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  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. Harrison Lee

    Review: Nidhogg II

    Developer: Meshoff Games Publisher: Meshoff Games Platform: PC, PlayStation 4 Release Date: August 15, 2017 ESRB: T for Teen Note: This review is based on the PlayStation 4 version of the game The art of the duel is one of pop culture’s most unmistakable tropes. A one-on-one battle of wits, physicality, or both, exists in everything from Hollywood films and TV shows to professional sports. Nidhogg 2 knows the allure of single combat all too well and seeks to outshine the debut effort of the original, fast-paced fencing game. Is this fight worth the price of admission, or has the humorous dueling simulator seen its heyday too soon? Nidhogg 2 is a game of timing and strategy, which seems obvious from the outset. Unlike the original, however, the sequel adds a slew of new weapons with which to dismember, skewer, and disembowel your nemesis with. Battles are often see-saw tug-of-wars, with opposing players battling back and forth to see who can reach the other side of the screen first. Levels are divided into distinct “scenes”, with the sole objective of killing your way to the right or left of each space. Victory results in being devoured by a giant space worm. Yay? The new weapons that supplement the balanced fencing sword offer more tactical nuance. The broadsword is slower but extends your reach, while the bow offers a difficult but effective long-distance option. The fencing rapier remains the easiest to use and master, rewarding those who parry and beat their opponent’s timing with brutal finishes and eye-cratering kills (literally). Nidhogg 2, no matter how colorful, certainly doesn’t shy away from the gory details. Speaking of colors, Nidhogg 2 looks noticeably different than its predecessor. Levels are virtual acid trips of strange cartoon spaces, with appropriately weird-looking player avatars. Kills paint the environments in neon-hued pools of bodily fluid, and certain environmental objects add the suspense of not being able to see the opponent you’re trying to stop. It all leads to frenetic, chaotic combat that may or may not suit your aesthetic tastes. I didn’t mind the presentation, but the art style wasn’t my favorite either. The driving soundtrack in the background is varied for each level, but does tend to get a bit repetitive for the matches that last longer than 5 minutes. There isn’t much else to the audio beyond the clang of swords and disturbing squeals of dying foes. Nidhogg 2 is, in some respects, as minimalist as the original. If you’re looking for an audio-visual experience that leaves you breathless, you may find yourself breathing a bit more than anticipated. Nidhogg 2, of course, is a multiplayer game at heart and shines best when played with frenemies. You can challenge the AI to a basic arcade mode, but nothing beats couch co-op where you’ll find yourself laughing hysterically at the thousands of dumb ways to die. Additional players can be added to the fray for even more chaotic madness, but Nidhogg 2 is at its best when it’s just you and the person who killed your parental figure or insulted your honor. Whichever backstory you choose, you can rest assured that the race to the space worm is amusing, stupidly violent, and guaranteed to make your eyes bleed neon. The single-player offerings and presentation are a bit spartan, but Nidhogg 2 was made to be enjoyed with others. Skipping out on the multiplayer would be doing a disservice to what is sure to become a staple of dueling fans everywhere. Pros + Easy to pick-up and play with friends + Deeper, more nuanced combat system + Naturally-occurring humor + Controls quite well Cons + Singleplayer offerings are a bit lacking + Art style may be off-putting Overall Score: 7.5 (out of 10) Good Nidhogg 2 is a nice expansion of the original, splicing in a handful of new weapons and a rather drastic new visual direction. While it may not be the best experience solo, dueling friends has never been easier or more entertaining. Disclosure: This game was reviewed using downloadable PS4 code provided by the publisher
  3. It's been quite a while since we last had a game in the Final Fantasy spin-off series known as Dissidia -- the last was 2011's Dissidia 012 Final Fantasy on the PSP -- but Square Enix is finally bringing the franchise back with Dissidia Final Fantasy NT for PlayStation 4 on January 30, 2018. NT will mark the first console release for the series and will feature fast-paced 3-on-3 battles with Final Fantasy's most iconic characters, including Warrior of Light (Final Fantasy), Cecil (Final Fantasy IV), Cloud (Final Fantasy VII), and Tidus (Final Fantasy X) among others. To get a feel for the gameplay, check out the tutorial video below. Also announced were multiple special editions of the game, as detailed below. Steelbook Brawler Edition - $59.99 Comes with a steelbook featuring 1 of 3 different designs which feature various heroes from the game. Digital Edition and Digital Deluxe Edition - $59.99 and $89.99, respectively The Digital Edition gives you access to a mini-soundtrack with a selection of five songs from the game plus the 'Nameless Warrior' character skin for the Warrior of Light. Additionally, the Digital Deluxe Edition gives you all that plus the Season Pass. Ultimate Collector's Edition - $189.99 (exclusive to the Square Enix Online Store) If you have close to $200 to shell out, the Ultimate Collector's Edition has a plethora of stuff for you, including: Warrior of Light bust figure (8.25� tall) Official soundtrack with 15 tracks selected from the DISSIDIA series and newly recorded music 80-page hardback artbook Season Pass that gives access to six new playable characters and content post launch Steelbook case unique to this edition Collector's Box featuring legendary FINAL FANTASY characters In any case, expect to hear much more about Dissidia Final Fantasy NT as its release draws closer on PS4 early next year. Source: Press Release Are you interested in Dissidia Final Fantasy NT?
