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Found 14 results

  1. Jordan Haygood

    Dead or Alive Xtreme 3

    From the album: Kaptain's Gallery

    Dead or Alive Xtreme 3 artwork.

    © Team Ninja, Koei Tecmo

  2. Hailinel

    Review: Attack On Titan 2

    Developer: Omega Force Publisher: Koei Tecmo Games Platform: Switch, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC Release Date: March 20, 2018 ESRB: M Note: This review is based on the PS4 version of the game Released in 2016, the original Attack on Titan was both a fun action game and a novel title from Omega Force, which for most of its history has been focused almost exclusively on the long-running Musou franchise. With Attack on Titan 2, the studio has returned to the world of high-flying, giant-slaying action, bringing some significant new twists along for the ride. Is a return to the world outside of the walls worth it? Like the original game, Attack on Titan 2 is based on the anime, rather than the original manga. Where the first game covered the scope of the first (and at that point, only) season of the series, the sequel covers both Seasons 1 and 2. The biggest change in terms of the story presentation, however, is in the point of view. New to the game is an original, player-created protagonist who joins the fight against the Titans alongside the established cast, and elements of the story have been rewritten to account for the player-character’s presence. For the most part, the presence of the new character works. The character creation system is robust, allowing for a fair degree of fine custom detail. The plot remains focused on Eren, Armin, Mikasa, and the other cadets of the 104th, giving the player a secondary observational role in most of the proceedings as famous scenes from the series play out. This premise does stretch itself thin in the latter half of the game, however, as the player zips back and forth between different battlefields as the characters are scattered, but that logistical detail is simple enough to forgive. The core gameplay of Attack on Titan 2 is nearly identical to that of the original game. During battle, the player can swing through the air using ODM (omni-directional mobility) gear to approach and latch onto rampaging Titans; giant, monstrous humanoids that can only be killed by striking at the napes of their necks, but who can be weakened or slowed down by severing their arms and legs. The core gameplay loop of approaching and downing Titans one after another is a satisfying one, but it can take practice to learn ideal positioning. And sometimes, what appears to be an ideal strike will result instead in a miss, causing the player to rebound away. Similar issues can arise when a Titan has been sent falling to the ground. Prone Titans can clip through nearby environmental objects such as buildings or supply bases, which can sometimes hamper getting in a clean shot on the nape. This can be mitigated with practice, but it’s still disappointing that Titans don’t react to the surrounding environment when they fall. In the original Attack on Titan, some portions of the story allowed the player to assume direct control of Eren’s Titan form, allowing for direct hand-to-hand combat against other Titans. While Attack on Titan 2 removes such sequences from the Story Mode’s primary scenarios, this feature has been given a new focus in a mini-game that becomes available at the Titan Research Lab. The player can “learn” about Titan behavior by taking on timed challenges while in control of one of the many standard Titans found in the game, though this feature isn’t available until after the player has managed to capture a Titan for the first time, rather than kill it. Getting rewarded for successful human-munching rampages is amusing and a good distraction from the game’s primary action, though the context of its inclusion relative to the story is bizarre. The biggest gameplay change to come with the sequel is a new emphasis on day-to-day life and activity. Between missions, the player has the freedom to wander the Trost District and other locales to speak with their comrades. Similar to mechanics in games like the Fire Emblem series, the player can raise support levels with various characters they meet by both fighting alongside them in battle and during social events responding to their comments appropriately. As these support levels rise, the player will gain access to new skills that boost stats or impart new combat abilities. That in mind, socializing is a must, and fortunately, many of the social event scenes in the game are entertaining. Outside of Story Mode, the other primary game mode is Another Mode. Playable in single-player as well as in online multiplayer, this mode is focused around completing smaller side-missions. These missions can generally be finished in a matter of minutes, making them ideal for quick play. Those that play it on the Switch also have the option of local wireless multiplayer, though I have not had the ability to test this feature out for myself. Online play quality has from my experience been OK, though I have also run into several connection errors while accessing online features in the lobby. The presentation in Attack on Titan 2 is on par with the original game. Its characters, both human and Titan, are rendered in colorful detail, and the story dialogue is fully voiced in Japanese. Performance is mostly smooth, though some battles that become particularly hectic with large numbers of Titans and aerial humans on screen at once can cause spots of momentary chugging. Attack on Titan 2 is what a good sequel should be. It improves on the key features of the original game, and its player-created protagonist adds a fresh take to previously-adapted material. While there are rough patches that could have used more polish, it’s a respectable sequel overall, and fans of the series should find it well worth their time. Pros + Fully adapts two seasons of the Attack on Titan anime from the perspective of an original protagonist + Tweaks to aerial combat provide the player with new options + The character progression system offers a great deal of flexibility + A larger roster of major and minor Attack on Titan characters can be unlocked for use in Another Mode Cons - Camera angles can sometimes make lining up an attack more difficult - Some of the finer elements of combat aren’t as well-explained as they could be, making some aspects of getting good at combat an at-times frustrating act of trial-and-error Overall Score: 8 (out of 10) Great Attack On Titan 2 is a worthy follow-up that improves on key features of the original game while also adding fresh takes, even if the game could use a bit more polish in some areas. Disclosure: This game was reviewed using a retail copy that was bought by the reviewer
  3. Hailinel

