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  1. barrel

    Review: Valkyria Chronicles 4

    Developer: Sega Publisher: Sega Platform: PS4, Switch, and PC Release Date: September 25, 2018 ESRB: T for Teen As beloved as the original PS3 title Valkyria Chronicles has been, the series has since struggled to recapture the base of its former appeal. From smaller-scale PSP sequels, one of which remains unlocalized, to a spin-off that probably should not have existed in the first place, it was easy to draw the conclusion that the series was going to go out with an immensely disappointing whimper rather than a satisfying bang. Yet, Sega decided to bring out the big guns by recently announcing Valkyria Chronicles 4 on consoles as if the series' missteps had never happened. Revitalizing not only the captivating sketch-like art direction, the series also brings back its unique take on the part turn-based/part real-time militaristic action at a large scope without the limitations of underpowered Sony handhelds. If that was not enough to bolster the fandom morale once more, Sega has beaten the nearly impossible odds by leading Valkyria Chronicles 4 towards a victory so grand that it surpasses even the original. That may have sounded like a bold claim (because it is), but Valkyria Chronicles 4 takes an active command to prove its remarkable capability on a gameplay front. It is much more willing to treat players old and new like a skillful commander rather than an untrained cadet early on without being too daunting or heavy-handed. From a gameplay perspective, it only takes a couple missions before it reestablishes most returning mechanics and classes from the original before moving onto entirely new ones. One new addition is the incredibly welcome unit grenadier. Essentially, grenadiers are extremely powerful long-range units that can easily knock foes out of cover or destroy turrets/pillboxes at a safe range. However, to function properly they require more nimble units like scouts to serve as spotters so they can pick off problem targets without their severe lack of mobility holding them back. Even old units bring a freshened up mix to encounters, such as Engineers now being able to revive units mid-battle or assemble makeshift ladders to gain a different means of approach to a particular stage. There is a ton of care placed into just about every tweaked gameplay mechanic or distinct level. It is clear that Sega learned a lot while remastering the original game on PS4 a couple years ago. A lot of the old AI exploits or dirty tricks (like scout rushing) are mostly gone and the tactical options are greatly increased as it progresses. One mission will have the player take out descending paratroopers/buying time to protect an out of commission vehicle at the same time while another totally different stage is about helping a friend cheat on a target practice test behind the scenes. Admittedly, though, there are a few missions that seem to be made with enjoyable gameplay variety in mind first (rather than actually being logically plausible), like firing sniper bullets at wooden signs to wordlessly (and perfectly) coordinate an ally mortar strike, so some suspension of disbelief is required. Let there be no doubt, however, that there is a serious emphasis on storytelling in Valkyria Chronicles 4. Previous titles in the series would delve into uncomfortable subject matter with surprising tact (namely the original), like the racism allegories involving "Darcsens", but rarely dipped above a PG-rating vibe regarding the overall storytelling or particularly nuanced characters. In sharp contrast, the fourth main entry is much more willing to challenge both its characters and storytelling. The most impressive narrative feat of Valkyria Chronicles 4 is how it develops its characters. As likable of a goofball as Welkin Gunther was, he and most other older characters rarely changed beyond their initial first impressions. That is very much not the case with the characters of 4 to the point where it is quite possible to dislike a certain character early in (Raz) & totally feel the complete opposite way about them by the end because of how much they change and mature (also Raz). A similar level of respect towards development was even placed upon the many non-main story playable units. It is not simply encouraged to keep them alive to prevent a Fire Emblem-ish permadeath, but also because there are some really endearing optional "Squad Stories" chapters that unlock if certain allies fight alongside each other long enough and is a smart incentive to change things up. But perhaps the biggest means of change comes from the huge shifts regarding the main story's narrative tone. Early on, it has a lighthearted pace that is generally in line with Valkyria of the past, if not a little more juvenile due to a "friendly butt-tap between dudes!" scene, yet the latter half has story elements that are grim in a way that is almost unprecedented for the series. Despite not always being elegant in its execution it is as a whole much more grounded than earlier games