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Let’s Remember Final Fantasy VI, 25 Years Later

Final Fantasy VI was first released in North America (as Final Fantasy III) 25 years and two days ago, on October 11th, 1994. On Friday, I streamed the game for two hours—after reminiscing on my teenaged hype for the game for half an hour with the visual aide of some scans of the October 1994 issue of Game Players magazine. You can watch the archive of my stream here.

I’d played the first Final Fantasy when it came out because a neighbor kid had traded it to my brother for Capcom’s Commando, which is incredibly bad judgment. I played Final Fantasy II (IV) for Super Nintendo a dozen times all the way through. I had learned how to speed run that game because every time I rented it, someone had saved over my file. Final Fantasy II was so expensive that I, at age twelve, could not possibly afford it while it still existed on retail shelves for a few months in 1991 and 1992. (One day in 1996 I found a loose cartridge of it for $9 at a flea market.)


To say I’d been “following the news” about Final Fantasy III would be like calling a serial killer a “bad person.” I had literally two things in my life: anger that Squaresoft wasn’t translating Final Fantasy V and hope that Final Fantasy VI would arrive soon and become the meaning in my life. I’d memorized the exact geometry of every screenshot. I’d written reams of fanfiction in my head about the character sprites. I wore sweatpants and ate macaroni and cheese every day.

When I encountered Jeff “Lucky” Lundrigan’s review of Final Fantasy III in the October 1994 issue of Game Players magazine, my hype went nuclear. There was no turning back. It was a loudly raining day in September of 1994 and I stood there in front of the magazine shop next to my local supermarket with all my molecules vibrating. The Pokémon of me was trying to learn a new skill: writing video game reviews.

The outset of Jeff Lundrigan’s 1994 review of Final Fantasy III is burned into my brain. A lot of stuff is burned into my brain, for a pretty bad reason, though let’s focus on Jeff Lundrigan’s review of Final Fantasy III for now:


I’m putting myself all the way out there when I say this, though yes, as a driver’s-license-less fifteen-year-old who had never talked to a girl or even touched a warm beer can, the references to sex and alcohol in the opening paragraph of this review slashed right through my baby-fat meat and touched my skeleton-bones: here was an adult, talking about loving my favorite game (never mind that I hadn’t played it yet).

I later wrote him a letter for his tips column. I think I put some good jokes in it. He never printed it. Today, 25 years later, I’ll share the first sentence: “I have a huge hole in me, too, though I’m only fifteen years old so I’m only legally allowed to fill it with macaroni and cheese and Sprite.”


Looking back at that from the distance of 25 years, I say it’s not a bad first sentence, for a kid.

Final Fantasy III (VI) arrived at a time in my life when everyone was struggling through The Mayor of Casterbridge in 10th grade English literature class, though I’d already read the whole syllabus and had looped back to reread the books we’d read in 9th grade. (Again: I didn’t have any friends.) I was in the middle of A Tale of Two Cities, and having my mind blown a billion times per chapter: “Why didn’t I like this a year ago?” The answer was, it wasn’t homework anymore.


Final Fantasy III was not homework, either. I played it only on Friday nights, Saturdays all day, and Sunday afternoons. I raked my mind back and forth over the hot coals of that game. I detective’d every last morsel-droplet of knowledge and lore from its nooks and crannies. I concluded with a nonchalance that it was good like a book the sort of which we might read in English class.

It helps that on October 14th, 1994, I’d seen Pulp Fiction in a theater.

So, Jeff “Lucky” Lundrigan, Hironobu Sakaguchi, Quentin Tarantino, and Charles Dickens: thanks. You did something nice for me in October of 1994. With a casual nonchalance, I declare today that you might have saved my life. I might have never made friends, learned a musical instrument, become fluent in multiple foreign languages, and spent two decades traveling the world if it hadn’t been for the exact palpability of Final Fantasy III’s sense of adventure.


If nothing else, I can say without conjecture that Final Fantasy III’s $79.99 price tag presented the Mount Everest of coming-of-age challenges for a friendless, 24/7-sweatpantsing, antisocial teenager. Coming up with that kind of money for a fifteen-year-old (who didn’t get jack for mowing the lawn because my dad was a patriot and we had a flagpole in the front yard and mowing the lawn was pretty much the same thing as loving your country) was a disastrous difficulty. I did it, though. I had to trade in some NES games and perform some price match wizardry, though I did it. It took me until December 4th, 1994, at which point I’d already played the first ten hours of the game four times on a rental copy, though I did it. That sure taught me a lot.

Y’all can go ahead and keep complaining about your $59.99, though


For example, it taught me that the instant I turned sixteen, I was going to apply for a job at the local Target store. Which I did.

Well, that’s the story of how I ended up purchasing Chrono Trigger on day one for $79.99 at a Toys R Us.


Please watch my stream archive for many reminiscences of this variety, as well as some dissection of this beautiful game’s literature-like structure, and finally, address the question: is this the best Final Fantasy? Spoiler: yes. It’s not my favorite, though it is the best. Objectively.

Please follow us on Twitch and subscribe to us on YouTube for more stuff like this.

