Root Letter Review (2016): What Happen to the Cute Schoolgirl?

Do you have insecurities? I think we all do, I’ll let you know mine but once I review this visual novel game, which revolves around the mystery of a schoolgirl disappearance called Root Letter, developed by Kadokawa Games, released in 2016. It tells a story of a high school pen pal who decided to stop writing to you after she confessed in her letter that she killed someone. Something doesn’t add up. The schoolgirl happens to be beautiful, intelligent, and talented but fell tragically ill and passed away. Sounds interesting enough. I was curious to unravel this suspenseful, mystery title that doesn’t contain horror. Watching the trailer helped me decide to pick up this title a few years ago.

Mysterious and adventurous tale mixed with good soundtrack and pretty art style, I just can’t say no to it. In fact, it was refreshing to play something as relaxing as this visual novel despite that it was wrongfully advertised as Young Adult Suspense Thriller. More than anything, it’s quirky and kind of funny. I enjoyed going on an adventure to find out what happen to the high school sweetheart. But you are wondering what does it have to do with insecurities? Well you see, everyone who was mentioned in Aya Fumino’s letter, the disappeared schoolgirl, had some insecurity issues. Her trusted friends are Shorty, Monkey, Snappy, Fatty, Four-Eyes, Bitch, and Bestie. Do you get my point now, how it can be comical? What kind of friend give her close friends such awful nicknames? Well that’s because they got something to hide!

It’s up to the main protagonist to do some serious detective work. Yes, he has to investigate each student closely to find out what really happen to Aya while exposing each character’s insecurity. It’s an interesting game design. There were few times I laughed hard. What’s so funny is I could see myself in all 7 characters. That means I got a lot of work to do in the self-love department.

I enjoyed this game a lot. The plot is serious but the adventure is humorous and light hearted. It’s just something I need from a stressful day. It’s a lot less mentally strenuous on the mind than what I typically play. Root Letter was nice for a change. I played this game back in 2017 I believe and decided to write a review until now.

Now going back to my question about insecurities. Quite frankly, back in my teenage years, I broke out badly on my forehead and throughout all my face. It was so bad that my brothers would make fun of me and called me “Himalaya Mountains”. The cyst pimples were so glaringly noticeable on my face that for a while, I was really self-conscious about my skin. Then as I grew older, l learned to separate myself from my appearance. Like Mona the “Hatchet-Face” from Crybaby, I like to think at least “I got character!”

Thank you for reading. If you enjoy me talking about video games you can follow me on Twitter @Poetry_Huntress for gaming tweets and blog updates.

NieR Replicant ver_1_22474487139 (2021): My Impression

I am going to do something a bit more casual here. I am going to write an impression instead of a review because I am not here to sell you anything but give you my impression of the game as a fellow gamer who is just trying to help out some gamers out there whether you should play this game or not. so I’m too lazy to articulate my thoughts, especially after playing a heavy loaded game like this. I have already put over 60 hours of gameplay into this game. Not going to 100 % it. I did it with Nier Gestalt years ago, but would at least try to 100 % the side quests. Currently, while writing this post, I’m at 83%. Weapons completion is also important as well. This is a story driven game. You would appreciate the story more by completing these tasks.

NieR Replicant ver_1_22474487139 released 2021 of April, is not a remake or a remaster of Nier Gestalt (2010). It’s more closely related to the Japan’s version Nier Replicant which players play as the brother instead of the father. Some additional content have been added to this upgraded version to flesh out the story. So if you have played Nier Gestalt and wonder whether you should purchase it, you should but not at full price. You are not missing much. It’s just less convoluted than the one released in 2010. Perhaps, this is what some players need, a straightforward story?

The upgraded version gameplay feels a lot smoother and fluid like you would play in Nier Automata (2017). Gameplay is very simple: hack and slash with plenty of of weapons and magic to choose from, although let me warn you that gameplay was never the game biggest strength. I stick to one weapon and two magic: Dark Lance and Dark Hand the entire time. As for difficulty settings, there are Normal Mode which is really Easy Mode and Hard Mode. I can only imagine what Easy Mode is like. You’d go through the game without a sweat. Well I can see it being an option, if you are into speed run. Some of the trophies required players to beat a boss with a certain amount of time. And if you are just interested in experiencing the story, then there is no reason to play on Normal or Hard Mode.

Without spoiling the story for those who have not experienced this masterpiece (yes it was a masterpiece in my eyes when I first played it). It’s about a brother who is trying to find a cure to the disease called Black Scrawl which has inflicted his sister. There are some heavy topics such as body dysmorphia, homosexual and borderline incest introduced in this game. Yes, it’s not your typical heroes and heroine you see every day. They are humans, but are they?

