Posts Tagged ‘5’

A Whole Lot of PS5 & Xbox Series Launch Impressions

2020 began with the promise that the next generation of mainstream videogame consoles (and by extension PC hardware) would at long last grace our homes by its end. At multiple points throughout this year, such a promise seemed about as far from reality as conceivably possible. The stop-start hype cycle, packed as it was with guesswork and noise, was nothing short of exhausting. Yet here we are. Despite two distinctly bitter flavours of worldwide preorder drama, the PS5 and the dual-threat Xbox Series exist in real life; they are out there in the wild and after almost two weeks spent with each, I’m here to talk about how they look out of the racing blocks. Strap yourselves in – this is a big one.

Seven years ago I posted a similar article comparing the PS4 and the original Xbox One. In many ways that feels like yesterday, but going back over it in preparation for this round I was struck by just how many shiny plates were spinning on both sides of the main home console divide in 2013. Gimmicks and talking points abounded: futuristic Kinect voice commands and hand gestures running on a tile-based solid-colour Windows 8 interface versus PS Vita remote play, the abandonment of Sony’s trusty “cross media bar” and Playstation’s most radical controller shake-up ever. Both consoles felt functionally fresh and experimental. They were missing key features their predecessors had taken for granted and neither one showed any interest in backwards compatibility with older-generation games, but at least in those first few months there was a sense that each cut had made way for something tangibly new.

Which is why that launch also feels like a hundred years ago. The still-young gaming industry has continued to change in many ways since 2013, and the feverish year of marketing and punditry behind us would have you believe there’s a growing ideological gulf between Microsoft and Sony. But the dawn of the ninth home console generation has a somewhat surprising streak of quiet confidence about it. Make no mistake: The PS5 and the Xbox Series X feel like marked leaps ahead for the home console experience, and they are quite different despite clearly learning lessons from one another during the last go-around. But neither Sony nor Microsoft has come off looking quite as insecure about it this time around.

Clash of the Titans

Let’s start by talking about the elephants in the room. It’s been well-documented (love an understatement) that 2020’s new boxes are a bit on the large side, but much like the pocket-friendliness of last year’s Nintendo Switch Lite didn’t hit home until I held it, the stature and weight of the Xbox Series X and PS5 feels like little more than a meme – until you actually have to try and fit them into your entertainment setup. I distinctly remember transitioning from PS3 to PS4 painlessly because they shared identical cabling and a similar stature, but the PS5 is so gargantuan that the tape measure had to come out more than once during the multi-hour entertainment unit reshuffle it demanded.

Visually the PS5 looks like it belongs firmly in the middle of the 2000s, right next to the lightly-toned, vertically-marketed day-one model Xbox 360 and Nintendo Wii. Despite being larger than both combined, it would’ve fit right in among that semi-space-age design trend. It marks a huge departure from the last decade of flat, straight black lines that aim to draw attention away from the consoles they adorn, arriving instead with a weighty form factor wearing a brilliant white coat, collar popped like it was made by a company that just sold 100+ million PS4s. It doesn’t care that it needs a chunky (included) stand for stability; it wants to be the first thing anyone looks at in your living room.

CLICK HERE TO KEEP READING, BUT THERE’S A LOT.

The Best & Worst of Pokémon: Generation VII

Games
Pokémon Sun
Pokémon Moon
Pokémon Ultra Sun
Pokémon Ultra Moon

Platform
3DS

Region
Alola

New Pokemon
86
.

+7. It’s the simple things

I’m starting this one with a catch-all cheat for the first time since my Gen IV post because the seventh generation Pokemon games rolled in at the end of the series’ 20th anniversary year with a swag of smaller changes that truly gave the traditional Pokemon flow a boost in playability. Some of them were flavour-leaning, such as the huge list of Pokemon who suddenly learned new (usually really cool and/or signature) moves on whatever level at which they happened to evolve, the long-absent return of music tracks specific to the time of day in-game, or the (once again) greatly appreciated minor stat boosts bequeathed upon a couple of dozen older Pokemon to bring them more in line with their designs (e.g a bit more Special Attack for Noctowl, much more durability overall for Corsola and the celestial rock twins).

