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  1. Developer: Square-Enix, ArtePiazza Publisher: Nintendo Platform: Nintendo 3DS Release Date: September 16th, 2016 ESRB: E10+ Dragon Quest must seem like a weird series to look in on from the outside. If you were to travel to Japan, there“d be no arguing its relevance there. The main theme plays on trains today, Dragon Quest III made kids and adults go crazy a few decades back... It“s certainly safe to say that it“s as recognizable there as something like Final Fantasy is in the West. Fans here are much harder to come by. But they are legion, so to speak — often having to form campaigns or move proverbial mountains to convince Nintendo and Square-Enix that the franchise still has a place in the West, outside of quirky spin-offs and mobile ports. As history is known to repeat itself, the two 3DS Dragon Quest games that die-hard fans have been clamoring for since at least 2012...were finally confirmed for release outside Japan, last year. Dragon Quest VIII is the only entry left in the main series that I“ve yet to play. From what I hear...it“s bold & beautiful, it“s very character-driven, it“s newcomer friendly, and it“s one of only a few examples of Dragon Quest feeling “modern”. Dragon Warrior VII, as the West knew it in the days of the original PlayStation... is none of those things. As you can tell from the graphics alone, there was little separating it from the Super Nintendo entries that came before it. It“s been harped on for its obscene length — some saying it took over 100 hours to see the credits roll. Even die-hard fans could list numerous flaws, without so much as a second to think about it. Enter: Dragon Quest VII: Fragments of the Forgotten Past on Nintendo 3DS, a remake of the PlayStation game many once knew... that rebuilt everything from the ground up, including fully 3D-rendered graphics, a fully orchestrated soundtrack in Japan, and a brand new script for the West. There are a few out there to tell you what exactly has changed between the original game and its remake. But I'm not one of them. This was my very first time with VII. I can“t really tell you how things were, but I can certainly tell you plainly how things are. And that“s why — before I say anything else — I have to give caution where it“s due. If you are brand new to Dragon Quest, I promise that VII on 3DS is not the place to start. It took me 80 hours to reach the credits, and I“d guess anyone who touches the game will average a minimum of 72-75. Its length alone is incredibly daunting! Again: the original game was over 100 hours; the developers consider 80 hours to be that journey at its most trimmed down... and I genuinely feel they“re right. I can“t confidently say that any substantial part of the narrative or world deserved to be cut in transition from PlayStation to 3DS. Everything I ever did felt worthwhile, even if I didn“t necessarily agree with some mechanics or choices made. And that“s the other point I“ve got to hammer in. Many of my contemporaries have or will harp on Dragon Quest VII for being “stuck in the past”. Don“t get me wrong: I love that about these games. But the voices of dissent are absolutely correct. You can“t select a single enemy to target out of a group of them. There“s inventory management: characters in your party are only able to hold up to a certain number of items, while a Bag you pull things in and out of takes care of the rest. Permanent saving can only be done in towns, often making dungeons harder [or at least more of an endurance test] than they should be. There are numerous caveats about Dragon Quest games in general that most hobbyists will call “archaic” and “poorly aged”, at best. If you are intimidated by a super long Japanese RPG that“s the equivalent of a stubborn old man, in terms of its mechanics, I implore you to wait for the port of Dragon Quest VIII on 3DS instead. That game was much more beloved in its time, and it definitely seems like an easier pill to swallow. ...If I still have your attention after that, then the rest of what I have to say is mostly smooth sailing. Let“s keep coasting along, shall we? Fragments of the Forgotten Past is, at its core, a tale of world-building... literally. The world starts out as just a single island. You play as a fisherman“s son, who begins his day running a series of mundane errands that automatically try your patience right from the start. But if you stick with it past that first 90 minutes or so, you“ll wind up in a mysterious land with your best friend the prince and the mayor“s daughter... as the very first monster you“ve ever seen, a Slime, draws near. As the story slowly unfolds, you“ll set out to find 130 strange fragments... whose purpose is to literally piece together the 18 major civilizations of the world. Whether one set of fragments takes you to a tiny village, or another has you traversing an entire continent... this wide, wild world is handled in brilliantly strung together vignettes. The fisherman“s son is destined to become a hero, and figure out why the whole world became so small in the first place... by saving one island at a time. Each major location has a history... and you“ll often get to experience and change its history for the better, first-hand! There“s not a whole lot of character development in the party, if I“m being honest. Your cast of playable characters is certainly unique (and they typically have something funny, helpful or honest to contribute to the unfolding story, if you press the “Party Chat” button right as a crucial plot point happens), but the people they meet are of much more importance to the