Don’t Care Bear: Danganronpa Trigger Happy Havoc

Danganronpa is one of the most bizarre anime games I’ve ever played. The art style for the cutscenes is unique and adds to the surrealness of the experience. The story is intriguing. Right from the start of the game, it goes from 0 to 100 real quick. There are a ton of “what the heck” moments caused by both confusion and horror. Even for an anime game, it is weird. The best part of the game is the characters. They aren’t exactly realistic characters, but they are dynamic and memorable. The player gets invested so easily because of how engaging these characters are. This is what makes Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc such an unforgettable experience.   

Verdict

Danganronpa Trigger Happy Havoc (PS4): ★★★★★★★☆☆☆

I highly recommend this game. The story and the characters create a truly phenomenal experience. 

Dangonronpa is rated M, so while it may look like a happy school-life visual novel, it is not. There are a lot of gruesome moments. You have been warned. 

It’s hard to capture the vibrant weirdness of this game in a review. Several factors mesh together to create a vibe of ridiculous anime awesomeness. The music is intense, immediately recognizable, and creates the perfect emotional background to what’s occurring. The character design is fantastic. All of the characters have unique personalities, designs, and reactions. When cutscenes begin art styles shift abruptly. This adds even more drama. The gameplay is most definitely dated and at times frustrating, but this adds to the experience. Danganronpa is a great game because of its weirdness, insane story, and memorable characters.

You would like this game if

  • Like watching anime
  • Own a PSP or PS Vita and want to actually use them 
  • Enjoy wacky characters
  • Want a visual novel that’s not about the romance
  • Think murder mysteries are fun 

Plotline

There is a school called Hope’s Peak Academy. At this school only the very best are admitted. It doesn’t matter what skill it is, so long as you are the best. There is one exception, every year a lottery is held. The winner can attend Hope’s Peak Academy as the Ultimate Lucky Student. 

The protagonist of this game is Makoto Naegi, the Ultimate Lucky Student of the 78th class of Hope’s Peak Academy. He goes to school early on his first day. The next thing he is aware of is waking up in a classroom without remembering how he got there. He soon realizes something is wrong when he sees giant, heavy metal plates bolted to the wall covering up windows. Once he leaves the classroom he finds a group of fourteen people standing in front of a sealed entrance. After talking to them, it becomes apparent that these people are Makoto’s new classmates. They are in the same position as him, they don’t remember how they got there or why. 

This is when a strange talking bear named Monokuma shows up. He claims to be the headmaster of the school. Monokuma tells them that this place is, in fact, Hope’s Peak Academy and that they are to spend the rest of their lives here. Naturally, everyone is upset at this news. Which causes Monokuma to elaborate on the rules. There is a way to “graduate” and earn the right to leave the school. If someone murders someone else they will no longer be allowed to stay. Once this happens, an investigation and a class trial will commence determining who the murderer (the “blackened”) is. During the class trial, if the correct person is identified as the “blackened” then they will be executed. Then the rest of the students can return to their communal life at the academy. If they convict the wrong person, then the “blackened” gets to go free while all of the other students are executed.  

Now Makoto must try to survive while attempting to solve the many mysteries of Hope’s Peak Academy. 

Gameplay

Danganronpa, for the most part, operates as a visual novel. It’s always in first-person view. You explore rooms by panning the camera and selecting items to examine and people to talk to. When you leave rooms you can freely roam the halls to navigate to different areas of Hope’s Peak Academy. You have an electronic handbook that serves as the menu system. The most important thing to remember is to use the map. The map can be used to fast-travel and to see where all of the other students are. 

There are story sections where you can only scroll through dialog and can’t control what’s happening. However, you will have several days in between events called “Free Time”. During this time you can choose to hang out with the other characters. You can even give them a present after hanging out with them. The dialog options you choose can increase or decrease their opinion of you. As you become better friends with your classmates you unlock more of their information in the handbook and it will unlock abilities that make class trials easier. 

Spoiler alert, I guess. Class trials do happen, meaning characters are going to die. That’s all the non-gameplay details you’ll get from me. The story and characters are the best part of the game and I don’t want to spoil it. 

Once a body is found an investigation is started to collect evidence. During the investigation, you interview classmates to figure out their alibis and what other information they may know. You also scan through multiple rooms to find evidence. The handbook is very helpful during the investigation because rooms that need to be investigated will be marked with an exclamation point. 

The class trials function as a giant group debate. People present evidence and make statements, assumptions, and ultimately conclusions based on the evidence found during the investigation. This happens as a mini-game. Everyone’s dialog will be moving across the screen. The evidence you gathered during the investigation becomes “truth bullets” that you use to shoot down the incorrect statements made by the others. You have to use the correct evidence with the correct statement to continue the trial. If you get it wrong too many times, game over and you will have to do the trial again from the beginning. 