    Review: Dynasty Warriors 9

    Developer: Omega Force Publisher: Koei Tecmo Games Platform: PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC Release Date: February 13, 2018 ESRB: T for Teen Note: This review is based on the PlayStation 4 version of the game Change can be an odd thing. Video games, particularly those from long-running series, are often accused of not changing things enough from one game to the next. In the best-case scenarios, making a grand, sweeping change to an old formula can be just the shot in the arm a series needs. But there’s also the risk of a change backfiring, doing more to alienate established fans than expand the audience. Dynasty Warriors 9, Koei Tecmo’s latest entry in their core Musou franchise, is easily the boldest attempt at redefining what a Musou game is, but does that boldness equate success? Like its predecessors, Dynasty Warriors 9 is an action game adaptation of the classic Chinese novel Romance of the Three Kingdoms -- a romanticized retelling of a turbulent period of Chinese history that followed the fall of the Han Dynasty. The core narrative follows the individual factions of Wei, Wu, Shu, and Jin, with a few others from the period before the foundation of the three kingdoms or that exist outside of the tripartite conflict. Against this backdrop, there are over ninety playable characters, each with their own story mode and ending, though only a few characters are available from the start. What sets Dynasty Warriors 9 apart from the previous entries is its new open-world structure. While previous games featured contained maps as individual stages with sets of choreographed objectives, Dynasty Warriors 9 presents the player with the entirety of post-Han China to explore. The landscape is enormous, dotted with cities, fortresses, peasant villages, vast plains, steep mountains, thick forests and lush jungles. Coming to this game from previous entries, it’s astonishing to see just how large the map is. With the new open world and expansive map comes a significant change in the game’s basic flow and structure. In a traditional Musou title, the player begins a stage on an enclosed map and is given a series of objectives to perform, some optional, some not, until the final objective is reached and achieved; generally defeating a stage boss, reaching a specific point on the map, or escorting an ally character to safety. This basic flow is still present, in a sense, but it’s not immediately obvious. Each chapter in Dynasty Warriors 9 is structured such that the player is tasked with a primary objective, along with a series of secondary missions that are scattered around the map. It’s entirely possible to rush in and complete the primary objective, thus immediately leading to the next primary objective or ending the chapter, but in doing so, the player can miss out on story beats and mission rewards. Additionally, the core difficulty of the primary objective gradually lowers as more of the secondary missions are completed, representing the player’s efforts in either aiding their force’s advancement or stymying the enemy’s own plans. A side-effect of this new flow is that there’s more downtime between the larger battles, but this isn’t a negative. The game is open enough that it’s possible to advance from one mission to the next without delving off the beaten path. Even if the focus is kept on the missions, it’s not uncommon to end a chapter with an enemy KO count ranging between three to five thousand. After putting in the efforts to clear all of a major battle’s sub-missions, it’s rewarding to ride up to the final battle as enemy officers express panic over a lack of reinforcements, dwindling supplies, and malfunctioning siege weapons. And when it comes to the combat, Dynasty Warriors 9 isn’t afraid to make some significant, but welcome changes. The charge system of combat that was present in most prior entries has been replaced with a flow system that emphasizes the use of flowing state modifiers to stun an enemy, knock them in the air, or to the ground, as well as moves such as finishers that become available when an enemy officer’s health has been reduced enough. It dramatically alters the feel of combat, but unlike the much-maligned Renbu System that was introduced in Dynasty Warriors 6 and immediately abandoned, this new system feels like a change for the better. Dynasty Warriors 9 is most recognizably like past entries in the series during the larger battles, where the game is at its most frantic. Whether it’s avoiding elemental magic while making the final push to Zhang Jiao or choosing whether to pursue Lu Bu at Hu Lao Gate, the wild moments that have defined the series are still present. The open world structure simply offers more options in either approaching or avoiding them, just as the new combat system offers room to be more freeform in experimenting with attack combos. As for the open world itself, it’s fun to finally see China in a better context. While obviously not a scale representation of the nation, seeing how locations that were the settings or set pieces of enclosed stages in previous games now have a geographic relationship with the rest of the world is enlightening for someone like me that didn’t have that kind of understanding before. It also adds to that sense of progression, particularly for parts like the march from Si Shui Gate to Hu Lao Gate, and finally to the confrontation with Dong Zhuo in Luoyang. Other moments that were represented with fanciful scenarios in past games, such as the Battle of Chibi or the escape through the stone sentinel maze, are given a more realistic touch with their locales being defined parts of the large world. But the open world isn’t perfect. Like many games with such vast worlds to explore, Dynasty Warriors 9 has its share of odd glitches and bugs. The worst I came across prevented harvestable materials from spawning, which impeded the completion of a sidequest. Fortunately, the issue corrected itself when I saved, exited, and then reloaded the game. Some of the battles also simply aren’t as engaging in the open world context. Naval battles, while very few and far between, involve taking a small boat out into a body of water to meet up with other boats, and then jumping from one boat to another to take on a handful of enemies that can easily be knocked into the water, only to respawn on the deck over and over until they’re defeated. Thankfully, these battles aren’t very long, but they just aren’t a good fit for the combat of a Dynasty Warriors game. The basic exploration of the open world is very similar in structure to other games. Points of interest become highlighted on the map on approach, making them viable points for fast travel, waymarks on roadsides point out locations on the map that haven’t been found yet, and watchtowers can be climbed to uncover large swaths of land in addition to new locations and material item spawn points. Many of the villages and cities are home to various facilities such as blacksmiths and shops where new items can be bought or crafted, and some of these facilities have even appeared in previous Musou titles that featured explorable hub zones dating back to Dynasty Warriors 7. Out in the wilderness, the number of activities to engage in is sparse. Wildlife can be stalked and hunted with a bow (Dynasty Warriors 9 is, in fact, the first game in the series to give everyone a secondary bow weapon since the PS2 era), and it’s possible to fish in any body of water so long as you possess bait. Both activities net material resources useful for cooking or crafting. There are also roving bands of bandits with powerful leaders that can be similarly encountered, and both townsfolk and captains in the smaller forts that dot the roadways offer optional sidequests that mostly boil down to defeating a certain enemy at a certain location for a small reward. These activities can be fun in spurts, but unless you’re intent on getting materials for a specific item or weapon, they can be safely ignored. The side activity I’ve found most engaging is the use of the hideaways. Scattered around the map, hideaways are homes that the player can purchase, use as fast travel points, and decorate how they see fit. Certain furniture when acquired also gives the player ready access to cooking and crafting, changing the player’s costume, and the ability to receive gifts from friendly officers. It’s even possible to invite other officers in for a visit to raise the player’s relationship with them. In a way, it’s a little like having a slice of Animal Crossing in Dynasty Warriors. Regarding the game’s story, Dynasty Warriors 9 is one of the best interpretations of Romance of the Three Kingdoms that the series has yet produced, possibly only second to Dynasty Warriors 7. The length of each character’s story differs, with some being significantly longer than others, but the range of characters offer differing perspectives on the same periods of time, and each character has their own unique story ending. If there’s a hindrance to the storytelling, it's in the game’s English voice acting (and all new English voice cast), with many performances that range from bland to poor. However, the game does come with the Japanese language voices, and in a first for the series, full voice acting in Chinese. The general presentation is solid as well, highlighted by the detailed character models of the core roster. However, the game shipped with noticeable performance issues on all platforms, and Koei Tecmo has been working to iron these out. Playing the game on my standard launch PS4 with a performance patch in place, I’ve felt that the game’s performance is more than acceptable, though if you’re the sort that demands anything akin to a consistent 60fps at all times, you won’t find that here. Graphic pop-in is also common, the most extreme cases involving the smaller, destructible wooden roadside forts that dot the landscape. Riding up to them on a high-level horse at full speed, I frequently met soldiers engaging in a small skirmish before the fortifications had time to appear. It should be noted that the game has received additional support since its launch beyond performance adjustments. Quality-of-life touches have been made to rebalance certain aspects, ease exploration of the map, and even unlock characters at a faster rate. These fixes are certainly welcome, and I hope that more are coming, as the game was certainly in need of polish at its release. Dynasty Warriors 9 is a fun game; one that I’ve put dozens of hours into and expect to put in dozens more. Its open world is destined to be divisive, and not everyone that loves Dynasty Warriors games or Musou titles for what they are may be willing or able to adapt to the new format, which even for a series veteran like me required time to understand. The game has both incredible highs and annoying lows, and I could easily go on measuring aspects of both against each other. But with the new combat system, quality storytelling, and willingness to experiment with a new gameplay format, I’d tell any veteran fan of the series to at least give it a shot. It’s not what we’re used to, but it is still Dynasty Warriors, if only through a different lens. Pros + New combat system offers a new an interesting flow to battle + A vast open world based on Three Kingdoms-era China +90+ characters to play as + The soundtrack offers a mix of beautiful orchestral and rocking battle music + An engaging and entertaining retelling of Romance of the Three Kingdoms with Japanese and Chinese language options Cons - Performance issues and glitches - Poor English voice acting quality - A lack of depth to open world activities - Some characters are missing their signature weapons from previous entries - Select missions don’t mesh well with the open world structure Overall Score: 7 (out of 10) Good Dynasty Warriors 9 is a fun game that has both incredible highs and annoying lows, and with the new combat system, quality storytelling, and willingness to experiment with a new gameplay format, I’d tell any veteran fan of the series to at least give it a shot. Disclosure: This review is based on retail product that was paid for by the reviewer
  4. Another year, another Atelier game from Koei Tecmo. Their tradition of releasing a new game annually continues with the release of Atelier Lydie & Suelle: The Alchemists and the Mysterious Paintings in 2018. It will serve as the final entry in the "Mysterious" series while also celebrating the franchise's 20th Anniversary. Atelier Lydie & Suelle follows the titular twins as they discover and visit other worlds by jumping into mysterious paintings. They also discover that the paintings hold the residual thoughts of their deceased mother. Each world holds a different stylized location, which should help breathe some life into the game's art direction and make it feel more different and varied than usual. Also making appearances in this title are characters from previous Atelier games: namely, Firis, Liane, Sophie, Plachta, and Ilmeria. Pre-ordering the physical game will net you some DLC costumes inspired by prior Atelier protagonists Marie and Erie in addition to battle-themed music and an item set of useful alchemy ingredients. If you pre-order digitally within four weeks of release, you'll get access to two custom themes. Atelier Lydie & Suelle: The Alchemists and the Mysterious Paintings is set to release on March 27, 2018, on PlayStation 4, Nintendo Switch, and Windows PC via Steam. Source: Press Release Are you looking forward to this next Atelier game?
  5. Jason Clement

