Professor Layton and the Curious Village – Game Review

Professor Layton and the Curious VillageDuring 2008, people were swept up with a new puzzle game – introduced at the peak of the puzzle game era of the Nintendo DS, was Professor Layton and the Curious Village. Something that was able to set Curious Village aside from other games in the puzzle genre, such as Brain Age and Dr. Kawashima’s Brain Academy was the inclusion of a narrative.

Though during early development, Curious Village was not meant to have any form of story and be much closer to its kin, being comprised of multiple puzzles with no interconnecting context between them; this was quickly changed and the Professor, Luke and the village of St. Mystere were created.

Ultimately, the plot of Curious Village is predominantly basic in premise as well as execution and is apparent from the onset of the game – Professor Layton (a world famous puzzle solver) and his, self-proclaimed, apprentice Luke are heading to St. Mystere village at the behest of the wife of a late Baron. They are tasked with finding an elusive object – ‘The Golden Apple’, revealed to exist by the Baron on his deathbed.

Not long after entering St. Mystere, the Professor and Luke find themselves stuck inside the village with no means of leaving. As a result, they must solve the mystery of the village through solving puzzle after puzzle set to them by the residents of St. Mystere. I can’t help but find the narrative akin to Agatha Christie’s Murder on the Orient Express.

The sense of growth that the game instils in the player through narrative progression is rather impressive too. When you first enter St. Mystere you are limited to the areas that you are able to visit and explore, however, the further you get in your investigation and the more things you bring to light, the more the village expands to you. The Village is much larger than you would first be led to believe, and I love that about the game – the narrative expansion is reflected in its gameplay.

Towards the end of the adventure, the narrative pace picks up a bit and takes it in a direction away from the realm of natural belief. However, the way that the game slowly introduces newer ideas helps to keep this evolution of the plot feel grounded and plausible.

The game was designed to be picked up and played by almost anyone, from perhaps as young as 10 years old, all the way through to later years, not just video game enthusiasts. This may be why the plot of the game is relatively straight forward, furthermore, the game does a great job at preventing player from being misdirected or losing where they had reached up to.

Upon rebooting the game after closing it down, the game starts with a ‘the story so far’ recap of the key events that you had played up to in the story. Also, when playing through the game, there are always little notifications that are able to direct you in terms of your current task needed to progress forward.

I think that this is great at remaining faithful to the players that cannot play for extended periods of time, or more elderly players that are more likely to have forgotten what they are required to do – an aspect that I feel many larger games forget to do nowadays.

Despite its simplicity, there is a lot to enjoy in Curious Village’s narrative and is quite the joy to play through.

The gameplay of Curious Village is almost entirely puzzle-based. At almost every turn, everyone in St. Mystere including their pets and the décor throw puzzles at you to solve. Throughout the main scenario of The Curious Village boasts over 100 puzzles to sink your teeth into in order to unravel to deeply knotted mysteries. Many of these puzzles can test various aspect of your knowledge – ranging from mental arithmetic, pattern recognition or play on words.

These variety of puzzles take great advantage of the Nintendo DS’s touch screen. Most puzzles require you to write in the answers to puzzles or circle the correct answer; others are entirely reliant on the touch screen to complete tasks through block-sliding or through placing chess pieces.

I think that the sheer number of puzzles in Curious Village is incredible and it gives you something new to solve almost every time.

I do, however, find that there are quite a few too many mathematic-based puzzles in the game, some of which can be very tedious to slog through.

This brings me to a main complaint I have with the way that the game handles your thinking process. There are some puzzles that allow you to make notes via the touch screen and stylus of the Nintendo DS, this can be a huge help with some of the more difficult puzzles. However, this functionality isn’t present during every puzzle. This can mean, unless you’ve got a piece of paper and pen to hand, you’re stuck keeping track of all of your workings out in your head. While I know that this is only a minor discrepancy, but due to the portable nature of the DS there’s a good chance that you’ll be required to keep a mental note in your head – this can be a complete pace killer when you’re on a particularly difficult puzzle.

Regarding puzzles that you run into difficulty with the game offers its chief currency in assistance – Hint Coins. Using the game’s touch screen capabilities, you can search around every screen that you visit; hidden about the screen are Hint Coins that you can amass.

As the name would suggest, these Hint Coins are used to purchase hints for puzzles that you are having trouble with. In every single puzzle you can use Hint Coins to unlock up to three hints. These hints get progressively more revealing about the solution of the puzzle providing you with more support in solving them.

I like this system, as it encourages you to investigate your surroundings, especially if you’ve been having trouble with some of the more difficult puzzles the game has to offer. Furthermore, by being constantly on the lookout for Hint Coins, you increase you’re chance of finding hidden puzzles that are scattered about St. Mystere.

I feel that the vast majority of the hints the game provides are extremely useful and can give you a great push in the right direction. Although, the hints that are provided will always be the same, therefore, your set of hints may offer you guidance on a later portion of the puzzle when you’re still stuck on grasping the basic aspects of them.

Be forewarned, these Hint Coins are by no means an infinite resource – eventually you’ll find yourself running low. If you’ve been spending them tactlessly because you couldn’t be bothered to figure out the answer on your own, then prepare to be penalised for it, especially towards the final gauntlet of puzzles.

Overall, there is a good selection of different types of puzzles that can keep you getting bored as you progress. Furthermore, once you have solved a puzzle you can go back at any time to re-attempt it.

Professor Layton and the Curious Village is a game that adequately blends puzzle-solving gameplay into the main story of the game, however, it is clear that the main focus is on the puzzles, as you’ll find yourself running into potential roadblocks that can prevent you from progressing any further if you haven’t solved enough puzzles throughout the game. If you’re more interested in the story, you may find yourself being pulled out the experience while you’re backtracking to solve a required number of puzzles.

Outside of Hint Coins, there are also a few other kinds of collectibles that the game has to offer. Some of these provide a little side activity to keep you busy while you’re mulling over a puzzle that you’re having some trouble with, while other can provide a much greater reward.

I will refrain from delving too far into these and focus solely on Picarats.

Picarats are the ultimate collectible in the game and your reward for solving each puzzle – a specific number of Picarats are assigned to each puzzle and they represent its difficulty.

