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  1. Developer: Marvelous Publisher: XSEED Games Platform: PS4 and PS Vita Release Date: January 17, 2017 ESRB: T for Teen This review is based on the PS4 version of the game I am by no means a world history buff. But, I am pretty sure that the Roman emperor Nero Claudius was not an eccentric blonde haired woman whom murdered thousands digital soldiers with a few swings of her sword while flower petals fall all around her. At the same time I am not necessarily raring to explain the history of the “Nasuverse,” the complicated setup behind the popular Japanese visual novel Fate/Stay Night, and the various spin-offs it accumulated over time. Thankfully, the newest spin-off on PS4/PS Vita called Fate/Extella: The Umbral Star is a musou game. So, technically, the main prerequisite before jumping into it is knowing how much one enjoys slashing up thousands of foes with Fate/Stay Night series fanservice sprinkled throughout. Similar to the likes of Dynasty Warriors, Fate/Extella“s main gameplay is structured around somewhat strategically seizing territory and slashing up hordes of foes. Often boiling down to moving/warping to one short area and selectively killing one or multiple specific targets within it. How it tries to somewhat differentiate itself up is through some of the mechanics and the sort of tug of war nature of its main objective. Basically, capturing different points of the map have varying point values in order the finish primary objective of completing the "Regime Matrix." If the enemy completes it, you lose. If you complete it, you win and can usually face the boss of the stage in order to beat the level. What is also used to loosely change gameplay up from its contemporaries are through some of the combat abilities. Sure, pretty much much every character has more than their share of crowd juggling skills full of Fate/Stay Night fanservice. "Nameless" Archer has the classic ability Unlimited Blade Works, Artoria with Excalibur, and so forth. Every character gets access to more light/heavy attack combos over time through level-ups as standard with the subgenre as well. But, more universal skills like Extella Maneuver and Moon Drive sort of dictate the general flow. For example, by tapping the circle button allows any character to slash up all nearby foes depending on how many stocks the Extella Maneuver gauge has. If one were were speaking in Marvel vs Capcom 3 terms, it's like using "Maximum Spider" on hundreds of foes. Moon Drive on the other spectrum powers-up attack moves and for specific characters like Nero and Tamamo, they get entirely different movesets in this strengthened form, which is neat. Though, admittedly, it is disappointing that most others did not get the same treatment as Nero and Tamamo with the Moon Crux mode. I will be honest here and say Fate/Extella will likely be disappoint those who come off of recent Musou releases otherwise. It hardly has anywhere near the polish of titles like Hyrule Warriors, and outside of the lengthy visual novel-like story mode, it will underwhelm those with its sparse variety in single player content in regards to playable characters or gameplay maps. With the exception of one needlessly obtuse character to obtain (Artoria), most players will struggle to see any longevity after the main campaign unless they actively seek to prove themselves on higher difficulties. Sure, I had fun at times at first with the flashy over-the-top nature and Fate/Extella, but I found myself quickly over it because of how little variety there was to gameplay. That said, Fate/Extella actually has a very sizable chunk of storytelling and is arguably the most important component of it. By that I mean I quite literally spent more time reading walls of text than fighting during the main campaign. Heck, you can't even really touch the hack and slash part until you engage with what feels like twenty minutes of visual novel styled exposition. Which is fine by me, as it is secretly why I originally played the title, but can be off-putting for those not expecting it. Which, from that perspective, Fate/Extella is rather curious. For one, it is technically a direct narrative sequel to a PSP RPG that most people did not touch called Fate/Extra. Also, the story mode itself is actually significantly longer than you'd expect with 3 story arcs centered around the three leads of Nero, Tamamo, and Altera, as well as one final closing one to resolve the convoluted overarching story. Storytelling itself is inconsistent to say the least. Often times trying to throw complicated narrative jargon to mask an overall story and cast of characters that are not nearly as complex as they pretend to be. And frankly, it can be a slog at times, despite how it sneaks in some good moments. This is either due to pacing, many pointless harem fanservice anime-like scenes (so blatant that they don't even stop to calling you "husband" when you pick a woman), or some story modes clearly being much better than others. Altera's part of the story, for instance, pretty easily has the most substantial amount of storytelling overall. It addresses most of the main narrative threads and intrigue, and she herself sees the most character development. Though, I admit, I do love Nero's overzealous antics, despite not being as fleshed out, which were made more entertaining through the lively localization. Basically, while I appreciate the storytelling being there, I don't think Fate/Extella really satisfies either niche that would want engaging storytelling or entertaining gameplay except in rather sparse instances. Other than that, the presentation makes the rough edges of the title quite apparent as well. Clearly many compromises for the Vita hardware were made. Most jarring of which is when playing on the PS4 and seeing the enemies would pop out of thin air from a very short draw distance. The compartmentalized battle zones makes it pretty obvious as well. The audio is actually rather solid, however. They managed to retain what seems like pretty much all of the Japanese voice actors for familiar characters, despite how Fate/Stay Night is more than ten years old at this point. Music is also pretty decent as well, with some good remixes like to the remix of the classic fan-favorite "Emiya"'s theme. At the end of the day Fate/Extella feels like it was made more to satiate Fate/Stay Night rampant fandom than anything else. It is not exactly noteworthy enough as a hack-and-slash to stand out against what feels like countless other musou games. The most substantial part to the entire game -- its surprisingly huge visual novel story mode -- is not consistent enough to stand on its own either despite having some good moments. While I don't regret my time with it as a fan, I can not say I would go very far to advise those that aren't already interested in the series to check this title out. Well, unless they really want to try a passable "Musou" styled game that isn't actually made by Omega Force. Pros + Eclectic, albeit small, playable cast with very flashy special moves chock full of Fate/Stay Night series fanservice. +Decent soundtrack. Cool remix of Emiya's theme? Check. + Lively localization makes the script more entertaining than it should be at times. Altera's campaign in particular has some standout moments too. Cons - Very, very repetitive. Small list of playable characters and even fewer stages does not help its case either. -Characters have smaller movesets than even typical Musou games - Draw distance is incredibly small to the point enemies will literally spawn in front of you out of basically nowhere - Storytelling is very inconsistent. Often facing problems with poor pacing and awkward fanservice scenes Overall Score: 5.5 (out of 10) Average Existing more for fanfare than anything else, Fate/Extella is a passable hack and slash that barely escapes total mediocrity through its surprisingly substantial, though flawed, story mode Disclosure: This game was reviewed using downloadable PS4 code provided by the publisher.
