Ni No Kuni is the Open World Pokemon RPG We’ve Always Wanted

Author: Nathan Doverspike

Since Pokemon XD: Gale of Darkness, there hasn’t been a 3D open world Pokemon game with the name Pokemon in it. In January of 2013, Ni No Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch made it’s way to North America, a little over a year after its Japanese release to much excitement and hype. Four and a half years later, this gem of a video game is STILL the best open world Pokemon game (not named Pokemon but close enough) that more people should play. With the release (and undeniable success) of the Switch, it has been speculated that a new Pokemon open world RPG is finally on its way. While I am definitely excited, I highly recommend picking up a copy of Ni No Kuni since it has numerous improvements that Game Freak still has yet to fully realize in their current Pokemon games. Here are some major improvements they could borrow from the overall superior Ni No Kuni.

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  1. More Engaging Combat

The combat in the main Pokemon titles has always been turn based, and Ni No Kuni kicks it up a notch with a hybrid between turn based and real time, usually called Active Time battles. Think something like Final Fantasy XV, but with Pokemon…er monsters. You can use your regular attack that doesn’t require the use of mana (which drains with each spell/attack), or you could use some of that mana to cast a more powerful attack. You can actively switch between monsters at anytime in the battle, which includes changing characters and using their abilities and monsters. This provides a much faster pace to the battles (most are done in 20-30 seconds), and also makes the boss fights more frantic and rewarding. I grew up as a kid playing Pokemon Blue, which is why I would love to see some sort of implementation of this combat in a new Pokemon RGP.

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2. Better Quest System

The popular Yo-kai Watch had a slight quest system in place, which helped add some depth to that game, but ultimately didn’t provide you enough information to help you find where the quest-giver was located or sometimes even enough information to know how to solve the quest. Pokemon, on the far side of that spectrum, has no quest system. That’s right, if Swimmer Joe wants to see a Goldeen and doesn’t feel like getting his face wet while he’s floating in this magical fluid called water where the Goldeen live, then you have to remember to go grab your Goldeen, and then run the whole way back to him (because why would he be close enough to walk) AND remember where he was, just to get a usually trivial reward like money. Ni No Kuni has a whole quest board, and even highlights the characters that have quests with a glowing blue point on the map. Since the game provides you with specific hunts that let you battle optional but powerful foes, those are also marked on the world map so you know exactly where they are and don’t have to surf for half an hour to find the quest. This might not seem like a big deal to people with a lot of time on their hands, but trust me, having a quest system like Ni No Kuni in Pokemon would go a long way to making those games so much better.

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3. Easily Navigated Open World

What’s that, a big marker where you are supposed to travel to for the main quest? WHAT?! No, that’s not something we need! We love wandering around for hours until we accidentally talk to the right person who isn’t easily identifiable to progress the main story. That’s MUCH more entertaining than saving time and patience with markers and clear indicators of where to go and what to do. Pokemon Sun does have a map marker of where you are supposed to go, most of the time. I have found times where I had to search the Internet to figure out where in the world the game wanted me to go. That’s not good quest design, that’s just poor design. For all the things Pokemon games do well, this is one area in particular that needs to improve in order for me to keep enjoying their games.

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4. Better Story

Ok, so the stories in Pokemon games are generally meant for a younger audience. Even with that said, I feel they are too reliant on people playing them just to catch Pokemon and not because the story is engaging or enjoyable. I’ll admit, I am normally one of those people. However, after playing Ni No Kuni and LOVING the story and characters, this is quickly becoming a glaring problem moving forward. For all the good things Game Freak does, this one is probably the weakest aspect.

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5. Make Evolving Pokemon Less of a Chore

This one is probably just me, but I feel that as the years have progressed and as more and more Pokemon games have been released, it is becoming increasingly annoying to evolve certain Pokemon. Take Eevee for example. In order for you to evolve it to Leafeon, you have to get a Leaf Stone. Ok, not too bad right? Well in order to evolve it into Sylveon, you must have it like you enough and then it will evolve in to that form. Yup, it needs to LIKE you, which means you need to feed it candy and brush it or something like that to make it like you, and THEN it will evolve. I miss the days when Charmeleon would hit level 36 and evolve into Charizard, no matter if you were his best buddy or not. In Ni No Kuni, all they have to do is hit a certain level and the option to evolve them is there. You can sometimes get and extra move by leveling them up further, but you can certainly take the road most traveled and just level them up at that time. No need for a ton of petting or grooming or snacks, just hit a level and BOOM you’re done.

