Tag Archives: Video Games

[REVIEW] Kingdom Hearts III

NOTE: This review will contain mild spoilers and then will break into major spoilers after the main review. I will make a break in the article to note where the major spoilers start.

I was admittedly worried in the weeks leading up to the release date of Kingdom Hearts III. I mean I’ve been burned several times in the last five years alone from games making a major comeback. The most obvious one for me was Mass Effect: Andromeda, a game that I was 100% positive at the time, that it couldn’t fail. Not only did it fail, it crashed and burned to the point that I’m not sure I can trust BioWare ever again. So with Kingdom Hearts III being not only a similar situation, but one with an even larger gap in time between the last game I played from that series and the game I was about to play.

So when I finally held the copy of the game in my hands, there was a hint of doubt along with the massive amount of joy I was feeling. Then I plopped in that disc, hit ‘New Game’ and the train started a’rollin’!

From the moment the intro cutscene started playing, hearing that orchestrated version of Utada Hikaru’s “Don’t Think Twice”, I felt every bit of nostalgic emotion flooding back into me. I may not remember exactly how I felt playing the original PS2 games, but I felt all the memories of those two games returning back to me. It truly was a “shiver up my spine” level moment and served to pump me up for the 50+ hour journey I would go on.

To put it simply, Kingdom Hearts III for me was a 14-year long wait that was well worth the patience I somehow mustered. With the main story completed and I’d estimate around 75% of the entire game completed in terms of content, I have no problem saying that this game not only was worth the wait, but lived up to any and all expectations I had for the game. That’s not to say it’ll live up to your expectations or anyone else’s mind you, but for me as someone who has learned not to over-hype myself, the game does a damn good job in every single way.

I didn’t play any of the side games really in between KH2 and KH3. I gave Birth By Sleep a try, but I’ve always had a problem getting into handheld games, so I struggled to stay interested on the PSP. Had the game been available later on through the PS TV (if it was, it’s only digital and I didn’t buy a single digital title for that device), I might have given it a shot, same with 358/2 Days, but the interest wasn’t there. So I’m looking at the differences in the series from the PS2-era games and this one. And boy oh boy does the game improve on so many things.

First of, MY GOD THE GAME IS GORGEOUS!!! Timing it perfectly, the game came out just before I moved out to my new apartment, so I started the game on a small 24″ 720p TV and moved to a 53″ 1080p TV, so I’ve seen both levels, aside from 4K, cause good lord that’s still expensive for my budget and at this point there’s no reason to be upgrading to a PS4 Pro anyways. Regardless, as I set before, HOLY FREAKING HELL THIS GAME LOOKS AMAZING!!!

This really hits home in the Disney worlds. Working on the Unreal 4 engine, I can’t imagine playing the older games ever again after seeing how the various worlds look today. Out of all of them though, I couldn’t have been more awestruck than in the Toy Story world, specifically the first time you leave Andy’s house and see the world outside. It really hits home that this is what a current-gen Kingdom Hearts game looks like, after countless games on handheld and mobile devices.

In most cases though, the game transitions between all these worlds seamlessly, mostly retaining the core look of the game, while altering slightly for most worlds, except for the Pirates of the Caribbean world, which has a much more realistic look, aside from Sora and company, of course. That world is also a marvel to look at. Speaking of which…

Since I’m going to talk about the gameplay, might as well start with the bit I’m going to remember the most. The Pirates of the Caribbean world really shows how much the series has evolved. No longer just world after world of smacking around endless respawning waves of Heartless (not that I ever had a problem with that), with small rooms that needed separation through short loading screens. This world alone is massive for what you’re used to in Kingdom Hearts, akin to a fraction of the entire world in Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag, which the world is basically quite reminiscent of. Ship battles, islands to explore, that world has become in my opinion the most memorable world in the series thus far through its gameplay. And it’s not the only unique one, the Tangled world has some interesting ideas with exploration, though I wish they’d done a little more, the Toy Story world has mechs you can pilot in the world once you enter the toy store that functions as the main dungeon there, hell even the Monsters Inc. world, that I figured I’d just want to breeze through, it ended up being a lot of fun with its various little quirks, like gliding across rails and various doors to go from place to place.

