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  1. Developer: Spike Chunsoft Publisher: Spike Chunsoft Platform: PS Vita, PC, and PS4 Release Date: Sept 13, 2016 ESRB: M for Mature I have grown accustomed to assuming that if a game title has the word Mystery in it, it is likely associated with Spike Chunsoft's classic roguelike Mystery Dungeon franchise. Well, that's only half true in the case of One Way Heroics, a former -- and surprisingly -- beloved PC only indie release. It was not until Spike Chunsoft got the approval of the same indie developer that they decided to use One Way Heroics as a template for an entirely overhauled remake called Mystery Chronicle: One Way Heroics. With new visuals, added playable content, and being much more widely available, one can only hope Mystery Dungeon: One Way Heroics is a worthy successor. Admittedly, I have not played the original indie release, so I was not quite sure what to make of Mystery Chronicle: One Way Heroics upon starting out. I mean, it is a simple game inherently -- you try to move from left to right while escaping a world-consuming light in an RPG roguelike framework. Yet, as I was playing it my brain was constantly finding comparisons to other games since it straddles the line between feeling influenced and also feeling distinctly its own thing. For example, many of the gameplay mechanics in Mystery Chronicle are quite reminiscent of the classic roguelike Shiren: The Wanderer, which is unsurprising as both are made by Spike Chunsoft. From the turn-based nature, procedurally generated level design, limited inventory space, plenty of familiar traps, or the fact the Shiren himself is literally an unlockable playable character makes it hit home even further. The comparison sort of ends there as the expectation of failure is much higher in Mystery Chronicle and it is less about winning as it is about journeying a bit further than your previous expedition while little by little unlocking more ways to play the game. This playthrough went from excellent to terrible as soon as that bug decided to show up Probably one of the cooler aspects about One Way Heroics is how it is willing to break from roguelike conventions. For one, you can actually make a permanent save during a run (or multiple, depending on your luck.), which, save-scumming temptation aside, can be very helpful as solid runs can actually last several hours. Though, considering the often harsh difficulty when on normal and above, you may often embarrassingly meet your end minutes in like I often did. The title bounces between deviously addictive and frustrating at the same breath. Lady luck often plays too big of a hand in a solid playthrough or not simply because there are so many things that can go so wrong, and so quick. For as huge of an advantage as being able to save mid-run, or use of the title's "Dream Vault" to draw upon items gained from previous playthroughs for an early advantage, I found myself in many situations I could not do anything because of what felt like bad dice rolls. Sometimes the title may decide to randomly one-shot the player with an unfortunate enemy critical, or maybe your damage output is simply not good enough to break past an enemy blocking your way during a dungeon because you had not gotten a good weapon in like thirty minutes, which led the screen-scrolling "shrine raid" to instantly kill you. As I uncovered the different endings on higher difficulties it felt like success was born of luck (... and reloads) than player ability, and bad luck was far more common. Still, Mystery Chronicle also gives you a lot of options in how you want to play it. There are many playable classes, skill perks to choose from, and pretty much every run will be different because of it. I originally found myself playing the knight class, for instance, which excelled in defense. The better I got at the game, however, I found myself favoring classes such as Ranger, which is more adept at picking locks and avoiding encounters altogether with their "sprint" ability. There are many more classes to choose from like being about to play as Danganronpa lead, Makato Naegi, whom fires Truth Bullets and has a lot of charisma to recruit allies or the Pirate class whom is strong but scares away most potential friends due to their foul mouth. It is clear the title has a lot of personality as well. However, not all of its quirk is in good taste. Weirdly enough, the title is actually rated M. It is not immediately apparent as to why with its generally family-friendly retro aesthetic until you uncover much of the juvenile writing buried in a lot of character sidequests and conversations. Pretty much every conversation with a woman character randomly turns into perverted fanservicey banter, regardless of your character's appearance. It is a shame because the title feels so close to being cute (despite the oddly bleak setting at times) only for a character to creepily suggest licking the main character all over two seconds later. It also does not help that much of the voice acting is just as cringe-worthy as a lot of the dialogue, where it becomes apparent that one voice actress in particular clearly voices at least four other characters. Speaking of which, Mystery Chronicle feels bizarrely unpolished in several other key ways as a game too. Load times are abnormally long, for example. Aside from the initial load time when the game generates a new world, there are actually frequent twenty second load times as you are going through levels. Then there are interface issues that grew under my skin as well when playing, like the inability to skip banter you have already seen (like a certain king's speech that starts every run). Which, for a title so ingrained in repetition to eventually gain success, the annoyances more than start to add up over time. In a lot of ways, Mystery Chronicle: One Way Heroics is a title that I enjoyed less the more time I threw at it. As as a game it has some cool ideas with its decidedly unique approach on roguelikes that makes it quite easy to pick up and play. However, after a while I simply got annoyed with what felt like penchant focus on luck and the title's general lack of polish, such as abnormally long load times. Mystery Chronicle: One Way Heroics feels so close to being charming, but in a crowded roguelike market in which there are simply better examples to choose from, being unique does not quite travel far enough to avoid its many more glaring issues. Pros + Simple, yet addictive, take on roguelikes that is very straightforward + Lots to features to unlock or gameplay nuances one can uncover over time Cons - Bizarrely long load times - Underwhelming 2D visuals and soundtrack - Bad voice acting with some tasteless writing - RNG decides the pace of a run far more than it should, especially on harder difficulties Overall Score: 5 (out of 10) Average Though it does have its addictive moments, the frustrations that accompany Mystery Chronicle: One Way Heroics make it harder to justify the time spent with it when there are many better examples of roguelikes that also happen to feel more fair. Disclosure: This game was reviewed using downloadable Vita code provided by the publisher.
