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Found 33 results

  1. barrel

    Review: Yakuza Kiwami 2

    Developer: Sega Publisher: Sega Platform: PS4 Release Date: August 28, 2018 ESRB: M for Mature Even though Yakuza 6: The Song of Life felt like an intended sendoff towards the series' beloved protagonist Kiryu earlier this year, the Yakuza series itself is showing no real intentions of slowing down. To continue the trend of putting basically every main entry Yakuza title on the PS4 in some form Sega has most recently shifted their sights onto revisiting yet another former PS2 relic by remaking Yakuza 2 from the ground up in Sega's "Dragon Engine" (introduced in Yakuza 6: The Song of Life) and slapping the word Kiwami on it. Considered by many fans to be the best entry in the series Yakuza Kiwami 2 has some rather lofty expectations to meet as a remake while also trying to be appetizing to series newcomers as well. Similar to the game's (literal) bombastic introduction, there is no denying that Yakuza Kiwami 2 is firing on all cylinders on a presentational front. By utilizing the familiar "Dragon Engine," Yakuza Kiwami 2's world often looks stunning in motion. From the bustling city streets, over-the-top special attacks in combat, to the facial details on the most menacing of yakuza scowls it does a ton to draw the player in its adventure. Which is good, because, like most Yakuza games, it is filled to the brim with stuff to do during the main story or absurdly robust side content. That said, Yakuza Kiwami 2 does more than just borrow pretty visuals from Yakuza 6 as a lot of the gameplay systems are directly carried over into this remake, and not necessarily for the better. For example, nearly all of Kiryu's bread & butter attack combos are the exact same as they were in The Song of Life just like the general level/stat progression too leading to an odd sense gameplay deja vu. Although, in the matter of fairness, the familiar combat engine is thankfully more enjoyable in Kiwami 2 than it was previously largely due to cleaned up hit detection, more responsive controls, and some really stylish context-specific moves (like during key boss fights). Even the returning RTS-esque "Clan Creator" mini-game from Yakuza 6 is fleshed out for the better by making it more strategic and tower-defense focused in Kiwami 2. Of course, at the end of the day, Kiwami 2 takes precedent as a remake and the story it tells is certainly among the most compelling parts of the overall package. Just like the original PS2 release, the crime-based storyline that delves into one of the most ruthless series antagonists, the Jingweon mafia, remains quite gripping, especially in its latter half. Even if, as a whole, 2's tale does not confidently take the top storytelling billing for the series like it once did (that mantle now belongs to Yakuza 0) and does have some hammy moments, like a forced love interest for Kiryu. Still, for those familiar with 2's tale should find the main story to be a treat even now, especially in how it is presented from much more dynamic combat encounters to revisiting cutscenes in much more impressive visual fidelity. As in-depth as the main story may be, one can easily double their total playtime if they dive into the game's copious amount of side content. Kiwami 2 introduces a lot of new sidequests, playable mini-games like karaoke or the goofy bathroom based "Toylet", full-fledged arcade ports of classic Sega games like Virtual-On, and even a brief campaign that focuses on the fan-favorite Majima. As usual with the series' current standard there are many easy rabbit holes for Kiryu to fall into especially with the often incredibly sharp, hilarious writing that accompanies them. In contrast, however, Majima's brief campaign very much feels like an afterthought in design. Although Majima is still fun to play for the couple hours it goes on for, it mostly comes across as shallow fanservice for Yakuza 0 fans than anything else (and I ADORE Yakuza 0, but still felt underwhelmed). For as deep of an experience Yakuza Kiwami 2 is as a whole, it actually makes some strange compromises over the original PS2 release. Some are negligible, like hit & miss mini-games (mostly miss) that don't make a return as well as certain sidequests. But perhaps the most controversial change of all is the removal of an entire explorable zone in the story (albeit a rather small one overall) where Kiwami 2 essentially re-purposes the story context associated with into the all too familiar in-game region of Sotenbori. While it is easy to guess it may have been done for budgeting reasons, it still is rather odd considering how faithful first Kiwami release was to the original PS2 title to an almost slavish degree. Odder still, the soundtrack of Yakuza Kiwami 2 is a noticeable step back from the original PS2 title and has very few returning musical pieces from it. Yakuza Kiwami 2 hits pretty much all the checkboxes that make for an engaging title in the series, from a thrilling story to an absurdly wide array of side content. As a remake, however, it does bring up some points of contention with a couple of odd compromises and some inherent gameplay flaws that are caused by reusing the engine from Yakuza 6. But, assuming one is not the too concerned about the sanctity of the original PS2 release, there is plenty of enjoyment to be had in revisiting one of the best games to series, especially for would-be newcomers. Pros + By refining the engine originally implemented in sixth main entry Kiwami 2 heavily benefits from tightened up gameplay & slick visuals as a remake + Sharp, witty localization that makes the already compelling main story and copious sidequest banter that much more entertaining + Tons of side content to delve into that can keep one occupied for quite a while Cons - Can create a bit too much gameplay Deja Vu because the combat, stat progression, and most minigames are directly lifted from Yakuza 6 - Some bizarre compromises over the original PS2 release, such as some removed content and the hugely altered soundtrack, and not exactly for the better Overall Score: 8 (out of 10) Great Yakuza Kiwami 2 is a sleek remake that manages to capture much of the spirit of its original PS2 release that should give fans both old and new plenty to chew on Disclosure: This game was reviewed using downloadable PS4 code provided by the publisher.
