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Hugh Likes Video Games: Final Fantasy X Remaster

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Final Fantasy X Remaster
Published by Square Enix
Played on the Nintendo Switch

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The Skinny: The classic PS2 JRPG returns for the Switch, packaged with its quirky sequel

Final Fantasy X is one of the big high watermark JRPGs, the sort of game that doesn’t get made anymore, but is consistently being remastered and made available for digital rerelease. So when it came out for the Switch packaged with its sequel, I picked up a copy, to see how well it holds up nearly twenty years later.
Final Fantasy X is the story of Tidus, a star athlete magically transported from his utopian city of Zanarkand, and Yuna, a young summoner embarking on a pilgrimage. Ten years ago, Yuna and Tidus’s fathers fought and defeated a giant monster called ‘Sin,’ which constantly destroys the world, and cannot be killed by conventional means. Sin has returned, and the two youths find themselves on the same path their father’s took ten years before. Can they find a way to break the cycle, or will they be just another sacrifice?
The game plays without problems on the Switch, and looks gorgeous. I noticed some slowdown during cutscenes, and the sharp HD display makes the transition between pre-rendered and real-time rendered graphics more pronounced an jarring. I played almost exclusively in handheld mode, and it worked great.
The gameplay is just as strategic and engaging as I remembered, and while some of the voice acting and animation have noticeably aged, It’s still notable as the first steps Square took with this level of production.
The game also includes a code for the complete edition of Final Fantasy X-2, the games goofy, power-pop inspired sequel. I may review it later in a second blog post, but for now, I’ll say that it loads fine, and plays about as well as I remember, but after pouring eighty hours into the first installment, I am ready for a break.
You can find Final Fantasy X / X-2 Remaster from your local electronics shop, or digitally from the Playstation, Switch or X-Box online stores.
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Hugh Likes Video Games: Wargroove

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Wargroove
Developed and Published by Chucklefish
Played on Nintendo Switch
https://wargroove.com
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The Skinny: A turn-based strategy game with retro style and retro difficulty to match, but with some interesting innovations under the hood.

Wargroove is a strategy game with old school charm, and gameplay to match. On the surface, it takes most of its design and style from Nintendo’s ‘Wars’ series of games. These only came to the US as the Advance Wars titles, and have been absent for a decade, but they made a big impression on developer Chucklefish. If that name is familiar, they also published ConcernedApe’s well-loved Harvest Moon update, Stardew Valley.
Gameplay works like Advance Wars. Players take turns moving their units and capturing buildings to provide income, which lets them buy new units. The goal of each match is to either the enemy stronghold or defeat the enemy Commander, powerful units that each has a unique special ability, called a ‘groove.’ These each do something a bit different, from healing allies in a range, to creating new units, to attacks that do extra damage. They are a fun addition to the Wars formula, and are one of the ways the game really stands out. Also, one of the commanders is an adorable golden retriever, who is a very good boy.
The other way Wargroove differentiates itself is in its plethora of content and game modes. In addition to the standard single-player Campaign and multiplayer battles, the game offers an Arcade mode in which you can take each Commander through a series of five quick battles, a Puzzle mode, and even an impressive set of creation tools. The game lets players not just create maps, but also entire campaigns and cutscenes, and trade them freely through the game’s online modes. I haven’t been able to dive too deeply into it yet, but it is very cool and is supporting a new creative community.
Wargroove faithfully recreates the best of the turn-based strategy genre, but it also has the same flaws. Matches are long, and with two armies starting at opposite ends of a map and slowly building, they can take a while to get going. Also, this game is difficult. Updates have created more options for novice players, but you can still sink a lot of time into a map only to have to start all over again when the last wave of enemies gets a shot in on your Commander.
Wargroove is a charming and occasionally frustrating strategy game with old school feel and old school difficulty. If you’re up for the challenge, you can snag a copy from Steam or your choice of major console eshops.
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Hugh Likes Video Games: Super Smash Bros Ultimate

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Super Smash Bros Ultimate
Published by Nintendo
Played on Nintendo Switch

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The Skinny: The venerable nostalgia-fighter returns with a massive entry on the Switch

It’s no secret that I love me some Smash Bros. My first Hugh Likes Video Games review was for the last iteration of the series, specifically the 3DS version. And this version has, well just more of everything I love about the concept, with a giant roster of returning characters and stages, and lots of brand-new content as well. I actually hesitated getting this version, but I think Ultimate might actually live up to its title.
Ultimate does a lot of things right. The roster is particularly large, and the new additions, from Castlevania protagonist Simon Belmont to Animal Crossing’s helpful assistant Isabelle are a delight to play. While there aren’t a whole lot of brand-new stages, we get nearly all of the returning stages, with multiple layouts, so there is sure to be someplace to pick. Smash mode is easy to get into, and takes full advantage of the Switch’s joycon pairing capabilities to get a large group of players in quickly.
Classic mode returns with a twist. Each character has their own finely tuned campaign to maximize their nostalgic hit. For example, Ryu fights in a series Street Fighter-like stamina battles, while Richter only fights other Echo Fighters.
As clever and nostalgic as Classic Mode is, Spirits is where the game really stretches. Building on modes in previous versions of the game, Spirits turns Smash Bros into a giant nostalgia-fueled Action RPG. Traveling around a huge map, the player fights ‘spirits,’ essentially Nintendo characters that didn’t make the cut, in the guise of tweaked battles with specialized conditions. Winning the battle nets you that character’s ‘spirit,’ which you can equip and level up in a bunch of different ways in order to take on more powerful fights. These take the place of collecting trophies or stickers in past games, and they’re neat, but the game doesn’t give you as much information about these collectables as in past installments, which is a shame.
Overall, Super Smash Bros Ultimate is another entry in the series that won’t change the minds of non-fans, but is full to the brim with attention to detail and affection for the source material. I haven’t ventured into the dark woods of online multiplayer yet, but so far couch battles have been chaotic but a heck of a lot of fun.
You can download the game yourself from the Nintendo eshop, or find a physical copy at the usual suspects of video game retailers.
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Hugh Likes Video Games: Moonlighter

