Friday, April 11, 2014

Shall We Do It? (saying sayonara to Bravely Default and Yoshi's New Island and konnichiwa to Rusty’s Real Deal Baseball and Etrian Odyssey IV)

After spending just over 100 hours playing it, I finally put a fork in (i.e., finished) Bravely Default on Wednesday.

In a way, I'm relieved, as a good handful--at least 10 or so, I'd say--of the final hours I spent with this 3DS RPG were not altogether enjoyable. I'm also kind of sad, though, as not only did I thoroughly enjoy the rest of the time I spent with the game, but I also got a real kick out of its final salvo.

So, where does that leave me in terms of how I feel about this title? Well, I no longer wish I'd never picked up a copy of it, I can tell you that much. In fact, after watching the captivating "special video" that's unlocked following the credit roll, I'm once again genuinely curious about the upcoming sequel.

I still believe the majority of the last third, if not the entire last half, of Bravely Default is flawed to the point that I have to imagine a lot of players will give up on it before ever encountering the end credits, mind you, but I also appreciate what its developers and writers were going for with that much-maligned section of the game--even if their execution of that vision left a lot to be desired.

Also, like I implied a few paragraphs ago, the last two battles really helped wash from my mouth the bad taste that had developed while I played through the bulk of the optional boss fights that preceded them.

Speaking of which, here's a little piece of late-game advice for anyone who may need it: if you find your interest in the game waning during any of its last three chapters (six, seven and eight), I'd highly recommend skipping the aforementioned boss battles--the optional ones, I mean--and instead focusing simply on what's required of you to complete them.

(To read some of my earlier impressions of Bravely Default, by the way, check out a few of my most recent "Shall We Do It?" posts. Also, keep an eye out for a "Great Gaymathon" review of the game that will be published in the next week or so.)

In other news, I also beat Yoshi's New Island last week after putting about 13 hours into it.

I'd like to save most of my comments about this just-released 3DS platformer for the review I'll be publishing early next week, but one basic thing I'd like to get off my chest here is that, in the end, I personally found Yoshi's New Island to be a worthy-enough successor to the original Yoshi's Island.

The key for me was that Yoshi's New Island was, for the most part, a lot of fun to play. Plus, I found its graphical stylings to be more than pleasant (and really, really well done in certain areas) and I even liked its laid-back soundtrack.

So, my recommendation to folks who are on the fence when it comes to this game: if you liked the SNES original, I'd at least consider picking up New Island if you're in the market for a 3DS platformer. And if you've never played Yoshi's Island? Again, I'd say that if you're in the mood for a platformer and you own a 3DS, you should at least consider giving it a try.

Just don't go into Yoshi's New Island thinking it's a cakewalk, because it isn't. Yes, it's easy to breeze through a good number of stages, but if you're playing the game as it's meant to be played--which means you're aiming to find and collect all of the flowers, red coins and stars hidden away in each level--you'll likely find it sufficiently challenging.

Now that I'm done with Bravely Default and Yoshi's New Island, which games am I calling on to fill whatever free time I have at the moment? One of them is Rusty's Real Deal Baseball, that Nintendo-made eShop-only title that was announced a few months back.

In case this is the first you've heard of it, Rusty's Real Deal Baseball is a free-to-play (initially, at least) compilation of baseball-themed mini-games. Basically. That's selling the title short, though, as along with all of the (very fun, in that "just one more try" kind of way that's surprisingly similar to Nintendo's Rhythm Heaven/Tengoku titles) mini-games that are packed into Real Deal Baseball there's an oddly and sometimes uncomfortably dark story that holds everything together as well as a similarly strange haggling aspect that comes into play whenever you decide to buy any of the 10 in-game "4DS" cartridges (each of which contain an assortment of unique mini-games).

Don't worry if some or all of the above doesn't make sense. The point I'm trying to make is that there's more to Rusty's than a couple of baseball-themed mini-games.

Anyway, I've handed over about $4 of real money in order to buy two of Rusty's in-game 4DS carts, "Bat & Switch--Hitting" and "Cage Match--Hitting," and I've devoted quite a bit of time to both of them thus far. Each in-game cartridge features a bevy of "challenges," by the way--as in, about 50. All of the challenges included in a particular cart (such as "Bat & Switch--Hitting") are similar to each other, but they also differ enough that it never feels like you're just doing the same thing over and over again.

One thing I think I should mention here: I'm not a baseball fan. At all. In fact, although I'm an athletic person, the only sport I care about in real life is tennis. Given that, I think it's kind of cool that I'm enjoying Rusty's as much as I currently am. In fact, I'm enjoying it so much that I'll very likely buy all of its in-game carts in the coming weeks. (Which should wind up costing me about $16, if what I've read on the Internet is true.)

Does that mean I think you, too, should spend $4, $8 or even $16 on this title? I'm not sure, to be completely honest. Thankfully, anyone can go and download the base game for free, so I'd highly recommend doing just that, if you're curious, and then playing through the six or so challenges that are unlocked from the outset. If you enjoy them, haggle with Rusty and buy the full version of "Bat & Switch--Hitting" from him after you've gotten him down to $2. From there, you should be able to decide for yourself if the rest of the content is worth your hard-earned money or not.

Even if you end up feeling like the game just isn't for you, though, the most you'll be out is a couple of bucks. So, what have you got to lose?

Last, but not least, I also started playing Etrian Odyssey IV on Wednesday--in large part so I could support my friend Anne's "Atlus Community Game-Along" event. So far, though, all I've done is create a "guild" and name a handful of party members (all after classic Final Fantasy characters, of course), so I can't say much about the experience right now. I promise to spend some more time with it this coming weekend, though, and report on any and all progress I've made next week.

In the meantime, which games are all of you playing right now, and are you enjoying them?

See also: previous 'Shall We Do it?' posts

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