Saturday, April 30, 2022

Green Snake


A decent dystopian film with elements of fantasy including different races such as demons and animal hybrids.

Thursday, April 28, 2022

Shin Megami Tensei IV

 Stylized illustration of Flynn and his fellow samurai Walter and Jonathan

The Mikado, Minus Gilbert and Sullivan

On Nintendo’s Famicom system (known as the Nintendo Entertainment System outside Japan), the Megami Tensei series started the monster/demon-collecting roleplaying game craze, influencing games such as Dragon Quest (the second series to feature the mechanic) and Pokémon, although foreign gamers would have their first taste of “catching ‘em all” with the latter franchise, early MegaTen games remaining in Japan due to Nintendo America’s draconian videogame content policies, given that the Atlus (initially Namco with the Digital Devil Story: Megami Tensei games) series was heavy when it came to religious content.

It wasn’t until several console generations later that Megami Tensei would receive exposure outside Japan with entries such as Revelations: Persona, although Atlus’ North American branch at the time was very unrefined with the art of videogame localization. The third mainline Shin Megami Tensei game, subtitled Nocturne on the PlayStation 2 proved a turning point in the franchise’s foreign popularity, and the series would become popular enough to warrant the localization of most future titles. Interestingly, the fourth numbered game in the Shin Megami Tensei series, Shin Megami Tensei IV, released on the Nintendo 3DS, providing an experience largely on par with its precursors.

The game’s story begins in the Eastern Kingdom of Mikado, with the protagonist, default name Flynn, being a fledgling samurai, going on a few missions to prove his worth and having friendship in the form of fellow trainees such as Jonathan and Walter. Several twists abound a few hours into the game, and throughout the player’s experience, so do a number of philosophical choices that account for different narrative events, similar to Nocturne. Aside from weak direction and similarity to prior Shin Megami Tenseis, the story is generally enjoyable, given especially the interesting turns.

The localization helps the narrative, with legible dialogue and that it doesn’t mask the oriental atmosphere, with decent naming conventions that somewhat give said Asian influence a few nonstandard twists, particularly those of Mikado’s residents. Some may find the names of recruitable demons a bit exotic for their tastes, although luckily there are in-game explanations as to the particular origins of said potential allies for Flynn. Aside from a fair bit of awkward battle dialogue (such as “I shall take Life Stone” during the attempted recruitment of many demons), the translation is definitely a positive for the game.

Solid gameplay backs the narrative experience, the fourth mainline Shin Megami Tensei building on its numerical precursor’s Press Turn System. Enemies within dungeons and on the overworld moving bluish pixels represent, and will charge Flynn after spawning and noticing him, although within enemy-infested areas, he can slash them to give his party the first turn in the subsequent battle. On the overworld, however, the ability to slash enemies is unavailable, although one skill, Estoma Sword, can give players the potential for instant victory against lower-leveled enemies, similar to EarthBound’s system.

Mercifully, however, battles themselves largely shine, with Flynn or one of his three active demons starting the player’s turn session, all able to attack normally (although the protagonist can fire his equipped gun to deal “shoot” damage), use MP-consuming skills (with physical skills also costing Magic Points unlike their consumption of HP in prior mainline games), swap places with a demon in the player’s stock, attempt escape (with players luckily able to see the success rate of doing so), pass their turn to the next demon or the hero, or, if they have the Attack Knowhow or Healing Knowhow skill, use an attack or recovery item (Flynn able to use both by default).

As in Nocturne, the player receives a number of turn icons depending upon how many active frontline characters there are (up to four), with the exploitation of enemy weaknesses only consuming half an icon, although using a command the opponent demons nullify takes two, drained and reflected abilities instantly ending the player’s turn, these rules also applying to the antagonists. Flynn’s current equipment dictates which elements he’s strong or weak against, and players need to consider the overall strengths and weaknesses of the hero and his demons before setting up their party, setups such as offsetting monsters weak against specific elements with those strong against the same type ideal.

Apps play a major role in Shin Megami Tensei IV’s gameplay mechanics, with the chief among these being the demon fusion application, where the player can combine two demons to create a more powerful one (or weaker, should they desire, but likely not). Not becoming too attached to a particular party setup and constant fusion of demons for want of higher-leveled allies is definitely ideal to keep up with stronger antagonists throughout the game, and a good strategy I adopted was fusing demons when the app indicated I could discover new ones. However, fusion accidents may rarely occur, although most of the time, luckily, they resulted in undiscovered demons.

When leveling, the player gets points to invest into Flynn’s stats, consumable essences also increasing one of his status numbers by three, and demons may level too from gaining experience for winning battles. Upon leveling, demons may obtain new abilities, active or passive, a default of four skills each for Flynn and his allies, but App Points can increase the maximum each can hold up to eight. Whenever a demon levels, the player sometimes gets the opportunity to teach Flynn some of their abilities, and a strategy I would suggest is not to overfill his slots with multiple status-increasing or decreasing skills since Luster Candy and Debilitate later on can perform these respective roles for all stats.

Which brings me to the actual means of acquiring demons, involving parleying with adversaries and the need to answer philosophical questions and bribe them with money, items, and/or health or magic points. The chief issue with this system is that the “correct” answers to questions aren’t always consistent even with the same demons, and they may bail on the player in the middle of negotiation, making off with whatever resources Flynn provided them. Several apps can really enhance this system, performing functions such as reducing the resources necessary to recruit them, having them bring one other demon into the player’s party, giving the player money for successful negotiation, and so forth.

Before the player decides to fuse their demons, they may wish to register them in the Demon Compendium to preserve their current levels and abilities for later resummoning at a price, with money also necessary to perform special fusions involving more than two demons. Furthermore, unless the player faces a “mob” of human adversaries in battle, or liberally uses the Fundraise app and its enhancements, the only other primary means of acquiring money comes from items that spawn from fixed resource points in dungeons and selling them to shops. Generally, money isn’t too great of an issue throughout the game, and I had little trouble in the endgame portion even without the best equipment.

Another area that’s somewhat crucial to me when it comes to RPGs such as Shin Megami Tensei IV is how they handle death, although it really isn’t too big an issue given the player’s ability to record their progress anywhere outside battle. Death takes players to the River Styx, where they can pay Charon to revive them at their point of death. If players want to unlock a more merciful difficulty setting, they’ll have to pay him once and die again, after which the easier challenge level unlocks. Players can start a tab with Charon if they don’t have enough money, but again, given the liberal save system, this feature is largely pointless, yet far from breaks the experience.

In the end, the game mechanics really shine, with battles being largely enjoyable, given that they build upon the gameplay introduced in Nocturne, alongside the ability to unlock the mentioned easier difficulty setting and adjust it anytime, consequentially making the fourth entry of the Shin Megami Tensei more accessible to those having limited experience with the franchise. There are a few minor issues with the randomization of demon negotiation, given the flakiness of many demons at times, not to mention the potential repetition associated with the constant deliberation with enemies for the regular fusion into more powerful demons, but these flaws far from mar the experience.

