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Found 69 results

  1. Developer: Soft Circle French Bread Publisher: Aksys Games Platform: PS4, PS3, and PS Vita Release Date: February 8, 2018 ESRB: T for Teen Clearly, the Japanese developer French Bread has given up any attempt at a coherent title with their newest fighting game rerelease, Under Night In-Birth Exe: Late(st). In spite of its self-inflicted and unfortunate naming choice, the newest Under Night In-Birth iteration remains steadfast as a fighting game gem amongst some pretty fierce competition. It is just a shame that it is highly likely to be buried by the recent Dragon Ball FighterZ (for a multitude of reasons) and possibly even redundant due to many serious fans having already imported this version of the series half a year ago. Those who are still curious as to what Under Night's second console release has to offer may notice its handful of new bells and whistles as it tries to justify its additional retail price tag. I would define the original PS3 release of Under Night In-Birth as having no unnecessary frills, yet also quite entertaining, and that it was only really held back by simply not explaining its nuanced fighting game system mechanics (such as "Chain Shift", "Veil off", and the likes). The lack of tutorials would essentially force one who wanted to give the prior game a fair shot to dig into online guides or wikis to understand the gameplay systems. This is no longer the case with Exe: Late(st) with many, many tutorials that are willing to teach in a very beginner-friendly manner, which range from simply moving around or looking at the health bar to going as deep as explaining concepts like "fuzzy guarding" in high-level play. It is a rather dry text dump based approach compared to Guilty Gear Xrd: Revelator's tutorial but the in-game insight is more than welcome nonetheless. It is all well and good that they added tutorials; however, features beyond that should be more enticing for returning players, such as new playable characters and modes. In addition to adding much-needed re-balancing from the prior game (Seth and Chaos are finally viable competitively!), the four new playable characters themselves are all quite enjoyable and generally easy to pick up & play like the rest of the roster. Some are straightforward enough, like Enkidu, who is a close ranged fighter with various parrying skills to Phonon who keeps foes at bay with long-range whipping abilities. The more intriguing newcomers design-wise, however, are Mika -- who is a deceptively mobile fighter despite wielding two huge gauntlets -- and the lady Wagner, who has a fiery and hyper aggressive playstyle that is similar to her presence in the main story. Speaking of which, the newly added story mode may just be the worst part of the whole game. One could tell that the storytelling was not particularly noteworthy in the arcade mode of the earlier release; having an exhausting ten hour-plus visual novel story mode could not do this game fewer favors. As someone who tolerated the extensive visual novel narratives in various Blazblue games, it says a lot about just how dull and uneventful the Chronicles story mode in EXE Late(st) ends up being. At best, players will see some halfway interesting backstory regarding the playable cast. Yet, the far more prevalent theme is that it'll likely bore them out of their mind with incredibly mundane and redundant exposition that can stretch the course of five minutes into feeling like several hours. The worst part about the storytelling is that there is very little resembling a central narrative as whole making it feel that much more pointless to endure. The rest of the gameplay mode feature set is a matter of taking the good with the bad. For example, the "Mission" mode is neat in that it has players be able to learn actual viable bread & butter combos to more advanced techniques. Then there is the training mode which, despite being a total user interface nightmare, allows somewhat granular options in finding out which actions can easily be countered. The Network features remain to be much more mixed, however. In addition to being close to dead in terms of online presence (one of many reasons why the release date timing was unfortunate...), the online netcode itself is kind of dodgy and bare bones. There are the standard lobbies and ranked matchmaking, sure, but good luck finding fellow opponents or matches without noticeable lag. Under Night In-Birth EXE: Late(st) makes for a tricky recommendation in the modern fighting game climate. It's a criminally overlooked, and surprisingly approachable fighting game series though I find myself quite conflicted in how underwhelming Exe: Late(st) is as a re-release. The story mode is downright awful and whatever potential for longevity it has is sapped away by a weak online interface and an even worse release date timing thanks to the recent Dragon Ball FighterZ. What is left are a few neat additions such as the four entertaining new characters and the smart training mode options, as well as the solace in that would-be fans no longer have to go out of their to import the title, but little else. Pros + Rock solid fighting game fundamentals that is surprisingly approachable in terms of controls + The four new playable characters are diverse and entertaining + Nice tutorials and training mode options Cons - Utterly boring visual novel story mode - Wonky versus netcode with the online presence of a ghost town -Interface and UI is clumsy Overall Score: 7 (out of 10) Good Under Night In-Birth EXE: Late(st) is stuck in the unfortunate position of being a really good fighter that is held back by an underwhelming overall re-release and terrible release date timing. But for those willing to accept Under Night In-Birth EXE: Late(st) as the diamond in the rough that it is should still have fun playing it. Disclosure: This game was reviewed using downloadable PS4 code provided by the publisher.
