Category Archives: Video Game Reviews

Sonic Mania Review

Sonic Mania Review – Written by Jose Vega

Product provided for this review by SEGA. Special thanks to them.

For more than 25 years, Sonic the Hedgehog has been one of SEGA’s flagship franchises. It had humble beginnings during the 90s console wars between the Genesis and SNES but after SEGA went 3rd party, the journey got a bit shaky. 2006 would be the year Sonic would enter a dark age with many of their titles getting mixed to negative receptions. Things would pick up in the following years, despite some flops, and last year SEGA announced that Sonic would return with 2 more titles. One of them, Sonic Mania has been hyped for some time. Does the hype pay off?

Sonic Mania takes place after the events of Sonic 3 & Knuckles. The plot centers on Sonic & Tails returning to Angel Island, learning that a strange energy source was sighted there. Unfortunately, a legion of Eggman’s robots has got there first, getting their hands on the Phantom Ruby. However, it whisks Sonic, Tails, Knuckles (unexpectedly) and the Egg Robots to a familiar locale. Seeing the danger & the evolved Hard-Boiled Heavies off with the jewel, Sonic along with Tails and Knuckles must team up to prevent the Phantom Ruby from falling into Eggman’s hands.

It’s simple Sonic storytelling. Eggman enacts another of his world domination plans and it’s up to Sonic and his friends to stop them. Surprisingly he’s not the only threat they have to deal with. Eggman’s personal squad, the Hard-Boiled Heavies are also involved. This makes things a bit intense but what do you expect in a Sonic game. I have no complaints with it honestly.

Sonic Mania brings Sonic back to its 2D side-scrolling roots and it’s one that works, taking inspiration from the 16-bit Sonic games that made Sonic what he is today. If you’ve played many of the old school Sonic games, you will feel right at home here. You have three playable characters: Sonic, Tails, and Knuckles. All of them play the same but with a few differences. They can jump, run, spin dash, etc. You get the idea. Sonic has a peel out move that lets him be on the move quickly. Tails can fly to avoid enemies and find hidden secrets and Knuckles can glide, climb walls, has a jump that isn’t as high & can access areas that Sonic and Tails can’t go through normally. You will need their strengths to conquer the game’s 12 zones. As far as length, you can beat the game in just a couple of hours and with three playable characters, it adds a lot in terms of replay value. There’s also Time Attack where you can race to get the fastest time and Competition where you and a friend can go head to head offline to see who can reach the end of a stage first. It’s great.

There are 12 zones in this game, each with two acts. More than half of the zones are classic levels from previous Sonic games but they’re given a revamp when it comes to level design. The rest are brand new to the game and offer so much to the experience. What’s interesting is that each level offers many paths for the player to come from. It’s still simple enough going from start to finish but how you go about it depends on the player. Sometimes there are secrets you can find such as item boxes or giant rings. Like the classic games, there are bonus stages and by hitting checkpoints or finding giant rings, you get access to them. Checkpoint bonus stages are of the Blue Spheres from Sonic 3 & Knuckles and completing them net you medallions and they’re used to unlock various secrets. The Giant Ring bonus stages have you chasing after a UFO that carries a Chaos Emerald. Your skills will be tested, as you must collect blue spheres to increase your speed and rings to extend your time. Beating them will be a challenge but worth it in order to get the Chaos Emerald. There are 7 of these and they get harder as you progress.

At the end of each act, there is a boss. Many pay nods to previous Sonic bosses. If anything SEGA really puts a lot of heart when it comes to the game and it shows. It also helps that Sonic Mania has a truly stellar presentation. The graphics are just what you expect for a retro 16-bit game and they did a job keeping it faithful to them. All of the levels offer something different and they are vibrant, full of colors and if you look hard enough, there are many nods and references to various SEGA related stuff. Sprites are detailed and authentic as well. They’re also expressive. Controls are very precise. Perfect would be too appropriate of a word to describe how good the game plays. I mean it. It’s perfect and easy to pick up and play. Whitehead Productions should be praised for giving us a Sonic game that feels like the old school games but in a new environment. I only hope SEGA can get him involved in a possible Mania sequel.

Although I want to praise the game for its presentation, what really nailed it in for me was the music. Tee Lopes went in and delivered a soundtrack that is godly. I kid you not. All of the music in the game is amazing to listen to. Whether it’s remixed versions of Green Hill & Flying Battery or songs from the new stages like Studiopolis and Mirage Saloon, this game has it all. A game that has a stellar presentation, topped with a superb soundtrack. What more needs to be said?