  2. Developer: Spike Chunsoft Publisher: Aksys Games Platform: PS Vita Release Date: July 26, 2016 ESRB: E for Everyone Shiren the Wanderer is sort of like the great granddaddy of roguelike dungeon crawlers that only a select few actually remember by name. I imagine people are likely aware of its many "Mystery Dungeon" offshoots, such as Pokemon: Super Mystery Dungeon, or maybe even the Final Fantasy-themed Chocobo's Mysterious Dungeon, but not poor ol' Shiren himself. I can't really blame people either as actual localized Shiren titles have been far and few between over the years. Either way, out of seemingly sheer randomness, we are blessed by Aksys with Shiren the Wanderer: The Tower of Fortune and the Dice of Fate on Vita. Though originally a former (and Japan-only) Nintendo DS title, the enhanced Vita release of the fifth main entry proves that the time-worn adventurer still has more than a few worthwhile tricks to survive even now. The pretense in this title is rather brief, but to the point -- refreshingly so. Veteran wanderer, Shiren, and his talking ferret companion wind up in a foreign land with whole new problems. In his newest adventure, Shiren finds himself wanting to help a local townsfolk, Jirokichi, who is adamant on changing the cruel fate of his dying friend. In order to do so, however, Shiren and Jirokichi have to literally challenge the god of destiny by climbing the Tower of Fortune and collecting the dice of fate. Hence the wordy, but surprisingly accurate, game title. Right at the start, Shiren the Wanderer: The Tower of Fortune and the Dice of Fate comes off immediately as charming. It pulls off an old-school RPG charm and feels completely earnest about it. Everything from the simple, but well-realized, 2D aesthetic to the brief, but cute, main story just feels right at home with releases many console generations past. This certainly helps as Tower of Fortune has no problem being quite mean and "old school" in regards to challenging gameplay as well. As the case goes for Mystery Dungeon releases, specifically Shiren, combat is turn-based and dungeons are random. Basically every action, or step, Shiren takes constitutes as a turn making the entire roguelike flow feel very methodical. Also part of the signature roguelike formula is a rule where when Shiren dies, all of the money and held items he had are lost. It is a very harsh consequence, and honestly, you will die more than you succeed, especially early in. That said, Shiren does quite a few things to help you mitigate it. Roguelike shenanigans will occasionally deal an unfair hand (...or many consecutively), but most of it can actually be offset by preparation or coming to understand the many small nuances within its gameplay. And I do truly mean many. Thankfully, most key gameplay naunces are explained rather well through the many optional, but insightful, tutorials. Aspects like knowing matching gear sets give you buffs, how to synthesize gear to carry over valuable skills from various items, learning how to deal with many tricky enemy types, or that you can't read helpful ability scrolls at night time without proper lighting seem small but can make all the difference when trying survive. And, contrary to the series' standard rules, you can even prevent the loss of gear if you cough up some cash "plate" them in advance, which will have them appear in a Lost and Found after death. Tower of Fortune is also one of those games that starts out very basic, yet continues and continues to open up as you uncover its many layers. Beyond standard dungeon exploration, just taking a stroll around the various towns throughout will lead to unraveling the surprisingly breadth to the game: such as a point based shop that rewards players for stepping on switches mid-dungeon, finding companions to fight at your side, the ability craft/name entirely new items, heck, there are even several minigames -- one of which is essentially Minesweeper. Players can also dabble with online functionality as well, like requesting revives from other players or being one to help those in need. Though, I think it is an absolute crime that co-op multiplayer is delegated to local ad-hoc only. Still, the gameplay is just dense in ways one would not expect. This applies the most in the post-main story content. I personally beat the main story in about twenty hours (I feel like it would have been a fair bit less if it were not for some harsh lessons...), and the post game is more than likely to double that for more hardcore adventurers. There are so many optional sidequests and dungeons that unlock after the main story that it is honestly absurd in both the amount of time you can throw at it and difficulty in trying to surpass them. Granted, for as much fun as I have had with the main story, I did get discouraged considering how strict certain optional dungeons were, such as increased hunger rates and lack of recruitable companions, and how much more reliant the were on luck they felt like. But I'm sure more seasoned adventures can prove me wrong with the right setup. So, what is one to make of a of Mystery Dungeon series? Let alone the fifth entry? Well, if anything, Shiren the Wanderer: The Tower of Fortune and the Dice of Fate absolutely relishes in series' pedigree. It embraces the harsher, yet addictive, qualities of roguelikes and goes above and beyond.with its surprisingly charm and gameplay nuance. All in all, while it does not deviate from too far from an established formula, it makes a fine example of why it does not need to. Pros + Genuine old school RPG charm from the ground up + Simple, yet quite addictive, dungeon-crawling formula with a very deceptive amount of depth underneath + Rewarding structure that allows players to mitagate most of the harsher gameplay aspects with smart preparation + Absurdly huge amount of post game content that can keep players occupied for quite a while Cons - Roguelike shenanigans is certainly in place and skill can not always compensate for really bad luck - The consequence of dying is still quite harsh and can be rather off putting for those not used to the "Mystery Dungeon" formula Overall Score: 8 (out of 10) Great Rich with charm and surprising depth Shiren the Wanderer: The Tower of Fortune and the Dice of Fate is likely to captivate many fans of roguelike dungeon crawlers Disclosure: This game was reviewed using downloadable Vita code provided by the publisher.
  3. Developer: Nippon Ichi Software Publisher: NIS America Platforms: PS3 Release Date: March 17, 2014 ESRB: T for Teen It has been two years since the release of The Guided Fate Paradox. This was Nippon Ichi's second foray into their curious spin on turn-based dungeon-crawlers and roguelikes while following the spirit of the obscure, and overwhelming titled, Z.H.P. Unlosing Ranger vs Darkdeath Evilman on PSP. While both games had a distinctively different overall style, The Guided Fate Paradox creatively expanded upon many gameplay principles introduced in Z.H.P.. Now, I am not going to dance around the fact that I liked The Guided Fate Paradox a whole lot. So much so, it may have placed abnormally high on my 2013 GOTY list. And while my opinion of the title cooled off a little bit after replaying it recently (though, I still like it a lot and my save file somehow lingers above one-hundred hours total...), I didn't expect the would-be spiritual sequel, The Awakened Fate Ultimatum, to be so disappointing. Not because it is different, but because it takes so many steps back with a similar formula. Before getting into what is the same (but not as good) as a game, the differences in story are actually one of The Awakened Fate Ultimatum's stronger points. Much like Guided Fate, the initial setup has a high school student taken from their normal mundane life and made into the "God" of Celestia. Unlike Guided Fate, which did so in a tongue-in-cheek way via a local mall lottery, the main character Shin Kamikaze becomes a "God" after being murdered by devils and is forcibly revived by angels through something called the "Fate Awakening Crystal" to