Category: Video Game Review

*Note: This was originally written as scripted content for a video. The video can be viewed here.*

I’m not interested in walking back my initial review for Dragon Ball Xenoverse. The game has a lot of problems, from repetitive combat, to poor game balance, to terrible translations and sound design. The game was a mess, especially when compared to the much beloved Budokai titles. But I also have to give it credit in areas where I didn’t before. It was ambitious. An online Dragon Ball sim on mainstream consoles, with an honestly solid art direction, resolution and framerate, and a new take on the classic Dragon Ball Z story. The game sought out to do something impressive, and for someone who always dreamt of being one of the first black super saiyans, it serviced a need of mine for a brief while.

But the sequel…hoo boy. Dragon Ball Xenoverse 2 has a lot of problems, but one thing’s for sure. This game is the gold standard of what a sequel should be, building on the premise of the first game, and creating a natural evolution of the first game’s lore, gameplay, and overall presentation. I mean evolution in a good way, by the way. I know that word has…connotations around this fanbase. 

I played through the main campaign of the first Xenoverse without much detouring. This was in large part due to how much I hated the combat, but also because the game didn’t do a very good job of teaching you about the other resources you had access to in TokiToki city. So ultimately, I felt like by the end of my experience, I had logged roughly 10 – 15 hours into a mediocre campaign that was really difficult for all the wrong reasons.

I’ve now passed about 300 hours in Xenoverse 2, and even counting Xenoblade, it’s my most played Switch game. This doesn’t mean it’s a game without problems, but it is a step in the right direction, and I believe one more installment is all it would take to make the best Dragon Ball game to date. 

Dragon Ball Xenoverse 2 prioritizes its homage to the source material over traditional game balance. The more traditional you try to make your experience with the game, the more frustrating it’s going to become. Try and make it function like a traditional fighter, and you’ll quickly learn how bad of an idea that is. But the way the game leans into Dragon Ball lore, visual styles, and themes is unparalleled. Everyone praises Dragon Ball FighterZ for its art direction, and don’t get me wrong, it’s well deserved. The game is beautiful. But this game kind of kills it in the style department too. The custom character aesthetics are in line with the true Dragon Ball art direction, while also having their own unique traits that tie them to the lore of these two games. It’s hard not to imagine a robust backstory for your playable avatar character while firing kamehameha waves at your various foes. 

The five races, Saiyan, Earthling, Frieza Race, Majin, and Namekian, truly encapsulate a lot of the Dragon Ball mythos. I kind of wish there were variations for some of them though. Like for instance, being able to make an Earthling character an android/cyborg. I understand how it might not make sense from a lore angle, but they made it work with the Frieza Race and Majins, so I don’t think it’s that big of a deal.

The campaign for Dragon Ball Xenoverse 2 is fascinating, because it incorporates a lot of details you wouldn’t otherwise expect. Particularly, the way it makes use of the previous game’s journey helps to make it feel like an integral part of the history, despite some of the changes made. Your custom character from the first game is carried over into this one (sorry Switch players). Still, the first game’s hero is not your playable character, but a revered hero with a holographic statue in the middle of town. You’re now playing as a completely new hero, dealing with the fallout of events that the player is theoretically aware of from the previous title. 

This game’s core premise is effectively interwoven into every facet of the gameplay. For instance, one of the ways the core cast is aware of the tampering with history this time around, is that there are these four time rifts opened around the new Conton City. This is a good change, because it opens up these cool DBZ themed mini games, while also helping to further contextualize the space-time anomalies. It also provides a unique shared importance among the story and side content, which is a big part of why this game feels like such a complete package.

We’re talking about Dragon Ball here! There’s no Dragon Ball without training, and training feels great in this game. There are so many different ways to explore your characters and their abilities, that growth feels consistent and worthwhile. You can go on Parallel Quests, which make up the majority of the game’s content, or train with mentors, which is how you earn various skills. All of this is handled with a delivery of context and worldbuilding that makes your adventures in Conton City feel like a DBZ Roleplay session. 

There’s a fundamental truth in game design, I think, and it’s that a game’s primary obligation is to the audience it knows it will have. Dragon Ball Xenoverse 2 doesn’t promise to be the best fighting game or the best RPG because that’s not what it’s trying to be. It’s trying to be a celebration of all things Dragon Ball, and on that front, it hits it out of the park.

The first game was ambitious in this same goal, certainly, but it failed because there were so many core issues to the way the game was made, that no amount of fancy presentation could fix it. Ultimately, Dragon Ball Xenoverse was a bust in its execution. But the idea was there, and since combat went from unbearable to actually quite competent between installments, things that felt like padding in the first game feel intentional in this one. 