I do have one minor issue with the game and it can be quite a challenge. The game feels like the old school Sonic games and new players who may experience this can find it to be one that requires them to get good. The difficulty is a bit balanced but there will be some moments of unfairness. It shouldn’t dissuade anyone though. Sonic Mania has a lot of content and high replay value that anyone can be able to enjoy no matter what. But yes, it is challenging but there’s a good amount of reward for those looking to complete everything.

It’s surprising how fans of the Sonic franchise were given the go ahead by SEGA to produce a game that’s not only fun but serves as a love letter to the Sonic franchise, it’s fans and SEGA as a whole. Sonic Mania is a special kind of game. Being at around $20 is enough to convince anyone that it’s worth a definite buy. Everything about the game whether it be its presentation, controls, music, etc. delivers on all fronts. Sure it can be a challenge for those that have little idea but it shouldn’t dissuade anyone otherwise. If you haven’t played a Sonic game or if you feel you want something that reminds you of the good old days, Sonic Mania is THE game. The blue blur isn’t going anywhere and this game proves that he’ll be around speeding through for many years to come.

I give Sonic Mania a 9 out of 10. I want to make it a perfect 10 but I feel this rating is more than enough.

Hey! Pikmin Review

Hey! Pikmin Review – Written by Jose Vega

Product provided for this review by Nintendo

Nintendo has a knack for providing franchises the exposure they need and they do so via consoles and handhelds. Sometimes they work and other times can lead to a franchise dying out. The results vary but when it was announced that a new Pikmin game would be coming to the Nintendo 3DS, people were curious. Pikmin has had a few successes with its three main games with a strong reception, but the idea of a spin-off game seemed questionable. Eventually Hey! Pikmin would arrive but the big question is this: Does this spin off game hold its own compared to its main series? Or will this be another case of a franchise that ended due to an unexpected flop?

The story centers on Capt. Olimar, who is returning back after completing another assignment. During his trip, his ship gets struck by an asteroid and ends up crashing on an unknown planet. He learns that in order to fix his ship and get back home, he needs to seek out an energy source called Sparklium. But he won’t do it alone. The planet that he crashed in is home to Pikmin, little plant-like creatures that Olimar can use to complete his mission. With these helpers, Olimar heads off to find what he needs to fix his ship and head home.

It’s a simple story, traditional since it’s almost the same in every Pikmin game. Sure the previous games add a little bit here and there but in Hey! Pikmin, the plot is bare bones. Sadly it also takes a backseat in favor of the game and it doesn’t be any relevant until at least you collect 30,000 Sparklium. But for a Pikmin game, what can you do?

Now since this is a Pikmin game, your job is to find Pikmin and use them to solve puzzles, defeat enemies and find treasures. Olimar can’t defend himself. He doesn’t have anything that can provide offense. All he has is a whistle and a jetpack that lets you hover for a short time. The only form of offense that you have is the Pikmin. They come in different varieties and each of them provides a different advantage for your journey. Red Pikmin is immune to fire and are strong fighters. Yellow can be thrown farther and can withstand electricity. Blue Pikmin are agile swimmers and essential for underwater combat. Rock Pikmin pack a punch and can destroy crystalized walls and Winged Pikmin can help you float through dangerous hazards and can reach high places. Unlike the main Pikmin games, this one you are only limited to 20 Pikmin in each area. This adds a bit of strategy but also a bit of micromanaging since you need to make sure everyone is safe from harm. Carelessness will lead you to defeat.

Hey! Pikmin has you traveling through 8 Sectors, each with 5 areas. As you trek, you need to seek out Pikmin and use them to survive what lies ahead. This also relates to finding Sparklium. You do that by collecting Sparklium in each area. Finding treasures also count because they net a high amount of Sparklium and each area has at least 2-4 treasures to find. Finding them is the challenge. They can appear where you least expect it. Exploration is a definite must and the game offers a lot of it. If you’re lucky, you may find a hidden exit that can lead to an Area X. Those areas put your Pikmin playing skills to the test. Sometimes they can be a cakewalk and others can be a test of skill. At the end of every sector is a boss fight. If you know how the bosses behave, then they won’t be much of a challenge. One good thing about it is that the game really does a good job showing them before the big fight.

In addition to exploration, there’s also Pikmin Park and using all the Pikmin you gathered, you can order them to head to specific areas to excavate more Sparklium. It’s a neat addition and offers more to an interesting game. As I said before, getting Sparklium is needed to reach the end and you’ll have to do so in this 10-12 hour game. Going for 100% will have you clocking in at about 16 hours since you need to complete every stage, find every treasure and do so with all Pikmin unharmed. This game will test you.

