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  1. Developer: Spike Chunsoft Publisher: NIS America Platform: PS4, PS Vita, and PC Release Date: September 26, 2017 ESRB: M for Mature Note: This review is based on the PS Vita version of the game Through its hyperactive blend of eccentric 'ultimate' high schoolers, murder mysteries, courtroom confrontations, and narrative mayhem the Danganronpa series has established a dominant visual novel presence. Densely pack all of that to the brim with personality and it is perhaps less surprising that many passionate fans have latched onto Spike Chunsoft's iconic property. Still, it is crazy to think that Danganronpa's perpetual battle of hope vs despair has not only raged across multiple games, spin-offs, and on different gaming hardware since its original PSP debut back in 2010 but even entirely different mediums such as anime and light novels. With so much material riding on what is believed to be the final installment, does Danganronpa V3: Killing Harmony satisfy hope, despair, or really neither in between for its perceived audience? No matter what one's stance actually is, Danganronpa V3: Killing Harmony ultimately aim towards final truths that are likely to shock all those involved. As par for the series' course, the infamous Killing Game has returned once again. Sixteen students are trapped within the confines of a mysterious school and have very little recollection of their pasts. All they really know is that they each have the title of an "Ultimate Delinquent"('Ultimates' generally being individuals with exception talent towards a specific skill) and are quickly get thrown into battle royale-themed Killing Game via the monochromatic robotic bear named Monokuma if they want to escape. Well... somewhat quickly, in principle. Danganronpa V3: Killing Harmony has rather inconsistent pacing as an actual visual novel to the point where the game itself self-deprecatingly points out just how slow the intro portions are, and it does not absolve it of such crimes. It is the longest game in the entire series and the narrative's pacing does not necessarily justify it at times with the agonizing drip feed of important plot details. It certainly picks up later on, especially in the last couple of chapters, but -- in an incredibly morbid way -- players will find themselves looking forward to the next murder setup more frequently than anything else. Thankfully, Killing Harmony more than delivers on that front. As Danganronpa fans know, the rules are that one cannot simply kill someone else to win the Killing Game. To win, Ultimates need to kill someone else without being caught. And so, this is where the class trials come into play. After a murder occurs, it is up to the would-be survivors to conduct an investigation of the crime scene, and after gathering what evidence they can (...in a limited amount of time), they are then thrown into an Ace Attorney-styled courtroom case to try and pin down the culprit. The reason being that if they don't reach a correct majority vote by the end of the class trial they will all die while the killer gets to return home free (though, in the inverse, if they do nail down the correct culprit then only the killer is punished while everyone survives to see another day.) The murder mysteries themselves in Killing Harmony are easily the best of the entire series, with perhaps some one or two noteworthy arguments from Danganronpa 2: Goodbye Despair. As a whole, murder cases feel far more nefarious, calculated, as well as just plain crazy in execution than that of the prior two main games, and it become that much more fascinating to uncover the underlying truth of all of them. This is absolutely vital since class trials themselves consistently last more than a couple hours, so they certainly need to be engaging. Unfortunately, as with previous titles, the mini games within these segments are more or less the worst aspect of the entire series. Some of the new mini games are neat conceptually, like being able to utilize perjury instead of just firing "truth bullets" to prove counterpoints, but most mini games are not that fun despite the context around them. Audible sighs were made every time I had to do a certain mini game that involved slowly 'driving' to the correct answers of different questions... There is more than just the despair of suspecting one's friends of murder in various class trials, however minor these extra features are to grander scope of the adventure. Similar to the likes of various point & click/adventure game titles, and the original Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc too, players can roam around the campus in a first person perspective to reach different locations for one reason or another or talk to the different students. Like prior entries, there are also intentional lulls in the storytelling, so it is fitting that players spend their free time attempting to build friendships... to, well, make it all the more cruel in their probable eventual death, or betrayal, after you attempt to do so. Which bears mentioning