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  1. Developer: Meteorise Publisher: XSEED Games Platform(s): PS Vita Release Date: November 11, 2014 ESRB: M for Mature A rhythm game that focuses on cooking, food, and the girls of the Senran Kagura series? Sign me up. All these things make me as giddy as a schoolgirl, so a combination of all of them should be simply spectacular. Right? Senran Kagura Bon Appétit! is a very barebones rhythm game; the actual gameplay isn“t anything special and leaves a lot to be desired. The way that it is setup is initially somewhat confusing, but that“s simply due to a poorly designed layout. In any case, you“ll get used to it quickly enough. It“s just unfortunate how boring the gameplay is versus other rhythm games such as the Hatsune Miku: Project DIVA titles. Most of the music in Bon Appétit! is forgettable as well. This is extremely disappointing considering that this is a rhythm game and that the main Senran Kagura games have some excellent tracks. The tracklist itself is also very small. Honestly, there“s not much to say about the soundtrack at all. The more exciting parts come in-between the gameplay portions. Throughout each stage, there are three separate portions where your meal course is judged by HanzÅ. How well you perform when pressing buttons to the beat determines your score. The better you do, the better HanzÅ“s reaction. Besting your rival in that round will also strip them of some of their clothing. Be careful, though! It“s easy to become distracted by their sensual body wiggling (it“s happened to me a few times)… If you achieve a super dish at the very end, your opponent will be served to you as a delicious dessert wearing absolutely nothing. Bon Appétit!“s main selling point is obviously its nearly naked women and sexiness, as is the case with the rest of the Senran Kagura series. With food being the theme of Bon Appétit!, it assuredly takes advantage of that and combines it with said risquésituations. So, you“ll be seeing lots of images of bare-bottomed women covered with whipped cream and so forth. Like the rest of the series, this is done mostly in a satirical manner rather than in an effort to demean women. Considering the theme of Bon Appétit! and the fact that it“s a spin-off, this is driven even further to the point of absolute silliness. All of this is made even more fun with the all-important dressing room. By unlocking clothing and other items through the main game and DLC, you“ll be able to dress all the Senran Kagura girls to your heart“s desire. Absolutely adorable or daringly sexy – it“s your choice! While the Senran Kagura series is also known for its surprisingly deep and serious plot, you won“t find any of that here. It“s a rhythm game, after all! As such, the “story†of Bon Appétit! is very simple: a cooking competition is held and the grand prize is a secret ninja art scroll that can grant any wish. Our shinobi girls either want their own wishes granted or want to stop others from causing chaos with such a powerful scroll, so battles in the form of cooking ensue between them. While it is a basic premise, the writing still allows for some amusing and emotional bits, such as Katsuragi wanting to become the queen of the hooters harem. For those that can“t seem to get enough of what Bon Appétit! has to offer, there is a DLC pack available that unlocks Gessen and Hebijo characters (basically, half the roster). If you“ve purchased the Rin and DaidÅji DLC for Senran Kagura: Shinovi Versus, then they will also carry over to Bon Appétit! I hoped for a lot more from Senran Kagura Bon Appétit! Unfortunately, it gets stale very quickly in terms of gameplay. Still, thanks to life and hometown, it“s a nice little distraction for Senran Kagura fans waiting for the next big game in the series. Pros: + Dialogue/writing is still funny, emotional, and fantastic + Lots of clothing items to play dress-up with + Chock-full of sexy moments Cons: - Rhythm gameplay is boring and basic - Tracklist is small and unmemorable Overall Score: 6 (out of 10) Decent Don't expect any sort of greatness from Senran Kagura Bon Appétit! It falls flat as a rhythm game, so only hardcore Senran Kagura fans need apply. Disclosure: This game was reviewed using downloadable Vita code provided by the publisher.
