Tales Of Symphonia Remastered Review - A Classic Regenerated

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Tales of Symphonia was a formative experience for me. For my young 11-year-old brain, it redefined my understanding of the JRPG genre. The vibrant presentation, action-focused combat, and mature story took me by surprise. Weekend after weekend, a friend and I would explore the world of Sylvarant together, making incremental progress in each play session. While I had played a few JRPGs before, none had hooked me the way Tales of Symphonia had.

Despite my deep reverence for Tales of Symphonia, I haven't touched it since 2004. I don't really know why. I bought it on PC a few years back, but it just felt wrong to play that game sitting at my desk one random evening after work--almost as if it would tarnish the magic of that experience and the memories tied to it. However, with the release of Tales of Symphonia Remastered, I decided it was finally time to return to this world to see if it was as good as I remember. The result was a bit mixed.

Tales of Symphonia follows a kid named Lloyd Irving as he accompanies the Chosen One on a globetrotting adventure. The Chosen One, Colette, instructed by divine prophecy, must "regenerate" the world in order to end war, famine, and hatred. It seems like standard JRPG fare, but the story is darker and far more complex than it initially lets on. Despite trying to do the right thing, Lloyd and his companions are confronted with moral quandaries that often leave a trail of destruction behind them. What makes the story so effective is how it rarely shies away from the consequences of our heroes' actions. Conflicts are rarely resolved neatly, and the story is better for it.

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Octopath Traveler 2 Review - Go Your Own Way

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Octopath Traveler was a pleasant surprise when it debuted a few years back. Its then-new HD-2D engine was a delight to behold, and the gameplay drew inspiration from some of Square Enix's most storied franchises: a deep Final Fantasy-style class and customization system mixed with the non-linear exploration and story of the SaGa series with a dash of combat that took cues from Bravely Default. These are great inspirations to draw from, but it resulted in a game that, while excellent, seemed to be struggling for a distinct identity. Perhaps the developers recognized this as well--with Octopath Traveler II, Square Enix seems to be trying to add new gameplay elements that give the franchise a personality of its own. And, for the most part, it has succeeded admirably.

The core of Octopath Traveler II is a traditional, turn-based JRPG with many of the usual gameplay elements: towns and dungeons to explore, objectives to complete, etc. Where most JRPGs present a linear method of progression, however, Octopath Traveler takes a very different approach: You begin the game by selecting a "main" character from eight candidates. This character has their own unique background, story arc, and goals, and will serve as a constant presence throughout your playtime. After an introductory story chapter, you are then free to explore the world to your liking. Eventually, you'll meet the other seven characters, allowing you to bring them into your party and follow their storylines as well, all culminating in a finale that ties the individual story threads together.

The focus on individual character arcs rather than a huge, high-stakes threat for most of the game's runtime is refreshing, allowing Octopath Traveler II to tell a variety of intriguing stories that vary wildly in both tone and focus. Some of them are comparatively weaker, but others command and hold your attention and keep you eager for more. Agnea's star-struck search for fame is notably bland, for instance, while Temenos' investigation into a murder plot by a religious cult and Throne's quest to kill the adoptive parents who raised her are excellent stand-outs. My personal favorite questline is the story of Osvald, who I chose as my starting character--a tale of a scholar who plans a Count-of-Monte-Christo-style prison escape and revenge after being framed for the murder of his own family by a scheming colleague.

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Kirby's Return To Dream Land Deluxe Review - Kirb Your Enthusiasm

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Mario is the most versatile character in the Nintendo oeuvre, but Kirby has to be a close second. Though the pink puffball may not spend his free time go-karting or playing tennis, his catalog includes a ton of experimental games and art styles that stretch the limits of what a Kirby game can be. Kirby's Return to Dream Land Deluxe, a remastered version of the 2011 Wii game for Nintendo Switch, is in most ways a very traditional Kirby platformer. But its playful spirit, approachability, and a sizable new epilogue campaign make it much more than a retread.

The main story component of Return to Dream Land is a colorful romp as you restore the parts of an alien ship, set to a joyful and buoyant soundtrack. The adorably bulbous alien Magolor crash-lands on Planet Popstar and seeks help from Kirby and his friends. Those allies are a major component this time, because Dream Land features drop-in co-op for up to four players. You can include any number of multicolored Kirbys in your ranks, but you can also bring along other familiar faces: Meta Knight, Bandana Waddle Dee, and King Dedede. Each has their own move set--Meta Knight is more agile than the weighty Dedede, for example--but only Kirby has the signature Copy ability to swallow enemies.

Kirby's combat isn't simplistic, but it is forgiving. There's a ton of contextual moves you can do with each Copy ability, which means you can pull off impressive juggles. But the enemies aren't much of a threat, so you don't really need to master the combat. It's a different approach from some other Nintendo franchises, which use simple move sets to pull off an increasingly difficult array of challenges. This one seems more aimed at letting players meet it wherever they are.

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Atomic Heart - Before You Buy

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Atomic Heart - Before You BuyAtomic Heart (PC, PS5, PS4, Xbox Series X/S/One) is a first person shooter adventure in an alternate history world. How is it? Let's talk. Subscribe for more: http://youtube.com/gameranxtv ▼ Video by Jake Baldino Buy Atomic Heart: https://amzn.to/3IB0fhA Watch more 'Before You Buy': https://bit.ly/2kfdxI6 #atomicheart

Atomic Heart Review - Crispy Critters

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Atomic Heart doesn't hide its BioShock Infinite inspirations. The game begins in a city in the clouds, features reality-bending and elemental powers you can employ in your fight against advanced robots, sees you scrounging for resources in an idyllic city that's falling apart, and stars an amnesiac protagonist grappling with the nuances of free will. By the time you reach the climax of the story and you're asked to visit a lighthouse, you know what's up. Where Atomic Heart most differs from its inspiration is in the lens through which it focuses its narrative, exploring concepts of free will via Soviet Russian collectivism instead of the U.S.' individualism. However, its intriguing premise is let down by a deeply unlikable protagonist and a predictable storyline that doesn't do anything interesting with its cool ideas.

In the alternate history of Atomic Heart, a scientist named Dmitry Sechenov kickstarts a robotics boom in Russia in the 1930s. By the 1950s, the working class has been abolished in the Soviet Union and completely replaced by robots controlled through a hive-mind network called Kollectiv 1.0. The game begins a few years after that, just prior to the public unveiling of Kollectiv 2.0, which will allow all humans to have equal access to the hive-mind to control robots remotely through a Thought device wired straight to their brain, as well as connect and share information with each other across great distances. Basically, it's the Internet plugged into your brain and available 24/7.

With the benefit of 21st-century hindsight, we know the Internet will not end up being a 100% good idea even if the main character Major Sergei Nechaev, an agent who serves Sechenov, fully believes in the dream of a world where everyone equally has access to each other and the wealth of information that will surely be shared. Assigned to investigate a disturbance in Facility 3826, the Soviet Union's foremost scientific research hub, Sergei is joined by Charles, a sentient glove that gifts the agent with a host of polymer-fed technopowers like telekinesis and cryokinesis, and provides a sounding board for Sergei's oftentimes annoying and borderline abusive collection of quips and unfunny comebacks.

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