Operation Backlog Completion 2017
Nov 062017
 

Until this year, I never paid much attention to the Persona series. In fact, I left Persona 5 off of my 2015 list of upcoming turn-based RPGs, despite it being a huge turn-based JRPG fans were looking forward to.

But once Persona 5 came out and people began raving over what an excellent game it was, I decided to give it a try. And you know what? Persona 5 is definitely an excellent JRPG.

First of all, I’m just delighted that at a time when many people claim only action RPGs sell (despite Pokémon’s unending success) and series like Final Fantasy have backed away from turn-based combat, Persona 5 is a big-name JRPG with an enjoyable turn-based combat system.

Unlike a lot of turn-based RPGs where basic battles generally come down to using your basic attack over and over, it’s important to make use of elemental weaknesses in Persona 5. Hitting an enemy’s weak point stuns them and lets you attack again–and the same goes if they hit your weak point.

If you incapacitate all of the enemies in the battle, you have a chance to negotiate with them. This was fun. Instead of just beating your enemies, you could ask them for money or an item, or talk them into joining your team.

Fighting through dungeons and recruiting Shadows is only one side of the gameplay, however. In between dungeons, you have a lot of time to go through your daily life. Along with spending time with your friends to improve your bonds (one of the most important and enjoyable parts of the game), there were lots of activities to do: reading, studying, fishing, watching movies, playing games, etc. These activities use up time, however, so you aren’t able to do everything.

(Normally I dislike games with time limits and such, but Persona 5’s time passes when you complete activities, not in real-time. Since I could wander to my heart’s content without risking the deadline, it was much more relaxing.)

It’s difficult for me to say which side of the gameplay was more enjoyable. In the end, I have to say both, with how they fit together. The dungeons wouldn’t carry it on their own, but the daily life sections wouldn’t hold up as well without the dungeons in between. It’s a great system that really made it addicting to play.

And best of all, it’s heavily story-driven.

I play RPGs for their stories, and Persona 5 did not disappoint. I feel like it’s rare to have a 100+ hour RPG that’s this focused on stories and characters (usually that much time comes from lots of exploration or grinding), but Persona 5 pulled it off.

The story was filled with thrilling, epic moments, and as the stakes got ever higher, I was excited to see what would happen next. There were also lighter scenes and lots of funny moments, and I loved the characters.

Increasing my bonds with my confidants provided many entertaining moments and enjoyable characters arcs, with some parts that were funny and others that were sad. When the end of the game finally approached, I felt sad saying goodbye to these characters I’d grown so fond of.

I’m not saying Persona 5 is a perfect game. The main character seemed like they weren’t sure if they wanted a self-insert/blank slate character or a set protagonist, resulting in someone who came across as a set protagonist whose pre-determined personality involved him rarely speaking and having very little internal monologue. At that point, why not just give him a fuller personality and dialogue?

There were also some tonal inconsistencies from time to time, and I cringed every time one of the characters said something about “those rotten adults.” It felt like it was trying to push a “teens vs. adults” idea that wasn’t as present in the narrative as those line made it sound.

But those are just minor quibbles. Overall, Persona 5 was a fantastic game filled with exciting moments, and I’m really happy I gave it a chance. I can’t wait to go back and try more games in the Persona series after this!

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Oct 302017
 

The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask is often referred to as the “dark” Legend of Zelda game, so what better time to look at it than during our celebration of all spooky and creepy games?

(Plus, I finished it yesterday.)

I never played Majora’s Mask when it originally came out, so I was thrilled by the announcement of Majora’s Mask 3D. Several friends warned me it could get repetitive, but I suggested it to a friend as a game we should play together in July.

…*looks at date* Okay, so it took a little longer to finish than I expected.

Unfortunately, the reason Majora’s Mask took me so long to complete isn’t just because I somehow put 59 hours into it, but because I often didn’t have the will to play it, at least not for more than one 3-day cycle in-game.

This is not to say I didn’t like Majora’s Mask! I enjoyed several parts of it… mainly when I was doing normal Zelda activities. I liked solving puzzles in the dungeons, I liked playing mini-games, and I liked using the masks, especially the transformation masks.

I also enjoyed the premise and story, although I’d argue that it isn’t nearly as dark of a game as people say. Plenty of dark things happen in the game, but there are dark events in pretty much every Legend of Zelda game. To me, Link’s Awakening is ultimately darker in the end despite its lighter presentation.

Click for Link's Awakening spoiler

But that doesn’t matter. Dark or not, I enjoyed the atmosphere and story of Majora’s Mask.

What I didn’t enjoy was the time mechanic.

I know, the time travel is central to Majora’s Mask. And I like the concept. Make progress, learn new information, get new items, and then reset time to avert the apocalypse while using what you did the previous time to get further.

Yet it leads to so much repetition…

From my understanding, the 3DS version made some of this a lot easier to manage, which I’m grateful for. Even with those changes, I found it annoying to repeat certain things over and over and over, and I was never pleased to run out of time while nearing the end of a dungeon.

I was conflicted going into The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask, and I’m still conflicted now that I’ve finished it. On one hand, I enjoyed several things about it. On the other hand, I found it to be one of the most annoying Zelda games I’ve played. Overall, I think I would have enjoyed it more if it had a similar story but played more like a traditional game in the series.

But that’s just me, and I know this game is beloved by many people. What do you think of Majora’s Mask?

And do you consider it a dark game?

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Oct 232017
 

Alicemare (sometimes written as Alice Mare) is a short, surreal adventure game with a dark fairy tale theme.

It follows a young boy named Allen who finds himself caught in a Dream that lets him explore the hearts of the other children at his new home and learn the secrets of their pasts.

There is an Alice in Wonderland theme that is most apparent at first, but each of the children’s stories follows a different fairy tale that you piece together along the way.

Of course, the stories aren’t exactly like the fairy tales we know. Even once you recognize the fairy tales in question, you might know where they’re going until you finish that character’s story. These stories are largely separate from one another, but they do tie together into Allen’s current journey through the Dream.

The gameplay is primarily puzzle-driven, with some nice riddles as well as item-based puzzles. It’s enjoyable, although the one downside is that examining everything in the area often won’t be good enough to proceed; you need to investigate objects again after checking other objects, including one early area that requires you to inspect objects in a specific order to make the item you need appear.

Alicemare is a short game. A single playthrough lasts about 2 hours, although there are multiple endings.

I wouldn’t call it a horror game, but it definitely has creepy elements… and it’s a dark, sad take on several fairy tales with an intriguing overarching plot.

If you’ve played Alicemare, what did you think of it? What other creepy takes on fairy tales do you enjoy? Let me know in the comments below.

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