What exactly are these changes to combat? Well, for starters, the game relies far less on super armor as a means to generate difficulty, which is a huge start. This is important, because the ability to budge enemies is a big part of what makes certain gameplay elements feel immersive. The weight of strikes having some degree of variance also increases the overall importance of customizing your character to your own preferences. Speaking of which, that feels much easier in this game, and the mentor system plays a huge role in that.

In addition, there’s an in-depth system of checks and balances for teleportation and overall use of stamina, that adds a layer of strategy to what would otherwise just be massive slugfests. The guard break system also offers a massive punish for those who would abuse special moves. 

Unlocking skills has become much easier than it was in the previous Xenoverse title. Mentors are now tied to your skill level and story progress, so there will be different residents in Conton City depending on how much of the game’s campaign you’ve completed. This helps you to pace yourself, which is essential, because this game is loaded with content. The same approach is taken with skills you can earn and buy, as well as available Parallel Quests, clothing items, accessories, and much much more. That’s a pretty big part of this game’s appeal over its predecessor too. An increased amount of unlockables with a legitimately fascinating progression system helps to give more purpose to your actions, and creates a generally more satisfying gameplay loop. 

One other thing I really like is the scale of the Time Patrol. Since the events of the previous game, there are now time patrollers everywhere of many different races. It helps to give some legitimacy to certain story details, and makes the overworld more fun to navigate. I do feel like transitioning from a hub world to an overall more interconnected world would really benefit what this game is aiming to be, but who knows? After the commercial success of Dragon Ball Z: Kakarot, that might be where we’re headed. 

The story itself isn’t too ambitious, mostly a retelling of the first game’s events, with a lot of the cutscenes being reused as well (a definite plus to a time travel story on the budgetary side). Some interesting differences would include the presence of characters from the classic DBZ movies, such as Turles, Lord Slug, Janemba, and even Broly! The old bad one, not the new amazing one.

This is the perfect example of how difficult it is to measure this game’s quality. Like, the presence of three additional characters in the story mode does not make a game better in the overall principles of good game design, sure. But this game becomes better with every character it represents, because characters, stages, skills, they all bring it that much closer to a complete depiction of the Dragon Ball mythos, and that’s more important to a game like Xenoverse 2 than even balance could ever be. I don’t think that’s an issue, either, it’s good for a game to have a strong sense of identity, and what fictional franchise has an identity quite like Dragon Ball?

Of course, this game does falter in its delivery in one area that really takes its immersive quality down a few pegs for me. This is the first time I’ll have ever said this about a game in a review, but Dragon Ball Xenoverse 2 has a very underwhelming soundtrack. I know that’s a very subjective area, for sure, but it’s disappointing for me in a great many ways. And it’s being measured against an arguably unfair standard, as it’s adapted from a source material known for its superb sound design, but all the same, I can’t help but feel when I’m battling to obnoxious speed metal that it fails to capture the essence of Dragon Ball. And that’s saying a lot because this series has had a lot of different scores over the years, between the dub specific ones, the original, the score for Super, and even other Dragon Ball games. 

This game was also a pretty big milestone for the series, because it’s the first major Dragon Ball game to take place in a post-Super world, meaning a lot of the DLC incorporates key characters from Super’s various arcs. This is a positive because it means we get a bigger and more diverse roster, and because it increases the available customization for the player character. It is a bit unfortunate how much content in this game is hidden behind paywalls, but I have to admit, a lot of these characters are a genuine blast to play with, and their skills help players to fully realize their ideal original character with surprising depth. 

Another major plus for this game is its sheer volume of playable modes as well. There’s a full campaign, side stories, Parallel Quests, and local multiplayer. The different competitive multiplayer modes such as the World Tournament, single battles, and team battles all return from the previous game, including their ranked incarnations. There’s also an extra story mode that is paid DLC, but offers a very fascinating take on the existing time travel plot these games tend to focus on. 

They’ve also introduced a lot of game modes that make this game feel more like a proper MMO. There are expert missions and expert raids, which feel like an epic DBZ-style interpretation of the types of big boss raids we’ve seen in the likes of Blizzard’s World of Warcraft and Final Fantasy 14. Then there are Crystal Raids where players get to be the raid bosses.

There’s also a Figure Battle mode based loosely on Dragon Ball Heroes, the Japan-Only card game. This mode comes with its own separate story mode, but fair warning, quite a lot of Gacha going on here. 

There’s also five different minigames based on locations from across the series. From Capsule Corp to Frieza’s Spaceship to Majin Buu’s house, these locales will let players customize even further, and each one corresponds with a custom character race, so they can help you achieve new heights of skill. The feeling you get when you start to achieve the best of what your custom character is capable of is as close to experiencing the true Dragon Ball as I think a person can get. 

Again, this game has its flaws, and if measured against more traditional game design standards, I think a lot of people would find themselves panning it, and declaring it mediocre. Yet, when measured by its own ruleset, it becomes clear that this is a game with a powerful sense of identity, and goes beyond the typical corporate adaptation to become a genuinely powerful homage to one of the most prominent franchises in animation history. 

