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Why Nintendo Needs Square Enix on Board for the NX




There is no doubt that Nintendo has struggled in recent years partly due to their frequent lack of third party support. With the next Nintendo console seemingly on the horizon and the flailing Wii U floating down the river, it bears repeating that Nintendo desperately needs the support of certain third parties in order to make the NX a success. Square Enix, publisher of Final Fantasy, Dragon Quest, and a veritable treasure trove of modern and classic RPGs, is one of the most important third party developers that Nintendo needs to woo back into their good graces in order to successfully launch the NX. In order to accommodate such a feat, each company should realize what they have to gain from each other.   

Nintendo’s Needs

With Dragon Quest XI being considered for the NX and Cloud Strife being present as DLC in Super Smash Bros. for Wii U/3DS, a new era of positivity and renewed interest has begun between the two companies. There are no guarantees, however, that Square Enix will release any of its other big budget AAA titles on the NX. With Final Fantasy XV and the Final Fantasy VII Remake on the horizon, as well as the continuation of their wildly popular MMORPG, Final Fantasy XIV: Heavensward, the need for Square Enix to port its popular franchises to the NX is palpable. Without Square Enix’s own Dragon Quest games (which are very popular in Japan) and lesser titles published by them, such as Deus Ex and Just Cause (which are popular in the West), a significant portion of the NX’s possible market-share is reduced and its propensity to be an all-in-one console for some gamers is severely hampered.


Final Fantasy XV could land on the NX if the two companies decide to cooperate.


Because Nintendo needs as many good third party developers and publishers to make games for the NX as possible to avoid long release droughts (while also giving variety to a gaming landscape often dominated by Mario and Co.), the cooperation of a company like Square Enix is warranted.  Their support would establish the NX as a viable one-console solution, would provide the necessary push out of the gate to attract other third party developers, and would give Nintendo the variety needed to differentiate themselves from the PS4 and Xbox One. Without a major developer like Square Enix on board, Nintendo’s ability to serve as the one console for a segment of gamers is heavily diminished. In short, Nintendo needs Square’s IPs to push as many consoles as possible; as evidenced by the Wii U, even the most critically acclaimed games are incapable of single-handedly selling consoles to a skeptical and saturated market.

Square Enix’s Needs

There are certain conditions that the NX needs to meet before ports or reworks of Square Enix games can be conceptualized. A sufficient online system is chief among those concerns. With Square Enix’s recent focus on its MMO, Final Fantasy XIV: Heavensward, and the chance that it may come to the NX, the need for an easy to use and streamlined online interface has never been more apparent. The My Nintendo account system is already a step in the right direction, but Square Enix should see more from Nintendo before committing one of their largest titles to a nascent online system. Square Enix’s relative independence when it comes to Final Fantasy XIV: Heavensward’s online system would be a boon for Nintendo. It would eliminate the need for a dramatic shake-up of their online architecture and would mean that the majority of changes would involve software and user accounts instead of hardware issues that would cost Nintendo precious time and financial resources. 


Games like the Final Fantasy VII Remake will need the extra power that the NX will hopefully provide.


The NX also needs to be powerful enough to run Square Enix’s modern games at or above the Xbox One’s capability. With the Xbox One clearly the bottleneck of Square Enix’s future multi-platform games, there needs to be, at the least, that same level of performance before they should commit to any sort of deal with Nintendo. If the NX is more powerful than the PS4 and Xbox One and has jumped forward a generation, then they are in luck. The NX could be the platform in which they can demonstrate definitive editions (as far as graphics are concerned) of their modern games. With sufficient power also comes the understanding that Nintendo needs to provide a system architecture (such as x86) which is easy to understand and easy to port to. Without either of these, ports of games from either the Final Fantasy series or Square Enix’s other titles would most likely never develop and Nintendo will lose out on a chance for a huge third party developer to produce content for their console.

What They Have to Gain

Both companies have an enormous amount to gain from this deal if it happens. Nintendo would receive a much needed boost in third party support while Square Enix would receive a new platform that would increase the range of their product and the type of households that their games can reach. While Nintendo consoles are often perceived as appealing only to children or rabidly nostalgic fans of Nintendo’s past, an opportunity could emerge, depending on price, where households normally not saturated by a PS4 or Xbox One could have a console capable of playing more family-friendly games as well as the mature experiences most gamers want. It would provide an “E” rated game for the children in the household, “Teen” and “Mature” rated gaming experiences for siblings, and a myriad of games for the parents of children who play on the NX. The Nintendo NX could become a gaming console capable of appealing to every sort of gamer in a household.