narrative as a whole. The “world” of Dragon Quest VII is absolutely my favorite part of the game, by far. It scratches a personal itch for me that games like Golden Sun managed in the past. And — consistent with the rest of the series — it“s filled to the brim with puns, strong accents, and allusions to real world places and endeavors. Certain aspects of the game are arguable, but its script and story are absolutely wonderful. Before I start to pick things apart, here“s just a few more high notes. The visuals were practically peerless when the game first came out almost four years ago, and they“ll still impress today. Nobody brings a monster to life quite like [character designer Akira] Toriyama does! Battle scenes are consistent with the dungeons you“re exploring in, often going out of their way to reflect precise detail that goes above and beyond most generic battle backdrops. Characters themselves are perhaps the most animated I have ever seen in my 25 years as a Dragon Quest faithful. When the king is mad at your foolhardy best friend, the camera pans as he slowly looks you both in the eye, and strums his fingers impatiently along the side of his chair, tapping and waiting for the prince“s latest excuse. While the music isn“t fully orchestrated here in the West, it“s definitely a few steps up in quality from the PlayStation MIDIs of the year 2000. Its arranged expertly enough to fool an untrained ear, at times. The level of care and attention I've seen here far exceeds series standards. Even when the game would test my patience, the ludicrous degree of polish is what kept me pushing forward. And gosh, does Dragon Quest VII test your patience. Its stubbornness is among its biggest flaws. Here“s an example: One part of my quest took me to an island with a tiny village called Providence. There“s a mountain right outside the village that leads up to a church, and... I must have climbed up and down that mountain five separate times in order to advance the story, and only one of them had the place rid of monsters. The concepts of backtracking or retreading old ground is something Dragon Quest VII takes pride in, for goodness sake. You may think you left the fiery volcano you journeyed down around Hour 15 behind — but you“ll be coming back around to it around Hour 65! Sure... there are new enemies, and a brief bit of a new location inside your retreading... but that aged, stubborn concept is what“s going to make even the most patient RPG fan or Dragon Quest veteran scratch their head. One bit that is unique to the remake is the act of initiating battles. The PlayStation original featured random battles, where enemies could not be seen. The remake generates enemies you come in contact with to prompt a battle. While this concept worked fine in Dragon Quest IX... the level design in VII has you going down a bunch of tiny corridors where encounters are often impossible to avoid. It“s easy to dodge a big, fat dragon on the world map as you“re going from one town to the next. But that same dragon will probably take up your whole bit of walking space, if you“re packed into a tiny hallway after some treasure. And because the enemies are randomly generated and not set….you could kill a dragon in front of the chest, take about 5 seconds to open it up, and have another dragon spawn right behind you where you just were. It didn“t grate on me too much, but... goodness, is this an example of a time where a balanced random battle system is sometimes superior to an unbalanced enemy encounter system. Fragments of the Forgotten Past is, at its core, an endurance test. If you can endure the first 90 minutes without a fight... things pick up, and I feel most players will genuinely appreciate where you are & how you got there. If you can endure the more rugged parts the entire 80 hour journey... you“ll probably walk away with a smile on your face, as I feel this world is among the best Dragon Quest as a series has to offer. I've had a blast, and I“m going to push my time with the game beyond what“s required and go explore some post-game dungeons, recruit some monsters, and even create Traveler's Tablets to StreetPass with. But this isn“t a game where I can say, “Everyone should try this! Everyone will love it!” For all of the above reasons and more, Dragon Quest VII is an incredibly nuanced experience. It“s a great game that“s targeted at a very specific crowd of people — I just happen to be one of those people! If anything I“ve said appeals to you, especially if you“re familiar with how Dragon Quest as a series “works,” I don“t think you“ll regret giving this one a try. Pros + Herein lies a spectacular example of world-building as a plot device. The story is told in a series of vignettes that capture a range of emotions. + Dragon Quest mechanics are tried and true. If traditional turn-based battles and bosses that test endurance versus a certain gimmick are your cup of tea, you'll fare all right. + For being such a long game, there is adequate signposting every step of the way. Easily playable in small bursts. Cons - The game is stubborn to a fault, often forcing backtracking and dungeon retreading to hammer in the idea of hardship. - The encounter system does not mesh well with the dungeon design. Small corridors lead to many a forced fight. - Length could work against the experience here, if you're not patient with some antiquated game mechanics. Overall Score: 8 (out of 10) Great The remake of Dragon Quest VII will test your patience. But if you endure, you'll come away knowing (and probably enjoying) one of the best worlds that Dragon Quest has to offer.
  2. Jonathan Higgins

