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SoulCalibur VI

I posted a while back about the announcement and a few character reveals for SoulCalibur VI, which I was super stoked for! It was the first game I’ve preordered and actually bought for myself in a long, long time. Now that I’ve played through it a bit, I’m coming back for a full review!

SoulCalibur VI takes us back to the stage of history – the original stage of history, as chronologically it takes place before/during the first game. We have the original roster back, plus some characters introduced in later games who make sense for a prequel. Geralt from the Witcher series serves as our guest character. I believe this was done because of the negative reception of SoulCalibur V, which introduced mostly new characters who were the children or protégés of main roster characters. The new characters in SoulCalibur V, especially the protagonists, were written poorly and were very one-dimensional. In addition, the story was rushed and much too short.

Both these issues have been addressed here in SoulCalibur VI!

(Heads up: After that last paragraph I’m going to refer to any SoulCalibur game by their abbreciated SCV, SCVI, etc… it’s just so long to type! X,D)

There are two quite beefy story modes for SCVI. One, called “Libra of Soul”, plays like an RPG. You create a character and play through your own SoulCalibur story, making choices that “weigh” your soul on a set of scales. Your scale can tip towards good or evil depending on the choices you make, and affects the story as you go forward. Pretty standard RPG stuff, but we haven’t seen anything like this in a SC game before, and it’s pretty neat! The most comparable would be the “Chronicles of the Sword” mode from SCIII, but that was more of a strategy mode than an RPG (if I remember right!).

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The “Libra of Soul” map.

The second story mode is “Chronicle of Souls,” which is more of a “traditional” SC story mode. You choose a character and play through their story! It is more beefed up than in the past, and laid out in a big timeline so you can see how your favorite characters’ stories overlap and interact within the bigger picture. It’s a nice quality of life feature that I really enjoy.

One thing I don’t like about the new story modes is the lack of cinematic cutscenes. I’ve so far come across none at all in “Libra of Soul” (at about 6 hours of gameplay) and only two in the few “Chronicle of Soul” stories I’ve played. Many of your interactions are only through text, or voiceovers with subtitles, with character profiles or illustrations, even for very dramatic scenes. After most of SCV‘s story mode was conveyed with what looked like unfinished concept art and voiceover with subtitles, it leaves a bit of a bad taste in my mouth. At least the art used in SCVI is much more polished, which helps. The few cutscenes I’ve seen in both story modes look so good, I can’t help wishing for more.

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A typical dialogue in “Chronicle of Souls” mode, this one between Maxi (left) and Mitsurugi (right).

As far as gameplay goes, it hasn’t changed much. They did add two new features to combat. The first is “Reversal Edge,” in which you hold down R1 (PS4) or RB (XBO) to initiate what is essentially a “Paper, Scissors, Rock” interaction with your opponent. There is a slo-mo moment in combat while you and your opponent choose your attack: Vertical, Horizontal, or Kick. Vertical beats Horizontal, Horizontal beats Kick, and Kick beats Vertical. Guess right, and you deal a bit more damage than normal and look super cool doing it! Guess wrong, and you take a bit more damage than usual. If you’ve played the Injustice games and entered a “Clash,” the mechanics are the same. It’s a way to introduce an element of chance to an otherwise skill-oriented game.

The second new combat feature (they liked doing things in twos this time!) is the “Critical Edge” move. This is a character’s signature super-powerful move. This really isn’t new, as past games have had it, but it is much easier to implement in this game. As you fight, your “Soul Gauge” increases. Once it fills, you press one button to unleash your Critical Edge. In past games, triggering it was a string of button inputs that’s impossible for me to master! I like this game’s execution much better ;D

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A Reversal Edge buildup between Sophitia (left) and Mitsurugi (right).

Visually, the game is stunning. The SoulCalibur series has very real roots in history, but has touches of fantasy that, to me, comes through in the art style. The stages, backgrounds, and characters are life-like but have something of an ethereal quality. No matter the game, each character looks polished and fresh-faced. Each stage looks of this world, and yet not. Maybe from a world like ours, but not our world exactly. This installment in the series is no exception.

