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    Monday
    Sep192016

    BLOODLINE: A Review

    By: AIDAN GALLARDO '19

    PTS Falconer Staff

     *May include SPOILERS* 

    Netflix has come up big with making a relatively new show that we can all relate to called “Bloodline”. What I really liked about it is that it takes place in the Keys and when I watched the show, I can spot all the locations that they were filming at. I actually drove by them while they were filming but at the time, I didn’t know it was for Netflix until someone told us. But anyway, “Bloodline” is one of my favorite shows of all time. Once you watch a couple of episodes, you instantly get hooked and you just can’t stop watching. It is a fascinating story of a wealthy family in the Florida Keys that have many dark secrets. The siblings are inheritors of an attractive inn that has been in their family for more than 50 years. It is their childhood home with many amazing memories, but the deep dark past holds many untold tales. All combined makes the future very uncertain.

    It is an outstanding show with amazing actors and a terrific storyline. I recommend this for children over 14 years old. It contains a few inappropriate scenes and it has explicit language. Overall, this is a show you should watch as soon as possible because I promise you, it is going to be a great show.

     

    *The promotional poster for Bloodline on Netflix

    Thursday
    May052016

    Review of Fire Emblem Fates: Conquest

    By: FRANCESCO LOMBARDO '17

    PTS Falconer Assistant Editor

    Score 10/10

    L & R & Start will be your most pressed buttons.

    It’s been over a year since Fire Emblem Fates was revealed to the world. The next installment in the turn based strategy series would be returning in all its 3D glory. The last installment Fire Emblem Awakening quickly became one of my favorite games of all time, if not my favorite game of all time. I was excited for Fates, after waiting over a year and a release in Japan about 8 months before the United States I could not wait to get my hands on a copy. Finally the release date came along after a grueling year of waiting. I patiently waited until the clock slowly ticked to 12 AM ET. It was time to begin my journey.

     

    Conquest is not an easy game; it’s a massacre. I played it on normal classic, meaning that if any of my units were killed they would be lost forever. Having played through Awakening with little to no problems I thought, “how hard could this be?” Oh boy was I in for a challenge. First things first, the objectives in this game are no longer just route the enemy (meaning defeat all the enemies to complete the map); they consist of more complicated and difficult objectives. One map required me to find which of the units disguised like a soldier from my army was the pirate captain that was stealing gold from me every turn. Another time I needed to defend a point on the map where enemies were not supposed to reach. It’s the varied goals and objectives that really bring the challenge and variety into the game. I pressed L & R and Start to reset my game a countless number of times because I didn’t want to lose the units that I had been investing all my time training to a lucky critical hit on the enemies side.

     

    Besides wanting to throw my 3DS across the room, I also explored many of the other features that the game has to offer on my quest to conquer the neighboring kingdom of Hoshido. The new My Castle feature is the most interesting hub world I’ve seen on a handheld game. Creating and customizing my castle and seeing my units run shops, interact with each other, and being able to siege other players’ castles is some of the most fun I’ve had in a while. It felt like a mix between Animal Crossing and Runefactory. From My Castle you can access the world map, which will allow you to continue in the story or play other paralogues that you unlock when two units gain S rank support. I was more of a fan of Awakenings living map which allowed me to run around the map and select the levels I wanted to play, but the My Castle feature more than makes up for that.


    The support system in this entry of Fire Emblem stays mostly the same with a few changes. Some units can reach A+ rank instead of ending just at A which allows them to give each other greater bonuses in battle. Upon the arrival of S rank you can further increase it and therefore increase what stats you get. There is also a live 2D portion where units will say something to you and you see a 2D animated model of them. The support conversations are very well done and can sometimes be very funny or touching which shows the hard work that the writers put into each of these characters personalities.

    My biggest gripe with the game is that your main character that you create can sometimes come off as the blandest character you’ll ever meet in your life. I know that you already make a major choice in the game by choosing which side to fight on, but a few little choices littered here and there would have been very nice. By the end of the game I cared more about the relationships I had built with the other characters in the game than my actual unit. The story itself is also not the best but it’s certainly better than Awakenings and kept me entertained throughout the whole thing. Oh and be prepared to have your feelings ripped out and crushed at a certain point in the game.

    Fire Emblem Fates: Conquest has already become one of my favorite games and has easily surpassed Awakening. The wealth of new features and the new variety in the map objectives have come together to make the most interesting turn based game I’ve played. 

    10/10

     

     

     

    Monday
    Feb012016

    Review: Fallout 4

    By: FRANCESCO LOMBARDO ‘17
    PTS Falconer Assistant Editor
    SCORE: 8.5/10

    War…. War Never Changes, Sometimes for the Best.

