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Found 328 results

  1. Let's start the Dark Souls 3 madness for the night! Be sure to tune in on Twitch for the poorly timed rolling fun! https://www.twitch.tv/royzoga123
  2. Well, I've killed the first Lord of Cinder in Dark Souls 3 but I wonder what's next? Come find out on Twitch https://www.twitch.tv/royzoga123
  3. I'm Guessing 9 Deaths tonight in Dark Souls 3 but we'll see! Be sure to stop by the Twitch stream and find out! https://www.twitch.tv/royzoga123
  4. Time for more Pyre goodness! Tune in on Twitch for the new game from the creators of Bastion and Transistor https://www.twitch.tv/royzoga123
  5. 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.
  6. Jonathan Higgins

    Review: Creepy Castle

    Developer: Dopterra Publisher: Nicalis Platform: PC Release Date: October 31, 2016 ESRB: Not rated (Everyone recommended) As I make my way through a game for review, my mind can“t help but draw comparisons. It“s folly, I admit; and I“ve spent most of my years in the industry trying to suppress these initial instincts. Every once and awhile, I run into something whose contemporaries are so few, that I find myself grasping at straws... using words like “quirky” and “obtuse” to describe mechanics and premises therein. When a game“s Kickstarter used buzzwords like “one-of-a-kind” to describe itself, I figured it“d make a conscious effort to be different. I never imagined the list of contemporaries I“d come up with to describe what something “feels like” overall would be... a list of just one. And what“s more, Kaeru no Tame ni Kane wa Naru — known as “The Frog For Whom the Bell Tolls” in English — isn“t exactly familiar to the masses. But, that“s the way it goes sometimes. I suppose Creepy Castle really is “quirky” if the only real contemporary it has is something only found on a Japanese Game Boy. I typically layer my writing, addressing presentation-related fodder first and foremost. But I think it“s important to follow calling a game “quirky” with describing precisely how. So it goes: Have you ever played a side-scrolling game that doesn“t have a jump button? The fundamental level design treats gaps or spaces elevated by just a single square as obstacles that must be conquered through further exploration. You“ll see a thing that“s just out of your reach, and have to go around and try to approach it from another side or angle. Getting to the end of most scenarios involves a fairly linear progression. But there“s some degree of puzzle-solving in the environments you traverse, even before we get to battling proper. See those hearts and the different battle styles in the screenshots above? In my mind, Creepy Castle lifts the concept of “dueling” from The Frog For Whom the Bell Tolls. If it were made twenty years ago, the player character would just approach his or her enemy, mash a button to swat at it and take away one of its hearts, then usually get a heart taken away on their side in retaliation. Use food to recover your health after a duel... then rinse and repeat until the game is won. The Game Boy game I“ve drawn comparison to focuses far more on its writing and level design than its combat. But Creepy Castle takes things a step further, in an effort to highlight battling just as much as its writing and levels. Indeed, you“ll have several instances where you“ll just mindlessly swat each other back and forth. But many passing turns feature reflex-based instances to spice up fighting a bit. There are numerous types of duels (and optional, readable tutorials describe each of them in detail, as you come across them). The player might gain the upper-hand in battle by pressing the action button at precisely the right time, when prompted. Some turns may have you press a specific sequence of buttons as shown. There are even duels against mechanized or robotic foes that make you solve brief, timed “pipe puzzles” during your turn, where you rotate bits of a path to make things connect. There“s a lot of variance to combat; that helps things feel a little less repetitive overall. As I use the word “quirky” for the last time: Creepy Castle“s fundamentals amount to somewhat linear, puzzle-focused side-scrolling exploration plus a myriad of reflex-dependent combat styles. Apply these two elements to a basic turn-based RPG structure where experience is found in dungeons instead of gained through fighting, and you have... a quirky thing that could keep the interest a good handful of you, but may turn away folks who prefer movement and exploration in general to feel less restricted. There are four main “scenarios” that focus on specific characters. You'll start off with just “Creepy Castle”, the main story that teaches you — a wandering moth warrior — everything you need to know about the various types of duels and exploring you“ll be up to. Finish that, and you“ll get a sort of Part II in “Ghostly Mystery”. Apart from the main story are two side-bits that intertwine with the plot. “The Depths” is a sort of Great Cave Offensive contrast to the first mode“s linear approach. It even warns that maps are so big, additional loading time may be required, and it definitely stretches your brain a whole lot more than the two scenarios before it! Lastly, there is “Due Exaltation,” where design philosophy borrows a page from Xeodrifter and has you piloting a spaceship to explore multiple planets. Each beaten scenario unlocks “Free Play” where you can go through them as any character you like, without story or constraints — Special Guest Characters are numerous. And consistent with other Nicalis games like 1,001 Spikes, the roster borrows from their own library of published games, and well outside of it, too. On top of all that, there“s a Bestiary, a place to see every piece of gathered “Lore” you“ve read throughout each journey, Achievements, and lots more. For its relatively simple aesthetic and execution, Creepy Castle is definitely packed full of content. Last but absolutely not least — if you lack the reflexes required for intense dueling... there is an “Accessibility Mode” that you can toggle on and off at your leisure from the title screen. It“s not an Easy Mode or something hand-holdy, so much as it“s designed to make everything reflex-oriented about the whole package less physically demanding, for players who might lack (or not prefer) a quick reaction time. Your experience will not suffer as a result of turning this mode on or off. As refreshing as these multiple modes and additional content collectively feel, Creepy Castle is not without is flaws. I may be a dunce... but I saw no means to sort the items you collect throughout the game, so scrolling to the one I needed got kind of vexing a time or two. And while a map function exists, it felt more limiting than it should have been in my opinion — especially in “The Depths.” A means to see where unopened chests, doors, and other relevant things on the map are would have made a decent romp even better, or less frustrating. The biggest gripe I have, though, involves “Ghostly Mystery.” You play it from start to finish as one character, and then you unlock a second part of it... which forces you to retread the exact same dungeons and re-fight the exact same enemies and bosses as a different character, before ultimately seeing through to a new ending. In a game that otherwise doesn“t feel too repetitive, that was definitely jarring. My time with Creepy Castle was consistent with the overall tone it elicits: fun, humorous and adventurous, with occasional dark bits. Its cast of characters is charming, its music and sounds are excellent accents to the experience. Its environments are perplexing in (mostly) the best ways, and... there are heaps of content and customization options to make the experience feel more personalized to you, too. If its premise appeals to you, know that this is a good game made great by the level of care and attention put into it. You may have some gripes like I did, and maybe some bits of dialogue or stylistic choices might bounce right off you. But if you give it a chance, I“m confident you“ll have fun overall. Pros + You don't see this type of combat in an RPG every day. Rather than mindlessly mashing buttons, your reflexes will often be tested + Multiple modes most multiple types of level design. You can explore creepy castles at your leisure, or go to other planets, or explore wide open spaces. + There's an "Accessibility Mode" that accommodates players of all skill levels, allowing anyone to enjoy the full experience. Cons - A whole section of the game amounts to repeating entire levels, even fighting the same enemies and bosses..for additional content tacked onto the end. Definite misstep. - The map and inventory are arguably hard to manage, without minor annoyances. Overall Score: 8 (out of 10) Great Creepy Castle features combat that's more reflex-based than mundane, and level design that's more puzzle-focused than action-oriented. Collectively, it may offer something unique to traditional RPG fans. Disclosure: This game was reviewed using downloadable code provided by the publisher
  7. Developer: Spike Chunsoft Publisher: Aksys Games Platform: PS Vita Release Date: July 26, 2016 ESRB: E for Everyone Shiren the Wanderer is sort of like the great granddaddy of roguelike dungeon crawlers that only a select few actually remember by name. I imagine people are likely aware of its many "Mystery Dungeon" offshoots, such as Pokemon: Super Mystery Dungeon, or maybe even the Final Fantasy-themed Chocobo's Mysterious Dungeon, but not poor ol' Shiren himself. I can't really blame people either as actual localized Shiren titles have been far and few between over the years. Either way, out of seemingly sheer randomness, we are blessed by Aksys with Shiren the Wanderer: The Tower of Fortune and the Dice of Fate on Vita. Though originally a former (and Japan-only) Nintendo DS title, the enhanced Vita release of the fifth main entry proves that the time-worn adventurer still has more than a few worthwhile tricks to survive even now. The pretense in this title is rather brief, but to the point -- refreshingly so. Veteran wanderer, Shiren, and his talking ferret companion wind up in a foreign land with whole new problems. In his newest adventure, Shiren finds himself wanting to help a local townsfolk, Jirokichi, who is adamant on changing the cruel fate of his dying friend. In order to do so, however, Shiren and Jirokichi have to literally challenge the god of destiny by climbing the Tower of Fortune and collecting the dice of fate. Hence the wordy, but surprisingly accurate, game title. Right at the start, Shiren the Wanderer: The Tower of Fortune and the Dice of Fate comes off immediately as charming. It pulls off an old-school RPG charm and feels completely earnest about it. Everything from the simple, but well-realized, 2D aesthetic to the brief, but cute, main story just feels right at home with releases many console generations past. This certainly helps as Tower of Fortune has no problem being quite mean and "old school" in regards to challenging gameplay as well. As the case goes for Mystery Dungeon releases, specifically Shiren, combat is turn-based and dungeons are random. Basically every action, or step, Shiren takes constitutes as a turn making the entire roguelike flow feel very methodical. Also part of the signature roguelike formula is a rule where when Shiren dies, all of the money and held items he had are lost. It is a very harsh consequence, and honestly, you will die more than you succeed, especially early in. That said, Shiren does quite a few things to help you mitigate it. Roguelike shenanigans will occasionally deal an unfair hand (...or many consecutively), but most of it can actually be offset by preparation or coming to understand the many small nuances within its gameplay. And I do truly mean many. Thankfully, most key gameplay naunces are explained rather well through the many optional, but insightful, tutorials. Aspects like knowing matching gear sets give you buffs, how to synthesize gear to carry over valuable skills from various items, learning how to deal with many tricky enemy types, or that you can't read helpful ability scrolls at night time without proper lighting seem small but can make all the difference when trying survive. And, contrary to the series' standard rules, you can even prevent the loss of gear if you cough up some cash "plate" them in advance, which will have them appear in a Lost and Found after death. Tower of Fortune is also one of those games that starts out very basic, yet continues and continues to open up as you uncover its many layers. Beyond standard dungeon exploration, just taking a stroll around the various towns throughout will lead to unraveling the surprisingly breadth to the game: such as a point based shop that rewards players for stepping on switches mid-dungeon, finding companions to fight at your side, the ability craft/name entirely new items, heck, there are even several minigames -- one of which is essentially Minesweeper. Players can also dabble with online functionality as well, like requesting revives from other players or being one to help those in need. Though, I think it is an absolute crime that co-op multiplayer is delegated to local ad-hoc only. Still, the gameplay is just dense in ways one would not expect. This applies the most in the post-main story content. I personally beat the main story in about twenty hours (I feel like it would have been a fair bit less if it were not for some harsh lessons...), and the post game is more than likely to double that for more hardcore adventurers. There are so many optional sidequests and dungeons that unlock after the main story that it is honestly absurd in both the amount of time you can throw at it and difficulty in trying to surpass them. Granted, for as much fun as I have had with the main story, I did get discouraged considering how strict certain optional dungeons were, such as increased hunger rates and lack of recruitable companions, and how much more reliant the were on luck