Other, more immediate changes came under the “quality of life” banner, and they were received with open arms by the community at large. The headliner for long-suffering competitive players was the IV Judge feature no longer requiring a visit to a particular NPC to access, nor an intimate knowledge of six specific phrases. Simply open your in-game PC after a certain point in the game, tap an icon on the summary page of your intended Pokemon, and there’s a graph of all six of it’s hidden Individual Values. Laughably easy. In addition, each time you caught a Pokemon in the wild you now had the option to add it to your party right then and there, rather than send it to a PC box. The bottom screen of the 3DS also started pulling more of its weight this generation, displaying new information such as all combatants’ current stat boosts/drops, not to mention the predicted effectiveness of a move on an opposing Pokemon as long as said ‘mon had been encountered before. Someone at Game Freak was paying attention.

Continue reading

Best of 2018 Closer

A happy new year to all of you reading this! Here’s hoping 2019 is everything you could hope for. May your Avengers and Star Wars finales be satisfying, your K-Pop playlists overflowing, your first-party Switch exclusives meaty, and your new consoles well-priced, smartly-marketed and player-friendly!

In case you missed any, here are the links to the ten lists I put up over the last two weeks to summarise 2018:

.
-◊-◊-◊-◊-

.

1. Top 10 Disappointments

2. Five Special Awards

3. Top 15 K-Pop Singles

4. Top 10 Movie Characters

5. Top 5 Game Consoles

6. Top 10 Movie Scenes

7. Top 10 Gaming Moments

8. Top 10 K-Pop Albums

9. Top 15 Games

10. Top 10 Movies

.
-◊-◊-◊-◊-

Best of 2017 Closer

Happy new year! 2017 is going to be a hard act to follow for entertainment media, what with its great movies – both blockbuster and indie in spirit – and especially its decade-topping lineup of videogames. Big event movies will certainly come in 2018, headed up by the most ambitious Avengers film yet and the second Fantastic Beasts flick, and smaller gems will emerge as they always do. But there’s a fair bit of videogame uncertainty going into the new year. Will Microsoft nail all their proposed releases this year? How close are we to a new Playstation? What can the Nintendo Switch’s second year possibly bring to even hope to match up to its first? Time will tell. In the meantime, here are the links to all ten of my 2017 year-end countdown lists:

.
-◊-◊-◊-◊-

.

1. Top 5 Disappointments

2. Top 5 Gaming Trends

3. Top 15 K-Pop Singles

4. Top 5 Game Consoles

5. Top 10 Movie Characters

6. Top 10 Gaming Moments

7. Top 10 Movie Scenes

8. Top 10 K-Pop Albums

9. Top 15 Games

10. Top 15 Movies

.
-◊-◊-◊-◊-

Best of 2016 Closer

15354137_10155796102034848_920506471_o

All things considered, 2016 was pretty good for the entertainment media I cover on this blog (I use “cover” loosely – sadly I barely wrote here in 2016). And I don’t even really watch TV shows! 2017 can potentially be even better when you look at what’s coming on paper, sitting there all promising in its un-delayed state. Here’s to a more consistent videogame release schedule, more wonderful RPGs, maybe a decent DC universe movie? 2017 looks like it could have a nice ring to it. In any case, here are all the links to my 2016 countdowns:

.
-◊-◊-◊-◊-
.

1. Top 10 Disappointments

2. Top 5 Gaming Trends

3. Top 15 K-Pop Singles

4. Top 5 Game Consoles

5. Top 10 Movie Characters

6. Top 10 Gaming Moments

7. Top 10 Movie Scenes

8. Top 10 K-Pop Albums

9. Top 15 Games

10. Top 10 Movies

.
-◊-◊-◊-◊-

Best of 2016: Top 10 Movies

15354137_10155796102034848_920506471_o

I’m not sure if 2016 was a better year for going to the movies than 2015, but it was definitely a much better year for my motivation to go to the movies, and that mostly came about due to the comparatively high volume of “event movies” – or films a large number of people were talking about – that hit cinemas throughout the year. And as it turns out, even though a handful of those event movies were pretty average (spoilers: you won’t see Independence Day: Resurgence on this list), more than enough of them were good to make up what I think is a fairly decent top ten. So let’s finish this.

.
-◊-◊-◊-◊-
VR BEST OF 2016 DISCLAIMER
This list represents my opinion only. I am not asserting any kind of superiority or self-importance by presenting it as I have. My opinion is not fact. If you actually agree with me 100%, that’s strange. Fun, but strange. Respectful disagreement is very welcome.
-◊-◊-◊-◊-

.

