Review: Final Fantasy XV

After ten years in development, Final Fantasy XV delivers a memorable open RPG adventure through a bizarre and beautiful world. The game’s story draws heavily on the themes of the wider series, which puts it in constant conflict with its desire to appeal to newcomers. But whilst the story is a little weak and often confusing in its delivery, the entertaining battle mechanics and strong supporting cast make this endearingly strange video game really entertaining.

At some point we’ve all watched a half decent movie about a car full of buddies or unlikely friends heading out on the open road for misadventures. First and foremost, this is how I’d describe Final Fantasy XV. Or at least, the better half of it.

The story follows the only player-controlled character, Prince Noctis Lucis Caelum, heir to the Lucian throne, on his journey to reunite with the Lady Lunafreya, his betrothed. Their union is set to bring peace to the two nations, but just as he and his three companions begin their journey, they receive devastating news and must spend the subsequent chapters traveling through Lucis, building Noct’s strength before reuniting with Lunafreya and reclaiming his homeland.

This first half of the game is really enjoyable. Along the way you’ll navigate a large map full of settlements, dungeons, friendly NPCs and enemies to hunt – with plenty of pit stops in between to grab some fries or gas up the Regalia. When the sun goes down the boys can fork out for a motel, camp under the stars or brave the over-levelled danger that comes at nightfall. Whilst sidequests can feel a little empty and the storytelling can be a bit weak, the dynamic of these lads and their journey is really entertaining.

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The very first screen when you load up the game is a wide still-shot of the four main characters side by side, seemingly chatting away with a long stretch of road ahead of them – and that very much encapsulates their journey. The game itself opens with the group pushing their broken down Regalia to the tune of Ben E. King’s “Stand by Me,” instantly setting you up for what is essentially a FF themed road trip.

And ultimately, it works. This is a great, feel good RPG with a beautiful sprawling world, fun combat and strong leading characters. Unfortunately, much of this is upturned in later chapters.

The second half of FFXV leads the player through a very linear narrative which for large portions does away with some of the characters and battle dynamics that made the game so fun. Even the tone is very different, and whilst this would be understandable for a finale, it lasts far longer than necessary and leans heavily on a story that is, up to that point, the weakest part of an otherwise brilliant game.

And this is FFXV’s most obvious issue, it constantly feels like two distinct game mashed together. One half appeals to everyone as an open-world RPG that encourages vast exploration and slow grind, and the other is a linear action game with some epic set-pieces that is heavily inspired by the series’ established mythology, beloved by long time Final Fantasy fans. Rather than a healthy blend of both, at times the game makes very jarring leaps between the two and the story suffers a little because of it.

But the game’s most glaring flaw is its very name. Pegged as a Final Fantasy for fans and first timers, it seems counterintuitive to lump ‘15’ on its title and risk alienating a new generation of fans – and this conflict haunts the game from start to finish.

It’s a problem we’re seeing franchises struggle with increasingly often. Next month the seventh incarnation of Resident Evil will hit, on the same day as the impossible titled Kingdom Hearts HD 2.8 Final Chapter Prologue. The industry is at a point where games like Mass Effect are ditching the numerals entirely to avoid putting off new players.

So when a game drops with 15 in the title – it’s hard to believe it could truly be for first timers at all. This is a franchise with a notoriously deep and detailed lore, and positioning this instalment as the fifteenth chapter implies quite a bit of baggage.

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Originally announced as Final Fantasy Versus XIII way back in 2006, XV shares its mythology and lore with FF XIII (2009) and Type-O (2011, originally Agito XIII). They hold many common elements and underlining themes, which Tetsuya Nomura once defined as “a battle of the gods that lies behind each tale and gives it inspiration in a different way.”

But what is important to note is that these games are not actually related outside of their thematic connection, which is one of the reason the game was renamed. Ten years later, XV surfaces on a new generation of consoles as a messy blend of Final Fantasy’s best bits and what might be considered standard for modern open world RPGs. You don’t have to know anything about gods and crystals to enjoy this game – and maybe that explains some of the problems with its storytelling.

And the slogan for fans and first-timers reaches further than the series’ complex mythology and history, it’s very mechanics have been built with all players in mind.