they felt like. But I'm sure more seasoned adventures can prove me wrong with the right setup. So, what is one to make of a of Mystery Dungeon series? Let alone the fifth entry? Well, if anything, Shiren the Wanderer: The Tower of Fortune and the Dice of Fate absolutely relishes in series' pedigree. It embraces the harsher, yet addictive, qualities of roguelikes and goes above and beyond.with its surprisingly charm and gameplay nuance. All in all, while it does not deviate from too far from an established formula, it makes a fine example of why it does not need to. Pros + Genuine old school RPG charm from the ground up + Simple, yet quite addictive, dungeon-crawling formula with a very deceptive amount of depth underneath + Rewarding structure that allows players to mitagate most of the harsher gameplay aspects with smart preparation + Absurdly huge amount of post game content that can keep players occupied for quite a while Cons - Roguelike shenanigans is certainly in place and skill can not always compensate for really bad luck - The consequence of dying is still quite harsh and can be rather off putting for those not used to the "Mystery Dungeon" formula Overall Score: 8 (out of 10) Great Rich with charm and surprising depth Shiren the Wanderer: The Tower of Fortune and the Dice of Fate is likely to captivate many fans of roguelike dungeon crawlers Disclosure: This game was reviewed using downloadable Vita code provided by the publisher.
  8. Developer: Gust Corporation Publisher: Koei-Tecmo Platform: Vita Release Date: January 19, 2016 ESRB: T for Teen Another year, another Atelier game. Except... not exactly. It was not until fairly recently that Atelier Sophie was announced (and with a June release date as well). So, before Atelier Sophie was confirmed, I was facing a very serious existential problem as an Atelier fan. Much like an alchemist needs a cauldron to start crafting, I need a new Atelier game to start my year otherwise everything feels off (maybe not true, but I was not about to find out). In order to avoid such a tragic fate, I decided to shift my gaze towards the enhanced port of a former PS3 release with Atelier Escha & Logy Plus: Alchemists of the Dusk Sky on Vita, purely in the hopes of satiating my yearly Atelier fix. Now, admittedly, I have already reviewed the original release of Atelier Escha & Logy back on PS3. Quite in-depth, I might add (maybe too in-depth...). Because of this, rather than inadvertently writing the same review twice, I will focus on what is new to Atelier Escha & Logy Plus and with the context of having played its sequel (and the final part of the "Dusk" trilogy) Atelier Shallie last year. Next to nothing has changed in regards to storytelling. The player still chooses between two alchemist protagonists at the start with either Escha (pink-hair) or Logy (white-hair) as they work together to bring the dwindling R&D division of the town Colseit back on track. Since I chose Escha my prior playthrough I decided to try out Logy's side for Plus. Which, despite some minor variations in cutscenes, endings, and in-game objectives, are quite similar overall. Even my opinion of the gameplay systems remain just about the same. The combat and deep alchemy mechanics are still fun and addictive, but a second playthrough easily solidified my thoughts on the game's overall limiting mission progression and lackluster storytelling events that propel them. What is new to the Plus version primarily comes in the form of new character events, costumes, and including all former DLC in the game by default. Most are not substantial on their own but add minor variety to the moment to moment gameplay. For instance, you can play dress-up by tossing cat ears on Logy, play former DLC only party members (as well as one entirely new character unique to Plus), and swap between (almost) any of the in-game music with tracks from many Gust games, which I certainly welcomed on my second playthrough... especially the cat ears on Logy part. I think the bullet point feature that they added specifically for Plus is how you can change the context of Escha and Logy's relationship. In the original their relationship was completely platonic, almost strangely so, and now there are scenes that give the player a choice to add more romantic undertones over time or remain the same. These scenes are very inconsequential at large (and don't really change any of the endings either), but I suppose the option is there for those that found their prior relationship weird and want more cutscenes between the two. Generally minor additions aside, the more pressing question is probably comtemplating how well does this port hold up compared to it on PS3. And, for the most part, the answer is decently well. It sacrifices a stable framerate in combat (which can be pretty choppy for flashier attack animations), however both the visuals and generally quick load times are faithful to its PS3 counterpart. There are a couple of oddities specific to Plus however. For example, some formally dubbed scenes on PS3 are not dubbed in the Vita version, while at the same time some of the new scenes are actually dubbed, which is kind of surprising. My best bet is that this was probably some file size balancing act (since the Japanese dub is a free separate download altogether), even if it came off as strange to me nonetheless. At the end of the day, Atelier Escha & Logy Plus does very little to change its inherent identity. Everything from the strength in its gameplay mechanics to its weaknesses in the awkward structure and flat storytelling/characters. There is certainly more content-wise in Atelier Escha & Logy Plus, but on the technical spectrum it may also be less desirable if one is particularly picky about framerate. Which, in all honesty, will only bring the question of which platform one would prefer to play it on since the new content is not that substantial (though generally welcome), and both versions being comparable enough. I still feel just about the exact same about Atelier Escha & Logy overall even with the Plus iteration. It is certainly a good title, with a solid port to boot, but it also has become that much more apparent to me that Atelier Escha & Logy is a stepping stone for what I found to be an ultimately better game, which is Atelier Shallie. Pros + Fairly faithful port of the original game + Includes all of the DLC by default from extra playable characters to the modifiable in-game soundtrack(s) + Lots of costumes and a few new story events Cons: - Framerate issues are quite noticeable in combat - Odd removal of English dub in previously voiced scenes - Still basically the same game, so... I stick by most of my original criticisms Overall Score: 7 (out of 10) Good A faithful port with a couple of neat perks included, but as a whole Atelier Escha & Logy Plus: Alchemists of the Dusk Sky serves as little more than another means to play the title than an actual genuine refinement. Disclosure: This game was reviewed using downloadable Vita code provided by the publisher.
