Spyro the Dragon [Game Review]

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Original Release Date: September 1998
Remake Release Date: November 2018
Original Console: Playstation
Remake Console: PS4, XB1
Rating: 10/10


Spyro the Dragon is one of those gaming mascots that is remembered very fondly…he is one of the few characters that has evolved over time, and he has a version of himself for every generation since his creation (even if the original fans do not always agree with these creative choices).

Myself…I was OBSESSED with Dragons growing up, and as the gaming world moved into 3D platforming, the announcement of Spyro the Dragon really was a dream come true. I was hell-bent on getting this game…to the point where I drew Spyro all over my 3rd grade homework, talked about nothing other than Spyro, and even dreamed about Spyro until my Mother finally bought me a Playstation and the game for Christmas.

Aaaaaand then I proceeded to beat the game in an hour.

I have been wanting to write a review for this game for awhile (as it is still one of my favorite games of all time), but like with the original Pokemon games, the idea of writing a review was overwhelming as I wanted to do the game justice. Still, with the arrival of the Reignited Trilogy in November of 2018, I am glad that I waited this long, as now I can compile everything into one massive review, and not have to worry about covering the same game twice.

But enough of my rambling…you already know the drill, let’s get into this this!


-The Review-

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  • The Story:

—Spyro was back in an era where a game did not have to have a complicated story in order to be enjoyable. Mario had to save Princess Peach from Bowser, Banjo had to save his sister Tootie, and Spyro had to rescue all the Dragons that had been trapped in Crystal by Gnasty Gnorc.
The game set you up with this funny cutscene really setting the tone for where we are in this game. The Dragon Kingdom has been at peace for awhile, and during this time has become rather wealthy. When asked about a character called Gnasty Gnorc, another Dragon proceeds to insult this character saying he is simple, no threat, and is overall ugly. This angers Gnasty Gnorc and he uses his magic to turn all the Dragons into crystal statues…everyone except Spyro who then sets out on his adventure.

That is the basis of the story…and as you progress, the importance of collecting the stolen treasure and stolen dragon eggs is added, though overall it is the Dragons that are of the utmost importance.

 

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  • Collectibles:

—Spyro was also released not only when 3D platformers were all-the-rage, but also when collectibles were popular. It had become a staple of gaming to not only beat a game, but to collect everything in a game to finish it with 100%
Spyro took that to a whole new level. not only did you have to find every Dragon in every world, but you also had to find all the gems in every level. This often required very precise platforming, and exploring every inch of these open worlds. Sometimes gems could only be achieved by completing a stage fully in one-try…which made the game a lot more difficult if you truly wanted to complete it. After that, you also had to make sure and collect every Dragon Egg. So even if you could beat the game in an hour without collecting everything, getting all gems, all dragons, and all eggs after beating the final boss allowed you to access a special, final level where you could collect the final 2000 gems, and have the bragging rights of having beaten the game at 120% instead. This also gave you a 2nd ending to appreciate…which at the time was really cool.

 

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  • The Map:

—What made Spyro the Dragon fun and unique was the varying worlds you could access. Each world had so many levels, a flying stage, and then a boss. After collecting so many Dragons, you could then hop on a hot air balloon to travel to the next place. Each world was themed. You start in the Artisan Home, then the Peace Keepers…etc. Each world represents a different type of Dragon and shows the role they have in this realm. The final world is Gnasty’s World where the main villain has been locked up with his goons. What I loved about the map was how different each place was. One moment it’s hills and shrub mazes, the next it’s floating pillars and magical cannons, and in another instance there is a vast desert and toxic water, and then you’re in a swamp. That’s not even including all the varying levels with their own looks. It was just a very fun and pleasing game to look at…the levels and changing environments kept things very fresh and nothing ever stood out as being re-used or being boring. The maps also had all their own challenges for gathering gems…and even when outside of levels there were secrets to find and puzzles to solve. Everything about this game was engaging!

 

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  • Mechanics:

—Another thing that makes Spyro such a good game (in my opinion) is that, not only is there not an overly complicated story, but Spyro isn’t overly complicated either. He can charge using his horns (which also allows him to run super fast), he can breathe short bursts of flame, and he can glide using his wings. Naturally he can walk and jump and all that. But even with such simple moves, the game really puts you to the test on how best to use those moves.
Most enemies can get blasted with fire…but what if they are wearing armor? Well, fire won’t work, so you just have to charge those guys. But what if the enemy is big? Fire might work here since you’re too small to charge them. But then again there is sometimes an extra step. Maybe the big guy is plated and can only be flamed from behind. Maybe they are too fast to shoot with fire so you have to charge them and knock them off a cliff because they will lose their footing.

Even running and gliding is used in very strategic ways in order to get all the collectibles. There are also power-ups in the game…usually in the form of a super fire or a super charge…and these also come in handy when doing things like blasting apart metal or reaching new heights.

 

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  • Boss fights:

—The boss fights in Spyro the Dragon have always come off as hilarious at most. I wouldn’t say that they are difficult, but rather they test your knowledge on how Spyro works. They basically make you use almost every tool you have picked up in whatever world you are in and it throws you into a stage to test your mastery of said-mechanics. The bosses are all 3-hit wonders much like Mario, and as mentioned before, most have a touch of humor to them. Most memorable to me is Toasty from the first world and Dr.Shemp from the second world. Nothing beats finding out that the first boss is not what he first appears, and who wouldn’t get a laugh at flaming someone on the rear and watching them hop away? Bosses are another fun little challenge with a nice gem bonus if you beat them.

 

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  • Flying stages:

—My least-favorite thing about Spyro the Dragon has always been the flying stages. The flying stages are generally the hidden stage of each world, and as you can guess, it is the only time where Spyro can fly. But why is it my least-favorite? It’s because these courses are timed. There are 4 things you must do in each of the flying stages…this could be anything from flying through rings to shooting down airplanes with your fire-breath. Sometimes it’s lighting the Lighthouses or diving under arches. Maybe it’s destroying cars or treasure chests…
But there are always 4-things you must do in order to complete the level for its gems…and if you want all the gems for the level, you not only have to complete the 4 tasks…but you have to finish it all in one go. Most of the time these objects are scattered about in a way that you have to develop a plan of attack if you want to get all the objects within the time limit. And if one thing goes wrong, you will have to retry the stage because there is no recovering from it.

I despise it because I have never been a fan of “precise-gaming” which is what this is…and on top of that, expecting it to be precise within a time limit is very stressful. the flying stages are pretty and the music is great, but you just never have the time to absorb any of that while trying to get that final object when you’re down to the last few seconds. And if you wanna complete this game 120%, the flying stages are a necessity…and boy do they get stressful! I think the general consensus is that the flying sequences don’t even control very well which was improved in the remakes of the first game…but not entirely.

 

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  • Final Boss:

—The final boss is Gnasty Gnorc, and like all the other bosses, there is not much of a challenge to him. Rather he is a collection of all the different skills you have obtained in the game, specifically running. Gnasty’s fight consists of you unlocking his platform and then chasing after him. Then you have to flame him 3 times and he is done for. The main group of fans have always been disappointed with how underwhelming the fight is…but considering how great the rest of the game is in comparison, I guess I never minded as much. I loved the platforming during Gnasty’s fight…and when you are going up against him for that first time, the fight still seems daunting. There is always the worry of what will happen if you don’t catch him in time. I think it’s just the reflection on the battle afterwards that leaves people a bit bummed about how short it is.

But as mentioned before, Gnasty is not the end of the game! Sure, if you beat him then you have technically “finished” the game by saving a majority of the Dragon Kingdom…but if you didn’t do everything 100% then there’s no way for you to get into Gnasty’s Treasure Room, and there are still Dragons to save and gems to collect! Luckily the game lets you continue after you beat the final boss in case you truly wanna go that extra mile.

 

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  • Reignited Trilogy:

—When Crash Bandicoot got his reboot in 2017, fans were begging for Spyro to get the same treatment. Both mascots had always gone head-to-head in popularity and sales, and this was something we could only dream of! That’s when Toys for Bob delivered in late 2018 with the Reignited Trilogy. The game was actually pushed back from its September release due to glitches, but fans were just happy that the developers wanted us to receive a more polished product…and polished it was.

