Video Game Awards 2020: Best Remake/Re-Release

One of the dumbest complaints gamers make (and boy, is that saying something) is how they hate it when publishers “force them to play the same game over and over” in regards to remakes and re-releases. Unless these publishers are villains in a Liam Neeson movie and have taken your loved ones, no one’s forcing you to play anything.

Re-releases and remakes in the video game world exist for a reason: gaming  advances so quickly, that re-releases are a necessary way to preserve them. It’s a very self-absorbed way of looking at things to assume that, just because you’ve played a particular game before means it doesn’t need another release (of course, gamers and shortsighted, self-absorption tend to go hand-in-hand). Movies get home video releases, which continue to be adapted into whatever the latest form of home video is. More popular movies even get theatrical re-issues. Video game technology advances so fast and moves on to the next thing so quickly, the medium needs some way to keep the classics around. Hence, remakes and re-releases.

They exist for the people who may have missed out on them the first time around, but still want to experience them. And they exist for the people who loved them enough the first time around that they want to experience them again. No one’s “forcing” anyone to play anything.

2019 was a pretty strong year for such remakes and re-releases, and though I didn’t get around to playing them all (sorry, I’ll try to eventually), I definitely know which ones stood out to me the most.

 

Winner: Ni No Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch Remastered

 

One of my favorite handheld games/RPGs, Mario & Luigi: Bowser’s Inside Story, was also re-released in 2019, and was a strong contender for this award. But I admit I agree with some of the issues fans have with the remake adding more dialogue (making it feel more bloated with words like Super Paper Mario or all the post-Bowser’s Inside Story Mario RPGs), and the new visuals just don’t have the same charm.

Thankfully, the remastered version of one of my other favorite RPGs – Ni No Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch – didn’t suffer any such unnecessary changes. It’s the same fun, deep, emotional RPG it was back in 2013, only now with the additional sheen of the PS4 to make the Studio Ghibli provided visuals pop all the more. It’s just a shame that the Switch release of Ni No Kuni was in its original state and not the remaster for some reason (I get that the Switch isn’t the most graphically powerful console, but it seems like it should be able to handle Ni No Kuni, considering some of the other stylized games it houses).

Ni No Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch was my favorite game of 2013, and one of my favorite games of the decade. So to experience it all again – looking better than ever, no less – is nothing short of a treat. Now I just hope that if Ni No Kuni 3 ever happens, that Bandai Namco actually teams up with Studio Ghibli again for the artwork (yeah, they had some of Studio Ghibli’s artists work on Ni No Kuni 2, but it just wasn’t the same).

It’s good to be back in the other world.

 

Runner-up: Mario & Luigi: Bowser’s Inside Story + Bowser Jr’s Journey

 

Past Winners

2017: Mario Kart 8 Deluxe

2018: Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze (Switch Version)

Ni No Kuni II: Revenant Kingdom Review

A kingdom reborn…

The original Ni No Kuni, Wrath of the White Witch, is not only one of my favourite games on what is arguably my favourite Sony console, but it is arguably the greatest modern JRPG in recent memory – ranking meteorically high amongst the small repertoire of contemporary greats. With its brilliantly realized world – complimented with gorgeously animated sequences produced by the masterful Studio Ghibli –, an exquisite musical score co-composed by the brilliant Joe Hisaishi, a Tales meets Pokémon battle system, and a surprisingly poignant narrative that resonates on multiple accords, Wrath of the White Witch is a rare treat of an RPG that never fails to impress. Its sequel, Revenant Kingdom, takes a number of steps forward -establishing some new ideas while polishing the original’s foundation – but questionably stumbles in other areas, arguably taking a few steps backwards. Studio Ghibli’s involvement is objectively non-existent, exposition is divulged in extensive text-based dialogue sequences, the intuitive hybrid active/turn-based system is entirely replaced by a simplistic, yet fun, action-based combat system, and its narrative is disappointingly shallow in comparison to the original’s emotional brilliance. Despite its disappointing nature, Ni No Kuni II: Revenant Kingdom is an undeniably fun experience that is exceptionally beautiful and surprisingly engaging. Revenant Kingdom never reaches the resonating heights of its predecessor but manages to establish an aura of its own, thanks to its fantastic world-building and unexpected level of gameplay variance.

