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Found 548 results

  1. Knights and Bikes, London-based Foam Sword Games' first game, has officially gone gold and is coming to a PlayStation 4 or PC near you soon. Dubbed a "Goonies-inspired adventure," Knights and Bikes is a co-op, story-based adventure game that centers on two girls who are searching for the legendary cursed treasure of Penfurzy Island. Across the course of six days you'll explore the island, solve puzzles, talk to different people, and fight off the ancient curse that protects the treasure using such items as frisbees, water balloons, toilet plungers, a game gauntlet, and more. Also central to the gameplay are bikes, which you'll need to upgrade in order to visit certain areas of the island. If the game's painterly, cartoon-like aesthetic seems familiar to you, there's good reason for it: the game's central creators, Rex Crowle and Moo Yu, previously worked at Media Molecule on award-winning games such as LittleBigPlanet and Tearaway. Further bolstering the pedigree on the title is Kenny Young, another Media Molecule alum who also most recently worked on 2018's breakout VR hit Astro Bot Rescue Mission; and Daniel Pemberton, who composed much of the music for LittleBigPlanet 1 and 2, and was the composer for Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse. Originally launching as a successful Kickstarter project in 2016, it's been a long ride for Knights and Bikes through its 3+ year development but you'll finally be able to play this whimsical adventure when it comes digitally to PlayStation 4 and PC on August 7. Check out the game's E3 2018 trailer below. Source: Foam Sword Games
  2. I have to admit, I wasn't incredibly interested in this at first, but this is by far one of the best Kingdom Heart compilations yet. In addition to having an HD version of the previously 3DS-only Kingdom Hearts: Dream Drop Distance, it also contains a new playable campaign featuring Aqua (from Birth By Sleep) and a movie version of KINGDOM HEARTS χ [chi] Back Cover, which features the origins of five Keyblade masters from the past. Take a look at the new trailer and let us know what you think! EDIT: Apparently it launches on January 24, 2017 in the West.
  3. PQube's and JoySteak Studio's Songbird Symphony is out on digital shops this week, and it stars a cute little bird named 'Birb' that sets off on an adventure to discover his heritage. As Birb, you'll move the environment around you by tapping in sync with background beats, solve different puzzles to add new sound queues to the background music, collect feathers to learn more about different birds, and explore interconnected levels with many different passages. Oh, and you'll participate in rhythm battles as well, and with its combination of platforming, rhythm, and puzzles, it definitely looks to be one of the more unique indie titles out this year. If that all sounds good to you, you can check out Songbird Symphony on Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, and PC (via Steam) for $16.99. And be sure to check out the trailer below! Source: Press Release
  4. Developer: WindThunder Publisher: Winking Entertainment Corp. Platform: Switch, PS4, PC, iOS Release Date: May 23, 2019 ESRB: T Note: This review is based on the Nintendo Switch version of the game The episodic game format is not without its risks. While it can potentially ease the cost of development in creating smaller games released in sequence over a span of time, a lot hinges on the ability to keep the player’s interest for the duration of the full series. If the first episode doesn’t hook the player, they’re not likely to return for the rest. Such is one of the hurdles faced by the action RPG, Heroine Anthem Zero. Heroine Anthem Zero: Episode 1, or Heroine Anthem Zero: Sacrifice, is the first chapter of a prequel to the original Heroine Anthem: The Elect of Wassernixe and Heroine Anthem II: The Angel of Sarem, which released back in 2002 and 2003, respectively. As both of those games are rather old and obscure, it’s fortunate that Heroine Anthem Zero is set thousands of years prior, and thus requires no knowledge of the originals. Episode 1 features the story of Wanin, a young warrior of the Norse-inspired Uzato tribe that works as a Forest Keeper, patrolling the forest near his hometown for danger. He’s accompanied for the duration of the game by the fairy, Mormolia, who assists him in his duties. Most of the game follows the perspective of this pair, who are entertaining, if simplistic, in their writing. Wanin is a brave, capable warrior that cares for his sister, Naire, who has been chosen to serve as the maiden of an important ceremony in a neighboring land, though he’s also somewhat oblivious and foolhardy. The more perceptive Mormolia, on the other hand, is quick to anger, often insults Wanin for his obliviousness, and loves to drink. Unfortunately, there’s not much else to say about the story, as the main plot beats serve as apparent set-up for what comes, I presume, in Episode 2. And despite the short length, it does not feel particularly well-paced. Large amounts of story and exposition take precedence in the first few hours before turning the focus almost exclusively to gameplay broken up with smaller, lighter story beats for the remainder of the experience. To its credit, the game has some interesting lore. Story sequences are enhanced with great character art, as well as painterly illustrations put on display when characters speak of the myths, legends, and history of their land. The characters are all voiced in Japanese, and their acting boosts the experience as well. The bigger faults with Heroine Anthem Zero lie with its gameplay. As a side-scrolling action RPG, it generally controls well. Wanin can swing his sword in a basic combo as well as dash, double-jump, and scale vertical walls. But the combat overall is very basic and generally lacking in challenge, even on the standard difficulty. There are some enemies that can only be damaged by charging Wanin’s sword attack, and enemies can be stunned by sending Mormolia at them. Even the final boss, the most challenging encounter in the game, was little more than a battle of attrition. In fact, I didn’t die to any of the bosses in the game. What killed me far more often, and with far more frustration, was the game’s platforming. Relatively early on, the game introduces spiked vines that stretch across sections of the ground, walls, and ceilings. At that point, these vines are the single most damaging thing in the game and will knock off huge chunks of life every time you collide with one. The game also features instant-death bottomless pits, and while some are clearly obvious, such as when hopping across a rickety bridge stretched across a chasm, others very much aren’t. More than once, I hopped down a hole, thinking it might lead down to an underground cave, only to be met with the 'Game Over' screen. And if you die, you’re forced to retry from the last save point you accessed. Another issue comes from the game’s map and fast travel system. The map itself is of little use and does nothing to illustrate the actual landscapes. It simply indicates how sections in the zone you’re currently in are linked together. Once fast travel is unlocked, most save points will feature a character that will freely take you to most any other save point, but only within the same zone that you’re currently in. This means, for example, that it’s not possible to jump straight back to town from the western woods. But even then, there’s no real incentive to actually make use of the fast travel, as the fast travel character also doubles as the shop with all the best healing items and weapons necessary to beat the game. Possibly the most annoying moment in the game came during a dungeon that serves as the home of the few simplistic-but-required puzzles. In a large chamber, there are four switches that need to be pressed in order to open the way forward. Each of these switches are in turn blocked by gates that open via other switches, and these timed gates will close after a few seconds. After clearing all four gates, hitting the switches, and opening the door ahead, I backtracked to the previous chamber and used the save point, only to find on my return that the switches had all reset and the door ahead had closed, forcing me to redo the entire sequence. Having only played the game on the Switch, I have no idea how its technical performance compares to that of other platforms. Originally released in 2016, Episode 1 was published on the PC, PS4, and iOS before it made its way to Nintendo’s console this year. Aspects of some of the game’s menus feel tuned more for touch, though playing on a TV is just fine. The only real hiccup comes in the equipment menu, where there’s a strangely long, noticeable lag while scrolling through weapons or clothing in the inventory. The game also occasionally encounters odd hitches during cutscenes, and even during the end credits as different images are swapped in and out. For the most part, these graphic hitches aren’t that bothersome, but on rarer occasions, I’ve had similar hitching occur during gameplay. I’ve had to abort more than a couple of jump attempts because of an odd pause in the animation, though I can’t blame any of my deaths on this. On