The game dynamics are complex whilst somehow maintaining an intuitive simplicity that allows new players to pick the game up quickly, without depriving veterans of gratifying gameplay. An example of this is the battle system, which instantly feels familiar for returning fans and Kingdom Hearts players but employs a more western action-based real-time mechanic, rather than turn-based arenas. This works well with the open-world environments, allowing you to free roam and naturally encounter enemies.

This is particularly successful with the ‘hunt’ sidequest. Throughout the first half of the game as your’re traveling you can learn about hunts from local tipsters, allowing the group to earn money for monster slaying. It’s a little disappointing that these aren’t more fleshed out, compared to something like contracts in Witcher 3 which each felt distinct and had more story elements. Hunts and other sidequests are almost all fetch quests with very limited narrative, and this would be less forgivable if combat wasn’t so fun.

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Within battles players can use a combination of traditional melee attacks, ranged magic and defensive parrying, as well as player-controlled character Noctis’ ability to warp through the battle and strike multiple enemies. Battle techniques also evolve to include other party members for more powerful combo attacks, and in true Final Fantasy style Noct can summon the powerful god-like ‘Astrals’ to aid him on occasion.

Even the most basic melee attacks are customizable, with a decent choice of weaponry that can be equipped and rotated across four weapon slots. This feels natural and fun, offering complexity without overwhelming new players. Occasionally your party members will suggest a particular battle strategy, which you can choose to follow for AP or ignore entirely. Having them participate not just in the fight but in planning feels really natural and strengthens your bond with the characters.

For context, there are times when Noct must go it alone for a portion of a mission and it’s never more apparent just how important your party members are than the moment you face enemies without them. They strengthen your attack, but also make combat way more entertaining. In fact, these characters and their close relationship are the game’s greatest strength, holding XV together through even the most dubious parts of the story.

The lack of large party selection from previous games has delivered a more fleshed out relationship between four friends. These aren’t just your allies chosen for battle advantages, they’re your buddies along for a road trip and that dynamic is really endearing. There’s Noctis, the player character and royal prince, Gladiolus, beefy bodyguard and camping enthusiast, Prompto, energetic budding photographer and Ignis, well-spoken chauffeur.

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Between the writing and the acting, these characters and their relationship rescue some of the more difficult parts of the game. An example of this is the incessant product placement scattered throughout the game, which includes everything from the gang’s camping gear to wedding dress design. The most notable however is Cup Noodle – which is available from an obviously branded food truck in a major city. This leads to a side quest to gather ingredients for the noodles, and a monologue that could be lifted from a commercial. The only thing bearable about the whole thing is the fact that the actors for the English voice over delivered the monologue with the irony it deserves, and embracing that makes the whole thing a self-referential joke rather than the embarrassment it could have been.

It’s not like these are the most lovable characters of all time, sometimes they’re downright irritating, but their relationship and the group dynamic is pulled off brilliantly. Each has their own very distinctive personality with dialogue that emerges organically as the characters observe their environments and weigh in on the story progression. The world is way more immersive when other characters respond to how cold an ice cavern is or the how terrifying a boss design is, and chat about challenging dungeon puzzles. Considering the size and scope of this game, it’s really impressive that they’ve been able to pull that off consistently and it really stands out against the ‘lone-wolf’ experience of traditional open-world RPGs.

The downside of this is that inevitably you will hear repetitive dialogue, particularly on the road and at pit-stops. It isn’t anywhere near Skyrim’s ‘arrow-in-the-knee’ proportions, but the more roaming and side missions you complete the more you’ll hear the boys trading repetitive banter. This is to be expected of course, and it’s a testament to the game that it doesn’t happen more often, but it could still be irritating in the long-term, particularly if you don’t find their chit chat endearing in the first place.

That’s the crux of the game really; if you’re sold on these characters, you’ll probably put up with some of the game’s weaker points. There is also a tonne of content to explore outside of the main storyline. Even after the game is complete there are dozens of optional dungeons that can be explored, and contrary to the often dull side quests, these are exceptionally well designed and really entertaining to complete.