  2. We do it for Pey'j! And I swear we're gonna find 'em this time! Come check out some more of my first playthrough of #BeyondGoodandEvil right here on #Twitch! And don't forget my #PowerRangers and #SuperSentai emotes are live! https://www.twitch.tv/royzoga123
  3. barrel

    Review: Samurai Warriors 4-II

    Developer: Omega Force Publisher: Tecmo Koei Platform: PS4/Vita Release Date: September 29, 2015 ESRB: T for Teen This review is based on the PS4 version of the game I have been out of the loop with Musou action games for a good while. Back on the PS2, I had fond memories of playing the original Samurai Warriors, but the mere existence of Samurai Warriors 2 & 3 completely slipped me by… not to mention the enhanced versions of those same games. Regardless, Musou titles have been getting more and more positive fervor as of late, from fanfare spin-offs like Hyrule Warriors to the most recent Dragon Quest Heroes. Even last year“s more traditional Samurai Warriors 4 picked up traction as well from series enthusiasts. Of course, it would not be a proper numbered Musou release without an annualized and somewhat confusing enhanced version, so here we are with Samurai Warriors 4-II. As I implied before, Samurai Warriors 4-II in general is all new to me. So, aspects like being able to switch between two characters on the fly mid-battle, multiple special meters for "Hyper Attacks" and "Rage Mode" skills, interim saves for convenience during combat, and 50+ playable characters were all pleasant surprises for myself. Heck, just the regular attack animations are infinitely more responsive and cooler to look at than my old man's Samurai Warrior's perspective of a bygone era, like Nobunaga Oda floating and demonically swinging dark energy matter to decimate foes or Motochika Chōsokabe playing a Shamisen like an electric guitar... that can somehow cut down armies of soldiers. But, after an hour of so, the new sheen wore off for me and the basic it the basic hack and slash formula was not nearly as foreign to me as as I would have expected -- for better or worse. I mean, Mitsuhide Akechi still for some reason has purple hair, the enemy soldiers like to stand by and do nothing, and pretty much every key figure in the Sengoku era of Feudal Japan apparently felled 1000+ enemies in a single battle with bread and butter attack combos in around 30 minutes -- clearly the pinnacle of historical accuracy. Humoring series quirks aside, actually, the main difference between the original Samurai Warriors 4 and Samurai Warriors 4-II is its the story mode. The prior release divided the storytelling into four factions while 4-II is by different groups of characters. Though the surface-level character motivations and cutscenes makes it seem like it's easy to follow, I am pretty sure the transition from one fight to another will make next to no sense for anybody who doesn't have some background knowledge of Japanese feudal history (and in some instances make far less sense with that knowledge due to some characters being, erm, alive.). To be honest, it's pretty disjointed from any perspective (and not particularly entertaining), even if it seems like Omega Force was probably aware of this by making the latter unlocked story modes progressively less and less serious. Going down the list of additions beyond the story mode it appears like most are real minor quality of life stuff or giving players more excuses to chip away at grinding levels for its huge character roster. There is a new Final Fantasy X styled sphere grid system where you collect tomes from battles to unlock passive and stat bonuses for every characters. Also new is a "Survival Mode" which brings a risk/reward mindset as players decide for themselves whether to climb further up a tower with varying objectives for a potentially huge cash out . Other than those, the typical incentives from the previous game from loot drops, leveling up weapons, and a create character mode to give really devoted players to chew on something for a good while. This sorta hits the underlying theme of Samurai Warriors 4-II (and doubtless other Musou games)...which is, how much do you enjoy turning off your brain and grinding in the quickly familiar a hack & slash gameplay formula? After my initial novelty seeing what is new from my ten year gap away from the series I eventually learned that my answer was "not very much". Even removed from my context of not enjoying mashing the square (and triangle) button THAT much, at least without the gameplay moveset depth of a good character action game to compensate it (which this doesn't have), the value proposition does not seem strong even for returning fans of the first iteration. There is literally only one new character, Naomasa Li, whom honestly seems rather lukewarm compared to many other characters in the roster and the save transfer functionality between the two is woefully short for how little has been added. Also, the recently announced Samurai Warriors 4: Empires, which seems to have more new going on, makes Samurai Warriors 4-II as a follow-up seem fairly lacking. With a near ten year gap from the last Samurai Warriors title that I have played it was fun to see the transition to the most recent release of Samurai Warriors 4-II. There is plenty to chip away at from a time perspective with its diverse, huge roster or characters and mechanics to grind. But, after getting over that initial novelty rather quickly, it is quite telling that its love it or hate it button-mashing formula made me quickly learn my stance for this release on its own. For those that have played the previous Samurai Warriors 4 there doesn't seem to be a strong incentive to check out this psuedo-expansion because of its near negligible changes to gameplay and modes, and Samurai Warriors 4: Empires frankly seeming more substantial for those willing to wait. From the context of somebody who is not an already established Musou fan, Samurai Warriors 4-II does even less to change one's mind. Pros + Tons of varied playable characters + Responsive controls and satisfying, flashy attacks animations + Love it or hate it button-mashing gameplay Cons - Is an unapologetic grind when it comes to unlocking new attacks or improving stats - Fairly minor additions over the previous release - Story mode is really disjointed and underwhelming - Love it or hate button-mashing gameplay Overall Score: 6 (out of 10) Decent With little to invite series veterans, or even newcomers, Samurai Warriors 4-II is a confusing expansion/sequel that is likely better off being ignored for an ultimately better iteration down the line than having those try to stubbornly uncover its merits. Disclosure: This game was reviewed using downloadable PS4 code provided by the publisher.