As I mentioned earlier, the side quests add to the story so don’t skip them. They are fun and addictive with a twisted sense of humor. The greatest attribute to this game is the soundtrack, however the music arrangement is not as on point like in Nier Gestalt, which did affect my experience. I didn’t like how it sounds unnaturally flawless. So, I didn’t enjoy the game to its max. It feels kind of soulless. Well, it’s not soul’s game if that’s what you are expecting. If I were to compare this game with Nier Gestalt, I would still pick Nier Gestalt over Nier Replicant, playing as a father seems more logical. I don’t know though, I never had brothers who go to an extreme to protect me so it didn’t make any sense to play as an overly protective brother.

Although I can say, I know what it is like to be the protective big sister. I guess there is some similarity in that sense, or it’s just the fact, I’m as crazy as the protagonist. I just like killing stuff. Clearly though, the game was not intended for female demographic but why is it so popular among female players? That’s something to think about.

So what’s so great about this game? Well, it’s the story. The soundtrack, but more importantly how it was executed. The game allows players to see in different angles and it starts to question your morality. Who are the real humans? Even if you think you are right, does that justify killing?

I think you get my point. The game will make you think about your actions. Are you really righteous?

Thank you for reading. If you enjoy me talking about video games you can follow me on Twitter @Poetry_Huntress for gaming tweets and blog updates.

My Video Games Shopping List (Part III): Bright Colored Games for Mental Health

If you are worried about talking into the void and it makes you feel invisible, unworthy, neglected, unlovable, it’s okay. I am used to talking to myself and I am quite proud of it. I don’t care how introverted you are but humans are made to talk! So talk to the void if you need to release mental stress! There is no shame to it. I promise it will make you feel better. Isn’t that why people confess to the preacher? Well I hope your sins are not too big.

I need to talk and I must talk! If you are new to my blog, I like to make a list of three recommendations. This time it’s video games instead of movies. I did this shopping list a few years ago on my old blog when I was still a bit timid about online exposure. You can check them out here:

My Shopping List–Casual Games are Great!

My Video Games Shopping List (Part II)

In the upcoming winter days, I prefer playing bright colored games. It’s good for mental health if you are feeling a little down from all the gloomy weather and the Dark Cloud (do you like the pun? I still have yet to beat the game, hehe).

  1. Sakuna of Rice of Ruin

I live in the city and city life has its pros and cons, but these days it’s more cons ever since the pandemic hit. If you can work remotely, there is no point in living in the city. Transportation was the main factor why there are city dwellers like me. But on the plus size, things have been quiet in the city except during certain nights I can hear homeless people shouting. It’s really sad because some are suffering from mental illness. It really is a societal issue. Even before the pandemic, I often dreamed of going into the mountains or somewhere far from civilization so I can breathe nature. I think I found the perfect game: I can play as a farm girl. Yeah, I want to be a country girl for a change! It looks fun and its popping bright colors will sure lift anyone’s mood in the upcoming winter days.

2) Dragon Quest XI S: Echoes of An Elusive Age – Definitive Edition

I need to escape from reality ASAP, did I mention I am stranded in the city? I played the demo and really like how immersive the game is. I feel transported into a different world that is less chaotic. I think this is the game I am going to play on my birthday! Some people hate being born close to Christmas, but not me, I am sure the only present I need for Christmas and birthday combined is a good game. Bright colored games= instant happiness.

3) Cuphead

Cuphead [Online Game Code]

I normally purchased pc games that are story-driven and that is where I play most of the indie titles. They can be quite relaxing to play before bedtime. For Cuphead, I am still debating whether I should purchase this on Steam or on PlayStation store. The illustration looks great and I am always up for an adventure so Cuphead made it to my list for the winter days!

I hope you enjoy my recommendations even though I haven’t played them yet! I guess I am just so excited I have to make a list. Hopefully you found something you like on the list as well and it will add a little sunshine to your life. Well that is it for now, bye bye.

Resident Evil 2 Remake Review: An Upgraded Classic Rollercoaster Ride

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I know I am a bit late to the party. I finally got a chance to play Resident Evil 2 the remake, which was released back in 2019. For those who are new to my blog, I am not a little girl and I’m definitely not new to this franchise. I first played this game with my brother back in day where we supposedly fake sick so we can skip school (actually the real deep root was social anxiety. Some kids just function better in smaller crowd).

