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Video Games

Review – Hogwarts Legacy (PC)

(Note, this is long…. like, rally long…. 5000 words long….)

Hogwarts Legacy is a game with a lot of controversy surrounding it. I’ll probably mention it a bit, but I really don’t plan to delve too deep into the topic, if I did it would be part of a separate, larger post. Well, the main controversy involving Rowling’s stupidity online, among other things. The other, less critical controversies around the game itself I’ll get a bit more into.

I also want to put out two things, up front. One, I received this game from an online raffle, I didn’t buy it. Two, I put 70 or so hours into it and completed it 100%. All complains to come aside, I genuinely enjoyed this game and do recommend it, at least to fans of Harry Potter and that world.

Ok, three things, the DLC isn’t worthwhile. It’s a handful of mediocre cosmetics you will never use, the Thestral mount, I am pretty sure you can get anyway, with maybe some minor visual differences and it’s not named, and it adds one battle arena, which is laughably easy to win.

Ok, Four things, I will occasionally make references to the larger Wizarding world lore, and I don’t really care to explain things constantly, so look it up or roll with it if you’re unfamiliar.

Also, I plan to keep any major spoilers to a minimum, until maybe a separate end section. I will mention some things that are very very light or meaningless spoilers, but unless you’re looking for an absolutely pure experience, I assure you, they don’t really matter.

A Troll attacking.

I am not real sure where to start with this one. It’s going to be a bit rambling. I have so many conflicting thoughts on it and some of it feels like “nitpicking”. Especially because as I understand it, this is the studio’s first “big budget AAA” style game. A lot of the problems and weirdness feel a bit like the studio just got, a bit in over their heads with this title. There was also apparently some rush to get the game released. Things were cut.

Please click through for the full Review: Review – Hogwarts Legacy (PC)

Honestly, half the weirdness also only exist because the game is set in a larger, pre existing world, with pre existing rules. There is also so much that could have been effectively “written off” with some better plotting, the game it set 100 years before the core events of the Harry Potter series. It’s set a year or two before Dumbledore even attends Hogwarts in the lore. Societies change, but the Wizarding World apparently doesn’t.

At least it has Peeves the Ghost, the movies dumped that one from the books.

Which is one of the weird things in this game. This is a trend, here, it’s less that the issues are issues, they just, feel weird, in terms of the lore.

The world, feels like it’s just, Harry Potter. The clothing is a bit less modern. Despite that it’s set in 1890 (Harry’s first year is 1990), it feels like it’s just the same world. This fancy pseudo Victorian castle and towns in the country side. Speaking of the clothing, I kind of dislike, basically all the clothing. You can replace the cosmetic appearance with anything you have already found thankfully, I spent 90% of my game wearing the same basic School robe, one of like 3 of the scarfs, and one of maybe half a dozen of the hats. I think something that could have really helped, is if the other NPC students, wore thing that were not just “school robes”. In the movies, the characters regularly wear thing besides the black and house color trimmed robes. It wouldn’t have been hard to just, randomly give the random characters random non robed outfits, so your don’t feel like you weirdly stand out when wearing other clothes.

One of the goofy costume options, a pumpkin head. It’s actually pretty cool.

Because you already stand out, above and beyond, everyone else. Your character, is “the chosen one” above all other chosen ones. Harry Potter and Voldemort are basically Neville Longbottom next to you. I can forgive how much of an overpowered Mary Sue your character is, that’s the nature a bit of a video game. The one thing that does bug me, for some reason, your character is just freshly starting school, as a Fifth Year student.

Spoilers, this is never explained. Ever. There is a throw away bit in a cut scene about some other, older, characters, with similar circumstances that started as Fifth Years, but it’s still never explained. Maybe Ancient Magic sensitivity, stifles other magic use? There are plenty of reasons, but it boils down to, they wanted to have the player learn spells, but not be an 11 year old First Year kid.

I’ve seen plenty of suggestions of ways to handle this better. Your character had some trauma and got amnesia. My favorite, your character is actually older, and is an undercover agent for the Ministry. Instead you’re just, new, at 16 years old, thrust into this world of Magic, and you’re amazing at it all by default.

As far as I can tell, there isn’t even really a way to fail or be bad at things. Some of the achievements involve doing a particular quest for the different houses. For some variety, I tried to fail a few of the tasks leading up to it, you just, can’t. Nothing you do at all matters, which is one of the most annoying weirdness bits here. Supposedly the game was going to have a Morality system but it was dropped. It really shows. Most of the quest dialogue follows a very obvious pattern:

NPC: “Please Help Me!”