A puzzle with only a multiple-choice option may only net you a maximum profit of 20 Picarats, but a late game puzzle may be worth 65 or even 80.

These Picarats don’t just build a score, they are used to unlock special rewards and bonuses for after you have beaten the game – different rewards are unlocked after attaining a certain number of Picarats.

Just to highlight a few bonuses you can unlock, you can gain access to the game’s soundtrack as well as character profiles.

This is where perhaps my favourite element of the gameplay comes in. As previously mentioned, each puzzle has a Picarat value. However, should you answer a puzzle incorrectly, the number of Picarats you will then be awarded for solving it decreases.

Picarats decrease a maximum of two times, but the profit can dip to half of its original value if you’re not thinking carefully.

I love this as it actively encourages players to think carefully about their answers, as well as incorporating the finite Hint Coins effectively to allow the highest possible Picarat total by the end of the game. It is entirely possible for you to prevent yourself from unlocking every bonus corresponding to Picarat count – this tangible reward for amassing a large amount of Picarats adds a lot of purpose to hunting down and solving as many puzzles as you can through your time with Curious Village.

Professor Layton and the Curious Village is an excellent puzzle game that is coupled with a fun and endearing story. If you’re a fan of brain-teasing puzzle games, then there is certain something here for you to enjoy. If you’ve never given a puzzle game a go, I can whole-heartedly recommend for you to try this game if you’re looking for an entry point to the genre.

Of course, there is the nasty issue of replayability when it comes to any puzzle game, and unfortunately there isn’t much to break Curious Village away from this trope. However, while I wouldn’t recommend you replay the game immediately after beating it, due to the sheer number of puzzles, given enough time, the game can still present a nice challenge on a repeat playthrough.

Professor Layton and the Curious Village earns an 8.5 out of 10

Thank you for reading my review of Professor Layton and the Curious Village. I’m a huge fan of the Professor Layton series and so I felt like revisiting them and looking at them from a more objective viewpoint than I had before.

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Persona 5 – Game Review

Persona 5 Info CardThe development of Persona 5 was fraught with obstacles that resulted in continuous delays. Originally slated for a 2014 release, the game was finally released worldwide in 2017. Persona 5 marks the first game in the mainline Persona series to be released on the seventh and eighth generations of console.

The Persona series began its life as a spin-off of Developers Atlus’ Shin Megami Tensei. Since its inception, the series’ popularity has grown exponentially becoming just as popular as its parent series.

Persona 5, despite being the fifth instalment in the main series, has no direct narrative ties to any of the previous entries. While there are some minor cross-overs that will provide enjoyment for players of the other games, brand-new player to the series do not need to know anything about previous games to get the fullest amount of enjoyment from Persona 5.

Beginning in miscellaneous territory, but equally important for the game: the music, supplementary sound design and overall aesthetics of Persona 5 are near impeccable and oozes personality and charisma.

With the theme of Persona 5 being Rebellion, the design of everything – especially the Heads-Up Display (HUD) – fits in with this theme. The game defies the expectations of how it should look, right down to the standard text boxes and I love it.

Furthermore, the almost perfectly captures the atmosphere of its contextual use. From the excitement of standard combat with ‘Last Surprise’, to the over-confidence the player feels on the last day of a Palace with ‘Life Will Change’.

I feel that my only issue with any of the music in the game is just the lack of an alternative standard battle theme against Shadows. As ‘Last Surprise’ is the only one, when devoting a lot of time to progressing through areas, entering fight after fight can get very repetitive.

The story of Persona 5 has you playing as a new protagonist that you are free to name whatever you like, however, the game dubs him the moniker of ‘Joker’ – so this is how I will refer to him from here on out.

Joker is a new transfer student to Shujin Academy in Shibuya in Tokyo. After finding the ability to travel into the distorted hearts of corrupt adults, he and his growing entourage of friends form a group known as ‘The Phantom Thieves (of Heart)’. It becomes their duty to steal the corruption from people’s hearts in order to reform society for the betterment of mankind.

The overall narrative of Persona 5 is, in my opinion, expertly paced and executed. The stakes that threaten The Phantom Thieves slowly escalate showing a true sense of growth for the tension of the game’s story, but also allows for subtle character development to shine through.

I feel that the game manages to strike the correct balance between present a new villain, that brings with them an unrealistic level of threat, and tying the reactions and responses from each of the main cast fluently enough to ground the concept in a sense of realism.

However, the compulsory story that you are given is only half of the true narrative of Persona 5. Should you play through from main story-beat to main story-beat, you may find your overall experience with Persona 5 to be relatively shallow.

This is because Persona 5 is a character-driven story. The true bulk of the game’s story lies in its optional content.

The main scenario of the game could take as little as perhaps 40 hours or so to finish, however, my first playthrough of the game clocked me just over 100 hours.

These additional 60 hours were spent getting to know the variety of characters scattered about the game. I can’t commend the writers of the game enough for breathing life into each of the ‘Confidants’ in the game.

You have the ability to spend time with about a dozen people in the game and form bonds with them. The deeper your bond grows, the more you get to know these characters.

Personally, as I progressed deeper into the bonds, I found myself becoming less interested in the in-game rewards that these bonds could reap, and more invested in how I could next see the growth of these characters.

I felt a true bond with each of these characters, and as a result, I had a much greater appreciation for the character-led narrative of Persona 5. Furthermore, without giving too much away, when the game enters into its final fight, all of the characters that you had taken the time to get to know properly will provide their own input to the scenario.

It’s something relatively small in the grand scheme of a 100-hour RPG, but it was just the finishing touch for me, to fall in love with the story and the characters of Persona 5.

As for the gameplay of Persona 5, the bulk of it is split between typical JRPG turn-based combat and with the social aspects that the Persona series had become known for as of Persona 3.

I think that the combat of Persona 5 has become my favourite style of turn-based combat.

As I have said previously, Persona 5’s combat is similar to a typical turn-based RPG, with a few twists and turns thrown in there. Party members and enemies alike will act on a, nearly, set structure that is determined by each party’s agility stat. Each member of your party of Phantom Thieves can act once during a rotation.