For a 3DS game, the presentation is well done. The characters and environment are vibrant and colorful. Each world has a unique theme that offers something different as you progress. Olimar and the Pikmin I feel is the best thing since they express themselves in the form of short cutscenes. Some are rather humorous but it’s to be expected for a Pikmin game. The game has some great music. Unlike other games where music doesn’t reflect the game, this does and it’s done very well. Some songs like the cave areas have a bit of a Metroid vibe to them. It’s pretty good and it helps make the game feel enjoyable. The controls are good. You just tap with the stylus on the touchscreen and you can fling your Pikmin to where they will go. It can help with some tricky puzzles. The touch screen is also used for the whistle to get your Pikmin in line as well as the rocket backpack. Movement is done either with the analog stick or the D-Pad. The D-Pad is a safer bet if you feel analog isn’t your thing.

Though I do enjoy some of the good things, there are a few things I find problematic with the game. First, the puzzles are too simple at times. Understandably since this game is meant for kids but for others, they may find them to be too easy. The same can be said for the bosses. Many of their patterns are simple to figure out, making some of them be a joke. Thankfully each boss provides a different challenge, requiring you to use the Pikmin you have to take the boss down. Replay value is there if you want to go back and beat every level with all Pikmin intact but other than that, there isn’t much. It’s pretty much a one & done game when it comes to finding everything. Speaking of which, the Pikmin is another flaw I have with the game. They’re only useful when they see anything of interest and are pretty much brain dead. Sometimes they don’t follow fast enough and you can end up either losing Pikmin or getting killed and forced to restart. Oh, and there are no checkpoints. If you die, you have to start the level all over again. That is an issue especially in tougher levels where you are forced to redo a lot of progress. That’s upsetting.

In conclusion, Hey! Pikmin isn’t a bad game, far from it. It’s an enjoyable game that offers a lot of charm and a pretty acceptable challenge. For a handheld, Nintendo did well in bringing Pikmin to the small screen. A good presentation with simple yet effective controls added with an acceptable amount of challenge makes this a worthy addition to the franchise. If you want something to keep yourself busy before Nintendo makes an official Pikmin sequel, this is it. Trust me. You’ll enjoy it.

I give Hey! Pikmin an 8.5 out of 10.

Splatoon 2 Review

Splatoon 2 Review – Written by Jose Vega

Product provided for this review by Nintendo.

Two years ago, Nintendo released Splatoon for the Wii U gaining high praise across the board. At first, it didn’t have much content but as time went on, Nintendo added features and modes while refining the game and making it a satisfying experience. From then on, it became a game that anyone who owned a Wii U should play. When Nintendo announced a sequel for the Nintendo Switch, expectations were high. Now that the game is released, does it meet up to all the hype that fans were expecting?

For starters, Splatoon 2 is a huge step up compared to the first. The presentation is spot on, capturing the feel of the first game but on a much broader scale. Having it on the Nintendo Switch helped considerably. The soundtrack is great with tunes that are fun to listen to. As far as its plot goes, it takes place 2 years after the first game. Its single-player campaign has you taking the role of an Inkling, which you can create, by the way, encountering Marie one day in Inkopolis. Marie asks for the Inkling’s aid in finding her cousin Callie. It’s a simple plot but with Splatoon, it has a sense of humor and it’s done well. I only wish that there would be a bit more backstory in regards to the two Squid Sisters and what happened to the two in the two years between the two games.

Like many other games Nintendo has made, it follows an adage, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” If you played the first Splatoon, you will feel right at home in this one although to a degree. Yes, there are motion controls in the game but it’s more used towards aiming your weapons. You use the left analog to move, ZL to turn to a squid so you can traverse faster, ZR to shoot, R to use secondary weapons and B to jump. Clicking the right analog lets you use your special attack. It’s just as good as it was in the previous game and with the improvements, it makes the experience better. But for anyone that feel motion controls aren’t for them, the game gives you the option to use analog control just like in traditional shooters. A welcome feature since the first game didn’t give you the option to turn off motion controls. It shows that Nintendo is listening to feedback and that’s a good thing. In addition, you have access to over 20 different weapons with some being brand new like the Splat Dualies, Herobrush, Hero Gatling and many others. There are also new secondary and special attacks that add a lot to the game.