  4. Jordan Haygood

    ActRaiser SNES Box Art

    From the album: Kaptain's Gallery

    © Quintet

  5. Developer: Nippon Ichi Publisher: NIS America Platform: PlayStation 3 Release Date: June 17, 2014 ESRB: T for Teen When Vanillaware hit it big with audiences back in 2008 with the release of the PS2 title Odin Sphere, niche companies took notice. People were interested not only in 2D hack-and-slash titles, but also games with unique and beautiful art styles that portray a wonderful world to delve into. Developers listened, and not only did we get more Vanillaware games in the same artistic vein such as Muramasa: The Demon Blade and Dragon's Crown, but also efforts from other developers, like the indie darling Dust: An Elysian Tail. Battle Princess of Arcadias seems to be Nippon Ichi's attempt to break into the market Vanillaware has created, throwing players into a colorful, pretty world with plenty of monsters to fight through. Does Battle Princess carve out a good name for itself in this niche market, or does it fail to impress beyond the wonderful graphical coating? Battle Princess of Arcadias takes place in the land of Arcadias, wherein dangerous monsters have suddenly appeared and began wreaking havoc in the land. In response to this, the princess of the Schwert Kingdom, Plume, takes up her sword and defends her land, earning her the title of Battle Princess. The game follows Plume and her companions throughout their struggles against monsterkind, as well as a new threat that makes itself prevalent as the game progresses. The plot, while at first seeming a bit bland, ends up being very intriguing, though to explain precisely why would lead to spoilers. It is also lighthearted and humorous; while it does take itself seriously from time to time, Battle Princess of Arcadias never drowns in melancholy. The characters are usually cheery and happy to take hoards upon hoards of monsters... with a few exceptions. Also, while most of the secondary characters initially fall into predictable tropes, most of them break out of said tropes in interesting ways. It leads to having interesting dialogue on the rather unusual events, and gives the title plenty of charm beyond its aesthetics. But, with any game of its ilk, the gameplay is the most important aspect of Battle Princess of Arcadias, compelling story or not. There are three different, very distinct types of battles to work through. First up are Combat missions. Combat missions take up to three characters into the 2D field, where you fight monsters in a typical beat-em-up fashion. These types of missions are typically best for leveling up the various characters you'll recruit throughout the course of the game, as well as getting a feel for each character's play styles. As characters level up, they learn more elaborate combos and moves, giving one reason to keep them all leveled somewhat equally. Combat missions tend to show the most basic part of Battle Princess of Arcadias, but the other types of missions tend to expand on this basic aspect to varying degrees of success. Siege battles have your three chosen characters and the Princess Brigade fighting against a large monster. Since you are controlling essentially an army, you have to give orders to ensure that the Brigade doesn't get decimated by the boss. You can order them to go into an all out attack, lowering their defensive abilities for when the monster counters, or go on the full defensive, limiting your losses, but placing the majority of the damage dealing onto yourself. You can also order the troops to retreat to recover their numbers while you fight alone (if the Brigade is wiped out, you fail the mission), and if morale raises high enough, you can initiate a showdown that can do massive damage to the enemy. The explanations the game offers and all the bars moving about on the screen make Siege battles look complicated, but it's really all that simple: Keep whaling on the enemy while making sure not too many of your troops fall, don't change your commands too often (as a command costs some morale), and finish the boss off with a Showdown when it becomes available. The key is to ensure that you yourself don't get caught in the monster's attack, as they do a lot of damage. As such, Sieges become more battles of careful positioning than anything, and because of that, they tend to be the weakest mission type in the game. Skirmishes, on the other hand, are an interesting mix of the Combat missions and the use of the Princess Brigade, but the actual execution can sometimes be hit-or-miss. In Skirmishes, you take certain units of the Princess Brigade (defined by the weapon they use) into battles against other units, while your character dukes it out with enemy troops in the foreground. What troops you'll want to bring depends on the weapons the enemy's troops are using, as each weapon has its strengths and weaknesses. You will also have to command the troops in this type of mission, although instead of retreating you'll have the command to change out the current unit for the next in line. Skirmishes also effectively put a level stop-gap on your progression through the game. Skirmishes become very difficult if the right units aren't near the level the enemy units are--and this is even more apparent if you don't have a good unit to counter against an enemy unit. The only way to level up these units, however, is to first get the Leader to the desired level, then level up the unit with money. You cannot raise a unit's level beyond the leader's level, and the use of exponentially increasing amounts of gold ensure that, at least in the early parts of the game, you'll be forced to grind a bit until the units are up to speed. During the late-game, though, your units and characters gain enough versatility that grinding isn't nearly as much of an issue, and is more of an option available for an easier victory. Battle Princess of Arcadias also has a few, relatively small annoyances that need to be brought up, aside from the early game forced grinding to succeed at Skirmishes. All new playable character come come at a level significantly lower than your current members, so it takes a while of replaying older stages and equipment upgrades to make them viable... and simply ignoring them isn't an option either, due to the Skirmishes. The title also has random difficulty bumps which can, again, be solved by grinding, but it can lead to annoyance to have to go and grind to get past a random battle. Regardless of these hiccups, Battle Princess of Arcadias is a very solid package. Beneath the candy-coated exterior is a well-thought out plot, interesting characters, and deep combat. It's worth checking out if you like any sort of action game or action RPG; it's not likely Battle Princess of Arcadias will disappoint. Pros: + Interesting plot will keep you moving through the missions + Trope-breaking characters add genuine depth + Combat is satisfying and rewarding Cons: - Difficulty bumps, especially in the beginning, can frustrate - Grinding up new characters is tedious, yet necessary Overall Score: 8.5 (out of 10) Great Battle Princess of Arcadias is a satisfying mix of elements that make for an enjoyable, somewhat lengthy journey. Disclosure: This game was reviewed using downloadable PS3 code provided by the publisher.
