Hey guys! So, with the constant stream of releases and the sheer volume of new content that gets released each month, it can get difficult to stay up-to-date with everything that catches your eye. Been playing that new shiny JRPG from last month’s release schedule? Well tomorrow, the game you’ve waited years for will FINALLY arrive, and you need to choose – do you stay with your current obsession and put the hotly anticipated game on the back burner, or do you drop your current progress and start something new? Either way, this desire to consume as much of the media we love as possible will inevitably hit a wall, that wall being the time we have to spend on our hobbies, outside of the soul-destroying monotony of daily life. Thankfully, however, we are all able to create a backlog of games, series, movies and books that we, and I quote, “will get to eventually”. And here, gentle reader, is where the backlog battle begins, where games and anime you desperately want to know and eventually love get relegated to the darkest depths, never to grace your screen or console. However, from this month onward, I will be documenting my gaming and anime habits for the past month, in what will be known simply as “Battle of the Backlog”. This will be less of a review and rather a first thoughts and impressions on the media I devoured, alongside whether I think I’ll continue with it or drop it once again. Without further ado, then, let’s get this trip down the Otaku Rabbit Hole started on this month’s Battle of the Backlog!
Nelke and the Legendary Alchemists: Ateliers of the New World (Nintendo Switch)
So, I’m going to start off with a quick-fire round. Following the release of Nelke and the Legendary Alchemists: Ateliers of the New World in March, a title I bought at launch and immediately dove into, I found that I loved my first few hours with the game and the totally different style of game on offer here compared to what came before.
Thanks to this game, I was re-introduced to a world I hadn’t ventured into in almost 3 years. As such, I decided to jump back into the mainline Atelier franchise for the first time in a long while. When I did, I found that I instantly fell back in love with the relaxing, laid back aura that this series of JRPGs has, thanks to their fantastic characters, their alchemy-exploration gameplay loop, and incredible soundtracks. However, as I have something very specific planned for this blog regarding the Atelier franchise and specifically Nelke and the Legendary Alchemists, I will be leaving this mini dive at that, but please keep an eye fixed on this blog for more Atelier-related content real soon!
Blue Reflection (PS4)
So, my gaming time this month has been cut down a little because of work commitments. However, the next game I decided to pick up was the 2017 Gust game, Blue Reflection. We follow our protagonist, Hinako, a former ballet dancer that, due to a serious leg injury, can no longer dance. On her first day back at school, she is drawn into a magical world known as The Common, a place where human emotions converge, and where she must fight monstrous creatures and stabilise the hearts of her school mates in order to save the world and have her wish granted to be able to dance once more.
I was initially drawn in by the marketing of this game, thanks to its beautiful visual style and magical girl storyline, which made this a must-buy at launch. However, I quickly found that newer and long-awaited titles started taking priority, so this game sadly found itself banished to the backlog.
Well, considering my recently rediscovered love for the Atelier series, I decided to once again pick up Blue Reflection and see if the Atelier Series was just lightning in a bottle, or if Gust could recapture the magic once again with a different IP. Much to my delight, I discovered that Blue Reflection is a beautifully executed and heartfelt Magical Girl JRPG with a traditional turn-based battle system similar to that in the Atelier series, combined with the social elements of games like SMT Persona. This combination of features really drew me in, and the soundtrack was a perfect accompaniment to the game, including tracks that help to either relax or focus the player, depending on the need in a given situation.
With all that said, Blue Reflection isn’t a perfect experience, as I found the character models and cutscenes a little janky at times, with some scenes seeming stiff and even a little unnerving. The voice acting is very well done, but the subtitles are… not great. I’ve already come across a few typos and the subtitles don’t always read well, with phrasing coming across as clumsy or confusing.
All-in-all, I’ve had a good time with Blue Reflection, and have come to enjoy this game for what it does well despite its few shortcomings. However, because of the next game in this list, Blue Reflection has sadly found itself side-lined once again. I plan on hopefully continuing my time with the game very soon. I have to admit that my time spent with this game alongside Nelke and The Legendary Alchemists last month provided some of my favourite JRPG experiences I’ve had in quite a long while. These Gust and Koei Tecmo titles have quickly become a part of my daily routine, thanks to them being some of the most well thought-out and relaxing JRPGs out there, and I can’t wait to dive further into Blue Reflection and the extensive catalogue of Atelier games very soon!