Mere words cannot describe just how great the Reignited Trilogy is. For one, it’s a collection of the original 3 Spyro games on one disc, and for two, the game came out for the Ps4 and Xbox One giving Xbox gamers a chance to try out these amazing classics for themselves. In the case of the first Spyro game, the graphics were stunning. Where before most of the Dragons rescued looked very similar…now they all had unique appearances and voices. They all had their own crazy personalities which made them even more fun to collect and really emphasized the difference between the Dragon worlds. The worlds themselves were so detailed but also very familiar. The amount of detail is stunning with the same music being redone by the same composer. Even a lot of the old voice actors came back including Tom Kenny who took over as the voice of Spyro in Ripto’s Rage came back to voice the purple Dragon.

Spyro in general looks better and controls a lot better. His movements are so smooth and players now have the ability to choose whatever camera style suits them the best. I chose the classic “passive” camera mode…but a lot of people prefer active as it is not as hard on their eyes. Even the dreaded flying stages were made much easier just due to the fact that the graphics are a lot cleaner and smoother, and the flight controls are much better. It doesn’t mean they aren’t challenging…but it made them a lot more tolerable. Because of the better acting and the graphics, even the cutscenes are a joy to watch, and it just made my heart melt with nostalgia.


-Final Thoughts-

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So…if I were to recommend the original or the Reignited Trilogy, the trilogy would be what I recommend. While I will always love the original, I know that older games are not for everyone. I feel like the Reignited Trilogy truly is the best experience for newcomers to the series, and, if you’re curious to see the difference between the two, then just watch a YouTube series on the original game.

I might even do a blog on the differences myself…though I have to admit that outside of some graphical improvements and maybe some voice acting, the game is pretty much the same. I also recommend the Trilogy because it is available for two major consoles. It is more widely available for people to try and on top of that, you are getting three games for the price of one when you buy the trilogy whereas the original fluctuates in price due to how well it was taken care of. With the original you have to have the system to play it and then a memory card…but with the Trilogy, none of that is necessary, and the autosave feature in the game is really nice.

Either way, both versions are so much fun, and Spyro the Dragon will always be a game that is near and dear to my heart. I can only hope that my review has done it justice.

But let me know what YOU think!

Have you ever played Spyro the Dragon? what is your favorite version or Spyro and why? Do you prefer the original games or the Reignited Trilogy?

As always, let me know your thoughts and opinions in the comment section down below. Thank you all so much for reading and your continued support of this blog! I will see you all in the next one! 😉


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Bilge Rat Adventures & honorable mentions!

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Happy Holidays everyone!!!
It has been awhile since I covered anything Sea of Thieves-related…and while there is plenty I have wanted to write about, I decided to save all those blogs for one massive post about the Bilge Rat Adventures.

So who are the Bilge Rats?

The Bilge Rats were formed as a response to the encroaching presence of the Trading Companies. They don’t have a founder or a leader exactly, because they’re all far too independent, but one day a feisty pirate and her crew decided that the pirate life was too precious a thing to squander by being too serious.

Not wanting to follow orders or do anything that could even remotely resemble work, they became the Bilge Rats: tenacious, uncontrollable and a bit wild. Their aim is to get together with like-minded louts and go seeking the real Sea of Thieves.

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Basically the Bilge Rats are the dare-devils of the seas…setting up dangerous challenges for all who would accept them. These dares and challenges are known as the Bilge Rat Adventures, and they earn pirates titles and the 2nd type of currency: Doubloons.

Doubloons can be used for various things from buying time-limited items, buying reputation for the trading companies, or buying vast amounts of gold (if that’s your thing). Personally, I have used my doubloons to buy special items like weapons and ship cosmetics, and occasionally I use my doubloons to get to that next milestone in my reputation.

The character Duke helped with clues across the story for the Hungering Deep…and afterwards he posed the first challenges for pirates. He is the man who gives out every new set of challenges with the Bilge Rats and can be found in every tavern. So far we have had 5 events all with varying levels of difficulty and added lore to the game universe:

  • Skeleton Thrones
  • Gunpowder Skeletons
  • Sunken Curse
  • Cursed Crews
  • Festival of the Damned

But were they good? Did they add to the game in a way players enjoyed? Were they fun AND functional?

Well that’s what we are going to dive into with this blog…


Skeleton Thrones

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The Bilge Rats themselves have gone out to some of the remotest locations within the Sea of Thieves and built what they’re calling the Skeleton Thrones. They’re now encouraging would-be challengers to find these Thrones out there in far-flung parts of the world.

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Skeleton Thrones was the first of many quests that required Pirates from different crews to ‘cooperate’ with each other rather than try and blow each other up for once. There were 2 different types of thrones that were scattered around the map: small and large. Like with the Hungering Deep, a separate person or 3rd person from another crew was needed in order to activate the larger thrones, while a small crew of 2 people could access the smaller ones.
In order to fully complete the event, you had to find and activate all 10 thrones. Doing so earned you a title, and each throne was worth a varying degree of doubloons.

While hunting for the thrones was fun, having to find a person to join you from another crew was not. This was long before the alliance-system came out, and most pirates would just ignore you. If you weren’t hunting for thrones on the first day of the event, ships would just keep sailing, and/or you would find yourself in a battle. Many people were not lucky enough to find a friendly pirate to help them out…and it meant a lot of time sailing towards other ships and hoping they needed the same commendations as well.

The wife and I got lucky to find someone on the last day of the event who still needed the thrones, and so we not only took him to the larger thrones, but we re-visited all the smaller ones as well. It was one of the more ‘nice’ moments in Sea of Thieves where you really feel the full-effect of the magic that is supposed to be teamwork…but back in the days of Skeleton Thrones, it was still a very rare-ordeal not experienced by much of the player base.

Did the event add content? Not really…
The thrones in themselves added nothing to the world except something else to do. But even then, if you knew all the locations, the whole event only lasted around 30 minutes. The thrones themselves gave us a look at what the Bilge Rats were like, but overall added nothing to the lore and was just a very-short side quest.


Gunpowder Skeletons

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Yes, in their determination to prove that they’re not just a bunch of one-trick pirates, those Bilge Rats have engineered a new method of spicing up other seafearers’ voyages. The skeletons that erupt from the island sands can now haul up cunningly buried gunpowder kegs with them, and that’s never a good combination.

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Gunpowder Skeletons had to be one of my favorite events because while it may not have added any lore to the game, it did add a new permanent challenge to fighting skeletons. While the point of the event may have been blowing up the different types of skeletons and getting chain reactions…even after the event was over, the Gunpowder Skeletons stayed and are very-much a threat today.

Also, who doesn’t like explosions?!

It was also nice to have an event that did not rely too heavily on working with other people. While there was a Legendary achievement that required a skeleton fort and two different crews, it wasn’t the main focus of the event which made it all the more enjoyable.

It also gave people an incentive to do more Order of Soul missions and Skeleton Forts…so it lit that fire beneath the people that were bored of the same-old-thing, and gave it a new purpose, even if for a short while.


The Sunken Curse

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The Sunken Curse is the latest Bilge Rat Adventure ready to be tackled by venturesome seadogs and scallywags. Step off your ship and take a dip into the sea, as Cursed Mermaid statues beckon you with mysterious murmurs. They may look beautiful and valuable, but you must do whatever it takes to destroy them and break their curse!

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The Sunken Curse…or how most people know it: Mermaid Statues.

This was the first Bilge Rat adventure to actually introduce some lore into the game! We had all seen the Mermaids that take us back to our ship…but where were the rest? This adventure also affected one of the NPCs: Wanda the Blacksmith.
She would often check her arm, and over time, she started to lose her ability to speak, and eventually she lost her name.

Enter the lore of the Mermaid: through this event we learned that in the event that a Pirate drowns, if they are saved by a Mermaid, they are then cursed to become a Mermaid themselves. Over time their body starts to change, they start to lose their memory, their ability to speak, and eventually they go back to the ocean where their body begins to transform. The Mermaids often seen saving us are not Mermaids, but they are victims of drowning, still half-human as they attempt to save us from their same fate. Cool, right?

Unfortunately, for all the cool lore added to the game via this event…the event itself was underwhelming. It had your crew going from island-to-island, diving under the water and listening for the hum of a Mermaid statue that you needed to destroy. Sapphire statues only took one person, an Emerald statue took 2 people, and a Ruby statue would take 3 people to destroy. The statues were supposed to inflict damage on you once you got too close…but oftentimes these statues were glitched, and staying at a particular angle would mean you wouldn’t take harm.
The real challenge was in destroying the statues before drowning and/or getting eaten by sharks!

This event also put in more underwater loot…but it was often very boring as the statues gave you nothing once broken, and spawn rates seemed to vary by server. Later on, the mermaid statues were removed and then made a return in the Shrouded Spoils event. Now they offer their gems once destroyed which was something I wish had been in the Sunken Curse because then the event might have seemed more rewarding, and the hunt would have not seemed like such a wasted effort after spending all those days trying to get all the doubloons, commendations, and titles.


