Lucien’s Worst Game of 2019

I sometimes don’t have a lot to say in a worst of the year post, because the fact that my finances are always pretty stunted, I am always having to measure what games I buy.  As such, unless something looks pretty awesome, I don’t buy it.  However, this year had one that really stuck in my craw.  A game that could have been something amazing, that SHOULD have been something amazing, but turned out to be a giant pile of trash that spit on its legacy.  For those who are salivating thinking I’m talking about Death Stranding, don’t.  While that game does have a ton of problems, I don’t hate it.  Some of you who read my site regularly will probably know which game I’m actually talking about.

Recently, I talked about how I am kind of done with nostalgia culture.  Well, there are things that I am genuinely nostalgic for.  So many people talk about this thing or that thing ruining their childhood.  I have that thought when I saw the post talking about how Disney is going to do a live-action version of A Night on Bald Mountain from my favorite film of all time – Fantasia.  The game that I hated most this year actually did shit on my childhood a little.  It hurt me as I got to the end and there was one thought in my mind – that’s it?!  Seriously?!  Got a lot of rage to unload here, so let’s get to it.  The game I HATED most in 2019 is…

Kingdom Hearts III

It kinda blows my mind how bad this game is.  How it can take a formula that has been done so well before, even in some of the more cash-grab games, and take such a dump on it is kind of impressive.  How do you fuck up a formula where it’s been done so well in two mainline entries?!  Was this a deliberate choice?!  Did Tetsuya Nomura just think to himself, “fuck Square Enix, I’m just gonna shit this out and give it to the fans because they wouldn’t let me make the Final Fantasy versus XIII game I wanted to do.”  By the way, that’s the truth.  They didn’t let him do that.  Why?  Because Square Enix wanted to market the game in china, and they didn’t like the focus on a god of death.  So they had to dumb it down in order to make the game sell in the place that now more and more companies are bending the knee to.  But I digress.

Every single part of this game feels rushed.  All of it feels like things were just being done in order to be finished with it.  Like nobody wanted to be working on this game, but were obligated to do it.  Maybe it’s because more and more games are coming in below projected estimates for this entertainment giant, and they figured that they needed something to just rake in the cash.  If nothing else, Kingdom Hearts fanboys/girls are pretty die-hard.  Still, while playing it, I could never escape this feeling that they were just looking to be finished with it.

I can guess why.  Part of me feels like Disney got their grubby fingers into this and were forcing the company to pimp their biggest stuff in order to get the licenses to work with.  Fan favorite worlds?  Nope!  That would detract from Disney’s marketing their newest and biggest stuff to the gamers.  Actually having Final Fantasy character?  Fuck that!  That will detract even more from it.  Even though they could EASILY have just taken characters from their library and integrated them into Disney worlds, that would also have detracted.  I don’t know where the fault lies for how rushed and poorly paced this game was, but I want to call out the person responsible.

Nothing in this game feels engaging.  Sure, we had all the fan callbacks with every fan favorite character getting screen time.  But we don’t care about any of them.  After this many years with the franchise basically being on ice, nobody gives a fuck about anything that happens here.  It looks very pretty, but feels unbelievably hollow.  Just a lot of spectacle.  The plot felt like it was going nowhere.  The characters had no investment.  It was all just playing out a string.

Why did they not let us visit ANY of the worlds we loved?  Hell, your time in 100 Acre Wood felt like something tacked on just to make fans happy.  Why?  Just another rushed world where you are in and out before you even know that something happened.  I don’t get it!  For everything they got right, like putting tons of people in worlds that were supposed to have them, they made the areas with people just afterthoughts.  Nomura’s last project, Final Fantasy XV, feels like it was half-done.  This was feels like even less than that.  And I hear that his next one, the remake of Final Fantasy VII is STILL being released episodically, with each one basically being the size of a AAA game by itself.  Screw that!  Is that the future now?  Don’t have your game done, you can just release a full-priced game that is a third complete and then release two other full-priced expansions?!  I’m not doing that!  I want to be excited for that game, but the more I hear about how they are releasing it, the more I realize that I’m just not.  It looks beautiful, but it’s coming out one third done.