participate in a war between angels and devils. One of the key narrative differences between this and earlier Nippon Ichi RPGs, aside from obvious changes in lead characters/setting, is how much deceptively darker the pervading story tone is. For example, the roguelike spiritual predecessor Z.H.P. Unlosing Ranger Vs Darkdeath Evilman had a fairly playful and over-the-top attitude like to many Disgaea entries, while The Guided Fate Paradox straddled the line between fairly serious and very unserious storytelling, like NIS's Soul Nomad & The World Eaters. Awakened Fate, however, has plenty of grim reminders about the mortality of characters and there is a real somber tone throughout—even with its occasional comic relief. For instance, many story choices seem rather ambiguous and generally call you out on the consequences of either "Ultimate Choice" decisions when there are honestly no "good" choices. Speaking of that, another primary distinction between The Awakened Fate Ultimatum and its predecessors is its variations of the narrative and gameplay in the form of its angel & devil affinities. In a story context, there are many choices that seem to align with either the angel Jupiel or the devil Ariael. As much as it pains me to even think of this comparison, it definitely seems to be marketed like Time & Eternity's shtick on paper because of the contrast between the two heroines. Now, thankfully, Awakened Fate respects its characters far more by actually having worthwhile events around them. So, it isn't exactly a "pick your waifu" affair, but rather it usually correlates with fairly serious events... while also picking favorites (Ariael ftw). That said, both the characters and the overall narrative have problems with certain rather predictable tropes, which interferes with the overarching storytelling more than it should later on despite its murky (albeit messed up) "Ultimate Choices" at times. For gameplay context, Shin actually uses both the power of angel & devil forms in the midst being "Deitized" for his randomly-generated dungeon-crawling expeditions. Story decisions also grant bonus CP (Crystal Points), which power up either of these godly forms and switching between the two basically becomes the bread & butter of the core gameplay; switch to angel form to fight devil enemies and vice versa. Angel form is more offensive focused while devil form leans more towards a defensive style in its stats and abilities. It is a simple but neat gameplay mechanic—well, for a short bit. "Simple", or rather "simplified," seems to be the purveying idea over its predecessors. There is a distinct lack of variety and depth to nearly every facet of its gameplay, especially when compared to The Guided Fate Paradox in particular. Most changes are intended for the greater accessible good. Certain gameplay structure oddities are cleared up from earlier NIS releases like a (more direct) total level count, simplifying primary stats, and (very slightly) lowering the consequence of dying in dungeons. Problem is, actually leveling up is rather slow, as the player will still find themselves clobbering most enemies in dungeons out of necessity in about the same amount of—if not more—time than previous games because of the generally slower flow. Dying is also arguably more punishing than earlier games because of the stronger reliance on stats/gear, even if the game itself is generally easier. I could go on for ages as to how The Guided Fate Paradox almost feels like the much-improved sequel that somehow got released before this title. There are simply way more engaging aspects to Guided Fate's gameplay, from actually having distinct dungeon themes, tons of equipment/skills (and the ability dual-wield weapons to get access to even more), having allies join you in combat, deep character progression, lots of cosmetic personality, to different enemy types and very unique bosses/battle scenarios. But, Awakened Fate's dungeon-crawling gameplay basically feels the same from start to finish and lacks any such variety, even with its initially cool angel and devil form mechanics. For almost literally every enemy, you simply switch between the angel and devil forms to do more damage, and there are very few actual enemy types because they need palette swaps for each of Shin's form. Just the same, bosses are also not only very sparse (and recycled!) but just as uninspired. Most bosses play out like a really slow Rock 'em Sock 'em Robot standstill until you win through attrition. Character progression is also quite lacking, as it is eerily similar to something like Final Fantasy XIII's simplistic Crystarium skill tree. The only real perk to this system is that much further in its progression Shin can essentially have access to 14 different skills at once, since abilities aren't tied to weapons and are unlocked through this leveling tree. The main grievance to me is that it is not even that the gameplay is "bad" per se (comparatively, it is), but it is remarkably... unremarkable and devoid of not only substance and change in gameplay throughout, but just plain personality too. In its transition to a 3D chibi art style, it loses a lot of the signature Nippon Ichi 2D sprite quirkiness and a cohesive visual style. Character portraits seem fairly detached from the gameplay, and while the new in-game 3D visuals may seem cute at a first glance, in motion it feels rather stilted. The cracks in what seems like the title's lowered budget become more apparent with the so few enemy types, dungeon themes, or even just forgoing animating cutscenes altogether. To add to that, more than half of the soundtrack was recycled from the The Guided Fate Paradox. Which, admittedly, I still think the music is pretty good, as well as some of the new compositions, but the tracks loop pretty frequently wear out their welcome during the fairly lengthy visual novel-esque scenes. The Awakened Fate Ultimatum is not simply disappointing because it is not as good as either of its spiritual predecessors as a game, but rather just doesn't stand out among many plain better dungeon-crawler and roguelike titles. It is a mix between the two that isn't likely to satisfy fans of either camp, much less those hoping for a faithful spiritual successor to The Guided Fate Paradox because of its drastically simplified gameplay systems, like myself. The only real impetus to wade through its so-so gameplay is to get to its surprisingly dark storytelling scenes and ambiguous "Ultimate choices." Unfortunately, even those will probably not be enough for most people because of its middling gameplay and certain, predictable narrative flaws. All that is left is a shallow husk of two outright better Nippon Ichi games, that also happens to have an interesting story around it at times. Pros: + Intriguing, dark narrative tone and ambiguous storytelling choices + Angel and devil forms allow Shin versatile abilities in combat Cons: - Real lack of variety in dungeon design and enemies - Unimpressive 3D visuals in-game and recycled music - Gameplay mechanics and skill progression have been significantly simplified from games like Guided Fate and Z.H.P. - Some rather cliche story points later on Overall Score: 5.5 (out of 10) Average Nippon Ichi makes many attempts to create a more approachable roguelike dungeon-crawler but in doing so sacrifices most aspects that would make it stand out. What is left is a narrative that, while interesting, is not enough to salvage an overall experience that has simply been outdone by both of its predecessors years ago. Disclosure: This game was reviewed using downloadable PS3 code provided by the publisher.
  4. Marcus Estrada