that although the overall cast does have some standouts (Danganronpa 2's Nagito still remains as my uncontested favorite), they don't feel quite as charismatic as they should be since the localization as well the general writing quality comes across as noticeably less sharp than that of earlier games. Much of the game waits excruciating long to talk about main plot details, so it feels fitting to deliberately wait on discussing Danganronpa V3: Killing Harmony's actual narrative instead of just pacing as well. It's easily the biggest expectation fans will have going in and what I will say to them (without direct spoilers, of course) is that the overall story -- especially with how it ties into prior titles -- is likely to be extremely divisive. There is no real middle ground in reaction towards the conclusion and is very much a love it or hate it bargain in the truest sense. Even now I am left sorting through a whole lot of mixed thoughts, regardless of how exciting and extravagantly presented the many twists and turns are throughout V3, including the end. But I suppose for as familiar as much of the gameplay remains in the third entry, for better and for worse the long-awaited conclusion absolutely delivers on some insane narrative twists that many fans should not expect. With one foot firmly planted towards feeling familiar and the other towards completely shattering expectations Danganronpa V3: Killing Harmony truly relishes in its chaotic order. It reprises its strengths in delivering exciting murder mysteries, an off-the-rails narrative with many crazy twists, and a completely strange cast of characters while also retaining old issues like awkward pacing and obnoxious mini games. As a finale, however, it spares no expense towards a resolution that will likely to be incredibly divisive regardless of whatever expectations one had going into it. Danganronpa V3: Killing Harmony deliberately aims to leave fans brimming with either hope or despair, and I find myself conflicted by both opposing forces in ultimately feeling just as appreciative in its intent as I do betrayed now that it is all over. Pros + Narrative goes through some truly insane narrative twists and turns + Incredibly nefarious murder mysteries that are often fascinating to uncover the truth of + Neat post-game modes unlocked after beating the game + 'Love it' or 'hate it' conclusion Cons - Noticeably weaker overall writing and localization compared to the previous titles - Glacial narrative pacing at times - Most minigames during class trials are still quite the chore to partake in - Hate it or love it conclusion Overall Score: 7.5 (out of 10) Good Danganronpa V3: Killing Harmony presents a stark contrast in showcasing more of the same, but often better, with its gameplay while the narrative conclusion itself firmly dividing what fans think they know and love. It is a bold conclusion that is extremely surprising in its execution and unsurprising in how likely divided it is to leave already existing fans of prior entries Disclosure: This game was reviewed using downloadable PS Vita code provided by the publisher.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. Jonathan Higgins

    Review: Pokémon Super Mystery Dungeon

    Developer: Spike Chunsoft Publisher: Nintendo, The Pokémon Company Platform: Nintendo 3DS Release Date: November 20th, 2015 ESRB: E for Everyone Official Site It“s been almost ten years since the Pokémon Mystery Dungeon spin-off arrived in North America. I“ve played every game since the beginning. And I“ve remained attached to it -- despite the previous 3DS entree, Gates to Infinity, being less than stellar. Despite a love for the series, I“ve been apprehensive. After the previous game let me down hard, I“ve become critical... even cynical of the series. Is this new game really worth it? To be honest, Pokémon Super Mystery Dungeon has managed to exceed my expectations in every way imaginable. Spike Chunsoft are certainly no strangers to the roguelike genre, or even injecting Pokémon“s mechanics and charm into it. But I daresay their latest endeavor has introduced enough sweeping changes to the decade-old formula established in Red Rescue Team that folks who dismissed the series should come back for this one, and newcomers could feel welcome as well. I“ve absorbed every last drop of story this world has to offer over the past week or so (sitting at just over 33 hours), and I still have a long way to go before my journey to obtain all 720 Pokémon (yes - -they“re all playable!) is done. Without further ado: The Mystery Dungeon spin-off series dismisses the world that humans and Pokémon share in favor of a world that consists of only Pokémon, where humans are often left to myths and legends. Every game in the series has you play as a human that“s turned into a Pokémon, with no memories of how it happened, who you are, or why you“re there. Near the beginning of your journey, you meet a partner Pokémon who you share your adventures with. The plots of each of these games rely heavily upon the bonds a player will establish with the