a more positive note, the music in Heroine Anthem Zero is a genuine highlight. The soundtrack, composed by Joe Chou, is comprised of some great music that fits the tone of the world and characters. Tonally, it reminded me at points of games like Valkyrie Profile, and even in the game’s most annoying moments, the music was one element that I always appreciated. Heroine Anthem Zero: Episode 1 feels like a mixed bag. I like the characters, the music, the world, and the general sense of the gameplay. But the pacing, platforming, and technical oddities frequently pulled me out of the experience. I can’t say that I didn’t have any fun, but had there been more polish and fewer annoyances, I could have had a lot more. Based on my experience, I wouldn’t rule out playing Episode 2, but I’d hope that it’s an improvement. Pros + Fun artwork and interesting, if simple characters + Great music and entertaining voice acting + Attractive and colorful artwork and graphics + Combat is in general lightweight and not stressful Cons + Odd pacing of story and gameplay + Annoying platforming with high-damage hazards and instant-death pits + Lack of responsiveness in some menus, and the map is near useless + Odd animation hitches occur every once in a while that can throw timing off while platforming Overall Score: 5 (out of 10) Average Heroine Anthem Zero: Episode 1 is a mixed bag with likeable characters, music, world, and general gameplay but is brought down by its pacing, platforming, and technical oddities. Disclosure: This game was reviewed using downloadable code provided by the publisher
  5. Though Yacht Club Games originally were planning to release their final Shovel Knight campaign, King of Cards, along with Shovel Knight: Showdown (the multiplayer competitive mode), an amiibo 3-pack (featuring King Knight, Plague Knight, and Specter Knight), and a physical version of Shovel Knight: Treasure Trove (the complete collection of every piece of Shovel Knight content in one package) on April 18, the indie developer has now announced one last delay for all of the content. The reason for this is because the team needs more time to polish off the gameplay and make sure everything is in tip-top shape before they're satisfied with the final result. As for the amiibo, Yacht Club Games mentioned that their functionality is tied to the launch of King of Cards, which means it only makes sense to release them when that campaign is ready to go. Due to all of this, Yacht Club Games is not announcing a new release date until they're certain of it, but insist that the delay should only push the release back several months. Here are a few other interesting tidbits that the team revealed: A new screenshot showcasing King of Cards reveals a brand new side-character named 'Traitorus,' who happens to be King Pridemoor's former advisor. Another King of Cards screen reveals what the world map looks like; quite a bit different from Shovel of Hope's. A new story screenshot shows Specter Knight rushing off to confront The Enchantress. King of Card's levels are shorter than previous Shovel Knight levels but are more numerous (with more than 30). At one point, Yacht Club wasn't sure if King Knight would fit on the 3DS due to his size, but that problem has since been solved. Words of Magic and 8-4 Games have helped translate the game into 9 languages now. In the meantime, stay tuned for a final release date for the rest of Shovel Knight's upcoming content. Source: Yacht Club Games
  6. Developer: The Bearded Ladies Consulting Publisher: Funcom Platform: PS4, Xbox One, and PC Release Date: December 4, 2018 ESRB: M for Mature Note: This review is based on the PlayStation 4 version of the game It does not take too much effort to find a game that's heavily inspired by the challenging turn-based tactical title X-COM: Enemy Unknown nowadays. But there is something to be said about encountering one that's well-made and reminds you why the X-COM formula is often so compelling. Based on a fairly old Swedish pen-and-paper RPG, Mutant Year Zero: Road to Eden intends to do just that by taking its source material to the strategic, turn-based video game realm. It is a title that has some fresh ideas, even if its road to paradise is anything but neatly paved. As one would guess from something strongly influenced by the late XCOM titles, Mutant Year Zero: Road to Eden boasts gun-centric turn-based tactical combat as well as plenty of oppressive difficulty options, such as permadeath or autosaving after every turn for those masochistic enough. But, beyond that obvious parallel, Mutant Year Zero revels in its post-apocalyptic world-building far more than X-COM. One of the primary distinctions is that the units the player has control over are mutants (referred to as "stalkers"), such as the on-the-nose titled "Dux," who as one likely guessed is an anthropomorphic duck, to the less obvious ones like the human-like Selma who can do stuff like bind enemies to the ground with tree roots despite looking relatively normal otherwise. The more inspired aspects of the game come into play rather quickly as there is a heavy emphasis on stealth and gathering resources throughout the various zones. Most enemies have bright red vision cones and it is up to the player to wisely, or not, attempt to thin down enemy numbers before they can attempt to call reinforcements and likely start up a prolonged and difficult turn-based combat scenario. It creates an intriguing blend of real-time and turn-based elements while also encouraging thorough exploration for a new gun, piece of armor, or maybe even an old "relic" to bring back to the home base, referred to as the Ark, for various permanent upgrades. While the player feels woefully equipped for most things early in, including stealth (with only one member able to use a silent weapon at the start), the game eventually starts to balance out as one garners new levels, skills, and equipment. There is a fair amount of flexibility in tactical options such as lopping a grenade to destroy enemy cover to the more supernatural mutant-specific skills like sprouting wings and taking potshots at foes at higher ground. Despite there being a small amount of playable characters there is enough flexibility in their skill trees to encourage a diverse approach to each confrontation in addition to attempting to wisely utilize stealth options or gathered resources when one is able to do so. The least inspired aspect of all is likely the storytelling itself, unfortunately. While the post-apocalyptic title most certainly has a heavy emphasis on atmosphere (and is generally better for it), the narrative plot twists are not only signposted long in advance but also leave one feeling like so little happened by the end journey with its shallow sequel tease. At the very least, however, it is somewhat amusing that the lead cast like to treat "ancients" throughout (or rather those akin to modern civilization in our world), by poking fun at the impracticality of many pieces of their technology or outright misinterpreting the usage of much of it. More important than story qualms, though, and perhaps the biggest problem I had with playing the game at launch was its various technical issues. The biggest issue had to do with enemies being called in as reinforcements yet being unable to reach me (...or some taunted by one of the skills that I enjoyed using) and, conversely, I was unable to reach them, which left the title in a game-breaking state that made exiting combat impossible beyond being forced to reload an old save. Thankfully, despite happening a couple of times near the beginning, it was mostly patched out in recent updates. A few other technical quirks did consistently surface elsewhere, such as awkward load times and frequent visual stutters on PS4, which can distract from the experience. As a first debut Mutant Year Zero: Road to Eden gets a fair amount right with its rewarding tactical gameplay and generally well-implemented stealth/gathering systems. Where it stumbles, unfortunately, is in its technical implementation (especially at launch with some game-breaking bugs) and a narrative/cast that is not all that compelling. There is still enjoyment to be had in this adventure despite its rough edges, however, and for those looking for a solid X-COM-like that tries its hand at some new ideas, Mutant Year Zero: Road to Eden should certainly fit the bill. Pros + Creative take on turn-based tactical gameplay that also includes stealth/gathering gameplay systems + Unit variety, as well as weapons/gear, lend themselves to many strategic options + Characters that amusingly treat "ancients" with the amount of respect they deserve: none Cons - Occasional technical performance hiccups that are really jarring - Stealthily picking off foes one by one can get somewhat tedious in the latter half - Storytelling/cast are quite predictable and does not do much with either by the end Overall Score: 7 (out of 10) Good Mutant Year Zero: Road to Eden is a rewarding, turn-based tactical title that gets plenty right in its first debut, but it has just enough rough edges, and narrative teasing, that one may find themselves wondering if a sequel could turn the brand into something truly special Disclosure: This game was reviewed using downloadable PS4 code provided by the publisher.
