Battle of the Backlog: May 2019

Hey guys! It’s that fabled time once again – that day where we gather our arms and face off in the Battle of the Backlog! Now, this month, due to many reasons, there was very little time for much otaku joy, but despite that, I tried to squeeze in as many hours as I could. Just as a heads up, this month I didn’t watch anything from my backlog, so our list only features games. With that, for this week’s trip down the Otaku Rabbit Hole, let’s get ready to face the Backlog Battle and jump right into it!

Kingdom Hearts 3 (PS4) – COMPLETED

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So, the first entry on my monthly gaming adventures is a success story. I finally managed to finish Kingdom Hearts 3. While there are many opinions out there concerning this game, including my own when it first released, I decided to step away from the game shortly after writing my first impressions due to the fact that I wasn’t enjoying the game as much as I wanted to. But despite that, I decided this month to dive back in with the goal of reaching the ending or at least making enough progress that I was closer. Kingdom Hearts 3, for those not in the know, is the concluding chapter of the Dark Seekers saga, where series protagonist Sora sets out on a grand adventure to many Disney worlds to regain his lost powers, defeat the 13 Darknesses and save the world from the evil master Xehanort.

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Arendelle, for better or worse

Honestly, this game was a mixed bag for me. The combat is floaty (the evil word that should not be uttered in the Kingdom Hearts community), but also feels enjoyable with the return of summons, magic and intensely customisable ability loadouts. The additions of team attacks, super magics and attraction flow, where Sora summons a Disney park ride to fight with, are a bit hit and miss though, as these attacks appear seemingly at random as you fight, removing the sense of tight control found in earlier titles. The integration of Sora and friends into the Disney worlds also was lacking in most cases, with Arendelle and The Caribbean standing as two of the greatest low points in the game for me. Sora doesn’t feel as though he influences the world – at all. So, when it comes to the Disney worlds, while they’re pretty and a nice nostalgic nod, they don’t feel like they’re in any way important. Where I felt the game shone, however, was after all the Disney worlds were complete and the actual important story of KH3 kicked in. I had a final playtime of 43 hours, and for 36 of those, I spent it in the Disney properties and didn’t enjoy myself a great deal. The final 7 hours, on the other hand, made me laugh and cry with conclusions to story arcs that have been left in stasis since Birth by Sleep and Kingdom Hearts: 358/2 Days and it was honestly what I wished the entire game had been rather than what the early sections were. Kingdom Hearts 3 was the end to one nearly 20-year chapter of a franchise I love, but I can’t say that it was excellent, but neither was it terrible – it was simply an OK game with a tonne of both lacklustre and phenomenal moments scattered throughout.

To sum up, I’m just going to paste what I posted to Twitter seconds after finishing the game, because I think it best summarises my thoughts on the game as a whole.

“KH3 was a game I’d waited a very, very long time for in bated breath. But – it didn’t live up to the hype for me. By no means was it a bad game, it just disappointed me and that lead to me stepping away from the game. Every time I’d pick up the game, I’d be greeted with some Worlds I loved and others that really left a sour aftertaste (*Cough cough* Arendelle *cough cough*). Despite this I wanted to love this game so badly, but it just lacked something… That something being, Heart. BUT. After taking a month away and finally pushing through a dense layer of blandness, this game treated me to an emotional love letter to a series near and dear to my heart and that’s touched the lives of many! This game wasn’t what people expected – and that’s OK. What it IS is something unique, something magical, something I’m so glad I played through to the end! If you’ve been at all put off or disappointed by this game, I implore you to keep going – there’s some true magic here, you just need to let it in! Kingdom Hearts 3 wasn’t what I expected, and I can admit now that what I wanted deep down could never have been a reality. Despite its flaws, we finally have our Kingdom Hearts 3, so please, give it one last try and it may surprise you… Just like it did for me!”

Kingdom Hearts 3 The End
The End

Hiragana Pixel Party (Nintendo Switch)

Hiragana Pixel Party

So, to cement my status as a major otaku and lover of all things Japanese, I recently began learning the language. While I’m still only in the early stages of learning Hiragana, I’m loving the process so far. Well, imagine to my surprise, while browsing through the Nintendo Switch e-shop, I happen across a little title called Hiragana Pixel Party – a game designed to help you learn Hiragana and Katakana through short rhythm game sections, combined with a cute, if forgettable, chiptune soundtrack. For anyone out there who’s unaware, I am a huge rhythm game fiend, with the Hatsune Miku: Project Diva games and Rhythm Paradise sitting among some of my favourite games to play to relax. As such, being able to combine a game genre I love with my studies was a no brainer, and I downloaded the title immediately.

Hiragana Pixel Party is a simple rhythm game where you work your way through missions where either you’re shown the romaji (Westernised spelling) of a character and have to match that the correct character in time to the rhythm, the exact opposite, or are shown no symbol and instead have to match the sound to the appropriate character. These mini games are often performed with each section having multiple characters you’ll have to match in quick succession, quickly evolving into a test of your Japanese, your memory and your reflexes. This is rinse and repeated for both Hiragana and Katakana, multiple times with little to no variation. The backgrounds are cute pixel art, but offer little to the overall experience.