  2. Developer: Omega Force Publisher: Koei Tecmo Platform: PS4, PS Vita Release Date: January 31, 2017 ESRB: T Koei Tecmo“s Dynasty Warriors series, which originally began as a one-on-one fighting game on the PlayStation, has since blossomed into a long-running action game series known for pitting the player against hundreds of enemies at once. The franchise has spun off in a number of directions over the years, from similarly themed games based on various anime licenses to the Monster Hunter-inspired Dynasty Warriors: Strikeforce series, but the latest spin-off takes a sharp turn away from the frenetic action the franchise is known for. In exchanging large-scale beat“em up action for turn-based strategy, the developer Omega Force brings us Dynasty Warriors: Godseekers. Godseekers is a strategy RPG in the vein of Fire Emblem, Disgaea, and Final Fantasy Tactics. It retells the story of Romance of the Three Kingdoms as all Dynasty Warriors games before it, complete with larger-than-life interpretations of figures from the novel and Chinese history, but works in a few original twists a more overt fantasy. The main story follows Zhao Yun and his friend Lei Bin after they inadvertently awaken Lixia, a mystical woman that needs to recover scattered elemental orbs that grant her power. From there, the story darts through plot points that should be familiar to anyone that“s played a Dynasty Warriors game, from the revolt against Dong Zhuo to the fight to reclaim Xiapi from the fearsome Lu Bu, ever so slightly rewritten with Lixia“s quest in mind. The core tactical gameplay does a remarkable job of translating the Dynasty Warriors style of action into a strategy game. The player is allowed up to five characters in the active roster per battle, and every character in the game has their own unique attacks that cover varying ranges measured by the grid map. Some excel at close quarters, others do more widespread damage, and still others excel or focus on ranged attacks. Like the core action games, each character also has their own Musou attacks; special skills that deal extra-powerful damage, but can only be used when a charge on the character“s own Musou gauge is full. The most powerful technique is a special team skill called Synchro Mode. When active, it lets two or more of the player“s party to act in tandem, dealing a full turn“s worth of damage against foes before unleashing a super-powered attack that can be powered up by mashing the X button. It“s particularly useful for clearing out large swaths of enemies off of the map and a strategic necessity, particularly in more time-sensitive battles. However, it“s balanced out by the fact that it takes some set up to get more than two or three units in position to take part in the assault. Dynasty Warriors is known for battlefields full of enemies, and Godseekers does its best to live up to that concept. Maps in Godseekers routinely see the player greatly outnumbered. Though, at least on Normal Mode, the majority of the enemies don“t pose a particular threat. Standard grunts do a small fraction of the damage that officers are capable of and tend to be fodder for building up the Musou and Synchro gauges. They only become particularly vexing on maps where time is of the essence and the mission requires rescuing a stranded officer or clearing the objective within a set turn limit. That being said, the core story missions offer excellent variety in terms of their design and objectives. Even when missions with similar objectives occur back to back, the map designs, unit placement and specific requirements give them unique flavor. Unfortunately, the same can“t be said for the many, many, many side mission battles that become available on the world map. Though early on they“re useful for building up experience, gold, weapons, and items, the sheer number and more mundane mission designs tend to wear out their welcome. As a better aside, there“s the Path of Destiny. Functioning as the means to unlock additional characters to add to the permanent battle roster, the player can witness entertaining conversations between members of the large cast, gradually moving along tracks that unlock as various requirements are met. Occasionally, special battles open up that -- if won -- will yield a new character for the player, and on the plus side, these missions tend to be as good as the main story missions in terms of their design and variety. On the downside, there“s a lot of grinding to get through. The requirements for attaining a character“s next tier on the Path of Destiny generally need the player to progress beyond a certain point in the story, as well as additional requirements such as having a specific character fight in X battles, defeating Y, enemies, or leveling up the character to Z. At times it can be a slog, though the reward of unlocking a desired character can feel worth it. However, the five-character limit in battles is constraining, and many characters won“t see use outside of the monotonous side-battles. As for the game“s presentation, the plot offers some novel takes, particularly in how key events frequently revisited in Dynasty Warriors are altered for the sake of Lixia“s story that add some surprises to the more well-tread points, and the core cast of Zhao Yun, Lei Bin and Lixia are an interesting trio together. But even with the twists brought by Lixia, the story feels somewhat dry and predictable. That“s not to say that the story is bad; far from it, in fact. However, it is hard to escape the thought that the plot is essentially Dynasty Warriors fanfiction, which may or may not be appealing depending on what you“re looking for. But while the plot is lacking in some ways, the game does manage to retain the look and feel of a traditional Dynasty Warriors despite the dramatic shift in game genre. The map designs look like they could exist as standard Dynasty Warriors maps, and the battle camera can be set to view attacks from the perspective of an action game. It feels like a cheap shortcut to say that it looks and sounds exactly like it should, but given what the game is aiming for, it“s not an inaccurate statement. Dynasty Warriors: Godseekers is an entertaining game, and Dynasty Warriors fans looking for something outside of the norm should find a lot to like. It stumbles on some of its design choices, but it does more than enough right to be engrossing in bursts. At the very least, it“s a good distraction as we all wait for more news on Dynasty Warriors 9. Pros Matches the look and feel of a traditional Dynasty Warriors game perfectly. Robust character growth and weapon customization systems. A well-executed battle system translates the action series into tactical strategy. Lots of entertaining character dialogue. Cons Side missions become monotonous. Enemy turns can take forever to complete, though there is a fast-forward function. Path of Destiny advancement requirements are sometimes a grind. Overall Score: 7 (out of 10) Good Dynasty Warriors: Godseekers is an entertaining game, and Dynasty Warriors fans looking for something outside of the norm should find a lot to like. It stumbles on some of its design choices, but it does more than enough right to be engrossing in bursts. Disclosure: This game was reviewed using downloadable PS4 code provided by the publisher
  3. If you're a PS Now subscriber, you're about to have a lot less ways to access the service in the near future. Sony announced today that on August 15, 2017, PS Now will be discontinued on every device except for PS4 and PC. This includes: PlayStation 3 PlayStation Vita PlayStation TV All 2013, 2014, 2015 Sony Bravia TV models All Sony Blu-ray player models All Samsung TV models Additionally, all 2016 models of Sony Bravia TVs will be discontinued on April 1, 2017. It's currently unclear why those models are being discontinued before earlier ones. The move to drop support for these devices is due to Sony wanting to focus their efforts to further develop and improve the user experience on PS4 and PC, which they believe will put them in the best position to grow the service further. Also of note -- PS Now cloud game saves can be accessed on PS4 and PC, in case you were previously using one of the devices being discontinued, so that's good to hear. Source: PlayStation Blog What are your thoughts on PS Now dropping support for everything except PS4 and PC?
  4. Jason Clement

    GameStop selling used Vitas for $110

    If you're in the market for a Vita, it looks like you can get a used one bundled with an 8GB card for $110. Appears to be online-only as well. http://www.gamestop.com/ps-vita/consoles/ps-vita-with-wifi-blast-from-the-past-system-bundle/131489 I'm actually pretty tempted to do this, but then again I've already got a Switch preordered and several games, so this'll have to wait until the wallet is a bit less beat up.
  5. Early 2017 is about to get a little more crowded in the JRPG world because XSEED has just confirmed that Fate/EXTELLA: The Umbral Star will be releasing shortly in January. Fate/EXTELLA, part of the Fate/stay night series, takes place after Fate/EXTRA and will expand upon the lore by introducing a new story and characters (or "Servants" as they're called in-game) who survived the Holy Grail War on the Moon. Players will experience the story through the eyes of three heroine Servants and face off against a variety of characters from other Fate productions, including Fate/stay night, Fate/EXTRA, and others. A limited Noble Phantasm Edition will bundle in a custom box containing 7.5" x 6.3" hardcover art book featuring over 100 pages of artwork and backstory from the game, a pack of 3" by 5" cards depicting the game's Servants, and a 24" by 17" cloth poster. Digital pre-orders of the PS4 version will unlock an exclusive PS4 theme and a costume DLC. The Vita version will not have a pre-order campaign, but digital purchases within the first two weeks of release will net an exclusive Vita theme and its own unique costume DLC. Fate/EXTELLA: The Umbral Star will release on January 17, 2017 on the PS4 and PS Vita. For more info, check out Barrel's hands-on E3 2016 preview and check out the latest trailer below. Will you be checking out Fate/EXTELLA?