Cursed Sails

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Celebrations abound! During Cursed Sails, pirates from all four corners of the map answered the call to defend the Outposts from the fearsome skeleton crews. By forming Alliances and weathering the waves, they drove back the skeleton scourge. Leaderless and feeling the bitter taste of defeat, the accursed skellies continue to roam the seas in their salvaged ships.

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Cursed Sails wasn’t really a Bilge Rat Adventure- rather it was an expansion/ but it was a piece of the Sea of Thieves that had it all…it added new mechanics to the game, new enemies, more lore, even a new ship!!! But for those that follow my blog, they would know after reading: Why I stopped playing Sea of Thieves (for a little while)- that I didn’t get to fully experience this campaign because it was ruined rather early for me.

To sum it all up…the alliance-system was ambitious. You join in a massive fleet with other ships and then when you turn in your loot, you get the full amount and your alliance members get 50% of what your total profit was (at no loss to you). Again it was an effort to make players be friendly and cooperate with each other…but I easily spotted the red flags in that.

Players could join an alliance and then still murder their fellow alliance team. Not only that, but a ship could carry all the loot from an event to an outpost, and then drop their alliance before turning in so that they got all the profit…and the rest of the alliance got none of it. So even though it was supposed to be a way to team up and save the Shores of Plenty from the scourge that was the skeleton ships…instead Cursed Sails turned into a contest of who could more creatively screw over their alliance. At least, that was my experience with it.

Looking back now, I should have given the campaign another chance…and I probably should have tried playing with more randoms than just relying on my regular crew all the time. But I ended up hating the Brigantine which was a huge bummer because as a person that was usually in a 3-man crew…I felt that once we finally had a 3-man ship, we would be unstoppable. But instead we got a fast ship that is terrible at turning…it sinks so fast, and was not good for this particular campaign.

But was the campaign fun? YES!!!! Fighting skeleton ships was super exciting. Wave-after-wave…trying to blast them with cannons, blow them up, and stop the skeleton crews from repairing, all while stealing what loot they had on their ship was just so exciting, and it really tested all of your pirate skills. I have no complaints with the campaign…only with the crew mates that failed to communicate and failed to follow simple orders so that we lost our ship in the middle of a fight.

Not to mention, the return of more lore was fantastic. Again we got to see a change in the Blacksmith named Wanda…as her arm slowly became more skeletal. Journals scattered across the world told of her finding and taking a cannon from Captain Flameheart’s ship and developing what we now know are the cursed cannonballs. We got to talk to her partner who got transformed into a skeletal parrot and learned how making the cursed cannonballs corrupted Wanda, and in the end, we fought her and destroyed her in her final form: The dreaded Captain Warsmith of the skeletal fleet.

So Cursed Sails was excellent…but the toxic community and just that lack of cooperation when it was so necessary to get that full experience…while this is probably the most successful campaign of them all…it just wasn’t one that I was able to enjoy for myself.

After the battles for the Shores of Plenty, fighting the skeleton ships affected the world. Prices for clothing and other items were dropped as a way of saying thanks to the players for their heroics. Skeleton ships have since remained in the game. For awhile they stuck to their designated area under a cloud shaped like a Galleon…but now, they not only show up under the cloud, as of the release of Shrouded Spoils, these ships also wander the entire ocean, do their own voyages, and can pop up from underneath the water at any time. They even have new skeleton ships including a Brigantine and a Sloop version.


Cursed Crews

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Cursed Crews was an addition to Cursed Sails…and after the defeat of the Skeleton crews, we were finally given the chance to use the cursed cannonballs. Thus, a new Bilge Rat adventure was born!

Cursed Crews required you to put up a new flag known as “The Reaper’s Mark”. This glowing, red flag would show your location to everyone else on the Sea of Thieves. This was a very PvP-centric adventure that required you to fly the flag and shoot other ships with the varying cursed cannonballs.

It also had other achievements…like shooting skeleton mobs with certain cannonballs as well as just surviving your voyages while flying the reaper’s mark. It also had some achievements/commendations for working together in an alliance. And while it changed PvP in the game, it really didn’t add anything. PvP is still one of those things in Sea of Thieves that I hate…

I only attack people when they attack me or they board my ship without permission. Most the time when you sink someone, they do not have any loot, therefore it ends up being a waste of resources.
Killing the skeletons with the various cursed cannonballs was actually pretty fun for a time…but after the disaster I experienced with Cursed Sails, I wasn’t about to join an alliance again…at least not for some time. I feel like just with the Mermaid statues that Cursed Crews was very small and very underwhelming. But it did add a permanent mechanic to the game, that myself and others still use today.


Forsaken Shores

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A long-lost region has been rediscovered: a perilous land known as The Devil’s Roar! Crew up and go from sea dog to scout in this strange, treacherous place where the world itself is your enemy. Stand fearlessly before The Devil’s Roar as it becomes a permanent new part of your adventure!

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Much like with Cursed Sails…Forsaken Shores was not strictly a Bilge Rat Adventure…but it is an honorable mention as again, it is a content update that really had it all. There was a new section of the map added known as “The Devil’s Roar” which introduced a brand-new threat to ships and their crews alike: Volcanoes!

Volcanoes erupting, boiling water, geysers, earthquakes…this place was as dangerous as dangerous could be. Again we got an update to the lore as we learned about The Forsaken Shores Alliance and how their mystic artifact (figurehead) allowed them to break through the Shroud in order to explore these strange lands. But the ship crashed, the artifact broke, the Shroud dispersed…and now all manner of pirate can make it into the Devil’s Roar.
Meanwhile it’s up to us to explore every island, find the remains of the Forsaken Shores Alliance, and maybe run across a box of wondrous secrets.

It was a fun campaign…and short as it might have been, it offered a new permanent region with new clothes/cosmetics, new ship cosmetics, new time-limited items, new voyages worth almost double their regular counterparts, a new rowboat to play with…and eventually gave us a new type of merchant mission: The cargo run.

And the reason I mention it is because there were still tasks to do in order to buy doubloons. There were still titles to get and time-limited items to buy from Duke. So while it may not be a true Bilge Rat Adventure…the daring and danger makes it close enough.


Festival of the Damned

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The Bilge Rats invite you to honour the Ferryman, whose creepy craft allows pirates to live forever – despite the number of times they meet a sticky and often hilarious end. Raise a tankard and light your lanterns as we visit the Ferry yet again and share stories of our brushes with fate!

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The very first Halloween Event was a huge success (in my eyes) as Pirates celebrated the Ferryman by dying in all sorts of creative ways to get different colored lights for their ships and island-beacons!

Lets be honest…we die all the time in Sea of Thieves, so it was nice to actually get something out of it for once! The event added a new cosmetic to the Ferry of the Damned called the “Well of Souls” and when you died, if you died in a particular way, the Well of Souls would allow you to take that flame into your lantern so that you may return with it to the land of the living.

Green symbolized death from a skeleton, purple symbolized a death from venom (a snake), Pink was death via another pirate, red was death from a volcano. Blue meant you died in the belly of a shark, and white meant you got struck down by lightning.

Not only could you light up the lanterns on your ships for commendations (as well as commendations for all the different deaths), but some islands even had special beacons that you could light for even more doubloons.

It was a small event that didn’t last very long…but it was fun. For once, dying wasn’t a stressful part of the game, and dying to another Pirate just meant you got a color you may not have had before. There were also special achievements for an alliance, but most of the commendations were things you could easily do solo.

Also, you could say that the event brought some ‘lore’ into the game as it established a brand-new holiday into this universe as well as added more to the Ferryman himself. The Ferryman was given the ability to talk with players…and from that, we could learn a little bit more about how death worked. Even after the event was over, the colored lanterns remained part of the permanent game and you can still get the different colored flames from the Well of Souls when you die.

This campaign also added in some pretty cool items and the long-awaited face paints for our pirates!!!

So for me…it was short and sweet, but overall was a lot of fun to do.


Shrouded Spoils

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As a treacherous fog engulfs the waters, pirates can enjoy a variety of new features and improvements in Shrouded Spoils, the next free update for Sea of Thieves. Fresh hazards threaten unwary ships, but there are more riches to earn and more ways to build your legend. Greater risks bring greater rewards! Do you dare to discover what’s new on the seas?

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Lastly we have the honorable mention which is the most recent update to Sea of Thieves: Shrouded Spoils. Like Cursed Sails and Forsaken Shores…Shrouded Spoils was meant as its own thing…and not a minor adventure. And yet, it fell short to the other campaigns even if it is a lot of fun.