But clearly just having character customization and a bunch of quests you can go on isn’t enough to start crafting robust stories for your characters, right? Right?

Narrator Voice: Tenda was a human on an alternate Earth, besieged by Dr. Gero and the Red Ribbon Army. She was enhanced through experimentation, to achieve the feats of strength and speed only ever seen previously by the saiyans. She joined Time Patrol in the hopes that someday she could return home, defeat the Red Ribbon Army, and save her world.

…Or something like that, I don’t know, maybe it’s just fun to punch Frieza.

Thank you all for tuning in for this review of Dragon Ball Xenoverse 2, a game that has taken up more of my time than I’m willing to admit. For more action packed adventures, see some of my other reviews and subscribe to make sure you don’t miss the next ones. Thank you as always for watching and come back soon for more from the GAME ROOM!

*Note – This sample was originally written as scripted content for a YouTube video. That video can be viewed here.*

Fire Emblem Three Houses was widely well received for its inventive approach to some age old mechanics within the series. Its calendar system allowed for a more controlled approach to managing your units and their progression, but more than anything, it allowed for a far more intimate story than previous games in the series. 

For me, Three Houses quickly rose to become the best game in this series, and certainly the game with the best characters. Even Lucina, who I adore for her tragic backstory and hopeful attitude, pales in comparison to some of the cast of this game, at least as far as consistent characterization and overall depth. I’ve spent the last several weeks in an internal debate on which character to cover. Dimitri is my favorite, due to his overall tragic story, and Claude is an interesting subject altogether. Even Rhea felt fun to tackle, but one name kept repeating in my head over and over. I decided to focus on a character that I generally have a much more difficult time with. 

Let’s get the spoiler warning out of the way, because this is going to be an in depth look at a character throughout the entire game, in every route. This essay will be filled to the brim with me trying to make my MFA worth something, so steel yourself for some literary jargon. 

I hate Edelgard. I think she’s hypocritical and stubborn, cruel and unwieldy, overall not a very good person. Also, I love Edelgard. She’s earnest, caring, powerful, ambitious, wise beyond her years, and an incredible advocate for equality in a structurally classist society. And if these two sentiments sound contradictory, I would say it’s a result of how masterfully executed the character actually is. But to understand why Edelgard works, we have to understand how Three Houses works, primarily in the way it tells its story.

Fire Emblem: Three Houses focuses on the perspective of its main character, Byleth, who primarily functions as a surrogate for the player. The overall tale, its characters, and its outcomes, are largely determined by Byleth’s decisions. This is positive for obvious reasons, it gives the player direct control over the events they’re going to be playing out. But from a narrative angle, because you’re involved in fundamentally formative years for the main cast, the seemingly massive changes in their personality are justified, because their experiences are going to be largely different, depending on how the player approaches the game.

Edelgard is perhaps the best example of this, because in three of the four routes you can play through, she’s going to be your enemy. But even the type of enemy she is is heavily influenced by which route you choose. Blue Lions is a story about Dimitri, sure, but it’s equally a story about Edelgard, and how her actions and their relationship created the version of Dimitri you’ll be travelling with throughout the Azure Moon chapters. Golden Deer, on the other hand, is a bit more removed from Edelgard, making her less of a direct enemy, and more of an obstacle in the way of Claude’s own ambitions. This is the difference between a character that we come to have intimate knowledge of, and a larger than life dictator who we hope to defeat. 

And then there’s Crimson Flower. Edelgard’s own route, fought from the perspective of her army, gives insight into a hidden depth of her knowledge and ambition. In order for any of this to work, the key is consistency. Edelgard has to have similar personality traits no matter which route you’re playing. Thankfully, this is yet another area where this Strategy RPG excels, but before we dive into that, let’s talk about who Edelgard is, externally and internally.

Edelgard von Hresvelg is the successor to the imperial throne of Enbarr, capital of Adrestia. The Adrestian Empire is the longest standing human society in Fodlan, with the exception of the underground secret city of Shambala. Because of this, Edelgard is raised to believe that her future, Fodlan’s history, and Fodlan’s future, are one in the same. Her delusions of grandeur aren’t something developed from her own ego, rather, her perception of herself comes from a sense of duty instilled within her from a young age. In addition to this she is ravaged by loss and despair, having lost almost all of her siblings to vile experimentation. The compounding of these truths bring about a sense of profound loneliness and yet still inspires ambition unlike most other characters in Fodlan. 

This is essential in the development of any character arc. For a character to grow and change, they have to overcome the lie that they believe. This core concept implies that the start to a characters arc has them believing something assuredly false about themselves and/or the world around them, and that their growth is centered around disproving that lie.

