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Found 46 results

  1. barrel

    Review: Tokyo Xanadu EX+

    Developer: Falcom Publisher: Aksys Games Platform: PS4 Release Date: December 8, 2017 ESRB: T for Teen It has not been that long since the Vita release of the action-RPG Tokyo Xanadu -- a slick-looking game for Sony's portable system that tried to serve as a departure from Falcom’s signature series like The Legend of Heroes and Ys titles. If anything, Tokyo Xanadu felt like a confluence of both of Falcom’s key franchises with a modern day setting and more distinctly “anime” take. The enhanced version on PS4 named Tokyo Xanadu EX+ boasts much in the way of newly added content and enhanced visuals but is it really worth the envy of impulsive players of the original? In terms of fundamentals, Tokyo Xanadu EX+ is largely familiar to its handheld predecessor. From the episodic style of anime storytelling to the dungeon crawling and occasional social aspects both in and out of school, the heart of Tokyo Xanadu EX+ remains the same. How it wears its recent Persona game influence (4 especially) on its sleeve remains quite prevalent as well. Frankly, my recommendation remains steadfast that one should just play something like Persona 3-5 before getting to something so clearly derivative of that series yet not nearly as good. Heck, the title is not even Falcom's A-game either when recent Ys games have better combat systems and The Legend of Heroes has much stronger characters and storytelling. For those curious as to what Tokyo Xanadu EX+ has to offer, there's a surprising amount compared to what its predecessor offered and it's safe to say that it's the definitive version of the game. What is actually new seems to stem out from various attempts at re-balancing and dispersing new content here and there between the main story. Enemies and bosses are noticeably more aggressive to counter the player’s newly added combat tools, enhanced 60 fps fidelity, and more responsive controls. For example, the mechanic "X-Drive", which used to be a temporary stat/regen buff on Vita, does that as well as summon another ally to join mid-battle and spam special moves alongside the player character in EX+. The game was not particularly challenging on the standard difficulty and remains so on PS4, but it feels that much honest on PS4 because the technical side is not a point of contention anymore and the enemy AI nowhere near as sleepy. While the action-RPG gameplay itself remains fairly average with repetitive dungeon crawling and so-so storytelling, the PS4 port itself is excellent. The art direction holds up and the generally silky smooth frame rate makes it pleasing to look in motion despite more than a few bland environments/enemy models. This stood out to me all that much more after playing Xenoblade Chronicles 2 alongside with it which is far less cohesive aesthetically, and technically, in comparison. Perhaps the most likely cause of envy for those saddled with the Vita release is the many new story scenes. After every chapter, there is a new narrative interlude generally focused on a specific character and ends with a short dungeon trek. Unfortunately, most extra chapters are barely worth mentioning except for the ones centered on the most intriguing character of the main narrative named "White Shroud" which gives players a neat taste of endgame combat early in. Speaking of which, if there is one aspect truly worth the spite of Vita-only owners, it is the endgame "After Story" chapter. Taking place following the main story, the After Story starts rather cute with a Halloween theme and heartwarming interpersonal sidequests. Though, that goodwill is later ruined by the lengthy grind of extra dungeons that introduce next to nothing new along a sequel tease to top it all off. Tokyo Xanadu EX+ straddles the line of being a wonderful port but also begs the question as to why did they put such effort into a game that hardly stands out as is. The PS4 version cleans up and refines the title in many subtle ways -- from extra story chapters, tightened up battle mechanics, and an enhanced presentation -- yet it still doesn't shake the overbearing feeling of Tokyo Xanadu being so thoroughly average among much better role-playing games in 2017 (even from Falcom itself.). It may be the most complete version the game has to offer though I can certainly think of more than a few PS4 RPGs more worth one's time before even giving Tokyo Xanadu EX+ a passing glance. Pros + Great port to PS4 from enhanced visuals to tighter combat mechanics + The "After Story" chapter is a neat addition Cons - Most extra chapters barely add anything story or gameplay-wise and feel like bloat for a game that already had way too much - Still has the fundamental problems of the original game from throwaway storytelling/characters and tedious dungeon crawling Overall Score: 5.5 (out of 10) Average Tokyo Xanadu EX+ is essentially what the original release should've been with its neat additions but still struggles to really stand out among many better role-playing game options from 2017 Disclosure: This game was reviewed using downloadable PS4 code provided by the publisher.