  6. Developer: Spike Chunsoft/Tri-Ace Publisher: Aksys Games Platform: PS Vita and PS4 Release Date: October 18, 2016 ESRB: T for Teen Tri-Ace has quickly gone from one of my favorite video game developers ever to one I could not be more divided on within a span of a few years. For nearly an entire decade I thought they could no wrong because they struck a good balance between feeling very progressive with their Japanese role-playing games such as the complex Norse-themed classic Valkyrie Profile, to developing more traditional, yet fun, titles like Star Ocean: The Second Story on PS1 -- and this continued with their PS2 output as well. However, when they transitioned to high-definition consoles by making a couple of mediocre-at-best Star Ocean sequels, as well as lending a helping hand to two generally unwanted Final Fantasy XIII sequels, they have fallen much more out of favor with many individuals -- including myself (with the exception of perhaps the enigmatic gun-toting RPG Resonance of Fate). Still, after a new partnership with Spike Chunsoft, and the proclamation of making a modern spiritual successor to Valkyrie Profile, I could not abandon my naive hope to love Tri-Ace once more with the announcement of PS4/Vita RPG Exist Archive: The Other Side of the Sky. Much like I Am Setsuna was to Chrono Trigger earlier this year, Exist Archive has no shame in hearkening back to its key influence of Valkyrie Profile. It reprises a similar semi-active and combo-focused battle system, platforming gameplay elements, and even shares exact same music composer Motoi Sakuraba. But, rather than feeling like appreciated fanfare, Exist Archive frankly comes off as a pale imitation of an ultimately better series. Probably the most distinct difference that Exist Archive has from its spiritual predecessor is the setting. Valkyrie Profile, the original in particular, is an incredibly somber title in regards to storytelling as it frequently dealt with tragic deaths and the impending end of the world via Ragnarok. While Exist Archive does approach the topic of death like Valkyrie Profile, there is noticeably more levity with how it is handled as the main cast are essentially whisked from modern day earth and are granted immortality on an entirely different planet by a being named Yamatoga. Granted, immortality is hardly a blessing as Yamatoga is most certainly one who does not have good intentions, and the main characters yearn to return to their home on earth. Regardless of the setup, however, it is hard to care all that much since the cast of characters and narrative itself are rather dull throughout and you spend so much more time grinding in repeated dungeons than seeing any meaningful story development. I would describe playing Exist Archive as asking for someone to scratch a specific (Valkyrie Profile) itch, only for them to tickle that spot instead; leaving one unsatisfied for many reasons. For example, Exist Archive is not a varied title at all. There is no real world map with towns to visit or any sense of agency when exploring, like the game it apparently wishes to be. You basically just pick a dungeon to go into, and it may have minor exposition, or it may not. Problem is, there aren't actually that many different dungeons, let alone enemy variety, making it feel basically the same from start of finish as you move from one level to another. It also does not help that certain skills you would have right at the start of a Valkyrie Profile title, like the ability to slide or freeze enemies with a projectile skill, you basically don't get for more than ten hours. The most mixed aspect about Exist Archive is likely its combat system, however. There is a great deal of party customization, from attacks to slot in for each character, and a real emphasis on party synergy as you string together lengthy combos with flashy finishing attacks (or Demon's Greed), which is neat. Except, there is one thing that is likely to drive players up the wall with it, which is the strange and lengthy sort of input lag for like every attack. Not only does it really make timing combos with allies in semi-active turn-based combat system awkward, it just does not feel good in general. This certainly does not bode well for a release that really does not have any aspect to fall back on except its gameplay. There are parts to Exist Archive that I like, amidst the myriads of disappointment with its game design -- namely the customization. It does take a while to show its true colors, but the game absolutely feeds on its robust party customization. Aside from mix and matching character skills to your preference, characters can gain access to new jobs, passive abilities, or mid-combat skills. Even cooler than this is a mechanic where, based on the affinity between characters (gained through many battles with the same party members), the party gets access to a thing called "learning" in which they will randomly get another passive abilities from another party member. Meaning, if you are willing have members stick together, you can save a significant amount of level grinding as well have party members play totally different from their initial character class, which is rather cool. At the end of the day, all Exist Archive: The Other Side of the Sky really does is remind me of games I would rather play (or sequels I'll never get). It is not nearly as compelling in regards to storytelling as Valkyrie Profile, and its glaring flaws with repetition and the disjointed combat/exploration make it that much harder to stick with it. Sure, the party customization is rather neat, and the "learning" mechanic I would like to see in other games, but for most people I would simply say check out its key gaming influence instead if they have not already. Pros + Deep combat system with very robust party customization + "Learning" mechanic is a creative way to circumvent the standard level grind + Pleasant looking environmental backdrops + Reminds me how much I like Valkyrie Profile Cons - Extremely sparse in variety for dungeon layouts and enemy encounters, making the whole experience feel very repetitive - Progression is quite slow and basically takes dozens of hours for skills you should have right away - Neither the characters or storytelling are particularly compelling - Button inputs in combat feel excessively delayed and have it feel needlessly clunky and awkward to string combos together - Noticeable load times and visual hitches during gameplay on Vita - Reminds me how much better Valkyrie Profile is Overall Score: 5.5 (out of 10) Average By constantly living in the shadow of a ultimately significantly better games, all Exist Archive really does is feel that much more forgettable when most would be better served simply playing (or re-playing) its spiritual predecessor Valkyrie Profile Disclosure: This game was reviewed using downloadable Vita code provided by the publisher.
  7. It's looking to be a great month for Shantae fans as they'll finally be able to get their hands on the belly-dancing hero's latest adventure Shantae: Half-Genie Hero in just over a week and a half. Half Genie Hero is actually Wayforward's first game developed from a successful Kickstarter, so it's had plenty of fan input along the way. Also releasing on the same day is Natsume's final game for this year -- Wild Guns Reloaded. A remake of the original SNES game Wild Guns, Reloaded updates the classic western-themed shooter with two new characters, new stages, and new special weapons. Shantae: Half-Genie Hero will be releasing digitally on PS4, PS Vita, and Wii U on December 20 while its physical versions (which are being published by XSEED) will release in stores on December 27. Wild Guns Reloaded will release digitally on PS4 on December 20. Check out the trailers for both games below! Source: Wayforward (via Press Release), Natsume (via Twitter) Will you be buying either of these games when they come out?
  8. Developer: Spike Chunsoft Publisher: Spike Chunsoft Platform: PS Vita, PC, and PS4 Release Date: Sept 13, 2016 ESRB: M for Mature I have grown accustomed to assuming that if a game title has the word Mystery in it, it is likely associated with Spike Chunsoft's classic roguelike Mystery Dungeon franchise. Well, that's only half true in the case of One Way Heroics, a former -- and surprisingly -- beloved PC only indie release. It was not until Spike Chunsoft got the approval of the same indie developer that they decided to use One Way Heroics as a template for an entirely overhauled remake called Mystery Chronicle: One Way Heroics. With new visuals, added playable content, and being much more widely available, one can only hope Mystery Dungeon: One Way Heroics is a worthy successor. Admittedly, I have not played the original indie release, so I was not quite sure what to make of Mystery Chronicle: One Way Heroics upon starting out. I mean, it is a simple game inherently -- you try to move from left to right while escaping a world-consuming light in an RPG roguelike framework. Yet, as I was playing it my brain was constantly finding comparisons to other games since it straddles the line between feeling influenced and also feeling distinctly its own thing. For example, many of the gameplay mechanics in Mystery Chronicle are quite reminiscent of the classic roguelike Shiren: The Wanderer, which is unsurprising as both are made by Spike Chunsoft. From the turn-based nature, procedurally generated level design, limited inventory space, plenty of familiar traps, or the fact the Shiren himself is literally an unlockable playable character makes it hit home even further. The comparison sort of ends there as the expectation of failure is much higher in Mystery Chronicle and it is less about winning as it is about journeying a bit further than your previous expedition while little by little unlocking more ways to play the game. This playthrough went from excellent to terrible as soon as that bug decided to show up Probably one of the cooler aspects about One Way Heroics is how it is willing to break from roguelike conventions. For one, you can actually make a permanent save during a run (or multiple, depending on your luck.), which, save-scumming temptation aside, can be very helpful as solid runs can actually last several hours. Though, considering the often harsh difficulty when on normal and above, you may often embarrassingly meet your end minutes in like I often did. The title bounces between deviously addictive and frustrating at the same breath. Lady luck often plays too big of a hand in a solid playthrough or not simply because there are so many things that can go so wrong, and so quick. For as huge of an advantage as being able to save mid-run, or use of the title's "Dream Vault" to draw upon items gained from previous playthroughs for an early advantage, I found myself in many situations I could not do anything because of what felt like bad dice rolls. Sometimes the title may decide to randomly one-shot the player with an unfortunate enemy critical, or maybe your damage output is simply not good enough to break past an enemy blocking your way during a dungeon because you had not gotten a good weapon in like thirty minutes, which led the screen-scrolling "shrine raid" to instantly kill you. As I uncovered the different endings on higher difficulties it felt like success was born of luck (... and reloads) than player ability, and bad luck was far more common. Still, Mystery Chronicle also gives you a lot of options in how you want to play it. There are many playable classes, skill perks to choose from, and pretty much every run will be different because of it. I originally found myself playing the knight class, for instance, which excelled in defense. The better I got at the game, however, I found myself favoring classes such as Ranger, which is more adept at picking locks and avoiding encounters altogether with their "sprint" ability. There are many more classes to choose from like being about to play as Danganronpa lead, Makato Naegi, whom fires Truth Bullets and has a lot of charisma to recruit allies or the Pirate class whom is strong but scares away most potential friends due to their foul mouth. It is clear the title has a lot of personality as well. However, not all of its quirk is in good taste. Weirdly enough, the title is actually rated M. It is not immediately apparent as to why with its generally family-friendly retro aesthetic until you uncover much of the juvenile writing buried in a lot of character sidequests and conversations. Pretty much every conversation with a woman character randomly turns into perverted fanservicey banter, regardless of your character's appearance. It is a shame because the title feels so close to being cute (despite the oddly bleak setting at times) only for a character to creepily suggest licking the main character all over two seconds later. It also does not help that much of the voice acting is just as cringe-worthy as a lot of the dialogue, where it becomes apparent that one voice actress in particular clearly voices at least four other characters. Speaking of which, Mystery Chronicle feels bizarrely unpolished in several other key ways as a game too. Load times are abnormally long, for example. Aside from the initial load time when the game generates a new world, there are actually frequent twenty second load times as you are going through levels. Then there are interface issues that grew under my skin as well when playing, like the inability to skip banter you have already seen (like a certain king's speech that starts every run). Which, for a title so ingrained in repetition to eventually gain success, the annoyances more than start to add up over time. In a lot of ways, Mystery Chronicle: One Way Heroics is a title that I enjoyed less the more time I threw at it. As as a game it has some cool ideas with its decidedly unique approach on roguelikes that makes it quite easy to pick up and play. However, after a while I simply got annoyed with what felt like penchant focus on luck and the title's general lack of polish, such as abnormally long load times. Mystery Chronicle: One Way Heroics feels so close to being charming, but in a crowded roguelike market in which there are simply better examples to choose from, being unique does not quite travel far enough to avoid its many more glaring issues. Pros + Simple, yet addictive, take on roguelikes that is very straightforward + Lots to features to unlock or gameplay nuances one can uncover over time Cons - Bizarrely long load times - Underwhelming 2D visuals and soundtrack - Bad voice acting with some tasteless writing - RNG decides the pace of a run far more than it should, especially on harder difficulties Overall Score: 5 (out of 10) Average Though it does have its addictive moments, the frustrations that accompany Mystery Chronicle: One Way Heroics make it harder to justify the time spent with it when there are many better examples of roguelikes that also happen to feel more fair. Disclosure: This game was reviewed using downloadable Vita code provided by the publisher.