The key difference between the Persona series and other RPGs is the titular Persona system.

Each member that joins the Phantom Thieves awaken their own personal Persona – Their own Will of rebellion that taken physical form.

These Persona have the ability to use special or elemental attacks to provide certain buffs or inflict damage. There is a good variety of different elements that Persona can use – ranging from Fire, or Nuclear damage to Light or Dark damage.

Most Persona can have resistances or weaknesses to certain types of attacks. This is where the main aspect of Persona 5’s combat comes into play. By utilising the right weakness against an enemy, you are able to knock down an enemy; this grants the party member that knocked the enemy down another turn to carry out another action. This could be another attack, if there is another enemy on the field with a weakness that the character you’re controlling doesn’t possess, you are perform a ‘Baton Pass’ to switch over to a character that does in order to knock them down too.

If you manage to knock down all enemies at once, you enter into a ‘Hold-Up’. From here you’re able to carry out a couple of different options – you can either execute an ‘All-Out Attack’ to deal huge amounts of damage and can end most random encounters there and then. Alternatively, you can talk to the shadow, as long as it is a random encounter and not a boss fight. Talking to a shadow presents a few different choices for you:

You can ask the shadow for money, or for an item – this will not only net you some of the big bucks, or a potentially rare item, but it also ends the battle immediately.

The second option is perhaps the more important and significant, you can talk to the shadow and try to convince to join your pack of Persona.

Joker, as the protagonist, is different than the others in his pack of Phantom Thieves as he has the ability to wield and use a number of Personas at once – The power of ‘The Wildcard’.

There are well over 100 Personas that you can obtain throughout Persona 5. Once you enter a negotiation with a Shadow, if you say the right things, that Persona will join you and all of their power becomes yours to use.

Alternatively, once you have progressed a little bit into the story, you gain access to ‘The Velvet Room’ – which players familiar with the franchise will recognise (only looking a little more depressing than usual). In the Velvet Room, you have to ability to ‘fuse’ multiple Persona that you have gathered together in order to form new ones.

This is the best way to beef out your arsenal, through fusing Persona the Persona you create gain access to new moves and abilities that they wouldn’t have access to normally.

Thus, through the right methods or fusing and negotiating, you can ally yourself with an entourage of Personas that can cover every weakness in the game. Through Persona capturing and fusing in order to get the best Personas in the game with the best abilities, it adds a great new layer of depth to an already extremely enjoyable RPG experience.

The last key aspect, and roughly 50% of the entire game is the social aspects of Persona 5.

Persona 5 isn’t simply dungeon crawling and taking down enemy after enemy until you reach the credits. From day to day, you’re given the choice of how you wish to spend it – and there are a lot of different option to choose from about how you want to use your time!

You can do many smaller miscellaneous tasks, such as read a cacophony of books, play games, go to the movies and more. These tasks can provide you with boosts to your Social Stats – these stats determine how well you excel in five different areas: Knowledge, Guts, Proficiency, Kindness and Charm.

Boosting these stats are more or less imperative to fully carrying out the main aspect of Persona 5’s social side: The Confidants.

Confidants are people that you meet along your adventure, some could be your fellow Phantom Thieves, while other could be people that you meet along the way – for fans of previous Persona games, these Confidants used to be referred to as Social Links.

Getting to know these Confidants can grant you a huge boon in your experience with Persona 5, through spending your time with the right people and having amassed points in the correct Social Stats, you can boost your Confidant level with specific characters. Some of these benefits can be as small as allowing you to buy additional items and equipment, whereas others can allow all members of the Phantom Thieves to gain experience points, even if they didn’t contribute in battle.

The Confidant system is the single most important aspect of Social gameplay in Persona 5. Spending time with the right people can make you progress through the game significantly easier, so manage your time well!

Furthermore, these Confidants play a huge role in developing the character-driven story of Persona 5. While not each Confidant is vital, or even overly interesting for that matter, others have excellent minor sub-plots that can help you relate greatly to the character.

Ultimately, these Confidants offer more than simply adding to the story of Persona 5. The higher you rank up each Confidant, the higher you rank up their Arcana sign: Tower, Hierophant, etc. These Arcana ranks grant you boosts in experience points when it comes to fusing different Personas – the higher the rank, the stronger the Persona you will receive.

What makes Persona 5 such an excellent game in my opinion is that everything that you can do, from Social Activities, to progressing further in Mementos, to reading a book has tangible and almost immediate benefit to your overall progression to the main story of the game. Nothing that you have the option to do is pointless in the grand scheme of the game.

Due to this, I constantly found myself struggling to put the game down! Each time I would finish one activity and reap its rewards, I would end up saying to myself: ‘well, I’ll just level-up this Confidant’, or ‘I’ll read this book tonight’. However, then I would open up something new that I could do.

It was a perpetual cycle and I couldn’t help but love every second of it.

Everything in Persona 5 is expertly crafted, and the game oozes with the love and care put into it by the developers. The story is compelling, the combat is a joy to play and the social aspects are as optional as you want them to be yet appealing in almost every way.

Persona 5 earns a 10/10.

Thank you for reading my review of Persona 5 and reading me gush about it for over 2000 words.

An updated version of Persona 5 is scheduled to release in the west in 2020, titled Persona 5: The Royal which is similar to previous updated versions, such as Persona 4: Golden. This version will most likely be vastly superior, however, until its release, I would still highly recommend picking up the base game!

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Kingdom Hearts II – Game Review

Kingdom Hearts II Info Card.pngThe Kingdom Hearts series is one of the most well-received crossovers of all-time, especially in the video game industry. The series has been running strong for many years now, and soon, the long-awaited Kingdom Hearts III will finally be released.

In the lead-up to the release of Kingdom Hearts III in January, I have been revisiting each entry in the series and reviewing them. My aim is to set a bench-mark identifying what has come before from the series, to compare against what we will receive in the future.

I hope you’ll join with me on this adventure across this ever-expanding universe, as I continue by reviewing: Kingdom Hearts II.

Note: This review is based on the HD port of Kingdom Hearts II available as part of the Kingdom Hearts I.5+II.5 HD Collection on the PlayStation 4.