  2. barrel

    Review: Nights of Azure

    Developer: Gust Corporation Publisher: Koei-Tecmo Platform: PS4 Release Date: March 29, 2016 ESRB: T for Teen Gust Corporation is definitely a creature of habit. Not that that it is necessarily a bad thing. I mean, I generally enjoy my near-yearly dosage of addictive item-crafting madness that comes from various Atelier titles, as well playing the few and far between successors to the music-centric role-playing-game: Ar Tonelico. It is just that, well, there is not much on their resume except for those types of RPGs. This is why their newest localized title, Nights of Azure, ends up feeling like a surprise from Gust. For one, it is pure action-RPG when they have pretty much only made turn-based RPGs (let's pretend that Ar Tonelico Qoga's combat system does not exist when I say that...). Second, it is a title that plays around with an intentionally darker setting. If you have seen any of the media for this game, it'll likely bring the relationship of the two heroines into question. Which, to answer the question in advance: Yes, the main characters Arnice and Lilysse are in-fact a couple... sorta. And. surprisingly, their intimate relationship is not done in a tasteless fanservice-y way, as it often feels like subtext than anything else. Anyway, the reason for their close relationship has a lot of do with the setting. Many years ago the "Nightlord" was slayed by the First Saint. But, in the Nightlord's moment of death, he also caused the world to be irrevocably changed by raining his blood upon the land and causing the "Eternal Night". The blue blood that the Nightlord emitted caused much of what it touched to turn into demonic fiends and also allows the Nightlord himself to be revived at regular intervals. So, the player assumes control of the newest Knight, or Agent, of church-like organization called the Curia by the name of Arnice. Arnice is tasked with killing fiends (possibly the Nightlord himself) and to also protect the Saint's successor, Lilysse, who can possibly delay the revival of the Nightlord with her sacrifice. Nights of Azure secretly feels like a successor to Atlus's PS2 Devil Summoner titles. While there is no detective work involved (or the chance to beat up a mechanical Rasputin), Arnice can summon demons, or "Sevran", to fight at her side much like Raidou Kuzunoha. Actually, for better or worse, Nights of Azure also feels like a product of the PS2 era as well. As an Action-RPG Nights of Azure feels very disjointed. That is not to say it is not fun at times. Arnice does have some flashy moves with her handful of weapons, various obtainable demon summons, and strong transformation abilities. Even a few of the late game bosses have a couple of clever gimmicks that they show off. However, the core structure more than wears out its welcome with many baffling design decisions and excessive backtracking. It also does not help that the combat is generally not deep or challenging enough to hold you over during that time. It feels like it is made by a development team without a strong grasp on how to structure an actual action-RPG. This issue surfaces in a lot of ways. One very odd design decision it has is a time limit that constantly looms overhead every time you go out, and you have to return to the main hub (a hotel) before or when it expires. There really does not seem to be a strong reasoning for it existing beyond how leveling Sevran works, since it tallies their levels when you return. This alone can lead to many tedious moments with levels if the timer expires before reaching a boss's room or sporadic stage checkpoints. Miscellaneous tasks like accepting quests to kill monsters or pick up items, or a challenge based battle arena, also don't add much to the game either. The title is at its best when it showcases new battle scenarios as well as new sevran/abilities to play with, and that is more rare (and grindy) than it should be. To add to the monotony of the level design is the necessity to revisit many areas for either main story quests or to see a new areas open up. Even though the world is apparently about to end, you are still required to do a lot of generally pointless tasks for the fairly flat supporting cast of characters. The male characters in particular basically have one shtick that almost defines their entire character, since one is obsessed with researching demons while the other is in love with money -- both are fairly annoying throughout. It is a shame because it really feels that Gust had some solid ideas in store for the setting, but no characters that are mature or deep enough to tell it. This includes the main heroines as well which don't make their development very believable despite being the key towards saving the world. It becomes even more strange as characters will casually mention very dark things in relation to the world, but without any gravity behind it. For example, one of the quests that steers towards the "best ending" implies how an entire island was set aflame by the Curia, despite having humans and demons live peacefully there. That story device almost immediately gets brushed aside like it never happened by Arnice as well as