This game’s biggest failing to me was that it was boring.  With the exception of the Toy Story world, which got me invested just because it had that iconic music and characters I grew up loving.  I’m surprised they couldn’t have at least gotten Tim Allen to do the voicework for Buzz.  I mean, how much is that guy’s cost really at these days?  He ain’t that high on the hog anymore.  Still, there were worlds where I should have been invested, and I just wasn’t.  Like the world from Big Hero 6, though admittedly, that one got the closest.  And Pirates of the Caribbean world was fun to return to.  The part of that level where Jack is teaching Sora how to be a pirate, and you find out it wasn’t really him was pretty great stuff.

When trailers for this game came out, everyone thought this was going to be a tour de force for the franchise.  Instead, it was a game where everyone involved just wanted to be done.  You can feel it in every second of rushed dialogue.  And you know what, that bums me out a little.  So much more could have and rightly should have been done.  Let the creative energy flow.  But then Square Enix wouldn’t have gotten the easy money.  It breaks my heart.  I was hoping for more, and instead I got less.  Then we find out that more games are coming out in the franchise.  Nope!  I’m done.  Just fucking done.

Until next time, a quote,

“This sucks.” – Beevis, Beevis and Butthead

Peace out,

Maverick

Lucien’s Best Game of 2019

As the year is wrapping up, it’s time to think about what came out this year.  It was a very ho-hum year for gaming.  Whether it be games coming out later than expected, or ones delayed until next year, it seems that 2019 is the year that is gearing up for the swan song of yet-another console generation.  Next year has so many games with confirmed release dates that are going to blow the effing minds out of people, and it’s clear that major companies all want to finish as strong as they possibly can.  With that being said, what is the game that has most stood out to me this year?

I will say that 2019 is the year of sleeper hits.  Games that came out of nowhere and really impressed me.  AA projects that were more reserved, and as such made the most of their limited resources.  The game that has stuck with me the most out of those is the one on this post, my favorite game of 2019.  So, without further ado, my favorite game of 2019 is…

Ace Combat 7: Skies Unknown

Just recently, I caught up on all the extra mission DLC that was in the Season Pass I got for this game, and man that was fun!  For those who were unaware, I think that fighter jets are the raddest thing ever.  It’s the reason that Top Gun is such a guilty pleasure to me.  As corny as it is, the film had jets being awesome fighter jets.  So when I saw the trailers for this game, bringing flight sim combat back to a new generation of gaming, my thought was – oh hell yes!  Give me the most beautiful fighter jet in the world – the F-22 Raptor!  Then it got released, and all my expectations were blown out of the water.

I will say that there was nothing about this game that was subtle.  The characters aren’t subtle, the action isn’t subtle, and the plot is as bombastic as it gets.  But man, getting into the cockpit of a fighter jet is oh so satisfying in this game.  Whether you choose to play this like a classic arcade fighter sim, or go very realistic with it, this game has a ton of neat mechanics for you to work with, all of which are super fun.  For my part, because I grew up on fighter games like Star Fox 64, I tend to play it in an arcade way.  But it doesn’t take my appreciation for the kind of game it is away.

Everything in this game is smooth.  Flying is smooth.  The framerate is high on my PS4 Pro, which is essential for a game where you are flying through the air and taking on enemies in fast-paced dogfights.  Every jet has its own personality, and getting to know them all is part of the fun.  While the Raptor is my girl, there are plenty of other jets I love.  Most notably, the F/A-18 Super Hornet (Navy love, Hooyah!), the F-35 Lightning II, the F-14 Tomcat (RIP, you beautiful jet), and the F-15 Eagle.  Each of them is fun to fly.  Dog-fighting is great, keeping on the tail of your enemy until you get missile lock, then waiting until they aren’t in a position where they can maneuver around your shot and taking it.  There’s an art to being great at this game on high difficulty.  It’s magical.

Sure, the story of this game is dumb.  I found that while I was playing the DLC, I got so much more into the story.  Not just because it was during a part in the main story where I loved the characters, but also because the narrative in the cutscenes corresponded with the narrative during gameplay.  It made it connect so much more, whereas in the main game, it seems so disconnected from whatever you’re doing.  Perhaps they can learn from this in whatever the next iteration of the franchise is.