Source: Kotaku.com

Watch Us Play The Switch Version Of One Of The Best Games Of The Decade, Killer Queen

Killer Queen, a five-on-five two-cabinet competitive independent arcade game released in 2013, has finally arrived on a console—the Nintendo Switch—in 2019. I like Killer Queen so much that I’m going to spoil a future video of mine: the 2013 original is one of the three best games released this decade. You can watch Cecilia and I play the 2019 Switch version in this video.


The Switch version changes a few of the original’s rules without sacrificing the fineness of their tuning. Unlike the arcade version, we’ve got two teams of four on the Switch, with arenas slightly smaller than arcade players might be used to. It works spectacularly well.

In Killer Queen, each team has three ways to win. If you pay too much attention to one victory condition, you might ignore another on accident. Beautifully and infuriatingly, Killer Queen presents all players with all information all the time. Nothing is hidden in Killer Queen. Imagine a MOBA in which the camera never moves. Nobody has any excuse for not noticing something other than “I wasn’t paying attention.” Losing in Killer Queen results in apologies to one’s teammates rather than excuses. It’s mesmerizing.

Killer Queen inspired me in the design process of a game of my own. I wrote a lecture about the thought experiments that led to the crystallization of my own game’s design, and it was impossible to write that lecture without including a ten-minute aside praising the “omniavailable” information of Killer Queen, through which “spectators become players.” My lecture was apparently the number-two highest rated talk at the 2016 Game Developers Conference—a fact I attribute mostly to its analysis of Killer Queen. You can watch it on YouTube here.

You might look at screenshots of this game and conjure some snippy doubts. I’ve heard MOBA players scoff when I say Killer Queen is “pretty much a MOBA.” I’ve seen FPS players roll their eyes when I say Killer Queen is “the best esport.” These doubters are wrong. I don’t have time to get into all of the specifics as to why right now, because that would require me to write a dissertation. Let’s leave it at this: if you doubt Killer Queen, you’re a chump. Or you just haven’t had the chance to play it with nine other people in an arcade or bar in a major US city.


If you do not live near such an arcade, you’re in luck: the Switch version conjures its arcade forbear’s magic formula despite a minor reduction in player count. You can play it online. Or, if you can get the people together, you can play it at home. If you play ten eight-player rounds of Killer Queen Black and you don’t consider it absolutely delightful, I have no idea how to help you. You have something I can’t cure.

I say all this as preamble to a video which, unfortunately, contains Cecilia and I playing two players with six bots, rather than the ideal eight screaming humans.


On top of this, you’ll see us wrestle some technical difficulties. My 8bitdo SN30+ Pro controller was experiencing excruciating lag of about one full second. I have confirmed (at home, using a Hori Pokkén Tournament controller) that this is not the game’s fault. The Nintendo Switch can be a jerk about Bluetooth.

I sincerely hope that Killer Queen Black catches on. For the past six years, since I first played the arcade version, I have longed to see it broadcasted live on Twitch. I have wanted to see it played in an arena. As a canvas for mind-games and a reason for screaming, its pristine design is unparalleled elsewhere in video games.


I know the reality: the esportsphere is crowded. The public can only think about so many games at once. In a perfect world, immediately every esportser everywhere would delete all other games from their devices and dive deep into Killer Queen Black, and soon they’d be playing it in high school gymnasiums and at presidential debates.

Well, the world isn’t perfect. Though if you own a Nintendo Switch, know seven people, and have twenty dollars to spend, you can make your living room a perfect place for a couple hours. If you figure out how to get eight controllers connected, that is.


By the way! If you personally liked, commented, and / or subscribed to our YouTube channel, that would definitely fuel my habit of making a lot more videos like this. I promise you might love it.

There’s even a playlist of all my other videos. Wow!

Source: Kotaku.com

Grid Never Gets Between You And Driving Some Fast Cars

Codemasters’ Grid series of racing games gets its first new entry in five years with the release of Grid this Friday for PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC. I memorized all four pages of the press release Codemasters sent me, then I also memorized the list of games on Codemasters’ Wikipedia page. I then tried to recite every detail while still placing first in several circuits. How did I do? Well, I captured it all on video, so find out the “badly” for yourself.

Much like the Fast and Furious series, Grid eschews scrutable taxonomy: the series consists, to date, of 2008’s Race Driver: Grid, 2013’s Grid 2, and 2014’s Grid Autosport. 2019’s Grid is thus the first game where the four-letter word stands for itself.


Grid is as no-nonsense as its name. When you enter career mode, a full-screen spreadsheet of race events greets you. Complete one and earn a check. Place first and earn a gold trophy. Play through events again for pleasure, in-game money, and experience points. Use money to buy new cars. Use experience points to level up, unlocking new cosmetic items.

Meanwhile, the racing game inside this refreshingly honest shell is as visually and technically impressive as any I’ve seen. It’s got 16-player online. It’s got team tactics. It’s got a cute little “Nemesis” system in single-player career mode (in summary: the AI drivers get mad at you if you hit them too many times, at which point they decide this game is actually Mario Kart).

It runs in a brilliant native 4K at 60 frames per second on the Xbox One X. All 13 of the tracks look wonderful.

Grid’s frictionless user experience, delightful graphics, and robust racing mechanics put it into the curious position of “game that I’ll probably play for 50 hours before the end of the year despite having several games I’m more excited about.”