  2. barrel

    Review: Soul Sacrifice

    Developer: Marvelous AQL, SCE Japan Studio, Comcept Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment Platform: Vita Release Date: April 30, 2013 ESRB: M for Mature I really like playing games on my Vita, I sincerely do. I know it's crazy talk, but I've enjoyed several games on the system beyond the multiplatform titles and ports that are easily associated with its library. The reality is though, the 3DS has been rallying a surprising amount of software support as of late, and for fair reason. Heck, Nintendo having the Monster Hunter franchise close to its chest has more or less shifted the entire handheld marketplace in Japan and has left the Vita neglected by many developers. Despite that being the case, game developer icon Keiji Inafune and his newest development team at Comcept attempt to play on Japan's very popular Monster Hunter mold via a distinct approach with Soul Sacrifice on Vita. Soul Sacrifice brings a very dark perspective to its gameplay style and setting with a faithful emphasis to its eerie name. Does it make for a worthy system savior or a fruitless sacrifice? The world of Soul Sacrifice starts off in its final toll and in a bleak, apocalyptic situation. The sky is painted forever black, the earth robbed of most of its life, and the remnants of mankind are imprisoned, awaiting their final days as sacrificial fodder for the sorcerer, Magusar, who brought the world to its current state. As a human captive, the player happens upon a mysterious talking book, who goes by Librom, in their skeletal cell and is offered a chance to change their sorry circumstance. Despite telling the player of how many have failed before them, Librom offers the ability to reclaim the power of a former sorcerer's life, and the possible strength to fight Maguasar, if they relieve the chronicles of the sorcerer's life through his pages. If anything, Soul Sacrifice should be lauded more so for its imaginatively realized setting than its actual storytelling. The main story itself is a bit heavy-handed with its themes and is rather predictable at times, however, the lore behind Soul Sacrifice and how the story is presented is actually rather interesting. Flipping through Librom's pages help paint an interesting faded novel aesthetic that is spliced with stylized animated comic strips for certain scenes. Even beyond that, players can study up on plenty of optional but pretty in-depth and well-written lore and mythology entries, with the backstories of the archfiends, or bosses, in particular being the most interesting. There is also little things like how Librom will interject during certain parts of the narrative, and throw out possible theories about what is about to happen next, humoring the player's possible lack of knowledge, that creates an interesting dynamic about how the story is presented. Even if the main story isn't very noteworthy by itself, Soul Sacrifice does certainly does go out of its way to flesh it out its setting by how it is presented for those willing to take notice. While the emphasis on sacrificing is a bit overbearing in the main story, the way it ties into gameplay is implemented in an engaging way. Everything from skills, abilities, and handling felled monsters is divided between the 'saving' and 'sacrificing' mechanics in Soul Sacrifice. In terms of narrative context, sacrificing forever embeds a creature into the sorcerer's right arm while also granting them power and saving revitalizes the creature and/or caster and gives them at a second chance at living; even if it sounds like a binary good and evil, there is a darker edge to both actions. Both sacrificing and saving in gameplay each have their perks and minuses based on player builds and battle situations, and this ties into multiplayer as well. The easiest comparison for Soul Sacrifice's core gameplay structure is certainly Monster Hunter, but it is also reminiscent of the hidden gem Phantom Dust on the original Xbox due to how skills are allocated and its overall faster and more mobile approach to gameplay. Mission structure of Soul Sacrifice is pretty straightforward where it is designed around either killing a certain amount of enemies, gathering X amount of items, or defeating large scale boss monsters. The player is also ranked at the end of each mission, which yields different offering/spell ability drops. Because of how the quests are structured in Soul Sacrifice, like many games in the 'hunting' subgenre, it leads to some very deliberate repetition. While Soul Sacrifice is faster paced/less grindy than most of its ilk when it comes to its questing, the repetition can certainly wane the enjoyment of less patient action-rpg fans who just want to enjoy the single player. Where Soul Sacrifice most impresses in gameplay is when its more unique facets come into play. Soul Sacrifice has tons of individual skills and abilities to play with, with even more to create using the fusing and combining system for new or better ones. The game also really rewards understanding the weakness of enemies or smartly timed attacks, which reflects most of the time in the midst gameplay and even post-battle grading. A smart parry with an effective shield, a well-timed 'Black Rite', or specific elemental offensive equipment that can paralyze a foe can easily control a tough battle. The difficulty and duration of many battles can easily be set based on how the player utilizes skills/offerings and the game will reward them for understanding it. Beyond standard abilities are Black Rites, which utilize powerful skills at a cost. Black Rites can easily turn the tides of a archfiend (boss) fight depending on when and how it is used. For example, do you use a Black Rite that can easily clear a map of enemies for crowd control or a separate one that allows the player bind an enemy, hopefully a boss, for an extended period of time in multiplayer so your allies can safely beat down on it. Of course, these versatile and powerful skills could also really penalize the player if they are careless and use them too early: negative effects ranging from halving their maximum defense, constantly draining health, or making you unable to see clearly for rest of the fight; so it is safe to say you should use them wisely. Speaking of multiplayer, that is easily the most desirable/satisfying means of