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Moonlighter
Published by 11 bit studios
Developed by Digital Sun
Played on Nintendo Switch
http://moonlighterthegame.com/
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The Skinny: The Daily Grind, in day job and dungeon flavors!

Moonlighter is an old-school dungeon crawler with a twist. The dungeons are randomly generated, with each room comprising a single screen, much like the original Legend of Zelda. Enemies don’t drop money or experience, but rather items tied to the visual theme of each dungeon. During the day, players can sell their findings in a shop simulator, setting their own prices, decorating their shop, and keeping an eye out for shoplifters.
Profits from the shop can be sunk into upgrading your equipment, inviting other shopkeepers who sell things like potions or decor, or expanding the shop itself. The gameplay loop has a nice rhythm, and I constantly found myself deciding to play just one more in-game day to reach a milestone I’d set for myself. The combat is quick and fairly challenging, but doesn’t vary too greatly from dungeon to dungeon. While enemies all have very different looks, they tend to do the same sorts of things. The turrets you face in the golem dungeon have the same sorts of attacks as the seed-spitting plants from the forrest dungeon, for example.
Moonlighter’s gameplay loop can get repetitive, but fortunately, it looks and sounds gorgeous. The high-res pixelated art is charming, and the soundtrack boasts a variety of catchy and evocative tunes as you make your way through the floors of each dungeon and stock your shelves. There isn’t much of a story here though, so if that isn’t enough to keep your interest, this may not be the game for you.
I enjoyed my time in Moonlighter’s tiny village, but I wish the game had given me a few more options in how I arranged and decorated my shop. The items were nice, but I’d have like to have been able to give the place a bit more personality.
Moonlighter is an old school dungeon crawling action game mixed with a sedate but engaging shopkeeping sim. The gameplay loop makes for a perfectly tuned combo in a charming world. You can pick it up for PC or through all the major console eshops.

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Hugh Likes Video Games: Octopath Traveller

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Octopath Traveller
Developed by Acquire
Published by Square Enix
Nintendo Switch

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The Skinny: This retro-styled JRPG creates a miniature clockwork world to explore.

I love me some Old School Japanese Role Playing Games. As a kid, I looked on with envy as my friends talked about the then mind-blowing scope of Dragon Warrior, and the Unprecedented drama of Final Fantasy VI and Chrono Trigger. When I grew older and had the means to play them myself, I lost myself in their fast maps and intricate mechanical systems. But trends come and go in gaming, and while these classics are remembered fondly, they just don’t make them anymore.
Except, of course, when they do. Octopath Traveller is a return to subgenre form, complete with pixelated sprites and tangled leveling systems. But it brings a lot of new stuff to the table as well.
The player chooses their starting character from a cast of eight protagonists, from erudite but occasionally naive scholar Cyrus to cynical thief Therion. After playing through the character’s ‘Chapter’ you leave your starting town and recruit the other characters, and play their stories as well. While you can have up to four characters in your party, each character’s story plays out as though they were alone, although you can access character asides where the others will give that character advice, or other dialog that doesn’t impact the scene.
Octopath Traveller is a remarkable success in so many ways. The visuals, a mix of pixel art and modern particle effects serve to create the illusion of a miniature world on the switch’s screen. Sand, snow and water all sparkle, and shimmer on the screen, creating not exactly realism, but an almost tactile effect. The locations look like vastly complex models. The music is gorgeous and cleverly constructed. The writing is smart, engaging, and doesn’t suffer from the bowdlerization so often present in 90’s translations. Combat is strategic and tricky. It is a joy to play.
But as much fun as it is, the game never quite breaks its illusions. The systems never let the player forget that it is a game. Its use of story as another system is interesting, and fun for me, but I found myself wishing that the characters had a bit more interaction with one another. If I have a Healer in my party, why can’t he heal the Cleric’s ill adoptive father? If another character is looking for a criminal, why can’t the Thief use their contacts to speed the process along? These barriers were a distraction to me at times.
Also, having one character that never left the party made them way more powerful than anybody else. There didn’t seem to be a reason to alway have them in the group, and by the end there was a huge gap. These are both aspects I hope they address in any potential sequels.
Octopath Traveller is an incredible JRPG experience for Nintendo Switch that is both full of warm, gooey nostalgia, and genuinely unlike anything else out there. If you have a Nintendo Switch and a hundred hours to spare, this is a must play.