  2. barrel

    Review: Guilty Gear Xrd: REV 2

    Developer: Arc System Works Publisher: Aksys Games Platform: PC, PS4, and PS3 Release Date: May 26, 2017 ESRB: T for Teen Note: This review is based on the PS4 version of the game It is hard to be proud of a beautiful series' 3D resurrection in Gear Gear Xrd-SIGN- when it is already so eager follow in the shallow re-release footsteps that plagued Gear Gear X2 for nearly ten years. Despite somewhat feeling like what the original release should've been at launch last year's rocking Gear Gear Xrd: Revelator generally earned its place as a bombastic fighting game follow-up. That game had it all: a fully-featured sequel story mode (that gets surprisingly good), five entirely new characters, smartly revamped gameplay systems and online, and essentially the best tutorial in a fighting game ever. This year's annual follow-up in Guilty Gear Xrd: Rev 2 has, well, two new characters and feels like a premium balance patch for the most part. Now, I'm not going to lie. I genuinely adore Guilty Gear Xrd: Rev 2's two new playable characters. Baiken and Answer feel right at home with the already wonderful diverse character cast and now brings the current total to 25. The fan-favorite Rurouni Kenshin inspired and one-armed lady samurai Baiken finally makes a return in Xrd's gorgeous 3D art style. Retaining familiar skills like randomly kicking a tatami mat into the air, grabbing foes from afar with a weird mechanical claw, and even her signature parry-focused mechanic are there as well as a few others. Baiken does seem simplified compared to her 2D counterpart, especially her combos, but she remains quite enjoyable to play and her rejiggered parry mechanic still feels very execution heavy to use effectively. Oddly enough, despite myself and many others begging to see Baiken in Xrd for years (which she should've been there day one), my favorite of the two new characters to play is actually that of the businessman ninja: Answer. While if it easy to shrug him off when we already have a ninja as cool as Chipp Zanuff fulfilling that role, Answer has a lot of intriguing tricks to his gameplay arsenal. In one moment Answer is tossing business cards, and in the next he's doing Naruto styled ninpo shenanigans mid-air, all while trying to maintain an important phone call in the midst of battle. Best of all -- he has a Ninja Gaiden styled Izuna Drop too, so that's awesome There really is not a whole lot new aside from those two (very fun to play) new characters, however. Everything else included comes across as very subtle gameplay refinements more than anything else. Don't get me wrong, if you haven't played the previous iteration Guilty Gear Xrd: Revelator, Rev 2 is absolutely worth one's time and may arguably be the best 2D styled fighter this console generation. As a retail follow-up to Revelator, however, it is quite lacking as an overall package. For returning players from Revelator it can certainly come off as a $20 DLC pack with two new characters (or $40 if one is getting the disc version to replace it) and character re-balancing. Sure, some characters have new abilities, like Faust has extra items to toss or Ramlethal gets two added sword skills, but most of the cast has seen very few significant balance changes (Both my boys Slayer and Potemkin got almost no changes at all despite being extremely low ranked competitively). That said, it is kind of neat that one can change between the balance changes in Revelator and Rev 2 at any time though if one is so inclined. While this update approach is not entirely uncalled for for Arc System Works standards -- as they are notorious for character DLC being sold at $8 a piece -- it can still feel quite thin especially for how few single player additions were added as well. What new single player content it does include does not really help Rev 2's case either. Former characters that didn't have arcade mode-like "Character episodes" now have them as well the two newcomers but they generally add so little story-wise beyond teasing at least one more familiar Guilty Gear X2 face (which will highly likely be DLC or appear in yet another future version). The most substantial piece of storytelling is in the "After Story A" chapter which, while decent, takes less than 20 minutes to complete following the main story (though, it's safe to assume there will be more to come based on naming alone). Guilty Gear Xrd: Rev 2 is Arc System Works's most obvious attempt of a retail cash grab under