But anyways, enough world gushing, now to gush about the gameplay. In terms of traversing the worlds, not much has changed in that regard. You still walk, run, jump and eventually through leveling up, gain the ability to glide. Oh and I guess there’s the ability TO RUN UP WALLS! It’s the lone notable change in movement and yet it adds so much to each world. Rooftops are easily accessible (see the Big Hero 6 for the primary example of that), battles can actually be waged completely above ground and the overall verticality makes each world feel a lot bigger than the worlds of old, where at best you can jump up to a second floor. Now you run as high up as skyscrapers. I guess there’s also improved underwater fighting, as you see in the Pirates of the Caribbean world, and it is certainly better, but after a small usage of it in the final boss battle, I kinda wish they’d just erased it. Underwater + Kingdom Hearts has always been a bit of a struggle.

The battle system overall however, is no struggle at all. In fact, I’m amazed just how improved everything is. Aside from the absolute fluency through the entire game (never noticed any major framerate drops), the chaotic fighting is very much still around and better than ever. More moves, more abilities, more available options, more strategy (that I don’t use), more fun. Smaller changes of note include three sets of 4 shortcuts, making it easy to organize spells, summons and items without having to go digging through the menu during the heat of battle. You can also cast spells in the air, which is especially helpful during your constant need to heal. MP is also a little different, as battle spells use portions of MP, while a Cure spell or summon takes the entire bar and puts it in a cooldown mode until it refreshes your bar to the full amount. Which means if you can stay out of trouble, you won’t be chastising yourself for not buying one more Ether or Elixir. They’re all nice touches, helping things along while other improvements do the heavy lifting.

For example, Keyblades actually have meaning throughout the entire game. With the ability to upgrade each and every Keyblade, every weapon is viable if you want it to be. Though the Ultima Weapon is back and is still far ahead of the rest, all the other Keyblades are worth something, depending on your style of play. They all also come with special transformations, kind of like the various Forms from Kingdom Hearts II. For example, my favourite Keyblade, the “Favorite Deputy” has three forms, the first being the default Keyblade, the second being a hammer and the third being a drill. I also enjoyed the Pirates of the Caribbean “Wheel of Fate”, especially for its second form, the spear-wielding “Highwind”, naturally intentionally named after Final Fantasy VII party member, Cid Highwind. I didn’t try every Keyblade mind you, specifically the ones geared for magic users, but they all have their quirks. Hell, even the Winnie the Pooh Keyblade has a form that you can use to attack while using the Dodge Roll ability. It’s awesome!

The lone complaint I have is in the extra attacks you can have during battle. Through Goofy, Donald and the Disney party member you get in each world, there’s bonus attacks you can activate, and they’re all fine. It’s a different bonus attack that causes a bit of an issue with me, that being the “Attractions”, which are essentially summons you gain from landing an attack on a specified enemy, which summons a Disney park attraction such as the tea cups, or the pendulum-swinging Pirate Ship. At first, they’re absolutely fine and fun, and in a way they still are, but the problem is that they’re very easy to get and break the flow of battle. I played on Easy mode as well and man oh man are they overpowered. You can’t turn them off either, so the only way to not use them, is to simply ignore them and let the timer run out, which is an eyesore having to stare at that timer for a good 30+ seconds. It’s certainly not a deal breaker, but they could’ve either reduced the amount of times you can pick them up, or at the very least take them out of boss battles. They feel out of place there.

Lastly, the story. Without major spoilers (which I’ll have further below after I end the main review), the story is about what you remember from Kingdom Hearts games. They’re a total mess, you get lost over and over again, and yet you’ll still love the majority of it. The Disney worlds are large in part either re-tellings of the subject material or in Big Hero 6’s case, an original story, post-film. They’re perfectly fine, though the Toy Story and Frozen worlds each miss a great opportunity that could’ve really set them apart from the rest, which again I’ll get into in the spoilers section later on.

