Final Fantasy XV: Not-So-Final, and May Many More Be Made

I spend a lot of time thinking about Final Fantasy XV. Even when I’m not playing it, even as I’m playing other games, I find my thoughts turning towards the experiences I had with this game, and comparing and contrasting. It is by no means a perfect game, but it is a great, and interesting, one.

Final Fantasy has been a part of my life for as long as I’ve been playing games. One of the reasons I wanted a Playstation 2 as a child was because of the fun I had playing X with my friend in middle school, and even before that, my favorite GameBoy Color game had the Final Fantasy name attached (despite the fact it was actually an entirely different series). I’ve gone far out of my way to experience as many games in the franchise as I could since then, and as great as many of them are, XV simply blows them out of the water. And in order to fully understand why, I feel like you have to understand the series as a whole.

To begin with, XV is a much different experience than any previous entry in the series. Whereas the early entries were “open-world” in the sense that you could, theoretically, head in any direction you wanted, what that really translated to was being murdered by a pack of level 60 wolves as soon as you accidentally crossed an invisible level-barrier. Later entries gradually moved in a linear direction, culminating in X which was essentially a series of twisting hallways. XII tried to return to the “open-world” feeling of old, although it essentially just expanded the hallways into rooms and put nothing but monsters in them. This is the first game to attempt openness and truly achieve it, creating a vibrant world with beautiful landmarks, memorable and impossible to get lost in. It’s filled with dungeons to explore, mountains to climb, dangerous creatures to fight, and sweet, succulent fish to catch.

I can genuinely immerse myself in the world of Eos, and feel the plight of both my party and the general citizenry as they constantly face the threat of the Empire (because there’s always an Empire) and daemons. I struggle as they struggle, though occasionally that’s more with the mechanics of the game than anything else.

There is a single, pervasive flaw in the game’s mechanics, and that is Square’s attempts to apply realism to a universe that also includes magically-appearing weapons and colossi the size of a continent. Noctis can only sprint for a short while, after which he gets winded and can only jog for a period of time. There is no actual stamina meter (edit: apparently there is, but it’s off by default), so you won’t know if Noctis is about to stop to breathe until he’s actually doing so. Weapon animations cannot be cancelled in order to dodge or warp out of the way, meaning you have to wait for your giant greatsword to hit the ground before you can run away from the incoming giant spider. Magic, while powerful, will affect the environment and your party members, leading to tough decisions between quickly decimating your enemies with an Electron spell and risking severely injuring Ignis, or trying to survive in a much longer life-or-death struggle. These mechanics can lead to intense and exhilarating battles, but often they come across as cheap ways for the game to score a few hits.

Beyond that, however, the combat is amazing. Noctis’s Warp ability allows for fluid and fast action, quickly closing in on enemy’s to score a couple of blows, and then retreating to a safe place to restore life. His Royal Arms come with unique capabilities and fighting styles at the expense of loss of hit points every time a hit is made, allowing for different strategies, which the game’s four weapon slots greatly accommodate. You can have a familiar weapon equipped and ready to use at all times, while also being able to play around with other weapon styles without constantly accessing a menu. Your different party members are active in battle (though some last longer than others once the going gets tough), and they each have strong techniques you can command them to use in battle. Of particular note is Prompto’s Gravisphere, which draws in smaller enemies and does constant damage to everything in it’s radius, and Ignis’s Overwhelm, which causes the whole party to unleash a series of devastating, simultaneous attacks on a single target.

Boss fights are the highlight of the game’s combat, though. Most of them take a page right out of Kingdom Hearts and turn what might have been a traditional, arena-like boss into an enormous, unforgettable spectacle. The first time you fight Titan, your jaw will drop so far you’ll have to have it surgically replaced. The story bosses can come across as very scripted (especially in regards to Leviathan, who is more of a story setpiece than an actual boss fight), but the optional bosses available later in the game blend spectacle and gameplay very well (take the Zu hunt at the Rock of Ravatogh. Just trust me on this one.)

