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What a Summer! Zelda, Diablo, Street Fighter and FFXVI impressions

Updated: Aug 8, 2023

As far as games release calendars go, I think you'd be hard pressed to find as strong a line-up as we've seen in the last couple of months.

I wrote about my most anticipated games of the year a little while ago. Looking at it then, I don't think I realised how quick the releases were coming, how good they would be and also how much excitement each release would bring.

Tears of the Kingdom launched and we've had a lot of fun trying to share our experiences whilst tip toeing around spoilers in the PoppinJam Discord.

Though I dived in and put about 35 hours in to game, with the other releases I put it to the side since. It's similar to how I played Breath of the Wild and it was when I went back to that game a second and third time that I progressed through most of the game and put in the majority of my playtime.

I was able to purchase this for my nephew aswell who is the same age I was when I first played Ocarina of Time, which has been a great highlight. Also, seeing his creativity in interacting with the open world and mechanics has exposed what a boring gamer I am... What I have played so far has been amazing and I'm looking forward to exploring more and seeing what new abilities can be unlocked and how the dev team have approached dungeons this time around, as all of my current playtime has been in the open world.

Diablo 4 was not on my watch list prior to the three beta events that took place leading up to launch. I think between the first two I must have put in 50-60 hours which was a lot given it was level capped at 25 and only featured the first of five zones. Really it was too much as leading up to the actual launch I realised I was burned out and my anticipation had dropped massively. Having played a bunch now, my playtime has picked up again now that I've made it through the campaign - which, though good, is not what I play an ARPG for. A really nice feature is that once the campaign is beaten, you don't have to play through it again on your other characters.

It has also been a lot of fun looking at the main content creators around the game react, give their hot-takes and talk about the potential future of the game. I've watched a lot of Kripp and Asmon vids in particular. It's cool coming from older static games and looking at the communities for these massive evolving titles, seeing how much there is for these content creators to interact with.

This is still my current obsession and Season 1 starts in about a week or so.

In my previous blog, I didn't mention Street Fighter 6 as, at the time, I figured I would not be picking it up anytime soon. On launch though, I saw the community for the game almost unanimously praise it as one of the best fighting games of all time, which feels like a fairly rare occurrence for the FGC. With the playerbase as passionate as they are about the series, it's been great fun watching top players explore the game and improve. I spent a bunch of time watching Youtube content and Twitch streams, particulary; FGC Translated and Justin Wong. It was also nice to see JoyStickNY make some uploads recently.

Clocked about 20 hours in SF6 and that was enough to remember how hard pure fighting games are. Between all the other titles it's tricky to know how I'll carve out time to play much more anytime soon, but I really appreciate the complete package this game launched as. The single player is a bit silly but charming, the art direction is amazing, with great music and most importantly, the gameplay is responsive, satisfying and rewarding.

I mentioned in my previous blog that I'd caught the hype for this game off a close friend. I waited a couple of days after getting to game to jump in and played just 15 minutes or so before stopping. I've always had some trouble committing to new stories that seem to ask for a lot of engagement, and often resist starting new shows for that reason. The next day I jumped back in and was hooked within about five minutes. That's probably the biggest surprise for me so far with FFXVI is how quickly it pulled me into the world, and something JRPGs have struggled to do in my case, for many years.

It's also great to see the commitment to an action based combat system over what I felt was a poor combat system in FFXV which tried to find a middle ground. FFXVI is not afraid to fully commit to action with a one character gameplay focus, and that pays off as it's a great combat system. The only issue I have so far, as has been voiced by others, is that the itemisation is very linear. Maybe it has never been so complicated in other Final Fantasy games and I think it's probably a tricky line to tread, but I would like to see it developed a bit, maybe in future DLC or a complete collection / remix in the future.

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