the Guilty Gear Xrd name. As tempting as it is to praise an already great fighter that brings just enough excuses to play it once more -- like two awesome and very fun new characters. It is difficult to not feel somewhat shortchanged following right after last year's iteration when Guilty Gear Xrd: Rev 2 is willing to offer so little that is genuinely fresh as a whole. If one hasn't played Guilty Gear Xrd in any form, this is technically the most complete version to date with a budgeted retail price of $40. If you have, well, Guilty Gear Xrd: Rev 2 does not make any real strides to impress beyond satisfying die hard Guilty Gear fans that are willing to pay for what is basically $20 DLC pack with balance changes and two new characters. Pros + Wonderfully diverse list of playable fighters with both Xrd newcomers, Baiken and Answer, being awesome additions + Still the best looking 2D fighter on the market + Neat refinements to the online lobby interface Cons - Pretty thin single player additions with only a few new character episodes and a brief "After Story" chapter - Is kind of difficult to look at it as anything more than a $20 dlc pack for two characters if one is coming off of Guilty Gear Xrd: Revelator - Danger time is still a bad mechanic - Some baffling balance changes (or lack thereof) Overall Score: 6 (out of 10) Decent As great of a fighter as Gear Gear Xrd has become Gear Gear Xrd: Rev 2 makes a paltry argument as a re-release for anyone less than serious fans Disclosure: This game was reviewed using downloadable PS4 code provided by the publisher.
  3. There were a plethora of surprise announcements before, during, and after E3 last month, as you probably already know. But here's one announcement this gamer (*points at self*) was not expecting, and one that he honestly could not be happier about: The announcement of Zero Escape Volume 3. That's right, the sequel to both 9 Hours, 9 Persons, 9 Doors and Virtue's Last Reward was officially confirmed to have entered development at the Aksys Games Panel at Anime Expo in LA earlier today. The developers are shooting for a Summer 2016 release, and the planned platforms for Zero Escape 3 are both the 3DS and Vita, just like with Virtue's Last Reward. Furthermore, both the Japanese and Western versions will be produced simultaneously, so we thankfully won't have to wait for a localization. Watch the announcement below: On a scale from Zero to 999, how excited are you for Zero Escape Volume 3?
  4. Developer: Examu Publisher: Aksys Platforms: PS Vita and PS3 Release Date: September 23, 2014 ESRB: T for Teen This review is based on the PS3 version of the game Have you ever wondered what would happen if you combined underaged anime girls with the power of ancient deities, and also gave them all the ability to fly? Honestly, I haven“t, since it sounds horrifying, but if I were to wager a guess, Arcana Heart 3: Love Max!!!!! is what the developer Examu came up with when mixing those elements together. Examu may not have a whole lot of consistency as a fighting game developer, but the Arcana Heart series has its place as a strange gem among anime-ish fighters despite its anime-pandering motif. Now, more than three years since the first version of Arcana Heart 3 launched, Examu decided to update their former release with Love Max on both PS3 and Vita. If you have never played Arcana Heart before, it may seem daunting because of how different it feels from most fighting games. For instance, the primary means of movement is not by double-tapping forward or back (but it's there), but tapping the homing/glide button to fly directly to your opponent. Arcana Heart is kind of a beast of its own with its relatively unique systems that have an emphasis on gliding, arcana, clashing, and more, all in the midst of what would otherwise seem like standard fare for a 2D fighter. Mechanically speaking, Arcana Heart 3: Love Max!!!!! is actually a good game at its core. The cast of characters play quite varied: like Scharlachrot, who uses lengthy chains to both detonate traps and to traverse to battlefield; Zenia, who has skills that can destroy an opponent's guard if timed perfectly; or Kamui, who sacrifices to her health to strengthen her swords(wo)man abilities. There are a lot of mechanical nuances to take in and this isn't even going into the Arcana system which helps make the series feel even more distinct. Even now the Arcana system is something I would like to see other fighters, like the Persona 4 Arena series, try