Lamentably, Shin Megami Tensei IV is another one of those RPGs whose control aspect is superficially tight, given easy menus, nonproblematic shopping, in-game maps and the ability to switch between floors on the 3DS’s lower screen to see how dungeon chambers connect, and the like. Unfortunately, there are many issues such as the mentioned poor direction of how to advance the storyline, not to mention multiple sidequests, and I found myself constantly referencing the internet to find out where to go next. The ability to instantly exit the demon fusion interface would have been nice as well, given the slight unwieldiness of its menus, and generally, the fourth entry could have certainly interfaced better with players.

However, the game mostly has solid audiovisual presentation, with the music mostly being enjoyable, different standard battle themes preventing the battle audio from becoming too repetitive, along with many voice clips for demons and fully-voiced cutscenes at points, although there are a few points that largely depend on ambience. The graphics are nice as well, with superb character and enemy designs without reskins, good environments with realistic colors, and the rarity of different equipment affecting the protagonist’s appearance, although some may find the combat visuals lazy, given the strict first-person perspective and foes not changing their animations when attacking the player’s party. Regardless, the fourth numerical Shin Megami Tensei is easy on both the ears and eyes.

Finally, the gameplay experience is certainly a lengthy one, somewhere between forty-eight and seventy-two hours necessary for a straightforward playthrough and completion, maybe a little longer (at least in my time with the game), with the different ideological choices that genuinely affect the narrative, a New Game Plus where players can carry over elements from their initial playthrough and access a higher difficulty setting, and the abundance of sidequests, adding plentiful lasting appeal, although the ease of getting stuck would certainly be a deterrent that would possibly prevent certain gamers from going through it again.

On the whole, Shin Megami Tensei IV is undoubtedly an amazing experience, and one of the far-better entries of a storied franchise that has its share of good, bad, and average installments. The game mechanics successfully build upon those established by its numerical predecessor Nocturne, the narrative is enjoyable with the potential for many variations in different playthroughs, the audiovisual aspect shines, and there is plentiful lasting appeal. However, there are issues of which players need to be aware before purchase and play such as the weak storyline and sidequest direction, and some may find the battle graphics lazy. Regardless, the fourth entry very much warrants a playthrough by those that enjoy monster-collectors such as the Pokémon series.

This review is based on a playthrough of a copy digitally downloaded to the reviewer’s Nintendo 3DS.

The Good:
+Refined battle and demon-recruiting mechanics.
+Great story with potential variations.
+Nice audiovisual aspect.

The Bad:
-Some may find the gameplay repetitive.
-Poor story and sidequest direction.
-A few might find the combat graphics lazy.

The Bottom Line:
A must-play game for fans of monster-collectors.

Score Breakdown:
Platform: Nintendo 3DS
Game Mechanics: 9.5/10
Controls: 8.0/10
Story: 8.5/10
Localization: 9.0/10
Music/Sound: 9.5/10
Graphics: 8.0/10
Lasting Appeal: 9.5/10
Difficulty: Adjustable
Playing Time: 48-72+ Hours

Overall: 9.0/10

Wednesday, April 27, 2022

Winter's King

Winter's King (The Wings of War, #3)Winter's King by Bryce O'Connor
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The third entry of author Bryce O’Connor’s The Wings of War series, like its predecessor, occurs entirely within the year 861 v.S. (ver Syul), opening with Egard Rost instructing Kareth Grahst, the youngest general of the Kayle’s army, about his faith. The main chapters commence with the atherian, dragon-like protagonist, Raz i’Syul Arro, simultaneously hot and cold, wanting a group of men to take him to Ystréd, although they subjugate him instead. Meanwhile, the Priest Talo Brahnt converses with fellow vicar Carro al’Dor, wondering about how Raz fares on his own.

The action quickly goes to the mercenaries that captured Raz, with a female surgeon named Evalyn, Eva for short, fascinated by the atherian. The young priestess Syrah Brahnt ultimately departs on her own, soon entering the lands of the Kayle, meeting Egard Rost, who follows the Stone Gods, along with Kareth, who considers her the White Witch, with her religion not recognized in his domain. For most of the novel, Syrah finds herself in the captivity of the Kayle warlord Gûlraht Baoill, who ultimately leads a march against the Laorin temple towards the end of the novel.

Raz, Carro, and Talo depart on a rescue mission for Syrah, encountering many obstacles in their way such as a bear-like creature known as an ursalus. The High Citadel is gradually breached throughout the story, terminating with a duel between the atherian and Gûlraht, the book concluding satisfactorily, although there is confusion about whether the Goatmen are anthropomorphic goats or humans that happen to sport the animalian term. Even so, those that enjoyed the book’s predecessors will likely enjoy the tertiary installment, which is very much for adults only, given gore and profanity.

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Sunday, April 24, 2022

Spider-Man: No Way Home

 Spider-Man No Way Home poster.jpg

The third Marvel Cinematic Universe Spider-Man film finds the titular superhero back in New York City after his secret identity of Peter Parker is revealed in a near-death video by villain Mysterio propagated by the media, among it being Daily Bugle host J. Jonah Jameson, brilliantly portrayed by J.K. Simmons (the first live-action actor to play the same character in different film franchises), reimagined as a Rush Limbaugh-esque commentator. Spidey seeks help from Doctor Strange to make his identity secret again, although the spell is botched, unleashing a can of interdimensional whoop-ass that ties the MCU with Sony's prior Spider-Man film franchises. Could have been really bad, given the concept (which was actually Sony's idea), although the final product definitely strikes a line among being humorous, excellent fanservice, somewhat bittersweet towards the end, and an overall enjoyable movie. I definitely look forward to how the multiverse concept is further explored in the MCU.

Saturday, April 23, 2022

Art of the Week by Me, 4/23/2022

The Titan's Curse

The Titan's Curse (Percy Jackson and the Olympians, #3)The Titan's Curse by Rick Riordan
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The third installment of author Rick Riordan’s Percy Jackson and the Olympians series sees the franchise’s namesake protagonist, Perseus “Percy” Jackson, starting school at Westover, a military academy, with his satyr friend Grover sensing half-bloods, Nico and Bianca di Angelo, who are immediately in danger, although the goddess Artemis leads the Hunters to stave off the monsters that arrive. Annabeth disappears, with Artemis’ brother Apollo soon arriving, and taking the others to Long Island, where Camp Half-Blood is empty during the wintertime then; there, a council transpires with the ultimate decision to rescue Annabeth.

