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Team Sonic Racing Review

Team Sonic Racing Review – Written by Jose R. Vega

Product provided by SEGA.

It had been seven years since Sonic got the chance to go kart racing with Sonic & Sega All-Stars Racing Transformed. Since then, things have been dormant with SEGA putting their focus on other games. Last year, SEGA announced that Sonic would return for another round of racing. It would be known as Team Sonic Racing. Instead of Sonic racing alongside characters from other SEGA franchises, it’s between Sonic characters. Playing it safe but does this change translate to a good racing game?

Sonic Team Racing’s story goes like this. Sonic and his friends get an invitation to take part in the Ultimate Test of Racing Skill. It gets Sonic curious and before long, they meet a strange Tanuki named Dodonpa. Noticing his similarities to Eggman, they are cautious. Despite this, they take part where teamwork is the key to winning races. All the while, Eggman along with his team have plans of their own. He seeks to use Dodon Pa so he can obtain the Ultimate Energy Engine and use it to become an unstoppable force.

It’s interesting that this game actually has a story but what I also like is that this one puts more focus on the Sonic characters and their world. It’s pretty good. Sumo Digital gets props and it shows. Although I wish we had gotten much of the story in the form of animated cutscenes rather than what with we have here.

But if you wonder how the game plays, don’t worry. If you have played either Sonic & Sega All-Stars Racing or the sequel, you will feel right at home with this one. The game plays very similar but with a few differences. Team Sonic Racing emphasizes on teamwork, similar to that of Sonic Heroes. You have a choice of 15 racers that follow in one of three classes: Speed, Technique and Power. Speed characters are well balanced and fast, they have a Radial Burst that protects them from projectiles. However they have poor defense & acceleration. Technique falls in the middle with good handling and acceleration. They also can attract rings while tackling rough terrain with no slowdown. Power is all about strength with strong boost and defense. They can also smash into obstacles or other racers. The only drawback is that their top speed and handling is subpar. Choosing the best racer in a team & working together is optimal for success.

Races have teams of 3 working together to win while contending against rival racers. The use of the slipstream allows teammates who are falling behind to catch up all while getting a big burst of speed. A useful feature. Items come in the form of Wisps and they provide racers many options. Some wisps though are exclusive to a specific character class but they can be used by any racer if it is acquired via Item Exchange. Item Exchange is another feature added to the game. It isn’t just limited to you. Even your teammates want to send items and accepting them can help turn the tide of a struggling race to your favor. Teams also have a Team Ultimate and depending on the character using it have their own individual theme. It’s pretty clever too. In terms of customization, there’s plenty with the various car parts you will acquire. You get them by spending coins in a slot-machine that will net you a different part. In some cases you’ll get a Legendary version that gives your ride a gold sheen. With 15 different characters, expect to spend a lot to get all the parts along with various items and decal to make them look to your liking.

The game has both single and multi-player. Single player comes in the form of the Team Adventure mode. You take part in various challenges such as single races, grand prix (a collection of 4 races) and there are also mini-games that require high scores to get the highest rank. Each challenge also comes with multiple objectives to complete. Some are simple like winning 1st place while others are a bit complex. Not only that but acquiring keys can help unlock more challenges. If players simply want to beat the game, it is not long. At Normal difficulty, it’ll take you roughly 7-8 hours to complete but for completionists, it’s twice as long. Replay value is plentiful with multiple difficulties, cranking the length up further. Winning races will net you coins that you can use on the slot machine to unlock parts. Online play is available where up to 12 players can race each other. Time trials are also available where racers can post their best times while trying to prove your skill to the rest. There’s much to do whether online or off.

With it’s presentation the game looks great. At 1080p it’s intense and colorful but depending on the console, it can run either 60fps or 30fps. For PS4, especially at Pro, it runs at a solid 60fps and it’s great. It’s amazing though on other consoles, especially at Nintendo Switch it runs at 30 fps. It could be due to limitations but you get what you got. Music is awesome with composers such as Jun Senoue returning to do the soundtrack and others such as Tee Lopes ready to make their mark in their own way. Voice acting is good too. No complaints there though Silver’s voice will take a while to adjust.

Although I do praise the game for its many positives, there are some issues. Some of the challenges in Team Adventure Mode can get repetitive. In a few instances, you race in mirror tracks and it’s probably to make up for the limited number of tracks there are. At higher difficulties, the game is brutal mostly since the AI doesn’t play around. It plays for keeps. At least the game is NOT a full price $60 game. At $30 now, it does give you plenty for your money’s worth though if it were full price and it offered so little that would be a different story altogether. I commend SEGA for not having it at that high a price. However if you are playing this on the Nintendo Switch, the opening movie is removed. Why they did that? I will never know.

Team Sonic Racing is an overall fun experience that is satisfying, albeit a challenging one. Presentation is pretty solid and the gameplay is really addicting. Not to mention having single and multi-player action is enough to get you hooked for hours. But some of its issues can hinder the game from reaching its full potential. Don’t get me wrong. It’s a pretty awesome and I commend SEGA and Sumo Digital for pulling off a really awesome game. I only hope that they learn from this and that hopefully the next game where Sonic gets to race is even better. Team Sonic Racing is worth your time and money, I guarantee it.

