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Hello again! I’ve decided to take a small break from my anime reviews to talk to you all about basically the game that I play. Yes, I got briefly back into The Binding of Isaac: Rebirth but that was a small excursion from my usual habit of religiously devoting hours a day to a momentum platformer called N++.
If you don’t immediately recognize it, then you’ll probably recognize its grandpa, N.
N is a flash game in which you play as a ninja that has to pass through collections of five levels (called episodes), avoiding mines, rockets, turrets, and drones to reach the exit. You die in one hit, and your controls are very floaty. N later was updated into Nv1.4, and then even later into Nv2.0, and then it finally got an official sequel titled N+. You can then reasonably assume that N++ came after that.
However, I was two when N was released in March of 2004. N+ was released for the handheld consoles DS and PSP, which I never had. N++ itself was released for PS4 in 2015, and for the PC in 2016. Now this was a more reasonable time for me to discover the game and begin to play it. I have basically played PC games my whole life (PC master race, woot woot), and I was already known to be very into arcade style games. But no! 14 year-old me in 2016 was completely oblivious still, and during the time that I was unaware, an expansion to the game came out in 2017, making it N++ Ultimate Edition. However, it was later the same year that I finally discovered this series, as I bought it on steam in December of 2017, as a 16 year old.
Shout-out to my friend Liam for showing me this game when I went to his house once. Thanks, man.
But! This article isn’t exactly about the history of the N series. It’s about how this travels through all the right pathways in my brain, and has made its mark on me as a person. Oh, and how if any of what I’m about to describe sounds relatable to you, you should absolutely check it out. Without further ado… let’s begin!
Now is when I have to figure out what is most important to say about N++. I think I’ll mention things in the order you would notice them as a new player. The game is ferociously minimalist; the UIs are purely utilitarian, the main menu just has the normal game playing in the background, the music is constant and goes through a “radio” selection of songs, the visuals consist of lines and basic shapes, and there’s no story (except on the technicality that there are two paragraphs under the “story” option on the main menu, but that doesn’t really count).
When you play the actual game, your level selection is just a grid. A series of boxes. Your tutorial is wordless, unless you navigate to the “help” option in the main menu, which I would say is very much optional. The actual tutorial, the Intro tab, has lines of gold to incentivize you to learn your movement options and that’s that, maybe with level titles as hints.
That, of course, is when you will notice the main draw of this game. The movement.
My best word to describe it would be smooth. My second best word would be floaty. My third, fourth, and fifth are high skill ceiling. I have never played a game with better controls. Yes, as implied with “floaty”, the ninja feels very light, and can stay in the air quite a long time. Also, since the physics play a lot into momentum, you have to spend a good amount of time figuring out how long it takes to cancel out your inertia. If you’re going full speed to the right, you have to press left much sooner than you think if you want to make a tight turnaround.
But that is what gives this game such a high skill ceiling. Being good at that stuff isn’t necessary for playing the base game. There are a few times it will make you have to do tight maneuvers, but only in the later levels, by which point you should be plenty capable of doing what it asks of you, and what it asks of you is not nearly the limit of how tight you can get it. Getting good at this game feels good. You have so much room for improvement at all times, it’s crazy. I’m 1,500 hours in and I can still feel myself getting better. The way you can jump off slopes, the angles you can get when hitting the corners of blocks, how close you can get to different hitboxes without touching them… the speed you can obtain when playing perfectly. It’s ridiculous. And the whole game is built around making attaining that level of skill feel natural and engaging.
Speaking of the base game (even if I said it at the beginning of the last paragraph…)
So, slight spoiler alert. The biggest thing that separates N++ from its predecessors. The — here’s where the spoiler is — secret challenges!
The base game is compsoed of 385 episodes, each of which has 5 levels, making 1925 levels just to beat the base game. That’s not including co-op, which essentially doubles this number. But then, there are 240 secret levels. Well, what’s 240 more levels in the face of the previous 1925? That doesn’t sound like a huge addition to the game.
To which I say: no no no no, you don’t understand… to get these secret levels, you have to complete secret challenges.