The sidequests are plentiful and lead to some of the best gameplay you’ll find in XV, but the characters who give them are often very dull and uninteresting and the objectives are very MMO-esque in their execution. It will almost always be “go to this place and find this thing” or “go to this place and fight this thing” or, in the case of my least favorite series of sidequests in the game, “fight this monster until it drops this item for me”. The Catoblepas hunt was one of the most exciting fights I had in the game… the first time I fought it. But then it didn’t drop what I needed, and I had to fight it again. Five more times, in fact. It ceased to be fun and became more of a chore. Those don’t crop up too often, but it will almost always be the same character who gives them to you, and you’ll get sick of them fast.

The dungeons and the hunts are where the sidequests really shine through. They eschew any pretense of characterization or urgent dilemmas, and instead set you on a course to an interesting boss fight or difficult gang of monsters, with no flavor text added. When you enter a dungeon, you open a sidequest, and the sole objective of said quest is to “defeat the monster in the dungeon’s inner sanctum”. When you take a hunt, you get pointed to the general vicinity of the monsters you need to defeat. No unnecessary reasons for why you’re doing this are given, the game simply sets you on the course to more of the thing you’re playing the game for.

Each of your party members is also given a certain hobby that affects your gameplay. Noctis has the only truly interactive one with fishing. This guy loves to fish, as you’ll learn when he squeals with glee upon seeing the game’s first available fishing spot at Galdin Quay (or outside of Insomnia, if you turned around before the end of Chapter One). This is the best fishing minigame I’ve ever seen, as proven by the fact that my friend and I have taken to calling it “Epic Fishing Action!” You can lose hours upon hours of gameplay just to trying to catch the next big haul, and it is honestly one of my favorite parts of the game. Best of all, it directly ties in to Ignis’s own hobby of cooking. When you rest at a campsite, Ignis will cook the party up a lovely, stat-boosting meal, so long as you have the recipes and ingredients. And Ignis will learn a lot of recipes with many different effects. Too many, really. You’ll be hearing about how he’s “come up with a new recipe” very often.

Prompto’s hobby is photography, as you’ll learn five minutes in and be reminded of constantly if you drive so much as half a mile in your car. Seriously, you can’t get this guy to shut up about taking pictures. Although, once you start looking at them and picking out your favorites to save, you’ll probably be talking about them quite a bit, as well. His hobby is, however, the one that affects gameplay the least, although it is also the only one tied to the main story. Gladiolus’s skill is survival, which is the one you have the least control over. Basically, he finds items after a battle. As it levels up, he can find better items. That’s about it.

The main party, as characters, can quickly get you invested in the game. All four are instantly likeable (though some may not remain that way through the end) and you’ll pick up on the ones you like most quickly. For me, I like Noctis and Prompto the most, so I’m going to address them first. Noctis is a great main character, first of all. I’ve read that he was meant to be a kind of foil to both Cloud (from Final Fantasy VII) and Sora (from Kingdom Hearts), and he definitely accomplishes this. He goes through heavy and deep emotional trauma, from before the game even begins through to the final battle, but rather than distancing himself from his friends, he finds solace and guidance in them. He’s angsty, but also quiet, shy, and awkward, while also easily excitable by the things he loves, like fishing. He also perpetually looks forward (save for one justifiable instance in the story) and works hard to accomplish his goals. There could not have been a better viewpoint character for XV than Noctis.

Prompto is ever cheerful, a fun-loving, over-the-top ham, who masks his deep-seated insecurities to better support the friends he cherishes. He’s the most inexperienced of the group, as well as the most recent addition to the quartet, so he overcompensates a lot so he feels like he belongs.And as the story goes on, you’ll begin to see the facade loosen gradually, until he’s comfortable sharing his darkest secrets with the others.

Ignis is essentially Noct’s caretaker, as he cooks for him, chauffeurs for him, and in general is the primary voice of reason in the quartet. He’s studious and proper, and rarely ever becomes less than that, even at his most upset.

Gladiolus is, quite honestly, my least favorite main-story character. What starts off seeming like a fully fleshed-out character will later reveal himself to be incredibly flat, never truly developing, and being the source of some of the most unnecessary intra-party conflict in the game.