  7. It's been a long time coming but the the third entry in the Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel is finally making its way to North American territories. However, unlike the first two games, which were published by XSEED, Trails of Cold Steel III is being published by NIS America instead. While some might be put off by this change due to the translation issues with Ys VIII: Lacrimosa of Dana (which NIS America also published in 2017), the publisher is attempting to nip this in the bud by mentioning that some of the localization staff that had worked on the previous two Cold Steel entries have returned for this one as well. Trails of Cold Steel III features a new Class VII led by "Ashen Chevalier" Rean Schwarzer, who is now an instructor at Thors Branch Campus. The story follows the cast as they journey into the Empire's recently acquired land and find themselves embroiled in another plot that could result in war or an even worse calamity. Also new to this installment is the "Break System"; expect to hear more about that in the lead up to the game's release. The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel III is slated to release exclusively on PlayStation 4 in the Fall. Source: Press Release
  8. Fans of niche Japanese games publisher NIS America might be aware that the company had announced a console port of RPG Maker MV for Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One in 2019. Unfortunately, it looks like you won't be getting your hands on it anytime in the next few months. NIS America announced today that it is delaying the title due to ongoing issues with the development and that it won't release until later in 2019 now. No details have been given regarding the development issues, but suffice to say that porting a game to consoles isn't always a clear cut process. RPG Maker MV originally released on PC back in 2015 and features the ability to upload and share your RPG creations with others. This new console version is slated to have twice as many assets, including brand-new voices, music, and lyrics; making it the most comprehensive version of RPG Maker to date. We'll be sure to update you on a new release date as soon as it's announced. Source: Press Release
  9. Developer: Sega Publisher: Sega Platform: PS4 Release Date: October 2, 2018 ESRB: M for Mature For as immensely influential as Fist of the North Star is in the manga/anime space it is kind of surprising that it has so few remarkable video games. Sure, one can point to a certain Arc System Works fighter or various Musou titles under the Fist of the North Star name, but for pretty much all the wrong reasons. This is why is why a new Fist of the North Star title made by Sega's Yakuza development is an exciting prospect. The Yakuza series has hit an impressive stride the last couple years on PS4 and throwing such an iconic manga license into an already solid gameplay mold seems like a recipe for success. Much like any licensed game property, however, there is reason to have reservations before going into the PS4 exclusive Fist of the North Star: Lost Paradise, even if its head is in the right place. Where the least amount of concern is needed is wondering whether or not Fist of the North Star: Lost Paradise is approachable for those not already well-versed in the series lore (like me). The central plot of Lost Paradise is generally easy to grasp and is rarely more complicated than the main character Kenshiro trying to find his fiancee within an isolated city called Eden. Everything else is simply a matter of adjusting to the absurdity of its heavily-influenced-by Mad Max setting and accepting that disproportionate macho men are able to use over-the-top martial arts that can make peoples' heads literally explode. Those that do know a thing or two about the series will recognize its alternate narrative canon from the source material despite featuring plenty of familiar faces. Beyond that, it is very easy to treat Lost Paradise as if it was just another PS4 Yakuza game. Sega makes little attempt to hide its development pedigree from a shared emphasis on 3D beat 'em up gameplay, tons of playable sidequests/mini-games within a central town, to even going as far as to have many shared voice Japanese talents for the main cast (although, an English voice acting option is available for those that want it, unlike recent Yakuza games). It is honestly uncanny the many unapologetic nods that the game has to Yakuza games, but on the flip side, the distinctly different post-apocalyptic setting can make it a fresh contrast to those who have seen the bustling Japanese streets a few too many times lately. Still, because it so easily evokes the many similarities to recent Yakuza games it also begs the quality comparison between the two, and on that front Lost Paradise is far less consistent. It is a weird thing to say considering how crazy powerful the player often feels while controlling Kenshiro as he recites the iconic "You are already dead" line as enemies turn into gory mush in the background, but the combat does not flow well for the most of the game. There are a lot of minor annoyances with it, everything from Kenshiro's overall lack of AOE attacks (despite constantly throwing huge enemy mobs at him) to some overly long skill animations early in, and most of it stems from how slowly the game doles out new skills & level-ups to eventually remedy them. It is a real shame because there are some clever boss moments and very stylish ways to dispatch foes in context-sensitive QTEs and is hindered by the slow progression. This is the main recurring theme of Lost Paradise in that just about all progress is buried beneath a fair amount of unnecessary grind and padding. Want to progress the main story? Well, at a certain point you need to upgrade your buggy vehicle to explore new zones. Want to upgrade your buggy? Then you need to grind for resources/unlock treasure maps that appear randomly outside of town. Want to not have to rely on RNG for materials? You should do the bartending mini-game which requires a Mario Party level of controller mashing (despite being very amusing visually) but makes Eden merchants sell more materials. It is an obtuse process of Do A, but to do A you need to do B, and to do B you need to do C, etc. This design philosophy is very counterintuitive to the ways Yakuza styled games tend to be enjoyed where the side content can be engaged as much, or as little, as the player wants to and Lost Paradise does not offer that sort intrinsic gameplay flexibility. The weirdest part of all, however, is that there are genuinely cool moments when the gameplay all comes together. For example, there is a surprising amount of Sega fanfare throughout. This includes full-fledged arcade ports like Space Harrier, unlockable musical tracks that play while driving from Binary Domain to Phantasy Star Online 2, to the Sega Master version of Fist of the North Star (...which is not a good game, but it is the thought that counts). Even the sidequests have their neat moments like surprising earnest little substories to utterly bizarre objectives like playing "baseball" against oncoming motorcyclists. But because the game paces its many gameplay and campaign components so poorly it becomes difficult to appreciate the title as a whole when it is so eager to overstay its welcome. Fist of the North Star: Lost Paradise is title frequently torn between two identities despite having good intentions with both. As a licensed game, the Yakuza-gameplay-meets-Fist of the North Star-setting is so close to a working peanut butter & jelly combo, but does not quite take the best lessons from either franchise. Still, those willing to try out a new "Yakuza" game at the risk of a noticeable step back in overall gameplay quality (compared to recent entries; mostly pacing and production values) may be pleasantly surprised by the novel approach to the Fist of the North Star license, even if it may not necessarily make your head explode for the better in the long term. Pros + Hyperactive violence that makes Kenshiro feel genuinely powerful (flashy boss fights in particular) + Neat fanservice nods to various Sega properties such as unlockable arcade games + The absurd over-the-top setting can be a fresh contrast to who have gotten a little too used to familiar Yakuza series locales Cons - Combat and character progression are rather disjointed - The frequently slow (and grindy) gameplay pacing does not really fit the high octane world itself - Main story high points are few and far between Overall Score: 6 (out of 10) Decent Fist of the North Star: Lost Paradise is better treated as a licensed novelty rather than be held to the current standards of the Yakuza series gameplay it does not hesitate to borrow from. But, because the many gameplay components are eager to overstay their welcome it can be difficult to truly appreciate either the lessened Yakuza formula or alternate take on Fist of the North Star's world in the long run Disclosure: This game was reviewed using downloadable PS4 code provided by the publisher.
  10. barrel

    Review: Valkyria Chronicles 4

    Developer: Sega Publisher: Sega Platform: PS4, Switch, and PC Release Date: September 25, 2018 ESRB: T for Teen As beloved as the original PS3 title Valkyria Chronicles has been, the series has since struggled to recapture the base of its former appeal. From smaller-scale PSP sequels, one of which remains unlocalized, to a spin-off that probably should not have existed in the first place, it was easy to draw the conclusion that the series was going to go out with an immensely disappointing whimper rather than a satisfying bang. Yet, Sega decided to bring out the big guns by recently announcing Valkyria Chronicles 4 on consoles as if the series' missteps had never happened. Revitalizing not only the captivating sketch-like art direction, the series also brings back its unique take on the part turn-based/part real-time militaristic action at a large scope without the limitations of underpowered Sony handhelds. If that was not enough to bolster the fandom morale once more, Sega has beaten the nearly impossible odds by leading Valkyria Chronicles 4 towards a victory so grand that it surpasses even the original. That may have sounded like a bold claim (because it is), but Valkyria Chronicles 4 takes an active command to prove its remarkable capability on a gameplay front. It is much more willing to treat players old and new like a skillful commander rather than an untrained cadet early on without being too daunting or heavy-handed. From a gameplay perspective, it only takes a couple missions before it reestablishes most returning mechanics and classes from the original before moving onto entirely new ones. One new addition is the incredibly welcome unit grenadier. Essentially, grenadiers are extremely powerful long-range units that can easily knock foes out of cover or destroy turrets/pillboxes at a safe range. However, to function properly they require more nimble units like scouts to serve as spotters so they can pick off problem targets without their severe lack of mobility holding them back. Even old units bring a freshened up mix to encounters, such as Engineers now being able to revive units mid-battle or assemble makeshift ladders to gain a different means of approach to a particular stage. There is a ton of care placed into just about every tweaked gameplay mechanic or distinct level. It is clear that Sega learned a lot while remastering the original game on PS4 a couple years ago. A lot of the old AI exploits or dirty tricks (like scout rushing) are mostly gone and the tactical options are greatly increased as it progresses. One mission will have the player take out descending paratroopers/buying time to protect an out of commission vehicle at the same time while another totally different stage is about helping a friend cheat on a target practice test behind the scenes. Admittedly, though, there are a few missions that seem to be made with enjoyable gameplay variety in mind first (rather than actually being logically plausible), like firing sniper bullets at wooden signs to wordlessly (and perfectly) coordinate an ally mortar strike, so some suspension of disbelief is required. Let there be no doubt, however, that there is a serious emphasis on storytelling in Valkyria Chronicles 4. Previous titles in the series would delve into uncomfortable subject matter with surprising tact (namely the original), like the racism allegories involving "Darcsens", but rarely dipped above a PG-rating vibe regarding the overall storytelling or particularly nuanced characters. In sharp contrast, the fourth main entry is much more willing to challenge both its characters and storytelling. The most impressive narrative feat of Valkyria Chronicles 4 is how it develops its characters. As likable of a goofball as Welkin Gunther was, he and most other older characters rarely changed beyond their initial first impressions. That is very much not the case with the characters of 4 to the point where it is quite possible to dislike a certain character early in (Raz) & totally feel the complete opposite way about them by the end because of how much they change and mature (also Raz). A similar level of respect towards development was even placed upon the many non-main story playable units. It is not simply encouraged to keep them alive to prevent a Fire Emblem-ish permadeath, but also because there are some really endearing optional "Squad Stories" chapters that unlock if certain allies fight alongside each other long enough and is a smart incentive to change things up. But perhaps the biggest means of change comes from the huge shifts regarding the main story's narrative tone. Early on, it has a lighthearted pace that is generally in line with Valkyria of the past, if not a little more juvenile due to a "friendly butt-tap between dudes!" scene, yet the latter half has story elements that are grim in a way that is almost unprecedented for the series. Despite not always being elegant in its execution it is as a whole much more grounded than earlier games when it comes to the storytelling. There is a greater emphasis on the mortality of its cast and the horrors/moral ambiguity during wartime that works much more often than it does not (complemented by some excellent English voice work)... even if aspects like main character Claude's ability to predict changes in weather veer into supernatural territory with their unbelievable accuracy. Outside of storytelling, Valkyria Chronicles 4 is very much an iterative game, which is perhaps its biggest detriment for those expecting more sweeping changes. Sure, the clever mission variety is really impressive, or how it smartly cherry picks features from Valkyria Chronicles 2 & 3 (that are barely referenced otherwise) like the ability to move multiple units at once, and it is even paced more briskly than prior games. Ultimately, though, it still operates within a very familiar overall framework in terms of leveling up units/tanks, gaining new weapons/skills, to how it utilizes the presentation (it is the same decade-old engine, after all) and the many re-used orchestral pieces. All things considered, though, these are minor nitpicks to an experience that otherwise more than satisfies what fans adore from the series, especially regarding the much more finely tuned and already excellent gameplay has become. After many pleadings for a proper, fully-fledged Valkyria Chronicles sequel went ignored for years, it is hard to believe that the series would ever regain proper footing. But, here we are, a decade later, and Sega yet again took a nearly Sonic Mania-styled approach by being keenly aware of what fans wanted through stylish visuals and extremely satisfying/varied tactical gameplay, yet also reminding many fans why they loved the franchise in the first place in terms of spirit. Valkyria Chronicles 4 is a series return to form in the truest sense. Even with certain creaks in age -- mostly due to playing it a little too faithful to the first incarnation -- Valkyria Chronicles 4 is mitigated by not only meeting the lofty expectations from veterans but even going as far as to exceed their prior accomplishments in the series as the potential best entry as a whole. Pros + Completely nails what made people love the original Valkyria Chronicles so much from strategic, varied level design to the likable cast of characters + Paced more briskly than earlier iterations from storytelling to requiring next to no actual grinding + The Grenadier class is a great new addition to battle and the title also sports many welcome mechanical changes + Strong English localization that breaths nuance even characters that may not seem to have much of it initially (including the surprisingly charming optional "Squad Stories") Cons - The visuals/music are a little too faithful to the original Valkyria Chronicles, as it is very clearly using the same engine/most of the soundtrack from nearly ten years ago, making it feel somewhat antiquated - Some huge narrative tonal shifts in the storytelling that can be rather odd at times, especially in its darker moments Overall Score: 9 (out of 10) Excellent Valkyria Chronicles 4 successfully reignites not just the endearing spirit and thoroughly engaging tactical gameplay the series is known for but excels in such a way that surpasses even the most beloved of its predecessors as a game Disclosure: This game was reviewed using downloadable PS4 code provided by the publisher.