We didn’t get any lore in this game…in fact we didn’t really get any new mechanics this time around other than the fog (so a new weather system essentially). But rather it seemed like a small expansion-pack of the things people had been asking for since prior adventures. More-or-less like a very fancy patch for the fans of this game.

We finally got loot to drop from creatures like the Kraken and the Megaladon. Skeleton ships were now a random occurrence with different models. We were given more skeleton forts that are more active more often. The Kraken was made stronger and now attacks all different models of ship. And lastly, the Megaladon has different versions of itself…no longer do we have 3 Megaladon that look the same but have different personalities…rather we now have 5 Megaladon each with its own look and personality. Mermaid statues finally made a return, but upon being destroyed they now drop gems which can be sold to any of the trading companies.

We were also given the ability to customize the cannons, capstan, and wheel of our ships…so that was a pretty cool feature that people had been wanting since the launch of the game.

The point of the commendations is hunting down all the things they changed and/or improved upon. Fighting and killing the Kraken gets you a title and doubloons, finding and killing all the different Megaladon do the same thing. Turning in 10 of the same-colored gem is another one…and so is selling particular items from skeleton forts and skeleton ships.

So again, I think this addition to the game was successful and is in no way underwhelming…but with how much it’s just ‘fixed’ content rather than new content…well, it doesn’t feel like an expansion, but rather does feel like something much smaller and much more like a Bilge Rat Adventure.

But maybe that’s just how I see it.


Conclusion

The conclusion is that RARE has been working hard to keep Sea of Thieves exciting for those of us who never gave up on the game. In conclusion, I still laugh at the people who claim that Sea of Thieves has no content and is not a fun game to play. The Bilge Rat Adventures are always fun and are always that ‘something extra’ to keep the game feeling fresh and less-repetitive. And even when the content is just average, it’s still enough to keep me coming back for more loot!!!

But what do YOU think?

Which Bilge Rat Adventure was your favorite? Which was your least favorite? What sort of adventures would you like to see in the future? What was your favorite set of time-limited items? Do you still think Sea of Thieves lacks content?

As always, let me hear your thoughts and opinions in the comment-section down below. Thank you all so much for reading and your continued support of this blog. I will see you all in the next one!!! 😉

Pokemon Let’s GO Pikachu (First Impressions)

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November has been a crazy month for me as I had two pre-ordered games release just days after the other. This means a lot of nights with no sleep as I get as much gaming in as I possibly can.

One of those games just happened to be the new Pokèmon title for the Switch…and the game alone has been stirring up debates and controversy since its announcement.

So, after playing through 2 gyms and over 100+ Pokemon caught, I decided to put in my two-cents on what I think (thus far) of Let’s GO Pikachu!

🍇The game itself is adorable!🍇

—It is a cute game! The sprites for Trainers can be a bit odd…my wife refers to them as “Bobbleheads”, but the Pokemon themselves look great! I love how smooth they look, and their animations are flawless.
As someone whose Pokemon Journey started with Red Version back in 1998, seeing the 3D towns and listening to the revised music tracks brought back all of the feels. Tall grass actually looks like grass. Seeing wild Pokemon scamper about with their unique moving animation makes this place feel very-much alive. AND YOU CAN TELL WHAT IS A LEDGE!!!

There are some shadow issues at times with a Trainer’s skin tone- but other than that, I have found no issues with this game graphically. Overall, it’s stunning, and a style I can see most Pokemon fans loving.

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🍇The catching system is not that bad🍇

—The biggest complaint this game got was the fact that the Pokemon catching system was based off of Pokemon GO. Fans were mad that this catching system replaced wild Pokemon battles etc etc.
I was also one of those people that thought I would miss wild encounters…but after playing the game, the catching system really isn’t that bad. In fact, I like it!

Have you ever tried catching a wild Pokemon and felt that frustration because it should have been perfect but the darn thing keeps getting loose? It was frustrating…but with the new catching system, those escapes make more sense? Maybe you didn’t hit within the ring, maybe the Pokemon is too strong CP-wise for a regular Pokeball. Maybe you just got a “Nice” instead of an “Excellent”. It makes Pokemon getting loose a bit more justified?

And for those who love to train their Pokemon and love the grind…the catch mechanic gives you just as much exp than a regular Pokemon battle if not more! I was already lv.20 before reaching Cerulean just by catching over 53 Pokemon…and transferring duplicates earns you candies you can special train your Pokemon with.

It may mean the game is aimed more at casuals with how easy it is…but I always felt that complaining about the catch mechanic was merely people complaining for the sake of complaining because they can’t adapt to change.

The catching mechanic is hard in its own right as it comes down to timing, your own throw power, as well as guessing a wild Pokemon’s movement. So if your biggest complaint was the new catching mechanic…it is actually well-implemented, very comfortable, and not as bad as you might think.

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🍇Gyms are annoying🍇

—One bad thing I will say about the game is that the Gyms are annoying…but only because you have to pass a test to enter them!
It’s some more hand-holdy shit like in Sun/Moon US/UM where they told you what was super effective against a Pokemon but WORSE! For Brock, you can’t enter the gym unless you have a water or grass type Pokemon. This was dumb because I had a Pikachu that knew “double kick”…but luckily I had an Oddish so I got in.
Then for Misty, you can’t get in unless one of your Pokemon is lv.15- and at the time, my highest was 19 so again, I was okay. But I still found it annoying.

But the Gyms themselves are great, and the Gym Leaders are still fun to challenge!

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🍇Cinematics🍇

—The “Let’s GO” series introduces cut-scenes during the game which I have adored! It adds a whole new layer to what we imagined certain scenes looked like as a kid. Like Bill getting separated in his machine, or even picking your Pokemon at the beginning. The cinematics are magical and just something you really have to experience for yourself.

🍇Pokemon Battles🍇

—Don’t worry folks…Pokemon battles are the same as they have always been. Nothing new here except some specialty moves for Pikachu/Eevee…also they cut out the part where they tell you what moves work best on an opponent which is nice.

🍇Co-op🍇

—The co-op in this game is ‘interesting’, but not necessary to the game at all. Essentially if you invite in a friend, you take over the first 3 Pokemon in your party, and your friend takes over the last 3 Pokemon in your party. You do double battles when playing co-op and your friends can throw Pokeballs with you to create super combos when trying to catch wild Pokemon. It’s fun if you don’t always feel like walking around alone.

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🍇Walking with Pokemon 🍇

—It’s finally back!!! We get to walk with Pokemon again! A demand we have been making since HG/SS and finally it is back again! Not only do you have your partner Pokemon (whose tail wags and acts like an itemfinder) riding on your shoulder, but, you can release one party Pokemon from its Pokeball and have it walk with you. This Pokemon can find berries on the ground, and in general you can talk to it to build a bond! Each Pokemon is so unique in how it moves! I love this feature!

🍇Red, Blue, and Green are in the game!🍇

—So even if your friendly rival sucks, at least these guys are still in the story and have a new part to play in the adventure!

🍇No more PC!🍇

—Every Pokemon you catch goes into your “Pokemon Box” in your bag! No more running to a Pokemon Center to change up your team!! It’s super convenient and a feature I hope they place in future games!!

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🍇Dressing & Playing with your partner Pokemon🍇

—It’s like Pokemon Amie but exclusive only to your partner Pokemon and 100x more adorable. Also you can get clothes for your partner Pokemon, fit them with accessories, and change their hair style.
These changes appear in battle as well and can either be cute or hilarious.

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🍇The Pokèball Plus🍇

—I bought the Pokeball Plus because it was the only way to get Mew & who wouldn’t want to play with a Pokeball??? This thing has a ton of cool features like echoing the cry of whatever Pokemon you caught, and rumbling when a Pokemon is trying to break free.
Heck, you can even take your favorite Pokemon out on a stroll with you by using this device…but can I just say that it sucks as a controller? The joystick is too stiff for precise movements…and the buttons are so finicky. It really is not comfortable…so for all it can do, it’s just not as fun to use as I thought it would be.

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🍇Transferring Pokemon from Pokemon GO🍇

—Another thing fans complained about was being able to send in Pokemon from Pokemon GO. A lot of people saw this as cheating and a way to get a powerful team early on in the game: WRONG!
You cant even use this feature until you get to Fuschia City. Even then, you have to re-capture whatever Pokemon you send over. Again, it’s one of those things people made assumptions over without know how it works.