  4. 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.
  5. Developer: Arc System Works Publisher: Aksys Games Platform: PS3 and PS4 Release Date: November 1, 2016 ESRB: T for Teen Note: This review is based on the PlayStation 4 version of the game All things considered, 2016 was actually a solid year for fighting games. Sure, Street Fighter V is facing the consequences of its less than stellar approach to content at launch, but remains as a well-crafted fighter none the less. More or less the same is true for less popular, yet generally reputable, fighting game titles such as the surprisingly good King of Fighters XIV or Pokken Tournament to more safe yet solid iterations such as Guilty Gear Xrd: Revelator or Killer Instinct Season 3. To top the year's end off was the most recent release of my own personal favorite fighting game series: Blazblue. Promising new characters, gameplay mechanics, as well as be the final narrative installment of the confusing tetralogy, Blazblue: Central Fiction will feel complete on its own. People tend to approach Blazblue for either the deep fighting gameplay or its robust visual novel story mode. As much as I love the series, Blazblue's storytelling borders on the level of Kingdom Hearts with its often convoluted approach by casually tossing out phrases like "Seithr", "Phenomenon Intervention", "Nox Nyctores", "The Boundary" and many more during the telling of it. With three previous games that had roughly twenty hour visual novel story modes each, it has become important for many series' fans and also likely indecipherable at this point for those that aren't by now. However, as someone who was expecting a narrative train wreck for the final installment, I was actually rather pleasantly surprised by how much is resolved in the main story in Central Fiction. It closes the book on most story threads and is paced noticeable better than previous games by pushing much of the excessive idle banter into optional chapters. I may have a qualm or two with cringe-worthy anime trope moments, and occasionally its pacing, but most fans should be pleased with much of the conclusion. Where Central Fiction gets most of its longevity is undoubtedly through its rich 2D fighting gameplay. The total character roster has jumped thirty-five total and most of which play vastly different from one another because of their unique character-specific "drive" mechanic (with the sole exceptions of probably Lambda and Nu-13). New additions to the playable list include light-novel spin-off protagonist Naoto, the powerful magician Nine: The Phantom, the ninja-like assassin Hibiki, Goddess of death Izanami, as well as a few others locked behind either DLC or the story mode. As strange of a composition as the new characters are, they are quite fun overall, like Nine whom crafts different spells mid-fight based on using different elemental attack combinations; Naoto, who uses powerful charge attacks that can break guards; and Susano, who unlocks skill seals to gain access to powered up abilities, and so on. Even if that sounded complicated (their story relevance even more so), Central Fiction does rather well with its gameplay tutorials. The tutorials are not quite as fun and free-flowing as Guilty Gear Xrd: Revelator was, but there is a lot of positive reinforcement through them and they are willing to explain the most basic of the aspects of game or fighters in general, to far more complicated character-specific mechanics, which is welcome. This certainly helps as Central Fiction adds some new system mechanics like "Active Flow", which powers up "Distortion Drives" based on meeting certain battle conditions or the new meter-less special attack, Exceed Accel, that all characters can use during their Overdrive mode. Again, mechanics like these and plenty more you can learn through the many helpful tutorials if you care to do so. Which, for a very dense fighter that is more than four iterations in, can be invaluable for newcomers or those who want to brush up their understanding. Now -- other than those aspects -- not a whole lot new has been brought to the table specifically for Central Fiction. It has modes one would expect like arcade, an unlock based gallery mode, and online multiplayer. The least traditional mode it even has, but not actually new to Blazblue, is the RPG-like mode renamed "Grim of Abyss", which has seen a bit of an overhaul with its design and remains rather addictive despite being an occasional interface nightmare of menus. An incredibly crucial component for many fighters nowadays is, of course, the online multiplayer. The cute 2D sprites and arcade-like lobbies from Blazblue: Chrono Phantasma make a return and there are custom player and ranked matches for those who don't want to face just anymore for online multiplayer. The only aspect that is really new at all is basically the ability to create your own online room and add random furniture to it, which I honestly fail to see much of a point to, but whatever. More importantly than any of that is the quality of the netcode, however, which... is kind of iffy. Frankly, it does not seem quite as good as Arc System Work's own Guilty Gear Xrd: Revelator (which is excellent) when I directly compared it side by side. I am not sure if this is something that will be patched down the line, and while the netcode is not bad by any means, I just wish it ran as well as Revelator's when my connection claims to be at its peak. It is hard to believe that Blazblue as a series is more than eight years old at this point. And, for