I give Team Sonic Racing an 8 out of 10.

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Hollow Knight Review

Hollow Knight Review – Written by Jose Vega

Purchased product for the sake of review.

Last February, a little game called Hollow Knight was released on Steam to critical acclaim. It actually started as a Kickstarter campaign that raised $57,000 AUD (or $42,054 US) in 2014 and took three years to develop. Team Cherry Games would also announce that the game would come to the Nintendo Switch. After a year of waiting, it came to Nintendo’s new console complete with all the expansions that were released as well as whatever yet to come. Now that it has reached the Switch, is this game worth the wait?

The plot focuses on a knight who goes on a journey to uncover the truth about Hallownest, an insect kingdom that has long been abandoned. But it’s depths brought many adventurers who wish to seek out its treasures and mysteries. But as this knight journeys through these depths, he will uncover many secrets and obstacles that dare to get in the way. All of this culminates in a battle to save Hallownest from a deadly plague that is consuming and corrupting the kingdom and its inhabitants.

Most of the story is told as you play through the game along with interacting with the world’s inhabitants. It’s similar like Metroid Prime in some ways. I kind of like it. As you play, you learn what happens in the world and what you can do. Not only that but the game delivers on its atmosphere and you can feel the sense of dread and loneliness that exists. This gives players a drive to see what happens in the end. It’s good stuff.

Hollow Knight is a Metroidvania-style game, emphasizing on exploration, discovery and challenge. It has many features that have it stand out from the rest while providing a good amount of challenge. You play as a small Knight who starts off weak and as you explore Hallownest in its many areas, you find a variety of items & abilities that can make the experience easier. The game has currency in the form of Geo and you use it for a variety of things such as buying charms and upgrades for your character, getting new attacks, expanding the world map, etc. It’s a double edged sword however since this game also has a bit of Souls mentality meaning that when you die, you lose your Geo and you need to recover your shadow to get it back. If you succeed, you get your stuff but fail again and it’s gone. It can be gutwrenching to see all the Geo you earned be lost but it should let players know to be wary and not be careless.

Equipping charms can customize the Knight itself to your liking. Charms provide a variety of buffs depending on their effects and how much they require equipping. This I feel is what makes Hollow Knight stand out since you can pretty much have him any way you like. He can have more health, consume less Soul to unleash attacks, have the range of his weapon, the Nail extend its range, etc. How you have him depends on the player and it’s pretty awesome. It also has access of Soul, the MP of the game. You get Soul by attacking enemies. Soul can be used either to restore your health or to unleash magic based attacks and there are many it can use to defend itself from enemies & players will need to use everything the Knight has at its disposal. In addition there is Essence you can collect that can upgrade the nail as a Dream Nail of sorts. Finding them requires a lot of exploring. There are boss battles aplenty with some requiring a lot of careful timing and skill & all of them are good.

Since the game follows the Metroidvania-style formula, it also reflects on its length. The game can be completed at around 8-10 hours but those who wish to 100% it expect it to rise up by about 5-6 hours. Replay value is strong since after beating the game, unlocks a tougher difficulty called Steel Soul. Plus there are achievements with some requiring players to beat the game at a faster time. Yep. Speedrunners will have a field day with a game like this. It’s also a collectathon, so expect to spend time trying to find everything too. As someone who has spent over 20 hours with this game, it says a lot since the game is just that enjoyable.

From a presentation standpoint, it’s well done. Hollow Knight has a presentation that delivers. Each area you visit is different and they all stand out whether it is the Crossroads you start traveling in or other places like the Abyss. They all feel different, each with their own gimmick and challenge. It all builds itself on atmosphere, the feeling that you are traveling deep within a forgotten kingdom and all you can do is to survive against whatever comes your way. It’s also in 2D and it’s the way it should be. The music is good with some pretty good tracks. Intense moments like the boss battles change things to one of tension and the feeling that you will be up against an impossible obstacle is amazing. Even the feeling of taking down said challenge makes it rewarding too.

Hollow Knight has additional content in the form of free updates. The updates add features such as new boss battles, items, quests and even balance fixes. The Switch version thankfully has all of this included from the get-go & with the next update coming in the form of Gods & Glory, it’s all the more reason to go in for another round.

As far as any flaws go, the game is a challenging one. The Souls mentality is there but it doesn’t hinder you as much. Thankfully the map tells you where you last died and after a few hits you regain what you lost. My only negative that I have found from my experience is that some boss battles can be a pain unless you are more prepared. They emphasize on strategy as well as trial and error. Though having the right gear can help, most of the time it’s all trial & error. Also save points are few and far between and sometimes not having enough places to save can be a bother especially if you are deep into an area. Fortunately you do get the option to teleport and if used right can lead you somewhere safe. Though expect a while to travel back to where you were.

