Atelier Series Overview – Part 2 – The Dusk Trilogy

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As a whole, the Dusk Trilogy of the Atelier series concerns the world of Dusk and its inhabitants.  The world itself seems to be dying in a number of ways- seas are drying up, lands are becoming barren, and there appear to be new dangers every day.  If this sounds dismal- it kind of is. The world of Dusk is probably the darkest of the Atelier worlds. The art direction and stories of this trilogy feel grittier, despite still dealing in a lot of anime-flavored tropes and styles.


On a personal note, this trilogy is my favorite of the Atelier series that I have gotten to experience.  As a horror and drama fan, this game appealed to my tastes in a strong way (despite nothing involved to actually be considered “horror”).  While I have my qualms with how it was handled overall, each entry felt strong in this trilogy and the mechanics were sound. The art direction- now in the hands of an artist named Hidari- also veers toward the more ethereal feeling that the games have been sticking with since.

While the Dusk trilogy is not quite as lauded as the Arland trilogy or as current as the Mysterious trilogy, it weaves an intriguing tale that stands apart from the usual fare of the series while retaining most of the elements that make the Atelier games so unique and engaging.
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An Eerie Echo of Time and Place – PC – Perception – 2017

20181006201905_1Perception
PC
Deep End Games/Feardemic
Genre: Survival Horror
2017

Having lived in New England my entire life, I’m no stranger to films that involve the Boston and general North Shore areas of Massachusetts.  Given that authors like Stephen King and H.P. Lovecraft also center quite a bit of their work around the New England area, there is plenty of horror related literature to reference that center around Maine and Rhode Island.  Gaming has also recently had a few prominent settings in the area, notably Fallout 4 which takes place in The Commonwealth a.k.a. Massachusetts.  In most media, you only have to look in a general direction to find work that centers around this section of the country.  I mean, it’s been around long enough to gain some kind of attention.

I had originally heard of Perception at PAX a couple of years back and while I didn’t get to check out the demo, my friends did and raved about it.  I threw it on to a list of games I would keep an eye on and when I looked into it, I realized that not only did the game take place in New England, but it was also developed by a company based right out of Boston.  From that point, I don’t think the game fell off of my radar until I purchased it during a sale on Steam.

Given my backlog, I had tried getting into the game once before and wound up distracted by other things in my life (and probably other games, to be honest) but given the time of year, I’ve been trying to work through some of the spookier games in my library.  I settled on the fact that I owed it to myself to play through Perception to see if my initial hype could be lived up to, especially given the unique mechanics of the game that I had heard so much about.
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A Grotesque and Beautiful Love Letter – Friday the 13th’s Virtual Cabin and Challenges

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Given that we’re smack in the middle of the spooky season- and yes, for many of us, Halloween is a month-long celebration- I find that this is one of the easiest times to marry two of my pop culture passions: video games and horror movies.  I’ve made it a mission to play through a few of the horror games I’ve been stowing in my backlog, hence my last review of Layers of Fear and hopefully at least one or two more before the pumpkins and sheets with holes in them are tucked away until next year.

Something keeps bringing me back to GunMedia’s Friday the 13th, though.  I’m not big on multiplayer that involves matching up with random people and trying to play a game as I’ve had one too many toxic encounters and, to be honest, it makes me a little anxious to think about despite having had plenty of pleasant rounds of this one.  Oddly enough, though, I’m enamored with the single-player offerings that the game has on display.  For those of you who are hesitant to grab the game but are fans of the series, allow me to expound on why I still love this game despite not jumping into the real heart of its contents as a stellar-but-still-flawed asymmetrical horror romp.  If you’re not a fan- well, obviously I still hope you enjoy this little off-the-cuff spurt of excitement.

Also, just as a precaution, there are some minor spoilers involved below, just in case anyone wants to go in completely blind to either of the single-player parts of the game.

Give Me Something To Scream About

20180525093419_1It’s easier to pinpoint exactly what I love about the single-player Challenges.  With a total of ten ‘vignettes’, Friday the 13th puts you in the grimy boots of the infamous Jason Voorhees as is in the middle of trying to murder a number of teenagers.  While this is exactly what one might expect, there’s a degree of difficulty in opening the next Challenge from the one you are attempting, as you have to put to use keeping track of where your targets are, who might be in their line of sight, and what tools are at your disposal.  I’m told this is a lot like the Hitman games, but I honestly haven’t tried those yet so I have to take other gamers’ words for that.

The beauty of these Challenges is all of them are slight variations on scenes from the films.  The first finds you just off of a clearing where two young men are having car trouble and while one attempts to fix the car, the other goes off into the woods to relieve himself.  Fans of the series will almost instantly recognize this from Friday the 13th Part V: A New Beginning.  Another has you causing a power outage, resulting in a stoner couple who have to fix the problem among other people on the grounds.  This echoes back to my favorite entry, Friday the 13th Part 3, and winds up playing out much like the climax of that movie does.

