Saturday, December 3, 2016

Triple Feature: Kirby Planet Robobot, Paper Mario: Color Splash, Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE

 A video game triple feature to bang out the rest of 2016's games.

There's a reason why I don't do Triple Features for video games. For a movie, it's pretty easy to condense a review down to about 3 or 4 paragraphs. Everyone has to watch the movie in the same way and opinions are formed based off our own personal experiences with the story, characters, music, and cinematography. It's easy to watch a movie and sum up your opinions, because you can sum up movies pretty simply. Video games... not so much.

Video games are usually extremely long affairs, at least in comparison to movies. If the average movie is about two hours long, then the length of the average video game can range anywhere from 8-40 hours depending on the genre. RPGs are typically longer, platformers are typically shorter. So you have to try and summarize more information, but then you also have to talk about the gameplay and interactivity of the game. Do these game mechanics work? What are the mechanics anyway? Are they fun? Are they easy to learn? Will I get bored of them in a couple of hours? All of these questions are relevant, and then you have the added bonus of talking about the game's graphics and aesthetics, which are determined based on the developer's ingenuity and the power of the console they're running on.

There's way more information to summarize in a video game review, and trying to smash that all down into a short synopsis is difficult, even for full length reviews. Hell, if we're being perfectly honest, there are several games I reviewed in the past year that I wish I could have gone into more detail on, but couldn't without turning each review into a full blown essay.

So why am I doing a Triple Feature for three video games? Well, it's because this month is going to be extremely busy for me in terms of reviews. I'm working on a Top 10 list right now to be released early next week, plus I'm going to try and get out reviews for La La Land, Rouge One, The Founder, Gods of Egypt, the Best Fall Anime list, and then start pounding away at the Best/Worst of 2016 lists. For my own sanity, this needed to happen. So let's hope this little experiment works starting with...

Kirby Planet Robobot (June 10th, 2016; 3DS)
Kirby games are always some of the most polished platformers that Nintendo puts out. Yes, like most Nintendo franchises, the basic formula never changes significantly, but the basic formula of Kirby games are so much fun that you hardly begin to notice until you start playing them one after the other. Even then, Kirby games can actually be pretty experimental, with games like Kirby and the Rainbow Curse, Kirby Mass Attack, and Kirby Tilt n' Tumble being some key examples.

Planet Robobot follows the same basic premise laid out in every Kirby platformer, where Kirby needs to go on an adventure, eat enemies, gain their abilities, and save the day from whatever villain it is this time. Robobot uses the same engine as Kirby Triple Deluxe, the last game in the series to appear on the 3DS, and it shows. It's not that the game looks bad, but it's easy to tell that there really wasn't any significant effort put into making this game stand out from the rest of the Kirby series.

If you'l recall, I really enjoyed Triple Deluxe and would probably call it one of my favorite games in the series. I just seemed like the perfection of everything that Kirby was building up to; bright graphics, happy music, an easy to beat, difficult to complete mentality, and some genuinely fun bosses. That's all still present in Robobot, but it feels like there was less ingenuity in the design. Kirby can use a mech suit, which does look cool, but it plays the exact same as Kirby. The only thing that's different is that you gain a punching ability and your powerups are slightly stronger. That's all there is to it.

Don't get me wrong, it's still a fine experience, but you can tell that Planet Robobot was made to fill out a schedule. There's nothing fresh inside here and nothing that Triple Deluxe didn't do better. I still had a smile on my face, but man did it take me a while to muster up the energy to beat the game.

Paper Mario: Color Splash (October 7th, 2016; Wii U)
Ah, this game. From the moment Color Splash was announced back in February, people were ready to tear this game apart. The Paper Mario series is extremely beloved to many a Nintendo fans hearts, mostly because of the first two games. Hell, I would even go so far as to say that the original Paper Mario is one of my favorite games. Fans of the series have been clamoring for a return to form, and when Color Splash was announced and looked like another Sticker Star, the most universally hated game in the series, people were calling this game trash. I personally had middling thoughts on Sticker Star, but I never thought it was as awful as people say it was. I'd even go so far to say that Paper Jam was worse than Sticker Star, but that's neither here nor there. So I went into Color Splash with some optimism, and you know what, I had a good time with it.

The game follows Mario having to restore color to an island called Prism Island after a group of Shy Guys sucked the color clean out of it. What follows is a very segmented game where you travel around a world map, go to levels, get a paint star, then continue opening up new levels until you get to a boss that's holding a Big Paint Star. What made this journey work for me was that each world felt like it was actually worth exploring. No two worlds were the same, and that made me excited to see what would happen whenever I entered it. One world was a giant quiz show, another was an epic pirate quest, another was becoming a chef and making the world's best steak, while my favorite level was going into a haunted hotel and calming down the ghosts that lived there.

Color Splash was described as more of an adventure game than and RPG, and with that mindset, the game strangely works. Granted, the game is always at its weakest during combat, where you have to use a finite amount of cards to attack enemies. There was never a substantial reason to fight enemies except to gain more paint to paint the world, but after a couple of hours of playing I never ran the risk of running out of paint. Boss battles are somewhat better where only one specific item can beat the boss and you need to use it at the right time, and the game at least gives you hints on what items you need to use to do it.

Color Splash is at its best though when you're just allowed to explore the levels, repaint them, talk to some genuinely funny Toads, and enjoy the worlds you go to. It took me about 25 hours to beat the game, and while I wish that it was more interesting in combat, the general experience was fun enough for me to give it a solid recommendation.

Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE (June 24th, 2016; Wii U)
Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE is certainly an experience. I can't say it's for everyone, but if it's your thing, then you'll love it. Granted, the market for this game is razor thin. You have to be in the strategy RPG, Japanophile, Idol, and Nintendo crowd to fully appreciate this game. I fit into about half of those groups, so my time with the game was pleasant, but not as great as it could have been.

TMS#FE is a mix of the Shin Megami Tensei franchise and the Fire Emblem series, though you probably can only see the former of the two. The Fire Emblem characters are relegated to summons and basic combat mechanics. That being said, Jesus Christ this game is complex when you're fighting. You can enter battles in parties of three, and your can have various types of attacks, like fire and ice, but then you also have different types of weapons that have different effects on enemies. So you have to worry about two kinds of resistances. Combat is based on huge combos, where characters are pretty much required to stream massive combos off of each other to do well in fights.

The story, as sad as it is to say, is an incredibly generic anime plot, and I mean that in all of the worst ways. You're main character is loved by a bunch of women, you're trying to solve a huge mystery, everyone looks up to you and revolve their entire lives around you, and there's random magical elements that don't make much sense. Oh, and there's a fat American that doesn't even have an American voice actor, even though he's written as being a Japanophile bassist and only speaks fluent Japanese. Is that weird? I can't really tell.

This is also an incredibly dense game, going upwards of 60 hours just to get through the story. I will say that some of the concepts and boss designs are cool, but those aren't enough to justify the story. It's great to string together long combos that deal a ton of damage, but that can only be fun for so long. It's a shame that putting two great franchises together can only make a somewhat okay game, but that's the world we live in. Tokyo Mirage Sessions is fine, but it's hardly the RPG that it could have been.



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