*This review originally appeared at wizarddojo.com*
Appeasing the gods…
God of War will stand as one of greatest reinventions in gaming history, breathing distilled life into a dormant franchise and reconstructing the preconceived notions of an established anti-hero. God of War is a brilliant thought piece that blissfully ripens with each passing moment, embodying the very foundation of the snowball effect. Its true brilliance lies within the sum of its parts and how each element is seamlessly weaved to craft an impeccably paced experience that rivals the meteoric heights of literature’s finest. Each exceptional element stands audaciously on its own but are beautifully accentuated as an ensemble, personifying a melodic orchestra of sorts. From its profound deconstruction of the familiar, redefinition of established characters, and completely revamped combat system, God of War is a blissful experience that constantly evolves and is exquisitely surprising. Its effortless transition from tranquil exposition to impeccably constructed gameplay is a pristine work of art, encompassing its creative theme of seamless harmony. Whether if you bask in the glory of its exceptionally gorgeous world, delve into the tantalizing water of its Norse mythology, deviate the beaten path in a rewarding sense of exploration and discovery, or partake in one of the most brutally satisfying combat systems to ever grace the medium, no single piece of the puzzle ever outshines God of War’s greatest triumph: its poignant story of paternal love, acceptance, discovery, and redemption. God of War is indicative to the strength of the single-player experience and their importance to this growing infrastructure, a bold proclamation to their sense of hopeful permanence. Its enriching sense and scale of world building, level design, and creative direction is an exceptional achievement that rightfully surpasses the likes of anything that came before it. God of War is a masterpiece in every meaning of the word, as it impeccably redefines the conventions of this established series, crafting a new powerful identity that is quintessentially more resonant and accessible, all of which is captured in one continuous camera shot of glory.
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A “bona fide, Monafied” masterpiece
While my thoughts on the Shin-Megami subseries may emit a questionable sense of bias, piercing through any form of clouded judgment was surprisingly trivial as Persona 5 is an absolute delight, regardless of my attachment to the series. As I’ve mentioned profusely, Persona 4 Golden is my favourite video game of all-time, and my biased standpoint stems from the sheer fact that this experience saved my life. With that rather audacious statement declared, expectations for its sequel were undoubtedly and unfairly monumental; Persona 4 was an enlightening experience that impeccably resonated with every beat of my contemporary life at that point in time. Persona 5 is not nearly as masterful as its predecessor, but one must understand that it was never going to be nor does it need to be. Persona 5 is an intricately designed experience that exudes an unparalleled aura of stylistic charm, with its immaculate presentation placed in a profound echelon of its own. While its pivotal narrative lacks the grave and brutal nature of its predecessor, it still manages to weave elements of moral intensity, corruption, unity and friendship, throwing in plenty of twists and turns that construct a sound and compelling narrative that is arguable the best in the series. While dozens of returning elements foster the core structure that we’ve come to expect, welcome new additions are added into the mix to create the most streamlined, accessible, and smooth Persona experience to date. Character development and gameplay are seamlessly entwined with each element inherently affecting the other, the simplistically complex battle-system is a refined work of art that bears an untouched stylistic aesthetic, and the excellent new Mementos system provides a refreshing approach to longevity and level grinding, justifying its questionable existence. While Persona 5’s characters aren’t nearly as endearing as the exquisite cast of Persona 4 and the typical sense of dread and impending doom is questionably absent for most of the journey, Persona 5 is undoubtedly the most polished entry in the series as its intricately designed gameplay systems and captivating narrative points are stellar examples of this genre’s iconic framework and impressive capability. It might not be the life-changing experience that its older brother delivered, but Persona 5 is an excellent standalone experience that is extraordinarily gratifying for all who wish to partake in this exquisite journey – it is a bona fide masterpiece.
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A revitalizing surge of energy to an old, but beloved franchise.
The Playstation 4 remake/reimagining of 2002’s Ratchet & Clank is an exceptionally gorgeous painting in motion which re-establishes the series’ initial quirky charm and personality. Not only is Ratchet & Clank arguably the best game in the series – I’d have to replay A Crack in Time to truly weigh in on the superior title – but it’s also my second favourite Playstation 4 exclusive, trailing right behind the impeccable Bloodborne. While the game may trail on the safe and familiar in some regards, it ultimately adds a wide array of new variations which weren’t present in the 2002 original, resulting in an engaging experience for both veterans and newcomers alike. What Ratchet & Clank on the PS4 ultimately does is reassure the gaming community that the dynamic duo are still relevant and not only justifying exist in the modern era of gaming, but stand its ground amongst the robust quality of the eighth generation as Ratchet & Clank is a stellar experience that is arguably the greatest game that Insomniac has ever dished out.