Character (choose): “I’d love to, because I’m nice!” | “Piss off, I can’t be bothered.”

NPC: “(Reacts to your choice), please help though.”

Character: “Ok sure”

Then when you turn the quest in:

NPC: “Thanks!”

Character (Choose): “It’s was no problem, I’m a goody Goody” | “I’d like money please” |”I’m evil and keeping your trinket” (When applicable)

The choices mean nothing. I started out being nice, not wanting to miss quests and drive NPCs away, but, you get the quest anyway. This got worse as the game went along, I guess power corrupts after all, one particularly amusing one late game, a very nice woman asked me to find her lost pet, which I did, she was very grateful, I kept the pet. The NPC was pissed, but nothing changed. Later, during a climax moment, your mentor, Professor Fig, asks what you plan to do with your new power, and just for the hell of it, I picked the “Evil options”, that basically, I was going to free it and use it for my own ends. Professor Fig is shocked and upset, but nothing changes, we just, go on to win the day.

You also go around raiding people’s treasures from their homes, often right in front of him. I guess you’ve been taking lessons from Link on that one. The best part is, you can learn the 3 “Unforgivable curses”, and use them. There is a plot point involving the Avada Kedavra killing curse, with meaningful consequences for the character, but you, you’re the chosen one, you can Avada Kedavra all the poachers and dark wizards you want.

Not that you need it, you end up murdering soooo many enemies. They turn into ice with Glacius and then explode into shards, they explode from Bombarda, burn them to death with Incendio, you turn them into exploding barrels then yeet them at other enemies, exploding and killing them both.

It’s kind of insane.

The thing I’ve mentioned before, the whole thing is at odds with itself, it wants to be a game, with compelling game elements, but it also wants to be a story about a teenaged wizard student.

This is all also part of a larger issue.

Your character feels extremely disconnected from the world, and the world disconnected from itself. Sure, you do quests for people, and there are cut scenes for the quests, but outside of that, people barely acknowledge you at all. When I replayed the early missions the first time, for the achievements, I had completely forgotten that I had even done quests for these other students. I had completely forgotten there was a Weasley kid, for example.

There are plenty of other nods to known characters, but not too many direct references, given this is set 100 years before the main Harry Potter timeline. You get Peeves and Nearly Headless Nick and a few of the other ghosts, that makes sense. There are a couple of Weasleys hanging around and a relative of Voldemort’s. The headmaster is a Black, which is time frame appropriate as I believe he was mentioned in the books as being headmaster at this time. He’s kind of a goof.

Oh, also you can pet the cats. All the cats…. so many cats….

There are 4 students who matter, Natty, Sebastian, Ominis, and Poppy. What’s also annoying about all of this, is that the students themselves never really interact with each other, outside of Sebastian and Ominis, who share a storyline (the best storyline, but I’ll get there). Natty and Poppy’s storylines, for example, could have easily intertwined a bit. There is also another removed/cancelled aspect of the game where you could take your friends along with you while adventuring. There’s some remnants that show this. During introductions, these characters comment about hanging out together, which you can’t actually do. Also, occasionally, your character will comment about how dangerous a situation might be, especially since you are alone, implying there was going to be a way to not be alone. I’m not real sure why this would have been dropped, the game has several missions where you DO fight alongside companions, and they are basically just a wet noodle extra in the fight. They don’t unbalance things at all because they tend to be super slow and weak and as far as I can tell, they don’t take any damage. Letting them tag along this way all the time, would have just make the world feel more real.

Anyway, these 4 “important students” are part of the 3 main sub plots, (there is one main storyline as well). They occasionally intertwine with the main sub plot. There are a lot of other smaller side quests, but they are almost always one off missions. I think there might be a few with 2 missions. There is also a series of Broom flying time trials run by one character, but that’s not really a “subplot”. Poppy’s plot is fun and Poppy is kind of a fun looney to hang around with, Natty’s plotline is honestly a little dull and uneven, far and above is the Ominis/Sebastian subplot.

I’m not going to spoil it, but the common consensus is that it’s the best part of the game’s story, and I agree. I also will add in what I have seen suggested, and (coincidentally) how I played the game, picking a female Slytherin character, works best for this plot, and the plot as a whole. You get a sort of, Slytherin version of the “Golden Trio” (Harry, Ron, Hermione) from the movies that works really well. If Natty had another Hufflepuff aiding her quests or Natty had another Gryffindor, then maybe other houses work have worked out in the same way, but that’s not the case. Anyway, Sebastian’s plot is pretty good, your choices actually do feel like they are meaningful (you can or cannot learn the unforgivable Curses in this line), and it’s just a good little story. Both of the NPCs involved are interesting as well, especially Ominis, who is blind. Ominis could have easily been nothing but a name drop like that Weasley kid I forgot existed, hint for Potter folks, his full name is Ominis Gaunt.