I am very much enjoying the game, especially after I was so disappointed with SCV (save the character creation and Ezio from the Assassin’s Creed series being the guest character!). My favorite character, Cassandra, is not part of the roster this time around. I surprised myself by choosing her older sister and series staple Sophitia over Talim, who I feel is my second best character, first time I popped in my disk. I’m decent enough with Sophitia in past games – Cassandra’s fighting style is derivative of Sophitia’s, but much faster, and I prefer speed to heavy hitting – but I don’t really go out of my way to play as Sophitia.

Somehow, for some reason, in SCVI, Sophitia just CLICKED for me. I feel like I finally got over a roadblock that had been previously holding me back. I understand her flow now, and I never could before. I had always thought of her style as “not Cassandra”… when really, Cassandra’s style is “not Sophitia”! It genuinely had never occurred to me that Sophitia’s style was her own until this game. I’m curious now to go back to previous games to see if they changed something with her between SCIV and SCVI, or if I truly do understand her style now. I can’t believe it took my favorite character’s absence to realize it! I am hoping Cassandra comes out as a DLC character, but for now… I’m content with my new favorite, Sophitia ❤

– Kathleen

Bandai Namco. SoulCalibur VI. 2018.

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My girl Sophitia! ❤
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Harry Potter: Hogwarts Mystery

Now that I’ve played through about half the story, and some new features have been released, I’m back to write a full review! I said in my First Impressions post that there was some things I was happy with in the first 2ish hours of the game, and some things I wasn’t. Unfortunately, that proved to hold true the more I played =(

The setting (pre-books) is definitely interesting. The player meets younger versions of familiar characters we know and love, though there are plenty of new characters too, which is a fun new way to engage with the series. You get to make friends with both old and new faces. You can interact with your friends and level up your friendship cards by having a meal with them, challenging them to a game of Gobstones, and starting with Year 3, buying them a mug of Butterbeer. It’s always a quiz to test your Potter knowledge, and the questions and answers are always the same. It gets quite repetitive.

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Sharing a Butterbeer with your friend Tulip Karuso, a new character.

The classes are repetitive as well. Certain lessons are required to be completed to advance the story, but to unlock THOSE, you need to attend the same class until you get enough stars to unlock it. For example, to unlock Transfiguration’s Mouse to Snuffbox, you need to attend Transfiguration class and complete a lesson you’ve already learned to earn stars. Earning 7 stars will unlock the new lesson. You do level up your attributes this way (Courage, Knowledge, or Empathy, depending on the class), but again, it gets very repetitive very fast. And the lessons follow the same format: clicking on active blue objects, using energy, answering questions or tracing a path on the screen whenever you earn a star, waiting for your energy to refill, rinse and repeat.

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A Potions lesson. You click the active blue objects to “interact” with them, thus losing energy. For each interaction you complete, you fill up the star meter at the top. You finish the class when you get 5/5 stars.

Are you sensing a pattern here? =P

The story… I didn’t quite care for it. I found myself looking forward to the side quests more than actually advancing the main story. The side quests are things like helping your friends brew potions, meeting Hagrid and puppy! Fang, and even assisting with romantic endeavors. These made the game feel more like an authentic Hogwarts experience. The main story shoehorns you into chasing Cursed Vaults to find your missing sibling, whether or not you want to. Call me crazy, but I don’t want to! I just want to learn to be a witch!! I thought having the story set before Harry showed up was to have a nice, quiet, 7 years at Hogwarts!!! I was so wrong 😭

I’ve played it pretty irregularly for a few weeks now because I’ve grown bored with it. The new features they’ve added, such as pets and star dashes for exclusive avatar items, isn’t enough to save it for me. It’s certainly an RPG, but a very closed one. The main story is too rigid to allow the story to unfold your way, unlike other RPGs I’ve played. The side quests are what made it fun for me; they allowed for more fun and a Hogwarts experience more like what I had hoped for. I’ll just have to hold out and save up for a second phone for Harry Potter: Wizards Unite for a Potter mobile game I’ll enjoy more.

– Kathleen

Kingdom Hearts III Release Date

Finally… we have a date! January 25th, 2019!!! Check out the E3 trailer below!