a series that is more than four iterations in it manages to mostly reaffirm those who already love it as a complex and rewarding fighter by adding more to it in addition to satisfying those who are into its storytelling with the surprisingly conclusive finale. Still, for those hoping to see a huge leap in gameplay changes, Central Fiction simply is not that. It is the most approachable and content-filled the series has ever been, thanks to many helpful tutorials, but is unlikely to change minds one way or another for those who have been already been exposed to its more recent releases. Pros + Huge and highly diverse playable character roster + Surprisingly conclusive main narrative + Tutorials are helpful and provide a lot of positive reinforcement for a very mechanically dense fighter + Fun online lobbies and many gameplay unlockables Cons - Netcode does not seem as good as Arc System Work's own Guilty Gear Xrd: Revelator - No English dub whatsoever can be disappointing - Central Fiction's narrative is not approachable in the slightest for newcomers to the series Overall Score: 8.5 (out of 10) Great Even if it does not bring huge gameplay changes for the series at large, Blazblue: Central Fiction is without a doubt the best iteration of the series to date with the smart additions to its rewarding gameplay that also provides a solid narrative resolution for fans as well Disclosure: This game was reviewed using downloadable PS4 code provided by the publisher.
  6. barrel

    Review: King of Fighters XIV

    Developer: SNK Publisher: Atlus USA Platform: PS4 Release Date: August 23, 2016 ESRB: T for Teen Prior to release, it felt like everyone was primed to hate on King of Fighters XIV -- including myself. Much like Konami as of late, SNK seemed more interested in tossing their highly regarded properties into various shameless pachinko money sinks than doing anything else with them. When we finally caught wind of King of Fighters XIV, however, it could not have made a worse first impression. The series has had a long established history in the 2D realm, with King of Fighters XIII being an extremely strong example of striking 2D aesthetics. So, aside from triggering painful memories of King of Fighters: Maximum Impact, King of Fighters XIV being rendered in subpar 3D looked all that much more underwhelming, especially since we live in a world where the cel-shaded mastery of Guilty Gear Xrd: Revelator exists. Even though it had just about everyone against it, King of Fighters XIV shows its ability to rise up the ranks even through the harshest of initial scrutiny. Now, before fully addressing the elephant in the room with the 3D aesthetic, King of Fighters XIV takes a couple of serious strides from its predecessor. The three vs three team fighting remains the same, however there is a lower level of entry for attack combos such as an entirely new mash-friendly auto-combo (ala Persona 4 Arena) to the absurdly huge default roster with fifty playable characters. For more serious players they will quickly notice how much combo potential has changed with the omission of the extremely technical and execution heavy "Hyper Drive" system of KOFXIII in favor of the slightly more comprehensive "Max Mode" which powers up certain moves and special attacks. My first expectation (beyond the extremely low ones set by the presentation), was that the playable cast was going to be absolutely packed with eerily similar playing characters. As someone who has a strong pet peeve with clones or might-as-well-be clones in fighting games, I decided to go to training mode with literally every character and see if it even bothers to beat the personal sniff test before touching any other mode. Shockingly, it passed. Not only did it pass with most characters feeling distinctly different one another, especially the entirely new ones, but even many older members feel touched up with move interesting movesets. Though, admittedly, there comes a point where I think XIV should have dropped any sort of visual homage and make characters like Mature and Vice look entirely different as well. I would hardly consider myself any sort of educated scholar in regards to the King of Fighters or Fatal Fury series, but even I felt somewhat nostalgic with certain returning characters. There are obvious choices for returning members like Terry or Mai, but then there are deeper callbacks like Ramon and Angel whom have not been seen playable in over a decade. Personally, I am just happy that I can once again play as the shamelessly evil Geese Howard or former bird man wrestler Tizoc -- Umm, I mean, the entirely new wrestler: King of Dinosaurs. Not to discredit the new fighters by any means, as I found myself digging several of them, but the overall character list more so feels like a love letter to older series fans. More importantly, the core game plays extremely faithfully to previous King of Fighters titles despite the noticeable changes to aesthetic and more forgiving take on controls. With all that out of the way, it is one thing to (far) exceed (very low) expectations, but it is something else entirely to be graded on its own merits. King of Fighters XIV is most certainly a solid fighting game, yet it is a very inconsistent overall package. Undoubtedly, the least consistent part of KOFXIV pertains to the presentation, which is anything but cohesive. The best phrase to describe the overall look of KOFXIV is that not everyone, and everything, are created equal. For instance, the ice queen Kula looks surprisingly fluid in