Thursday, February 26, 2015

\\ Oh, The Places You'll Go: Hohokum Review //

This article contains spoilers of certain locations in the game "Hohokum" by Honeyslug and Sony Santa Monica, published by Sony Computer Entertainment. Played on PlayStation 4.

Hohokum is a game about exploration, not only of physical worlds, but of raw feelings, broad emotional states of being, and mental machinations. It’s a beautiful game which eschews conventional wisdom and embraces the pushback. It’s of little surprise that I find Hohokum to be one of the best games of 2014.

Monday, February 23, 2015

\\ A Turn for the Worst: Japanese RPG's //

Japanese Role-Playing Games (JRPG’s) have long been a point of much frustration, anxiety, and sadness for me, a genre which I felt unable to meaningfully parse. In my younger days as a child, I found them simply boring, yet was never able to understand why; I always felt that there was some key ingredient I was missing, as my monthly Nintendo Power subscription often reassured me that games like Chrono Trigger, Secrets of Mana, Final Fantasy, and Skies of Arcadia were “true” classics. I read in GamePro and on IGN of the “greatest games of all time” like Final Fantasy VII, Xenogears, Suikoden, Earthbound. I gathered tales of hours lost, classes skipped, life opportunities missed, all in drawn-out anticipation of meeting Sephiroth in battle, of saving the world from Gyorg, of travelling through time with Crono and crew. Sure, I loved Pok√©mon as much as the next elementary school student, battling and trading our beloved creatures together on the playground and in cramped bedrooms after school, but that was purely tradition of bygone years.

Yet as my love of games proved to persevere, so too did my disdain for JRPG’s. In 2006, with the release of Kingdom Hearts II, I had finally found a JRPG that sucked me in when I bought it on a whim. What perplexed me was that, finally, there came along a JRPG that instantly fired all synapses for me. I cared not that I hadn’t played the original; in fact, that actually contributed to my taking a liking to Kingdom Hearts II. From the moment you begin the game, and the animation set to Hikaru Utada singing her song, “Sanctuary” plays, my young mind is filled with intrigue. When the introductory cutscenes featuring mysterious robed figures finishes, and the controls are handed to I, the player, I’m instantly confused by the protagonist I’m at the reigns of, that of Roxas.

While Kingdom Hearts II has a bit of a slow start, it does a good job of quickly introducing the player to its mechanics, by way of having the player attempt to keep a beach ball in the air with a stick, instead of with a Keyblade to the Heartless. It’s an attempt at world-building, and a cute one that I appreciate to this day, at that. But more importantly, what the game is doing is communicating to the player the general flow and style of the gameplay. It is saying that this Final Fantasy and Disney aesthetic fusion hosts an action game, not the turn-based systems dictating much of Square-Enix’s past efforts.