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On top of that the game itself is beautiful to look at. The world of Final Fantasy XV is full of bizarre, fascinating creatures and inexplicable landmarks that make driving around entertaining in and of itself. It also has the benefit of beautiful high end graphics and HDR mode, which I can attest having playing on both a standard PS4 and a PS4 Pro with a 4K, HDR enabled television makes a subtle but impressive difference. The game doesn’t run in 4K, but offers a high quality mode that plays at a higher resolution, with greater depth for detail and shadows at 30 FPS or an uncapped frame rate mode that plays at up to 50fps.

So believable relationships, a tonne of interesting content and beautiful environments on top of strong gameplay is probably enough to pull you through linear storylines without really caring about the big picture. But it is a real shame that in a game with such a wonderfully designed world they couldn’t better incorporate the story and the wider cast into gameplay. This together with a lack of meaningful side missions really lets the game down, but it doesn’t take away from the fact that it is, at its heart, a great game with hours of entertaining content.

TL;DR

Pros: Beautiful looking game with a really entertaining RPG game play loop. Exploration and battle mechanics fantastic. Main character relationships are believable, and make up for weak story in some parts. Also has some great level design and dungeons.

Cons: The effort to include ‘first timers’ has clearly meant they’re struggling to tell the story sometimes. Sidequests are almost entirely ‘fetch quests’ and offer little to no narrative substance. Second half of the game is suddenly and significantly different – it becomes very linear, which is a bit jarring.

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Watch the Spider-Man Homecoming Trailer here (HD)

Jimmy Kimmel Live! just premiered the first trailer for Marvel’s upcoming superhero blockbuster Spider-Man: Homecoming.

The US trailer opens with Spider-Man foiling a bank robbery, and we get a good look at the iconic red suit with some Stark upgrades. We also see the young hero enduring high school and all the teenage problems that brings. Oddly enough much of this is cut from the international trailer which also dropped today.

Tom Holland made his debut as a young Peter Parker earlier this year when he starred in Captain America: Civil War, and the film teased his relationship with Robert Downey Jr.’s Iron Man. In the latest trailer we see more interaction between the two infamous super heroes as Peter Parker looks to Tony Stark for advice.

Although much of Homecoming’s plot remains a mystery, Marvel confirmed at Comic Con this summer that Vulture would be the film’s big villain, and we get our first glimpse of the character in the new trailers.

The new trailer comes just four years after Sony’s disappointing last attempt at rebooting the franchise. The difference this time is Sony have managed to forge a deal with Marvel that sees Spider-Man return to the wider Marvel cinematic universe and join the same world as the avengers.

The film is set for release July 2017.

Jimmy Fallon Plays Zelda Breath of the Wild on Nintendo Switch

Jimmy Fallon was the envy of Nintendo fans everywhere last night when he went hands on with two highly anticipated new releases.

Nintendo of America president Reggie Fils-Aimé visited Fallon’s Tonight Show to show off their upcoming mobile game, Super Mario Run for iOS, and the long awaited the Legend of Zelda Breath of the Wild running on their next big console release, the Nintendo Switch.

We get a look at Zelda running traditionally on the big screen, and also get to see the gamepad taken out of the dock where it becomes a handheld portable device with its own screen.

This follows the short October reveal trailer that finally revealed their mysterious project NX as the Nintendo Switch, a home console which you can take with you on the go.

Fans have been waiting for the new Zelda console game since the release of the WiiU four years ago, and the more we see of this game the more impressive and unique it actually looks. The game is set to release in March next year for the WiiU and Switch, although recent rumours cast doubt over whether the game would be ready in time for the new console. Seeing the game in the flesh being played on the new hardware certainly restores some hope that it will arrive in the next three months.

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Fallon is understandably excited to go hands on with the elusive console, and seemed even more ecstatic to play Nintendo’s new mobile venture Super Mario Run.

The game comes as part of Nintendo’s increasing efforts to expand the reach of their IPs and a general push into mobile gaming. Their first app  Miitomo quickly rose to the top of the free to play charts, but it failed to retain its user base and dropped below 60th in the first two weeks.

