technology super advanced is really refreshing.  A pity Hollywood can’t seem to do that.  The problem here is that since the game really doesn’t take a large amount of time building the world it inhabits, I didn’t find myself getting into this beyond the most basic “that’s kinda cool” sorta way.  Which is really unfortunate because there was a lot of loving detail put into the environments.

Hacking into people’s minds brought me to another game that this one clearly took a lot of cues from.  Well, not really a game so much as what could have been a game – P.T.  After the death of Silent Hills, a TON of games have been trying to take that concept and run with it.  To extremely varying degrees of success.  In my opinion, this game didn’t seem to rise to the ambitious goals Hideo Kojima was trying to do the way others appear to be.  All the intricacies of P.T.’s environmental puzzles connected to being in a single hallway are lost on this game.

Then we get the sections that it’s clear they took from a previous work, Outlast – the moving around and hiding sections from a monster that you can’t kill.  These sections got very tedious, very quickly.  It was so easy to predict where the monster would be, so all the tension that could have come from hiding from the creature was lost in a nano-second.  I found myself wishing that they could have just ditched those entirely for maybe more creative environmental puzzles in the world of people’s minds.  For all the potential the idea of jacking into people’s heads has, they really seemed to not want to take any crazy chances with it.  I can think of 100 ways to make it a surreal nightmare all off the top of my head that they didn’t even try.  I kind of want to see this idea done again by a studio that is a little more ambitious.  Maybe Kojima can take a crack at it after he is done with Death Stranding?  Just a good idea.

Which brings me to the fear element – this game isn’t scary.  At all.  They really should have ditched the fear side.  I guess the fear is supposed to come from the idea of what it means to get into people’s heads and how that is violating their minds.  But here’s the thing – 99% of everyone you jack into is dead.  This concept could have been made immediately more disturbing if you had living people who are desperately fighting you in their minds from getting to their secrets.  Like maybe have an investigation where the Observer is so desperate to get to the answer that he’ll do all sorts of crazy shit in people’s head.  As I said, this is a really neat concept, that I want to see done better.

I guess my biggest problem here is that this game feels like a ton of potential that wasn’t wasted, per se, just not taken far enough.  If they wanted to make a game where the implication of what you’re doing is supposed to be the scary thing (which I like on a VERY large level), then why not go all the way with it?  I mean REALLY fuck with the player.  Make it so that the player feels like they are partly to blame.  Have them also so eager to get to the answer that they are pushing the main character to do all these things.  Maybe some Fourth Wall moments where you put on the player that what they’re doing is wrong.  So much potential in this thought process.

This is not a bad game.  I just got very bored by it.  To me it feels like a game that is riffing off other games and doesn’t go out of its way to be its own thing.  Which is a bummer, because the kind of game I described above, I can see Rutger Hauer being an amazing addition to.  Hopefully this isn’t his last foray into video games before he passes.  He is quite old.  It will be a shame when he goes.  He’s a great actor, and has the chops for great voice acting too.  But that’s just my thoughts.  Let me know what yours are below.

Final Verdict
6 out of 10

Peace out,

Maverick

Lucien’s Review: What Remains of Edith Finch

From the creators of The Unfinished Swan, a very depressing but poetic story comes another tale that is equal parts depressing and poetic.  There is just one major flaw holding it back.  It is nowhere near the artistic rendering that its predecessor was, but that doesn’t do too much damage to it. The problem is that doing a review of this game means that I get to go into more the artistic merits of it than the gameplay elements.  This is a game for those who like unconventional games that take your mind to very strange places.  If that isn’t your jam, trust me, best to just pass.  So now let’s put on my hipster hat and go into a game that I can already see the anti-SJW crowd calling a “walking simulator.”  A title that this game whole-heartedly does NOT deserve.

The plot goes that Edith Finch is returning back to the family home.  It’s a dark house that has as many stories as it does dead bodies in its cemetery. A tragic story of a family that Edith has returned to so she can uncover.  And along the way, she comes to some realizations about this home and what it represents.  Does the mystery come together in a fitting climax where all the disparate elements make sense and you have an emotional catharsis much like the previous work of this company?!  Well…no.  But props to how close they got.

As I said, this game is not a walking simulator.  To call it that is to be underselling how this game plays.  Sure, the story of Edith is pretty much just walking from place to place with basic environmental interactions.  However, each of the narratives that tells the story of one of the Finch family dying incorporates all kinds of gameplay dynamics.  My favorite being where you have to manipulate the sticks on the controller to do different tasks at the same time.  Can get confusing, but that fits with the narrative.  While this game lacks the novelty in the pain elements from the last game, it does at least have something going for it.

When I saw the original promo for the game SJWs fawn all over, Gone Home, this is what I thought I was going to get.  A game where you explore an abandoned home, but there is a definitive creepy edge to it.  While I wouldn’t call this a horror game, its use of atmosphere is truly fantastic.  Without a single jump scare, this game makes the house it is set in very ominous.  As you uncover all the secrets and build up the narrative, the place gets less and less inviting.  Which just makes the fact that it never really builds to anything that much more frustrating.

The best thing about this game is the first three quarters of the narrative.  Sure, the exposition can be a little much, but you learn to roll with it because you think it is building to something.  Which brings me to the thing that I need to talk about.  I will try and avoid outright spoiling the ending, but I will spoil the elements of how it comes together which may set your expectations.  If that’s something you want to avoid, go to the Final Verdict now.