If you love fighter sim combat games the way that I do, you owe it to yourself to play this game.  It flew under a lot of radar, and it is a throw-back to a style of game that is pretty much dead.  It’s so strange to me that a lot of my favorite games in recent years are unsung heroes.  Back in 2017, it was Persona 5, a AAA JRPG.  The fact that such a thing exists and was as spectacular as it was astounds me.  In 2015 it was Life is Strange, an episodic game with a style and attitude like an Indie film.  Were it not for how the last episode ended, it would be so much more loved by me.  There are games that are doing some neat things, and I like to see that Sony is helping to foster this.

Hopefully this isn’t the last time I will see this franchise take flight.  I can’t imagine what the next game will be, but I will be there to get behind the wing of my jet again.  See if Raptor and I can’t do some crazy stuff again.

Until next time, a quote,

“What happens when two singularities go up against one-another?” – Analyst North, Ace Combat 7: Skies Unknown

Peace out,

Maverick

Lucien’s Review: Death Stranding

After years of waiting and being teased along, with Kojima never revealing more than he wanted to about it, his first project after breaking away from Konami has finally been released, and man does this game leave me with a whole bunch of mixed feeling.  When I saw the polarizing nature of critics who first reviewed it, I knew that there was something special about this game.  After all, it isn’t the first time Kojima has done this.  When Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty came out, critics were unbelievably harsh to it.  It’s a testament to his dedication that Kojima decided to own the backlash instead of running from it.  Right out of the gate he said that this isn’t a game that everyone is going to like, and I can see why.  This game has some genuine moments of brilliance that are fun as fuck, in a narrative that can get pretty heavy.  The problem is that it also has some really ugly bits that hold it back from greatness.  Let’s talk about it.

The story goes that some time after a huge event called the death stranding, the world of the dead was able to get mixed in to the world of the living.  The results of this have been catastrophic, as humanity is teetering on the edge of oblivion.  The story follows a man named Sam, played by Norman Reedus.  He makes deliveries in this wasteland, as he has a hardcore phobia about being touched.  An organization called Bridges shanghais him into helping them with their mission of reconnecting the country, but he has his own reasons for going along with it.  What follows is a bittersweet story of loneliness and connection.

Here’s my statement about this game, if you don’t want to read all the rest of this.  When this game is fun, it is really freakin’ fun!  There are some spectacular boss fights and some hardcore terrifying set-pieces in an in-between world that Sam gets whisked away to, where he sees one of the true architects of the reason the world is going to shit.  The problem is that when this game is not fun, it REALLY is not!  There are some horrifically-repetitive missions that have you wanting to tear your hair out.  For those of you who want to stick with me, I will get into specifics.

The central plot of this game seemed like a complete red herring to me, and kudos to my instincts, because I knew that there was more to it than just getting Amelie away from the Demens.  One of this game’s strong-points is that there the central cast all has their own agendas, and this fact often finds all of them in a really horrible situation that there seems to be no escape from.  When you finally get into the plot, and really start breaking things open, this game is so damn fun that it’s hard to describe.  Throw in a genuinely hate-able villain like Higgs, brilliantly voiced by Troy Baker, along with Mads Mikkelsen, whose villain character is not as simple as one person, and you have a conflict that is pretty fantastic to dig your teeth into.

Then there are the boss-fights.  Right from the first, I knew that I was going to be in love with this game and how they did these battles.  Every boss is creative, along with how you take them on.  It keeps you on the edge of your seat because Sam isn’t a super-soldier.  Being stupid can cost you pretty quickly.

You also have some beautiful venues to explore, which makes some of the more zen places where you are on the move that much more engaging.  I remember when people were talking about how this game was going to be a walking simulator, and you know what, the areas where that is the case don’t bother me.  Not at all.  Something about traveling through a beautiful and barren landscape with the game’s soundtrack coming on is really peaceful to me.  Though, this ties into one of my biggest gripes with the game.

As I said, when this game is not fun, it is REALLY not fun.  Here’s the issue.  This game has you playing as a delivery person.  Which means your primary mode of getting from A to B is because you have stuff to deliver for the various parties you want to bribe onto your side.  More often than not, this isn’t so bad.  The issue is that your journey to reconnect the world is so often hindered by the endless BTs that drift around and consistently make your life harder when you are trying to do your thing, and make something that is already not a short task due to how big the game’s world is take that much longer.  It’s draining.  One mission in-particular where I had complicated task after complicated task for this asshole who was being a giant dick-mule to me had me wanting to go beat him to death.