There are also other minigames as a part of the class trials. They will be added in as time goes and the rules will always be explained before you start. One is a spelling game where you shoot the letters to fill in the missing blanks. I don’t know why it’s important to know how to spell “knife” to present it as evidence. Best not to question it. Then there is a rhythm game. My best guess, the purpose is to make people shut up by throwing off their groove. At the end of the trial, you will build your “closing argument” by placing the missing pictures in the comic book that sums up the events. It’s trickier than it sounds because there are more pictures than there are empty panels, and which picture is the right picture is unclear at times.  

Worst Parts

  • I like the minigames of the class trials and all, but they could get annoying sometimes. 
  • Getting the perfect present for someone only for them to die off. What am I supposed to do with this now? The perfect person is dead now. 
  • The game treats you like an idiot by repeating information multiple times. I am not a child, I am paying attention, you don’t have to tell me the same thing five times within ten minutes. 
  • I wish there had been more voice acting. I get that they had limitations when the game was first released and couldn’t have voice acting for every line. It still would have been nice as when the voice actors did a fantastic job. 

Best Parts

  • Telling people they’re wrong in the class trials. It’s just so much fun to dramatically destroy their arguments. 
  • The story is intriguing right from the start and it’s easy to get invested in figuring out why things are happening. 
  • All of the characters had so much personality to them. Admittedly, they were somewhat exaggerated and trope-heavy at times. Instead of breaking the immersion by being unrealistic, it made them fit in with the over the top, anime weirdness. They also got further character development throughout the events of the game. The Danganronpa characters are all unique and memorable. 
  • Hot pink blood. I know the developers did this to prevent the game rating from going higher than “M” but it adds to the surrealness of the art. 
  • The big plot twist at the end. I won’t spoil anything, but the mastermind is one of my all-time favorite video game villains. 
  • There’s a lot of shocking moments throughout the game. I appreciate that as it’s not easy to surprise me multiple times in a story.
  • When the dialog was good, it was fantastic! 
  • I really like the music in the game. It’s especially cool to see the audio equalizer in the corner. 

*Image does not belong to me. It belongs to the creators of Danganronpa.

The Turing Test of Time: Nier Automata

On the day this is posted I will get my preorder of Nier Replicant, the prequel to Nier Automata. So I figured this would be the perfect time to write a review for one of the best video games I ever played. 

Verdict

Nier Automata (PS4): ★★★★★★★★★☆

I love this game! This is in my top ten video games of all time. I recommend this game to everyone. As long as they are old enough to play that is. This game has some real dark moments that would emotionally scar children. I’m emotionally scarred, and I’m a jaded twenty-something!

The main characters are well written and experience significant character development as the game progresses. There are multiple events when the game subverts expectations or has events beyond what the player could have imagined. While playing the game secrets are uncovered by the characters and through them, the player discovers multiple concerning truths about the world. The combat is fast and engaging with multiple ways to change your playstyle. The scenery in the world is varied and atmospheric. The music is beautiful. Nier Automata is a masterpiece!

You would like this game if

  • You like hack and slash combat
  • Enjoy story-rich games
  • Want to have an existential crisis
  • Appreciate character development 
  • Enjoy moments of cute quirkiness and weird “What the Heck?!!?” scenes
  • Need a good cry

Plotline

Quick Note: Nier Automata is a part of a series of video games connected by lore. Luckily you don’t need to have played the other games to understand the story. After beating the game I looked up the extended lore. If you’re interested you should check out this video explanation. I’m intentionally not going to mention years and specifics about the timeline. Two reasons for this: One spoilers, Two it’s complicated and I don’t want to screw it up. 

In the distant past, an alien race invaded the earth with their robotic minions, called Machines. To defend themselves from the Machines humanity used androids as their soldiers. While the androids were fighting the Machine armada, all of the surviving humans fled to a colony on the moon. Now the androids and the Machines have been engaged in a constant battle for the dominion of the planet on behalf of their respective creators. 

Nier Automata takes place in the distant future of the earth. The battle between the androids and the Machines has lasted for thousands of years. Now there is an organization with a station orbiting the earth called YoRHa. This is a group of elite military androids. The story follows the YoRHa androids 9S and 2B as they are sent to earth to combat the machines and scout for military intelligence. While completing their missions for YoRHa and the android resistance on earth, 2B and 9S learn more about the Machines and the long-hidden truths of the war. 

Gameplay

This is important. You reading this with full attention? Good. This game has five endings. The first time you play the game and reach the first ending, you might think that’s all there is. Wrong! To get the full story and experience you will have multiple playthroughs. If I explain more it will spoil the experience. So just trust me on this, whenever you think the game is over it’s not over. You can also get multiple joke endings by being stupid or ignoring what the game wants you to do. 