    E3 2016 Hands-on: Dragon Quest Builders

    My love for Dragon Quest is infamous in certain circles. I bounced around the room like a game of racquetball when Nintendo announced that Dragon Quest VII and VIII on 3DS were finally coming West. As much as I pined for those games to leave Japan for years, I didn“t really feel the same way about Dragon Quest Builders. I approached the demo at E3 2016 willing to give it a chance because it“s Dragon Quest, and plenty of their spinoffs have had enough charm to win me over. But see, Minecraft and I have never really gotten along. I found its beginnings largely intimidating, since it didn“t really tell me what to do or where to go. And, from what I gather, Minecraft is a game where you kind of imagine your own story, versus see one unfold before you. If you feel the same way I do about Minecraft, I am happy to report that putting a Dragon Quest spin on that game“s conventions gives players a sense of direction, as well as an underlying story that gives the world you create meaning beyond what you make of it. If you don“t, and you love the kind of creativity that Minecraft yields, there“s absolutely plenty of that, too. Still, I“m going to spend most of this reflection offering up how Dragon Quest does Minecraft a fair bit differently. For those who don“t know, the original Dragon Quest was one of the first NES games to give you the ability to choose whether you want to “join forces with the last boss” or not. The Dragonlord offers the hero from that game the option to rule half a world with him. If you hit “Yes” at the time, it“s a trap and you get a Game Over. But see: Dragon Quest Builders takes place after that Game Over, in a ruined world (Alefgard) where the hero failed. Bad stuff happened, but now a new hero, the player, has been graced with the ability to build. Folks have apparently forgotten what the word “build” even means, so it“s up to you to -- quite literally -- rebuild and restore the civilization that the Dragonlord destroyed. The hero has a direct line of communication to the spirit that watches over the world, and said spirit guides you with a loose sense of what to do next. One of the first things that made me happy about Builders was the interaction between the silent protagonist and spirit. It plays with the trope in a bit of a humorous way -- it seems the hero of this game is largely reluctant to do anything, and doesn“t really understand what the heck is going on. You“re more or less prodded along your journey as God gives you a to-do list, and the few NPCs you meet probably think you“re crazy because you “hear voices” and what have you. It“s a fun plot that makes getting into a lighter, more directi version of Minecraft more interesting, to me. The experience is Minecraft, more or less. You build stuff out of raw materials, and the point of the game is to rebuild entire villages however you see fit. That kind of gameplay is entirely what you make of it, but that“s what“s made Minecraft is wildly popular as it“s become. The way Dragon Quest spins on it is by offering a more direct line of communication to the player, that stops things from ever becoming too intimidating. It sheds complexity in favor of telling a simple story, but that“s par for the course in even the mainline Dragon Quest series, much less its spinoffs. Replace Minecraft“s zombies with Slimes and other common Dragon Quest enemies, and you“ve got a decent picture of how combat works too. You“ll need to create healing items for yourself, simple replacement weapons if the one you“re using breaks, and more. You“ll get hungry and need to hide in your home at night -- it really does borrow heavily from Minecraft. I“m not exaggerating for the sake of it. At the end of the day, it seems like Dragon Quest Builders was created to give the conventions of that game a little more context, and a fun Dragon Quest plot. It“s honestly the first game to ever get me even remotely interested in what philosophies Minecraft is trying to communicate. I approached the demo expecting it to confuse and intimidate me, but it definitely delighted me, and has certainly warmed me up enough to put it on my personal “to buy” list. I“d absolutely recommend it, and it may be one of my favorite parts about the Square-Enix booth at this year's E3. Dragon Quest Builders releases for both the PlayStation 4 (physical and digital) and PlayStation Vita (digital only) on October 11th, 2016. We“ll offer more information as it comes.
  3. The Game Boy library is infamous for housing several games that bear the Final Fantasy title despite not belonging in the canonical series of games. What a handful of you know as The Final Fantasy Legend, Final Fantasy Legend II, and Final Fantasy Legend III are actually the beginnings of the SaGa series. A few of you have probably played games like SaGa Frontier or Romancing SaGa—the “Legend” games are much more related to those than any Final Fantasy game of that era. Interestingly enough, the Nintendo DS got remakes of & SaGa 3, both of which remain exclusive to Japan. The other misattributed Final Fantasy game on the Game Boy is Final Fantasy Adventure. I recall that game being much more popular in my youth because of its similarities to top-down Zelda games. As it turns out—Final Fantasy Adventure is actually the first Seiken Densetsu game...you know, the Mana series. So, for those of you keeping track: Final Fantasy Adventure is what canonically came before SNES classic Secret of Mana. The identity crisis would become a lot clearer in 2003 with the release of Sword of Mana, an enhanced remake of the game I“ve been describing. And so it goes. At TGS 2015, Square-Enix announced a(nother) remake of 1991“s Final Fantasy Adventure is headed to PlayStation Vita and mobile devices in Japan this winter. You can view the trailer below, which seems to ignore Sword of Mana entirely in favor of showcasing a graphical transition from the Game Boy to the three-dimensional modern era. If your first question after seeing this trailer is: Why are they remaking the first Seiken Densetsu again instead of giving Secret of Mana the same treatment?—remakes of other games in the series may not be out of the question. The success of this game may pave the way for more remakes, as well as an eventual Seiken Densetsu 5. A PlayStation 4 port is under consideration as well. I“m...a little conflicted, personally. While I hope the game gets localized, I“m feeling rather pessimistic about it due to the fate of the other Game Boy remakes Square-Enix have worked on never coming, and the fact that plenty of Mana games have stayed in Japan over the years. Rest assured, if we don“t hear localization news soon, I am familiar enough with both Final Fantasy Adventure and Sword of Mana to try my hand at importing the (second) remake this winter. Here“s the official website, if you“d like to learn more. Do we have any Seiken Densetsu die-hards among us? Has anyone played Final Fantasy Adventure or Sword of Mana? How do you feel about this newly announced remake? Be sure to let us know!
  4. In the realm of the completely unexpected, a new localization announcement appears! Final Fantasy Explorers, the blend of Monster Hunter and Final Fantasy, is coming West early next year! It“ll hit the United States on January 26th, 2016, then Europe on January 29th, 2016. Square-Enix have remained utterly silent regarding the game“s fate outside of Japan until now. Reception had been mild, and there was certainly nothing at E3. Seems “never say never” is indeed a sentiment that can be embraced when it comes to Square-Enix. The game“s story details a world on the brink of war over its reserves of crystals. Players (in co-operative, Monster Hunter-styled gameplay unique to the series, so far) have to band together in search of crystals, defeating monsters and hopefully discovering the Grand Crystal along the way. And hey, if the announcement trailer below isn“t enough for you, I actually spoke at length about the Japanese demo of the game a long way back. Will you be giving Final Fantasy Explorers a try next year? Be sure to let us know!
  5. Jonathan Higgins