The main story however, is certainly a challenge, especially to those not familiar with every bit of lore the series has had. Even after watching videos that tell every ounce of detail I missed in games outside of the PS2-era games, I found myself lost and confused a number of times. Though admittedly, I can’t distinguish between the times I was lost because I didn’t know the material, and the times I was lost because the villains always spoke in riddles. However in the end I did find myself catching up and by the final world of the game I understood everything I had been working towards and thus there were two scenes back-to-back that nearly brought me to tears.

This game closes a lot of stories, ties up a lot of loose ends. This is the end to the “Dark Seeker Saga” with Master Xehanort and Organization XIII, but certainly not the end of the series. There are two major cutscenes at the end that show that we are far from anything being over. Sora’s journey may have only just begun. In the end, I felt satisfied with the ending, a little underwhelmed by the final boss battle, but not to detract from anything. I was left just wanting a tiny bit more.

Like I said at the top, this game was well worth the wait. Massive improvements, a gorgeous looking game, though a few bumps in the story. Which quite honestly, is exactly what Kingdom Hearts 1 and 2 were. They were never perfect and I didn’t expect KH3 to be either. What I wanted was a game that I felt was at par with KH2 and I feel I got just that. I honestly can’t tell you which is better, I feel both games offered the same level of emotional value, the difference is the kind of emotions. At age 17 and now 31, I treated the two games differently, KH2 was a wonderful achievement, while KH3 was a massive flood of nostalgia. Neither feel better than the other, they just offered different feelings for me.

The important thing is that both are worth your time, so if you’re a veteran to the series, this game isn’t a disappointment in any regard. And if you’re new, I think this game is still worth looking at. I’d tell you to take a look at the re-packaged older games that are being offered, but if you don’t want to go through 100+ hours of content before playing this game, I think there’s still plenty to enjoy. Just watch a video about the story up to this game so you don’t get too lost and you’ll be fine.

I waited more than a decade for this game and now that it’s over and done with, I cannot wait to see what’s next for one of my favourite series in gaming.


***MAJOR SPOILERS INCOMING!!!***


10…

9…

8…

7…

6…

5…

4…

3…

2…

1…

All right! Let’s get into all the juicy stuff, shall we?!

Who called this son of a bitch being Luxu?! I mean if there’s anything that shocked me right off the bat, it was finding out that Xigbar is the apprentice that the Master of Masters gave that giant black plot device, I mean box to.

By the way, let me make this perfectly clear, I have a vague understanding still of the lore that will be making this new storyline with the Master of Masters in the future games. I know little about him, the six apprentices and other pieces of information relating to that part of the series’ lore. So this first scene was a bit of a wash for me, as I admittedly didn’t get most of what they were saying, though I imagine most of it is the game’s love of speaking nonsense and riddles. Though I’ve seen various hints to what’s to come, like for example the seven pieces that Eraqus put on Xehanort’s side of that game board containing the seven symbols of the aforementioned Master of Masters and his six apprentices, meaning those seven may be our villains in the next game or set of games, depending on how deep this goes.

The secret ending, or the “Yozora” ending is what really intrigues me. I mean, that world is either a The World Ends With You World that would likely mean a DLC sidestory, in my opinion…OR THE NEW GAME WILL HAVE US PLAYING IN OUR OWN WORLD!!! Either way, I’m stoked to see where this goes, but I have to imagine there must be a connection with the Verum Rex game that we see in the Toy Story world and/or The World Ends With You, so I’m more inclined to think this will be either DLC or a small side game.

I mentioned I nearly cried twice during the time I spent playing this game. This beautiful girl is one of the two things that made me well up a bit. The first was Terra’s return, just seeing the three of them together again and especially seeing Aqua truly happy again for what was more than a decade for her, that meant a lot, even if I didn’t know much of the story.

But Xion coming back, being revealed as one of Xehanort’s new Real Organization XIII members, that was a big moment. And then once Roxas made his triumphant return, that was it for me. Watching Xion absolutely break down as not only did she finally see Roxas and company again, but people remembered her, she was no longer a forgotten shadow. Those two moments were awesome and especially being back-to-back like that.

