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Celebrating ‘Fallout 3’ Before its 10th Birthday

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Fallout 3 hasn’t aged terribly well. Unlike watching a bottle of wine become richer with age, it’s more like flowers not being watered in a long time. And the strange thing is, on the eve of its tenth birthday, that’s absolutely fine. Replaying the title today really shows off the rust, the bugs that run about in the code, and the awkward dialogue deliveries. But given what Fallout 3 meant for open-world RPG’s with FPS elements, it’s an incredibly important game. Bugs and all.

The Rich, Empty Wasteland

The Lone Wanderer was always one of the best Fallout protagonist titles, aside from ‘Chosen One’ in Fallout 2

The Capital Wasteland, with its brown/green colour palette, washed out textures and awful clipping is not pretty. Which is why it’s oddly refreshing at times. Today’s games are all very clean, very crisp. So to revisit something this grunge-filled and oppressive is actually great. It’s a million times more memorable than The Commonwealth ever was (and likely somehow better than West Virginia will be in Fallout 76).

The opening three hours of Fallout 3 set a mood that not many games have managed to nail comfortably; that of oppressive loneliness. Your radio is your only friend for the most part, and DJ Three-Dog isn’t even travelling with you. Most of this game is characterised by the quiet moments as your walking, which emphasise the damage done by an atomic age. The emptiness is the main feature of this, as the first 3D Fallout title.

It let players look about, and interact with the devastation first hand. Because of this, when you’re walking through the wasteland looking for supplies and loot, when you see another person it’s a rare moment. Seeing a wandering trader, or even just another mercenary, became a unique moment. More so than that, coming across a settlement or city was fun.

Megaton remains one of my favourite opening areas in a video game because of the personality it somehow had in the face of imminent destruction. The firm yet cheery Mayor Simms, the ever-so-serious Doctor Church, and even the slimy bar owner Moriarty all had oodles of personality to them. It was a game that balanced serious consequences alongside a people who were determined to survive, and whose attitudes were all quite natural toward it.

Stories From the Wasteland

Side missions always had a chance, either randomly or otherwise, to bring you face-to-face with some horrible foes

Fallout 3’s main storyline wasn’t as intense as the affairs in both 1 & 2, but it was notable side and miscellaneous missions that made Fallout 3 shine instead. From saving Reilly’s Rangers on the rooftop of a hotel, to investigating the small settlement of Arefu (and even that infuriating quest to collect thirty Nuka-Cola Quantum’s down in Gildershade), each side mission in Fallout 3 serves a purpose and pulls the player into the area they’re likely exploring already.

Unlike in Fallout 4, where some of the missions are randomly generated slogs designed to grind, there’s a distinctive feeling in 3 that every asset has been placed deliberately to try elicit a certain response from the player. And not every mission played out the same way. Some could be ended with diplomacy (such as Blood Ties), others with intelligence or charisma (like The Power of The Atom & The Replicated Man), or just good old fashioned fighting (too many to list). None of the side missions felt vapid, and rarely felt pointless by the end. They added a much needed flavour to the vast Wasteland, with stories that stick in your mind.

Bethesda’s Lovable Bugs

Bugs involving enemies freezing, or remaining in bits while together, were always the best things to see in Fallout 3

No Bethesda title is without its bugs and glitches. Despite all the game-breaking, save-corrupting issues that have dogged Fallout 3, New Vegas, and 4 in different ways, I feel as if the smaller, more stupid bugs are what give the games like 3 such a distinct personality.

If anything, they’re what keeps the game slightly fresh even today, as veterans of the series will go back through it just to see something they’ve never witnessed before. Personally I’ve experienced this. I would bet that a vast amount of other players have too; they’ve gone through a location they’ve cleared numerous times, and then suddenly, there’s an enemy stuck in the ceiling or a weapon bouncing around the room.

Clipping and physics based bugs are the things that seemingly add more dark, surreal humour to Fallout 3 in a way. Besides, seeing Raider corpses having a fit in the ground while you try loot them is side-splittingly funny (also, let’s not forget that physics bug that caused corpses to spasm violently, and fly near the player: you gave me a heart attack on a number of occasions).

