Saturday, April 02, 2016

What a difference a vacation makes (or, impressions of the Bravely Second demo, Final Fantasy Explorers, Return to PopoloCrois, Witch & Hero II, Yo-Kai Watch and more)

I don't know how many of you noticed, but I haven't played too many games over the last few months.

That wasn't because of anything negative or dramatic, mind you. Mainly, it was because I just "wasn't in the mood."

You know how it is sometimes, I'm sure. Thanks to trying to fit a whole bunch of things into a single day or week--my day job, freelance gigs, maintaining this blog, making dinner, exercise and more--I had a hard time mustering the energy and even the interest required to properly dive into any of the many games that are hidden throughout my house at the moment.

All of the above came to a halt when my husband and I went to California for vacation a couple of weeks ago. While there, I spent a surprising amount of time playing the handful of games (and demos) name-checked above and detailed below.

I've played each of the following for more than three hours so far, by the way--well, with the exception of the Project X Zone 2 demo, which I blew through it about 45 minutes.

Bravely Second (demo)--To be completely honest, I dreaded starting this demo. Online impressions of the Japanese and European versions of the full game left me assuming it would pale in comparison to its mostly awesome (in my humble opinion, of course) precursor. Although that may prove to be the case after I tackle the retail release, this demo currently has me in good spirits. It's gorgeous as all get-out, naturally, but that's just the icing on the case as far as I'm concerned. Far more important to me is that the characters are likable and the battles are just as engaging as they were in Bravely Default.

Final Fantasy Explorers--Here's another game I didn't expect to enjoy. I put an hour or two into its Japanese demo ages ago and walked away from it thinking it was little better than ho-hum. Still, I bought a physical copy of the North American release basically to prove to the powers that be at Square Enix there are plenty of people who'd like them to localize their 3DS titles for Western markets. So, imagine my surprise when I found myself having a blast with this Monster Hunter wannabe (although Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles wannabe might be a more accurate description). I can see how its gameplay could become stale over time, but for now I like its focus on fetch quests, its varied environments and its nostalgia-satisfying selection of enemies.

Project X Zone 2: Brave New World (demo)--Of all the games and demos I've spent time with in the last few weeks, Project X Zone 2 was the most disappointing. By far. That's not to say I hated every one of the 45 or so minutes I put into it, mind you. Actually, I found its fight scenes to be pretty thrilling--if far from "deep." They weren't enough to make me want to track down a boxed (or even digital) copy, though. Project X Zone 2's ridiculous wordiness has something to do with that, I'm sure, as does the confusing nature of its battles. (Yes, the latter are exhilarating, but only to a point--mainly because they feel very random and button-mashy.)

Return to PopoloCrois: A Story of Seasons Fairytale--This is the first of all the titles mentioned here that I stuck into my trusty 3DS while traveling to California. Curiously, I liked it so much early on that I thought I'd play little else during my trip. In reality, I gave three hours to it, found it "nice enough" (far from great, in other words) and then moved on to something else. (Final Fantasy Explorers was next up, I believe.) Don't worry, I'll circle back to it soon, and I plan to finish it at some point. Still, I'd be lying if I said it's blown me away up to now. I'm not entirely sure why that is, though I have a feeling its rather dull battles are largely to blame. Here's hoping things pick up in that regard after I return to it.

Witch & Hero 2--Although I put about two hours into the Japanese version of this game in the days following its release, I felt a little out of sorts during that time. I guess the new gameplay "hook"--you can move the witch as well as the hero in the sequel--really threw me for a loop at first. Thankfully, I've felt a lot more comfortable while making my way through the first 26 or so stages of the North American iteration. Being able to control both characters is a nice addition, by the way, as are the new tunes, locales and baddies. What isn't so nice is that, after the Witch & Hero II's tough opening salvo, the journey veers toward cakewalk territory.

Yo-Kai Watch--I've looked forward to playing Level-5's Pokémon competitor in a language I fully understand since the first game hit the streets of Japan back in 2013. Because of that, I fully expected the final, localized product to let me down. Guess what? It hasn't. Yo-Kai Watch is as charming as can be--from its setting, to its soundtrack, to its characters (including the titular ghoulies), to its battles. The latter really have me by the short and curlies right now, I've got to say--even though the associated micro-games probably make me look silly during my morning and afternoon commutes. The side-eyes are worth it, though, because the just-mentioned mini-games add some much-needed zip to an RPG component that's more often than not bored me in recent years.

See also: all of my 'Shall We Do It?' posts

No comments: