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  1. Developer: Meteorise Publisher: XSEED Games Platform(s): PS Vita Release Date: November 11, 2014 ESRB: M for Mature A rhythm game that focuses on cooking, food, and the girls of the Senran Kagura series? Sign me up. All these things make me as giddy as a schoolgirl, so a combination of all of them should be simply spectacular. Right? Senran Kagura Bon Appétit! is a very barebones rhythm game; the actual gameplay isn“t anything special and leaves a lot to be desired. The way that it is setup is initially somewhat confusing, but that“s simply due to a poorly designed layout. In any case, you“ll get used to it quickly enough. It“s just unfortunate how boring the gameplay is versus other rhythm games such as the Hatsune Miku: Project DIVA titles. Most of the music in Bon Appétit! is forgettable as well. This is extremely disappointing considering that this is a rhythm game and that the main Senran Kagura games have some excellent tracks. The tracklist itself is also very small. Honestly, there“s not much to say about the soundtrack at all. The more exciting parts come in-between the gameplay portions. Throughout each stage, there are three separate portions where your meal course is judged by HanzÅ. How well you perform when pressing buttons to the beat determines your score. The better you do, the better HanzÅ“s reaction. Besting your rival in that round will also strip them of some of their clothing. Be careful, though! It“s easy to become distracted by their sensual body wiggling (it“s happened to me a few times)… If you achieve a super dish at the very end, your opponent will be served to you as a delicious dessert wearing absolutely nothing. Bon Appétit!“s main selling point is obviously its nearly naked women and sexiness, as is the case with the rest of the Senran Kagura series. With food being the theme of Bon Appétit!, it assuredly takes advantage of that and combines it with said risquésituations. So, you“ll be seeing lots of images of bare-bottomed women covered with whipped cream and so forth. Like the rest of the series, this is done mostly in a satirical manner rather than in an effort to demean women. Considering the theme of Bon Appétit! and the fact that it“s a spin-off, this is driven even further to the point of absolute silliness. All of this is made even more fun with the all-important dressing room. By unlocking clothing and other items through the main game and DLC, you“ll be able to dress all the Senran Kagura girls to your heart“s desire. Absolutely adorable or daringly sexy – it“s your choice! While the Senran Kagura series is also known for its surprisingly deep and serious plot, you won“t find any of that here. It“s a rhythm game, after all! As such, the “story†of Bon Appétit! is very simple: a cooking competition is held and the grand prize is a secret ninja art scroll that can grant any wish. Our shinobi girls either want their own wishes granted or want to stop others from causing chaos with such a powerful scroll, so battles in the form of cooking ensue between them. While it is a basic premise, the writing still allows for some amusing and emotional bits, such as Katsuragi wanting to become the queen of the hooters harem. For those that can“t seem to get enough of what Bon Appétit! has to offer, there is a DLC pack available that unlocks Gessen and Hebijo characters (basically, half the roster). If you“ve purchased the Rin and DaidÅji DLC for Senran Kagura: Shinovi Versus, then they will also carry over to Bon Appétit! I hoped for a lot more from Senran Kagura Bon Appétit! Unfortunately, it gets stale very quickly in terms of gameplay. Still, thanks to life and hometown, it“s a nice little distraction for Senran Kagura fans waiting for the next big game in the series. Pros: + Dialogue/writing is still funny, emotional, and fantastic + Lots of clothing items to play dress-up with + Chock-full of sexy moments Cons: - Rhythm gameplay is boring and basic - Tracklist is small and unmemorable Overall Score: 6 (out of 10) Decent Don't expect any sort of greatness from Senran Kagura Bon Appétit! It falls flat as a rhythm game, so only hardcore Senran Kagura fans need apply. Disclosure: This game was reviewed using downloadable Vita code provided by the publisher.
  2. Developer: Tamsoft Publisher: XSEED Games Platforms: PS Vita Release Date: October 14, 2014 ESRB: M for Mature Senran Kagura: Shinovi Versus knows exactly what it wants to be. Whether or not you are willing to accept its identity is another story, but frankly, it really doesn“t care if you do. In the producer“s own terminology, it has its sight set firmly on “Life” and “Hometown”, and you will know that immediately upon starting the game. I was aware of this, but I was still very surprised at how much more risque Shinovi Versus is in comparison to even Senran Kagura Burst. Reviewing Senran Kagura Burst may have caught me off-guard last year, but it was for entirely different reasons. Not because of “Life” and “Hometown”, which were certainly emphasized, but because it surpassed my expectations as a game and, dare I say it, through its storytelling. Neither aspect were terribly noteworthy on their own, but the overall experience ended up being better than the sum of its parts. Trying to balance expectations once again, Senran Kagura: Shinovi Versus attempts to prove that extremely unapologetic "fanservice" and decent storytelling/gameplay can be two sides of the same coin. Much like the original 3DS title, Shinovi Versus plays up the Good Shinobi vs Evil Shinobi theme. Hanzo academy and Gessen academy help depict Good Shinobi, while the Hebijo Academy, and the newly formed Renegades (or rather, former Hebijo students from the Senran Kagura Burst), as Evil Shinobi. Despite their similarities as well as differences, they all have their own perception to the currently prescribed Good & Evil Shinobi beliefs and, unsurprisingly, are brought to conflict for one reason or another. The story does a reasonable job at catching people