  9. Developer: Idea Factory, Compile Heart, Felistella Publisher: Idea Factory International Platform: PS Vita (PS TV compatible) Release Date: October 18, 2016 ESRB: T for Teen The Neptunia series has had its fair share of games that feature fictional characters and environments that sound somewhat like actual gaming hardware without alerting any legal departments. Well, that's not the case in the first crossover game in the series, where they'll have to share the screen with the Sega Hard Girls. My love for this series often comes and goes with me falling in love with one particular game and not enjoying the next. Perhaps the Sega hardware fanboy in me will enjoy the inclusion of these personified characters and I'll come to appreciate this entry. This time around, our ladies' adventure takes place in an alternative universe from the Re;Birth series where they haven't been properly been introduced to each other. However, in classic Neptunia fashion, they'll continuously poke fun at previous encounters in the series' past. IF is the star of the show and she has been entrusted by Histoire with traveling through time in an attempt to figure out what is causing the Grand Library's history books to disappear. Joining IF on this adventure is Hatsume Sega, a new amnesiac heroine who is in for the ride to recover her lost memories and everyone's favorite protagonist, Neptune — who has unfortunately been fused with a motorcycle. Our ragtag group of adventurers will travel through history and encounter some of the mainstay Gameindustri Goddesses along with the Sega Hard Girls in hopes of discovering what has caused them to feud with each other. This game plays slightly different than other entries in the series in that it's purely about accepting and completing various missions throughout time. Our heroines will report to Histoire in the Grand Library, where they'll receive missions relative to each Sega hardware era in the past that is being erased. As you progress through certain missions, you'll slowly unravel the mysteries of both the past and present, although you'll need to do this with a sense of urgency. You see, each mission has a counter displayed beside the title and as you complete other missions that number will decrease. If that number happens to reach zero or you abandon it after accepting it, it will be devoured by the Time Eater. The Neptunia series is known for constantly recycling assets from previous entries in the series, so I found this new feature to be quite refreshing. It truly gives the player the freedom to decide the fate of the world and how they approach each situation. However, one problem that I found during gameplay was that some missions contained boss battles that spiked the difficulty curve high — which I don't mind, but some sort of indication for this type of battle would have been helpful. Luckily, the changes to the battle system helped alleviate this problem. Your team is comprised of four characters and they all utilize an action gauge that fills up as they move around the field, attack, or use items or skills. Once the gauge exceeds its limit, the character's turn will end. So you're given a number of options for how you can approach each situation in battle. For example, you could heal your entire party then go on the offensive, or you could even use up the majority of the gauge with a string of attacks then finish with a charged attack for added damage. As you progress through battles, another gauge, known as the fever gauge will slowly increase with each attack that is performed. Once the gauge is full, fever time can then be activated and your party's stats will be increased by ten percent, EXE drive skills can be utilized, and all enemy turns are skipped while it's activated. Think of it as either a desperate attempt to survive in a dire situation or to quickly gain the advantage on the enemy. One of its best aspects is that it can be carried over to the next battle if it is not used, which makes it a wonderful tool to use on a impending boss. As you jump from mission to mission, you'll constantly revisit areas from previous Neptunia games. This should be to no surprise since it's a common practice in this series. IF can now dash, climb walls or ropes, and crawl through small spaces to reach different areas on the field. However, these new actions are all used to gain access to areas that were only accessible through teleportation in previous games. In comparison to the battle system changes, these new field actions feel lackluster and somewhat lazy, often being more of a hindrance instead of helpful; especially for what you gain in the process. Generally, you'll receive helpful items that aid in completing a mission, but the majority of the time you'll find medals that can later be exchanged for credits. Or, if you're lucky, you'll stumble upon a baseball, which can be returned to the owner for rewards. Of the baseballs that I was able to find, they were usually discovered while failing to successfully jump across platforms. It felt as if the game was aware of its poor jumping mechanics and graciously apologized each time by rewarding me with a baseball. Fortunately, the dash action proved to be a valuable asset and it helped with completing certain missions quickly. If a mission took place in an area with weak enemies, I could easily dash past all of them, fulfill my goal, and head back to the exit with ease. Superdimension Neptune vs. Sega Hard Girls makes some smart moves that push the series forward in the right direction, but it continues to be plagued by poor design choices that slow down that progress. The time traveling missions, modified battle mechanics, and the fever gauge are a welcome addition to the series. However, the substandard field actions, the re-usage of series assets, and the uninteresting inclusions of medals and baseballs leave a bad taste in my mouth. The Neptunia series is one that I repeatedly visit because I love the world and the characters that inhabit it and each time I return in hopes that I'll discover something new. Unfortunately, that's not the case with this game and I returned to more of the same. If you're an absolute fan of the series then there should be plenty for you to enjoy, but Superdimension Neptune vs. Sega Hard Girls has me still believing that if you've played one Neptunia game, you've probably played them all. Pros + The action gauge tend to make battles satisfying + Fever time adds a new layer of strategy to the gameplay + The mission system made completing quests enjoyable and somewhat addicting Cons - Recycled assets return once again - The new field actions are clunky and need refinement - Collectables (i.e. medals and baseballs) are lazy additions to make the familiar environments feel fresh Overall Score: 6 (out of 10) Decent Superdimension Neptune vs. Sega Hard Girls makes some smart moves that push the series forward in the right direction, but it continues to be plagued by poor design choices that slow down that progress. Disclosure: This game was reviewed using downloadable Vita code provided by the publisher
  10. This month's flash sale is live, and unlike most of the recent ones it doesn't have a particular focus on genre or style or anything. Just a selection of various games for under $10. https://store.playstation.com/#!/en-us/flash-sale/cid=STORE-MSF77008-FLASHSALEWEBLP Check it out and see if anything stands out! For me, I'll probably buy Catlateral Damage since it hasn't been more than 50% off on Steam and it's been out there longer than PS4, so this might be as cheap as it gets for a while. I might also buy The Last Blade 2 or something just to push my total over the $5 minimum. Also, Sony is doing a PSN promo this month where if you spend over $100 before the end of the month you get $15 credit back, so if you're spending a lot this month anyway this might help give you a push.
