Author Archives: Samantha Davis

About Samantha Davis

Hello! Writing and music are my passions. When I realized I couldn’t find what I was looking for in college, I dropped out and started a blog instead. I will be posting my reviews, opinions, guides, and anything I might find interesting in the gaming world. Feel free to suggest post ideas to me, and I’ll see if I can make them happen! Picture made with Picrew.

Splatoon 3 or Mario Kart 9? Did the Wii U Ever Happen?

Mario Kart has been around for a while now. We’ve seen it ever since the SNES games. A new Mario Kart game releases each generation without fail. Super Mario Kart for the SNES, Mario Kart 64 for the N64, Mario Kart Super Circuit for the GBA, Mario Kart DS, Mario Kart Wii, Mario Kart 7 for the 3DS. and finally, Mario Kart 8 for the Wii U. No, Mario Kart Tour doesn’t count. There was even some speculation that Mario Kart 9 would also release for the Wii U. …Yeah, I don’t know where people got that idea from.

Mario Kart released in 2014 for the Wii U. Later in 2014, the first DLC pack released, featuring three new racers and eight new courses. In 2015, the next DLC pack released with another three racers and eight courses. This was the first time Mario Kart had ever received DLC, let alone paid DLC. But it wasn’t surprising. This was around the time DLC really started taking off.

In 2017, Mario Kart 8 Deluxe released for the Nintendo Switch, a month after the Switch itself released. This was a direct port of Mario Kart 8 for the Wii U, with all of its DLC included. Okay, understandable. Mario Kart 8 was a HUGE success on the Wii U, it makes sense to bring it over to the Switch, especially this early in its lifetime. Little strange that they didn’t release 9 instead of porting it over, but I guess it makes sense from a business stand point. They’re just releasing this to hold us over until Mario Kart 9 releases, right?

Five years later in 2022 when Mario Kart 8 may as well be dead, it was announced that 48 retro tracks would be released as paid DLC that you could by standalone, or included in the online membership program.


So they decided to rerelease 48 tracks that are basically a port of Mario Kart Tour’s tracks, from the mobile game, with only slight revisions to make the art style fit the rest of the game? Why? Is Nintendo just that lazy that they’re choosing to milk Mario Kart 8 with lazy ports of old courses and charge money for them instead of creating an entirely new game? Like they’ve done for literally every system?

Toad Circuit looks especially lazy this time around. I’d argue that it was more impressive on the 3DS during its time.

Don’t get me wrong, there are tracks from this new DLC that I love,. Especially the Mario Kart Tour tracks Paris Promenade and Ninja Hideout. I’m glad we get to experience these courses on a console. But at the same time, why not bring these courses back in a new Mario Kart game? That’s the thing about this DLC pack. They’re all retro courses. Some of them are retro courses we’ve seen brought back before such as Choco Mountain and Coconut mall. Why not include these 48 new retro tracks in Mario Kart 9? You have half of a game right there. Sure, it’s more work creating entirely new tracks when you can lazily port tracks over and call it DLC. But with a little extra work, you can charge 30 more dollars and sell it as a new game. This is just laziness at its finest.

Paris Promenade actually looks really nice in this game. Most of the original Tour tracks do, with a few exceptions.

The sad thing is, this DLC pack pretty much seals the fate of Mario Kart 9. It most likely won’t release until the next system.

Now we have Splatoon. A fairly new IP that Nintendo released in 2014 for the Wii U. I like to think of 2014-2016 as Nintendo’s experimental years, where they kept pushing new IPs or using existing IPs in new ways such as Splatoon, Code Name Steam, Amiibo Festival, Chibi Robo, Mario Maker, Triforce Heroes, etc. While most of these ideas were… failures, to say the least, Splatoon was a phenomenal success. In fact, Splatoon was such a big success that they decided to release a sequel for the Switch in 2017.

Splatoon 2 was also a phenomenal success, selling twice as much as the original. It was very similar to its predecessor, but now featured more weapons, new subs and specials, more ranked modes, the addition of Salmon Run, and of course, paid DLC. The paid DLC added playable octolings as well as a new solo campaign.