Hiragana Pixel Party Minigame
Match the symbol to the sound – with cute yet unimpressive backgrounds

Don’t get me wrong, despite what I wrote above, this game is in no way complicated. There’s no story to be found here whatsoever and you will likely find yourself getting bored quickly thanks to the repetitive mission structure found here, and somewhat lacklustre visuals – meaning it’s not a game suited for long play-sessions, instead serving as a 10-minute-at-most way to pass time. While far from a great game, it’s a good accompaniment for people like myself, who love rhythm games and are looking for a way to fit Japanese practice into their gaming time. This isn’t a must play by any stretch, and will only appeal to a very niche audience, but it does what it sets out to do pretty well. For now, I’ll keep playing to see if it helps my learning and I’ll let you know my thoughts real soon!

Our World Is Ended

Our World Is Ended Full Cast

The last game I managed to squeeze in some time for this month was the visual novel Our World Is Ended. This game follows the members of a small game development company, JUDGEMENT 7 as, while developing their new game, they stumble into a virtual reality in which NPCs from across their relatively unsuccessful game library live out their days. However, while this seems like a dream come true at first glance, JUDGEMENT 7 find themselves in some unfortunate situations, and the entire game oozes with a sense that all is not well in both their reality and the virtual world.

Our World Is Ended Glitch
A game-breaking glitch that leads to quite the adventure

I picked up Our World Is Ended as a result of its trailer. It looked like an interesting mystery visual novel with interesting characters, similar to others in the genre. While this is true – to an extent – the advertising for this game is very misleading, especially compared to what you eventually experience. This game does not contain any impactful branching narratives that I’ve experienced in my playthrough so far, instead having dialogue options play a role in character affinities that will, I imagine, dictate which character ending you’ll eventually get, making the game devolve into a visual novel with dating sim elements and the occasional mystery element – far removed from what we were shown in the trailer.

The game definitely borrows its atmosphere and concept from titans in the genre, the most obvious influence being Steins;Gate. I’m only 12 hours into what’s been described as a 40-hour game, but I’m already getting some major Steins;Gate vibes, but will it reach those lofty heights? I honestly don’t know at this point in my playthrough.

Something undeniable here is that the art style is absolutely gorgeous, with fantastically vibrant and colourful sprite work where characters and their designs perfectly represent who they are and their personalities. Most of the characters are deep and interesting with some honestly heart-breaking development sprinkled throughout to help flesh out the characters and make you fall in love with them. Our World Has Ended does, however, have a bad habit of leaning a little too heavily on anime and gaming tropes at times, with examples including the Tsundere, the Otaku, the Loli-girl and, the character that best encapsulates this game… the Pervert.

Our World Is Ended Yuno
The heart-felt moments don’t come often but when they do they hit you right in the gut

Without going too in depth, the early chapters of the game tend to focus on introducing characters, setting the scene of the game and, while all of that happens, we’re treated to boob jokes, pervert jokes, loli-con jokes and more boob jokes for good measure. While I enjoy a good joke, and I’m definitely not against some sexual humour from time to time, this game was saturated with it, often side-lining the genuinely interesting and heartfelt story moments in favour of a cheap laugh. While it does get a little excessive from time to time, some of the jokes did genuinely make me laugh out loud, while on occasion others skirted the line between what is and isn’t acceptable to make jokes about – really highlighting the cultural difference between Japan and the West. As you play further into the game, the sexual humour is downplayed but still makes an appearance more often than I’d care to admit. The humour in this game is something that, if you’re thinking of picking up this title, you should definitely be aware of, as it’s notably absent in most of the promotional material and can be a real make-or-break for some people.

Our World Is Ended Velovelos
I… don’t have to say anything about this, do I?

Despite the slightly negative picture I’ve painted here, Our World Is Ended is a fun visual novel with an interesting story and an excessively sexual sense of humour which casts a slightly sleazy veneer over the entire experience. I’m still very much invested in completing this game; the story is interesting, the characters quickly endear themselves to you, the voice acting is top notch and the soundtrack is honestly to die for! I’m far from finished with this game, but it does on occasion make me a little uncomfortable to play in public places, and headphones are an absolute must! We shall see how it goes with Our World Is Ended. I hope it continues to surprise me.

Final Thoughts

With that, we’ve managed to get through another round of the Backlog Battle. I hope you guys enjoyed this trip down the Otaku Rabbit Hole and we’ll be back again next week with more otaku goodies for you to enjoy. Until next time, keep it weeby everyone!

Loplop x

DISCLAIMER: I DO NOT OWN ANY OF THE IMAGES USED IN THIS REVIEW. ALL CREDIT FOR THE IMAGES GIVEN TO THEIR RESPECTIVE OWNERS.

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