to copy. Arcana are essentially interchangeable summons that can fundamentally change a character's playstyle, from the skills they have available to even general movement. For example, the literal moe blob (Kira), is a grappler with poor movement and limited range options, but you can change her Arcana to negate her shortcomings. If you wanted to, you could change Moe Blob's Arcana to Metal, which allows her strong ranged skills in addition to her already intimidating close range skills, or you could directly increase her mobility with the Evil Arcana which allows her to teleport. There are many Arcana combinations and it is completely up to one“s playstyle in how they want to make them work with each character. Taking a cue from Blazblue: Chrono Phantasma, the newest modification to the central gameplay is how it plays much faster than the original Arcana Heart 3 release. The primary problem with earlier games is that they played fairly slow in sharp contrast to the mobility and options the characters are given. That said, modifying the in-game speed is kind of the only aspect that they have gone out of their way to improve in Love Max beyond character re-balancing. The 2D visuals have shown their age and they still come as a product of SD fidelity. It is also disappointing that there are no new characters at all, or even Arcana, giving a strong feeling of re-release syndrome for anybody who has played the previous release. While mechanically solid in combat, everything about Arcana Heart's character designs screams shameless anime pandering or a tired character archetype of some sort. Normally I wouldn't draw too much attention to this had they not introduced a completely unnecessary “After Story” visual novel component to Love Max. You could infer that the storytelling wasn“t very good from the arcade mode in earlier games (re-titled "story" in this release), but “After Story” somehow found a way to make it much worse and take significantly longer to complete. If you want a summary of it, the entire “plot” builds up towards a hot springs scene, and that“s how it ends as well. There is no greater context, or real reward for completing it, it was pretty much made for a perverted CG panel at the end and to emphasize how pretty much the entire cast of characters are incredibly vapid. Ugh, I regret of all my time with it. Trying to ignore the pain that “After Story” induces, there is not a whole lot added to Love Max from the original release of 3. If you“re a masochist you could go out of your way to watch new story scenes and 100% the gallery, but aside from that the mode selection is pretty bare bones and the new ones, like Trial and Time Attack, are quite underwhelming. More disappointing is that key modes you would expect from most fighters are merely just serviceable. The online play is functional but not great, training mode is alright but doesn't really go the extra mile like Capcom, Arc System Works, or Lab Zero fighters, and lastly, the tutorial is... no wait, there is no tutorial. I always find it to be a real shame when fighting games do not have tutorials, in particular for something like Love Max that has so many systems and character specific nuances to learn and it does absolutely nothing to draw in a new crowd beyond adding a button-mash friendly "simple" mode. Arcana Heart 3: Love Max!!!!! is a solid game for those who can overlook its presentation and adjust to its obtuse mechanics, but as a re-release it is completely underwhelming. There are no new characters, Arcana, and most of the new modes are not noteworthy in the slightest, with the newly-added “After Story” having been better off not existing at all. The core game is faster and more enjoyable, but as a complete package it does very little to invite newcomers or, regrettably, series veterans who aren't the most devout fans. Pros: + Diverse cast of playable characters + Much-faster and more enjoyable gameplay from previous releases + Unique gliding and versatile arcana fighting mechanics Cons: - No new characters or Arcana added since the original Arcana Heart 3 release - Awful "After Story" mode that is a complete waste of time - Dated aesthetic and unappealing character designs -Sparse amount of modes and options to draw in new players Overall Score: 6.5 (out of 10) Decent A mechanically solid fighter that is unfortunately held back by its lackluster overall package as a re-release Disclosure: This game was reviewed using downloadable PS3 code provided by the publisher.