Lastly, I wanted to talk about a few missed opportunities the game had. Right off the bat, HOW DID THEY FUCK UP A POTENTIAL BOSS BATTLE WITH A DARK BUZZ LIGHTYEAR?!!! How awesome would that have been, especially considering this game really went out of its way to not have you fighting Disney villains aside from the Titans in Olympus? It seemed all but set in stone that you were going to have to face Buzz after he got possessed and yet they just made it so that you brought him back to the good side and then faced another big Heartless boss. It was still a good boss fight, but man oh man could’ve a Buzz Lightyear boss battle have been awesome!

Secondly, the Frozen world really fucked up by not having Elsa being your party member. I thought after showing that she could defeat Heartless with her magic, she was a shoe-in to be your party member in the world. Instead, you get shafted with the snow golem she creates to guard her castle and his bonus attack is meh at best. Massive missed opportunity there.

Finally, let’s address there being no Final Fantasy characters at all during the entire game. Unless there’s going to be some DLC arena that includes another ass-kicking from Sephiroth, while I don’t mind there not being a Final Fantasy presence in the story, it really does feel like we’re being cheated out of content with no one being around. Leon, Aerith, Yuffie, Tifa, Cloud, Sephiroth, even Yuna, Rikku and Paige, how are none of them in there after being around for so long?! And come on, it would’ve made so much sense for Cindy to be your Gummi ship mechanic!!!


So that’s everything from me here, folks! If you’ve got anything to say about the game, or if I missed something really important, leave a comment below!

Yes, I Would Love A “Fantasy” Final Fantasy Game Again

Just a quick post, stemming from a comment at the Paris Fan Festival from the director and producer of Final Fantasy XIV, Naoki Yoshida:

“I’d like to see a Final Fantasy that is straightforward fantasy, one that doesn’t have much machinery, and with no mecha in it.”

Given how so many RPGs in general as of late are focused a little too much on the technology side of things, take the last few single-player Final Fantasy experiences for example, I am more than okay with this. It’s not to say that I don’t want to see a more tech-based Final Fantasy, but I think it’d be nice to go back to the classic setting that the series was first known for.

My first ever Final Fantasy game was Final Fantasy IV (or Final Fantasy II as it was known at the time in North America) and the game is definitely far more set in a fantasy world with fantasy elements. Sure there are airships, a spacecraft that gets you to the Moon and a hovercraft, but in this game, you are a knight who goes from town to town, castle to castle with a bard, several mages, a dragoon and other non-technology required classes. It was an incredible sight to me as a kid, I was seeing things I’d never heard of, nor seen before. I can’t imagine what my reaction would’ve been if my first FF game was the newest one in Final Fantasy XV and the first thing I do, is push a freaking car that ran out of gas.

Again, not to say I don’t want to ever see games like FFXV ever again, I think it’s just time that a lot of developers go back to that absolute fantasy era. Most RPGs that claim to be in a fantasy era are either taking from modern day technology or future technology, or they’re taking from our own past history and adapting that into a fantasy RPG. I don’t want stuff I know about or see on a daily basis, I want the awe and suspense of seeing things that don’t exist today, nor have ever existed.

I want to see floating cities in the sky, I want to see magical spells that defy all scientific knowledge. I would love to sit down and play a game where everything I know is thrown right out the window and everything I see challenges my brain not only to freak out about how awesome these things are, but make sense of it all.

After all, is it really a “fantasy” if I’ve seen everything and understand it?

10 Hours In, Kingdom Hearts 3 Is Everything I Hoped It Would Be

N

NOTE: This will be a spoiler-free article in terms of story.

As of writing this post, I’m just shy of 10 hours into the game. I’ve been slowly going through the story, having fun collecting things, messing around, etc etc. I’ve just arrived at my third world, the story really hasn’t started to show its hand yet, but the nostalgia factor is what’s keeping me running at full speed right now.