  6. Marcus Estrada

    Review: Remember Me

    Developer: DONTNOD Entertainment Publisher: Capcom Platform: 360, PS3, PC Release Date: June 4, 2013 ESRB: M for Mature This review is based on the Xbox 360 version of the game Will gamers remember Remember Me years in the future? It“s a hard question to answer considering many will never play it due to some early reviews that christened it as being purely average. Then again, those who have not seen the reviews are likely unaware of the game at all considering Capcom“s intense reticence to advertise the game at all. For those that do pick the game up and give it a chance they will find an interesting little action title, although it does fall short of its peers. Remember Me stars a woman by the name of Nilin - a memory hunter. Or, at least she was before she had her own memories wiped. As the whole story hinges on her memories it is the perfect starting point as players are as in the dark about things as she is. Overall, the story is a neat little thing although there are some seriously ham-fisted segments. Players may like or dislike the slight contemplative air of Nilin's thoughts between levels but at least it fits in with the narrative as a whole. What does the gameplay offer? The vast majority pivots between platforming and action segments where you“re forced to beat up on a slew of enemies. As far as the platforming is concerned it“s a fairly standard experience. There are no massive Uncharted-style set pieces but it“s serviceable. The game even dots the paths players should take with orange arrows if you get lost. Although this can be helpful in a pinch, it also takes away their own need to explore. Why search other sections if the path is pointed out for you? Engaging in fist fights is one way that the game tries to distance itself from existing titles. Nilin is a skilled fighter but is not restricted to a certain set of combos. Instead, players craft their own combos for her in a menu. These attacks, unlocked through play, designate which buttons are pushed as well how as successful attacks benefit the player. Some will restore health while others work to speed up the cooldown of special attacks known as S-Pressens. S-Pressens are unlocked in due time and there are only a few of them in all. Each has a specific use such as one that makes an enemy robot fight for you before exploding. Another makes Nilin go invisible for 30 seconds which she can use to take down an annoying enemy in one strategic hit. Most of the time they are not necessary to use but there are instances where fights will be much harder if you don“t know which S-Pressen will make quick work of things. Of course, by the end there are segments where they are required to implement in fights. Although the idea of customizing combos is novel, it isn“t particularly interesting. I was able to get through the game with a few very simple combos simply because each one restored one aspect of Nilin“s well being. One was set to all healing attacks, with another on S-Pressen recharge speed, and another for stronger attacks. Fans of fighting games may take more time to craft their combos but the average gamer is unlikely to revise their combos very much. Exploring the environment isn“t a very exciting aspect of the game either. Although it does look very attractive, the futuristic world also appears to be one very long path with some slight room for variance. When presented with Neo-Paris, you want to explore beyond the beaten path. Unfortunately, there is very little out there aside from some collectible content and other bonuses. It“s a shame because the world seems like it would benefit from more exploratory action at the hands of the player. A few puzzles were even thrown in but these are rather simplistic for the most part. In fact, only three puzzles which make use of wordplay riddles might cause hang ups for some players. Regardless, the game is always willing to offer hints if you“re willing to look which means you“re likely never stuck for long. There is another form of puzzle in Remember Me and it occurs when you enter the memories of a character. Memory remixing is by far the standout aspect of Remember Me. Players must visit a memory someone holds in their mind and alter it so their current state is different from what it otherwise was. For example, if you make them guilty of something terrible in their memory they will then become filled with guilt in the current day. The idea is interesting and the execution is fantastic. When in a memory, it first plays like a video before you can take control. Once you“re empowered, the player must rewind and fastforward the memory to figure out things they can change to cause the desired chain of events. There are always a handful of ways to change a memory and some of the possible variables lead to the wrong conclusion. Still, it“s fun to see how much variation each memory has and what terrible results you can force out of a single memory. Unfortunately, there are only four memory remixing sequences in the game - one of which is a rehash of a previous event. Considering this is the most highly touted aspect of Remember Me, it is quite a shame it wasn“t used more often. One playthrough takes around ten to fifteen hours and a bulk of it is spent hammering away at enemies. Although the game certainly isn“t broken, these aspects aren“t particularly fun either. They work but it feels like the title would have been better served by focusing on what makes it unique. Contorting memories as the main form of gameplay would have been incredibly interesting and was probably ignored simply because the majority gaming audience doesn“t want “puzzle games”. What a shame. The experience provided by Remember Me is refreshing for its experimentation but not the best specimen of an action game out there. This is unfortunate because there are elements of the game which make it very interesting to experiment with, but there just aren“t enough of these moments to lift up Remember Me as a whole. Still, it may be worth embarking on Nilin“s quest to get a taste of innovative play in an otherwise triple-A title. Pros: + Attractive world that you wish would be more open to exploration + Compelling lead character Nilin sells the narrative + Memory remixing is quite fun Cons: - Changing combos isn“t necessary once you find your favorite moves - Fairly linear world with similarly linear platforming Overall Score: 7.0 (out of 10) Good Remember Me is not a memorable experience as a whole. Instead, you'll remember it for the moments when the game shines as an experimental product that could only release near the end of a console generation.
