Emerald Gaming Update – August 2016

I have an announcement to make at the very end, so while I don’t usually do this, let’s just get into the reviews straightaway, eh?

Kingdom Hearts: Birth By Sleep for PS3


Back in May I played Kingdom Hearts 2: Final Mix for the PS3 on my copy of the 2.5 HD Remix. On that same disc lies the originally PSP exclusive game Kingdom Hearts: Birth By Sleep. I had never played the PSP version, so this was my first exposure to Birth By Sleep.

Let’s get the really obvious criticism out of the way right now. Most of the voice acting isn’t great, particularly Aqua and Terra. Particularly Aqua. Nearly all of her lines feel so, so flat.

Coming from Kingdom Hearts 1 and 2, the battle mechanics were a bit of an adjustment. Overall, I feel it was simpler, but the intricacies and ability crafting system took a good while for my friend and I to get used to when we played.

Once we did get the hang of it, however, I feel that the combat was far tighter and had more challenging fun than Kingdom Hearts 2. The exchanges were rather intense, and even at particularly high levels, bosses posed a challenge. Nearly all of the final bosses were high-octane awesomeness once past the stupid amount of cutscenes that admittedly ground the pacing to a halt. The constant dodging and pinpoint precision near the end we had to employ reminded me of Dark Souls sped up by 50 percent.

I’m not going to bother criticizing the story too much. We all know the story is silly and overly convoluted – to me, that’s part of the charm, but it’s totally understandable to not be behind that sort of thing.

Overall, I felt the combat was dynamic, tight, challenging and fun as hell. And making fun of the story and dialogue with a friend similarly in the know about Kingdom Hearts is barrels of laughs – highly recommend this method.

Nuclear Throne for PC

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Roguelikes. Oh dear. Oooohhhhhhhhhh deeeear.

Nuclear Throne is a dungeon crawling (sort of) level-based top-down roguelike shooter made by game devs Vlambeer back in 2015.

Before we go any further, you need to know what a Roguelike is, as well as my stance of them in general. A Roguelike is a type of game that usually involves RPG elements that are completely reset upon death in combination with randomly generated dungeons or levels, and many are notorious for having a high difficulty overall. You usually have no lives outside of the one you start with, no second chances. Hardcore mode in Minecraft could be considered a good mainstream example, I think.

I have…issues with this type of game.

See, I love me some RPGs. I love ramming my head against adversaries over and over until my stats build and I personally build my own skill. But when there’s no save points, and all of my progress is lost upon death, I feel like my progress has been robbed from me, and I don’t like that. After a death on a particularly good run, I always have to get re-acclimated to starting with nothing. I’d rather either the RPG elements carry over on some level, even if it’s minor at first like in Rogue Legacy so that my deaths slowly build towards something, or have no RPG elements at all and rely on skill alone like in Super Meat Boy.

The inherent nihilism of most roguelikes just rubs me the wrong way, and it’s particularly exacerbated when I genuinely want to explore the game’s intricacies and really want to enjoy its content. I adore the look and concept of FTL: Faster Than Light and The Binding of Issac, and I can tell I’d otherwise love them if they allowed me to explore inside of them for more than one life and didn’t reset my progress if I messed up too badly. I feel like a potentially awesome experience I could be building and having with a game is suddenly swiped away from me the moment I die in most roguelikes, and that’s why as a general rule, I personally dislike roguelikes despite their inherent quality. To sum up, it’s just not my genre.

Well prepare to have the entire last paragraph turned on its head, because I actually really enjoy Nuclear Throne. In fact, it’s probably the first roguelike I’ve ever truly enjoyed.

The thing about Nuclear Throne is that it’s hectic and action packed. It’s messy in the best way. You make your way through levels and stages relatively quickly, and your abilities and leveling up aren’t emphasized as more important than they are – bonuses. The type of weapons you find feels like it makes less of a difference than your overall skill level does, and while the same could be said of The Binding of Issac, the action is madcap-fun enough for me to genuinely not mind if I die.

I suppose what I’m trying to say is that the gameplay of Nuclear Throne is enough to sustain my interest. No matter what weapon I have, powerup I have, or character I’m playing as, it’s generally pulse-pounding fun all the way through. I can play it because I like playing it, rather than playing it to get to the end, and most roguelikes just aren’t fun enough on their own without the promise of progression for me personally.

The adrenaline rush of playing this game is Hotline Miami-esque, and I love it.

Pony Island for PC

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The one man Daniel Mullins, January 2016.

This game makes me feel like I’ve become a spoiled brat when it comes to video games.

Pony Island came out in the very beginning of 2016, and the immediate appeal of the game is its facade, which is very, very swiftly ditched. It’s going to be difficult to say too much about the game without spoilers.

The game is…fine. It’s not offensive in quality. Actually, it’s good. I had a good time. But…I can’t help but feel like I came in expecting more than I got. I’d heard a lot of praise from this game, and I was expecting a near-Undertale level of indie quality, but a lot of the allusions I felt were really on the nose.

The gameplay itself is mostly puzzle-based, and the puzzles themselves were good, but I felt at times they were slightly repetitive and tended to stall the pacing of the gaming experience. Thankfully the game only clocks in at 2-3 hours, or else I’d imagine these issues would have gotten more grating. The climax was fine, but I felt it dragged on a little long, and the more time that passed, the more I began to sympathize with the antagonist over the person I was supposed to work with. I began to feel bad for the person I was against. And at the very end, I felt the twist fell a little flat, all things considered. Maybe it’s my fault for expecting something on a slightly-lower-than-Undertale-or-INSIDE level of twist, but overall I genuinely don’t see the hype.

It’s a good game. Just, not totally impressive.

Well folks, announcement here. I’ll be heading to France to study abroad from August 31st to December 17th. This means I most likely won’t be able to make these Emerald Gaming updates for the months of September, October and November. THAT SAID, I would like to prepare three gaming-related articles for the end of each month and schedule them ahead of time, so I’ll be spending the next few days trying to write two more articles up. I already have one scheduled for the last Sunday of September! If I can, I’ll start up Gaming Updates again starting December!


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