The moment I hit start and got the orchestral version of “Don’t Think Twice”, everything hit me all at once. All those emotions when I was in my mid-teens, playing the first two games. The music, the visuals, the combat, it all came back to me, like it had never left. Kingdom Hearts was back and not only was it back, but it hadn’t compromised its original state. Sure, it’s added more special moves, newer worlds and more, but the core of the series is still very much there. I don’t feel like I’m playing “the new and improved” Kingdom Hearts, I’m just playing an improved Kingdom Hearts.

First off, the graphics. Holy fucking shit is this game gorgeous. The mixture of current-gen limits, mixed with the vibrant, anime-like visual style that the series has always had, it looks absolutely incredible. In particular, the third world I’ve landed on, the Toy Story world, looks unbelievable. It definitely gives me the same reaction the trailers did, it legitimately looks like I’m playing a game within the confines of the film series.

The music is also very much the same to how it’s always been. Hearing familiar music from the first world of Olympus brings back the nostalgia, but also hearing this new orchestra version of “You’ve Got A Friend In Me” in the Toy Story world, it gives me an irresistible desire to have the biggest smile on my face at all times. But then again, when has Yoko Shimomura disappointed us?

Lastly, the gameplay. What can I say? They made it bigger and better. Wall running, more special moves, actual boss mechanics that isn’t just “hit this spot, then hit this spot” or just smacking the shit out of him. The Rock Titan as you saw in the trailers is a great example, there’s a lead-up to the boss, rather than just fighting a giant rock out of nowhere. The fighting is quicker, more chaotic, with more options that should make me so much better at the game, but instead I still get hit by everything cause I’m not paying attention to shit. I’ve gotta say, not that it would’ve been hard to top the gameplay of a PS2 game, but the fighting in KH3 is easily the best the series has ever had.

Hell, even the Gummi Ship sequences are kinda fun now and they’ve never been for me. There’s more exploration to these sequences, little collecting here and there, it adds just enough to be a pretty decent improvement, but still has a lot to be desired. I don’t like how there’s just one enemy alone in a massive range on the map and can only be attacked if in close proximity, to which it takes you away from the open space and resumes the classic sequence-driven fight. This should’ve been an open world with enemies littered around the map (apart from the couple ones that are situated on asteroids and don’t move at all) that you’d be fighting regularly as you flew around. But it’s still better than what it used to be.

So yeah, I’m really happy that I can say with a straight face that Kingdom Hearts 3 thus far, has lived up to what I had hoped for. Now I’ve seen many different reactions from people and I think they may have overhyped themselves in comparison to myself, though I’ll obviously have a more finite opinion once I get to the end of the game. But for now, it’s certainly what I wanted and I’m so relieved that this is the case.

Though admittedly listening to Haley Joel Osment, who is two months younger than me, still voicing a tiny teenager…it’s a little odd now.

Mortal Kombat: Dismemberment? Okay. Skin? Bad.

I love the Mortal Kombat series. I have loved it since the very beginning, tried to enjoy the series as much as I could during the 3D days and then continued to love it again once the complete overhaul that was Mortal Kombat (technically MK9) on the 360 and PS3.

But since the past game Mortal Kombat X and now with the reveals of the upcoming Mortal Kombat 11, I’ve been noticing something that I don’t quite like, nor do I understand. It’s not a deal breaker necessarily, as when it comes to the game, I’m more concerned about the mechanics and the gore, because that’s what the game is supposed to be, but there’s one thing that they’ve changed recently that seems way too coinciding with the current political climate.

So look, I’m just going to say it flat out. I am 100% in favor of what Mortal Kombat used to have with specifically its female cast. Yes, I’m talking about the overly sexual outfits.

I should’ve noticed this change right away when for the first time EVER, Mileena’s outfit was very conservative. Anyone who’s played the series before the MK9 comeback knows that Mileena has always been the sex symbol of the franchise, which is pretty ironic given she has the ugliest face in the game, aside from Baraka.