partner Pokémon. Super Mystery Dungeon has the largest cast of protagonist and partner Pokémon to choose from that includes every known starter Pokémon, as well as popular ones like Pikachu and Riolu. If you“d rather not choose and leave destiny up to the personality quiz that“s often been a series staple, that“s up to you! I went with my same choices from Explorers of Sky: Charmander and Pikachu. The story of Super Mystery Dungeon starts out simple. Charmander is thrust upon the Pokémon world with no memory of how it got there, and winds up enrolling in the Pokémon School at Serene village, a peaceful paradise far-off and disconnected from the rest of civilization. It“s there that Charmander meets Pikachu, whose dream is to become a member of the Pokémon Expedition Society and help create to a map of the world. For the first few hours, as the game introduces new and returning mechanics, the story sticks to Serene Village and the colorful cast of characters living there. Eventually, though, Charmander and Pikachu will leave Serene Village and investigate the mystery of why Legendary Pokémon have been turning to stone. Their adventure spans multiple continents, features plenty of powerful Pokémon, and has a wide variety of emotionally powerful moments, too. The story carries plenty of weight on its own, but many of the dungeons you“ll explore as a part of the main story are really cool! There“s more than one instance in the story where you could be exploring a dungeon with a full party of five, six or seven powerful allies. There are so many things Pokémon Super Mystery Dungeon does that no game in the series has attempted before -- and most of the time, you“ll be pleased with how well the developers pull it all off. The story is definitely not the only thing Super Mystery Dungeon does well. The visuals are great; they build upon Gates to Infinity“s 3D approach to deliver much more vibrant environments than that game did. I still miss the adorable sprites from the series“ 2D beginnings, but I think this is definitely the game to make old school fans appreciate the new graphical style. Everything looks beautiful. But it sounds freaking incredible. The soundtrack confidently stands with elite contemporaries like Fire Emblem: Awakening and Kid Icarus: Uprising. There are over 150 tracks in the game that cover a wide variety of environment types and moods. Some remix old classics from the series, and some are the old classics themselves! From a presentation standpoint -- this is without a doubt the best of the entire series. The Pokémon Mystery Dungeon series introduced Pokémon moves, types and mechanics to the roguelike genre. But “catching them all” -- even when every known species was available like in Explorers of Sky -- has always been an impossible endeavor. Recruiting allies was mostly left up to chance as you encountered them in dungeons -- and the more popular or powerful Pokémon had an incredibly low recruitment chance. Pokémon Super Mystery Dungeon has introduced the single biggest change to the series: the Connection Orb. Rather than potentially turning enemy Pokémon into friends while you explore dungeons on missions for Pokémon clients, or during the story -- your clients become your allies at the end of every single mission. These missions vary: there are ones where you help your client find its lost pal, find one“s treasure, defeat one looking for a challenge, and more. You can also recruit Pokémon (both Legendary and non-Legendary) by simply talking to them in the game“s many towns, or randomly traveling in dungeons. For example: I“ve run into Victini just chilling in the game“s cafe where you can pick up your rewards for completing missions. This approach encourages you to fully explore all the game“s towns once per in-game day, as you gain access to them. You“ll find new Pokémon allies and missions to do more often than not! There are many more brand new elements introduced in the game, but this one is definitely the most welcome. (Those orange dots are Pokémon you've not yet encountered before. There are new ones each time you play!) Previous entries assigned missions by way of a bulletin board. They were random, sometimes useless depending on how far you were in the games, and in Gates to Infinity you could only do one at a time. Since Super Mystery Dungeon's missions are tied directly to the Connection Orb, you can accept a limitless number of tasks from Pokémon you encounter in town. They“re all kept track of for you, and each mission is only ever assigned and completed once. Handling non-story missions by way of the Connection Orb really does streamline the process; it makes playing the game for completion“s sake seem like so much less of a chore. What“s more -- every single Pokémon you recruit shares experience with the team currently exploring a dungeon, so no one will be stuck at Lv5 if you don“t ever get around to using them. There“s even a “motivation” system that challenges you to go on adventures as certain team members to be rewarded with double experience for your entire squad. With all