Regarded by most Kingdom Hearts fans as the best game in the series to-date, Kingdom Hearts II became a staple in the video game canon as also one of the best games released on the PlayStation 2.

The game takes place almost a year after the end of Chain of Memories.

Much to Sora, Donald and Goofy’s dismay, the Heartless are still causing trouble across the worlds. However, this time they’re not the only ones. Pitted against a new force of darkness – Nobodies, Sora’s journey is more perilous than ever before. Alongside his pre-existing quest of freeing the worlds from darkness, he must now defeat the shadowy Organisation XIII that had first been introduced in Chain of Memories.

The Organisation are close to achieving their goals and as is the case for any Kingdom Hearts game, Sora is the key to it all – the only one capable of stopping them.

The stakes of Kingdom Hearts II are far greater than what they had been in the previous games, and as a result, the tension and story-telling are even stronger too.

The over-arching ride of Kingdom Hearts II’s narrative is truly wonderful, offering its fair share of touching and sombre moments, alongside those of extreme action and intense battles. However, I can only say this for the main plot of the game.

As is part of the tried and true Kingdom Hearts formula, you once again visit various worlds from the Disney archives – some are returning fan favourites, such as The Nightmare Before Christmas’s Halloween Town, while many others are new additions to the Kingdom Hearts universe.

In the first Kingdom Hearts game, the main narrative of the game was intrinsically connected to each of the Disney worlds that Sora and co. visited.

The results of Sora’s actions within each world aided with the progression of the narrative. Whereas in Kingdom Hearts II, each of the Disney worlds tend to offer little development to the overarching narrative of the game.

Furthermore, each of the sub-plots for the Disney worlds follow more closely to their cinematic counterparts instead of an original story. Thus, the Disney portions of the game feel very much like a secondary thought and as though they were only included in the game because Kingdom Hearts is marketed as a cross-over between two pre-existing IPs.

Don’t get me wrong. Each of the Disney worlds are enjoyable to play through and becoming a part of the Disney narratives is exciting.

Plus, there are a few Disney worlds that either do tell an original story or, particularly with returning worlds, intertwine the Disney film with the laws of the Kingdom Hearts universe.

It’s just overall that it doesn’t feel as cleverly pieced together and written as it had in Kingdom Hearts.

The gameplay of Kingdom Hearts II returns to the traditional form that was introduced in the first game of the series, as opposed to the card-based combat system from Chain of Memories. However, in comparison to the gameplay of Kingdom Hearts, Kingdom Hearts II has been immensely improved upon. Every aspect of the game was given much greater depth, from the movement options, to combat, to even the returning Gummi Ship segments.

Sora is more agile than he has ever been, you can close the gap between you and your enemies much faster and more easily; as well as extend your base combos beyond anything you’ve ever been able to in the past.

The ability system that had been present in the original game makes a return, however, with the inclusion of new abilities with greater variety of capabilities, this system becomes the core of the combat of Kingdom Hearts II.

Rather than just the previous Combo Pluses and Air Combo Pluses in the first Kingdom Hearts, to boost the capabilities of your attacks, Kingdom Hearts II offers a much greater variety in terms of Combo Modifying abilities.

Furthermore, the most unique aspect of Kingdom Hearts II’s combat is the implementation of Drive Forms.

These are various temporary forms that Sora can enter that can bolster different abilities or change his combat setup entirely. Some Forms can provide him with a boost to his physical or magical strength, as well as some that grant him access to using two different Keyblades at once.

There is an abundant amount of new Keyblades to obtain throughout Kingdom Hearts II. Much like in the first Kingdom Hearts, each Keyblade has its own stat buffs to either Sora’s attack or magic power. However, in Kingdom Hearts this led to many of the earlier Keyblades obtained not being used once a strong one was acquired.

In Kingdom Hearts II however, each Keyblade also comes with its own special ability. These abilities can range from boosting the potency of items, halving the amount of damage received when in critical health and so.

With each Keyblade having its own abilities, which Keyblade you choose to kit Sora out with is less dependant on its damage output, and more based on how applicable the Keyblade’s ability is to your current scenario.

More than ever before, how you set up Sora’s equipment and abilities has a major impact on how easy fights throughout the game go. Each of the game’s systems are very well balanced, and you’ll find that you can play the game in the style that best suits you without the game restricting you into a specific playstyle.

The combat of Kingdom Hearts II is a key example of an optimised system that allows its players to take full advantage of everything that it has to offer.

Returning from the original Kingdom Hearts, traversing between each world is once again achieved through the Gummi Ship – a seemingly low-polygon, on-rails, starship bullet-hell shooter.

These segments were the weakest element of Kingdom Hearts, and the same rings true for Kingdom Hearts II, unfortunately. However, this time round it’s less due to these segments being weak, but more that every other aspect of the game is significantly stronger and more enjoyable by comparison.

A small part of me finds the Gummi Ship segments pretty enjoyable in Kingdom Hearts II. These sections are far faster-paced than in the previous game, as Gummi segments in Kingdom Hearts felt like a crawl to reach the end, with not much happening in the meantime.

Now each Gummi Ship route feels different from the last – well, at least most of them. The background visuals while still nothing to write home about are vastly more interesting too.

The abilities that you can modify your Gummi Ship with boost the action of each route tenfold. There are more enemies to destroy and more perils that you will need to avoid.

The Gummi Ship missions can still be relatively tedious to go through when you’re itching to make it to the next world, but regardless, the improvements made do make these sections a lot more enjoyable.

There is some much to love about Kingdom Hearts II. Every tweak and modification to the gameplay and the mechanics come from a place of love from the developers. Furthermore, the sheer scope of improvement between Kingdom Hearts to Kingdom Hearts II is immeasurable.

There is a reason why any Kingdom Hearts fan will tell you that Kingdom Hearts II is the best in the series – it’s because it is. Everything is far grander than anything that had come before; almost every change made was for the better.

The sub-plots of each Disney world are perhaps where the game is at its weakest, especially in comparison to the original Kingdom Hearts. However, this is nothing but a single raindrop in a river when contrasted against everything other element of the story-telling and gameplay of Kingdom Hearts II.