20180525095913_1The developers were smart about this, however, and they vary up the scenarios so that they feel fresh and a little unfamiliar, partially due to the plugging of the game’s counselors into the roles fans already know and also due to the aspects that sometimes, characters will do something completely different than their analog in the film does.  They really do become challenging after the first few, given that I still haven’t actually “completed” the final scenario.  Challenges are good fun snippets that play out like a highlight reel for the Friday the 13th series and if like me, you aren’t fantastic at stealth style games, you’ll get some hours worth trying to perfect each mission.

“Paul, There’s Someone In This Room…”

20171222014550_1Where I really spent a lot of time, however, was in the game’s Virtual Cabin.  When you first ‘boot up’ the cabin, you find yourself in a nice cozy space that has been frozen in time.  Teenagers lean against the railing of the second-floor overhang, the room is in just enough disarray to show it’s been lived in, and the only way anything moves is if you pick it up or manipulate it.  After inputting some information on a nearby computer, you can move about and hover over nearly every item that stands out during which you are given the option to interact with it.  Most of these items will result in a pop-up with some snippet of information about the game, the film series, or something about the actors and development involving both.  At its core, the Virtual Cabin is an interactive encyclopedia of knowledge on Friday the 13th that even I, as a pretty stalwart fan, found some new bits of information from.  That in and of itself was pretty worthwhile to me.

20171222014622_1Then I noticed the puzzles.  Small items that were out of place made their way into my ‘inventory’.  The first time this happened, I stopped and my heart got a little fluttery- I wasn’t just looking up facts.  There was a game to be played here and I would be damned if I wouldn’t solve these puzzles.  Some of them involved putting figurines into a diorama of a scene from one of the movies in their correct positions.  Another involved putting the different masks that Jason has worn in order on hooks against the wall.  Every piece brought me closer to- something.  I wasn’t really sure what.  Eventually, I found my way into a part of the cabin I couldn’t get into before and with one interaction, it was over.

That didn’t seem right.

20171222012939_1I jumped back in and after some struggles (and I’ll admit, a quick glance at a walkthrough), I found myself in a very different Virtual Cabin.  To be clear, it was the same but after a few actions, the lights were out.  The power box now had a large axe jutting from it.  The frozen teenagers weren’t in their spots anymore in the main lobby of the cabin.  There was a sense that someone was definitely in the cabin with me and that I was no longer safely doing puzzles and learning about my favorite film series.  It felt like I was plunged into a survival horror situation.  Hovering over things now gave different information which was still interesting trivia but stressed that I was now in a very unfamiliar setting.  Once again, there were puzzles to be solved- but I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t a little tense and dangerous to be walking around at that point.

All of that was before the third run through.

Some Folks Sure Got a Strange Idea of Entertainment

I won’t go any further with describing the Virtual Cabin experience since hopefully, you’ll get the chance to check it out yourself some time if it interests you.  Are the Challenges and the Virtual Cabin worth the price of the whole game?  Not really, though you can definitely get your hours worth out of them if you’re a big fan of the film series.  While the multiplayer aspect of the game is pretty fun, I’ve honestly gotten a lot of mileage out of the single-player that I didn’t expect.  I also think that this aspect gets swept into the shadow of the online aspects of Friday the 13th unfairly.  If you’ve bought the game as an enthusiast and you haven’t spent time in the single-player modes, you really should.  A lot of love for the source material and quality work went into both aspects and neither aspect really seem to get the recognition they deserve.

On that, happy haunting and have a great time until we meet again!

– Matt (a.k.a. The3rdPlayer)

Simple Deeds and Sufferings of Light – PC – Layers of Fear – 2016

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Layers of Fear

PC
Aspys / Bloober Team
Genre: Horror
2016

Over the years, horror as a genre has branched off quite a bit.  While the genre wasn’t exactly a stranger to symbolism or subtext, time has lent itself to certain horror offerings exercising the cerebral and dramatic.  Video games have been doing this for some time now thanks to certain developers working to deepen the artform that video games have started to be recognized as.  Games like Silent Hill and Rule of Rose have taken a whole mythos and forums full of discussion to dissect- and it’s all been amazing to watch unfold as a horror fan.

Layers of Fear is an indie effort that attempts to marry the horror genre with drama and surrealism.  While a few games have done this, I had heard a lot about Layers of Fear from my friends- and yet had heard very little about it aside from it would be right up my alley and that I needed to try it.  Given my extensive Steam library, I thought it would be a while before I got the chance to play it. In a stroke of generosity, a friend of mine gifted me a copy so I could finally check out the experience.

That was about a year or so ago.

Well, now it’s the season and in between replays of Clock Tower and Friday the 13th, I’m making it my goal to get to some of the creepier titles I haven’t had the chance to break into yet.  First up on my list ended up being this one since I was in the mood for the kind of game I had at least thought it was.  Allow me to detail for all of you the experience I had after a year of anticipation for this game and all it had to offer.
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September in Review

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Well, it’s been a while since I put together a month in review, but I felt like I should check in, pop up a summary of the past month or so and let you folks know what’s coming up in October- also known as my favorite month of the year!