up who have not played the first game. That isn't terribly important for the mostly predictable main narrative arcs of the four groups, but considering how much more character-focused the storytelling is it's good to know newcomers will be on mostly fair ground. However, the storytelling itself is very hit and miss depending on the group you play. Narratively, I think it is pretty apparent that more substance is put behind the Evil Shinobi characters, in particular Hebijo, while Good Shinobi feel like they are generally driven by much more shallow ideals. The story modes are not as in-depth individually as the Senran Kagura Burst, but accumulatively the story modes end up being quite a bit denser simply due twice as many characters to play as. This is kind of the recurring theme for Shinovi Versus as there is simply more of everything in comparison to the first release: more story, more characters, more gameplay/missions, more unlockables, lot more cosmetic options, and... a lot more perversion. It may be difficult to believe this, but Shinovi Versus is way more perverted than even Senran Kagura Burst. I think a lot of this is attributed to the change from a Teen rating to a Mature rating between both games. Everything from disintegrating clothing in combat, exaggerated physics, to even innuendo in dialogue has really been upped with the release of Shinovi Versus. To give more specific examples, if you use a special move as a final blow in combat, you can destroy a characters bra or panties (granted, censored in a goofy way) and it will carry over into the next story scene, and I'm not even going to talk about how much lingerie the in-game shop has for its multitude of character outfits. It really creates a weird dissonance considering how serious the characters may be in certain story scenes, only to be wearing virtually nothing because of the perverted gameplay mechanics. But, is the gameplay good? Well, this release leaves the 2D beat 'em up plane in favor of a substantial transition to 3D environments as a brawler in Shinovi Versus. I am a bit mixed about the change in gameplay styles, honestly, simply because I have higher expectations in what I'd expect from action games that take place in a 3D space. I think I can subjectively say that Shinovi Versus is a better game than its predecessor. There are twice as many characters and they all feel quite different with their extremely flashy attack combos. Also, in general it simply looks and runs much better than the 3DS title. In a lot of ways, it actually feels like the more natural progression for the series mechanically and it really feels like it is doubling down on its own identity in regards to presentation, for better or worse, even if I really don't inherently care for the direction. That said, I“m going to be upfront—Musou-styled games are not really a sub-genre I care for at all. I re-solidified my opinion of this after playing Warriors Orochi 3: Ultimate recently. While Senran Kagura: Shinovi Versus is technically closer to a brawler more than something of a musou ilk, simply because of its smaller scale and focus on mobility, it does feel like it hits a similar simplistic action gameplay appeal. I may think it is better than what passes for musou nowadays, but I have higher expectations for 3D action releases and in this regard Shinovi Versus has several problems. My biggest complaints with this entry are actually with its camera and gameplay progression in particular. The first grievance is with its camera. There are two key reasons why it has issues, that being a wonky lock-on system and a camera that feels too zoomed. Unfortunately, you can't adjust either of these and you have to accept that it'll be obscured for one reason or another. Thankfully it isn't particularly difficult game at all, as I had only seen the game-over screen once when trying out a character for the first time, but I could imagine it being a big problem for those trying to achieve higher ranks or difficulties. Actually, speaking of that, I also don“t think the skill/combo progression is handled very well in Shinovi Versus either. Some characters feel absolutely useless when you first get them, and most characters don“t show their natural playstyle until hitting at least level 10. In all honesty, it sort of becomes busy work to essentially level grind for certain characters to even be fun to play as. It may not take long to level characters up, especially through the optional "girl's heart" side missions, but it still feels no less tedious especially for an already repetitive level design structure. If there is one thing I can say about Senran Kagura: Shinovi Versus, though, it is that it has a lot of personality. I don“t even mean that facetiously either; well, not entirely. It's visually vibrant and, perversion aside, has a pretty distinct look that looks solid in motion from gameplay, clean menus/interface, and story scenes on the Vita screen. It does have problems with fairly long load times, despite being Dark Souls-ish in terms of giving random tidbits. Also, like the original, the soundtrack is also surprisingly good. The character themes play with a lot of musical styles from rock-orchestra, Spanish guitar, and even creative arrangements of classical pieces. Overall, Senran Kagura: Shivovi Versus is almost unquestionably better than its predecessor. It looks better, plays better, has a lot more content, and goes the extra mile with more of its love or hate it distinct visual sensibilities. The biggest problem is that its transition to a 3D perspective is not completely seamless due to a limiting gameplay progression, awkward camera, and a lot of other quirks bogging it down. While it may have gotten further away from what I found to be a pleasant surprise with Senran Kagura Burst, as a straightforward beat 'em up it is still likely to surpass expectations for those who can cope with its overwhelming amount of perversion with its aesthetic. Pros: + Lots of varied characters with very flashy attacks and combos + Huge amount of story content and missions + Character theme songs are surprisingly good + Many cosmetic options Cons: - Lock-on is unreliable and camera is too slow/zoomed in. - Fairly repetitive level design - Long load times - Leveling-up progression severely limits character abilities early in - Much more perverted than even Senran Kagura Burst Overall Score: 6.5 (out of 10) Decent Despite a not wholly successful shift in gameplay styles from its predecessor, the series remains as a brawler that has more overall substance than you'd expect. Of course, you have to be willing to overlook (or look at?) its extremely unapologetic and perverted presentation in order to do so. Disclosure: This game was reviewed using downloadable PS Vita code provided by the publisher.