Meanwhile, Niantic’s PokémonGo app was released this summer and dominated headlines with its record breaking success. Nintendo will no doubt have considered the failures and success of both ventures when developing the new Super Mario game.

Reggie reveals the full version of the game will be available on Thursday 15th December, at a premium price of £7.99/$9.99.

 

Will Ferrell to star in an Esports comedy movie

An eSports comedy film is in the works, starring Will Ferrell as an aging professional gamer.

Legendary Pictures confirmed the project was under way, with Mosaic and Gary Sanchez are producing and Patrick Connelly and John Beach of Gravity Squared co-producing, based on a script by Michael Kvamme and Jordan Dunn (SpongeBob SquarePants 3).

The film will no doubt hold a similar tone to Ferrell’s previous sport movies, including ice-skating spoof Blades of Glory and NASCAR comedy Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby.

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The movie will poke fun at the idea of Ferrell, 49, continuing pursue an eSports career in an industry dominated by players as young as 15, where “players usually retire in their 20s due to slowing hand-eye coordination.”

The idea of a big comedy released based on the world of competitive gaming is a testament to the growth of eSports in recent years.

“Although its audience primarily still exists on sites like Twitch and Youtube, eSports are now being covered on networks like ESPN, Fox Sports, and TBS with more than 200 million viewers for the events this year,” say Legendary, “The 2016 prize pool for the game DOTA’s championship was over $20 million, and last year’s League of Legends finals had more viewers than the World Series or NBA Finals.”

It will be interesting to see more information on this project, and which games will be played within the film, but so far we do know that leading eSport teams Evil Geniuses and Fnatic will feature in some capacity.

Read more at Legendary.com

The Game Awards 2016 Highlights and Winners

Last night’s game awards celebrated achievements across the industry, and gave us a glimpse of more to come.

On a night where we were spoiled with brand new trailers for highly anticipated 2017 releases such as Breath of the Wild and Mass Effect Andromeda, the most talked about preview was for a game we won’t see for at least four years. After premiering the initial trailer at E3 earlier this year, Kojima Productions treated us to yet another cinematic concept trailer for their latest project.

This time the trailer follows Guillermo del Toro through the mysterious new setting as he clutches an incubated baby, much like the one held by Norman Reedus in the last teaser. The dead crabs are back, but this time we also get a look at potential enemies with a patrolling military force seemingly lead by Mads Mikkelsen, who incidentally seems to be connected to his soldiers via umbilical cords. Obviously.

Kojima attended the event this year, which in itself is a big deal considering he was legally barred from leaving Japan to attend the 2015 Game Awards by Konami, preventing him from accepting the award for Metal Gear Solid V. This fact was not lost on the event’s host Geoff Keighley this year, who referenced the incident when awarding Kojima the 2016 Industry Icon Award.

“We had to be back on the same stage as last year, to give one man a moment he was robbed of,” Keighley said, before inviting Kojima to accept his award.

Another big winner of the night was Blizzard’s Overwatch, which received game of the year, best multiplayer and best game direction. Director Jeff Kaplan accepted the award and praised his team and the strengths and diversity of the game itself.

Playdead’s Inside took home awards for best art direction and best independent game, PokemonGo got best mobile/handheld and best family game, and Naughty Dog’s Uncharted 4 received best narrative and the award for best performance for Nolan North’s portrayal of Nathan Drake.

You can read the full list of winners below;

GAME OF THE YEAR:

DOOM (id Software/Bethesda)

Inside (Playdead)

Winner: Overwatch (Blizzard)

Titanfall 2 (Respawn/Electronic Arts)

Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End (Naughty Dog/Sony Interactive Entertainment)

 

BEST GAME DIRECTION:

Winner: Blizzard (for Overwatch)

DICE (for Battlefield 1)

id Software (for DOOM)

Naughty Dog (for Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End)

Respawn (for Titanfall 2)

 

BEST NARRATIVE:

Firewatch (Campo Santo)

Inside (Playdead)

Mafia III (Hangar 13/2K)

Oxenfree (Night School Studio)

Winner: Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End (Naughty Dog/SIE)

 

BEST ART DIRECTION:

Abzu (Giant Squid/505)

Firewatch (Campo Santo)