  7. gaiages

    Review: Pandora's Tower

    Developer: Ganbarion Publisher: XSeed Platform: Wii Release Date: April 16, 2013 ESRB: T for Teen It's a small miracle that I'm reviewing Pandora's Tower now. The third of three Wii RPGs that made it to Europe before hitting our shores, fans made quite the ruckus to bring this, Xenoblade Chronicles, and The Last Story over to North America. While Nintendo listened to their cries and brought Xenoblade over, XSeed did the same for Last Story shortly after, but Pandora's Tower seemed like a lost cause. The Wii U was already released, and Wii support was dropped like a rock. Fans despaired; there was practically no hope for the third game in this role-playing trio to be release for an NA system. But, XSeed pulled through for the fans again, and announced their localization for Pandora's Tower a few months back. Now that eager gamers have what is likely to be the Wii's final true game, does Pandora's Tower live up to its Operation Rainfall brethren and help us say farewell to the Wii with a bang? Pandora's Tower weaves a very interesting tale: The young Elena has been marked by a terrible curse that slowly turns her into a monster. The only way to possibly put an end to this curse is to traverse the Thirteen Towers and defeat each tower's Master, obtaining their Master Flesh and feeding it to the girl. As one might imagine, these towers are quite perilous, but protagonist Aeron is no slouch in the ways of fighting, and with the Oraclos Chain given to him by the mysterious Mavda, he'll make his way through the towers to find the cure for his love. Since the gist of the game is to save Elena, a lot of the focus is put on her in relation to the plot. She'll always be safe inside the Observatory, and when you return from your visits to the Thirteen Towers, she'll always be there waiting. Chatting with her and giving her gifts is the key to keeping her happy and hopeful of the eventual eradication of her curse. In addition, raising Elena's affinity in Aeron plays a big role on the ending you may see. However, that's not all - Elena's curse does slowly turn her into a beast, and this means that you need to keep her from turning while you fight for the Master Flesh. To do so, you need to pull servant flesh from the normal monsters in the dungeon, and feed them to her. This slows the curse down and ensures you enough time to complete the Towers, so time isn't a big issue here. Over time, you'll really start to care about Elena. Through chats with her and from her reactions to the gifts you give, you'll learn more about the sweet girl, like her past and her dreams. It's almost heart-breaking watching her suffer throughout the course of the game, but it's uplifting when she speaks full of hope for the future... even if the underlying curse causes some unusual changes. On the flip side, though, you will learn almost nothing about Aeron himself. There is a bit explained within a few later cutscenes and with chatting, but the quiet and stoic Aeron is more there to save Elena than he is to be an interesting character model. It's a little disappointing, however given that this sort of background might detract from Elena's story, it's understandable that Garbarion put the spotlight on her. It's also interesting to note that, while the setting is very pointed in its execution, you still learn a lot about the world of Pandora's Tower. Through the various books and notes scattered about, you learn about how the Masters were created, and more about the Cataclysm that struck the land and created the giant gash in the earth known as The Scar. Mavda's musings also give clue to the effects that Elena's sudden onslaught of her curse had on the people that were attacked... and even on the country itself. The way this game creates its world is very effective, with every new article or letter bringing just a bit more light into various aspects of the world. While the plot and execution are great, however, as an Action RPG Pandora's Tower needs to play well to be completely enjoyable... so does it succeed in that part? For the most part it does, though there are some odd quirks. Aeron has many ways of dispatching enemies at his disposal. First, we can use his sword (and other weapons later) to dispatch foes in a typical ARPG-combo fashion. You can also have Mavda upgrade these weapons by using materials found in the Towers; this will raise their attack power and even add new attacks to your combo after a time. Also, you'll have access to the immensely versatile Oraclos Chain. In battle, you can use the chain to latch on to the enemy, for a number of effects. You can, for example, throw them into other foes, latch the chain onto a second enemy so they share the damage you deal, pull at the chain to raise its tension then pull away quickly to do massive damage, amongst other techniques. Most players will find themselves using the chain during most of their battles, especially since attacking the Masters with weaponry is rarely effective in itself. In addition, the Oraclos Chain is the best way to make your way through the Thirteen Towers. You can latch onto footholds and ledges, swing about, and generally get to areas you'd never be able to otherwise. It lends itself to some fun platforming, though at times is can be a little nerve-wracking, especially when suspended above perilous pits or while persistent enemies are afoot. While we're talking about the chain, I have to state this to get it out of the way - there are two control schemes, one with the Wiimote and Nunchuk and one with the Classic Controller. Do not use the Classic Controller scheme! This game was made with the Wiimote in mind, as you control where your chain goes with it... if you use the Classic Controller, this important function is relegated to the right stick. While that may not seem to bad, when you're in a position that needs quick reflexes (which is every time you're fighting a Master), you'll find the right stick's speed and accuracy sorely lacking. Despite how well done the package is overall, though, there are some sticking points that unfortunately stop the game from being perfect. For starters, Many times throughout the game the same animations will repeat themselves. This is fine for the first few times, but after you've seen Mavda slowly emerge through the door for the umpteenth times you'll be mashing the plus button to skip it. It's a minor issue, but one that really sticks out. Also, the affinity bar inches up the screen incredibly slowly. For most people playing the game normally, despite tons of gifts, the bar probably won't make it far enough to get the better endings. It's entirely possible to raise Elena's affinity to the required amounts, but it tends to devolve into exhausting chat until she has nothing left to say, rest, repeat, maybe give her a berry, and so on. Had the bar moved up a just a bit of a faster rate, or some of the really big or expensive gifts given a large boost, this wouldn't be needed. It's an unfortunate misstep on a mechanic that's very important. Finally, there are some points that can get frustrating. Missing a chain to break or failing to find a shortcut can cause a lot of backtracking, and with the advancement of the curse clicking down in the lower right corner, backtracking is more stressful than the norm. As well, there are times where you can go too long without finding a monster that drops servant flesh, making it stressful to find something to slow the curse's progression. Couple that with a few of the towers being long and maze-like, and it turns into an experience that can be more stressful than it needs to be. So, the final verdict? Pandora's Tower is a game just a little shy of fantastic. The plot and setting are beautifully done, but it falls short on other aspects that keep it from being a perfect gaming experience. Even so, it's a game every Wii RPG fan should grab, especially if they enjoyed Xenoblade Chronicles and The Last Story. While it's a completely different experience, it's one that comes as a great send-off to the Wii. Pros + The plot and setting are well presented and written + Your interactions with Elena make you truly care about her + Fighting the unique and varied Masters is for the most part fun Cons - The music, while not bad, has few tracks and isn't memorable - The rate the curse advances adds a level of frustration and tension that is a bit much - Getting the Affinity bar to a good level is more work than it should be Overall Score: 8 (out of 10) Great Pandora's Tower may have some small annoyances, but overall it's a great experience for Wii owners and RPG fans.