  11. Harrison Lee

    Review: Alone With You

    Developer: Benjamin Rivers Inc. Publisher: Benjamin Rivers Inc. Platform: PS4, PS Vita Release Date: August 23, 2016 ESRB: T for Teen This review is based on the PS4 version of the game Alone With You bills itself as a “sci-fi romance adventure game.” Before watching the trailer, I“d heard next to nothing about this small slice of retro-adventuring. Having experienced what Alone With You has to offer, it“s more along the lines of an interactive version of The Martian, with a little bit of the film Her thrown in for good measure. It“s an intensely melancholic, somber game, but one that effectively pulls at the heart-strings. I won“t spoil anything beyond the basic premise, but know that you might want to bring a tissue box for the endings. You take on the role of the last human survivor of an interstellar colony. The host planet is in the death throes of a failed terraforming project and mining operation. There is only one goal; to escape. The lone survivor, however, isn“t quite as alone as he or she first appears. The colony is monitored by a personable AI whose name is a mishmash of incomprehensible letters and numbers. No matter. The AI knows your name, and that“s all that matters. To get off-world, the survivor has to repair an escape ship and hope to be picked up by passing shipping vessels. The AI creates hologram versions of four of the colony“s most important members, assembling a dream-team to help the survivor rebuild the ship. Each hologram has many of the memories and character traits of the long-deceased colonist. In fact, the simulation is so good that the holograms are eerily life-like, as if they truly exist in their simulated worlds. Alone With You dabbles in some of these existential quandaries, but never delves too deeply. The most pressing matter, of course, is scouring several locations for ship parts. Alone With You then becomes a classic adventure game, complete with some light puzzle-solving and environmental exploration. All of this serves to carry the narrative forward, especially as you unearth details about the past lives of the four hologram colonists. The game progresses in days, with the survivor only able to visit one location per 24 hours before taking a quick nap. Depending on which sites you visit, you“ll get to talk with a corresponding hologram and report your findings. I mentioned that Alone With You is repetitive in nature, and it feels like a purposeful design choice. The character is alone, and undergoing the same daily routines feels oddly fitting for the sole survivor of a mining colony. Some might be deterred by this decision, but I felt like it fit with the story. As the only living human around, you get stuck with having limited travel options and a short period of time to escape. The most rewarding part of the game is getting to talk to the other colonists. They all have unique personalities, and finding certain documents or items in the real-world will open up new dialogue options. There“s also some degree of romance, though I hesitate to use the term. It“s more about companionship and trying to fight the feeling of isolation. Regardless, a few encounters have romantic undertones, should the player so choose to pursue them. Alone With You is visually striking, favoring a retro-pixel aesthetic. The game looks like something out of Sierra“s ”90s catalog. The audio is appropriately spartan, with a somber electronic soundtrack backing the sound effects. The artistic choices combine to make the player feel lonely and abandoned on this world. The conversations with the AI, however, remind the survivor that he or she is never truly alone. After the midpoint of the game, the experience begins to drag on. There“s some mild back-tracking, though each visit to a site opens up new areas. The repetition of waking up, checking in with the AI mainframe, and flying out to a location gets to be a bit much. Perhaps that“s the point, creating a sense of overbearing futility. A few players might be turned off by this, but those that stick through to the end will have an emotional payoff awaiting them. Alone With You is a melancholic exploration of what it means to be alive. It“s also a sci-fi adventure game with some romance. That classification, however, doesn“t really do the game justice. There“s definitely a game here, but it serves as a vehicle for the emotional stories of the colonists. If you give Alone With You a chance, you“ll discover that space is never as lonely as it seems. Pros + A well-written story that tugs at the heart + Beautiful visuals and audio + Some smart puzzle design that never proves too challenging Cons - Can drag on at several points - A bit too repetitive for its own good Overall Score: 7.5 (out of 10) Good Alone With You is a melancholic exploration of what it means to be alive. If you give it a chance, you“ll discover that space is never as lonely as it seems. Disclosure: This game was reviewed using downloadable code provided by the publisher
  12. Developer: Sega Publisher: Sega Platform: Vita/PS4 Release Date: August 30, 2016 ESRB: T for Teen It is hard to believe that Japan's sensational virtual popstar, Hatsune Miku, has reached nine years in age. Literally. She is supposed to perpetually be of age sixteen, but that's another discussion altogether. The point is, the popular, green-haired, synthesized popstar has been around for a while. I only really became aware of her through her series of surprisingly solid rhythm game releases under the Project Diva name that seemingly release every other year. Though I have enjoyed my time with basically each release (even former import only PSP titles), they have more or less played it a little too safe over time. If anything, 2014's Hatsune Miku: Project Diva F 2nd likely alienated newcomers altogether with its absurdly high standard difficulty. This is why the newest release, Hatsune Miku: Project Diva X, serves as a curious contrast to prior games, as if it has hit a more impressionable age with the apparent changes to its personality. The most bizarre addition that is introduced right at the very start of Project Diva X is an actual story mode. Yes, Hatsune Miku talks to you. More accurately, Miku talks to the player character and asks them to help guide her and her friends in revitalizing her digital world through music. Admittedly, the storytelling is not very deep, or particularly engaging with a shallow script and characters, but at the very least it is inoffensive and creates an interesting setup for its various gameplay structure changes. That said, it does lock players into either normal or easy songs until nearly completing it after a couple hours, which can potentially turn off more hardcore players. Beyond the strangely included story mode, Miku changes the rules to her newest game. The inherent rhythm gameplay is mostly the same with note inputs moving from the outer screen to their corresponding face button note. Honestly, the only truly new thing to the pure rhythm gameplay is basically the added button spamming "Rush" note. Still, I suppose there is little reason to change an already addictive and fun formula and I was reminded that even when I should probably be fatigued of the series at this point. The progression, however, has changed quite a lot and is easily the most accessible entry because of it. This is generally a good thing, as I'm still recovering from my trauma of failing songs like "2D Dream Fever" too many times in Project Diva F 2nd. Through loose narrative context, Project Diva X much more directly weaves elements like changing costumes/accessories or participating in its sim-esque friendship feature (formally called "My Room") to have functional gameplay benefits in the main rhythm game. Actually, they're sort of indistinguishable in Project Diva X because of how closely linked they are. For example, wearing a costume or accessories that fits with a song's theme will give you more "voltage", which are required to pass a song in the Cloud Mode (aka story mode.). This new scoring system also makes sure the entire song will play from start to finish and you are not kicked out of a song if you miss too many notes consecutively like prior games. The same rules apply towards raising a friendship rating through gifting the vocaloid cast items they like or changing up their room's aesthetic, which also grants you extra voltage. In prior games I actively avoided cosmetic aspects associated with the "My Room" feature, because I have always thought it had a creepy edge to it and caused me to never touch it (....like a pointless petting game, for example). In Project Diva X, however, it feels much more tastefully handled. You are rewarded for unlocking and applying as much goofy or cute stuff you want to your character for either practical reasons or fun. And yes, you are literally bribing vocaloids or somewhat randomly changing their clothing to make passing songs easier for you. Who knew that giving Miku a fake mustache would have given her extra bit of confidence to pass that "cool" song. I may be able to appreciate the changes that Project Diva X makes, but it does feel like it is at the sacrifice of other former components. The most primary step down is that the song selection is noticeably smaller, and I personally think much weaker in song quality as well. Project Diva F 2nd had forty tracks in the game by default (not including) and Project Diva X only has thirty total. And, for what song compositions I did find myself liking, they either felt very few and far between or were just outright medley compositions of familiar songs from the prior games that, while neat, only serve to remind me of games I preferred more overall. . The other is that the production values also feel noticeably lower than the previous games for the actual music videos. Though the videos certainly have a lot more character than most other rhythm game releases, comparatively there is far less visual and choreography variety than the previous two games that makes unlocking the next song less satisfying. This is all the more apparent when the player has to use the "concert" mode for either the main story mode or "requests", which has multiple songs play back to back and can easily cause many of them blur together with their interchangeable stages and visual themes. Miku's newest rhythm game feels like the foundation for appreciated change in direction, but at an unnecessary expense of certain other aspects at times. Without a doubt, Project Diva X's most appreciated alteration to the familiar gameplay formula is that it is far more approachable than previous games from the standard rhythm game difficulty to even justifying cosmetic features in both a fun and practical manner. In the same breath is also likely disappointing for returning fans with its weaker, and smaller, song selection Project Diva X and the less zealous approach to the presentation. At the end of the day Hatsune Miku: Project Diva X is easily the most accessible entry, but it is not likely well-rounded enough to satisfy many returning fans that were hoping for improvement in addition to the seemingly random changes it presents. Pros + Simple, yet addictive, core rhythm gameplay remains fun even now + More approachable progression that smartly encourages dabbling with both the main rhythm game as well as the various cosmetic features simultaneously + Medley compositions are a neat take on older songs Cons -Significantly less total songs than prior games, and the ones that are there feel less noteworthy overall - Though mostly inoffensive, the newly included "storytelling" is not particularly good - Cuts corners on the music videos Overall Score: 7.5 (out of 10) Good Project Diva X makes a concentrated effort in making the series more approachable, from actual difficulty to even a newly story mode, but with it being a far less consistent overall rhythm game package will likely make existing fans be forced to overlook some rather apparent shortcomings. Disclosure: This game was reviewed using downloadable Vita code provided by the publisher.