Both games featured events known as Splatfests. Splatfests would have a theme, such as Ketchup vs Mayo, Unicorn vs Narwhal, Pineapple vs no Pineapple, etc. Each player would pick the side they agreed with (or didn’t agree with, their choice) and would fight for that side. The winning team was determined by popularity and clout. The final Splatfest for the original game came two years after its initial release. Many fans thought Splatoon 2’s Splatfests would go on for longer considering the growing popularity and the fact that it released at the beginning of the Switch’s life, but Splatfests also ended two years later. After Splatfests ended, that more or less marked the end of updates to the game. It still gets updated from time to time to fix bugs, but weapons and stages are no longer being added to the game. The same was true for both the original and the sequel. Oddly enough, a year after Splatoon 2’s Splatfests ended, a rematch of Ketchup vs Mayo was announced. Three more Splatfests were held after that, two of which were entirely new.

Splatoon was a game that was predicted to release much like Mario Kart: One game per console. However, in 2021 it was announced that Splatoon 3 would be releasing for the Switch sometime the following year.

What? Did Nintendo just prioritize Splatoon over Mario Kart? Don’t get me wrong, Splatoon is a well loved game that many fans want to see more of. But it has literally been 8 years since a new Mario Kart game has released. Deluxe doesn’t count. They chose to make an entirely new Splatoon game and release ported retro tracks as DLC for Mario Kart 8? What even was the thought process for this???

This of course could just be Nintendo being lazy and going for the quick buck instead of investing time into a new game, which is what I’m more inclined to believe. However, at times it almost seems like they’re trying to make everyone forget that the Wii U ever existed. Games like Mario Kart 8, Hyrule Warriors, Fire Emblem Warriors, Donkey Kong Country Tropical Freeze, New Super Mario Bros U, Super Mario 3D World were all ported to the Switch. Games like Splatoon, Yoshi’s Woolly World and Mario Maker received sequels almost immediately after the Switch launched. Almost all of the Wii U’s successful titles (Xenoblade X where are youuuu) were either ported or otherwise received sequels on the Switch, giving you little to no reason to ever buy a Wii U. Could it be that Nintendo wants us to forget their Wii U mistake? Is this why Mario Kart 8 is on the Switch and not 9?

No, that’s a little too much conspiracy theory. But it is fun to speculate, and makes me slightly less angry that Mario Kart 9 still isn’t out.


Is New Horizons Really Better Than New Leaf?

Animal Crossing New Horizons launched on Nintendo Switch March 20, 2020. It launched roughly seven years after New Leaf launched for 3DS in Japan. New Leaf introduced so many concepts never before seen in the Animal Crossing series, such as public works projects, the dream suite, bushes, diving, more clothing options, etc. And New Horizons took things a step further introducing terraforming, the ability to place furniture outside, and deciding where neighbors move. With these new features, some features from New Leaf have been lost, even features that have been a staple throughout the Animal Crossing series. Something I have come to ask myself is, is New Horizons really better than New Leaf?

New Leaf launched with hundreds, if not thousands of hours of gameplay (depending who you are, of course). I myself have well over a thousand hours invested. This was the first (and only) time you were the mayor of your town! Shops were now placed in an area called Main Street, with the exception of the new Retail store. Similar to the City in City Folk, but much less annoying to get to. Granted, City Folk’s City had a lot of more minor stores (and Shampoodle, the hair salon run by Harriet) in the City, while New Leaf’s main facilities reside there in Main Street.

The new Retail store was similar to past games’ flea markets, run by alpaca Reese and her husband Cyrus. Cyrus would allow you to customize furniture, a series first. Reese would offer more bells for items you sold than the Nookling Shop in Main Street – Tom Nook’s store now run by his nephews. Speaking of Tom Nook, he now runs a real estate store. He’ll upgrade your house and also redesign your exterior, another series first. On top of these facilities, there are facilities for clothing, changing your hair and eyes, a shoe store, a place to have your fortunes told, and a club with mostly unfunny jokes. Run by the Able Sisters, Harriet, Kicks, Katrina, and Dr. Shrunk respectively. Also for the first time, the post office is separated from the Town Hall. I would have preferred if they stayed connected because it would be much easier to run to the Town Hall instead of having to run to a whole new screen just to send a letter. Or heavens forbid, store letters.

New Leaf also introduced bushes and swimming/diving. Bushes are small shrubs that can be planted next to each other, but no more than 12 can be touching each other at a time. They can also be planted next to trees. Swimming allows you to swim in the ocean (not lakes sadly) and pressing Y would allow you to dive can catch sea creatures. You need a diving suit in order to swim now, but previously a glitch allowed you to swim without one.