  11. barrel

    Review: Yakuza Kiwami 2

    Developer: Sega Publisher: Sega Platform: PS4 Release Date: August 28, 2018 ESRB: M for Mature Even though Yakuza 6: The Song of Life felt like an intended sendoff towards the series' beloved protagonist Kiryu earlier this year, the Yakuza series itself is showing no real intentions of slowing down. To continue the trend of putting basically every main entry Yakuza title on the PS4 in some form Sega has most recently shifted their sights onto revisiting yet another former PS2 relic by remaking Yakuza 2 from the ground up in Sega's "Dragon Engine" (introduced in Yakuza 6: The Song of Life) and slapping the word Kiwami on it. Considered by many fans to be the best entry in the series Yakuza Kiwami 2 has some rather lofty expectations to meet as a remake while also trying to be appetizing to series newcomers as well. Similar to the game's (literal) bombastic introduction, there is no denying that Yakuza Kiwami 2 is firing on all cylinders on a presentational front. By utilizing the familiar "Dragon Engine," Yakuza Kiwami 2's world often looks stunning in motion. From the bustling city streets, over-the-top special attacks in combat, to the facial details on the most menacing of yakuza scowls it does a ton to draw the player in its adventure. Which is good, because, like most Yakuza games, it is filled to the brim with stuff to do during the main story or absurdly robust side content. That said, Yakuza Kiwami 2 does more than just borrow pretty visuals from Yakuza 6 as a lot of the gameplay systems are directly carried over into this remake, and not necessarily for the better. For example, nearly all of Kiryu's bread & butter attack combos are the exact same as they were in The Song of Life just like the general level/stat progression too leading to an odd sense gameplay deja vu. Although, in the matter of fairness, the familiar combat engine is thankfully more enjoyable in Kiwami 2 than it was previously largely due to cleaned up hit detection, more responsive controls, and some really stylish context-specific moves (like during key boss fights). Even the returning RTS-esque "Clan Creator" mini-game from Yakuza 6 is fleshed out for the better by making it more strategic and tower-defense focused in Kiwami 2. Of course, at the end of the day, Kiwami 2 takes precedent as a remake and the story it tells is certainly among the most compelling parts of the overall package. Just like the original PS2 release, the crime-based storyline that delves into one of the most ruthless series antagonists, the Jingweon mafia, remains quite gripping, especially in its latter half. Even if, as a whole, 2's tale does not confidently take the top storytelling billing for the series like it once did (that mantle now belongs to Yakuza 0) and does have some hammy moments, like a forced love interest for Kiryu. Still, for those familiar with 2's tale should find the main story to be a treat even now, especially in how it is presented from much more dynamic combat encounters to revisiting cutscenes in much more impressive visual fidelity. As in-depth as the main story may be, one can easily double their total playtime if they dive into the game's copious amount of side content. Kiwami 2 introduces a lot of new sidequests, playable mini-games like karaoke or the goofy bathroom based "Toylet", full-fledged arcade ports of classic Sega games like Virtual-On, and even a brief campaign that focuses on the fan-favorite Majima. As usual with the series' current standard there are many easy rabbit holes for Kiryu to fall into especially with the often incredibly sharp, hilarious writing that accompanies them. In contrast, however, Majima's brief campaign very much feels like an afterthought in design. Although Majima is still fun to play for the couple hours it goes on for, it mostly comes across as shallow fanservice for Yakuza 0 fans than anything else (and I ADORE Yakuza 0, but still felt underwhelmed). For as deep of an experience Yakuza Kiwami 2 is as a whole, it actually makes some strange compromises over the original PS2 release. Some are negligible, like hit & miss mini-games (mostly miss) that don't make a return as well as certain sidequests. But perhaps the most controversial change of all is the removal of an entire explorable zone in the story (albeit a rather small one overall) where Kiwami 2 essentially re-purposes the story context associated with into the all too familiar in-game region of Sotenbori. While it is easy to guess it may have been done for budgeting reasons, it still is rather odd considering how faithful first Kiwami release was to the original PS2 title to an almost slavish degree. Odder still, the soundtrack of Yakuza Kiwami 2 is a noticeable step back from the original PS2 title and has very few returning musical pieces from it. Yakuza Kiwami 2 hits pretty much all the checkboxes that make for an engaging title in the series, from a thrilling story to an absurdly wide array of side content. As a remake, however, it does bring up some points of contention with a couple of odd compromises and some inherent gameplay flaws that are caused by reusing the engine from Yakuza 6. But, assuming one is not the too concerned about the sanctity of the original PS2 release, there is plenty of enjoyment to be had in revisiting one of the best games to series, especially for would-be newcomers. Pros + By refining the engine originally implemented in sixth main entry Kiwami 2 heavily benefits from tightened up gameplay & slick visuals as a remake + Sharp, witty localization that makes the already compelling main story and copious sidequest banter that much more entertaining + Tons of side content to delve into that can keep one occupied for quite a while Cons - Can create a bit too much gameplay Deja Vu because the combat, stat progression, and most minigames are directly lifted from Yakuza 6 - Some bizarre compromises over the original PS2 release, such as some removed content and the hugely altered soundtrack, and not exactly for the better Overall Score: 8 (out of 10) Great Yakuza Kiwami 2 is a sleek remake that manages to capture much of the spirit of its original PS2 release that should give fans both old and new plenty to chew on Disclosure: This game was reviewed using downloadable PS4 code provided by the publisher.