Let’s just pretend you are new to the game. There are two parts to the game that you can play: the rookie Leon Kennedy’s route or the good bad-ass Claire Redfield who is searching for her brother. The proper order is to select Leon’s route, but back then playing the original, I started off with Claire because she is GIRL POWER!!! Did I mention that she is bad-ass a minute ago? Yeah I did.

Anyway, this game is well designed in terms of appealing to the younger generation of gamers without jeopardizing its survival horror aesthetic, which older fans often complained how they didn’t like how the Resident Evil franchise turned into action games. Zombies are noticeably less aggressive and slower than Resident Evil 5 and Resident Evil 6. Atmosphere is very dark in tight corridors. Ammo is scarce so don’t go shooting blindly and aimlessly out of terror. The remake is also generous enough to allow players to switch to Assist Mode if they are having trouble. Assist Mode is another way of saying easy mode, but it seems like the developer didn’t want to hurt player’s feelings so they called it Assist Mode which sounds more polite than easy (that’s just my speculation though. I like to come up with backstage stories lol). Standard Mode is normal mode. Most people start off with Standard Mode, which is what I did. But then I realized I had to switch to Assist Mode because I kept dying, trying to explore the police station. It’s difficult to explore if you are new the game because there are enemies (the infamous lickers and the Tyrant) that will get in your way!

RESIDENT EVIL 2

It’s nice that the developer allow you to switch mode in the middle of the game as the earlier Resident Evil games rely heavily on exploration and solving puzzles, which I like very much. I am the type of gamer who enjoy playing games twice: one for story and second for the gameplay. Like anything, practice makes perfect. So the order I went back then, was to play on easy mode to get the feel of the game as I don’t rely on guides. It’s more fun to figure things out yourself. Another generous thing about the remake is that you don’t need ink ribbons to save. In fact, it autosaves quite frequently. So you don’t have to panic about not having enough ink ribbons to save your progress! For some players, especially kids who are just learning how to play games (we’ve all been there) it’s a nice component, but not so much for the veteran players. Lastly, the map is also well thought out. It’s easy to spot what items you missed which make it easier for you to backtrack, and once you found all the items, the location of the map will turn red to clear, which means you don’t need to revisit the area. This saves a lot of time. Can you imagine those who have memory problems? Back in the day, games were kind of hard. Our only cue was looking for flashy things. Games like this really do test your memory skills. Like a mouse in a maze, you got to know where you are going in order to survive. It’s kind of like solving a math equation if you think about it. There is an order to everything.

Overall, I enjoyed the remake. It’s a fun game for newcomers and old fans. But personally, I think the franchise is dead to me as I still have yet to play Resident Evil 7, which I heard was decent, but I’m just not excited enough to play. Nonetheless, it’s still an iconic series that will always have a special place in my heart. The little girl in me likes to come out and shoot some zombie heads once in awhile. I still have to explore the side mini games that the game has to offer.

P.S

There are some jump scare parts. Okay you got me, haha!

Onimusha: Warlords Review (PS4)

Who in the world watch horror movies and play horror games during the pandemic? Isn’t real life like a horror story? Well that is okay, I won’t judge. My life was never normal to begin with so this is actually normal to me. I’m not phased by the pandemic that much. Welcome to the club, world.

I want to do something a bit different for this blog post, why? No one seems to enjoy reading critical essays beside weirdos like me. So I will talk about games casually and show off my gaming skills: I mean my average gaming skills.

I completed Onimusha: Warlords on easy mode and got a B score. Not so bad for playing the game blindly. Now I know how to beat game faster as I know what to expect. Going to attempt to beat game in 3 hours so I can get a shiny trophy. I’m playing on normal mode without consuming any medicine or herbs. Sounds like a challenge? For me it is–that is why I didn’t mind how short the game is. Typically, I play game twice anyway. One for the story, and two for the gameplay.

One thing that drew me into games in the first place was actually the artistic nature of the game. Onimusha:Warlords is charmingly beautiful. I feel like a little girl again sitting in my coffin-like bedroom playing games with my brother. My brother and I enjoy playing surivival horror games together. Onimusha: Warlords feels like Resident Evil 2 in terms of music placement and stage layout. Instead of killing infected zombies, you kill ninja demons. Because of good game design and the correct usage of colors (lighting in the game is well balanced), I didn’t feel forced to complete a game for the sake of completing the game. Onimusha: Warlords felt smooth and it was pretty to look at. However, this doesn’t make the game perfect. There was one aspect of the game I didn’t enjoy: I had to level up my weapons to unlock certain area to proceed in the game (I hate grinding). Luckily there are only three weapons: blue, red, and green that you can max up to 3 times. Simplicity in weapon choices and upgrades is not a bad thing in game design. In fact, it helps players like me stay focused. Players want to feel that they are progressing. This makes us want to finish the game.