You might notice that beyond Noctis, there’s not really much to say about the other three, and that would be due to the other major problem with the game; the writing. The game was clearly rushed out with an unfinished story, and while Square has stated they will be adding more to it over the months, as it stands any character beyond Noctis have barely serviceable amounts of screentime. Characters are introduced as if they’ll be important for the entirety of the game, only to drop away after a couple of chapters (or, in truly offensive instances like Cor, the chapter in which they’re introduced). Villainous characters beyond the primary Big Bad have a few lines of dialogue at best (Lo’qi and Ravus are primary offenders in this regard).

The story itself suffers from this rushed writing. The first half of the game encourages you to take your time and explore the world, but as soon as you enter the second half of the game, you are put on a literal train ride until near the end of the game. Chapter 14 was honestly the biggest disappointment for me. What could have been a World of Ruin trek similar to the second half of Final Fantasy VI is made entirely linear, sending you directly to Hammerhead, and from there, straight to the final boss, with no possibility for exploration. It was a painful waste of potential.

Overall, Final Fantasy XV is an absolutely gripping game, simply marred by design choices and a (somewhat understandable) rushing to market. After Square Enix failed to impress during the Playstation 3 era, they really needed another game to truly re-solidify themselves as a prominent JRPG developer and publisher, and Final Fantasy XV is that game. The gameplay is a step above, although if you’re looking for a truly compelling story, I would suggest seeing what they’ve added in six months.

Console: Playstation 4

Developed by: Square Enix

Year Released: 2016

Genre: Action JRPG

 

 

 

 

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Nuclear Throne: A Fallout of Deathly Proportions

Nuclear Throne was a very pleasant surprise, at least compared to my actual expectations for it. I fully believed this was just another one of those indie games that people loved just for the retro nostalgia they felt while playing it. I was not expecting to get completely addicted to it, playing it with my friend for 8 hours straight.

Not that we ever got any better at the game, because Nuclear Throne is not nearly that kind. It is a hellish torment upon those who don’t regularly play horrifically difficult games, and being an avid player of narrative-driven RPG’s, those are basically my exact opposite.

The gameplay is easy to get used to, but oh-so-difficult to master. Balancing between the floaty, imprecise cross-hairs (which can be made more precise with certain upgrades), conserving the ammo for your guns, dodging the maelstrom of bullets inevitably headed your way, and actually remembering your character’s unique ability and how it works is so convoluted, due to how many of them you have to pay attention to simultaneously. That intense difficulty is what really makes the game so much fun, though. Once you’ve had your first moment of skillful, or even just incredibly lucky, gameplay, you’ll be hooked.

The character designs are simple, but memorable. No character feels particularly worse than the others (though I have only unlocked up to Plant), demonstrating a good balance in character power. They all come with unique abilities, some easier to use than others. For example, Fish can roll, allowing him to dodge enemy fire easier than other characters, while Eyes can use telekinesis to move projectiles away from him, and Crystal can use a shield to block enemy fire for a few seconds at a time. Melting in particular has an amazing ability that blows up the corpses of any enemies on the screen, dealing massive damage to their compatriots. In return, however, he only has two hit points in a game where that amounts to a single hit from enemy fire. I love using him.

The weapons can be hit-and-miss. You can find things like assault rifles and SMG’s, which up rate of fire and are generally safe to keep around. You’ll also run across shotguns and sluggers, which bounce off walls to deal with some trickier enemies. Sometimes you’ll even find weapons like grenade launchers and disc guns, which deal incredible damage, but run the risk of hitting and damaging your character, as well.

Boss fights are intense, and you will run in terror every time you see one of their intro screens. They can break out of a wall anywhere in the level, leading to chaos if you haven’t cleared out a significant amount of regular enemies up to that point. One time, I even had the boss of World 1 enter the map right where I was standing, causing an instantaneous death and lots of grumbling from everyone in the room about how unfair it was.