  5. Developer: Arc System Works Publisher: Aksys Games Platform: PS3/Vita Release Date: June 24, 2014 ESRB: M for Mature For as commonplace as Visual Novels are in Japan it is quite rare that we see them in any official form overseas. Regardless, it seems like the publisher Aksys has gone out of their way to help break this trend and has seemingly struck its niche from cult-classics like Virtue's Last Reward and 9 Hours, 9 Persons, 9 Doors to bringing over games with a more specific "Otome" demographic like Hakuoki or Sweet Fuse. Continuing this trend of visual novel releases is the arrival of Xblaze: Code Embryo, a visual novel prequel to the critically-acclaimed fighting game series Blazblue. Is this visual novel just fanservice or does it manage to oust its source material in terms of storytelling? The story focuses on the young man, Touya Kagari, who lives Shin Yokozaki City during the year 2050 (150 years before Blazblue: Calamity Trigger). Despite coming off as a normal high-school student, he is one of the very few survivors of the horrific Wadatsumi Incident: a mysterious disaster that claimed the lives of thousands and literally left no trace of their remains. On his way home from part-time work one day Touya hears a bell-like chime near an empty construction site like area and curiously follows the noise. Unfortunately for him, he then comes face to face with a "Union", a person with mysterious powers and far-removed sanity. Before being nearly incinerated by the "Union", Touya is both saved and almost nearly killed by a mysterious blonde girl, Es, who claims it is her mission to hunt down "Unions". Shrugging off the strange happenings as a dream, after unwittingly being knocked-out by Es, Touya quickly learns upon returning home that the bizarre events that transpired were in fact reality. Es, as well as a strange/eccentric man, Unomaru, vaguely briefs Touya about Unions. Unomaru then offers Es as a personal bodyguard and eventually guilt-trips Touya into using his unique ability to detect "Unions", the "Discover Call", to help Es capture them as a means to protect innocent citizens as well as himself from their powers. At first glance it may seem like this game is only for Blazblue fans, but Xblaze: Code Embryo's main narrative and entirely new cast of characters are detached enough to not alienate people who aren't already existing fans. The title does lay quite a bit of narrative groundwork for a bunch of things that transpire in Blazblue (and actually clears some plot holes), which is of no surprise since it is a prequel. That said, the storytelling is easier to follow than Blazblue, and frankly, better delivered with a way more consistent narrative pace than recent iterations, so it can be played by newcomers without feeling too left out beyond having to look up a specific terminology in the in-game database. For the actual storytelling, Xblaze strikes a good balance between both serious and light-hearted storytelling. It also has its storytelling told entirely without narration and just through character actions and dialogue, which attributes to a faster pace than most visual novels. While the cast of characters aren't wholly original, like a suicidal do-gooder main protagonist who proclaims to be normal, to an extremely stoic, but strong blonde swordswoman who is out of touch with cultural norms (Fate/Stay Night, anyone?), and plenty more. Still, even if it wears its character cliches on it sleeves, it somehow made even me warm up to the cast after enough time through the different narrative paths. Having said that, when the storytelling does get serious it is more bleak than you'd expect. Xblaze definitely expects players to see its various narrative branches to gather to full story because most endings are definitely not satisfying on their own, though, they contribute to the grander story. Even if the storytelling is solid, despite a lack of originality at times, it does expect a completionist mentality to see all of it. But, if the main narrative is too depressing, there is the very entertaining, and non-canon, "Gag reel" which really plays on the expectations of the main story. I'm being totally serious when I say it is probably worth seeing every ending in the game to unlock it, since it is seriously that hilarious. Unlike other visual novels that tend have their narrative alter based dialogue choices, Xblaze uses the "Toi" system to dictate the story progression. It is explained weird, but ideally, Touya will react to events in the story based on prior knowledge obtained from in-game articles that you choose to read, and thus, triggering new story scenes as well as different narrative branches and endings. It is far more interesting on paper than in execution, unfortunately. Even if the Toi system has a neat direct tie to the overarching storytelling, it allows next to no flexibility because of the strict narrative paths and abrupt bad endings (with the exception of the hilarious non-canon "gag reel" story, where the bad ends are more in-depth). Far worse is how it is actually very easy to lock yourself into a bad ending and have no idea what you did wrong, like I myself did. So, due to bad design, Xblaze: Code Embryo's enjoyment relies rather heavily on having a guide at hand to steer the player through the different narrative paths. In regards to presentation, Xblaze is quite honestly the best looking visual novel I've ever seen overall. I may not inherently love the art direction (kind of derivative to me), and some of its pretty unnecessary "fanservice" moments, but the way presented as a whole does a really great job at encapsulating an anime feel. Everything from casual character conversation to fights have smooth and varied transitions, and is just a different class from visual novels or RPGs I've seen that utilize such an