Public Works Projects was another big feature. You could place landmarks and other objects around your town, such as benches, a lighthouse, windmills, fountains, the campsite… Even The Roost, a cafe could be placed later in the game! Bridges could also be moved or removed entirely (though you have to have at least one bridge in your town) through this system. Sadly, you can only have 30 Publics Works Projects at a time, and some projects could not be demolished.

The Dream Suite is another Publics Works Project that takes the form of a building on Main Street. The Dream Suite allows you to visit what you could call “copies” of another player’s town. This allows you to visit any player who put their town up in the Dream Suite at any time, without ever interacting with them or affecting their town. Run through those flowers all you like! Sweet freedom at last! You can even take custom designs home with you. Unfortunately, you cant take anything else with you. Club LOL (which up until now I thought I was misreading this whole time) is another project on Main Street. Visiting during the day you can give Dr. Shrunk a piece of fruit and he will teach you a new emotion, the series’ version of emotes, by performing a short skit. At night, the club opens formally as a typical club. On Saturday nights K.K. Slider will perform.

But one of the BIGGEST additions to the game was Tortimer Island. The island becomes accessible after paying off your first home loan, and can be accessed by riding Kapp’n’s boat. It’s always summer on the island, so it’s a great way to get a tan. But an even better way of making money. Most players would go to the island at night and catch bugs and fish to sell off for hundreds of thousands of bells. But this wasn’t the main purpose of the island, oh no. On top of the standard five types of fruit your town could have (and the two you can either find or purchase on your island). there were an additional five: Bananas, lychees, mangoes, durians and lemons. You could take these fruits home and plant them on your island to grow the fruits’ respective trees. Not only was the island a great way to find fruits you couldn’t obtain otherwise, but there was a little something called Tours.

Tours essentially functioned as minigames. There would be games such as hide and seek, bashing a bomb with a hammer, fishing minigames, slingshot games, fossil games, ore games, you name it, it was a game. …Maybe I’m exaggerating a bit. But to make this even better, you could bring friends on the island with you! You and your friends could compete in these “Tours” with the winner earning the most amount of medals. Medals could be exchanged for exclusive furniture like the Mermaid series, or clothing items such as a beach shirt or hat. They could even be exchanged for equipment such as special variants of the diving suits or a silver axe! Tours are what I remember best about hanging out with friends in New Leaf.

I could go on and on about all of the little changes New Leaf brought to the series. The implementation of StreetPass, QR codes for custom designs, owning personal exhibits at the museum, perfect fruit, ordinances… I could go on. Despite this game releasing, packed with hundreds of hours of content…

New Leaf received an update containing dozens of new features in 2016. The main reason for the update was to implement the use of amiibo. By scanning an amiibo card of a villager, you could invite that villager to move into your town. It was a great way to get that dream villager to move in right away, instead of waiting weeks or even months to find them, or asking another player for that villager. It was also a great way for Nintendo to make money, because these cards were released in packs. Six cards would come in a pack, and those six would be random. You can bet many people made money off of these on eBay, selling popular villagers for over $60, when a pack of cards went for $6.

Not only could you scan in amiibo cards, but the game was compatible with certain amiibo figures. Figures from the Splatoon and Legend of Zelda series could be scanned for new villagers based or otherwise inspired by those series. They came with exclusive items, and you could also invite the villagers to move in to your town. Animal Crossing series figures would invite characters such as Reese and Tom Nook to come visit your town in the new Campground area. While these characters couldn’t move to your island, they would give you special items that could not be obtained otherwise. Such as Celeste’s bow, or Lottie’s wig. There were a few Japanese exclusive villagers, two of which weren’t connected to amiibo, so other countries had no chance of getting them. However, Felyne from Monster Hunter appeared as a villager. The Monster Hunter amiibos only released in Japan, but could be imported, and would work fine in any region. So I now have a $200 figure that I paid less than $25 for. I’m happy! Sanrio characters and items were added later, with amiibo cards releasing in Japan and Europe. Yay for more importing!

Exclusive furniture could also be bought at the Campground. The furniture wasn’t anything super special, but you couldn’t get it anywhere else. The furniture required a new currency known as MEOW coupons, that you could get from completing tasks or scanning amiibo daily. 3DS and Wii U figures were added to the game as well, each system came with a minigame. The Wii U came with a minigame previously included in Amiibo Festival, while the 3DS came with a game called Puzzle League, based on a Japanese exclusive game of the same name. Completing levels from both of these games would give you exclusive items.