    Celica joins Fire Emblem Warriors roster

    You might recall that at one point earlier in the year, Fire Emblem Warriors' creators mentioned that the game would mostly feature characters from Shadow Dragon, Awakening, and Fates. The operative word here being "mostly." While many took that to mean that the game would only feature characters from those games, a Tokyo Game Show announcement revealed today that Celica -- one of the protagonists from this year's Fire Emblem Echoes: Shadow of Valentia -- will be joining the roster as well. This brings the total number of playable characters in the game to 22 (two of which are unplayable in story mode). No doubt, it's great news for fans of other games in the series as it shows they may also get some representation in the crossover at some point. Now that Celica is a part of the cast, it may only be a matter of time before Shadows of Valentia's other protagonist, Alm, is also revealed, perhaps as a DLC character down the road. We'll have to wait and see. In the meantime, you can check out Celica in action in the latest Japanese trailer for the game below. Fire Emblem Warriors is slated for release on the Nintendo Switch on October 21. Source: Nintendo Are you excited to play as Celica in the game?
  6. Developer: Koei Publisher: Koei Tecmo Games Platform: PlayStation 4, PC Release Date: October 25, 2016 ESRB: T The past couple of years have seen something of a rebirth of Koei Tecmo“s historical strategy titles. Though their major franchises in the genre -- Nobunaga“s Ambition and Romance of the Three Kingdoms -- have never been put aside, both franchises were absent from the west during the PS3 console era. But both series have returned in a big way, starting with Nobunaga“s Ambition: Sphere of Influence last year and the release of Romance of the Three Kingdoms XIII just a few months ago. And now, Nobunaga“s Ambition is back once again with a stand-alone expansion to Sphere of Influence entitled 'Ascension.' Ascension, like past Nobunaga“s Ambition titles, is set during the Warring States era of Japan“s history. The ultimate goal of the game is to unite all of Japan under the flag of one daimyo through a combination of diplomacy and tactical warfare. What sets Ascension apart from the original Sphere of Influence, however, is its greater focus on individual officers. Similar in nature to Romance of the Three Kingdoms XIII, the player takes the role of an individual officer and plays their part in steering their faction toward victory. Where the officer-focused gameplay of Romace of the Three Kingdoms XIII is intensely complex, Ascension is relatively simpler by comparison, but by no means is it an easy game. Also, unlike Sphere of Influence and ROT3K13, there is no dedicated tutorial. Helpful prompts appear whenever the player is introduced to a new concept or gameplay element for the first time, but it will be much easier for players to come to grips with Ascension“s mechanics if they“ve previously invested time into Sphere of Influence. As a stand-alone expansion, Ascension maintains a tight focus on its core gameplay. After selecting an officer, each of whom is tied to a specific scenario, and starting a campaign, the player is thrust into their role and free to act. Lower-ranking officers are granted a domain of land to develop as they see fit and are presented a list of objectives to pursue that are meant as progress toward a larger goal. For example, before the faction“s daimyo will order an attack on a specific castle, the faction must first deliver a certain amount of iron, lumber, money, and supplies, raise a force of a certain size, improve stretches of road, and engage in smaller battles with enemy tribes. Once all of these objectives are met by the player and/or allied AI officers, the larger objective will be presented. If that objective is met, a new larger goal will be declared, and the player will be tasked with a new list of smaller objectives. Every time objectives are met, the player earns honor, and as honor increases, so to do the opportunities for promotion. At higher ranks, the player gains more autonomy and is free to take on objectives with more freedom, or convince the daimyo to pursue new objectives. The player“s officer can also become a daimyo, granting command over their entire force. Or not, as it“s possible to turn down promotions and remain at a lower rank if so desired. Whatever path is chosen, progress is made through a combination of civic development, warfare, and diplomatic endeavors. Properly developing an officer“s domain through the construction of facilities and building strong diplomatic ties will aid the player in building a force capable of taking on enemy factions, but tactical slip-ups can (and mostly likely will) result in setbacks. Alternatively, the player can choose to betray their faction by agreeing to join a rival or by breaking away from their patron clan to become an independent force, though these actions naturally carry their own risks. Primarily driven through menus, Ascension has a clean, clear interface. It does a fairly good job at imparting the information necessary, though it at times can become dense, and the importance of some statistics isn“t immediately obvious. Curiously, the game“s UI is by default set to a very small size that“s almost unreadable on a 1080p television display; the first thing I had to do upon starting the game was find the option to enlarge the text in the main settings menu. The same issue was present in Sphere of Influence, but I have yet to understand why the default is set as it is. Aside from the primary campaign gameplay, there are two major customization features at the player“s disposal. One is a standard officer edit feature that allows the player to edit the stats of historical officers, or to create new officers from scratch. Without any forced limits, the player can create officers that are as overpowered or underpowered as desired. The other feature is an option to create custom events that will trigger if specified criteria defined by the player are met during a campaign. For example, a specific officer can be granted a specific weapon upon another specific officer“s death. While an interesting feature to tinker with in theory, the user interface is difficult to come to grips with and may scare off a lot of players after only a few minutes of struggling to understand it. Ideally, custom event creation should only be approached by veterans looking to spend a lot of time in the editor to get the most out of it, but there are no apparent rewards for these efforts beyond personal satisfaction. At its core, Ascension is a worthwhile expansion to Sphere of Influence. Though the lack of a tutorial may be off-putting, it“s more immediately approachable than Romance of the Three Kingdoms XIII and still offers many hours of freeform tactical gameplay. While I would recommend players begin with the original Sphere of Influence, Ascension is still a worthwhile entry in the Nobunaga“s Ambition series. Pros + Refined, officer-focused strategy gameplay. + Numerous options are available for customizing the difficulty and elements in a new campaign. + Beautiful artwork and music, most of which is taken from Sphere of Influence. + Earning PlayStation/Steam trophies also unlocks bonus officers. Cons - No dedicated tutorial. - The custom event creation interface is obtuse and difficult to use. - Some PC mouse controls map awkwardly to a PS4 controller. Overall Score: 8 (out of 10) Great Ascension is a worthwhile entry in the Nobunaga“s Ambition series. Disclosure: This game was reviewed using downloadable code provided by the publisher.
  7. Hailinel