It’s a fact that this game’s narrative can get bogged down by the central elements.  The red herring nature of the central conflict is also something that drags its ass getting you to it.  Finding out the truth about Amelie and what Sam’s connection to it all is genuinely engaging, but it doesn’t help that Sam is a bit of a wet blanket through a huge part of it.  Reminded me of Keifer Sutherland in Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain.  You just thought to yourself – when are they going to give this guy a personality?  Like I said, you do get there, but the journey takes far longer than it should have.  Kojima easily could have cut a couple hours out and made the pacing so much better.  Because I do love when you finally get to the plot because it is pretty hardcore.

Overall, this is not a perfect game by any stretch.  I get why lots of people don’t like it.  But for me, I think that it’s pretty engaging stuff.  Were it not hindered down by some genuine problems, I think this game would have been among the all-time greats that I’ve played.  Definitely glad I got it, and for those who can look past the pacing issues and some of the more tedious missions, I think you will find a lot to like here.  I guess I’ll leave it at that.

Final Verdict
7 out of 10

Peace out,

Maverick

SIONR: The Reason Final Fantasy versus XIII Never Got Made

While everyone is mad at Blizzard (and rightly so) for basically being a giant bitch for the Chinese government, along with the NBA, I thought it might be worth bringing up how something that had the potential to be amazing got totally screwed because yet-another AAA game developer wanted to appease the Chinese, and in the process ruined what could have been the greatest Final Fantasy game ever.

I remember when the first trailer for Final Fantasy versus XIII came out.  It took my breath away.  The world looked so much like the modern world, and you have a very broody hero facing down an entire army.  They open fire on him, when you see glass-like swords deflecting them.  That was awesome!  For a LONG time, there was nothing.  Then in 2011 they released another trailer!  This one looked even better.  Again, so much like the modern world as you see the Prince and his father driving in a car, with the father ragging on him for being so glum.  In the distance we see airships floating there!  Then we see things get real with gameplay.  It looked sick!  You have this city where things are going to shit, with you having to escape with your friends.

The plot of this game had the makings of something unlike anything we’d seen before.  A young prince, cursed with a deep bond with death.  A young woman, with a connection to a goddess of life.  Both star-crossed, but on opposite sides of a conflict.  You have to fight your way out of the capital, with the goal being to find a way to take back your home.  Some appearances that this may be a story taking some cues from Hamlet, and the makings of a masterpiece were all right there.  Even when the game changed names and became Final Fantasy XV, it looked like there was still potential.

Then the game released, and we realized that it was mediocre beyond all reason.  Clearly rushed out the door just so they could have it be done.  There had been an amazing idea there.  So what happened?!  For years, this question dogged me, until recently I figured out that someone had answered it.  It was discovered that the reason for the end product of all the years of work on this title being for nothing is because of China.  Why am I not surprised?

See, there’s a thing about China – they have a TON of rules in order for a game to be marketed there.  It’s the reason that Disney will never, EVER have openly gay characters in their movies.  The rule on top of all the little nit-picky ones is – no ghosts, no gays.  Either one and your work is dead on arrival.  The reason this ties into Final Fantasy versus XIII is because the Prince and his family have a connection to a god of death.  Noctis can see the light of expiring souls.  But that won’t fly in China.  And Square Enix wanted in on that sweet China cheddar.  The way that so many other companies have been.

Which is why we got a final product that was rushed to market and felt half-baked.  Which is a real fucking shame, if you ask me.  Because I can only imagine what the original product would have been if it had actually been allowed to go to completion.  Star-crossed lovers, forced to do battle because of their affiliation.  A war over a power source to keep and empire alive.  A prince working to retake his home after it’s captured.  What that could have turned into is anyone’s guess.  But no.  I’m really starting to think that Square Enix has lost the spark of what made it great.  Seems like the only stuff they’re putting out is remakes of classics, because they don’t have any original ideas.  And since the remake of Final Fantasy VII is still gonna be released episodically (no joke, they said that’s still a thing), it leaves you to wonder if the spark will ever come back.