Bear with me, I know this is getting long….

The main plot is also…. ok. I have seen complaints that it’s too simple, which are probably justified. I think the bigger problem is that, like all the other problems, the game creators wanted to do more, and when they had to scale back, they didn’t scale back properly. Essentially, your character is able to attune to this mysterious “Ancient Magic”, an evil Goblin wants to take control of this magic for evil. You investigate this, and the mystery of the Ancient magic. I’ll touch on this a bit more later in the spoilers section.

Aside from the main story lines, there is actually a lot to do. I’ve heard complaints about this aspect a lot, but honestly, I enjoyed most of it. The world is full of chests to find, and little puzzles to solve. Some dungeons require finding and dropping cubes on a platform to solve them. Others require you learn Aloha Morah, the lockpicking spell. There are a bunch of Merlin Trial puzzles which have half a dozen or so different types that utilize a lot of your non combat spells to complete. You can capture and breed different magical animals as well. There is a checklist of hundreds of items to collect and do.

People complaining about all of this feels like people complaining that this game has game stuff in it.

The real issue, is how unrewarding a lot of this can feel, which I suspect is the bigger beef people have. Though I am not real sure if anything could be changed to fix it, or if it even needs to be. Most of the rewards fall into one of three categories. Outfits to wear, which can buff stats, enchantments you can later add to outfits, and stuff you can conjure for the player housing element inside the Room of Requirement. The real issue is more that these rewards in themselves, are kind of mediocre. As mentioned before, most of the outfits are pretty ugly, and you’re going to be covering them with a cloak anyway probably. The enchantments require taking care of the animals to get mats, and don’t really improve combat ability a noticeable amount. The player housing elements of the game are… kind of weak.

So breaking this down a bit more, you constantly collect gear. CONSTANTLY. One of your regular activities will be dropping into a shop and unloading it all, which also means money is almost completely useless. Everything you can buy, from outfits to mats, can be found easily in the world. The gear itself has several rarity levels, and its level based, which essentially means, you will only ever be using “current level Legendary gear”, because it’s not a marginal stat difference, it’s “Legendary gear has 2x the stats of common gear” and the Legendary gear is pretty common.

The player housing is a neat idea. It needs a lot of improvements. One thing, for example, it seems like you can’t stack items, or I was doing it wrong, because you can’t put things in tables, and more irritating, you can’t stack the “castle” pieces you can use in the animal areas, so you can’t build a mini Hogwarts inside your Hogwarts room (yo dawg).

You also occasionally get to attend classes, though most of this occurs early on, and it’s usually just an excuse to teach you a few basic utility spells. There is a History of Magic class that pops up randomly very late int he game, that seems to be trying to reiterate how to find Revelio Pages. Except it’s late in the game, that there is a good chance you have already found well, all of them.

Anyway, as for exploring and side puzzles, I do agree with one common complaint, the map is WAAAAY too large. At the very minimum, the coastal zones down at the bottom should have been chopped off. It’s only accessible by passing through a tunnel dungeon, which makes it feel like its there entirely to keep the player from fully exploring the world easily, since passing through the dungeon at lower levels would be tricky. Which is a moot point because it’s ridiculously easy to become over leveled. But these costal regions provide almost zero new or interesting elements, and the couple of plot based regions could easily just be shuffled back into the main zone/area. The area outside of Hogwarts and Hogsmeade is neat, and it’s pretty to look at, but it’s just kind of, huge and empty, and 90% of the time you’re just flying over it on your broom or Floo Flame teleporting around.

Shifting back a bit to the “weirdness” aspect, and a bit more of the “you aren’t part of this world” problem, is the complete lack of enforced rules for your character. In the Potter lore, and Hogwarts, there are rules, for students, which would be expected, since they are kids, kids with supernatural powers. The game, early on, forces you back to your common room, with a message along the lines of “Students must return to their common rooms at night”. Later, there is a mission to break into the Restricted Section in the library, and when doing some quests to help out the Caretaker, you actually have to avoid look outs and do stealthy activities. This implies as well, that the whole “stay in your house at night” was intended to be more. But it’s not there. You can run all over the castle and country side at all hours. Maybe they decided sneaking around was too tedious? I don’t know, it would have added some interesting game play, though, like all travel, at some point it would have just been a Floo Flame teleport out of the castle at night.

