Short Hike to Shining Pearl Crossing Strikers

Welcome to the new year! 2022 is here, and I went back to work. It took about 3 hours for me to wish I was back on a break. Before you think that isn’t too bad – I usually start work 2 hours before everyone else!

Another week of chill video gaming this week. And another round of no tabletop gaming. I got excited about a Kickstarter coming soon (yay delivery notifications). Looking forward to that!

I did check out a game I had been putting off now on PlayStation Plus as well. So it definitely wasn’t a bad start to the year!

A Short Hike

It’s not uncommon for Indie games to fly under my radar. During the week I saw a video about A Short Hike, a very chill exploration game. A Short Hike was released in 2019 on PC and Mac, Switch in 2020 and November 2021 for PS4 and Xbox One. So better late than never?

There is a very basic story. You play as Claire, a young bird staying with their aunt. Aunt May is a ranger at Hawk Peak Provincial Park, and you are staying there. 

Hard to get a call with no phone reception
Hard to get a call with no phone reception!

On your first morning, it is revealed that you are waiting on a phone call, but there is no reception. Aunt May suggests you try the top of Hawk Peak to get reception. Travelling to the peak is not only a short hike (see what they did?) but a family tradition. 

So Claire sets off to climb the peak.

During the day, you meet various people and discover different things. Gameplay-wise, these are A Short Hike’s versions of side quests. Story-wise, they fall effortlessly into things a child exploring would do.

Meeting people around the park
Meeting people around the park

There are no time limits to curb your exploration. No combat to worry about, and only very basic platforming. A Short Hike is definitely a game to sit and enjoy for an afternoon.

Even taking it easy, you will most likely reach Hawk Peak within two hours. Returning to Aunt May ends the day with a nap, but you can reload to continue to explore. For the main story, there is nothing new to discover, but Hawk Peak park is large and fun to explore.

Hawk Peak has been climbed
Hawk Peak has been climbed before I found the graphics settings

In many ways, A Short Hike is a condensed chill experience akin to Animal Crossing: New Horizons. The pixel art style may not be for everyone but adds to the charm. I didn’t realise you could ‘smooth’ the style until after finishing the game. This may appeal to people that are anti-pixel style art.

For around AU$10 depending on the platform, A Short Hike is a no brainer choice for a relaxing way to spend time. It has a bit of everything for most people, barring combat and precision platforming.

Mini-games and adventures await
Mini-games and adventures await

For me, it was a cute experience that allowed me to explore and chill after a long week. Playing on PlayStation, there are trophies that I am considering completing. It could be A Short Hike is my first Platinum of 2022!

Animal Crossing: New Horizons

It’s a pretty simple write up for Animal Crossing New Horizons this week. I got my 5-star rating! Goal achieved! Well, kind of. Still, little happy dance going on in the background.

With the rating, I was awarded the recipe for the Golden Watering can. Yay, another little collectible check item marked off. We are well into the playing for play’s sake section of Animal Crossing.

There are still quite a few changes I want to make to the island of Game Room. More bits to clear, some shopping and possibly designing to do to decorate other areas. Things like that. Nice small jobs to chip away at.

Contemplating the little things
Contemplating the little things

The bigger task I have in mind is to grow hybrid flowers. I have set aside a couple of plots of land and with luck, I can start growing new flowers soon.

Is there a good reason for wanting to grow new flowers? Nope. But it is a low-pressure goal I can escape with for 30 minutes a day. Coming back to work and seeing a lot of change before me, this escape is very welcome at the moment.

I am pretty sure this will be my main way of playing Animal Crossing New Horizons for a while. Not even the fishing tournament held much interest for me.

But in a couple of weeks, when I have a handle on my flower garden, I will start looking at the Happy Home Paradise content again.

Words of Wisdom
When I hear things like this and they make sense, I get nervous

Persona 5 Strikers

I have been meaning to play Persona 5 for quite some time. The last Persona game I played was Persona 4 Golden, but I haven’t had the time. Persona isn’t a series you pick up and put down. Put it this way. Persona makes Skyrim look like a casual game!

Persona 5 Strikers is a game I knew about but dismissed for no good reason. I am not a Dynasty Warriors fan, not playing any since the PlayStation 2 days. Persona 5 Strikers on the surface is the Persona x Dynasty Warriors game, so was happy to let pass.

But then Persona 5 Strikers appeared as a January PlayStation Plus game. With nothing but a download at stake, I thought I would finally give it a go. I probably shouldn’t have started at 9 pm mid-week while rather tired though!

The new adventure begins
The new adventure begins!