aesthetic. Characters even have their Japanese voice acting sync with the their mouth movement, which is a nice touch. It just has a high amount of attention to detail for a genre that relies on minimalistic presentation and low production values and I'd really like to see other visual novels going forward take some cues from Xblaze. Not all of Xblaze is pleasant to look at, however, and it is at its ugliest when it comes to bugs, for the Vita version at least. While I went through about 95% of the game, including multiple endings, without any problems-- when the glitches of my playthrough hit they were pretty much game-breaking. I got to a point where I was unable to save, manually or auto, without the game consistently freezing, and even when I tried to blitz to the end without saving... the game crashed on me twice at the very end of the game. The only saving grace to my series of problems is that I learned that the PS3 release didn't have these problems at all and how the Vita release has received a patch that apparently fixes these issues shortly after release (though, it wasn't present during my playthrough of the game.). Xblaze: Code Embryo is a solid visual novel that is brought down by a couple of serious caveats to fully enjoy it. The first caveat is how it basically requires a guide to progress through the story properly, and the second caveat is that the Vita port should only be played after downloading a recent patch to eliminate what would otherwise have really serious game-breaking glitches. For as significant as its problems are, Xblaze is a pleasant surprise that manages to be better than the sum of its parts due to its solid narrative pace and a presentation in particular that other visual novels could benefit from learning from. It certainly is not the most wholly original or narratively rich visual novel ever, but Xblaze: Code Embryo deserves a chance to surpass your expectations for what it is. Pros: +Solid narrative pace with multiple endings/narrative branches + High production values for a visual novel with very smooth and varied anime-like transitions + Helpful database, recap, and system options + Non-canon "Gag Reel" story mode is hilarious Cons: - Neither the characters or the overall storytelling are wholly original - Abrupt bad ends and pretty specific ending/branch requirements prevent any narrative flexibility with the "Toi" system - Game-breaking save/freezing glitches specific to the Vita version (apparently fixed in a recent patch) Overall Score: 7 (out of 10) Good Xblaze: Code Embryo is a worthwhile visual novel title that features well-paced storytelling and great anime-like production values, though, it basically requires having an ending guide at hand, and for the Vita version a very important download patch, to fully enjoy it. Disclosure: This game was reviewed using PS3 downloadable code provided by the publisher.
  6. Developer: Arc System Works Publisher: Aksys Games Platform: PS3 Release Date: March 25, 2014 ESRB: T for Teen Forging the highly influential fighting game series, Guilty Gear, Arc System Works has shown that they have quite the knack at incorporating some really over-the-top characters in their equally crazy and deep fighting games. After some licensing problems early last generation, Arc System Works decided to create a spiritual successor to Guilty Gear, and so, the Blazblue series was born. Surprisingly, despite being considered an obscure "anime fighter" overseas, Blazblue is actually easily one of the most popular recent fighting games in Japan, yes, even rivaling the likes of Street Fighter IV. That said, Blazblue as a series has certainly not been free from annualized releases and it is now seeing its fourth console release with Blazblue: Chrono Phantasma. This begs the question: does Chrono Phantasma prove to be just another incremental re-release or does this most recent title earn its rite of passage as a well-earned sequel? The Blazblue series is one of the very few examples you could turn to for actual in-depth storytelling in a fighting game. Due to the sheer scale of the storytelling it could certainly pass on its own as a visual novel considering how far it goes to flesh out its world and characters, with Chrono Phantasma probably being the best example of storytelling overall in the series. Unfortunately, considering how it is the third part in the series (narratively-speaking), it does very little to invite people who weren't already invested since terminology like "Kushinaga“s Lynchpin," "Seithr," "the Boundary," “Ars Magus," and plenty more jargon are likely to completely go over newcomers heads, and the so-called recap mode, "Teach Me, Miss Litchi," does very little to alleviate it. Even for fans, however, the storytelling is riddled with many slow, long-winded parts and some predictable narrative points, making it hard to recommend to beyond those who are already invested in its universe. That said, that is just one facet of what the title has to offer, and what Blazblue is best at is being an excellent fighting game. So what makes this newest version better than the others? Well, I could bore you all day talking about mechanical changes and character tweaks, but really, if you cared about that you would've already looked into it. Beyond the story mode the most important additions are the new characters, faster overall gameplay, added gameplay mechanics, as well as the much improved modes and general interface. Starting off, there are seven new characters, though this unfortunately includes two DLC characters. Sticking to Arc System Works strengths, however, these new characters add a ton of variety/depth and each plays radically different from one another. For example, the intimating Azrael exploits "weak points" to significantly increase his damage potential, while the misleading, yet fabulous, Amane