    Review: Warriors All-Stars

    Developer: Omega Force Publisher: Koei Tecmo Games Platform: PlayStation 4, PC Release Date: August 29, 2017 ESRB: T 2017 marks the twentieth anniversary of the development studio Omega Force, as well as the studio’s first and longest-running franchise: the 'Warriors' series. A lot has happened in the two decades since the studio’s founding; larger historical highlights include its parent company Koei completed a merger with Tecmo, and the combined Koei Tecmo later took in the RPG studio 'Gust.' To mark Omega Force’s twenty years, the studio has produced Warriors All-Stars; a Warriors title that highlights not just the developer's history, but that of Koei Tecmo as a whole. People familiar with the Warriors franchise may recall the Warriors Orochi series. This trilogy began as a crossover between the Three Kingdoms-themed Dynasty Warriors and feudal Japan-themed Samurai Warriors series, but Warriors Orochi 3, through subsequent iterative releases, expanded the crossover idea by including more and more characters from outside of the Warriors franchise. By the time Warriors Orochi 3 Ultimate released on the PS4, the game included characters from Koei, Tecmo, and Gust’s combined library. Warriors All-Stars takes this idea and runs with it, focusing less on the Warriors franchise specifically and more on Koei Tecmo’s full history. The crossover is structured around a narrative involving a kingdom and world in peril. Requiring the power of heroes from other worlds to restore the power of the world’s spring before it runs completely dry, a summoning ceremony is conducted, but fails, causing those pulled across the dimensional barrier to be scattered far and wide. The heroes become divided into three factions, each allied with a different member of royalty; Tamaki, her older brother Shiki, and their cousin Setsuna, each of whom vies to bring life back to the world in the manner they deem best, even if that means fighting one another. As a narrative in a crossover, the basic storyline is simple, but paths branch based on characters the player has recruited and which battles they choose to engage. There’s a large host of endings to uncover across the three factions, which range from relatively cut-and-dried “the world is saved” to characters going rogue and turning those efforts at saving the world sideways. In that sense, the replayability of the story mode is very high. On the surface, the game’s set of features appears sparse. For example, unlike most Warriors titles, there’s no Free Mode that lets you take any character into any battle. Instead, the game’s Story Mode features an open-ended structure with its world map. Markers scattered across the map feature a variety of battle types that include the core story and character-recruitment battles, special “dramatic battles” that play upon similarities between cast members, as well as side battles that emphasize offense, defense, treasure hunting, survival, and more. The variety is good, though those that primarily play Warriors games in multiplayer will be disappointed to find no such option available here. The combat system in Warriors All-Stars plays very similarly to most entries in the franchise, with every character having light attacks, heavy, or charge attacks, and a unique special attack. Where it differentiates is in its team-based approach. In addition to a leading player-character, up to four additional characters can be assigned as teammates, each with their own assisting special abilities that can be triggered at any time, barring cooldown. Teammates can also be called in to temporarily fight side-by-side with the leader, effectively giving the player control of more than one character simultaneously. And then, in perhaps the game’s most overt nod to its own celebratory nature, there is the Musou Rush. When triggered, Musou Rush puts the player in an invincible state and fills the screen with enemies, challenging the player to take out as many as possible under a timer. As the player performs well, the other party members will appear on the edges of the screen to cheer on the player-character while confetti flies about. Limited in use (the player begins every battle with one Rush Star and only earns more with every 1000 non-Rush K.O.s), they can help turn the tide when facing powerful officers. One of the game’s best mechanics is Bravery. A replacement for the morale systems seen in other Warriors titles, Bravery is a power-scaling mechanic. Every officer in each battle has a Bravery rating, and the player always starts off with a Bravery of 1. The greater in difference between two officers, the harder it is for the officer with the lower Bravery to do damage to the opponent. Completing side-missions and other tasks will raise Bravery over time, so there’s value in attempting to complete every mission given instead of attempting to rush the stage boss ASAP. Of course, as a crossover, one of the most intriguing aspects of Warriors All-Stars is its roster. While the game does feature a few of the more popular characters from the Dynasty and Samurai Warriors series, as well as returnees from the Ninja Gaiden and Dead or Alive games that previously appeared in Warriors Orochi 3, the vast majority of the roster is new to the Warriors format, and some come from games that never received an English localization or western release. Some of the new franchises represented include the action-RPG Nights of Azure, the trap-focused action/puzzle Deception series, and the otome romance adventure series Haruka: Beyond the Stream of Time. Oh! And this dashing guy: Many games that don’t feature playable characters are referenced through material items that the player can collect during battle. Callbacks range from the relatively recent (Bladestorm), to the old school (Mighty Bomb Jack and Rygar). Though it is inevitable that what some may see as obvious candidates for any sort of inclusion, playable or otherwise, have been left out. The game isn’t quite Super Smash Warriors, but it gets close. The variety of franchise representation carries over into other aspects of the game’s presentation. Many of the game’s stages are themed after the franchises the roster members come from, whether that be Toukiden, Nioh, or the pachislot Rio series. Additionally, the soundtrack features songs from across the board, most if not all of which have been remixed with new instrumentation. And on the voice side of the audio, the game uses the original Japanese voice talent for all of the included characters with one notable exception. William, the Irish protagonist of Nioh, retains his English-language voice actor, and all of his voiced dialogue is in English. Warriors All-Stars is, above all, a very solid entry in the Warriors franchise. As something of a successor to the Warriors Orochi series, the playable roster isn’t nearly as large, but the diversity of its cast and willingness to poke fun at itself makes it feel like more of the proper celebratory title it was meant to be. If you enjoy Warriors games and you have a fondness for Koei Tecmo titles in general, Warriors All-Stars is the game for you. Pros + Includes a fun, diverse roster representing the combined history of Koei Tecmo + Smart gameplay tweaks to the Warriors formula + Branching story paths and numerous endings add a lot of incentive to replay + Numerous fun callbacks and references to characters, events, and oddities within the represented games Cons - Some well-regarded Koei Tecmo franchises are conspicuously missing - No way to replay story and dramatic battles outside of new game cycles - Optional character requests wildly fluctuate in difficulty, time commitment, and RNG chance requirements Overall Score: 9 (out of 10) Fantastic If you enjoy Warriors games and have a fondness for Koei Tecmo titles in general, Warriors All-Stars is the game for you.
  8. Developer: Kou Shibusawa Publisher: Koei Tecmo Games Platform: PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC Release Date: April 25, 2017 ESRB: E10+ Note: This review is based on the PS4 version of the game Last year, Koei Tecmo brought Romance of the Three Kingdoms XIII, the latest entry in the long-running strategy series, to the west. Though a very challenging game, it also proved to be a rewarding experience to those with a taste for the complex systems it“s built on. And now the publisher has released a proper expansion pack entitled Fame and Strategy that attempts to add more of both into the core gameplay. Unlike last year“s Nobunaga“s Ambition: Sphere of Influence – Ascension, a stand-alone title that was built on the mechanics of the original Sphere of Influence, Fame and Strategy is strictly an expansion pack. (You can read my thoughts on the original Romance of the Three Kingdoms XIII release here.) It adds some new scenarios based on events of the source novel and ancient Chinese history, but the meat of the expansion is in how it builds upon the established gameplay. As hinted at by the title, Fame and Strategy brings new gameplay concepts to the table that focus on these aspects. In terms of “Fame,” there is now an officer prestige system. Essentially, as the player“s officer acquires fame, new prestige titles can be unlocked that grant the officer new abilities. These titles exist on what amount to skill trees and have the ability to enhance officers of any standing. Even as a free officer, or an officer that is unaligned with any established force, it“s possible to gain fame and prestige, and use that to build up an independent force. On the “Strategy” side, the expansion introduces war councils, which allow for planning special tactics to use in the coming battle. During the battles themselves, there are new tactical points present on the battlefields that, when under the player“s control, enable the use of these tactics. These new features do add twists to how battles play out, but ideally, to make the best use of them, the player should already have a good grasp on how combat worked in the original release. Fortunately, Fame and Strategy does add two new side stories to the game“s Hero Mode. Effectively the tutorial, Hero Mode introduces the expansion“s new gameplay concepts in these scenarios. It should be stressed, however, that Romance of the Three Kingdoms XIII was already a challenging game, and Fame and Strategy does not ease up. In the original release, Hero Mode scenarios would often introduce new concepts, and then instruct the player to complete the scenario before throwing them to the wolves, and these new Hero Mode challenges are no different. There is a Help menu that gives guidance on the game“s many gameplay topics, but learning in Romance of the Three Kingdoms XIII is generally done by doing, and most likely failing. That“s not necessarily a bad thing, but Fame and Strategy in no way makes things easier for newcomers. It only serves to make an already complex game more complex. The one proper new mode outside of the core gameplay that Fame and Strategy introduces is Edit Events. As a way to create custom events to insert into scenarios, it“s both fascinating and incredibly daunting with the numerous menu options for customization. Some sample events are included so that novice event designers aren“t forced to create new events from scratch, and events can be shared online, so examples are never too far away. But in terms of creating a new event, from the various steps involved in selecting the right event triggers and describing the actual text content, building a quality custom event is not a simple task. This is an unusual review for me to write, as it“s the first time that I“ve reviewed a proper expansion pack to an existing game. In that sense, it can be difficult to separate my feelings on the original release from Fame and Strategy because so much of what the expansion offers is deeply intertwined into the original Romance of the Three Kingdoms XIII. In that sense, I suppose it“s fair to consider this text an expansion of my review of the original release. If you liked Romance of the Three Kingdoms XIII and wanted more, or a new reason to jump back in, then Fame and Strategy should have you covered. Pros + New gameplay features add even more depth to an already deep strategy game and are woven into the core gameplay well + All of the features of the original release are still here + Edit Event mode offers an enticing new way to customize campaigns Cons - Playing the game with a console gamepad can still be awkward at points - The expansion does nothing to make introducing the game to newcomers any easier Overall Score: 8 (out of 10) Great If you liked Romance of the Three Kingdoms XIII and wanted more, or a new reason to jump back in, then Fame and Strategy should have you covered. Disclosure: This game was reviewed using downloadable PS4 code from the publisher
  9. Hailinel