  9. WildCardCorsair

    Review: Megadimension Neptunia VII

    Developer: Compile Heart, Idea Factory Publisher: Idea Factory International Platform: PlayStation 4 Release Date: February 2, 2016 ESRB: Teen Megadimension… that isn“t right, is it? It“s some strange error on the box, much like Resident Evil Revelaitons (sic)? Well as much as it might seem like that, it actually isn“t. The longstanding ”Hyperdimension“ moniker is dropped for the first time in the series (no, Hyperdevotion Noire, you loner, you don“t count.) I guess it kinda makes sense, though? Like those mega bundles, Megadimension Neptunia is sorta three games in one. Why sorta? Well, all the different worlds are connected plot wise, but they are also not immediately connected to each other, meaning you can“t travel between them as you see fit. On one hand, I feel like Megadimension Neptunia VII tries to give us the series“s most complex plot yet. Which hey, I can totally appreciate. The first “game” takes us to the Zerodimension. A world on the brink of collapse, populated by a sole CPU. So naturally most of the game“s chief characters aren“t available. Thankfully this amounts to basically a prologue of sorts, but the problem of having access to the characters we“ve come to know and love. However, once the Zerodimension prologue is over, the problem is hardly fixed, cause immediately after you“re thrust into one of four “mini episodes” that limits you to certain small groups of characters. So yeah, we have a more complex plot that revolves around something other than an allegory about how piracy ruins video games, but at the cost of 40+ hours of the game limiting you to three characters at most at a time. In a game that revolves around personified video game consoles, was anyone looking for that kind of depth, especially at the cost of running around Gamindustri having to repeat the same levels among different groups of characters? Indeed they were not, says I. Other than that, the new characters from Gold Third, B-sha (Bandai Namco), C-sha (Capcom), S-sha (Square/Square Enix), and K-sha (Konami), are all cool additions with hilarious side stories based on the history of the companies they represent. So, like the plot, the combat system sees some added complexity as well. Mechanics that have evolved slowly in the Re:Birth games are all but turned on their head here. The previous title, Re;birth 3: V Generation ditched SP, adding it to the EXE gauge. Well the two are separate once again, but that isn“t the only change. This time around the EXE gauge actually resets between battles, meaning that you can“t spam attacks until it“s full and save that bad boy and say “Make my day.” All Clint Eastwood style when a wannabe tough guy rolls around. The basic nature of attack chains have also changed, somewhat for the better, somewhat for worse. Megadimension still features three different attack types, but because enemies no longer have a guard gauge, “Break,” as it existed previously, is replaced with an attack type that“s simply a mix of the other two. How you set combo attacks has changed as well. Before, each attack in the combo had a point value, but this time around weapons determine how many combo attacks can be set for characters. It“s a confusing change as the original combo system remained largely the same for many of the previous titles, and quite frankly I felt like I“d just woken up in an alternate dimension after seeing it. As time went on I started to like it more though, as choosing a weapon based not only on its damage value and attack area, but how it affects the combo system, injects more strategy into the game at the cost of the set-it-and-forget-it ease of combos in games past. Furthering the changes to combat system, Combo Traits make the order of attacks in the combo matter as each attack has criteria for additional damage based on your previous attacks. This makes certain attacks more useful in conjunction with others so you are encouraged to experiment and change them often, which certainly beats the old strategy of “find the one that hurts the bad dude the most and use it three/four times in a row.” But the changes hardly stop there. A key feature added to the game revolves around the ability to break parts off bad dudes like Beatrix Kiddo at the House of Blue Leaves. Early on it isn“t explained much but most tougher enemies and bosses have destructible bits that can break off if you attack them from a certain angle. You“ll want to experiment with this anyway since in this game characters“ positions actually affect how much damage you deal, but hitting them just right can actually net you cool stuff, and in some cases is even required if you don“t want to spend all day on a boss that might as well be a 'Sham Wow.' I“m pretty sure this was meant to replace enemies“ guard gauges but it ends up being more practical and rewarding than the old system ever was. The Formation system has also seen big changes. Just like positioning can enhance damage and break parks, you“ll also have to specifically position your team to unleash an F-Skill. Basically all these changes make for the most strategic combat in a Neptunia game yet, which I personally appreciate, for for plot reasons mentioned above, you won“t get to experience much of it until much later in game. Oh, and there“s this new thing called NEXT forms for the main CPUs, which are about as much of an afterthought mechanically as this mention of them is. On the subject of what hasn“t changed. Well. There“s no easy way to say this. Get ready to see the same areas that have inexplicably been around forever. Again. And again. And again. You get the idea. The Re;Birth games have received a lot of flak (from myself included) for reusing so many assets but those were developed back-to-back with little time for implementing feedback, and even if they hadn“t been, their status as remakes don“t lend themselves much to the possibility for drastic changes anyway. With Megadimension Neptunia VII that excuse simply does not exist. While there are plenty of new enemy models, the same old repeat offenders rear their tired faces yet again in this title. The running gags surrounding Arfoire“s frequent opposition are as tired at this point as