    Fallout 3 released on October 28, 2008 with raving reviews. It was my favorite game of all time for a long while. The game is a masterpiece; taking place in a post apocalyptic Washington D.C. filled with mutants, monsters, people, quests, and hundreds of interesting locations to find. A few years later Obsidian Entertainment released Fallout: New Vegas, this time moving away from the “Capital Wasteland” and instead to the Mojave strip and “New Vegas”, the rebuilt Las Vegas. This game took many aspects of Fallout 3 and added a more interesting story, aiming down sights, and many new factions to interact with. Finally, after 7 years we are given the next true installment in the Fallout series, Fallout 4 taking place in the “common wealth”, the post apocalyptic version of the city of Boston.

    I want to start off by saying one thing; this game is massive in every way. While many people complained about the map size, when it was initially revealed as being about the same size as Skyrim, I can assure you that there is ten times more to do in Fallout 4 than in Skyrim. Every nook and cranny has been filled with something of interest. Whether it’s finding an old suit of power armor or an abandoned building filled with useful supplies, you’re bound to find something in the wasteland.

    Speaking of power armor and finding supplies, Fallout 4 implements the most complex and interesting crafting system in a Bethesda game to date. During the 2015 E3 presentation Bethesda revealed that every object would have a use. I found this hard to believe that EVERYTHING would be used, but I was quickly proven wrong. You see that toy car lying on the ground? Yeah, pick it up you’ll need the screws and aluminum it drops. That random piece of junk you would usually pass up on in a regular RPG or in previous Bethesda games has now become the biggest part of the game. As you level up your science, weapon crafting, and armor crafting skills you’ll gain access to new modifications that you can add onto your weapons at any crafting station. The components to fill those recipes can be found in every object in the world, so nothing in Fallout 4 is there without meaning. Power armor has vastly changed as well. It no longer requires you to be trained in the skill of wearing it and has now become a sort of iron man suit that can be modified and painted however you like. You can even add a jet pack onto it. Not only is customization limited to weapons and armor, you can even build your own settlements across the map. You can build turrets, lights, buildings, anything really and eventually settlers will come live in your settlements. There is nothing you can’t build with the new settlement feature.

    The gunplay has increased significantly, it now feels and plays like an actual shooter. Modifications also drastically affect how guns feel and look; no two weapons that you modify will be the same. My only gripe is that there is no auto aim, making it a bit difficult while playing on a console. Aside from that one of the highest points that Fallout 4 hits are the visuals. The game is simply gorgeous for how big it is and the number of items it needs to generate. Fallout 3 had a strange green tint to it that has thankfully been removed for the better. Everything looks so colorful and vibrant compared to previous installments. Some textures do look muddy and the facial animations are still wonky, but overall it did a wonderful job on the visuals.

    Although the gameplay, exploration, look, and the feel of Fallout 4 is awesome, one aspect that really disappointed me was the story. After many hours of putting off the story I finally went ahead and finished it. That is one of my biggest regrets in gaming. Finishing the main quest locked me out of a ton of quests for other factions since you’re forced to side with one of the 3 factions. This bothered me to no end, why couldn’t I come to a resolution between all the factions like in Fallout: New Vegas? When I played Skyrim I was not only a Dragonborn, but also part of the Dark Brotherhood, Thieves Guild, Companions, Imperial Army, and Mage Guild. There was no stopping me from joining all those factions and experiencing the entire game without having to make a new save file and character. The story itself was very lack luster as well, what starts out as a very interesting search for your lost son quickly turns into a lackluster story that falls flat on its face. The voiced character is another one of my gripes with the game. Limiting me to only 4 choices per dialogue is very irritating. I understand Bethesda was trying to do something new with the dialogue, but the old-fashioned dialogue choices in Skyrim and Fallout 3 were much better.

    Fallout 4 is an amazing game. The improved gunplay, graphics, and the immense amount of customization really vary the game. The biggest issues lie within the story and dialogue. I really didn’t feel like the story was very interesting and the new dialogue system needs some much needed upgrades. I highly recommend Fallout 4 for anyone who wants to loose themselves inside a fantasy world.

     

     

    Friday
    Dec182015

    Uncharted: The Nathan Drake Collection (Part 1 - Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune)

    By: FRANCESCO LOMBARDO '17
    PTS Falconer Assistant Editor  
    SCORE: 8.8/10 

    Halo, Gears of War, Forza, and Crackdown are a few of the most notable games that are exclusive to Microsoft’s Xbox 360. While Halo and Gears of War struck the hearts of many Xbox players, Sony’s Playstation had many more exclusives for its console. Game franchises such as Crash Bandicoot, Demon’s Souls, Spyro, Motor Storm, Gran Turismo, and Uncharted populated the Japanese company’s library of console exclusive games. Uncharted is one of the series that could be seen as the Playstation equivalent of Halo due to the following it gathered after the first game.

    Recently, Blue Point Studios was tasked with re-mastering all three Uncharted games for the Playstation 4. Having only played Uncharted 3 on the Playstation 3, I was very excited to be able to buy all three games and enjoy them on my new hardware with updated graphics. This review will be in 3 parts for each game in the series starting with Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune.