Given the size of Square Enix’s MMORPG, Final Fantasy XIV: Heavensward, a well-equipped online architecture would be a must.


If the Nintendo NX is more powerful than the PS4, then there is no greater company that can provide a graphically-intensive gaming experience that showcases the console’s graphical chops than Square Enix. After all, this was the same company that was able to get Rise of the Tomb Raider, a modern AAA title, running on the Xbox 360, a decade-old console with 512MB of VRAM. Given how often Nintendo struggles to create games that push the current console to its limit, the assistance of a company with decades of experience in heavily-demanding visual arts would be helpful to Nintendo’s fledgling console. While the Wii and Wii U had only one or two titles which pushed the consoles to their fullest potential, the NX could possibly have three graphically-intensive games (Final Fantasy XV, the Final Fantasy VII Remake, and Final Fantasy XIV: Heavensward) well within the release window of the console.

A Perfect Partnership

Nintendo and Square Enix would both profit from a strong relationship beginning with the NX. While Nintendo struggles with producing capable online experiences and boundary-pushing visual fidelity, Square Enix succeeds; while Square Enix struggles with saturation in family-oriented, one-console homes, Nintendo succeeds. Each company has much to gain and much less to lose. If Nintendo can provide Square Enix with a well-equipped console complete with an excellent online system, a family-friendly demeanor, and a well-understood system architecture, then Square Enix can provide them, in turn, with brilliant, visually demanding games and a newly repaired reputation among AAA-focused gamers.

The two companies have a bright future ahead of them if the path of cooperation is one that they indeed take. One only need remember the last time that Square Enix (then Square) and Nintendo cooperated fully, the SNES era, to see how this partnership could positively impact both companies and help the NX succeed. With Square Enix’s support right out of the gate, the NX could be a smashing success capable of challenging Microsoft’s position as the second most popular console manufacturer, while also contesting Sony’s control of the home console market within the space of a console generation. With Square Enix on their side, Nintendo’s NX may well prove to be a success and not just the final fantasy of Nintendo’s console manufacturing days.


Ah, nostalgia!

Although a gamer since before I can remember, there is not a better definition of me than these three words: Christian, moderate, and learner. I am steadfast in my Faith, my Beliefs, and in my Opinions, but I am always willing to hear the other side of the discussion. I love Nintendo, History, and the NBA. Currently a PhD Student at Liberty University.



  1. ex fact0r

    March 26, 2016 at 8:22 pm

    A strong partnership with Square-Enix alone will not make the NX “challenge Microsoft’s position as the second most popular console manufacturer, while also contesting Sony’s control of the home console market”. I agree that Nintendo should be very aggressive in attaining 3rd party support, but one 3rd party relationship isn’t going to change much. Having Tomb Raider, Final Fantasy, and Deus Ex on the NX would be great, but they’re going to be on every other console as well, meaning it won’t make a dent in either Microsoft’s or Sony’s leads. Nintendo needs to get in the good graces of EVERY SINGLE major 3rd party developer if they truly do intend on competing with the big dogs. Nintendo has a lot of wounds to mend, and a lot of relationships to rebuild.

    • Izsak Barnette

      March 27, 2016 at 2:46 am

      Well, Nintendo has rebounded before and the graces of third-parties, which are ultimately companies, are easily repaired with a console that is successful from both a financial and marketing perspective. If Nintendo can make the NX successful, then those third parties will return without a complaint. Square needs to be motivated to join Nintendo because of its specific history with Nintendo and all of the problems that the companies have had since Final Fantasy went to the PlayStation with FFVII.

      Thanks for reading the article and your input!

    • Izsak “Khane” Barnette

      March 27, 2016 at 2:50 am

      Well, Nintendo has rebounded before and the graces of third-parties, which are ultimately companies, are easily repaired with a console that is successful from both a financial and marketing perspective. If Nintendo can make the NX successful, then those third parties will return without a complaint. Square needs to be motivated to join Nintendo because of its specific history with Nintendo and all of the problems that the companies have had since Final Fantasy went to the PlayStation with FFVII.

      Thanks for reading the article and your input!