Some of you may have noticed a small surge in articles this past month that lasted a few days.  I’ve had some pieces sitting on the back burner for a while that I’ve been waiting for the motivation to get through, and while I’ve had some difficulties in my personal life, it felt like a good idea to sink into some writing and distract myself.  Seems to have worked since I got some of my pieces done and out to the world!

As far as reviews are concerned, I got three of them wrapped up spanning a good amount of time in the gaming universe.  While I enjoyed Capcom’s Resident Evil Gaiden for the Gameboy Color and Goosebumps from Wayforward Games for the PC, I have to specifically mention Konami’s Tiny Toon Adventures adaptation on the NES as a personal favorite that I got to play and write about recently.  All of the games are worth a look, though, flaws or not.

Review – Resident Evil Gaiden
Review – Goosebumps: The Game
Review – Tiny Toon Adventures

On the more editorial side of things, I ventured into a well-trodden territory as well as a newer concept for the blog.  On the more familiar side, I pondered over the new Playstation Classic Mini that is coming out and what games it might include.  It’s part wishlist and part developer logic, but there are quite a few games that could make me excited to check into the upcoming ‘system’.

Editorial – My Top 10(ish) Predictions for Games Coming to the PSOne Classic Mini

I’ve also been chomping at the bit for the new Atelier game coming out from Gust this Winter, Nelke and the Legendary Alchemists.  It should be no surprise to anyone that I’m checking daily for new information and already have my copy pre-ordered.  At the recent Tokyo Game Show, a new trailer appeared featuring a number of characters and a bright charming theme song.  As a huge Atelierphile, I felt the urge to break down the trailer to see who’s involved, how, and who appears to be missing- along with a few other tidbits!

Editorial – Nelke and the Legendary Alchemists – TGS Trailer Breakdown

Other Posts and Blogs to Follow

As always, I highly recommend checking out Red Metal over at Extra Life Reviews.  Semi-recently, he finished up his Legend of Zelda retrospective on the entire series (including an addendum that wraps up his feelings on each entry and works as a handy pivot point to check out all of the reviews therein!)

Over at Adventure Rules, Robert Ian Shepard wrote about his newfound appreciation for Animal Crossing: New Leaf on his second attempt at playing it.  I’ve had a very similar recurrence of Animal Crossing in my life as a stress reliever, so reading his post on this was really interesting!  He also has a few cool articles on Fire Emblem you should poke around for if you’re interested.  He’s also big on community building, which has been nice to witness!

LightningEllen over at Livid Lightning has also been big on community and has been reposting a bunch of her old posts- which has been a great look at some fun and thoughtful pieces.  I don’t have much more to say aside from that her blog is really worth keeping an eye on and catching up with.

There are so many other awesome bloggers to check out so please do yourself a favor, especially if you have Twitter or some other method to check some of these folks out- do it when you get the chance.  Even if it’s just one article to see if their writing style works for you, read what you can, comment if you have the time, and go check out some new blogs.  My little blurbs here don’t have nearly enough scope or do enough justice to comment on how rich with content the community is.

What’s Coming Up?

Well, October and Halloween are my favorite times of the year so you can expect some focus on horror type games in between more posts about collecting and commentaries.

My piece for the ‘Games That Define Us’ collaboration (put together by the fantastic Matt over at Normal Happenings) and while I’m (of course) going through some anxieties about my piece- it’s mostly because so many of the pieces I got to take a peek at are really good and interesting to read.  It should be starting to post after October, but I wanted to get it on your radar now so that you can look forward to it as much as I am!

I also have a few more pieces that have come in for the collections.  Once I get the chance, I’ll be putting up some more information and pictures to share in my excitement about those.  Also, a special shout-out to my buddy over at Cheap Boss Attack for helping me with some key collection items recently!

I’ve also started working on the next piece of the Atelier overview, though I realize I have a little bit more to write about Fire Emblem, as well.  No promises there, but my goal is to have more information on one of the modern trilogies up by November!

Last but not least, I’m currently doing a ‘Tweet a Day’ style post on 31 characters from horror gaming I appreciate and enjoy.  Given my love of horror movies and my love of gaming (and my love of horror gaming, who are we kidding?), I wanted to spread the seasonal feeling of Halloween through my social media a bit!  If you don’t frequent Twitter, though, no worries- I’ll make a few posts once we get through some of the characters with some blurbs on why I enjoy them and make it a legitimate series of posts here.

With that, I hope you’re all enjoying your first day of October!  Let me know what you’re up to this month, what you’re playing, or just generally how things are in the comments or on Twitter!

Happy Gaming!

– Matt (a.k.a The3rdSlayer)

…see what I did there?  Did- did you see?  Because- because of Hallow-

…never mind.  Happy Gaming!