Final Fantasy XIII – Game Review

Final Fantasy XIII Info CardFinal Fantasy XIII released in 2009 as the first iteration of Square Enix’s long-running Final Fantasy series on the seventh console generation (PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360). The game marked the beginning of the ‘Fabula Nova Crystallis’ series of games with the focus on crystal imagery and the recurring theme of a battle against Gods.

The narrative of Final Fantasy XIII can be described as convoluted in some regards, however, despite this the plot itself is fairly solid. The story of Final Fantasy XIII takes places across two different worlds: Gran Pulse (a form of Earth, for lack of a better description) and Cocoon (a ‘new’ planet floating about Gran Pulse, where humanity resides). Beginning on Cocoon, during a ‘Purge’ – the removal and execution of humans that had come into contact with a Fal’Cie (Demi-god) from Gran Pulse, the majority of the main cast assemble.

Here, they are entangled with the Fal’Cie itself and as a result are turned to L’Cie – humans with extraordinary power and the ability to use magic in exchange for being set a task they must complete (known as a ‘Focus’). Should they fail that ‘Focus’ they are turned into monstrous beings known as C’eith.

This bizarre naming convention is perhaps the single most complicated thing regarding Final Fantasy XIII – if you can wrap your head around that, you’re 90% of the way to understanding the game.

The overall narrative itself is very run of the mill. The main cast of characters are fighting to overturn an unjust fate that has befallen them. The journey along the way has a few fairly touching moments, and in my opinion, towards the closing hours of the game, the story hits its peak at just the right time. As a result, I was left was a pretty satisfied feeling at the end of the adventure that I think a lot of people could get enjoyment from.

However, I feel that the game falls short with its characters.

Barely any of the characters, be they main cast or side cast, receive any major forms of development. Even for those that do, their development is shallow and lacks any really meaning. While they are complete enough characters to tell the story and present and emotional enough conclusion, overall, I felt the experience was lacking substance.
The game could have done with a couple of extra scenes to allow, at least, the main cast time to break out from their pre-establish character roles to expand a little further.
Narrative aside, the game took a huge leap forward graphically between this and Final Fantasy XII releasing on the PlayStation 2. This boon in graphical power can be seen from the immediate onset of the game.

Final Fantasy XIII is undeniably a visually beautiful game.

The vast majority of background scenery is dynamic and full of life, leading to the immersion in the world that is being presented.

Unfortunately, these dynamic backgrounds are nothing more than that. Final Fantasy XIII is an extremely linear experience. Throughout the first ten chapters of the game, you are forced down narrow (so be it, graphically stunning) corridors, dispatching numbers of enemies along the way to reach the end.

Honestly, I don’t have an issue myself with the linear experience of Final Fantasy XIII, I believe that it lends itself well to the story that it is attempting to tell. However, when the world around the player is so vast-looking and vibrant, I’d love nothing more than to explore around me, venturing off over the mountains in the distance. Yet, ultimately, it’s nothing but scenery and that’s a disappointing revelation when playing the game.

As for the gameplay of Final Fantasy XIII itself, it seems to have taken gameplay elements from Final Fantasy XII and modified it – bolstering the Active Dimensional Battle combat system and converting it into a random encounter scenario, now referred to as the Active Time Battle (ATB) system.

The inspiration behind the design choice for XIII’s combat system came from the Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children fight scenes. The developers desired to make combat appear more cinematic and action-packed.

The single action bar in Final Fantasy XII’s combat was evolved during transition to Final Fantasy XIII.

Beginning at two segments, and with a potential maximum of six, actions during combat – from regular attacks, to use of various magic – could be stringed together into fluid and dynamic combos.

Actions to be queued in the ATB bar can either be selected manually or chosen through an ‘Auto-Battle’ command that selects actions that the game decides are the best string of actions to use.

These battles are much more visually engaging than they had been in previous entries in the Final Fantasy series. Personally, I love the visual effect that the game achieves with this style of combat. The only discrepancy is that due to the ‘Auto-Battle’ feature, the game can devolve into simply mashing the action button in order to defeat foes quickly.
On the other hand, the most significant aspect to Final Fantasy XIII’s combat by far is the ‘Paradigm Deck’.