There are 4 tabs. The Intro tab, the N++ tab, the Ultimate tab, and the Legacy tab. N++ and Ultimate each have one secret level per episode, and to get the secret level for the episode, you have to complete secret challenges for each level within the episode. That’s right. 1200 of the levels from the base game have at least one secret challenge. Many — most — have multiple. That takes a single level and turns it into sometimes more than five separate experiences. This, once again, nearly doubles the content in the game.
To see these challenges, you also have to collect all the gold in a level, though that is a less hidden goal. Each of the secret levels also have their own secret challenges, except these levels are known to be chock full of them, so they are each maybe four to five experiences on average.
I have also, up to this point, failed to mention the no-death runs of episodes, and also the hardcore stories, each of which are 25 levels in a row. Oh, and of course, no-death runs of the hardcore stories are also rewarded with completion points.
By now I hope you are appreciating the full breadth of content this game has. It is insanity. And this… this is all the official stuff!
I’m personally drawn to the game largely by two other factors. First and most intended, userlevels.
As if the normal game wasn’t enough, you have virtually endless content in the form of user made maps, and some of the people making levels are unbelievably good at it. Admittedly, this game is… a bit buggy, which is its whole own discussion, but it basically never inhibits gameplay. It is very apparent, however, in the menus. To make it quick, the Best & Top Weekly tabs are broken, as well as the Tracked & Favorited By Friends tabs, oh and the Made By Friends tab. So. Many tabs here are completely defunct.
But what is here is great! You can either scroll through Newest to see what’s been going on as of late, or you can pass through Featured to see what the devs of the game themselves have vetted and decided are userlevels worth showing off. They are meant to be representative of the highest quality that the mapping community has to offer. I would tend to agree that they hold to this standard, and that is not biased by the fact that I am now on the review team, thank you very much… ahem, anyways.
Behold some userlevels I think help illustrate my point:
I think now would be a good time to end this article. I should leave things for you to discover, right? Well, I’ll briefly mention that the highscoring scene is fiercely competitive and yet has the least toxic competitors I have seen, period. I myself have obtained a 0th (the leaderboards like to be fancy and have 1st place be marked with a 0), and the experience was entirely positive. The guy I took it from even congratulated me, and I’m certain he actually meant it.
The last thing is that the devs accidentally left a way for you to add in custom color palettes (palettes being a feature that also separates N++ from its predecessors, which is great for me since its classic colors are very very boring in my opinion). I have had a blast not only creating my own palettes, but feeling like a part of the community by helping other people with theirs. It’s really fun and taps into my creativity in a way that really blindsided me.
And now, I play no other video games unless I am with friends. 1,500 hours in and I see no signs of stopping. I have found my game. I hope I have convinced some of you to give it a try (and if you do end up trying the game because of me, why not join the N++ discord and let me know?).
I don’t have a very good way to end this article so I’ll just leave it like this:
PLAY THIS GAME!
The Last of Us, a game developed by Naughty Dog that was, and still is, highly praised by gamers from all over. Ever since the ending, fans have been waiting patiently for the possible sequel, and now, after being revealed in 2016, we are finally able to experience the continuation of Joel and Ellie’s story. However, due to some serious backlash from fans, I felt that I should bring some positive feedback, to show that the game isn’t as bad as many claimed it is. Because of its playstyle, I decided to take the time to watch someone else (Jacksepticeye) play The Last of Us Part 2, that way I can really analyze everything about the game. Please note that this analysis will be spoiler-free, so I’ll be very vague about a lot of things that occur in the story (out of respect for those that have yet to play the game). One last thing that I want to talk about, before moving on, is that the only knowledge I have about the sequel is the first two trailers that were released. Please keep this in mind as you read this article.
The World and The Game’s Graphics
One of the first things that stood out at the start of the game was the major improvement in graphics and the changes in the world. Looking back at The Last of Us, it’s very noticeable with how much the graphics have aged. I wouldn’t say that they look terrible, they just don’t look as good as they did back in 2013. Despite this, the game is still enjoyable and it doesn’t take away the beauty of the story. Fast forward to 2020 with The Last of Us Part 2 and you can tell that Naughty Dog has really upped their game. Long story short, this game is gorgeous to look at. The amount of attention to detail with the characters and the environment is mindblowing, even small things that wouldn’t seem important were given plenty of love. The way the blood dilutes in puddles of water, the way that nature is reclaiming what human civilization took away, and the different types of reflections from different surfaces were some of my favorites. I also found it fascinating to see the actual changes that your character’s weapons, since I have little to no knowledge in that area of expertise. Even if it was something small, like adding a handle to a crossbow for more stable aiming, it added more to the weapons/equipment.