10. Doctor Strange

While it’s easy to look at the plot of Marvel Studios’ adaptation of Stephen Strange and point out its rather generic “origin story” flow, leaving the assessment of the movie at that would be dramatically underselling it. Doctor Strange‘s place in the catalogue of MCU movies is as much about its unique look as its plot, characters and corresponding performances (which are great, by the way). The action that unfolds on screen is visually creative in ways matched by no other superhero movie – and the sequences only escalate in creativity and impact throughout the movie right up until Strange’s memorable final confrontation. Another good one, then.

Continue reading

Best of 2016: Top 15 Games

15354137_10155796102034848_920506471_o

Now for the home stretch.

2016 was ultimately a much better year for videogames than it might currently feel like it was. No really, I mean it. Some of the latter-year triple-A releases may have failed to hit the mark with large enough audiences, and the pacing of the videogame release schedule in general was super weird (What on earth happened to the trend set over the last couple of years that June/July/August can be a smart period to release games? Why was Ubisoft the only company releasing anything big in the first three months of the year?). Yet when you look at a list of all the titles that hit over this bizarre 12-month period, there’s a hell of a lot of quality there. The indie and JRPG scenes in particular had phenomenonal 2016s, multiple games with years upon years of hype delivered on at least some of it, and there were plenty of surprising hits that came seemingly out of nowhere. Welcome to this countdown of my favourite 15 videogames of 2016.

The letters in parentheses after each title indicates where I played that game.

.
-◊-◊-◊-◊-
VR BEST OF 2016 DISCLAIMER
This list represents my opinion only. I am not asserting any kind of superiority or self-importance by presenting it as I have. My opinion is not fact. If you actually agree with me 100%, that’s strange. Fun, but strange. Respectful disagreement is very welcome.
-◊-◊-◊-◊-

.

15. ReCore (XBO)

15-10-2016_10-55-34_pm

At the start of the year I might have expected I’d soon play a 2016 game with 3D platformer collect-a-thon roots, but never would I have thought I’d find it inside that Xbox-exclusive Keiji Inafune/Armature game announced at last year’s E3. It turns out that ReCore is more of a platformer at heart than any retail 3D action game released this decade, and its airborne control mechanics feel wonderful. It also packs a massive world that encourages exploration and plenty of colour-coded shooting boss battles that aren’t afraid to get difficult, with customisable robots thrown in for good measure. Some confusingly restrictive systems and a lack of environmental variety may weigh it down as it plods through its latter stages, but ReCore is still one of the year’s most pleasant surprises for me.

Continue reading

Best of 2016: Top 10 K-Pop Albums

15354137_10155796102034848_920506471_o

One of the symptoms of the churning waters of 2016 in K-Pop was the comparative evaporation of full album releases from big players in the industry. Whereas every previous year I’ve done this countdown has brought a reliable salvo of well-polished, high-variety SM releases – usually led by f(x) – and a breakout LP or two with strong devotion to a decidedly non-Korean concept – think IU’s Modern Times or Wonder Girls’ REBOOT – 2016 had neither. If your first thought is that this might translate to a bloodbath of competitive mini-albums, you’d be right, as hedging bets seemed to be the name of the game for the big Korean entertainment companies this year. Luckily there were still some real gems spread throughout the year for fans of longer form K-Pop, and you can find my favourites below.

For the purposes of this list a mini-album is a release between four and seven tracks long, while a full album holds eight or more.

.
-◊-◊-◊-◊-
VR BEST OF 2016 DISCLAIMER
This list represents my opinion only. I am not asserting any kind of superiority or self-importance by presenting it as I have. My opinion is not fact. Music is a very personal thing and if you actually agree with me 100%, that’s strange. Fun, but strange. Respectful disagreement is very welcome.

-◊-◊-◊-◊-

.