Edelgard is pre-packaged with quite a few. First is the lie that only she can change the world for the better. This lie is reinforced by her disdain for the church, a force within the game that makes up the vast majority of the world’s order. Of course, the realization of a character, and the conclusion of their arc, demands that the lie they believe be dismantled. Edelgard is a fascinating case, because again, only one of the four arcs have her actually reaching that state of actualization, and that’s Crimson Flower. But this particular lie is not dismantled. Edelgard still insists on being the one to change the world, and clearly believes it was a duty assigned to her at birth. So how then, does she have a complete arc without disproving her lie?

Well it’s simple. If you can’t change the truth, you simply change the lie. Edelgard has a second lie, and I believe it makes up the worst parts of her personality. It’s her belief that her plan, despite being for the betterment of all of mankind, has no room for mercy or empathy. This is a lie reinforced not by outside forces, but by her own actions. For reference, see the second battle at Gronder Field, and with it, the way Edelgard readily sacrifices characters like Bernadetta and Petra for her own gain. These aren’t just soldiers in her army, mind you. These are her friends, people she spent her time at Garreg Mach becoming increasingly close to over quite a stretch of time. When I said that I hated Edelgard earlier, this is the character that I meant. A character so vile and stubborn that in the face of people she’s victimized, her tunnel vision can only ever focus on her own ambitions. 

And yet, I love Edelgard as a character, because she’s merciful, able to cultivate the talents of those around her, and despite methods I don’t agree with, truly does seek to change the world for the better. But how can those ideas exist simultaneously? Well, that’s the easy part. Dismantle the lie.

The structure of a character arc seems to imply a linear narrative. Obviously that makes sense in the context of books and movies, as you’re typically experiencing just that. A narrative with a clear beginning, middle, and end. But Fire Emblem: Three Houses has a dynamic narrative, that changes based on player decisions and actions, and as a result of this, characters have dynamic arcs. For Edelgard, it’s the difference between a flat arc and a hero’s journey. To elaborate on that further, a flat character arc is where a character remains functionally the same throughout an entire narrative. They’re seldom changed by the world, or by other characters. This would be Edelgard in the Blue Lion route. She’s unwavering in her ideals, consistently decisive and immovable throughout the entire story. As a result of this, the world is far more often changed by her. She starts the war, she corrupts Dimitri, divides the alliance, sets major actions in motion. The person that she is ultimately means more to the story than the person she could become. This also makes her a great villain, because characters like Dimitri have to undergo more traditional positive arcs in order to overcome her. 

Edelgard is a character largely informed by her relationships. Those relationships fall into two categories. Those who do things for her, Hubert, Byleth (In Crimson Flower), Ferdinand Von Aegir, her Uncle Arundel, and those who do things to her, Dimitri, Rhea, Byleth (in all other routes), and her Uncle Arundel. I hate the guy, but his presence in both categories is a big part of who Edelgard becomes. 

Arundel is the most impactful person in her life, because he sets her on the path that changes her life. First by experimenting on and subsequently killing her siblings, and then by cultivating that darkness in her heart and urging her to leverage the likes of the Death Knight and Solon in her quest for power. Edelgard’s masked alter ego, the Flame Emperor, is a product of Arundel’s actions. 

The second most impactful relationship in Edelgard’s life is the one she shares with Byleth. Of course, the depth of this relationship is down to player choice, and will ultimately determine the quality of Edelgard’s life, as well as the success of her ambitions.  

I like how heavily the people in Edelgard’s life influence her actions, because I think it serves to emphasize her naturally empathic nature. She cares for others, and is fundamentally chasing what she deems to be everyone in the world’s ideal outcome. Of course, she’s wrong in a lot of ways, but that’s in large part, the entire point. In order for her to be this antagonistic force in ¾ of the game’s story, she has to also be at least a little bit incorrect in her philosophy, or at least her execution of her belief system. 

I’ve often heard the argument made that Byleth is a character who teaches Edelgard the value of mercy. This is a direct contrast to a belief that drives her forward, that mercy has no place in her war. 

In Crimson Flower, we watch this manifest as the lie Edelgard believes. The lie is deconstructed throughout Part 2 of that timeline. For example, the battle between Edelgard and Lysithea during their last stand against Master Tactician, Claude. Or that in Crimson Flower, Edelgard actually has the opportunity to spare Claude’s life. This is the part that I find to be a bit sad.

One of the reason’s Edelgard is so insistent on bearing the burden of responsibility is because she’s rarely been shown genuine empathy or compassion from just about anyone. Even Hubert, who cares for her so deeply, is very transactional in the way he behaves with her. The others within the empire treat her with ill will, and Arundel tries to harm her on numerous occasions. 

