Alex Darbyshire, York
I love Fire Emblem, but it’s a difficult series to love. A largely story-driven franchise is bound to struggle when it just doesn’t have that many good stories under its belt. I thought about checking back in with the likes of Fire Emblem: Fates for this week, but I couldn’t bring myself to when remembering just how insufferable the writing is. To wash the taste of bad writing out of my mouth, I turned to Three Houses, the latest, and one of the best, entries into this very old series.
Three Houses is one of the best examples of developers listening to what fans want, and delivering as best as they can. A competently written story, with some genuinely compelling characters that, unlike many RPG casts, actually grow and change. This plot is so satisfying. Friends become enemies, lessons are learned - plot points genuinely matter. The only constant is the comically vacant expression of Byleth, the player character. This all seems like a given for good storytelling, but it’s incredible how many games miss the boat on this. Maybe it’s lack of good writers, or more of a focus on mechanical polish rather than narrative one.
That’s not to say Three Houses is lacking in mechanical depth. There are tons of new additions to the game in this instalment. The gambit system really opens up the game levels in terms of area-of-effect with units, and the combat arts give individual units some really effective extra strategies, at the cost of greater weapon degradation. These are all balanced and satisfy an itch for a tactical challenge that I had had for months now. Of the first-party Nintendo products on the Switch at the moment, I’d say this is one that everyone should give a try if they really want to be gripped by a mystery, as well as some good mechanics.
James Troughton, Newcastle upon Tyne
"VR is a gimmick!" the hordes of gamers without the rigs cry, but Superhot is one of many titles to prove that wrong. There is no way in hell that any mouse-and-keyboard nor controller setup could emulate the same action-hero feeling that this immersive wonder does - it's like The Matrix and John Wick spliced into one, so you can finally understand what makes Keanu such a humble guy.
On that note, Superhot is breathtaking, with its stylistic visuals, outstanding gunplay, and action-packed, singular-room, level-to-level rollercoaster fun. You shoot at the bad guys who splatter into millions of pieces before running out of ammo, lobbing your now useless hunk of metal into their faces, all before grabbing their guns as they fling out their corpse's hands towards you, before hurtling at full speed back into the action. The best part? Everything is frozen until you move, meaning that you can dodge bullets. Truly, Superhot VR is one of the best titles for the medium, and it's a great seller on the tech.
George Boatfield, Harrogate
By now, with a student’s budget, you might be thinking that my supply of games would be dwindling. And though I have revisited a few classics for these diaries, I owe a lot to my recently reactivated PlayStation Plus membership. Now, the games from the service, redeemed and forgotten over the years, are taking centre stage. After yesterday’s Journey, it’s time to go even further down the PS Plus rabbit hole with the skateboarding side-scroller OlliOlli 2: Welcome to Ollywood.
I initially went in with high hopes, but my heart sank shortly after looking over the moves list for this tricked-out title. I should be clear that I’ve never had the fondest of views for fighting games, and OlliOlli bears more resemblance to Street Fighter II than Pro Skater 2. I’m not sure what I was expecting from the game, but it certainly wasn’t this.
That said, I was willing to give this control scheme a go. It seemed functional enough to use various quarter or half turns of the left analogue stick, though admittedly as imprecise and loose as I’ve always found it. But unfortunately, my initial struggles simply ended up being an advance warning of a simplified, yet somehow unintuitive control scheme.
Specifically, it’s use of the X (or A) button is perplexing. I’m comfortable with some deviance from the convention of ‘X to jump’, but OlliOlli simply enforces the complete opposite. X is used to land each trick you take, and pushing back down on the stick keeps a grind going along a rail. Conversely, I feel as though the stick would be the most natural input for landings, and this led to countless mix-ups, missing grind rails or falling off my skateboard in the process.
So while many of these diary entries serve as recommendations of what to play during this strange time, consider this as more of a cautionary tale. There may be fun to be found in OlliOlli 2, particularly if you enjoy fighting games, but I wasn’t quite able to track it down.