    Review: Vertical Drop Heroes HD

    Developer: Nerdook Productions Publisher: Digerati Distribution Platform: PC - GOG, Steam Release Date: July 25, 2014 ESRB: N/A (E10+ suggested) Do you enjoy dying? In most games, the case would be "no" as dying is seen as a failure state—and annoying! In Vertical Drop Heroes HD, you're poised to die consistently and constantly. And somehow, this manages to be immensely enjoyable experience all the same. It's all thanks to its addictive dungeon-crawler/roguelike vibe that makes each death compel players to keep going. First, let“s go over a tiny bit of the game“s history. Vertical Drop Heroes first appeared as an online Flash game. Although fun, that version is years out of date and much smaller than the new release. Vertical Drop Heroes HD adds in new features, skills, abilities, and improved graphics. All in all, you could totally get a taste of the game online, but afterward you“ll just end up needing to buy this version anyhow. So what exactly is so good about it? At its core, this is a simple game with a tough but not insurmountable level of challenge. Players begin the game by selecting one of three characters to play as. Once selected, they can head off into a very tall dungeon/castle/forest thing. As the name implies, your heroes must descend to the depths of each stage. Along the way they come across a wide variety of monsters, treasure, and wooden crates! Okay, wooden crates shouldn“t be a highlight but they actually contain coins or potions so they“re pretty useful. At the bottom of each area you“ll find a boss and (hopefully) beat the snot out of them to exit. Or, you could just unlock the exit early and skip the fight entirely. Every hero in Vertical Drop Heroes HD has their own setup which will affect progressing through areas. Each is randomly created, meaning you have no control over their skills or equipment - but that“s part of the fun. Some heroes are equipped with weapons you“ll come to love while others seem annoying. For example, the pickaxe breaks through platforms with ease. If you“re not careful you“ll fall very quickly through the stage and possibly right onto spikes or clusters of monsters. Alongside weapons are traits and skills specific to each hero. Your skills have a limited use but these uses can be restored at the proper shrines. Skills vary from simple things like shooting out arrows to summoning dragons or even turning into a golem. There are a ton of great abilities but those aren“t all each character is capable of. They also have traits that confer additional advantages. One hero may have the ability to walk on fire without being hurt while another can unlock crates without nabbing a few keys first. Both form of skillsets are unlocked by buying them from merchants randomly dispersed about stages. When your hero perishes, all progress in the dungeon is lost. Well, kinda. Basically you still have to start from the very first level again (unless you pay for teleports back to higher levels) with a new character. However, all the purchases on skills you made during the run still apply for all future characters. Even gold still sticks around between deaths in case you want to enhance your health, attack, and other base stats at the entry zone. These features help make the game friendlier to players although you can definitely avoid certain upgrades to maintain a higher challenge if you“re into that. Visually, Vertical Drop Heroes HD seems similar to a smartphone game with its cutsey, chibi cartoon style. Even so, this game is definitely tough and pretty darn addictive. It's just a bit of a shame that the art style doesn't stand up (in my opinion) to other titles within the genre. The music is a tremendous high point and it was honestly surprising how good some of the tracks are. Unfortunately, there are only a few songs in the soundtrack! I was definitely hoping to hear even more while battling my way ever downward. Of course, there were a few issues that were encountered while playing. The main one is seemingly random bouts of lag that would crop up every once in a while. It was hard to discern what caused them, because the screen itself never seemed heavily cluttered. Still, at these moments the character and anything else around it would chug for a bit before finally getting back to normal speed again. Although the game never crashed for me, some players have also complained about this happening from time to time as well. Vertical Drop Heroes HD is an immensely fun vertically-scrolling dungeon crawler. The roguelike elements feel in many ways similar to Rogue Legacy but manage to come into their own, unique flavor. With runs that last on a few minutes each (until you become more skilled) it“s incredibly easy to play another round - and another. You know how it goes. Some games just manage to hook you, and that“s what Vertical Drop Heroes HD has accomplished with me. Definitely give it a look if you“re still hungry for something with roguelike flair! Pros: + Gameplay that“s easy enough to jump into but also challenging + Tons of skills, abilities, traits, and all that good stuff for tons of unique heroes + Fantastic soundtrack Cons: - Little ability to influence what a character“s ability set will be - Seeming random slowdown on a few random occasions - May have the propensity to crash Overall Score: 8 (out of 10) Great Vertical Drop Heroes HD manages to both be a fair game and still scratch that roguelike itch. Disclosure: This game was reviewed using downloadable Steam code provided by the publisher.
  5. Marcus Estrada