      • ex fact0r

        March 27, 2016 at 3:11 am

        I think that’s a drastic oversimplification of the situation. 3rd parties will not return to the console if Nintendo makes an outlandish controller like the Wii U’s gamepad. 3rd parties will not return if Nintendo uses an architecture that’s vastly different than that of the PC/PS4/Xbox. Why? because its not worth it for EA/Ubisoft/Square/Activision/etc. to spend millions to have teams that focus specifically on Nintendo development. Nintendo’s drive to make their consoles “unique” has hurt them much more than its helped. 3rd parties don’t need Nintendo, Nintendo needs them, and they need to realize that.

        The only motivation a 3rd party needs is ease of access. If games are easily ported to the NX, then 3rd parties will be glad to support the system. Unfortunately, Nintendo has a long history of making their consoles a nightmare to work on for 3rd party devs. Will that change? Maybe. But if the recent leaks of what the NX’s controller are even close to real… well… Nintendo will probably have another Wii U on their hands.

        • Cyber Volt

          April 3, 2016 at 3:50 pm

          Nintendo needs as many third parties as they can get, both western and japanese. But the thing here is that western games such as CoD and EA games have Always sold poorly on the Nintendo systems.
          I wonder if that is really going to change with the NX.

      • Cyber Volt

        April 1, 2016 at 5:44 pm

        Awesome article, currentl I’am making a Youtube series how Nintendo, Square Enix and 2 other third parties made some of the great video game systems of all time. Would be great if Big N and SE teamed up to make NX great.

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From ‘dnd’ to ‘Death Stranding’: Good Old Fashioned Boss Fights

If Death Stranding proves anything, and it does, it’s that there’s nothing quite like a good old-fashioned boss fight.



Death Stranding Higgs Boss Fights

There’s nothing quite like a good boss fight. With the creation of dnd in 1975– a Dungeons & Dragons inspired RPG for the PLATO system– video games would be introduced to bosses. It’s hard to imagine the medium without bosses, those perpetual protectors of progress. For dnd, an incredibly primitive RPG, a boss allowed the game to feature these miniature climaxes — memorable events independent of the core gameplay loop. Bosses demand players pay attention or die, and beating one is a triumph in and of itself. Looking back, dnd’s concept of what a boss is amounts to little more than the average random battle, but video games could now build towards emotional highs like any other medium. 

A good boss can make or break a game, but they’re almost always a given. dnd essentially set an inherent basic of game design: video games have bosses. As the seventh generation of gaming ushered in more narrative driven and “cinematic” titles, however, boss design fundamentally changed. Where bosses had evolved from dnd to often serve as explicit rewards or a means to thoughtfully challenge a player’s grasp of the core mechanics, developers started to primarily embrace the “spectacle” of fighting a boss. 

Spectacle and boss fights naturally go hand in hand, though. After all, a boss is spectacle in nature. dnd’s spectacle is comparatively primitive, but it’s there and bosses do feel like events. Boss fights have always demanded our attention as an audience, isolating the world of a game into a singular objective. Some of the best bosses in gaming are almost pure spectacle: Baby Bowser in Yoshi’s Island, Ganondorf in Ocarina of Time, and Metal Gear REX in Metal Gear Solid. None of these bosses are particularly hard, but they make up for their lack of challenge with scale, scope, and gravitas. Spectacle. 

At the same time, they engage with the mechanics of the game even if they don’t outright challenge them. Of course, it would be disingenuous to go on without mentioning that all of these bosses appear near the end of their respective games. They’re easier and focus on spectacle as a means of rewarding the audience for coming so far. Anyone who’s played A Link to the Past in full will likely remember Moldorm as vividly as Ganon, but it’s the latter who fans will remember. Ganon is a spectacular duel to the death inside of a pyramid where the environment changes over the course of the fight. The former is just a good old fashioned boss fight. Who wants that?

As it turns out, a good chunk of AAA developers. BioWare director Casey Hudson infamously spoke out about boss fights after the release of Mass Effect 3, criticizing them for being “too video gamey.” While, contextually, Hudson’s comment refers to narratively convenient bosses specifically, it’s a sentiment that clearly rang true with developers throughout the late oughts & teens. This isn’t to say games with amazing bosses didn’t release over the course of the decade -– very far from it -– but boss design has changed, to the point where the Iggy Koopas and Revolver Ocelots of the world seem almost out of place. 