motion as she briskly either attacks or skates back and forth. Then you look at Andy for contrast, and, immediately, want to stop looking at Andy (Street Fighter V Ken has got nothing on some of the hideous hair on KOFXIV fighters). The same applies to backgrounds where some are utterly lifeless (not intentionally so) and others are totally fine, which I would almost use to describe the hit and miss soundtrack as well. More than anything else, King of Fighters XIV coasts on the fundamentals of its gameplay, and not the flourishes surrounding it. The same rules apply to the the various game modes. On one hand, most modes are bare bones, but functional, such as the rigid tutorial and mission modes. Though, admittedly, while better than the online travesty of KOFXIII, netcode and interface of KOFXIV are not particularly great when compared something like Guilty Gear Xrd: Revelator. On the other hand, the story mode actually has a lot more heart than it should for something that normally be classified as arcade mode. Be it the tongue-in-cheek writing in the CG cutscenes or pre- and after-battle chat, or certain shockingly in-depth team endings with KOF lore, it genuinely feels like it was written by people who love and care about the series. Of course, SNK boss syndrome is in full effect with the two very cheap final bosses, meaning if you don't want to throw your head against the wall to see the endings it will likely very tempting to put the title on the easiest difficulty and spam auto-combos. Basically, you got to either really like the story mode or competitive to continue playing for very long. King of Fighters XIV may be one of the very few examples of a modern fighting game being totally applicable to the tired expression of "Don't judge a book by its cover". The title certainly does not look great overall from in-game visuals to interface. Nor do most of its modes have all that much staying power, with the exception of the better-than-expected story mode. Yet, there is an absolute sincerity to the tight gameplay and enjoyable 3 vs 3 combat. It is all the more impressive when it achieves this with an extremely impressive 50 character roster, in which very few of them feel like redundant additions. It may not be much of a looker, but most (or initially discouraged) KOF fans should be pleasantly surprised at just how solid and fun the core gameplay of King of Fighters XIV is in spite its somewhat glaring lack of finer extra bells and whistles. Pros + Huge character roster of 50 characters total that somehow manages to make most of them both fun and different + Gameplay feels very faithful to KOF, even with the more forgiving approach to controls + The story mode and endings are more entertaining than one would expect Cons - Most of the gameplay modes, such as online, lack the polish that one has come to expect of modern fighters - Very inconsistent presentation that can occasionally be cringe worthy for today's standards SNK boss syndrome is in full effect so, uh, expect to put the story mode on the easiest setting to make it less painful Overall Score: 7 (out of 10) Good Though noticeably lacking from visuals to gameplay feature sets, King of Fighters XIV survives on the rock solid fundamentals of its combat that is all the more impressive with its diverse fifty character roster. Disclosure: This game was reviewed using downloadable PS4 code provided by the publisher.
  7. Developer: Soft-Circle French Bread/Ecole Software Publisher: Aksys Games Platforms: PS3 Release Date:February 24, 2015 ESRB: T for Teen If there is one thing that developer French Bread is pretty much unrivaled at, it is their ridiculous "Engrish" names for their video games. I thought their most recent iteration of the classic, albeit obscure, PC anime fighter with Melty Blood: Actress Again Current Code was in a class of its own. But, oh no, I think they have finally one-upped themselves with their own spiritual successor called Under Night In-Birth Exe: Late in more ways than one. Extremely unfortunate naming aside, however, French Bread is known to make a different flavor of fighting games, even among seemingly similar anime-influenced ilk, and Under Night In-Birth Exe: Late is no exception. To my surprise, Under Night In-Birth Exe: Late is one of the most approachable fighters I have played in quite some time. Not quite Divekick simple, of course, but among “anime” fighters which tend to have a few too many base level systems to really be able to do anything without learning them (I“m looking at you Guilty Gear Xrd-SIGN- ), you can have fun right from the get-go just by mashing buttons. Most moves link together fairly easily and there is also a basic auto-combo (a la Persona 4 Arena Ultimax) you can execute just by mashing the square button, or A in more general input terms, for every character. As if to not turn off hardcore fighting game fans, just because it is easy to pick up and play it most certainly doesn“t mean it is easy to master. There is plenty of depth to both the character/system mechanics that you can—and should—learn. Each of the 16 characters play very differently with plenty of subtle nuances to their playstyles. For instance, main character Hyde can modify his thrown projectiles skills into an explosive burst at any time, Vatista has many charge/held-based inputs to her attacks; and lastly, the confusing Melty Blood cameo character, Eltnum, has both a bullet meter and a Gears of War styled active-reload mechanic. Despite me being someone who plays a lot of "anime" fighting games, Under