  12. Harrison Lee

    Review: Flipping Death

    Developer: Zoink Games Publisher: Zoink Games Platform: Switch, PC, PS4, Xbox One Release Date: August 7, 2018 ESRB: T for Teen Note: This review is based on the Nintendo Switch version of the game Flipping Death is developer Zoink’s newest foray into side-scrolling cartoon adventure games. Those who recall Stick It to the Man! are likely aware of the studio’s penchant for oddball humor and situational comedy. Flipping Death follows in its spiritual predecessor’s footsteps, adopting a similar tone and art-style. Does it do enough to stand out from Zoink’s growing library, or will you be left flipping Death off? Players inhabit the mind of Penny Doewood, a recently-deceased young woman with a love of the macabre and all things Halloween. Death, however, is not the end for our dear protagonist. The scene literally flips to a place called the Otherside, where ghosts, restless souls, and all manner of strange creatures exist. Penny awakens in this alien, yet familiar, parallel world and immediately earns a job from Death himself. It seems the Grim Reaper is tired of constantly taking lives, and craves a quiet vacation to the Moon where there’s nothing but blissful, peaceful solitude. Flipping Death tasks Penny with solving the various crises of restless souls all across the Otherside. From a ship captain who got caught cheating because of his boat’s name to vivisected superhumans craving revenge, the offbeat cast of quirky characters provides much of Flipping Death’s charm. To help the ghosts reach a satisfying rest, Penny must possess the bodies of the living on the other side of her new world. While inhabiting a living host, Penny gains access to whatever abilities that person has. Each of these abilities is crucial to solving Flipping Death’s bevy of environmental puzzles, but can also be used to complete side objectives that reward character art cards. The perspective shift can be a bit jarring at first, but you’ll grow accustomed to it as time goes on. What you may struggle to come to grips with are the platforming mechanics, which feel a bit loose at the best of times. The Switch’s small controller nubs only make the lack of precision all the more noticeable, though it likely won’t impede your progress that much. Using ghost Penny’s scythe to teleport and capture souls in order to possess the living takes some getting used to, but the controls eventually become second-nature. Flipping Death isn’t terribly difficult, but a few of the environmental clues and the sequence of characters needed to complete the puzzles may stump you once or twice. The game encourages a trial-and-error approach, though you may find yourself possessing characters out of order. Unfortunately, I did run into a bug that did not let one of the characters I possessed leave his office-space, forcing me to reload the level. The rest of the experience was largely error-free and enjoyable. Like Stick It to the Man!, Flipping Death’s visual presentation is wholly unique and engrossing. The cartoon-esque world is vibrant and full of teeming, creepy things scuttling in the backgrounds. Character models are well-designed and fully-voiced, lending a good deal of strong production value to the whole experience. The Switch port does seem to suffer some minor input lag and dropped frames every now and then, but it’s to be expected given the hardware. This is, by and large, a well-executed version of the game that I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend. I missed out on Stick It to the Man!, but Flipping Death is a great introduction to Zoink’s zany brand of humor. The writing is consistently strong, even featuring some genuine warmth amid the gut laughs. A few odd bugs here and there and some occasionally frustrating platforming mechanics mar an otherwise-strong game, but that shouldn’t deter you from wearing Death’s mantle once again. With the Halloween season nearly upon us, there’s no better time to get spooky and take a trip to the Otherside. Pros + Well-written and genuinely funny + Beautiful art style and great audio production + Fun puzzles and a vibrant game-world Cons - A little buggy at points - Platforming on the Switch can be hit or miss Overall Score: 7.5 (out of 10) Good Flipping Death is a brief, but very enjoyable journey through the spirit world. Its puzzles, artistic vision, and sense of humor are all on point. You’d do well to give this macabre world a look. Disclosure: This game was reviewed using downloadable code provided by the publisher
  13. Time to finish up #KingdomHeartsBirthbySleep and with Aqua's story the only one left, I've apparently saved the best for last! Come swing by the #Twitch stream and have a morphenomenal night! https://www.twitch.tv/royzoga123
  14. barrel

    Review: Dead Cells

    Developer: Motion Twin Publisher: Motion Twin Platform: PS4, Xbox One, Switch, and PC Release Date: August 7, 2018 ESRB: T for Teen Note: This review is based on the PlayStation 4 version of the game By being clearly inspired by numerous rogue-lite and Metroidvania titles, or to use its own preferred nomenclature of 'RogueVania', it can certainly be tempting to write Dead Cells off as just another one of those. However, Dead Cells is not content with simply paying tribute to iconic titles. There is an impressive sheen to nearly every facet of its gameplay that not only separates itself from its various contemporaries but also makes it so easy to get lost in the experience, even when it was in an Early Access state last year. After being constantly iterated upon, such as adding new levels, weapons, abilities, and plenty more, Dead Cells is now confident enough to consider itself a full product while also finally letting console owners in on the action as well -- and for great reason. The game quickly drops the player right in, quite literally, as an amorphous green sludge falls from the ceiling and reanimates a fallen humanoid vessel. This eerie landscape becomes one of the closest things to a home, especially after a failed run. Players will soon enough find themselves scrounging whatever tools they can to hopefully overcome their fierce enemy and environmental opposition as they uncover the mysterious depths of Dead Cells' world. Regardless of its moody world-building and sparse bits of lore (like a certain From Software series), however, Dead Cells absolutely thrives on its stellar combat-focused 2D gameplay above all else. Whether one is swinging a bulky axe, firing a crossbow, setting up a bear trap, or using hardly subtle nods to other gaming properties (like "Valmont's" whip), the underlying theme is that its huge offensive toolkit has a satisfying power behind it in the right hands. Little details like being able to roll-cancel or shield parry (if it's equipped) out of nearly every animation makes combat feel rather fair too, even though a specific run may not be generous in yielding one's favorite weapons or skills of choice and thus forces them to try out different ones. To help makes its multitude of weaponry and skills more digestible, Dead Cells divides them into the three in-game stat categories of Brutality, Tactics, and Survival, each of which can be strengthened by obtaining scrolls that are scattered across different levels. Despite the categorization simplification, there is a surprising nuance to each style like when picking 'mutation' passive abilities after completing each level. For example, Brutality can take the most advantage of a mutation that increases damage against an enemy suffering from a status ailment while someone specializing in Survival can regain more life per enemy kill. It is very enjoyable to watch once terrifying bosses/enemies quickly melt due to utilizing a smart synergy of mutations/weapons in addition to getting better and better at the game. For as thoroughly entertaining as Dead Cells is with its raw combat, the main reason why its addictive gameplay pull is so strong is because of how it wisely borrows and improves upon Rogue Legacy's overall structure. Rogue Legacy's most welcome contribution to "RogueVanias" was rewarding a player gradually in the form of unlocked blueprints for new abilities or various other conveniences after a failed run. Dead Cells technically does the same thing (while adding many new weapons too), yet the feedback loop is far more consistent by doing so after each completed level. This constant dopamine fix, in spite of the harsh difficulty at many times, also extends to its many branching level paths where thorough exploration can unveil some invaluable permanent upgrades like a quick wall run or a destructive ground pound that opens up the experience that much more. Amidst such incredibly tight gameplay and level design, Dead Cells' greatest blemish actually resides in its technical performance, which still often holds up rather well. Generally speaking, Dead Cells evokes a 2D sprite art feel with chunky pixels (mainly regarding enemy dismemberment) and smooth animations despite technically being rendered with 3D assets. Unfortunately, its key technical slight on PS4 happens mid-level where there is a brief stutter that seems to outright skip frames of animations before going back to the normally buttery smooth gameplay performance and this happens every few minutes. While I never encountered this problem during the mean boss fights, even after a successful hard mode run, I could see the visual hiccups being distracting enough to cause an untimely demise in more chaotic combat moments, so hopefully it can be cleaned up via patch soon. Dead Cells has the uncanny ability of being able to cherry-pick aspects from so many other games and have one be totally fine with it. Because, instead of instilling fatigue, Dead Cells far more often impresses the player by how masterfully realized just about every facet of its core design ends up being. Everything from the skill-based combat that is a total bliss to control, a highly-rewarding structure that accommodates a wealth of different player styles, and plenty of secrets to uncover creates a fiendishly addictive game experience that players will more than struggle to break from the "...just one more run" mentality it so actively encourages. Pros + Fiendishly addictive structure that encapsulates the 'just one more run' mindset + Incredibly tight, responsive combat that accommodates a huge wealth of different playstyles + Branching paths, many unlockables, and the improvisational nature easily makes no one playthrough the same + Stylish aesthetic with moody environmental backdrops Cons - Weird occasional visual stutters mid-level can be distracting Overall Score: 9 (out of 10) Fantastic Dead Cells does not shy away from a familiar "RogueVania" template, but rather chooses to do it so well that players will be hard-pressed to justify dividing their time when Dead Cells is that much more satisfying and rewarding to actually play Disclosure: This game was reviewed using downloadable PS4 code provided by the publisher.