Winner: Inside (Playdead)

Overwatch (Blizzard)

Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End (Naughty Dog/SIE)

 

BEST MUSIC/SOUND DESIGN:

Battlefield 1 (DICE/EA)

Winner: DOOM (id/Bethesda)

Inside (Playdead)

Rez Infinite (Enhance Games)

Thumper (Drool)

 

BEST PERFORMANCE:

Alex Hernandez as Lincoln Clay, Mafia III

Cissy Jones as Delilah, Firewatch

Emily Rose as Elena, Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End

Winner: Nolan North as Nathan Drake, Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End

Rich Summer as Henry, Firewatch

Troy Baker as Sam Drake, Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End

 

GAMES FOR IMPACT:

1979 Revolution (iNK Stories)

Block’hood (Plethora Project/Devolver Digital)

Orwell (Osmotic Studios/Surprise Attack)

Sea Hero Quest (Glitchers)

Winner: That Dragon, Cancer (Numinous Games)

 

BEST INDEPENDENT GAME:

Firewatch (Campo Santo)

Hyper Light Drifter (Heart Machine)

Winner: Inside (Playdead)

Stardew Valley (ConcernedApe/Chucklefish Games)

The Witness (Thelka, Inc.)

 

BEST MOBILE/HANDHELD:

Clash Royale (Supercell)

Fire Emblem Fates (Intelligent Systems/Nintendo)

Monster Hunter Generations (Capcom)

Winner: Pokemon Go (Niantic)

Severed (DrinkBox Studios)

 

BEST VR GAME:

Batman: Arkham VR (Rocksteady Studios/WBIE)

EVE: Valkyrie (CCP Games)

Job Simulator (Owlchemy Labs)

Winner: Rez Infinite (Enhance Games)

Thumper (Drool)

 

BEST ACTION GAME:

Battlefield 1 (DICE/EA)

Winner: DOOM (id Software/Bethesda Softworks)

Gears of War 4 (The Coalition/Microsoft Studios)

Overwatch (Blizzard)

Titanfall 2 (Respawn/EA)

 

BEST ACTION/ADVENTURE GAME:

Winner: Dishonored 2 (Arkane Studios/Bethesda Softworks)

Hitman (IO Interactive/Square-Enix)

Hyper Light Drifter (Heart Machine)

Ratchet & Clank (Insomniac Games/Sony Interactive Entertainment)

Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End (Naughty Dog/Sony Interactive Entertainment)

 

BEST RPG:

Dark Souls 3 (FromSoftware/Bandai Namco Entertainment)

Deus Ex: Mankind Divided (Eidos Montreal/Square-Enix)

Winner: The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt — Blood and Wine (CD Projekt RED)

World of Warcraft: Legion (Blizzard)

Xenoblade Chronicles X (Monolith Soft/Nintendo)

 

BEST FIGHTING GAME

 

Killer Instinct Season 3 (Iron Galaxy Studios/Microsoft Studios)

King of Fighters XIV (SNK/Atlus USA)

Pokken Tournament (Bandai Namco Studios/The Pokemon Co.)

Winner: Street Fighter V (Capcom)

 

BEST STRATEGY GAME:

Winner: Civilization 6 (Firaxis Games/2K)

Fire Emblem Fates (Intelligent Systems/Nintendo)

The Banner Saga 2 (Stoic Studio/Versus Evil)

Total War: Warhammer (Creative Assembly/Sega)

XCOM 2 (Firaxis Games/2K)

 

BEST FAMILY GAME:

Dragon Quest Builders (Square Enix)

Lego Star Wars: The Force Awakens (TT Fusion/WBIE)

Winner: Pokemon Go (Niantic)

Ratchet & Clank (Insomniac Games/Sony Interactive Entertainment)

Skylanders: Imaginators (Toy for Bob/Activision)

 

BEST SPORTS/RACING:

FIFA 17 (EA Canada/EA Sports)

Winner: Forza Horizon 3 (Playground Games/Microsoft Studios)

MLB The Show 16 (SCE San Diego Studio/SIE)

NBA 2K17 (Visual Concepts/2K Sports)

Pro Evolution Soccer 2017 (PES Productions/Konami)