Despite only four years have passed in the story, the world has definitely gone through changes. Remember how much vegetation was growing everywhere on the buildings and roads in the first game? Well, that has increased when you travel to Seattle, which is where most of the game takes place. There are trees and grass growing in places you wouldn’t even imagine being a possibility. It’s not just the vegetation growing in unexpected places, the destruction that the buildings have gone through over time is absolutely mindblowing. While I have never personally been to Seattle, a ton of research and attention to detail was put into recreating a destroyed version of the city. While not every building is shown (due to copyright with different businesses), the people responsible for recreating Seattle did a phenomenal job. The craziest part is how much is surrounded by water. Hell, the famous Space Needle and the area around it is surrounded by water and has become an island. Because it’s Seattle, it rains ALOT in this game, which constantly made me concerned for the characters’ health. Despite there being so much rain, the rain is very beautiful, especially when you watch the drops hit the puddles. There are sections of the city where you have to travel by boat, and personally, those are some of my favorite sections along with the village area much later in the game. While you only spend the very beginning of the game in this setting, the winter setting is beautiful and brutal. When you’re traveling on foot and by horse, you can actually knock snow off of the lower tree branches, which is so much fun to watch. There are a few moments, however, where the textures don’t fully load and slight glitches, but other than that the game is like walking through a beautiful art gallery. The only warning I have is if you’re afraid of heights, there is a section where you climb up to the height of a skyscraper and the details make the scenario more intense.
The Story and Characters
As the title of the game says, The Last of Us Part 2 is the sequel to the massively successful and award-winning game of 2013 The Last of Us. The story takes place 4 years after the events of the first game, which means new characters and new settings. As previously mentioned, Seattle is where most of the story takes place, but you start the game in a little town as part of a community. Let’s just say that things get intense fairly quickly, which isn’t surprising given how The Last of Us started. As much as I want to go into detail, that is an immensely difficult thing to do given the landmine field of spoilers I’m tiptoeing over. In a nutshell, the story revolves around Ellie and her growing up into an adult. There are some intense lessons that she learns and how her choices can lead to serious consequences. You also get to see the world from different points of view, since there are a few other main groups that you come across throughout the story. Unfortunately, that is all I can really talk about without going into spoiler territory.
With new sequels, comes new characters and there are a number of new characters in this game. There are some that you’ll love, some that you’ll hate, and then there are those that some of the fans will either hate during the entire game or grow to understand and enjoy. Joel, Ellie, and Tommy (played by Troy Baker, Ashley Johnson, and Jeffrey Pierce) return with some interesting development to their characters and have grown with age and experience. Like the first game, Troy, Ashley, and Jeffrey absolutely killed it with bringing their characters to life. Honestly, with all of the characters (old and new), their actors and actresses didn’t hold back, which is a great reflection on how hard the directors pushed them. When I’m talking about the director pushing the actors and actresses, I don’t mean in a bad way. There are negative ways for any director to push their actors and actresses, but with both The Last of Us and The Last of Us Part 2, you can tell that both sides worked together as a powerful team to effectively bring the characters and powerful scenes to life. While it took time, I really loved Abby’s character and Laura Bailey was phenomenal in every second of screentime she had with bringing Abby to life. While I personally can’t think of any characters that I hated the whole time, I know that there were times where I didn’t like Ellie (I know I’m going to get some hate for that), Abby, Tommy, or even Owen. It was mostly due to the choices they made and how they treated some of the other characters.