Night In-Birth Exe: Late actually has more similarities to more traditional releases in the genre than you'd expect. For example, most character don't have air-backdashes (except Seth), and can't block most attacks in the air, bringing a sort of Street Fighter IV mindset to fights with anti-airs. Also, special meter carries from round to round, similar to various King of Fighters titles. Yet, fights aren't even as defense-focused as Street Fighter IV, or as meter management strict as King of Fighters XIII, as it brings its own distinct flair to its fast & fun offensive-focused gameplay flow. Those who dig deeper into the systems will probably notice the Grind Grid gauge (shown as "GRD" in-game) specifically. Basically, how it works is that—based on how well you play (in particular, playing offensively and landing hits/combos, or blocking smartly)—the meter at the bottom center screen will shift toward one player's side or another. If the GRD meter is in your favor you can essentially cash-in by using Chain Shift to get a varying amount of extra special meter or to use it to significantly increase your combo potential to cancel move animations (kind of like Guilty Gear's Xrd -SIGN-'s Roman Cancel). It's actually a fairly cool system in practice that highly rewards offensive play and more skilled players will constantly keep an eye on it because of its tug-of-war mentality. To the game“s own detriment, however, there aren't really any tools to help people learn these specific nuances because of a complete lack of tutorials/challenge modes. While it is approachable in the sense that there is immediate accessibility to the enjoyable gameplay (and flow and button combinations are pretty easy), most players will probably not naturally understand how systems Grind Grid, Viel Off, Concentration, Chain Shift, and several others work without looking them up. Other than that, the title does have general mode staples you'd expect, such as: Arcade, VS, Network, Survival, Score/Time Attack, Training, and unlockable character outfits and gallery images. Most modes are inoffensive in their execution, even if I wish the online play had a tighter netcode and a bit more than very basic lobbies and ranked matches for something I'd like to make my next go-to fighter. With Arcade Mode in particular, there is some semblance of a story in Under-Night In-Birth despite how there isn“t too much to write home about. It mostly has short visual novel-styled scenes with a bunch technobabble like “Hollow Night”, ”In-Birth”, "Autonomic Nerve", and tons of faction names tossed about to try to disguise it from being some pretty typical anime storytelling overall. Still, I admit, I probably would not mind seeing more of it if certain parts of it were more fleshed out. Ok, to be more honest, I really just want to see the character, Eltnum, be in another story mode where she can make more hilariously blunt (and 4th wall breaking) quips about fighting games and the character designs of the primary cast. Speaking of that, to address the elephant in the room, Under Night In-Birth Exe:Late has some really generic character designs. Don't get me wrong, it is definitely a great-looking 2D fighter in motion in the technical sense, and it does hold its own with its really clean, saturated visual color palette (though, something like Skullgirls has better animations). But... it's really easy to blur your eyes and feel like you have seen pretty much every character in it elsewhere. What I actually find more impressive than the visuals is the soundtrack. I may be a sucker for strong, catchy guitar riffs (which the soundtrack is full of), but removed from that context the character theme songs are still quite memorable and varied throughout. The Japanese dub is fairly well-done too, even if, well, it's only Japanese (but after Guilty Gear Xrd -SIGN-'s questionable English dub, that probably isn't the worst thing). A lot of fighting games tend to feel like they are missing something pretty substantial with their first iterations on console. Such problems can range from a really small character roster, mechanics that don't feel quite fleshed out yet, or it just lacking in general content. Yet, the first console release for Under Night In-Birth Exe: Late doesn't really feel like it has any of those huge shortcomings. Sure, the netcode could be a bit better. Sure, I wish there were tutorial/challenge modes. But, aside from that, it gets pretty much everything else right with its very polished, deep, and surprisingly approachable gameplay that is just a lot of fun to play. Generic anime character designs aside, I think developer French Bread has proven that there is truly another 2D "anime" fighter on the block that is very much worth the attention of fighting game fans, and surprisingly, it is not made by Arc System Works. Pros: + Very easy to learn gameplay and really responsive controls + Surprising amount of depth to both the hugely different characters and the overall system mechanics + Vibrant 2D art style + Really catchy soundtrack Cons: - No tutorial or challenge modes whatsoever to learn specific combos or system mechanics - Netcode could be a bit better Overall Score: 8.0 (out of 10) Great Under Night In-Birth Exe: Late makes for a strong first console debut. With its surprisingly approachable, deep, and outright enjoyable gameplay mechanics, it may be just enough to have most people forget how silly the actual title to the game is. Disclosure: This game was reviewed using downloadable PS3 code provided by the publisher.