  8. Developer: Team Ninja Publisher: Tecmo Koei Platform(s): PS3, Xbox 360, and Wii U Release Date: April 2, 2013 ESRB: M for Mature This review is based on the PS3 version of the game Last year, the original Ninja Gaiden 3 received quite a bit of backlash from its fanbase and critics, thanks in no small part to a significantly decreased default difficulty, no variety for weapons/magic and enemies, poorly implemented mechanics, and just a plain overall structure. Some time after, it would seem that Team Ninja took the critical feedback to heart by releasing an enhanced version almost a year later called Ninja Gaiden 3: Razor's Edge (originally released for the Wii U last Fall). Featuring new weapons, spells, playable characters, mechanical tweaks, and an significantly increased default difficulty, Ninja Gaiden 3: Razor's Edge intended to remedy the complaints of the original while also eventually making its way to PS3/360 so owners of those systems don't feel left out. However, since Razor's Edge is built upon the core framework of the original, it begs the question: Just how sharp can this enhanced version actually be? Storytelling is, well, what you'd expect of a Team Ninja game (read: not great), but better than something like DOA5. The resilient ninja Ryu is being hunted down by a extremist sort of cult due for unknown reasons. This cult will not hesitate to kidnap political figures in the process of sending a message, so Ryu himself agrees to help save these hostages with the assistance of an undercover government faction. During the mission, Ryu confronts a masked individual believed to be the mysterious cult's leader, and who nearly ends his life. However, in desperation, the masked individual imbues one of Ryu's arms with an ancient magical curse that worsens based on the amount of lives Ryu claims. Needless to say, the curse brings more conflict for Ryu throughout, who is under constant siege by this mysterious group. Surprisingly enough, the story is a bit more palatable than previous entries if only due to a slightly more comprehensible overall script and better voice work, but still rather weak.This preface also leads to some of the gameplay design choices of Ninja Gaiden 3: Razor's Edge. In emphasizing Ryu's brutal and murderous nature, they really up the ante of the gory dismemberment compared to even what Ninja Gaiden 2 on 360 established as well as the vanilla version of 3. Also, in less pleasing news, they decided to have the curse mechanic tie into the gameplay where every time you get hurt, your maximum threshold for health is decreased until you reach very specific checkpoints, dismissing consumable healing items entirely. In conjunction to some other structure alterations with the increased difficulty, this leads to some balance issues. Structurally, Razor's Edge will probably feel foreign to fans of previous Ninja Gaiden entries since the balance and flow of combat of previous games is anything but there. On paper, Razor's Edge attempts to retain the spirit of the series with its trademark weapons and relatively high level of difficulty; cosmetically, it will probably look familiar as well. That said, an important thing to establish when playing a difficult game is whether or not you are offered adequate tools to handle your opposition with some degree of consistency. Previous Ninja Gaiden games usually encouraged more methodical play, having players play defensively and learning to capitalize either through mastering the flow of combat or enemy attack patterns in situations like boss fights. Razor's Edge does not have that sort of intrinsic combat balance consistency; even as a fan of the previous games who is not unfamiliar with difficult games in general, I have a lot of complaints with this game. Enemies in Razor's Edge are super aggressive, and you know what? That is probably a better alternative to the sleepy and pushover AI that the original NG3 had, since the series is known for its fast-pace and technical gameplay. The thing is, the enemies in NG3:RE don't have have much regularity to their attacks, blocks, and evade patterns. For example, when an enemy gets staggered for a combo, I have had plenty of baffling moments where I may be executing a combo and the enemy randomly decides to jump out of it and punish me. Another time I was doing the same thing with no problem, both without any visual cue as to what I did right or wrong. Every enemy also seems to have very quick unblockable attacks or grabs, and while these did become more commonplace in NG2, they seem much more so in this game and often times there is nothing you can do about them, even if you even press a button. Going back to their attack patterns, Ryu's attacks (even the unlockable characters) against most enemies types often times hardly feel consistent, with the super cheap 'alchemists' enemy type embody this issue the most; which just block/avoid everything randomly except ultimate attack/magic spams, until you get certain overpowered