Nier Automata is an action RPG. Combat is divided into two sections, hack n’ slash and bullet hell shooter. The shooting sections occur throughout the game whenever the characters enter their flight units. Those are always pretty simple, dodge bullets and shoot the enemies that are shooting at you. When you are wandering the world you encounter Machine enemies that you dice to bits with whatever weapons you have equipped. Some weapons are slow and hit hard and others do less damage with fast strikes. Dodging is important in this game. If you perfectly dodge attacks time will temporarily slow down and you get a chance to deal extra damage. You also have a friendly, floating pod companion. All hail the pod! Because these guys can shoot endless bullets at all enemies and have a big laser for whenever you want to blast someone real good. While you can change the pods charged attack nothing feels as effective as a giant laser. 

Out of all of the different characters you play as in Nier Automata, only 9S can hack enemies. If you hack them successfully it will either deal a great deal of damage or destroy them instantly. It’s overpowered. Sadly the hacking mini-game isn’t nearly as much fun as hitting everything with swords. The hacking segments are geometry bullet hells. Just keep moving and shooting and you’ll win. 

Character’s stats and abilities can be enhanced and changed by adding computer chips. They are androids after all. As you play the game you will find chips in the environment, earn them by completing quests and using materials to build and upgrade them. These chips can do everything from increasing movement speed, increasing attack/defense, and enable auto-heal. Read the default chips carefully before you remove anything. Remove the wrong one, and it’s instant death. 

Worst Parts

  • There are a lot of side quests, some of them are good/important story-wise yet they can be easily missed. They should have been part of the main story or should have had an indicator or something. 
  • At certain points during the game, it was hard to find things. Not a big deal but the trial and error were tedious at points. 
  • I won’t put spoilers here but I cried at the ending and one point early on the third playthrough. When I say crying I don’t mean a few stray tears. No, I mean grab the tissue box and pause the game. Because I couldn’t see the game through my tears! It was so sad!! Which is great, but also curse you developers for making me feel!
  • The 9S hacking mechanic. It wasn’t bad, and I enjoyed it sometimes. The shooting mini-game just isn’t as much fun as cutting everything down with swords. 

Best Parts

  • All the joke endings in the game. They were so much fun to accidentally get by being stupid. Later I ended up getting all of these joke endings by following a guide. 
  • Pet the pod! You can pet your pod whenever you want by clicking the touchpad of your controller. I love that you can do that. Your combat buddy deserves all the love and affection. 
  • There’s a character named Jackass. Looks like I never outgrew childish middle-school humor.
  • 9S!! My precious boy deserves to be protected and happy! 
  • After beating the game you can jump to different parts of the story to replay what you want and do side quests you might have missed. This was super helpful in getting all of the joke endings to the game that I missed. 
  • Combat. It was fast, responsive, and all-around a good time.
  • Befriending wildlife. I don’t know why they added it in the game. But who cares? I can ride a moose!
  • Music, the music in this game is so amazing! It sets the mood of climactic battles and important story moments. 
  • There are a lot of quirky moments in the game. At times it was funny. Other times it added to the characters and the environment. 

*Image does not belong to me. It belongs to the developers of Nier Automata

Petty Review: Enter the Gungeon

Enter the Gungeon is a game with simple mechanics and ideas but it is extraordinarily hard to master. The basis of the game is pretty straight forward. Get to the end of a procedurally generated dungeon in order to obtain a magic time gun. There are four playable characters at the start. You pick one, enter the dungeon, and then try to survive. Shoot everything that moves until it dies or you die. That’s the whole game. 

The real nerd description that best fits Enter the Gungeon is rogue-lite. My husband described it as such. Of course, I immediately understood what he meant. I had no need to google its definition… Don’t look at my search history, it’s lying!

This game has an old-school pixel art aesthetic. It’s done really well. It has all the vibes of  Dungeons and Dragons combined with good ol’ ‘Murican gun love. It’s fast-paced, with no wasted time on cutscenes after the intro. If When you die one button press is all it takes to instantly restart and try again. Honestly, this made it really fun to play. The combat was simple to learn but hard to master. The fast pacing made it easy to keep trying. I like the style of it, fantasy western with a hint of creepy. 

So why is Enter the Gungeon part of my petty reviews? Because it is hard! Dang hard! Bathing my cat was easier than this game. I died so many times. At least half of those times was just because I was dumb. I kept trying and trying but I couldn’t make any progress. Every time I thought I was getting a little bit better at the game, Enter the Gungeon was ready to “lol. Nope:)” and immediately kill me. While there were moments I raged at this game, most of the time I wasn’t even angry. I died because I was dumb or just plain bad. My normal reaction to “You Died” was “Understandable”. 

Eventually after dying like 15 times without even coming close to beating the first boss (most of the time not even reaching the boss) the effort to get good at the game didn’t feel worth it. I didn’t feel angry at it, I felt tired. I felt tired of continually trying without anything to show for my efforts. The best word for this feeling is demoralizing. Beating the game seemed next to impossible. On rare occasions, I might like a rogue-lite game enough to be determined enough to finish it. This is not one of those times. 

