Gameboy Advanced Memory Lane

March 21st marked the 20th anniversary of the Gameboy Advanced. It was nice to see everyone else reminisce about what games they remembered the most that day. All the fond memories of all those amazing games that helped redefine handheld gaming and what would be the legacy of the GBA. The jump between the original Gameboy and the Gameboy Advanced was amazing. The fact that it could handle SNES games on a system that small, and that was just scratching the surface practically on what it could handle. It really was an amazing handheld system during it’s time.

From Golden Sun, Legend of Zelda: Minish Cap, Advanced Wars, Fire Emblem, Castlevania: Aria of Sorrow, and Mega Man Battle Network, there was always something great to play. Heck, I find myself brushing off my GBA SP and hoping into some of these classics from time to time. However, being reminding of all these great games got me thinking about what happened to some of these beloved games? Sure some games continued on like the Fire Emblem series which got a decent boost of fame in the US to help get the series going here; but what about games like Golden Sun, Advanced Wars, and Mega Man Battle Network? Heck, even some newer 2D Castlevania platformers along the lines of Aria of Sorrow. I know I’m not the only one who would love to see these series brought back on newer platforms.

Golden Sun was an amazing RPG and was one of the greatest looking games on the GBA in my opinion. I felt the gameplay style, while not exactly revolutionary, helped set itself apart from other RPG’s at the time and each one had stories that kept me engaged. The way they incorporated the summons that not only provided powerful attacks in combat, you could use their unique elemental abilities outside combat to get to hidden areas and open paths to new areas. I just really loved the story, characters, art style, and gameplay. True, it did have two sequels with The Lost Age releasing on GBA and Dark Dawn releasing on the DS, with the later releasing late 2010. It’s been almost a full 11 years since we have seen anything new from this series..

Advanced Wars was one of the first games that really got me into turn-based tactical RPG’s. I remember when the game was being promoted in Nintendo Power. I was a huge fan of Command & Conquer around that same time, so with this being military strategy, it was right up my alley. Just wasn’t sure about the turned-based part. Figured what the heck and gave it a chance as I liked the look. I was not let down. I loved Advanced Wars and quickly found out I also love turned-based tactical RPG’s. That game was perfect to me with a story that kept me engaged and strategy I was able to get behind to get through each map with least amount of units lost. It was a puzzle each time. Advanced Wars did get three sequels, one on GBA and two on DS. That last one being Advanced Wars: Days of Ruin in early 2008, so 13 years without a new entry.

Mega Man Battle Network was an interesting shift form the classic Mega Man platforming and is a real-time tactical RPG. To be honest, it was a little bit of a welcoming shift for me as I sucked at classic Mega Man platforming. In Battle Network, the game is split between a kid named Lan Hikari and Mega Man, who is a NetNavis (Network Navigators) named MegaMan.EXE, who only exists in the Net. Majority of the story content is played out by Lan, who then uses his MegaMan.EXE NetNavis to enter the Net where the real-time tactical RPG element comes into play. What is unique is that the combat takes place on a grid where you play a sort of chess match against the enemies. Depending on what grid space you put Mega Man on and what grid spaces the enemies are on will dictate which of your attacks can hit an enemy and if you can get hit by an enemy. Still being true to Mega Man, you can equip Mega Man with what are called battle chips to give him a unique set of attacks for an advantage in certain maps. It was an new and interesting take on Mega Man that I really enjoyed. So much so, I felt it needed a longer explanation. Unlike the previous two games I mentioned, this series got several sequels on the GBA with the last one being Mega Man Battle Network 6 in mid-2006 in the US, so almost 15 years without a new entry.

I know there are plenty of other games and game series out there that fall into this same boat for others, and not just GBA games. It just happened to be one of those days that got me thinking about all the fun I had with all the games I played on the GBA. Will we see new games or remakes of any of these series, I hope so, but I also know there is more than enough for me to play already. Have me go back down memory lane with some of the other consoles/handhelds and I can guarantee you there are other series I haven’t thought about in a while that I’d love to be brought back and made new. It’s fun to think about what studios might do with some of these IP’s on newer hardware, but I had my fun with them already. It’s always fun to hop back down memory lane though.