The gameplay is pretty much the same as the previous game, although there are a few minor additions to the sequel. You spend a large portion of the game exploring the area and searching for ammo, supplements to help you gain new abilities, parts to upgrade your weapons, and supplies to craft items (there are a handful of new items to craft). Along with these, you also find notes (which give you more lore of the world) and cards of superheroes and villains (maybe Naughty Dog will make a game revolving around those characters). You also occasionally find coins, but there don’t appear to be as many as the cards, not sure why. Super listening and brick/bottle-throwing return in this game, which always comes in handy with using stealth to sneak past humans and the infected. Speaking of the infected, there are about three new infected, which makes adapting to various scenarios more interesting and intense. Remember those tense and spooky sections where you explore dark, spore-infested buildings filled with the infected? Yep, those sections are back and they’re just as intense. There are a few sections where you ride a horse and (as previously mentioned) you can also drive a small boat through the flooded areas of Seattle and there are small “puzzles” that you have to solve in order to get to other sections. Speaking of puzzles, there are a number of puzzle-like sections where you carry ladders and/or planks to reach your destinations. There are also moments where you need to wheel pallets of stuff in order to block gates or climb up to new heights. You also can use ropes or chords to climb up to or swing across to a different spot. Let me tell you, the physics of the rope and chord is one of the detailed parts of the game that has so many people talking (not sure if it’s a good thing or bad thing). A new mechanic that is super helpful for stealth moves is being able to crawl on you your belly and using the tall grass to hide from your enemies. Of course, the grass can’t help keep you hidden forever, since the human enemies have dogs that can track your scent, which is a cool addition. The only thing that myself and other gamers hated about that is…..you have to kill the dogs in order to move forward. Even if you take out the other humans, the dogs will keep on coming after you. While that is a hated thing about the game, it’s a very real thing that would happen in that world and our current era. Sometimes we have to do things that go against our morals in order to survive and The Last of Us Part 2 doesn’t hold back with the real and serious topics.
Like The Last of Us, Gustavo Santaolalla (joined by Mac Quayle) created another soundtrack full of human emotions. This game’s soundtrack both blends in well with the gameplay and adds that sense of loneliness you might feel in a post-apocalyptic world. Along with the sense of loneliness, there a peaceful wonder, and this intensity, that fits perfectly with a number of scenes. You can tell that they went above and beyond to bring you another special collection of music that can be listened to on a variety of occasions. This probably should be discussed in the “Gameplay” section, but because of the brilliance of it, I felt that it should be mentioned here. Ellie does have some sections where she plays and sings songs on the guitar, but the most impressive part is that, with enough practice, you can have Ellie play a variety of songs on the PS4 controller (thanks to the touch-pad). There’s even a moment where Joel performs a song for Ellie at the beginning, which is an incredibly touching scene. All-in-all, even if you don’t care for the game, the soundtrack is well worth listening to.
What I Enjoyed About Jasepticeye’s Playthrough
Since I mentioned watching Jacksepticeye’s playthrough for research, I believe that it would only fair to create a spot to discuss the parts I enjoyed the most. First things first, I really enjoyed how much genuine passion he had for the game and the positivity he expressed towards the game. With the way the internet is destroying this game, this sequel that we’ve waited so long for, there needed to be someone to give some positive and constructive criticism. Sure, there were parts he didn’t enjoy, there were certain mechanics and parts where the story could’ve been told in different spots. Despite this, Jack made some good pointers as to what could make those parts better. Watching his playthrough was not just entertaining, it was also very informative in both graphics and story-telling. As a writer, this game and his playthrough commentary really gave me some good pointers on how to write certain themes in stories. When I get more serious with my writing and write one of my stories, this is one playthrough I am definitely going to look back on for guidance. If you haven’t Jacksepticeye’s playthrough of The Last of Us Part 2, below is a link to the first episode, if you’re interested
All-in-all, despite the issues with the story’s pacing and the repetitiveness, I believe that The Last of Us Part 2 is worth giving a chance. Honestly, it’s not as bad as numerous people claim it is. Is it a perfect game with a perfect way of telling the story? Well…no. It has its flaws and some parts could’ve been done better with the pacing and deciding when to end. I whole-heartedly agree that chunks of it could be used for a third game. There were multiple times where it could’ve ended in preparation for The Last of Us Part 3. Despite this, it’s a visually stunning game with a decent story, a beautiful soundtrack, a powerful cast, and fun new additions to the roster of creative monsters. Personally I would give this game a 7/10 maybe even a 7.5/10, mainly due to the pacing issue.