Afterward, Percy flies the pegasus Blackjack to Washington, DC, where Dr. Thorn from Westover being there, Neptune’s son following his friends that ride the Erymanthian Boar to New Mexico, after which they go to Hoover Dam and then San Francisco to find Annabeth’s father Dr. Chase, who provides some assistance in seeking his daughter. After Annabeth’s fate is settled, a council occurs at Mount Olympus that hovers above the Empire State Building, with a celebration and a return by Percy back to Camp Half-Blood, with the third book ending with a sequel hook and maybe a surprise or two.

Overall, I enjoyed the third Percy Jackson book to be a fun ride across America with plenty mythological action and occasional self-aware jokes (at which the chapters’ titles very much hint), although I didn’t care much for the occasional toilet humor. Granted, there are a few similarities to previous titles in the series such as the disaster that strikes when Percy begins a new boarding school, and as with before I often found it troublesome to imagine the appearances of the various dramatic personae, not to mention the Greek deities, but there are occasional hints of their clothing, and on the whole, I would definitely recommend it to those who liked its precursors.

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Ghostbusters: Afterlife

 Lightning cracks from dark green clouds. People get out of a battered 1959 Cadillac Miller-Meteor Sentinel below and look on.

One of many films whose release the continuing coronavirus pandemic affected, Afterlife is unlike the 2016 film an actual sequel to the original two 1980s Ghostbuster films, where a mother and her children in New York City inherit an Oklahoma estate, move there, and discover their connections to the Ghostbusters. Sort of lays on the fanservice a bit thick, but that's arguably one of its biggest draws, along with many shoutouts to the previous films, and I definitely enjoyed it.

Thursday, April 21, 2022

Editorial - The Tricky Art of Localization

Back when I was a young gamer limitedly experienced with videogames, particularly RPGs that consume the bulk of my gametime nowadays, one thing I took for granted in titles of Japanese origin was their translations and/or localizations, the former defined as the conversion of text from one language into another, and the latter more concerned with truly adapting the game dialogue for another culture. In this editorial, I’ll explore the complex, sometimes tricky, art of videogame localization, and occasional obstacles with regards to the translation of things that normally don’t translate well to other cultures.

My very first JRPG was 
Dragon Quest on the NES, then titled Dragon Warrior for legal reasons, when I was unaware of the game’s Japanese origin. Back then, I didn’t give much thought to the narrative of the game, given that before I didn’t have much concern with the stories of videogames, which I found to be largely brainless diversions from a hectic scholastic life. At the time, I did notice that the game had an odd style of dialogue I would later discover to be Renaissance-era English, eventually finding that the works of William Shakespeare chiefly incorporated such a textual disposition.

Breath of Fire
 on the NES’s sixteen-bit successor system, the Super NES, would be the game that really got me into RPGs, with those of Japanese origin, as with today, being the chief source of my playtime, alongside games of other genres, whether of Western or Eastern conception. Again, I didn’t give a second thought to the Japanese origin of the game, let alone whatever translational foibles it might have had, which I would eventually come to realize decades later were somewhat more problematic than average for a game enduring the process of converting Japanese dialogue into English.

Back then I was still unaware of the localization process of videogames, and would play its sequel 
Breath of Fire II on the same system, although at the time I did notice thanks to an issue of Nintendo Power covering the game listed its single negative point as “Poor English translation”, and thence I began to realize, thanks to the magazine, that many of the games I had been playing were of Japanese origin. The second game in what was then Capcom’s flagship RPG franchise definitely had translation issues, given the narrative’s religious themes, and from then I gave some care as to how games handled their dialogue, although I was still unaware of the tricky localization process.

Later in the sixteen-bit era I would discover 
Final Fantasy VI, then known in the Anglosphere as Final Fantasy III due to many of the game’s numerical precursors not leaving Japan, and at the time I began to realize that it contained one of the better localizations of its era, thanks in part to translator Ted Woolsey, although I wouldn’t be aware of his name until generations later. Another 16-bit RPG released late in the SNES’s lifespan was Chrono Trigger, which unbeknown to me Ted Woolsey also handled, had dialogue more capable than usual for a game of its time, and I would very much concur with contemporary opinion that its translation was well above average for its time.

Which brings me to the school of localization mainstream gamers would dub the “Woolseyism.” However, I disagree with this nonminer, since Woolsey’s translations, in my opinion, were far from the infallible masterpieces, given various issues at the time. One was Nintendo of America’s draconian censorship policies that purged translated videogames of content regarding politics, religion, sexuality, profanity, blood, and so forth. TVTropes defines the term Woolseyism as consisting of pragmatic changes to a videogame’s linguistic content in cases where a direct translation would be unfeasible.

There were also issues with some of Woolsey’s dialogue sounding unrealistic, with another game he translated, 
Secret of Mana on the Super NES, having to compress what was to be a CD-based game into a sixteen-bit cartridge, given the fallout of Nintendo’s attempted negotiations with Sony for a compact disc addon to their base system, and Secret definitely had its share of awkward speech, despite getting content past Nintendo America’s antireligious censors such as a reference to “the gods” during its iconic backstory-revealing cutscene. Regardless, the game did very much have one of the far better localizations of its time.

Which brings me back to 
Final Fantasy VI, indeed sporting a number of changes that were indeed pragmatic, such as his change of protagonist Tina’s name to Terra, given that Terra sounds more exotic to Anglophone gamers as Tina does to Japanese players. Other name changes such as Lock to Locke were acceptable as well, given the potential reference to philosopher John Locke, although some seemed random, such as Edgar’s brother Sabin, known as “Mash,” a nickname of “Macias,” when, even given the text space limitations of the game, Woolsey could very well have easily just stuck to calling the martial artist Macias in the English version, since Mash, of course, is a bit of an asinine moniker.

Woolsey did make errors, for instance, regarding gambler Setzer’s motivations, the character one time saying, “The Empire’s made me a rich man.” The original Japanese text in this particular scene used an idiom meaning “business has dried up,” which he assumedly misinterpreted as “gone up,” and future iterations of the sixth Final Fantasy beyond the PlayStation port would fix this. There were, however, dialogues Woolsey did well, such as his description of the enigmatic Shadow as “He’d slit his momma’s throat for a nickel,” with a later version using the quote, “He’d kill his best friend for the right price.”

Chrono Trigger
 was also one of Woolsey’s revered localizations, many name changes being pragmatic, such as antagonists Vinegar, Soysau, and Mayonnai to Ozzie, Slash, and Flea, condiment names for characters in Japan generally being humorous, but Americans would more recognize the names of the musicians Woolsey changed them to. Same for Gurus Melchoir, Gaspar, and Belthasar (coming from the Magi that brought gifts to the infant Jesus), called Gasch, Hash, and Bosch in Japan. One unnecessary change, though, was Grand and Leon and the sword they form, Grandleon, to Masa and Mune / Masamune, the latter moniker being fitter for a Japanese katana like Crono’s.