The Age of Re-Releases

Is it just me, or does it seem like there are more remakes/remastered video games releasing and being announced? I wager that isn’t actually the case, but there are so many that have either been released over the last couple years or all those still in the making. Don’t get me wrong, I’m loving these new chances to play games I either missed or just hadn’t played in years. Just starting to feel a bit overwhelmed with all this nostalgia and history I want to revisit and wondering at what point this will slow down, if ever.

I absolutely loved playing The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening remake Nintendo released last year on the Switch. For me, this was the game that really got me into gaming in the first place all the way back on the Gameboy all those years ago. I played that game from start to finish so many times, I could 100% this game within 4 hours. Not speed run worthy, but a definite show of how much I loved that game. Now to play it again in all new 3D graphics and new sound, yet still look and feel like the original, it was amazing. Heck, they even threw in a few minor changes that gave the game some new appeal like the reworked claw game, fishing game, and waterfall raft ride. They even tweaked a few bosses that threw me off so much I felt like I never fought them. This to me is what a remake should be. Taking a gamer back into the past to relive those gaming moments that captured them originally. Why I’m also looking forward to the Diablo II: Resurrected release.

Now, not all of these re-releases have to be games I played for me to be interested. Full disclosure, I did buy the Super Mario 3D All-Stars game Nintendo also released last year that came with remasters of Super Mario 64, Super Mario Sunshine, and Super Mario Galaxy. While they didn’t remake the games with new graphics, they did at least remaster the games so they could be played on HD TV’s. It was nice to relive Super Mario 64, but I never actually played Sunshine or Galaxy, so it was nice finally getting a chance to play these without having to find an emulator or used copies. Heck, even the Enhanced Edition re-releases of Baldur’s Gate and Baldur’s Gate II were a must have. I admittedly got into the D&D RPG scene much later in my gaming history. My first run in with that type of rule set was Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic on the Xbox. Not really a D&D game, but the first one with that playstyle and similar rule set. After seeing they were releasing remastered versions to run on current gen hardware, I could pass up playing a bit of history that help shape some of the more current RPG’s I’ve played like Pillars of Eternity.

While I’m not one to argue these games shouldn’t be remade, it does make me wonder at what point is it to much? Case in point for me, Mass Effect Legendary Edition. True, the Mass Effect trilogy came out on the Xbox 360 and that was a while ago, it wasn’t a game that really suffered graphics wise. You can definitely clean it up some, but I remember the game already looking amazing. The game never hit me as genre defining series either. I enjoyed it, but it wasn’t a series that really stuck out to me like other series. Now, after realizing I was only looking at it through my eyes, I didn’t consider there are newer generations who never got to play it, and there are some gamers who’s love of video games was helped shaped by this series. Also makes sense since EA announced a new “sequel” is in the works. Give gamers another chance to play through the original trilogy and get caught up before the new game releases. All my thoughts mean is that this isn’t a re-make for me. The same goes for the Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword remake releasing this year on the Switch. There were aspects I loved about that game, but here is also a fair amount of things I just didn’t enjoy and made me feel like the game was rushed. For those who loved it or never played it, have at it and enjoy it. Me, I’m going to pass.

Re-releases, remakes, remasters, they are all the same. They let veteran players revisit their fondest memories of days past, and the let newcomers see what games came before to help shape what they play today. To be honest, I’m all for games getting re-released and don’t expect it to ever really slow down. There will always be gamers who would love to relive those gaming moments that helped define them and those who were to young even play certain games. While it’s hard to see how more recent titles will be re-released, I can see it happen 10 or so years down the road. Are re-release for everyone, nope; but for those they are for, have at em. Relive those memories, revisit the past, or learn about the origins. Most importantly, enjoy.

