Moon Hunters

Moon Hunters 1

We all saw it, or didn’t see it we should say. The moon didn’t rise and we have to find out why.

One evening in late fall the people of Mercuria came together to watch the moon rise as they had for centuries. The moon was the source of all magic in the world and the inhabitants worshiped it daily. On this fateful night the moon did not rise and in the midst of sheer panic from the population, four heroes bravely step forward to discover why the moon has stopped rising and to put themselves to a test of will to save Mercuria. Kitfox’s Moon Hunters is a non-linear action adventure inspired by the Zelda series. The choices and discoveries you make unravel the mythology surrounding Mercuria and the mystery of the moon’s disappearance. You barely begin your quest before monsters take over the land. Use your time well Hero and unravel the mystery of the missing moon!

Moon Hunters’ gameplay is distinctive amongst similar titles in the genre. The adventure can be beaten in just over an hour and to understand and unlock all of the story, it’s meant to be beaten several times. Every time it is completed you will find new parts of the story and slowly discover why the moon has not risen by adding star constellations to the sky with each completion. Every time a new journey is started the choices the hero makes determines how much of the story is told. NPCs react differently depending on decisions made by the characters and the time of day. In addition to learning more of the story; new magic, relics, and characters can be unlocked with multiple playthroughs. Every beginning is different and exciting giving Moon Hunters good replay value.

I see the inspiration from Zelda when battling enemies or exploring the map, though where Moon Hunters really shines is it’s local multiplayer. Initially four heroes can be chosen; the Spellblade, Druid, Occulist, and Witch. The protagonists have three abilities each, a light and heavy attack along with a dash or escape move. Fluid attacks and spells keep fighting efficient and Heroes abilities benefit from one another by providing a greater range of battle tactics by combining abilities. The Druid’s slow spell helps the spellblade have a safe escape from bounding enemies or an occulist summon may give the witch time to revive a fallen ally. The adventure moves fast and again, beating it takes just an hour. Moon Hunters entices you with multiple plays to discover what has happened to the moon and the people you are trying to save.

Pixel and hand drawn art fills the action packed adventure making it look great. Pixel art games have hit the market successfully in the recent few years with releases like FEZ and Superbrothers: Sword & Sworcery. Moon Hunters blends nicely within the genre with its beautiful graphics and artwork for each hero, NPC, and enemy. The visualization of each character really helps flesh out the story and gives the heroes a personality that is hard to relay with just pixel characters. Having the artist work directly with the developers and programmers during vital creation times is essential in creating a well rounded experience for the player. The artist that created these works name is Xin Ran Liu and is the Co-Founder and Art Director of Kitfox Games. His direct involvement with Moon Hunters is evident with the alluring artwork and the personification of the characters he drew.

There are some drawbacks to Moon Hunters that are insignificant compared to rest of what’s offered. As you progress and unlock more relics and characters, it becomes easier with each playthrough taking away from the drive to kill hordes of enemies. Moon Hunters is exciting and fun but needs a difficulty increase option to keep up the challenge as the heroes gain strength. No option to add a CPU companion in single-player lacks the excitement that multiplayer has when playing alone. Lack of teammates will make the hero die faster, as no one can revive you on the field when you fall. The interactions between the characters and NPCs greatly differs when only playing single-player as different interactions will happen if more heroes are present. Both of these issues could be easily fixed with a difficulty adjuster and the ability to have a CPU helper with you.

Moon Hunters’ fast battles, quick completion, and vast story will keep any action adventurer happy for hours. Kitfox brought a unique quality to the genre by making the player replay the story several times to understand what has happened to the moon and Mercuria in general. The choices the heroes face and how NPCs react is shown through great artwork and fluid pixelization. The multiplayer brings all the best elements of Moon Hunters together and gives your friends a reason to get their asses off the couch and come play. In-depth mythology, efficiently fun gameplay, and four person multiplayer makes Moon Hunters an unmistakably great experience.

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Final Fantasy VI (Steam)

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We must find a way to stop Kefka, if not more people will die.