  8. barrel

    Review: Guilty Gear Xrd -SIGN-

    Developer: Arc System Works Publisher: Aksys Games Platforms: PlayStation 4/PlayStation 3 Release Date: December 16, 2014 ESRB: T for Teen This review is based on the PS3 version of the game The Guilty Gear series has always had a weirdly strong place in my heart. Guilty Gear X2 was the very first Playstation 2 game that I had ever played and it always stuck with me because of how cool I thought it was at the time thanks to its crazy character designs, awesome music, and frenetic gameplay. Still, fast-forward twelve years later and, pushing all nostalgia aside, I was not quite sure what to make of Guilty Gear Xrd -SIGN-, which looks dramatically different from previous 2D iterations. I think my biggest concern before playing Xrd -SIGN- was whether or not it would feel like Guilty Gear at all. I may have enjoyed recent Arc System Works fighters a lot regardless of their variance (Battle Fantasia not included), but Guilty Gear is a different beast from Blazblue and Persona 4 Arena in particular. While both series pay homage to it in various ways, Blazblue with certain character designs and mechanics, and Persona 4 Arena with its extremely fast and rush-down focused gameplay, at the end of the day they play and feel quite different from their forefather that started it all. I am pleased to say that, despite how many changes it has seen (especially visually), Guilty Gear Xrd -SIGN- does right by its classic lineage. What should immediately stand out to anyone is its gorgeous and completely overhauled visual style. A casual glance at it could mislead one into thinking it is still in 2D, but the character models and environments are actually entirely in 3D. Far stranger is that this new visual look somehow comes from Unreal Engine 3, which is an entirely separate set of surprises. Either way, the end result is that Xrd is downright eye-catching. The animations are extremely smooth, attacks are both flashy and oddly nostalgic for fans, and it is rich with personality frame by frame. This is only escalated further by the great soundtrack that blends entirely new songs as well as a few arrangements of classic tracks. Keep in mind that the PS4 version is most certainly the preferred release because of its higher visual resolution and better audio quality. Still, what gives Guilty Gear its own identity is its fast gameplay, deep fighting mechanics, and crazy characters. You have your shameless rock-band-themed character names like Sol Badguy, Slayer, and Axl Low returning as well as those with even stranger fighting styles: like Venom, who fights using a pool cue; May, who bludgeons people with an anchor; or I-NO, who literally shreds opponents with an electric guitar. Adding some fresh faces to the mix are newcomers Ramelthal, Sin Kiske, DLC characters Elphelt and Leo Whitefang, and lastly, the questionably named Bedman, each with their own refreshingly unique mechanics. Regardless of the insanity that each character presents, both the old and new cast are generally rather fun to play with their nuanced fighting abilities, even if the total number of returning characters is far shorter than I would have liked. Guilty Gear enthusiasts who have stuck with the series are probably wondering if the nitty gritty of its mechanics are intact. If that is the case, don't be; everything from Jump Installs, Roman Cancels, Dash Brake, and Faultless Defense are all there along with some entirely new mechanics like Blitz Shield and Danger Time. If that sentence made no sense to you at all, don't worry—Guilty Gear Xrd is far less intimidating than it used to be with its simplified inputs/mechanics and generally comprehensive tutorial modes to teach people what those even are and the general basics. I say that, but... Guilty Gear Xrd -SIGN-, at its heart, is still most certainly not an easy fighter to get into. If you aren't already a fan of the series or fighters in general, chances are it'll be difficult for most to stick with it to learn its very technical and relatively high-level execution gameplay, despite Arc System Works intentions to reach for a broader audience. To help with the standard fighting game grind towards improvement are the typical tutorial, challenge, mission, arcade, versus, and training modes. If you are hoping for more modes beyond that, however, that's where Guilty Gear Xrd -SIGN- is less consistent. Having said that, the most distinctive features to play through are its online play, story, and, the extremely odd acronym—"M.O.M." mode—which is actually the most pleasant surprise of the bunch. M.O.M mode is basically what I wanted Golden Arena from Persona 4 Arena Ultimax to be. It is an RPG-like mode with a battle progression of your choosing. You can customize your characters in several ways from raw stats, equipment, and even usable skills, as you pick the foes you want to square against while also trying to get new more money and loot treasure chests. It sort of broke my brain knowing that, while I was playing the character Millia Rage, I could also use Sol Badguy's gunflame skill or Faust's explosive bombs in this mode. Nevertheless, this new mode was a fair bit more addictive than I anticipated it would be. Much more disappointing is how online play is handled. The cross-platform PS3/PS4 netcode itself runs solid, even telling you how many frames of lag you have mid-match, but the interface is actually rather clunky. Basically, it tries to make the 64-person lobbies the default hub upon starting it up and then you have to navigate several separate menus within it to initiate ranked versus, player/friend matches, or to