Mostly Great DLC

The Pit was especially memorable, with a variety of new weapons – like the Auto Axe, which was a super chainsaw of sorts

Fallout 3’s DLC wasn’t anything to be sniffed at. Broken Steel, Mothership Zeta, The Pit, Point Lookout, and finally Operation Anchorage were each fun in different ways. Broken Steel raised the level cap from twenty to thirty, giving players access to vastly more replay ability, as well as a new climax to the main story that was somewhat lacklustre in the vanilla game.

Mothership Zeta & Operation Anchorage were definitely the weakest of the five, but nonetheless added areas packed to the gills with ridiculous plots, explosions, and exploring. However, the final two: The Pit, and Point Lookout were amazing to play. Ignoring the awful, drab colours of both instalments, the two pieces of DLC were practically fully fledged Fallout titles in their own right.

The Pit took away the players usual armoury, and forced them to survive again, which was a thrill. While Point Lookout was a trip, just an absolute trip in the best ways (I don’t want to spoil any details even though the game is this old, it’s too good of a sequence to ruin). Few games have five pieces of DLC that are all above par, with some still being pretty worthwhile to revisit today.

Awards Upon Awards

Looking at Fallout 3’s collection of awards and accolades for too long makes you feel inadequate. At the time of writing, Statista estimates that Fallout 3 has sold around 9.93 million copies, although another article from Polygon puts it at 12.4 million. Either way, those numbers mean that Fallout 3 is the second best-selling Fallout title, right behind Fallout 4.

Alongside that astounding number are ten awards, four of which are ‘Game of the Year’ awards. Perhaps Fallout 3 isn’t flashy, modern, or even smart in some ways. It has clear flaws, from the terrible voice acting to the aforementioned bugs and glitches.

But when it comes down to it, it’s ten years old and yet still very playable. There’s nothing that I enjoy more sometimes than just loading up Fallout 3, and simply going for a wander. Because it’s still just as fun.

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‘Coffee Talk’ Review: The Best Brew in Town

Coffee Talk is as quaint as your local coffee shop. It’s relatively short, wonderfully sweet, and absolutely committed to the art form of telling a story through a video game screen.

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It’s 9:00pm. The rain just started coming down softly a few minutes ago, and the street outside is reflecting the lights above it. Neon signs shine brightly in the distance, although it’s hard to make out the words. You unlock the doors to the coffee shop and wipe down the counters in order to get them clean for the customers. The rain makes a soft sound as it hits the glass and passerby speed up their walking pace to avoid it. The bells chime as a tall, green orc walks in and sits down at your table in silence. You wonder what their story is…

I wanted to set the tone for this review because of how important atmosphere and audio/visual design is in the world of Coffee Talk. While it’s easy to boil the game down as a visual novel-type experience, it’s honestly so much more than that. A unique cast of characters, incredible user interface, and a mysterious protagonist combine to form the most enjoyable experience I’ve had this year on Switch.

Coffee Talk
Some of the subject matter can be pretty serious in nature…

Coffee Talk is beautiful because of how simple it is. The entire game takes place within a single coffee shop. As the barista, you’re tasked with making drinks for the patrons of the shop as well as making conversations with them. The twist is that earth is populated with creatures like orcs, werewolves, and succubi. The relationship between the various races is handled very well throughout the story, and some interesting parallels are made to the real world.

Making drinks is as simple as putting together a combination of three ingredients and hitting the ‘Serve’ button. If a unique drink is made, it will be added to a recipe list that can be referenced on the barista’s cell phone. This is where the awesome user interface comes in, as the phone has a series of apps that can be accessed at any moment in the game. One app houses your recipe list, another acts as a facebook for the characters in the game, one allows you to switch between songs, and the other houses a series of short stories that one of the characters in the game writes as it progresses. It’s one of the coolest parts of the whole experience and helps it stand out from other games in the genre.

Coffee Talk is as quaint as your local coffee shop. It’s relatively short, wonderfully sweet, and absolutely committed to the art form of telling a story through a video game screen.

Coffee Talk cycles between talking with customers and making drinks for them. In the beginning, they will ask for basic beverages that can be brewed on the fly. Later on however, they may ask for a specific type of drink that has a unique title. These drinks often have certain descriptive features that hint at other possibilities in terms of unique dialogue. If the wrong drink is made, you’ll have five chances to trash it and make a new one. If the wrong drink is made, don’t expect the customer to be pleased about it.