  15. Another lazy day Sunday! Let's spend it playing some more #KingdomHeartsBirthbySleep! Come swing by and join me on my first playthrough, we're going through Terra and later Aqua today! ROYZYABOY! https://www.twitch.tv/royzoga123
  16. Time for another #KingdomHeartsBirthBySleep stream! Come swing by the #Twitch stream and join me on my first playthrough where I get confused by plot and lore and forget everything. ROYZYABOY! https://www.twitch.tv/royzoga123
  17. Developer: Sega/Media Vision Publisher: Sega Platform: PS4, Xbox One, Switch, and PC Release Date: July 10, 2018 ESRB: T for Teen Note: This review is based on the PlayStation 4 version of the game The phrase "Shining" holds a very different connotation in the gaming space depending on who you ask. Ask an old school RPG fan what it means to them and they would likely mention its previous, tactical role-playing game form of the beloved Shining Force titles. If you were to ask developer Sega themselves, they would likely phrase it in a way that could be just about anything resembling an RPG, especially given the many games they have churned out under its banner. That said, the Shining series has most often shifted toward a more typical action-RPG template in Japan these past couple decades. Though it may be an enhanced release of a formerly Japanese-exclusive PlayStation 3 title, Shining Resonance Refrain should radiate as a curious new direction for the series after a long absence from English speakers specifically. Above nearly all else, Shining Resonance Refrain takes a keen interest in both dragons and music while very rarely separating either element. Everything from the usage of musical armaments (...called "Armonics") to the main character, Yuma, who bears the latent power of a powerful dragon, play pivotal roles in the overarching narrative. That said, ultimately, the story itself rarely boils down to being more than a handful of good guys fighting against an evil empire despite however much jargon it tries to throw at the player like "Diva Magica" or many phrases straight out of Norse mythology. The main story remains predictable to a fault and can be rather hokey in more than a few instances because of it. Gameplay-wise, Shining Resonance: Refrain takes more than a few notes from its action-RPG contemporaries (such as Namco's Tales of- series) but with a couple of minor twists. You have your real-time combat system in which normal attacks use a stamina gauge and it quickly becomes encouraged to use special MP skills right before one runs out of stamina to maintain a constant offense. To not so subtlety chime a reminder of the musical setup, there is also a BPM gauge that steadily builds up mid-battle which will provide a variety of buffs upon use depending on the song. Admittedly, battles are rather button-mashy, and quickly become routine, but are also easy to get into. The game also does a decent job at making each party member feel unique, such as the ranged grenadier, Marion, who can use support spells, and even the main character, Yuma, who quickly goes from using a standard longsword to transforming into the Shining Dragon mid-battle. There are more than a few battle system foibles than the simplicity of it, however. Some are amusing like the main character becoming overpowered to the point of trivializing most other attackers by literally only needing to mash the circle button from the halfway point and on. Less amusing, however, are the frequent slowdown for flashier spells and, what can be even more annoying, the sleepy ally AI especially in regards to healing/suicidal positioning. Unlike the frequent slowdown hiccups, thankfully some of the AI problems can get straightened out over time if one messes with 'traits' within the Bond Diagram mechanic, which affects AI tendencies like their increased inclination towards using healing or buffs/debuffs mid-fight. In sharp contrast to their unreliable combat usage, one of the surprising strengths of Shining Resonance Refrain's main playable cast is their likability in a story context. One the most obvious ways to see this is within the primary town, which features numerous interpersonal scenes as well as the opportunity to go on dates with party members (yes, guys included). It is clear that these affinity systems were mostly developed with the pretty lady characters in mind but the actual implementation comes across as far more wholesome than one would expect. In addition, there is a pretty earnest friendship that develops between everyone, and not just Yuma despite, well, the story having more than a few over-the-top anime antics moments in-between. Perhaps the biggest problem with the entire game (yes, even more than the very cliched main story) are the huge discrepancies caused by the level-up progression. Main story bosses spike in level at an absurd rate each chapter, and the means of gaining the experience to close the gap in a reasonable amount of time is quite limited. I had to go out of my way to look into items that made it so inactive party members would gain experience, and to increase the rate of seeing the in-game equivalent to Dragon Quest's Metal Slimes (called eggs) in specific, randomly generated Grimoire dungeons, because the experience obtained from normal enemies in regular environments was way too low (... just like in Dragon Quest). In spite of such glaring gameplay flaws, Shining Resonance Refrain still somehow manages to be better than the sum of its parts in charm alone. One of the key ways it does is in the sharp localization which makes an often predictable script somehow still entertaining to read, especially regarding character specific scenes in the central town. The underlying care also transfers to the audio, like how the instrumentation of BPM songs will change based on which character performs it; a nice touch to an already good soundtrack. Heck, even the English dub is solid as well, though I admit I gravitated towards the Japanese voices due to some top-notch talent and it having a more natural transition towards the Japanese-only vocal songs. Shining Resonance Resonance is one of those strange titles that is significantly flawed in both its gameplay progression and main storytelling yet manages to stumble onto the path of being enjoyable regardless. Its key flaws are quite difficult to ignore, especially if one has a low tolerance towards cliche storytelling (which it is dense with), and it requires a willingness to accept the genre stereotypes it so frequently leans on to see a more sincere, lighthearted underside. If one wants an easy to approach action-RPG that is as charming as it is predictable, Shining Resonance Refrain is a solid option. But those expecting anything deeper in their RPG experience would be much better served looking elsewhere than it. Pros + Easy to approach combat system that manages to make each playable character feel distinct + Likable main cast of characters with surprisingly wholesome vibe between them + Pleasant aesthetic from the sharp soundtrack to well-realized character models Cons - Very predictable storytelling that can be quite hokey with its anime tropes - Balancing party experience becomes cumbersome due to huge enemy level spikes between each main story chapter -Occasional slowdown and dumb ally AI unfortunately bog down combat - A bit too much backtracking between zones Overall Score: 7 (out of 10) Good Shining Resonance Refrain does very little to veer from the course of many Japanese RPG stereotypes but for those willing to accept its often predictable nature can still find an earnest hidden charm underneath it all Disclosure: This game was reviewed using downloadable PS4 code provided by the publisher.
  18. After a successful Kickstarter run while supporting the game for nearly 2 years after its release, the long road for Shantae: Half-Genie Hero is finally winding down, but not before some final surprises. Today, WayForward revealed that all versions of Shantae: Half-Genie Hero (both the base and Ultimate edition) will receive a free content update that will include Jammies Mode and a brand new transformation. Jammies Mode will let you play through the campaign in Shantae's pajamas as well as pillow fight enemies, float on a dream-like cloud, and use sleepy sheep as projectiles. As for the new transformation, Shantae will be able to transform into Sophia III from Blaster Master Zero and blast enemies away. Interestingly enough, this isn't Shantae's first crossover with Blaster Master Zero. Last year, developer Inti Creates added Shantae as a playable DLC character in Blaster Master Zero, so it looks like WayForward is repaying the favor with the appearance of the latter title's Sophie III vehicle in Half-Genie Hero this time around. Check out both new additions in the trailer for the new update below! Source: Press Release Will you be checking out Jammies Mode or the Blaster Master transformation in Shantae: Half-Genie Hero?
