Writer’s Pick: Five Portable Game Highlights

Guacamelee HOOOOOOOO! by neomonki

See those games? Those games that you just spare one look at and go “wow, that art”? Yeah, those games. These are those games for me, and this whole thing might basically be just me being a fan about them.

So without further ado, here we go –

Guacamelee! (Available on the PS Vita)

Setting aside the honestly very engaging gameplay (and also the blisters I got as I tried to get the combos just right), on its own, visually, this is a great game to check out.

Just look at it; great popping colors (and even amongst all that, the brilliant masks of the main character, both male and female, is distinct enough for you to always recognize where they are on the screen), amazing creature designs, splendid backgrounds and overall awesome stylized art.

It’s really amazing when you’re playing the game and executing all these combos, and there are these flashes of sharp edged colors across the screen. It keeps your attention riveted, and it’s visually exciting. The character designs are all diverse and interesting to check out, and match their personalities really well.

And come on, look at the creature designs. You have giant skeletons in hats, huge monsters more than twenty times your size with red spikes and a purple mane and taloned feet. They’re things out of pure imagination, and it’s so fun to look at.

And then there are the backgrounds, which are gorgeous, especially when you switch between worlds. You see the world in a different light, so to speak, and the contrast between the two is really nice to see. It’s a pretty fantastical game, so liberties are taken in the color schemes of the backgrounds (as with everything else) and you know what, it just looks stunning.

Did I also mention you can turn into a chicken?

Momohime vs the Big Oni by oh8

Muramasa Rebirth (Available on the PS Vita)

Okay. This game. The moment I picked it up, I just whistled in awe at the art. The game runs really fluid (at least it did on the PS Vita system that I played it on) and clear, so it brings across the animation and art really nicely.

The characters have really intricate costumes, and the detailing on them is really great to see. To see them flutter in the wind as they run, to see how they move is just eye candy really. The creatures and bosses are as complex as the characters themselves, and really great to see even as you are slashing and bashing them into oblivion.

And have you seen their blades? Because, blades. And in this game, you can collect a bunch of them, so you can see the different ones in action. And then there are the special moves, some of which just made me whoop in glee when I saw them.

Also, the backgrounds on this game. The backgrounds. This is supposed to be an action game, “hack, slash, ninja flip around, mash ‘x’ to advance text” kind of game, but there were plenty of moments where I just kept going back and forth in the game to scrutinize the backgrounds present in the game. I just couldn’t get enough of it, because it was so absolutely wonderful. From the lighting of the game (how the lighting affects the characters and the objects around it), to the way the trees and the grass sways, it just really caught my attention. The weather, the atmosphere, everything.

The colors are also really fresh. It doesn’t have the stylized color scheme of Guacamelee; instead its color scheme is tinged in a more realistic scheme, with certain liberties given for atmospheric moments (green makes it eerie), but they’re still captivating and compliment the entire look of the game really well.

So all in all, I took way longer than the game actually required for me to complete it because I was just faffing around, gawking over the art and animation.

Bastion commission by FauxBoy

Bastion (Available on iOS)

At this point in time, I’m just feeling that all the games I’m talking about here are getting me all fired up, and I’m going to end up just spewing nonsensical words of excitement.

But, in any case -­ Bastion. Just as a quick deviation from the visuals -­ I think I need to say that the narrative is pretty awesome. The narrator does an amazing job telling the story, and it really lends a very nice touch to the whole world of the game, from the cadence of the speech to the general storytelling of it.

Now, back to the visuals. I really like the look of the whole game; there’s that hand painted look going on, and it’s really great. There’s a sort of beauty to it, despite it being a post apocalyptic kind of world. I feel it lends a kind of hope to the game, a promise of life as the player attempts to rebuild the world, and it’s wonderfully fantastical and surreal at the same time. It’s bright and enrapturing, and it’s really a nice fresh take of a post apocalyptic world.
Another thing to note is the way in which the world is presented in the game; there’s the idea that the world is fractured, and the way the landscape and world unfolds is rather genius – it crumbles away, it forms and slots into place as the player moves. It’s essentially like the world is alive under your feet, and this is some brilliant choice of execution.

Bastion is pretty widely available, so grab it and give it a try if you can!

[BRAVELY DEFAULT]Ringabel by Rlotte

Bravely Default (Available on the 3DS)

Bravely Default is a pretty new game, just out this year (2014). Nonetheless, I was pretty excited for it the moment I heard about it, and I was just bouncing to get it when it came out.

If you think the art is similar to other games such as Final Fantasy Tactics: War of the Lions, that’s because this is a Square Enix game, and they share the same artist. I was pretty wowed by the art of FF Tactics back then, and I was pretty impressed by the art again this time around in Bravely Default.

Look at the different towns, locations and settings. They are suitably grand, derelict and whimsical when they need to be. They’re all elaborately painted, and had me running edge to edge and squinting at my screen just to try and make out all the details (especially the first location that you find yourself in, and that is a great introduction into the game).

The character costume designs are nothing to scoff at either – the fact that there are various different classes call for different class costumes, and they range from the hilarious (I mean, you get a wolf’s head costume if you decide to become a Ranger) to the downright gorgeous (seriously, the costume of the Dark Knight). And then there are character specific clothes as well (hello there, bikini).

I’d say Bravely Default really pushes the capabilities of the 3DS; I think it’s one of the most gorgeous games on the system yet.

Fire Emblem : Eternal Bonds by Lo-wah

Fire Emblem: The Awakening (Available on the 3DS)

Ah yes, Fire Emblem: The Awakening. The game that seriously made me fall in love with the 3DS’ potential and look into the library of games that it had.

FE: TA’s gameplay is amazing – aside from it being a strategy RPG (a challenging one at that, should you choose to play at normal mode; any death of a character ensures his or her death for the entire game, so a player has to be extra careful), players also cultivate relationships between the characters (Gregor, I’m just going to pair Gregor with everyone). There’s really a lot of depth in this game.

Visually, during battles, FE: TA employs isometric pixel sprites in a grid to move them. I feel the real merit of the visuals in this game comes from the cut scenes, 2D sprites, as well as the combat and engage screen.

The cut scenes are gorgeous in their art and animation, and contribute well to the story that FE: TA has going. You get to see characters in their full glory, and that’s always pretty to see.

The 2D sprites in the game contribute well to when the characters are speaking with each other. It’s always fun to see the expressions on their faces as they cringe and blush, and the character designs make each character distinct and unique.

FE: TA was one of the games in which I actually employed the 3D capability of the 3DS for a large amount of the time – mainly because I was pretty impressed by the look of the combat screen. For one, the combat feels like a whole cut scene in itself – the camera is dynamic and changes angles, and your characters look like they’re engaging with the enemy as they leap forward. The spells casted are also pretty awesome in their effects.

If you have a 3DS, I definitely recommending playing this game.

Written by Bliss Lokiev Ng
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