Final Fantasy VI for Steam is an amazing game. This particular installment has become one of the most highly rated in the series. Released in North America on October 20th, 1994 for Super Nintendo, it sold 3.4 million copies worldwide. In North America, it was originally sold as ‘Final Fantasy III’ because several of the series had only been released in Japan at the time. Since then it has been ported to several systems including PSX, GBA, and Wii. The Steam version did a fantastic job of showing the combination of magic and technology into one world. The story, music, and artwork makes it one of the best and most well-known in the Final Fantasy series.

The battle system added some new and simple ideas that I felt really complemented the gameplay. The timing bar represents the order in which characters and enemies take turns, the menu rises from bottom screen and lights up to alert the player which character’s turn is ready. The classic white loading bar was what most players had been used to so this change was a unique and new spin on the mechanic. The magic and skills in the battle menu are split into tabs to differentiate black, white, and time spells. A reminder button tells you where you are headed to next and what needs completed similar to a quest log. This means you can stop for a few days and return to know exactly what needs to be completed next.

14 interesting characters and expanding plotline fills out 30+ hours of gameplay and there is a reason that it has been rated highly for so long. Fans of Final Fantasy VI remember the feeling of being younger and sitting in front of the TV thinking how cool Shadow was or learning the right controller combos for Sabin’s attacks. When porting this version Square Enix left the plot exactly how it is supposed to be, extensive and intriguing as the original was. The world map shape, battles and story went unchanged and this meant a lot to me as a player and a huge fan of the series (VI being a favorite). The tracks created by Nobuo Uematsu (creator of several Final Fantasy soundtracks) were preserved and reused in this HD remake and added the same ambience that was provided with the original Super Nintendo version.

The HD skins and textures applied to this version make a big difference for anyone who played the original. Portraits for the characters are clearer to see and the detail is stunning, showing off distinct features for each character. The enemies’ battle animations received new textures and like the characters the detail is lush. The drawback to the new graphics is that it takes away from the beautiful art of Yoshitaka Amano, who is known for the creation of some of the most iconic Final Fantasy imagery. Some of the HD overlay doesn’t do the graphics as much justice and took away from the world. The world map and characters seem blurry, which is more of a disappointment in comparison to the quality of other textures. This doesn’t take away from the story but with the HD skins switching between battle and travel, it does get distracting. All in all the graphics were the biggest problem as they belittled certain elements that were presented in the original version. With remakes of Final Fantasy VI and The After Years, why couldn’t Square Enix put for that effort for this installment?

I eventually sank in and found the original game I still love to this day. The dialogue and storyline was important for me as it brings back nostalgic memories. The array of characters and challenge that came with leveling them all up remained. This reminded me of playing this for hours as a kid learning the plot and reading every NPC’s dialogue just to see how different it was from other Final Fantasy’s. Finding each character and learning their backstory was engaging and thoughtful. The player had to spend time leveling up each character and understanding how to use each unique ability. Between magic, summons, and stealing Final Fantasy VI brings forth all the greatest elements from the series and enthralls the player to stop Kefka and save the world. Thoroughly entertaining, fans and newcomers of this installment will come to love the characters the same today as upon its initial release.

FINAL FANTSSYT 6

Steam World: Heist

We need more water to survive but I keep dying goddammit

Steamworld 2Steam-powered robots, spaceships, and explosions. All three are great things. Steamworld Heist, created by Image & Form, is a side scrolling turn based strategy based in a steampunk universe. The Swedish company created the Steamworld series in 2010 with Steamworld Towers, all of their projects have received good reviews. Steamworld Heist tells a new story about the robot named Piper who captains a pirate ship collecting treasure and water with her crew. The Steamworld universe is vast and full of danger, are you ready for it?

