Gaming

Kingdom Hearts III review: More for long-time fans

It didn’t spark joy

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I played the first Kingdom Hearts game for a grand total of around 40 minutes, so I don’t think I can qualify that as actually playing. I didn’t have my own PlayStation 2 at the time so I was mostly watching my friend play, waiting for him to wrap up so I could beat him on NBA Live.

However, it’s such a popular game that it was impossible for me to not at least be familiar with the premise. I did play my fair share of Final Fantasy games and like most people, Disney titles and characters aren’t complete strangers to me.

Ready to take on some Heartless!

I didn’t have any major expectations jumping into Kingdom Hearts III, but I thought the way the Disney levels are woven in would at least be clever. It was not.

The backstory is massive

The first thing you need to consider when coming into this game is that you’re stepping into a massive pile of backstory. It can be hard to catch up to. If, like me, this is your first game in the franchise, it will be like watching Avengers: Infinity War without seeing even at least a quarter of the movies that led to it.

That said, the game is aware that it has tons of lore to get into. Right in the title screen you’ll see a Memory Archive which is a chapter by chapter summary of the Kingdom Hearts story. It’s best watched in its entirety which means sitting through over 20 minutes of backstory. For the most part, it does its job of catching you up. If that’s not enough, there are several story-so-far videos on YouTube. This one I liked in particular.

Despite all of these recaps available, no amount of summarizing can truly prepare you for the tangled mess that is the Kingdom Hearts lore. During certain parts, it even feels like the game is self-aware of how much of a mess it is and pokes fun at itself. That’s one of the more entertaining aspects of the game, intentional or not.

The story just isn’t gripping enough

This is my main gripe with the game. After playing titles like God of War, Detroit: Become Human, and Marvel’s Spider-Man — all of which had stories and characters that you will inevitably invest in as you play — Kingdom Hearts III’s story pales in comparison.

I understand the comparison may not be fair. The games I mentioned are either standalone stories (Detroit and Spider-Man) or a fresh start to a long-running franchise (God of War). Given all of that, I can’t help but feel the storytelling could have been so much better.

The way I feel about Kingdom Hearts III is similar to how I felt about Final Fantasy XV which, coincidentally, was initially helmed by the same guy behind Kingdom Hearts — Tetsuya Nomura. The story’s pacing felt off and it went into places that maybe it shouldn’t have.

There’s also something off about the dialogue during cutscenes. I felt the characters were talking so much slower than usual and it invites zoning out if you’re not that into the story.

That’s a thing? Okay.

If you’re a long-time fan of the franchise and have played most, if not all, of the games and feel differently than I do, then that’s all good. In fact, I’m really interested to hear what the likes of you thought about the game.

The Disney stuff can be fun

It’s not all bad. After I realized the story isn’t gonna spark joy in me whatsoever, I started treating each Disney level as a non-canon mini-game. That made me enjoy it for what it had to offer.

Some levels felt like rushed versions of the original films with Kingdom Hearts lore thrown into the mix. Others offered some value-add to the stories we already know and love, and that truly made it more fun to play.

There’s also enough variation in each level that can make you forget you can get through most of the game by just smashing X and pressing △. The animations during battle look super flashy and the combat has a few other options you can tinker with if you get tired of smashing X.

Might be made more for long-time fans

I suspect this game was really made as more of a pay-off for long-time fans than an opportunity to acquire new ones. That’s perfectly fine. In fact, playing Kingdom Hearts III made me crave another good Final Fantasy game, but perhaps one that features tight turn-based combat versus an action RPG (role playing game) type.

Is there a game where Kairi actually does something?

There are plenty of ways to have fun with Kingdom Hearts III, but the story — which I believe should be paramount in RPGs — just isn’t one of the them. If you’re just coming into the franchise through this game, I suggest you play it for the fun Disney levels and just push the overarching story to the side.  The visual spectacle in this game is off the charts, so go ahead and enjoy that too.

By now, long-time fans would have already bought the game. If you’re one of those who are still deciding whether to get it or not, I suggest waiting a little longer for the price to drop. If you simply can’t wait, I recommend getting a second-hand copy which would also be cheaper. But whatever you decide to do, may your heart be your guiding key.

Gaming

Dell G7 review: All the heft and the heat

It’s simply one hot package your wallet hopes to afford

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I’d like to be able to play games wherever I go — provided some stable internet connection. I’d also like to have enough power to afford a device that allows me to do so. But in this world we live in, gaming laptops are things that are just out of our reach. Still, it shouldn’t stop us from trying to save up for them.