even change your character, which almost made me not want to use it altogether at times. That, and certain glitches/errors that I also encountered in lobbies. This shift is even stranger to me since Blazblue: Chrono Phantasma had next to no problems with the online interface and was pretty seamless when doing what you wanted to. The story mode in Xrd is also not very good. Despite being considerably shorter than most recent Arc System Works story modes, it somehow feels way longer than it should due to its awkward internal jargon and corny script. That said, it is more interesting in how it is presented than anything it attempts to convey. Opposed to still-frame character portraits, like a typical visual novel, it actually uses the beautiful in-game engine to present the story. Because of this, it does a decent job at creating an anime-like depiction of story scenes with varied cinematography (despite animations being more stiff than they are in-game). Like I said, though, it is rather poorly told and somehow rubs salt on the wound with not only an anticlimactic "To be Continued" screen but also very clearly showing two characters that old fans would love to see return to being playable in Xrd -SIGN-. Guilty Gear Xrd -SIGN-'s biggest problem is that it mainly feels like a taste of better things to come. It is a really good taste, and I highly enjoy playing it, but the product that it currently is is hard to recommend on its own beyond hardcore fans of the series or the genre in general. As a fighting game, it is great with its excellent visual style, sweet soundtrack, varied characters, and deep mechanics. Yet, in both its relatively small character roster (even with DLC) and how certain modes are handled, it feels somewhat lacking currently. I have more than a lingering suspicion that most improvements will appear soon enough in an enhanced release, like Arc System Works is more than prone to do. That aside, it is more than commendable in itself that Guilty Gear Xrd -SIGN- manages to revitalize a classic fighting-game series quite successfully; it just needs a bit more fine-tuning to truly "Keep on Rockin." Pros: + Downright gorgeous stylized 3D visuals + Deep gameplay mechanics that feel both faithful and fresh compared to previous iterations + Great soundtrack + Questionable naming aside, "M.O.M." mode is a decent time sink Cons: - Why aren“t [insert list of older Guilty Gear characters] here? - Clunky online mode interface - Weak, unsatisfying story mode Overall Score: 7.5 (out of 10) Good Guilty Gear Xrd -SIGN- more than faithfully revitalizes a classic fighter, but it just needs to few more additions to its total character roster, and improvements to certain modes, to give the experience that everyone wants this return to form to be Disclosure: This game was reviewed using downloadable PS3 code provided by the publisher.
  9. Jordan Haygood

    World Heroes SNES Box Art

    From the album: Kaptain's Gallery

    © Alpha Denshi/ADK, SNK

  10. barrel

    Review: Persona 4 Arena Ultimax

    Developer: Arc System Works Publisher: Atlus USA Platforms: PS3, Xbox 360 Release Date: September 30, 2014 ESRB: T for Teen This review is based on the PS3 version of the game It always seemed strange to me that the teenagers of Persona 3 and Persona 4 who had difficulty standing on their own two feet in turn-based battle have transitioned to full-fledged badasses by the hand of Arc System System Works. Yet, just like that, Persona 4 Arena was that peanut butter & jelly combination that fans of the classic Persona 3 & 4 RPGs did not know they wanted it until the series arrived as a fighter. As with fighting game tradition, Persona 4 Arena Ultimax serves as both a direct sequel and an enhanced release two years after the original P4A debut. Is it worth it to take another admission to the P-1 Grand Prix or can one only hope that its Dark Hour quickly passes? Like the original release, Ultimax continues the smart approach of bridging the gap between fans of fighters and those well-versed with the RPGs. The P-1 Grand Prix Tournament returns once again, taking place only a few days after the events in Persona 4 Arena. General Teddie forcibly summons the cast from Persona 3 & 4 to participate in this tournament by enveloping the town of Inaba in a eerie red fog, reminiscent of P3's Dark Hour, and threatens to destroy the world in one hour if they fail to do so. As you would expect from the storytelling, it is told as a fairly in-depth visual novel, with the occasional fight, and it is dense with callbacks to the RPGs. Just be warned, Ultimax“s plot has a much bigger disregard toward spoilers for both P3/P4. If you haven“t played either of P3/P4 to completion (or at all) you probably should not even consider touching Ultimax“s story until doing so, especially since the RPG stories are way better told. For as big of a fan as I may be towards P3/P4, I had pretty fundamental problems with the storytelling in the original Persona 4 Arena. This is primarily because of how P4A was written in way that characters from both entries honestly felt like caricatures of themselves, where significant character development from the original games was disregarded and how much time they spent retreading old story devices and jokes. Ultimax pays more respect to how the cast are written and has better pacing than Arena, but it still falls under a pretty redundant, predictable, and heavy-handed overall storytelling procedure. Not unlike the villain, Sho, I became rather fatigued by the end of it because of how much the phrases “friends” and “bonds” were regurgitated, almost as if Tetsuya Nomura fed them lines