Baki is the story of a now 17 year old boy striving to become strong enough to defeat his father who is the strongest creature in the world. Netflix has done an amazing job of bringing baki back to anime and continuing where the previous anime left off. So far Netflix has adapted the death row inmates arc and the raitai tournament arc which is the latest season to come out. While they do an amazing job in some parts others are a bit choppy but this isn’t an awful series by any means. Let’s get into the first season of the death row inmates arc.
The arc starts off with a basic premise: five of the most dangerous death row inmates in the world hear about a seventeen year old who is champion of the underground fights so they escape and make their way to japan to taste defeat. Baki has an encounter with each of the inmates but he isn’t the one to defeat all of them rather the other main characters that surround baki get more of a chance to shine and fight so we learn more about them and the inmates as the show goes on. Each fight is a true struggle and growth moment for each character which is backed by the music and animation but during some moves or fights they go into a different animation and it can be very jarring and sometimes unappealing, later seasons would fix this but we are discussing the first season. The writing is almost verbatim pulled from the manga and all the voice actors whether you’re watching dubbed or dubbed do an amazing job at making each character feel unique. While it isn’t perfect it is a very well done anime as well as capturing all of the violence and strange ways some characters look from the manga.
I love this series. It’s actually my second favorite besides kengan ashura so to see Netflix give it some limelight and not just cash in on it was a pleasant surprise. As I mentioned before the only jarring thing can be the animation during some fight where it changes but if you can get past that you can really enjoy the series. All of that aside I believe it’s an amazing adaptation as well as just a highly entertaining show to binge. If you haven’t seen it I highly recommend going to Netflix right now and checking it out, currently, all 3 seasons are up right now, Thank you for reading and let me know what you think of Netflix’s Baki.
It’s been a year and I’m still upset.
When I think about the way I feel about the end of Game of Thrones, versus the way I’ve felt about others of my favorite series coming to an end, immense disappointment fills my crushed, crushed soul. I’ve had to say goodbye to beloved characters before, but never in such an offensive way.
The only series I was ever more invested in was the Harry Potter series. I remember vibrating with excitement while waiting in line for the last book. I read it slowly, over four days, enjoying approaching the end. And while I’d never say it was the height of literary achievement, I felt appropriate emotions along the way to saying goodbye to the characters I had grown to love over the years. I grieved those who died. I cheered on those who found love. The villain was clearly identifiable and vanquished by the last page. Overall it was an emotionally satisfying ending, though I was, of course, sad to let it go.
Even sadder was the knowledge that it was a once in a lifetime experience coming to an end. The fandom, the speculation, the hours devoted to discussing, creating, waiting for the next book was all over as well. I’d never feel it again.
Except…I did. A decade later, in 2017 I was probably just about the last person in the world to get on the Game of Thrones bus. Despite having studied A Game of Thrones in undergrad a few years previously, I didn’t get into the story until the 11th hour. I binged the first seven series and then settled into the year+ wait for the final season to return in 2019. And I found myself launched into a fan community older, wiser, and perhaps even more fervid than the Harry Potter fans.
It felt like the perfect fill for the vacuum Harry had left in my life. The stakes in Game of Thrones were higher. The characters were more mature and handling sometimes more adult problems. The landscape was wider, more detailed, and certainly more cynically depressing. It was a balm to a grown-up Harry Potter fan such as myself. I began to love Jon, Dany, Arya, the Hound, and all the rest in the same way I had once loved Harry.
Then it all came crashing down. Industry influences of money, time, and creative deficits led to the steep decline in quality in that final season. In other words, creators wanted to move on to bigger and better-paying projects so they wrapped things up as quickly as possible and turned in their final drafts. The intrusion of finances into art is painfully visible, and makes those final episodes unwatchable, particularly when it comes to gaffs such as the infamous coffee cup. As an adult viewer, this abrupt departure from the spectacle brings to mind only money-grabbing. You shouldn’t be able to see the seams on a story, but you can see them here and they are all green.