– – – – – – – –
MINI ALBUMS
– – – – – – – –

5. The Velvet – Red Velvet

I’m just such a sucker for clearly defined concepts when it comes to albums of any kind, so Red Velvet’s The Velvet was always going to have a bit of a leg-up in a crowded year for quality K-Pop minis. As a follow-up to last year’s energetic, off-kilter The Red, the idea behind The Velvet is to show off the softer, more conventional side to the quintet that is in theory build into the group’s very identity. And for the most part, it pulls the idea off, with only the robotic rhythm of Cool Hot Sweet Love there to indicate that this is even the same people who did The Red. While some may find the lower tempo and less experimental flavour a bit boring, if the 90s warble of lead track One of These Nights is any indication of the kind of song we’ll get in the future from this half of the Red Velvet discography, I’m in. And that’s before I mention Rose Scent Breeze, the most glorious instance of cheesy, karaoke-friendly ballad goodness I’ve heard in a long time. I have screamed out the chorus of this song on late drives home more times than I care to admit.

Continue reading

Best of 2016: Top 10 Movie Scenes

15354137_10155796102034848_920506471_o

Movie scenes! Much like gaming moments, they bring delicious morsels of potential discussion to us and our friends – but they are much more static, and thus even easier to appreciate on a wide scale. Though this might have been a bad sign for originality or standout movie moments of any kind in eras gone by, 2016 brought plenty of animated hits and big-budget action blockbusters, and in recent years that has actually meant a pretty consistent well of memorable scenes worth talking about. This year continued the trend. Spoilers coming, obviously. Lots of them.

.
-◊-◊-◊-◊-
VR BEST OF 2016 DISCLAIMER
This list represents my opinion only. I am not asserting any kind of superiority or self-importance by presenting it as I have. My opinion is not fact. If you actually agree with me 100%, that’s strange. Fun, but strange. Respectful disagreement is very welcome.

Big movie spoilers follow!
-◊-◊-◊-◊-

.

10. Sweet Dreams – X-Men Apocalypse

sweet-dreams-made-of-these-quicksilver

My feelings on this scene are pretty mixed, because it’s very appeal is based on an all-too-similar scene that topped my list two years ago, starring the exact same character. Quicksilver, the breakout mutant of X-Men: Days of Future Past, has a lot more screen time in Apocalypse, and he kicks it off this time around with another slow-motion action scene set to a period-appropriate tune. The scene is, of course, amazing anyway, as the silver-haired troublemaker arrives at the X-Mansion just in time to save a bunch of its inhabitants from an explosion that happens to be unfolding far slower than the guy can move. The ways he saves them are as amusing as you’d expect, and the Eurythmics backing track fits everything so well.

Continue reading

Best of 2016: Top 10 Gaming Moments

15354137_10155796102034848_920506471_o

Not every game worth playing brings a single standout moment worth talking about separately – Oftentimes it’s the consistent elegance of the mechanics, presentation and/or story flow that makes a game worthwhile. But many will have standalone gameplay sequences, story twists or bits of content that stand out from everything around them, either because the rest of the game is not quite as memorable, because everything just seems to come together in that moment, or even because when you played them you were in exactly the right mood to be affected by them. As a result, everyone’s lists will likely be pretty different, but these are my picks for the most memorable videogame moments of 2016. Spoilers are everywhere here.

.
-◊-◊-◊-◊-
VR BEST OF 2016 DISCLAIMER
This list represents my opinion only. I am not asserting any kind of superiority or self-importance by presenting it as I have. My opinion is not fact. If you actually agree with me 100%, that’s strange. Fun, but strange. Respectful disagreement is very welcome.

Big videogame spoilers follow!
-◊-◊-◊-◊-

.

10. Getting Schooled – Pokemon Sun

Opinion seems to vary wildly on the difficulty of Pokemon Sun & Moon relative to the last few games in the series – and in truth a lot of that always depends on team composition – but at least for me and the five people I played alongside on launch day, it presented a challenge for which we weren’t quite ready. You can pretty much nail down the start of that difficulty spike to the first trial of the second island, where the player comes face-to-face with a School Form Wishiwashi – a gargantuan fish with boosted stats roughly equivalent to the most powerful legendaries in the game. Its raining when you fight it and it will summon allies to use Helping Hand – all of which combines to ensure that even its Water Gun is strong enough to one-hit-KO every Pokemon in your party that doesn’t resist water moves. I was lucky enough to have it summon an Alomomola, too – a Pokemon capable of healing the son of a bitch for half its health whenever it felt like it. The whole thing was a tense struggle that felt tremendously refreshing.

Continue reading