There is also a wait mechanic, if you need to change it to night or day, or wait for a fellow student for a quest. I mostly mention this because when the wait mechanic ends, your character stands up from laying on the ground, like they were just, sleeping like a hobo in the middle of wherever.


The last major element to touch on is Combat. I actually really enjoy the combat mechanics here. I mostly played on KB+Mouse, I tried to use a controller for a bit, but it was way too complex. It’s great on a keyboard and mouse though. Shooting spells rapid fire, juggling enemies, blocking and retaliating, it’s all very smooth. The game could use more enemy variety though. This is not helped in that the 3 main enemy types, Dark Wizards, Goblins, and Spiders, are all functionally identical. You will have some ranged types standing back and shooting you, and some closer types, attacking nearby. They all use the same shield breaking mechanic, which is odd since Spiders and Goblins shouldn’t have shield magic (maybe Goblins, Spiders no). The main other types of enemies, are the Dugbog whatever they are called, these crocodile things which are mostly docile unless provoked and are tedious to fight since they take so little damage, and the Trolls.

I really love fighting the Trolls.

They are huge, they hit hard and feel like a challenge, they have 3 or 4 different attacks, it’s fun to block their throws and toss the boulder back at them. Sometimes you battle 2 or 3 at once, with some smaller enemy adds. The trolls are kind of the closest thing to boss battles you get. There are some named “extra tough” enemies you encounter, but they work like regular enemies. And half the time you can sneak up behind them and stealth one shot them with Patrificus Totalus before the battle even starts.

It’s also really weird how you just straight up murder so many people. I can accept that sometimes the bodies are just instantly vanishing because it’s a game and littering unconscious bodies might cause performance issues, but you can learn Avada Kedavra, and just start blasting.

But never against anyone you know. Because your spells only work on enemies. No one even reacts if you start throwing flames and fireballs all around the Great Hall. You can stand in front of a teacher and Avada Kedavra the wall or a training dummy all day long. For anyone unware, in world lore, Avada Kedavra is an “Unforgivable Curse”. It instantly kills the target, and is forbidden from being cast, you go to Wizard Jail for using it ever, which is even a plot point IN GAME.

I feel like I’m doing nothing but complaining. I want to mention the visuals. The visuals in this game are very very good, to a point. The base visuals are incredibly lush and good looking. The castle is the real star, it’s a labyrinthine maze, but it actually does feel coherent and despite a lot of samey visuals, there are enough unique landmarks that you do learn you way through it.

That said, there is a lot of weirdness (again with that word) that pops up. Lots of clipping, ok, I can mostly forgive that, but I find the cloaks also sometimes get caught up on themselves in interesting ways. I’ve had them flip backwards and just ride there, I had a cut scene cause it to clip through the legs to the front for a while.

Why is your hand doing that?

The game also is doing something really crappy with it’s optimization. At least on PC, every time you load the game, it has to set the shaders. Unless there is a major update, this shouldn’t really have to happen every time. It takes minutes to load too. Without all the technical details, it’s supposed to be a one time calculation that takes a few minutes. This should load up the shaders, and be saving them locally so next time, it’s ready to go.

As I mentioned at the start, I finished this game completely. Ok, technically I need to do two more achievements, there is one for getting a character for each house to a particular mission, annoyingly the mission is about 2 hours into the game, and it’s all early on “hand holdy” gameplay, so it’s boring. I’ll get there. Its a fun game. Would it be fun without the Harry Potter backdrop or if I wasn’t a fan of the franchise? Maybe? I am looking forward to a potential sequel, assuming they manage to expand on and fix a lot of the weirdness present here.

I actually really hope they take the Saint’s Row approach and let you pull your character forward. Set the game past Hogwarts, add some locations in London, but maybe the plot takes you back to the School. Maybe you are a fresh employee at the Ministry of Magic doing work for them, officially. They could even keep player housing with a portable Room of Requirement, like how Newt uses his suitcase in Fantastic Beasts. There are plenty of possibilities and ways to improve on the base concept here in a lot of good ways. I worry a bit that the backlash the game received for simply existing may hurt those chances a bit though.

* Spoiler Thoughts *

So this is the spoiler section, you’ve been warned, etc. Don’t read on unless you don’t care about spoilers, etc etc. Now I’m just adding bit more padding to make sure you are paying attention for sure. Because I’m going on with the spoilers now.

We’ve accomplished our mission returning this dragon egg, all is well…

I’ll start with the sub plots. I really liked Poppy’s sub plot, you help Poppy along rescuing special creatures from poachers. mostly a Dragon and then some Snidgets. It feels very much like you’re just along for the ride to keep Poppy from getting herself killed sometimes, because she is quite one track minded and a bit naive at times. there is a particularly amusing moment when you free the dragon where your character has a look of absolute terror that says “This dragon is totally going to fuck us up” while poppy has nothing but excitement that says “Fuck yeah a dragon!”