    Vertical Drop Heroes Screenshot 3

    From the album: Review Images

  6. Marcus Estrada

    Vertical Drop Heroes Screenshot 2

    From the album: Review Images

  7. Marcus Estrada

    Vertical Drop Heroes Screenshot 1

    From the album: Review Images

  8. barrel

    Review: The Guided Fate Paradox

    Developer: Nippon Ichi Publisher: NIS America Platform: PS3 Release Date: November 5, 2013 ESRB: T for Teen A download code was provided by the publisher for this review As a big fan of turn-based Strategy-RPGs, one of my favorite things about gaming in 2013 is how the sub-genre has proven that there is an actual audience for it. Fire Emblem: Awakening hit roughly 400,000 units earlier this year, and companies like Nippon Ichi (or NIS) are able to craft a follow-up to their most highly-regarded SRPG, Disgaea: Hour of Darkness, with the recent release of Disgaea D2: A Brighter Darkness. Heck, even other niche subgenres, like roguelikes, have had their time to shine this year with surprise hits like Rogue Legacy. Nippon Ichi made a bold attempt by trying to culminate the appeal of both of roguelikes and SRPGs with their newest IP: The Guided Fate Paradox. Should this curious new IP from Nippon Ichi be left in the shadow of the recent and more widely-adored older brother Disgaea D2, or does it deserve to, as the main protagonist would say: "Guide your fate to a revolution!" by playing it? The story of The Guided Fate Paradox focuses on Renya, a normal high school student who makes it quite apparent that he has terrible luck at winning lotteries of any sort. Despite this, at a local mall he is dragged aside by a cute girl who looks like an angel (and actually is) by the name of Lilliel to participate in the “lottery machine of destiny”. The prize? Becoming “God," of course, which Renya just so happens to win against all odds. Upon obtaining his new job title he is gently whisked to Celestia (the Nippon-Ichi equivalent of Heaven), and is immediately forced to deign in various work in Celestia. Even so, the grand prize of being “God” is anything but fun and games, as he must help fulfill the wishes of many believers at any cost through various taxing ordeals, otherwise he is threatened to be ”consumed“ for unknown reasons. Common for NIS stuff, the narrative definitely goes into strange tangents as Renya tries to guide believers' wishes throughout the story: like viewing the tale of Cinderella through a very different perspective to even helping a weakling zombie build up their self-esteem. All are but a few tasks that the newly apprised “God” will tackle throughout each narrative act. Contrary to the expected Nippon Ichi silliness, though, the narrative does blend its more serious storytelling in well too as it progresses, which I frankly haven“t seen since the likes of Soul Nomad & The World Eaters. Honestly, I usually feel like most NIS game stories tend to be obsessed with simply chasing the next over-the-top, fourth wall breaking joke, especially recent Disgaea stuff, and Guided Fate tones it down by having a more focused narrative. There is narrative intrigue that is built up throughout and it utilizes some surprisingly dark themes, but is also rather aware to not take itself too seriously with its frequent uses of humor. While I don“t think it quite hits the narrative strides of something like Soul Nomad does in the long-run, since it falls on some narrative tropes and feels rather bloated with exposition at times, but it“s still a refreshing change in tone from more recent Nippon-Ichi RPGs. Despite having quite a different setting and overall tone, the gameplay of The Guided Fate Paradox is very much a spiritual successor to Z.H.P: Unlosing Ranger VS Darkdeath Evilman (yes, that is the real name) on the PSP, but it expands Z.H.P.'s gameplay structure quite a bit. Much like that game, the best way to describe The Guided Fate Paradox's gameplay is that of a roguelike with the mindset and strategic options of a turn-based SRPG. Admittedly, I'm generally not enamored by roguelikes nowadays, mainly because there often is no sense of persistence and a simple RNG (random number generator) formula can make whatever endeavors you attempted to achieve a waste of time or pretty much outright impossible. The Guided Fate Paradox fixes both of those personal complaints with its gameplay structure but also brings the improvisation that many roguelikes have with their gameplay. To train the fledgling deity, Renya is put to the test in the "Fate Revolution Circuit", a highly-advanced piece of machinery that streamlines the wish-granting procedure while also making him stronger in the process. By going through various procedurally generated dungeons and destroying aberrations (monsters), Renya works step by step to guide the believer's wish. While the dungeons themselves are randomly created, they all have a different theme for each narrative chapter: like one where Renya must traverse via a raft and manipulate water levels to move on, to even a scrolling stage that is being devoured by fog, which hurts the player but also strengthens monsters if they touch it, encouraging them to be mobile but also being aggressive when killing foes. If there is one thing I really respect about this game, it's how much it tries to change things up with its gameplay and mechanics: like boss encounters with unique strategies to creative battle scenarios. For example, one early game fight has Renya essentially participate in a large scale tower-defense battle: firing cannons to hit enemies from afar, knocking down ladders, or personally dealing with enemies, to push-back an onslaught of enemy forces. Did I mention this is just a one-time thing? Of course, Renya is anything but an invincible deity right from the get-go, and because of this he must get stronger through the use of the Fate Revolution Circuit. Also, in true roguelike fashion, Renya starts every dungeon at level one, and if he dies he loses all of the items he had on him as well as half of his money. Fret not though, like I mentioned, there is consistent progress here much like in Z.H.P, or a more recent and much more loose comparison, Rogue Legacy. Even though the consequences of dying are sort of brutal, no effort when dungeon-crawling is wasted because everything contributes to Renya getting stronger. Whether or not Renya successfully completes a dungeon, miserably dies, or wisely escapes uses an "Exit" item when overwhelmed, Renya gets an increase to his "total level" which raises all of his base stats based on how much progress he made. In addition, there is also the "Divinigram", which is also used to further compound Renya's, or any of the Angels who accompany him, stats as well as making them more resilient to status ailments, strengthening parts of their body (to directly correspond with making equipment more powerful), stronger against certain foes, and more. Both the "Divinigram" and the "Burst" mechanics play off each other in an integral way. As Renya, or his angel allies, continue to progress in dungeons, their equipment gets stronger the more often they use it, that is up until it "Bursts." The burst mechanic reverts equipment to its default stats, unless it is strengthened at the Blacksmith, so it takes longer to reach the "Burst" status, but you also receive a stat tile piece to place on the "Divinigram" based on the equipment type. The Divinigram is sort of like a much more deep/versatile version of FFX's Sphere grid, where you place down specific stat tiles, whether it be defense, attack, speed(/evasion), or hit (%), which you gain from Bursts, among a large board. To add an extra layer of depth, the player can manipulate "god energy" on the Divinigram which flows through the stat panels and can be used to boost individual attributes based on the "holy artifacts" on the the Divinigram. It sounds really complicated, but really, it just means you should actively use different pieces of equipment until they Burst to reap new panels to further increase Renya's or the angel's stats and, can/should, organize them in a certain way so they can get even stronger beyond that. Guided Fate also eases you into these mechanics gradually, so your brain doesn't explode learning how these nuances work, or leave you to fend for yourself, as with many other NIS RPGs. In general, It's a very rewarding system that makes room for a lot of customization and makes this game quite a bit more approachable than most other NIS properties, and is much less deliberately grindy as well because of it. If I have one real complaint towards The Guided Fate Paradox, it is probably in its replay value in comparison to other NIS properties. The title certainly has more to work towards than most RPGs in the long-run, with a few very challenging and time-consuming optional dungeons to take on and some neat Easter eggs for NIS fans to notice too, but unlike other NIS stuff it doesn't feel like you've barely scratched the surface after beating the main story. The narrative also has a pretty concrete (and admittedly, sort of underwhelming) singular ending, meaning there is no post-game (it does have new-game-plus where you maintain your progress, though), and it doesn't have divergent narrative paths as seen with titles like Soul Nomad. Even if I enjoyed the game a lot, and will continue to chip away at the optional content, it is a little disappointing considering how I wish there was a bit more incentive to go crazy with stat grinding late-game. As I work towards it, maybe I can hope for an eventual enhanced Vita port with more post-game content, like recent Disgaea ports, considering how the game was originally intended to be released on that system? To my surprise, the usual Tenpei Sato does not reprise his music compositional role in what seems like every NIS title; instead we get to see the work of a Japanese Gothic rock band by the name of Yosei Teikoku, which some anime fans may recognize their work when doing the first opening song for Mirai Nikki (or Future Diary). Personally, I was really caught off guard by the sheer variety and quality of the overall soundtrack, which really played on my expectations of what I“d expect it to be, even after being vaguely familiar with the band's previous work. Sure, there are some intense, J-Rock tracks for some specific battle themes but there is even more songs that very much atmospheric and complements game's heavenly, and at times hellish, setting. Another pleasant surprise I found was with the English dub of the game, which I found myself much preferring over the Japanese counterpart. Also, to my surprise, the dub was full of voice actors I didn't recognize, considering how I'm more well-versed than I should be with them. In general, the audio design is great in The Guided Fate Paradox, especially on the musical front. If you asked me recently about how I felt about Nippon Ichi games, I'd be hesitant to say I am a big fan their products, despite playing most of their localized properties and enjoying titles like Disgaea 4, Soul Nomad, and Z.H.P. If you asked me how I felt about the company after playing The Guided Fate Paradox, however, I would sing a very different and much more positive overall tune towards them. Guided Fate is a constantly rewarding, deep, challenging, and intriguing mix of both SRPG and roguelike elements on the PS3. Even in a year where fans of SRPGs were graced by the excellent Fire Emblem: Awakening, or that of roguelikes with Rogue Lagacy, The Guided Fate Paradox ascends above as not only my favorite NIS title, but also my personal favorite example of both SRPG and roguelike this year with its fantastic gameplay hybrid. Pros: + Intriguing narrative that blends humor and serious storytelling well + Varied dungeon design with some creative boss fights + Great soundtrack and solid English dub + Strategic and challenging gameplay that constantly encourages the player to change things up + Deep with RPG customization that is constantly rewarding Cons: - Story scenes are occasionally a bit bloated with exposition with some predictable plot points - Doesn“t quite have the replay value of other NIS SRPGs Overall Score: 9 (out of 10) Fantastic The Guided Fate Paradox expertly blends both Strategy-RPG and roguelike into one very finely tuned algorithm that should more than satiate fans of either.
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    The Guided Fate Paradox

