Operation Backlog Completion 2018
Dec 222017
 

The final episode of Life Is Strange: Before the Storm is now out. There’s still the bonus episode, but since that isn’t part of the main story, we can consider Before the Storm complete.

In many ways, Before the Storm is a lot different than the original Life is Strange, and not just because the main character is Chloe. It doesn’t have the same intensity and darkness. Before the Storm could be emotional at times, but not in the same overwhelming way as the first game.

At times, it almost feels like more of a slice-of-life story, even though it definitely has some pretty serious moments. The first two episodes were fantastic and really made me excited to learn how everything would come together. Unfortunately, Episode 3 is easily the weakest.

It felt very linear, without a lot of important choices, and while that wouldn’t be bad if it brought everything from the first two episodes together into a solid conclusion, it didn’t quite manage that. It felt like it set things up but then didn’t follow through.

Click for Before the Storm spoilers

And strangely, while Before the Storm is Chloe’s story, it always felt like the story of Chloe and Rachel… until Episode 3, where their friendship takes a backseat to Rachel’s family, and Rachel herself is less present for a lot of the episode.

Still, Before the Storm had some fantastic moments, even if its conclusion wasn’t the best. The tabletop game in Episode 1, the play in Episode 2, most of the dream scenes… it was filled with great moments.

It also feels like a much happier story than the original, despite some emotional moments, as long as you pretend it isn’t a prequel. Since it is a prequel, it’s hard to escape the feeling that no matter what choices you make, you can’t really change anything.

Click for Life Is Strange (both) spoilers

Just like with the original Life Is Strange, the conclusion of Before the Storm feels unsatisfactory and maybe like they intended to do something different and changed their minds near the end. Nevertheless, it still had many good moments and is even a somewhat happy story if you pretend it stands alone!

What did you think about Life Is Strange: Before the Storm?

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Dec 152017
 

From the moment Super Mario Odyssey was announced, I wanted it. I wanted it the moment people caught a glimpse of what appeared to be a Mario 3D platformer in the Switch announcement.

For that matter, I waited through the entire Wii U’s life cycle for a Mario game more in the style of 64/Sunshine/Galaxy, so I’ve been hoping for this game for a long time.

And Super Mario Odyssey did everything I wanted it to do.

This is the sort of 3D platforming I loved in Super Mario 64 and Super Mario Sunshine (and Super Mario Galaxy to a lesser extent). I did miss the sort of hub world Sunshine had, but Odyssey made up for it by giving a lot of worlds almost their own mini-hub areas.

At first I felt like the lack of a hub world made it feel less unified, but once I thought about it, I realized that the worlds in Super Mario Odyssey actually feel more fleshed out and significant than the worlds from the previous games, at least to me. I like this style, and while I still would love a central hub, I want to see more Mario worlds like these in the future.

(And it’s hardly a story-driven game, but it had some entertaining NPCs and I especially enjoyed seeing visitors from one kingdom in another.)

I also loved searching all over each kingdom to collect all the purple coins and using my coins to buy new costumes and decorations for the Odyssey. And of course, it was fun to find Power Moon after Power Moon. There are so many Power Moons!

I wish there were a few more of the “story” Moons with a specific objective, but overall it worked well. A few people have compared Super Mario Odyssey to Banjo-Kazooie and Banjo-Tooie in terms of exploration and getting Moons, and I like that comparison.

Click for Super Mario Odyssey post-game spoiler

Oh, and Super Mario Odyssey also has one of my favorite incarnations of Bowser’s Castle so far.

Really, there’s only one thing about Super Mario Odyssey that disappointed me…

Click for Super Mario Odyssey kingdom spoiler

Oddly enough, capturing things didn’t feel as central to the gameplay as I imagined from the early trailers. It was entertaining, but it felt like just one small tool in a game mainly about exploring, collecting, and completing challenges.

And a game like that is exactly what I wanted from the next 3D Mario game! All in all, Super Mario Odyssey was everything I wanted it to be. Have you played it yet? What did you think?

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Dec 042017
 

Over the weekend, I finished Muv-Luv Alternative, a visual novel I’d been looking forward to ever since playing Muv-Luv Extra and Unlimited last year.

Muv-Luv Alternative is considered by many fans to be one of the greatest visual novels of all time, and I definitely enjoyed my time with it, although it wasn’t perfect.

First, let’s talk about its good points. Muv-Luv Alternative is intense and exciting. I really grew to like the cast of Muv-Luv, and it was wonderful to watch them grow and change.

That applies to the main character more than anyone. In Muv-Luv Extra, Takeru wasn’t the most likable protagonist in the world, but Unlimited and Alternative really helped him shape up into a character I could root for.

Muv-Luv Alternative has a reputation for some hard-hitting scenes, and those scenes did hit very hard. There was one point in particular (you can probably guess which) when I had to take a break and told everyone who would listen to me that this visual novel had gotten very dark and upsetting.

Click for Muv-Luv Alternative spoiler

Another thing Muv-Luv Alternative does well is handle discussions of responsibility, sacrifice, and human nature. It’s a grim world where people are still fighting each other even though humanity is on the brink of extinction. And you know, whenever someone claims an alien invasion would make everyone forget their differences and unite, I have to wonder if it would really be like that. Muv-Luv says no.

It’s not happy, but it’s realistic, and Muv-Luv Alternative deals with this idea well.

Overall, it was great. I felt some of the action scenes could drag on a little longer than they had to, but I always wanted to see what was coming next.

And that actually ties into the major thing I disliked about Muv-Luv Alternative: when I finished, I still wanted to see what was coming next. The ending felt abrupt, not a satisfactory conclusion so much as a story wrapped up before it was really over.

I didn’t mind the ending itself, like some fans do. It wasn’t perfect, but I thought it was a pretty good conclusion… it just didn’t feel like it was time yet.

To explain in a little more detail without any spoilers, if it had ended the way it did, but without the epilogue scene, it would have felt like perfect ending to lead into another sequel. With the epilogue, however, it’s clearly a conclusion, but without actually being done.

Click for Muv-Luv Alternative spoiler

Still, it’s pretty positive when the worst criticism you have a of a story is that there should have been more. I don’t consider Muv-Luv Alternative’s ending to be a satisfying conclusion to the saga, but I did enjoy my overall journey with this visual novel. Overall, I felt a lot like I did when I finished Steins;Gate 0: a great story that didn’t come together as tightly as I’d hoped.

If you’ve played/read Muv-Luv Alternative, how did you feel about the ending? Are there any side stories that expand on the part in my spoiler tags? Let me know your thoughts in the comments.

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