Natty’s plotline is, as mentioned, kind of bland. It’s basically an excuse to hunt down Harlow, who is Rookwood’s (the second antagonist with Ranrock the Goblin) second in command. At least Harlow had a much more interesting final battle. In the main plot, Rookwood just sort of, randomly shows up near the end, kidnaps you, then you fight a big arena style battle. I killed Rookwood and didn’t even realize it mid fight, because he looks like every other Dark Wizard in the fight. Meanwhile Harlow is teleporting around and actually felt tough. It wasn’t a power level difference wither, you fight them at around the same point in the story.

Then there is Sebastian’s plot line. What a great plot line. Sebastian’s twin sister has been cursed and is dying. Sebastian will do ANYTHING to save her. She is living with his abusive Uncle because their parents were killed. Sebastian really wants to learn some Dark magic to learn how to cure his sister, which is where Ominis comes in. The Gaunt line, which later produced Lord Voldemort, antagonists of the films, is the last remaining blood line from the OG Dark Wizard Salazar Slytherin. Ominis however, is doing his best to walk the straight path and not be evil like the rest of his family. This of course, puts him a bit at odds with his best friend Sebastian.

I can tell you right now, that Tumbler LOVES this plot line because there are a lot of… homoerotic undertones to their relationship. At least from Ominis.

Along the way you help Sebastian do some questionable things, and you can optionally learn the three Unforgivable Curses, Crucio (torture), Imperio (Mind Control) and Avada Kedavra (Death). Sebastian is kind of an unassuming psychopath for sure, I mean, he Imperios a dude and makes him off himself. Even playing my character as being a bit, unassumingly evil, and her agreeing with Sebastian’s drive to help his sister and that his Uncle is an asshole, getting him to teach me Avada Kedavra after he has just murdered his Uncle was hard. It was certainly a strong story beat. If the game had that morality system and choices mattered, I would have probably taken the high road and told him he was wrong, and he was. Later he got turned in for the murder, expelled and imprisoned.


So anyway, I started blasting!

Or course, meanwhile, I can learn how to chain curses and Avada Kedavra a whole room full of enemies. Which I actually didn’t do. I wanted to learn al the spells, but I think I used the killing curse twice, one by accident. I do try to keep my characters in character” as much as I can.

I had considered trying it against the end boss, but opted to Crucio instead. I imagine there would have been some excuse for it not to work anyway. It would have been an appropriate “In character response” though given that Ranrock had killed Professor Fig just before the fight. Except man that death felt so incredibly…. unsatisfying. This dude who has been helping me out all game, and it’s not even clear he was killed. He gets knocked off a cliff, shortly before you do, then the final battle starts. I felt more watching Sebastian kill his uncle than I did watching Fig die, which is kind of dumb from a story handling standpoint.

Which I suppose leads to a lot of the problem with the ancient magic plot line, it’s never really explained what it is. It’s essentially just an excuse for your character to have a “super attack” that charges up in combat. Also, the throw attack, which is the “ancient magic throw”, apparently normal wizards can’t “force throw” objects? The plot itself involves a witch named Isadora abusing her attunement to ancient magic to heal people, which has unintended side effects. The essentially bottles up these people’s pain and buries it in the ground (literally) under Hogwarts. Except this isn’t the Ancient Magic itself. It’s established that the magic existed before, and this is just a side effect. In fact, it’s not clear how recovering this bottled up magic would even give anyone power.

The main antagonist, Ranrock, the evil Goblin, is trying to dig under the school to recover this bottled up power.

Which he does, then he turns into this giant energy dragon, for some reason, mostly I suspect because just fighting “yet another Goblin” would have been boring for an end boss.

The end fight is pretty decent at least, it’s similar to the previous fights with the Pensive Guardians but on a much larger scale.

Lastly, I wanted to address the controversy around this game, briefly. There’s a couple of angles going on, firstly is Rowling and her anti-trans commentary. That’s shitty. Period. Fuck Rowling. Rowling has very little, if anything to do with this game. Does she get money out of it? Probably, that sucks. If you boycott everything that has a shitty person attached to it that will pretty much mean boycotting everything. I feel like a LOT of the other controversy about the game being shitty and the goblin thing (which I’ll get to as well) kind of extends from a bit of a desperate attempt to make things look as bad as possible due to Rowling being a shitty person.

