MLB The Show 24 Review - Base Hit

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A lot of people will tell you that Hank Aaron is the greatest to ever play the game of baseball. Bob Kendrick, President of the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum, is one of those people, and it's easy to see why. You only have to look at Hammerin' Hank's stats--755 home runs and 3,771 hits in Major League Baseball--his outstanding consistency across 23 big league seasons, or the fact that he achieved all of this after such humble beginnings. Growing up, Aaron had few opportunities to play organized baseball. In fact, he had few opportunities to even use the right equipment. Instead, a young Henry Aaron would take his mom's broomstick and use it as a makeshift bat to hit bottlecaps--it's no wonder he ended up being so good.

I knew of Hank Aaron's incredible career, but supplemental details like this are part of what makes Storylines such a captivating and enlightening experience. If last year's game was all about introducing this brilliant and groundbreaking new mode, then MLB The Show 24 is more about fine-tuning the existing framework. This isn't an uncommon approach for annual sports games, and while Sony San Diego's latest baseball sim might not seem as fresh or exciting as last year's offering, it still plays an excellent game of baseball while possessing a tangible reverence for the sport's rich history and inherent romanticism. Players are more than just stats and numbers, after all.

This is where Storylines comes in, and it's once again the highlight of the whole package. Like any good TV series, MLB The Show 24 returns with a second season of The Negro Leagues, exploring an era of baseball that has often been overlooked and forgotten. At launch, there are four stories to play through, shining a spotlight on the aforementioned Henry "Hank" Aaron, as well as Josh Gibson, Walter "Buck" Leonard, and Toni Stone, with more set to arrive in forthcoming updates.

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Princess Peach Showtime Review - Drama Teacher

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Princess Peach, the prototypical video game damsel in distress, has had limited success with her own solo adventures. On the rare occasion that she's playable, she has typically been a sidekick in a larger adventure, like Super Mario RPG. Though she did land a starring role in Super Princess Peach, the game and its core mechanic—in which her powers were defined by wild mood swings—were a miss. Princess Peach Showtime is the latest attempt to make her own story, with nary a Mario or Luigi in sight, and this time she has come more into her own as an adventurer. More importantly, this solo outing seems primed at introducing new players to a wide variety of game genres. While veteran gamers will likely find the pacing too lethargic, it's nice that Nintendo is making such a clear overture to welcome new players.

And when I say that there's no Mario or Luigi, I mean at all. Nintendo's most iconic characters aren't even present in the intro, when Peach receives an invitation to come see the Sparkle Theater in a land occupied by Theets, little yellow creatures with bulbous noses. Upon arrival, the theater is taken over by a sorceress named Grape and her Sour Bunch goons, who kick out Peach's loyal Toad companions, misplacing her crown in the process, and proceed to corrupt all the plays. Peach finds a guardian of the playhouse, a fairy named Stella, who accompanies peach by taking the form of a ribbon in her hair. (When Peach puts her hair up into a ponytail, you know it's getting serious.) Stella is Peach's default weapon, letting you use a whip-like motion to magically change objects and enemies in the environment, and it's also the enabler for Peach's various transformations.

When Peach steps into a corrupted play, she finds a spark that lets her take on the role of its hero. These are broad archetypes like Swordfighter, Cowgirl, and Detective, and the 10 costume types allow for a broad range of different gameplay types. Once you've found your costumes in the first version of a stage, future stages of that type will start you with it already equipped. Each floor has four plays to conquer, after which you'll fight a boss and gain access to the next floor. It's all very easily understandable and flows nicely.

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Rise Of The Ronin Review - Long-Term Investment

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If someone tells me a game takes several hours to "get good," my immediate feeling is that I will never play that game. Who has hours to waste waiting for the good part of anything when there are so many other games to play? But my opinion of Rise of the Ronin changed drastically over the course of my 50 hours of playtime--in the first five or 10 hours, I didn't really like it. By the end, I was planning to dive back in to clear out side quests and replay key moments to see how the story might change. It's a game that takes its time getting good, but once it finds its footing in samurai-sword duels and character-focused missions, your investment pays off.

