Gaming

The Last of Us Part II review: An aftermath of ruthlessness

One man’s decision led to a world descending into chaos

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The ending of The Last of Us put me in a position to play out a decision on the fate of humanity. It’s a decision that Joel, one of the main protagonists, made because he felt it was the right one. If you haven’t played nor finished the game, spoiler alert: he saves a young Ellie from life-altering surgery but leaves dead bodies in the process.

The cover art for The Last of Us Remastered featuring Joel and young Ellie

Naughty Dog had its critically-acclaimed masterpiece, a crowning moment of compelling storytelling mixed with awesome gameplay. Surviving a world filled with mostly Infected people kept the action going on all cylinders. The question I had after finishing that game almost a year ago was simple: what’s next?

I came into playing The Last of Us Part II with all the mental preparation possible. Of course, I needed to remember how the prequel felt from all angles. At some point, I felt like I also needed to jog my memory of all the characters again. I was ready to dive back into blowing up heads and getting into another Infected hellhole.

Except, it’s much deeper than an ordinary survival game.

In my preview of the game, I mentioned that this time around, you play as Ellie. You remember her, that little girl who was immune to the infection? In this game, she’s all grown up — at least, past the legal age, and resides in Jackson, Wyoming. This comes nearly five years after the events of the prequel’s ending.

A deep and horrific tragedy strikes Ellie during her days in Jackson, which prompts her to plunge back into post-apocalyptic America with revenge on her mind. She ventures into Seattle, going through any length or depth to achieve it. It’s your typical “revenge story” but it gets dark pretty quick.

It’s a story that heavily references scenes from the prequel while detailing the immediate fallout. It’s something that long time fans of The Last of Us will immensely appreciate if they got through it. There are moments in the story that offer light-hearted moments, or sometimes even just moments to rest. But the game doesn’t break away one bit from the gruesome realities Ellie has to deal with.

Improvement in gameplay was in emphasizing on the underused

The Last of Us Part II didn’t change much in terms of core gameplay mechanics; rather, they improved on these to make sense. Since you’re playing a much younger character, you will naturally move faster, and access higher places with relative ease. Naughty Dog made it all make sense, as Ellie can climb, swim, jump between platforms, and swing on rope-like objects.

Sometimes, it’s better to hide from your enemies first before taking them out, one by one.

But the biggest thing they’ve improved on was an increased emphasis in the stealth mechanic. The prequel had you running up to your enemies guns ablazing as the preferred mode of combat, with stealth as just a mere option if you’re too scared. This time, with more dangerous enemies coming your way, it’s best to keep hiding.

This isn’t a stealth mechanic that hinges entirely on hiding, however. It’s a combat tactic that allows you to outsmart your opponents every chance you get. Plus, Listen Mode makes a return in the sequel, with much improved range to show you enemy activity. Trust me, you wouldn’t want to fight a mixed bag of human enemies and Infected in one go — especially since… 

Your enemies are either smarter and more elusive, or deadlier

Ellie coming face-to-face with a Seraphite, a faction that focuses more on elusive strategies

You will come across two human factions, both with their own set of beliefs on mankind’s survival against the Infected. Both these groups have their own combat styles and strategies to hunt you down. It’s really up to you on how to approach the members of these groups, although I personally enjoyed popping off on all of them.

Ellie encounters the Wolves, a group of former Fireflies that often attack in small units

Your human enemies are now smarter in that sense; more often than not, they take you on in groups and chip away at your health fast. Some of your enemies even start attacks through signals and even use attack dogs to smell you out. It truly adds a whole new dynamic that will have you thinking on your feet.

The Infected still roam free, but time has made them more aggressive. You still get your usual amount of Runners and Clickers, but your approach towards them differs entirely on their volume. 

Your first encounter with the Shambler, an enhanced Bloater with toxic waste

Meanwhile, Stalkers are still sinister in approach, and chip away more health when attacking. The game even introduces a new type of Infected in the Shambler, a more dangerous Bloater that spews out toxic waste. The Last of Us experience wouldn’t be complete without it, honestly but that wasn’t the main focus.

All of this, and what’s it all for?

Beneath the fantastic gameplay, rich scenery, and the dangers of the world around her, Ellie comes face-to-face with her innate desire for revenge. This, above all else becomes the focal point of the entire game. In her mind, survival wasn’t enough; someone had to pay for what happened.