the positives in mind: I think the biggest flaw of my experience was several difficulty spikes, at times. Charmander and Pikachu“s levels are kept rather low throughout the main story -- I finished the main game around Lv30 or so. The game makes allowances to make non-story missions easier on the player, but those story-based ones are rather tough! I think the reason the game allows a squad of six to accompany you at times is because you need those powerhouses surrounding your weaker main characters to survive the battles. It“s an interesting approach, but it may take newcomers some getting used to. The biggest point I should stress when it comes to Super Mystery Dungeon is its scope. It“s truly worthy of the word “Super” in its title. It doesn“t just want you to explore a handful of dungeons on a single continent; it wants you to explore an entire world. You“ll meet allies via the Connection Orb that you may recognize as being from other games in the series, even! All the continents share thinly veiled similarities with other games“ hub worlds. Even the “Rescuing” component that allows you to save other players who“ve fallen in dungeons takes you to a completely different part of the game that functions as a sort of free-play. Helper Pokémon from your rescues can even join you in the main story by way of StreetPass and SpotPass elements. It really does seem like the entire team went all out, to make Super Mystery Dungeon the finest -- and possibly final -- hour of the series. The developers shoved everything they possibly could into this experience, marrying old and new elements to create the ideal Pokémon Mystery Dungeon game. I used to say “If you can only play one game in the series -- make it Explorers of Sky.” That“s certainly changed. Super Mystery Dungeon isn“t revolutionary. But it certainly is the new personal best of The Pokémon Company and Spike Chunsoft“s combined efforts. Pros: + All 720 Pokémon are playable in this game. No Legendary or popular favorite is left behind! + The new Connection Orb makes recruiting said Pokémon easier and more intuitive than any previous entree in the series. + The story is suited for all ages. There are as many whimsical characters as there are powerful moments. + The game's world is huge. Everything opens up to the player relatively early on, so he or she can make non-story missions as easy or as difficult as desired. Cons: - This is definitely not an easy game. You may retry or need to be rescued more than necessary, if you're not careful. Newcomers who don't know the nuances of the genre may feel overwhelmed, sometimes - Are you one of those people who dislikes Nintendo America's sense of humor? You may be turned off by some of the script. The phrase "scaredy cat" becomes "scaredy Delcatty," for example. Overall Score: 9 (out of 10) Fantastic Pokémon Super Mystery Dungeon feels like the finest hour of the series. The game is so chocked full of content that "Super" almost feels like it's not a good enough word to do it justice. Disclosure: This game was reviewed using a copy of the game purchased by the author.
  5. There were a plethora of surprise announcements before, during, and after E3 last month, as you probably already know. But here's one announcement this gamer (*points at self*) was not expecting, and one that he honestly could not be happier about: The announcement of Zero Escape Volume 3. That's right, the sequel to both 9 Hours, 9 Persons, 9 Doors and Virtue's Last Reward was officially confirmed to have entered development at the Aksys Games Panel at Anime Expo in LA earlier today. The developers are shooting for a Summer 2016 release, and the planned platforms for Zero Escape 3 are both the 3DS and Vita, just like with Virtue's Last Reward. Furthermore, both the Japanese and Western versions will be produced simultaneously, so we thankfully won't have to wait for a localization. Watch the announcement below: On a scale from Zero to 999, how excited are you for Zero Escape Volume 3?
  6. Atlus is bringing the Spike Chunsoft-developed Attack On Titan: Humanity In Chains (based on the immensely popular anime of the same name) to 3DS very soon, where you'll soon be able to suit up with Omni-directional Mobility Gear to help humanity fend off an onslaught of Titans. The game will be officially releasing on May 12 in North America for $39.99, and as a bonus, anyone who purchases a copy will receive a free Attack On Titan: Humanity In Chains 3DS theme, which will not be sold separately and can only be obtained this way. Unfortunately for European fans, there is a copyright claim that is being dealt with, so not only will the name in territories there be changed to Shingeki no Kyojin: Humanity in Chains, but it is also currently delayed. Atlus is still looking to confirm a release date in Europe but is hoping to do so as soon as possible. For now, you can check out a brand new character trailer for the game below: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q5Q_ArJMKsE Source: Press Release Are you looking forward to Attack On Titan: Humanity In Chains?