In summation, there were many things that Woolsey did well, such as many of the name changes for characters in the Japanese RPGs he translated, although there were other areas where he didn’t do well, such as villain Kefka’s “Son of a submariner!” in the original SNES version of 
Final Fantasy VI, when dialogue such as “Son of a…they’ll pay for this!” would have sounded more natural. Thus, I think the translation term Woolseyism would be fitter as “translation pragmatism.” One good example of this would be the change of Nusutto Park to Burglin Park in EarthBound, with the former coming from “nusumu,” the Japanese term for thievery, and the latter in English being self-explanatory.

On the other end of the translation spectrum is the “Blind Idiot” Translation, where the translators of games to English just didn’t seem to care about their quality, with many spelling and punctuation errors, name inconsistences, and/or odd dialogue, among the prime examples of these being the original PlayStation version of 
Final Fantasy Tactics, with dialogue like “A gang of tortured thieves is trying to sneak into this town,” and so on. Sony’s American branch was especially prone to these, particularly when it came to Final Fantasy VII and the aforementioned Tactics, although Square’s American branch would eventually take over its games’ translation duties.

Another translation type that deserves special mention is the Cut-and-Paste Translation, where translators make major changes to a script, edit scenes, and implement other alterations due to things such as cultural differences and fear of attracting ire from the moral guardians. Fans tend not to care much for this, referring to such efforts as “Macekres” (pronounced like “massacres”) after localization producer Carl Macek, who effected changes to anime he localized that didn’t exactly sit well with those who hold their original Japanese version in high regard, and tended to go hand-and-hand with Bowdlerization, a process named after Thomas Bowdler, who created “family-friendly” versions of Shakespeare’s scripts, for instance.

On the subject of Bowdlerization comes the former policy by Nintendo of America to purge games especially during the eight and sixteen-bit era of all religious content, although in the former case, the first two Zelda titles got away with crosses, although they backtracked with 
A Link to the Past, going so far as to censor symbols of a religion hardly anyone has practiced for millennia (the Hylian language). Even in modern times has there been censorship of religious content in games, such as Mastiff Games’ purging of all Christian symbols from their translation of La Pucelle, and the PlayStation Portable’s remake of the first Star Ocean having a cross indicative of healing magic censored to appear more monolithic.

Much debate has arisen regarding the localizations by Working Designs whether they qualify as pragmatic or cut-and-paste, given their tendency to inject popular culture references into the scripts of what they localized, with many things changed that one couldn’t properly term them translations, and changes here and there such as in the Lunar games, where, for instance, “Mel governs Meribia” became “Mel founded Meribia.” There were also lines that somewhat felt unserious such as Ghaleon’s “My coming-out party can finally begin! Send in the clowns!” and “The world will once again be mine on a delicious half-shell.”

While the overall quality of videogame translations has somewhat improved in the past two decades, there are still many kinds that localization teams still don’t adapt well for Anglophone audiences, such as the tendency of dialogue in battles not to sound natural, such as characters unrealistically shouting the names of their abilities, which may sound really cool in Japanese (unless they’re botching English words), but sounds out of place in English. There are also dialogues outside battle that sound really odd to English speakers, for instance, such as “More, more!” when gathering items in 
Etrian Odyssey V, and “Mrr-grr-grr!” in the Bravely Default games.

I would like to mention English anime dubs, and one of the biggest issues I’ve seen with them is not translating the opening and ending credits, although I can somewhat understand not translating their respective themes. The mentioned issue of characters calling special moves again doesn’t translate well, and there are other things like Hawk the pig constantly uttering “Piggy trot!” when running in the anime adaptation of 
The Seven Deadly Sins, which may sound cute in Japanese, but really sounds out of place in the English dub, and simple huffing and puffing would have sounded far better.

Moreover, the English dubs of animes that clearly occur in Japan tend to use actors without a drop of ethnic blood, and what’s more, titles like Persona games leave the Japanese honorifics in the English dialogue, which sound unnatural and oftentimes lend the impression that the voice actors don’t actually know what they mean. Some argue that using ethnic actors would have issues of its own, although animated films such as Disney and Pixar’s 
Turning Red show that the use of Asian actors to voice characters obviously having their origins in that part of the world can still sound great.

Lamentably, some contemporary videogame localizations demonstrate that translation teams don’t wholly have enlightened attitudes towards that particular portion of gaming. For instance, titles such as 
The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time have dialogue like “Yahoo! Hi, Link!” (Who says “yahoo” anymore?) and Link’s Awakening “Annoyance! You are only getting in the way!” Games such as Tales of Vesperia also occasionally feature anachronisms such as “I plead the fifth,” a reference to the American Constitution’s “right to remain silent,” which won’t make a lick of sense to non-American Anglophones, and is vastly out of place in a game that doesn’t even occur on Earth.

Back to the issue of character and location names, occasional changes aren’t typically too big of an issue, although one issue I pointed out years ago in an editorial was that Anglophone players are sometimes in the dark as to their pronunciation. For instance, I had absolutely no idea “Cait Sith” was pronounced “ket-she” instead of “kate sith” until I delved into the world wide web and became knowledgeable as to how the Japanese pronounced character names. Thus, translation guides certainly wouldn’t kill the English versions of Japanese RPGs, be they without voicework.

On another note, RPGs may use onomatopoeia in dialogue, constituting the use of words mimicking their sounds, such as laughter, huffing and puffing, groaning, and the like. Rendering this while making translations sound professional can sometimes be tough, for instance, writing laughter as “ha ha ha ha ha,” screaming as “aieeeeeee,” and so on. There are occasional oddities in this regard mainly in Japanese RPGs, where, for instance, in 
Mario and Luigi: Bowser’s Inside Story, a pudgy toad says “Oog…” My personal preference here would be to use terms like (groan), (laugh), (pant), and so on.

A final point to make on regional differences between videogames is difficulty changes, making them easier or harder. Since I don’t like hard games, especially artificially so, I much prefer the former option, but in some cases, like with Working Designs, they tended to increase the challenge of their games, sometimes making them unplayably difficult, and even they admitted forcing players to pay magic experience to save the game in the Sega CD 
Lunar: Eternal Blue was a bad idea. Making games more accessible, though some will disagree, in my mind would be ideal to localization.

In summation, what does constitute a competent localization, particularly from Japanese to English? In my opinion, one by translators who have an above-knowledge of the original language as well as significant experience with English and writing, perhaps with regards to composing fictitious works, and generally remains faithful to the initial script. However, I definitely don’t mind a little cutting and pasting, particularly if the initial dialogue wasn’t good to begin with or sounds really unnatural. Voice actors also need to question bad writing and be competent in that regard. Overall, while the tricky art of localization has significantly become more refined, translation turkeys still exist, and the points I made in this editorial would go a long way in continuing to polish the process.

Saturday, April 16, 2022

Editorial - Videogame Reviews: Whom to Trust?