Kingdom Hearts II earns a 10/10

Thank you very much for reading my review of Kingdom Hearts II. It was such a great game to play through, and on Critical Mode it gave me one of the most enjoyable challenges I’ve had in a long time.

What about you? Have you played Kingdom Hearts II yet? If not I would highly recommend it. If you have, do you agree with my rating?

For more from BlackDiscGaming we post other reviews and discussions related to gaming, you can find links to them below:

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For the rest of my Kingdom Hearts reviews so far, you can find them here:

Kingdom HeartsKingdom Hearts Re:Chain of Memories

Have a great day!


Pokémon: Yellow – Game Review

Pokemon Yellow Info CardNote: This review is based on the Virtual Console release of Pokémon: Yellow, played on a New Nintendo 3DS XL console.

Pokémon: Yellow was originally released in 1999 and is the first case in the west of a third entry into a Pokémon generation. With the exponential growth in popularity with the Pokémon anime, Pokémon: Yellow aims to capitalise on this. As a result, Pokémon: Yellow is a hybrid game, taking the gameplay and main game narrative from Pokémon: Red & Blue, however certain story beats follow closer to the adventures of Ash Ketchum from the anime.

The key changes present in Yellow are fairly small in number, however the ways in which the affect and improve the player experience makes Yellow the definitive way to play the first generation of Pokémon.

The first, and key marketing change for Pokémon: Yellow is that, as opposed to Red & Blue, rather than choosing a starter out of: Bulbasaur, Squirtle and Charmander, you are given a Pikachu to begin your adventure.

This change was clearly made to resemble Ash and Pikachu from the anime; the Pikachu even stays out of its pokéball and follows you around.

Furthermore, following suit to its source material the Pikachu you obtain is unable to evolve.

Personally, I really despised this element of Yellow. I absolutely loved the concept of your Pikachu following you; it aided the connection that you, as the player, can form with your starter. This was the first instance of this in any Pokémon game and it is a really endearing feature.

However, without being able to evolve poor little Pikachu, by the time you reach the third gym, its stats will see it fall to the bottom of the team fast. The other members of your team that have evolved and grown stronger overshadow your Pikachu greatly.

Therefore, you may end up finding yourself doing what I did – placing it in a storage box to rot in favour of having a more offensively viable electric type, such as a Jolteon.

I found it a real shame to have to ditch my partner, but it was making my experience more unenjoyable through having to return to a Pokémon Centre every 5 battles to heal.

Despite not being able to choose from the original starter Pokémon of Red & Blue, throughout the game, you are still able to obtain all three of the Kanto Starter Pokémon.

Once again, they are obtained in a very similar way to how Ash encounters them in the anime. Obtaining and using these Pokémon is entirely optional, and dependant on the type of team you want to build, you may end up not using them.

I loved that you could obtain all three starters in Yellow. Not only did it mean that I could add three powerful monsters to my team, but in order to obtain them for your Pokédex you didn’t need to trade for them.

That being said, if you’re out for a full Pokédex you’ll still need to trade to ‘Catch ‘em All’.

Cosmetically, Pokémon: Yellow gave nearly every Pokémon a new front-facing sprite. The purpose of this was to have each Pokémon more closely resemble their appearance in the anime. It’s due to this that many Pokémon design were unified and updated – maintaining their looks from Yellow in every subsequent game after this.

I like the new appearances for each Pokémon, especially when comparing some of the new sprites to the originals in Red & Blue – looking at you Golbat.

Although, the back sprites for every Pokémon remained unchanged, so some Pokémon still retain their nightmare-fuel status.

Outside of these changes, the core gameplay of Pokémon: Yellow remains almost identical to the original Red & Blue. Many of the original faults in the games’ code have also been carried over into Yellow, in which many of the mechanics in the game either work differently to how they were intended, or they simply don’t work at all.

One example in this much longer list, is the type-effectiveness of Ghost-type moves. Ghost-type moves were intended to be super effective against Psychic-type Pokémon, however, due to an error in the design of the game, moves such as Lick are rendered completely ineffective.

Furthermore, due to Ghost being negated by Psychic and Bug not having any strong damaging moves, the Psychic-type was extremely overpowered due to a lack of counters.

There are many more of these coding issues that can truly hinder a player’s strategy or even their enjoyment. However, with a firm understanding of these faulty mechanics, this discrepancy is almost negated. In some instances, you can even use them to your advantage.

The combat of the game is a turn-based RPG, which each side being allowed a single action per turn. This is a great, albeit simple, design for combat. It makes each decision important, especially in particularly difficult encounters and can allow for a deep level of planning and strategy to overcome your opponents.

An issue with the combat system in this game, as well as in Red & Blue is that when a Pokémon is put to sleep, waking up is considered its action for the turn.

This is also the case for when a Pokémon is restricted from movement by moves like Bind and Wrap.

Should a Pokémon be slower than the one inflicting these kinds of moves, when a Pokémon is freed from these statuses, they consume their turns and may potentially become inflicted by them immediately after.

When this happens repeatedly in a single battle, any pacing is immediately halted. It becomes a chore to take down these Pokémon.

Despite the issues with faulty coding and abusable mechanics, the rest of the game is very well balanced to provide a reasonable, yet enjoyable challenge to the player.

As you explore the Kanto region, you’ll find yourself fraught with challenge, be it from Gym Leaders, to the sinister Team Rocket, to just making it through a route or dungeon. Resource management and understanding of the game’s mechanics are what you will be tested against.

Understanding the advantageous type matchups and keeping on top of your Pokémon’s health (HP), or their moves (PP); ensuring that you have enough potions to keep you going to the next Pokémon Centre – this is your challenge as a Trainer in Pokémon: Yellow as you strive to become the Pokémon Champion.

Pokémon: Yellow doesn’t often give you a lot of things for free. As a result, to keep your Pokémons’ levels on par with upcoming challenges and making sure you have the money required to stock up on necessary items is entirely down to you.

To cope against the strongest trainers in the game, you’ll need to fight against every trainer you find. However, the developers have done an incredible job at ensuring you’ll never need to grind levels against weaker wild Pokémon so long as you face every challenge.

