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Found 138 results

  1. Marcus Estrada

    The Last Story Launch Screenshot 3

    From the album: The Last Story

  2. Marcus Estrada

    The Last Story Launch Screenshot 2

    From the album: The Last Story

  3. Marcus Estrada

    The Last Story Launch Screenshot 1

    From the album: The Last Story

  4. Marshall Henderson

    Review: Way of the Samurai 4

    Developer: Acquire Publisher: XSeed Platform: PS3 (PSN) ESRB: M for Mature Release Date: Out Now In the world of games, there is a schism. A dividing line separates, both in style and culture, the East and the West, through differing ideologies and philosophies going into design and story. Way of the Samurai 4 embodies this; the mechanics of the East call upon the influence of the West, while its narrative shows peoples of the two cultures finding their way to deal with the coexistence. Foreign influence is creeping in, through the narrative and the design. Unfortunately, as every cracked history book on any library shelf will tell us, the confluence of cultures never comes easy. It“s a tumultuous time in Japan. Western influence descends like a mist unto Japan“s culture, and the effect is polarizing. For some, it“s an absolute adherence to the old ways, ignoring so-called Western innovation for tradition. For others, the British visitors represent the world of tomorrow. In Way of the Samurai 4, players create their own samurai to decide the fate of Amihara and its three factions: The shogunate, the anti-government rebels, or the British Navy. Given that there are ten unique endings, however, it“s not so simple as choosing one of the three. A wayward decision, whether it“s dialogue, combat, or inaction, at any of the major plot points, starting minutes in, can decide the tide of the entire story. As a staple of the series, the player“s choices have evolved a great deal. Dialogue options, historically separated into an affirmation, a negation, and information, have expanded to include more in-depth information-gathering, as well as the ability to interject into someone else“s dialogue to speak with them, other people in the room, or even oneself to decide actions or fill out a scenario more. Unfortunately, with the exception of agreeing or disagreeing to a course of action, or deciding to leave an event to maybe return later, there“s very little actual agency here. The “best” ending requires extremely precise and specific actions, but very few of the other eight endings have meaningful dialogue choices, seeming to lack any meaningful impact. Ultimately, this ends up feeling feeling more cosmetic than contributive. It“s like a layer of paint slapped onto a house already a few layers thick; the curb appeal may be significantly improved, but it doesn“t hold up under any form of scrutiny. Scrutiny is also no friend to the aesthetic of Amihara. Character models lack any sense of particular realism or even stylization, appearing to be similar to early PlayStation 3 titles. While they aren“t necessarily bad, they do have a sort of dead look that isn“t particularly endearing. Area designs are fairly true to life, with traditional Japanese architecture that looks good, but unfortunately pretty bland. When the player travels to the foreign district, the architecture becomes the much more ornate British style. Fortunately, Way of the Samurai 4 doesn“t build its narrative as its backbone. Customization, and its wacky sense of humor, are the primary mission statements in this installment. Players can initially choose between three different faces, getting saddled with the default robe and a sword. During the playthrough, players are able to buy new decorations -- aesthetic items like umbrella hats or drinking gourds -- as well as new clothes. The clothes do nothing more than add a bit of uniqueness to the player“s character, but the selection is vast, and mixing-and-matching is possible, so finding one“s own look can be very gratifying. Once the player completes a playthrough, they receive points measuring their “samurai-ness.” The player can spend these points on buying certain sorts of upgrades, increased difficulty levels, skills such as dual-wielding, as well as different appearance options, such as sex, skin-tone, and body type. Samurai often believed their weapons an extension of themselves, so it only makes sense that the sense of personalization would extend to the player“s weapon. Players can craft both swords and spears, if they have a blade, a guard, and a grip. There is a huge variety of these parts, from the bamboo shinai to things like kodachi, nodachi, normal katana, or European straight swords, all of which can be mixed and matched, so long as they are appropriate to the sword or spear category. Any time the player collects a weapon, from killing enemies or culled from when other players“ characters enter one“s own world via “Crossroads Killing,” they can break it down at the blacksmith to gain its constituent parts, then reforge those into a different weapon. The parts contain their own stats, as well as unique stats that, when combined in a specific way, can grant special bonuses to the amount of money the player finds. Outside of that, the blacksmith, like in Way of the Samurai 3, can upgrade weapons“ durability and attack. Once forged, a blade must then be tested in combat. Way of the Samurai 4 follows in the trend of the series, allowing for different stances and variety in combat, but it is, of course, expanded from the previous games. Sword, spear, gun, and hand-to-hand combat styles can be used for defeating enemies, and, with the exception of guns, each can be used in a non-lethal manner. Each weapon has a variety of styles associated, utilizing different stances, and further, different techniques within a stance. No more is it the “Chudan Style” versus “Jodan” or anything of that sort. Instead, there is a stance that uses the stances as their starting position, but each style utilizes a different array of techniques from that stance. Combat can be somewhat awkward, especially without a reliable way to switch targets, but with styles that level and grow with usage, and the sheer number of different styles, it feels versatile and compelling. If no one style is particularly satisfactory, it is, of course, possible to invent one“s own style, once certain conditions are met. This entails choosing a base stance, then selecting techniques from every technique one has mastered that uses the stance. It is possible to just blanket-copy an entire style, which is useful if one wishes to mix and match different stances to switch between in combat. When a player has forged and named their own sword, and goes into battle with their own style, there definitely is a sense of owning that character. Creating a style can be very tedious to do, unless copying another style, and, while the requirements for creating a style are explained, the methods for fulfilling them are not. The series has always encouraged multiple playthroughs, but Way of the Samurai 4 very literally molds its world around the concept. The new “Proof of Life” system causes events from one playthrough to affect each one after. If the player chooses to destroy a casino, for example, it will no longer exist next playthrough. If a mission to open an English school is successful, players can understand British citizens in the foreign district. Killing people in one playthrough may result in more security the next time around. In order to get what is supposed to be the “best” ending, players will have to play through multiple times to make sure the world is shaped in just such a way that events will roll out in a specific way. In this way, there is a definite sense of being a participant in the world. Perhaps the most egregious of all the flaws are the simple technical issues, however. Clipping is an absolute fact of life in Way of the Samurai 4. Dead enemies will stick into walls, seizing. Dropped items will fall into walls or unbreakable objects and become lost forever. Character movements in cutscenes are rigid, puppet-like movements that create a frequently jarring uncanny valley effect. Worst of all, the framerate often drops for seemingly no reason. Large-scale combat may run smoothly, then Way of the Samurai 4 will languish at the strain of rendering a person walking away from a conversation. It isn“t frequent enough to break one“s ability to play, but it can become irritating fast. Way of the Samurai 4 has short playthroughs, is thick with content, and has combat and customization that are beautifully integrated. That degree of customization of every part of the character, as well as the world-changing, but direction “choice” afforded players is very Western, and fits well with the theme of the Westerners and brokering of peace with Japan. Unfortunately, Way of the Samurai doesn“t quite hold up on this. A $40 price tag on a PlayStation Network title like this is simply asking too much. The weak narrative, circumstantial sense of player agency, and unacceptable bugs show that the peace between the two ideologies still needs some work. Maybe Way of the Samurai 4 isn“t the one to create that peace. Perhaps by trying, though, it at least opened that door. Pros: + Interesting, diverse combat + Massive amounts of customization + Western and Japanese development interesting Cons: - Player feels detached from the narrative - Technically unimpressive - Wheedling bugs Overall Score: 5.5 (Out of 10) Average Way of the Samurai 4 can be addictive and fun, but ultimately, it just isn't fulfilling.
  5. Marcus Estrada