    Review: Toukiden 2

    Developer: Omega Force Publisher: Koei Tecmo Games Platform: PlayStation 4, PS Vita, PC Release Date: March 21, 2017 ESRB: T for Teen Note: This review is based on the PS4 version of the game After the Monster Hunter series jumped from the PSP to the 3DS as the franchise“s platform of choice, several companies tried their hands at the format to fill in the hunting gap on the Vita. One such game was Koei Tecmo“s Toukiden: The Age of Demons -- a game that, while it held very close to the gameplay structure of Monster Hunter, distinguished itself with a creative historical setting and gameplay elements that made it more than a simple clone. After following the initial release with an enhanced PS4 version in Toukiden Kiwami, the developer Omega Force has brought about its first true sequel in Toukiden 2. Set after the events of the first game, Toukiden 2 returns to the Midlands; the last remaining region of what was once Meiji-era Japan where humans live in a world overrun with demons, or oni. As in the first game, the player takes on the role of a slayer whose name and appearance can be customized, and whose job is to leave the confines of Mahoroba Village and protect it from the relentless hordes. There are a few callbacks to the original game, as well as returning faces, but the story doesn“t require knowledge of the first Toukiden in order to follow along. The storyline is surprisingly strong, with characters that start off as one-note showing more depth over time. A stark factional split keeps the village divided politically to a seemingly irreparable degree, which at times leads to some surprising but effective moments of drama and tragedy. The conflict is exacerbated by both human faults and oni attacks, but the narrative is kept light enough with plenty of humorous moments, as well. As a hunting game, Toukiden 2 strays from the first game“s formula in a significant way with the introduction of an open world. Unlike the first game, which used Monster Hunter-style maps of segmented zones, the map in Toukiden 2 is one large landmass populated with oni, side quests, and hidden secrets. What“s more, the world can be explored freely at will without a time limit; instead, a restriction is placed on the player in the form of the miasma gauge, which measures the player“s exposure to a toxic atmosphere created by oni. In regions of the map where miasma is thicker, the gauge will fill at a faster clip, though making progress in the story and by clearing map waypoints will reduce the miasma and make it easier to explore more of the map over time. The new map indeed goes a long way in giving the game“s world a sense of place. In the original game, the player visited different maps referred to as ages, such as the Age of Grace, Age of War, or Age of Chaos. Each of these maps was thematically based on an era of Japanese history, but there wasn“t anything to link them, other than they“re all accessible by leaving the village through its lone gate. Toukiden 2 reintroduces the ages as regions of the map, interconnected with each other and the outskirts of Mahoroba. In sum, the world feels vast, with a lot to explore, and only a small portion is seen while sticking close to the main story. The combat in Toukiden 2 also receives an upgrade in the Demon Hand. This new tool, which is essentially a spectral grappling arm, lets the player grab on to oni from a distance to close the gap or trip them up. When a special gauge is filled, using the arm on a giant oni will instantly tear off one of its limbs, weakening the demon while dealing heavy damage. The Demon Hand also has its uses outside of combat, allowing for some light traversal as well as destroying barriers that blockade select routes. It“s a little unwieldy to use at first, as it takes some time to get used to aiming, and in single-player, the AI partners tend to be much faster in using their own Demon Hands, getting into the fray before the player. It doesn“t take long to get used to, however. Toukiden 2 offers multiplayer that lets four players team up on oni-slaying missions together. These missions, also available in single-player, are analogous to the missions that the first game was structured around. In general, they“re short, sweet, and quick to jump into. After accepting a mission and heading for the gate, the game will take the players straight to a portion of the world map that has been cordoned off as the mission area. And once the target oni are slain, the mission ends, and it“s easy enough to jump right into another. The Mitama system from the original game also returns with some upgrades, allowing the player to equip Mitama for offense, defense, and the Demon Hand, with effects that vary based on the type of Mitama equipped. The Mitama equipped also determine what skills can be activated during battle, which can have a major effect on your play style and your role in a group, whether that be as an offense-focused attacker or a more support-oriented slayer with team-healing abilities. The system is of limited use in single-player (I made it through the story largely with the earliest acquired Mitama), but it offers more key significance in multiplayer. The vast majority of the game“s Mitama are based on figures from Japanese history and folklore, dating from the nation“s prehistoric era through the Meiji era and early twentieth century. Collecting these Mitama is one of the game“s more prominent side-tasks, and it“s worth it, not only for the varying abilities provided by them, but in learning their historical context, as each Mitama has its own accompanying biographical text. Certain Mitama that are historically associated, such as spouses, also provide extra boosts when equipped together. In terms of presentation, Toukiden 2 is on par with Kiwami in a technical sense, and shares the same art style, but with a greater sense of cohesion to its unified map. Many of the oni are distinctive and diverse in their design as well, with the giant oni standing out in particular. On the audio side, the game features well-done Japanese voice acting, though there aren“t any subtitles for incidental flavor dialogue party members may chatter in the field. The music, largely reminiscent of the original game, is of high quality and fits the mood and setting. But beyond those presentation checkmarks, Toukiden 2 is very much a sea-change in terms of being a sequel. While the original Toukiden and similar titles have been referred to as Monster Hunter clones for their not-too-subtle attempts at mimicking that franchise“s formula, the sequel takes great strides in furthering its own identity and creating a more unique experience as a result. It“s refreshing, and it makes for an easy recommendation. Pros + Open world structure gives the sequel a fresh take over the original + An entertaining story with fun characters + A great range of weapon types, as well as tutorials for each + Gameplay styles can be customized through equipping Mitama Cons - The camera can be obstructed at times when fighting giant oni in tight spaces - The game doesn“t do a perfect job of teaching all of its mechanics up front - The number of quests available in the open world feels somewhat sparse compared to the map“s size Overall Score: 9 (out of 10) Fantastic Toukiden 2 takes great strides in furthering its own identity and creating a more unique experience as a result, making it a refreshing and easy recommendation. Disclosure: A downloadable PS4 code was provided by the publisher for this review
  10. Developer: Gust Corporation Publisher: Tecmo-Koei Platform: PS4, PS Vita, and PC Release Date: March 7, 2017 ESRB: T for Teen Note: This review is based on the PS4 version of the game Year after year it has become a routine for me to try out the newest Atelier role-playing games. And, frankly, as someone who plays so many RPGs in general they have been a refreshing contrast among many grander-scaled and traditional examples in the genre, so I have not exactly regretted it either. There is something genuinely charming about a series that cares more about somehow making crafting whimsical and fun (also deceptively deep) with solid RPG fundamentals underneath than anything else. As I have learned, however, it only really takes one game to really sour one on an entire series going forward. Last year's Atelier Sophie was just that for me. Atelier Sophie was the first entry in the series that I honestly felt like my time was wasted in playing and I probably would have been better off ignoring altogether with how little enjoyment I got out of it. So, to say my enthusiasm for the direct follow-up and newest release in the series called: Atelier Firis: The Alchemist and the Mysterious Journey on PS4, PS Vita, and even PC, was tepid is putting it lightly. That said, to avoid making hasty judgement about the newest Atelier release, I decided to try and walk a mile in Firis's shoes. Or, well... actually many. Firis does a whole lot of traveling in her game as it turns out. Unfortunately, Firis's adventure begins rather slow and confined. She has lived her entire life in an underground mining town and has barely caught a glimpse of the outside world. Well, until former main protagonist of the previous entry, Sophie, literally blows open the town's door with an explosive made from alchemy. During Sophie's brief visit Firis spends it learning how to use alchemy as an apprentice and also to convince her family, as well as the local mayor, to let her hone her natural talent for the alchemist craft by exploring the outside world. The townsfolk agree to let her leave town only on the condition that Firis is able to obtain an official alchemy license within the span of one year, or she'll be forced to return home. After the prologue, the title becomes comes far more open-ended, and with the exception of Atelier Meruru, is probably the most free-flowing of recent entries. Firis only really has to get three letters of recommendations from registered alchemists, and pass an official license test, before the completion of the main story. Everything in-between, from the places to explore or the people you meet, is pretty much up to the player in how they attempt to approach it. The basic loop of Atelier Firis's main story is exploring new areas, obtaining letters of recommendation, as well as refining both combat and alchemist prowess. With the looming year deadline, which is not even that strict, adds more incentive to continually move forward too (until post-game which I will get into later). Because of the nature of being continuously on-foot, Atelier Firis plays with series conventions a fair bit. For one, there is no central hub that is in a fixed location to practice alchemy. Firis literally brings her lodging and portable "Atelier" in her magical backpack (a gift from Sophie). Alchemy itself sees very little change from the prior game, despite how items themselves are more disposable now. To put it plainly, it imbues a sort of puzzle-like approach to the alchemy system and the properties, and quality, of items can be changed based on how smartly one smartly implements the ingredient "pieces". Honestly, if there is one thing that did not need much change from the prior game, it was the fun and additive alchemy system. Just about every other aspect plays and feels better than the prior release. Heck, it even looks significantly better, with a much more fluid presentation featuring well-realized anime-like character models in addition more varied environments to trek through (though, the latter is still very underwhelming for HD console standards.). More importantly are the changes to combat and gameplay progression. Atelier Sophie's biggest problems were in its baffling steps back in regards to combat, poorly handled approach to day/night cycles that caused obtaining new alchemy recipes and gameplay progress to slow to a crawl. All of which have been significantly revamped for the better in Atelier Firis. Combat is faster, more active, and just more enjoyable in