  13. Venom

    PSN Flash Sale (8/19-8/22)

    Another month, another flash sale! https://store.playstation.com/#!/en-us/flash-sale/cid=STORE-MSF77008-FLASHSALEWEBLP Not really a ton of notable stuff, but there might be a few things worth checking out. The Final Fantasy PSOne Classics are cheaper than usual (70% off as opposed to the usual 50%) and the PS4 ports of Prototype 1 and 2 are the price they should have been at launch. Take a look at the list and let us know if you see anything you can't live without! I ended up buying Dark Cloud 2 and Chronicles of Teddy. I really wish Dark Cloud was in the sale since I've been wanting to replay it, maybe next month it'll pop up. I'd have probably gotten Final Fantasy Tactics if it was the PSP version, but oh well. I'm still somewhat tempted to get Wild Arms 3 so I may end up going back. I'm also tempted to get the GOTY version of Dragon Age: Inquisition, but I really don't want to have to download it. :\
  14. barrel

    Review: Grand Kingdom

    Developer: Monochrome Publisher: NIS America Platform: PS4 and PS Vita Release Date: June 21, 2016 ESRB: T for Teen This review is based on the PS Vita version of the game I obnoxiously fought with recalling the name of Monochrome's newest tactical-RPG release, Grand Kingdom, on PS Vita/PS4 for quite a while. Not because it is exactly a hard title to remember, but I constantly got it confused with Grand Knights History; a former and almost localized Vanillaware PSP release. Apparently the confusion was not unwarranted as both Grand Kingdom and Grand Knights History share the same director, Tomohiko Deguchi, despite having completely different development teams behind them. Either way, Grand Kingdom managed to finally find a sticking point within my memory with its more unique take on tactical-RPGs. It is quite common for most Japanese strategy-RPGs to intimate the likes of either Fire Emblem or Final Fantasy Tactics, but Grand Kingdom is not really similar to either of those even on a fundamental level. If I were to toss any particular loose comparisons, I would say that Grand Kingdom somewhat reminds me of a hybrid between RPGs like Valkyrie Profile with how it handles active, deep turn-based combat and the classic Ogre Battle with the importance of team composition. The entire premise of Grand Kingdom is the player assembling a mercenary troop and taking on various jobs. Mercenary works comes from either the somewhat brief main story that does just enough to convey the world's sense of character, or participating in large-scale battles with the surprisingly robust online functionality that involves making contracts between four key nations. Though it may be tempting to either go heavily into either single player or online, in reality, both aspects truly feel like two sides of the same coin in Grand Kingdom and the player is strongly encouraged to utilize both actively. The reason why both single-player and online are important is that neither is mutually exclusive and often play off of one another. For example, a huge component of Grand Kingdom is making squads. Even if you may only actively play one 4-person party at a time when it comes to moving your chess-like piece on a simplistic grid in normal missions, you can have entirely different parties getting other rewards for you in the mean time. I often found a routine is sending in dispatching new parties online to fight in a war simply so I could gain level ups and money while I was asleep. However, without a doubt the strongest facet of Grand Kingdom is its deep party customization and active combat. You can go as detailed as you want when it comes to creating unique character attack combos and maximizing their timing to deal the most hurt, almost akin to a fighting game, or set button-mashy preset attacks -- and that's just for melee classes. Grand Kingdom does a great job at making the handful of classes feel very unique, like perhaps having a trusty "Challenger" class place explosive barrels to impede enemy movement or spellcasters, like Arcanist, pelting foes from afar and juggling them in the air with well-timed button presses. There is a real satisfactions in creating your own party and finding out what works for you (or doesn't, in the case of accidental friendly fire). One of my biggest problems with Grand Kingdom is that there is simply not that much incentive to really change things up. The combat depth is there, but the level, mission, and enemy variety simply to utilize it simply is not. As one is chipping away at online missions or main story objectives it is real easy to create a huge disparity in levels and stats between different squads, which will likely lead most to sticking to one party and delegating other squads to get them free stuff online. This is a real shame because the combat has so much depth. Frankly, you will see a lot of the same enemies rather quickly as well as samey scenarios on maps. For me personally, party stats eventually mattered much more than me getting creative at eliminating them through actual strategy. I hate to say it, but I found a bread and butter routine for my main party and it would have been too much of a grind to make my five other squads catch up any time soon to purposely change it up. It is a shame, because aspects like online are surprisingly robust and, sadly, not really for me. Beyond dispatching party members to get you free stuff (....you can tell I used it for that a lot), there is a whole other layer involving the four factions. Players can plan out invasions, make treaties, gather resources to expand a war's effort, and plenty more when going online. There are even neat touches like being able to battle (AI-controlled) parties of other players during these section based on which faction you war against. It is clear that Grand Kingdom wants to become a title that one keeps returning to. And, in all honestly, after the main story, the online functionality is likely the biggest and best way to strengthen your party for those who want to go for a Disgaea-like meta game when it comes to re-leveling characters for better base stats. For me, however, all I saw was a grind without that much incentive despite the promise of added, faction specific, story missions for significantly higher party levels. One can tell Grand Kingdom has a lot of heart, however. In my case, it was not immediately easy to tell as the game has the unfortunate luck of being immediately compared Odin Sphere: Leifthrasir, which is simply unfair as both the 2D visuals and soundtrack are quite charming overall (just... not astounding like Vanillaware stuff.). That said, aside from the aesthetic, and eventually through the more-likable-than-you'd-expect main story, the Vita release is hindered by some technical foibles, specifically load times. It may seem minor, and it may very well be for people, but I found myself put off by having to often wait five or seconds when trying to get nitty gritty with slotting attack different abilities or transition between different menus rather often. It often feels like Grand Kingdom is at odds with what it intends to achieve. In one moment, the combat, party customization, and online functionality are surprisingly deep and have several creative ideas with their execution. However, it loses in a battle or attrition as it struggles to introduce much incentive, or actual enemy/map variety, to do much more than follow a formulaic grind after the brief main story. I appreciate Grand Kingdom's initial ideals, but I wish my morale in the long haul was simply higher justify a continued march at its side to proudly wave its banner. Pros + Pleasant 2D art direction and soundtrack + Tons of party customization for attack/combo slotting, group formations, and + Several creative ideas for online functionality through various warring factions that strongly encourage returning regularly for perks Cons - Simplistic battle maps and very few enemies types do not lend themselves to gameplay variety - The huge disparity in stats created through level-ups can easily create the temptation of simply using 'what works' at the sacrifice of actual gameplay strategy - If one does not get into the online aspects they may find themselves hard-pressed to do much beyond the short main story - Noticeable load times on Vita Overall Score: 6.5 (out of 10) Decent Grand Kingdom is a creative take on Tactical-RPGs from its deep combat mechanics and many unique warlike online systems, yet, without a strong enough formation to several other gameplay components may unfairly cause it to be forgotten after its brief tale is told Disclosure: This game was reviewed using downloadable Vita code provided by the publisher.
  15. So today the PS+ lineup for August was revealed, and it's...different? Full lineup: Tricky Towers, PS4 Rebel Galaxy, PS4 Yakuza 5, PS3 Retro/Grade, PS3 Patapon 3, PS Vita Ultratron, PS Vita, PS3, PS4 Tricky Towers looks like some kinda crazy version of Tetris, so that could be fun, and I'll probably try Rebel Galaxy. My PS3 isn't working otherwise I'd give Yakuza 5 a shot too, but I have Retro/Grade on Steam already. I dunno anything about Patapon so I'll have to look that up, but Ultratron (which I also have on Steam) is pretty fun. Overall doesn't seem like a terrible lineup, but also nothing really stands out, besides maybe Yakuza 5 since it was one of the last big PS3 releases and isn't that old yet. Anyway, what do you think about August's PS+ games?
  16. Hyper Light Drifter, the highly anticipated indie game that was Kickstarted by Heart Machine, is finally getting news on its long-awaited console ports. The good news? Not only is it coming to PlayStation 4 and Xbox One, but it is indeed still coming to Wii U and Vita as originally planned. There was initially some trepidation as to whether or not the Wii U port would actually happen. Around February, Heart Machine mentioned that the source of the trouble revolved around internal contractual issues between the platform holder (presumably Nintendo) and the engine developer (Game Maker). However, it appears things have been worked out as Heart Machine has mentioned that they are finalizing details on the Wii U port and would have more details on it next month. In any case, the PS4 and Xbox One versions look to be the first ports to make it out the door; they'll announce more details next month. And finally, the Vita version is still on its way as well, but Heart Machine noted that it has been a challenge to get Hyper Light Drifter optimized on the device due to its limited specs; therefore, it will be a Fall release at the very earliest. Source: Kickstarter Are you looking forward to playing Hyper Light Drifter on consoles (and Vita)?