    Ragnarok Odyssey Mercenary Edition

    From the album: Ragnarok Odyssey

  6. Marcus Estrada

    Ragnarok Odyssey Screenshot 5

    From the album: Ragnarok Odyssey

  7. Marcus Estrada

    Ragnarok Odyssey Screenshot 4

    From the album: Ragnarok Odyssey

  8. Marcus Estrada

    Ragnarok Odyssey Screenshot 3

    From the album: Ragnarok Odyssey

  9. Marcus Estrada

    Ragnarok Odyssey Screenshot 2

    From the album: Ragnarok Odyssey

  10. Marcus Estrada

    Ragnarok Odyssey Screenshot 1

    From the album: Ragnarok Odyssey

  11. XSEED is making the purchase of a copy of The Last Story more and more worthwhile. Last month, they first announced that all first print copies of the JRPG will be a special limited edition. This limited edition includes a 44-page softcover art book that comes in a custom outer box. Now, those who specifically pre-order will be getting another bonus. This pre-order gift is a soundtrack CD that features seven tracks by famed composer, Nobuo Uematsu, from The Last Story. The cover of the CD and slip are rather pretty, too! Confirmed retailers that will offer the pre-order bonus so far are Amazon, GameStop, and EB Games Canada. The long-awaited Mistwalker game will be available for purchase on its newly announced release date of August 14th. It's not too long now, folks! What do you think of this pre-order bonus for The Last Story? Will you be reserving a copy?
  12. Marcus Estrada