Then there is the “Goblins are Jews” “problem.” I don’t see it. Not in this game. Was that Rowling’s intention with Goblin Bankers in the books? Maybe. Who knows. The design here is just, rolling with what has been established. It’s honestly, a pretty bog standard “fantasy goblin” design. There is exactly one Goblin Banker in this game, the rest are all mercenary fighters or just dudes you run across. You fight way more spiders and dark wizards than Goblins throughout the game as well. There re plenty of friendly Goblin characters as well. If anything there aren’t any women Goblins anywhere, but maybe Goblins are like Tolkein’s Dwarves where they all look the same regardless of Gender. I’m not real sure the details on how the Goblins work. There was like, one “connection” involving some throw away text on an artifact horn about Goblin Rebellions that matched up with some sort of Jewish history, though the horn looks nothing like the Jewish related horn, and it’s essentially just a coincidence. It’s desperately trying to find a problem where one doesn’t exist. If this had been a Lord of the Rings or Witcher or generic Fantasy game, with the same Goblin enemies and plot, no one would have batted an eye at any of it.

What I’ve Been Playing – Better Late than Never Edition

So I meant to be way more regular on these things but I’ve kind of failed at that. Two reasons mostly, I suppose. One, often I decide I want to do a full write up on something instead of a brief write up in one of these posts. Two, mostly I have just been playing Fortnite.

I actually want to go on a bit of a tangent regarding Fortnite and Sky, Children of the Light, and paid seasonal passes. I posted a series of posts on Sky: CotL recently. I’d been meaning to write them all out for a while, and I did, and I posted them, and… that was just kind of it. I stopped playing. It seems like a really weird place to stop, and I can’t really say I intended it that way or even realized it had happened. The game is coming to PC soon though, so I will definitely go back.

My frustration here, is the Season Pass. And Season/Battle Passes in general. The entire concept is just, a little lame. It could BE perfectly fine, but most are not. For example, with Sky, I decided to log in and I noticed there was a new season, and while it has some really wonderful looking capes and masks, I had already decided I didn’t really care. What I realized was, i had never finished the last pass. I was literally like 99% there too. But I did not pick up the awesome manta spawning lamp. I am pretty sure, it’s never ever coming back either. That’s it. I paid for the pass, I am pretty sure I even had the candles, I just, never logged in to redeem it.

This whole exclusivity thing is kind of really annoying. It’s why I stopped playing Overwatch 2 out of the gate. It’s annoying in Fortnite as well. Like, I can never get Peely, because he was a pass skin. I can’t get Darth Vader, he was a pass skin. Lots of cool skins I come across, end up being pass skins, from before I played.

It’s annoying and Frustrating.


Back on track a bit though, and on Fortnite, I finally picked up Save the World, the single player hoard mode campaign. It’s… kind of a little lame. I can see why it’s not popular. It comes with a bunch of V-Bucks, and eventually I can build some experience grinding endurance run builds, but I kind of regret bothering. You can’t even get the V-Bucks included until you have played for quite a bit to unlock the daily quests. The voice acting and little story bits are fun and funny, the actual game play loop feels a lot like an annoying mobile game and it’s kind of tedious and boring.

Banko Kazooie Grunty’s Revenge (GBA)

I may do a full write up on this game, but I have never played and Banjo Kazooie games, but I really enjoy both Yooka Laylee games from the same studio (more or less). It’s really kind of weird how similar the games are. I’ve compared Yooka Laylee to Donkey Kong Country, but it’s almost a straight reskin of Banjo Kazooie’s world. Anyway, I finished it, 100%. It’s fun.

The Wizard Game That shall Not Be Named

I’ve been a bit torn on this one. I really like Harry Potter, but Rowling is actually kind of shit, and there has been a huge basically, witch hunt campaign against anyone who cares about this game. There is actually a great video that covers the whole thing pretty well.

Don’t worry too much though, the game is decidedly pretty mid tier.

I ended up getting a free copy of this game through a raffle online, so it’s kind of awash, I guess. I get the controversy around everything, personally, the Transgender audience complaining about Rowling is legitimate. The whole “Goblin/Jews” thing, feels a little bit over blown. Goblins, orcs, trolls, etc, have basically always “looked like that”. because it’s a mechanism to make evil characters. If anything, Jewish stereotypes, were also just, designed to look like creepy goblins, less so the other way around. I don’t know, maybe I am way off base there.

I will say though, taking a random female model character, and just, giving them a male voice actor, does not a transgender character make. Maybe there is more to it as the story progresses, I have been mostly exploring the castle, and not really doing the story, so I’m hugely over leveled, but I really doubt it. I am not sure what they could have done, but it just feels, a little forced and awkward.