The gameplay really is not the focus here though; it’s the characters and their stories that take center stage. An elf with relationship issues, a writer that can’t seem to pin down her next story, and an alien whose sole goal is to mate with an earthling are just a few of the examples of the characters you’ll meet during the story. There are tons of memorable moments throughout Coffee Talk, with every character bringing something unique to the table. The barista develops an interesting relationship with many of these characters as well.

Coffee Talk
Appearances can often be deceiving in this game.

Even though serving the wrong drinks can change some of the dialogue, don’t expect any sort of options or branching paths in terms of the story. It’s not that kind of experience; the story should simply be enjoyed for what it is. I found myself glued to the screen at the end of each of the in-game days, waiting to see what would happen in the morning. The first playthrough also doesn’t answer all of the game’s questions, as the second one is filled with all kinds of surprises that I won’t spoil here.


Coffee Talk is as quaint as your local coffee shop. It’s relatively short, wonderfully sweet, and absolutely committed to the art form of telling a story through a video game screen. It’s an easy recommendation for anyone who loves video games, not just visual novel fans. There are characters in the game that I’ll certainly be thinking about for a long time, especially when the setting brings out the best in them. Don’t pass this one up.

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The Magic of Nintendo: How Mario and Zelda Connect us to Our Inner Child

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Magic of Nintendo

Nintendo is special. Many excellent developers depend upon story or progression systems to entice engagement, but not Nintendo. Nintendo games captivate because of their immediate charm. There is no need for a payoff. The games, themselves, are enough: they elicit feelings, hard to find in adulthood. Through intrepid discovery, playful presentation, and unfiltered whimsy, the best of Nintendo connects gamers to their childlike selves.

The heart of any great Nintendo game is discovery and no encounter encapsulates this better than Breath of the Wild’s Eventide Island. First, finding the island requires genuine gumption. Found far from Hyrule’s shore, the island is only clearly visible from other islands, and even then, it’s only a speck in the distance. Reaching the island requires players to brave the open ocean and head towards something … that could be nothing. Then, upon arriving on the beach, a spirit takes all the player’s gear, including clothes and food. Link, literally, is left in his underwear. From there, players must make clever use of Link’s base skills in order to steal enemy weapons and make traps. The scenario creates a marvelous sense of self-sufficiency brought on by one’s own desire to discover. The player comes to the island purely of their own choosing, tackles the sea, and then overcomes obstacles without the aid of their strongest tools. The game turns players into plucky children who are discovering they can take care of themselves.

The intrepidity of Breath of the Wild and other Nintendo greats mirrors the feelings Shigeru Miyamoto, the father of many Nintendo franchises, experienced as a child. “I can still recall the kind of sensation I had when I was in a small river, and I was searching with my hands beneath a rock, and something hit my finger, and I noticed it was a fish,” Miyamoto told the New Yorker. “That’s something that I just can’t express in words. It’s such an unusual situation.” In sequences like Eventide Island, players don’t just understand what Miyamoto describes, they feel it: Apprehension gives way to exhilaration as the unknown becomes a place of play.

 Nintendo’s intrepid gameplay is often amplified by playful presentation with Super Mario World 2: Yoshi’s Island being the quintessential example. The game’s visuals, defined by pastel colors and simple hand-drawings, appear crayoned by a child while the celestial chimes that punctuate the jubilant soundtrack evoke shooting stars. The overall effect cannot be understated. It takes the surreal and turns it real, allowing players to interact, tangibly, with imagination.

Super Mario Odyssey Wooden Kingdom

Even if one removes the presentation and gameplay from Nintendo’s masterpieces, an unabashed creativity remains that bucks norm and convention. The arbiter is fun; reason and logic have no say. For instance, Super Mario Odyssey’s Wooded Kingdom, takes place in a post-apocalyptic setting akin to Nier Automata. Players explore the metal remnants of a civilization that has become a lush home to robotic beings. However, unlike Nier, the dark undertones of the past have no bearing on the game or those who inhabit its universe. The post-apocalyptic setting is just a fun backdrop. It’s as though a bunch of children got together, began playing with toys, and one of the kids brought along his sibling’s adult action figures. There is no attention paid to the context, only unfiltered imagination.

When they’re at their best the creators at Nintendo invite gamers to come and play, like a parent arranging a play date. Pulled along by joyful gameplay that expands in unforeseen ways, players desire to play for the sake of play. It’s a halcyon state of being: No messy thoughts or contradiction, just joy.