  3. Developer: Acquire Publisher: XSEED Games Platform: PS3, Vita ESRB: M for Mature Release Date: August 12, 2014 It must really suck to be a vampire in Japan. According to Akiba“s Trip: Undead & Undressed, all vampires want to do is sulk around Akihabara with a hunger for rare goods. Of course, such a simple plan is ruined if the Akiba Freedom Fighters catch up with you. They“ll beat you up and tear off your clothes, leaving vampires to evaporate due to sunlight exposure. Akiba“s Trip puts you on the side of good although the protagonist himself has inherited inhuman powers… This isn“t really a spoiler because the poor hero is captured within the opening moments of the game. There he comes face to face with a man in charge of converting regular otaku into vampire slaves. What“s this all about? As the game progresses, you learn more about this strange organization and its goals. In any case, the basics are that Akihabara is swamped with vampires and you need to stop them from converting more unsuspecting citizens to their side. Thanks to newfound powers, you“re suddenly a super powerful and skilled fighter. Armed with random objects you collect from downed enemies, you enact street justice whenever a vampire crosses your path. Most of the time fights are initiated due to story sequences. However, there“s also a lot of room to simply explore the city. After a smartphone upgrade it“s even possible to sense which NPCs are vampires. No matter what, there are a ton of fights to pick during an Akiba“s Trip playthrough. The game appears to take inspiration from other modern beat ”em ups. At the start you“re given just paltry weaponry, but after downing a few vamps you gain access to greater goods. For example, one might drop a baseball bat which offers increased attack reach. Then again a street sign offers even more reach, although it“s slower as well. Enemies also drop clothes which you can then equip yourself. It“s a bit creepy but each clothing item has its own stats. Basically, you want to have “strong” clothes so vampires can“t strip you as easily. There“s also a special system in play for how to damage clothing. In two of the three difficulty settings, players must target hats, shirts, and pants/skirts separately. Each item of clothing has its own defense and by attacking it you wear that segment down. Once low enough it“s easy to tear off the garment. As you do this to enemies, they do the same to you. Players can return clothes to full health but it takes a few seconds to do this. Usually there“s not many openings to get spruced up. Beat ”em ups are really hit and miss and it feels like it takes a long time before Akiba“s Trip really gets into a groove. Much of the early fights seem almost unfair thanks to super cramped fighting quarters and big groups against you. The camera also tends to get in weird spots. Yes, you can move this but while being beaten by a group of vampires that“s probably the last thing anyone wants to worry about. Eventually, fight areas widen up and you have access to enough goods to balance fights but the game ends shortly after. Thankfully, there is a New Game + mode which lets you restart with all previously collected items and characters already. From the outside, Akiba“s Trip appears like a truly ridiculous, silly title. I came into the game fully expecting juvenile humor, male gaze-y scenes, and a ton of humor. What I didn“t expect to find was unchecked bigotry. You see, there“s a optional message board called Pitter which updates in game with responses to what happens in the story and there“s a particularly hateful user on there. They name call one other user multiple times and somehow this fictional hater shocked and bothered me. Most players were not harmed in any way by these segments, but because I was it“s something worth mentioning. If you might also take issue with it then ignore Pitter entirely. Although Akiba“s Trip had the potential to be a riotously fun title, it feels weirdly restricted. Yes, it“s awesome that Akihabara is replicated in video game format, but it“s cut up into chunks with long loading times between each. Yes, there are a boat load of weapons but what benefit is there to trying each when so many are totally weak? Honestly, the best portion of the game is its storyline and interaction between characters. Every time a battle cropped up I couldn“t help but groan because they were annoying most of the time. It would have been so much better to simply skip all that periphery and enjoy the story alone. Akiba“s Trip is not a visual novel but it might have honestly been better as one. As is, the game is an average beat ”em up with a better than average storyline. Pros: + Surprisingly entertaining story with a fun cast + Lots of character customization, especially during a replay + Incredible visual reproduction of Akihabara Cons: - Fights for majority of game feel especially cramped and annoying - Little reason to utilize the wide array of available weaponry - Camera gets into messy angles at all the wrong times Overall Score: 6 (out of 10) Decent Akiba's Trip is certainly odd, but that alone fails to make the beat 'em up experience all that compelling. Disclosure: This game was reviewed using downloadable code provided by the publisher.
  4. Marcus Estrada