🍇Complaints🍇

—So far with this series, I don’t have that many complaints. In fact, I adore this game to bits. But if I had to complain about something…it would be the lack in character customization. Not for clothes…but for hair, skin, and eye color. The only character with blue eyes (like mine) has this terrible platinum hair…and I have yet to find any place where I can dye it.

Another complaint would be the inability for Pokemon to hold items. Not that it matters early on, but I know it’s something people like to do. Lastly, I feel like so many places have been “condensed ” in this game, making me feel like I am rushing through it. And lastly…I still despise having a friendly rival.

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So in conclusion:
“Is it a good game?” It is a great game that is a ton of fun and great to look at and play! “Is it worth the cost!” Totally!!!
“Would you recommend the Pokeball Plus?” Not really…maybe if it goes on sale some day, but not at $60.

And guess what? It’s not just a game for Pokemon GO fans 😁

But until I beat the game, I won’t really be able to write a solid review for it…but hopefully this gave you a good idea what the game is like and whether or not it is worth your going out and buying it.

But for those that already own the game and have been playing it: What do YOU think?

Which version of the game did you buy? Did you get the Pokeball Plus? Do you like using the Pokeball Plus? Have you transferred over any Pokemon from Pokemon GO? Are you enjoying the game in general?

As always, feel free to leave me any thoughts/opinions down in the comment-section below. Thank you all so much for reading, and I will see you all in the next blog! 😉

Fallout 76 (First Impressions/Review)

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Like so many others out there, the minute I learned about Fallout 76 I pre-ordered it. As a huge fan of Fallout 3 (and someone just now getting Fallout 4), I knew this was something that I had to have in my gaming collection. My wife got the Power Armor Edition while I bought the Deluxe (Tricentenial) Edition. I stayed up all night installing the game just so I would be able to play it—and it has been awhile since I have been so hyped about something.

But where I was hyped, like most other people, there was still a lot of things that had me skeptical. Though showcases and interviews had put a lot of my fears to rest, there was still that nagging feeling that I might not like the game. Would it play smoothly? Would the community be friendly or overly toxic? Could I be killed right away? And most importantly: “Will this feel like a Fallout game??”

Knowing that I was not the only one with such fears and questions,  I took time (a couple days) to play the game and figured it might be good to leave my thoughts/opinions on Fallout’s first multiplayer game (online)…so…

NOTE: These are my opinions after only playing the game for a few days. At this point, I am still learning the mechanics and my thoughts/opinions might change as I get further along. I have decided to highlight the mechanics and less on my personal feelings on the game, even if those are still included in this review from time-to-time. 

With that being said:


⚠️!SPOILER ALERT! !SPOILER ALERT!⚠️

 

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The Story

—A lot of people were worried about whether Fallout 76 would have a story. Since it is an online game, they worried that something that has always been so story-centric would get “watered” down in order to make it more like other multiplayer games out there.
But I don’t see that as the case at all! While the story may not be as dramatic or intense as other Fallout games, there is still a story there. In fact, when I say it’s not ‘dramatic’, I mean that it is not so much dramatic for your character personally…but damn will this game make you depressed! Because this is technically only 20 years after the bomb fell, humanity hasn’t gotten a grip on their new lives like in other Fallout games.
You will hear so many survivor tales and come across several tragic notes just going into detail about what happened after the bombs fell, the people lost, the disease etc.

So no worries about the story…there is so much in this game as far as lore that you know that this universe is very much alive!

As for the main story: You are a dweller from Vault 76 tasked with rebuilding the world 20 years after the Fallout. For the last 10 years, your vault has been blind to what happened to the outside world, and on reclamation day you must finally leave. America’s future is now in YOUR hands. Your Overseer had a different mission however and is tasked with finding and disarming the remaining Nuclear silos and asks for your help. It is very direct but you can see where such a plot will take time as you travel across the vast map which is Appalachia.

Quests

—Of course there are quests.
So much of the world has changed, and there are people that never made it into the vault that tried (and are trying) so hard to figure out how to survive in this new world. So through holotapes and notes found in abandoned buildings, you find quests which takes you across Apalachia as you scavenge, hunt, and fight to finish objectives. There are also events happening on the map which only last for a limited amount of time. These events give great rewards if you can complete them, but a lot of them are best done while in a group.

Mission consist of things such as fixing a robot, just learning how to survive (like cooking, building, and testing the water) as well as locating people (or their remains). There are so many quests that my quest-bar filled up and I had to deactivate things so I knew where I was going! So there’s never a lack of things to do or places to explore.

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New Mechanics

—I think what threw me for a loop was all the new mechanics. First being the food and water meters. These meters deplete over time, and if you are hungry or dehydrated, your character suffers from effects that make you take extra damage, or it affects your AP.
Things such as disease exists now…different diseases have different effects on your character depending on what it is. A disease can be cured or it will disappear after a certain amount of time.
Things like eating rotten meat or sleeping on a mattress on the ground can give you diseases…and it’s something to look out for.

Radiation is another thing that can affect you in good or bad ways depending. When I ended up with a bit of radiation, I got a limited chameleon perk that allowed me to become invisible as long as I wasn’t moving or wearing armor. My wife got a perk that triggered a lightning blast when an enemy hit her with a melee attack. I’m sure there are negative effects out there as well, so make sure to keep those rads down!

Lastly, when it comes to food…even though you can harvest a lot of it, if you don’t eat it or cook it quickly, your meat, veggies, and fruits will spoil…and after that they are useless (unless you store the spoiled stuff to make fertilizer or something). Even cooked food can spoil, so you have to make sure to eat it on time.

Not to mention other changes like how you sleep, how you fast travel, and just seeing other people in the world in general. The VATS system is still in the game but now requires you to manually aim your weapon. Also lifting up your Pipboy to heal or change gear no longer stops the world around you. All these require shifting strategies and that means there will be a period of time where you have to get used to said-changes.

Character Creation

—Not much to say on this. The character creation is the same as Fallout 4. While you get more hair styles at the beginning and there are more makeup or damage options, the character creation itself still feels limited, especially for females.
You can buy different styles for Atoms (in the Atomic shop) but these cosmetics are limited to tattoos and face paint.

Micro-Transactions

—New Atomic currency (Atoms) allows you to buy extras in your games such as paint sets, skins, frames for photo-mode, character icons, and extra decorations for your camp.
Not necessary to enjoy the game but pretty neat if they keep adding more stuff to it. Atomic currency is earned through completing in-game “challenges” as well so you don’t have to buy it, but rather save that currency wisely.

Teaming Up

—Something I was excited but highly skeptical about was teaming up with people in the Wasteland. And after playing with my wife, I have to say it’s a lot harder than I imagined. Some quests can be completed jointly, others can not…sticking together takes so much communication, and for a game where searching everywhere is key to good loot…a lot can be missed if your group members just want to rush to finish an objective.
Luckily, the game allows you to play on your own, and even if you are in a team, you’re not required to follow your teammates unless you really want to.

Playing solo is not impossible, but this Fallout game does make it a bit more challenging. Things like the time-limited events are made for team efforts, and major bosses like the Scorchbeast Queen pretty much require a group.

Perks

—Perks is another place where the mechanics have been changed. Rather than choose your stats like in other Fallout games, you only get to choose 1 stat every time you level up, and you start with 1 point in each category across the board when first beginning.
When you choose a stat, you then get to pick a card in order to get a new perk.
When I reached lv.2, I chose the strength stat. By doing that, I got to pick from a couple of cards and chose the gladiator perk. I then had to equip that card to get that perk.
Sounds confusing…but it’s really not.
You can combine cards of the same type in order to rank them up…better cards require more stat points to use. Cards can be layered on top of each other so you can have multiple perks in a stat. But without showing you a solid picture it is very hard to explain…but really easy to figure it all out once you start playing it for yourself.

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Photo-mode & Social

—Photo mode now allows you to take special screenshots to chronicle your adventures in Appalachia. Choose a spot, angle your camera, choose pose, expression, filter, and frame. Frames unlock via the factions you join as well as the places you visit. Additional frames can also be bought in the Atomic Shop by using atoms.
Social features allow you to use game chat and emotes to talk to others in the world. I mean it’s small details, but fun to use when you’re not running from mutated monsters.

PvP

—At level 5, players can now engage you in combat. If you don’t fight back, another player can still kill you BUT they do reduced damage and will get a bounty on their head if they kill you.
You can enable the “pacifist” mode via your settings, but that only keeps you from murdering others, it does not protect you from others trying to kill you. I really have no experience with the PvP system, so there is not much I can say. Everyone I have run across has actually been pretty friendly, and the one hostile person I ever saw was posted on the mini-map with a bounty on their head. I never ran across them thankfully…so while combat can happen at any time, I rarely run into enough people to actually have to worry about it.

