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Found 476 results

  1. Marcus Estrada

    Akiba's Trip Screenshot 2

    From the album: Review Images

  2. Marcus Estrada

    Akiba's Trip Screenshot 1

    From the album: Review Images

  3. Developer: Arc System Works Publisher: Aksys Games Platform: PS3/Vita Release Date: June 24, 2014 ESRB: M for Mature For as commonplace as Visual Novels are in Japan it is quite rare that we see them in any official form overseas. Regardless, it seems like the publisher Aksys has gone out of their way to help break this trend and has seemingly struck its niche from cult-classics like Virtue's Last Reward and 9 Hours, 9 Persons, 9 Doors to bringing over games with a more specific "Otome" demographic like Hakuoki or Sweet Fuse. Continuing this trend of visual novel releases is the arrival of Xblaze: Code Embryo, a visual novel prequel to the critically-acclaimed fighting game series Blazblue. Is this visual novel just fanservice or does it manage to oust its source material in terms of storytelling? The story focuses on the young man, Touya Kagari, who lives Shin Yokozaki City during the year 2050 (150 years before Blazblue: Calamity Trigger). Despite coming off as a normal high-school student, he is one of the very few survivors of the horrific Wadatsumi Incident: a mysterious disaster that claimed the lives of thousands and literally left no trace of their remains. On his way home from part-time work one day Touya hears a bell-like chime near an empty construction site like area and curiously follows the noise. Unfortunately for him, he then comes face to face with a "Union", a person with mysterious powers and far-removed sanity. Before being nearly incinerated by the "Union", Touya is both saved and almost nearly killed by a mysterious blonde girl, Es, who claims it is her mission to hunt down "Unions". Shrugging off the strange happenings as a dream, after unwittingly being knocked-out by Es, Touya quickly learns upon returning home that the bizarre events that transpired were in fact reality. Es, as well as a strange/eccentric man, Unomaru, vaguely briefs Touya about Unions. Unomaru then offers Es as a personal bodyguard and eventually guilt-trips Touya into using his unique ability to detect "Unions", the "Discover Call", to help Es capture them as a means to protect innocent citizens as well as himself from their powers. At first glance it may seem like this game is only for Blazblue fans, but Xblaze: Code Embryo's main narrative and entirely new cast of characters are detached enough to not alienate people who aren't already existing fans. The title does lay quite a bit of narrative groundwork for a bunch of things that transpire in Blazblue (and actually clears some plot holes), which is of no surprise since it is a prequel. That said, the storytelling is easier to follow than Blazblue, and frankly, better delivered with a way more consistent narrative pace than recent iterations, so it can be played by newcomers without feeling too left out beyond having to look up a specific terminology in the in-game database. For the actual storytelling, Xblaze strikes a good balance between both serious and light-hearted storytelling. It also has its storytelling told entirely without narration and just through character actions and dialogue, which attributes to a faster pace than most visual novels. While the cast of characters aren't wholly original, like a suicidal do-gooder main protagonist who proclaims to be normal, to an extremely stoic, but strong blonde swordswoman who is out of touch with cultural norms (Fate/Stay Night, anyone?), and plenty more. Still, even if it wears its character cliches on it sleeves, it somehow made even me warm up to the cast after enough time through the different narrative paths. Having said that, when the storytelling does get serious it is more bleak than you'd expect. Xblaze definitely expects players to see its various narrative branches to gather to full story because most endings are definitely not satisfying on their own, though, they contribute to the grander story. Even if the storytelling is solid, despite a lack of originality at times, it does expect a completionist mentality to see all of it. But, if the main narrative is too depressing, there is the very entertaining, and non-canon, "Gag reel" which really plays on the expectations of the main story. I'm being totally serious when I say it is probably worth seeing every ending in the game to