general. Progression is a lot less rigid as well, with most content being far more optional and less time of day dependent, leading to far less tedium in the inherent flow than the prior release. It is an entertaining flow, but not entirely seamless. The open world itself can feel rather empty until essentially reaching the newest town, for instance. Even if it uses a few tricks to maintain player interest, like the frequent "That's it! I've come up with a new recipe." moments for Firis's often bizarre alchemy items when you gather new ingredients or kill different monsters, there is not a whole to lot to do outside of many towns otherwise. This primarily because gameplay progress feels more organic when you have sidequest objectives from townsfolk, or you try to complete tasks to get letters of recommendation, while also concurrently exploring. Regardless, I was rather surprised to realize that I missed entire towns and recruitable characters before seeing the initial credits roll. This shock applied more so when it had only just over fifteen hours of playtime, which seemed rather short even for Atelier standards. Turns out, there was actually much more game afterwards. Atelier Firis may be the strangest game in the series where I would be willing to argue that the best parts of it are actually after beating the main story. Basically, the time restriction entirely disappears and gameplay features open up very dramatically. This includes areas that were formally inaccessible can now be explored, new playable characters can join, lots of character sidequests become available which lead up to various unique endings, or even gameplay features like genuine fast-travel appear. Which, to add on that last point, the game has serious back-tracking problems otherwise. Though you can optionally get items to increase moment speed prior to it, like a literal magic broom or a certain changeable outfit for Firis (which there are several of with different effects) until getting the fast-travel in post-game. I think the most important post-game content are in the character sidequests. Most recruitable characters barely have a presence in the main story aside from filling a party member slot. Or, at the very least, they are made more interesting in post-game. One good example is Firis's sister who goes by Liane. She feels like she has one defining character trait during the main story, which is being overly protective of Firis and doting on her constantly. In post-game, however, you learn quite a bit more about her and why she even became even explorer in the first place, which is darker than you would expect. To give further reasoning, a few of them have unique bosses to showcase the cooler nuances of combat, and that they have truly excellent musical pieces to accompany them helps too. Though, I must emphasize, the overall story script is still not great (even if better in post-game), but it is certainly more satisfying than main story and in gameplay context too. While I would not say it is exactly the peak of the series, Atelier Firis in pure gameplay fundamentals and concepts imply a very promising step for it going forward. It deliberately fixes most of the mechanical/structural flaws of its predecessor to help emphasize the strengths of the addictive, deep crafting system and enjoyable combat system. There is also a very flexible approach to gameplay progression that the series has not seen in quite some time. If the game was simply better at populating its open-world, and did not hide much of its better content in post-game, it'd become a much safer recommendation for would-be curious adventurers. Pros + The open ended exploring philosophy allows a fair bit of freedom in how you want to approach the main objective with much that is truly optional + Addictive crafting and entertaining combat system + Character models look great in-motion + Charming soundtrack + Post-game is rather dense and is the most satisfying part from both a gameplay and in narrative context Cons - Open-world can feel rather empty at times before reaching the next town to feed one new potential side objectives - Too many of the better parts of the game are after beating the main story - Backtracking becomes an issue for a good while - Cringe-worthy character writing and storytelling at times Overall Score: 7 (out of 10) Good A worthwhile departure for the Atelier series that both refines the delightful crafting and combat as well while breathing new life into as well with the far more open ended gameplay structure. It is just a shame that it is rather disjointed in the moments it does reach it biggest strides overall Disclosure: This game was reviewed using downloadable PS4 code provided by the publisher.
  11. Developer: Omega Force Publisher: Koei Tecmo Platform: PS4, PS Vita Release Date: January 31, 2017 ESRB: T Koei Tecmo“s Dynasty Warriors series, which originally began as a one-on-one fighting game on the PlayStation, has since blossomed into a long-running action game series known for pitting the player against hundreds of enemies at once. The franchise has spun off in a number of directions over the years, from similarly themed games based on various anime licenses to the Monster Hunter-inspired Dynasty Warriors: Strikeforce series, but the latest spin-off takes a sharp turn away from the frenetic action the franchise is known for. In exchanging large-scale beat“em up action for turn-based strategy, the developer Omega Force brings us Dynasty Warriors: Godseekers. Godseekers is a strategy RPG in the vein of Fire Emblem, Disgaea, and Final Fantasy Tactics. It retells the story of Romance of the Three Kingdoms as all Dynasty Warriors games before it, complete with larger-than-life interpretations of figures from the novel and Chinese history, but works in a few original twists a more overt fantasy. The main story follows Zhao Yun and his friend Lei Bin after they inadvertently awaken Lixia, a mystical woman that needs to recover scattered elemental orbs that grant her power. From there, the story darts through plot points that should be familiar to anyone that“s played a Dynasty Warriors game, from the revolt against Dong Zhuo to the fight to reclaim Xiapi from the fearsome Lu Bu, ever so slightly rewritten with Lixia“s quest in mind. The core tactical gameplay does a remarkable job of translating the Dynasty Warriors style of action into a strategy game. The player is allowed up to five characters in the active roster per battle, and every character in the game has their own unique attacks that cover varying ranges measured by the grid map. Some excel at close quarters, others do more widespread damage, and still others excel or focus on ranged attacks. Like the core action games, each character also has their own Musou attacks; special skills that deal extra-powerful damage, but can only be used when a charge on the character“s own Musou gauge is full. The most powerful technique is a special team skill called Synchro Mode. When active, it lets two or more of the player“s party to act in tandem, dealing a full turn“s worth of damage against foes before unleashing a super-powered attack that can be powered up by mashing the X button. It“s particularly useful for clearing out large swaths of enemies off of the map and a strategic necessity, particularly in more time-sensitive battles. However, it“s balanced out by the fact that it takes some set up to get more than two or three units in position to take part in the assault. Dynasty Warriors is known for battlefields full of enemies, and Godseekers does its best to live up to that concept. Maps in Godseekers routinely see the player greatly outnumbered. Though, at least on Normal Mode, the majority of the enemies don“t pose a particular threat. Standard grunts do a small fraction of the damage that officers are capable of and tend to be fodder for building up the Musou and Synchro gauges. They only become particularly vexing on maps where time is of the essence and the mission requires rescuing a stranded officer or clearing the objective within a set turn limit. That being said, the core story missions offer excellent variety in terms of their design and objectives. Even when missions with similar objectives occur back to back, the map designs, unit placement and specific requirements give them unique flavor. Unfortunately, the same can“t be said for the many, many, many side mission battles that become available on the world map. Though early on they“re useful for building up experience, gold, weapons, and items, the sheer number and more mundane mission designs tend to wear out their welcome. As a better aside, there“s the Path of Destiny. Functioning as the means to unlock additional characters to add to the permanent battle roster, the player can witness entertaining conversations between members of the large cast, gradually moving along tracks that unlock as various requirements are met. Occasionally, special battles open up that -- if won -- will yield a new character for the player, and on the plus side, these missions tend to be as good as the main story missions in terms of their design and variety. On the downside, there“s a lot of grinding to get through. The requirements for attaining a character“s next tier on the Path of Destiny generally need the player to progress beyond a certain point in the story, as well as additional requirements such as having a specific character fight in X battles, defeating Y, enemies, or leveling up the character to Z. At times it can be a slog, though the reward of unlocking a desired character can feel worth it. However, the five-character limit in battles is constraining, and many characters won“t see use outside of the monotonous side-battles. As for the game“s presentation, the plot offers some novel takes, particularly in how key events frequently revisited in Dynasty Warriors are altered for the sake of Lixia“s story that add some surprises to the more well-tread points, and the core cast of Zhao Yun, Lei Bin and Lixia are an interesting trio together. But even with the twists brought by Lixia, the story feels somewhat dry and predictable. That“s not to say that the story is bad; far from it, in fact. However, it is hard to escape the thought that the plot is essentially Dynasty Warriors fanfiction, which may or may not be appealing depending on what you“re looking for. But while the plot is lacking in some ways, the game does manage to retain the look and feel of a traditional Dynasty Warriors despite the dramatic shift in game genre. The map designs look like they could exist as standard Dynasty Warriors maps, and the battle camera can be set to view attacks from the perspective of an action game. It feels like a cheap shortcut to say that it looks and sounds exactly like it should, but given what the game is aiming for, it“s not an inaccurate statement. Dynasty Warriors: Godseekers is an entertaining game, and Dynasty Warriors fans looking for something outside of the norm should find a lot to like. It stumbles on some of its design choices, but it does more than enough right to be engrossing in bursts. At the very least, it“s a good distraction as we all wait for more news on Dynasty Warriors 9. Pros Matches the look and feel of a traditional Dynasty Warriors game perfectly. Robust character growth and weapon customization systems. A well-executed battle system translates the action series into tactical strategy. Lots of entertaining character dialogue. Cons Side missions become monotonous. Enemy turns can take forever to complete, though there is a fast-forward function. Path of Destiny advancement requirements are sometimes a grind. Overall Score: 7 (out of 10) Good Dynasty Warriors: Godseekers is an entertaining game, and Dynasty Warriors fans looking for something outside of the norm should find a lot to like. It stumbles on some of its design choices, but it does more than enough right to be engrossing in bursts. Disclosure: This game was reviewed using downloadable PS4 code provided by the publisher
  12. Hailinel