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Obvious spoiler warning for Uncharted 2 and the series as a whole. You have been warned…
In honor of the successful reception and recent admiration of Uncharted: The Nathan Drake Collection, it felt appropriate to relay my thoughts on, what is easily, one of the greatest and my own personal favourite video game series of all time. More accurately, however, I’d like to dissect the unanimous favourite of the trilogy, Uncharted 2: Among Thieves, which also happens to be my preferred entry and unsurprisingly, one of my favourite games of all time. Originally released back in 2009, Uncharted 2: Among Thieves arguably set a golden standard for action-adventure as its impeccable pacing, jaw-dropping set pieces, and exquisite character development were second to none, mirroring that pristine joy of a thrilling, quality summer blockbuster. The original’s under-performances and limitations are largely responsible for its sequel’s success as expectations regarding Uncharted 2 were manifested with the original being the standard. Naughty Dog desecrated its initial standard and unfathomably exceeded expectations, improving on every minute detail that the original Uncharted crafted, outclassing it in every way imaginable. Uncharted 2 is the renowned example of how to make a proper sequel; improving and expanding on the initial formula, catering to what exactly made the original so beloved, and never giving into the fear of working with the safe and familiar, upping the ante ten fold if needed. Uncharted 2: Among Thieves exceeded its brethren in terms of sheer scope, fantastic writing along with the exceptional development of their beloved characters, impeccable pacing that’s second to none, its gorgeously cinematic world that raised the bar for graphical possibilities, its bombastically iconic soundtrack, and riveting expedition that boasts a mirroring quality to some of Indiana Jones’ finest work. Even though Uncharted 2 is a masterpiece, it is by no means a perfect game; there are actually several inconsistencies that are notable to say the least, and although they never detract from the masterful experience that is Uncharted 2, they’re still prominent factors that ultimately make Uncharted 2 a flawed masterpiece.
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Classic corner will be a recurring segment where I’ll either re-experience or inaugurally play a classic title and give my thoughts and impressions. Does the game still hold up after all these years? Does the game rightfully deserve its critical acclaim or animosity? Read more to find out!
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Shovel Knight, for the most, has been widely acclaimed by both critics and fans alike, praising its nostalgic 8-Bit graphical approach and its heavy influence from NES games, specifically the Mega Man series and Super Mario Bros 3. Many have addressed their concerns on Shovel Knight’s clear grasp on nostalgia, and how it doesn’t necessarily provide anything new and primarily rides off of the nostalgia alone. As someone who grew up exclusively playing the original PlayStation and have never owned a NES or SNES, I can deliver a warranted slice of perspective. Shovel Knight is not revolutionary by any stretch of the imagination, and most definitely rides off of nostalgia, but none of these are necessarily a bad thing. I, for one, am not playing the game with tinted goggles as I never grew up in the 8 and 16 bit era of gaming, so no nostalgic flashbacks to Mega Man or Castlevania will ever resonate in my obscure mind. Despite all of this, I am happy to report that I absolutely adore Shovel Knight and if I had played it during its original release last year, it would’ve made its mark on my top 10 games of 2014. Shovel Knight is exceptionally charming, wholeheartedly addicting, and reasonably challenging; its 8-bit art style and sound direction are undoubtedly nostalgic, but that doesn’t detract from its overall presentational quality. Regardless of its nostalgic factor, Shovel Knight is a lovely bite-sized experience that shouldn’t be missed.
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As we come to the end of the first quarter of 2015, a moment of reflection is in order. I’ll primarily be focusing on Sony and their current lineup and affairs. After the recent announcement of Uncharted 4’s delay to Spring 2016, the first thought that came to mind was: “is Sony in trouble?”
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Your wish has been granted
As an on and off fan of the Dragon Ball series, I must say that Dragon Ball: Xenoverse was nowhere on my radar. I loved the anime series growing up as a kid, and I loved the original Budokai series on PlayStation 2; it’s safe to assume that I was an avid fan growing up, but as the years past, I grew out of my Dragon Ball obsession. The last Dragon Ball game I played was Dragon Ball Z: Budokai 3, which is still in my opinion the best Dragon Ball game, I wasn’t a fan of the 3D combat that Budokai Tenkaichi implemented. A decade, and a dozen mediocre DBZ games later, Dimps (the original Budokai development team) have released Dragon Ball Xenoverse: the first entry on current-gen platforms and a step in the right direction. Xenoverse is a breath of fresh air and gives new life to this aging franchise. Xenoverse introduces a plethora of new implementations to spice up the formula. The online integration is clearly inspired by MMO’s, similar to the HUB world of Destiny as players can interact with one another and recruit others to tackle parallel quests (side missions). The character/skill customization and leveling system are very RPG-esque and cater to the addictive quality of level grinding and rare equipment/skill drops. Xenoverse is the best DBZ game I’ve played in a very long time, but it is by no means a perfect game. There is plenty of room for improvement. Continue reading “Dragon Ball: Xenoverse Review”