On top of this, there were several other quality of life improvements such as a storage expansion, a new decorating mode when decorating your house based on Happy Home Designer, the ability to stack fruit, and the removal of sickness. An option to sell your town to rebuild it was even added! This expansive update in 2016 added to an already packed game, giving it that much more replayability.

So you can imagine my disappointment when New Horizons launched.

All right, all right. Let’s talk first about what New Horizons did right.

New Horizons takes place on an island for the first time in the series, rather than a town. You’re not the mayor, rather, the island representative. You start the game off with two villagers, one smug and one sisterly (uchi) type, which were first introduced in New Leaf. One of the main features of this game is that you’re able to craft things, such as furniture and equipment. The other main feature, which you don’t unlock for a couple weeks, is terraforming. Terraforming allows you to build or remove cliffs, as well as reroute or entirely remove water. It gives you (almost) complete control of your island, allowing you to make it look however you want it to.

Another big feature in this game is the ability to place furniture outside, for the first time in the series. A lot of New Leaf’s Public Works Projects came back in the form of furniture. Choosing where villagers move is another big feature. Previously in New Leaf, villagers would move wheresoever they pleased, and players would have to take advantage of an exploit that narrowed down where villagers could move. Another much needed change is that villagers will now ask to move out first, and won’t move out without getting your permission. This is what every player wanted – no longer having to write down the last day they played and change the date to “time travel” back to when they last played, and slowly move the day forward until they had caught up. Finally! Autosave is another feature included, which I have a love-hate relationship with. I wish it could be toggled on and off because sometimes I like to test things out with terraforming, and if it doesn’t work out, I’d like to be able to reload to before I had started.

Other quality of life improvements include much bigger pocket space, skin tone customization, ladders to climb up cliffs no matter where you are, vaulting poles to cross over rivers, again, no matter where you are. Bushes can now be placed next to each other and along cliffs, with no restrictions. Flowers will no longer wilt, and won’t die when trampled. Custom designs can be searched for through the internet directly in game now. Purses and backpacks have also been added.

A new feature where you can travel to mini islands, gathering resources or inviting villagers to join your island was also added. You can use Nook Miles Tickets, a new… I’d hate to say currency, but that’s sure how the Animal Crossing community sees it, which can be bought with Nook Miles. You know, the ACTUAL currency. You get Nook Miles for completing tasks, similar to the MEOW coupons in New Leaf. You can exchange these Nook Miles for exclusive items, emotes, hairstyles, and what have yous.

As for facilities, we have the Town Hall, the Nooklings’ shop, Able Sisters, Museum and- Oh right. That’s it.

That’s. It.

Even City Folk had more than that with its City. You could argue this is the same amount of facilities Wild World and the original Animal Crossing had. But why are we going back to that? Why aren’t we taking advantage of what City Folk and New Leaf gave us? Why are we regressing?

To top it off, the Nookling shop only has one upgrade. One. Historically, Nook’s Cranny (both the Nookling version and Tom Nook version) has had three upgrades, taking in game months to unlock. You can get this final version of the store within a month. Actually, you can unlock every major facility within a month. I understand wanting to have players unlock basic necessities early on, but part of the fun of the Animal Crossing series is eagerly waiting to unlock more and more stuff. New Horizons practically hands you these facilities on a silver platter.

Though oddly enough, you have to unlock the Museum. Which has never happened in an Animal Crossing game.

Gracie Grace, a fashionable giraffe that sells expensive clothing and furniture sets included in City Folk and New Horizons is also missing from the game. In fact, New Horizons seems to include staggeringly few furniture sets. At least there’s an abundance of clothes.

Amiibo still work in this game similar to the last, but figures no longer give special items. Nor are the figure exclusive characters present.

This is more of a personal opinion, and some others might agree, but to me, the dialogue of villagers has been going down each installment of the series. You have the original Animal Crossing where villagers are rude and sassy, but have so much personality. Wild World tons it down a bit, but you can definitely still feel that rudeness. City Folk removes the rudeness almost entirely, but the sass still remains. New Leaf removed the sass, but villagers still felt like they had personality. Though after a while, it did get tiring hearing the same dialogue over and over. New Horizons’ villagers all feel the same. I can barely tell the difference between peppy and normal, and smug and jock. I know they probably wanted to lighten things up since this is a kids game after all, but can you at least give them some sort of personality?! I dread having to interact with my neighbors now. And that’s not okay.