  19. barrel

    Review: Reverie

    Developer: Rainbite Limited Publisher: EastAsiaSoft Platform: PS4 and PS Vita Release Date: May 10, 2018 ESRB: E for Everyone Note: This review is based on the PS Vita version of the game There is a fine line between taking inspiration from iconic games and simply being derivative of them, with the latter being far more difficult to escape from. That does not stop many from attempting the inspiration balancing act, such as Rainbite Limited's newest adventure game Reverie. By basking within a familiar framework of two beloved Nintendo series (such as Earthbound's style and The Legend of Zelda's gameplay structure), one can only hope it stands out enough on its own without using 2D nostalgia as a crutch. Despite a bizarrely eerie intro involving treacherous brothers throwing one of their own overboard and then being cursed for an eternity as wrathful spirits, Reverie is nearly devoid of storytelling otherwise. The player is more or less told to spend their vacation on Toromi Island, which apparently means going on a The Legend of Zelda-styled adventure and putting vengeful spirits to rest, I guess. The character's impetus to go from one place to another is not exactly the most cohesive in Reverie. If there is one facet in Reverie that does flow together rather well at times, it's the 2D Earthbound-inspired presentation. There are a lot of neat little flourishes, such as the rustling of foliage, denizens that fidget around as well as turn to face you, and characters leaving imprints in the sand. It creates a homely feel to the starting town of Harikoa in particular, especially when using spare change to play a surprisingly solid shoot 'em up mini-game, or when encountering a nest of kiwi birds in its faux New Zealand. Honestly, if more of Reverie reflected this sort of localized quirk it would likely have been a better game, so it's a real shame that it accounts for so little of the overall experience. The fact of the matter is that Reverie eventually boils down into a wholly forgettable and derivative Zelda-like adventure. Most of your time will be spent in dungeons, which are -- ironically -- the least appealing part of the game, both from an aesthetic and gameplay perspective. If you have played just about any Zelda game, you already know the routine of gathering small/boss room keys in various rooms; which wouldn't be such a bad thing if the dungeons themselves weren't so bland and lifeless. Unfortunately, the frequent combat encounters -- easily the weakest aspect of the gameplay -- only adds insult to injury. Most of the key skills that are usually acquired through dungeons are just renamed Zelda abilities as well, further compounding its derivative nature. For example, instead of using a bow you will instead use a dart gun to hit targets on the wall, just like in a million Zelda games. Instead of Zora-themed swimming gear, you use a snorkel; and so on and so forth. Despite their predictable usage, most key items are thankfully quite responsive in their puzzle and combat implementation, like the cricket bat feeling nearly one to one with 2D Link's sword swing in its immediate timing. Well, pretty much everything except for the final key item ability, at least. What happens to be the most creative ability in the entire game turns out to have poorly implemented physics. This is especially a shame since it also adds much-needed level design variety to the last main dungeon. Basically, the last story item is positional-based and if it drifts a tiny bit off it can leave several puzzle rooms in an unwinnable state. I found myself resetting it by killing the main character and... returning to the start of the dungeon. I originally thought it was poor execution on my end until I saw a couple walkthroughs online that had the same exact issue regarding necessary teleporting in what is otherwise a fairly easy game overall. And with nearly a quarter of my entire playtime spent in that dungeon around that mechanic made it have a significantly longer and more negative impact than it really should have. There are kernels of a much better game in Reverie that the pleasant visuals occasionally remind the player of that are, unfortunately, lost in such a shallow overall Zelda-like adventure. Sure, there are side activities outside of the main campaign's dungeon slog like collecting feather based unlockables but only a small handful of them are rewarding enough to even bother with like a couple off-the-beaten-path mini-games. But even then there is so little driving force to completion beyond the game just being short overall where even the dungeon unlocked after beating the main game is nothing but monster rooms for a game that already has so few enemy variety. There are plenty of games out there that take inspiration from older ones but very few of them that go beyond poorly shadowing significantly better games. Unfortunately, Reverie serves as yet another example as this longstanding trend torn between its clear influences of Earthbound and, even more so, The Legend of Zelda, without a firm grasp on their actual strengths beyond a clean well-realized aesthetic. Reverie does little to offend but even less to really stimulate the player's memory of it because of its lackluster series of dungeons despite hints of a sweeter kiwi spirit. Pros + Clean 2D aesthetic with a welcome New Zealand vibe in spite of its very clear visual inspiration + Bite-sized adventure that is not too demanding of the player Cons - Most of the time is spent in dungeons which are rarely all that clever in their design - Barely anything resembling storytelling or characters makes it quite forgettable overall alongside its derivative gameplay - While the game generally controls well the last usable key item, which is vital in the final dungeon, has very unreliable physics Overall Score: 5.5 (out of 10) Average Reverie may be pleasant to look in terms of aesthetic at but as an actual game it has so little to offer than being a totally forgettable, yet generally inoffensive, Zelda-like that simply exists Disclosure: This game was reviewed using downloadable PS4/PS Vita code provided by the publisher.
  20. The Mega Man X series may be second to classic Mega Man (Mega Man 1-11) when comparing the number of core games in each (8 vs 11), but many fans often prefer the X games due to their increased focus on action gameplay as well as their darker dystopian future setting. But while the first three Mega Man X games had been readily available on the Wii Shop Channel (until its closure) and Wii U eShop, and 4 & 5 have been available on PSN for a number of years, it's been increasingly difficult to play 6 (due to only being available on collections on past consoles like PS2 and Gamecube), let alone 7 and 8 which have only been playable on the PlayStation 2 thus far and are now long out of print. Fortunately, that all changes this week as Mega Man X Legacy Collection 1 & 2 dash into retail and digital storefronts on all console platforms. Mega Man X Legacy Collection 1 contains the first four Mega Man X games while Legacy Collection 2 houses Mega Man X 5 through 8. However, it's worth pointing out that if you're buying the retail version on Switch, Legacy Collection 2 is included as a download code and is not available through the cartridge like Mega Man X 1-4 are, so be sure you have plenty of space available for the download. In addition to the games, each Legacy Collection has a number of new features, such as... X Challenge Mode - a multi-boss challenge mode with three difficulty options and online leaderboards Rookie Hunter Mode - which makes the game a bit more manageable for newcomers and anyone else who is having a tough time Improved visuals - of which there are three visual filters to choose from: retro CRT, smooth, or original (which scales up the original aspect ratio for modern screens Museum - what Mega Man collection would be complete without one of these? You'll find tons of art, trailers, music, and even a short animated film called The Day of Σ, which chronicles the event leading up to the villainous Sigma's rebellion. Mega Man X Legacy Collection 1 & 2 are available on Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC. You can buy both as a combo pack at retail for $39.99, or you can buy each individually for $19.99 on digital storefronts. Check out the launch trailer below! Source: Press Release Will you be buying either Mega Man X Legacy Collection? Let us know in the comments below!
  21. Harrison Lee

    Review: Vampyr

    Developer: Dontnod Entertainment Publisher: Focus Home Interactive Platform: PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC Release Date: June 5, 2018 ESRB: M for Mature Note: This review is based on the Xbox One version of the game Playing Vampyr feels a lot like cracking open a three-quarters full piñata. The exterior is attractive and inviting, so you grab the nearest baseball bat and go to town. The candy spills out and you quickly devour it all before realizing something’s amiss. There’s less candy inside than what the tag on the piñata promised. The candy you’ve consumed then begins to turn a bit sour, and you’re left wanting something a bit more satisfying. Vampyr comes really close to being something awesome but falls prey to its own ambition. Vampyr’s anti-hero, Dr. Jonathan Reid, is dead. Or, at least, he was dead before being mysteriously resurrected amidst a pile of corpses. Reid wakes up with one heck of a hangover and a sudden craving for blood, along with some creepy narration from an unknown party. He’s immediately pursued by vampire hunters through the seedy underbelly of London, taking refuge at the local Pembroke Hospital under the auspices of a former medical colleague. Reid’s mission is to locate the person that brought him back from the dead and added his vampiric tastes. Whether he does so by curing or burning London to the ground is your choice. The first thing you’ll notice is how oppressive post-World War I London feels. The city is gripped by the plague of Spanish flu, and people are dying by the bucketfuls. Mass graves are everywhere, and crimson liquid coats the streets. Amidst this carnage, a darker power calls to Reid and his compatriots. Something is turning ordinary people into feral, bloodthirsty beasts. You can feel that fear and tension in the constant darkness and sheets of fog that swirl around London’s dirty back-alleys. The developers at Dontnod certainly nailed the look and feel of an early 20th-century city embroiled in chaos. Reid begins his search through the various districts of London, each with its own cast of characters and issues to deal with. The good (or bad) doctor can choose to pursue side-quests or rescue people in need, working to stabilize the health of the district. Characters with ailments can also be treated with medicinal elixirs created through the game’s simple crafting system. Interacting with and healing patients around each district will improve the overall health of the region. More importantly, Reid’s knowledge and treatment of each patient adds to the experience pool gained from Vampyr’s central gameplay conceit, “embracing”. Almost every named character Reid meets can be drained of blood for valuable experience, which players use to level up Reid’s combat abilities. Special abilities, health buffs, and combat techniques can only be accessed through large quantities of blood, so “embracing” offers a tantalizing path towards rapidly making the game’s combat easier. Unfortunately, killing an NPC badly damages the overall health of a district and will block off any quests related to that character. Your choices may also alter certain plot beats as you go along, in addition to any major decisions you make outside of killing characters. The point of the mechanic is to make you feel like a predator profiling its hapless prey, and the game greatly succeeds at this portrayal of villainy. Vampyr’s structure of choice is fascinating, but once you start digging around, you quickly discover it’s not nearly as developed as it looks. For one thing, I found certain decisions were a bit too vague in description, so I ended up