 

BEST MULTIPLAYER:

Battlefield 1 (DICE/EA)

Gears of War 4 (The Coalition/Microsoft Studios)

Overcooked (Ghost Town Games/Team 17)

Winner: Overwatch (Blizzard)

Titanfall 2 (Respawn/EA)

Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six Siege (Ubisoft Montreal/Ubisoft)

 

MOST ANTICIPATED GAME:

God of War (Santa Monica Studio/Sony Interactive Entertainment)

Horizon: Zero Dawn (Guerrilla Games/Sony Interactive Entertainment)

Mass Effect: Andromeda (Bioware/EA)

Red Dead Redemption 2 (Rockstar Games)

Winner: The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild (Nintendo)

 

TRENDING GAMER:

AngryJoeShow

Winner: Boogie2988

Danny O’Dwyer

JackSepticEye

Lirik

 

BEST ESPORTS PLAYER:

Faker – Lee Sang-hyeok (SK Telecom T1, League of Legends)

Winner: Coldzera – Marcelo David (SK Gaming, Counter-Strike: Global Offensive)

ByuN –Hyun Woo (Starcraft 2)

Infiltrator – Lee Seeon-woo (Team Razer, Street Fighter V)

Hungrybox – Juan Debiedma (Team Liquid, Super Smash Bros.)

 

BEST ESPORTS TEAM:

SK Telecom T1 (League of Legends)

Wings Gaming (DOTA2)

SK Gaming

ROX Tigers (League of Legends)

Winner: Cloud 9

 

BEST ESPORTS GAME:

Counter-Strike: Global Offensive (Valve)

DOTA2 (Valve)

League of Legends (Riot)

Winner: Overwatch (Blizzard)

Street Fighter V (Capcom)

Review: Pokemon Sun and Moon

Twenty years after the original Pokémon games took the world by storm, Pokémon Sun and Moon delivers the seventh generation of the RPG franchise. The long awaited release is both a welcome return to a familiar series and a refreshing take on the much loved adventure.

One of the game’s greatest and most engaging assets is its beautiful new world. Alola is the most fleshed out region we’ve ever seen in a Pokémon game, with history and lore that perfectly complements the art style and the story. New Pokémon are inspired by island living, and existing Pokémon appear in different forms, having adjusted to life in Alola. NPCs greet you in unique, clever ways that constantly reinforce the environment and progression in the game is only possible through defeating trials, totem Pokémon and each island’s captain. It’s a big departure from the format we’ve become accustomed to over the past two decades.

Sun and Moon does still follow the overarching rules of the series in many ways; you’re a young trainer departing home to travel a new region, fill your Pokédex and build a team of six Pokémon to battle other trainers in order to ‘be the very best’. None of that changes, but certain pillars of the franchise have been replaced. Casualties include the eight badge gym cycle and the use of HMs to pass through the game, replaced instead with island trials and helpful Pokémon rides. Rather than carrying around that low level HM caddy, you can call upon a Charizard when you need to fly or jump on Lapras to surf the water at the click of a button. It’s a thoughtful change that lets you focus on your battle team, rather than worrying about losing that precious sixth place to a Pokémon you only need to cross the sea or smash up obstacles.

Overall I found myself happy to lose most of these features, but one thing I did miss was the puzzles. As someone who remembers having to solve the mysteries of Slyph Co. as a kid with no internet, I did miss the feeling of being utterly confused and close to frustrated with the game’s riddles – only to eventually solve them and feel pretty smug with myself. Unfortunately Sun and Moon doesn’t offer anything that requires too much thought, but it does offer a greater variety of puzzles for its island trials, with memory challenges, fetch quests and quizzes. Each one feels unique and feeds into the island setting, so whilst they aren’t exactly brainteasers they certainly aren’t boring.

One thing that can get a little tiresome however is the frequent cut scenes, particularly the first few hours of gameplay. The dialogue is cute and enjoyable, but it does limit that feeling of exploration and openness that made the original games so unique. It slows the game down and sometimes towards the start I found myself just wanting to ditch the professor and gang entirely, along with the story. The new map marker function often warns you with flag points when a cut scene will be triggered, but this feature is also guilty of making the game easier. It isn’t a deal breaker and at times its really useful, but sometimes figuring out where you need to go next was half the fun of story progression. In Sun and Moon you need only look at the second screen for a guide.