actually fighting Arfoire several times a game for the last 145,179 games. Ok, maybe it only feels like there“s been that many, but seriously. Can we give Arfoire a break? For the love of all that is holy? Even a self aware joke about how tedious your mid-boss fights are don“t excuse them after this many games. Hashtag sadface. Look, I“ve been asking for change in these games since I started reviewing them, but this is like one of those freaky Twilight Zone, Stephen King, M. Night Shyamalan type things where I have all the time in the world but my glasses break while I come home and my family is eating the pie meant to curse an old gypsy and it turns out I was dead the whole time. Basically, "be careful what you wish for" should be a huge sticker on the front of this box because reviewers and fans alike have been asking for changes and we got them… but not for what we“d hoped. Done-to-death elements like much of the music, dungeons, and recurring boss battles are still beating that same dead horsebird. I“m surprised there“s anything left of that poor horse-birdy to be honest. And breaking up the game into a series of “episodes” with limited character selection for much of the game is a pretty baffling decision if you ask me. The changes that have been made though, actually make this title the most strategic and challenging that the series has seen in a long time. And let“s face it, if your game is known for 1) self referential, third-wall-breaking, and gaming industry humor, and 2) gameplay, there is absolutely nothing wrong with strengthening the weaker of the two. Just be careful what you lose along the way, and more importantly the changes maybe you should be focusing on a little more. Pros: + Trademark Neptunia series humor is back! + Huge overhauls to equipment and combat greatly reward players for strategy and planning Cons: - Still many repetitive boss fights and reused dungeons - Disjointed narrative removes many of the characters from use for too much of the game - Bath scenes. Plural. Why? That“s all I“m saying. Overall Score: 6.5 (out of 10) Decent Megadimension Neptunia VII may have the least confusing title in the series, but changes to combat and lack of changes in other areas may still confuse players. Disclosure: This game was reviewed using downloadable code provided by the publisher
  10. Developer: Experience Inc/Team Muramasa Publisher: Nis America/Experience Inc. Platform: Vita/Xbox One Release Date: April 26, 2016 ESRB: T for Teen This review is based on the PS Vita version of the game It is sort of easy to use Etrian Odyssey games as the catchall example for recent handheld first-person dungeon-crawlers. Which, in all fairness, they are held in high regard for a reason. Still, the Vita has managed to sneak in a few solid, though admittedly often fanservice-y, titles of their own on the often overlooked library. My own personal favorite dungeon-crawler of the batch was Experience Inc's Vita release, Demon Gaze. It managed to be surprisingly approachable as a game for a subgenre that is often steeped in archaic design, as well being fairly dense with audio and visual personality. So, as soon I heard about a new title from Experience Inc. called Stranger of Sword City, I was on-board to check it out. That said, boarding planes seems to be a bad idea in accordance to the lore of this game. This is because planes have a tendency to disappear from the modern world that we know of and crash-land into a new, and harsh, world that this title is based off of. Those that survive such abnormal plane crashes tend to become regarded as "Strangers," as they often possess abilities stronger than those that naturally inhabit the land. So, after some crazy old man tries to kill you and a lady in a school-girl outfit saves you by decapitating monsters, the player character eventually finds themselves in "Sword City." It's basically a sanction for Strangers because they are in high-demand for their combat prowess and can easily find work. The most common work for Strangers is hunting powerful foes known as "Blood Lineages" in various dangerous labyrinths. Even though the art style could not be more different... well, for the one art style that matters (there are technically two to choose from), Stranger of Sword City strongly feels like a spiritual successor to Demon Gaze. If the directly lifted assets such as certain audio effects did not tip one off, some of the familiar dungeon motifs will. Not that either aspect were by any means bad, far from it, it is just that I got around to finishing Demon Gaze recently so it certainly stood out. Thankfully, Stranger of Sword City manages to not only distinguish itself but it also refines upon Demon Gaze in many ways. For one, Stranger of Sword City is much more challenging on the standard difficulty. The biggest factor for this is through the threat of permanent death (except the lead, though they can be injured.). This may sound like a contrived mechanic in nature but it actually smartly encourages the use of different party formations rather than forcibly sticking to one party through thick and thin like most in the genre. It works even more because inactive party members gain experience (unlike Demon Gaze...), and you can simply try something different with another character while others are knocked out and recovering, or... replace "vanished" characters (i.e. dead.). Like most good first-person dungeon crawlers, customization is a strong component of the experience. Creating characters and allocating stats from scratch D&D style are all there and then some. What is different from Demon Gaze in particular is that you can reclass characters, like Final Fantasy Tactics, and transfer skills. While it is unlikely that you will fully level multiple classes to complete the game, it can be hugely beneficial to steal some early abilities and transfer them to one's likely primary class for that character. For instance, I made my main character a tanky Knight. But, before committing her to the would-be Knight profession, I had her learn the Counter skill from the Fighter class, which I found very valuable for someone who's destined to get attacked so often. In addition to the abilities you get from various classes, you