weapons. In more artificial difficulty related complaints, Razor's Edge seems to have noticeable input lag and this makes the unbalances of combat even more stiffing. This goes from general movement to attacks, and makes the game feel kind of button-mashy for combos specifically, since the immediate timing just isn't there for a game that needs it. Spamming the charge based auto-combo 'ultimate attack' becomes all too tempting in this game, since it is the most reliable attack. Of course, a common complaint with the series that still remains today is the camera, which while is more flexible/speedy in Razor's Edge, it definitely has more than a few hiccups. It's a sad thing when there was a certain point while playing where I accepted that enemies/bosses were going to get free damage on me and winning an encounter in the campaign could easily be luck-based regardless of my game plan/execution. My prior qualms are only emphasized because recent actions games, and even earlier 3D Ninja Gaiden games, have more than proven that there can and should be more finesse and balance to these action games. This holds especially true for players who are more passionate about higher level play and want to master the highest ranks/difficulties. Now that all of these complaints are out of my system, surprisingly enough, not all is bad with NG3:RE. 1st off, I think the new and very visceral 'steel on bone' mechanic is satisfying to execute almost every time in a sadistic gory sort of way, with very brutal attacks and flashy animations and plenty unlockable skills. Also, new characters like Ayane, Kasumi, and Momiji are fun to play with pretty different movesets. Even Ryu, which not necessarily my preference mechanically, since he feels sluggish and a bit more unreliable in comparison, does look pretty cool when wielding the latter unlockable weapons in the main campaign. Game modes are to-the-point in Razor's Edge. There is the main campaign, chapter challenge, and the online focused "Shadows of the World" mode. Main campaign is straightforward, since I didn't make it clear earlier with my gameplay complaints, where it is a fast-paced romp with the only real breaks being the bookend cutscenes laced within. For the various unlockable characters and Ryu as well, there is also the ”chapter challenge, which is basically the main campaign but not being interrupted with most cutscenes in between. What is neat is that you can save replays of either the chapter challenge or Ninja Trials (tied to Shadows of the World mode). So, if you magically do a solid run of the game you can immediately capture it after finishing a stage. Like the original, Ninja Gaiden 3: Razor“s Edge sports an online multiplayer called Shadows of the World. Shadows of the World allows players to customize and level-up a sort of faceless ninja through cooperative and competitive modes. Ninja Trials is a relatively standard survival mode where you can solo or team up with another online player while you take on waves of enemies, which you can use your blank slate character or Ryu and the other unlockable characters. Clan Battle is a bit more interesting with what is basically a 8 vs 8 deathmatch with varying objectives. I did have fun in the brief time I played clan battle, but I could imagine it getting very unbalanced very quickly considering the leveling-up structure for skills and weapons. As a whole, for those who want something more than the solitary grind of single-player can certainly get more out of the online modes if they enjoy it. Ninja Gaiden 3: Razor“s Edge is not exactly a bad game by itself, but in contrast to previous entries and even more recent games from this year alone, it can certainly feel that way since it feels less methodical/technical and very unbalanced in terms of difficulty structure. It's a weird thing when a series that helped accentuate the 'hardcore' action game feels rather poorly designed in many areas and a significantly improved re-release just can't completely fix it. The game does have its moments of fast-paced and bloodthirsty fun, and though the series does seem like it can be salvaged after 3, it is still likely to disappoint most longtime fans and newcomers as well. For a series that is known for its keen gameplay sharpness, Ninja Gaiden 3: Razor's Edge sure does ironically have a lot of rough edges. Pros: + Flashy and brutal attacks and animations + Fast-paced gameplay with plenty of content + New characters and weapons are fun to play and use Cons: - Serious balance issues with the game“s combat and enemies - Some input lag for attacks and movement - Camera issues (not new for the series) - Trivial Story Overall Score: 6 (out of 10) Decent In some moments fast-paced and brutal fun and many more outright vexing in terms of design, Ninja Gaiden 3: Razor's Edge is likely to be very divisive. For fans of the series and newcomers alike it will be a real test of patience if they want to extract enjoyment out of this title even with this enhanced version.