Splatoon 2’s single player campaign has you going through six areas each with up to 6 stages. In each stage, you go from start to finish taking out enemies, solving puzzles and finding secrets such as Sardinium and pamphlets. In some levels, you are given a weapon to use and you need to beat the level with said weapon in order to unlock it. There are 8 weapons in all and using Sardinium and small fish eggs, you can be able to upgrade them so they can be stronger. The best part is that you can replay any of the levels, including the bosses with any weapons that you unlock. This adds a lot of replay value to the campaign, for those that want to beat every level with every weapon. There are bosses here and some can be a challenge but if you know what you’re doing, you will manage. Checkpoints are there, including boss fights, making the trek a bit of a reprieve for players.

Now let’s get to the meat and potatoes of Splatoon 2, the multiplayer. Splatoon 2 online is just as good as the first. It’s split between three modes: Random, Ranked and League. Each of the three modes put you in one of two maps that change every two hours. You play with 7 other players and are split between 2 teams of 4 players each. Random (or Player) battles have you and other players compete to see who can cover the map with the most ink in 3 minutes. It can be really addicting but also it requires you to be alert since your opponents will spare no expense in ensuring you go down. Ranked and League Battles take things up a notch with various goal-based types such as Splat Zone, Tower Control, and Rainmaker. Splat Zone is straightforward, Tower Control focuses on teams battling over a moving mobile tower and Rainmaker is like capture the flag except you have access to a powerful weapon that can turn the tide. What makes this better is that all three have their own ranking system and they change every few hours making things fresh and exciting.

For those that want to team up with friends, you have Salmon Run. You and three friends (local or online) team up to get golden eggs from enemy Salmonids in a set time limit in each wave. Teamwork is key but what makes it fun is that in each wave, you start with a different weapon and you need to adapt not only to what you have but with your teammates as well. It can get crazy and really fun plus playing with friends is always a blast. Plus you get paid whether you succeed or not and you can use the bonus from it to unlock new gear that you can use to customize your Inkling. My only complaint is the fact that Salmon Run is only available at certain times of the week. Upsetting I know but I wish in the future Nintendo could allow this as a permanent mode.

Customization is aplenty in Splatoon 2. There are shops where you can buy weapons and gear. Using currency that you earn by playing online, you can use it to unlock new weapons for online matches and gear that gives your Inkling various bonuses. Not only that but if you feel that the bonuses aren’t to your liking, you can speak to Murch to gear scrub your gear and put new abilities on it. It’s incredible. Also with the Nintendo Switch app, you can be able to buy gear that you can transfer into the game. That’s cool. Splatoon 2 has Amiibo support just like in the first game and using them allow you to save data for your weapon, hairstyle, and gear. They can be used to set up, even on another console. Plus they unlock new gear and exclusive weapons for your Inkling. Like the first game, there will also be Splatfests where players choose a side and they work to see who will win. Additional content is coming down the line adding more to an otherwise intense game.

If I had any negatives, I feel that in regards to the online maps, they’re chosen at random. It doesn’t hurt the game as much as I thought originally but I wish they would allow it at least for private battles with friends. Also like in the first game, there’s no voice chat but in truth, there is but you need the Nintendo Switch App and a Splatoon 2 headset to actually do it. I find it to be cumbersome, unnecessary & a step backward. Yes, I know that Nintendo values safety but I wish they would get with the times and try incorporating voice chat in the game without the need for anything ludicrous.

Overall, Splatoon 2 is a big step up from the original. Huge amount of customization, a good single player campaign and addicting online multiplayer provide so much for your money’s worth. Negatives aside, the game offers so much. With the Nintendo Switch already being a big success for the company, if there is any game that is worth a full purchase price, it’s this one. Becoming a squid kid has never been so much fun and I couldn’t have it any other way.

I give Splatoon 2 a 9 out of 10. This is a must-buy game and I highly recommend it. It also earns my personal seal of approval.

ARMS Review

ARMS Review – Written by Jose Vega

Product provided by Nintendo for the sake of this review.

Nintendo has always been known to make games that can attract an audience and they always have been for quite a long time. So when it was announced that they would be making their own fighting game for the Nintendo Switch console, people were intrigued to see if they could pull it off. In time this new fighting game would come to be known as Arms. Taking the idea of boxing and adding a twist to it, can Nintendo’s first foray into fighting games deliver a guaranteed knockout?