  7. Developer: Spike Chunsoft Publisher: Atlus Platform: 3DS, Vita Release Date: April 15, 2014 ESRB: M for Mature This review is based on the 3DS version of the game Just when I think I've seen it all when it comes to Japanese RPGs, then comes along Conception II: Children of the Seven Stars. For those unaware, the Japan-only original title, Conception: Please Give Birth To My Child, debuted late in the PSP's life cycle, and it featured a bizarre sales pitch of an RPG in which the main protagonists have to give birth to "Star Children" in an attempt to save the world. Conception II follows the trend of this crazy setup despite using an entirely new setting and cast of characters from its predecessor, and arrives on both 3DS and Vita. Is there cause to celebrate the arrival of this new RPG or should the immediate reaction be to abort from commitment at all costs? The world of Conception II is that of one that is under constant strife by monsters known as the duskspawn. The only people who can fight these monsters are referred to as Disciples, or rather, teens who are branded with a special mark and the ability to use Star Energy in combat. After going through various qualifying exams at the Disciple's academy, it isn't until the final test that the main protagonist proves that he has a power far that far exceeds the normal student's capacity. So phenomenal is his potential the main protagonist is actually referred to as "God“s Gift" (affectionately abbreviated as G.G.). G.G has the unparalleled ability to explore "Dusk Circles" (dungeons and basically hives for duskspawn) as well as being able to produce "Star Children", also known as "Classmating", with any S ranked female students with a 100% success rate. The game's setting has a pretty juvenile premise, and has no qualms with constant sexual innuendo throughout, but it is done in a such a tongue-in-cheek way that you can“t help but just go along with it regardless of your own personal feelings towards it. Unfortunately, the main storytelling is rife with RPG narrative cliches, and is rather weak from start to finish, so it relies more so on the interpersonal relationship between the various cast of characters and the gameplay concepts that play on the strange setting. There are a lot of components to Conception II, including dungeon crawling, dating sim aspects, varied party customization options, and lastly, the childishly giggle-worthy "classmating" ritual. I suppose this needs to get out of the way first, but "Star Children" aren't conceived like normal children. Unlike RPGs that focus on family generations, like older Phantasy Star titles or Record of Agarest War, Star Children are created through a surprisingly simple ritual called "classmating." Despite the not-so-subtle sexual innuendo throughout the game, classmating really boils down to no more than hand-holding and a sophisticated machine somehow pops out a new potential party member or a would-be future slave to a harsh work life in the city. Of course, if you want to breed premium children you have to pick the optimal mate. Star Children come in a wide-range of classes, with some that are (mostly) exclusive depending on the mother (or father, depending on if you use the online functionality). Beyond that, though, even the kid's stats (or being able to perform the ritual at all) depend on how good the relationship is between the main character and the heroine. This brings up the dating-sim portion of the game where the player has to pick between dialogue choices or give gifts to raise the affinity between the different heroines and G.G. This may sound shallow, and it honestly kind of is, especially since most characters fail to surprise beyond their apparent anime archetypes. But, after a lot of seemingly idle banter, there are some events that open up the heroine“s backstories, or part's of their personality, that are surprisingly endearing. Atlus may spice up these scenes with a fair bit of personality and humor in the localization at certain points but there are not enough of these events that substantially flesh out the characters. This is more apparent when many scenes are outright repeated during these portions. To complement the setting even more is the audio. The soundtrack is actually really catchy and utilizes a lot of techno to even J-pop for its quirkier moments. For example, during the classmating procedure there is a silly J-pop musical theme that literally sings “Congratulations on your new arrival!” to humor the baby-making concept. In contrast, the English dub is rather mediocre overall with no Japanese alternative available. Even if it has has some English voice actors I actually like, it feels like a lot of the voices are mismatches for the characters they have to play. What really holds Conception II back surprisingly is not so much its quirky setting or even its questionable overall attitude, but its very monotonous dungeon crawling considering how much time you spend with it. On paper, a lot of the systems it has for the combat sound interesting—like a positioning based battle-system, decent party customization, and even strange mechanics such as having the star children combine into a Voltron-like mecha formation. The problem is that at the end of the day, battle are way too slow and there isn“t much variety or strategy required to most battles. It“s easy to draw parallels to Persona 3“s Tartarus dungeon design in how the dungeons are laid out in Conception II. Unlike Persona 3/4, though, dungeons are way more compartmentalized and the combat is nowhere near as deep or engaging as that series. I think it says a lot about the title“s pacing when it still takes a