    Review: Attack On Titan

    Developer: Omega Force Publisher: Koei Tecmo Games Platform: PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC Release Date: August 30, 2016 ESRB: M for Mature This review is based on the PS4 version of the game Omega Force, Koei Tecmo“s long-time developer of their prolific Musou, or Warriors franchise in most all its incarnations, has adapted the hack-and-slash action format to suit what has become a sizeable number of anime and manga franchises. There are Musou games based on Mobile Suit Gundam, Fist of the North Star, One Piece, and most recently, The Heroic Legend of Arslan. Omega Force“s latest effort, Attack on Titan, fits right in, but for all of the Musou blood in its veins, the core game is anything but. This shift from Omega Force“s norm is born largely from the necessities of Attack on Titan“s premise. Humanity is on the verge of extinction, hunted down and eaten by Titans; feral humanoid giants with masculine features that lack genitalia. The last remaining humans live within the bounds of three concentric walls, but a century of peace is destroyed when the Colossal Titan, a unique Titan that stands taller than these walls, attacks and breaches the outermost Wall Maria. The game“s core premise of fighting back against these Titans is where it deviates the most from the core Musou template. The relatively pint-sized humans use Omni-directional Maneuver (ODM) Gear, which allows them to shoot out cables to latch onto buildings, trees, or even Titans, and swing through the air in a manner like Spider-Man. Titans can be targeted at the arms and legs, which can be severed with enough damage, but the only way to actually kill a Titan is by striking the nape of the neck. Additionally, the protagonist Eren Jaeger acquires the ability turn into a Titan himself. At key points, Titan Eren becomes playable with controls that function much more like a traditional brawler. These moments are relatively few in the story mode, but they do add extra variety to a game that is otherwise all about the flow of weakening and downing Titans while flying through the air. Aside from the story mode, the game“s other primary mode is Expedition Mode, which can be played either solo or through online multiplayer. Playing online allows for cooperating with a group, and voice chat can be used as an option, but the experience either way does not differ that much, as the focus is the same. Complete survey missions to unlock new survey missions and the more challenging expedition missions. Just like Dynasty Warriors is entirely about cutting down enemy soldiers by the thousands, Attack on Titan is focused on taking down Titans, though by a much smaller number. Outside the core concept, missions offer a fair variety of objectives, such luring Titans into traps rather than fighting them directly or defending a character from a Titan onslaught. Encounters with unique Titans like the Colossal Titan also offer breaks from the established norm, and the game eventually introduces “Dire” Titans as special objectives that are significantly tougher than the norm. Another aspect of the game“s Musou lineage shines in its character selection and progression options. Though only a select few characters are playable in the story mode, more are unlocked as progress is made and are available for play in Expedition Mode. Each character has a series of skills that unlock as they level up, and while everyone shares the same blades and ODM Gear, their skills and individual stats separate them into diverse play styles, whether they be offense-oriented or more adept at commanding a team. There“s also a Regiment Level shared by all characters that governs what equipment and forging materials are available for purchase. And just like a standard Musou, progress along these various tracks carries between modes. The game“s presentation does an excellent job of matching the look of the source material, with the major characters recreated in high detail. Standard Titans stand out with their ghoulish, vapid expressions and their often bizarre movements, while the unique Titans exude a greater malevolence and a finer sense of detail in their design. Additionally, the cast of the anime also does a worthwhile job reprising their roles for the game However, the downside to the game“s presentation is that the story is told in a decidedly CliffsNotes fashion and leaves out a large amount of characterization and background to focus on the action. This will most likely be a problem for anyone that comes into the game that hasn“t at least watched the anime, as some key points, such as how Eren has the ability to turn into a Titan, are glossed over. The in-game encyclopedia helps, but there“s only so much information that it can impart. Attack on Titan isn“t a traditional Musou game, and it has a slightly greater learning curve with the ODM-swinging and the specifics of Titan combat. Those key differences work in its favor, however, and deliver a breezy action game with an identity all its own. It“s easy to recommend to any fan of Omega Force“s style of action games, fans of the anime, and even fans starved for the web-swinging a decent modern Spider-Man video game. Pros + Faithfully recreates the look and feel of the anime. + ODM swinging and Titan combat are a lot of fun. + An in-game encyclopedia helps give background on many of the game“s characters. + For the more squeamish, there is an optional blood toggle that reduces the level of on-screen gore. Cons - The story presentation is not friendly to newcomers, and the conclusion is abrupt. - The camera can occasionally sit in unhelpful places. Overall Score: 8 (out of 10) Great Attack On Titan is different from traditional Musuo titles, but that works towards the game's strengths, making it one of the most unique entries in the genre yet. Disclosure: This game was reviewed using downloadable PS4 code provided by the publisher
  13. Developer: Koei Publisher: Koei Tecmo Games Platform: PlayStation 4, PC Release Date: July 5, 2016 ESRB: E10+ This review is based on the PS4 version of the game Long before Koei was predominantly known for its Musou franchise (a longstanding series of hack-and-slash action titles that emphasize simple controls and accessible gameplay), the company was much more well-known for its lines of historical simulation strategy games. Koei“s early catalogue is rife with titles like Nobunaga“s Ambition, Genghis Khan, and Liberty or Death. Romance of the Three Kingdoms, one of the company“s longest running strategy series, recently celebrated its thirtieth anniversary with its latest entry: Romance of the Three Kingdoms XIII. Like its predecessors, Romance of the Three Kingdoms XIII is inspired by the Chinese historical novel of the same name by Lo Kuan-chung. Set in ancient China during the waning years of the Han dynasty and the decades of conflict that followed, it features officers and events of the era as the basis for its scenarios. It is also, much like its predecessors, a highly complex and very challenging game with numerous systems that interweave, and it can leave newcomers easily flummoxed by the sheer scope of it all. Fortunately, ROT3K13 does new players a favor with its Hero Mode. Hero Mode serves as the game“s tutorial of sorts, offering a series of scenarios that are small in scope and are meant to ease players in. With each scenario in sequence, more and more elements of gameplay are introduced, allowing players the opportunity to let concepts sink in a few at a time. The first scenario, for example, features no combat or city management. Instead, it“s all about interacting with fellow officers, engaging in house visits, and buying and gifting items. The second scenario introduces basic combat, the third introduces a few city building and management systems, and so on. The player“s role in ROT3K13 isn“t a faction or nation, as in most strategy games, but that of a single officer. The officer in question is chosen for you in each Hero Mode scenario, but in the main game, it“s the player“s choice. What actions the player can undertake are in part determined by the player“s rank; low ranking officers have little sway in their faction“s overarching affairs, but by completing assignments and gaining reputation, it“s possible to earn promotions and achieve titles such as minister, governor, or viceroy. Or the player can simply choose to control the leader of a faction and govern everything from the top from the very start. What“s particularly unique about this is that the game doesn“t end if the player“s faction is destroyed by its rivals. In fact, if the player“s faction collapses, it“s possible to find service in another faction and work back up from there. There are only two ways that the player can truly ”lose“ the game, in a sense: the player“s officer dies without an heir to carry on, or the game“s calendar passes to its maximum year of 340 before any faction conquers all of China. This may sound relatively simple, but as stated before, the game has numerous systems, many of which have interplay with each other. Assignments that officers can undertake include, but are not limited to developing a city“s facilities, sending officers on patrols, training soldiers in the spear, horse, or bow, journeying to hire free officers, or engaging in subterfuge to encourage rival officers to defect. It“s also possible to enter diplomatic negotiations, form and nullify alliances, hold banquets, or just visit a friend at their home. All of the above actions are performed through the use of menus and submenus loaded with pertinent information. The game does well in keeping everything organized, but it“s still easy to see stats upon stats and wonder what every individual number means and how much of an effect they have. It may be daunting to take in if you“re not the sort that enjoys games where large swathes of time are spent engaging in smaller tasks and watching numbers increase. Combat is a much more active part of the game, and comes in several forms. Standard combat takes place in real-time and sees the player“s forces engage an enemy in an open field, during a siege, or even on the water, but can be paused at any point in order to issue new