can also gain unique abilities from the various faction leaders in the main story. By giving "blood crystals" that you get from killing the "Lineage" bosses, you get the choice to earn powerful skills that consume "morale," which will be the key to survival against tougher encounters. Of course, with something as ominous of a name as "blood crystals," this mechanic helps decide the fate of the world in a classic Shin Megami Tensei style (with some obvious Law, Chaos, and Neutral narrative counterparts) based on which leader you favor too. Unfortunately, neither the characters or the storytelling seem to be very deep (or as philosophical as SMT tends to be), but it is still is a neat concept and a fun take on skill trees. Though it has its unique elements, Stranger of Sword City just plain feels like an all-around solid title. What it lacks in likely budget (considering some familiar Demon Gaze dungeon themes) it makes up for in the developer's clear experience with the subgenre. Useful tools one should expect modern dungeon-crawlers like the ability auto-move to places you've been, various clean interface options of combat, and the satisfaction of learning the lay of the land are all certainly there. I even dig the original art style and music (though, you do have to option to make it more... anime, with the less detailed character portraits and adding a vocaloid accompaniment to the soundtrack, if you so choose so.). Most importantly, however, the moment to moment dungeon-crawling is enjoyable and addictive despite its fairly mean, old school feeling difficulty at times. Perhaps the most annoying aspect that Stranger of Sword City even has is the varying requirements to encounter certain "Lineage" enemies. Many of the requirements are inoffensive with their scripted events associated with them, like carrying an item on you that they like, paying attention to shopkeep rumors, or simply going far enough into a dungeon to stumble upon them. That said, the most obnoxious Lineage types tend to be entirely luck-based to encounter when you are "hiding". While the "hiding" mechanic itself is cool, as it is the primary means to getting random loot as you ambush enemies in specific parts of dungeons, having to rely on luck in order to have the chance to encounter the boss you want to find is far less compelling (especially since defeating them is required for the main progression.). Stranger of Sword City is one of those bizarre games where I actually don't really have many strong criticisms against it. It generally sets out and achieves what it intends to do with an addictive, well-made first-person dungeon-crawling formula that also allows for a lot of party flexibility. The game is certainly challenging, and sometimes the progression can be needlessly obtuse, but that often comes with the subgenre's territory. At the end of the day, if you want an enjoyable first-person dungeon-crawler without too many unnecessary frills, or possibly an improved spiritual successor to Demon Gaze, then Stranger of Sword City is a great example to check out. Pros: + Rewarding character progression that allows for a lot of control over your party composition + Addictive, well-made dungeon crawling gameplay +Provides a satisfying challenge despite the threat of character permadeath + Great (original) character art and solid music + Shin Megami Tensei-ish approach to endings Cons: - Some entirely recycled assets from Demon Gaze from sound effects to even certain dungeon motifs - Encountering certain "Lineage" bosses is basically random, which can needlessly slow down progress - Main story/characters are unremarkable Overall Score: 8 (out of 10) Great Stranger of Sword City does not attempt to reinvent first-person dungeon-crawlers by any means, but it manages to stand out amongst others in the genre with the sharp execution of its addictive gameplay. Disclosure: This game was reviewed using downloadable Vita code provided by the publisher.
  11. Jason Clement

    Review: Mario & Luigi: Paper Jam

    Developer: Alpha Dream Publisher: Nintendo Platform: 3DS Release Date: January 20, 2015 ESRB: E for Everyone Despite the Mario & Luigi series being well over 13 years old at this point, it's surprising how its core formula hasn't changed much, and it's not at all tired just yet. This is likely because each entry generally makes use of a new gameplay gimmick or situation that helps each game feel a bit more unique. Case in point - Mario & Luigi: Paper Jam sees the titular brothers teaming up with Paper Mario this time around after Luigi accidentally knocks over a special book that unleashes the latter character's world into their own. Initially, the story addresses the issue of the main characters suddenly having doubles of themselves, often to comedic effect. And where there's two of everything, that means there are also two Bowsers and two Peaches for them to kidnap. Overall, the writing is fairly well-written and consistently funny; it's evident that among the two current ongoing Mario RPG series, Mario & Luigi is the one that hasn't quite lost its edge in that department yet. The big shakeup to the gameplay this time around comes with the addition of Paper Mario as the third wheel of the group. While Mario and Luigi's collaborative Bro Attacks make their usual return, Paper Mario adds a bit more of a different flavor to the battle as you can make multiple copies of himself (up to 6) to increase the amount of attacks and damage he can make. If he gets hit, he'll lose copies, though you can restore them throughout the course of the battle. And due to having three characters in the party, you'll also be able to choose between Mario and Luigi's traditional Bro Attacks and new Trio Attacks that utilize all three characters at once, offering a slew of options to choose from and making battles that much more interesting. Paper Jam has the best battle system out of all the Mario and Luigi games yet, and possibly even the Mario RPG series at large. Boss battles in particular feel deep, satisfying, and challenging, thanks in part to a system that focuses on learning and avoiding enemies' attack patterns and using their own attacks against them. In fact, some of them are so challenging that