few hours or more to complete a dungeon despite being able to one-hit KO every normal foe with a single attack throughout most of the game—even after speeding up combat animations. To add insult to injury, enemies go out of their way to deviously block doors/treasure chests, forcing you to fight them, or conveniently block very narrow hallway pathways, and it only pounds you over the head with the repetition of combat, or indistinct dungeon design, that you can do very little about even if you are stronger than your opposition. Another strike the game has is with its presentation. While it is clear the Vita was the lead platform, the 3DS version suffers from some significant presentational issues when it comes to the 3D visuals. Traversing dungeons and the combat in particular really causes the framerate to stutter on the 3DS to the point of being kind of jarring throughout the entire process. That said, the visuals do fare better outside of dungeons and show vibrancy when it comes to the 2D character portraits in story scenes or during the bubbly dating-sim events. Conception II feels largely like a mishmash of solid gameplay ideas but they are executed in a haphazard way. There is a certain bizarre charm when it comes to the quirky setting, but it is unfortunately not nearly enough as most of the actual gameplay constantly teeters on the edge of mediocrity with its implementation. The dungeon crawling remains very dull throughout, main storytelling unrewarding, and most gameplay mechanics aren't fleshed out as well as they should to be engaging for very long. Honestly, if Conception II had more polish to its central gameplay cogs, or was simply more consistent in the parts where it is charming, it could have served as a pleasant surprise for the genre. As it stands, however, beyond curious RPG fans hungering for short-lived novelty, Conception II will leave most finding the experience more fun to describe than it is to actually play. Pros: + Lots of solid ideas for gameplay systems that creatively play on the strange setting + Catchy overall soundtrack + Endearing/humorous moments hidden in some of the character interactions + Nicely drawn 2D art and vibrant 3D character models Cons: -Very slow/monotonous dungeon crawling and combat - Humor and setting are pretty unapologetically juvenile - Underwhelming 3D visuals, with the framerate being really choppy at certain points in the 3DS release - Little substance to most of the characters and the overall storytelling Overall Score: 6 (out of 10) Decent Conception II is a hodgepodge of solid, albeit bizarre, ideas but it unfortunately leaves a lot to be desired in terms of actual execution for both its gameplay and storytelling. Disclosure: This game was reviewed using downloadable code provided by the publisher
  8. So, after finally finishing the true ending for Virtue's Last Reward, the second installment of the Zero Escape series, I was quite impressed. Like most people however, I wanted more, I desperately wanted the final installment: Zero Escape Vol 3. Sadly, it seems like we're going to be waiting a long time. While the Zero Escape games with their Visual Novel and Puzzle Solving elements have seen some great success here in the US, the same cannot be said over seas. Seems they're actually doing quite poorly in Japan. And as such, Kotaro Uchikoshi, the director of the series announced yesterday that it will be a long time until we realize that finale. Uchikoshi actually took his sorrow and grief to his Twitter account, asking for companies or millionaires to back his project. Furthermore, he clearly stated that this would not be up for a crowd funding, as in no kick starter and no indiegogo. In his massive amounts of Tweets yesterday, Uchikoshi also stated how sad he was that all companies exist for now a day is to make money. Since 999 and VLR are considered as he said, "in the red," it's nearly impossible to find a company willing enough to even touch it. He went on to confirm that this wasn't the end for the series, just simply a delay. Spike Chunsoft, the creators of the Zero Escape series also recently debuted their next series in NA, Dangan Ronpa. Apparently, in Japan, Dangan Ronpa is considered successful, what with it's anime and now games hitting some sort of a large enough crowd. So for now, we wait, we wait in hope that Spike Chusoft is successful enough in the near future to have enough to fund Zero Escape vol 3. If you'd like to learn more, head over to, http://www.siliconera.com/2014/02/13/zero-escape-creator-kotaro-uchikoshi-talks-fate-series/ as well as Uchikoshi's English Twitter account. Until then, have a nice trauma~
  9. Developer: Spike Chunsoft Publisher: NIS America Platform: PS Vita Release Date: February 11, 2014 ESRB: M for Mature Back in 2010, a game with the name of Danganronpa arrived on Japanese PSPs and never left the region. With the Vita out, Spike Chunsoft decided to bring their title to this newer handheld as well. It“s thanks to this more recent port and NIS America that Western gamers can finally get a taste of the oddball adventure game - and many have been waiting quite a while for the official debut! But what exactly is Dangaronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc? Dangonronpa is a title focusing on a cast of teenagers with incredible skills. Each is the ultimate in their respective interest (such as baseball, business, and programming) and have been selected to go to an incredibly exclusive high school. Hope“s Peak Academy has long been known as the launch point for students that will make them set for life in their future careers. Unfortunately, as the introduction quickly reveals, something