    Bravely Second Trademarked in Europe

    A while back, I was shocked that we ever got localization news regarding Bravely Default: Flying Fairy. Given the game“s great success in the United States and Europe, though, I figured news of Bravely Second“s localization was a matter of when, not if. Still--plenty have been fearful, since the game has been out and performing well in Japan for a while. I“m happy to report that localization news may be coming sooner versus later. “Bravely Second” has been trademarked in Europe. Given that we“re so close to E3, where things like the Nintendo Digital Event and a Square-Enix Press Conference are both happening (on June 16th)...I“d say an official announcement is just around the corner. Don“t get too excited just yet, but I think this snowball is bound to turn into an avalanche of good news in June. Would you buy Bravely Second “Day 1” (or later) if it comes to the West? Be sure to let us know!
  6. barrel

    Review: Bravely Default

    Developer: Silicon Studio/Square-Enix Publisher: Nintendo Platform: 3DS Release Date: February 7, 2014 ESRB: T for Teen It feels like every other year I hear about some new game being hyped up to recapture the spirit of “classic” Final Fantasy entries. We have seen games like Lost Odyssey for Xbox 360, and The Last Story for the Wii—both intending to be spiritual successor to Final Fantasy but having very different approaches to the concept. While both were generally positively regarded and had prolific figures like Hironobu Sakiguchi and Nobuo Uematsu behind them, neither game seemed to maintain too much steam beyond a passionate cult-following. Whether it be the official numbered titles that continuously cast aside their dignity or those trying to recapture the spirit under a different name, many "Final Fantasy" games seem to possibly lack or understand that proud sheen that the series once had. With that in mind, we now finally get to see Bravely Default: Where the Fairy Flies arrive on the 3DS after much delay from its 2012 Japanese launch. Originally intended to be a spiritual successor to the DS“s Final Fantasy: The 4 Heroes of Light, Bravely Default has since then shifted into a much bigger passion project in order to forge its own identity. In doing so, the game intends to blend the classic mentality of older Final Fantasy entries and have a more modern progressive design. Is Bravely Default the very thing that many RPG fans have been yearning for, or is it a airy-fairy in its pursuit of nostalgia from the past? In not-so-subtle homage style, the setting prefaces with the description of the four crystals: Water, Earth, Wind, and Fire, which dictate the balance of the world. Each crystal has become corrupted by a powerful darkness, causing the land to erode, seas to rot, skies to stand still, volcanoes to constantly erupt, and thus leading the world to decay and become increasingly less habitual. It is for this reason that a lone holy priestess (or "Vestal" in in-game terms), Agnes, seeks to purify the crystals and help save the world of Luxendarc. For anyone who has played any of the early numbered Final Fantasy entries, the setup should sound quite familiar. The setting will only increasingly sound familiar for RPG fans as it introduces the rest of the cast: Like Tiz, a lone survivor of a destroyed village, or Edea, an individual with a strong sense of justice, and lastly, the amnesiac Ringabel. If that doesn't seem hit every old-school RPG trope, I don't know what else would. That is, until you mention the gameplay as well. It is very old-school in its structure through the use of turn-based battles, random encounters, and even having an overworld-styled map for traversal. In this sense, Bravely Default goes all the way in its attempt to hit the classic notes from RPGs of yore. That said, that would simply be a surface-level view of the game—what makes Bravely Default special is actually far more so under the hood. It intentionally plays with nostalgic tropes and subtlety adds progressive elements throughout. Despite the traditional turn-based combat system, the "Brave" and "Default" mechanics add two very interesting layers to battles. "Brave" is essentially the ability to use future 'turns' in advance for combat and can be stacked up to three times, but if carelessly used the character is left in a cooldown state for as many extra turns used. On the other spectrum is "Default", which serves as passive defensive turn normally, but also gives the player one free action to use the following turn. This leads to a simple, but strategically implemented battle system that makes it sort of surprising we have not seen some variation of this concept in other turn-based RPGs. There are a lot of smart, but subtle, conveniences throughout. Random encounters—a source of grief due to their archaic design nowadays—are now completely optional. At any point point you can change the encounter rate to 2X the normal rate or even have no battles at all. One can also hasten in-game battle animations up to 4x speed, or pausing/slowing them down entirely at any time to approach battles at your pace. Borrowing just about the only good aspect from Final Fantasy III or V (yeah, I went there), the title has an absolutely dense job/class system. Ranging from over twenty classes with many interchangeable abilities, the job system lends to a ton of flexibility in a party's composition. The most unique features of Bravely Default has be with how it utilizes the streetpass and online functionality, such as "ablink", "friend summon", and the rebuilding of Norende aspects. "Friend summon" allows a player to send a skill of their choice (with a custom name and catchphrase) to another person's game, and is received online or from streetpasses. Which, I admit, there is something that is very oddly cool seeing somebody else's character randomly help you during a tough battle to deal damage or heal your party. In extension to this concept is the "ablink" functionality, where a player can borrow job skills/abilities from fellow people on their 3DS friends list, which is honestly more helpful than it should be. Also, in an effort to rebuild Tiz's hometown, Norende, there is even a Farmville-esque minigame where you get free items at regular intervals, or new and better equipment to purchase at certain shops based on real-time. This strange mini-game process only gets faster as you acquire more streetpasses or connect online daily. While it may sound shady and limiting, it leads to something