Enter the Gungeon would have been far easier to play if they had added an upgrade system. So that every time you died you would have points of some sort to spend on improving maximum health, stats, or starting equipment. It would have made dying so many times feel less like a pointless slog. Whenever I died I would be able to work towards things that would make beating the game possible. They could have at least added a second mode where that was an option while still having the original “git gud” mode.

Maybe I’ll play it from time to time for fun. But I’ll probably never beat Enter the Gungeon. So I’ll never be able to write a true review of it. It’s a shame because it is a pretty good game. I like its style and gameplay. If you ever do try it, good luck. You’re going to need it. 

*Image does not belong to me. It’s a screenshot of Enter the Gungeon posted on a EuroGamer review

Pocketful of Sunshine Monsters: Pokémon Sun

I may not have owned any consoles as a kid (read about that here), but even I knew about Pokémon. Growing up late ‘90s early 2000s Pokémon had a part in kid culture. There were trading cards, a tv show, and then there were the video games. I only saw a handful of episodes on Cartoon Network. It looked cool, if not odd. 

Later on, I had forgotten about it. I was a busy college student. However, a few of my friends started talking about the new Pokémon Sun and Moon games coming out. It made me remember the series and I decided to finally try it out. I bought myself a used 2DS and got the game when it was released. Pokémon Sun became the first Pokémon game I ever played. 

Verdict

Pokémon Sun (2DS/3DS): ★★★★★★☆☆☆☆

Nostalgia Bonus, Pokémon Sun (2DS/3DS): ★★★★★★★☆☆☆

The Pokémon video games series is well known for being formulaic. Add some new pokémon, create a new region, and make new characters then recreate the story of an 11-year-old becoming a pokémon trainer. While graphically, the games improved over time, the gameplay and overall story were repeated over and over with little changes. To be fair, the newest games Pokémon Let’s Go Eevee/Pikachu and Pokémon Sword/Shield made significant improvements in gameplay with how random encounters worked, but the story is relatively the same. It’s not a complaint, just an observation. After all, I enjoyed playing Let’s Go Eevee and Shield. 

Pokémon Sun at least provides a more logical reason for the entire journey. The island challenge is a well-known cultural coming-of-age ceremony. Normally there isn’t much of a reason for your journey, it’s just what you do as the main character. I also got invested in the sci-fi elements of Pokémon Sun. The fact that another dimension exists in this game was really interesting to me. Out of the three Pokémon games, I have played, this is the one that has the best story. This is why I think Pokémon Sun is still worth playing. Not for the gameplay, but for the story and setting. 

You would like this game if

  • You like animals. 
  • Want the gameplay of rock, paper, scissors taken to the extreme.
  • Are a collector at heart
  • Want to play a chill game that doesn’t require much effort or brainpower.
  • You have played so many Pokémon games, now you just want that sweet, sweet nostalgia. Ahhhh….. So comfy….

Story

Like all Pokémon games, this is a coming-of-age story. The main character and their mom move to Melemele Island, one of the Alola region islands. Alola is Pokémon’s version of Hawaii. When you get there you learn of the island challenge, a series of challenges set by the trial captains throughout all of the islands. You and a local boy named Hau, decide to undertake the challenge together. After all, no Pokémon game is complete without a rival. The two of you meet a girl named Lillie and her pokémon Nebby. Nebby is a unique pokémon that is often targeted by kidnappers looking to exploit him. Naturally, you help her out and become friends. 

Along the way, you encounter the local gang, Team Skull. This gang is made up of the people who quit the island challenge and now exist to cause trouble. They aren’t the only group you come across. While completing the island challenge, you are introduced to the Aether Foundation and its president Lusamine. The Aether Foundation aims to shelter pokémon when they are threatened. When visiting the Foundation’s base a strange dimensional wormhole appears and an unknown pokémon emerges from it. Despite your best efforts it retreats before you can defeat or capture it. This event adds a new layer of intrigue to your quest. What exactly are these extra-dimensional pokémon? Why are they appearing? Continue your journey to find out!

Gameplay

The gameplay of Pokémon Sun is very simple. It’s like the game was designed for kids instead of the twenty to thirty-somethings that make up the bulk of the players. Weird huh? You play as a spunky 11-year-old girl or boy starting their journey to become the very best like no one ever was♩. You travel along the paths to get to new towns and islands. In towns, there are Pokémon Centers and Poké-Marts. You can buy items at the Poké-Mart. Pokémon Centers are where you can get your pokémon healed. As you travel and defeat trial captains you progress through the story. You can freely interact with the environment and the people in the world. People will always talk to you and at times give you gifts. There are hidden items scattered about so it’s important to explore. Sometimes you will encounter an obstacle in the environment. Later on, you will acquire a skill that will enable you to get past these obstacles.