Arms is packed with content both online and off. There are 10 different characters for you to choose from, each providing something unique. Also, each character has access to 3 armaments or “Arms” that provide many different advantages in battle. You can pick and choose which arm to have on your character, leading to various combinations and possibilities. This also helps when they go in a powered up state and unleash heck on the opposition. It’s awesome. You can also charge up your arms to deliver powerful effects. Some have elemental properties, giving you a chance to either blow them away or shut down your foe completely. Speaking of which, the game has many modes of play such as Grand Prix, Party, and Online. Grand Prix is your traditional arcade mode where you pick a character and have to go through many battles to reach the end in order to become Arms Champion. Party is where either you battle against AI opponents or up to 4 players can have fun and play the game. It can range from either Fight or Team Fight where you can go either 1-on-1 or 2-on-2. Other game modes include V-Ball where up to 4 players have to score points by sending a large ball to the other team, Hoops for 1-on-1 b-ball action in the Arms’ sense, Skillshot where you and an opponent hit targets to get a high score or 1-vs-100 aka survival mode.

Online play really deserves a lot of praise here. They are straightforward but how you connect to matches is interesting with a hub world where up to 20 players are moving about as it chooses whom you will face. Of course, while you wait, you can take part in some activities to pass the time. Sometimes you fight 1-on-1 and other times you team up for 2-on-2. All the modes are there in online as well. Ranked matches are included too. You can also set up player matches with your friends via group and they can get hectic. Yes, a lot to take in I know but for a game offering a lot, it’s worth it. The game’s controls are well executed and precise. Sure you can use the Joycon motion controls and they’re really good but if you feel that it isn’t your thing, there are a total of four control options: Motion Controls, Joycon controller, Switch Pro or individual Joycon. So no matter what you choose, you’ll have what you need to enjoy the game.

Presentation-wise, the game is impressive. The characters look great and all of them stand out real well. Stages are well done and they each provide some atmosphere when you battle. Music is good with some songs addicting to listen to plus they help set the game up nicely. There is some voice acting and like the music, it’s good. No complaints on that. There are no microtransactions thankfully. Instead, there’s in-game currency that you earn by playing the game. You use the currency to access a mini game where you can unlock new arms for your characters. Everyone can be able to access arms that belong to other characters. Replay value is high and it’s one that wants you to come back and play another round, not to mention all the different combinations you can have for your character really offers a new level of strategy.

Although I do praise the game for being something different, I feel that there are some faults with it. The motion controls may be spot on but I feel that they can be problematic at times when you want to do something and then it does another. Thankfully with multiple control options, it alleviates this negativity. At higher difficulties, the game can be really hard and it’ll kick your butt especially when the AI can sometimes shut you down. It’s expected but in my experience playing this game, I didn’t have any problems but why would you if a game like this offers a lot at full price.

For Nintendo’s first attempt at making a fighting game, Arms delivers with its many modes, various characters, multiple control schemes, great online, high replay value and strong presentation. We hope that Arms can become the blueprint for future fighting games on how it should be done on the Switch. Only time will tell but for now, Arms delivers on some good clean fun. Put up your dukes for this game delivers and then some. It’s worth your money. That’s a promise.

I give Arms for the Nintendo Switch an 8.5 out of 10. It earns my personal Seal of Approval. Worth your money.

Mario Kart 8 Deluxe Review

Mario Kart 8 Deluxe Review – Written by Jose Vega

Product provided by Nintendo for the sake of this review.

Three years ago, Mario Kart 8 was released on the Wii U and though it was a great game, it was on a console that not many people bought. When Nintendo announced their new console back in 2016, it was hinted that there would be a possible Mario Kart. Those hints prove to be true when it was announced that a port of the game would be coming to the new console. But it isn’t just any port. This is Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, taking the original Wii U game and adding a whole bunch of new features. Is this game worth getting on the Nintendo Switch? The answer is yes. Absolutely.

Mario Kart 8 Deluxe is filled to the brim with content that is fun with friends or solo. You can take part in the Grand Prix, consisting of 12 cups spanning 48 courses. Many are new, some are revised classics from previous games and the rest are of the DLC cups that were in the last game. As you play through each track in the cups, you can collect coins that can be used to unlock new stuff. In Mario Kart 8 you would unlock new characters and parts. Deluxe makes this less of a grind by having all the characters unlocked from the get-go. For one thing, it’s awesome that you have everyone unlocked including the DLC characters.

What makes it better is that MK8 Deluxe introduces some new ones: Bowser Jr., Dry Bones, King Boo and the Inklings from Splatoon. It raises the character count to 43, which makes this the biggest cast for a racing game. You also have access to difficulty modes from 50 to 200cc, unlocked from the start, including mirror mode. There’s also Time Trials for those that want to test their skills and Versus where up to 4 players can race each other. Also in races, you can now hold up to 2 items, similar to Double Dash. It adds another level of strategy but at the same time it leads to some crazy shenanigans especially in multiplayer.