    Review: Unchained Blades

    Developer: FuRyu Publisher: XSEED Games Platform: PSP (PSN) ESRB: T for Teen Release Date: Out now Are you a fan of JRPGs? Is dungeon-crawling your thing? If so, you've probably taken a look at Unchained Blades. It's the latest title published by XSEED Games and certainly looks appealing. The digital-only title may be one of the last few games of its genre on the PSP so this ticking clock on the system probably also interests gamers in it. The question now is if the game is worth your time or if some other first-person dungeon crawler will suffice. In Unchained Blades you start off as Fang, an impossibly powerful dragon. Fang and his posse storm the home of the goddess Clunea and demand to find the strongest opponent possible in order to best them. However, due to Fang's supreme brashness, the goddess instead turns you back into a mere human teenager. Goodbye awesome powers! Then the game finally begins as you are forced to retrain Fang and grow alongside partners. As far as the story goes, it's a bit more interesting than the boilerplate fare, but you won't get to see it as often as you like. The bulk of the game is of course exploring dungeons floor after floor. Interactions with other characters are often amusing, but few and far between. Every so often, character dialogue is fully voiced, but you might be hoping it wasn't. Aside from the lead character, most everyone else seems to have lackluster voice acting. It's a shame that this is the case because it really ruins the delivery of an otherwise decent story. Since story isn't really at the forefront of Unchained Blades let's get into discussion of the game itself. This might take a while as it brings a lot to the idea of simply beating up enemies as you wander around. You've probably played some form of first-person dungeon crawler before. This is the kind of game where you are typically traversing hallways, not wandering freely. You start out with a blank map and simply progress around by going left, right, up, and down and fill out your map while encountering enemies along the way. There are a handful of simple puzzles which require you to find keys, levers, and buttons to progress, but mostly it's very standard. Where Unchained Blades changes up the formula is with the feature called "Unchain." It was important enough to be a part of the title because it is the thing which makes the game stand out from others. The Unchain ability is one which allows you to occasionally grab an enemy monster and bring it onto your team. When you are able to do it is somewhat randomized, but usually occurs when an enemy has less than half their HP left. If your characters have enough charisma though, they may be able to Unchain something right at the start of a battle. What do you do with the enemies you will soon be collecting? They're predictably brought back into the fight. Each of your party characters (Masters) can carry up to four Followers. Followers cannot be controlled directly but they are necessary. They will often perform follow up attacks with their Master, as well as block attacks if they care for the character they're assigned to. Just because you have a gaggle of used-to-be enemies under your control doesn't mean they'll instantly love you. After battles or upon visits to the town, these monsters will sometimes talk to their Masters and ask them questions. These questions are mostly goofy and sometimes not even questions at all but all require a response. You've only got a set of responses to answer with, and if you choose the wrong one the Follower will become unhappy. Thankfully, there are always a couple "right" answers but it's impossible to know what they are from the start. Many times the answers you expect to work won't at all. However, as there are only a handful of questions to be asked you'll eventually be able to memorize them, or simply not care at all and just select the same response every time. Although the game instructs you about these segments, it doesn't explain much of the intricacy of it. If you pay attention, you'll soon realize that each Follower has a specific trait assigned to them (Ex: sexy, rowdy, calm) which is what the "right" answer choices are actually based on. Of course, you'd never know that from the game telling you about it. It's also not possible to check these traits while being asked a question, so it's up to you to remember what that specific Follower would react positively to. While initially the questions are entertaining and odd they quickly become a tiresome event that you wish you could just skip entirely. Why does it really matter if your Followers like you or not? Well, like previously described, it will effect how willing they are to take a blow for you. Beyond that though, selecting the right answers will help increase your Charisma. Charisma is another interesting addition to this game which is something that is leveled up separately from the typical traits. The higher the Charisma rank, the more enemies you'll be able to quickly Unchain as well as allow you to assign stronger Followers. Thankfully, if you do well in battles you don't have to worry about possibly screwing up each and every question that Followers will ask of you. Doing well in battle also nets all Masters some Charisma. Unfortunately, you aren't always going to be gaining points after a battle. Each fight has points tallied up based on things like how long the fight takes and how much damage characters sustain. If you're not careful, a long and painful battle might result in characters actually losing points. Getting away from Charisma now, there is also a main leveling up system. This system isn't as simply assigning points to strength, intelligence, and whatnot on a menu. Instead you're presented with a Skill Map interface similar to the Sphere Grid in Final Fantasy X. You start off in a small section