    Akiba's Trip Screenshot 3

    From the album: Review Images

  5. Marcus Estrada

    Akiba's Trip Screenshot 2

    From the album: Review Images

  6. Marcus Estrada

    Akiba's Trip Screenshot 1

    From the album: Review Images

  7. The Senran Kagura series is fairly well known as of late thanks to its very in-your-face sexualized cast. In years past a fighting game like this might have never made it West but digital distribution has helped a lot. With Senran Kagura Burst on 3DS and Senran Kagura Shinovi Versus on the way to Vita, it appears that there“s nothing to slow XSEED Games down. However, in the strangest move yet, the publisher announced that Senran Kagura: Bon Appetit would also arrive in North America. Bon Appetit is not a fighting game as the rest are. Instead, it is a rhythm and music game that also relates to cooking because it can. Characters effectively “fight” against one another by cooking food in an Iron Chef-style contest. Players control how good or bad the final product is by their talent with pressing buttons to the rhythm. As a whole cooking battle scene goes on, you must simply watch the bottom of the screen as button prompts scroll across. This is a very standard music game although it does require use of all face buttons on the Vita. There are multiple difficulty settings to select so newbies as well as players looking for a challenge will be able to play. The easy mode is very easy but even hard mode doesn“t appear as challenging as some other rhythm games get. Of course, this is just my impression after playing the one demo song available. So where“s the expected Senran Kagura “charm”? At multiple points during the song there are breaks to see how well players are doing. The character doing worse off will have an item of clothing unceremoniously ripped from their body because that makes total sense in a kitchen environment (not). Anyway, by the end one player tends to be left naked aside from an apron and the camera will revel in their loss and, well, their CG anime body. Obviously, this is a game with a specific audience in mind. Those who do not mind, enjoy, or find large jiggling body parts humorous will probably have no issue with playing Bon Appetit. The music itself seems nice enough and related to cooking although it“s sung in Japanese, not English. When characters aren“t being rudely deprived of their garments the graphics are also charming as the characters prepare their fantastic meals. Still, there“s no way to ignore Senran Kagura“s main feature which is showcasing its lady-filled cast in various states of undress as much as humanly possible. Senran Kagura: Bon Appetit is set for launch on Vita for Winter.
  8. Marcus Estrada