this is probably the first Mario & Luigi game where I've lost different boss battles multiple times before finally beating them. Also new is a card system that activates different support bonuses during battles, potentially giving you an extra hand when circumstances are looking particularly dire. One of the more divisive parts of the game are the areas in which you must find a number of Paper Toads before progressing - effectively, Paper Toad hunts. I didn't mind these segments as they do diversify the ways you go about acquiring the toads -- sometimes you have to search them out and other times you might play a minigame, do a stealth segment, or have to fight enemies. More often than not, I found these sections fairly entertaining. However, finding those Paper Toads leads to an important plot point - Papercraft battles. These battles are fairly interesting and play very differently from the rest of the game. You're pitted in an arena where you'll have to defeat all other Papercraft enemies, which you do by ramming into them from behind and then tossing your Mario Papercraft at them to inflict damage. There really isn't too much strategy to them beyond that and learning to time when you throw your Papercraft, they do add subtle changes to make them a bit more complicated in each subsequent round throughout the game. Paper Jam also looks visually impressive, with great-looking environments and locations that meld elements of Paper Mario's world with that of Mario and Luigi's. It's easily the best-looking of the entire M&L series. And once again, Yoko Shimomura returns to compose the pleasant and whimsical tunes the series is known for. At five entries strong, the Mario & Luigi series shows almost no signs of slowing down. Paper Jam is the best entry since Bowser's Inside Story, and possibly the best overall (time will tell). Bringing the Mario & Luigi world together with Paper Mario was a clever concept that served to introduce some interesting mechanics and make the battle system even deeper. However, despite the inclusion of Paper Mario, this is still very much a Mario & Luigi game; don't expect tons of neat paper mechanics worked into the gameplay outside of battles. Otherwise, Paper Jam holds up magnificently as one of the best in the series. Pros + Best, deepest battle system yet + Paper Mario is a great and an important reason why the battle system is so + good + Visually pretty + Good, humorous writing Cons - Story doesn't venture outside usual Bowser kidnapping (even w/ the paper twist) - Collecting Toads might get old for some people Overall Score: 9 out of 10 Fantastic Mario & Luigi: Paper Jam is a fantastic new addition to the series, and easily one of the best Mario RPGs overall. Disclosure: This game was reviewed using downloadable code provided by the publisher
  12. There's been an awakening... have you felt it? If not, you probably missed the biggest news of the day - Star Wars: The Force Awakens is getting the LEGO treatment! Read on to find out more about it as well as news on a new Humble Bundle, the weekly PlayStation Store update, and more. The Force Awakens within LEGO Star Wars in June Although it technically leaked last night, Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment revealed today that a new LEGO Star Wars is indeed in development and will chronicle the events in Star Wars: The Force Awakens. Interestingly enough, it will also contain material that bridges the gap between Return of the Jedi and TFA. Perhaps they'll be adapting material from the Star Wars Aftermath book? We'll see when the game releases on every video game platform on June 28. SEGA bringing 7th Dragon III Code: VFD to 3DS in North America SEGA seems to be on fire as of late with their announcements. Not only are they bringing over SEGA 3D Classics Collection and Valkyria Chronicles Remaster, but they just announced that 7th Dragon III Code: VFD will be coming to 3DS in North America this Summer. If you follow the RPG scene pretty closely, this is a pretty big one that many North American fans did not think would ever get localized, so this is definitely exciting news. For more details about the game, hit the source link below. Source: SEGA Blog New Humble Bundle Offers Ubisoft Games The Humble Bundle is back and this time it's offering... Ubisoft games? Actually, this is easily one of the strongest Humble Bundle offerings so far, with the initial tier offering some pretty good games. I can't even imagine what they'll still add to that list as well. Here's what's in the bundle so far: $1+ Tier Call of Juarez: Gunslinger Grow Home Rayman Origins Beat the Average ($6.69 as of this writing) Far Cry 3 Tom Clancy's Splinter Cell: Blacklist Assassin's Creed Chronicles: China (additional unannounced titles) $15+ Tier Assassin's Creed: Rogue The Crew $75+ Tier Tom Clancy's The Division (pre-order) Exclusive Tom Clancy's The Division T-shirt Coupon for 66% off up to any three Ubisoft titles in the Humble Store Source: Humble Bundle PlayStation Store Update 2/2/16 Edition Some fairly notable titles debuting today, not the least of which is Gravity Rush Remastered, the PS4 version of the previously Vita-only exclusive. Other fairly big titles include Bandai Namco's Digimon Story: Cyber Sleuth, Idea Factory's Megadimension Neptunia VII, and indie hit Crypt of the Necrodancer. Here's the full list of games out on PSN this week: PS4 AIPD - $9.99 Albedo: Eyes from Outer Space - $14.99 Amazing Discovers In Outer Space - $11.99 Crypt of the Necrodancer - $14.99 Gravity Rush Remastered - $29.99 Gravity Rush Remastered Original Soundtrack - $11.99 Megadimension Neptunia VII - $59.99 Nitroplus Blasterz: Heroines Infinite Duel - $39.99 Not a Hero - $12.99 PS3 Nitroplus Blasterz: Heroines Infinite Duel - $29.99 PS Vita Crypt of the Necrodancer - $14.99 Letter Quest Remastered - $8.99 Royal Defense - $5.99 Some fairly decent sales are going on right now as well. Check out the full list over at the PlayStation Blog source link below. Source: PlayStation Blog What are your thoughts on LEGO Star Wars: The Force Awakens, 7th Dragon III Code: VFD? And will you be buying the newest Humble Bundle or any games on the PlayStation Store this week? Let us know in the comments below!