It should not be real surprising though, there is something weird going on with some of the voice acting in this game in general. Several characters sound like they recorded their lines in an echo chamber or something. My own character also sounds weird, maybe it’s partially my fault? When you create a character, you can adjust the pitch of the voice chosen, higher and lower, and I went on the higher end, which seemed fine in the character creation demo lines, but after going through actual dialogue, she sounds like a weird echo bumblebee. It’s grating enough I have considered seeing if there is a way to hack the save file to choose a different voice pitch.

There is also a lot of oddness to the graphics going on. Maybe this sort of thing is common, I don’t really play too many “AAA” level titles, but there is a lot of weird clipping, at times. Particularly with the cloaks everyone wears, which will randomly flop up on one side, maybe it’s supposed to be wind?

I am also disappointed by the lack of real interaction with your character and the NPC students. A lot fo my comparison here comes from GTA, which is the big daddy of “open world games”. In this game, you can’t say, randomly Leviosa another student. You can barely even bump into them. In GTA, you run through a crowd of people, they all bump around realistically and get kind of offended. In this, they just sort of, do nothing.

I also wish there was more NPC variety in the students. The game has a pretty robust cosmetics system to it, but you’re supposed to be a student, and literally every other student just wears a basic house outfit and robes. So you wearing anything else, feels super weird.

Probably the biggest issue I have had, and this may be explained better later, is your character’s place in the world. You’re like, the most Mary Sue character ever to visit Hogwarts, including the not yet born Harry Potter. You come in as a 5th year student, which feels really odd, but I kind of get that they didn’t want you to start as an 11 year old kid. It feels like Magic is something you would want to start from the beginning with though, screwing up Math by starting school as a 5th grader, isn’t going to turn anyone into a frog. There has been at least one little scene though suggesting there were other students admitted as 5th year students. All of them, including your character, also have access to this Mary Sue Magic (Ancient Magic) which is apparently uncommon. You learn all you spells pretty easily, which is just one more, “Mary Sue moment”. Basically, you are perfect at everything. I get that it’s needed for gameplay, but it feels weird from a story perspective.

Anyway, I actually have been trying to force myself to play more single player titles and just, stuff, besides Fortnite. Like, I had started Death Stranding and Final Fantasy 7R, and then stopped. I want to go back to those, but I have yet to do so. I just end up playing more Fortnite, it’s quick and easy.

Benn Venn Game Boy Cart Dumper

Another device I’ve been wanting to get for a while was a Game Boy Card ripper. There are a few varieties of these, but I went with the Benn Venn Joey Jr. The key feature here, is the ability to copy off Saved files. I can get ROMs anywhere, what I really want is to preserve my old Save Files. This device does Game Boy, Game Boy Color, and Game Boy Advanced titles.

The most important title worked right off the bat. My original Pokemon Blue is not preserved forever with my original Charizard. There are ways to get these OG Gen 1 Pokemon into modern games I really want to look into next.

Despite that so far I have had hit and miss luck getting things to work, I already wish I had one for the SNES, though those seem to be considerably more expensive. N64 would be nice as well, I’m less worried about my NES carts, most of them don’t really use battery based saves, and I can beat Zelda 1 again in a few hours.

The Benn Venn device is pretty slick. You insert the cartridge, then plug it into a USB Port, and it just shows up like it’s a flash drive. The results have been weirdly hit and miss. Maybe half of my games copied off and the save files loaded no problems. The other half either didn’t get a working save or didn’t even get a working ROM. Two I really care about that did not work that I want to troubleshoot through are Final Fantasy Legend 1, and Zelda Oracle of Ages. The weird thing is, Oracle of Seasons worked just fine.

I even tried some other ROMs of the same game with the save files and no luck yet.

Once the copies are done though, the device still has some fun uses. For one, it lets me dump photos off of my Game Boy Camera. I always have been looking a bit into ways to “hack” the GB Camera with lenses and such, but getting the files off is one important key need. I also want to see if I can write a program that will upscale the files cleanly as they are very tiny images.

I also want to try out what happens when I try to copy TO a cart. It may go immediately nowhere. I don’t have a blank ROM cart, which I will probably get eventually, but I want to try copying to a cart. I have two carts to test. One, I own an extra Pokemon Blue. Maybe I can hack a full Pokedex into the cart. I also have a bootleg Pokemon Emerald, which feels maybe more likely to work.

Either way, something I want to look into is hacking these save files a bit. I want to get my Charizard into my copy of Ultra Moon. I want to add in all the missing Pokemon from Blue. Though maybe not straight add them, try to transplant from a Red save to a Blue save maybe. Maybe these ideas will go nowhere but trying to make it work is like half the fun.