On the paths between towns, you encounter wild pokémon and pokémon trainers. The wild pokémon are in the patches of tall grass along the trail. When you enter the tall grass you can see rustling where there is pokémon. Once you walk around in the tall grass for a few seconds you will encounter a wild pokémon! You can either defeat the pokémon for EXP or try to catch it. There are other trainers along the trails. As soon as they see you they will challenge you to a pokémon fight. You can try to avoid them by walking around them but it doesn’t always work. Beating trainers in combat is how you earn money. I know it doesn’t make sense. Video game logic… don’t question it too much. 

The combat in this game is turn-based. Every time you encounter wild pokémon, trainers on the paths between cities, or do a trial challenge you will enter combat. You can have a total of six pokémon on your team. The pokémon in the first row will be the one that you start the battle with (by default that is your starter pokémon). Once the battle starts there are several things you can do: attack with one of your pokémon’s skills, use an item, switch your current pokémon for a different one on your team, and when facing a wild pokémon throw a pokéball to attempt to catch it. After your turn, the opponent has their turn. Most of the time they choose to attack. Sometimes trainers will use an item or switch pokemon but not very often. 

This battle system is easy to abuse. Every pokémon has a type or combination of types. Each type deals extra damage to certain types and takes heavy damage from particular types. For example, a fire-type pokémon is “super effective” against grass-type pokémon and is weak to water-type pokémon. If you abuse this system and constantly hit enemies with their weaknesses it makes battles a cakewalk. Note: if you are trying to catch a wild pokémon you don’t want to defeat it. Instead, you should try to lower its health then try to catch it with a pokéball. 

Worst Parts

  • Random Encounters. It would have been nice to know what pokémon was in the grass before running into it. At least you have the option to run past most areas where they spawn to save time. Not a bad mechanic but it does get tedious. 
  • It was easy to beat the game. I know, it’s a kid game. But still for the most part it was easy to breeze through challenges by picking out the optimal team then abusing the type matchup system. I’d like a little more challenge. I think Pokémon should add a hard mode.
  • All of the dang trainers along the paths. I just want to get to point A to point B. Can’t we do this later? I want to explore right now, not grind. 

Best Parts

  • Catching and naming pokémon. Some of them are so cute! There’s also that collector’s drive that makes it very satisfying. 
  • Poking fun at the logic of the world. Ah yes, I am 11, time to start my journey! Navigating dangerous wild areas, traveling to new cities, and taking down the local gang are all things that I, an unsupervised child, am capable of. All to become a master in animal fighting rings. 
  • Customizing your character’s style. 
  • Z-moves. They are flashy extreme anime moments of the game. 
  • Trading pokémon with friends. It was always interesting to see how they named the ones they caught. 

*Image does not belong to me. It belongs to the Pokémon Company, Game Freak, and Nintendo.

Petty Reviews: Monster Hunter World

I’ve seen Monster Hunter World many times. I always thought the game looked really pretty. The box art, in particular, is fantastic! There’s something epic about playing as a small human trying to take on massive, powerful creatures. I never got around to buying it though. There were always other games that I wanted more. Also, there were the games I already owned that I still had to play through. Lucky for me, Monster Hunter World was one of the games included on the Playstation Plus Collection. Since it was the low, low price of free, I thought I would give it a shot. 

I knew going into this that I wouldn’t be committing to a full playthrough right now. I have other games to finish, on top of having the rest of life’s endless hectic to-do lists. Instead, I decided to play just far enough to experience the combat. I wanted to see what the game was like. So I played through the introduction and the first quest. It wasn’t very long but it was long enough to put this game at the bottom of my priority list. 

There wasn’t one big thing that I hated in Monster Hunter World. Instead, several annoyances just piled on top of one another. None of these irritants is game-breaking. However, I didn’t feel like expending the time and energy to adjust to the controls. Maybe eventually I’ll return to this game if I ever finish all my games on my To-Play List. 

One of the first things that you have to adjust to in any game is their menu system. In Monster Hunter World there is a whole lot of things to look at in the game’s menus. It was hard to easily discover what was important, not without paying close attention to what you’re reading. There is too much information all at once, most of it irrelevant until you make more progress in the game. The text of the menu is a little annoying to read because the font is small. Maybe that’s not a problem on PC? It was certainly a problem on the PS5, playing on the couch several feet away from the tv. There are way too many pop-up tutorial windows to read. They had similar problems. Both have small text and a lot of information all at once. 

The gameplay itself felt odd. It had controls I wasn’t used to. I was playing with the PS5 controller. In most games X is attack but not in Monster Hunter World. In this game attack is Triangle and Square (or Circle? can’t remember). It felt awkward to play on the controller. Fighting felt clunky and unintuitive. I did not feel like an epic warrior that the art portrayed. My character was just as clumsy as I am. I ended up choosing to use a long-range option because it felt a little less awkward than the melee weapon options. The use of the trigger buttons to aim and shoot felt familiar to me after playing shooting games like Borderlands 2 and 3. Sadly while I found this easier to get the hang of, for what little I played, it’s not as much fun as swinging around a big sword.  