and may choose the route you wish to go when leveling up your character. Everything from upgrading character health to gaining new skills is in this mode. It's simply a matter of working your way over to the appropriate circle to gain it. Sometimes you will come across what the game calls a Judgment Battle. This mode is one of the strangest in the game. What it does is pit all your Followers against a set number of enemies. They simply brawl while you occasionally tap indicated directional buttons to keep your team doing well. Unfortunately, exactly how to win these battles is never defined in the tutorials. It might seem like simply having a full roster of Followers who are happy might do the trick but not at all. What turns out to be the case is that Followers with higher costs and at maxed experience will be incredibly helpful. Even if you only have a few they can often take out tons of enemies with one hit, whereas a ton of enemies not at maximum experience will be quickly destroyed. It's an annoyance to not know what exactly is necessary to beat these battles so that info should have been included. There are other intricacies to combat, like placing Masters in the front or back row and using even more powerful skills, but they aren't very divergent from what already exists in the genre. While many things about Unchained Blades initially seem neat (Unchaining and conversations with followers), they quickly become much more of a chore than they should be. Unchaining in particular is bothersome as there's no perfect way to get the opportunity to Unchain. Oftentimes you'll see the Unchain image pop up only to have one of your Master's kill off the enemy before you get the opportunity to capture it. Because accidentally defeating enemies is so prevalent, it's often hard to gather a good group of Followers to use in a Judgment Battle. Even the act of Unchaining is kind of a chore as you have to press a button at the right time to collect the enemy. If you've got no sense of timing then it just won't work out at all. If Unchaining were implemented so that it were easier to do then it would be a much more welcome feature. As it stands it is certainly neat, but practically a chore. There's a little bit of stuff to do beyond fighting enemies, but not very much. There's the ability to harvest items from dungeons and then synthesize them into weapons, armor, or potions. Predictably, there's also a quest-giver who assigns you small tasks. Beyond that though you should expect to be facing the droll dungeon walls for 90% of your time. This isn't a bad thing but it's just to let you know what kind of game you're getting into, if you didn't already know. When it comes to visual flair, there's very little to be excited about with dungeon design. The tunnel-like halls all look the same for most of your exploration and often only become interesting on higher floors. There was obviously little work done to try and create a visually stunning experience in regards to the backgrounds. However, character designs are something worth noting. Each Master was drawn by a different famous Japanese artist. Lunar series artist Toshiyuki Kuboooka, Summon Night's Shinchiro Otsuka, and others were all on hand contributing art. Each character is quite distinctive visually which just makes the lackluster design of everything else stand out more. Music in the game is nice but unfortunately you'll be hearing a lot of the same exact song over and over again. There's really only one main track per dungeon and it will just loop on and on for the many hours you're stuck in it. After a while, I just muted the game completely due to the music becoming unlistenable as well as the poor voice acting performances grating on me. It's a shame that there's simply not MORE music in the game. If there were more tracks this may not have ever become an issue, because they are solid songs to begin with. Despite the new things that Unchained Blades tries to bring to the table, they are not perfectly implemented. Having a team of Followers is great when you have it, but gathering up strong enemies is a pain. Conversations and Charisma seem intriguing at first but then are a drain on your nerves within the first few hours. Basic dungeon crawling is solid and battles are tough, but beyond that you're not apt to find the game stands out as anything special. The game is certainly not broken, but it's far from a revelation. Pros: + Definitely a game that'll give you many hours of play + Followers are an interesting addition + Nice 2D art by renowned artists Cons: - Extreme amount of grinding - only hardcore fans need apply - Unchaining and maintaining followers is cumbersome - Despite tutorials, a lot is left unexplained Overall: 5.5 (Out of 10) Average Only those looking for a standard first-person dungeon crawling experience (with a few tweaks) need approach this title.
  13. Marcus Estrada

    Unchained Blades Fang

    From the album: Review Images

  14. Marcus Estrada

    Unchained Blades Skill Map

    From the album: Review Images

  15. Marcus Estrada

    Unchained Blades Battle

    From the album: Review Images

  16. Marcus Estrada

    Unchained Blades Cutscene

    From the album: Review Images

  17. Marcus Estrada

    Unchained Blades Dungeon Exploration

    From the album: Review Images

  18. Marcus Estrada

    Way of the Samurai 4 Screenshot 5

    From the album: Way of the Samurai 4

  19. Marcus Estrada

    Way of the Samurai 4 Screenshot 4

    From the album: Way of the Samurai 4

  20. Marcus Estrada

    Way of the Samurai 4 Screenshot 3

    From the album: Way of the Samurai 4

  21. Marcus Estrada

    Way of the Samurai 4 Screenshot 2

    From the album: Way of the Samurai 4

  22. Marcus Estrada

    Way of the Samurai 4 Screenshot 1

    From the album: Way of the Samurai 4

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