that is deviously engaging when it comes to checking your 3DS regularly, like most of the streetpass/online features. Not all of the more unique elements are tied to gameplay, however, and there are even some that creatively utilize the narrative. The character Ringabel is a great example of playing with the tired amnesiac cliche in Japanese-RPGs: He's outgoing, an unapologetic womanizer (granted, really excessively so for the first half), and not actually terribly concerned with having lost his memory and is frequently shrugging it off with humor. But later on—more so than any other character in the main cast—he develops and matures, and he's not even the "main character." Even seemingly miscellaneous story aspects are handled in an interesting way. Early in, the party obtains a diary, referred to D's Journal, which is used both as an encyclopedia of information and as a narrative device for foreshadowing future narrative events to come. Looking at it, however, is completely optional, despite being used to flesh out certain character backstories or parts of the setting in some surprisingly in-depth ways. Some of the more intriguing moments of the narrative are actually built into “Sidequests." They primarily provide context toward getting new and optional character class jobs, but their narrative vignettes are often times a fair amount darker in tone comparison to the main story, and also help wrap up certain narrative loose ends. While some sidequests are handled better than others, they often times serve as the more engaging alternative to the main story that plays it far too familiar and predictable most of the time. As much as it disappoints me to say—as seemingly aware as Bravely Default appears to be about its tropes—it actually falls under the trapping of its own narrative cliches by relying on them too heavily. Even if I'd argue Ringabel is handled well, the rest of the cast fails to evolve too much beyond their character archetypes, with Tiz and Agnes easily being the biggest examples. This goes almost double for most of the bloated main storytelling that is both predictable and very, very repetitive. Following the main storytelling, one other aspect is handled really poorly, and this is the absolutely glaring padding in the second half of experience. I don“t just mean the pacing slows down later on—which is almost expected in many RPGs—but you quite literally repeat the same content multiple times (four times, specifically) with minor alterations. Not just familiar content, but exact same bosses, general story scenes, sidequests (while they may cool the first time, not so much multiple times...), and even a tedious button-mashy mini-game. It is vexing and dull not only from a gameplay perspective but also in regards to narrative. I may be exaggerating the extremity of the story repetition for the average player (although, I'm not for myself, who did every sidequest, and found it to be seriously that bad), but it also helped emphasize some of the game's other flaws in the long-term. For as nice as it is to be able to fast-forward the battle animations, battles are still rather slow overall and most bosses in particular are significant damage sponges to make them last even longer (many of which are repeated because of narrative reasons). Not just that, but the dungeon design is also very uninspired for the entire game without any particularly creative themes or puzzles to accompany them, making the core gameplay rely almost entirely on the gameplay systems surrounding it. Pushing aside some of the disappointment/complaints the game brings, Bravely Default is quite rich with style both in terms of its audio and visuals. The chibi-ish character designs may not appeal to everyone, but Akihiko Yoshida's art style generally present a charmingly nostalgic visual look and the distinct environments serve to complement. What really steals the show is the music, which is excellent. There is a lot of variety with the musical score with plenty of intense battle themes, catchy character tunes, eclectic town pieces, with some of the final tracks of the soundtrack being an amazing culmination of all of them. Bravely Default is absolutely on the cusp of greatness, or possibly beyond, but it is hindered mostly by the immensely repetitive slog that is the second half of the game and storytelling that fails to significantly evolve its scope or most of its characters much. It has the core tenants for a very well-crafted RPG experience with its great job system, progressive features, creative use of system functionality, excellent musical score, and is rich with style and charm. In some ways, it may very well be one of the most accurate examples of many Japanese-RPGs nowadays: In some instances it embodies the genre at its best, but it also plays it far too safe. Pros + Dense job/class customization and simple, but smart, turn-based combat + Very creative use of streetpass functionality and online friends list + Certain sidequest story arcs and character journal entries are engaging +Excellent music and nostalgic art direction + Random Encounter Rate Slider Cons - Main narrative and most characters are excessively “homage”/predictable - Bland overall dungeon design - Battles are still a bit too slow even after toggling with faster animation speed - Extremely tedious padding in the later half of the game that gets really repetitive both narratively and gameplay-wise Overall Score: 7 (out of 10) Good Bravely Default is endearing in the many RPG facets it excels in. However, when it falters, it unfortunately diminishes what it means to be the one of the very best RPG experiences on 3DS.
  7. This morning, less than a month before the game“s release in North America, Square-Enix announced a Collector“s Edition for Kingdom Hearts HD 2.5 ReMIX. This Collector“s Edition features both Kingdom Hearts HD games, a Heartless plush, the Disney Collector“s Pin that was revealed earlier this fall, and a 30-page art book featuring a never-before-seen sketch from Tetsuya Nomura, all housed in a beautiful steelbook case. All of this can be yours for $99.99, and if you“re willing to pre-order through the Square-Enix online store. In case the above visuals aren't enough for you, Square-Enix has released a video showing off the contents of this newly announced Collector“s Edition. Just in case you didn't already know, the game releases on December 2nd, 2014 in North America. Pre-order the game here. Is anyone excited about this Collector's Edition? Let us know!
  8. barrel