That’s really the biggest catch with Nuclear Throne. It’s a challenging game, and many times when you die it is your fault, but there are times when the random number generator simply decides you will die. In eight hours of playing and somewhere around 140 deaths between 2 players, I would say that at least 30 of those deaths were out of our control, be it from a boss appearing on top of us or starting level 2-1 surrounded on all sides by rats with no means of escape.

I really wish I could talk about the story of this game, but I’m still not entirely sure there is one. If there is, you have to be a lot better at this game than I am to start seeing it. The farthest I ever got was level 3-3, and the I.D.P.D. (Inter-Dimensional Police Department, I believe) began to show up and wrecked me completely. I have never made it that far again.

I definitely will, though, because for all the complaints I have about how unfair it is, the game is still incredibly addicting. I just want to keep playing it. And as far as I’m concerned, any game that gets me invested that much without even giving me much of a story is definitely worth a buy. If you don’t already have Nuclear Throne, get it. I promise you won’t regret it.

Indiebox Review: Nuclear Throne (January #IndieBox)

Right before the year ended, Indiebox decided to raise the prices of their boxes, saying that they would be using the extra money to raise the quality of their boxes. Not wanting to miss out on an opportunity to add a monthly series to my site, I signed up for Indiebox right before the price raise so I could look at each one every month. I do want to note, this is not a review of the game Nuclear Throne (that will come later). This is a look at the actual box and the contents within.

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Starting off, I want to point out that I did buy the Indiebox once before deciding to start this. Back in October, I bought the Axiom Verge box, and was disappointed. One of the items you’re meant to get in the Indiebox is a USB physical copy of the game in question, free of any DRM. My Axiom Verge box did not come with the USB of the game, only the Steam key. When I talked to Indiebox support about it, they “solved” my problem by e-mailing me a link to the DRM-free content, rather than sending me the actual USB. I mention this because 90% of the reason I think Indiebox is a cool idea is because of the concept of having a physical copy of a game that was only released digitally, and it still frustrates me that they forgot it in my October box.

Luckily, this month I did receive the USB. It comes in the shape of one of Nuclear Throne’s unlockable characters, Chicken, and demonstrates his ability to fight on after losing his head by having the USB hidden in his neck. It was so hidden, in fact, that at first I thought they had forgotten to send me the game again, and I only realized where it was upon reading the Indiebox Newsletter’s list of box items. Regardless, the USB has a neat design and has an actual collectible feel to it as a result. It’s definitely my favorite aspect of the box.

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Moving beyond that, the box is at least interesting. The title of the game is on a removable rectangle of plastic, so if you want, you can have the box look like it’s just the mouth. It’s well-designed and visually appealing. The box is very stiff, though, making it hard to open the top without bending the cardboard to a permanently noticeable degree. Also, if you don’t pack it back exactly right, the surrounding plastic won’t fit back around the box due to the bulges the items create, forcing you to repack the box. I feel like the rectangular plastic was an interesting touch in theory, but in practice, it would probable be better just to have the name on the box instead.

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The box came with three mini-figurines of bosses within the game. They’re made with decent material, feel light and soft in your hand, and there aren’t any extruding pieces or movable parts that might easily break. They would make a decent desk accessory, but in the end, they’re just something pretty to look at, and they’re so small that if you keep them out of the box, you’re bound to lose one or two eventually.

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As with every collector’s edition of a video game ever, Nuclear Throne’s box comes with a soundtrack CD. Personally, I’m not a fan of just listening to a game’s soundtrack. There are a few standout tracks in every game, and then a lot of what amounts to ambient noise. The music is best appreciated by hearing it during gameplay, as far as I’m concerned, but if you want the CD, here it is. The music’s pretty good, too, so if you’re really into video game music, this will be right up your alley.

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Also included within the box is a plushie Maggot, one of the regular enemies found within the game. Personally, I feel that going the plushie route was a poor choice for Indiebox, as it draws some negative comparison to LootCrate, infamous for including useless “collectible” garbage like this. The mini-figurines were at least interesting and well-made, allowing them some leniency as a genuine collector’s piece. Nobody collects plushies. It’s a very simple design, with an additional poor choice of having the zipper on top of the Maggot, rather than on the bottom. At least I assume that’s the top. It looks better that way than it does flipped, either way, so I’m calling it the top. At any rate, I would recommend Indiebox veer away from the plushies in future releases, as no matter how hard you try to sell it as one, there is nothing collectible about a cheap, half-assed attempt at being cute.