The sequel improves on the core gameplay by simply favoring one over the other. The dangers of a post-apocalyptic world will have you fighting for your life once you’ve placed yourself in it. Once you’re in the fight, flight is no longer an option. As time rolls on, you’ll encounter smarter and deadlier enemies, and your approach matters.

Ellie embarks on her most dangerous adventure through stormy Seattle

And yet behind the facade of a quiet yet destroyed world lies a story of hatred, obsession, and revenge. It’s a story that will remind you of just how far one is willing to go to serve a cold dish of it. But no act of revenge will reverse the tragedies; no amount of killing will reverse right or wrongdoings in the past.

The Last of Us Part II was an exercise in ruthlessness and shows no mercy for its audience. It’s not afraid to go beyond the realm of morality and logic, just to prove a point. When it gets right down to it, it seeks to remind us of how one decision changes everything.

Ellie’s journey for revenge begins on June 19, exclusively for the PlayStation 4.

Gaming

Tales of ARISE releases on Sept 9

Collector Edition also announced

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Tales of ARISE

The long-running Tales series (25 years now!) has a new title coming! Tales of ARISE will be released in Southeast Asia on September 9, 2021.

Here’s the release date trailer to get you hyped.

What is Tales of ARISE?

The game will follow the story of Rena — the star that has been ruling the Dahna planet with an iron fist for the past 300 years. Renans have been depleting Dahna of its natural resources, enslaving most of the planet’s population in order to do so.

This tale follows the fight to free Dahnans of their fate and will be experienced through the eyes of Alphen, an iron-masked Dahnan fighting to free his people, and Shionne, a girl from Rena, who’s on the run from her countrymen. They will be joined through their journey by characters like Rinwell and Law that will help them in their fight for freedom.

Southeast Asia Game Editions

Tales of ARISE

All pre-orders and Day-1 retail package version will receive a new costume for Alphen and Shionne, as well as outfits accessories and new cooking recipes and ingredients.

  • Tales of Arise retail package version is only available for the PlayStation 5 and PlayStation 4 in Southeast Asia.
  • The package version includes pre-order digital bonus only for the first production. The number of initial production is limited and will end as soon as it runs out.

Digital Platforms

On Digital platforms, a Deluxe and an Ultimate edition will be available. The Deluxe edition will have the following items:

  • Premium Item Pack, containing gold, cooking items and Boosts
  • Premium Costume Pack, including 8 full costumes and 6 accessories
  • Premium Travel Pack, allowing for better cooking and crafting abilities as well as discounts in shops

The Ultimate Edition will have all the content from the Deluxe Edition as well as new costumes for the characters including special costumes in collaboration with other BANDAI NAMCO Entertainment games.

Tales of ARISE

A physical Collector Edition will be available and include the same content as the Ultimate Edition, along with an exclusive figurine, a Steelbook, an Artbook and the game’s Soundtrack. This edition can be purchased at participating retailers in Southeast Asia.

A special Hootle Edition will be available exclusively and in limited quantities on the BANDAI NAMCO Entertainment Asia store at a later date. This edition will include, in addition to the base game, a metal case, an Artbook, the Soundtrack, a 15 cm Hootle plush along with 4 accessories, Hootle DLC for the game as well as stickers and 3 art prints.

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Gaming

NieR Replicant ver.1.22474487139… Review

Playable Anime

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NieR Replicant

An earnest protagonist, a “tsundere” who’s also kind of there for fan service, an almost fourth-wall breaking character, and a world dealing with an underlying crisis; NieR Replicant ver. 1.222474487139 (which we’ll refer to as NieR Replicant henceforth) has all the elements of a wonderful anime. Except, it’s a game — one that goes out of its way to offer multiple types of play.

After getting through a single playthrough of NieR Replicant, I found that most of the things I said I liked in my first impressions (music, gameplay, combat, dialogue) were the ones that will endear me to the game even further.

Everything for your sister

As the protagonist, you play the role of a brother who will do just about anything and everything for your sister. The game starts off with you looking for a way to cure the mysterious illness that’s befallen your sister.

This is the main driving force of the main character. All his actions in the main storyline are all in the service of doing what’s best for his sister.

A memorable cast

Along the way you meet the rest of the main cast. This includes a magical, talking, floating book named Grimoir Weiss who serves as both a helpful ally and a backseat protagonist who never fails to point out the obvious in every situation in a way that almost feels like it’s being directed at the player.

You’ll also build a certain level of kinship with people in your town as well as key characters in every main area of the game. This includes the two other members of your party: Kaine and Emil — both of which also have interesting backstories which I will not spoil here. Just know that all these relationships and it resonates with you, the player, will determine much of what you’ll feel about the game’s story.