The Year of Diablo!

While I understand it isn’t the major event BlizzCon has come to be, I’m rather happy that I was able to join in this years BlizzConline event. This year being Blizzards 30th anniversary and last years BlizzCon being cancelled, I figured they wanted to do something for their community that everyone could attend. I’m rather thankful for that as I’ve never been to a BlizzCon nor payed for the virtual event. So much nicer to see the announcements first hand. On that note, if you missed the event and would also like to watch it first hand, you still can! Much thanks to Blizzard for not locking this out. Just head to the BlizzCon Schedule page or their Blizzard’s YouTube channel, and you can watch everything.

Now onto what grabbed my attention the most, Diablo. In my honest opinion, this was Blizzards biggest focus. Yes, they talked about where they are going next with the latest World of Warcraft expansion and Classic; yes, they talked about what’s next for Hearthstone; and yes, they shared more details about Overwatch 2. However, Diablo alone had three different games covered, Diablo IV, Diablo II: Resurrected, and Diablo Immortal. There was so much Diablo to go around!

First things first, Blizzard announced the return of the Rogue class to Diablo IV. Not since the very first Diablo game, has there been a Rogue specific class. Diablo II had the Amazon and Assassin classed there were the closest; and Diablo III had the Demon Hunter. This is a return to form of the original Rogue class. If you haven’t already, check out the brutal announcement trailer below. Fair warning, while not as extreme as the original Diablo IV announcement trailer, it has it’s cringe worthy moments.

Very much looking forward to giving Rogue class a go in Diablo IV. They also touched on some new Diablo IV game mechanics such as clearing out overrun settlements to allow NPC’s to rebuild them. This one really has me excited as I’m always for dynamic content that expands as you progress. They even mentioned that some of these settlements will get new vendors and waypoints as they are being rebuilt. So cool. They also touched on how Diablo IV is going to have a much more open concepts then previous titles, helping to explain why Diablo IV is going to introduce mounts. Mounts in an ARPG. To top that off, you can even attack off of your mount into a cluster of enemies as shown by the Rogue leaping off her horse and launching a rain of arrows onto her enemies before touching the ground. If you want to hear more, I recommend checking out the Diablo IV: What’s Next panel.

Next up, Diablo II is getting resurrected in full remake that releases this year, Diablo II: Resurrected. Just to be clear, this isn’t just a remaster where they just try to clean up the existing art and sound, this is a full remake with the game being almost completely rebuilt. Blizzard has teamed up with Vicarious Visions (studio behind the Crash Bandicoot N. Sane Trilogy and Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1 + 2 remakes) to make this possible. While I say the game is being rebuilt, Vicarious Visions is doing everything they can to maintain the exact same look, feel, and gameplay fans of Diablo II have come to expect while giving it a more current gen look and introducing some quality of life improvements (they are adding a freaking shared stash, oh happy day!). If you want to get a better idea of how the remake is getting made, definitely recommend checking out the Diablo II: Resurrected Deep Dive panel. In the meantime, here is the announcement video.

Last but no least, we got to hear more about Blizzard’s newest mobile game, Diablo Immortal. Outside of this being a mobile game that helps bridge the gap between Diablo II and Diablo III, I’m not quite sure how to feel about this one. I’m not a huge mobile gamer, but I’d be lying if I didn’t say this game had me slightly interested. To be honest, when watching the gameplay, I had to keep reminding myself it was a mobile game, so they are definitely going all out graphics wise. They are also fleshing out the story and lore for this one as well to make sure it feels like a Diablo game that fits into the series. Definitely not getting that shallow mobile game vibe. Unfortunately, no release date yet; but they have my attention with this one. If anything, I’ll definitely give it a try. If you want to hear more about it, recommend checking out the Diablo Immortal: Alpha and Beyond panel.