As a videogame reviewer, I absolutely do not trust review scores for major and minor releases, and often disagree with not just the numbers, but also the logic, in many instances illogic, behind them. In fact, there have been countless instances in which I’ve purchased and played games that have gotten wonderful scores, even universally with some “professional” critics even calling them “the greatest of all time,” only to experience one disappointment after another, given common gameplay issues that reviewers either downplayed or outright didn’t mention in their critiques. In fact, there really seems to be an epidemic of this, which I aim to analyze in this editorial.

Given my constant crusade to go back through games I’ve originally beaten and reviewed, one can guess that I consider videogame reviewing to be a living, breathing art constantly evolving, and I firmly believe that even older games should be subject to contemporary scrutiny, even if many gamers, professional and casual, suggest that such titles were “good for their time,” rather than given permanent scores from many publications online and offline that don’t ever change, thus remaining skewed for years or in a few instances decades or more. The text of such reviews very much matter as much as, if not more than, the scores their authors assign.

However, just as much as there is rampant bias in mainstream political news, so too is there a pandemic of subjectivism in videogame journalism. For one, videogames tend to receive more favorable reception than other media such as books and movies, with most mainstream reviewers, just like I, tending to use an out-of-ten scale for scoring, although in my case, zero is the lowest score I assign to certain aspects of a game and overall, whereas mainline journalists tend to use one as the lowest assignable metric. An /10 scale with 1/10 as the nadir of grading somewhat diverges from typical scholastic grading in America where students can potentially score zeroes on various assignments and tests.

Speaking of school, websites that use out-of-ten, or out-of-a-hundred, scoring scales tend to suffer from the curse of scholastic grading, where scores seven through ten or seventy out of a hundred are passing, and the seven-based numerical scores are “average”, and anything below tends to be failing. This leads to an issue where websites such as Metacritic that collect scores from countless publications online and offline don’t consider what exactly the numbers entail, especially if videogame reviewers such as I actually use the full spectrum of review scores rather than going by school grading, have skewed amalgamations of numerical opinion ratings.

For instance, in the case of websites such as GameRankings (now fused with Metacritic), they would assign a game with one as the lowest review score on an /10 scale a ten-percent percentage rating instead of a zero percent, and in instances such as a score of one on a /5 scale, they would assign a twenty percent, and so on, which would account for inflated overall scores. When GameRankings still existed, the lowest overall score a game received hovered somewhere between twenty and thirty percent, which I attribute to the most-negative reviews with the lowest scores rarely, if ever, ever coming to fruition due to things such as reviewers not being able to finish certain games.

Speaking of which, another issue with game reviews is how much time reviewers actually spend with games. For the most part, I attempt to complete whatever games I begin, although there are occasional cases where I don’t want to continue playing, with Anna Marie Privitere of RPGamer, to which I once contributed before going rogue, having a “five-hour rule” where if she wasn’t enjoying a game after that time, she would cease her time with the game and move on to other titles, believing there’s no shame in not finishing a game. I’ve attempted to adopt a similar methodology, with the last time I successfully applied it being with Super Mario Sunshine, which was way too hard even with a guide.

However, there are instances where a few hours alone aren’t enough to gauge a game’s overall quality, since there are many times where games start out good but decline in quality later on, or in the rare instance, vice versa. For instance, I was having a decent time with Bravely Default II, although at the twenty-three-hour mark, where I was just in the second of seven chapters, and had levels high enough so visible enemies indicating encounters ran away from the hero on the overworld and in dungeons, I still had an incredibly-difficult time with a story boss, and decided I had had enough.

On a similar note, using the internet and a detailed walkthrough isn’t anything to be shameful about, either, if reviewers note their playthroughs necessitated the use of a guide. As far as my own reviewers go, I firmly believe that needing to use a guide to at least see the standard ending of a game is not an indicator of sound design and do my best to mention that when I write my critiques. For instance, while I’ve had a positive experience with Shin Megami Tensei IV, I’ve often needed to use a walkthrough on the internet to advance the central storyline, in addition to many sidequests, and believe as well that poor direction is a strike against the narrative in addition to the gameplay.

Back to the matter of time spent on games, I believe too that reviewing and scoring a game at least necessitates a playthrough to the standard ending credits, although playing the game to absolute one-hundred-percent completion, in my opinion, is a different matter. However, there have been many cases in which “professional” reviews of games accompanied by scores had their basis in incomplete playthroughs, which would be akin to grading a college essay based on the first few paragraphs. Should I find myself unable to finish a game, I write what RPGamer termed a “deep look” that has no scores but at the end a recommendation, usually average or negative, about whether the game warrants play.

Another issue with videogame reviews, which I’ll admit I’m somewhat guilty of, is bias, with many cases in which it seems “professional” gaming news sites allow reviewers with obvious biases, positive or negative, to critique big-name titles, such as having a journalist who doesn’t care much for JRPGs review one, or a big fan of The Legend of Zelda do the same for the Nintendo franchise’s latest entry. If websites insist on letting such reviewers critique games, they should have another writer with an alternate bias write one as well, or have multiple authors collaborate on individual reviews, as RPGamer has rarely accomplished.

That videogame reviews most of the time tend to reflect one writer’s subjective opinion is one of the primary issues with mainstream game journalism, and while the average consumers would think amalgamations of scores would indicate “collective” opinion, in reality they’re collections of individual biased opinions instead of, more ideally, an assortment of group critiques. Even reviewers written by average janes and joes tend to be unreliable, as well, and RPGs that I primarily play are one of the far-more-favorably reviewed gaming genres among both “professional” critics and audiences, and the latter’s overall scores tending to experience inflation too.

A further issue with videogame reviews from both “professionals” and average gamers is the possibility of not getting one’s facts straight. For instance, I once read a review of the Gameboy Advance title Onimusha Tactics that erroneously said that it had its basis in Chinese mythology when in reality it had roots in Japanese mythos. Some may argue that such errors “don’t matter,” but they most certainly do, damage a writer’s credibility and can easily con average consumers into playing titles with game-breaking flaws. As the late Daniel Patrick Moynihan said, “Every man is entitled to his own opinions, but not his own facts.”

Other phenomena include reviewers downplaying or outright failing to mention serious flaws or conversely exaggerating trivial issues with games. For instance, most positive reviews of the strategy RPG Final Fantasy Tactics from “professional” critics and average gamers (even the Wikipedia article, and as they consider independent reviewers such as I “unreliable sources,” my attempt to mention the flaw in the text the admins reversed) don’t even mention the inability to undo movement, which was to me a serious issue, and as an autistic gamer, I tend to notice things mainstream neurotypical reviewers overlook or don’t think are big problems.