One such device is the Dell G7 15, a seemingly compact yet powerful gaming machine. The biggest and most powerful member of the Dell G series certainly brings a lot to the table. Performance and portability are its biggest selling points, especially for the on-the-go gamer. But does it really make the cut?

Let’s find out more about the Dell G7 15.

It comes in a slimmer metal finish compared to previous Dell gaming laptops

It has an NVIDIA RTX 2060 inside for unrivaled gaming performance

Ports for power, connectivity, and storage are placed at the back

It also has a customizable RGB-backlit keyboard

Hefty performance all around

Don’t let the slimmer body fool you; the Dell G7 packs a pretty hefty package. It comes with a 9th generation Intel i7 processor inside, a staple across gaming devices. I got around to doing research, Excel spreadsheets, and some video editing with this device. This, along with 16GB of RAM and a 128GB SSD inside, and you get that kind of speed and power.

Applications load fast, and I almost experienced no lags in trying to do multiple things at once. I even tried loading almost 30 tabs of Google Chrome, while doing some light video editing on Premiere Pro. This device simply does not have the word “lag” in its dictionary as even the most stressful situations keep it going.

Fiery gaming performance

I already knew what I’m getting with an RTX 2060 inside any gaming machine. True enough, my expectations for the highly touted gaming card were met when I tried it on this device. Gaming on this device felt like a visual experience that seemed too real. Color grading for games on the RTX 2060, to me almost comes close to the true colors of objects.

Colors aside, gaming performance with the RTX 2060 was phenomenal. I literally did not experience any lag with all the games I tried on this device, from AAA games to those that require little graphical power. Also, I noticed that visually, nothing was sacrificed for all the power it wields — which is the ideal situation anyway. 

Of course, there’s always a caveat to nice things like ultra-powerful gaming performance. Like most gaming machines, this thing gets pretty damn hot when you play for too long. I personally felt uncomfortable after playing for three hours around the WASD keys. That specific part of the keyboard felt like a frying pan, possibly telling me to take a break from playing Fortnite.

Charging up so quick, it makes you play more

Now, obviously gaming laptops have historically low battery lives. Playing on the Dell G7 for the recommended three hours already drained its entire battery so much. When I wasn’t fully using this device for gaming, I got about four to five and a half hours worth of usage before a full drain. These numbers, honestly don’t provide much in terms of long-lasting performance.

One silver lining to it all is that the device comes with a 60Wh battery that supports quick charging. And that’s not just from the proprietary charging port at the back; even the USB Type-C port to its side allows you to charge the device. The device reached close to 30% within 20 minutes, which is pretty decent compared to the other devices out there.

Of course, the charging brick that comes with the device isn’t so light. Figuratively, this 180W charger packs the necessary juice to supercharge the device. Quite literally, its weight didn’t bother me as much, and I’ve felt heavier chargers in the past. 

The cooling system that’s a little too hot at times

With all that power inside, you need a cooling system that settles everything inside. The Dell G7 has powerful fans inside that basically push all the hot air out. I thought it was a good touch that the Alienware Command Center allows you to control those fans. But, there were a couple of things that bothered me with this cooling system.

First off, in the times I didn’t play games, the fans somehow throttle out of the blue. I don’t know if that’s how these fans work, but I would be deeply concerned if upon startup the fans start to throttle. Second, the fans do take time to throttle when you start playing games, which limits performance overall.

Finally, even while the fans are able to push hot air out, it takes a while for the device to cool down. I get it, you have to be patient — especially when you’re gaming nonstop for three hours. But it wouldn’t hurt for the device to cool down a little faster than that. It’s things like this, along with the fans being loud that leaves you scratching your head a little bit.

Is this your GagdetMatch?

Starting at Php 113,990, the Dell G7 just proves to be one hefty machine. Great performance is already expected from this device, and it surely did not disappoint. This gaming machine comes in a package that just screams power, and I would surely recommend this device to most on-the-go gamers out there.

Of course, it’s simply not perfect. This device does not simply last long enough for you to game full time. Apart from that, it gets pretty damn hot when you play for too long. Even with a quick-charging port and an two-fan cooling system, these simply are not enough.

But you get past that, and the Dell G7 truly serves up one game-ready device. While it is one hefty price tag, the investment looks very promising.

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Gaming

China is imposing a gaming curfew for all children

And spending limits on in-game merch

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It’s a great time to be a gamer! Regardless of which platform you play on, it’s getting easier to find a game of your own. In fact, one of the world’s biggest games today, Fortnite, is completely free of charge. Unfortunately, today’s lax gaming world is a festering hotspot for gaming addiction.