Grid isn’t as feature-rich as Forza Horizon 4. It isn’t as serious as Gran Turismo. It isn’t as party-friendly as Mario Kart. Rather, it fills that surprisingly vacant void once occupied by singleplayer late-night zone-out racing games like Ridge Racer and Project Gotham Racing. It’s simulatory enough for me to put gear shift on my Xbox One Elite Controller’s back paddles, though it’s fun enough for me to turn my brain off completely. It’s also technically a dog toy, because my dog stared at the screen for two straight hours the other night while I drove.

Yes, I got a dog last week. Please expect more dog-related video game criticism metrics in the near future.


By the way! If you personally liked, commented, and / or subscribed to our YouTube channel, that would definitely fuel my habit of making a lot more videos like this. I promise you might love it.

There’s even a playlist of all my other videos. Wow!

Source: Kotaku.com

A Dramatic Reading Of The Names Of 400 Guns From Destiny 2

I performed a dramatic reading of the names of 400 guns from Destiny 2. Why did I do this? Well, one reason would be, “Why not?”

With the release of the Shadowkeep expansion, I started the game afresh in solidarity with my friends, who are playing the free-to-play New Light mode. So I haven’t progressed far into the game, and I haven’t accumulated much loot. However, I possess an urgent need to create content.


Therefore: I read a lot of gun names. For you! (Also, for me. It was fun.)

Bungie, if you’re listening: consider this my audition for the role of Gunfather in Destiny 3.

By the way! If you personally liked, commented, and / or subscribed to our YouTube channel, that would definitely fuel my habit of making a lot more videos like this. I promise you might love it.

There’s even a playlist of all my other videos. Wow!

Source: Kotaku.com

Code Vein’s Character Creation Has All The Options

There are nearly 500 eyebrow options in Code Vein’s character creator.

There is a lot of every option in the robust character creation toolset of Bandai Namco’s post-apocalyptic vampire adventure. Players begin by choosing a gender, one of the creator’s simplest options. From there, they can choose between 32 different premade characters. These serve as a starting point for a much larger series of decisions. Each preset character is stunning in their own way.


Once a preset is selected, the best option is to skip down to entering a name and advancing directly to gameplay. Otherwise, moving on to “Advanced Settings” opens up a staggering amount of customization that kept me occupied for several hours when I was supposed to be playing the actual game.

There are 58 different hairstyles in Code Vein’s character creator. Each hairstyle has multiple color options, base color, and highlights. Once you’ve chosen and colored the perfect hairstyle you’ll discover the accessories menu. Along with glasses, hats, gloves, jewelry, and other random bits, the accessories menu has an entire section filled with hair extensions.


There are only a handful of outfits in Code Vein’s character creator, which is good, because each one can be customized with dozens of different colors and patterns. Flat colors. Glowing colors. Plaids. Animal patterns. Metallic sheens. Vertical stripes, horizontal stripes, and checkerboard.


Sweet Christ, there are 66 different options for eye highlights in Code Vein’s character creator. EYE HIGHLIGHTS.

This is why I spent an hour and a half creating my first character in Code Vein. Then I played through the opening section and realized I didn’t like the character I created. I made a new character and started the game over. Eventually, I found the in-game headquarters, where characters can be edited on the fly. I felt stupid for not checking this out sooner, but also pretty.


In the video up top I spend ten minutes showing off Code Vein’s character creator while gushing. It’s deep and complicated, as a character creator should be. It’s the game’s best feature.

Source: Kotaku.com

The Switch Is The Best Way To Play Dragon Quest XI

Dragon Quest XI comes out on the Nintendo Switch tomorrow. I’ve played the original game four times all the way through on the PlayStation 4 and the Nintendo 3DS. I’ve now spent 20 hours with the Switch version, and I can safely say it’s the best way to play this game, which I consider the best installment in my favorite game series.

In summary: the Switch version is portable. Dragon Quest’s developers have apparently decided that portability is the “definition” of Dragon Quest.

Consider this post a supplement to the review I wrote of the PlayStation 4 and Steam English release of Dragon Quest XI last year for Kotaku. You can read that review right here. (I recommend you watch the big fancy video at the top.)


Dragon Quest—glacially paced, Tolstoy-long fairy-tale role-playing games whose art direction literally consists of the artist of Dragon Ball redesigning Dungeons & Dragons monsters and character classes in cute anime style—has been my favorite game series for 30 years. Considering the games’ unfailing commitment to depth, length, generosity, salt-of-the-earth wisdom, and rewarding patience, in my review last year I decided Dragon Quest XI was the best entry in its series.

I stand by every word I wrote in that review—except the minor calculation errors regarding the battle system that FAQ-writers uncovered in the months after its publication.

If I were to write a review of Dragon Quest XI: Echoes of an Elusive Age S: Definitive Edition, I’d write almost exactly the same review that I wrote last year. This is high praise: the game is masterfully great.


However, when I say I’d write “almost exactly the same review,” I’m also saying that the additions, improvements, and tweaks that Dragon Quest XI S makes over the original game do not excite me nearly as much as, you know, the original game. Rather, most of the Definitive Edition additions serve to inject quality of life that I, so enthused with the presence of a new Dragon Quest game, did not even notice was missing.