That’s just a consequence of consuming only AAA content, though. The indie scene has been thriving, and Japanese game development is the best it’s been in quite a while. In a generation where gaming is more mature and grounded than it’s ever been, the medium needed to end the decade with a reminder of video games in their purest form. Death Stranding is anything but, but its core philosophies play to the strengths of the medium with an evident passion. Death Stranding demands that audiences slow down and play by the game’s rules. 

In a generation where holding a player’s hand is the norm, this is a welcome breath of fresh air. It’s not only appropriately old-school, it’s a step back in the right direction. Like any facet of game design, bosses need to be thoughtfully considered. Being “too video gamey” can indeed be a bad thing depending on a titles tone, but swinging in the wrong direction and playing it too safe is never a good idea. Especially since Death Stranding proves mature, grounded AAA titles can absolutely still have the same over the top, pattern-based boss fights of yore — and comfortably, at that. 

“No BTs. No Voidouts. No bullshit. Just a good-old fashioned boss fight.”
– Higgs, Death Stranding (2019)

What’s interesting to note about Death Stranding’s boss fights is that they all play up the spectacle. Now, given the context that’s been established, that might seem like a step in the wrong direction, but any medium has to evolve with time. AAA developers haven’t historically used spectacle well, but that doesn’t mean they shouldn’t try. Not every boss should be Ganon, but they should always be memorable. The problem with modern spectacle is that it doesn’t go beyond the surface level. It often carries little to no weight or context. Players are expected to care for the spectacle of the spectacle, but that’s simply not where the medium shines. Games are inherently about interconnectivity, and nothing demands more interconnection than a boss fight. 

From the moment players formally meet Higgs and he floods Port Knot City, it’s clear that Death Stranding’s boss fights are more Snake Eater than they are Peace Walker. They’re all incredibly meaty with tons of health, typical of a modern Hideo Kojima boss, but they’re not bullet sponges, and Sam’s limited inventory means that players will constantly be cycling through different weapons over the course of a fight. Couple this with bosses having identifiable patterns and Death Stranding’s boss loops end up being real highlights. 

As expected of a first boss, the Squid BT is on the simple side. At this point in the game, Sam really only has hematic grenades to fight back with. Anyone who hasn’t taken the time to learn how to use the grenades are now forced to do so as it becomes the only means of making progress. Since Higgs also ambushes Sam, players won’t be prepared for a fight on their first playthrough, forced to scavenge the flooded environment for gear. Most bosses strip Sam of his gear, but this approach only results in tense, well crafted battles that offer plenty of variety. Should Sam already have grenades on him, players can rush in to fight the Squid. Should they not, however, they’re going to have to search while staying alive. 

Starting with the next boss, the first fight against Cliff, Death Stranding begins allowing players to choose exactly how they approach a fight. Much like in Metal Gear, there’s no right or wrong way to tackle a boss. Where bosses in MGS2 onwards could be tackled lethally or non-lethally, Death Stranding’s bosses are more about action versus stealth. Both approaches are totally viable, and they lead into their own isolated boss loops. As Cliff Unger hunts Sam through World War I era trenches, players can stealth their way around him or just dive in guns blazing. 

It’s an incredibly tense battle, but it doesn’t let the spectacle of the situation outdo the actual fight. Cliff isn’t a set piece even if he looks it. He’s a genuine boss and players have to play well to beat him. Stealthing around to hit him from behind is safer, but it means players will be fighting Cliff for much longer, requiring more mental stamina. On the flip side, cutting to the chase and unloading the moment he rears his head will end the fight sooner, but only for players who know how to get in & out of combat fast. Otherwise, Cliff’s personal army will slaughter Sam. 

Cliff is fought twice more over the course of Death Stranding, and each encounter builds off the last. The World War I trenches provided plenty of cover for players regardless of which approach they chose, so naturally the second fight takes place in a World War II city. There’s still plenty of hiding spots, but Sam is now out in the open. Just as easily as Sam can see Cliff, so can he be seen. Getting to Cliff is harder in general. Stealthing towards him means taking advantage of any and all blind spots, no matter how brief. Starting a gunfight either requires some pre-established course of action or quick reflexes. 