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Base Building

—Like Fallout 4, base building is back…only this time you have the C.A.M.P. which makes your bases mobile. As I mentioned before, because food can now spoil, having a camp where you can cook and rest is a necessity!
While some might find that a mobile camp is convenient, I am still not 100% convinced. While logging in a few times, my camp was always where I had left it. But, when I joined my wife in her world, my camp was gone without warning…and when I tried placing it, because it was made on a certain terrain, finding a place where my previous base ‘worked’ was a pain.

Some people have lost whole houses due to the glitches happening in the game, and some don’t bother with bases because of all the materials you need just to build floors and walls, let alone a weapon bench or armor station.
One positive thing I can say about the bases in Fallout 76 is that the building seems so much more responsive than what it was in Fallout 4. Everything fits together so much better and the system itself just seems much more fluid and easy to use.

Once you do have a base, you have to note that others can use it too (if they find it). So you can choose to make something accessible to all who need it, or make something heavily fortified so that only you can get in.

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So in conclusion…yes the game is different, but it still feels like a Fallout game. It still has that barren atmosphere and the challenges of running out of ammo and healing items. It is true that there are no NPCs, but that doesn’t really affect the game and how it feels. In fact, I feel the atmosphere in the game was even more powerful because there was no NPCs, and the only glimpse we have of living beings are the other players running around, the crumpled notes, and the holotapes.

If you’re worried about supplies, there are plenty of trade-bots and machines which can sell you the things you need…and remember, you can trade with other players as well.

Right now, I wouldn’t say Fallout 76 is too much different from the feeling of Fallout 4. As of right now, it is still new…so I can’t say whether it is an amazing game or just ‘meh‘. But what I can say is that the game itself is beautiful, and I have enjoyed going around and just looting places while figuring out what became of the towns after the bombs fell. Even with quests, it’s still an open world…so you can essentially play the game however you want!

It is def something I will be obsessing over for awhile as I try and get a hang of it all. 😁

But tell me what YOU think!

What do you think of Fallout 76 thus far?? Did you pre-order the game? Are you waiting to buy it? What do you think your play-style would be in the game? Do you plan on teaming up with people or playing solo?

As always, let me know your thoughts/opinions in the comment-section down below. When I get closer to something of an end-game with this particular title, I will most likely write a more solid review.
But thank you all so much for reading, and as always, I will see you all in the next blog! 😉

RARE Replay Overview- Part 2

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Welcome back to another part of the RARE Replay overview!

We have barely scratched the surface of all the games that the RARE Replay has to offer, and, if you missed part 1 of the series, you can find it HERE. Moving on however, we have even more games to look at…and this particular collection happens to be made up of 3 titles:


The Sabreman Series

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The Sabreman Series follows as explorer as he delves into dangerous jungles, hell itself, and finally…a castle in search for a cure to his curse. The series starts with the game Sabre Wulf (1984) as the explorer wanders the jungles looking for the pieces of a mystical amulet while trying to avoid the deadly Sabre Wulf. In Underwurlde (1984) the very same explorer is trying to escape the reaches of hell. Finally in Knight Lore (1984), the explorer has found himself cursed…and he goes into a castle looking for the cure.

This explorer (now called Sabreman) is a beloved RARE character. He makes cameo appearances in several games, and has been a re-used character in some of RARE’s biggest titles such as Banjo-Tooie and Killer Instinct. Either way, lets take a closer look at the Sabreman series and my personal experiences with it as I went through the RARE Replay.


 

  • Sabre Wulf: 1984

—Sabre Wulf was released in 1984 by “Ultimate Play the Game” for the ZX Spectrum. It has you playing as an explorer who has to navigate the jungle in order to find the pieces of a mystical amulet.  the goal is to do this before you are killed by the dreaded Sabre Wulf.  As the explorer you can collect other items to increase your points…things like treasures. All you have against this harsh environment and its creatures is your trust sword.
This is a very difficult arcade-style game that I did very poorly at. The colors and design of the game are fantastic, but the controls are not. The explorer moves much too fast for precise control, and his physics almost remind me of characters sliding on ice. Your sword is no match for 3 enemies approaching you all at once, and I almost always found myself getting cornered. Though I will say that the enemy variation was nice…there were tribal men, spiders, snakes, and of course the dreaded Sabre Wulf. It’s something to try once, but I wouldn’t go out of my way to play it again or even try to beat it.

 

  • Underwurlde: 1984

—This is the 2nd game in the series, also released in 1984 by “Ultimate Play the Game” for the ZX Spectrum and Commodore 64. The same explorer that braved the jungles in search of that mystical amulet must now dangle, jump, and shoot his enemies in order to escape from the Underwurlde. It’s another arcade-style game that has you navigating your way to an exit…and I found that the most difficult thing about it was figuring out which way was the right way.  But this game (unlike Sabre Wulf) features a very interesting jumping mechanic, and the best part is that Sabreman is invulnerable to monsters! Monsters do not kill you, rather they knock you back- almost as if Sabreman is suddenly made of rubber. This means a bump from a monster can dislodge you from platforms or even bubbles you happen to  be riding on.

The only thing that seems to hurt Sabreman are long falls…and I found it hard to judge what was an acceptable fall-distance, and what was not. But along with finding your way out of the Underwurlde, you blast enemies, swing from ropes, ride on bubbles, and jump from one obstacle to the next.  The character himself moves very stiffly in comparison to the explorer in Sabre Wulf, and jumps were made drastic on purpose so that precision jumping is a challenge. It was actually refreshing to play compared to the difficulty of Sabre Wulf…and even though I could not figure it out, I say it’s something to look at once.

 

  • Knight Lore: 1984

—Knight Lore is the final installment of the Sabreman Series made in 1984 by “Ultimate Play the Game” for the ZX Spectrum. It was considered an action-adventure game which (at the time) set the standard for isometric graphics in video games. After surviving the jungles and escaping from hell, the explorer has found himself in Knight Lore Castle in order to locate the ingredients to cure his curse. Sabreman is a werewolf!
This game is another arcade-style entry that has you navigating through the various rooms of the castle, avoiding obstacles (such as falling spikes, enemies, and endless pits of death) and jumping across gaps to progress.

The unique mechanic of this game is Sabreman’s transformation. You have a meter at the bottom of your screen showing the transition from day-to-night. Once it reaches night, the moon is full and Sabreman transforms into a werewolf. Simplistic as the style may be, this was a feature that I fee made the game really stand out…and I can see where it would have been revolutionary for its time. Transforming in the middle of a room posed its own challenges as the player stops moving while doing so, and this can end up spelling your doom if you are trying to do something that is time sensitive or requires you to keep moving.
I actually really enjoyed the jumping and puzzles in this game, and it was fun wandering around the castle to see all that it offered. Even if I did not beat the game (mostly because I still couldn’t really figure it out), the game had a really cool feel to it and wonderful atmosphere. I think it is a game that I would revisit again if ever I had a lot of time to dedicate to it.


To be continued…

Banjo-Kazooie [Game Review]

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Release Date: June 1998
Beaten: 10/25/2018
Console(s): N64/Xbox 360/XB1

I have a special place in my heart for the platforming games of the 90’s. They all seemed so original, so unique…and the ones for the N64 were revolutionary for their time. I was one of those kids that was lucky to have an N64, and even luckier that I ended up getting Banjo-Kazooie.
Let me just put it this way: RARE used to be the super-developers of amazing games. Things like the Donkey Kong Country Trilogy, Conker’s Bad Fur Day, and naturally there was Banjo-Kazooie in that list as well. These games CHANGED the video-game industry with how advanced they were. They set that bar back in the day…and yes, when it comes to RARE games, I tend to have very big nostalgia goggles.

But, for as much as I love RARE, I was not very good at games as a kid. I lacked the patience and coordination to beat the games I owned, and it’s funny how I find myself re-playing so many of my old games and only now finish them as an adult. Banjo-Kazooie is one of those games.

But enough rambling because you should already know the drill by now. Lets hop into a game review!!!!


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  • The Story:

—If the idea of a Bear and Bird duo doesn’t sound strange enough, well, buckle up your seatbelts because you’re in for a ride! The story in Banjo-Kazooie is actually pretty simple: there is an evil witch named Gruntilda who is speaking to her cauldron (named Dingpot) and asking him who the prettiest woman in the land is. Naturally, he says that Grunty is the most beautiful…or that this was the case until Tootie came along.