So, all in all, I definitely feel like this is the year of Diablo. Granted, only Diablo II: Resurrected has been officially announced to release this year. I still think there is a chance we get release dates for Diablo IV and Diablo Immortal before the year is over. Maybe Immortal will also be released later this year? If you are a Diablo fan, this years BlizzConline definitely delivered in my opinion. Having just recently beat Diablo III and gotten all this new Diablo news I’m ready for more Diablo. Guess I’ll just start up a few more characters in Diablo III and maybe even re-install classic Diablo II to help get ready for Resurrected. Diablo, we will meet again.

Cyberpunk 2077 Thoughts

So…, Cyberpunk 2077 released last week. To be expected, the pre-orders and consecutive players the evening of release were as sky high as expected; however, the extreme fallout post launch wasn’t. For those not aware, Cyberpunk 2077 had one of the least successful cross generation releases I have seen in a while. Those who got it on PC and next gen consoles, while experiencing rough glitches and bugs, seemed to have an overall “better” experience from what I’ve read. Still a mixed bag, but PlayStation 4 and Xbox One versions seem to be a whole different story. So much so, Sony was reported to begin offering refunds for PlayStation players; and now CD Project Red officially confirming they messed up and are also offering refunds (there seems to be some backtracking on the refunds at this point though). To be completely honest, this has me severely bummed as I’ve lucked out issue wise and have been really enjoying the game.

In my case, I pre-ordered my copy of Cyberpunk 2077 for my PC though Steam, specs below:

  • Intel Core i7 3960X
  • 2 x 8GB DDR3-1600 Memory
  • NVIDIA GeForce RTX 2060 Super
  • Samsung SSD 860 EVO 1TB

With the exception of the SSD and 2060 Super, this is almost a 9 year old rig. Not to mention, I’m still playing on a 24″ 1080 display, which helps. Not sure if this is just the game defaults for everyone, but it set everything to high, with a few set to Ultra, including RTX. Figured what the heck and left it alone except for setting DLSS to Quality. Honestly wasn’t expecting it was going to run as well as it did, but all I can say is that this game is absolutely gorgeous. I can’t think of a game I’ve played recently that has me more distracted looking at the environment then playing the game. I’ve keep crashed my vehicle from time to time because keep looking at the environment. The use of Ray-Tracing is absolutely amazing in my opinion. I can only image what this game would look like in an even higher resolution with everything maxed.

As for the gameplay, it is fairly much what I expected. A dystopian future FPS/RPG with a compelling story, interesting characters, fun side quests, and a unique enough combat system that I look forward to each encounter. After just recently finishing The Witcher 3 (finally), I expected I was going to enjoy the storytelling. While the main quest line is not as long as The Witcher 3 in comparison, it has kept me engaged the whole time. I’ve hit the point of no return and stopped for the time being to knock out some side quests, but it kept me engaged wanting to keep going to learn more. The interesting story telling doesn’t just stop there to be honest. I’ve been having a blast with the side quests, both one-off and quest chains. They never seem to go as expected and that’s the fun part. Each one makes an interesting twist that just sucks me in. The characters are what make them interesting. The characters I’m supposed to care about, I do. The ones meant to be one-off, I want to learn more about them. Then there is the combat, with a mix of melee, guns, and hacking (this is like the game’s magic system essentially). I’m having a blast changing my approach to each encounter just to see how they go. Use a few quickhacks to weaken the enemies or cause a little chaos, start picking them off at range with my guns, and then finish off anyone who comes close with my mantis blades (katana before that). Overall, this game has just been a blast so far.

Should you play it? Absolutely yes. Should you buy it now? Maybe not. Yes, the game has issues, so did The Witcher 3 when it was released. Why I’m not extremely concerned about the issues, CD Project Red had a fairly decent track record for addressing those issues with Witcher 3. I expect they will do the same with Cyberpunk 2077. They did release patch 1.04 which did help with the PC, Xbox Series X/S, and PlayStation 5 versions. The Xbox One and PlayStation 4 versions are still in a very rough state. Based on their Twitter post I linked in the first paragraph, they do have patches slated for both January and February to specifically address the Xbox One and PlayStation 4 versions. I would expect they will likely release additional patches for the next gen systems during these times as well. May not be as big, but I expect they are working hard on them.