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I love instruction manuals. In the past couple years, as I’ve grown a bit of a collector’s mindset to my game-buying habits, I’ve started to refuse buying a lot of games unless they have the original case and manual. Flipping through a manual is just such a great feeling, so I have a bit of bias in that I will always love it when a game comes with a physical manual. If this box just had the manual and USB inside, that would be enough to satisfy me. Alas, this is the last good thing within the box. The rest, like the Maggot plushie, is LootCrate-style garbage.

“The rest” really just refers to these themed stickers. I hate stickers. The only thing less collectible than a sticker is a temporary tattoo. These are even worse than the plushie, which really infuriated me. Indiebox, if I wanted stickers and plushies, I’d be buying LootCrate. I’ve heard that you guys sometimes do things like themed controllers for your boxes. Do more things like that, things I can put to actual practical use and won’t damage the collectible value of my box when used, or at least more tangible objects like the figurines. I don’t want your garbage stickers. Please spend the sticker money elsewhere. Sincerely, Wombat Lord.

Overall, though, it’s a decent box. I can’t hate it, but it’s definitely a hit-and-miss effort. I will mention that not only did this box come with a USB copy and Steam key of the game, but also a Playstation Store code, giving you three copies of the game across two platforms. Add in the manual, mini-figurines, soundtrack CD, and the box itself, and this Indiebox was definitely worth the price. It’s just a shame they had to throw some leftover garbage in there, as well.

 

Depression

You may have noticed that, for the past month or so, I haven’t written anything at all. My last post said I was taking a few days to recover from illness, and that was true. But after I recovered, I still didn’t write anything new, and there is a reason for that. This is my explanation and apology.

Depression is a meddlesome thing. I am fully aware that I am depressed, and I want to work past it, but I can never summon the energy to do so. It’s easier to do nothing than it is to do something. And although my head says that I can beat these feelings, my heart is apathetic at best.

That’s another thing about depression. I don’t necessarily feel sad. Mostly I just feel empty. I’m not upset about things going wrong in my life; rather, I care so little about them that it hurts and baffles me. When I do feel emotion, it’s usually just an outburst of anger or hatred. There’s no creative or positive spin I can put on what little emotion I can drag up.

Don’t get me wrong, though. I do still have fun, and I do have moments of happiness. The problem is that they are only moments. As soon as whatever made me happy is over, the feeling recedes, and emptiness takes its place once again.

So how do I fight my depression? Well, this is how. Writing for this site was how I was intending to combat the apathy. However, once I had an excuse to stop writing in the illness, it was all too easy to start saying, “I’ll write tomorrow.” Tomorrow never came, and so I let the site slip into stagnation within a month of starting it.

No more. I’m making the necessary changes in my personal life to raise my spirits and crawl out of this emotional slump I’ve been trapped in for far too long, and that means I’m going to post more. I’m going to write everyday, and post as frequently as I can, even if it’s just something random to occupy my mind.

So, if you’re reading this, thank you for your time and your support. I don’t mean to be such a downer, and I’m definitely not looking for pity. Rather, I’m promising you that I’m only going to get better from here on out, regardless of whatever curves life may throw at me. Once again, thank you, and I look forward to writing to you and for you in the future.

No Releases for a Few Days

So, this is a short, not-a-real-post post. I just wanted to say that it’ll be a few days before I post anything new since I’m currently dealing with a medical issue, and all my time is spent either at work or rolling around on my bed in suffering and agony. I’m sorry, but I just don’t have the energy to write anything right now. Thanks for the understanding!

Retro Review- Ar tonelico: Melody of Elemia

When I was a child, I only had one gaming system; a Game Boy Color. The first game I ever got truly invested in was a little game called Final Fantasy Legend II, and that one game has influenced my taste in games ever since. The JRPG genre is what dominates my gaming life, and when I go to a store to buy a new game, they are often what I look for first. So it was that I happened across this game, Ar tonelico: Melody of Elemia. Can I say “game” anymore in this paragraph? Yes, I can, because Ar tonelico is one of the gamiest games to have ever gamed.