    Review: Drakengard 3

    Developer: Access Games Publisher: Square-Enix Platform: PS3 Release Date: May 20, 2014 ESRB: M for Mature In the PS2 era, Drakengard 1 and 2 were almost unanimously regarded as games that were mediocre at best and horrible at worst. Still, for the very few stubborn players that stuck with those titles, they were treated to some rather dark and mature storytelling that was very unlike most games at the time. Long after their debut, an indirect spin-off to the series by the name of Nier managed to garner quite a cult following despite receiving both a poor critical and commercial reception. Seemingly not discouraged by this concept in the slightest, a lot of the former staff from the original Drakengard as well as Nier, including director Yoko Taro, decide to rekindle the former PS2 relic with Drakengard 3 on PS3. The world of Drakengard 3 relies on the five Intoners (magical songstresses) who are heralded as goddesses because of the supposed peace that they brought after calming a global conflict as well as mending the land. To disrupt the self-proclaimed peace of the world stands the main character Zero and her dragon companion. Zero sets forth to systematically kill her five other Intoner sisters (conveniently and numerically named One, Two, Three, Four, and Five). With her ruthless approach to slaughter any who stand in her way, Zero makes it quite clear that she fully intends to follow through with the sororicide of her siblings by any means necessary. Despite being the third release in the series the story is, for the most part, an independent prequel to the previous games. So, oddly enough, the primary aspect that may throw people off the most is not so much continuity of the storytelling but rather the inherent absurdity of the setting. The storytelling is fairly dark and goes through several very interesting and different narrative branches and endings that seem progressively more messed-up. Not only is the setting fairly grim in tone, with brutal murders abound, but it plays with other adult themes a lot—like sexuality. Intoners, for example, have much stronger sexual urges caused by maintaining their musical power and they need their male disciples (servants that help amplify an Intoner's song magic) to help satiate that need regularly. If that wasn't weird enough, most of the main characters in Zero's company are not respectable by any means. The main characters mainly conceive of extreme sociopaths or deviants of some sort, with the exception of Zero's dragon, Mikhail, who is naive and kind-hearted in sharp contrast to Zero and her company. Much like in Nier, however, the game knows to not take itself too seriously and there is a surprising amount of comic relief and interesting banter between the cast, even in the midst of combat. While the extremes of the characters' personalities are often times overplayed—like Dito's sadism, Decadus's masochism, and Octa's penchant for sex—the interactions do usually manage to be entertaining more often than not because of the amusing writing. However, the relationship that develops between the cold Zero and her mostly lovable dragon, Mikhail, definitely stands out the most during the storytelling and interactions. What is less noteworthy is the actual gameplay. Combat progression is a standard, albeit strictly linear, hack & slash affair as you wade through batches of faceless soldiers. It is sort of akin to Musou-styled games, but with a faster flow and far less enemies on-screen at once. Initially, the gameplay starts out semi-promising with a steady progression of new weapons, foes to square off against, to even more unique flight sequences when controlling Mikhail, but that tapers off quickly. The on-foot combat fairs the best since Zero is a fairly fast and responsive character and her attacks are satisfying in a brutal, sadistic way, but an awkward visual presentation, shallow moveset, and scare variety in enemies/environments prevent it from being anything other than mindless, although occasionally fun at times, button-mashing. The on-foot combat in general may be unrefined, but it's clear that even less attention was paid to the parts where you control Mikhail. Ideally, the sequences where you control Mikhail are supposed to serve as a contrast in scale to Zero since he can easily trample standard foes for her like ants and even goes into Star Fox-esque flight segments. How it actually turns out is that these Mikhail-controlling situations become a chore to play because the framerate easily acts at its worst and it seems like both the aiming reticle as well as the camera prove to be bigger foes than the opposition you