playing Soul Sacrifice. Admittedly, you will at first want participate in multiplayer because the single player ally AI is next to useless, or in my opinion, arguably worse than soloing, but also because it creates a different layer of gameplay strategy. Some abilities like a couple of 'Black Rites' as well as standard offerings/skills are only effective in multiplayer. Also having another party member can easily remove the tension of a tough fight since they can save/revive you when you are down ... or sacrifice you because they think you are useless and want large damage on a boss and better item drops. But don't fret, even allies that seem down and out for that battle, most likely because an ally sacrificed them mid-battle (jerk, who would do that? *cough*), doesn't mean they can't help; even fallen/sacrificed allies can boost the attack of fellow allies and also decrease the defense of bosses. In general, I think the multiplayer of Soul Sacrifice is pretty fun and reflects the game at its best... or worst because of these clever extra mechanics. In terms of actual visual fidelity, Soul Sacrifice doesn't seem to be pushing the Vita hardware a whole lot. Environments in Soul Sacrifice generally rather small in scale with few exceptions and will become familiar in no time. When it comes to enemies and character models the attacks animation that accompany them are generally imaginative, even they themselves also don't push the hardware much. However, I've seen the framerate buckle down in gameplay for a couple bosses in particular and just random moments during multiplayer, but that might've been connection related for the latter. Even if I don't inherently like Soul Sacrifice's grotesque art direction, or "metal" style as some might define it, I did find myself respecting it the more I played. As mentioned previously, I think Librom's book presentation from menus to storytelling is creatively done. In addition, I like how the mind's eye, or the game's way of scanning the environment, enemies, and allies, conveys important information without deliberately telling you what is what despite using simple visual color filters. Also, in regards to battles I find myself appreciating the design for the bosses and regular enemies, which showcase several visual quirks and are rather faithful to the narrative lore written about them. If dissected technically I don't think Soul Sacrifice will impress most graphical enthusiasts, even on the vita's lovely screen, but I think it gets by with the interesting aspects of its presentation and art design. The soundtrack of Soul Sacrifice is excellent and has established videogame composer Yasunori Mitsuda at the helm, which some may recognize for his work in titles like: Chrono Trigger/Cross, Xenoblade Chronicles, and Shadow Hearts 1/2. Fitting for Soul Sacrifice, the musical compositions are dense with powerful foreboding orchestral compositions for battles to more somber and melancholic arrangements in the story sequences. The voice acting is less impressive however, with what feels like a stilted delivery for both English and Japanese, even considering the game's oppressive and dreary atmosphere. The voice work is by no means bad at the end of the day, but it is very underwhelming in terms of what the great audio the soundtrack establishes. After investing a surprising amount of time into Soul Sacrifice, I can safely say it is an interesting game to say the least. While it is tempting to label Soul Sacrifice as a dark Monster Hunter clone without any real insight, it offers a lot more than that and more than differentiates itself from the crowd. Soul Sacrifice weaves a surprisingly elaborate setting that carries over from gameplay to its storytelling devices, which most of the hunting subgenre can't honestly claim to have. Soul Sacrifice is also punctuated by fast-paced and rewarding gameplay mechanics, a very distinct art direction, and an excellent musical score. Unfortunately, it does also fall into a few of the genre's traps in regards to uninspired/repetitive quest design and enjoyment that is best served with a group in multiplayer; Also for the main story it does have it is not as realized as the intriguing written lore that sets it up. Regardless, even if Soul Sacrifice isn't likely the vita's system savior for most people, for those who really sit down and play the game they might easily find themselves something far more enjoyable than a certain other monster slaying juggernaut-- I know I did. Pros: + Creative setting that is realized in interesting ways from gameplay to storytelling + Tons of useable abilities and skills + Intriguing background narrative lore + Excellent soundtrack + Fun online multiplayer with clever additions Cons: - Repetitive quest design with little variety, more glaring in single player - Main story is a bit predictable and heavy-handed with its themes - Occasional visual stutters and framerate drops - Poor single-player ally A.I. Overall Score: 7.5 (out of 10) Good For an action-rpg subgenre that is so very stagnant, Soul Sacrifice manages to breath a surprisingly amount of life into it with the creative use of its setting and gameplay.
  3. A few weeks ago Marvelous AQL hosted a simple survey which asked people if they would buy Half Minute Hero 2 if it were released in the west. That was the only question asked and it excited some at the possibility of the game making its way over here. Siliconera took to asking the company what their plans were with the title. Unfortunately, the sequel's release is not cemented yet. Marvelous AQL producer Esteban Salazar said this about the survey: “We“re just trying to gauge interest at this point. It“s considerably more expensive to put out the sequel and we need to sell a lot more of the first game on PC to begin to justify it. The best thing fans can do to help along the sequel is encourage their friends to buy the Steam version (or buy it for them!)—something that will be a little more appealing during the holidays *hint*.” So if you're someone who is really interested in seeing Half Minute Hero 2, then you're tasked with helping spread the word. Even though the original game has been released on PSP, XBLA, and Steam, it still needs the support to continue on. Half Minute Hero will be on sale on Steam for a full 24 hours more on the last day of the Steam Autumn Sale for 40% off.