AAA gaming is really disheartening to me lately.  Sony is the only one who is taking risks with huge ideas that may or may not always play out.  Well, them and CD Projekt Red.  I miss companies with big ideas and a foolhardy sense of passion to just throw whatever against the wall and see what sticks.

Cool game concepts going to die, microtransactions everywhere, games becoming gambling.  It’s depressing to see the industry.  But a guy can hope.  Every now and again there are real diamonds released.  Sometimes…

Until next time, a quote,

“Always, and never.” – Dwight, Sin City

Peace out,

Maverick

Lucien’s Review: Kingdom Hearts III

This review is going to be a little bit different than my standard reviews.  Instead of talking about elements of this game, I’m going to talk about how much I absolutely fucking despise this game.  How much I think it’s a giant piece of shit, and how much it frustrates me that this is the end of a franchise.  I remember talking about Mass Effect 3 and Life is Strange and how the endings to those frustrated me.  But here’s the thing – the ends of this games frustrated me so much because they were SO good leading up it.  Everything before the Victory Fleet goes to Earth in Mass Effect 3 was perfect.  Simply, absolutely perfect.  Everything leading up to the lighthouse in Life is Strange was fantastic.  Both of those games just died right at the end.  Where the creative energy of both just expired.

Nowhere is the expiration of creative energy more apparent to me than in this game.  I am almost shocked how unfathomably bad Kingdom Hearts III is.  And it isn’t at the end.  This game is just so boring!  I remember when Kingdom Hearts II came out.  I still have my old PS2 copy of it.  That game was a fantastic sequel.  It felt like coming home to old friends while meetings some new ones.  Every single world you explored was interesting, and getting to see characters that we had come to like again was just great.  The plot had this great forward momentum.  Sure, some levels weren’t especially interesting, but that’s okay.  You got to enjoy the ones that were.

Plus, the gameplay was refined.  We had these great setpiece moves during boss fights.  There were the alternate forms where you could dual-wield keyblades.  That was fun.  New enemies were introduced, who were a unique challenge.  New worlds, some with neat gimmicks that you could dive into.

None of that was in this game!  Not one tiny fucking bit!  The lack of anything to pull you back and make you feel the nostalgia and eagerness to get into a story is there!  How did this happen?!  How did they make a game in this franchise that has every single element wrong?!  Nothing is right!  They even fucked up the gummi ship stuff!  I am blown away that that is possible!  The template for doing all of this stuff was right the fuck in front of you!  How did you get it this wrong?!  Fucking how?!

For starters, I guess they just forgot that part of the draw with this franchise was that it was Final Fantasy mixed with Disney.  The former was completely not represented in this game!  Where’s Cloud?!  Where’s Auron?!  Where’s Leon or Yuffie or maybe some characters from games we haven’t seen.  Wouldn’t have minded getting to chill with Lightning, or Noctis.  Maybe see some of the 2D era characters make an appearance, like Edge or Yang or Shadow or…you know what, this list would go on all day.  Did Square Enix just forget where this franchise got its genesis from?!  I hate this game so much.  And this is only the tip of the iceberg.

Remember my point about how the last sequel felt like coming home to old friends while meeting new people?  I figured a game in this franchise that’s the last would be like a huge symphony.  A massive production of worlds and characters that we could see all our friends, for the last time.  Closing out this huge adventure with everyone.  A franchise this epic, didn’t it deserve that?  Oh right, can’t do that.  Then they might have had to scale back on how massive the worlds are.  Why use space in a smart way, when you can just make less worlds bigger?  That sure does sound like fun.  Hell, that’s not even a good excuse, with how big some games are these days.

There is NO point in this game where it feels like you are meeting old friends.  Like you are coming together for one last ride.  That’s what this game should have been.  Going back to Radiant Garden and palling around with all your old chums.  Maybe have new Cloud in it, along with his crew.  Not a single old world, outside of Olympus.  Yeah, because that’s the place you wanted to go.  Oh wait, there was a short (and I do mean SHORT) visit back to the 100 Acre Wood.  So you could see the fun crew from that world for a little bit, until that’s over with and you never see any of them ever again.