The first time she feels at home anywhere is with her classmates and her professor, and she loses out on all of that if Byleth rejects her at the game’s midway point. Of course that would drive someone to stubborn madness. It’s not just Byleth that she wants the approval of, it’s everyone. She’d never admit it, I think Edelgard fears her own potential weakness more than most. 

The beautiful irony in Three Houses is that there are a great many characters with overlapping views and ideals, and yet, they’re so polarized in their relationships with each other because ultimately, almost all of them have an ends oriented ideology rather than a means oriented one. Rhea, Dimitri, and Edelgard are three passionate violent forces, that believe the outcomes are what matter, and that methods are inconsequential so long as the goal is met. 

In the routes within the game where these respective lords are heroes, they survive ultimately because they overcome that mentality. For Edelgard to achieve victory, she has to undergo the hero’s journey, dispelling the lie that has taken hold over her life. This singular instance of a positive arc for her is ultimately the most fleshed out version of her that we see, because the facade is broken down, both by other people in her life finally getting close to her, and by her ambition taking hold and the inspiration for her entire character being laid bare for all to see. 

This game is making some pretty explicit statements about the nature of war, and ends oriented ethics. A lot of it is to say that waving a flag for a noble cause doesn’t inherently excuse the actions said cause demands. While Three Houses is never afraid to vocalize these subjects through character dialogue around Garegg Mach, its clearest vehicle is in one of its most ambitious characters. 

So I’ll say it again, to bookend it all. I hate Edelgard, because of the pain she puts her friends through when she keeps them out. Because she turns this incredible SRPG gameplay into a painful crawl towards the execution of someone I’ve been trained to respect and admire. And I love Edelgard, because she’s the most honest and impactful antagonistic force Fire Emblem has had since the GBA. Because the depth of her character goes so much further than just “villain.” Because she, just by being who she is, elevates the rest of this story from a classic video game narrative, to a genuinely riveting war drama with a sense of dignity and character that exceeds its genre to become in my eyes, an instant classic.

Thank you all for tuning in for this character study! A new approach to video making for me, but something I definitely plan to try again. Once I finish the remaining Yakuza games, I’m gonna break down Kiryu next, because he’s a fascinating one for sure. So if you’re into this sort of thing, like the video and subscribe to make sure you’re around when I make more like it! In the meantime, check out these other recent works of mine and be sure to come back soon for more from the Game Room! 

In my time at Southern New Hampshire University, I’ve been on a long search for a way to leave my impact on this place. Game Design is a big part of my life, and I believe it should tie into most of what I do. I’ve worked hard over the past four years to have a meaningful experience both in my education as well as my extra curricular involvement on campus. I was an RA for three years, trying to incorporate my knowledge of games into fun and interactive activities for the brilliant minds in my hallways.

I joined the campus newspaper, the Penmen Press, in order to spread objective finite details in the form of game reviews. While it was fulfilling, I knew that my true calling was creating a sense of connectedness between the university and local game developers.

Over the summer I created the site you’re currently reading this on, and by extension a lot of the creative content including the podcast and other discussion based creative work. The more I focused on what made games good, the more I came to the understanding that game design is an inherently social beast, regardless of the shape it takes. In order to truly understand the social elements of game design, we must understand the types of games people around us are developing, and expand the social consciousness of our entire industry.

I started planning the SNHU Game Design Showcase and Exhibition in an attempt to show that I believe in the game industry here in New Hampshire, and the noteworthy achievements of my peers. I’d done one Game Design Expo before, back when Mustapha’s Game Room was a baby blog and I was just an overly ambitious high school student. This event lacked the same sort of purpose and resources, as it was more of a charity fundraiser for a library I worked for.

This new event was going to build on similar ideas and principles, that games have the potential to bring people together, but combine it with four years worth of university level game design teachings.

Now that I’ve gone on for ages about the philosophy behind this event, I should make mention of how the event went.

While this event didn’t have the incredible attendance of a PAX or a Boston FIG, it did offer a very good environment of free press and testing for a lot of very talented developers. Students, outside companies, alumni, and more gathered to show off some of the most innovative and intuitive games ever made. Whether they were treading the difficult path of VR development or adding twists to beloved genres such as bullet hell shooters and action packed platformers, these games were using limited resources to churn out some very strong design, visuals, and controls.

We also were honored with the incredibly seasoned Chuck Carter as our keynote speaker, offering all of us some pretty incredible insight into what we can do as aspiring game designers and developers in order to make games for a living. The career elements are present, but perhaps nothing strikes as much of a chord as the mentality that those in the industry are encouraged to have. Dedication and persistence are great to have, and talent is absolutely important, but nothing is quite as integral to a career in the industry as the ability to work hard and work on your own. Creating content to show how you think, how you solve tasks, how you interact with others, and how you approach conflict is the primary way of displaying that you’re prepared for these sorts of things.