With Ni No Kuni 2 right around the corner, I can’t wait to see the changes they’ve made and enjoy what looks to be an incredible story. I still play Pokemon, and have high hopes for a new iteration of the franchise on the Nintendo Switch, but have some reservations about whether or not they can hit all the high notes that Ni No Kuni already hit back in 2013. While I wait for the inevitable announcement of a (hopefully great) new Pokemon RPG, I’ll go back to the wonderful story, beautifully done cutscenes courtesy of Studio Ghibli, and fantastic combat of Ni No Kuni.

What are your thoughts? Do you still play Pokemon games? If you do, what do you enjoy about them? Is there anything you wish they would improve? Let me know in the comments!

 

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Four Reasons Why Horizon Zero Dawn is One of The Best Open World RPG’s

Author: Nathan Doverspike

Horizon Zero Dawn was the biggest surprise of 2017 to me.  It didn’t come out of left field like Shadow of Mordor did in 2014, where I knew almost nothing about the game and absolutely loved it, but it did something I feel never fully accomplished: it made me want more even after I was completely done with all of the main and side content.  Horizon, in my humble opinion, is the best open world game that has come out in years, and here are four reasons why.

  1. The Story

Not know for their stories, open world games usually rely on their world-building and interactive environments and interesting characters.  That’s why this is my first and most important reason for this game being so good. The story starts slow, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t quickly speed up after the tutorial ends around hour 2 or so, and won’t let you breath until you finish the final mission.  In total, I would say I spent about 20-25 hours on the story alone, and loved every minute of it.  Every twist and turn, every revelation, every boss battle was enthralling and engaging unlike any other game I’ve played in a long time.

horizon zero dawn blood sky2. The World

The world of Horizon is beautiful, and when I say beautiful, I mean look at the screenshot I took above. That is the game running on a normal PS4 on a 1080p TV.  No PS4 Pro needed here, the game is a treat to look at.  It’s photo mode really allows you to capture the beauty of the game by letting you take stills of the game in motion.  You can even move the camera as shown above so Aloy isn’t even in the picture. The sunsets and snowy mountains aren’t the only highlight of the game either.

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3.  The Creatures

The nature of the mechanical beasts is a massive spoiler, so I won’t dive into that whole plot.  What I will say, though, is that they are so much fun to hunt.  Yup, that’s right, you get to hunt giant mechanized dinosaurs and sabertooth tigers in a video game.  The giant beasts that inhabit this land are dangerous, and some are downright terrifying to fight.  An ability you unlock later in the game makes them even more awesome, but you’ll have to play the game to find out what that mechanic is and how much better the game gets after you unlock it.

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4. The Combat

While this is the last item on the list, it could have easily been my top choice as well.  That’s what makes this game so amazing: there isn’t just one thing it does well.  It does everything almost perfect, mixing so many awesome concepts and mechanics together.  The combat is so satsifying.  Sliding between a metal T-Rex’s legs, going in slow motion, firing arrows into its underbelly, and regaining your footing only to watch, for a split second, your arrows explode and send giant chucks of armor into the air before dodging incoming missiles and planning your next attack on the monstrosity. That’s just one example of how fluid combat is throughout the game.

I love this game! I put over 40 hours into it, and I am just over half way done with all of the side quests!  That isn’t including the upcoming DLC planned for the game, that sends Aloy to a whole new area with new beasts to slay.  Hopefully after reading this, you’ll go and at least watch some YouTube videos of it and eventually give it a shot.  After all, who doesn’t want to ride around on a mechanical bull and slay giant T-Rex monsters?

 

Resident Evil 7: Biohazard Review

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The game strikes a perfect balance of being terrifying and gorgeous at the same time.

Author: Nathan Doverspike

I start to panic as my character takes their good old time unlocking a hatch leading underground.  He is right behind me: Daddy is coming. I hear him curse at me as he swings a bloodied spade wildly towards my head.  I luck out.  The hatch opens and I drop down into the claustrophobic crawl space littered with cob webs and a rusted lawn mower (no idea how that got there).  My heart won’t stop pounding as I contemplate just staying put for a moment to catch my breath, cursing Daddy for scaring the living hell out of me.  I can hear the creak from his brooding footsteps above, and I know I can’t stay here forever.  I need to get out of there and find out what in the world is going on here.  This is just a taste of the heart-attack-inducing moments to come, and I loved every second of it!

Ethan decides to go looking for his long-lost girlfriend Mia after he receives a video of her begging him to stay away.  Reckless, and slightly naive, he nevertheless travels to the swamplands of Louisiana to investigate her disappearance.  Once you arrive, all is not as it seems.  The family living there, the Bakers, clearly have a few screws missing, as well as a pile of other body parts along the way.  You fight them, as well as another form of enemy along the way to saving Mia and yourself.  While the game is slightly linear most of the way through, I never felt quite safe from the denizens of darkness.  Besides the safe rooms located throughout the game, no place was comfortable or inviting, and I prefer my Resident Evil that way compared to the travesty that is Resident Evil 6.