While I bring up how short I was in 100 Acre Wood, let’s talk about the pacing of this game.  I cannot believe how poorly paced it was!  Every world felt like they were in a rush to get it done.  That’s how I felt about this whole fucking game, if we’re being honest.  Like they were in this huge rush to get to nowhere.  Like, by the time you get to the Keyblade Graveyard, it felt like we are at the halfway point, not the end of a huge saga.  When I finally understood that we were at the end, I was in shock.  Like, seriously!?  This is it?!  Where’s the Final Fantasy characters?!  Where’s getting to go to some of my old stomping grounds?  Where’s any of that?!  Why does this game feel half done?!

You know what, I got this EXACT same feeling from Final Fantasy XV.  So, you get to that water city, and then all the sudden the whole pacing of the game just goes to shit.  Like they were eager to get it over with.  That was another game from Tetsuya Nomura.  Makes me wonder – who’s at fault for this?  Was this Nomura just running out of creative energy, or is this Square Enix’s fault for rushing things?  I don’t know where the blame for this giant pile of shit goes, but somebody clearly needs to be given a talking to.

Oh, and can we talk about the endless fucking cutscenes?!  This was Metal Gear Solid 4 levels of bad!  They never end!  It wouldn’t be so bad if the plot was engaging, but it’s not!  Don’t even get me started on the terrible scenes in the Frozen world where you have the god-awful songs from that shit-tastic movie playing in-game, and the game acknowledging that they happened.  Like, seriously?!  You’re not weirded out that a song happened and an orchestra magically is making music out of fucking nowhere?!  Ugh!

This game sucks.  I got nothing else to say.  It sucks ass!  Not a single thing in this game isn’t bad.  Aside from the Toy Story world, where I actually did feel some nostalgia for my childhood.  The one bright spot in a giant turd pile.  I’m done.  I’m done with this franchise.  It’s dead to me.  Square Enix is really going to the dogs lately.  Nomura is now heading up the remake to Final Fantasy VII, and I gotta tell ya – I’m worried.  Will this be another instance of things going to shit.  Apparently there’s a secret ending that hints of this franchise continuing.  Fuck that, I’m done.  It’s dead to me.  Some of my childhood died here.  This company is going to shit, and I don’t know what it will take to make it better.

Final Verdict
2 out of 10

Peace out,

Maverick

Bad PR 121: Blizzard, Hearthstone, Blitzchung, and #FreeHongKong #BoycottBlizzard

Oh man.  It’s been fun to watch Blizzard take the classic Open Mouth, Insert Foot approach to damage control after they prove what absolute ninnies they are and how utterly enslaved they are to a foreign power.  This is almost incredible.  Sometimes you can see the point where a company does something so astronomically stupid and you think to yourself – how are they POSSIBLY going to get out of this?  I mean, what do they say?  That’s how I’ve felt watching all this drama unfold.  Lots to talk about here, so let’s get down to business (to defeat, the Huns!)

For those of you who didn’t know, there has been a huge string of riots and civil disobedience in connection to the People’s (Commie) Republic of China looking to reign in the freedoms of the city of Hong Kong.  It’s a huge political deal, threatening the future freedoms of that city and the people who live there by an authoritarian nation that will absolutely clamp down on them.  Seeing people so willing to take to the streets and fight for their freedoms is heart-warming.  If only America had done that after the Patriot Act.  Oh well, that’s a topic for a whole other time.

During a Hearthstone tournament (a card game made by Blizzard), a Hong Kong resident by the username Blitzchung said an eight-word statement in defense of Free Hong Kong and their efforts.  It wasn’t condemning China, just appealing to keep the people in his city free.  Eight words.  However, Blizzard, who is partly owned by a Chinese company (Tencent is one of the major shareholders), decided to clamp down on this really, really fast.  Not only did they slap Blitzchung with a one year suspension, but they took his prize winnings from Hearthstone away.

From there, the news went out like wildfire.  It didn’t help that the company issued a statement that Blitzchung was out of line with his statement and that it was all his fault.  However, at the same time, they released a statement to China that was pretty much a ball-washing of how China is great and how angry they are at Blitzchung for saying what he did.  It was found out that the two people interviewing him were in on the ploy, and both of them were fired.  The stark contrast, along with the absolutely insane punishment that was so beyond the pale of what they would do to Americans caught international media attention immediately.