    From the album: The Guided Fate Paradox

    © http://adala-news

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    From the album: The Guided Fate Paradox

    © http://nisamerica.com/

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    From the album: The Guided Fate Paradox

    © http://nisamerica.com/

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    From the album: The Guided Fate Paradox

    © http://nisamerica.com/

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    From the album: The Guided Fate Paradox

    © http://nisamerica.com/

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    From the album: The Guided Fate Paradox

    © http://nisamerica.com/

  15. Marcus Estrada

    Review: Teleglitch: Die More Edition

    Developer: Test3 Projects Publisher: Paradox Interactive Platform: PC (Steam, Web) Release Date: July 24, 2013 ESRB: N/A (T suggested) A download code was provided by the publisher for this review The roguelike genre has seen an amazing resurgence over the past few years, thanks in main part to smaller studios delving into the gameplay style. Gamers are responding positively to this new era of tough titles and, as such, another roguelike title has recently arrived - Teleglitch: Die More Edition. Does this game offer an addicting, if perilous, journey for players? Of course! Teleglitch is most simply described as a top-down twin stick shooter. As we“re seeing with many of these games lately, it also happens to make use of a pixelated art style. However, it isn“t harkening back to the attractive SNES/Genesis style. That“s not to say the game is ugly, but it does have a very distinct style of pixel art. That, combined with the menu, makes it all feel like an older PC title. In any case, the visuals do not hinder the gameplay. From this perspective, you can zoom in somewhat or zoom out, but are still relegated to what your sprite can see. Basically, if your character is in one room, they won“t be able to see what is beyond the walls. You can see only as far ahead as your character can see which makes this an even tougher experience. Why might players desire to see adjoining rooms and hallways? Because, without knowledge of what“s in the next area, you could very well walk into a den full of enemies. Of course, this is something which happens often. Players must stay on their toes if they have any hope of surviving. At the start, you have only a weak pistol, some ammo, and an empty can. What you collect from there is based on a mix of skill and luck. As with other roguelikes, the levels are randomly generated. This random chance also applies to the loot boxes scattered throughout the world. Sometimes you“ll be lucky enough to find great loot with little danger, but often that is not the case. There are a great deal of weapons, medical aid, and other goods to collect. Some items can even be combined to form stronger weapons. With ammo, a restricted resource, you should always make the best of what you“ve got. Panicking is the worst thing you can do in Teleglitch as it wastes ample bullets. Early levels are difficult but only until you really get the hang of it. After all, the main foe you face in the beginning is a goofy little creature. Of course, once you head into the third or fourth level, things become far more difficult. There are not only a greater frequency of larger and stronger enemies but ones who even shoot their own guns at you. If you haven“t become adequate at the game prior to this then you“ll quickly learn. In each level you are always seeking to find a warp which leads you to the next area. However, as has just been described, this is a far tougher task than it seems. If you can manage to survive through to the next area though then your character keeps all the goods that have been accumulated so far. This is another reason to become skilled with shooting only when necessary (and hopefully hitting each time), and using your combat knife in tough situations. Although the title is certainly solid gameplay-wise, it offers little in the personality department. It“s not particularly hilarious or frightening, but instead a murky, pixelated shooter. This would not be a problem if there weren“t a huge amount of roguelikes all vying for gaming attention. Unfortunately, there is little that stands out as special here. If you“re determined, then you can survive the cruel world of Teleglitch. You just have to remember to repeat those words to yourself time and time again as there will be many deaths in your immediate gaming future. The difficulty will turn some people off, but then again, that“s exactly what roguelikes are all about! Give Teleglitch: Die More Edition a try if you“re feeling daring - or masochistic. Pros: + Great deal of items to find and combine + All goods collected carry over to next level + Interesting pixel art that isn“t simply copying an existing style Cons: - Itty bitty enemies can be hard to shoot accurately - Lacks a strong personality Overall Score: 7.5 (out of 10) Good Teleglitch: Die More Edition offers exactly what the name implies. Giving this roguelike a go is fun as long as you“re prepared to invest hours and tons of deaths into it.
  16. Marcus Estrada