when it comes to the storytelling. There is a greater emphasis on the mortality of its cast and the horrors/moral ambiguity during wartime that works much more often than it does not (complemented by some excellent English voice work)... even if aspects like main character Claude's ability to predict changes in weather veer into supernatural territory with their unbelievable accuracy. Outside of storytelling, Valkyria Chronicles 4 is very much an iterative game, which is perhaps its biggest detriment for those expecting more sweeping changes. Sure, the clever mission variety is really impressive, or how it smartly cherry picks features from Valkyria Chronicles 2 & 3 (that are barely referenced otherwise) like the ability to move multiple units at once, and it is even paced more briskly than prior games. Ultimately, though, it still operates within a very familiar overall framework in terms of leveling up units/tanks, gaining new weapons/skills, to how it utilizes the presentation (it is the same decade-old engine, after all) and the many re-used orchestral pieces. All things considered, though, these are minor nitpicks to an experience that otherwise more than satisfies what fans adore from the series, especially regarding the much more finely tuned and already excellent gameplay has become. After many pleadings for a proper, fully-fledged Valkyria Chronicles sequel went ignored for years, it is hard to believe that the series would ever regain proper footing. But, here we are, a decade later, and Sega yet again took a nearly Sonic Mania-styled approach by being keenly aware of what fans wanted through stylish visuals and extremely satisfying/varied tactical gameplay, yet also reminding many fans why they loved the franchise in the first place in terms of spirit. Valkyria Chronicles 4 is a series return to form in the truest sense. Even with certain creaks in age -- mostly due to playing it a little too faithful to the first incarnation -- Valkyria Chronicles 4 is mitigated by not only meeting the lofty expectations from veterans but even going as far as to exceed their prior accomplishments in the series as the potential best entry as a whole. Pros + Completely nails what made people love the original Valkyria Chronicles so much from strategic, varied level design to the likable cast of characters + Paced more briskly than earlier iterations from storytelling to requiring next to no actual grinding + The Grenadier class is a great new addition to battle and the title also sports many welcome mechanical changes + Strong English localization that breaths nuance even characters that may not seem to have much of it initially (including the surprisingly charming optional "Squad Stories") Cons - The visuals/music are a little too faithful to the original Valkyria Chronicles, as it is very clearly using the same engine/most of the soundtrack from nearly ten years ago, making it feel somewhat antiquated - Some huge narrative tonal shifts in the storytelling that can be rather odd at times, especially in its darker moments Overall Score: 9 (out of 10) Excellent Valkyria Chronicles 4 successfully reignites not just the endearing spirit and thoroughly engaging tactical gameplay the series is known for but excels in such a way that surpasses even the most beloved of its predecessors as a game Disclosure: This game was reviewed using downloadable PS4 code provided by the publisher.
  2. This is not a drill. REPEAT, this is not a drill! SEGA's long-awaited Valkyria Chronicles 4 is finally set to release in late September! The first true sequel in the series since 2011, Valkyria Chronicles 4 is set in the same time period as the first game, but features an all-new cast as they brave the realities of war. Once again, the BLiTZ battle system makes its return, offering a mix of turn-based strategy, RPG, and real-time third-person shooter elements. You'll also be introduced to new additions such as the Grenadier class, offensive/defensive battleship support options, the chance for units to take a "Last Stand" action before their death, and much more. And, of course, Hitoshi Sakimoto (Final Fantasy Tactics, Final Fantasy XII), makes his grand return here with a sweeping orchestral score for the fourth installment. Valkyria Chronicles is set to launch with two different versions at retail. One is the standard "Launch" version, which contains a Ragnarok (the adorable medic doggo) controller skin for whatever platform you chose, as well as the game itself. The other is the "Memoirs from Battle" Premium Edition ($99), which contains the following: Vinyl statue of the "Hafen" tank "Claude's Travel Journal" 100-paged themed artbook Two DLC adventures featuring Squad 7 characters (offers over 3 hours of content across 4 exclusive story missions and fully-voiced cutscenes) Valkyria Chronicles 4 is slated to release digitally and via retail on September 25 on PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, and PC via Steam. Source: Press Release Will you be getting the game on launch? If so, which version will you get? Let us know in the comments below!