Tootie is a little bear…Banjo’s little sister. Because she is so kind and fair, Gruntilda gets angry and hatches an evil scheme. She rides down from her lair and snatches Tootie away. Her plan is to use Tootie’s body so that she may steal her youth and beauty. Now with his Sister kidnapped, Banjo must set out on an adventure to save her. So, to put it simply: Fat, ugly witch is jealous…steals the nice girl and wants to suck all her beauty and youth from her body. Got it?

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  • The Writing:

—So the story may seem simplistic, but it’s the writing that really brings this game to life! The writing is brilliant! Our main characters are polar opposites of one-another. Banjo is kind, a little dumb at times, and optimistic…whereas his partner (Kazooie) could not be more different. She is cocky, bold, rude. She is very insulting and has a very competitive and aggressive streak in her. She mocks people’s names on purpose and is always shown as angry and impatient. But despite all these terrible character traits, Banjo balances her out and she does the same with him.
Their dialogue together is always hilarious, and watching them interact with other characters usually has you smiling if you’re not in stitches due to the silly jokes.

Every character in this game is memorable…no matter how big or small. I think only in a RARE game could you have so many lovable characters from the protagonists to sentient Christmas lights. That is all due to how the writing brings these characters to life! The writing of this game really is something to see for yourself. But I mean it when I say that every single character is unique. Even their speech patterns and the way they hold themselves has you recognizing them just from the sounds they make. That, to me, spells out a good thing. Because no matter how silly the story sounds, if it has good writing, then the plot hardly even matters…and it’s a charm I think is shared between several RARE titles.

 

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  • Gameplay Mechanics:

—Banjo-Kazooie is rather old (by today’s standards), so how does it play? Well, it was actually one of the ‘smoother’ N64 games (in my opinion) with the characters being able to do so many things. Banjo can punch, climb, swim, and jump…it’s really Kazooie that does most of the work in this game. Her powers include giving Banjo the ability to double-jump, using her beak to break through rocks. She can use a peck attack and can hoist Banjo onto her back so that she can use her own legs to climb steep cliffs and mountainsides. Not only that, but Kazooie also has items that she can use! She can shoot blue eggs out of her mouth or…er…her butt.

That’s right…you can basically ‘fart’ out eggs in this game, and as a kid, this part alone had me cracking up. It even makes a fart noise, so how could you not be entertained? Anyways, Kazooie also gets the ability to use red feathers in order to fly as well as golden feathers which make you invincible.

Kazooie can also use special jump pads and a couple of different pairs of shoes that allow you to traverse difficult terrain. Boots are used to traverse piranha-infested swamp water and quicksand, while the speedy sneakers allow Kazooie to move twice as fast for a short time. All are tools you will eventually need in order to make it through the various levels.

Basically you are slowly making your way through Gruntilda’s Lair in this game. You use Jiggy’s and solve small puzzles in order to access doorways that lead you to the various stages. Each stage has a list of things for you to collect before you can exit. Some stages have boss fights, others do not. Some stages teach you new powers while others don’t. There are so many things to find and unlock…from secret areas to cauldrons that provide you shortcuts in the overworld. In the stages themselves there are puzzles, time-trials, and other tasks that must be completed to collect the items. Each level has a different theme- like harsh deserts and haunted mansions; even a wooded stage that goes through the four seasons! And the only thing all these stages have in common are the “collectibles”.

 

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  • Jiggys, Jinjo, Music Notes and more!

—I believe that this game really started the trend of collecting items in games…and collect things you do. Each stage has ten different Jiggys that need to be found. A Jiggy is a puzzle-piece that you get after completing special tasks. These vary in the stages and sometimes a Jiggy is just hidden really well. You need these items in order to progress through the game however. Jiggys are placed into paintings in order to complete the picture. Once a picture is complete, then the doorway to the level shown is open and you can now explore that area. Mumbo’s Mountain is the first area in the game and only requires 1 Jiggy to finish the painting. But as you progress, the painting will require more and more. So try and get all 10 in a level. You will need them later.

Jinjo are bird-like people that Gruntilda has scattered across the levels. There are 5 of them in each stage (each one a different color). Collecting all 5 in a stage gets you a Jiggy. Luckily, the Jinjos whistle and call for help…so you generally know where to find them.

Musical Notes are another major item in the game…and they are necessary to progress. Musical Notes are scattered all over the stages and there are 100 of them per level. They are used to unlock magical “note doors” that keep Banjo from entering the next area of Gruntilda’s Lair. The first note door costs only 50 musical notes…but just like with the Jiggys, each door costs more and more to open with the final door being more than 750 notes! So just like with the Jiggy, collect all musical notes in a level!

There are also 2 honeycomb pieces in each stage for Banjo to collect if you want to increase your maximum health. These are optional to collect but on the Xbox, you do get an achievement if you find them all!

The last collectible we have are the Mumbo Tokens, which brings me to the next part of this review…

 

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  • Transformations!

—One thing that makes Banjo-Kazooie unique is that Banjo is able to transform by collecting Mumbo Tokens and taking them to Mumbo Jumbo. Mumbo is a witch-doctor who lives in various skulls that can be found in most levels. By paying him the amount of tokens he asks for, he will help Banjo out by turning him into something that will help him navigate the area. Banjo gets turned into an Ant, Walrus, Alligator, Bee, Pumpkin, etc. These allow Banjo to usually reach areas he couldn’t normally get to, or it allows him to speak with characters that might not interact with him otherwise. Once you pay Mumbo in a level, you can transform back-and-forth for free- and it’s up to you to figure out when a transformation is needed.
Transformations can also be taken out of stages in order to find secrets…but there’s a limit to how far you can travel before Mumbo’s magic grows too weak and Banjo goes back to normal. This was one of the most fun parts of the game as a child as I could not wait to see what I got to turn into next!

 

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  • N64 vs Xbox:

—Even though the game originally came out on the Nintendo 64, Nintendo never bought RARE, and rather the gaming company was bought by Microsoft instead. This is why we had a re-release of Banjo-Kazooie on the Xbox LIVE Arcade, and it later appeared on the RARE Replay for XboxOne.
I am one of those people that have both my original N64 version and the Xbox version. So, how do the two compare?

I was actually very surprised how well the controls transition from N64 to Xbox. In fact, there were times that I felt that the game was even easier to handle on the Xbox controller versus the N64. But lets be honest, they are the same game. I usually say that nothing beats playing the original…but I might have to take that back. The Xbox version obvious looks better and sounds better. They merely enhanced a lot of the graphics, took out the Nintendo logos, and the music has stayed the same. It’s just a lot cleaner and the controls seem smoother. But, where the Xbox version fails are the glitches. Sure, older games had glitches too…but nothing like what you experience on console games today.

Also, the Xbox version wins as it was actually able to implement something that the N64 had to leave in as extra data: The Stop ‘n Swap. I wont go into too much detail. but basically RARE implemented items that they thought would be able to be transferred through Banjo-Kazooie (original) and its sequel. They later found out that it wouldn’t work…but the game was made and so they had bonus items that basically had no use on the N64 versions. But with the Xbox versions, not only was Stop ‘n Swap finally realized as intended…but it crosses over into Banjo-Tooie and Banjo-Kazooie Nuts & Bolts! How cool is that?

Finally, the Xbox version added in achievements- so for those that like adding to your gamer score, well here’s a good game to pass the time and get those numbers up!

 

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  • Cheat Codes!

—That’s a weird thing to feature in a review…but I feel that I have to mention how the codes in Banjo-Kazooie worked. Cheat codes were given to the player, either by playing a secret mini-game or by finding a floating cheat book (Gruntilda’s Spell Book) named Cheato. Cheato is well-hidden, but he gives you codes that help you a lot in the game.
Entering these codes is optional of course, and unlike other types of cheating, the ones given to the player don’t break the game.

But the way cheat codes are entered into this game is by going into the level: Treasure Trove Cove. There is a sandcastle there with letters on the floor. You must use your ground-pound in order to spell out the codes, and I always just thought it was great. I always thought of it as something different and super creative. Much better than just a regular screen of letters and numbers!

Naturally there are other cheat codes not given in the game…but those can be game-breaking and I don’t recommend using them since the game is perfectly fun as-is.

 

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  • The Final Boss:

—Even the Final Boss is something completely unique in how it is approached…and technically, it is broken up into 2-parts. The first part starts with a board-game. Yup, you heard me right. Throughout the game you have been meeting up with a character that says she is Gruntilda’s Sister. When you speak to her, she will give you 3 secrets relating to Grunty and her dirty habits. Everything from her first boyfriend to her favorite colors and food…there are so many facts…and you need to remember EVERY.SINGLE.ONE.