face. For as clumsy as the flight portions may be, what is the most devious and awkwardly designed sequence in the entire game is the final boss battle. I won't go into specifics, but I'm mentioning this primarily because I wouldn't be surprised if most players find it nearly impossible to beat. Seriously. Though it is presented very creatively, it requires a very specific skillset that doesn't follow the mechanics established in the game at all. The final fight is incredibly unforgiving and infuriating for reasons that I can't even begin to describe in this review, because of how it is presented, or rather, how important stuff is NOT presented. I'm harping a lot on the presentation, but honestly, that is probably the main reason why Drakengard 3 is bogged down in general for what would be mostly serviceable as a game. I“m really not one to normally bring up, or even care about production values just for the sake of it, but this game just reeks of a shoe-string budget that clearly goes against its intended design. Constant visual oddities abound with huge framerate hitches in random moments of combat. It also has a technical prowess that would only really feel at home in the PS2 era with its extremely unimpressive character models and lifeless 3D environments for most sequences. This is one of the few games where I strongly feel like one could've had a dramatically different (and a far more positive) impression of the game if its vast amount of technical quirks were simply fixed or optimized with a bigger budget. For as easy as it is to nitpick or be disappointed by the aspects that Drakengard 3 doesn't do particularly well, every now and then the title has its really pleasant surprises. The soundtrack is great and is mostly composed from none other than Keiichi Okabe, known for his fantastic work for Nier. I don't think the soundtrack here is as consistent as that game's was, which stuck to more memorable and serene vocal themes, but it is also way more eclectic in its style. It certainly utilizes familiar elements from Nier like calm, orchestral pieces with vocal accompaniment, although, it just as easily goes crazy in other moments like the boss themes that go from Heavy Metal to Trance musical styles. I think the most creative use of the soundtrack is when it shifts the score in battles to complement the Zero's Intoner mode. Normally this mode makes Zero temporarily invincible and also increases her offensive capabilities/mobility as a game mechanic, but it also adds a vocal layer to what may have originally been a classical styled piece to a far more beautiful, yet haunting, vocal composition that is unique to each theme. Actually, in general, the audio is fairly well-done. Some poorly done audio mixing in cutscenes aside (which is surprisingly significant), both the English and Japanese dub hold up rather well, which, for a fairly character interaction-heavy game, goes a pretty long way in conveying the engaging storytelling. Similar to both Nier, and to a lesser extent Deadly Premonition (ironically made by the developers behind both), Drakengard 3 rides on mostly less-than-serviceable gameplay to tell a much more interesting story. Unfortunately, its poor presentation, absolutely glaring repetition to the gameplay, and questionable mannerism is likely to push away most would-be onlookers of the title. That said, much like a certain lovable baby dragon that likes to roll around the mire, it is easy to become very frustrated with Drakengard 3 when constant filth is stuck to its exterior and design, but you know that, deep-down, it may be worth putting up with the fella in the long haul—that is, if he doesn't make you rage-quit near the end and you happen to also be very forgiving to its many faults. Pros: + Intriguing, albeit weird, dark storytelling with multiple endings + Great, eclectic soundtrack and solid English/Japanese dub + Entertaining character interactions + On-foot combat can be fun at times Cons: - Overall combat is shallow and there is a ton of glaring repetition to the enemies and stages - Airborne dragon sequences control extremely rough - Poor presentation with really significant framerate problems - Infuriating final boss Overall Score: 6.5 (out of 10) Decent Drakengard 3 is likely to leave most players with a wide-range of mixed emotions due to its hugely significant flaws as a game. But, for those who are curious about its setting may find just enough intrigue to its dark storytelling and bizarre overall style to warrant putting up with its many substandard quirks. Disclosure: PS3 downloadable code was provided by the publisher for this review
  9. From the album: Drakengard 3