  3. Developer: Nippon Ichi Software Publisher: NIS America Platform: PS4 Release Date: October 6, 2015 ESRB: T for Teen After more than ten years since its initial debut it is very likely that most people know where they stand with Nippon Ichi Software's Disgaea series. The bizarre over-the-top antics of their main characters, near-endless item world grind, and 9999 level caps (with even higher damage counts) have helped cultivate its strong strategy-RPG following. That said, it is also apparent that the series has lost its vigor in many eyes as well. It has had its up and downs, from storytelling to gameplay mechanics, and most fans would probably have difficulty articulating why one entry is truly better than another beyond their first impressions. Generally speaking, however, 2013's very safe retread that was Disgaea D2: A Brighter Darkness was not the answer to renew interest for many despite the return of fan-favorite characters. But with new PS4 hardware it seems like NIS has to taken confidence in a proper numbered installment once more with Disgaea 5: Alliance of Vengeance. Does its less safe rebellion prove fruitful or should its misplaced ambition be quelled? Rather than dealing with the life of “honor students” or an eccentric prinny instructor, Disgaea 5 has a more typical Japanese-RPG setup at the start with a universe enveloping threat. This threat, known the Demon Emperor Void Dark, is rapidly conquering netherworlds and increasing The Lost army along with it. The less typical motivations occur by mere happenstance when the temptress overlord, Seraphina, is saved by a mysterious blue-haired demon Killia whom single-handedly takes down a battalion of The Lost. Instead of feeling indebted to Killia, however, Seraphina decides to follow him with the intention to manipulating his power for her revenge against Void Dark. Revenge is hardly a subtle theme in Disgaea 5 if the title didn“t already give that away. Narrative-wise it will seem like the only driving force for most of the cast making the first half of it honestly quite slow, in addition to its early story parallels to Disgaea 4. What is surprising is how it actually breaks past its plodding start significantly with a more engaging second-half. The overall character development -- specifically for its lead cast -- ends up being surprisingly heartfelt, especially when compared to previous Disgaea games. For instance, the giant yellow prinny riding Usalia -- whom seems little more than mascot fodder at first glance -- ends up having a surprisingly grim backstory, and seeing her grow past that is done well. Though the game develops its characters better than you would expect, the main story does ends up being rather predictable as a whole. Where the most enthusiasm comes across is undoubtedly through its dense strategy-RPG gameplay. The mayhem of exponentially leveling up, diving into the item world, tossing allies across terrain, and smartly using geo panels are certainly all there and then some. However, the upfront new additions to the series come in the form of new classes, revenge mechanic, quest system, and several more quirky unlocks buried for more studious players. The most substantial to combat is probably the aptly named "revenge" gauge that increases when ally characters get hurt or killed and applies to enemies as well. When the gauge is maxed characters get a big combat advantage with a 100% critical rate, drastically lower skill cost, and lessened overall damage. In addition to this bonus, "overlord" characters in the story get access to unique skills called "Overloads". For example, Seraphina can charm all men characters to attack their own allies for a turn or Zeroken can create four duplicates of himself to use for several turns with the use of Overload. It is a cool new mechanic that can easily turn the tide of battle... or make certain boss characters quite menacing. Disgaea 5 does more than add a few mechanics and calls it a day. Sure, many appreciated refinements come