Death Stranding

By the third and final fight, Sam is taking on Cliff in an open Vietnamese jungle. Stealthing through and fighting back are both harder, but players will have built up the proper skills over their past two fights to adequately stand a chance. The fights against Cliff are the most video gamey Death Stranding ever gets, with each one sharing the same definable patterns, but they’re ultimately a net positive for the game. Having to learn a pattern, finding a way to fight back, and reveling in the scope of a great boss fight makes Death Stranding better on a whole. 

Honestly, the final fight against Cliff isn’t going to be a challenge for most players, but it’ll still stand out as a highlight. Each boss fight is a playground in and of itself. If Sam’s not being transported to a secluded battlefield, areas will be flooded with tar so that they can be molded into proper boss arenas. Even Dark Souls, a modern series that rightfully prides itself on its bosses, often won’t give the same level of care toward boss arenas. Good bosses need good level design just as much as they need good patterns. 

Perhaps more important than anything else, Death Stranding’s boss fights are long. Even if players know what they’re doing, they still have to endure an endurance match of sorts. Boss fights aren’t just about overcoming a challenge, they’re about surviving and making progress. Cliff’s not particularly difficult, but one mistake can result in Sam getting torn into. The majority of BT boss fights will try to overwhelm the player in the second half, the final one even featuring a nasty one-hit-kill that can easily sneak up on players wading through tar. Bosses should feel like events, from how players can engage mechanically, to how they’re presented narratively. 

No discussion of Death Stranding’s good old fashioned boss fights would be complete without mentioning the boss fight: Higgs. After serving as the game’s main villain for dozens upon dozens of hours, Sam finally gets his chance to fight back in a three phase boss fight that could have (very) prematurely ended the game on a high. Unlike the fights against Cliff, Sam really does have nothinghere, no matter what. He’s stripped of his gear, his weapons, and even BB. “Stick versus rope. Gun versus strand.” It’s a great way not only to wrap up Higgs’ arc, but it also challenges a player’s mastery of the most basic mechanics. 

Death Stranding

Phase 1 of the fight requires players understand not only Sam’s hand to hand combat capabilities, but his ability to throw packages. Throw a package at Higgs, beat him up, rinse, repeat. All the while he’s hunting Sam in one of the most constricted boss arenas in the game. Popping up too early means taking a few shots courtesy of Higgs. Popping up too late means needing to find him all over again. 

Phase 2 puts Sam on the offensive, and expects players to fight back with his strand. Higgs needs to be countered, hog-tied, and then kicked into oblivion. On-screen button prompts make the ordeal easier than it would otherwise be, but it’s thrilling to fight a boss who requires players to pull off reflex-based inputs that go beyond the typical QTE flare. Players need to set themselves up accordingly to counter Higgs, actively taking him head on. 

By the time fighting game health bars pop up for the third phase, it’s fairly obvious Higgs’ boss fight is a love letter to the very concept of the boss fight. It’s over the top, almost nonsensical, but it has the right narrative and emotional context to stand out as one of the best moments in an already spectacular game. The fight against Higgs is a miniature climax in a massive story that spans half a hundred hours, and is about to keep on keeping on for half a dozen more. 

Death Stranding

When it really comes down to it, there’s no right or wrong way to conceive a boss fight. Those spectacle bosses have their place, and this generation has seen a lot of amazing ones. What’s important is that developers build and contextualize spectacle accordingly. Boss fights aren’t just an inherent part of gaming, they’re a tool that can make a title better. Opportunities to shine light on the core mechanics, or an interesting aspect of game design. Death Stranding’s penultimate mission essentially pits Sam against a boss gauntlet across the entire UCA, a last chance for players to really indulge in everything at their disposal before the grand finale. 

Death Stranding would still be good without its boss fights, but it certainly wouldn’t be great. Each one elevates the game, not only by presenting a visually memorable and mechanically engaging challenge, but by existing as natural consequences of the story. Each boss is contextualized properly with enough weight where each victory has a considerable amount of impact. Boss fights have come a long way since dnd, but they’re recognizable for what they are: a reminder that games are games, and the medium should be embracing those video gamey elements. It’s through this “video gameyness” that the most memorable titles are made. If Death Stranding proves anything, it’s that there’s nothing quite like a good old-fashioned boss fight.

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Game Reviews

‘Life is Strange 2’ Episode 5 Review – “Wolves”: A Worthy Send-off

The final episode of Life is Strange 2 may take a while to get going but it does offer a solid conclusion to the Diaz brothers’ journey.