If I’d played Dragon Quest XI S before playing the original Dragon Quest XI, my review probably would not mention any of these “Definitive Edition” alterations. I’d be too busy talking about the Dragon Quest series as a whole. I’d be going on and on about this series is so old in video game years that it’s practically an ancient tradition. I’d be declaring it miraculous that these aging creators have somehow transcended even their best work with this installment.


I’d be too busy talking about how Dragon Quest games work best when you treat them like bedtime stories (30 minutes after a bath, before bed) to bother to mention that it’s nice to be able to dress your characters in flashy costumes without sacrificing the stats of superior armor items.

I’d be too busy talking about how Dragon Quest XI, first announced on the 30th anniversary of the original Dragon Quest, sublimely flows like a Dragon Quest greatest hits mixtape that I wouldn’t have time to mention the newly added pixel-art side-stories tying directly into previous Dragon Quest games.


If I were to review Dragon Quest XI S without having ever played Dragon Quest XI, I’d not even mention the ability to fast-forward battles. My fond memories of wasting entire summer days playing Dragon Warrior III on the NES prevent me from encouraging you to hurry through a role-playing game.

Therefore, I can’t exactly say that my video today is a “review” of Dragon Quest XI S: consider it a supplemental critique of the Switch version’s additions and improvements.


How are the graphics? Well, they’re complicated

Dragon Quest XI was one of the first Nintendo Switch games ever announced. When series director Yuji Horii announced Dragon Quest XI for PlayStation 4 and Nintendo 3DS in 2016, he also announced that it was in development for Nintendo’s new console, then called the “NX.”


Yet when Dragon Quest XI was released in Japan on July 29th, 2017, the Switch version was nowhere to be seen.

The developers issued nebulous comments about the Unreal Engine presenting performance issues on the Nintendo Switch. I’ve played Fortnite on my Nintendo Switch, so I believe them.


Thirteen months after the Japanese version of Dragon Quest XI was released, the English version came out. I made a big, long review. This review became quite popular on YouTube.

After I uploaded my review, I got 5,000 new Twitter followers in less than a week, and 10,000 in the course of a month.


These 10,000 people all knew me as “The Dragon Quest Review Guy.” I mean, I’m not complaining. I’ll take it.

Over the next several months, I received more questions about Dragon Quest than about anything else. And the most popular Dragon Question of all was absolutely “Should I just wait for the Switch version?”


A lot of question-askers presumed the Switch version had already come out in Japan. It hadn’t.

Many of these questioners adopted a more speculative phrasing: “Should I wait and see if they make a Switch version?”


Square Enix was keeping so eerily silent about the status of the Switch version that some people were assuming its announcement had been a dream.

Fan speculation swirled, much of it in my mentions. Seeing as “video” accounts for 50% of the word count of the phrase “video games,” most of this speculation concerned the graphics.


Here’s a simulation of what that speculation looked like: “The graphics are going to be bad.”

Well, now Dragon Quest XI S is here, on my Nintendo Switch. (And yours, if you downloaded the demo.) The graphics are great.


Unless you elect to play the Steam version of Dragon Quest XI on my home PC at 1080p and 120 frames per second (or 4K at 60 frames per second) for about a hundred hours before starting Dragon Quest XI S for the Nintendo Switch, you might not have any complaints about the graphics.

Handheld, the game looks as good as Xenoblade Chronicles 2 or Breath of the Wild, the games that twohandedly proved to me that, yeah, I’d play a massive living-room-style triple-A video game on a bus if you gave me the opportunity to easily put it onto a television when I reach my stop.


If you put Dragon Quest XI S up on your TV—ah, suddenly my wrists hurt. Wow, my body doesn’t want me to hate on Dragon Quest. I will type this next paragraph with my nose:

It’s got about as many jaggies as non-jaggies. When you leave the desert and enter a not-desert place, you might be like, “Why is that heat mirage effect still happening?”


At least the framerate is consistent. I mean, it’s also low, though that’s not the point.

If I hadn’t played Dragon Quest XI at 4K and 60fps on my PC (also, yes, 1080p and 120fps, if you’re keeping score), I’d simply be so overcome with the overjoy that a brand-new Dragon Quest brings that a single critical thought concerning the graphics would never sprout up in my brain. This is a sprawling, charming, generous video game that offers you pretty much six anime seasons’ worth of plot twists. Framerate scrutiny must bend the knee before the breadth of this content.


What else is new?

Speaking of anime: Dragon Quest XI S features a full Japanese voiceover. You can switch to it at any time. I adore it.


You can also switch the music from the new orchestrated soundtrack to the synthesized original at any time. I mean, if you want to. I am not sure why you’d want to. Please watch my video if you want to hear a great (I think), long joke about the music. I can’t say any more without spoiling it. (Except this: the orchestrated music owns, and belongs here. The new orchestrated music is so good that Kotaku editor-in-chief Stephen Totilo walked into my office and said “Is that a game? I thought you were just listening to classical music.” Thanks for complaining so much, everybody. You did it!)

One thing you can’t switch to at any time, however, is the gorgeous new 2D pixel-art graphical mode. You can only do that at churches, and even then the game requires you to make a new save file, and choose a chapter to start from.