Continue reading “Ni No Kuni II: Revenant Kingdom Review”

Totally Hyped for Ni No Kuni II!!

Ni no Kuni II

After Playstation Experience, many gamers were left with even higher anticipation for Uncharted 4, and utter confusion as to whether the remake of Final Fantasy VII is actually a remake at all. But for me, there was one thing that stood out above everything else presented at the event, and that’s Ni no Kuni II: Revenant Kingdom.

When Ni no Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch was released in the US in January 2013, it became one of my favorite RPGs of all time, and despite its release so early in the year, it remained my favorite game of 2013, and my favorite PS3 exclusive.

Though the game sold decently well and got its fair share of acclaim, it didn’t necessarily fly off shelves. And while it won a number of awards in the RPG genre, it failed to gain very many mentions for Game of the Year in 2013 (perhaps because it wasn’t purposefully created to be a Game of the Year like GTAV, Bioshock Infinite and The Last of Us were).

So what made Ni no Kuni so special? For one, it was a good old-fashioned JRPG made new. It didn’t reinvent the genre, but it combined elements from series like Pokemon and Dragon Quest in a way that made it feel fresh and innovative. It had the best cel-shading since The Winder, giving the graphics a gorgeous, timeless appeal. The character designs and cut scenes were created by Studio Ghibli, and composer Joe Hisaishi – famous for his scores for Ghibli films – provided the game’s phenomenal soundtrack. And, of course, it told one of the sweetest stories I’ve ever seen in a video game, complete with one of gaming’s greatest cast of characters.

Ni no Kuni was a terrific game, and holds a special place in my heart for both personal reasons and for the game itself. And the announced sequel looks to keep the heart of the original, which can only be a great thing.

Ni no Kuni III’m not sure what other people’s reaction are to the fact that Ni no Kuni II features the same game world but a new cast of characters. Personally, I don’t think it would make much sense to have the same characters from the first game, since that felt like a complete story (more accurately, two complete stories). I suspect some of the secondary and tertiary characters will show up again, which is perfectly fine, but I’m excited to see where the game goes with the new characters.

The released trailer already gives a brief introduction to some of the characters and plot elements (though only vaguely), and shows how beautiful the series’ visuals look on PS4. Once again Ghibli animators and Joe Hisaishi return for the character designs and music, respectively. And it all looks wonderful.

Of course, the trailer didn’t show a whole lot in terms of gameplay, but there’s still plenty of time for that. Considering it’s only the second game in the series (not counting mobile spinoffs), and that the first one came out almost three years ago already (in the US, in Japan its been almost five), it’s not exactly like the series has seen overexposure. I’m hoping the gameplay remains similar to the first title, with maybe some meaningful additions here and there. There’s no need for a total overhaul at this point.

Sadly, the game has no release date as of yet (otherwise I may have to revise my list of most anticipated 2016 games), but no doubt it has joined the likes of Yooka-Laylee and Zelda Wii U as one of my most hyped games on the horizon.

If Ni no Kuni II is anywhere near as beautiful of a game as its predecessor, it will be a real work of art.

Top 5 Video Game Witches

Happy Halloween everybody! I’ve been quietly celebrating this awesome holiday through my recent string of Castlevania reviews, but I also thought I’d whip up something a little more unique on the day of Halloween itself. So here it is, a list of the top five witches in video games!

I don’t want to hear anyone say I forgot some character or failed to mention so and so. This list is narrowed down to five, after all, and it’s just based on my opinion. This is a pretty different list than usual anyway. I could always make revised editions, if that suits your fancy.

Also keep in mind that these characters have to be primarily identified as witches. No mages, sages, wizards and shamans allowed.

So without further ado, grab a witch’s brew, or I’ll get you my pretties, and your little dogs too! Or, you know, here are the top five video game witches.

*Minor spoilers follow!* Continue reading “Top 5 Video Game Witches”