Each character has ‘Roles’ that they are utilise; these roles determine the types of commands that they are able to use. There are six roles to learn: Commando (Physical Hitter), Ravager (Magic Attacker), Synergist (Buffer), Saboteur (Debuffer), Sentinel (Defender) and Medic (Healer).

You can set which role you want a specific member of your battle team to be before battle, however, a character can only be in a single role at a time and thus only has access to a limited number of commands to use.

This is where the ‘Paradigm Shift’ mechanic of the game comes into play. When establishing your ‘Paradigm Deck’ you can create up to six different decks at once. During battle you are able to switch the active deck that you are using.
Due to this, you are able to think more strategically about how you want to approach each battle that you face.

I love the ‘Paradigm Shift’ mechanic – it combines the perfect level of forward planning with the added challenge of ensuring that you have set up the right types of paradigm to account for each possible outcome.

For example, if you’re up against a foe that has an extremely powerful desperation attack, set up a paradigm that consists of three Sentinels to lower the damage your characters will take.

This style of strategy also plays into another key feature of Final Fantasy XIII’s combat – staggering.

Every enemy that you will fight in the game has a ‘Stagger Meter’, the higher the meter is, the more damage the enemy will take from attacks. Once the meter reaches its limit, the enemy will stagger and not only will it take a lot more damage, but it will also be prevented from attacking.

The strategy here comes from effective use of paradigm shifting. The Ravager role is exceptional at boosting the stagger meter, therefore, by setting a load out with three Ravagers to quickly stagger the enemy, you can then switch to three Commandos to bring the pain.

This level of strategy is the highest point of Final Fantasy XIII. I absolutely love the combat system and how it makes the player think about their strategy before entering a fight, than in previous games in which you have near time to scroll through a huge command list to decide there and then.

Another feature that I like the concept of, is the levelling system.

Characters in Final Fantasy XIII don’t have set level-ups where they grow stronger. Instead, it’s more similar to Final Fantasy X’s Sphere Grid, in which you can decide you path of growth.

Final Fantasy XIII’s characters level up via the Crystarium; after every fight, you earn Crystogen Points (CP). These points can be distributed across any of the roles that you have learnt by whichever point you are at. This grants you the opportunity to specialise your team in the way that would best suit your style of play.

Overall I love this style of level up, however, personally it led to me alienating certain characters from my roster because I could never find use for them.

I really enjoy the combat of Final Fantasy XIII, however, if you’re someone that isn’t overly keen on combat then this game certainly wouldn’t be for you.

There are only 64 side quests in the entire game, and all of them of monster hunts. All of them.

The side content for Final Fantasy XIII is pretty atrocious. Most of the monsters that you fight for these hunts are beefed up, or varied versions of monsters that you’ve fought hundreds of times. There are some that can present a genuine challenge, especially when trying to 5-star each mission, but if acing every challenge isn’t something you’d want to do, then you’ll be hard done by to find enjoyment in the side content of the game.

There is a lot to love regarding Final Fantasy XIII, from the style of story-telling, to the combat. Yet, there is a lot to dislike for some people too, like the style of story-telling, to the combat… It can be a very divisive game. Nonetheless, I loved my time with it all the same.

The characters may be one-note and archetypal and the game may be the most linear in the entire franchise, but the game developed and honed many features that had come from previous Final Fantasy titles and made them much better.

If you’ve never considered picking up Final Fantasy XIII before, I’d definitely recommend it. If you’ve played it before, but thought you couldn’t stand it, I highly recommend giving it another shot – yes there will be bad parts, but there is a lot to like about it too.

Final Fantasy XIII earns a

Scorecard 7.5_10

Thank you for reading my review of Final Fantasy XIII. I know that this title can be fairly divisive, but everyone’s opinion is valid – if you liked this game as well, let me know! If you didn’t, tell me why in the comments.

If you enjoy content like this, and want to see more reviews like this about games new and old follow: Black Disc Gaming. For more Video Game Reviews from us, click the link below to get taken straight to our ever-growing archive.

Video Game Reviews

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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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:

Video Game ReviewsVideo Game Discussions

Have a great day!

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

For more content from BlackDiscGaming, you can find them below:

Video Game ReviewsVideo Game Discussions

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