When it comes to housing, housing exteriors still remains a feature. You can actually relocate your house, which is a series’ first. You can relocate any building in the game, except for the Town Hall. However… I was very disappointed with the housing expansions. It adds the side rooms and back rooms like New Leaf did, but these rooms are pathetically small, and there’s no way to expand them like in New Leaf.

But one of my biggest complaints are the tools. Previously in the series, only the axe would break. This time, EVERY tool breaks. EVEN THE GOLDEN ONES. What’s the point of having golden tools if they’re still going to break? Novelty? You can craft tools and it’s fun at first, it feeds into the whole desert island theme. But after a while it’s just plain annoying, which is why the golden tools would have made more sense if they were unbreakable. Not to mention crafting these tools is a two step process. First you have to craft a wooden version, then an iron version. You have to track down all of these materials, or run to your house to grab the materials you stored, go to a crafting bench, and then craft them. At this point, I’d rather pay the 2,000 bells. Crafting in general is annoying. It would have been much more tolerable if it was just another menu you could open, and you can use materials that are in your storage without having to actually go get them.

The barrenness of the game did get a little better with the updates. In the first couple updates, we got bushes and diving. You know, things that were available at the beginning of New Leaf. Someone please tell me why that had to be an update. Dreaming was also added, basically functioning the same as the Dream Suite. Without the Dream Suite. This time you just lay down in your bed and you’re given the option to dream. Honestly not a bad substitute. Originally you couldn’t search for dreams (which sucked). but a later update fixed this.

Redd and Leif also had to be added in an update to the game – Redd, a character who has been in the series since the beginning, and Leif who was included since the start of New Leaf. Mario items were later added in the game to be purchased, and Sanrio villagers were added to the game. Previously, you could only obtain their posters from scanning their amiibo cards.

Finally, the 2.0 update released, a year and a half after the game’s initial launch. It added The Roost Cafe gyroids, and everyone’s beloved froggy chair, all things that have been in the series since the beginning. Kapp’n also returns, but not to bring you to Tortimer Island. This time, he brings you to mystery islands, similar to the ones you can already visit with  Nook Miles Tickets. These islands are the only way to get moss, vines, and gyroids. Housing storage was also expanded upon. More vegetables could be grown, on top of the pumpkins that had been added in an earlier update. Cooking however was added. Sixteen new villagers were also added, and ordinances were brought back from New Leaf. More furniture was added to the game (thank goodness) either through the Nookling shop or the paid DLC that released alongside the update.

Harv’s Island, an island previously used to take pictures of amiibos and an event involving planning Reese and Cyrus’ wedding was also expanded. It included tiny little shops for characters such as Reese and Cyrus, Katrina, Harriet, Saharah, Redd, Kicks, and Leif. No. None of these characters had shops prior to this. Saharah, Redd, Kicks, and Leif would occasionally visit your island to sell you some of their wares, and Harriet was replaced by a mirror. Yes, a mirror. You deserved better, Harriet. In the cases of Saharah, Redd, Kicks and Leif, their stock changes on a weekly rotation, and they offer slightly more than they usually do when visiting your town, save for Redd. You can also visit whenever you want instead of having to rely on them spawning on your island. Harriet gives you a few unlockable hairstyles, but is pretty useless once you get them all. It’s nice that Katrina came back and all, but Reese and Cyrus are the big addition. They allow you to customize your furniture much like in New Leaf. And you don’t have to wait around! While it’s nice that these characters have their own shops now, I feel like I’m going through some sort of menu hub instead of an actual shopping center. It all just feels… very bland.

This information was all shown in an almost twelve minute long video, also showing off the paid DLC. All of the information looked very promising until this awful… This awful, awful, text appeared on screen.

Note how it says this is the LAST major free content update.

Okay, maybe it wasn’t THAT awful. But it was awful to me. This was it? THIS was IT? I wasn’t keen about the game launching with… Well, what some could call barebones content. But I chose to believe in it. Even though I don’t like when games spread their content across updates that could have EASILY been included in the original game, I went along with it. We would eventually get more and more content, right? And it would eventually catch up to New Leaf if not surpass it, right?