The Internet took off.  The story went viral in a nanosecond and soon the hashtag #BoycottBlizzard took off.  There was a ton of artwork, including turning Mei the Overwatch character into a symbol of Hong Kong resistance.  They made some rather charming Hearthstone cards detracting Blizzard for being a complete bitch to China.  And my favorite, having the Blizzard logo super-imposed over the Chinese flag.  At the same time, it was found out that plenty of employees at Blizzard were rightfully pissed about this.  There were walkouts, and they covered up parts of the piece in the center of their campus with statements in support of free speech and every voice mattering.

So the big question was, what was Blizzard’s response going to be?  I mean, it isn’t like they could say nothing, right?  Keep that thought in your mind, we’ll come back to it.  But we just got an official response from the company, and it was about as complete bullshit as one would expect.  Here is YongYea’s video on the subject –

Never in my LIFE have I seen a statement that was as clearly written by a lawyer as this one.  There wasn’t a single authentic word in any of that.  Hell, I bet a team of lawyers went over this to make sure there wasn’t a single thing that could offend their Chinese masters anywhere in that.  Blizzard saying that their relationship with China had nothing to do with their wording couldn’t have possibly been more bullshit if they tried.  This is the Internet, moron!  People have already seen the translated message that was sent by Blizzard in China, which was a harsh condemnation of Blitzchung and kissing their country’s ass!

But it goes further. See, a collegiate team of Hearthstone players decided to do a little test.  During a game, they held up a sign with #FreeHongKong and #BoycottBlizzard during a tournament.  The response to this by Blizzard was nothing.  It was non-existent next to what they did to Blitzchung.  The people who did this posted on Reddit, quite rightfully, that while their actions were nowhere near as a reckless and potentially dangerous to their freedom as what Blitzchung’s, they did prove a point.  So which is it, Blizzard?  Is having a political opinion only dangerous to audiences that China can see, or will American ones be treated with the same gloves?  Please, enlighten me.  This company is so absolutely full of shit that it is staggering.

As one might expect, they decided to walk back just a fraction of their punishment on Blitzchung, such as giving him his winnings back, in the desperate attempted to try and save face.  Not gonna work, Blizzard!  Your press release from the head of your company looks like bullshit, so you doing that is just a pathetic attempt to deflect.  How is your team of lawyers not able to bullshit better than this?  Between your lawyers and your PR team, there should have been some grade-A bullshit in this

So, what’s the PR lesson here?  Something I learned in the aforementioned (and horrifically boring) Comm. Law class is that there is an option in a crisis situation that one can take.  It’s risky, but sometimes it’s the best option that you have at any given time.  And that option is…do nothing!  Do absolutely nothing and hope that all of this will blow over.  Quietly do things to try and mitigate the worst of it, but have zero official response to anything.  Basically, do a media blackout of the whole affair until the storm blows over.  I gotta say, in this instance, I think Blizzard would have been a thousand times better served by just saying nothing than what they did.  Because if anything is going to fan the flames of this, that response was the equivalent of pouring gasoline on a tire fire.

And all this proves a contention I have made a long time ago – all theses companies who claim that they are super LGBT-friendly are full of shit.  It’s a lie.  One that they perpetuate for the same reason that they are condemning Blitzchung in China – because they want money.  Being pro-LGBT is in right now.  Not saying that’s a bad thing, but that’s what it is.  But it’s all for the same goal – securing as much money as they possibly can.  It’s why you know they don’t talk about the LGBT stuff in China (no ghosts, no gays, that’s the rule).  How people are able to believe that this company or Disney or any of the others aren’t just playing the game of profits with this social ideology is beyond me.

They really shot themselves in the foot here.  If the company can’t learn from this and take the smarter approach to just keep their mouths shut, then Blizzcon at the end of this month should be an absolutely fantastic shit-show.  Really hoping it is.  Desperately hoping that the audience decides to just troll the living daylights out of Blizzard as they unveil their next big mobile game that gives the finger to PC gamers where they made their fortune on.  I’m sure investors won’t notice.  Just kiss China’s ass enough and they will keep giving you those truckloads of microtransaction dollars.

The lesson is – if you have no good response, then don’t say anything.  Trust me, you can’t look much worse than this.