  17. Developer: Vanillaware Publisher: Atlus USA Platform: PS4, PS3, and PS Vita Release Date: June 7, 2016 ESRB: T for Teen This review is based on the PS Vita version of the game It was often prophesied that 2D pixel art in gaming was going to meet its end. With the rise of HD fidelity and photo-realistic 3D aesthetics becoming the norm, a negative stigma started to become attached to 2D. However, as stubborn as the Playstation 2 was to call it quits before the next gaming generation, the same was true for 2D art in gaming. A strong testament to both notions was Vanillaware's 2007 action-RPG release: Odin Sphere. Odin Sphere was beautiful, both aurally and visually. It enticed many fans and critics alike with its excellent art direction in addition to its engaging take on Norse mythology as well. Even more impressive is that it proved that it could achieve all this in the two-dimensional plane and on dated PS2 hardware. Still, for as much as I respected what Odin Sphere achieved, it was a title I failed to love despite however much I attempted to do so. Simply put, Odin Sphere's biggest issues were within its gameplay. Not only was the combat and level design very one-note, the US release also happened to be plagued with near-unforgivable gameplay slowdown throughout. As if to hear my complaints nine years later, Vanillaware decided to revisit the cult classic and improve upon it. Rather than opting for a shallow HD port like many titles this console generation, Odin Sphere: Leifthrasir is pretty much a complete remake of the original release. The least dramatic change Leifthrasir makes is in regards to the setup. Though the English script has been made to have a slightly more Middle English flair, and the narrative dialogue re-dubbed to complement it, the five character perspective switching tale remains almost identical to the PS2 incarnation. This is by no means bad as the Norse-themed narrative that unfolds is actually rather engaging despite some pacing problems. I personally grew to appreciate the storytelling more so my second time around as it it is dense with foreshadowing before reaching the rather satisfying, and quite intense, narrative conclusion. Leifthrasir even makes certain lore complexities within it more comprehensive with short historical-like excerpts after each chapter, which is appreciated. After a few familiar introduction story scenes, however, I was shocked at how quickly Leifthrasir exponentially refines the whole experience. There are so many quality of life improvements from combat, level design, character progression, to even user interface that I was continuously impressed by the smart changes throughout. I'll say this here and now, there is literally no reason to play the original release because Leithrasir is better in every conceivable way. The most immediate example of improvement is in regards to combat. Each of the diverse five characters have been entirely revamped for the better. I could break down how obnoxious aspects like managing stamina used to be in the original release, but the end result is that the immense amount of changes to gameplay makes Leifthrasir feel far more fast-paced, mobile, and varied overall. It is extra cool to see combat flourishes like the witch Velvet basically weaving her psypher chains about like Spider-Man to the dark knight Oswald skewering his enemies and draining their life force to fill his berserk gauge. Vanillaware has learned a lot from their more recent Action-RPG efforts such as Muramasa: The Demon Blade and Dragon's Crown, going as far as to homage both them with many new and useful skills, and it certainly shows. The leveling progression has also been changed quite a bit to give players control over the abilities and magic that they would prefer to power up to give it a more proper Action-RPG feel. Odin Sphere veterans themselves will likely just be happy to be hear that leveling itself is far less tedious now. Gone are the days where standing still mid-battle to absorb phozons was required level up attack power. Just the same, gone are also the unfortunate times of having to backtrack to the pooka village to level up health because of a new traveling chef and mid-dungeon teleporters. Another aspect that needed much-fixing in original Odin Sphere was the level design for dungeons. To be honest, the dungeon design in the original is best described as a series of monotonous circular battle arenas until hitting a boss room. Much worse, both dungeons and bosses were entirely recycled between the playable leads and they did almost zero to differentiate them for the lengthy adventure. Now, admittedly, Odin Sphere Leifthrasir is not entirely immune to the sins of its former self. Like the original, Leifthrasir still unfortunately has you fight certain bosses a few too many times because of the main story. What it does do, however, is vary up the trek through areas considerably. Concepts that seem minor on paper like several new mini-bosses, the new sense of verticality/platforming to stages, and also adding Metroidvania gameplay elements truly enhance the game's overall flow in a way I really can not stress properly. They even go as far as to personalize even familiar locales based on the playable character. I remember being totally bewildered by the pleasant surprise that was when the flying fairy princess, Mercedes, had an entertaining side-scrolling shmup segment mid-dungeon specific to her, just because. Much of the other additions are of the quality of life variety: easier to understand tutorials, better interface (especially with item management), quick travel options to significantly cut down on backtracking, and plenty more. I think the biggest surprise, beyond the sheer quantity of enhancements, is how all these combined didn't just make me dramatically enjoy the title more, but... it even cut my total play time by almost ten hours on the normal difficulty. Though I did find Leifthrasir noticeably easier -- because characters are that much more capable (and I didn't have to grind at all) -- the option to challenge myself is certainly there during regular and New Game + playthroughs. If that wasn't enough content, there is also a toggle at the title screen to switch the original release (as if to remind you how Leifthrasir is so much better), though saves are incompatible between the two versions. Last, but certainly not least to mention, is the near timeless 2D art direction and excellent soundtrack. George Kamitani's 2D art style holds phenomenally well even nine years later. While the added backdrops to levels in Leifthrasir do not quite have that standard Kamitani visual polish, like most of the game they are treat to see in motion. And yes, for those wondering about the awful gameplay slowdown and load times that plagued the original PS2 release, they are basically entirely gone now. That said, the Vita version does have some minor technical hiccups in some spots. Also more than worthy to note, Hitoshi Sakamoto's classical music score is still a treat to listen to. Cooler than that, however, Sakamoto reprises his musical role to noticeably add more musical variety during Leifthrasir's gameplay as well as crafting a few arrangements of the memorable main theme. I had thought that Odin Sphere was simply one of those games I was never going to change my mind on. A title that, despite appreciating the storytelling and the eye candy of a presentation, it would ultimately leave me with the bitter taste of disappointment in nearly every other respect for years to come. However, the deceptively big remake Odin Sphere: Leifthrasir does not simply improve upon its former composition, it dramatically sweetens its severely flawed former gameplay composition to an unimaginable degree. Odin Sphere: Leifthrasir awakens the dormant potential of the original and now proves itself as a worthy classic among many of the best action-RPGs. Pros + Entirely overhauled combat that is significantly faster and more fun to play + Goes a very long way towards refining the moment to moment gameplay with the hugely altered level design, interface, and character progression + Engaging storytelling + Both the captivating 2D art and impressive soundtrack more than stand the test of time Cons: - Main story remains exactly the same, which makes it not immune to noticeable pacing and boss repetition problems - Some minor technical hiccups on Vita in busier fights Overall Score: 9 (out of 10) Fantastic Going far above and beyond the call of typical enhanced releases, Odin Sphere: Leifthrasir manages to not only become one of the best gaming remakes ever but it also truly turn its source material into a worthy RPG classic. Disclosure: This game was reviewed using downloadable Vita code provided by the publisher.
  18. If you're into RPGs, you'll want to pay close attention to Cosmic Star Heroine, the upcoming game from Zeboyd Games (the developer behind such games as Breath of Death VII and Cthulhu Saves The World). Similar to other upcoming games like I Am Setsuna, Cosmic Star Heroine derives some inspiration from classic RPG, Chrono Trigger -- something you can tell right away from its visuals and the way battles unfold. The good news is you won't have to wait long to play it. Zeboyd Games revealed that the game is planned for release this Summer on PlayStation 4 and PlayStation Vita for $14.99. Also in the works is a limited physical copy run via Limited Run Games. Check out the trailer for the game below, and for more impressions on Cosmic Star Heroine, be sure to check out Jonathan's hands-on piece from PAX Prime 2015. Source: PlayStation Blog Will you be checking out Cosmic Star Heroine when it releases?
  19. If you know XSEED, then you know that they're generally an outfit for publishing niche Japanese titles. However, all of that's about to change. That's right, XSEED will be changing things up by publishing a few indie games soon. The first game on the list is Touhou: Scarlet Curiosity, an action-RPG set in the Touhou Project universe that draws inspiration from the YS series of games. Next up is Exile's End, a dark and futuristic 2D sidescroller that is described as "one part Metroidvania" and "one-part cinematic platformer." Finally, XSEED will be publishing the physical retail version of Wayforward's Shantae: Half-Genie Hero. Presumably, this means Wayforward will be handling the digital versions of the game on their own as they have with past Shantae titles. Also, the physical version will be packaged with a CD with 20 musical tracks from the game. Not bad! Touhou: Scarlet Curiosity will be coming to PlayStation 4; Exile's End will be coming to PS4, PS Vita, and Wii U; and Shantae: Half-Genie Hero will be coming to retail on PS4, PS Vita, and Wii U. Source: Press Release What are your thoughts on XSEED starting to publish indie games? Are you surprised they're publishing the physical version of Shantae: Half-Genie Hero?