When it comes to story, there is nothing mind blowing about it. The male lead saved the princess. The game follows the same footstep as Resident Evil games in terms of unraveling its tale: You uncover the mystery behind the manor by reading journals left behind. In fact, I had a good laugh reading the journals. It sounds crazy. I didn’t know demons are divided into social class just like we humans. It is a good metaphor to describe selfish evil people. The history of humanity has always fought against darkness and Japan is no exception despite it being so isolated.

Overall, I enjoyed the game, especially the cinematic scenes and well design characters. They were pleasing to my eyes. It’s a shame that PS2 survival horror game-style no longer exists. I am quite fond of it actually.

The Last of Us of Review

I think I am quite unfair sometimes dismissing a game because of its popularity.   Back in 2013, there was this huge hype about The Last of Us. At that time, I was too busy playing Dark Souls II to drop the game to see what the hype is all about. Thanks to my purchase of the PS4 back in 2015 (the main reason I bought the console was for Bloodborne), it came with a digital copy of The Last of Us.  I decided to give the game a whirl because I want to challenge my preconceived notion about the game.

To my surprise, I must admit, I did enjoy the game to some extent.  The biggest strength about the game is the father and daughter like relationship.  I found the father and daughter bonding between Joel and Ellie more believable than the father and daughter relationship I saw in Resident Evil Revelations 2, The Evil Within 2 and even Nier Gestalt (another topic I will go into detail at a later time).  Partly it’s because Ellie was side by side with Joel most of the time so I saw the father and daughter relationship growing closer.

Even in combat, Ellie is not useless like Sheva in Resident Evil 5.  Throughout the game, teamwork is heavily emphasized in order for the two characters to survive. The most memorable part in the game to me is when there was a switch from Joel to Ellie. At that point in the game, I didn’t know if she was all alone, until later, I found out that she was nursing Joel back to his health.  I was relief. When she drove the bad guys away from harming the injured Joel–that’s when I began to sympathize with Ellie because I would do the same for my dad without a doubt. I felt Ellie’s urgency to protect Joel. When the role was switched to Joel, I felt the very same urgency to protect Ellie from David, the potential rapist. That part really did strengthened their bond and implied how much they need each other to survive, but more importantly, how much they trust each other.

As Joel and Ellie relationship deepened in the game, I felt sympathy for them. So towards the end of the game, my reaction when I had to shoot the doctor to save Ellie was plausible even if Joel was seen as a monster. Similarly,  Ellie is not that innocent and saintlike either when she hesitantly accepted Joel’s answer about the fireflies. For one, she trusts Joel with her life and grew attached to him. She couldn’t bear the thought of losing him, as we saw in the earlier scene where she threw a little tantrum and ran off with the horse.  But at the same time, she felt tremendously guilty for not being able to save human lives as she mentioned her best friend was the first to go, and of course there was Tess.

The story aimed at taking the realistic approach in life, depicting real human behavior. Every day humans make sacrifices and face tough decisions. With a stern face, Joel already made the decision to carve his own fate.  Any normal human being who underwent a traumatic event will never be the same.  He never recovered from the tragedy in the beginning (losing his daughter) but at least he has someone to fight for, which is Ellie.  It makes perfect sense why the title is called The Last of Us.   The game is about two people who lost everything–and they are not willing to give up on each other even at the expense of saving humanity.  From my understanding, the writer is trying to write an epic script where all human beings can relate to.   Joel is considered a romantic, chivalric modern day man who embodied the utmost masculine energy.  Ironically, some people argued that he is a bad guy.  It appears the writer must have agreed with the ancient thinkers that humans are fickle.  Joel is neither good nor bad.  But the moral of the story is not what bothered me.  The heart warming story and gameplay weren’t properly stitched together to bring out that quality game experience.  The game feels like a book, but plays like a movie.  There’s nothing really exciting about the gameplay.