    Review: Rogue Legacy

    Developer: Cellar Door Games Publisher: Cellar Door Games Platform: PC (Desura, GamersGate, GOG, Steam, OnLive, Web) Release Date: June 27, 2013 ESRB: N/A (E10+ suggested) Roguelikes have seen a serious boom over the past year. Despite Rogue having not been on most players“ minds since the 80s, developers have decided to reign back in on the genre. With that we have seen many excellent games come forth. The latest of this bunch is Rogue Legacy from Cellar Door Games. Is this roguelike another gem or is it one that can easily be avoided? Unfortunately for your wallet, Rogue Legacy is the next must buy. It starts out with the same blueprints we expect of any roguelike. You“ve got one character and once they die then that“s it for them. From there, you begin anew journeying with your heroic character into a castle. With each life comes a new castle (unless you pay gold to keep the layout from changing). So far, it seems about the standard fare. Where is it that this game diverges from existing entities? One of the most unique features in Rogue Legacy is the idea of your family tree growing infinitely onward. Although your hero will always die, they are also always going to have multiple children. These children serve as your next hero, and from then, so too do their own children. It continues infinitely as you can play through the game over and over with a new randomized hero. Each character has a great deal of variety between them as well, which leads into the next interesting gameplay element. Each character has a series of traits. Some of these will make your hero bulky and hard to push back, but also very slow and unwieldy. Others make your hero incredibly small, or fast, or a host of other physical abnormalities. Then there are the traits such as color blindness, tourettes, and more which tweak the gameplay sometimes. For example, dyslexia causes all text on the screen to appear with letters in the wrong place. Some of these traits are beneficial, some are meaningless, and others are a detriment to your play such as ones that blur part of the screen. Although you have genetic traits for each character, they are not passed down by your parents. In this way players are spared the cruel fate of going down a line which often inherits something unfavorable. On the opposite side though, you can“t use character selection to try and create the ultimate lineage of heroes with the same set of traits honed a million times over. There are still ways to carry strengths over throughout generations. Every time you adventure into the castle you are collecting money. This gold is inherited by the next hero, where they can choose to spend it on upgrades for their family“s future. Players can buy armor, weapons, and runes which carry over to each following character. Another method of strengthening the future is to spend higher amounts of money to unlock new classes, general increases to stats, and more. In this way, players can still enforce some “natural” selection. Of course, money“s not all you“re working for in the castle. There“s also the need to see it to completion. It won“t be easy though as rooms are packed with varied enemies as well as puzzles. The very first section of the castle is not tremendously difficult, but does require a lot of careful play. Monsters such as flying eyeballs who shoot fire, bulky knights with equally large swords, and even haunted paintings will try to stop you. At times, there are even boss encounters which are much harder than standard enemies. Beating them is well worth it though as you“ll receive a great deal of monetary compensation. As far as the player is concerned, they have only a few ways to fight back. There is a main attack, a magic attack or effect, as well as other things which are added on later such as blocking, sprinting, or the much loved double jump. Beyond that, it“s really up to you to quickly maneuver through enemy projectiles, swords, and spikes. Things quickly get tense and you“ll find yourself running through generation after generation. Despite the difficulty, the relative ease of play compels one to keep playing. Often, you“ll often have the feeling of wanting to play “one more time” just to prove to yourself that your hero can make more money or explore further. Although Rogue Legacy is tough it also manages to be quite humorous. For example, some of the traits are silly like ones that make the world sepia tone because you have some sort of nostalgia trait. Then there are things like a random clown inside the castle who offers you prizes upon completion of his varying minigames. Much of the humor is conveyed without a single line of speech. The visuals which take on a retro aesthetic are a great carrier of it. You“ll see adorable little heroes, goofy massive heroes, and ones with bows atop their suits of armor. There are women with elegant white beards, and (once equipped) characters with mismatched suits of armor. Even enemies are cute despite their deadliness. Alongside the attractive visuals is a nice soundtrack as well. The two work together to create a nice environment for you, which is important considering players will spend a lot of time dying in it. There is so much that Rogue Legacy does right it“s hard to say anything negative about it. Where I do wish there could be more done was the family tree. Although it could cause trouble, I really would have loved to see the gene pool being tweaked depending on a parent“s various traits. There would still be room for randomization due to the other parent“s contributions (who you never see) but also a higher frequency of certain traits could be possible too. Who knows if this would work out, but it would be an interesting way to make each choice more important. Then there is the matter of traits which I personally deliberated with throughout play. No, it isn“t their effects or lack of effects, but their presence in the game. On one hand, it is exciting to see characters with disabilities all presented as possibly heroic. On the other hand, it seems a way to have a laugh at these conditions which are presented in silly ways in game. Of course, there is also the trait of “gay” which has caused a great deal of contention online. I“m personally of two minds on it, where it seems good to show being gay changes nothing about you, but also should not necessarily be compared to some form of genetic disadvantage. With all that said, there is a great deal more to like about Rogue Legacy than to dislike. It stands as an excellent addition to the roguelike genre and is a lot of fun to play in either short bursts or for hours at a time. As you slowly strengthen your family and characters the rest of the game begins to open up. Further locations to explore as well as new monsters and bosses to beat keep the game fresh even after you“ve played it with 10, 50, or even 100 different heroes. If you choose to pick up Rogue Legacy for $15 it will provide you with far more value in the long run. Pros: + Weapons, runes, armor, and skills are carried to each new character + Mix between easy and difficult enemies to always keep you on your toes + Various classes and traits mean you are always experimenting with different play styles Cons: - Genealogical aspect could have been taken further - Thinking critically about the traits can cause some mental anguish Overall Score: 9 (out of 10) Fantastic Rogue Legacy is both familiar and different enough from existing roguelikes to rope in a host of new fans while also attracting the hardcore audience. Check it out if you“re not afraid of dying continuously!
  17. Marcus Estrada