It’s hardly instant. You might lose as much of an hour of story progress. Furthermore, chapter beginnings and endings are nebulous: the game never trumpets the opening or close of a story arc. So when you choose a chapter to start from, you might not know exactly where you’re going to land in the different graphics mode.

Helpfully, though, the game lets you carry over all your experience and equipment. It’s like a new game plus, in the middle of the game!


Hold up a second: earlier I described 2D mode as a “gorgeous” and “new.” I’m sorry. I forgot to turn my Dragon Quest Fan Mode switch off.

By “new,” I meant that 2D mode is “new” for the English audience. The 2017 Japanese 3DS version already featured this 2D mode. I played it extensively back then. I loved it.


By “gorgeous,” I meant that this mode presents you a bare-bones, no-frills “demake” of the lushly 3D Dragon Quest XI. It’s “gorgeous” if you played a 16-bit Dragon Quest game between the early 1990s and 2002. Do not expect anything on the level of stylized, polished pixel art like Octopath Traveler. Dragon Quest XI S’s 2D mode revels in chunky crustiness. It shows you what Dragon Quest XI would have looked like had it actually come out in 1993.

I say “1993,” because that’s the year before Final Fantasy VI came out.

2D Mode: more than just “graphics”

And though I’ve repeatedly called 2D mode a “graphical mode,” my experience playing it in close juxtaposition with the console-quality 3D mode has convinced me that 2D mode is different enough to qualify as a separate game.


It eschews 3D mode’s avoidable enemies for more traditional random encounters. In exchange, it shrinks every map down to a pitch-perfect facsimile of an 8- or 16-bit Japanese role-playing game.

Your first few hours in 2D mode might feel weird if you have already played a lot of this game in 3D. Towns might feel claustrophobic. The world map might feel insignificant. Cutscenes blink by in displays of old-fashioned paper doll melodrama. The game feels wildly fast-paced.


After a few hours, you might come to appreciate that grandiose, huge-scale open worlds like the one in Dragon Quest XI’s 3D mode are a modern invention. Pumping a game full of details and dragging out its drama is a thing of the now.

3D Dragon Quest XI is a 100-hour game. 2D Dragon Quest XI is more like an 80-hour game. I mean, that’s still huge, though it’s a different, lonelier, more battle-system-enjoying kind of huge.


Many Twitter friends who consider me “The Dragon Quest Review Guy” have been telling me they plan to play Dragon Quest XI S twice: once in 2D, and once in 3D. Then they ask me which I’d choose first.

I go into depth about this in the video, though here’s the short answer: play it in 3D first. This game has roots in 1986, though it was developed in 2016. The cutscenes are well directed. The voices are lovely. The 3D level geometry is fantastic. The towns are beautiful. You get none of that in 2D mode.


I’d say consider 2D mode a supplement. When you’ve gotten to the end of 3D mode’s main campaign, break off a new save file to experience 2D mode as a treat. Do your endgame grind in 2D. By this point you’ll have already spent 60 hours in the main game. You’ll know all the locations by heart. Seeing them demade into 2D will blow your mind. You’ll love it.

At least, that’s how I played the game. I’m now considering the hypothetical perspective of someone who plays the 2D mode first and then plays the 3D mode afterward. That’d be wild. That’d be like having both the original Final Fantasy VII and the Remake in one package.


Should you play Dragon Quest XI S: Definitive Edition?

If you’ve already played through Dragon Quest XI on PlayStation or Steam, is there enough new here to tempt you to play it again? How much do you really want to see the new character costumes? Does the ability to forge items wherever you want instead of just at camp amount to a Grand Theft Auto-level power fantasy for you? Do you really, really want to play the classic throwback 16-bit episodes and the weird little DLC-like character episodes? Is all that, plus the 2D mode and the Japanese voice acting in 3D mode worth $60 to you?


If Nintendo hadn’t sent me a free code for this game, I’ll be honest: I’ve have preordered the Japanese collector’s editions.

I absolutely will play this game in its entirety all the way through again, both because it’s now portable and because it’s an excellent game.


If you’re one of the billions of people who have not played this game, and you own a Nintendo Switch, congratulations: you patience pays out bigtime. This is the best version of this game to play. And this game is the best game in my favorite game series. You don’t need to have played any other games in the series to play this one: Dragon Quest XI flows like a greatest hits mixtape, expertly representing all the finer points of the series.

Though if you absolutely want to bonker out on Dragon Quest, you could play Dragon Quest I, II, and III first, remasters of which are also releasing on Switch tomorrow. This first trilogy expresses many themes that resonate with some of the more dramatic moments of Dragon Quest XI, and it won’t take you more than 40 little hours to get through all three games.


I’m sorry. I’ve become what I’ve always feared: I just gave you homework.

Feel free to ignore the homework assignment and just play Dragon Quest XI S for Switch.


Just make sure you play it portably, in bed, thirty minutes a night, in 3D mode, with headphones; turn on the Japanese voice acting, and don’t fast-forward the battles (unless you’re a narc).

By the way! If you personally liked, commented, and / or subscribed to our YouTube channel, that would definitely fuel my habit of making a lot more videos like this. I promise you might love it.


There’s even a playlist of all my other videos. Wow!