unlock it, since it is seriously that hilarious. Unlike other visual novels that tend have their narrative alter based dialogue choices, Xblaze uses the "Toi" system to dictate the story progression. It is explained weird, but ideally, Touya will react to events in the story based on prior knowledge obtained from in-game articles that you choose to read, and thus, triggering new story scenes as well as different narrative branches and endings. It is far more interesting on paper than in execution, unfortunately. Even if the Toi system has a neat direct tie to the overarching storytelling, it allows next to no flexibility because of the strict narrative paths and abrupt bad endings (with the exception of the hilarious non-canon "gag reel" story, where the bad ends are more in-depth). Far worse is how it is actually very easy to lock yourself into a bad ending and have no idea what you did wrong, like I myself did. So, due to bad design, Xblaze: Code Embryo's enjoyment relies rather heavily on having a guide at hand to steer the player through the different narrative paths. In regards to presentation, Xblaze is quite honestly the best looking visual novel I've ever seen overall. I may not inherently love the art direction (kind of derivative to me), and some of its pretty unnecessary "fanservice" moments, but the way presented as a whole does a really great job at encapsulating an anime feel. Everything from casual character conversation to fights have smooth and varied transitions, and is just a different class from visual novels or RPGs I've seen that utilize such an aesthetic. Characters even have their Japanese voice acting sync with the their mouth movement, which is a nice touch. It just has a high amount of attention to detail for a genre that relies on minimalistic presentation and low production values and I'd really like to see other visual novels going forward take some cues from Xblaze. Not all of Xblaze is pleasant to look at, however, and it is at its ugliest when it comes to bugs, for the Vita version at least. While I went through about 95% of the game, including multiple endings, without any problems-- when the glitches of my playthrough hit they were pretty much game-breaking. I got to a point where I was unable to save, manually or auto, without the game consistently freezing, and even when I tried to blitz to the end without saving... the game crashed on me twice at the very end of the game. The only saving grace to my series of problems is that I learned that the PS3 release didn't have these problems at all and how the Vita release has received a patch that apparently fixes these issues shortly after release (though, it wasn't present during my playthrough of the game.). Xblaze: Code Embryo is a solid visual novel that is brought down by a couple of serious caveats to fully enjoy it. The first caveat is how it basically requires a guide to progress through the story properly, and the second caveat is that the Vita port should only be played after downloading a recent patch to eliminate what would otherwise have really serious game-breaking glitches. For as significant as its problems are, Xblaze is a pleasant surprise that manages to be better than the sum of its parts due to its solid narrative pace and a presentation in particular that other visual novels could benefit from learning from. It certainly is not the most wholly original or narratively rich visual novel ever, but Xblaze: Code Embryo deserves a chance to surpass your expectations for what it is. Pros: +Solid narrative pace with multiple endings/narrative branches + High production values for a visual novel with very smooth and varied anime-like transitions + Helpful database, recap, and system options + Non-canon "Gag Reel" story mode is hilarious Cons: - Neither the characters or the overall storytelling are wholly original - Abrupt bad ends and pretty specific ending/branch requirements prevent any narrative flexibility with the "Toi" system - Game-breaking save/freezing glitches specific to the Vita version (apparently fixed in a recent patch) Overall Score: 7 (out of 10) Good Xblaze: Code Embryo is a worthwhile visual novel title that features well-paced storytelling and great anime-like production values, though, it basically requires having an ending guide at hand, and for the Vita version a very important download patch, to fully enjoy it. Disclosure: This game was reviewed using PS3 downloadable code provided by the publisher.
  4. Marcus Estrada