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This simplification of the game extends to battles, where you can now see the effectiveness of each of your Pokémon’s moves against the opposition. Whilst this may annoy veterans who know the type grid off by heart, it is a clever way of easing in more new and casual gamers or players who have maybe returned after the success of PokémonGo. Simplifying type-effectiveness in-battle and removing the unnecessary HM mechanic is an excellent way to welcome new players, without alienating long suffering fans, and ultimately the game’s innovations do make it more enjoyable for everyone.

Alongside battle and move revisions, there is also a new four person multiplayer battle mode, and wild Pokémon can now call for help, adding another layer to wild encounters. Sun and Moon is notably trying to break the mould, and it is by no means first in the series to do so. The games have in fact been constantly evolving and learning over the past twenty years. The very first sequel in the franchise, Gold and Silver, was the first game to introduce breeding, Dark and Steel type Pokémon and the in-battle XP progress bar – all of which have become staple parts of subsequent sequels.

With Nintendo releasing the original Red/Blue/Yellow games onto virtual console earlier this year, it’s easier than ever to appreciate just how far we’ve come and notice all the features missing from the original game. Changing up a winning formula can be a risky bet for any successful franchise, but Pokemon has a habit of pulling it off. Sun and Moon is no different, its unique style is inherently likeable and ultimately necessary for the series to remain relevant.

Overall the game is an exciting venture into a beautiful new region, with a thoughtfully crafted style that really outshines previous areas for its distinct feel and engaging environments. The story gets off to a slow start, but ditching HMs is an excellent move which, together with other simplifications, speeds up gameplay and puts greater focus on training and exploration. The game’s biggest weakness is that it can at times feel a bit too easy, but the dynamic challenges and unique setting means that even in its easiest moments Sun and Moon is never really boring.

TL;DR: If you’re a Pokémon fan, it’s a great break from the usual formula but you might find it isn’t challenging enough for you. If you’re new to the franchise or you’re a bit rusty, it’s the perfect time to jump in.

Pros: No more HMs! Also simplifies battle mechanics just a little to remain accessible to young audience. Beautiful, fleshed out new region has plenty of personality and is fun to explore.

Cons: Frequent cut-scenes make the world feel closed off. Story isn’t great but its no worse than past games. Also lacks challenging puzzles and holds your hand quite a bit in terms of finding your way though the map.

Super Nintendo World: Nintendo Theme Park Areas Coming 2020

Update: The Osaka branch of Nintendo’s new theme park area is scheduled for completion by 2020, in time for Japan’s Olympic Games. The attraction at Universal Studios Osaka will be known as ‘Super Nintendo World’ and will most likely be followed by planned developments in Hollywood and Orlando.

Nintendo fans will soon be able to experience their favourite worlds and characters in the flesh, at Universal Studios across the world.

The news follows confirmation of Nintendo and Universal’s partnership last year, and although no explicit details have been confirmed Nintendo have elaborated on plans to roll out dedicated areas within Universal theme parks in North America and Japan.

In a press release today, Nintendo promised to “bring the fun of Nintendo to life with expansive, highly themed environments at Osaka, Orlando and Hollywood.”

According to the release, creative planning is “well underway” and the parks will open seperatley over the next several years.

“All of the adventure, fun and whimsy you experience through a screen will now be all around you – in breathtakingly authentic ways,” Nintendo’s release stated, promising to “bring the characters, action and adventure of Nintendo video games to life within Universal theme parks.”

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The announcement comes after increasing efforts from Nintendo to release their IPs to third parties for their mutual benefit. Earlier this year Mario made a surprise appearance at the Rio 2016 closing ceremony to herald the host of the 2020 games, Tokyo. This year also saw Nintendo make the leap to mobile gaming, with Miyamoto even appearing at the September Apple conference to announce Super Mario Run.

More information on the Nintendo themed areas and an announcement from Universal is expected to follow soon. Read the full press release here.