Worse, perhaps, was the “subversive” final twist that turned a hero to a villain in an episode with little buildup. But I suppose this also fits with being a fan in adulthood, a time full of other abrupt reversals in all you know to be true. This is particularly accurate for those who have come of age in the information age, when the internet can be counted on to “well, actually….” any truth you hold dear. The hero isn’t really a hero. Christopher Columbus didn’t discover America. Bill Cosby’s legacy isn’t funny. Danaerys really did just roast all those people.
It seems a general consensus across the fandom that Dany’s reversal could be accepted if the form, the way of the storytelling, was adequate. However, the way the story is set up here, including the abandonment of logical storylines in favor of a quick exit, seems to lead the viewer to the only conclusion available: none of this ever meant anything.
For those who grew up with satisfying ends to previous series like Harry Potter, Game of Thrones is the worst sort of story. Harry ended with hope, empowerment, and a call to resist and defend against the dark arts wherever they may arise. To have found such a satisfying ending years ago in childhood reading a simple novel, but not in adulthood in one of the most expensive, modern HBO productions of all times, seems wrong. Game of Thrones, rather, has all the bleakness of the “real world.” Its ending seems to say everything is about money and nothing really matters.
In trying to recapture the joy of a childhood favorite, I, and many others, stumbled into Game of Thrones, a tale that could not sustain itself or the expectations of its fans. The sheer lack of effort to tell the story well or in a way the maintained meaning is a serious eff you to fans like me who had experienced better, more satisfying stories in much simpler forms.
With the game Journey, Thatgamecompany created one of the most popular indie games in history. But in 2009 a game was released that is as legendary as Journey, Flower. Flower was like Journey developed by the indie game studio Thatgamecompany. It was first released on February 12, 2009, for the Playstation 3 and later on November 15, 2013, for the Playstation 4. There is also a PC version that came out on February 14, 2019. It was Thatgamecompany’s first big success.
At the beginning of the game we are in a room and looking out of the window. There is a small flower in front of the window, to start our adventure we have to click on the little flower.
Shortly after we started the first level we are on a green meadow in the middle of nature. In front of us lies an idyllic landscape with the sun shining in the sky and grasses dancing in the wind. A peaceful natural landscape with a musical background that fits perfectly into the scenario. But the beautiful atmosphere will be influenced by you shortly afterwards, because you will quickly realize what task you will have in the game. A small flower appears in front of us, if we click on it our main character of the game appears, a little blossom.
(The main character :D)
The controls a rather unusual but also interesting, because you control your character with the movements of your controller. If you move your controller to the right or left, your character which is the little blossom, will move in the corresponding direction. If you lift the controller up, the character goes up and if you hold the controller down, the character goes down, very simple and easy. To move forward we need wind, which we can generate by pressing any button on our controller. The controls not only work perfectly, they also feel really refreshing and give the game an artistic and harmonious touch. It fits the game perfectly. Now our journey can begin. After leaving the first blades of grass behind us, we discover more flowers in the distance, our job is to open the buds of the flower by touching them. By opening the buds of the flowers, more and more different colored flowers join us, which accompany us on our journey through the level. As the number of the flowers rises steadily, this results in a several meter long chain of flowers that follows us. It looks impressive and beautiful.
The goal in each level is to let the flowers bloom again in the landscape. There are seven different levels in the game and you will quickly realize that the levels are more and more getting darker. The landscape become dreier and more lifeless.
It becomes clear during the game what an negative influence humans have on nature. Everyone can do something to protect the nature, we just have to do something, that’s all.
All levels are different, sometimes we fly through gorges, past impressive rocks or have to restart wind turbines. And in the final level we have to free the city from all its mechanical and metallic facades in order to let the city bloom again in new splender.
The special thing in about flower is that there are no time limits, game over, or frustration moments. This game gives you enough time to experience a relaxing fantasy trip. With a total playing time of 1,5 – 2 hours it is a relatively short game, but this is not a problem. Good games don’t have to belong to give you wonderful gaming experience. Everything in this game harmonizes perfectly, the beautiful music and landscape create a breathtaking experience. Thatgamecompany created with flower a masterpiece, it shows what great quality indie games can have.