There is SO much they could have done with this game! They could have brought back Tortimer Island! Give friends something to do while playing the game besides shopping and exploring an island they’ve already explored dozens of times. They could have created new facilities, brought back Dr. Shrunk or the theater from City Folk! The Auction House was a pretty cool idea from City Folk. Put things up for sale and have players from other towns bid on it. A fun way to make money, and could have been enhanced to also be an effective trading system. They could have added new facilities too, things we’ve never seen before! Even after all of the updates, it feels like crafting is almost pointless. There are a few pieces of furniture worth making sure, and I do like the seasonal items. But there’s not enough. And when it comes to equipment, I’m just going to run to the store to buy more instead of running to my house, grabbing all of the materials, navigating menus, and making it myself. Where are all of the cute Nintendo items from previous games? Where is Gracie Grace? Why is her series still missing? Why did gyroids take so long to come back? Why were bushes DLC? Why are there only 10 villagers when islands could easily fit 15?

Why are they stopping here?

Don’t get me wrong, New Horizons is still a fantastic game, one I would even recommend. Customizing has never been this easy or enjoyable before in an Animal Crossing game. Does it have problems? Yes. But so does every game. And for most people, the good this game does bring outweighs those problems. But getting back to the original topic at hand. Is New Horizons a better game than New Leaf? That’s up to you to decide. But to me, I can’t help but think maybe New Leaf managed to get more right than New Horizons did.

A capture of my own island from New Horizons.

Tales of Arise: is it Good?

Tales of Arise is a JPRG that released September 10th 2021, on all systems that you can realistically imagine. And not the Switch (key word is realistic!). It features main character Alphen liberating the realms of Dahna from the oppressive rule of the Renans. Ironically enough, I had just finished my first playthrough of Xillia when this released, so I decided to put off trying Arise. That was totally the reason and not my Final Fantasy XIV addiction, nope. How does this game stack up to other Tales games? How is the story? Is it worth playing?

Oh yeah. It’s worth playing. Minor spoilers ahead!

Starting a new game, you’re greeted with a long monologue worthy of Final Fantasy XII. I’m not a fan of games that spend several minutes explaining their plot to you before you even start the game. Next, you are greeted by some pretty nice visuals. The best the Tales series has seen. It may not be on par with other triple A games such as Horizon, Elden Ring, or even the new Rachet and Clank, but they’re definitely pleasant. The visuals become even more spectacular throughout the various realms you visit, especially with the minimal UI approach this game has taken.

Tales of Arise has you journeying across the five realms of Dahna, each with their own geological theme. It makes each area feel very fresh, even if the game remains very linear. I was hoping Arise would incorporate more of an open world approach, or at the very least, seamless transitions between the maps. The world however remains very linear, and it gets quite frustrating any time you hit an invisible wall. The gameplay however, remains very smooth. Definitely the smoothest in the series. You are no longer locked to running in very specific directions, and free run is a thing of the past. In fact, you could say the entire battle is free run. Artes are now shortcutted to buttons, and eventually holding down L2 (or ZL) along with those buttons when you gain more arte slots. Artes are no longer restricted to the direction you tilt your stick. It actually plays similar to most modern RPGS. This also makes dodging much easier.

My only problem with this new battle system is CP. Unlike most Tales games, this game does not have an MP system. Instead, offensive spells use AG, and can be used however many times you’d like so long as you have enough AG (which recovers). CP is consumed whenever a healing spell is cast. And the only way to recover CP is by using consumables (which are very expensive early on, and you can’t even buy them until you have reached the third realm) or staying at inns/resting at campfires. Because of this, I found myself fighting only the enemies that were necessary to progress. If I accidentally stumbled across an enemy with low CP, I would do my best to fight it, or outright flee if given the option. In dungeons, I would make a small amount of progress before teleporting out to rest at an inn and then teleporting back in, making dungeons last forever.

The CP system also made early boss fights very painful to fight. Literally for our heroes. I would actually consider the first boss to be one of the hardest bosses in the game. Resources are very limited, so you have to rely on getting perfect guards and perfect dodges. The early bosses are also very difficult, especially due to the AI. I had to mess with AI settings quite a bit because they would just not stop dying. So many times I had to solo a boss because it was easier to do that than constantly heal/rez my party back up. Granted, Tales games have historically been hard at the beginning and relatively easy at the end, which has always irked me. Halfway through the game I made the decision to main Shionne for bosses because I could not trust this AI’s healing.