Typically,  I am not much of a stickler for story in video games.  Most of the time, if the gameplay is fun enough I will keep playing even if story is lacking.  The gameplay in The Last of Us is very stale and tedious. There were only two instances I thought was exciting.  One part is when Joel got separated from Ellie for a brief moment, forcing him to dive into the water and navigate in the dark enclosed area to find a keycard. In the area, there were clickers.  At first, I was a little nervous as I dislike dark places, filled with lurking monsters, but as soon as I realized I have many different types of weapons, my nervousness went away as there weren’t many obstacles to overcome in order to reunite with Ellie. I blasted the enemies away with my shotgun.  Once I obtained the key, I bypassed all of them and got out quickly.  Not much of a challenge there.  The other part is when Joel was hanging upside down shooting the infected. That part reminded me of a section in Resident Evil Revelation, where Chris Redfield fell from the cliff and was pinned down to the ground, having to defend himself from the approaching wolves while waiting for Jessica to make her way down to help him. The only difference between the two games, is that Last of Us gameplay is forgiving. The game autosaves frequently.   So if you die constantly, it puts you in a decent spot in the game to try again. If you get stuck in the game, push L3 button when it appears. This will give you a hint.  The game is very generous, but that consideration actually kills any challenges that the game has to offer, and what is even worse, it makes the gameplay become dull quickly as gameplay becomes predictable.  I think I would be just content watching a movie version of the Last of Us than go through all that unnecessary trouble.

Honestly, I don’t have much to say about the gameplay in The Last of Us.  It’s very basic and simple. There was a lot of sneaking, hiding,  and some shooting.   There were plenty of  beautiful scenic areas in the game which stirred up some personal old memories. The realistic setting in the game aligned well with the mature undertone of the game.  I didn’t mind the flow of the game.  I could play the game at ease during the weekdays.  I even completed the game on normal difficulty when I thought I was playing on easy mode the whole time.  Although I am not going to lie, there were a few times I died in the game.  The controls don’t feel as fluid as other games that I’m used to, which made the gameplay experience frustrating.  I admit, I  was swearing at the last section of the game when I was unfairly ambushed with flying bullets.  I rarely get mad in games by the way. The last section made it difficult to explore without getting spotted.

To summarize my experience, the game felt very genuine to me as it amplifies the American identity–a free and rugged individual who has a choice.  Is that a good thing or a bad thing? That’s for you to decide.   The more I think about it, the game is just a political statement more than anything.   I was entertained while the game last, but not entertained enough to demand for a sequel.

The Evil Within 2: Not My Cup of Tea

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 I deleted my old post and revised it since I do have something to say about the game once I beat it.  The game had a lot of potential, but unfortunately it wasn’t what I was hoping for. 

Call me picky when it comes to survival horror games, but I believe concepts do play a major role in horrifying audience.  Take for example, Silent Hill 2 will always be my favorite survival horror game because the developers know exactly how to define horror and  create a game which still haunts me till this day.  I learned to love the fog in winter because I experienced the chillness in Silent Hill. But this post is not going to be about the survival horror genre or Silent Hill games.  This is about The Evil Within 2 and my thoughts on it. Please keep in my mind, I am speaking from an artist perspective and from someone who dislike movie-like games.

With any artistic medium (I think some video games are a form of art), it’s wise not to imitate even if you are under the spell of nostalgia. I am not a fan of imitation.  You can  admire a successful game that haunts people–but reinventing the same thing doesn’t frightened people (at least for me) because we already walked that path before. The Evil Within 2 feels like a confused horror amusement park.  It cannot decide whether it wants to be an action or horror game. Hey, some people might like this game for the way it is and good for them. Personally, I don’t like games that feel generic.

What disappointed me about the game is its strong opening. The game introduction was atmospherically scary. Yes, there was a little chase here and there. Fun for a bit, but then it got sloppy  as soon as all the suspense is dispersed and the climax is reached. From there on, I found myself playing a cheap thrill. If gameplay is lacking then I expect a decent story, but this game has neither of them. The game design feels unpolished.  Why recycle boss enemies once it has been defeated? Why do I need to level up my skill trees in order to make the game a bit more fluid? There is some obvious technical issues with the game, especially in combat.  The cheesy dialogues amplify the  cliche plot.  I started asking myself, “Why I am playing this game?” I forced myself to complete the game anyway because I hate not completing games. I would have enjoyed the game more playing as Juli Kidman because she is an interesting character.

I enjoyed the first game even though it was not perfect. So I was hoping The Evil Within 2 is more of a refined version of the first. Sadly no. The only thing that Evil Within 2 has is a simplified story.  You  play as a detective who is given the chance to save his daughter.   In my honest opinion, the game failed to horrify and tell a good story because its attention was focused on trying to be a movie.

So no, I do not recommend this game if you have particular taste for horror games like me. I prefer the earlier Resident Evil games over The Evil Within series now that I have finished the game. This game is designed intentionally for the mass market (movie watchers), and there is nothing wrong with that. This game is just not my cup of tea.