from Disgaea D2 like cheat shop which allows you to drastically manipulate experience progression or class mechanics that makes strengthening a character's base stats far less grindy. Not only that, though, as Disgaea 5 also cherry-picks many of the previous entries best mechanics and then improves upon them with its own flair to it. Similar to Disgaea 3's classroom system, you can create different groups of characters to wildly different perks in Disgaea 5's. Squads require for less micromanaging than previous games despite their perks being great. You can recruit new characters through "interrogations", get significant experience/stat perks, use of unique squad only skills in combat. or the more absurd quirks in the hub world like assigning a curry cook or being able to punch characters... because, why not? The depth to Disgaea 5 is just crazy even for the most minute concepts. Probably the only real slight against the new additions is the necessity of quests. In the matter of fairness, they are generally inoffensive with the tasks and the rewards they unlock. The problem with quests is when it comes to unlocking specific characters. Though getting new human classes is more comprehensive (and actually explained) compared to previous games it is obtaining certain monster classes can be feel more restrictive than previous games since they require specific items that may be more luck based to obtain than they should be. Another issue is that Disgaea 5 goes overzealous with the DLC. It is not surprising because it is standard practice for the past few Disgaea console releases but after playing so much Disgaea 4: A Promise Revisited on Vita last year one can't help but feel short changed when it comes to post-game stuff to work towards due to DLC segmentation. Despite its shortcomings, a lot of the Disgaea charm is certainly still intact with its presentation with the fifth. Questionable English dub quality not withstanding, Tenpei Saito's brings his goofy but whimsical music style and jazzy melodies to complement much of the game's setting. The music does unfortunately lack an insanely catchy hub theme like Extreme Outlaw King or Arcadian Vampire even though it has a good opening theme. Visually, Disgaea 5 has not seen much of an upgrade over Disgaea 4 but the 3D sprite-work is still quite a treat. The many extremely cool-looking attacks are still as crazy but fun to watch as ever, even if the blocky 3D backgrounds serve as a noticeable contrast at times. With the transition to new hardware one can certainly be weary if formally loved franchises can make it safely. Admittedly, Disgaea 5: Alliance of Vengeance does absolutely nothing to push PS4 hardware in the slightest, but what it does is make pretty much unquestionably the best actual game in the series. There is an insane of gameplay depth, smart additions, and retains most of the charm of the series. Fans will certainly stake their own claim on its story aspects, especially for how plodding and predictable it is at times, but -- like a lot of Disgaea 5: Alliance of Vengeace -- it has a lot more heart than you'd expect for a series that should be all too familiar by now. Pros + Cherry picks most of the series best gameplay mechanics and adds cool new ones + Charming sprite work and soundtrack + Develops its main characters better than previous Disgaea games + Tons of strategy-RPG depth Cons - New quest and character recruiting structure can feel limiting compared to previous games - Story is rather slow for the first half and quite predictable overall Overall Score: 8.5 (out of 10) Great Disgaea 5: Alliance of Vengeance undoubtedly bests its predecessors as a strategy-RPG but its quirks can bring contention to its storytelling and endgame content. Regardless, there is little doubt is my mind that Disgaea fans or even curious strategy-RPG fans should more than keep their eye on what is one of the very best RPGs on PS4. Disclosure: This game was reviewed using downloadable PS4 code provided by the publisher.