NieR Replicant

“Fan Service” Kaine

Dealing with loss

One thing that you will constantly encounter in the game is the feeling of dealing with loss. It already feels heavy on its own, but if I may step back a bit. Having to deal with loss in real life recently and feeling the collective grief of people in my circle also having to deal with the same just amplifies the general feeling of hopelessness and emptiness of experiencing loss.

This feeling, however prevalent in the game, is perfectly balanced by the injection of humor from Grimoir Weiss and the happy memories you have with the ones you’ve lost. Memories also play a part in key points of the story.

Multi-faceted gameplay 

Shifting the tone a little bit, the overall gameplay of NieR Replicant will keep you on your toes.

It’s not just a mindless hack and slash game. There are sections where it’ll turn into a 2D platformer with some sprinkles of puzzle solving.

The level designs are fantastic. One thing that stood out to me is how the Square Enix and Toylogic very intentionally frames certain levels. Since this is, after all, a sort of remake of game that was first released in 2010, it is free from the burden of giving the player full camera control. This results in beautifully framed scenes as you play.

There’s one particular area that reminds me of the camera work on the original Resident Evil games on the PlayStation One.

Later on in the game, you’ll enter a deeper portion of that area and it will give you an entire section of the game that looks and plays like Diablo II. 

These areas are all perfectly placed in different sections of the game that certainly adds to the overall pacing. It can feel draggy, especially when you’re doing side quests, but having levels and areas like this make it all better. Oh and yeah, take some time to do side quests, it’ll help with getting gold (the game’s currency), some useful items, and immerse you further in the game’s world.

Here’s a quick look at the combat in the early part of the game.

The music is just… *chef’s kiss

I’ve already talked about this at length in my first impressions. But even then, it would be a disservice to not mention it here again. The music in this game is just my cup of tea.

It’s the kind of music that really transports you into the game world. If you’ve ever had fantasies of being whisked away to a different reality, the music in this game is what you would imagine to be playing.

It perfectly evokes the proper mood in every area of the game. The main village gives off this “going on an epic adventure” vibe, the area filled with robots sound robotic, and the aforementioned Resident Evil-like area fills you with horror. You can even say it almost foreshadows the fate of some levels and locations. That’s how good the music in this game is.

You can listen to the 2010 versions of the music here. Bear in mind that most of these were re-done/re-recorded for NieR Replicant ver. 1.222474487139.

Should you play NieR Replicant ver.1.22474487139… ?

Anyone who’s into narrative-driven games should give NieR Replicant a whirl. That’s also especially true if you’re an anime fan. It will feel familiar because of certain tropes, some fan service, and a time skip.

It’s a fantastic entry point into the whole NieR franchise. It will get you curious about the NieR world at large and will certainly make you want to explore or replay the 2017 hit game NieR:Automata. But of course, not before you give NieR Replicant ver. 1.22474487139… all the playthroughs it deserves.

NieR Replicant ver. 1.22474487139… is available April 23 on PS4, Xbox One, and PC on Steam.

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Gaming

Sony says it won’t shut down PS3, Vita stores

It admits shut-down was the wrong decision

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Sony PS3
Photo by Nikita Kostrykin on Unsplash

At the end of March, Sony had announced that it’d be shutting down PS3, Vita, and PSP game stores. This meant that users wouldn’t be able to purchase new games and media content through those consoles. It has decided to backtrack on its decision now.

For the foreseeable future, Sony PlayStation will continue to support the purchase of classic games on PS3 and PS Vita. The PSP will still retire on July 2, 2021.

“It’s clear we made the wrong decision here,” Sony Interactive Entertainment President and CEO Jim Ryan wrote on the PlayStation Blog. He sighted commerce support challenges as a leading cause behind the decision to shutter the store. Sony also intended to focus on new-gen products like the PlayStation 4 and 5.

Though the decision received widespread criticism, and the community was fuming. Many games use PlayStation Now to play PlayStation 3 or Vita compatible titles on the newer consoles. Closing down the online store would’ve dealt a huge blow to existing users.

“We see now that many of you are incredibly passionate about being able to continue purchasing classic games on PS3 and PS Vita for the foreseeable future, so I’m glad we were able to find a solution to continue operations,” Ryan added.

Before the company’s reversal, VGC reported that more than 2,000 digital-only games were at risk of being lost forever. The PSP won’t be getting a life extension, and online services will be closing down as planned.

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