Yakuza 0 (PS4)
The Yakuza franchise is one that I’ve had my eye on for a very long time. While it’s not a franchise that ever had a great enough pull to make it a must-buy for me, Yakuza and its decade-long history in gaming has endeared itself to a large fanbase scattered across the world and was something that deeply intrigued me. Earlier this month, after much deliberating, I decided to pick up a copy of Yakuza 0 in what can only be described as a “Treat Yo Self” moment, and I am so incredibly glad I did. Yakuza 0 is a prequel story to the events that take place in the Yakuza series, pre-dating Yakuza /Yakuza Kiwami by approximately 20 years. In this game, we follow two of the series’ main players, Kazama Kiryu and Goro Majima, learn the events that shaped these characters into the people they eventually became, and set foot into the often dark and violent underbelly of Japanese society.
The atmosphere of Yakuza 0 is particularly fantastic, thick with tension and intrigue. Both of the main protagonists are nothing short of phenomenal, with Majima having already cemented himself as a strong favourite of mine. While I’m only a few chapters in, I find myself thinking about this game a great deal and cannot wait to delve even further into its story. The fictional setting of Kamurocho feels genuinely bustling and alive, with the world full to bursting with an insane amount of people, neon signs and dilapidated buildings and even has smaller details like bicycles, trash and shop signs that you can interact with scattered around every corner – it’s a world that feels lived in and alive and this is something that I very much appreciate.
The combat is incredibly fluid with its rewarding form of over-the-top action and a unique charm that I can’t quite put into words. There are no magic spells or special powers to be found here, just one man talking with his fists. The combat style of either character can also be changed mid-combat to alter how you face a crowd of enemies, with some styles favouring speed, and others a wild and wicked ferocity.
Yakuza 0 is also home to a considerable amount of side content, known as sub-stories, where you can meet some colourful and interesting characters, ranging from an overly polite dominatrix to a rock band that are too nice and need Kiryu to teach them how to be tough before their concert. These stories are often funny, heartfelt and provide a genuinely well executed addition to the overall game that kept me engaged and wanting to play more.
After only a few hours, Yakuza 0 quickly became a major focus for my gaming last month, and its disc is still sitting comfortably in my PS4, ready to be played again soon. If this game is any indicator as to the quality and heart found in this series, I can’t wait to see what’s in store for the rest of this game and I may just have to check out the other games in this franchise too someday, we’ll just have to wait and see!
Crunchyroll, TV and Netflix (oh my!)
This month, I’ve had very little time to sit and watch some of the shows that have been building up in my backlog, but Umbrella Academy is one that I just HAD to check out. This story follows the grown-up members of the titular Umbrella Academy, following the death of their adoptive father – eccentric billionaire, Sir Reginald Hargreeves. Each member has a super power, and they are all struggling to find their place in the world while fighting their own inner demons – a far cry from your everyday superhero scenario. After a series of events, which I dare not spoil, it is revealed that all is not well in the world and, to make matters worse, there may be a world-ending event just around the corner that only this band of merry misfits could ever hope to prevent.
After only two episodes, Umbrella Academy has become a minor obsession of mine, with a new episode bookmarked for the post-work train journey every day, from now until I manage to finish Season 1! The story is intriguing, and the star-studded cast are truly phenomenal at portraying the complicated characters that make up the roster. Undoubtedly, the most stand-out performance comes from Robert Sheehan, who plays the drug-addict Klaus, and his portrayal of the complex emotional moments and drug-addled mania is absolutely mind blowing! The soundtrack is also incredible, and I can’t sing its praises enough in elevating already incredible scenes to a whole new level!
Honestly, if you’re in the market for a dark, yet bitingly funny take on your conventional superhero story (like I was), then this will most likely be just what you need. I can’t wait to keep watching this series and, with a second season having just been announced, I’m even more excited to see where this story goes.
Well, while this month’s Battle of the Backlog was only a short one, I hope you enjoyed it all the same! If after reading this you find that some of these titles have piqued your interest, then please do let me know! Also, please let me know what you’ve been playing/ watching this month and help me add to my backlog even more! Until next time though, as always, keep it weeby!