Source: Kotaku.com

Sayonara Wild Hearts: The Kotaku Review

Sayonara Wild Hearts is a shining example of using a game’s design to say something meaningful while also making it look cool as hell. The game controls simply with the analog stick and a single button. What makes it stand out is its music, its look, and its mood.

Check out the video to see (and hear) the game in action.

Sayonara Wild Hearts tells the story of a young woman who experiences devastating heartbreak and, in the wake of that, discovers a much larger framework to the universe that she must navigate in order to restore its balance.

You control her as she runs, flies, or drives through a series of levels. Each part of the game is set to different song that matches the mood of a particular encounter.

You are on rails the entire time, reacting to the world around you as it zooms past you, avoiding obstacles, aiming for collectable hearts to rack up points, and pressing a button in time to jump to a new platform or attack an enemy.

These levels never require you to do more than move the analog stick in a direction and press a button at the right time. Each level is fun the first time and shines even more after repeated play, encouraging you to squeeze every bit of pulp out of a personal high score.

The variety of ways that Sayonara Wild Hearts experiments with its two basic inputs is straight up magic. One minute the game is an on-rails runner that has you narrowly avoiding obstacles, the next, it’s Rez, throwing enemies and projectiles at you that you need to highlight with a cursor and shoot.

Sayonara Wild Hearts keeps you guessing. That constant shakeup teaches you how to play and how to navigate new obstacles, but more importantly, it allows you to experience something that is equal parts fun and meaningful. Each level of the game is a beautiful and almost hypnotizing parable about fighting internal demons and overcoming mental hurdles.

My favorite level, and one of the more challenging ones, is called “Parallel Universes.” First, it has you attempting to remember the placement of certain obstacles along the way in tune to the music. Throughout that, the level switches back and forth between two different versions of the world.

As you speed through its highway on your motorcycle, changing lanes to collect hearts and narrowly avoiding obstacles in the road, the level shifts back and forth from one reality to another. It’s up to you to commit the placement of different obstacles in each world to memory so you can swerve to avoid them.

As I played, I trained my eyes hard on the middle distance, trying to concentrate on where I was headed. I kept failing. That is, until I noticed a pattern.

I wasn’t listening to the music, so I had missed the simple repeatable pattern that the game was trying to teach me. I had instead been trying to react to the obstacles as I saw them. I needed to stop thinking and feel it instead.

The moment I let go and actually listened to the rhythm, my instincts took over. I felt the movement the way I used to when reading sheet music. Once I learned the sequence and installed it in my muscles, I could add some finesse to the performance.

Most games want you to focus on their systems and find efficient ways to master them. Sayonara Wild Hearts’ systems tell you to learn them, and to borrow a phrase from Obi-Wan, “let go your conscious self and act on instinct.”

In one of the other standout levels, titled “Forest Ghost,” your character starts off by swerving to collect hearts while in pursuit of a runaway deer. After jumping on that deer, it’s up to both you and the deer to work in harmony, zig zagging through the world as you press a button to jump onto different platforms. The game’s music in this section provides the perfect accompaniment for this hypnotizing hand-eye coordination, reminding you to listen and feel.

The first time around, I played the game with my Switch docked, because it certainly benefits from cranking up the volume. If you’re playing in handheld, use a solid pair of headphones to help you focus on the rhythm even as you play on the smaller screen.

The game’s soundtrack is half of the reason to play it. If you’re not into a mix of electronic gems and catchy dream pop songs, then it might just not hit for you.

Same goes for the rest of the game’s aesthetic. Everything down to the typeface selection in the menus, which flashes and dances to the beat, has been immaculately packaged to convey a specific love-it-or-hate-it vibe.

Some games invite you in and ask you to like them. Sayonara Wild Hearts is different. It’s unapologetically confident. Sayonara Wild Hearts wears shades while she blows bubblegum bubbles, not even looking in your direction.

It’s undeniably cool, and if it’s not your thing, then Sayonara Wild Hearts is like, whatever. It wants to take whoever does love it and ride off into the neon sunset with them.

Source: Kotaku.com

Final Fantasy VIII Remastered Is The Best Way Ever To Play Final Fantasy VIII

After years of its suspicious absence from Square Enix’s unstoppable barrage of ports and re-releases, Final Fantasy VIII has emerged remastered for all consoles (and PC). This is the best version of the game that has ever existed. Watch me play it for 47 minutes, while discussing 20 years’ worth of crystallized thoughts about the game.

For example: I argue somewhat passionately that you should not use the fast-forward function.

Final Fantasy VIII Remastered is even better than the original. I noticed a peculiar trend in YouTube comments on the debut trailer Square Enix showed at E3 2019: “The graphics look exactly the same,” many commenters said. They absolutely do not. Final Fantasy VIII Remastered keeps the original’s fuzzy JPEG backgrounds, though its 3D models are butter for the eyes.

(Below is a brief video featuring an artist’s rendition of me owning haters in YouTube comments.)

I think what a lot of the commenters were driving at was that, yes, Final Fantasy VIII Remastered is not on the level of graphical upgrade of Final Fantasy VII Remake. This is because it’s a remaster, not a remake. (As it says in the title.)

I do understand where those commenters are coming from, though. In 1999, when Rinoa told Squall “You’re the best-looking guy here,” we role-playing-game-lovers hunkering in front of dull CRT televisions barely noticed his face was a clump of hideous pixels. We had no idea what a meme was, much less that this screen would eventually become one.