Plot: This installment of the series is set several hundred years after the events of Steamworld Dig. The steambots that make up the world have grown more astute and have developed the technology to travel to space. The player follows Captain Piper and her rough and tumble crew as she raids enemies called “scrappers” ships. The mission is unchanging: find water, upgrade characters, and find treasure. The story is simple per precedent, as the player progresses they learn of the world’s mythos and how the steambots went to space throughout the adventure. The galaxy expands as you travel further and further into space, make sure Captain Piper and her crew are properly outfitted!

Gameplay: Steamworld Heist is a turn-based strategy where steam-powered robots use firearms to destroy enemies and environmental objects or structures. Bullets ricochet off walls and ceilings giving the sidescroller a unique addition to battle as cover is a huge element throughout each raid. The player controls Captain Piper and her teammates, each with their own abilities and specialties. Each steambot teammate can be either purchased with water or hired solely based on Piper’s reputation. You earn reputation by beating each level and raiding for loot or treasure in other scrapper’s ships. Completing raids gives experience to crewmembers which unlocks additional talents, adds to your water supply (essential for weapon and equipment purchases), and gives scores to determine how much reputation was earned. Most levels have a max of 3 reputation points while others only have a single point to earn. There are 100 guns including rifles. pistols, shotguns, and explosives. Each with various stat bonuses and better ricochet chance for trick shots. Hats add no stat bonus whatsoever but are fun to collect as a vanity item.

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Difficulty: The battles that ensue in Steamworld Heist only get harder as it progresses. I found myself losing several raids over simple mistakes that added up to my demise in the end. First off, playable characters have very low health. There are items that can be purchased to replenish health during battle or add to the character’s max health. Items and weapons must be chosen carefully as different enemy types require different tactics to defeat them. Some enemies have to be hit by a ricochet, by explosion, or by melee attacks. The character talents make battle more fluid as bonuses are dished out to be used in combat. Adding or reducing incoming damage with equippable items can make or break the raid you’re currently on. Each scrapper raid is randomized so memorization is out of the question. The most hardest part of failing a raid is losing water and having all your teammates die. Each time you die your water supply is reduced by half and no one receives any experience. This leads to character level grinding as the player must return to previous missions and re-complete them for water but no reputation.

Music: The band is in the game, and they are steambots? Thats right. Steam Powered Giraffe composed the soundtrack for Steamworld Heist and can be seen playing in several of the seedy establishments that Captain Piper visits while recruiting and upgrading the crew. The sounds they produced are a good mix of western string and electronica and add to the all around atmosphere of travelling the galaxy. This kind of music has been made for the previous installments and mixes well making them more fun. The music is better than what I expected having played Steamworld Towers and Dig and gave great flavor to the gameplay.

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Summary: I enjoyed the experience the same way I enjoyed Steamworld Dig. I didn’t find many new elements to the side-scrolling turn based strategies, instead Heist takes the better elements and refines them. The plot, gameplay, and difficulty all mixed well and made Heist an enjoyable experience. The reason I liked Steamworld Heist is the simplicity and how they are not trying to be too original while still making their own universe. The world and characters created are unique on their own and have history in the universe. Image & Form slowly add more story to the mythos of the Steamworld universe,giving it momentum to tell more stories in the future. I hope with future installments the studio continues to flesh out the lore and make good adventures.

8.2/10

My Favorites of 2015

Wait, I have to pick 5 favorites? Well this will be easy : )

#5 – Super Smash Bros WiiU/3DS

Super Smash Bros

I have been playing Super Smash Bros since 1999 on the Nintendo 64. These games will always hit home for me as I am terrible at most fighting games except Smash. Where I have always been able to stand my ground when playing the game. The fact that the game was released on both the Nintendo 3DS and WiiU made me see the game as more accessible this time around. Players around the world have two ways to smash which I find amazing.

Nintendo also took advantage of the situation by having the 3DS not only be the console to play it on but could be used as a controller. We haven’t seen this since the use of Gameboy Advances with the Gamecube. The playable characters are a huge hit with most fans as this installment covered most bases and even more (Cloud from Final Fantasy 7 and Ryu from Street Fighter). The reason Smash is in my top 5 is because of accessibility, gameplay, and characters.