As far as game design goes, this is pretty excellent. You’re never really required to do any work outside of what is put in front of you – while you can skip as many trainers as possible, you won’t reap the benefits.

The technical issues can bring the game down, and a few of the design choices in the combat can become cumbersome and tedious. Despite this, however, Pokémon: Yellow is an immensely enjoyable experience. The game doesn’t do much to split itself apart from the previous Red & Blue, but the few tweaks it does make, makes this version, in my opinion, the true generation one Pokémon experience.

Pokémon: Yellow earns a 6/10

Thank you very much for reading my review of Pokémon: Yellow. I figured that I would return to cover this game prior to the release of Pokémon: Let’s Go Pikachu! & Let’s Go Eevee! so I could compare between the two iterations.

Have you played Pokémon: Yellow? If so, what did you think? If you haven’t, would you consider revisiting it?

For more from BlackDiscGaming, you can find other game reviews as well as discussions – you can find the links to them below:

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Spyro: Year of the Dragon – Game Review

Spyro Year of the Dragon Info Card2018 marks the 20th anniversary of one of gaming’s most beloved dragons – Spyro the Dragon. Developed by Toys for Bob, on the 13th of November a from-the-ground-up remake of Insomniac Games’ original Spyro the Dragon trilogy will be making its way to the latest generation of consoles.

To celebrate, I’m looking back over the original Spyro the Dragon trilogy to review them in the lead up to Toys for Bob’s attempt at reigniting a staple in PlayStation’s history.

I hope you’ll join me as I conclude this brief retrospective, by reviewing Spyro: Year of the Dragon.

Insomniac Games had struck gold with the Spyro the Dragon series, and so to cash in on this huge popularity, Sony requested that Insomniac Games develop another game in the series. However, the deadline for their latest game was much shorter than they had been given in the past.

Releasing just eleven months after Ripto’s Rage in October 2000, Spyro: Year of the Dragon concluding Insomniac Games’ original Spyro the Dragon trilogy.

The game begins when an evil Sorceress from the other side of the world sends her minions to the Dragon Home World to steal all of the dragon eggs. As Spyro and Hunter are the only ones small enough to make it through the tunnel to the other side, the task falls unto them.

Once again, it’s a basic premise to a narrative but in usual Spyro fashion, it’s enough to spark a new adventure.

Year of the Dragon’s gameplay at its core was just more of what made Ripto’s Rage such a strong game.

The improved mechanics and abilities of the game remained, such as Spyro’s ability to swim and hover; many of the characters that had been introduced in Ripto’s Rage, such as the aforementioned Hunter and Moneybags returned to the Spyro universe as well.

Between Ripto’s Rage and Year of the Dragon, the Spyro formula hardly changed. In fact, there were some aspects from the previous game that had been watered down.

The spirit particles used to unlock power-up gates have been removed. Instead, if a world has a power-up gate, it is already unlocked ready for Spyro’s use. Furthermore, as Spyro already has his abilities that he’d learnt from Ripto’s Rage, there is almost no need to revisit previously explored world to access new areas.

The amount of collectables have been downsized too, however, only categorically. In Year of the Dragon there are only two collectables: Dragon Eggs and Gems, as opposed to Ripto’s Rage’s: Talismans, Orbs, and Gems.

This isn’t a huge negative, as there is practically no loss in content. Rather than receiving a Talisman for completing a level and finishing side objectives to earn Orbs, everything in Year of the Dragon rewards you with Dragon Eggs.

While ultimately, it’s just a cosmetic aspect, I can’t help but feel as though everything becomes a little samey when continuously being given the same formulaic dialogue from NPCs of what they confuse the Dragon Egg for being.

However, as I say, this is just a personal preference and it doesn’t reflect any lack in content.

Earlier I said that the game gives you almost no reason to revisit previous worlds, the small reason Year of the Dragon does encourage you to revisit worlds is through alternative playable characters.

There are four new characters introduced in this game, as well as two pre-existing characters that you are able to play as; most of these characters bring with them their own unique gameplay that mixes up Spyro’s usual repertoire of moves.

Minor Spoiler Warning: If you do not wish to have the characters spoiled for you, skip ahead of this section.

Each of them are strongly characterised and add to the naturally present humour of the Spyro series. However, I have minor discrepancies with the way two of these characters control.

Sheila the Kangaroo’s levels are a delight to play, however, I found that there was a small amount of start-up lag to her kick attack. Couple this with a its relatively short range and retaliating enemies can become a little frustrating.

Sergeant Byrd was the other character that I had difficulty controlling. Sergeant Byrd’s controls were more of a double-edged sword. With his ability to fly it made him very floaty to control; this was extremely useful when trying to lower onto a platform, but very difficult to manoeuvre away from an incoming threat.

Byrd’s levels would be far better if there was a way to instantly drop, as how Spyro did in the first game.

Spoilers end here.

Overall, Spyro: Year of the Dragon is another great game in the Spyro the Dragon series. However, at the end it’s just more of what we had already seen with Ripto’s Rage.

Adding new playable characters was a novel idea from the development team, but they serve no purpose other than being different.

I think it’s clear that the team faced a challenge when being given a much shorter deadline than in the past. Yet it doesn’t stop Spyro: Year of the Dragon from being a tremendously fun experience. Year of the Dragon was my favourite entry when I was younger, and it still is in my opinion. However, I don’t think that it can outshine its predecessor with the number of improvements that it had made.

Spyro: Year of the Dragon earns an 8/10

Thank you very much for reading my review, and following me on this small retrospective of the Spyro the Dragon series.

If you haven’t read my previous reviews yet, you can find them here:

Spyro the Dragon ReviewSpyro 2: Ripto’s Rage Review

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Thank you once again for reading, and have a great day!

World of Final Fantasy – Game Review

World of Final Fantasy Info CardWorld of Final Fantasy was released in 2016 as part of Square Enix’s celebration of 30 Years of Final Fantasy. World of Final Fantasy was designed to harken back to the earlier days of the Final Fantasy franchise, as well as a celebration of almost all that has been throughout the decades.

For better or worse, the game is mostly light-hearted and tends not to take itself overly seriously. This is reflected in the game’s art style. Overall, the game is filled from top to bottom with vibrantly bright colours.

