Surprise – Yakuza 6: The Song of Life

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Came home from the Awana Awards Ceremony at church, last night, and collapsed on the couch. I’m not sure what it is about Wednesday nights, maybe its the going from work directly to church, but I find it exhausting. The worst part is that I’m super tired and wired up after playing with the kids. Enough whining though.

Once things settled down, and I put Wyatt to bed, I collapsed on the couch once more. Firing up the PS4, I aimlessly searched for a game to play. Not sure about you, but I often sit down with the intent to play something and can’t make up my mind. I then end up watching videos on YouTube or some show on Netflix. But last night I noticed a demo I had downloaded awhile back, Yakuza 6: The Song of Life.

The game demo begins with a cold shower of story told through cutscenes (more like a story flood). Eventually, Yakuza 6 led me through a quick fight tutorial followed by another dousing of cutscenes (I’ll be good, I promise!). The whole game, so far, amounting to a crash course in all things yakuza told through superb Japanese voice acting. I was surprised that I had somehow missed this action-adventure series; delighted at finding a new genre at the video game buffet.

From what I played last night, Yakuza 6 follows protagonist Kazuma Kiryu as he attempts to find out what happened to a woman named Haruka. The game features an open world that mixes exploration, conversations, and full blown street brawls into a tasty dish.

I played for over an hour in a tired daze. Drinking in the sights, sounds, and detailed world (complete with vending machines) of Kamurocho.

Yakuza 6: The Song of Life is not what I expected. I had expected to play the game for a few moments and then delete it due to mature content. But instead, I found a thoughtful adventure game mixing story with fighting and cinematic flare.

I’m still not done with the Yakuza 6 demo, but I will be back. Ready to kick some butt and find out what happened to Haruka.

King’s Quest – A Knight To Remember

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kingsquest

We (i.e., Bryan Hall and Josh Cauller) decided to do a co-review for King’s Quest: A Knight To Remember, the first episode of a re-imagining of the classic 1980s adventure game series. We liked this episode a lot. Here’s why:

M. Joshua Cauller

I thought this might be some obtuse point-and-click game — since King’s Quest was the founder of the prehistoric adventure genre of the 1980s, but instead I found a beautiful game with Telltale-like control and a ton of character. I was like, “Oh, I can play this!”

What was your first impression, Bryan?

Bryan Hall

My first impression? Surprise. I found the introduction to Graham compelling: through his exploits with the dragon and the Telltale-like choices with said dragon — set her free, or walk away.

Being able to do all of these things with my son, even better. King’s Quest: A Knight To Remember had me hooked from the opening. It advances at a steady gait until it falls to adventure game trappings. Do X in the right order to trigger Y.

Did you end up having to use a walkthrough, Josh?

M. Joshua

Yeah. I totally used a walkthrough.

I felt like I knew where I should go or what to do only about half the time. There’s a wealth of obtuse puzzles where you have to lure a badger into your inventory so you can use the badger to get the squirrels away from the pumpkin so you can take the pumpkin to the potion shop to get the thing you really wanted all along.

It’s old-school and the total opposite of Telltale style of adventure game — where you mostly just make decisions and press forward — but I think that it works well here in those few examples where you don’t need a guide. When I figured puzzles out on my own, I felt smart.

I’m curious how you handled the obtuse puzzles with your son. What did he love about the game?

Bryan

The game’s humor had Wyatt giggling beside me. The obtuse puzzles, however, left him ready to do something else. Anything else.

Wyatt is used to Skylanders’ world of constant action and character swapping, but King’s Quest calmly holds a hand up. Stop! Be patient. Talk, explore, and listen to the world and those around you.

There were some speedy parts that really had us on the edge of our seats, like Achaka, ninja dude extraordinaire. His journey into the dragon’s lair was probably our favorite part.

M. Joshua

Yeah, the part when you follow Achaka through the dragon’s lair was when the game really picked-up. It added a ton of character development to the protagonist, Graham. That surprised me too!

It’s funny that Achaka quest shows up several hours into the game. I mean, the first episode of most episodic games are longer, but never more than three hours. This first episode took me a whole six hours!

How long did it take you?

Bryan

Unfortunately, the PS4 features no such way of measuring time. I can tell you it was long enough to settle a disagreement with the bridge troll union, talk to some potion makers who reminded me of Princess Bride leftovers, and bribe a squirrel masquerading as a princess with a pastry.

What did you think of the overall framing device of a grandfather telling a tale to his granddaughter?

M. Joshua

I love Christopher Lloyd as the grandfather. He feels natural and loving: the perfect storyteller.

It’s a double edged sword, though. Grandfather Graham retells stories of his youth, but the past-tense keeps the tension out of the experience for us as players. For those of us who fell in love with Telltale’s ultra-tense Walking Dead, King’s Quest doesn’t have quite enough drama to keep me from feeling sleepy.

I had to fight to stay awake early in the game because I felt so little stress (which I need in my games). It took me a number of sleepy play sessions before the game really grabbed me.

How about you? How did you feel about the game’s hooks?

Bryan

I have a confession to make: I played King’s Quest for myself, even though I played the game with Wyatt sitting next to me.

The game taps into this adventure game purity. While I didn’t so much like the badger puzzle chains of this world, I enjoyed everything else. Solving situations was refreshing.

Graham lacks an agenda. He is a normal guy, with a feather in his cap, trying to do the right thing. I love that. It speaks to a time in my life when gaming was less violent. I applaud the use of puns and clever storytelling.

I enjoyed revisiting a unique season in my life — a season of late night sleepovers, back and forth phone calls, and puzzle solving with friends. And I love sharing that with my family.

M. Joshua

I like that Graham’s solutions veered towards practical creativity. That’s the thing that sticks with me.

Through Graham, we become dependent on relationships with sneaky merchants, bridge trolls from France, a sassy blacksmith, and a midget knight with voiced by The Princess Bride’s Wallace Shawn. These characters stick with us. They’re unique and well-drawn.

I think back to the relationship with the ninja knight, Achaka. Your relationship with him depended on your interactions with him because of a language barrier. This is a hard concept to explore through any medium butvideo games: getting to know people through interaction instead of our own voice. This first episode of King’s Quest does that swimmingly.

I think that covers my thoughts on the game. What would you say to anybody who’s thinking about checking out this first episode?

Bryan

We often shy away from things we don’t think we’ll like, but we can end up surprised when we try new things. At the dinner table recently, I asked Wyatt if he wanted to try some Greek yogurt. He snubbed his nose at me. I persisted, knowing that it was something he would enjoy. After a bit more coaxing, he put a spoonful of yogurt into his mouth. Mmm. Wyatt loved it!

Perception is everything. Whether that is a different type of yogurt or an old school video game genre. King’s Quest: A Knight To Remember is a great first taste that left me asking for more.

Wave SplinterTitle: King’s Quest: A Knight To Remember
Developer: The Odd Gentlemen
Platforms: PC, Xbox One, PlayStation 4, Xbox 360, PlayStation 3
Reviews on: PS4
MSRP: $9.99