One of the biggest negatives Mario Kart 8 had was its battle mode being lackluster. Nintendo seem to get the message and decided to do a complete revamp. Battle Mode in this game has been redone, implementing a scoring system and providing players with 8 battle courses, 5 new, three retro. In addition there are 5 mode types: Balloon Battle, Renegade Roundup, Bob-omb Blast, Coin Runners and Shine Thief. Renegade Roundup is like “cops and robbers” where players are split into two teams. One are the cops, the other are the robbers. All of this now adds more to a game that truthfully feels like a complete package.

Mario Kart 8 Deluxe also has Online Racing where up to 2 players can race together against players from all over the world. You can compete either in Worldwide or Regional in both Racing and Battling. As far as stability goes, it’s good. There are times where connection errors happen but overall it’s a pleasant experience. Players can set up online tournaments easy and up to 12 players can take part in races or battles. A lot to take in and the replay value for the game is at an all time high. No joke. Also you have access to three different control schemes: Switch Pro Controller, Joycon Grip or individual Joycon. With two Joycon controllers, they count as having two players. That’s incredible but a little tough to adjust for some people.

Compared to the Wii U version, this port of Mario Kart 8 delivers an improved presentation. It looks a lot better with the game now running at 1080p at 60 fps. A big improvement compared to the original running at 720p. With the improved 1080p, the visuals get an upgrade where even the small details can be seen. Loading times are reduced from 22 to 9 seconds. Better if you just want to race and have fun. The music is still a delight to listen to with many tracks having very good tunes. The controls are refined and spot on. Fun to use whether using a Joycon or a Switch Pro Controller. There’s also wireless play where with 2 Switch consoles, you can have up to 8 players playing it. Though it isn’t easy to do, having a lot of people together for a game makes it truly a delight. Like the previous game, Mario Kart 8 Deluxe has Amiibo support where you can scan them to get costumes for your Mii. This time around, they now expand beyond Mario & Smash characters and into stuff like Splatoon. It’s simply cosmetic but nice to see.

In conclusion, Mario Kart 8 Deluxe takes everything that makes Mario Kart 8 great and turn it into something better. Containing all the DLC, an improved battle mode, good online, tight controls, great music, amazing presentation, what else is there to like? Everything. If you haven’t gotten a chance to play it on the Wii U and you have a Switch, this is a must-buy game. Since it is now the fastest selling Switch title, you can’t deny that it’s good. In fact, it’s excellent. Get some friends, buy this game and you’ll see just how amazing Mario Kart can be. You won’t regret it.

I give Mario Kart 8 Deluxe a perfect 10 out of 10. It is worth the full purchase price.

Nioh Review

Nioh Review – Written by Jose Vega

Purchased product for the sake of the review.

In 2011, a little game called Dark Souls was released that brought players a game that was gloomy and challenging. Since it’s release there have been games that felt similar to it or provided their own take and offered something new while keeping it familiar. So what do you get when you take Dark Souls and combine it with Japanese folklore, mythology as well as its history? You get Nioh. Nioh is Team Ninja’s take on the series but don’t let it deceive you. Behind its similarities is a game that offers so much and provides just as much of a challenge as any game they’ve done.

Nioh takes place in the year 1600, during a fictional Sengoku period of Japan when the country was in the middle of civil war before the rise of the Tokugawa shogunate. You play as William, a sailor who travels to Japan in search of a foe that has captured something important to William. He ends up meeting Hattori Hanzo, servant to Tokugawa Ieyasu who requests him to deal with yokai that have been coming about due to the chaos of war. What follows is William encountering many historical figures as he travels to Japan and stop an alchemist who wishes to bring ruin to Japan and eventually the world.

I like that Team Ninja has the game touch on actual Japanese history and it shows. They really did a good job. Most of the story reminded me of the films directed by Akira Kurosawa, since yes, part of Nioh was based on a script that he made but it underwent many revisions. Also it’s based off the real western samurai William Adams, minus the supernatural elements. It’s pretty interesting since after beating this, I wanted to learn more about William Adams, his history as well as some Japanese history.

As far as Nioh’s gameplay goes, you go about moving from one part of the area to the next taking down foes, collecting gear and trying to survive against anything that comes your way. You travel through six different regions in Japan and each one contains missions to go through and complete to acquire experience, money and new gear. Elements of Dark Souls are in the game but don’t let it dissuade you. Nioh’s fast paced, making the game intense as you progress. But how you go about it depends on the player itself. You have five different weapons to choose from: sword, spear, dual swords, axe and kusarigama or chain sickle. Each weapon provides a different style of combat and you can mix it up to provide an advantage. Made better is that you also have three variations: low, medium & high. You also have your Guardian Spirit, a spirit that provides various advantages to the player when activated. By relying on all of these in battle, you can take on any threat that comes your way.