the one who said it. Still, not all of the good narrative ideas go to waste. Honestly, my favorite part of the storytelling is actually buried within several text-only short stories that you unlock. They certainly are not at the level of Lost Odyssey's fantastic "A Thousand Years of Dreams" content, but it does make Arnice's and Lilysse's relationship feel significantly more believable than how they act in the main story. Not only that, the core premise of the setting makes far more sense by simply reading the last chapter of these stories (that you unlock by beating the game the first time). Perhaps the biggest treat of the entire game is actually the soundtrack. Unsurprisingly, it has the key composers of recent Atelier games, which have setting a fairly high bar with their musical scores as of late. It does not reach the level of some of the phenomenal tracks in Ar Tonelico titles but Nights of Azure manages stand on its own. There a lot of variety from operatic pieces, jazzy themes, to the occasional Castlevania-esque rock pieces that pleasantly accompany certain bosses and stages. For the good intentions that Nights of Azure has as an action-RPG it stumbles in the most baffling ways. In raw mechanics, it would have been totally competent, but it actively finds various ways to more than wear out its welcome with excessive padding and an intrusive gameplay structure throughout. It also does not help that the storytelling and characters fall noticeably flat for a setting that actually has several neat ideas. If you can put with its many annoyances throughout Nights of Azure is a curious, albeit misguided, Action-RPG that does have some fun moments. Pros: + Fun moments in certain battles in addition to the various Sevran companions + Neat concepts are played around with for the world-building + Good soundtrack Cons: - Chapters feel deliberately padded out by having you revisit areas or to randomly obtain items multiple times - Combat is fairly shallow and is a cakewalk throughout most of the game - Generally flat writing and characters - Awkward time limit and leveling up structure Overall Score: 6 (out of 10) Decent While it makes a lot of strange missteps, from a disjointed gameplay structure and awkward storytelling, Nights of Azure is a curious and occasionally fun endeavor from Gust Corporation that has several distinct ideas as an Action-RPG. Disclosure: This game was reviewed using downloadable PS4 code provided by the publisher.
  3. barrel

    Review: Toukiden: Kiwami

    Developer: Omega Force Publisher: Koei-Tecmo Platforms: PS4, PS Vita Release Date: March 31, 2015 ESRB: T for Teen With so many Dynasty Warriors versions, spin-offs, and crossovers, it is hard to believe that Omega Force actually has the time to do anything else. Yet, last year Omega Force tried their hand among fellow "Hunting" action-RPGs with 2014's Playsation Vita exclusive Toukiden: The Age of Demons. It was firmly entrenched in ancient Japanese lore and in many ways tried to make many aspects associated with games like Monster Hunter less obtuse. Not unlike Monster Hunter, however, it has quickly seen an enhanced version for not only PS Vita but the PS4 as well with Toukiden: Kiwami. Does it earn its second welcoming or has the thrill of the hunt long since passed? Among most hunting games that actively try to distinguish themselves—Soul Sacrifice with its oppressive setting, Freedom Wars with its fast-paced mobile combat, Gods Eater Burst with its anime-like storytelling, and so on—Toukiden wears its inspiration on its sleeve the most from not only Monster Hunter but its contemporaries as well. In a normal context this would be a bad thing, but in the case of Toukiden it feels like it takes a harder look at certain clunkier flaws associated with the genre. I'm not saying such aspects don't exist in Toukiden: Kiwami, but the moment to moment gameplay can possibly be more fulfilling for those who want less opaque progression and more context to their monster slaying. The first reason for this is that there is an honest-to-goodness story mode in Toukiden. In the original release, the main narrative was a character-driven tale of the fellow hunt—I mean "Slayers" of Utakata Village as they fend off Oni for a world on its last legs. In Kiwami they nearly double the story content by including an entirely new narrative arc that takes place three months after the original's story that encompasses more of its internal lore and also introduces new faces as well. Though storytelling expectations are admittedly low for the subgenre in general, both story modes still manage to easily surpass expectations by doing a solid job at creating a localized tale that is interesting enough to kill one Oni to the next despite its predictable moments. While narrative context is certainly appreciated, the bulk of the time is spent taking down large Oni with allies in the narrative or those in online multiplayer. Because of this, it is especially difficult to not make a million comparisons to similar releases, since on a rather basic level Toukiden: Kiwami really does not really attempt to do too much different. Missions are rather typical and rarely amount to