By that point in the game—about three hours in, if you mosey a bit—it had hooked us completely. We were so in the zone that Rinoa’s words filled in the gaps in our imaginations. We knew Squall was a good-looking guy. We remembered him from the hours-ago two-minute anime-music-video-like opening movie. We’d probably watched that opening movie about 90 times.

Final Fantasy VIII Remastered keeps the fuzzy, barely animated background JPEGs. It keeps the aspect ratio. It keeps the original full motion video quality. Then it gives us wonderfully, lovingly new 3D models. In their geometry, these models are identical to those in the 1999 PlayStation original. In their texture detail, they are identical to our fond memories of the 1999 PlayStation original.

In this video, I admit that I didn’t really like Final Fantasy VIII when I first played it. Ten years after it first came out, I played it again and thoroughly enjoyed it. It takes so many bizarre risks with its game design, structure, and plotting.

As I say in the conclusion of my video, the original creators of the Final Fantasy series often regale us with the anecdote of the desperation with which they developed that initial game. According to their legend, Squaresoft only had the money to make one more game. If it didn’t hit, they were dead. It hit. They lived.

Final Fantasy VIII arrived two years after Final Fantasy VII busted blocks worldwide. At the time of Final Fantasy VIII’s release, Squaresoft was developing the next three numbered Final Fantasy games. They were also financing and producing a Final Fantasy feature film all on their own. As far as video game development goes, this is a level of ambition whose modern-day equivalent I can’t immediately think of.

Final Fantasy IX, X, XI, and the movie would offer a rich platter of something for everyone. Final Fantasy VIII was thus destined to come across as “The Final Fantasy That Came Out After Final Fantasy VII.”

Now that I’m able to look back at it so crystal-clearly 20 years later, I deeply admire its creative risks. If the spirit of Final Fantasy as a franchise has always been, as its creators say, reinvention with every numbered installment, Final Fantasy VIII represents the absolute zenith of old-fashioned Final Fantasy.

I’ll admit, as a 20-year-old, I rushed through it. It was hard for me to like the protagonist, Squall. The very first character we meet aside from this tough-guy-wannabe teenage protagonist is his slightly older teacher who sees right through his cold exterior and mocks his tough-guy dialogue affectations not five text boxes into the game. It felt embarrassing; it felt to me, then, like reading my old writing feels now.

I didn’t want to think about my dirtbag teen days at age 20 the way I don’t want to think about my dirtbag twenties at age 40.

Replaying the game in 2019, so far, has been a delight. I’m able to fully appreciate the oddball game design choices that me and my hardcore fellow Final Fantasy fanatic friend frowned at in 1999. The battles have a Bravely Default level of game-designerly, simplistic urgency that was sitting there all along, for 20 years, waiting for me to revisit it and appropriately freak out.

The card game, Triple Triad, is still amazing. The Triple Triad theme music is still amazing.

My video consists of eight chapters, each telling a different story about my time with the game. In one chapter, I talk about the game design. In another, I try to find the truth behind the rumor that Square Enix had lost the game’s source code.

The seventh of these chapters concerns a marketing campaign Squaresoft executed back in 1999: pre-order Final Fantasy VIII, and you could win a car. And not just any car: it was an exceptionally bland car. It was a 2000 Toyota Echo

In my mind, whenever people talk about the anniversary of the Sega Dreamcast, I immediately think of the 2000 Toyota Echo: in the magazine advertisement for the sweepstakes, the date “Available 9.9.99″ loudly begs the page-flipper’s attention.

I wanted to surprise you all: I wanted to find the person who won this car. I promise I tried as hard as I could.

I asked some people at Square Enix if they might know anything. They did not know anything. However, they knew some people who might.

I ended up spending more time on the phone in two months than I usually spend in a year.

Ultimately, I didn’t find the car. Though someone at Electronic Arts—with whom Square Enix had partnered to market Final Fantasy VIII in 1999—told me with confidence that the winner of the sweepstakes had almost certainly taken the $10,000 cash prize over the car.

I explain this in my video, though I thought it was worth telling you about in this text. What’s not worth telling you about in text, however, is my off-the-top-of-my-head musing about what cars other Final Fantasy protagonists might be. Please leave a thousand comments debating this topic, even if you don’t watch my video. (Watch my video, though, please. I tried to do an NPR voice this time.)

Final Fantasy VIII Remastered arrives on the Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC on September 3rd—six days short of the game’s release’s 20th anniversary. It costs the exact appropriate amount: it costs a number of US cents equivalent to its release year. (I’m saying it’s $19.99.)

Don’t use the fast-forward function. Even for grinding. You’ll thank me 20 years from now.

By the way! If you personally liked, commented, and / or subscribed to our YouTube channel, that would definitely fuel my habit of making a lot more videos like this. I promise you might love it.

There’s even a playlist of all my other videos. Wow!

Source: Kotaku.com

I Remember Every Single Detail Of The First Thirty Minutes Of Zelda: Link’s Awakening

Everything that anyone has ever liked about a Zelda game happens in its most perfect form in the first 30-minute setpiece of the 1993 Game Boy masterpiece The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening, a beautiful screen-for-screen remake of which is coming out next month on Nintendo Switch. Listen to me go into extreme detail about the brilliant design of every screen layout in this hour-long video.