Another nitpick about the gameplay is that I can’t jump. The character automatically interacts with the environment. This is fine but not my preference in an open-world focused on combat and exploration. It would have been nice to have that additional freedom while running around. Especially since the beauty of the environment is the big selling point in this game.  

If a game’s story is engaging enough and the characters are likable and well written, I will be willing to overlook a lot of flaws in a video game. It’s why I like playing older games as well as modern ones. The experience is worth the frustrations. Unfortunately, Monster Hunter World doesn’t have much of a story. It is a basic setup. The main character belongs to a hunter guild and goes to a new area to do their job. The characters weren’t interesting, except the Palicos they are perfect. Character development and story are meant to be in the background. Instead, the focus of Monster Hunter World is the environment and the creatures you have to fight. That would have been fine by me if the gameplay was up to par. I didn’t start this game for the story, I wanted to see giant monsters and try to bring them down. Instead, it was a struggle to adjust to the basics of playing the game. 

Monster Hunter World has the potential to be a fun game. For me, the time and effort it will take to adjust to the controls and figure out how the mechanics of the game work aren’t worth it right now. This game would have been better for newcomers if they had gradually opened up menus and abilities based on story progression. The story itself is lacking, borderline boring. The game provides the bare minimum as a framework for how the world works and the main character’s motivation. Surprising how a world with such fantastical creatures could be so bland. 

*Image does not belong to me. It belongs to the Monster Hunter World developers.

Petty Reviews: Breath of the Wild

Everyone lost their collective mind over the latest Legend of Zelda game when it came out in 2017. It was amazing! Huge open world, top-notch combat, complete autonomy to do whatever the heck you wanted, gorgeous visuals, challenging puzzles with multiple solutions,  and the classic Zelda story done well all combined to create one of the best launch titles ever made. Breath of the Wild (BotW) won the game of the year award, among others, in 2017. Even though it’s been over three years ago people still rant about it. Heck, my husband is on his third (fourth?) playthrough of the game. He loves it. 

So why didn’t I like playing Legend of Zelda Breath of the Wild? Why wasn’t it fun for me? All in all, I think I probably spent 7-10 hours on BotW. Then I just hit this wall and the game wasn’t fun anymore. I knew it was a good game. I read the reviews, watched YouTube videos about it, laughed at the memes, saw multiple clips, and had fun watching my husband play. It was frustrating because I knew it was a great game. I enjoyed multiple parts of BotW but it just wasn’t enough to make the experience fun for me. Because there was one thing missing, only one thing, that made this game something I couldn’t finish. 

That missing piece is structure. I got past the tutorial and had made it to the first village. During the tutorial and the trek to the first village, there were clear objectives. Go to a location, talk to a person, complete the shrine, etc… Then go on to the next place to continue the narrative. Not to say that I didn’t take my time to explore and goof off on the way. I absolutely did. However, I always had that mission in the background. It gave me direction. Once I got past those two stages of the game that structure was gone. I was told to find and defeat four mythical beasts. Then I had to head on over to the castle to stab Gannon until he went away. So off I went to try to do those things. But pretty soon I realized there wasn’t any marker on the map to show me where to go. Just me stuck in a big world with no direction. I kept playing for a while going to shrines, towers, and anything that caught my interest. But I kept getting more and more stressed out. I didn’t know what I should be doing. The game didn’t help at all because it was designed for freedom. So I kept wandering and trying to find guidance that wasn’t there. Eventually, I became too frustrated and stressed to keep playing. I turned BotW off and haven’t turned it on again since.  

  Most people love the big open world and its freedom. For me, it was just too much freedom. I didn’t know what to do or where to go. It took so long to get to, well, anywhere. Nothing was happening other than me running around with no purpose. It made me frustrated and confused. After that, I just lost patience with BotW and stopped playing. Finding the quests and determining my direction wasn’t worth the effort and time. Once I realized that I honestly felt sad. Because I did have fun with the combat, the world, and the exploration. I could see all the reasons people love this game. Those parts were so good, but it just wasn’t enough. There wasn’t enough structure and the mainline story took too long to progress. 

Legend of Zelda Breath of the Wild is a great game. It deserves all the praise it has received. Unfortunately, this game just wasn’t for me. A big reason I play games is to experience the story and interact with the characters. I do like to have the freedom to direct the story, the ability to focus on side quests when I want, and the option to explore the environment. In all of my favorite video games, the main story or side story always has clear objectives. This provides me with a reason for why I’m doing things and a direction of what I should be doing. What I do with this knowledge is up to me and makes it fun. In BotW however, once you get past the tutorial the game doesn’t tell you where to go and what to do. While many people enjoy this aspect of the game, to me it made me feel like playing the game was pointless because I didn’t get a sense of progress. My life is already spent wandering around in confusion trying to figure out what to do. I don’t need a repeat of this experience when I’m just trying to have fun playing a video game. Instead, I would rather feel that sense of accomplishment that comes with completing a goal. No matter how factually unimportant it is in the grand scheme of things. 