in the script. At the end of the day, though, I still really enjoy Persona 4 Arena Ultimax as a fighter. It“s frenetic, very stylish, visually stunning, has tight controls that are easy to learn, and Ultimax is just a ton of fun to play almost regardless of skill level. Of course, there is a lot of depth to it in spite of its more intended approachable design. But, as most who know about series are probably already aware of those things and are wondering what is actually new with this release. What is new aside from the storytelling is the changes to modes, additional characters, general re-balancing, shadow forms, and a ton of fanservice laced throughout. Persona 4 Arena Ultimax has at this point gotten pretty close to having almost every main character from P3/P4 playable with few exceptions. Most of the new characters play quite varied and bolster the roster by eight more from P4A, three of which are technically DLC. In the game by default are new characters like archer/actress Yukari; the enthusiastic baseball coach Junpei; the duo of the spear-user Ken and his knife-wielding dog companion Koromaru; the bubbly idol Rise; and lastly, the villain figure (shadow) Sho Minazuki, who teleports around and slashes foes with his dual katanas. From a roster that was arguably too small in P4A, the new characters serve as very welcome and enjoyable additions in Ultimax, even those unfortunately relegated to paid DLC. Atlus USA also went the extra mile during localization by bringing English voice talents from the original RPGs, which hits a soft nostalgic place for me as a fan. It is a shame that the Shadow characters and (normal) Sho Minazuki are not as interesting or, arguably, as enjoyable as the main cast. Shadow characters are basically clones that play as faster, but generally weaker, versions of most characters with a new combo-centric mechanic called “Shadow Frenzy”. Despite some occasionally neat stuff, like special intro/victory poses, most Shadow characters feel like an afterthought and are generally just less viable to play as in the current release. Due to narrative context, there are also two versions of the character called Sho Minazuki. Unlike the character Labrys, who has a counterpart that plays fundamentally different, (normal) Sho Minazuki and (shadow) Sho Minazuki don't exactly feel that way. (Normal) Sho Minazuki doesn“t have a persona and feels really out of place because of it, especially when (shadow) Sho Minazuki has a relatively similar moveset, in addition to a fairly cool Persona which changes it up a lot. Online play in Ultimax is structured pretty much identically to Blazblue: Chrono Phantasma“s, which is a very good thing. The nifty lobby structure returns, which has custom player avatars roam around a virtual arcade, and also initiating specific ranked/player matches is still pretty seamless as you play the other modes (except story, unfortunately). Thankfully, the netcode is still excellent and, like the original, is the best I have ever seen in a 2D fighter. One cool aspect that sort of stood out to me is that certain unlocks also occur as you are playing online matches, so players don't have to complete the fiendish Score Attack mode… as much for extra content. Aside from netplay enhancements, the only mode that is actually completely new is Golden Arena. This mode brings an RPG progression to what would otherwise seem like a standard survival mode in other titles. Just like the RPGs you can level up and distribute stats, as well choose which passive abilities you want to slot in with a lot of familiar Shin Megami Tensei spell/skill names. It is presented in a nostalgic way, but I wish it had more variety overall, opposed to pure back to back fighting with the occasional "level-up", since it feels like it has a lot of potential as an interesting time-sink. Every other mode is what you'd expect from most fighters and have received fairly subtle to negligible changes; the only difference that stood out to me was that Score Attack is no longer purely unapologetic SNK Boss Syndrome and has now toggleable difficulties. That said, my favorite, seemingly throwaway detail added to the options is being able to change the main menu as well as online lobby music to the fairly huge song selection from both P3/P4 as well as the original Arena and Ultimax tracks. To this date, Persona 4 Arena Ultimax remains as easily one the strongest examples of a licensed property in a fighting game space. Your mileage may vary from what you get out of the in-depth visual novel storytelling, even as a fan of the RPGs, but in every other regard it is more than up to snuff as a fighter considering the high quality bar of its source material. Persona 4 Arena Ultimax doesn't boldly go past the original foundation too much as a whole, but it still proves itself as quite a thoroughly enjoyable fighter. Pros: + Very frenetic, accessible, and yet surprisingly deep core gameplay + Most new characters are very fun to play + Better storytelling than Persona 4 Arena + Online play is well-designed and overall netcode is excellent Cons: - Storytelling is predictable and heavy-handed - Shadow characters and (normal) Sho Minazuki don't add much to the game - Golden Arena mode could be more fleshed out Overall Score: 8.5 (out of 10) Great While not necessarily the biggest step forward in terms of overall content, Persona 4 Arena Ultimax should delight series fans, both old and new, as a worthwhile enhanced release of an already great fighter. Disclosure: This game was reviewed using downloadable PS3 code provided by the publisher.
  11. 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.