This game has been in the works for years, and rumored for even longer. They have totally ratcheted up the gameplay with new summons, drive moves, and, of course, worlds and characters. It all looks so polished and clean… I’m in awe. The world I’m most looking forward to Toy Story! My sisters and I all loved Toy Story when we were kids, so having it introduced in my favorite video game series is very exciting!

Even more than that, I am so ecstatic to see the return of Organization XIII!!! They are honestly my favorite part of the series. I love villains that are written as ambiguously as they are – they make you question whether or not they’re truly evil. I hope the writing for this installment is as good as it has been in the past, flashy features aside.

I know I shouldn’t complain, but… I am not amused by how many Pixar worlds they have chosen to include in the game. Call me old-fashioned, but I miss my traditional hand-drawn animation, dang it! As cool as showcasing all the new movies are, dusting off a few classics (besides Mount Olympus – been there, done that) would have been welcome, too *grumble grumble*

Despite my complaint, I am very much looking forward to it! GameStop is going to be taking a huge chunk of my money come fall… I’m gonna need to make more money! =P

– Kathleen

Spyro: Reignited Trilogy

One thing I don’t think I’ve told you guys: I LOVE Spyro the Dragon.

Not that Skylanders crap, though. Jeez, they made him UGLY. That shouldn’t have been possible, and yet they managed to do it. No, when I say I LOVE Spyro the Dragon (yes, it must always been in caps), I mean I’m a Spyro purist. Original trilogy plus Enter the Dragonfly because it was the first one I ever played. It doesn’t live up to the original trilogy, but has a special place in my heart nonetheless. As a wee lass, I was captivated by the bright candy colors, the phenomenal music, the way every unique level was infused with obvious love, and of course, by our favorite wise-cracking purple dragon and his sparkly dragonfly sidekick. Though I’ve replayed them many times over, and I didn’t get 100% in the first game until I was already an adult (thanks, Tree Tops), they have never lost their charm for me.

So you can imagine me, a woman in my mid-20s, learning they’re going to remake the series, and that it will be available this fall, and bursting into tears of joy. Watch the trailer below!

As you can see, they are completely revamping it. All the models and levels have been reworked, updated, and in HD. I don’t mind at all that it looks different – my mind knows it is, but in my heart, it looks exactly the way it looked to me as a child. They couldn’t have done better than that ❤

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I know this news is a little old, but they announced one more thing yesterday that I just had to share…

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He’s getting a Funko Pop figurine!!! LOOK HOW CUTE HE IS!!!!!! I LOVE HIM 😭😭😭

Man, this is a great year of gaming for me. We’ve gotten more news about Kingdom Hearts III than the past 13 years combined, SoulCalibur VI is getting the original roster back, and now a Spyro remake. My inner middle-schooler is sobbing with joy… okay… it’s me on the outside too…

Kathleen

Harry Potter: Hogwarts Mystery – First Impressions

Hogwarts Mystery, as detailed in my last post, is the new Harry Potter mobile game that was released yesterday. I’ve been grinding hard in PoGo all week in preparation for my first ex raid on Sunday to catch Mewtwo, but of course I had to download Hogwarts Mystery and see if it lived up to the hype 😉

It started out as promised. A cutscene of Professor McGonagall writing your acceptance letter begins the game. Players get to create their own student with a character customization screen. Your character then lands in Diagon Alley to shop for books and school supplies. You meet Rowan, a fellow first-year like yourself, who guides you through the tutorial. Then, it’s off to Hogwarts for the Sorting Ceremony, the start of your first year, and the rest of your journey! Will you live up to your older sibling’s reputation, or create an entirely new one for yourself?

The titular “mystery” revolves around your older sibling, and that’s all I’m going to say about that 😉 Characters perceive you based on the reputation your sibling left behind. You have choices on how to respond when NPCs talk to you. Responding in different ways will level up your Courage, Empathy, or Knowledge scores, which will affect the way your story unfolds. Different spells and potions are unlocked and created by attending class, tapping active objects (those that glow blue), and then tracing a path on the screen to cast the spell or finish the potion. In this regard, the gameplay is simple and intuitive, but doesn’t leave much room for error or experimentation as it would if you were really at school. I don’t think I’ve finished the tutorial yet, but the story so far is also very linear. I haven’t had a chance to explore Hogwarts yet, which is something I had been looking forward to. Perhaps I’ll get a chance to later in the story.