The board-game doesn’t just test your knowledge on Grunty…but on the game itself. From memorizing certain music/sounds to remembering where a certain screenshot was taken. There are even time-trials that must be passed in order to finish the game and make it up to Grunty. But, even if you pass all that, you’re still not done!

You get your Sister back and pursue the witch, only to find out that she has locked herself behind a painting…and now you must unlock it. Guess what you need? Jiggys. It’s only after you solve this final puzzle that the real boss battle can begin…and let me tell you, IT IS HARD! For something so cartoony and silly, this fight was intense! Even with all the extra supplies on me and so many lives, I died a lot because Gruntilda is a hard-hitter. She can read where your character will move and her fireballs almost always hit you unless you pick up on her pattern.

While not all your skills are tested here, you have to know your stuff. Things like flying and shooting eggs are necessary here, and even knowing when to use your golden feathers as some of Grunty’s spells are a 1-hit K.O.

But, for as frustrating as it was…the feeling of accomplishment and relief when I finally finished the fight was something to behold. It has been awhile since I have faced a boss so challenging and finished the fight with a huge smile on my face.


Conclusion

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Banjo-Kazooie is a classic! It’s not just a must-have for RARE fans, but it’s a must-have for any fan of Nintendo and/or 3D platformers! I can not accurately put into words just how charming this game is; how every level just screams at you, and how so much about it can only be described as “gaming perfection”.

Yes, it still has its flaws like any game does- the camera is not the greatest, and with the Xbox versions there is the concern of glitches as mentioned before…but the game just has so much good in it and has so much to offer that the flaws just don’t matter! Even after you beat the game, there is the matter of completing the game 100%. Doing this will unlock the Stop ‘n Swap items. Then there is also the secret mini-game which (once you complete all the levels of it) then give you some fun codes to play with in the sandcastle.

If you play on Xbox, there is also the matter of all the achievements. Even though I am not an achievement hunter myself, the things it wants are simple enough that anyone can get an achievement score of 100%. Now, would I recommend buying the original game? If you’re a collector then yes…but otherwise, I highly recommend getting the game via the RARE Replay. Not only do you get 29 other games along with it that you can try, but the Replay also has Banjo-Tooie and Banjo-Kazooie Nuts & Bolts in case you wanted to try those games as well. It’s cheaper than trying to get them all separately anyways.

But as stated above, the N64 is great but the Xbox version will just hold up a lot better and just has that little bit more content that makes all the difference. Either way, it’s refreshing to have finally beaten another game from my childhood so that I can review it and then share it with all of you!

But tell me what YOU think!

Have you played Banjo-Kazooie? Did you first play it on the N64 or the Xbox? Which version do you prefer and why? Who is your favorite character? Are you also hoping that we get a Banjo-Threeie some day?

As always, feel free to leave your thoughts/opinions in the comment-section down below. Thank you all so much for reading, and I will see you all in the next blog! 😉


  • Video:

RARE Replay Overview- Part 1

Rare Replay Logo

Released: August 4th, 2015
Console(s): XboxOne

I have often talked about how much a fan I am of Rare’s games…at least the ones I have played. Some favorites of mine are their better-known titles such as Banjo-Kazooie, Conker’s Bad Fur Day, and the Donkey Kong Country series. Not to mention my current addiction to Sea of Thieves.
But RARE has made a ton of games since the 80’s, and when I stumbled across RARE Replay, I knew that this was a great opportunity to try out some of their other titles that I never got my hands on in the past.

Highlights:

RARE Replay is a compilation of some of RARE’s best games- 30 games to be exact, starting from the year 1983 and ending with the year 2018. RARE games cover all sorts of genres from sport-games to space, from FPS games to puzzle-platformers. I don’t think there is a single genre of gaming that RARE has not touched, and there are so many gems in this collection that fans rave about.

But the games were not the only feature of the RARE Replay. In fact, there are videos and other features you can unlock with stamps- these are things such as the making of some of RARE’s most classic titles, and unseen footage/photos from some projects that were never meant to be.
Outside of full games, for some of their older titles, the RARE Replay has what it calls “Snapshots” which tests a gamer’s skills. These challenges can be anything from gaining points in a certain amount of time, beating levels without losing a life, and etc. They add that extra layer to some of the games and it’s fun to see how many you can beat and how many stamps you can get!

Also, there were so many achievements for all the achievement hunters out there…with most of them being as simple as opening up a game for the very first time. Naturally there are more challenging ones as well with the highest points only going for those that can brave and beat all 30 games in their entirety, and earn all the stamps/extras.

There are so many titles in here, I had no choice but to break it into parts. So be looking for other parts in the near future! But until then, here is the overview of the masterpiece which is RARE Replay!


The Jetman Series

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  • Jetpac:

Jetpac is a arcade-style shooter made in 1983 for the ZX Spectrum and the VIC-20. It was actually developed by RARE’s predecessor’s “Ultimate Play the Game” and it has you playing as a spaceman who must assemble his ship and fuel it up in order to escape hostile planets. You use a jetpack in order to collect your supplies while shooting enemies with your laser. Enemies vary in their shape and behavior as you progress through the levels. There are 16 levels in total.
It’s harder than it looks even for being so simplistic in its graphics. I found it semi-addictive and very fun to play even with the lack of music and atmosphere. I beat all the snapshot challenges for this title and continue to play it every once in awhile to pass the time.

 

  • Lunar Jetman:

This is another arcade-style shooter game featuring the same character from Jetpac. It was made in 1983 as well by “Ultimate Play the Game” for the ZX Spectrum and the BBC Micro. This time the mission is to destroy alien missile bases in order to save the world. Jetman is able to do a lot more in this game including the use of a vehicle and things such as bombs. Also the enemies are a lot more intense in this game and it makes for much more of a challenge than its prequel.
I have to say that this game was not as fun as Jetpac. In fact, the mechanics of the game almost seemed unfair, and it was more rage-inducing than anything. Jetpack fuel is very limited, you barely get to drive your rover, it’s unclear how to pick up the bombs, re-fuel, and even destroy the missile bases once you find them. There is still a severe lack of atmosphere and it seems even emptier than Jetpac…so, would I recommend this game? No. I completed one of the snapshot challenges, played through 3 rounds of the full game, and then decided that this was not the game for me.

 

  • Solar Jetman:

Solar Jetman is the third game in the Jetman series, made in 1990 by RARE for the NES (Nintendo Entertainment System). While the game received a lot of positive reviews, it suffered from poor sales and was also harshly criticized for its difficulty. I can agree with the difficult part. Story-wise , Solar Jetman goes back to the roots of the first game in that you are collecting parts for the Golden Warship…but that’s about as close as the comparisons go. Solar Jetman focuses on the fact that you are now riding in a rocket pod- gravity and general weight physics were applied which makes the game seem nearly impossible to play. Something as simple as fuel is too heavy for you to fly with, you run into walls constantly which takes away from your health, enemies are constantly shooting at you, and it’s death, after death, after death. So, this game is also not enjoyable like the original Jetpac. I will say it’s a very vibrant game with lovely animations and superior graphics…and so it’s something I would at least try once if you buy this collection.

 

  • Jetpac: Refueled-

Refueled is the last game in the Jetman series. It was released in 2007 for Xbox LIVE Arcade and is a complete remake of the original Jetpac. The game features updated graphics, power-ups for the weapons, and 128 levels in comparison to the original 16. It also allows players to try the retro version of the game and includes various achievements and leaderboards. It also has multi-player. As a fan of Jetpac, I adored this game to bits! The updated graphics just screamed at you with its cartoony style. The upgrades for the weapons were a nice touch as enemies were all the more challenging with higher spawn rates and even smarter behaviors. There is finally music to the game which made this game finally feel alive- and other than that, not much can be said to it. I like that they stayed faithful to the original game when doing the remake. It’s still a 3rd person shooter which offers various challenges as you try and assemble your ships and fuel them in order to travel the universe. I think with 128 levels, the game might be a bit too repetitive, but at the same time, it’s still a charming and addicting game that is fun to play when you need a way to waste some time. If Jetpac is something you enjoy and you just wish it had that something “extra”, then Jetpac Refueled is for you! I highly recommend trying it out!

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To be continued…

We have only covered 4 games in this collection, and we still have many more to go. We are barely scratching the surface of RARE’s history and all that they have brought to the gaming industry in the time they have been around.

I have been having a blast with the RARE Replay (challenging as it may be), and I am looking forward to talking more about this collection of RARE’s history in future installments.

Thank you all so much for reading, and I will see you all in the next blog! 😉