Until next time, a quote,

“With all the variations, one wonders how many deaths are hidden poisonings, with the truth known only to the dead.” – The Count, Gankutsuou: The Count of Monte Cristo

Peace out,

Maverick

Lucien’s Retro Review: Eternal Sonata

How did a JRPG with a partial focus on the life of Frederic Chopin, my second favorite classical music composer, escape my notice until now?  I heard about this game not too long ago, so I went to Amazon and got a copy.  This game is such a surreal experience, and it has joined the pantheon of my favorite JRPGs.  I have no idea where the concept of this game came from, but you know what, I’m glad that it’s a thing.  This game has all the components one would expect of a Tales game, without any connection to the franchise.  Let’s talk about it.

The story is told from the perspective of a dream that Frederic Chopin is having on his deathbed.  Inside the dream he is in a world of music, where everything is named after music in one form or the other, even though some of the names don’t make sense, as they weren’t around during Chopin’s time.  Musical puns aside, the story goes that this world is one where the only people who can use magic are the ones who are dying.  We follow Frederic and a team of companions as they go from place to place looking to find a way to save the lives of this world, and their friends within it.  Along the way, they learn about themselves, and their place in this strange reality that Frederic has told them is all in his mind.

First things first, this game looks absolutely amazing.  The visuals here are really something, especially for the time in which it was made.  Every environment is meticulously detailed in that cell-shaded Tales style.  This fact does partially work against the game, as the enhanced level of detail means that they had to cut side content to a certain extent.  Which means that this game is pretty linear.  But there is never a segment of the game that something doesn’t pop your peepers a bit.

Another thing is the characters.  More specifically the voice-work for them.  You have some hardcore veterans of anime voicework here.  Almost all of them, really.  Patrick Seitz voices Frederic.  You have Johnny Bosch, Mona Marshall, Mary McGlynn, and pretty much everyone else from the best days of anime dub work.  Every character has a ton of personality, no matter how minuscule their role is.  The villain is just the best.  Count Waltz is just chewing the scenery so freakin’ hard.  It’s pretty great stuff.  Frederic is my favorite character.  Patrick Seitz brings him to life as he is on a mission to figure out what his life has been about and what the meaning to everything was as he knows that the end is near.  This game is very bittersweet, as there is another character named Polka, who is able to use magic and is trying to make the most of the time she has left.

Combat in this game is turn-based, with characters able to move around a space and engaging in active combat.  But you have a few seconds before moving where you can plan your attacks and what you will do next. Combat in this game is deceptively simple, but it grows on top of the base it lays down, bringing in combos and chained special attacks.  By the end of the game, you are able to chain combos and special attacks between characters and really rack up some damage.  But the enemies are no slouches.  This game has a steep learning curve, but once you get good at it, it feels pretty spectacular.

The linearity of this game is the biggest thing holding this game back.  See, one of the things you do in the game is collect Score Pieces, which allow you to do performance sessions with other characters.  However, you really have to look around for these things, and sometimes you don’t have a piece that goes with the person you are performing with.  And doing these sessions is a worthwhile thing to do as it will allow you to get some pretty great stuff.  However, if you don’t have a piece that compliments the person you are performing with, then you’re just screwed as dungeons that you cannot revisit will have these people and if you miss out, sucks to be you.

One thing that’s worth mentioning is that the game will take times out of it when it is thematically appropriate during the story to perform pieces by Chopin, along with give you some actual history of the man himself.  Given my love of his music, for me this was great stuff.  The imagery included during the scenes help tell some stories about the life of a man who died young but lived quite and austere life.  If you don’t like this kind of music, it will be something you hate, but for those like me who do, I found this to be fantastic.  Between this game and the little vignettes about Upik and Aleut culture you can unlock in Never Alone, it makes me wonder if there is something to the idea of video games being potential good tools to teach people.  Especially young people.  Call me crazy or an old timer, but I genuinely find it engaging stuff.

Overall, this is a fun game.  It’s got its flaws, and the message of the game can feel REALLY ham-fisted sometimes, beating you over the head with the obvious moral lesson.  But if you can see past that, there is a really fun JRPG here that will feel right at home to people who enjoy the Tales franchise.  I’m glad I heard about this game.  It has been well worth my time.

Final Verdict
8 out of 10

Peace out,

Maverick