There is a huge let-down right off the bat. I had been assuming that your wand and House assignation would be determined by a quiz, like in Pottermore. I was sooo wrong. You are assigned a wand based on a single dialogue exchange with Ollivander, and you choose your own House. I remember taking the Pottermore quizzes with great care and anticipation, wanting my wand to perfectly reflect my personality and crossing my fingers for Hufflepuff. I remember being elated when my wand came out perfectly, when I was indeed sorted into Hufflepuff. Being assigned one thing and choosing the other felt like being cheated out of that experience. I can see why they did it that way – it moved the beginning along quickly, and some players might have deleted the game had they not gotten the wand/House they wanted. However, they could have made shorter, easier quizzes that players could get through quickly, and made the answers a little more obvious for the Sorting.

Though being cheated out of the experience of assigning my wand/being sorted into my House, I am enjoying the game. It’s not a huge time sink and can be set aside and picked up at the player’s convenience. The graphics are, frankly, stunning. I had no idea that mobile games could look so great! I probably have to progress further to unlock more of the RPG and open-world elements I’m looking for, but for now, I’m just having a ball indulging my inner 11 year old, forever waiting for her Hogwarts acceptance letter.

Kathleen

SoulCalibur VI: Announcement and First Character Reveals

One of the premier fighting game series is coming out with a new title this year: SoulCalibur! I was surprised to hear of a new game, as it’s been 5 years since the release of SoulCalibur V. And let’s just say… SCV, with Ezio Auditore as the guest character, was what got me into Assassin’s Creed. That’s about the only good thing I can say about it. Check out the announcement trailer and the latest character reveal trailer for Zasalamel:

So far, series staples such as Sophitia, Nightmare, Mitsurugi, Kilik, Xianguha, and Ivy have been confirmed. Zasalamel, introduced in SCIII and somehow missing from V (he’s immortal… where’d he go?) is a pleasant addition as well. This new character, Grøh, looks promising! It seems like they’re pulling back on the new characters after V, where the roster consisted of mainly new characters (most were descendants or trainees of series regulars) due to a 17 year time skip in the story. I think this may be because of the negative fan reaction to a lot of the new characters. As one of those fans, I think it’s a very good move!

Man, seeing all this news and watching the trailers made me so nostalgic for the rest of the series… SoulCalibur II for the PS2 was the first video game I ever bought with my own money, way back in middle school. I’ve been into SoulCalibur since I’ve been into video games. I’m not as big into it now as I used to be, but I have been revisiting the old games. It feels like coming back to an old, beloved friend after a long separation. Seeing these characters back in action leaves me with high hopes for SCVI

– Kathleen

P.S. One thing, though… where’s my girl Cassandra??? FIX IT NAMCO

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My girl Cassandra in my favorite outfit – SCII Player 2 ❤

Harry Potter: Hogwarts Mystery

A while back, Niantec (the company behind mobile games Ingress and Pokémon Go) announced that they were creating a separate division of their company called Portkey Games. This was so that they could focus on a mobile AR Harry Potter game! I’ve been waiting for news, and they’ve since released the first trailer, which you can watch below.

Looks pretty cool, huh? The graphics honestly reminded me of old Runescape and PS2 graphics – I played through the PS2 port of Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets no less than 10 times in my youth. I can’t help wondering if they’re going to port it to PC at some point so it can have more MMORPG elements. I’m especially excited for the character customization. It looks like they are developing a PVP feature, which fans of PoGo have been asking for since the game launched. Hopefully after they work out the bugs in Hogwarts Mystery, they can implement the feature for PoGo as well.

There’s not a whole lot of information about the game yet, but you can preregister for the game here! You’ll get updates via email too. I’ve preregistered and will continue to post updates as I get them ;D

Are you guys excited or more skeptical? I’d love to hear your thoughts!

– Kathleen

Top 5 Wednesday: Books That Would Make Good Video Games

Top 5 Wednesday is a weekly meme from Goodreads, created by Lainey from Gingerreadslainey and now moderated by Sam from ThoughtsOnTomes.