    Review: Monster Monpiece

    Developer: Compile Heart Publisher: Idea Factory Platform: Vita (PSN) Release Date: May 27, 2014 ESRB: M for Mature Card games are a ton of fun and even precede video games. Of course, basically any card game out there has been at some point garnered a digital rendition. Yu-Gi-Oh!, Pokemon, and Magic the Gathering are some of the biggest names, but brand new card games have been created as well. The latest in this is Monster Monpiece for Vita. It casts players into a magical world where “monster girls” exist. Students learn to control these monsters with magical abilities which take the form of card battles. Sounds fun, right? The card gameplay is certainly fun! It pulls from existing games such as Magic but expands in its own directions. Basically, each player has a certain amount of health, so your goal is to whittle the opponent“s down first. This is done by placing cards on a grid and, turn by turn, closing in on their home base. There are three rows to place creatures on and (most) will proceed forward until running into an enemy, at which point a battle is engaged. Of course, there are some instances where battles occur sooner, such as with long-range weaponry. Each card has stats for attack, health, and intelligence. When two monster girls go to battle they both get a chance at attacking (unless one is killed instantly) and damage each others“ health. Of course, there are ways to boost some or all of their respective stats. For example, there are magical types that will boost health of a card placed directly in front of them. This uses up intelligence points, however. The same holds true for buffing monsters which offer up increased attack. A few other ways to increase card stats exist. One way is by fusing two cards of the same type, creating a new, more powerful card. Another method is based simply on placing up to three of the same type card in a row. As you can only place one card a turn this takes up to three turns but will provide a boost to every one of your monsters on the field. It“s incredibly helpful, and means you“ll want to restrict how many colors of cards exist in your deck. Magic players will probably find this aspect of Monster Monpiece especially familiar. So, there“s a lot of strategy required to play well and a lot of it lies with creating a workable deck. Honestly, all this was surprising considering the most obvious aspect of the game, which has nothing to do with card games. Yes, it“s the monster girls themselves. Every card is graced with an image of a scantily clad anime character. As is common of modern anime, most of the girls follow a “moe” design aesthetic which means they are drawn to be incredibly youthful looking. Most games that have to rely on heavily “erotic” designs do so because they have little to actually offer players. Hence, it“s a shock that Monster Monpiece actually has good gameplay. If you“re not particularly interested in the monster girls then unfortunately there“s no way to escape them. They“re present on every card, but that's not all. You see, in order to create more powerful cards you must engage in a ridiculous minigame. You might have seen it featured as part of the game“s advertising. The minigame has players turn their Vita so it is held vertically at which point a monster girl appears on screen. You must then navigate around the screen (the characters are too large to fit squarely in one “screen”) and find their sensitive locations. This might be their ears, tails, thighs, or more obvious body parts. Once found you must tap madly at the spot to raise a meter high enough. At that point you might enter a special rubbing mode where you pinch the Vita to touch both front and rear touch pads and stroke the system vigorously. It“s an incredibly childish minigame and awkward to actually complete. Although this minigame is never required beyond the tutorial, it is useful if you want to increase the strength of your cards. Yes, there“s a store option but you can only buy blind packs of cards which means there“s no assurance of getting anything good. Well, you can buy rare packs but those cost real money. It's likely too frustrating for people who like this sort of stuff to even enjoy it, either. Am I condemning the game for its eroticism? No, not in and of itself. In fact there should be more games out there which put a focus on human sexuality and sexiness. Of course, in the gaming realm any attempt at sexiness is usually tied to women characters and rarely focused on men. My main issue with Monster Monpiece“s sexualized characters is that it is a drain on the competent core mechanics. Many card players will avoid it because of its visuals. Those who are not fans of the art but play anyway will roll their eyes far too often. Finally, those who are excited to put money down on a product purely for its supposed sexy characters would likely do so for any similar game. Therefore, the actual quality is of little importance for this group. Then there are the players willing to accept any visual presentation in the presence of a good story. I'm sorry to report there's not one to be found here. Sure, it helps tie together things from battle to battle but it's fairly average and predictable. There's also a handful of weird writing and typos which further hinder the translation's quality. Of course, the main reason to play is to enjoy the card-based combat and not become enthralled in an epic storyline. It wouldn't hurt, though. After a while, I started to tune out the art on every card. My mind honed in on what is the most compelling aspect of the game - card battling! Of course, this only would last as long as I was deep in strategic thought. The minute I needed stronger cards and had to do a few rounds of the minigame it all came flooding back. It“s hard to recall the last time I ever had such a love/hate relationship with a game. Every gamer is aware of their own tastes and know if they“ll like, dislike, or plain not care about Monster Monpiece“s presentation. It“s impossible for me to recommend but hopefully, as more informed readers, you now know whether the game is right for you. Pros: + Great deal of strategy involved in matches + Ton of freedom to create deck(s) to fit your play style + Online multiplayer Cons: - Sexualized, child-like characters completely overwhelm the game - Card upgrade minigame is cumbersome - Unfortunately, “good” card packs cost real money - Ho-hum storyline Overall Score: 5 (out of 10) Average Monster Monpiece has some fun, strategic gameplay buried underneath its pubescent exterior for those willing to try it out. Disclosure: This game was reviewed using downloadable Vita code provided by the publisher.
  5. NIS America has finally given their "hardcore strategy" RPG Natural Doctrine a release date for North America. The game will be available in both retail and digital formats on Playstation 3, Playstation 4 and Playstation Vita, September 16. Natural Doctrine will feature cross-play and cross-save on all platforms. In addition, NIS America announced a Limited Edition which will retail for $20 more than the regular versions which cost $59.99 on PS4, $49.99 on PS3 and $39.99 on Vita. The Limited Edition will include soft cover art book, tear-resistant poster and Explorer's Bag. The game was not well received by the media or gamers of Japan so it will be interesting to see what Americans think when they get their hands on it. Source: Playstation Lifestyle Is Natural Doctrine what strategy RPG fans are looking for?
  6. barrel