has gone seriously wrong at Hope“s Peak. For some reason, aside from the newest entrants into the school, it is completely empty. Windows are covered with massive metal plates, the exit blocked by a vault-style door, and there“s also a weird bear ordering everyone around. This teddy bear-like being, named Monokuma, plainly states that the group of students are to be stuck in school for the rest of their lives. The only way to leave is to kill a classmate - and get away with it. Of course, getting away with it entails fooling everyone during a trial between peers. If they peg the right person then that student is punished with death. However, point to the wrong person and everyone except the murder will receive death sentences. It seems ridiculous which is why no one wants to believe Monokuma is even capable of carrying out his threats! But soon enough they realize that the claims are real and every one of them is in mortal danger. Players take the role of an “average” student named Makoto and do their best to find clues, solve murders, and make sure innocents aren“t killed. Playing Danganronpa reveals a host of varied gameplay modes that mix point and click adventure, visual novel, and a few other things. A lot of the game is spent watching the story unfold as characters discuss topics with a static image showing who“s speaking. On occasions, you have time to freely choose who to chat with or can scour crime scenes for important clues. Segments like these are played from a first-person perspective, although navigating the school is pretty dull. There is a map function to quickly warp between areas, at least. When on the hunt for clues you simply interact with static screens by clicking on objects to learn about them. After watching events transpire and collecting clues, the gameplay shifts into a class trial mode. At this point, all the living classmates gather up and try to decide who among them has committed murder. This is a recurring event and only gets more stressful as the class body dwindles. As everyone presents their ideas (or accusations) it is your job to find the lies or mistakes and expose them. For better or for worse, almost all of your classmates are complete imbeciles meaning it“s on your shoulders to discern what really happened in each crime. In a way it sounds like a Phoenix Wright game. Actually playing the courtroom aspect of Danganronpa shows it as a completely different beast, though. To go with the theme of murder, you are granted “truth bullets” to shoot at incorrect statements being made. During another courtroom event, you“ll have to play a simplistic rhythm game while shooting down lies. Finally, you have to completely reconstruct the series of events around each murder in comic book format to prove you“ve got it down. Most of these elements seem like silly attempts to make the experience more game-like. Honestly, it would have been fine with simple menus rather than the strangely complex system that is eventually build up during these sections. Although there might be reason to gripe with some of the game“s constraints, it“s hard to get too angry about the writing. As it turns out, it is a surprisingly gripping tale filled with unique characters. Each student is completely different and almost all have their own weird quirks. A few characters fall into stereotypes, but it was nice to see more unique members among the students as well. Eventually you“ll find the students you like most and seek to spend more time with them but you never know who might be murdered next. Part of the tension comes from hoping your specific clique will make it out alive…but that is very unlikely. Another high point for Danganronpa is its art and music. The visual design of each character is fairly unique and drawn nicer than a standard RPG. Similarly, there are special scenes and a few animated ones that showcase even better quality visuals than the main game. As for the soundtrack, it is composed by Masafumi Takada who has worked on a great many Grasshopper Manufacture titles over the years. If you liked his music in titles like Killer7 then you“ll almost certainly love the soundtrack here. Danganronpa offers at least 15 hours of gameplay which spans across a handful of murders that must be solved. The main disappointment is that it isn“t all that difficult. Even when you aren“t clear on how a murder occurred, everything is written to lead you directly to the solution over the course of each case. However, an easier difficulty means this game can be enjoyed by many more people which is a great thing. The main reason to play is to watch the story unfold and see if you“re a good enough detective to pinpoint who will be murdered and by whom before it occurs! The game tells a compelling story all the while offering up a totally unique experience to players. If murder mysteries are your thing then you“d be doing yourself a disservice by not checking out Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc. Pros: + Dark, sometimes humorous writing, sets the tone for a very engaging storyline + Very nice artwork and animation to compliment the large amount of reading segments + Excellent soundtrack that shifts from melancholic to manic Cons: - Gameplay elements feel awkwardly tacked on - Skilled sleuths will find each murder mystery a bit too obvious, especially during courtroom segments - Some of the students are cliched which clashes with the far more interesting ones Overall Score: 7.0 (out of 10) Good Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc is quite the unusual game but its compelling plot is worth investigating. A download code was provided by the publisher for this review