For a game that has now reached Nintendo’s newest and successful console, Hollow Knight is great. Hollow Knight delivers in its challenge while offering a game that is heavy on its atmosphere, strategy and replayability. It does have a little bit of Dark Souls in some cases but it’s more Metroidvania than anything else. At only $15, you can’t go wrong with a game like this. Team Cherry Games made the right move in bringing it to the Switch & with Gods and Glory coming, it’ll convince me to give the game one more go around. I recommend Hollow Knight. It’s worth it.

I give Hollow Knight a solid 9 out of 10. It earns my personal Seal of Approval & I highly recommend this game.

Bayonetta 1 & 2 Review

Bayonetta 1 & 2 Review – Written by Jose Vega

Purchased product for the sake of reviewing.

Nintendo’s announcement of Bayonetta 3 as a Switch exclusive got a lot of people excited. Not only that but they announced that Bayonetta 1 & 2, released on the Wii U years ago, would also come to the Switch with improved resolution and features. For almost a decade, the series has been known to deliver high-octane hack & slash gameplay while giving players a challenge. Any game developed by PlatinumGames offers this. But do these two games together offer satisfaction or disappointment?

The plot for both games goes a little something like this. In Bayonetta 1, the story revolves around Bayonetta, a woman who was born from an Umbra Witch & Lumen Sage, a product of both. She travels to the city of Vigrid hoping to regain her lost memories while having to contend with the angels of Paradiso, who seem to be after her. The sequel, Bayonetta 2, has her traveling to reach the mountain of Fimbulventr so she can head to Inferno and save her best friend Jeanne. Not only that but she also has to contend with both Paradiso & Inferno, as a much greater evil is on the horizon. That and the balance between the two sides is out of whack.

Individually, each story has the wackiness that you’d expect with Bayonetta doing what she does best and the other characters she encounter all have roles to play. I don’t mind it since this is Bayonetta we’re talking about. No complaints there.

Let’s get right to the gist of things. Both Bayonetta games have an amazing presentation. Compared to their Wii U counterparts, they look so much better. Whether it be the backgrounds, characters, enemies, etc., everything about them is a huge step-up. Both games also run at 60 frames per second in both docked and TV mode and that’s awesome. If anything, it makes the Switch versions feel superior. The music is still enjoyable, to the point where they become ridiculously catchy. It fits since you’ll have a lot of fun playing the game and getting your butt kicked while listening to these tunes. In fact, I can say that they are just divine.

As for the gameplay, they are just as intense as the original Wii U version. However the Switch version of both Bayonetta 1 & 2 take the liberty of incorporating touch screen controls. It’s a neat feature, plus taking down enemies with them is simple yet fun. There are also traditional controls via controller for all who want to play the game the way it should be. Fortunately the controls are great and depending on which one you’re playing, you will feel right at home. Personally the second game is the best due to them being refined and feeling just perfect. All the features that were in the Wii U version such as additional costumes for Bayonetta are included in both games. Surprisingly in the second one, there’s Amiibo functionality. Using specific Amiibo will allow you to unlock costumes for Bayonetta to wear as well as weapons for her to use. They can be unlocked normally but for those that want them right away, there’s the alternative.

Each game offers a good amount of challenge and length, though depending on which game you will be in for quite a fight. The first game will take about 10-12 hours while the second is around 9-10. Fortunately they are multiple difficulties, adding more length and replayability. They offer a lot to do in each game whether it be hack-or-slash, driving, shooting, etc. If anything, I enjoy when they offer a lot to do. Boss battles are in full force in both games and your skills will be tested. There’s also Tag Climax (in Bayonetta 2), a co-op mode where you and a friend can team up to battle enemies. The good news is that you can play either locally or online so that’s a plus.

I honestly can’t find anything negative regarding both Bayonetta games. Both are truly satisfying experiences. However, I only have one complaint. It’s in regards to the first Bayonetta. That game can be unfair at times. Not to mention that some parts are difficult, especially in quick-time sections that can punish you if you make a mistake. Even in the Normal difficulty, carelessness can lead to failure. Bayonetta 2 fixes some of the problems but it shouldn’t stop anyone from enjoying what started it all. Also, I am disappointed that the first game didn’t come in a physical release. Rather when you buy Bayonetta 1 & 2, only Bayonetta 2 comes physically with the first via digital code. A bummer yes, but like I said, at least you are getting 2 games for the price of one.

Bayonetta 1 & 2 are both amazing games and with the two now on the Switch, this will give fans a chance to enjoy something they’ve missed. It isn’t for everyone and it will test players to their limits but for anyone that desires a challenge, they’re getting it. With Bayonetta 3 coming, if there’s any opportunity to get into the series and it’s hijinks, it’s now. It’s one ride you don’t ever want to get out of.

Considering that I’m reviewing both Bayonetta games, there’ll be ratings for both along with a combined overall rating.

Bayonetta 1 gets an 8.5 out of 10. Bayonetta 2 gets my highest rating. A perfect 10 out of 10!

Together, I give a combined rating of 9 out of 10. It’s a must-buy and the best part is that you get 2 games for the price of 1! It’s worth your money for sure!