I’m going back in time in the T5W bank, because today’s was sci-fi/fantasy related again and I just did one of those! Let’s mix it up a bit =P I’m slowly getting back into games after trying Horizon Zero Dawn~

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5. Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell

Thought of you, Nancy! =P Eleanor & Park is an incredibly cute but incredibly heartbreaking story about two misfit teenagers falling in love. It’s set in the ’80s, but I often forgot that while reading it because the story and themes are so timeless. I think it would make a great 8 bit platformer game. You could alternate playing as Eleanor and Park every other level, and find different comics and tapes referenced in the book to give to the other person. There could be a heart meter that goes up or down depending on how many or what you find and give. And maybe the game would reveal the three mysterious words on the postcard – and change every time depending on how you play and how full you get the meter!

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4. Daughter of Smoke & Bone trilogy by Laini Taylor

The first book is amazing and even if the sequels aren’t on the same level, y’all should read it. This trilogy is about a girl with blue hair named Karou, an artist who’s raised by monsters. One of her guardians deals in animal teeth, and you find out later he builds other creatures from the teeth he collects and strings together like necklaces. Wouldn’t that be an awesome sidequest in a game??? Finding teeth and stringing them together to build creatures for an army, each animal with different stat attributes? Deal me in!

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3. Wonder Woman by George Perez

Okay, I admit I’ll take any incarnation of WW as a game, but the story and art of this run are iconic and stellar! I think it would lend itself well to a video game. There are also plenty of plot threads – main and side – that would translate well to a game. As it was written in the ’80s, I imagine it as another 8 bit sidescroller… complete with all the melodramatic cheesy dialogue goodness!

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2. Birds of Prey by Gail Simone

There are a lot of angles from which a Birds game could be played. You could play strictly as Oracle, where you choose the heroes you send into the field, and see them from a birds-eye view (pun not intended!), and manipulate them as if you were playing a tactical board game. In addition to moving your heroines around, there could also be puzzles to solve and codes to crack in order for the mission to succeed. You could also play as one of the heroes and go into the field, with Oracle as your AI guide, for a more action-oriented game. I feel no matter which incarnation you get, there should be a role-playing element, to highlight the bond between the Birds so evident in the comics!

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1. Harry Potter by J.K. Rowling

Okay I know we’ve had ports of movie tie-ins to just about every console and handheld from the PS1 and GameBoy on… we had Pottermore back when it was actually a game (and I’m still incredibly salty it’s not anymore)… but wHERE IS MY HARRY POTTER SIMULATOR??? WHEN CAN I MAKE MY OWN CHARACTER AND PLAY AS HER THROUGH HOGWARTS??? WHEN?!!?!? IT’S 2017 AND WE DON’T HAVE THIS YET AND IT’S A TRAVESTY TO HUMANKIND TBH

Honorable mention was a Batgirl game… one half-baked Arkham Knight DLC is never going to be enough… #saltyaboutit

What book to game incarnations would you want to see? =D

– Kathleen

Assassin’s Creed (Vol. 6): Leila

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Corbeyran, Eric, and Djillali Defali. Assassin’s Creed (Vol. 6): Leila. 2015.

El Cakr has been imprisoned for refusing to hand over the Scepter of Aset to the ruling powers in Egypt. He is thrown in the same cell as a woman named Leila, who has confessed to killing the Sultan. Together, they make their escape. Unsure if he should trust her, El Cakr leaves her at their makeshift hideout and seeks out Ali in nearby Edfu, where he has tasked his young apprentice with keeping the Scepter safe. However, they are ambushed by no other than Leila – who lied to El Cakr about her allegiances. The fight that ensues is deadly – what becomes of the Scepter? Who will access the correct memories in time: the Assassins, or the Templars, with Jonathan Hawk’s DNA grafted inside Subject 19?

If I thought the last volume was full of plot twists, oh boy. You guys are really in for a ride with this one. I kept continually gasping from all the surprises XD The entire series has been fast-paced. It ends on a satisfying, though somewhat loose-ended note. It’s been a wonderful addition to the Assassin’s Creed series but will also appeal to readers who like a lot of action and multiple storylines. Definitely recommended!

– Kathleen

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