    Rogue Legacy 4 Screenshot 4

    From the album: Marcus's Album

  18. Marcus Estrada

    Review: Sword of the Stars: The Pit

    Developer: Kerberos Productions Publisher: Kerberos Productions Platform: PC (GamersGate, Steam) Release Date: February 22, 2013 ESRB: N/A (E10+ suggested) A download code was supplied by the publisher for this review Sword of the Stars is an interesting series that has remained out of the mainstream since its inception in 2006. Since then, Kerberos Productions have catered to niche 4X players nicely with a handful of games, although not all were received highly. Sword of the Stars: The Pit is their latest effort to addict gamers but isn“t a space 4X game like the rest. Instead, it“s a spin off into the world of sci-fi roguelikes. Interestingly, The Pit is an example of what can come from games that do not get successfully crowdfunded. The developer initially placed the project on IndieGoGo where it failed to reach its goal. Fans were not ready to see it lost though and neither were the creators. As such, the game has continued to see work until it finally released this February. With all that said, the game is still not perfect, but it manages to be a great experience all the same. The Pit slips you into the armored shoes of one of three playable characters attempting to descend to the very bottom of an alien-filled facility. Through one of three character classes, you venture past increasingly difficult enemies and search for the way down to the next level. There are thirty at all, at which point you are to find the so called “Pit” for which the game is named. What“s there? You“re going to have to spend a fair bit of time to find out. The gameplay is roguelike to its core. Players much pay attention to their health bar as well as hunger bar at all times. For if you die, either due to aliens, poison, or starvation, the game will end. From there, all one can do is simply start over again from square one. Nothing is carried over between plays aside from a scoreboard which keeps track of how well you did in previous games. There“s only one way to win and that“s through careful planning and understanding game mechanics. Players simply won“t survive if they don“t have a plan of action. Everything in the world is aided or hindered by how characters are leveled up. There are the obvious ways to level, such as increasing strength or intelligence, but there are many facets of intelligence to choose from. For example, you may spend points to be knowledgeable about computers, electronics, lockpicks, or many more. Each of these has its specific use as you find locked crates and doors in the environment. For example, with the right skillset you can gain use of medical bays, labs, or simply unlock doors. Without special interest paid to the various stats you“re going to be feeding yourself a highly difficult game. Although it is possible to craft things like lockpicks, there are still many environmental objects that require a certain amount of skill. At the very least the game puts a statistical value on how likely you are to open something versus breaking it. Again, none of a character“s level progress will be brought over to a new game. Keeping track of what needs leveling is really the least of your worries. More important is the enemies to be faced who lurk in hallways and rooms throughout. At least battles in The Pit aren“t hard to understand. There are a variety of melee weapons and guns to use, many of which are discovered later. When an enemy is in range for a particular weapon you simply need to fire. Both auto and manual aiming are accommodated, although some items see better use with one or the other. The entire game is turn based, although this is not shown directly. There are no markers telling whose turn it is; instead, the game will simply pause you as the enemy takes its turn. If there are no enemies around the game simply feels fluid. It“s when they are nearby taking turns that the character may appear to pause every so often. It“s a bit jarring when not in combat, and may annoy players. However, during a fight it“s easy to see how the turn based play works and it is helpful with planning your next move. As you engage in fights, weapons and armor start to degrade. From there, you can find new items or ways to repair them. One exciting aspect of The Pit is that there“s rarely one way to do anything. There are various bays that may be used to craft new goods, or others to heal and repair things. Of course, as many good things as exist to aid players there are also bad items such as traps around every corner. Crafting is an integral part of completing the game. Although you can craft curing potions or new gear, the most important is food. As your hunger bar dwindles, searching out a place to cobble up a meal becomes the only goal. Unfortunately, the game only provides one recipe (if you play the tutorial). There are over forty in all but the player is tasked with uncovering them all. As cool as this sounds, it plays out in much meaner fashion as failed attempts at making meals result in losing ingredients. At the start, ingredients are fairly rare to come by and it is almost painful to lose a batch due to a failed recipe attempt. This is true of using lab benches to craft other goods as well. How are you ever supposed to learn how to make things? The game actually has a way to do so, although it is a bit cumbersome. You see, there are pieces of information you“ll find around. As they are written in the alien Zuul language though they must first be translated. These Zuul documents provide important information, but some players may not recognize how to make use of them. The Pit makes no accommodations for newbies. This is a hardcore roguelike and as such it is sure to please fans. There is such a wealth to do and upgrade that it never feels like you“re saying the same game twice. Levels only grow larger and tougher the further you descend. This is a game that requires tons of time and dedication to make it to the bottom. Players who enjoy this sort of thing will find themselves spending hours trying to build characters just right so their next mission will succeed. Sword of the Stars: The Pit is just the game for those roguelike fans who enjoy statistics and unfriendly aliens. Pros: + Wealth of ways to build a character + Massive amount of crafting recipes to get new goods + Variety of weapons and modifications Cons: - Discovering recipes wastes many supplies - “Invisible” turn based system is annoying during exploration Overall Score: 8 (out of 10) Great Definitely check out Sword of the Stars: The Pit if you enjoy roguelikes with a sci-fi twist.