I don’t mean that as a bad thing, though it can definitely be taken as one. Ar tonelico is definitely not for everybody. I’m still not quite sure if it’s even for me. It’s one of those games where you don’t need to think a whole lot, and it doesn’t want you to think a lot. It holds your hand the whole way, never giving you any real mystery to the plot and never giving you any mechanics that require real skill or talent. It is a “game” by the strictest definition, in that you play it, it’s possible to fail, and you may or may not get any real satisfaction or joy from it.

First, I want to point out that this game was released in 2007, near the end of the Playstation 2’s lifespan. Ar tonelico itself does not look like it was even released on the PS2. It’s got a very simple graphical style, comparable to the Atelier Iris games, except without the cartoonish charm of the latter. It just looks dull and uninspired, with every scene (with a handful of minor exceptions) playing out with waist-up portraits of characters speaking, as opposed to any real cutscenes. It can detract significantly from the experience.

In fact, this game is essentially an Atelier Iris game in all but name. The combat is almost exactly the same, except it trades the nuance and forethought in the Atelier battle system for a much simpler version, which allows you to cast a powerful spell at any point in the battle so long as you sat there waiting long enough. It’s tedious and boring, and I often find myself using items to ward off battles after a long time playing.

Ar tonelico also took Atelier Iris’s crafting system. It just took it. The game didn’t change anything about it, except now all items used in crafting are drops from enemies, with very few overworld spots with items. All crafting takes is being able to tolerate slogging through enough enemies to get the required items.

Map navigation is boring and, at times, confusing. I’m not even sure how to describe it, as you move through names of locations on a general map, only you’re always centered on the place you’re currently looking at, with only adjacent area names shown. Then you use the directional pad or left stick to choose which direction you want to go. I truly pray for you if you don’t remember which direction a certain location was, as you might get lost trying to find it.

Dungeon navigation is no better. There are no clear borders on any of the screens, so at some random point you’ll just find yourself moving to the next screen. This is even true of dungeon-exit borders, as well. The game doesn’t designate them at all, meaning you could also just find yourself out on the world map again, without even a prompt asking if you’d like to leave. It’s such a simple thing that could save loads of frustration with just an easy fix.

Ar tonelico is very shoddy on a technical level, as well. The lag in cutscenes can get so bad that voice-overs and music will pause while the game loads the rest of the scene, which again, are little more than still-portraits of characters that occasionally change expression. The lag is present in battles as well, as casting any spell with your Reyvateil (i.e. the central mechanic of the battle system) will result in slowdown and even moments of complete standstill, which can make trying to perform any well-timed spellcasts practically impossible.

Speaking of the voice acting, I’m not sure these actors even care. They aren’t even comparable to blocks of wood, as wood would have more inflection and nuance. The only one who isn’t entirely terrible is Vic Mignogna, who suffers from the entirely separate problem of being Vic Mignogna.

All this is without even touching on the big reason for this game’s existence, the Dive mechanic. You Dive into the souls of your Reyvateil companions to help them through their inner demons and such, which is treated as being as awkwardly intimate as sexual intercourse. Once inside their “Cosmosphere,” you basically play through a linear visual novel to reach the end. There aren’t any dialogue options or choices to make it difficult or interesting, it just serves as a means to further the character development of the Reyvateil in question.

The characters themselves are actually interesting, and I do occasionally feel for them, but it does little to lift the drab mess surrounding them. They have secrets and fears and relationships with each other, none of which seem stupid or exaggerated, and it really helps to make them feel like actual people. The exception to this would be Lyner, the main character, who suffers from Protagonist Syndrome, in which he has the bare minimum personality so you can insert yourself into his position better.