But in MKX, she shows so little skin in comparison to every game before that, in retrospect it’s shocking I didn’t really pay attention to it when I first played the series. She no longer has the one-piece “ninja” outfit that has several other characters wearing similar if not the same gear with a different color palette. Those girls included Kitana, Jade, Frost, Khameleon, Tanya and even Skarlet, who at one point was a glitched red colorization before becoming a real character in the series.

And now in the past game and the soon to be released MK11, all of these girls have been changed significantly to alter their outfits in order to show less skin, while several male characters have largely remained the same. Hell, the new male character Geras? Shirtless.

Now I’m not going to sit here and tell you that the outfits that we’ve seen characters like Jade, Sonya and other female characters aren’t cool, I will never do that. But why all of a sudden are outfits that are 10, 20, some almost 25 years old now, being completely erased? In a genre that sees characters have several different outfits, why does it appear that the ones that your average third-wave feminist would immediately scream at, they’re the only outfits truly affected?

I mean take a look at Skarlet for example, hence why she’s the cover image for this article. This is what she first looked like in the 2011 redesign. Is it over-the-top? Sure, but this is Mortal fucking Kombat we’re talking about here. This isn’t a “realistic” game, nor is it a realistic world. But now, in MK11? She looks like she’s preparing for a winter storm, not a fight. And another thing, REALLY?! YOU GAVE HER A PIXIE CUT AND YOU THOUGHT THAT LOOKED GOOD?! SHE LOOKS TERRIBLE!!! Skarlet looks more masculine than feminine now, are we seriously going to start playing that game?

I’m not saying every character needs to be sexy, don’t get the wrong idea here. But why are characters that have always been sexy suddenly not sexy? Is the solution not to make new characters that aren’t automatically fan service characters? Isn’t that what D’Vorah is? Cassie Cage and Jacqui Briggs? You are laying down a foundation of new characters, so if you want to make characters who aren’t revealing 75%+ of their skin, you can do that. But don’t erase the characters you had, Skarlet was fine as a sexy, powerful assassin, same with Kitana, Jade and especially Mileena, who I’m pretty sure at this point got killed off in MKX so they could show to the world they’ve “changed”, by taking out the most sexualized woman they had.

So this all goes back to the leftist, feminist approach of we can’t sexualize women in video games. So once again I will say it, why the fuck not?! This isn’t a realistic, present day game, this is a game that features several different realms with ridiculously over-the-top fantasy setting characters, such as an undead ninja, a man who controls ice, a sorcerer who takes people’s souls, several characters with more than two arms, a minotaur, a man with bionic arms, a motherfucking dragon, you get the idea, right?

This isn’t real, who are you to say that this world doesn’t have a different cultural and societal approach? How do you know wearing clothes akin to a one-piece swimsuit isn’t normal battle attire for women in that world? How do you know that women don’t normally wear more revealing clothing because perhaps their world is hotter than ours normally is, or hell, maybe that’s just their fucking choice? That’s my favorite counter argument, how do you know that this world wouldn’t be one that’s different from ours, with characters who think different than we do? Why does everything today have to be 100% reminiscent of our present day?

I don’t want to play something 100% realistic, that’s boring as shit, I want to play a game where I’m playing as ridiculous characters, doing ridiculous fighting moves and pulling off ridiculous kills like the fatalities have always done, ramping it up each and every installment.

I want these characters to be over-the-top in every way. I want 9-foot tall giants with four arms who can rip a normal person’s limb off with ease. I want shirtless karate legends with abs on top of abs pulling off absurd fighting moves that even Jean Claude van Damme couldn’t even pull off. I want to see scantily clad women who look like strippers, but can kick anyone’s ass at the drop of a hat, in the same way I want to see women who are also dressed conservatively and can pull off the same thing. Or maybe they can do other things like they’re mages/sorceresses, they’re a medieval looking knight with a giant Claymore sword, anything that can make sense of things.

But a girl who just fights with a Sai and martial arts, like Mileena? There’s no reason for her to cover up as much as she can, she needs the extra speed and agility, to be able to move faster and be able to make that critical shot. It’s harder to do that when you have more clothing pulling on you. I’m not saying she HAS to fight in a thong, but why can’t she? Because it could offend women? Well the game for almost 30 years has gone strong being a game that has a primary demographic of men aged 13-35, so why change now?