The majority of characters in the game are depicted in Chibi form, known in-game as ‘Lilikin’; the few characters that are referred to as ‘Jiants’ are designed in a style reminiscent of Kingdom Hearts.

The narrative of World of Final Fantasy can become rather tedious at certain times and the characters, specifically one of the main three is responsible for this.

The leading cast and playable characters are brother and sister: Lann and Reynn, two Jiants that wake up one morning to the company of a mysterious woman that sets them on their mission. Lann and Reynn are also accompanied on their travels by a small fox familiar called Tama.

Reynn is a smart know-it-all that prefers to think things through rationally, whereas Lann is brash and irresponsible.

Together the two has a relatively enjoyable sibling dynamic that at times can be funny and even endearing, however, a lot of the time their conversations devolve into the same formula in which Reynn is attempting to think through a plan, while Lann acts rashly and gets the two in trouble – meanwhile Tama is flip-flopping between the two sides.

I think that Reynn is a very enjoyable character, and I found myself connecting to her and her processes a lot. I also, despite her sometimes irritating behaviour, found Tama to be funny at times and I even found her dialogue quirks to be cute. However, I really couldn’t stand Lann.

His overconfidence and ignorance put me off him almost immediately. He does have somewhat of a redemption in the final hour of the story, but that’s nearly 50 hours too late.

The concept of a last hour redemption could also be said about the overall plot of World of Final Fantasy.

For the most part, the plot of the game is highly formulaic – this is partially due to the resonance with the earliest Final Fantasy titles. Two thirds of the game’s narrative feels like busy-work and a chore to sift through to reach a strong and impactful ending.

However, the final act genuinely took me by surprise. I was finding myself constantly engaged by the characters and their emotions; there were strong plot-twists that I didn’t see coming and they felt natural too.

The game concludes very strongly, it’s just a bit of a shame that the rest of the game couldn’t reach this standard.

The first two acts felt like padding to allow time to cameo all of the previous Final Fantasy characters.

World of Final Fantasy is set in a world called Grymoire, and to simplify things, it’s an amalgamation of locales from other Final Fantasy games, from the Kingdom of Cornelia, to Nibelheim, to Besaid.

I love the world of Grymoire, both in design and in concept. The world integrates and allows for fan favourite Final Fantasy characters to interact with each other, and I’ll happily admit that it’s something that I’ve wanted to happen for a while.

Furthermore, it’s through the intermingling of various eras of Final Fantasy characters that the game’s design really gets to shine through.

Outside of the hyper-realistic Dissidia series, Final Fantasy characters haven’t had an opportunity to be unified under a single design scheme. In World of Final Fantasy, the world of Grymoire and all of its inhabitants, including the Final Fantasy cast are Chibi Lilikin.

The core combat system of World of Final Fantasy returns to an Active Time Battle (ATB) System. Each character participating in battle must wait for a period of time before performing another action, however, the users wait time can either be increased or decreased through the use of specific magic spells such as Haste or Slow.

I’ve always been a fan of these types of combat systems, however, World of Final Fantasy offers a few new elements to throw into the mix.

Firstly, to the side of the screen during battle is a timeline that depicts the order of events for the next set of turns. Each participant in the battle has their own portrait on the line that must move from the bottom up to the top before they can perform their action.

This allows you to see which enemy is about to perform their action and tailor your moves to best deal with the situation.

Furthermore, the game offers a variation of different battle modes for you to decide between: active, semi-active and wait.

These different battle types determine the rate at which the enemy can attack you while you’re picking your own actions.

These options have the potential to bolster the difficulty of the game, either making the game a turn-based game similar to Final Fantasy X or providing more of a challenge. Whether you’re an RPG buff or new to the genre there’s a gameplay style for everyone.

The second unique combat feature to World of Final Fantasy is how you can build your party.

World of Final Fantasy offers a Pokémon-esque monster capturing system that allows you to capture almost any monster you encounter – this is known as ‘imprisming’. However, unlike Pokémon, capturing monsters isn’t always as simple as lowering its health to capture it.

Each monster that can be imprismed has their own criteria that need to be met in battle to enable it to be caught. Sometimes this can be a simple as reducing its health, while others require you to inflict a specific status ailment and others could need you to cast healing magic on them.

This provides a unique twist that means you may need to think carefully about your battle choices if you wish to capture a certain monster.

Not only can these monster be levelled up to fight alongside you, they also have a categoric size.

These sizes range from small to extra-large (XL). What this means is that you have the potential to stack the members of your party.

You’re given a maximum stack number of three: a small (S), medium (M) and large (L) member.

The Jiants and Lilikin element of the game isn’t just for presentation purposes either. Reynn and Lann have the potential to transfer between either Jiant or Lilikin form; as a result, their position in a stack can switch from either L to M and thus alternate the monsters that you are using in battle.

The effect that this has on the combat gameplay is huge. The monsters that you stack in your party affects the abilities that you are able to use in battle, as well as your overall stats.

You either fight stacked or unstacked. There are huge strategic advantages to either of these options; fighting stacked greatly increases your stats across the board but only allows you to act once, whereas fighting unstacked reduces your stats but lets each individual character act in a turn.

There is great benefit to adapting within battle and taking advantage of both of these forms as well as the abilities that you bring into battle.

World of Final Fantasy has a deeply thought out combat system that allows for an immense amount of experimentation for each player to work and find out the monsters and setups that best suit their preferred style of play.

It wouldn’t be a Final Fantasy game without an army of Summons to inflict huge damage when you need it most. World of Final Fantasy is no different – well, kind of. This time round, with the capability to have monsters like Leviathan and Ramuh fight alongside you in your party, the Summons this time round are classic Final Fantasy heroes.

A small selection of Final Fantasy heroes that you meet along your journey, such as Tidus, Refia, Lightning and more can later be recruited as Summons through a Champion Medal system.

You can select three different Champions that you are able to call on in battle. As you battle, you slowly earn Champion Stars – these are what you utilise to Summon forth your Champions. Different Champions cost different amounts of Champion Stars and provide differing support.

Some can bestow a boost to defense, while others can boost evasion and so on.