Life is Strange 2

Life is Strange 2 hasn’t made any bones about being a political game over the course of the last year. The 5th, and final episode, “Wolves”, doesn’t just continue with this message, it doubles down, and in a big way.

Set near the Arizona-Mexico border, “Wolves” follows the Diaz brothers on the final leg of their journey. Having escaped from the cult that held Daniel up as a messianic figure in the previous episode, Sean and Daniel are camping out in a sort of pop-up town filled with outsiders like themselves.

Life is Strange 2

The location provides Life is Strange 2 with its final breath of relaxation before the story enters its high tension endgame, and it’s a much needed reprieve. Unfortunately, it does seem to go on a bit longer than the player might like, and that makes things drag a smidge.

To give you some idea of how long you’ll be spending in the village, 4 of the 6 collectibles are found here. So, yes, this starting area is the main place you’ll be spending “Wolves” in. To be clear, the area isn’t bad per se. There’s a lot to see, a scavenger hunt to go on, and a few interesting characters to speak with, including a surprise cameo from the original game. The bummer of it all is that players will be feeling the time here more laboriously simply because there isn’t much of anything happening.

Life is Strange 2

In the 2nd or 3rd episode of this story it’s perfectly fine for an extended bit of down time. Episode 3, in particular, benefited greatly from allowing you to settle into the setting and get to know a diverse and likable new group of characters. However, by the 5th episode, players will be so eager to see how things are gonna settle up, they won’t be able to get out of this area fast enough.

On the upswing, once Sean and Daniel leave the village, the story moves at a pretty solid clip to the credits. As the key art and trailer for “Wolves” might suggest, the Diaz brothers do indeed challenge the border wall in the final leg of Life is Strange 2. Where things go from there, I won’t spoil, but rest assured that Daniel will absolutely go through the crisis as you’ve trained him to do.

By this I mean, you will see the final results of your choices throughout the game, and they’re pretty impressive. With 4 possible endings, and 3 possible variations on those endings, Life is Strange 2 can ultimately play out in a variety of ways. How yours plays out will, of course, depend on the choices you’ve made and how you’ve influenced your brother throughout your journey.

Either way, though, Life is Strange 2 closes off “Wolves” with an emotionally satisfying and generally fulfilling conclusion to your journey. It might be a necessary evil that the events can’t be intense the whole way through, being that this is not an action or combat-focused game, but the fact that things take so long to get going in the final episode is a bit of a problem.

Still, fans worried that Life is Strange 2 might fail to stick the landing can rest easy. “Wolves” might not be the best, or most satisfying, episode of the series but it does what it needs to do and it does it well, particularly in the back half.

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Game Reviews

‘Yaga’ Review: A Bittersweet Fairy Tale



Yaga Game Review

Some games feel perfectly suited to their genres, as if they fulfill every ambition that their genre could promise. On paper, Yaga from the developer Breadcrumbs Interactive, should be one of those games. This roguelike RPG is meant to bring traditional Slavic folktales to life, and its procedurally generated structure allows the game to change in every playthrough, just like how the ancient fairy tales it’s based on can change in every telling. Yaga immediately shines on a conceptual level, but as a game, the most important question remains: will this fairy tale be enjoyable to play?

From start to finish, Yaga uses the rich source material of Eastern European history and folklore to create a vibrant, fantastical world. The entire game is framed as three elderly women telling the story of Ivan, a heroic blacksmith who has been stricken with the curse of bad luck. These women spin a fanciful yarn, one in which Ivan is constantly plagued by horrors from traditional fairy tales such as the hideous One-Eyed Likho, along with more realistic foes, such as a corrupt, overbearing Tsar. The game thrives on this balance between history and fantasy. Its world is filled with peasants who face daily, universal struggles with war and agriculture, while massive ogres and goblin-like Vodyanoys haunt the surrounding wilderness. This mixture creates a strong setting that finally gives Slavic history and mythology its long-overdue representation in games.

Yaga Game Review

“Take the presentation and story together, and Yaga becomes a playable portrait of the lives and superstitions of Eastern European peasants.”