But who IS Shionne? Who is anyone? That brings us to our characters. Alphen, Shionne, Rinwell, Law, Kisara, and Dohalim in that order. Alpehn is our main protagonist. He goes by the name Iron Mask early in the game. He wears a mask that prevents him from remembering his past and feeling pain. Literally. Even if he is immune to pain, he is still capable of dying.

Shionne is the second character we meet in this game. She is what is assumed to be a noble fleeing her homeworld Rena, and is eventually captured on Dahna. Shionne is under a strange curse referred to as “thorns”. Anyone who touches her is in for a sharp pain, which is why so many are interested in her. Shionne also manages to be the most annoying character in the game, if not the series, even rivaling Luke fon Fabre from Abyss. She doesn’t care about anyone or anything other than defeating the Renan lords who rule over Dahna. She’s very blunt and makes a lot of snarky comments throughout the game. She picks fights for no reason, and sometimes leads the party into danger because of her hotheadedness. Seriously, there were many times I had to take a break from this game just because of how annoying she was.

Next is Rinwell, a Dahnan capable of using astral artes (I’ll get to this in a bit). She also has a hatred for Renans after they killed her parents. I don’t have a problem with Rinwell so much as the timing of when she was introduced. Because Shionne is a Renan, Rinwell does not take kindly to her (that makes two of us!). Shionne being the ass she is, will provoke Rinwell with snarky comments, both intentionally and unintentionally. For a couple areas in the game, it’s just the two of them going back and forth each setting the other one off. Makes for a very annoying journey.

Next we have Law. Law is the son of one of Alphen’s friends. He’s a martial artist who also functions as the comic relief character. I was happy to see that they didn’t immediately shaft him after introducing him. Law never really gets any big moments in the game, and he definitely gets the least amount of screen time out of everyone, but he’s overall a very enjoyable character who evens out Shionne and Rinwell.

Next are Kisara and Dohalim, who join at almost the same time. When Kisara was introduced, she was very forgettable, but becomes one of the more prominent characters as the game continues. Dohalim is a lord of one of the realms. Unlike the other lords, he treats Renans and Dahnans relatively equal. Dohalim’s screen time tends to fluctuate more than any other character in my opinion. He starts out very strong, but once he joins your party you almost never see a lot of him until near the end of the game. Which is a shame because he is such a well written character.

In fact, all of these characters are well written. Even Shionne (to an extent). This is where things get different from other Tales games. Instead of focusing on having an over-the-top story, this game focuses on developing its characters. Which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. But because of this, the story starts to become easily predictable and relies on a lot of tropes and cliches. Of course there are a couple of things here and there that are shocking, but for the most part, the game tends to feel like you’re going from point A, to point B, to point C, etc.

The Renans have been using the Dahnans as slaves for the past 300 years to collect something known as astral energy for their “Crown Contest.” Astral energy is what allows people to use magic. Renans are the only people capable of using astral artes (magic), with the exception of Rinwell who comes from a long line of Dahnan mages. Despite this, Dahnans are still able to collect astral energy by activities such as mining, building, working, etc. The Renan lords take part in the Crown Contest, a competition for gathering astral energy. The lord who can gather the most astral energy will be crowned the Sovereign, ruler of all of Rena.  Alphen and Shionne team up to defeat the five lords of Dahna. Alphen to free the slaves, and Shionne for her own motives. This style of storytelling leads to your story becoming very predictable.

Like I said, the storytelling was toned down to focus on character development. You and Alphen discover his memories together, which lead to him feeling like a fully fleshed out character, not some generic RPG protagonist. Shionne’s blunt rudeness is also explained by her traumatic past. Rinwell’s anger is quelled when she realizes her hate leads her to be no different from the Renans who are oppressing Dahna. Law learns to cope with the mistakes of his past. Dohalim has his own skeletons in his closet, and goes from being what some might consider a coward, to a strong ruler. Kisara is a bit of a tricky one… Her development is more vague, but the story allows you to see all these different sides to her. Her motherly side to the cast, her passion for fishing, and her overcoming her weaknesses.

Tales of Arise is a very enjoyable experience, and perhaps one of the best Tales games for new fans to start with. The revamped battle system makes it easier than ever to jump in. While the story might be lackluster in some areas compared to past games, its simplicity is still enjoyable. You have a cast of characters who grow and develop on their journey, and characters you hated before are now endearing to you. All of this mixed with stunning animation and incredible music makes this journey a must.