screwing over half a district because the choice text wasn’t explicit. I don’t mind ambiguity or anything, but losing quest or “embracing” options feels a bit punishing. It’s also not clear why killing off someone like a gang member or a hustler would actually harm a district’s health, but such is the case in Vampyr. London is also prone to being a bit lifeless. I know the game’s plot suggests that citizens clear the streets due to the plague, but the game should then find other ways to reward exploration. Instead, I often ran into unproductive dead-ends or hollow building fronts that looked interesting from the outside, but only served as window dressing. The somewhat open-world often struggled with this, lacking ways to fill the play-space with engaging content. The well-acted dialogue with citizens provided some interesting tidbits of lore and hints for other characters, but it didn’t feel deep enough to mask the lack of things to do. Vampyr’s combat system also has a few issues. It’s a simpler version of Bloodborne or Dark Souls, with a lock-on targeting system, punishing damage, a slower, more methodical approach. Unfortunately, the targeting system is a bit wonky and often locks on to guys who aren’t the central threats. Reid’s attacks also require a good deal of close range combat, and the hit detection was occasionally spotty. Fights against tougher enemies and bosses often felt very similar to one another, requiring lots of dodging, healing, and quick strikes before dancing away. The action looks great but feels repetitive in practice. If you choose not to kill anyone like I did, the difficulty of combat noticeably increases, but not enough to lead to more than a few extra deaths here and there. I reviewed Vampyr on the Xbox One X, and despite the console’s added horsepower, the game did not run particularly well. It looked to be locked at 30 frames per second, with significant slowdown and framerate drops at random intervals. Vampyr isn’t exactly a technical marvel, so I was a bit surprised at the lesser optimization. The dialogue, as indicated previously, is generally well-acted. The music also suits the ambiance well and adds to the darkened atmosphere of London. The general feeling I came away with was that Vampyr was a neat experiment that came short of accomplishing its objective. There’s a strong framework for a fantastic action-RPG here, but technical limitations and a lack of content variety hamstrings the game. With further development and polish, the Vampyr franchise could be a cult classic. As it is, however, we’re left with an interesting but deeply flawed title that will probably resonate with a limited audience. Pros Strong, oppressive ambiance A great concept of choice that really emphasizes your predatory nature Lots of engaging dialogue to dig through Cons Combat is relatively lackluster Quite a few technical issues throughout Game world lacks development Overall Score: 6.5 (out of 10) Decent Vampyr is a great concept with middling execution. The skeleton of the game provides hope for a brighter future, but the appeal of this particular title is likely limited to a select few. Disclosure: This game was reviewed using downloadable code provided by the publisher
  22. Time for another night of #NieRAutomata! Plus the new FFZ Emotes are live! Come swing by the #Twitch stream and catch some cozy times of side quests and fun. It's gonna be a morphenominal night! ROYZYABOY! https://www.twitch.tv/royzoga123
  23. Let's get through another night of playing through #NieRAutomata for the first time! Come swing by the #Twitch stream and have some fun, it's gonna be a morphenominal night! ROYZYABOY! https://www.twitch.tv/royzoga123
  24. Time to start my first playthrough of #NieRAutomata so come swing by the #Twitch stream and catch it! It's bound to be a morphenominal night! ROYZYABOY! https://www.twitch.tv/royzoga123
  25. Developer: Arc System Works Publisher: Arc System Works Platform: PS4, Nintendo Switch, and PC Release Date: May 31, 2018 ESRB: T for Teen Arc System Works has been quick to fill in the crossover team fighter void left by Capcom's extremely disappointing Ultimate Marvel Vs Capcom. By seemingly invoking the power of Shenron (through Dragon Ball FighterZ) Arc System Works has rapidly jumped in power level in both sales and status among hyperactive team-based fighters. This year, Arc System Works has decided to follow up with another team-based fighter, Blazblue Cross Tag Battle, but this time it leans far more heavily into its crossover nature. Featuring characters from Blazblue, Persona 4, Under Night In-Birth, and the most surprising addition of all -- Rooster Teeth Production's popular action web series RWBY -- one can only hope Blazblue: Cross Tag Battle is as satisfying to actually play as it is inherently bizarre as a crossover game. With such a broad selection of characters, the immediate concern is how daunting it is mechanically. Weirdly enough, Blazblue Cross Tag Battle may be Arc System Works' most approachable fighter to date, even with the strides in accessibility that Dragon Ball FighterZ made earlier this year and Persona 4 Arena before it. Everything from button mash-friendly auto-combos to extremely simple button inputs being no more complex than a quarter circle motion, as well as two button reversals like in P4A more than considerably help lower the execution barrier. Blazblue Cross Tag Battle goes a few steps further than that, however, including little details such as your character automatically trying to close the distance themselves when you input a grab command, leading to far less missed throws. If anything, anyone who has played Blazblue, Persona 4 Arena, or Under Night In-Birth may feel like they have a larger learning curve here than those who have not. The reasoning for this is that most of the characters in this game originally come from four-button fighters while Blazblue Cross Tag Battle primarily relies on two for most attack strings (before getting into tag commands and the "Clash" button, at least). So, in addition to potentially unlearning years of muscle memory, it can lead to many characters feeling quite foreign due to their much more limited movesets. Personally speaking, I found myself gravitating towards characters I had very little experience with before, or outright new ones like members of RWBY, because of how odd it felt playing once familiar 2D spites. Of course, at the end of the day, Blazblue Cross Tag Battle is a team-based fighter and the synergy between character pairs is arguably more important than being decent with any one fighter. A good assist, for instance, can give slow/short-ranged characters like Azrael the opportunity to easily close the distance. To put this into practice even more, Blazblue Cross Tag Battle clearly borrows many mechanics from Marvel vs Capcom like its own version of push blocking, DHC cancels (changing characters mid-super), and its equivalent of X-Factor to dramatically power up a character when their own ally is knocked out. However, there are a few extra tools in Cross Tag Battle that allow much more combo creativity due to its distinct tagging options. Players can switch characters during normal ally assists or the craziest tag feature of all which involves the "Cross Combo" mechanic that has one's second character on-screen at the same time and perpetually attacking, allowing for some truly devious pressure and combo potential for a brief moment. It is truly impressive just how much free reign players are given with the tag mechanics, both offensively and defensively, making the initially easy-to-approach mechanics for newcomers also appetizing for far more seasoned players with its potential depth and enjoyable yet frenetic combat. Those that do not necessarily want to overload their brains with systems can veer into a much more straightforward environment, like the game's visual novel-style story mode. The story by itself is hardly special as it basically revolves around the many characters being taken from their world and the mastermind behind it forcing them to battle others in hopes to return to their own. In spite of this simple setup, Cross Tag Battle does a great job at being fully aware that it is a crossover game and never takes itself too seriously. There is a lot of fun, self-referential writing regarding each respective franchise and it is entertaining to see unlikely character interactions with one another, such as Ruby fangirling over the bizarre weapons of much of the cast, for example. From an English localization perspective, they go the extra mile for quality, such as having nearly every Persona 4 and Blazblue voice actor reprise their former roles, which is a nice nostalgic touch. Unfortunately, the story mode does frequently serve as an unpleasant reminder about the game's tacky approach to DLC as well. Many characters that appear in the story are outright unplayable in the base game, and with nearly half of the roster locked behind a paid DLC pass, it makes what is supposed to be a discounted fifty dollar game on paper closer to seventy dollars in actual practice. And frankly, it is especially hard to ignore when Persona 4, Under Night In-Birth, and RWBY characters have four characters or less to play as in the initial twenty roster. Though, in fairness, Arc System Works has made an effort to make sure at least the two extra RWBY characters Yang and Blake are free, and I'd be lying if I did not say that Blake Belladonna is probably my current favorite character to play in the entire game... despite me knowing next to nothing about RWBY as a series. The rest of the gameplay feature set is quite standard when compared to Arc System Work's most recent titles. There is the typical training, VS mode, survival, as well as a fairly insightful tutorial that teaches the gameplay systems in addition to character specific nuances, which are incredibly welcome. The same applies to the online lobbies that allow players to roam around in cutesy character avatars and challenge other in sixty-four player rooms, and it is still as endearing as ever. Plus, a fairly solid netcode (without the obnoxious rollback in various Capcom titles) helps its case too. Blazblue Cross Tag Battle successfully delivers in crossover fanservice and as a hyperactive tag team fighter. A very low execution barrier, incredibly fast-paced action, and surprising depth to its many gameplay systems makes this truly bizarre mashup an entertaining time, regardless of one's inherent fighting game skill level. Yet, for everything it does right as a game, it becomes that much harder to shake the feeling of Blazblue Cross Tag Battle coming off as an incomplete package, especially regarding its character roster with so many playable characters clearly locked behind DLC. If one can accept the distinct fine print required for the full package then Blazblue Cross Tag Battle should make for an enjoyable fighter despite how it "Can't Escape From Crossing Fate" with its intended audience through its questionable DLC business practices. Pros + Very low execution barrier for basic controls makes both high and low level play frantic and enjoyable + Lighthearted story mode that is fully aware it is a crossover game and never takes itself too seriously + Immense potential for combo creativity thanks to really flexible tag mechanics Cons - Most of the cast play extremely different than they do in their original games which can be rather off-putting initially - Nearly half the potential playable cast are paid DLC and having them frequently teased in the story mode makes them feel less than optional for the full package - Clearly recycled assets from entirely separate games lead to the visuals not being exactly cohesive Overall Score: 7.5 (out of 10) Good Blazblue Cross Tag Battle does quite a bit to provide a very accessible, yet deep fighter that is chock full of crossover fanservice but the stigma of its poorly handled playable character DLC unfortunately severely hampers it as a complete package. Disclosure: This game was reviewed using downloadable PS4 code provided by the publisher.
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