 

Chuck Carter and our outside exhibitors were incredibly strong and impactful, but what made me the proudest was witnessing the community of SNHU students who showed off a plethora of games. There’s something to be said for a community that stands together to do great things, and despite what some people may believe, video games are truly great. They are an impactful medium, allowing people from all walks of life to experience real magic. The magic of interactivity, of changed perspective.

To conclude, I created the Game Room on the sole principle of emphasizing the important aspects of the innately social nature of games as a medium. The SNHU Game Design Showcase and Exhibition is just a further extension of those same principles. So a profound thank you is deserved, to all those who helped me plan, who exhibited, who provided funding and support. I owe an especially large thanks to Chuck Carter, who managed to save us when we were very close to having an event with no keynote speaker. I also owe thanks to Professor Ed Brillant, who helped me through an entire year of planning and prevented me from going at this process blind.

Next steps will be to do a post-mortem process and determine what we can do next year to set ourselves on the right track to growing and expanding the event. One last thanks for all who’ve attended, and most importantly of all, a thanks to you, the reader! The Game Room has afforded me so many great opportunities. This website, the YouTube Channel, the Twitter, and more. This brand has given me an avenue with which to share my perspectives and beliefs about this medium. So thank you for sticking with me for so long, thank you for reading this post, and make sure you come back soon for more from the GAME ROOM!!!

*Originally Published In Penmen Press*

A new year begins, and the anticipation for upcoming titles starts right back up. This year is especially big for the video game industry as Nintendo, the longstanding industry titan will be launching their handheld home console hybrid, Nintendo Switch. Along with that will come some very high profile game launches. Let’s dive right in and look at the biggest titles of this year’s launch schedule.

On Feb 21, the critically acclaimed “Halo Wars” series will be getting its second installment. This RTS reimagining of the classic shooter franchise has been a major success, appealing to fans both old and new. The second title will be available on Xbox One and Windows 10.

On Feb 28, “Horizon Zero Dawn” will launch, combining the aesthetic of a futuristic technologically advanced world with tension of a dystopia and tribal division. This game is looking to be one of the most creative launches this year, and will be available exclusively on PS4 and PS4 Pro.

Mere days later on Mar 3, “The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild” will launch on Wii U and Nintendo Switch. Perhaps the most anticipated game of the entire year, this title will reinvent the conventions of Zelda, bringing the game back to its open world roots. With fully voice acted cutscenes, and a world that can be explored from the time you purchase the game, this is shaping up to be the most interesting Zelda yet.

Later in the month, on Mar 21, fans of the “Mass Effect” series can get their hands on “Andromeda” which is the newest game in the RPG series. Bioware is back in space, and this time, players can explore an entirely new set of planets on PS4, Xbox One, and PC.

For the first three months of 2017, there will be plenty of big game launches. As we approach the spring, even more titles such as “Mario Kart 8 Deluxe” and “Injustice 2” will be on the way. Here’s to keeping games in 2017 as interesting as possible.

*Originally Published In Penmen Press*

Nintendo has recently turned to mobile titles to pay tribute to some of their most beloved intellectual properties. From “Miitomo” which personalizes the interaction between players, games, and their own avatars to “Super Mario Run” which gives new players a basic introduction to the wonderful world of gaming’s favorite platforming superstar. Perhaps no mobile title yet has been as strong a tribute as “Fire Emblem Heroes” which takes the beloved series to new territory.

A beautiful celebration of the beloved strategy franchise, “Fire Emblem Heroes” takes the most base elements of the core series, and adds enough pull to lure in new fans. As mobile titles take over the world in their influence (largely due to free-to-play models making them accessible) it’s great to see a title that uses that influence to keep traditional handheld titles relevant.

“Fire Emblem Heroes” is essentially, a lite strategy game that allows players to participate in 4v4 battles featuring a combination of a new original cast and the most revered heroes in the franchise. Take the role of tactician, as you use your rare ability to summon heroes from many worlds. Whether it’s Marth or Roy (commonly known for their appearance in “Super Smash Bros”) or Eirika and Eliwood, players will get to delve even deeper into the franchise, perhaps finding an interest they didn’t know they had.

The combat of “Fire Emblem Heroes” is substantial, keeping most of the core elements of the original games while maintaining some level of simplicity. The visual style is new and fresh, as well as somewhat humorous. The sound design is brilliant, and true to the series’ roots. The social experience is also quite well executed, with adding players as friends being as easy as the click of two buttons. Perhaps eliminating the friend codes for specific requests would be ideal, as friend codes have never worked particularly well for Nintendo.

The launch of this title incredibly well timed with “Fire Emblem Echoes” coming out in a few months, and “Fire Emblem Warriors” coming out next year. Nintendo is clearly trying to capitalize on what was once an incredibly obscure franchise. With “Fire Emblem Heroes” now being available on IOS and Android, the franchise will no doubt hit the homes of many players far and wide.