  9. This started out as a review for The Walking Dead: Survival Instinct. I genuinely wanted to give people my honest opinion of the game, while outlining where it shines and where it needs work. But after getting trapped on the second level of the game by a never-ending flood of walkers that block the only escape route to the exit, it's apparent that I'll never finish the game. Since I can't review it effectively, I'll instead take the time to tell you why you should stay far, far away from this rotten, godawful mess of a game. Upon starting the game for the first time, it's already apparent that this game lacks polish - the controls are loose, the graphics are bland, character models are ugly, shadows are blocky and jagged, and voice-overs sound like they were recorded into a tin can rather than a microphone. Meanwhile, the framerate often struggles to stay at 30 FPS, which, for a game that looks as outdated as Survival Instinct does, really shouldn't be that difficult. There's also the fact that, during the tutorial, the messages that tell you which button does what often appear after you've figured it out yourself, or just don't appear at all. These are all little things though, and certainly no reason to avoid the game outright. But I'm just getting started... Well? We're waiting... I only played two levels of the game (more on why in a moment) but in both levels the overall objective was "find gas so you can drive to the next level." Granted, the second level did have some secondary, optional objectives, but they were both fetch quests for survivors found in the level. For a game with the word survival right in the title though, you'd think it would have maybe put more emphasis on surviving than getting gas, but I digress - I've never seen the show, so that may be what they're doing all the time anyway. Sure, you do have to survive against the "walkers," but under normal circumstances that really isn't all that difficult. Getting behind a walker will allow you to stealth kill it (even if it knows you're there) and melee killing them from any angle can be fun. The walker AI is so brain dead (pun kinda-sorta intended) that they'll happily stand there while you gleefully beat them to death, maybe occasionally taking a feeble swing at you. It's when they grapple you that things get annoying - your reticule floats around the screen at random, and you have to center it on the zombie's head and press the attack button while it's centered to instantly kill it. This would be fine if it wasn't for the fact that the game often didn't register my button press when I was certain I had the reticule lined up, making this little QTE more annoying than it should have been. The best (worst) part is that if there are multiple zombies around, after one grapples you any others nearby will grab you the moment you kill the previous one, which often means getting surrounded = getting killed because you can't stop getting grappled to heal. And therein lies the reason I never passed the second level - I got surrounded by so many zombies that I literally could not kill every one of them grappling me over and over and over. But let me back it up a minute, because this requires a little context, I suppose. When you start the level, the road is blocked so you have to go through a small general store to get around the cars in your way and get to the gas station. In order to get gas (as I mentioned, your objective for the first two levels) you have to get a key to turn on the gas station's generator, and once you do that, all the noise from the generator attracts the walkers, which another character helpfully tells you before completely disappearing. Like, literally, he just disappears, you don't see him run out of the station or anything. So anyway, whether you could see any walkers or not, some will inevitably show up to try and ruin your escape, so you have to leave as quickly as possible. But remember that grocery store I mentioned walking through? Yeah, I still have to go through there, only now it's full of walkers. Seriously, full of walkers. There's just a sea of flesh-eating zombies waiting right there along your escape route, every time, all the time, and as soon as you get to them they will grab you, and they will kill you - there's way too many to fight off no matter how good you are at the grappling QTE. So I tried, and tried, and tried again, but there was absolutely no way through. I finally had to give up because after I reloaded my checkpoint several times, the game apparently couldn't handle it anymore and the framerate stuttered and froze every few seconds, making the game entirely unplayable. I don't know who took this screenshot, but I do know their game probably crashed shortly afterwards. Yep, I used the dreaded "u" word, and it is entirely justified. Not just because of the crippling framerate issue, but because this game is so shoddily made that it would be impossible for the average gamer (and I'm hardly an "average" gamer) to make progress in this game without the aid of a cheat device or something. First of all, the game doesn't know how to remove dead zombies from the world - there was one point where I was standing on the fire escape of a building, and two zombies followed me out. I killed them, and turned around to contemplate going down the fire escape or back the way I came. Suddenly, I was grappled by a zombie, who I promptly killed, but I was wondering how he got there so I looked in the room I'd just came from - nothing. I went back to my quiet contemplation, only to be attacked again - by the same f***ing zombie. And this isn't one of those "maybe you didn't kill him all the way" situations - his body disappeared, but apparently the game decided to just respawn him right there, infinitely, until I was smart enough to go somewhere else. This is apparent throughout the game if you're paying attention, since a zombie that you killed in a particular place will often be there again if you get far enough away, by which I mean a few freakin' steps. Second of all, the checkpoint system is horrid - one of the survivors I mentioned earlier asks you to find him batteries. Sure, no problem. I made my way to the police station, fought off some walkers, got the batteries, gave them to him, and went on my merry way. I died shortly after meeting a second survivor inside the station and starting his fetch quest, only to be popped back outside the police station. My objective? Find batteries for Officer whatever his name was. This game is so terrible at remember what you've done that dying could mean a few seconds lost (the generator thing I mentioned earlier happened to be a checkpoint, surprisingly) or several minutes. And if you quit the game and start it up again, it doesn't start you at your last checkpoint like most games - no sir, you're going right back to the beginning of the level, because screw you for quitting the game, that's why. Maybe I'm just angry, but there is absolutely no reason anyone should ever play this game, for any reason, unless, I guess, you really - and I mean really - hate someone and want to show them in one of the worst ways possible by giving them this thing as a gift. This is one of the sorriest excuses for a video game I've ever played, and I've played Postal 3, Sonic '06, Mortal Kombat: Special Forces, Samurai Slowdown III (a.k.a. the PSX version of Samurai Shodown 3), uh...well, you get the idea. The worst part is that the game could have been fun, if it wasn't for the fact that it tries its damnedest to make you fail repeatedly. I really liked bashing in zombie heads, I really liked the idea of getting sucked into the world of The Walking Dead, but all of this was ruined when I realized I could never leave the second level no matter how hard I tried. This could have been at least half-decent if more work had been put into it, but as it stands, this is a rushed, buggy, unpolished, and nearly broken game that no fan of Walking Dead or zombie culture could ever enjoy. So, if you're looking for a good Walking Dead game, play Telltale's game based on the comics. If you're looking for a good zombie game, play literally just about any other game with the word "Dead" in the title - Dead Island, Dead Rising, Dead Pixels, Dead Nation, take your pick. Just, whatever you do, don't go anywhere near this game, because you'll only find the frustration and annoyance of a game that almost, almost could have made it if only the developers had actually tried. It's a crime against all gamedom that lazy developers like Terminal Reality are getting handed money by publishers to puke out something like this when so many decent, hardworking studios are shutting their doors one by one. Maybe that's what this game was trying to represent - that there's only a few "survivors" left in the world (the developers who barely have enough to keep functioning but manage to cling to life) being swarmed by a bunch of foul, rotten, husks (terrible developers who coast off publisher money) who only care about one thing: flesh (money) and will do whatever it takes to get it. If so, then, good job Terminal Reality, you really did well with your social commentary. Just, maybe next time, try to do well with your Walking Dead game instead.
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