Here’s my problem – the ending.  This game has some pretty great build-up.  Right as we are FINALLY getting to see where it was all building to and if it would be something more, the game just stops.  In the most anti-climactic way ever, it just stops.  I was so frustrated by that.  I mean come on!  We are finally going to know what the mysterious force surrounding this house is, and you stop?!  What the hell!?  I was actually really stoked to see just what it was that had come into contact with this family.  It is hinted that the actual stories being told in this game give the forces at work power, but since you never get to find out what it actually was, you never know!  I hate that this game has so much great narrative tension build, only for it to crash and burn.  Part of me thinks that the development of the game got a little rushed at the end, or maybe they had written themselves into a corner and decided to go with the “you never know what it was” thing, but I honestly think that works against this game.

All-in-all, this is a decent game.  As games purely for art’s sake go, it’s fine.  But I think the lackluster ending really does damage to the whole narrative, and that is a real shame.  That doesn’t make this a bad game.  Just not one that I would recommend.  Do with that what you will.

Final Verdict
6 out of 10

Peace out,

Maverick

Lucien’s Review: Persona 5

First things first – fuck Atlus for their stupid policies about people live-streaming this game.  It’s bullshit, and I guess they don’t like free publicity.  Nintendo should tell them how well that is working out for them.  That being said, hopefully this company’s asinine decision doesn’t ruin your drive to play this game, because this is one HELL of a JRPG.  I haven’t played a JRPG this fun in years.  With how this genre has scaled down to the point that it seems like it’s on life support, for a game this good to come out is truly a marvel.  This is my first game in the Persona series, and hot shit.  This game is nigh flawless.  There is one major thing that just eats away at me, but we’ll get there when we do.

Never has the idea that delaying a game until they get it right hold more weight than it did here.  I am so glad this game got delayed.  The polish on this final product is fantastic.  This game is incredible, and I cannot recommend it enough.  Sony really is putting their best foot forward lately.  Seems they are aware of how they are not doing so well, but they have come back swinging this year with two exclusives that are beyond the pale.  And if this is a sign of things to come, I am so stoked for the other exclusives of theirs that I am waiting for.

This game has you playing as the Phantom Thieves, a little band of high school kids (of course they are) who are going into a parallel universe to steal the hearts of people twisted by their own desires.  This game has a lot of REALLY dark themes, and not once do they shy away from it.  In fact, the way this game tackles the dark subject matter head on is actually pretty impressive.  I expected them to get kind of antsy about going this deep into the scary stuff.  But nope!  Not once do they shy away from the twisted shit that is in this game’s villains hearts.  Not to mention some of the darker implications of what you are doing to these people stealing their heart’s treasure.  The moral implications of some of what you do can get a little disturbing.

Which brings me to the acting.  A game this twisted can only be sold with great performances.  Every role in this game is fantastic.  Your character is a silent protagonist, which admittedly isn’t as fun as I would like, but I can overlook that with a superb cast of supporting characters, all of which have their own personalities and quirks that they bring to the table.  Not to mention the relationships that you build up over time and how your actions with each character can change all sorts of variables in the game.

So let’s talk about the visuals.  Oh my Groj!  This game looks amazing!  The use of color is fantastic.  The punk aesthetic that they were going for is all over this game, and bless it for that.  I love every second of the visual candy that I see.  The real world is even pretty nice, with every area having a lot of personality.  But the Palaces are where the game shines the most.  Each one is unique and has a design that will blow you away.

The thing which will make or break this game for a lot of people is the combat system.  If you don’t like turn-based strategic combat, you are going to hate this game.  It’s that simple.  Fighting in this game took me back to Final Fantasy X.  Every move is a carefully planned decision, paying attention to your enemies, your stats, and what Personas you have equipped.  Which brings me to the primary way you will be fighting.  Each of the side characters can only have one Persona, which is fine.  The idea of micro-managing an entire team of interchangeable Personas gives me a headache just thinking about.

You have a TON of customization options in this game.  Whether it be the skills you teach your Personas, the Persona crafting system which has some dark implications on its own, or the customization of your characters and the sheer amount of items there are to collect, you will never find yourself in a position where you don’t have options to play with.  The sheer amount of stuff to do in this game is incredible.  Which brings me to my one and only beef with it.

For coming so close to a perfect score and crashing on this, it is a little frustrating.  This game has a time based system, and here’s the problem with it – the game will often fight with you about it.  Instead of allowing you to make use of your time as you see fit, there are so many points where the game will fight you.  Why can’t I spend a little time at the gym and a little time at the baseball cages?  Why can’t I do a little studying and then catch a movie?  This game’s limiting factor in what you can do is so frustrating.  This is made all the worse because leveling up your personality traits is a HUGE part of this game, and you don’t get the time to really do a lot with it.  I don’t like when this game fights me, and it does that a lot.  To some this might seem nit-picky, but when I have the option to eat ramen and then chill at a bathhouse, I don’t want to have to choose between the two when I could so easily do both!  It is so frustrating at times.

This is not a game for everyone.  The pace is slow, and you will find yourself wishing you could get more side-tracked with stuff.  It doesn’t help that leveling up your personality traits is so fucking inconsistent.  If only I had more time to do the stuff necessary!  But if you love JRPGs, then you owe it to yourself to play this game.  It is a cut above its contemporaries, in every way.

Final Verdict
9 out of 10

Peace out,

Maverick

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