    © http://squareportal.files.wordpress.com

  10. From the album: Drakengard 3

    © http://gematsu.com

  11. barrel

    Drakengard 3: With a Vengeance

    From the album: Drakengard 3

    © http://squareportal.files.wordpress.com

  12. barrel

    Drakengard 3: 2

    From the album: Drakengard 3

    © http://squareportal.files.wordpress.com

  13. barrel

    Drakengard 3

    From the album: Drakengard 3

    © http://www.siliconera.com

  14. This is pretty cool! Trailer that recaps the events from the previous games for you to catch up on before the concluded Lightning Returns. Pretty excited for the upcoming game released in XIII days from today. I am getting close to finishing up paying off my preorder from last summer (waiting for my swagbucks amazon to get here). Anyways woo! Go Lightningt Go! Anyone else besides me getting the game? ~nudges Kiky~ Geeet it lol. It's Lightning's final appearance!
  15. This is a pretty good price...if you can get past the fact that it's on Origin: http://store.origin.com/store/ea/en_US/DisplayProductDetailsPage/productID.273547900 Just throwing it out there for anyone interested, since I know some people were waiting for it to be in the $20-$30 range before buying it.
  16. Marshall Henderson

    Chrono Trigger Now on Android Devices

    We've seen Chrono Trigger on SNES, PlayStation, Nintendo DS, Virtual Console, PSN, and even iOS, but we idiots who bought Android devices are getting the royal shaft on this. Or at least, we were. Fortunately, today marks the day where the beloved SNES classic comes to the Google Play store and we emerge from the Jurassic period. Originally released on the SNES, Chrono Trigger is considered one of the greatest JRPGs of forever, and rightly so, with its strong characters, compelling story, and the work from Dragon Ball's Akira Toriyama filling out the artwork. While it's a well-beloved game, many might be resistant to the $9.99 price tag for a mobile device, but it is surely cheaper than most other releases of the game. Be wary, though, of the comments in the reviews. Many warn of poor optimization and finicky controls The extra DS content is available on the Google Play version of Chrono Trigger, so if you were ever interested in that, hey, it might be something to check out. Chrono Trigger is available now for $9.99 and 36M of your device's space on the Google Play store.