    Review image 3

    From the album: Magical Beat

  7. barrel

    Review image 2

    From the album: Magical Beat

  8. barrel

    Review image 1

    From the album: Magical Beat

  9. Marcus Estrada

    One Way Trip Screenshot

    From the album: Review Images

  10. Marcus Estrada

    Danganronpa 2 Screenshot

    From the album: Review Images

  11. Bringing a gameplay demo to E3 must be terrifying for developers. They“ve got to make a section of gameplay that is fun and interesting within seconds of playing. If not, many people will simply stop playing since time during the convention is so scarce. Visual novels (and story-focused games in general) have it hard because of this. Can they convince people to sit down and read for 10 minutes? Unfortunately not in many cases. I took a look at one definite visual novel and another game showcasing its visual novel-esque mode. Danganronpa 2: Goodbye Despair comes after the great success of Danganronpa on Vita. The original visual novel set players in a school where only the “last man standing” could ever leave. Danganronpa 2 starts players at the same school initially before whisking all the students off to an island. Here, apparently, they are tasked only with having fun - not killing! If you“ve played the original game though it“s safe to say that you should never trust a weird talking animal. In all other respects, the game feels very similar to the first. Even the character designs seem oddly familiar, as if some characters may be the same. Whether or not this is intentional is currently a mystery to me. Players are still free to examine the environment for information and then talk to their classmates. So far Danganronpa 2 seems like a welcome new experience for fans. One Way Trip is an intriguing new title for Vita. The storyline focuses on two siblings that both drank poisoned water. With only six hours left to live they seek to find a cure. As you might expect, things don“t go smoothly. The demo featured the two as they had met up with a very dangerous character. She seemed insane, with a willingness to kill other people for no reason at all. What makes One Way Trip exciting is that it has two modes of gameplay. One focuses purely on the narrative while the other intersperses story with action segments. Of course, my interest lies with visual novels so I was pleased to see so much story showcased in their demo. The writing is very unique which pairs with the trippy presentation perfectly. Danganronpa 2: Goodbye Despair will be out on Vita on September 2nd while One Way Trip is out next year on Vita and PS4.
  12. Marcus Estrada

    Monster Monpiece Screenshot 4

    From the album: Review Images

  13. Marcus Estrada

    Monster Monpiece Screenshot 2

    From the album: Review Images

  14. Marcus Estrada

    Monster Monpiece Screenshot 1

    From the album: Review Images

  15. Sony“s E3 area was full of titles spanning the PS4 and Vita. While most flocked to the PS4 kiosks immediately I spent some time with the Vita area that was surprisingly barren. A few of the titles here caught my eye: BigFest and CounterSpy. Although both of these have been known entities for a while this was my first opportunity to give them a shot. BigFest is basically a music festival management sim. You start out with a totally bare venue and try to make it appeal to people. The bands play music from real up and coming artists, which seems like the most interesting aspect of the game. Putting down food stops or restrooms costs fictional money amounts and either can be built immediately or with a few minutes of delay. Because the game is free-to-play I assume the immediate building options will be what you have to spend real money on to access. It“s hard to say for sure though since the demo was loaded up with both types of credits. Most in-game items were locked so I couldn“t get a real feel for the scope of buildings available either. CounterSpy is a 2.5 D stealth game where you“re infiltrating locations. Visually it looks super cool with bold colors, sharp lines, and cel shading. Playing on the Vita didn“t hamper the graphics in the least. It was enjoyable attempting to sneak past guards and shoot out security cameras. Of course, if you get spotted it“s not long before they sound an alarm to track you down. Unlike some stealth games that offer incredible difficulty, it seems that CounterSpy is far more accessible. Even after tripping alarms the guards were still not super aggressive. At least, not enough so to kill me most of the time. Instead I could still manage to headshot them all and be on my way. With that said, the game seemed like a ton of fun and something I“m excited to play again in the future. BigFest and CounterSpy will both be available on Vita sometime this year. CounterSpy is also pegged for PS3 and PS4.
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