anything more complex than kill X amount of monsters or felling a boss-like Oni. It also bears mission repetition problems that are quite commonplace for the genre where you fight a few too many of the same bosses with minor alterations (or none whatsoever) to advance. But as I said before, it is not a surface-level perspective that makes Toukiden stand out among its action-RPG niche, but rather the refinements around it. Aspects that would seem like blasphemy to Monster Hunter like being able to see an enemy's health bar, having surprisingly useful single player A.I. companions, being able to revive allies, and requiring far less material farming are minor on paper but go a long way in making the title more approachable instead of being an overbearing commitment. Toukiden: Kiwami specifically makes this even more the case from having newly added powerful team attack skills or being able to send your fox-like pet "Tenko" to retrieve items during missions. This carries over to fast-paced and satisfying combat mechanics as well. There is most certainly depth to each class, and none of them feel unfit for solo play either. I found myself rather fond of one of the three newly added classes to Kiwami, rifle in particular, due to its surprisingly technical style. The rifle class has you utilize different ammo types creatively and try to trigger different effects altogether if they are fired at grenade lobs. Of course, because of its basic mission design, and combat skills being nowhere near as varied as a pure character-action game like Bayonetta 2, it can feel rather button-mashy for melee classes in particular. Which, considering Omega Force's Dynasty Warriors pedigree, is perhaps not too surprising that it falls into this "love it or hate it" pacing over time. What also helps differentiate combat are the Mitama and limb dismemberment systems. Mitama, aka the souls of fallen heroes, give players various passive skills in combat. Due to the sheer variety of Mitama, you can forge your own play style since all of them seem practical. For example, as a rifle user I found it highly valuable to use agility-based Mitama, which increased my weapon reload speed and allowed me to occasionally negate attacks. Other classes may find it more valuable to use Mitama to make it easier to dismember/purify Oni limbs, which in doing so makes it easier to deal direct damage to enemies or obtain rarer item drops. Though, like the original, limb dismemberment can be annoying since certain classes have more difficulty with it and therefore can take significantly longer to kill tougher Oni because of it. Aside from the newly added story mode and classes, there is tons to delve into in a multiplayer environment. The story modes alone are quite a bit to chew on but Oni-slaying purists can be occupied much longer if they want to tackle much tougher late-game missions for higher level gear and weapons. What is neat about both the Vita and PS4 versions is that they both feature online cross-play in addition to being able to transfer saves between the two if you happen to have both. For a former Vita release the game holds up surprisingly well visually with its transition on PS4. Certain character models may look doll-like, and some textures look rough upon close examination, but otherwise the general art direction and environments, as well as the very solid framerate, fair well despite being on far more technically proficient hardware. Also good is the soundtrack, which has a decidedly classical Japanese instrument flair but is all the more fitting because of its well-done overtures and certain boss themes. It may not distract incredibly passionate Monster Hunter 4: Ultimate fans, but for other people who haven't been able to get into more popular hunting titles (like myself) or just want to try a different flavor of it, Toukiden: Kiwami can possibly be different enough to be a preferable alternative. It has a fairly in-depth story mode, is more approachable and faster-paced from a gameplay standpoint, adds significantly more content, and it also fills the void of a complete lack of any Hunting action-RPGs on modern consoles. It may not be the most original take on the action-RPG subgenre but the cut of Toukiden: Kiwami 's jib is in the right place. Pros: + Decent story mode with nearly double the overall content from its original release + Fast-paced combat and diverse Mitama mechanics make combat, bosses in particular, satisfying + New classes, team special attacks, and bosses are welcome additions + Surprising solid visual transition from Vita with neat cross-play/cross-save functionality as well Cons: - Like most in the hunting subgenre, it suffers from some shamelessly repetitive mission design - Many classes can feel rather button-mashy over time - Limb dismemberment mechanic can be annoying Overall Score: 7 (out of 10) Good Though lacking in originality, this substantial re-release boasts a ton of content and a different, more approachable and just different enough take on the hunting subgenre for who want more context and less grinding to their monster slaying. Disclosure: This game was reviewed using downloadable PS4 code provided by the publisher.