commands. Even with this in mind, however, combat can be very tense and grueling. One battle I fought went on for some time and led to both sides losing most of their forces. I had the enemy on the ropes several times as I laid siege to their gates and gave chase, only for yet more reinforcements to come, again and again, until I finally slipped up and let the enemy destroy my base camp. Ouch. And this isn“t even getting into officer duels and debates; one-on-one battles of might and wit that play out by trying to anticipate the enemy“s action and responding accordingly. The general principal is like a more complex rock-paper-scissors with more options and ways in which actions defend or nullify other actions. The situations under which these sorts of battles arise vary, but they make for an interesting break in the general flow. Encapsulating the full experience of Romance of the Three Kingdoms XIII in a succinct manner for a review such as this is a daunting task. It“s a hardcore strategy game that makes no apologies for its complexities. But if deep, system-rich strategy games are of interest to you and you have the willingness to learn (and make plenty of tactical mistakes along the way), then it“s definitely recommended. Pros + Hero Mode helps ease players into the game with smaller-scale scenarios and basic gameplay explanations. + Open-ended game structure allows players to experiment and approach scenarios in vastly different ways. + Beautiful character artwork and classical soundtrack. + Voice audio is available in both Japanese and Chinese. + Officer Edit feature allows players to create custom officers to insert into campaigns. Cons - Some PS4 controls are awkwardly converted from PC mouse controls. - The high level of complexity and challenge will deter players looking for a simpler strategy experience. Overall Score: 8 (out of 10) Great If deep, system-rich strategy games are of interest to you and you have the willingness to learn (and make plenty of tactical mistakes along the way), then Romance of the Three Kingdoms XIII definitely comes recommended. Disclosure: This game was reviewed using downloadable code provided by the publisher
  14. Developer: Gust Corporation Publisher: Koei-Tecmo Platform: Vita/PS4 Release Date: June 7, 2016 ESRB: T for Teen There is something to be said about the Atelier series when it has crafted more main titles than even Final Fantasy. And yet, despite having so many entries stored throughout its' history, Atelier still somehow manages to retain its fanbase with individuals such as myself. There is clearly a winning recipe to their addictive and light-hearted RPG formula focused on alchemy that Gust Corporation still shows no sign of stopping any time soon. After enjoying the previous release, Atelier Shallie, quite a bit, I was excited to see what the newest entry, Atelier Sophie: The Alchemist of the Mysterious Book, had in store. It was the perfect opportunity to make a fresh break from the former "Dusk" trilogy and is also the first title to make its way to the Playstation 4 hardware. The end result, however, is that it may very well be the most disappointing title that I have yet played from the series. Disappointing does not mean bad, of course. The primary reason why I still play every Atelier entry year by year is that they have pretty much always been mechanically solid despite hit & miss aspects on a per game basis. But, that's Atelier Sophie's biggest problem, it does not really feel like it improves any particular aspect. Atelier Sophie certainly changes things but I would be hard-pressed to say they are direct enhancements over previous releases, and in several regards Atelier Sophie feels like an overall step back as a game. Before getting into all of that, Atelier Sophie goes more back to basics when it comes to tone. The previous Atelier trilogy tried to be more self-serious with its storytelling -- in particular Atelier Ayesha, which yielded mixed results because of its ultimately unrealized narrative and character potential. Atelier Sophie is far more straightforward in comparison. The fledgling alchemist Sophie finds a mysterious talking book in her departed grandmother's atelier. The book, whom refers to herself as Plachta, tells Sophie that while she is able to help Sophie get better at alchemy most of her memories -- as well as former written contents -- are gone. As Sophie starts to write down new alchemy recipes on Plachta“s pages, the two learn that that may very well be the key to slowly recover Plachta's lost memories, and so, the two decide to help out one another out and become fast friends. The setup largely transitions into the game's overall flow as well. Whether this comes from exploring areas or trying out new things via alchemy, Sophie will gradually come up with new synthesis recipes to recover more of Plachta's memories. This premise helps makes the title feel more carefree as well. Though I do think it is a solid concept in nature, as there is no looming yearly deadlines or a possible narrative guilt for failing to make progress in time, Atelier Sophie does not necessarily benefit from it. There are two main reasons for this, one being the newly added Day/Night cycle and the other being how retrieving Plachta“s memories very much creates stopgaps to the gameplay progression. I'll try to avoid being too technical about Atelier gameplay conventions, but the Day/Night cycle is not handled very well in Atelier Sophie. Basically, both characters events in the central town of 'Kirchen Bell', as well as explorable areas outside of it change depending on what time of day it is. The thing is that both character events and item gathering (needed for alchemy, in particular) are linear in nature. So, for example, you may need an alchemy item that you can only get at nighttime, or there may be a character event that only happens in the morning. Both of these can lead to a lot of tedium with the inherent flow. To add a wrinkle to the disjointed day/night addition, getting Placta's memories, aka the main source of gameplay progression, absolutely requires you do such things to trigger alchemy unlocks that comes from specific character events or exploring environments at certain times. Even formulas that were totally solid in prior games, such as combat, don't feel as good in Atelier Sophie. They essentially fragment aspects that made the turn-based combat feel surprisingly active in recent games, like follow-up attack and defending allies one another from incoming enemy attacks, into the newly added "offensive" and "defensive" stances. You can still technically use follow-up skills, but only if multiple allies are the same stance offensive or defensive stance, and you have no control over which ally (or what order) they do it in. Ultimately it feels like an unnecessary and more limiting change under the guise of trying to be more strategic. It also does not help that combat feels noticeably slower because of it. Like much of Atelier Sophie, it is not bad by any means and is occasionally fun later on, but it is a baffling change when previous games simply handled it better. If there is one aspect that I think Atelier Sophie actually improves, and is not a weird half-step back in, it's the series's signature alchemy system. Like previous releases, it continues to shatter that expectation that crafting is often boring in games and creates an addictive formula when it comes to making one item to the next. The title borrow many alchemy elements from the prior "Dusk" trilogy while adding more of puzzle element to each creation. Basically, each item you add have their own color and shaping, and by adding them smartly to the cauldron it will lead to very useful traits or outright better items. Though it was weird for me to adjust to, unlike the rest of the game the alchemy system grew on me over time. The shift to new hardware did not help the title either. Now, I pretty much always complain about how explorable environments often look very drab in Atelier games, but it is even less acceptable on the PS4. Sure, the character models are pleasant to look at, and the whimsical soundtrack is great to listen to, but even as someone who is not really a technical snob still thinks the environments look quite awful in this title. Though I know it won't happen with Atelier Firis on the horizon in Japan, Atelier Sophie is probably the first title to truly make me think that Gust Corporation should give their games another year to polish everything up. This does not just apply to the presentation, Atelier Sophie simply does not feel fleshed out as an Atelier release from presentation, gameplay, as well as the generally boring cast of characters. Atelier Sophie is probably the first title of recent Atelier releases that I would have honestly been totally fine with skipping outright. Oddly enough, I don't even think it has to do with series fatigue at all as someone who has been following the series pretty much yearly. I simply think Atelier Sophie takes too many steps back from its gameplay systems to its overall structure and is that much less enjoyable because of it. To further reemphasize my main point, Atelier Sophie is by no means a bad game, just an unremarkable step back for the series that makes a very disappointing debut on PS4. Pros + Carefree design allows the player to take their time + Deep alchemy system with a puzzle-like charm to it + Whimsical soundtrack and vibrant character models Cons -Overall structure feels quite aimless and is very disjointed because of the newly added day/night cycle - Getting certain alchemy recipes and ingredients can be needlessly tedious - Environments look awful and are really not acceptable on PS4 - Odd steps back with combat and gameplay interface - Wholly forgettable characters and storytelling Overall Score: 5.5 (out of 10) Average Though Atelier games have a tendency for distinguish themselves amongst many tried and true Japanese RPGs. Atelier Sophie, however, may very well be the least noteworthy and forgettable title in recent memory to bear the Atelier name. Disclosure: This game was reviewed using downloadable PS4 code provided by the publisher.
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