The thing that turned the tide for me is the way Rise of the Ronin focuses on telling small, character-driven stories that weave together into a large, history-shaping narrative. The entire game is built on its "Bond" system, where doing side quests big and small builds your relationships with everyone, from the different provinces of Ronin's massive open-world Japan, to the many characters you meet throughout the course of the game.

Though the Bond system isn't particularly different from building up faction reputation, liberating map segments, or growing relationship stats with characters like you might see in other games, the focus on investing in all those things and people is illustrative of Team Ninja's approach to the entire game. Your personal connection to everything in Rise of the Ronin is what makes it work, and the reason it's worth it to power through its learning curve and less remarkable opening hours.

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Dragon's Dogma 2 Review - Pawn Stars

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Dragon's Dogma 2 doesn't have a traditional fast-travel system. For most open-world games, this would be a death sentence--an affront to the player's valuable time. Yet somehow, Capcom has turned the absence of this quality-of-life feature into a resounding strength. It's the game's tremendous sense of adventure and discovery that accomplishes this. Every time you leave the relative safety of a village or city, there's no telling what will happen; you just know it has the potential to be spellbinding and will be well worth your time.

As a sequel, Dragon's Dogma 2 is an extension of everything the first game achieved 12 years ago. It's an enchanting open-world RPG with varied, exciting combat and a player-created companion system that's still unlike anything else. It doesn't do much beyond what the original did, but advancements in technology have enhanced its anomalous strengths, breathing new life into its massive open world and the ways in which you and everything around you can interact with it. New ideas and innovation might not be at the forefront, but the things it does are still relatively distinct.

After a brief but intriguing prologue, your adventure begins in the country of Vermund, a land of lush green forests, alpine peaks, and the flowing currents of its many winding rivers. The royalty and noblemen of Vermund reside behind the fortified walls of its capital city, and it's from this bustling location that you can board an oxcart to a small village in the north or a checkpoint city in the west. The latter sits on the border with Battahl, an arid land, home to the humanoid cat-like beastren, where gondolas provide an occasional route over the craggy canyons below. Beyond traveling via oxcart or climbing aboard one of these sky lifts, you're left to explore this sprawling world on foot, traversing dense forests blanketed by canopies that blot out the sun, elven ruins carved into the sides of mountains, and shifting sands bathed in harsh sunlight and circled by deadly harpies.

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Alone In The Dark Review - Dimly Lit

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When I think of the survival-horror genre’s best games, I often wonder if they were made better by their frequently unwieldy combat mechanics. The inability to reliably defend yourself heightened the terror in anti-power fantasies like Silent Hill, and the awkwardness of taking on the undead in Resident Evil became core to its tension. With that in mind, could a modern horror game benefit from having similarly janky self-defense systems? Alone in the Dark, the 2024 reboot project from THQ Nordic and Pieces Interactive, emphatically resolves this question for me; as it turns out, the answer is no--it's certainly worse off.

Alone in the Dark centers on characters and a haunted house all named the same as they were in the original 1992 game, but it mostly ditches that game's original story and old-school adventure game leanings in favor of a third-person, over-the-shoulder horror experience in line with modern counterparts. The game's writing pedigree flaunts Soma and Amnesia: The Dark Descent's Mikael Hedberg, and the story even plays out like an Amnesia game at times, to its credit. Much of what it does well is also derivative, but a larger issue is that it can’t do these aspects of the game well consistently. And all the while its worst parts are ceaselessly unenjoyable.

Chief among the blemishes is the aforementioned shoddy combat. There are three guns in total, and though wielding them feels cumbersome in the way a horror game wants to, so much else about dispatching monsters in the Derceto mansion’s hallways and bedrooms is a chore. Many enemies feel uniform in their behaviors and are often comically unaware or incapable of reaching you due to getting stuck on geometry or even each other when they show up in groups.

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