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‘Kingdom Hearts III: Re:Mind’: An Utterly Shameless Cash Grab

Coming in at a $40 price point (!!!) Kingdom Hearts III: Re:Mind offers an 80% recycled campaign, a boss rush mode, and some other trash.

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Kingdom Hearts III: Re:Mind

In the 15 year long history of DLC, we have seen some really shameless displays. The notorious horse armor incident of 2006 and a notable day one DLC for the ending game of a trilogy notwithstanding, few companies have had the utter audacity to offer so little content for such a high price point. Enter Kingdom Hearts III: Re:Mind.

Coming in at a $40 price point (!!!) Kingdom Hearts III: Re:Mind offers an 80% recycled campaign, a boss rush mode, and some social media nonsense for people who really hate themselves. That’s really it, that’s what you get. Honestly, Square-Enix should be utterly embarrassed by this DLC.

It’s been one year: 365 days, 8760 hours, 525600 minutes, or 31556952 seconds, since the release of Kingdom Hearts III. Let that sink in as you begin the meat of Kingdom Hearts III: Re:Mind. Think of it as the extended version of a movie you really like… you know, the kind where they add 4 minutes to the 120 minute runtime.

Kingdom Hearts III: Re:Mind

Yes, Kingdom Hearts III: Re:Mind, really is that cynical. I’m not kidding when I tell you that the game literally starts with an exact cut scene from the base game, and a cut scene that happens to be available from the theater mode of the main game that you’ve already bought if you’re playing this DLC. Yes, the introduction to this new content is… content you’ve already seen.

In fact, that’s kind of the sticking point here: most of what you get for your hard-earned cash is footage you’ve already seen, and battles you’ve already fought, and story you’ve already experienced, just with slight alterations for context. Remember back in the 2000s, when we were super obsessed with prequels? This is like that, except even more egregious.

Generally I’m not so unforgiving as to call a company out for a forthright cash grab, but that’s absolutely what Kingdom Hearts III: Re:Mind is. There’s just no other way to put it. You might find someone in the marketing department for Square-Enix who would disagree, but being a company that has faced just these sort of allegations for their last two major releases, Square-Enix either doesn’t read the news, or doesn’t care what people think of their products.

Kingdom Hearts III: Re:Mind

Square-Enix was roundly accused of shipping unfinished products in the case of both Final Fantasy XV and Kingdom Hearts III — their two most high profile releases of the last decade. I personally gave mostly positive reviews of both games for this very website but if you want ammo to suggest that this company is deliberately trading on the nostalgia and passion of its fan base in order to make financial headway, there are few examples you could draw from that are as obvious as this DLC.

Look, maybe you’re a really big Kingdom Hearts fan. Maybe you just really wanted to know what the context was for that cliffhanger ending in Kingdom Hearts III. Maybe you just don’t do much research before you buy something. Or maybe… you just really trust this company for some reason.

Hey, I’m not judging… hell, I bought this DLC for $40 same as anyone else. I oughta be honest that I’m not reviewing Kingdom Hearts III: Re:Mind as some holier than thou critic, talking down to you from my position of privilege. No, I’m an angry consumer in this particular case. I’m a person who spent enough to replace a flat tire on my car, or buy my family dinner, on a game that is clearly playing off of my love for a franchise, and using it to bilk me out of money in a method that is so clear, and so concise, that those involved in the entire endeavor should be totally embarrassed for their part in the creation, marketing, pricing, and distribution of this expansion.

Kingdom Hearts III: Re:Mind

Yes, fans had their complaints about Kingdom Hearts III. “Where are the hardcore boss battles? Where are the Final Fantasy characters? Where are the secret areas? Where are the hidden plot developments?” Still, to address these particular complaints by hammering a few minutes or seconds here and there into already existing content is truly like spitting in the faces of the people who have built the house you’re living in.

I haven’t sat in the board rooms at Square-Enix and I haven’t been in email chains about the planning of projects at their company but what I can say is that there is something rotten in Denmark if this is what passes for a satisfying piece of content for the wildly devoted fans of a hugely popular franchise in 2020. Kingdom Hearts III: Re:Mind is literally, truthfully, and succinctly, the worst piece of DLC I’ve ever purchased.

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