In the end, I can’t really recommend this game. I had some fun with it in the start, but the further in I went, the less anything interesting happened. Ar tonelico has so much promise, and on the outside, looks incredibly interesting, but the packaging is deceiving. It hides a sub-par, confusing, laggy mess of a game, which steals far too much from better games that came before it. Even if you’re a die-hard fan of JRPG’s, there’s not much for you in this game. Just get Atelier Iris instead, and avoid this at all costs.

Console: Playstation 2

Developed by: Gust Corporation

Year Released: 2007

Genre: Active Time JRPG

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Did I mention that this game is priced upwards of $50? That’s way too expensive for this drivel.

DNCE- “Cake By The Ocean” Review: Sleazy As Sexy

Poring over the pop charts every day can be tedious and tiring. To begin with, I’m a rock man myself, and there’s not too much rock on the charts these days. Even the rock charts are filled with songs that aren’t actually rock, or songs from fifty years ago. That’s not a joke, either. There are four songs by The Beatles on the rock charts this week. Nothing against The Beatles (one was even “Come Together,” my favorite Beatles song), but we need a breath of fresh air to come and revitalize rock.

Lo and behold!, our rock saviors have descended upon us in the form of… Joe Jonas?! Yes, Joe Jonas-fronted band DNCE is the topic of discussion today, but don’t let the Jonas name trick you; this is basically an early Maroon 5 song, if Maroon 5 hadn’t been fronted by one of the worst vocalists of the generation.

I often feel that, when you hate a song, you do need to be able to explain why, while if you love a song, the “why” can often be indescribable. Such is not the case with “Cake by the Ocean.” It’s one of those songs that wouldn’t work if even one piece was out of place, but because they managed to get everything right, it plays out beautifully.

First, they chose to bring the bass into focus with one of the tightest basslines in pop music. As a bassist myself, I always enjoy when the instrument gets the chance to take the spotlight, but it definitely deserves the chance in this instance. It gives the song a funky flavor that really makes the song danceable. Then, they used the guitar as more of an accent instrument. In fact, the next time you listen to the song, look for the guitar. It doesn’t play a single chord until the bridge, instead allowing the bass to carry the entire first verse. Doing so allows the bassline to get engraved into your mind, letting it take over as the dominant while the guitar is content to be more subdued until the chorus punches in.

And let us not forget the drums. The drums perfectly match the bass, working in tandem to create one of the greatest rhythms of the year. I just… I love it all so much. I don’t even mind continuously playing the song while I write this article. I’m kinda half-dancing the whole time and looking like a moron. The beat is just such an earworm, I can’t help it.

And that’s without even mentioning the overwhelming presence of Joe Jonas. I was a Disney Channel kid, and I was a teenager while The Jonas Brothers were a mega-popular teeny-bopper band, so naturally I had quite a bit of contact with their music. I’m here to tell you, right now, that Joe was always the most talented brother. He has a voice with a wide range, allowing him to sing all kinds of songs and be amazing. His regular pitch is perfectly suited to this kind of rock, with a tone that’s suave but just a bit sleazy. When the chorus starts and he has to hit those higher notes, he’s perfectly capable of doing so.

The Following Paragraph is NSFW. All Sentences NSFW Will be Written in White, and Need Highlighting to be Read.

Lyrically, the song is just as metaphorically raunchy as the music it’s influenced by. There seems to be some sort of contention about what the song is about, so here’s my personal interpretation. This song is about a girl Joe likes that won’t do anything with him in bed. He’s talking to her, trying to convince her to “live dangerously” and “eat cake by the ocean,” which sounds like a euphemism for giving him a blow job, with lines like “eat icing off your hands” supporting this. Apparently, it could also mean the opposite, with him proposing she let him eat her out. Regardless, it’s all very well-written and conveys the sleazy mood of the song amazingly, while allowing some interpretation. There was no point in the song where I thought a line didn’t work, or thought it was completely stupid, which is pretty rare.

All in all, this song is one of the most enjoyable experiences I’ve had listening to pop music. It’s just a fun, danceable song with great musicians behind it, and a positively explosive performance by Joe Jonas. If you’re at all interested in music, you should definitely give this song a listen or fifty.

Genre: Pop-rock; funk; disco

Billboard Rank at Time of Writing: 41