In an effort to challenge myself, I’ve been stepping in front of a camera every Wednesday afternoon with no idea what I’m going to say. This week, I recited the layouts of every screen in the first 45 minutes of The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening from memory.

The inspiration behind this improvisation has its roots in a particular neurological condition I suffer. To summarize my suffering: I remember everything. It has not made me rich and it is seldom genuinely useful.

Usually, it goes like this: I’ll look at the date, and then I’ll accidentally remember deep childhood memories associated with that date. Basically, I’ve got a Facebook Memory Generator inside my skull.

This week’s instance of my freakish memory took me back to Saturday, August 21st, 1993, into a captain’s chair behind the driver’s seat of my dad’s 1990 Dodge Ram conversion van. My aunt had given me $20 behind my mom’s back. We were returning to my aunts’s house in Pottstown, Pennsylvania from the King of Prussia Mall, where, using that $20, I had just purchased The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening from Electronic’s Boutique.

The ride back to my aunts’s house took about 30 minutes, if I recall correctly. I had already read Nintendo Power’s feature on the game. My play performance was marvelous. I defeated the first boss and returned to the village right as my dad’s van pulled up in my aunts’s driveway. All thanks to my Handy Boy.

By 1993 I was already a Zelda veteran, though this first vertical slice of Link’s Awakening charmed and thrilled me like no game yet had. Later in my life I’d go on to design levels for triple-A video games. My levels were never very good, though maybe none of that would have ever happened without Link’s Awakening.

I rattle off about a billion and a half details in this video, and even though I just spent all day editing it down from its original 80-minute running time, the experience is already slipping back into the haze of my internal Facebook.

So I’ll leave you with this one detail that I feel beautifully sums up the appeal of good video game writing on a molecular level.

Link awakens in a bed. His saviors and caretakers are a man and his young daughter. They tell him to follow a road to the south to see if any of his belongings have washed up on the shore. We follow the road past three screens bursting with tiny yet charming details. On the final screen before we leave town, two young boys are throwing a ball. The ball’s flight path passes over the road, back and forth.

As we leave town, it’s likely we’ll walk beneath the ball as it flies.

On our way back into town with our trusty sword in hand, we pass the kids yet again. We follow the road north to a point where we must leave it, to enter the forest. In the forest, we get a key. We take the key back southward, through the village. The key will unlock the Tail Cave. In order to get to the Tail Cave, we have to leave town through the south exit. This means we pass the catch-playing kids for a third time.

We adventure east, off the road, away from the beach, and to the Tail Cave.

After enduring a cave full of puzzles, obtaining a powerful item that lets us jump, and defeating two visually exciting bosses, we emerge from the dark dungeon. We head back to the village. We enter through the south entrance.

As the screen scrolls upward to reveal the town, before even a single idle frame can transpire, before the catchy village music we’ve already started to love can begin to play, the ball-throwing kids lunge at us. Scary music plays. They tell us “Something’s wrong!” So Dungeon #1 has seamlessly connected to Dungeon #2’s pre-dungeon quest.

Link’s Awakening never loses this electric pacing. It is both a perfect video game and a perfect action video game design textbook.

The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening comes out on Switch on September 20th. I’ve seen the trailers. I’ve read that it’s geometrically the same game as the Game Boy original (and its Game Boy Color remake). In this video, I lay out my case for why getting the exact same game again is a wonderful thing in this case.

Also, I adore the new graphical style. So if you want to consider this video and post my personal review of the Switch version of Link’s Awakening, please do so.

And yes, in case you’re reading: Nintendo, please remake Link Between Worlds. It’s the third-best Zelda (after Link’s Awakening).

And yes, of course I’m saying that Landstalker is the best Zelda game.

By the way! If you personally liked, commented, and / or subscribed to our YouTube channel, that would definitely fuel my habit of making a lot more videos like this. I promise you might love it.

There’s even a playlist of all my other videos. Wow!

Source: Kotaku.com

The Art of Drag Turns Game of Thrones, Marvel, and More Into Works of Fabulous Fandom Fashion

Flame Con is the world’s largest convention dedicated to LGBTQ+ fandom. It returned to New York City’s Times Square last weekend and celebrated its fifth year of existence with Fire Ball, a Smörgåsbord of performances referencing some of the most popular properties in nerd culture.

Drag. Burlesque. Superheroes. Airbending. Jigglypuff. It’s a classic recipe for the best night out in ages—the Long Island Iced Tea of queer fandom, if you will. The ball was hosted by Ginger Rodger, who also did a hilarious Captain America/Bucky Barnes tribute we just loved.

Check out the video above for some of the standout acts! There’s Abel Rey’s Legend of Zelda striptease, Blvck Laé D.’s drag take on Daenerys Targaryen (complete with S&M dragon backup dancers), an extremely acrobatic interpretation of Agent Smith by Twinky Boots, and an absolutely magnificent 10-minute Avatar: The Last Airbender tribute led by Megami as Aang. It was definitely an energizing night.

For more, make sure you’re following us on our new Instagram @io9dotcom.

Source: Kotaku.com