  4. Developer: Game Arts Publisher: XSEED Games Platform: PS Vita, PS3 Release Date: April 1, 2014 ESRB: T for Teen This review is based on the Vita version of the game Fighting games may be the go-to example for iterative re-releases in videogames, but it seems like those within the “Hunting” Action-RPG subgenre have been just as guilty as of late. The Monster Hunter franchise has seen more versions/releases than you can count on both of your hands, regardless of it being only ten years old itself, and even exclusive Vita titles like last year“s Soul Sacrifice to the the fairly recent Toukiden have quickly made sequels to their prior releases. Now comes the new and supposedly improved follow-up to 2012's original Vita release Ragnarok Odyssey, which is also a loose spin-off to the classic MMORPG Ragnarok Online. Boasting entirely new content and cross-play between both PS3 and Vita, is there enough reason to take another lengthy voyage with Ragnarok Odyssey ACE? Did you play the original Ragnarok Odyssey? Well, for better or worse, that doesn't really matter either way as all players will have to play all of the missions as well the entire story mode from scratch, regardless of the their progress in the original, with minimal transfer functionality beyond importing "skill cards" for returning players. This alone should help give an idea on who this re-release is for—that being specifically for enthusiastic fans of the original or newcomers altogether. In the matter of fairness, it needs to be mentioned that the new content in this version includes new post-game bosses/quests, ACE skills, "The Tower of Yggdrasil" mode, and a few other mechanical tweaks and cosmetic additions. Unlike some of its contemporaries in the genre like Soul Sacrifice, God Eater Burst, or Toukiden, Ragnarok Odyssey Ace doesn“t really have much in the way of a direct storyline. The player can poke NPCs for occasional Norse-themed narrative context, but it really boils down to little more than being assigned to slay a specific number of monsters or big enemy bosses with occasionally humorous quips in-between. The main story mode in particular is absolutely identical to the previous release, so players are not going to see anything new until hitting post-game material with the exclusive ACE chapters, which are still rather thin for story context. What has been, and still is, Ragnarok Odyssey's primary strength is its fast-paced and mobile combat. Even now the combat system is the main difference between it and most other titles in the "Hunting" subgenre which are usually more grounded (literally and figuratively) in their slower, methodical pace. Also, while short in number count, classes have a decent variety in skills and in terms of general moveset: Assassins are nimble and focus on inflicting status ailments, Hammersmiths are slower but pack quite a punch, and Hunters fight mainly from afar. Subtle nuances like Clerics having a technical parry mechanic, or the Mage class requiring charged-based inputs mid-attack for stronger moves, also help each class play distinctly different. In the ACE release in particular, classes have been balanced out so they are more well-rounded overall. Speaking of term "ACE", one of the new gameplay furnishes of this release are "Ace Skills". In the original release there were certain abilities that a character could use by holding down the circle button and were specific to each class. ACE Skills streamlines these abilities by placing them via shortcuts, as well as having outright more of them, so they make each class more versatile and the skills themselves more viable in the midst of combat; so, in the case of the Cleric, they can draw from more healing spells as well as status increasing buffs that they couldn't before. The most substantial new addition is the newly added "Tower of Yggdrasil mode" which appears after the main story and is introduced in the new ACE chapters. Unlike a good majority of the missions of the game, which only have you kill X amount of certain enemies, this mode brings a randomly-generated dungeon component to the game. During this mode, side-objectives also spontaneously appear and upon completing them can yield tremendous, albeit brief, benefits to the player's stats and item drop rates, so the gameplay structure is more actively rewarding and interesting. Where the game buckles down—and this newest release only reemphasizes— is just about every else. My biggest complaints primarily stem with its overall gameplay flow, balance, and the lack of mission variety in general. It may sound like a weird complaint to have, but Ragnarok Odyssey's combat system does not seem to particularly suit the structure of the game. Most enemies are massive damage sponges, and generally unflinching at that, so it seems at odds with battles that are supposed to move fast. This is only more obvious as the player fights a ton of recycled enemy types and bosses through most of the chapters. For a more technical complaint, a lot of the skills come off as rather clunky due to their protracted animations, many of which can not be canceled through jumps/dashes, so bosses, for example, will get many free hits because of attacks you outright can't react to. In general, most of the combat fails to hit a sort of satisfying sense of finesse despite having decent base mechanics. Another oddity is that multiplayer isn't designed to encourage it, ironically enough, at least early in. In these type of games where you'd normally want to team up and help each other, it can actually be less practical with other players, online