utilizes his graceful mobility to fight from afar primarily using his huge scarf, and then there is the extremely agile Terumi who literally curb-stomps enemies into submission. Needless to say, the new characters are very welcome additions to the already hugely varied cast that are a part of the Blazblue series. Serving as the offensive alternative to "Break Bursts", which knocks away foes mid-attack, there is a new mechanic introduced in Chrono Phantasma called "Overdrive". This enhances a character's offensive capabilities for a short period of time, while also briefly stopping the in-game match clock, and varies from character to character. While usually playing on character specific strengths, like the main character Ragna will drain more health from his attacks, or his partially psychotic brother Jin gains freezing properties to more of his skills, it also significantly increases the power of certain distortion drives (special attacks requiring meter).This new mechanic leads to some really cool combo potential as well as being great tool when the player is in a pinch, especially those who put in the time to master its inner workings. If all of these crazy mechanics and new/old characters sound daunting to you, don't worry; Chrono Phantasma actually has a surprisingly comprehensive tutorial. I don't think it goes as far as, let's say, Skullgirls, having you fully understand fighting game terminology if you press all the way through it, but it does a great job at breaking down every in-game mechanic in addition to teaching you how specific characters work. The same applies to the challenge mode which, rare for the genre, seems to teach you combos and skills for each character that are actually viable in real competitive play. Those who really sit down and play the title will appreciate the many clever improvements and additions to the online competitive play. You have your ranked matches, as well as the ability to create specific rooms for player matches or as an online training mode with friends, which have seen some much appreciated refinements in their interface, but what is likely the main attraction/most novel is how lobbies are handled. In lobbies, you create a custom chibi-esque avatar, as well as a goofy personal catch-phrase, and have your character roam an arcade-like environment that feels surprisingly casual, even if the competition you can find there are by no means that. Also, as usual for recent Arc System Works fighters, the online netcode is generally pretty good, allowing you to have matches that run rather reasonably steady overall. I“m amazed I have gotten this far without gushing about the soundtrack. With the exception of certain background tracks in the story mode, the audio definitely takes some liberties with freshening up the musical score in Chrono Phantasma. Every single existing character battle theme has received entirely new arrangements in it, which are very refreshing to hear even if I think very few improve upon their fantastic original compositions. The entirely new and specific character battle themes like Amane's, Bullet's, Kagura's, and many others really steal the show, and Daisuke Ishiwatari still proves that he is some sort of gaming musical god with his many very varied approaches to rock-styled musical themes. The rest of the presentation is a bit more mixed. As usual, I think choosing between either the Japanese and English dub really comes down to personal preference despite being mostly comparable. I find the Japanese to be much more well-rounded and have more varied voice talents, which was more than enough for me to prefer it, especially in the story mode. Also, while not surprising, it is disappointing that even if characters have a few new animations and there are some new environments, the visuals in-game have changed very little even since the first game.That by no means intentionally undercuts what is easily one of the best examples of 2D sprite-based animation in video games even now, but it is quite clear that very little has been improved upon cosmetically in this title. Blazblue: Chrono Phantasma may completely alienate newcomers with its storytelling, but as a fighting game it makes a ton of smart adjustments for would-be fans that are old and new. It's pretty much as substantial as a sequel to a fighting game can get without essentially creating an entirely new game. The many added modes/characters, faster and more rewarding gameplay, in-depth storytelling, and the various improvements to the general interface do enough to make it not feel like a shallow cash-grab, despite using very familiar visual framework. It doesn't reinvent the wheel (of fate) for the series, but man does it give it some pretty sick rims for those who want to give the series' (ice) car another ride. Pros: + Huge amount of character variety, faster combat, and lots of depth to its gameplay + Well-made tutorials and challenges + Huge story mode that is the best in the series + Great online netcode with a much-improved system interface and a creatively implemented lobby hub + Fantastic new character battle themes and novel musical remixes of existing ones Cons: -Dense amount of Internal jargon and awkwardly paced storytelling that will leave all but existing series fans completely lost - Still using most of the same visual assets from the previous games Overall Score: 8.5 (out of 10) Great Unlike the previous iteration, Blazblue: Chrono Phantasma proves to be an earnest sequel that is full of content for fans both old and new to sink their teeth into. It is not wholly new but it makes a ton of refinements/improvements overall, making Chrono Phantasma without a doubt the best title in the series. Disclosure: This game was reviewed using downloadable code provided by the publisher
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