  4. Developer: Toybox Inc. Publisher: Aksys Games Platforms: PS Vita, PS3 Release Date: March 10, 2015 ESRB: T for Teen Note: This review is based on the Vita version of the game I feel like we don“t see very many games focused around ghosts too often—especially outside of the horror genre—so I was pretty excited when I discovered Tokyo Twilight Ghost Hunters. And even better, it“s a visual novel (one of my favorite genres)! Basically, you“re a high school transfer student that happens to get roped into a ghost hunting organization called Gate Keepers—and that“s pretty much it. Each chapter of Tokyo Twilight Ghost Hunters acts as its own episode where you and Gate Keepers take on exorcism jobs, and while there is an overarching plot, it“s not very deep or fascinating. The characters don“t really bring justice to Tokyo Twilight Ghost Hunters either. They“re all terribly shallow and trope-y. I didn“t end up caring for anyone throughout the game, and that“s an extremely rare thing to happen for me. I“d say the only redeeming thing about the characters in Tokyo Twilight Ghost Hunters is the art. It“s pretty and I admire the style, but even then, it“s sort of squandered by wonky animations. One very odd design choice in the visual novel portion of Tokyo Twilight Ghost Hunters is this wheel that has icons to represent which action you“d like to perform at certain points. Such icons include a heart or handshake, which then leads to more icons like an eye or mouth. You are never given an explanation as to what any of these icons do (it“s not even in the manual). Thus, you are left to guess which to pick at that moment, and more often than not, you will be given a weirded-out reply by whomever you“re conversing with. I assume by magically choosing the correct actions throughout Tokyo Twilight Ghost Hunters, you achieve special endings with certain characters. But like I mentioned earlier, I couldn“t care less about the characters or plot. Well… Tokyo Twilight Ghost Hunters is only half a visual novel, anyway. Despite how much Aksys seems to be pushing it as a visual novel, Tokyo Twilight Ghost Hunters is actually half SRPG as well. I would even go as far to say that this game spends more time focusing on the battling portions over the visual novel ones. Usually strategy intimidates me, but I was actually eager to jump in and enjoy learning how to play such a game this time. It couldn“t possibly be too difficult or confusing, right? Maybe it“s even fun and would help save this title! Unfortunately, I was horribly wrong. Although Tokyo Twilight Ghost Hunters does appear to be an SRPG, battling relies more on luck than anything else. Battling takes place on a grid, with arrows representing your team members and various icons representing other elements such as traps and ghosts. Traps can be set before battle and so forth, but all that doesn“t matter too much in the long run. Most of the time, you“ll be chasing ghosts around. This is mostly due to them being able to move and attack before you“re even able to get your own hits in. The amount of randomness in play really dampens whatever strategy that Tokyo Twilight Ghost Hunters has to offer. Even worse, Tokyo Twilight Ghost Hunters pretty much requires you to grind with extra missions in order to successfully beat the main story ones. It“s incredibly frustrating to be forced to trudge through even more of these horrible battles just to be able to experience more mediocre story segments. I wanted to like Tokyo Twilight Ghost Hunters—I really did. I gave it a chance, but was sorely disappointed with everything about it. Much better visual novels can easily be found elsewhere—and without having to deal with poor gameplay at that. SRPG enthusiasts might find the game's battle segments somewhat intriguing, but only if you don“t mind the huge luck factor involved. Either way, it“s probably best that you don“t waste your time with Tokyo Twilight Ghost Hunters. Pros + Very lovely artwork Cons - Confusing battle system that relies mostly on luck/randomness - Dull story Overall Score: 3 (out of 10) Poor Tokyo Twilight Ghost Hunters offers something extremely promising, but squanders it in every way possible. Stay away from this ghastly mess if you can. Disclosure: This game was reviewed using downloadable PS Vita code provided by the publisher.