Now like Dark Souls, Nioh has some familiar RPG elements. For example, you earn experience (or Amrita) by defeating enemies along with money and any items they drop. In order to level up, you need to a visit a shrine. Leveling up has you improving your character’s stats by adding points to them. There are 8 different core stats: Body, Heart, Stamina, Strength, Skill, Dexterity, Magic and Spirit. Adding points to any of the stats provides benefits to your character as well as whatever weapons you wield. This also allots to armor, having five different kinds: head, torso, arm, leg and foot. They come in different varieties, rarities and have stats that can improve the character. Some even come in sets and having all of the pieces provide numerous benefits but it all depends how you make your character.

You will need everything this game has to offer if you wish to survive. Nioh is a long game. It’ll take you approximately 20-30 hours and you’ll spend it completing various missions. There are three different kinds of missions: main, sub and twilight. Main focus on the story whereas Sub are devoted to providing you more experience and goods and Twilight are basically the same Main missions only harder. Main missions also have boss battles, requiring you to plan before striking. What makes this all work is that you have a hub menu to choose whatever mission you like. It’s the one thing I find that sets it apart from the Souls series. The hub is also used to access places like a shrine, blacksmith and even training grounds. Training grounds help you learn the basics and even challenge yourself against teachers in order to acquire new abilities. It’s perfect. Replay value in this game is high with exploration as you can find new gear and secrets such as kodama. Considering the game is having DLC with new missions will extend the length even more. You can also connect online and team up with other players in a PvE environment or take on others in PvP. It’s good but pray you don’t end up taking on someone who can kick your butt fast.

Nioh’s presentation is solid. It’s amazing to look at with the Japanese atmosphere, beautiful visuals and can be colorful depending on the area you visit. It does carry the dark omen in some areas and when you enter a Twilight Mission, the feeling of dread exudes all over. The game also has cutscenes that tell the story with voice acting to back it up. Surprisingly, Anjin’s the only character that is in English while the rest are in Japanese. Not that it’s a bad thing but it does fit the game’s atmosphere. Voice acting is great and the performances are well done. It’s impressive on all aspects. The music is awesome with an orchestrated feel especially in fights where you take on tough opponents. It’s exhilarating and a blast to listen to.

But though there are a lot of good things about Nioh, there are some minor issues. Yes, Nioh is a difficult game and the learning curve for it is strict, requiring a lot of practice, as well as trial and error. In some cases it’s luck based since the game can sometimes throw you for a loop & put you in a situation you can’t get out of. Thankfully you can always find ways around situations if you know the layout. Also the layout for your item box is a bit of a mess, made no better by the fact you don’t have an option to sort them all. Instead it slows down by having you scroll up or down until you find what you need. Nioh does let you search them via rarities but I feel a sort option would help. Since it shares elements with the Souls series, expect to die a lot. At least it isn’t as punishing. Plus the AI will ensure you go down, even if you are at a weaken state. Expect the unexpected.

It’s strange that a game that is brutal and challenging can be a lot of fun. Nioh perfectly fits this to a T with its superb gameplay, amazing visuals, great length and replay value, solid exploration as well as amazing music. The challenge is there and only those that have the skill to do it will persevere. Don’t let its difficulty fool you. Nioh is certainly a game that you want to have on your PS4 library. Team Ninja brought their own take on the Souls series. I can honestly say that it is very well done. If you have a PS4, get this game now. You won’t regret it.

I give Nioh a solid 9 out of 10. It is a must-own game for anyone that has a PS4 and earns my personal seal of approval.

The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild Review

The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild Review – Written by Jose Vega

Purchased product for the sake of this review.

Since 1987, the Legend of Zelda has been a franchise that has endured the test of time. It introduced many things that would be mainstay for the series and would serve as inspiration for other games to follow. Now on it’s 30th anniversary, Nintendo decides to pull out all the stops to deliver a game unlike any other… that is The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. Funny since it is not only the last game released for the Nintendo Wii U but also one of the first on the Nintendo Switch. Despite this, the game is everything that Zelda has to offer and then some.

The game’s story takes place 100 years after a calamity destroyed the kingdom of Hyrule. Link wakes from a long slumber, guided by a voice telling him that he must go out and save it once more. However he suffers from amnesia. Despite this, Link heads out into Hyrule, hoping to save it from a threat named Calamity Ganon but also learn the truth about what happened. It’s a story that has me intrigued and at the same time fills me with a lot of questions. Sometimes stories in Zelda take a back seat in favor of gameplay but not in this case. Here, Breath of the Wild provides a story that pays tribute to the franchise while offering something very intriguing. I loved it and by the time I finished the game, it left me with a satisfying feeling and a sense of hope.