Final thoughts, if you have a decent PC with current GPU, you will likely be fine. There will be issues and you may have to tweak your settings a bit to get the game running smooth, but PC is probably the safest bet at this time. Next gen console owners, the general gist I’ve read is that patch 1.04 really helped make the game noticeably stable, especially on the PlayStation 5, so you are likely okay. Previous gen console owners should hold off until January or February at the earliest in my opinion. If you already have it, hold onto it as I feel the game is worth it, just really bummed the experience has been so sour. Ultimately CD Project Red should not have released the game as is, or at least not a same day cross generation release. If they felt they had to release something, release on PC first, maybe next gen also, but delay the previous gen at minimum. Either way, gamers would have been bummed, but it would have been an overall better experience in the end. As long as CD Project Red continues to do what they can to fix the game on all platforms so everyone can enjoy them, that helps in my mind. It just won’t erase this dark cloud over what to me is still a very good game at its core.

To Radiant Quest or Not To Radiant Quest?

My wife decided to hop back into Fallout 4 recently, and was quickly reminded how annoying radiant quests can be. For those not familiar with what radiant quests are, Bethesda first introduced them in The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim as a way to dynamically generate random quests to help keep players busy. An interesting idea; but not implemented well in my honest opinion.

So yes, while they are great at keeping one busy by constantly send them off to random locations to complete an objective, they tend to be fairly shallow. Kind of like daily quests in MMO’s without any soft of payoff. They don’t exactly progress any story arcs, they tend to be repetitive, and they don’t care at all where you may have visited yet, including DLC. That last point can be especially annoying if you are starting a new game and own all the DLC. In the case of Fallout 4, it isn’t uncommon for the game to send you either to Far Harbor or Nuka World before you have even started either DLC or are level appropriate. Yes, you could just ignore them, use a console code to remove the quest, or just start the DLC before you really want to; but I don’t feel players should have to be forced to go either route as all of them can break game emersion. “Hold on folks, before I do this important main story quest, I need to leave this area entirely, and start a new side story quest just to kill one dude. Then I’ll be back to finish this main story quest.” No sir, I don’t like it.

Why am I writing about this now since Skyrim and Fallout 4 have been out for while now? Not like anything will be done now. Well, while I was thinking about radiant quests, I remembered Bethesda has both Starfield and Elder Scrolls VI coming down the pipeline. Considering they liked radiant quests enough in Skyrim that they incorporated it into Fallout 4, one can wager radiant quests will make their way into both of these games potentially. If they do, they do. All I really hope for is that they actually spend some extra time to improve how they work.

At minimum, have the game check against the players started/completed quests to see if they have actually started a particular DLC before forcing them blindly into DLC they haven’t started and potentially have not plans of starting yet. To be honest, that doesn’t seem that hard. Just seem like an oversight on their part. As for them being repetitive and shallow, that just comes down to better writing. I don’t see any reason why they couldn’t give each radiant quest line a little more purpose. At least make it feel like you are making a difference in the game world for doing them. I mean, having to place what seems like several dozen MILA unites on different rooftops seems fun in all in Fallout 4. There is absolutely no payout at the end. No special dialogue, no unique weapon/armor. I’m not looking for some game altering event, just something that at least made me feel like doing all the radiant quests was worth it and had some sort of payout.

While I don’t feel like radiant quests have to be inherently boring and meaningless, I don’t feel like Bethesda hasn’t really put much effort into them considering how much they talked about them prior to each games release. My hope going into Starfield and Elder Scrolls VI, if they bring back radiant quests, I can only hope they put more thought and consideration into them. It can be done.