Everyone has their own strategies for combating addiction. For most people, the complexities of real life are enough to keep us away from the controller. However, for a select few, parents (or other authority figures) are keeping gamers away with imposed gaming curfews. Such is the way of life.

However, what happens when a whole country gangs up on every child’s gaming habits? Fortunately, now we know.

Recently, the Chinese government has imposed a curfew and strict spending limits for Chinese children. According to new regulations, children under 18 cannot play between 10pm and 8am. Further, they can play for only 90 minutes per day. (Three hours for holidays!)

For spending, children between 8 to 16 can spend only US$ 28 to US$ 57 on payable content. Finally, underage players must use their real names when playing online.

According to the report, the new regulations stem from growing concerns about poor eyesight and declining school performance.

Fortunately (or unfortunately), the report doesn’t detail how the government will enforce this new regulation. If anything, the report encourages guardians to keep the regulation in mind when taking care of their children.

Thankfully, the regulation is only in China. Six-hour gaming marathons are still perfectly legal elsewhere in the world. Just remember to hydrate and say hi to the sun for a while.

SEE ALSO: Here are the five best announcements from BlizzCon 2019

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Gaming

ROG Phone 2 review: Mobile gaming on steroids

Unapologetically a gaming smartphone

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I have said this countless times in previous reviews — I’m not much of a mobile gamer. But there are plenty of things about the ROG Phone 2 that made me enjoy playing.

When the first generation ROG Phone came out, I have to admit, I may have dismissed it right away. I really wasn’t into mobile games, the design was a little too “gaming” for me at the time, and the cameras were — in the words of other reviewers — craptastic.

A year later, ROG is back for a second playthrough. Armed with the experience and knowledge gained from its first turn, the company knew right away to strengthen its weaknesses.

Unequip: 4000mAh battery, Equip: 6000mAh battery 

In our review of the ROG Phone last year, we pointed out how the 4000mAh just didn’t have enough juice to support all of the bells and whistles of the phone. This is no longer the case.

The 6000mAh battery on the ROG Phone 2 performs as expected. Even with the 120hz refresh rate for the display turned on, the phone would last for nearly two days without charging. That’s moderate to heavy use on a mixed bag of tasks like answering emails, browsing on social media, playing a few rounds of Team Deathmatch on Call of Duty Mobile, and playing TWICE and LOONA songs on repeat.

It even messed up my charging routine because it just didn’t make sense to plug a phone that still has somewhere between 60 to 70 percent left at the end of the day. You’ll quit game first before the phone quits on you.

Charging is also fast AF thanks to ASUS’ HyperCharge technology. While this doesn’t boast of the wireless charging feature that many of its contemporaries at its price range has, it’s not something you’ll miss at all.

Discard: 12MP camera, Pick-up: 48MP camera

The sweeping statement that “cameras on gaming phones are bad” is no longer true. If anyone says this, they’re either misinformed or are just flat-out lying.

The ROG Phone 2 is now equipped with a 48MP lens accompanied by a 13MP wide angle lens. It’s a huge leap from the 12MP+8MP combo found on the first ROG Phone.

Photos taken with plenty of light look pretty darn good.

However, it does this weird JJ Abrams thing where there’s a lot of lens flare on some photos even during the night.

Speaking of the night, while the streets where I grew up in isn’t much to look at, I thought the ROG Phone 2 did well enough in capturing a fair amount of detail in low light situations.

P.S. the last photo in this set is clearly not from my hometown but I thought it was a good representation of the phone’s low light capabilities. Yes, I blurred parts of the image as it’s from an event of another brand. ✌🏼😆

The portrait mode even has this neat trick where you can adjust the level of blur after you’ve taken the photo. This means you can say goodbye to those photos where your subject looks like a sticker plastered onto a blurry background.

The selfie camera went from 8MP to 24MP and there’s plenty of improvement here as well. Although it does apply a noticeable amount of beautification even if you have the option completely turned off.

Unapologetically a gaming smartphone

The thing that might scare off most other buyers is also the very same thing that might attract the gamers who this phone has its crosshairs on. The phone’s design just SCREAMS gaming.

It does seem a little more toned down compared to the first generation, but the ROG Phone 2 is still without a doubt designed with the gamer aesthetic in mind.

This was the very thing that I didn’t like about the ROG Phone. And while I still prefer something that’s a little more subtle, I don’t find the ROG Phone 2’s design as appalling as the first one. Although that’s probably my taste changing more than anything else.

Other than how it looks, the ports, buttons, and camera placement are all geared towards gaming. You still get two USB-C ports. One where it’s usually placed and another for when you’re gaming in landscape mode.