Breath of the Wild is a departure from many other Zelda games. Although it does kind of borrow elements from games like Elder Scrolls, you can’t deny that Nintendo actually took a chance to change something that has worked and make it better. For starters, the world of Hyrule actually feels like an open world, not to mention a lot bigger. Though you are quite limited at it in the beginning, once you get the Paraglider then the real fun begins. You aren’t limited to just following objectives. It’s up to you to decide what to do from here. This is the freedom this game gives you and I like it. Not that it’s a bad thing. The game introduces a nifty item, the Sheikah Slate. It is a tablet that allows Link to do a variety of functions like forming bombs, ice platforms or even trap things. It can also get upgrades that add more to the device. Pretty nifty. It also replaces items that we’ve used many times in the Zelda series.

As you progress, you have the option to collect gear such as weapons, shields, bows, outfits, etc. You need them to survive the harsh environment. Unlike previous Zelda games, you don’t use hearts to restore health. You use food. They can be collected, eaten up or cooked to create dishes that provide various effects. Speaking of effects, they can range from resistance to various elements to providing temporary health. The possibilities are endless and they even work on elixirs too. With all this, the game offers a lot to do and how you do it depends on you, again the freedom. You can move about either on foot, horseback, swim if you’re in water or you can glide. If there’s a wall or mountain, you can climb. Know that doing any of it drains your stamina. If it runs out while doing any of it, you have to wait until it’s filled up.

Every Zelda game always has dungeons that put your skills to the test. Breath of the Wild has plenty of them in the form of shrines. Shrines are mini-dungeons and there are 120 of them. Some require simple puzzle solving. Others involve a test of combat. Tackling them is simple but finding them is the challenging part. Completing them nets you Shrine Orbs, which you can exchange for more health or stamina. As for the actual dungeons, they take the form of the four Divine Beasts. They require a bit of puzzle solving, culminating with a boss battle at the end. The bosses are a challenge and depending on your equipment can determine the outcome.

Breath of the Wild has additional new features. Link can now jump with a button press. It can be useful for exploration or in battle with the Flurry Rush. If you time your evasion well enough, you go into a matrix-style slowdown and then follow it up with a series of strikes that can damage your enemies. It’s nifty and for anyone that masters this can be unstoppable. Another thing they included and one I feel isn’t the most useful of additions is durability. No weapon lasts forever and they’ll break. When that happens, expect to switch to a new one fast. You can always throw the damaged weapon to an enemy for double damage so there’s a workaround. It’s not limited to weapons like swords, axes or bows. Your shield can also break if it absorbs too much damage. Gear can get upgraded too with the help of the Great Fairies. You need to trade items in order to do so.

Breath of the Wild’s length depends on the player and how he goes about it. Since it does depend on the player, there is an insane amount of replay value. On average, the game can be beaten in roughly 16 hours but to complete everything, it goes beyond into the hundreds. Even now players always find ways to go around and that’s really cool. If you wonder about Amiibo support, there’s plenty. Scanning Amiibos like the Legend of Zelda line can net you stuff and they depend. If you’re lucky, you’ll get rare garb that you can use to dress up.

Presentation-wise, the game is fantastic and colorful. It is a marvel whether playing it on the Wii U or on the Nintendo Switch. It is marvelous. The music is amazing. I recommend giving a listen to some tracks so you can see how great they are. Character models are pretty good, with Link being my favorite since he can express himself in many ways. Also, a first for the Zelda series, the game has full voice acting. I was surprised they included this. Link is still mute but as for some of the other characters, they are pretty good. It’s a nice addition and one we waited for quite some time. The game is also on the Wii U but it has some problems on the frame rate department. They are minor at best but if you’re on the Switch, it’s consistent and flawless. Overall, both Wii U and Switch are similar if anything.

In conclusion, Breath of the Wild is a game that offers many firsts to the series. It does borrow stuff from other games but it brings it’s own flavor into the mix. Fitting that this serves as a farewell to the Wii U and a welcome to Nintendo’s new Switch console. Despite some shortcomings, you can’t deny that this game is truly one to behold. Great combat, amazing presentation, addicting gameplay and high replay value all add up to a game that just screams perfect, despite some faults. Nintendo nailed it and it’s going to be a game people will be talking about for a very long time.

I give The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild a perfect 10 out of 10. It is worth your money whether on the Wii U or on the Nintendo Switch.