Perhaps one of the biggest hurdles in the way of negative reviews for big-name titles is the fear of online harassment from audiences, to which I can definitely attest from personal experience. Even if reviewers are civil, positively or negatively, in their opinions, many average gamers and users on gaming websites will absolutely refuse to face criticism of their beloved games, and make excuses when others politely indicate flaws in them, frequently gaslighting those with whom they disagree, which really hurt me since I’m autistic. In one case, when I posted an average review of Demon’s Souls on Amazon, it got downvote-bombed by the game’s apologists.

To repeat the question posed by my editorial’s title, whom exactly should players trust when it comes to videogame reviews and both purchasing and experiencing games old and new? The answer is themselves, and whomever reviewers, if they can find any, happen to share their particular perspectives on games. As a high-functioning autistic with unique perspectives, I have yet to find a videogame critic whose tastes align with mine, and thus I tend to trust my instincts and experiences with particular series, positive or negative, and those like-minded should form their opinions as such. As the late Hans Rosling quipped, to conclude, formulating your views based on minimal sources would be akin to judging a person based on a photograph of their foot.


 A bunny standing on top of an egg with the word "HOP" written with the letters colored blue green and orange

Film combining computer-generated animals with live-action, about how slacker Fred O'Hare ultimately becomes the first human Easter Bunny, with the role at the film's beginning held by a lapine voiced by Dr. House Hugh Laurie, and his son E.B. is reluctant to succeed him in the role, escaping to Hollywood in hopes he can become a professional drummer, even passing with flying colors an audition hosted by David Hasselhoff. Also has other notable performers such as Simpsons actor Hank Azaria voicing the renegade chick Carlos, along with Big Bang Theory actress Kaley Cuoco. Definitely not a masterpiece, but was in my opinion definitely one of the best Easter films.

Weekly Art by Me, 4/16/2022


Thursday, April 14, 2022

The Warring Son

The Warring Son (The Wings of War, #2)The Warring Son by Bryce O'Connor
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The first sequel of author Bryce O’Connor’s The Wings of War fantasy series, unlike its predecessors, occurs entirely within one year, in the second book’s case 861 v.S. (ver Syul), within the same timeframe as the end of its precursor. In the prologue, the warlord Gûlraht Baoill is in the Vietalis Ranges, lustful for more lands to conquer, including the valley town of Metcaf. The main chapters open with the titular protagonist, Raz the atherian, an anthropomorphic dragon-like race, headed north. Meanwhile in the Under Caves, Uhsula assures Shas-hana Rahn that her child is still alive, with word of disgruntlement among the underworlders.

Furthermore, Talo and Carro begin a pilgrimage to the city of Azbar, which sports a revived gladiatorial system, blasphemous in the Laorin religion, but of which Raz ultimately partakes. The Koyt siblings, the boy Arrun and the girl Luseki, receive their own introduction, and cross paths with Raz, who serves as their guardian throughout most of the story. There is a bit of confusion early on when the book introduces the chairman of the city as Markus Tern, although he’s called Quin Tern through the remainder of the story. His servant Alyssa Rhen, the Doctore of the Azbar Arena, handler of its gladiators, quickly discovers Raz.

Raz is taken as a gladiator, attempting to strike a deal with his captors for the Koyt siblings to be cleared of their debts, although the children must see the atherian participate in various stages of mortal combat. Carro and Talo eventually come to the city and see Raz fight, with the rest of the story dealing with the atherian’s struggles, some twists abounding towards the end and accounting for an ultimately satisfying sequel that ends satisfactorily and has its shocking moments, with the aforementioned nomenclatural confusion not being too bad a detriment.

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Wednesday, April 13, 2022

The Sea of Monsters

The Sea of Monsters (Percy Jackson and the Olympians, #2)The Sea of Monsters by Rick Riordan
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

In the second installment of author Rick Riordan’s Percy Jackson and the Olympians series, the namesake protagonist and first-person narrator has a bad dream involving Florida that leads him to think that his satyr friend Grover is in trouble. Afterward, he goes to his last day of his current grade at Meriwether College Prep, where he has a new friend named Tyson, although certain events lead to the school’s incineration and Annabeth spiriting him away, with help from a magical taxicab, to Camp Half-Blood, which is under attack, and where startling revelations about Tyson come to fruition.

Someone also poisons Thalia’s tree at camp, and as the centaur Chiron receives blame for the incidents, the enigmatic Tantalus becomes administrator and reinstitutes chariot races, with Percy’s experience consequentially becoming tortuous, and he continues to have nightmares of Grover being imperiled. After the first of the chariot races, Percy and his friends receive punishment, afterward learning that the Bermuda Triangle and the titular Sea of Monsters are one and the same, with the Golden Fleece there having the power to heal the tree, but camper Clarisse receives the quest to find the gilded MacGuffin.

Regardless, Percy, Annabeth, and Tyson set out to the Sea of Monsters, encountering many obstacles in their way and numerous nods to Homer’s Odyssey. The homage to the blind Greek poet’s work is definitely the first Percy Jackson sequel’s strongest suit, with plenty of nice twists along the way and old adversaries appearing as well. Granted, things certainly aren’t perfect, given instances early on of the R-word, which somewhat offended this autistic reviewer given the general lack of condemnation for such a slur, but Riordan for the most part did a nice job weaving modern times with Greek mythology in an overall satisfying story.

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Monday, April 11, 2022

The Book of Boba Fett


Big Star Wars Spoiler

Boba Fett survived falling into the sarlaac on Tatooine in Return of the Jedi, afterward seeking to take over Jabba the Hutt's criminal empire. I enjoyed it and felt it to be excellent fanservice, with some good twists and a live-action debut of a character from The Clone Wars.

Saturday, April 9, 2022

Zelda II: The Adventure of Link


Let me begin this review by saying that I do not like Nintendo’s fabled The Legend of Zelda franchise, to the point where I didn’t even think Ocarina of Time was all that great, and I would have been furious had Breath of the Wild been my first Switch game instead of Super Mario Odyssey, which I actually found a sizeable improvement over prior three-dimensional Mario games, and if you disagree, you might as well find another game reviewer whose tastes more align with yours. The original The Legend of Zelda on the NES did have a few things going for it, but in my opinion largely exemplified what was wrong with Japanese videogames at the time. Does its first sequel, Zelda II: The Adventure of Link fare any better?

The franchise’s first sequel occurs a year after the events of its predecessor, with Zelda’s servant Impa taking Link to the shrine of a sleeping maiden who turns out to be the Princess Zelda of long ago, fallen under a sleeping spell, with the Hyrulian hero needing to restore six crystals to their respective shrines and unite the Triforce in order to awaken her. Most of the story one could find in the instruction manual, should contemporary gamers have access to it, although the “present” of the plot is absolutely nothing to write home about, with poor plot direction and the constant need to reference the internet in order to make any significant progress.