  13. Developer: Nihon Falcom Publisher: XSEED Games Platform: PS Vita, PS3 Release Date: December 22, 2015 ESRB: T for Teen To say it is surprising that not one -- but two -- The Legend of Heroes games got localized in 2015 is more than an understatement. It was a miracle in itself that extremely patient RPG fans of the original 2011 PSP release, The Legend of Heroes: Trails in the Sky, got its nightmarishly hard-to-localize sequel, Trails in the Sky: Second Chapter, after a four-year wait from its original debut. But then XSEED managed to pleasantly surprise series fans even more by starting to localize Japan's most current trilogy to the series: Trails of Cold Steel (which I actually imported because of how convinced I was we wouldn't see it localized anytime soon). The point is, XSEED Games paved the path for Trails of Cold Steel despite all likely expectations. Trails of Cold Steel diverges from its The Legend of Heroes predecessors in a lot of ways. For one, it completely omits 2D sprite work in favor of complete 3D. Another key difference is the setting. Opposed to the mercenary-ish and on-the-road "Bracer" lifestyle that was featured in Trails in the Sky, Trails of Cold Steel often takes place in a military academy... that is basically a high school. It technically resides within the same world as Trails in the Sky (and the unlocalized Zero/Ao no Kiseki), however, both the main story and primary cast of Trails of Cold Steel are quite self-contained from previous games, minus a few noteworthy cameos here and there. The narrative itself starts off on the first day of school at the prestigious Thors Military Academy. Opposed to a normal first day of classes, the lead character Rean, and other distinctly red-uniformed individuals, are dropped into Class VII. Quite literally, as a brief introduction turns into a trial-by-fire and surprise trip through a monster-infested underground facility. After some begrudging alliances through the ordeal, and awkward introductions, the students learn that Class VII was made to test the combat aptitude of "ARCUS" units, and does not divide it members by social class or background. Though given the option to back out, Rean and the others decide stick around to see what Class VII has in store. The actual curriculum of Class VII tends to be divided between school life and the "field studies" to other towns and cities every month. As for the school life in Trails of Cold Steel, it's very reminiscent of titles like Persona 3 & 4, as it was clearly influenced by them. There are "bonds", which are basically P3/P4 social links, that flesh out party members in addition to progressing combat perk unlocks. Even beyond bonds, the great localization helps make the members of Class VII stand out throughout and become surprisingly likable in the long haul, though their early narrative moments may suggest otherwise. Rean can also do odd jobs for the student council that are basically sidequests within the town of Trista. The sidequests themselves tend to be nothing too special but there is an oddly homely sense of world-building that it creates for its denizens by doing unique, but minor tasks. Then there are field studies which are when the rest of the gameplay elements usually come into play. Day to day Class VII gets a set of tasks to complete during their trip, somewhat similar to Rean's student council stuff, that range from investigation, simple monster slaying, or hearing out the woes of random citizens. Exposition may often be at the forefront of Trail of Cold Steel but the combat, character customization, heck, even the occasional mini game are rock solid. Much of the basic combat refines upon systems that were introduced in previous The Legend of Heroes titles, yet are frankly more enjoyable in Cold Steel. The turn-based combat is smart and relies on both positioning and learning to manipulate turn phases to one's advantage. The flexible "Orbament" system also returns and allows players to slot "quartz" skills to grant a character many different abilities and stat bonuses primarily in combat, and lends to fairly versatile party compositions. What unfortunately cripples Trails of Cold Steel the most is its pacing. Trails in the Sky fans likely know it comes with the territory for a series that loves its character development and world-building (going as far as to place multiple optional short novels to causally read about some of it). However, there is an unnecessary slowness for even that. As much as I like the writing, which is outright dense with personality, it can certainly feel unnecessarily long-winded in most contexts. There are plenty of main story scenes that have no problem with going at-length for casual character banter or in-depth about the current political landscape. Which would be fine if the overarching main story did not basically take more than half the game to kick in to actually justify it. The presentation also faces growing pains with this newest entry. Neither the environments or character models look particularly impressive. The characters models in particular are disappointing compared to their key concept art, with their stiff animations and awkward mouth flaps, making me wish me wish they took the Atelier Shalie route with models that complement it. Though, Falcom does tend to prefer being functional gameplay-wise over showing off visually, the Vita release in particular suffers from noticeable technical quirks. There is an occasionally erratic framerate that rears its ugly head when traversing certain towns and noticeable frequent load times for Vita. To go back to pacing, there is also an odd obsession with lengthy environment pans that bogs down the presentation too. As with Falcom tradition the soundtrack the JDK band whips up has some awesome rock battle themes, though admittedly, most other parts of the soundtrack don't particularly stand out. The more pleasant surprise about the audio is actually the surprisingly fitting English dub. It is honestly a shame that more of the game is not dubbed, because of how noticeably absent it is during certain story scenes (very likely because of budget). This is coming from someone whom often times turns off the dub outright in many Japanese RPGs. As numerous as its changes may be, Trails of Cold Steel certainly has the heart of recent The Legend of Heroes titles. The military academy setting did seem like a recipe for disappointment (and shameless pandering), but the charming script and surprisingly likable cast defy initial expectations over time. Unfortunately, at the same time, the unnecessarily slow pace for both its gameplay and storytelling, and occasional technical grievance on Vita, prevent Trails of Cold Steel from reaching greatness. Though it is a promising debut for Class VII, one can only hope that the upcoming sequel capitalizes upon what is built up so strongly in Trails of Cold Steel. Pros: + Well-written script and cast of characters that have a lot of personality + Good turn-based combat system with flexible mechanics + Lots of detail towards its world-building + Sweet battle themes and solid English dub Cons: - Pacing is very slow at times - Rather underwhelming 3D visuals overall - Occasional technical problems on Vita Overall Score: 7.5 (out of 10) Good Trails of Cold Steel is a promising debut for the newest The Legend of Heroes series from its characters and in-depth world, but remains just shy of greatness during the inconsistently paced path towards it. Disclosure: This game was reviewed using downloadable Vita code provided by the publisher
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