Speaking of gut wrenching, please do not play this game if you have a weak stomach or are prone to heart attacks.  That is a serious warning.  This game made me jump off the couch AND scream at the top of my lungs in just the first hour.  The first half is terrifying, and the second half keeps the scares coming but does focus a little more on linear level design and first person shooting gameplay.  While some might have wanted a complete return to form to Resident Evil 1-3 (this game has a house that resembles the mansion in RE1 and even references to the greater Resident Evil universe that are subtle but brilliant), I adored the blend of scares and stealth mixed with tense moments of action.  Even when you are stripped of your inventory during a section of the game, it never feels like it overstays its welcome.  The weapons all have a place, and I never felt like a weapon wasn’t useful or didn’t feel awkward aiming.  The pace is nothing short of a masterpiece, so much so that I began a new playthrough immediately following the completion of the game.  It has its bloody hooks in me that deep.

Overall, Resident Evil 7: Biohazard is both a return to horror and a breath of new life to this decades old franchise.  Some fans may not enjoy all aspects of it, and I respect that.  However, I couldn’t get enough of this entry and can’t wait to see what the future holds for Resident Evil if they continue down this gutsy path.

Final Score:  9/10  Excellent

Best Games to Play When The Real World is Too Real

Author: Nathan Doverspike          

With all the protests, debates, angry social media posts, and just general unease, I figured now would be a good time to make a list of games that I feel help me deal with the real world (when it becomes too real).  So, without further ado, let’s dig in!

de Blob 2

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de Blob 2

Platforms: Playstation 3, Xbox 360, Wii, DS

Released: Feb. 2011

While the first title, de Blob, was released exclusively for the Wii, the sequel graced the current generation of consoles in 2011.  The game follows a colorless blob as he brings color back to the world and defeats the evil INKT Corporation.  The art style is awesome, but the catchy music is just as good and will have you bobbing your head in no time at all.  With giant levels, the ability to mix colors, fun power-ups, and overall beautiful aesthetics, this game will get you into a joyful mood and groove instantly.

Yoshi’s Woolly World

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Yoshi’s Woolly World

Platforms: Wii U

Released: Oct. 2015

This game is wonderful!  Being able to play the whole game cooperatively on one tv is something few games feature anymore, and something on which Yoshi’s Woolly World thrives.  Everything in the game, from the enemies to Yoshi itself, is made of gorgeous yarn art.  I cannot stress enough how beautiful every character, background, enemy, and boss are in this masterpiece!  Numerous power-ups that change how you play the game (like being unable to die from falling into pits or magnetically attracting items to your character throughout a level) make completing the game enjoyable for kids and adults alike.  While some of the later levels do become challenging, the overall experience of finding all the secret areas and unlocking dozens of different Yoshi yarn characters is something I hope everyone with a Wii U is able to experience! (Note: the game is releasing in Feb. 2017 on 3DS as Poochi & Yoshi’s Woolly World with all the content of the previous game and new levels focused on the yarn dog Poochi).

Kirby’s Epic Yarn

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Kirby’s Epic Yarn

Platforms : Wii, Wii U on eShop

Released: Oct. 2010

Noticing a pattern here?  The Wii and Wii U have some amazing first party titles, and Kirby’s Epic Yarn is another great example of beautiful aesthetics combined with simple yet satisfying gameplay to warm any gamer’s heart.  Similar to Yoshi’s Woolly World, Kirby has been transformed into yarn and needs to save the day!  Instead of sucking up enemies, Kirby now uses a whip (like in Kirby’s Dream Land) to defeat his foes.  It’s cute (oh my goodness is it!), has precise controls, and is fully cooperative throughout the charming adventure.  Did I mention it’s adorable, ‘cause it rivals Yoshi’s Woolly World as one of the most stunningly beautiful games I have ever played.

 Little Big Planet 2

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Little Big Planet 2

Platforms: Playstation 3

Released Jan. 2011

Ok, so I don’t know what it is about yarn characters, but I think I have an unhealthy obsession with them in video games.  Released in 2011, Little Big Planet 2 is a creative platformer that expanded on everything offered in the original, while giving players new ways to play.  You are able to create levels (not just platforming levels) that are so cool that you have to check them out!  I won’t spoil some of surprises in store, but let’s just say you can face off versus zombies and also go back to the future!  Also fully cooperative on a single system, this game allows you to play community levels from creators around the world, as well as create your own masterpieces.  Even if you aren’t into creating levels, a lengthy campaign with cute dialogue and interesting level design will hold your interest for quite some time.

Now it’s time for you to tell me, have you played any of these titles?  Are there ones that you feel I missed?  Comment and email us to let us know!