Despite the sequel’s release outside Japan nearly two years after its original release, the translation wasn’t anything to write home about either, and definitely left the question of what exactly its English localization team was doing during that time. For one, the dialogue is in all-caps, with many howlers such as I AM ERROR and I CAN GIVE YOU MOST POWERFUL MAGIC, along with punctuation errors aplenty and other unnatural dialogue. Some of the spell descriptions received upon obtaining them, however, are actually comprehensible, as is the game dialogue in general, although videogame translation was scarcely a refined art at the time.

That leaves the gameplay to shoulder the burden, but lamentably Zelda II doesn’t fare any better than its precursor, despite its distinction from most other entries of the franchise. For one, there’s a combination of sidescrolling and top-down elements, among the latter being a traditional Japanese RPG overworld akin to other games of the time such as Dragon Quest and Final Fantasy. The sequel was actually somewhat ahead of its time in this respect since encounters weren’t random, with instead several moving black sprites indicating skirmishes appearing after Link wanders the overworld for some time, with contact sending him to a sidescrolling stage.

The actual environ of the sidescrolling encounter depends upon the overworld tile Link was on before the skirmish, for instance, with contact on a clear road usually not having any enemies, although encounters on tiles indicating grass, forest, or desert will more than likely have several foes. Link can jump (a magic spell allowing him to do so higher until he leaves the current screen or dies, and slash at enemies with his sword, being able to fire a beam from it for a brief distance at full health, although the actual range of attack of Link’s sword is simply horrendous, and contemporary players may find it nigh-impossible to engage in combat with the average enemy without sustaining significant damage.

Losing all health costs Link one of three lives the game gives by default, after which he restarts the current screen with full health and magic. All lost result in a Game Over and the opportunity to record progress or continue from the shrine where Zelda is sleeping, also the sole starting point when players reload the game. With Game Overs also comes the loss of all experience Link has acquired towards the next level, in which case he will acquire higher attack power, lower magic costs, or reduced damage. Defeating most foes nets Link some experience, and he may find special sacks that grant him more than usual, although given the frequency of death, these can go to waste.

Pretty much all enemies require some semblance of strategy to defeat, with one non-player character providing the strategy IF ALL ELSE FAILS USE FIRE, which is somewhat true as specific foes such as jumping spiders requires a magic spell Link ultimately receives allowing him to shoot fireballs when slashing his sword. Link also acquires the ability to stab his sword upward or downward whenever jumping, which can somewhat aid combat, although there are many cases in which he can get stuck in a downward stab sequence and unintentionally fall into a pit (which costs him a life) or other side of a strong enemy that can easily deplete his health.

The AI of enemies was surprisingly competent for a game originally released in 1987, with many enemies such as knights requiring Link to jump and stab their head before landing to damage them almost always moving backwards to prevent the hero from jumping past then whilst constantly raising and lowering their shields to defend his frontal attacks, counterattacking with their own stabs. Other than standard attacks, Link gradually acquires magic spells that cost a certain amount of his MP gauge (with additional life and magic point increases acquired at certain points across the game’s particular incarnation of Hyrule), with effects such as reduced damage and being able to reflect KKK-esque magicians’ attacks back at them.

Boss fights occur towards the end, and a few times in the middle of, the traversal of plot-centric palaces Link must visit to advance the game, also requiring some kind of special strategy to defeat, with the completion of these stages automatically advancing Link to the next experience level. The biggest issue with Zelda II’s mechanics is the absolutely punishing difficulty at times, with the trek to the final dungeon, for instance, littered with endless mandatory sidescrolling encounters that can very easily wear Link out, with plenty of cheap level designs that can quickly result in a Game Over, and make the game nigh-unplayable without cheating, even with the assistance of the internet.

The sequel isn’t user-friendly, either, given poor direction on how to advance the storyline, and the ease of getting lost that can quickly result in death and wasted attempts to accumulate experience. Granted, the absence of convoluted puzzles native to future series entries may entice those who don’t care much for such mind-games, and the temples don’t always feature sound design, the absence of in-game maps not really helping, and contemporary players may miss out on the sole alternate method of saving aside from getting a game over without, again, referencing the internet. Another nail in the coffin is the slow text speed, and generally, Zelda II doesn’t interact very well with players.

The audiovisual presentation is probably the sequel’s high point, though that really isn’t saying much. The soundtrack somewhat remixes the main overworld theme for the series, and there are some catchy tracks such as the flamenco-esque temple music, although the sound effects can be somewhat annoying and laser-esque, and both the near-death alarm and resurrected Ganon’s scoff with a Game Over will definitely trigger many players. Zelda II is also largely a period piece as far as the graphics go, with some okay aspects such as the decent anatomy for character and enemy sprites, although there are reskins aplenty as far as they and dungeons go, and the overworld visuals aren’t exactly remarkable.

Finally, while there is allegedly lasting appeal in the form of a replay mode that preserves Link’s heart, magic, and attack levels from a prior playthrough, the sequel, quite frankly, isn’t remotely enjoyable enough to warrant additional playtime.

On the whole, Zelda II is undoubtedly a relic of a bygone (sort of) era of videogames, especially regarding those that originated in Japan, with kusottare aplenty that then made said titles generally inaccessible to mainstream audiences. For one, the sequel is virtually unplayable, especially towards the end, even with the assistance of the internet, with frustrating combat and level design, an unengaging narrative with a poor English translation, and lackluster audiovisuals. The Japanese have a special term for videogames of low quality, kusogē, and while the first Zelda sequel among mainstream audiences allegedly wouldn’t be an example, given my experience, I very much think it does indeed apply, and absolutely cannot recommend it.

The Good:
+Gameplay has a few good ideas.
+Some of the music is catchy.
+Graphics are okay.

The Bad:
-Nearly impossible even with a guide.
-Lackluster narrative and localization.
-Painful to replay.

The Bottom Line:
One of the weakest entries of a franchise that would have its share of good, bad, and average games.

Score Breakdown:
Platform: NES
Game Mechanics: 0.5/10
Controls: 0.5/10
Story: 0.5/10
Localization: 0.5/10
Music/Sound: 1.5/10
Graphics: 1.0/10
Lasting Appeal: 0.0/10
Difficulty: Virtually Impossible
Playing Time: No in-game clock.

Overall: 0.5/10

Peter Rabbit 2


I had seen the first film I think on Netflix and wanted to rewatch it since I noticed its sequel, among the many films delayed by the coronavirus pandemic, on the streaming service but it was oddly absent, but I have a half-decent memory of the first movie, and the second features Farmer McGregor's son Thomas getting married to Bea, who aims to publish books based on Peter and his friends, other characters of different species from Beatrix Potter's works. Was a cute, fun movie, with some nods to other films such as the Ocean's series.