Review – Blaster Master Zero (PC)

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Growing up in the 80s, my friends and I played a lot of NES games. One of our absolute favorites was Blaster master. It had a lot of unique elements to it for the time, specifically, the back and forth exploration of areas, and the cool car, which you could eject from. Though at the time there wasn’t a term for it, it was very much in the vein of Metroidvania games. Mostly open world exploration, returning to zones with new abilities and upgrades, all very much hallmarks of that type of game.

The series seemed to, not really go anywhere though. There were a few Game Boy games, and a PlayStation title, but not a lot of entries in the series, until recently, with the Blaster Master Zero series. The first game in the series is essentially a remake of the first, original Blaster Master game, though it adds quite a lot of new elements and story to help flesh things out.

It also adds in a lot of new modernization to the game, with the ability to save your game being the big one. The original Blaster Master was a lot of fun, but it was a little brutal with what was needed to complete it. You pretty much just had your 3 lives (or whatever) and had to do everything in one go. And while the game wasn’t super difficult, accomplishing that did get tricky. I think the farthest I ever got on the original game was like zone 4 or 5. The lives issue aside, it also meant doing it all in one sitting. So having save games in the new game, is a huge improvement.

But it’s not a straight remake, as mentioned. Many of the overhead on foot zones are more fleshed out, making that part of the game play more enjoyable. It was always kind of an annoying chore before. There are also some bosses that show up in the main world now as well, so you are not just limited to the car for travel and bosses on foot. The core plot is expanded, giving some reason and motivation to the existence of Sophia-3 (the car), beyond, “Some kid fell in a hole while chasing his frog”.

The best part though is that it still FEELS like the old titles. There is a slight floatyness to the car and a bit of clunkiness to the on foot areas that aren’t bad elements at all, but they do exist and help Blaster Mater “feel” like Blaster Master, and they are both very particular to this game series. It also helps to make the two different play modes seem different. The floay car makes sense since it tends to continue rolling slightly when stopping, which contrasts well with how the on foot hero plays, since he is just a dude in a suit.

It’s definitely a fun remake of the original game. It’s honestly more fun than the original since it’s removed a lot of the tedium. It has all the right feel for game play and design, even the newer areas, which makes it feel just right as an update to the original game.

Retroid Pocket 3

So, I’ve been pretty heavy on the programming push lately, but it’s not all I’ve been up to. So, back around the start of the pandemic, I started work making a PiGrrl handheld emulator device. PiGrrl is basically a Game Boy Clone that runs with a Raspberry Pi at it’s core. I ordered a bunch of parts and a case, I already had a Pi (I have several), and then the Pandemic caused my parts to take forever to arrive. Plus I probably spent more on it than I really should have.

Then I got a little bored and it sat for a bit, but I did eventually solder everything together, and it didn’t quite work, so I did some corrections and got bored of it for a few months again, then eventually, I got it working. Sort of, some emulators work, others don’t even launch, I am sure it’s a software issue a this point.

So, after a bit more trouble shooting, I got a little bonus at work like I occasionally do, so I just ordered a Retroid Pocket 3. A nice pre built solution that’s configured and well, just works. I mostly play gaming on PC, but for consoles, most of my playing in the last 20 years has been on handhelds. I am pretty sure I actually played and finished almost every DS game I have bought (including GBA), and the completion rate for my 3DS games is also very high. The point is, my follow through rate for hand held games is staggeringly high compared to PC and traditional Consoles. I mean, I bought my PS3 and it came with The Last of Us, which I was excited for, and I still have yet to play it even once.

Anyway, the Retroid Pocket is essentially an Android device with a controller and case wrapped around it to make it look like a PSP or a Switch. I considered the Retroid Pocket 2+ but I wanted the wider screen, so I went with the Retroid Pocket 3. So far, my experience with it has been pretty excellent.

There is a bit of trickiness in tracking down the BIOS files needed but there are guides and resources out there. Anything older than say, the SNES/Genesis era plays flawlessly with ease. Which is pretty expected, since it’s all basic 2D gaming at that point. I’ve had a lot of luck running PS1 and PSP titles as well.

Nintendo 64 games are a little touchy but there are some settings that I believe I can adjust to make it work better. Right now everything has screwy transparency. There are options for some more powerful systems but I’ve not had luck yet getting things like PS2 working. I’ve played several WiiWare games but the Wii itself has the motion controls which don’t translate super well to a handheld device’s controls.

Overall, I am extremely happy with this purchase, it’s really invigorated my interest in older games and gaming again.