    Akiba's Trip Screenshot 2

    From the album: Marcus's Album

  9. Marcus Estrada

    Akiba's Trip Screenshot 1

    From the album: Marcus's Album

  10. Have you ever wanted to visit Japan“s famed “electric town” Akihabara? This gamer paradise has been shown in both films and anime but Akiba“s Trip: Undead & Undressed is one of the few games to use it as the backdrop. As the story goes, Akihabara is filled with vampires but no one can really tell because geeks are super pasty and weird anyway. You just happen to have a magical smartphone that can detect the presence of vampires by taking photos. Once discovered, you confront them, strip their clothes off, and watch as they fry in the sunlight. Yeah, it“s pretty weird. Of course, the vampires don“t just let you steal all their clothes. They fight back with whatever weapons are available. Players have a high, mid, and low attack which correlate to attacking their hat, shirt, and pants. Once an item has been worn down enough your character can then rip it off. You don“t have to go vampire hunting alone, though. An AI partner can come along and fight as well as help launch a special strip attack. These are far stronger moves that leave vampires with only their underwear, effectively skipping the need to concentrate on the three clothing bits. Anything that comes off a vampire is yours to keep. If you want to wear some of their old clothes then go ahead! The same holds true for their weapons. Fans, manga magazines, and more constitute some of the weaponry. As for clothes it appears there“s a huge variety of options. One more unusual bit of customization on display was walk animations. You can go so far as to make the main character walk and run with his arms flailing madly about if you like. As players progress through the story they will also receive e-mails and Pitter updates from characters. The e-mails are a fun addition and you can even receive junk mail. Pitter, as you might guess, is a play on Twitter“s “microblogging” service so it“s filled mostly with silliness. There are also a few mini games to mess with when not on the prowl for vampires. Akiba“s Trip is both amusing and a social commentary but the demo didn“t showcase any story segments. Because of this, it“s impossible to judge if the story will make the experience of discovering, attacking, and stripping vampires worthwhile or not. As it stands, the concept seemed much more entertaining than the execution. PS3 and Vita owners can get their hands on Akiba“s Trip: Undead & Undressed later this year.
  11. Marcus Estrada

    Story of Seasons Screenshot 2

    From the album: Marcus's Album

  12. Marcus Estrada

    Story of Seasons Screenshot 1

    From the album: Marcus's Album

  13. Marcus Estrada

    E3 2014: Hands-On With Story of Seasons

    So, in case you missed it, there were some very strange things happening in Harvest Moon land lately. XSEED Games gained the rights to publish the next known Harvest Moon game but under a new name - Story of Seasons. Natsume“s Japanese team got to work creating a brand new game and will brand it as Harvest Moon: The Lost Valley. Our impressions were decidedly perplexed on that game, but Story of Seasons is the old Harvest Moon gameplay fans know and love. In the E3 demo players are guided through a brief tutorial of the game“s functions. First, players are told to harvest some crops. After doing this, or giving up, they can move on to the next task. You quickly learn how to brush animals, although only animals with fur can be brushed. That means chickens are out of the equation. After a little bit of farm prep, you get to check out character customization. Now, the demo only let players choose the boy, but both a boy and girl lead character will be available, as is expected in modern Harvest Moon games. In any case, every bit of clothing was unlocked which led to lots of fashionable (or not) choices. You could customize everything from the farmer“s hair to glasses, clothes, and the like. Even though farming and mingling with NPCs is the main appeal of the series there is always fun to be had getting dressed up. Unfortunately, there was very little else to the demo. After all, how much do you really need to play to realize this is another great 3DS farming sim? The name might be different but Story of Seasons is the next “real” title in the long line of Harvest Moon. However, after playing The Lost Valley, I did recognize some issues inherent in the existing franchise. For one, you still have to finagle a lot with inventory. For example, at one point I sheared an alpaca. To do this I first had to equip the clippers from a menu. Once equipped, my character lined up with the alpaca and got cutting. Then I had to unequip the clippers to pick up the fur. If I wanted to go and milk a cow or shear another animal then the correct item would need to be equipped again. It“s weird how Natsume were able to suddenly target and address this issue with their new game but Harvest Moon proper continues down this path. Story of Seasons is coming to 3DS later this year.