*The image with this post belongs to Nintendo. It’s the official box art of the game. I make no claim to it.

Taming of the Sheep: Catherine Full Body

Catherine Full Body is one of the most bizarre video games I’ve ever played. That’s why I love it. It’s a setting so odd it just doesn’t seem like it would work, yet somehow it does. The entire game revolves around an unlikable (at first) main character going through a midlife crisis of sorts. The central theme is the choice between settling down or choosing the freedom of an untethered life without responsibility. Like a soap opera, the main character has relationship problems with three different women. All aboard the love square! The player’s choices determine what choice he makes and which lovely lady he successfully or unsuccessfully romances. It’s a video game though, so a love square isn’t enough. Clearly. Add in a terrifying supernatural nightmare world and you have yourself an anime. Game. I meant game. 

Verdict

Catherine Full Body (PS4) ★★★★★★★★☆☆

I highly recommend it for those who like weird/unique stories and are open to nontraditional gameplay.  

Catherine Full Body is a very unique and fun game. Characters have stylish designs and unique personalities. The story starts out weird and only gets weirder. I wanted to keep playing to find out what the heck is going on here. Not to mention that with a love square being the driving force of the plot of a video game is just unheard of. Other games may have some type of romance options while not having it be the core of the plot. Even games that do have romance as the main focus start at the very beginning of entering a relationship. Catherine Full Body is unique in that the main character Vincent Brooks starts the game being in a stable long-term relationship and then the conflicts begin when he is faced with decisions regarding what he really wants from life and a romantic partner. Then you have the gameplay of  a supernatural nightmare world where survival is climb or die. It’s puzzle-based with a clear sense of progression as you climb higher to escape your doom. The difficulty level also increases naturally. As the game goes on it introduces new obstacles and gimmicks, the tower gets bigger, the blocks seem to fall a little faster, and then the boss levels happen to add a whole new tense chase. 

That said it is definitely not for everyone. Despite not being explicit, the game has very sensual and sexual themes. Usually done well but sometimes a bit over the top. It’s rated M for a reason. Catherine Full Body is also very Japanese, with completely weird and wacky shenanigans. So it is very unapologetically an anime game. Which is not everyone’s cup of tea. There isn’t any combat in this game. All the gameplay that isn’t wandering around and talking to people is trying to climb a crumbling tower by pushing blocks. It is a puzzle centered rush to the top before the time runs out. While there is an easy setting these stages can get frustrating and requires a degree of strategy.  

You would like this game if

  • Are driven to find out why things happen and what happens next.  
  • Enjoy learning about characters’ backstories and motivations.
  • Either enjoy playing time sensitive spatial puzzles or at least don’t mind playing them.
  • Like watching anime.
  • Aren’t offended by sexual/sensual themes.
  • Want replayability. 13 endings to get. 

Plotline

It starts with this surreal opening, a stylized animation begins of seemingly random movie-like events. As the camera pans out the player realizes that this sequence had been on tv and the logo Golden Playhouse appears. Then a woman with epic hair and a sultry voice introduces herself as “The Midnight Venus Trisha”. She proceeds to set the scene appearing as a host introducing a drama. Creating a unique feel of being simultaneously an audience member watching the main character while still having choices to control the flow of the story. 

Our main man Vincent is hanging out with the guys at their favorite bar The Stray Sheep and whining about his problems. Currently, he faces tough life decisions regarding his relationship with his long-time girlfriend Katherine. Katherine wants to settle down. She begins bringing up topics like marriage and starting a family. Vincent is an indecisive mess of a man wibbling between his love of Katherine and his fear of commitment. As he mulls over the thought of possibly ending his relationship with his more successful girlfriend, a young scantily-clad blonde woman joins him at the bar. Her name is Catherine. Aggressively flirty blondes and alcohol don’t seem to mix well because the next morning finds Vincent waking up with an undressed Catherine in his bed. If this love triangle wasn’t enough, we are quickly introduced to Rin, a kind and lovely aspiring musician. Vincent helped Rin escape from some unknown pursuer and set her up with a job at his favorite bar. 

If trying to navigate this new love square that is his life now wasn’t bad enough Vincent also has terrifying nightmares every night. Rumor has it these nightmares plague unfaithful men. Now cursed, every night Vincent dreams of being surrounded by strange talking sheep and is forced to climb an endless tower. What do these strange dreams mean? Over several nights our overwhelmed protagonist sees news stories of men dying from unknown causes and begins to connect the dots. Now Vincent must not only figure out what he is doing with his life and finally try to communicate to Katherine, Catherine, and Rin but he must find the truth of these supernatural dreams. 

Gameplay

While Vincent is awake cutscenes occur to advance the plot and the player spends time at the Stray Sheep. What you do in the bar affects the overall story. Your actions can trigger movement on a “mysterious meter” to lean towards order or chaos. This meter and the way you respond to certain events will determine what ending you get. There are multiple endings so if you don’t like what you wound up with you can always go back and make different choices. 