Welcome aboard, Game Roomies!

I’d like to take this time to share in an intimate discussion with my favorite readers about the nature of this year in games. I realize it hasn’t been the best or the easiest for a lot of people, so I’d just like to take some time and discuss some highlights and low points of this year’s launches.

A lot of people really don’t like No Man’s Sky, and that’s reasonable, but I think it has the potential to become a beautiful comeback story about what our industry is capable of achieving with enough time. The game may not have launched being of the quality represented by Hello Games, but over the course of the next few years, it has the potential to be a good game. I doubt it will ever regain the love and popularity it had before launch, but that comes with the territory.

Now in discussing some good launches, I don’t think I can mention games of the year without talking about Overwatch. While I myself don’t care for shooters, as loyal readers already know, this game has had a major impact on the culture surrounding Blizzard in a way I enjoy. While I may never play the game, I’ll hold out for an animated series of sorts.

Back on my side of the coin, Fire Emblem Fates also launched this year, and I got the privilege of playing all three paths of the game. They were incredible.

Nintendo announced their newest console, the Switch, and Sony and Microsoft have been releasing iterative versions of their consoles as well, emphasizing the 4K visuals that seem to be sweeping the gaming world.

But you know, I get to talk about best games and whatnot on MMOExaminer, so I’d really like to zero in on some of the best stuff that we got to do here.

Starting with PAX East, where I got to be on Nintendo Minute and meet numerous independent developers, the true destiny of Mustapha’s Game Room became unmistakably clear to me. My job through this blog was to create an online portfolio, giving me access to countless opportunities, as well as a chance to interact with the gaming community on a daily basis.

Through podcasts, E3 Live Coverage, and tons of written posts here and on MMOExaminer as well, I got the privilege of becoming a far better writer than I thought possible.

In May, we were just a blog with big ideas, but now we’re growing, and it’s thanks to the readers who have stayed loyal over all of this time!

As always, if you’d like to read more of my written content, head on over to MMOExaminer for daily game news and discussions from yours truly! Make sure you like my Facebook page and follow me on Twitter as well!

I’d just like to extend my utmost gratitude to everyone, and make sure that you all come back in 2017 for more from the GAME ROOM!!!

*Originally Published in Penmen Press*

No holiday season is complete without blockbuster games. Especially if you’re a student, you might find yourself needing a game or two to kill time over break. Let’s dive right in and look at some of the biggest titles you should be playing this holiday season.

First and foremost, after a ten year development cycle, fans of the critically acclaimed “Final Fantasy” series should rejoice. “Final Fantasy XV” has finally launched, and to quite the acclaim. This game, known for its large open world and emphasis on the relationship between its main party, has been quite the topic of conversation. If you’re looking for a game to pour yourself into over break, this is it.

In the mood for a more thoroughly challenging experience? Be careful what you wish for because “Super Mario Maker For Nintendo 3DS” is now available. The Wii U title that changed the face of our favorite plumber’s franchise has now gone handheld, meaning you can torture yourself on the go. From giant flying Bowsers to Pirahna Plants falling from the sky, you’ll never be able to stop moving in this user-generated dungeon of well crafted levels.

Interested in adding a bit more strategy to your life? While “Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft” is far from new, its
newest expansion, “Mean Streets of Gadgetzan” just launched, giving players the opportunity to battle with over 100 new cards. With this game reaching its height userbase, it’s a better time than ever before to jump into one of the biggest collectible card games on mobile and PC.

“Furi” was previously reviewed in the Penmen Press, and though it’s not a new game, it is launching this month on Xbox One. If you missed out on a chance to try this incredibly balanced action game, a whole new world of possibilities is being opened for you.

Finally, if you’re looking for something a bit more “in the theme” of this season, “Steep” is an open world winter sports game developed by Ubisoft. Unconventional? Yes. The formula still finds a way to be unique and fun, despite being based on something as niche as winter sports.

The options for a gamer hungry for adventure are as plentiful as ever, thanks to the launch of numerous incredible titles. Have a happy holiday, and happy gaming!

If you’ve been missing out on daily content from me, what are you waiting for? Head on over to the Facebook or Twitter page for Mustapha’s Game Room to see written content from various sites, written by me! Everything is posted on the daily. In the meantime, get your hands on some of these games. Thank you for reading, and come back soon for more from the GAME ROOM!!!

*Originally Published in the Penmen Press”

If you’re like me, “Undertale” was a game you intended to try, but the incredibly vocal fanbase may have turned you away. Having now passed that threshold, it’s clear that there’s far more to this game than meets the eye.

“Undertale” is a game worth revisiting, for numerous reasons. First and foremost, it offers fans of classic RPGs such as “Earthbound” and “Final Fantasy” a familiar interface, taking the traditional nature of turn-based battles and building on that formula. However, the deeper you get into the game, the more you will start to find that the mechanics of combat don’t quite match up with a classic RPG at all.