The frame story always remains the same: Ivan will always have to serve his Tsar while avoiding bad luck in every playthrough. However, beyond these core details, the old women are extremely flexible storytellers, often switching events around or changing story beats entirely. In some playthroughs, you may discover a woman raising an enormous chicken; in others, you may instead encounter a band of thieves waiting to rob you. You will frequently face important decisions to make that will dramatically impact the outcome of your quest. yes, you can always break into monster hideouts with hammers blazing to slay every creature before you; but more often than not, you are also given the opportunity to peacefully talk your way out of these toxic situations. Even more dramatically, oftentimes the game will zoom out to the old women storytellers and allow you to choose how they tell the rest of Ivan’s story. Yaga is at its best when it doubles down on this player freedom. It makes every moment engaging and allows its stories to truly come alive.


Yaga’s writing and presentation only serve to make this world even more striking. It features a distinctly dark sense of humor – for instance, a man may ask you to push a boulder into a well behind his house, but he will neglect to tell you that he has also thrown his wife into the bottom of that well ahead of time. Much of this dialogue is even written in rhyme, enhancing the otherworldly, fairy tale atmosphere. On top of that, nearly all dialogue is fully voice acted, with most voice actors delivering some eccentrically charming performances that make the game feel as if it’s a playable Disney film. The visuals look like they’re taken straight out of a Russian children’s book of fairy tales, while the music incorporates traditional instruments and language into an electronic, hip-hop fusion soundtrack that captures the cultural heritage that Yaga focuses on while connecting it to modern culture. Take the presentation and story together, and Yaga becomes a playable portrait of the lives and superstitions of Eastern European peasants.

However, this leads to the gameplay. Quests may be randomized each time you play, but nearly every one of them takes the same general format. One character will request help, and then Ivan will have to venture out into the world to fight some demons or recover an item. Worse yet, the levels are just as randomized in their procedurally generated design, and not in a particularly clever way, either: most of them likewise follow the same formula, being little more than arenas full of enemies connected by copy-and-paste environments. Many paths in each environment lead to nothing more than pointless dead ends. The combat has a satisfyingly simple basis, with basic moves like long- and close-range attacks, roll dodging, items to use, and a variety of different weapons to equip, although his trusty old hammer is generally the best choice. However, while this simplicity makes the combat enjoyable on its own, there is very little depth to it, and the inherently repetitive design of the mission only serves to highlight how paper-thin combat can be. Most battles involve little more than hacking away at enemies until they die, which becomes increasingly repetitive by the end of the roughly ten-hour campaign.


At the very least, the robust customization system helps add a little intrigue to the combat. As a blacksmith, Ivan is naturally gifted with the ability to craft weapons for himself to use. By scavenging parts and items from fallen enemies and treasure chests around the world, Ivan is able to create the most powerful weapons. Crafting is simple to use yet extremely ripe for experimentation, requiring only one base item and a handful of accessories to create unique new items. With dozens of components to discover and use in your forging, there are plentiful opportunities to create the best possible weapons.

“All told, Yaga achieves a bittersweet ending: it’s bitter as a game but sweet as a fairy tale.”

The crafting system would be the standout aspect of the moment-to-moment gameplay if it weren’t foiled by another one of the game’s systems: Bad Luck. Ivan has been cursed with perpetual Bad Luck, which grows constantly throughout the game – whenever something good happens, Bad Luck is sure to increase. Whenever the Bad Luck meter fills all the way, Likho will appear and strike Ivan, generally breaking one of his weapons or stealing his money.

Yaga Game Review

On paper, this mechanic makes sense, since it prohibits the player from becoming too overpowered and also fits into the folklore style off the story. In practice, however, it is an infuriating limitation on player progression and invention. It effectively punishes players for putting thought and care into their weapon crafting and character-building – at any moment it can all be washed away in bad luck, so what’s the point? Considering how enjoyable the crafting and combat systems are, it’s a shame that Bad Luck seems to exist solely to diminish the very best parts of the gameplay, leaving the game feeling like it cripples itself.

Your enjoyment of Yaga depends heavily on what experience you want out of it. If you’re looking for a deep and satisfying RPG, then it likely won’t deliver. Although it features satisfying combat and customization systems, the frustrating randomization of its level design and Bad Luck system only serve to foil these good qualities. If you are instead looking for a faithful, fleshed-out image of Slavic cultural heritage, portraying both the harsh realities of peasant life along with its fanciful folklore, then Yaga is a clear triumph thanks to its emphasis on player choice, its excellent writing, and its beautiful hand-drawn visuals and inventive soundtrack. All told, Yaga achieves a bittersweet ending: it’s bitter as a game but sweet as a fairy tale.

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