  20. Jason Clement

    Review: Blast 'Em Bunnies

    Developer: Nnooo Publisher: Nnooo Platforms: PS4, Xbox One, 3DS, PS Vita Release Date: March 8, 2016 ESRB: E 10+ This review is based on the PS4 version of the game It's a warm, sunny day. You're peacefully taking a nap out on the lawn when, suddenly, a band of evil bunnies encroaches on your territory (like they're inclined to). What do you do? Whatever any reasonable bunny would do: blast them into oblivion with various fruits and vegetables at them! Blast 'em Bunnies is an arcade-style shooting gallery game where you play as Bang Bang, a bunny looking out to defend his burrow from other evil bunnies. And while there really isn't a story to the game beyond that, the achievements reveal that all 32 of his babies were stolen by them as well (what a bunch of jerks!). However, you'll have the opportunity to get them back one by one through different playthroughs. The setup for the gameplay as simple -- as Bang Bang, you'll fend off waves of evil bunnies, collect the money they drop, and try to survive as long as you can by blasting them with your vegetable/fruit-based turret as they march toward your fixed location. However, the environment spans 360 degrees all around you, so the evil bunnies can come from any angle. Fortunately, the game alerts you as to the direction they're approaching in, and they usually only come from one direction at a time in the earlier difficulties. While the core game is pretty much just one mode where you're blasting waves of bunnies until you're eventually overwhelmed, there is a system of progression in place that's similar to Jet Pack Joyride's, where you're given a set of four random missions (out of many) to meet in various playthroughs. Complete them and you'll get even more money and then other missions will rotate in. In turn, you'll spend that money on new vegetable-based weapons and upgrades. There's a wide array of upgrades as well, ranging from four different weapon types that have completely different feels to them (i.e. rifles that shoot carrots and the like; mortars that launch heavier produce; machine guns that fire seeds; and lasers that shoot, uh... vegetable-based lasers?) to ammunition that have different added effects (pumpkins do heavier damage but are slow, watermelon seeds fire fast but do light damage and such) to additional hearts and more. Additionally, there are plenty of medals to unlock that have various tasks assigned to them outside of the four random main missions, such as destroying x amount of certain bunnie types, surviving x amount of time, gathering certain amounts of money, and more; definitely enough to keep you entertained and busy for a while. The variation of evil bunny types add a bit of strategy to the gameplay, ranging from various levels of big, slow, bruisers to quick and nimble bunnies that run in a staggered formation (making them harder to hit) to flying bunnies and even mortar bunnies that will launch turnips at you from the background, and more. Visually, the game looks great with its colorful 3D venue and cast of eclectic evil bunnies, and the music is an appropriately Western-themed tempo, and it's rather catchy. If there's one thing I didn't care for, it's that the base game only provides one arena: The Farm. There are more areas and costume packs as well, but you'll have to pay for them. However, that's the tradeoff for having the game's price as only $5. So is the base game worth it then? Even with just one arena to play in, you'll get quite a bit out of the gameplay, especially if you try to complete the game's missions and trophies/achievements. It definitely doesn't reinvent the wheel as far as shooting gallery games go, but nevertheless Blast 'Em Bunnies is pretty fun and can be pretty addictive as long as you're not expecting a huge campaign to dive into. Pros + Fun, addictive shooting gallery gameplay in short bursts + System of progression is well done, lots of weapon upgrades + Nice, cartoony visuals Cons - Core game only contains one level, additional areas need to be purchased - Might only hold your attention in short bursts Overall Score: 7.5 (out of 10) Good Blast 'Em Bunnies is a fun and addictive shooting-gallery game that's best played in shorter bursts. Disclosure: This game was reviewed using downloadable code provided by the publisher
  21. WildCardCorsair

    Review: Severed

    Developer: Drinkbox Studios Publisher: Drinkbox Studios Platform: PS Vita Release Date: April 26, 2016 ESRB: Teen Death. A lot of video games have it. A whole lot. Not many of them really address what it is, though. Not the loss, not the feeling of failure. Severed -- the latest game from indie powerhouse Drinkbox Studios -- actually does, and in an interesting way. It does so not with words but through the imagery of the protagonist“s quest to find her missing family in the land of the dead. You play as Sasha, who finds herself not only without her mother, father, and brother, but without her right arm. The how and the why are unclear, but it becomes clear very quickly that just about everything in this world wants to kill you. Up until now Drinkbox has given players plenty of humorous games, from the Tales From Space games involving '50s inspired wanton alien destruction, to a dimensional barrier-punching luchador in Guacamelee, Drinkbox games have always had a good bit of humor to them. Severed is a different beast entirely. The game tasks you with rescuing your family members in a strange place filled with vicious monsters around every corner. Your first real success, and your first real failure is a shock to the system, setting the tone for this game, one that stands firmly apart from their previous games. Indeed, this game is about loss and reconciliation, sobering themes that clash boldly against the aesthetics that pervade Severed. And while the game is not chatty in the least, you still piece together a lot on your own simply from what you see while you“re navigating this foreign world. By the end it affected me more than it had any right to considering how little written narrative exists. If you“ve heard or seen anything about Severed, I“m sure the game itself sounds like a cross between Fruit Ninja and Infinity Blade but it does more to surpass them both than any touchscreen game I've ever played. Combat is easy to learn, almost too easy in fact. Your first battle will leave you with a false sense of security that will be shattered moments later if you aren't careful. As the game progressed I found myself fighting not only more enemies, but tougher ones as well. Right up until the end combat remained challenging, upping the ante on a regular basis right along with upgrades and newly acquired abilities. Oh, and if you were at all worried, Severed is easily played with either your right or left hand. Severed“s enemies are also pretty well thought out. Because what good are fights without some ugly beasties to face the pointy end of your sword? With each new enemy, new strategies must be devised to fight them, meaning you can“t just flail about like some noob with a foam sword at his first LARP. No, you actually have to think on your feet. The order in which you defeat enemies is every bit as important as how you defeat them. Even more so, in fact, at the end of the game in which success and failure can literally depend on the order of your actions and not just your ability to rub your finger across the touchscreen really fast. I don“t want to say much about the various curveballs Drinkbox throws your way because I“d hate to give anything away about this game that I don“t absolutely have to, but my heart raced in nearly every battle, and when I won, I felt like I had earned it. But fighting is only part of this game. When you aren“t fighting creepy crawly monster dudes you“ll find yourself navigating a series of dungeons. Each of the three major dungeons in the game have their own secrets to find and puzzles to solve. Now some of you will probably be groaning right about now, “More dungeon puzzles?” Rest assured, though, the puzzles never become stale and aren“t overused in the least, many of them are just as satisfying as the battles are. As you progress through the game, slicing up bad guys and the occasional boss, the same abilities you acquire will also work in dungeons, allowing you to access previously inaccessible areas of dungeons. Doing so can reward you with even more secret treasure stashes and even a couple super secret items (oooh!). So really, instead of Infinity Blade, think of a more compact, first-person version of Skyward Sword, but without all the riding around on giant bird. Oh, and without that awful stamina meter. Basically, Severed is a game that can easily rival other heavy hitters in the dungeon exploring business, but in a shorter venture which eliminates the need for more gimmicky, repetitive dungeon design and puzzles. Severed is easy on the eyes, too. Augusto “Cuxo” Quijano (Concept Lead) and Stephen Goulet (Art Director) aimed to create a rich world inspiried by non-euro-centric cultures without being directly tied to any one of them, and I“d say the more than succeeded. The environments really shine with help from some deep hues and wonderful design. The colors alone are gorgeous enough to remark on but the striking images the game presents had a lasting affect on me long after the credits rolled. You see, the main character undergoes an incredible visual transformation, looking less and less human and more like the monstrous denizens of the world you“re journeying through (which I“m certain was the point and has some deeper meaning regarding the effect conflict and loss has on a person... but I ain“t no psychology major). Each time I passed by a mirror or opened up the upgrades menu I couldn“t help but notice the change. It felt strange seeing Sasha each time, and instead of feeling more powerful or confident, somehow I felt uneasy about the idea of her possibly trading her humanity for power. Heavy stuff man. And with some really atmospheric music that only enhances the visuals, Severed really does pull out all the stops to immerse you in this strange and frightening world. Basically, if you want to feel good again about buying a Vita, buy Severed. It“s the game that will make you remember why you loved your neglected handheld again, like some kinda dark, touch based Danielle Steele novel. You“ll look at it, wistfully. You“ll admire how brilliantly it“s OLED screen shines (unless you got a 2000 series Vita I suppose). You“ll remember the soft feel of the warm screen that responds lasciviously to your every touch. Ok, so I may have gone a bit daytime soap there, but Severed is definitely sexy and you should play with it. The ever evolving fights remain consistently challenging and will test you in a way that never feels unfair. The dungeons are as fun to explore as they are wonderful to look at. And while the end of the game is a tad bit ambiguous, the theme of the game is never disrespected and the world in which it takes place is fascinating. It left me wanting more, something only a handful of other games have accomplished. It really is a game that belongs on every Vita. Pros + The world of Severed is exotic and enticing + Combat is frantic, exciting, and more complex that it seems + Dungeon design is cleverly paced, ability gated + Lefty friendly! Cons - I wish there was more Overall Score: 9 (Out of 10) Fantastic Severed“s core concept seems simple, but is sure to surprise Vita owners with it“s wealth of impressive design and gameplay features. Disclosure: This game was reviewed using downloadable code provided by the publisher