The front-facing camera is also positioned in a way that it won’t be obstructed if you decide to stream your gaming session. A feature you can do thanks to the Game Genie that’s at the heart of this phone.

What kind of gamer are you? 

I was hesitant at first because I primarily do all my gaming on a console. Always have and, I thought, always will — that’s until I got to try the ROG Phone 2.

I really am not one to play mobile games. It’s not a knock on people who enjoy playing them. It’s just that for me, my phone has always been more a tool for work, communication, and media consumption.

But I had to play. I’m not exactly a fan of the more popular mobile games right now so I sought out other games — ones I think I would enjoy.

Before I move forward, I’ll be casually mentioning the accessories that come with the ROG Phone 2. Won’t go into too much detail. You can just watch our unboxing to see what the accessories are. You can check the pricing for each one on this link.

Okay. Let’s play. 

First up was FF15 PE — the mobile version of Final Fantasy XV. Role Playing Games or RPGs are really more up my alley. The game utilizes a lot of swipes and taps on the screen. Which is great if you’re not keen on getting the other accessories that come with the ROG Phone 2.

Next up, I tried Injustice 2. This is also another title that has a counterpart on consoles and PCs. The game is versus fighting and was adapted nicely to mobile phones. Like FF15 PE, it utilizes plenty of swipes and taps. It does have on-screen buttons that you can map on the Kunai Gamepad. I tried the screen and gamepad combo here but that didn’t feel like a natural way to play.

Instead of playing PUBG, I opted to try Call of Duty Mobile. This is perhaps the game I enjoyed the most. The Team Deathmatch mode feels like a throwback to my time playing Counter-Strike waaaaay back in the day. This game plays really well whether you’re just using the phone or if you have the Kunai Gamepad equipped. Quick note though, the right analog stick’s sensitivity is pretty bad for aiming, so I stuck with aiming on the screen instead of using the gamepad.

Next, I played Honkai Impact 3. It’s an Action-RPG and is probably one of the best use-cases for the Kunai Gamepad. The graphics is near-console if not already console-level, and all the buttons you need to press can all be mapped on the Gamepad. It was an absolute joy to play.

I also tried NBA Live Mobile. I’m too cheap to spend on NBA 2K20 and I’d rather play that on my PS4 so for mobile I went with EA’s free-to-play game. It plays alright and you can also get the most out of the Kunai Gamepad here, but I don’t see myself playing this for any other reason than for testing devices.

Lastly, I played Asphalt 9 which had direct integration with the Kunai Gamepad. This was hands down the best experience. The game detected the Gamepad right away and took me straight to a tutorial knowing the gamepads were equipped.

Takeaway? The whole experience is a mixed bag. That’s not to say it’s bad, but wouldn’t be better if the accessories just worked seamlessly with the games?

The one thing holding the ROG Phone 2 back is a wider support from a larger catalogue of games. It’s a tough ask. However, if ROG can get more game developers involved, that could take mobile gaming to another level.

You might have noticed I barely mentioned the other accessories. I think after the Kunai Gamepad, the next most useful one is probably the Mobile Desktop Dock. But that requires you to get a few more other peripherals if you don’t already own them.

The ASUS Wigig Dock can be helpful but if you’re a gamer and you own a TV, I’m willing to bet you also probably own a console. Personally, I don’t see the appeal of playing mobile games on a bigger screen. But that may just be me. If you enjoy it, that’s perfectly fine.

And then there’s the Twin View Dock II. It’s an interesting piece of tech and almost aligns with the foldables that came out in 2019. But like those other foldables, it still feels premature. As of writing, it only really supports two games. You may discover other use-cases for this but I find the price too steep for an experiment.

Is this your GadgetMatch?

To give the ROG Phone 2 a low rating simply because it’s not a smartphone that’s catered for the general public is criminally missing the point.

ROG knows who its market is. I’d like to think this phone was made specifically with them in mind. And if you think that market is small then you must have been living under a rock.

The gaming industry is worth billions of dollars. It’s attracting so many eyeballs that Netflix considers Twitch more of a competitor over other entertainment streaming platforms. That’s how big gaming has become.

So if you played any game, on any platform, for an extended amount of time at any point in your life, I would consider taking a look at the ROG Phone 2. That’s with or without the accessories.

At PhP 49,995, it’s priced right around other flagships that are built for a general audience — fancy cameras, multitasking, a little bit of gaming, and all that jazz. However, none of them are made for a specific set of people that’s steadily increasing in numbers. That’s where the ROG Phone 2 sets itself apart. For the people that this phone is made for, it’s absolutely perfect.

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