or locally, because the entire team shares the same three lives pool. It may not sound like a big deal at first but if you take into account stuff like the instant kill moves that many bosses have, it is not too hard to imagine one person (or more) accidentally messing up and ruining an entire team's effort rather quickly. That said, one significant improvement Ragnarok Odyssey ACE makes over its predecessor is the ability to hire CPU characters join during mission. This can be beneficial not only because CPU characters do not deplete from the player's life stock but also because they infinitely respawn and can help divide the enemy's attention (despite being dumb as bricks). Progression in general is done in a very limiting and oddly linear way. You could relish in the death cries of adorable slime or mushrooms monster all day but still won't directly get stronger as a result. You see, a character's overall base stats are mostly only increased at the end of each story mode chapter. Even the game's attempt at player customization with "skillcards" (which enhance certain skills and stats) or weapon upgrades are often times funneled generally by later game missions or rare item drops, leading to a very awkwardly formulated progression style. To not sound totally down of the game, Ragnarok Odyssey ACE is still a good-looking game in motion on the portable system. It is, of course, less impressive nowadays since little has changed visually, and because technical standouts like Tearaway and Killzone: Mercenary exist. However, there is something to be said about maintaining a colorful art direction, with charming visual quirks from time to time, and a fairly smooth presentation throughout, despite situations where the player is pitted against huge bosses or hordes of enemies, or both. Ragnarok Odyssey ACE is in many ways inoffensive in its execution, but there are so many seemingly minor chinks to its design that really add up and bog down the entire experience. By squandering its opportunity for renewal there has been very little added to the ACE release to entice many players to return except for the chosen few that have a lot of diligence to play through the exact same main story and missions again just for the sparse new content. It may have a decent core combat system and production values, but overall Ragnarok Odyssey ACE feels like it tries to serve multiple masters without really satisfying either, so it continues to leave this release mostly indistinguishable and muddled even among titles in its own subgenre. Pros: + Decent core combat mechanics with varied playable character classes + Very clean overall presentation with stylized visuals + Tower of Yggdrasil mode brings a welcome attempt at variety to the standard mission routine Cons: - Limiting character progression for most of the game -Mission design is very repetitive with a bunch of recycled enemy types throughout - Multiplayer isn't balanced in a way to actively encourage it -Save transfer functionality is woefully short for returning players - General combat lacks a sense of finesse Overall Score: 5.5 (out of 10) Average Beyond a template for a decent combat system, most will struggle to find too much staying power in this release because of the very few enhancements that are introduced in Ragnarok Odyssey Ace. Disclosure: This game was reviewed using downloadable code provided by the publisher
  5. Developer: Nihon Falcom Publisher: XSEED Games Platform: PS Vita Release Date: November 26, 2013 ESRB: T for Teen A download code was provided by the publisher for this review Founded way back in 1981, developer Falcom has a gaming influence so strong that they published one of the very first, if not arguably the very first, Japanese RPG ever with Dragon Slayer back in 1983. Of course, being the plebeian that I am, I barely found out about them only after diving into their most recent iterations and remakes of the long-running Ys series on PSP, which embodied some of the most pure action-RPGs I“ve experienced in recent memory. Continuing Falcom“s recent trend of Ys remakes, they decide to completely overhaul what is sort of the black sheep of the series, Ys IV, with the Vita release: Ys: Memories of Celceta. Bearing very little similarity to its two different and non-canonical incarnations of Ys IV, Ys: Memories of Celceta brings the core gameplay spirit of the PSP release, Ys Seven, but with a new story, setting, and characters. Ys: Memories of Celceta yet again brings the main character spotlight on Adol Christin, or the aptly nicknamed “Adol the Red". To the dismay of Adol, however, he has lost all of his memories at the game“s start after what is believed to be due to venturing too far into the forests of Celceta. In spite of that, by unconditionally helping to protect the local townsfolk, Adol proves that his combat skills aren“t nearly as rusty as his memory, and shortly thereafter is scouted by the Romun military to help out. After a short explanation, Adol is encouraged to chart and explore Celceta“s mysterious “sea of trees” for both his insatiable thrill for adventure and to help recall his lost memories, while his traveling partner, Durren, simply intends to line his pockets with gold in the process. What is particularly interesting about Memories of Celceta is that Adol feels like he has a more deliberate presence in this game through the use simple dialogue choices as well as some as some background flashbacks, rather than entirely being a mute protagonist like in most previous games. Granted, it would still be stretching it to say Adol is a defined