I like the concept of being able to Summon Final Fantasy heroes, however, there are many redundant effects and not enough coverage for them to be fundamental to combat – they’re more of a novelty than anything.

Though I do find the combat a great deal of fun, I think that the encounter rates are considerably high. There are such a large number of dungeons to visit throughout the game, each with various branches and optional paths. The high encounter rate has a tendency to make traversing through these dungeons a little bit tedious from time to time, especially if you’re back tracking to find previously unreachable areas and having to weed your way through very low levelled monsters.

Overall, the narrative of the game is a little underwhelming and the Final Fantasy characters can do little to make up for this. However, the game makes up for this through its attention to detail regarding its gameplay. There is so much available for each player to play the game the ways that work best for them.

World of Final Fantasy is a good game to play through if just for the gameplay alone, there is more than enough content to keep you playing well past the 30 hour mark, with plenty more if you’re interested in the side content too.

World of Final Fantasy earns an 8/10

Thank you for reading my review of World of Final Fantasy. The concept alone was greatly intriguing for me, and despite some weaknesses, the game has me hoping for another game to come that shares its gameplay.

What do you think, have you played World of Final Fantasy yet, or are you on the fence about trying it? If so, I hope this review has helped you reach a decision.

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Spyro 2: Ripto’s Rage (Gateway to Glimmer) – Game Review

Spyro 2 Ripto's Rage Info Card2018 marks the 20th anniversary of one of gaming’s most beloved dragons – Spyro the Dragon. Developed by Toys for Bob, on the 13th of November a from-the-ground-up remake of Insomniac Games’ original Spyro the Dragon trilogy will be making its way to the latest generation of consoles.

To celebrate, I’m looking back over the original Spyro the Dragon trilogy to review them in the lead up to Toys for Bob’s attempt at reigniting a staple in PlayStation’s history.

Following up the huge success of the first game, Spyro 2: Ripto’s Rage (a.k.a Gateway to Glimmer in European territories) released only a year after the first game, in 1999.

Following his victory over Gnasty Gnorc, Spyro seeks a vacation in Dragon Shores – after all, the life of a hero can be a stressful thing! Meanwhile, in another realm known as Avalar, a professor is conducting an experiment that causes Spyro to be brought from the Dragon Home World to Avalar.

With a portal to Avalar open, Spyro is met with this game’s villain: Ripto, a warlock set on adding this realm to his repertoire of conquered worlds.

Therefore, it’s Spyro that is tasked with defeating Ripto and reclaiming Avalar.

Once again, the narrative takes a backseat in favour of focussing on the gameplay of the game. However, there is a far greater emphasis this time with delivering a plot, and while still rudimentary, it’s a fun adventure to embark upon with our little purple friend.

This time on his adventure, Spyro has a few new friends: Hunter the Cheetah, Elora the Fawn and Moneybags the Burden on Society.

These act as Spyro’s guides to the world and offer aid in reclaiming Avalar.

The sequel maintains the core gameplay that made the original game such a hit. Still a basic platforming collect-a-thon, Spyro 2: Ripto’s Rage has more collectables for players to aim to gather.

Spyro will once again be travelling to attain countless gems scattered throughout the worlds, alongside new key collectables: Talismans and Orbs.

Talismans are received by reaching the end of each stage, while Orbs are obtained through completing optional side objectives. Together, these collectables grant you access to new Hubs areas and worlds.

Once again, there is almost no major difficulty in collecting everything in the game – there can be the occasional… trouble. Not mentioning any trolleys.

Like Spyro the Dragon, Ripto’s Rage is at its most enjoyable when striving to obtain them all.

To find and collect everything that the game has to offer, you’ll be utilising all of the same mechanics from Spyro the Dragon. However, Spyro is packing a few new tricks in his scales this time around.

The instant drop mechanic by pressing triangle is gone and is now replaced by a Hover. This hover is utilised at the end of a glide to gain a little more height. I think that this is my favourite new aspect of the gameplay in Ripto’s Rage.

This small amount of height makes further away platforms much easier to reach and allows for much more precise platforming. However, despite the new hover, I still think that tighter platforming can be a little finicky at times.

The more major additions to the gameplay are Power-ups and Power-up Gates.

Throughout Spyro’s adventure he will be granted new abilities that allow him to gain access to new areas locked exclusively behind these power-ups. Furthermore, within earlier levels in the game, there may be a few of these exclusive areas. As a result, you may need to return to older levels that you have already beaten to reap the rewards of these new powers.

Upon defeating an enemy in Ripto’s Rage the release a Spirit Particle. Collect enough Particles throughout a level, a special Power-up Gate will be unlocked. These gates offer special, limited-time power-ups for Spyro. These can vary from the ability to fly to walking on molten magma and more.

These powers expand the potential of each world in Ripto’s Rage. Previous obstacles can be overcome with ease, and side objectives are either made accessible or much less of a challenge because of them.

The world design and atmosphere of Avalar is just as impeccable as the Dragon Home Worlds from Spyro the Dragon. They’re incredibly fun to explore! Some are filled to the brim with vibrant colour and others are brooding and atmospheric.

Though there has not been a huge shake-up to the gameplay of Spyro 2: Ripto’s Rage from the first game, it does take what made the original Spyro the Dragon and improve upon it. Furthermore, with all the new tweaks and additions to the gameplay, Spyro is more fun and enjoyable to play than ever.

Plus, without forgetting the most important aspect: it’s more Spyro the Dragon!

Spyro 2: Ripto’s Rage earns a 9/10

Spyro 2: Ripto’s Rage is a game that clearly knows that it’s on to a winning formula, and it likes to flaunt it in your face with hours of exploring and collecting.

NOTE: This game was played on the emulated version of the game available on the PlayStation 3 online store. This version suffers from constant slow down. If you’re considering picking this game up, I would highly recommend purchasing a physical copy of the original PlayStation release for the best Spyro experience.

Thank you for reading my review of Spyro 2: Ripto’s Rage. What did you think, do you agree with my thoughts, has it helped you decide whether to give it a play?

I have also written a review on the original Spyro the Dragon.

For more from BlackDiscGaming, you find our other Video Game Reviews and Video Game Discussions.

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