  4. Developer: Opus Publisher: Marvelous AQL Platform: PC (Steam, Playism) Release Date: September 27, 2012 ESRB: N/A (E suggested) Are you tired of games? Their plots are always begging you to save the world, or save some person, or other related tasks. Sure, some games branch out of this basic storytelling frame, but it“s easy to see that many more fall right into it. Of course, it isn“t a bad thing to save the world, but it feels like every method of doing so has already been shown. Well, unless you“re playing Half Minute Hero: Super Mega Neo Climax Ultimate Boy, where the world is in such dire straits that it will end in only 30 seconds. How is it possible to complete a game in less than a minute? Well, upon trying out the game you“ll find it isn“t quite as it seems. Starting out the game in “Hero 30”, you are a simple adventurer who is tasked with saving the world from vile Evil Lords. Each area has its own Evil Lord set on casting a spell which destroys everything in 30 seconds. Because it would be truly impossible to do anything in that amount of time, the Time Goddess lends a hand. By praying at her shrines located across maps you are able to reset the clock and continue playing. Another one of the Goddess“s powers is connected with leveling up. While most games require hours and hours of grinding, you“ve got seconds to become incredibly strong in this one. What she does is make it so that you can level up after simply one or two battles. It“s incredibly convenient, although the Goddess isn“t a pure entity. She loves money and requires you to spend it alongside praying to get time turned back. If you“re out, she“ll even help you out by giving you a “free” time reset... only to spring up on you shortly after to take all your hard-earned gear as payment, leaving you to fight naked. If you couldn't tell already, Half Minute Hero is a very goofy game; just the premise alone should reveal it as such. Every facet of the game works to be a silly adventure and makes it more enjoyable. Battles are taken care of automatically, levels go up fast, and the script helps keep you entertained in between. Although the game may seem too simple, there is more to it as you continue playing. For example, in order to fully complete a level, you“re going to have to unlock all the “titles” for it as well as beat the par time for a gold medal. Titles are given to you depending on what you do during the level and how long it takes. Breeze through a level and you“ll be given the better titles. If you instead spend a lot of time leveling up and buying items from shops, then you“ll be called a Sucky Hero. The game also keeps track of who you align with during play, what townsfolk do or don“t get helped out, and even what equipment you“ve got. These simple interactions affect what gifts you get at the end of levels as well as titles. Levels can take anywhere from under ten seconds to minutes, depending on what you choose to do in them. Starter levels have a lot less freedom of choice, but eventually they implement more possibilities as well as secrets. Sometimes the secrets are easy to find as they gleam in the light, or townsfolk tell you what they are. However, others are left as unknowns for you to discover on your own. As you“ve always got one eye on the clock, it even gets a bit hard sometimes to find everything a level has to offer in one go. There are multiple modes to the game as well in case you feel like 30 or so levels of this would get dull. These other modes are as long, but change up the main character. For example, there is Evil Lord 30 which sets you as the beautiful villain. Instead of battling enemies directly, you summon creatures to do your bidding. Similarly, there is a Princess 30 which has its own mechanics which mix side-scrolling with a twin-stick shooter. There are still more to unlock, but there“s no need to spoil them here. When starting up the game, you“ll find that it looks very cartoony. This visual mode, titled NEO Cartoon Mode, was created when Half Minute Hero came to Xbox 360, and it may appeal to those who are used to playing Flash games. If you“d prefer something else though, then I recommend opting to change visuals from the main menu. This turns the game back to the PSP original“s pixelated visuals and they better evoke the feel of the game. One plus of Retro Mode is that it comes with Evil Lord 30 and Princess 30 unlocked from the beginning, while modern visual mode doesn“t. There is even an included multiplayer mode, but at the time, it isn“t very good at pairing you with friends (or anyone for that matter). This is a shame, but the mode is basically like a larger world from single player, where everyone is trying to stop the Evil Lord first. Instead of letting you easily add friends to a game, it instead throws you into a lobby with little explanation or way to secure friends in a slot. Another small issue with the game is how, even when a 360 controller is plugged in, it continues to display PC-specific buttons on screen. You acclimate to them eventually, but seeing as how this version of the game was available on 360, it shouldn“t be hard to add those simple controller buttons in. Half Minute Hero is an incredibly simple game, but that“s part of what makes it so easy to pick up and play. The addictive, bite-sized nature is a lot of fun, as is the script“s silly wit. The multiple modes extend the length of the game as well, although most will probably prefer one gameplay style over the other. If you“re looking for a simplistic, fun way to spend chunks of your day with then be sure to give Half Minute Hero a shot. Pros: + Incredibly easy to understand and fun to play + Variety of modes that each last a good deal of time + Fun visual style and script Cons: - Lack of explanation for multiplayer mode - Game is best played in short bursts, which may annoy some gamers Overall Score: 8.5 (Out of 10) Great Half Minute Hero: Super Mega Neo Climax Ultimate Boy lives up to it's own weird name and is a great title to pick up and play a little at a time.