Persona 5 Strikers throws you into the deep end. You pretty much start in a group battle and get a small tutorial as you go. The fight isn’t taxing but gives you a good feel for what is going on.

You are then thrown into the JRPG early game formula. For those not familiar with this, it’s a nice way of saying “90 minutes of text to read”.

Having not played Persona 5, the characters weren’t familiar to me. But there wasn’t a lot of exposition explaining who was who. The story moved at a pace I could follow what was happening, but knew there were small nods to the main game.

This is a small fight for this style of game
This is a small fight for this style of game

I got to start what I would call the ‘proper’ game after 90 minutes. I then began clearing a dungeon. The combat in Persona 5 Strikers will take a little getting used to. The basic moves and combos are straightforward but are quickly built upon. Persona summons, environmental attacks & special combinations all vie for attention.

During the final area of the first dungeon, I was desperate for a save point. I was so tired, and the intro didn’t pull me in completely. This would not have been helping my experience with Persona 5 Strikers.

But the experience wasn’t what I was expecting. The Dynasty Warriors influence is all over the combat. The story is a cut down Persona, itself a streamlined Shin Megami Tensei.

Persona 5 Strikers seems to be a game I could get into, but I tried it at the wrong time. I have it now though. I will see how I go. I want to give it a fair shake, but I also have some other large games calling for my time.

10 minutes of combat 50 minutes of exposition
10 minutes of combat then 50 minutes of exposition – not when you are tired!

Pokemon Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl

Back in November 2021, I picked up Pokemon Shining Pearl and Brilliant Diamond. There was already a lot of noise around the game’s release. Many long term fans were not happy with the new versions., and that was before release.

So I shut my ears and picked up the new games. I then went to Rabbit and asked her if I bought her jewellery if she would prefer diamonds or pearls. Yes, this is my way of surprising Rabbit!

And that is how I began playing Pokemon Shining Pearl. No nostalgic reasoning, or tie to a specific Pokemon. Like Pokemon Sword and Shield, I play the one Rabbit didn’t want to play!

I wonder what it is we are looking for
I wonder what it is we are looking for

That was then. This is January 2022. I finally picked up Pokemon Shining Pearl after a few weeks. For a lot of games, this is almost a death knell to me. I may have forgotten controls, and I usually forget what I was doing when I put it down. Where to go and why are mysteries in the wind.

This is where these old school Pokemon games shine for casual players like me. How to play – it’s turn-based hit the one button. There isn’t a lot of digit dexterity for combos and the like required.

Where to go next? Well, usually in a Pokemon game it’s the next gym. Worst case, I can look at the badges I have and google the next badge location. But in Pokemon Shining Pearl, the pause screen gives you the next goal. This makes my life even easier after an absence!

There are very clear objective instructions
There are very clear objective instructions

The Pokemon show with its mini-rhythm game is fine. If I don’t need to do it again for story reasons, I likely won’t do it again. Nor the underground mining bits. I appreciate their inclusion – it’s always good to see new elements added to a new formula. But I praise the more optional nature of them.

It’s not that I dislike these sections. They don’t hold my attention enough to want to put something else down or stop the story progress to play.

I am enjoying these ‘old’ Pokemon games as a casual diversion. I enjoy exploring, levelling up my Pokemon and beating the Gym leaders. Then I take on whatever the Elite Four or whatever end game group is presented, and call it a game. And for Shining Pearl, I am about halfway to this goal.

Not likely to do the talent contest again
Not likely to do the talent contest again

Pokemon Shining Pearl and Brilliant Diamond have gotten a mixed reception. There are plenty of reviews and comments that boil down to ‘Nintendo/Pokemon cash grab – avoid’. I’m not saying this stance is wrong, but I think people are coming at the games the wrong way.

To me, they are ‘if you want to sit back and enjoy a remaster of an old school Pokemon game, enjoy’. Yes, there are modern touches missing like going back to one-off TMs. But these are remastered from 15-year-old handheld games. Keep this in mind, and Shining Diamond and Brilliant Pearl will be fun. Especially if like me, you never played the originals.

If you are looking after a more modern and new Pokemon experience, keep an eye on Pokemon Legends: Arceus at the end of the month. It looks amazing, but I am worried about picking it up. Not because I don’t think it will be good, but because it will be the new larger open-world people have been asking for. 

I don’t have time to spend in all these new worlds! So for me, I am pointing my gaze towards the last few gyms in Pokemon Shining Pearl. Slow and steady progress while relaxing on the couch – sounds perfect to me!

I do enjoy the city views and overall art style
I do enjoy the city views and overall art style

What about you?  I hope you got some great games in.  Or are you looking forward to a new one?  Let me know! 

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Until next time,

JohnHQLD