    Released in 2007, Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune introduces our main hero for the series. Nathan Drake is a charismatic, young, bold, and brave treasure hunter and historian. We also meet his partner in crime Victor Sullivan and his soon to be love interest Elena Carter right at the beginning of the game. It’s a great adrenaline filled intro, quickly catching your attention. After this scene taking place on a boat out in the middle of the ocean, you are then headed to a tropical island where the rest of the game takes place. The characters are all wonderfully written and the story has many twists and turns to keep you entertained and on the edge of your seat throughout the whole game.

    The gameplay in Uncharted consists of lots of climbing and shooting bad guys who are after Drake because they don’t want him messing with their plans of recovering an ancient Maya statue. I will say after having played Uncharted 3 on the PS3, Uncharted 1 felt like a step back. Now that’s not to say that I didn’t have a ton of fun, Blue Point Studios did a wonderful job of a port. The 60fps really makes a huge difference when compared to the 30fps on the original console. The only thing that I found was a step back was the hand-to-hand combat and the explosions. Whenever I shot a gas tank, it really didn’t feel satisfactory as it gave off a small explosion and the sound wasn’t that great. The hand-to-hand combat had some weird stiff animations compared to Uncharted 2 and 3, which had more fluent and natural looking combat. Again, this game was the first in the series, so there is always room to improve with in the sequels.

    Another gripe of mine was how the combat was set up. You would continue a few steps and there would be a small area where you’d have to kill a bunch of enemies. 10 minutes later, it would be the same, eliminate all enemies in an area, climb a little, rinse and repeat. By the end of the game this was getting a tad bit repetitive, but luckily Uncharted isn’t terribly long and can be completed quite quickly. The puzzles were also quite simple, something that’s fixed in the later Uncharted games.

    The re-mastered graphics look great compared to other games that I’ve seen re-mastered such as Gears of War for example. Sure there were a few textures that were a tad bit muddy, but the game is from 2007 and I can’t expect a Last of Us level re-master. 

    All in all Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune was a very fun experience. It got repetitive at times but the story kept me playing and wanting more. Luckily I have Uncharted 2 and 3 waiting ahead of me. 

     

    Wednesday
    Nov042015

    Hatsune Miku: Project Mirai DX

    By: FRANCESCO LOMBARDO ‘17
    PTS Falconer Assistant Editor
    SCORE: 8/10

    Rhythm games have been around for a long time and really grew in popularity when Guitar Hero and Rock band were released for the Playstation 3, Xbox 360, and the Wii. They were famous for a while even making games based off of famous bands, such as Greenday, The Beatles, and Aerosmith to name a few, but soon the popularity fell and the games seemed to disappear until the recent announcement of new installments into the series. One series, however, that has kept people tapping their foot while playing are the Hatsune Miku games.

    What exactly is Hatsune Miku? Well, Hatsune Miku is a computer program developed by Yamaha that emulates vocal patterns and can be used to create artificial singers for songs. All of the songs are sung in Japanese and created by the millions of users of the Hatsune Miku program. What does this have to do with the game? Well this is a rhythm game that is a compilation of all the most famous Miku songs. Although I can’t understand Japanese I must say, Hatsune Miku: Project Mirai DX is a top notch rhythm game incorporating other gaming aspects such as minigames, house decorating, music composition, dance creating, and AR cards.

    There are 47 songs in total, each one with its own set of animations and difficulties. One thing that seems unbalanced is the difficulty. Some songs such as Senbonsakura are really easy on Hard, while others like The World is Mine can be quite the challenge. This is disappointing, as I would’ve liked a more consistent difficulty across all the songs. The rhythm portion can be played in two modes, tap or buttons. You can use the touch screen to hit the corresponding colors or use the buttons and the d-pad for the same purpose. This is great, because while you may excel in one mode, the other mode can be more difficult. It mixes up the gameplay options. The animations that go along with the song are bright, vivid, and very entertaining. Overall, the game looks and plays fantastically.

    While playing the songs, you’ll earn coins that you can use to purchase various things from the department store. From clothing that you unlock as you beat songs to different pieces of furniture. It’s a nice little touch that lets you customize your experience with the game. You can also choose which character you’d like to have in your home screen. You can choose from 6 different singers, each with their own voices and animations. There’s also a version of Puyo Puyo 39 (a classic Sega Genesis game) included, so you can play against computers or friends in local connection. The game is packed full of things to do other than the standard rhythm game. You can create your own dances, make your own little tunes, use with various AR cards, and play Mikuversi, which is a board game that your little character will get progressively better at as you get better.

    Hatsune Miku: Project Mirai DX shows how first party games should be made. It has an extremely well done rhythm mode with some great catchy tunes even if you don’t speak Japanese. It’s also filled with lots of mini games and extra activities to do. The difficulty is disappointing; I wish it was balanced a bit more and obviously you can’t like every song that’s included in the game. Other than that, it’s a great game to break up the long play times of Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate or Xenoblade Chronicles 3D.