Friday, April 8, 2022

Weekly Art by Me, 4/8/2022


Pokémon Legends: Arceus

 Pokemon Legends Arceus cover.jpg

Breath of the Wild Pokémon

Gamers have known Nintendo for somewhat being revolutionary with regards to some of its console designs such as the Wii, given its use of motion-sensitive controllers that its sequel system would bequeath, and more recently the Switch, given the capacity for players to use the console on a television or portably. It would also receive several critically-acclaimed titles such as The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, which most agree was a turning point in one of Nintendo’s flagship franchises. It would further receive the latest generations of Pokémon titles along with a few remakes, the latest spinoff in the series being Pokémon Legends: Arceus, which despite being something of a side-game, sort of proves another “turning point” on its respective console.

Arceus’ setting occurs in the history of the region of Sinnoh, back then known as Hisui, long before the duo of Diamond and Pearl occurred, with the game transporting the black-slate protagonist the player names back through a rift in spacetime, where he/she receives the quest of collecting data on whatever Pokémon exist then. The backstory is decent, but given the endless clichés that abound, such as time-travel, amnesia, a legendary hero, imminent disaster, and such, the present of the plot never really reaches excellence. The translation is certainly legible, although the various dialects, such as the professor’s advanced vocabulary, somewhat seem unnatural.

Luckily, the gameplay largely compensates for the narrative shortcomings, with the protagonist able to keep a limited inventory with things such as different types of Poké Balls for various situations such as lightweight avian, heavy foes, and all Pokémon in between. The eponymous entities visibly wander fields and caves, with the main character able to throw a Poké Ball at them in an attempt to capture it for his/her pasture back in town, although one can potentially waste balls, and the ‘mon can break free. While enemies may sometimes notice the protagonist and chase them to the ends of the earth, one can utilize items such as berries gained from having captured ‘mons ram trees to distract wild ones and smoke bombs to cover himself/herself.

The player can also toss Pokémon at mineral deposits to get other materials involved in the crafting of items such as supplemental Poké Balls and recovery potions, although players can purchase some of these at shops as well, provided they’ve done the necessary sidequests to expand the shops’ inventories. The general difficulty of fulfilling sidequests without the assistance of the internet is a primary strike against the game mechanics, along with the limited inventory with which the player can explore, the protagonist needing to stash items in a chest and have at least one slot for another item type in order to obtain one that they’re not currently carrying.

On fields and in dungeons, the protagonist can throw one of six of their active Pokémon at wild ones to commence battle, in which case, likely depending upon the opponent’s level, the enemy might get the first chance to use an ability, with plenty of opportunities for frequent OHKOs if the player’s monsters are low-level. As in prior series entries, moreover, switching ‘mons in the middle of battle wastes the player’s turn or in some cases turns, a step down from the superior swapping systems present in other RPGs such as Breath of Fire IVFinal Fantasy X, and Wild Arms 2.

If wild Pokémon are close enough, the player must fight them all off in order to get experience for living members of the player’s team, although they must battle strictly with one ‘mon, and lamentably, abilities that affect multiple foes are absent. However, one major improvement over prior games is that while each Pokémon can have a maximum of four active abilities of different types (the Rochambeau formula of certain abilities and ‘mon elements being strong/weak against other kinds returning), the player can, outside battle, change these skills and not completely lose them. A teacher in town also provides additional abilities, as leveling occasionally does, for a price.

Arceus’ main method of acquiring money comes from the constant capture of wild Pokémon, doing so also gradually filling many different aspects of the franchise’s iconic Pokédex, with several measures such as how many of a certain type the player has evolved (with some evolutionary methods necessitating the use of a guide if players are unfamiliar with prior games) and slowly but surely advancing the protagonist’s exploratory rank that dictates things such as the level ceiling of how well ‘mons will follow the player’s commands and which advanced types of Poké Balls they can use.

Players familiar with the types of particular Pokémon, most of which return from prior series entries, will definitely relish at the ability to determine which to throw at wild ones to engage them, although before story battles, the player can’t make such a choice unless they’ve encountered the opponent Pokémon and/or their trainer before. Moreover, the player doesn’t receive the chance, when fighting trainers with multiple Pokémon, once players have offed one of the opponent’s, to change their active ‘mon. Despite the issues, Arceus’ take on the Pokémon formula is fairly faithful to mainline games whilst evolving it, although players may find it easier not to experiment constantly with lower-level ‘mons and largely stick to those from their pasture with higher levels.

While Arceus does have general good direction on how to advance the main storyline, with certain giant iterations of specific Pokémon opening exploration, the direction on the sidequests is often vague, with occasional annoying puzzles and minigames as well, not to mention the total lack of a minimap and compass separate from the main map screen, and you have to face the direction of the next objective point in order to see the indicator during travel. There are other annoyances such as the need to teleport back to a camp in order to get back to town, and you have to go back to town in order to go to another wild Pokémon-populated region. In the end, the developers could have certainly made the game more user-friendly.

The audiovisual presentation could have been better as well. As in the open-world Zelda that partially inspired it, Arceus is fairly light on music, although what little soundtrack does exist is decent, if derivative of other entries of the Pokémon series, with most ‘mons having distinct digitized cries, if somewhat primitive-sounding. The visuals contain good colors and distinct monster designs, a few reskins indicating different elemental types of certain species, although there is plentiful popup, with wild Pokémon seeming to have choppy robotic movement when seen from a distance, the environs too containing blurry and pixilated textures when viewed up-close. In the end, the spinoff’s aesthetics are at best middling.

Finally, a straightforward playthrough can take a little over twenty-four hours, although given my involvement in much of the side content such as filling the Pokédex, my final playtime ended up a few hours short of forty-eight, with a completionist playthrough taking much longer, and lasting appeal, given the significant enjoyability of the game mechanics, is naturally high.

In summation, one could certainly consider Pokémon Legends: Arceus the monster-collecting franchise’s answer to The Legend of Zelda’s Breath of the Wild, given its open-world gameplay that definitely has many things going for it. However, given that I don’t look upon that particular entry of the Zelda series with rose-tinted glasses, that doesn’t necessarily mean Arceus is a good game, as it does have plenty issues of which prospective players need to be aware before purchasing and playing it such as the lack of helpful quality-of-life features, unengaging narrative, and average audiovisual presentation. Regardless, I wouldn’t consider my time with the game to be a waste, and given my sizeable temporal investment in the game, it obviously does do many things right.

The Good:
+Good catching and battle mechanics.
+Clear direction for plot advancement.
+Plenty of side content.

The Bad:
-Same issues with central mechanics as in prior games.
-Unengaging narrative and lackluster localization.
-Average audiovisual aspect.

The Bottom Line:
An okay spinoff that brings the franchise a few steps forward and some back.

Score Breakdown:
Platform: Nintendo Switch
Game Mechanics: 7.0/10
Controls: 5.0/10
Story: 2.5/10
Localization: 6.0/10
Music/Sound: 5.0/10
Graphics: 5.0/10
Lasting Appeal: 8.0/10
Difficulty: Moderate
Playing Time: 24-72 Hours

Overall: 5.5/10