Can we stop making changes to please everyone? Because we never can. Make the game that suits your primary demographic first, that’s where the money is. And for fuck’s sake, Netherrealm, you have been making a series of fighting games that politicians have always been against because of the violence, why are you even bothering changing anything at this point? Nothing you do will change what you are now with this series.

Want to make a game for everyone? Start a new franchise. Oh that’s a risk and you might lose money doing so? Then what are you doing right now by changing so much about the characters? Isn’t that a risk to the fanbase you’ve collected for decades now? Ask EA, Bethesda and Blizzard, they’ll tell you a few stories.

Once again, I’m not saying every character has to be sexualized. But in a world where limbs are lying everywhere and there’s more blood than an Olympic swimming pool can hold, how ridiculous is a couple of girls with DDs in a skimpy one-piece?

Kingdom Hearts III: A Game I’ve Waited Nearly 15 Years To Play

It’s been nearly fifteen years since the last major console release of a Kingdom Hearts game. Not a remaster, not a collection, a full brand spanking new release. It’s also been about four years since I’ve pre-ordered the damn game, so to have the knowledge that I am mere days away from finally having this game in my hands, it’s quite something.

When I think about how I got into the series, it’s really funny remembering. When the original Kingdom Hearts came out, I laughed at it. Here I am, y’know, a 14 year-old teenager who’s trying to be a little more edgy cause it’s supposed to be cool and you think for one second I’m gonna play a video game with a bunch of Disney characters?! Fuck that shit, right? That doesn’t sound cool, who cares that it’s being made by the same company who just a year ago, released what would become my all-time favourite game in Final Fantasy X. It’s fucking Disney, that’ll be stupid and childish!

Then I saw a friend playing it. He was running through the Hades Cup and if I remember correctly, the first battle I ever saw was against Cerberus. It looked pretty goddamn fun, which threw me for a loop. “No no no no! It’s a fucking Disney game, it has to be lame!” I kept thinking to myself and yet I would just get drawn in further. But I did hold my ground a little bit, I went a few more months without playing it.

But once it made the Greatest Hits list, thus it was cheaper, all bets were off.

I was stunned, absolutely stunned. The world, the story, the characters, the gameplay, the music, the graphics, the atmosphere…it all clicked, it all blended together and it was all Grade-A quality stuff! I couldn’t believe it, here I was thinking a game featuring a shit-ton of Disney properties would make a garbage game and yet I was sitting on my couch enjoying the hell out of playing through Tarzan’s world. Couldn’t believe it.

When it was all over, I was all in. Now I wanted more. So the day Kingdom Hearts 2 came out, I had my money saved up and was ready to go. I got so impatient, that I decided that the day before, I was going to lie to my Science teacher that I had a dentist appointment, so I’d miss my last class of the day. It honestly didn’t bug me that much, I hated the class and I was doing more than fine anyways. So I walked all the way from my school to the only EB Games we had at the time, which was an hour walk away. My walk home? 20 minutes. Didn’t care, I wanted that game and I wanted to play it as soon as I could.

Same deal, was blown away. Couldn’t believe just how much they could’ve improved that game, but they far exceeded any expectations I could’ve had for the series. Keep in mind that Chain of Memories for the GBA was released months before and it was no slouch either, though it had its problems. But once I put down Kingdom Hearts 2, I was a forever fan and I couldn’t wait for the third installment.

Except…it never came. I kept my PS2 a few years into the following generation (Persona helped) and waited to hear when Kingdom Hearts 3 was coming. But it just kept never being announced. Instead, we got mobile games, handheld games, web browser games, anything but a console title. Sure, some of the games were all right, but I never got the same feeling of them, and honestly? I’ve never finished a Kingdom Hearts game since Kingdom Hearts 2. I’ve had to watch YouTube videos to get the full story I’ve missed, in preparation for KH3.