Hugh Likes Video Games: Night in the Woods

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Night in the Woods
Created by Infinite Fall
Published by Finji
Played on Nintendo Switch

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The Skinny: A brilliantly designed existential horror game

Night in the Woods is a game that struck very close to home for me. It is about a girl who returns to her dying hill town after dropping out of college and discovers that the home she left has changed. And there’s something in the woods at night…
An indie game that was originally published thanks to a 2012 Kickstarter, NitW has the most effective and well-crafted atmospheres I’ve seen in a long time. And considering that this is a 2-D point and click adventure game with some light platforming elements staring cartoon animals, that is really saying something. But the visuals are so on-point in this game, and they are propped up by witty, charming dialog that is the most natural I’ve seen in a long time. If you can’t fall in love with Mae, Gregg, Angus and Bea by the end of their adventure, I’m not sure you have a heart.
The mechanics of the world reinforce this. Following the story, most of the player’s decisions involve choosing which characters to follow, and talking to everyone. There are a lot of dialog options, and while they don’t seem to effect the story much, they do a great job of revealing character, and lead to so many rewarding character moments, they are worth replaying for them alone. The platforming in this game also feels really good, and walking around on the power lines feels transgressive in a way that reinforces character, and leads to lots of cool exploration and interaction moments, like finding hidden musicians and secret rooms. Going too much further into this game will ruin it, but let me suffice to say that everything in this game works together in a way that makes it more than the sum of its parts.
One of the reasons that his game struck me so profoundly, in addition to the fact that the writing is excellent, the art is eye-catching and endearing, and the mechanics just feel good, is that this is a story that happened to me. Not the mysterious disappearances and hostile forces bits, but I didn’t do so well my first year of college, and had to return to my own rustbelt hometown after a year away.
Mae’s reasons for leaving college and coming home aren’t made fully explicit until the end of the game, but I already understood them, because her experience was so similar to mine. I never hit anyone with a bat, but I felt so many of the same things she did, and playing this game gave me a bit of catharsis for those old wounds.
Night in the Woods is less a horror game than an existential horror game, and you can find it on Steam and the usual consoles. These versions also include Longest Night and Lost Constellation, two microgames the team made as Kickstarter bonuses and to test game elements. The whole package is wonderful, and this game is well worth your timeand attention. And Gregg rulz, OK?

Hugh Likes Video Games: Stardew Valley

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Stardew Valley
Developed by ConcernedApe
Published by Chucklefish
Played on Nintendo Switch

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The Skinny: “Harvest Moon” all grown up.

“Stardew Valley” is a retro-style farming life simulator made by indie developer ConcernedApe, the one-man studio of Eric Barone, in tribute to “Harvest Moon.” As in the original, they player is tasked with rebuilding their grandfather’s dilapidated old farm in an isolated rural community. Like in “Harvest Moon,” there are a lot of different activities you can do throughout the game, from growing crops and raising livestock to fishing, gathering, mining, and developing relationships with the town citizens. But the game builds on these mechanics and interrogates them in unexpected modern ways.
The player is given their farm in a letter in a cut scene at the beginning of the game, prompting them to quit their job at soulless mega-corporation Joja to pursue a new life in Stardew Valley. But the company has already gotten in a foothold in your new town, in the form of Jojamart, a supermarket that is already squeezing out the local general store. It is up to the player to decide if they want to help Joja take over and turn Stardew Valley into a Joja distribution center, or to drive them off by rebuilding the town’s dilapidated Community Center. Like most of the choices in the game, there is a decision that feels better, but it isn’t quite so black and white. Rebuilding the Center requires delivering a mountain of specific items, while siding with Joja is easier and allows the player the freedom to play however they want.
Rather than just settling in to the fantasy of small-town life, Barone has very thoughtfully examined the issues impacting rural life today and incorporated them into the game. Most NPCs are friendly, but some are hostile and distrustful of outsiders. Depression, substance abuse, and financial hardship and broken homes all play into their stories. Also, the player can choose their farmer’s appearance and gender, and can date and marry NPC’s of either gender, which feels to me like a huge step over “Harvest Moon’s” marriage options, and a natural way to include LGBTQ players.
“Stardew Valley” is one of those games that you will either hate, or will entirely absorb you as you try and delve into all the town’s secrets, find every hidden relationship cutscene, and work to raise the best crops. There are only a few things that bother me about it. One is that trees, rocks and other liter are constantly regenerating on my farm. I feel like I’m spending as much time chopping down the multiplying pine trees as I am watering and planting. The other is that the games doesn’t have a way to buy multiple items at once, a real oversight when I’m buy seeds for huge fields, or trying to buy enough hay to see my cows through the winter. This might not have been a big problem on PC, but on console, having to rapid-fire hit a button is a needless irritation.
“Stardew Valley” is available on Steam and for most major consoles. I played on the Nintendo Switch and I could hardly put it down. It is a perfect chill game for these long autumn nights.