“Undertale” truly puts you in the driver’s seat. It gives you the opportunity to customize your experience as you go, allowing your style of play to directly mirror the narrative. Whether you kill or spare enemies, attack or dodge, defend or run, the game will be an entirely different experience.

Despite taking the classic RPG aesthetic, “Undertale” has some very advanced and modern game design principles at play, including an incredibly reactive and relevant soundtrack. Gripping narrative moments as well as comical scenes bounce off of the incredibly dynamic tracks.

Finally, the narrative. The story of “Undertale” is progressive and modern, without being preachy and overbearing. You’ll find the question of morality, but it’s not shoehorned or self-righteous. It’s incorporated in a way that allows you to act on instinct, and rewards or punishes you accordingly, by presenting some incredibly emotionally gripping scenes and characters.

“Undertale” is genuinely a modern masterpiece, utilizing the style of an RPG to really give insight into some of the more psychological aspects of video game design. If you happened to miss it when the game was popular, now might be an even better time to give it a try!

This review was originally written for my school newspaper. For more of my written content, please follow my Facebook and Twitter pages, where there are 2-3 new posts per day. In the meantime, thanks for reading and come back soon for more from the GAME ROOM!!!

*Originally Published in the Penmen Press*

Luigi’s Mansion: Dark Moon Review

The first brother of gaming is back with his signature vacuum in “Luigi’s Mansion: Dark Moon.” Step into the quivering shoes of Luigi, who is out to restore balance to Evershade Valley. The once benevolent ghosts of the land have gone mad thanks to the shattering of the fabled Dark Moon. Professor E. Gadd calls the one ghost buster he knows he can count on, and just like that the adventure begins again.

luigis-mansion-dark-moonWhile the first “Luigi’s Mansion” had a legitimately spooky undertone, this game takes a much more comical approach. A lot of Luigi’s style and movement are inspired by Mr. Bean, so one could imagine that he’s a very goofy rendition of this lovable character.

This game also has a more action-oriented approach, with a far more involved set of mechanics for ghost catching, including a button that unleashes a special attack.

Dark Moon offers a competitive/cooperative game mode called ScareScraper that allows players both online and locally to pursue the ghosts of a special mansion. This mode has a lot of ghosts exclusive to multiplayer, so there’s some extra completion value for those who want to play with friends and strangers alike.

The story mode of this game is filled with hilarious antics, with Luigi being one of the most reluctant heroes in gaming history. The world is working against him, as he almost never wants to go on the missions that the Professor asks of him.

To conclude “Luigi’s Mansion: Dark Moon” is an incredibly quirky and character driven game, that really manages to bring out the best of one of gaming’s most lovable heroes. If you’re looking for a fun “spooky” Nintendo 3DS game to play this Halloween, this is definitely the title for you.

Another review for you, my Game Roomies! Thank you all for reading, and come back soon for more from the GAME ROOM!!!

*Originally Published in the Penmen Press*

Furi is a rare breed of game. It combines the classic “bullet hell” style of retro games like “Galaga” with the quick-witted parry dependent nature of a “Dark Souls” to make a great blend of action and tactics. This consecutive boss brawler has no grunts for you to do battle with. Just you, and the fierce warriors who stand to destroy you.


You star as a nameless protagonist, waking up in a prison and attempting to set yourself free. As you escape this cosmic entrapment, you will do battle with the guardians. These beings each have specialties and themes relating to the past of your playable character.

FuriWhether you’re zipping and dashing around the map to avoid an onslaught of enemy fire, or getting up close and personal to unleash devastating sword combos, you never stop moving in Furi.

This game requires a reactive and proactive mode of thinking. There’s room to wiggle on your style, albeit not much. If you decide to be more forward you can trigger attacks from enemies early on. Enemies have attacks that can be parried, and attacks that must be dodged. So there’s never room in this game for comfort to set in. In a sense this is part of what makes this game so intense.

Furi’s visual style and atmosphere are reminiscent of the stylings of “Afro Samurai” and some other older anime. It combines elements of urban themes with Bushido art, and some pretty deeply rooted philosophy. For instance, the old sage character in this game has headphones similar to “Dre Beats” on his head.

Smaller segments of story come in between the boss gauntlet as you’re given context for some of the characters before you proceed to battle them. This is narrated by a friendly character with an interesting perspective.

Furi has interesting combat, unique visuals, consistent style, and underlying culture. All of these elements make it an example of the truly great content a player can find in modern games. This title, available on PC and PS4 is well worth a purchase.

I don’t think there’s much else to be said. I know it’s been a while, but I’m going to be introducing something new to the site pretty soon so I can interact with you guys more regularly. In the meantime, thank you for tuning in and come back soon for more from the GAME ROOM!!!