I was truly upset, because why the fuck was Square Enix being so stupid by not releasing a third installment and instead releasing sidestories no one cared about on not-consoles?! What the fuck was the matter with them?! Did they not like money?! Well, we’ve seen over the last 10 years that it might be true, but that’s besides the point! I was beyond mad and turned elsewhere to find my new gaming niche. I went away from PlayStation, got a Xbox 360 and was getting ready for hours upon hours of Minecraft, Mass Effect and eventually, Destiny.

But in 2013, they just had to fucking tease it. 8 years of nothing and OH MY GOD, IT’S FUCKING HAPPENING, OH MY GOD!!!

And another five years since have ensued and we come to today. In just over a week as I release this, the game will be in my hands. A game I have basically waited nearly fifteen years to play. Fifteen long fucking years.

I don’t know what to think, to be honest. I mean everything I’ve seen looks incredible, especially the graphics. I can’t fathom how I’ll feel being in the Toy Story world as it looks like a movie and not the game. But in terms of my emotions going in…I can’t quite explain how I feel. I mean the best I can do is say that I’m excited without being excited. Maybe it’s because it’s been so long, maybe it has more to do with how old I am now in comparison to how I was when Kingdom Hearts 2 was coming out.

In the end, what I do know is that this may just be my happiest moment as a gamer since I impatiently awaited playing Mass Effect 2. I get the feeling that the moment the first second of the initial cutscene starts, a flood of emotion-filled nostalgia will envelope me. I’m actually considering the idea that I may actually well up, but I won’t cry. I’ll have teary eyes with the biggest smile on my face, because in those first moments, I will truly feel at ease.

Because when I hit start on Kingdom Hearts 3, fourteen long years will have passed. And I’ll be as thankful as can be that I got to experience this moment before the decade’s end.

Soldier 76 Is Gay. Why Now?

Another Blizzard short story reveals a second gay character in the Overwatch series and this time, it’s everyone’s favourite dad, Soldier 76. Naturally, the gaming press is going bananas over this. Color me shocked. However, I have a much different reaction to this “incredible” revelation…

…Meh.

It’s a little late, to be honest. I mean anyone with half a brain can figure that this is nothing more than an attempt from Blizzard to make Overwatch a little more relevant again. The game is over 3 years old now, there are a ton of other games taking attention way from Overwatch and people are getting bored of playing the same game over and over again, no matter how many new characters they add. Hell, I’m not seeing nearly the amount of fan art (yes, including porn) than I’m used to seeing from the series. It’s very clear that Overwatch is no longer the juggernaut it was in its first two years of release.

It’s not to say it’s a bad thing, whether I’m talking about Soldier 76 being gay, or Blizzard attempting to stay relevant, both things are ultimately fine. However, the question I’d have to ask is why now? Why so late into this game? Tracer’s reveal was pretty much as late into the game as I thought it should get, it was at the tail end of Overwatch’s peak popularity and it was essentially the game’s most beloved character. Everything made sense then, but this reveal just doesn’t make sense.

I don’t think there’s any other way to say it, but I don’t think there was ever a plan to make Soldier 76 a gay man from the very get-go. I think this was a calculated decision made by Blizzard and the Overwatch team as a way to gain some relevancy back as the game is experiencing its first true noticeable decline. And just like how Tracer was the best choice for gay character #1, Soldier 76 from what I estimate was the second choice in terms of popularity. If this had been say…Hanzo, then maybe I could believe this was something they were deliberating over long before the reveal. But Soldier 76? Another really popular character? Yeah, that sounds planned last minute more than long-term.

And to be clear, I’m not against this reveal, there’s no stake in me being against this, it’d be silly to say I had one. My issue is with the timing. Like I said, I don’t think this was a choice that had been done at the time the game was being first produced, I think this was a choice made whenever they recently looked at their numbers and realized they needed to do something to get back in the news.

So let’s not pretend this is some amazing revelation, shall we? It’s not a well-thought out story, it’s not a long-term planned out character arc, and I’m not even fully convinced it’s a decision made for the LGBT community.

What it definitely is, is a marketing ploy.