At the bar, you can talk to all the characters there. When I say all of the characters I do mean all. You can talk to your three homeboys, the bartender who only goes by “Boss”, Erica the sassy waitress, friendly cinnamon bun Rin, the two old ladies sitting in the booth behind yours, an off duty cop, and random strangers who are sitting at the bar minding their own business. During the evenings at Stray Sheep Vincent will periodically get texts from Catherine and Katherine. The player is free to read and replay or ignore the texts as they please. Since this is a bar you can order drinks. Finishing drinks affects the nightmare half of the game. With the most twisted logic, the more drinks Vincent has the drunker he is, the drunker he is the faster he moves in the nightmare realm. There is one last thing you can do. I personally never spent much time on this as I had more fun drinking and talking to people but to each their own. There is an arcade cabinet in the bar you can play. It is the same tower climbing gameplay as the nightmare section but instead of climbing for your life you just try to rescue Rapunzel from her tower. 

Once Vincent leaves the bar he returns home to his crappy apartment, goes to sleep, and ends up in a nightmare world. Each night the player as Vincent must ascend the tower by moving around blocks so he can keep climbing. While climbing the tower continually falls away layer by layer. If you don’t move fast enough or get knocked off you fall to your death. The old cliche of “die in a dream and you die in real life” holds true for this game. Luckily each night has stages with checkpoints and a safe place where you can save the game along the way. These safe areas look church-like with pews and sheep loitering about the place. You can talk to these sheep or continue right to the confession booth. In the confession booth, a disembodied voice talks a bit and you answer his question. Answer how you want but know that the answers have an effect on the “mysterious meter” and eventually what ending you get. As you keep playing new mechanics get introduced and the levels become harder. There are even bosses that add new difficulty in not just climbing to the top to escape but also avoiding direct attacks. Boss levels are interesting as the bosses are usually representative of Vincent’s fears. Before starting the game you choose the difficulty settings of the nightmare levels and which mode, classic or remix, you want to play. Good news is that these choices can be changed at any point during the game and don’t affect the story. 

Worst Parts

Pet Peeves and Annoyances:

  • The camera during the nightmare sections can be funky sometimes and makes it really hard to climb around behind blocks.
  • Encountering sheep on various levels outside of the safe area. They get in the way and are just generally there to make the climbing puzzles harder. However they can also knock you off and kill you! Doesn’t happen much but it’s very frustrating. You can also push them off which is good. As long as you don’t mind some murder. I have done this one or two times and always felt kind of bad. In the end though when it comes down to me and that sheep both fighting our way up, I absolutely will save myself 100% of the time.  
  • Vincent. I have never hated playing a character more than this man! He is just an indecisive, sweaty, anxious mess! So many of his issues with Katherine, Catherine, and Rin could be solved if he just talked openly and honestly. BUT NOOOO! Of course he can’t do that. I know he is like this as a starting point to contrast what you make him. Still, Ugggh.
  • The arcade cabinet mini game is just reusing the gameplay from the nightmare section in a less stylized way with lower stakes. I only played it once to see what it was. It felt really unnecessary. 
  • You can’t talk to everyone and do everything available in one night at the bar. Almost every action causes some amount of time to pass. The other patrons at the bar come and go making it impossible to talk to all of them. It’s kind of a good and bad thing. It’s good in that it’s more realistic but also sad because I can’t talk to everyone.

Best Parts

Little things I came to love in Catherine Full Body

  • When you order a drink the male narrator with his deep, soothing voice gives you trivia about your drink of choice. Honestly one of the more addicting parts of the game.
  • Cutscenes. The cutscenes are really good in this game. It’s basically like watching an anime in snippets. Animation quality is also pretty top notch. 
  • Every single time you move a block a narrator says, “Edge”. Starts off mildly irritating but soon it becomes this background reassurance that I didn’t screw things up. I don’t know how to describe it. It just became this comforting constant little background noise. 
  • Trisha is a beautiful mysterious queen. Her hair…. is just so fabulous! I love her hair so much. 
  • 13 different endings! I got the Katherine Good Ending. Which was fine by me, I wanted to play through and see what one my choices got without trying for a specific ending. In the future I definitely want to go back and play again to see the rest of the endings.  
  • All the vibes of the Stray Sheep. Someone needs to make this a real bar ASAP
  • Vincent actually has character growth. Player’s choices shape his personality as you work towards the end. 
  • Whenever you answer a confessional booth question a pie chart is displayed after with percentages of how other players answered it. For some reason it’s fun to see how other people answered questions. 
  • There is a game mode where you can play as Joker from Persona 5! This makes me exceedingly happy as Persona 5 is one of my favorite games of all time. 

*The picture with this post does not belong to me it belongs to Atlus (not sure I needed to put this here but just in case)