character even in Memories of Celceta. Like a lot of Ys games, the overall storytelling will probably fade from the subconscious of most players beyond some light-hearted character exchanges and nods to other entries in the series for fans. The storytelling has some interesting ideas, but, as in Seven, the narrative scenes are more bloated than they should be, particularly early in, for both a narrative and cast that don't make a particularly lasting impression. That said, if you want in-depth storytelling from a Falcom title, you can easily turn to something like Trails in the Sky, or its wealth of currently unlocalized sequels, but when you want fun and fast-paced action-RPG gameplay- that's where Ys delivers. Celceta maintains the three-person party structure system of Ys Seven, but with minor refinements to the controls and additional skills. Combat is easy to learn, with one button relegated to normal attacks and many others for special attack shortcuts and defensive maneuvers. In addition, each character has strengths against different enemy types: like Adol with his slash attacks for grounded enemies, Durren against sturdier enemies with his blunt attacks, and Karna with her piercing attacks for aerial foes. Despite its simplicity, the tight controls, playable characters, varied enemy types, and constant progression of new skills make the general combat pretty engaging. Bosses in particular are quite a treat, due to their variety in attack patterns ,which encourage mastery of the game's mechanics, and they become quite the force to be reckoned with on higher difficulties. My favorite combat mechanics in Celceta have to be the 'Flash Guard' and 'Flash Dodge' skills. Flash guard is a perfectly timed block which completely negates enemy damage while also turning all player attacks into critical hits for a short-time, and while it is not new, it is way more functional control-wise than it was in Ys Seven. Flash Dodge is new to Ys, however, where a perfectly timed dodge makes enemies move slower and the characters temporarily invulnerable to attacks, reminiscent of Bayonetta's 'Witch Time.' You can probably get by without intentionally mastering either on the Normal or Easy difficulties but they become an absolute necessity on higher difficulties, especially against bosses, and when successfully utilized they are super satisfying to pull off. As much as I enjoy the core gameplay of Celceta, I don't feel completely the same about the structure. Since Adol needs to chart a map of Celceta, the game tries to present an open-ended structure by making it more akin to earlier Ys games, like 1/2. This doesn't completely work in Celceta, unfortunately, because progress is made in a linear fashion, like gaining new skills or obtaining party members to open-up parts of the world. This in turn, leads to some pacing issues, early in especially, because it's very easy to wander around aimlessly into one road block after another. After you get past that awkward initial hump, primarily after you gain a couple new party members, the title definitely has a more natural progression. Later on, it certainly does become tempting to check every nook and cranny for that extra treasure chest, or find Adol's optional memory cutscenes, or report to the Romun general for a lucrative reward, and the game only rewards you even more as it progresses. Still, because the meatiest game of the series, it's hard to not overlook the parts where it sort of drags it feet in terms of pacing. On a technical level, Memories of Celceta is pretty underwhelming. While it isn't offensively bad (like Valhalla Knight 3), I'd say it's less pleasing to look at than even Ys Seven. I'm sure sheer polycount will easily point towards Celceta being technically superior, with less deformed character models than Seven, but the environments and overall aesthetic are generally rather drab and usually just not interesting to look at regardless on the OLED screen. Thankfully the visuals don't really hinder the gameplay aside from when using certain equipment that allows for extremely fast traversal that causes the framerate to chug down. I'd say the same goes for the soundtrack, in comparison to the very high-caliber score of the more recent Ys remakes or Seven, which is less consistent and varied, despite its attempted musical throwbacks to IV. It's a solid score with some definite standouts, but maybe I've been too spoiled by other recent Falcom titles. Ys: Memories of Celceta is definitely a fun game as it marries tight, fast-paced Action-RPG combat, engaging design choices, and is very approachable for newcomers as well as fans. Vita owners would certainly be doing themselves quite a disservice by not at least checking it out, especially as it is unquestionably the strongest Action-RPG on the system. As a whole, however, it doesn't really move the series forward in too many meaningful ways, making it feel like a rather safe sequel without quite the heart of other recent titles. It does not represent the series at its best, but it serves it pretty well all the same. Pros: + Fun, fast-paced combat with very tight controls + Great boss fights + Flash guard and dodge mechanics are super satisfying to pull off + Biggest game in the series +Solid soundtrack Cons: - Forgettable storytelling - Lackluster presentation - Rather slow start and has some pacing issues Overall Score: 8.0 (out of 10) Great Without a doubt the best and most fun Action-RPG on Vita, but as a sequel it does little to try to overachieve its fellow brethren.
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