 

#4 – Pillars of Eternity

Pillars of Eternity

It’s not too often that we see a game like Pillars of Eternity that actually captures the retro style of the Baldur’s Gate and Icewind Dale games. We saw Sword Coast Legends come in this year and, as a Dungeons and Dragons fan I considered it a flop. Pillars of Eternity covered everything that had been missing in these types of cRPG’s and more. Rich storyline, difficult battles and customizable options filled in every inch of Pillars of Eternity.

I found this game to be remarkable and challenging. I love the density of each conversation and how the game makes the player read to understand the plotline. This game could be compared to literature like Lord of the Rings or Game of Thrones with how heavy the lore and gameplay is. Pillars of Eternity will fill your time and enrapture you in the world of Eora as you experience everything the game has to offer.

 

#3 – Rocket League

Rocket League

Jesus Christ, Seriously. I have not played this addictive of this calibur of a game since Slimeball in the Addictinggames.com days of my youth. The mix of soccer and racing will get anyone involved and yelling at their screen as they play. Such an inventive idea that I have not seen implemented ever. It’s as if the Psyonics loved Fifa and Twisted metal and just said “Hell, let’s combine ‘em”.There are three reasons I find this game to be one of the best of 2015.

One; the game’s addictiveness adds to its fun. It’s a game that you don’t need to pay attention to stats if you don’t want to, you pick up the controller and GO! Two; Each match in Rocket League is simple, yet incredible. It doesn’t take long to understand the controls or physics to get started. Third; Rocket League is an all ages game. Anyone from age 3 to 100 can play this game and eventually understand its workings. Bright colors, fun music and great gameplay will get everyone attached and loving.

 

#2 – Environmental Station Alpha

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This game is severely underrated and overlooked too often. Environmental Station Alpha captures so much of what Metroid and Castlevania games have. A platforming adventure where the investigation of an abandoned is lead by a single robot, you. Environmental Station Alpha brings the feeling of isolation in space, the player alone and figuring everything out while dealing with the terrors of the station. Deadly creatures, hard puzzles, and trials just to get to a save point enrich the gameplay greatly.

Hempuli took the best elements of the retro platformers and produced an incredible game. Between power ups and challenging bosses, the player will be asking for more and more as they return each sector of the station to normal. Hempuli really pulled through with creating this adventure between the great gameplay and the story told. I am excited to see what their next project will be based on how great Environmental Station Alpha is.

 

#1 – Hotline Miami 2: Wrong Number

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Visceral, engaging, and difficult is how I describe Hotline Miami 2: Wrong Number. Who is the hero, who are the bad guys, and what are you killing for? Discovering the details of the story are confusing, yet invigorating. Such a complex plot that you literally do not have to pay attention to. Dennaton and Abstraction Games came together to make a sequel to the hugely popular indie game Hotline Miami and fans are already wondering when the next installment comes out.

There are several things about Hotline Miami 2 that stick out to me. The texture and design of each level and character is simply stunning. The playable characters and how they rotate within game are all intricate adding incredible challenge to the game. The game takes you out of your comfort zone and places you in a world where you have to murder literally hundreds of people to survive.

Hotline Miami 2 gets my number one for several reasons. The soundtrack in particular stuck out to me just as much as the first installments. Heavy trap/techno/electronica added a sense of urgency to each mission that had me on the edge of my seat nodding my head and tapping my foot as each song played. Because of the intensity of the soundtrack, I found myself having to, constantly,  look over my shoulder to make sure someone wasn’t there to kill me.

The replay value of this game is another reason it gets my number one. I have beaten the game 4 times now and it doesn’t get old. Even levels I have memorized change when my character dies making the game difficult but appealing. The fact that you will die several times before beating the level really puts a different mentality on the game. It tricks you into thinking there are no consequences when really what you’re giving up is your sanity to kill hundreds of gangsters and drug addicts. Hopefully we will see a third installment of this series as both have done exceedingly well and have a mass fan following to prove it.