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    From the album: The Banner Saga

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    From the album: The Banner Saga

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    From the album: The Banner Saga

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    From the album: The Banner Saga

  9. barrel

    Review: The Guided Fate Paradox

    Developer: Nippon Ichi Publisher: NIS America Platform: PS3 Release Date: November 5, 2013 ESRB: T for Teen A download code was provided by the publisher for this review As a big fan of turn-based Strategy-RPGs, one of my favorite things about gaming in 2013 is how the sub-genre has proven that there is an actual audience for it. Fire Emblem: Awakening hit roughly 400,000 units earlier this year, and companies like Nippon Ichi (or NIS) are able to craft a follow-up to their most highly-regarded SRPG, Disgaea: Hour of Darkness, with the recent release of Disgaea D2: A Brighter Darkness. Heck, even other niche subgenres, like roguelikes, have had their time to shine this year with surprise hits like Rogue Legacy. Nippon Ichi made a bold attempt by trying to culminate the appeal of both of roguelikes and SRPGs with their newest IP: The Guided Fate Paradox. Should this curious new IP from Nippon Ichi be left in the shadow of the recent and more widely-adored older brother Disgaea D2, or does it deserve to, as the main protagonist would say: "Guide your fate to a revolution!" by playing it? The story of The Guided Fate Paradox focuses on Renya, a normal high school student who makes it quite apparent that he has terrible luck at winning lotteries of any sort. Despite this, at a local mall he is dragged aside by a cute girl who looks like an angel (and actually is) by the name of Lilliel to participate in the “lottery machine of destiny”. The prize? Becoming “God," of course, which Renya just so happens to win against all odds. Upon obtaining his new job title he is gently whisked to Celestia (the Nippon-Ichi equivalent of Heaven), and is immediately forced to deign in various work in Celestia. Even so, the grand prize of being “God” is anything but fun and games, as he must help fulfill the wishes of many believers at any cost through various taxing ordeals, otherwise he is threatened to be ”consumed“ for unknown reasons. Common for NIS stuff, the narrative definitely goes into strange tangents as Renya tries to guide believers' wishes throughout the story: like viewing the tale of Cinderella through a very different perspective to even helping a weakling zombie build up their self-esteem. All are but a few tasks that the newly apprised “God” will tackle throughout each narrative act. Contrary to the expected Nippon Ichi silliness, though, the narrative does blend its more serious storytelling in well too as it progresses, which I frankly haven“t seen since the likes of Soul Nomad & The World Eaters. Honestly, I usually feel like most NIS game stories tend to be obsessed with simply chasing the next over-the-top, fourth wall breaking joke, especially recent Disgaea stuff, and Guided Fate tones it down by having a more focused narrative. There is narrative intrigue that is built up throughout and it utilizes some surprisingly dark themes, but is also rather aware to not take itself too seriously with its frequent uses of humor. While I don“t think it quite hits the narrative strides of something like Soul Nomad does in the long-run, since it falls on some narrative tropes and feels rather bloated with exposition at times, but it“s still a refreshing change in tone from more recent Nippon-Ichi RPGs. Despite having quite a different setting and overall tone, the gameplay of The Guided Fate Paradox is very much a spiritual successor to Z.H.P: Unlosing Ranger VS Darkdeath Evilman (yes, that is the real name) on the PSP, but it expands Z.H.P.'s gameplay structure quite a bit. Much like that game, the best way to describe The Guided Fate Paradox's gameplay is that of a roguelike with the mindset and strategic options of a turn-based SRPG. Admittedly, I'm generally not enamored by roguelikes nowadays, mainly because there often is no sense of persistence and a simple RNG (random number generator) formula can make whatever endeavors you attempted to achieve a waste of time or pretty much outright impossible. The Guided Fate Paradox fixes both of those personal complaints with its gameplay structure but also brings the improvisation that many roguelikes have with their gameplay. To train the fledgling deity, Renya is put to the test in the "Fate Revolution Circuit", a highly-advanced piece of machinery that streamlines the wish-granting procedure while also making him stronger in the process. By going through various procedurally generated dungeons and destroying aberrations (monsters), Renya works step by step to guide the believer's wish. While the dungeons themselves are randomly created, they all have a different theme for each narrative chapter: like one where Renya must traverse via a raft and manipulate water levels to move on, to even a scrolling stage that is being devoured by fog, which hurts the player but also strengthens monsters if they touch it, encouraging them to be mobile but also being aggressive when killing foes. If there is one thing I really respect about this game, it's how much it tries to change things up with its gameplay and mechanics: like boss encounters with unique strategies to creative battle scenarios. For example, one early game fight has Renya essentially participate in a large scale tower-defense battle: firing cannons to hit enemies from afar, knocking down ladders, or personally dealing with enemies, to push-back an onslaught of enemy forces. Did I mention this is just a one-time thing? Of course, Renya is anything but an invincible deity right from the get-go, and because of this he must get stronger through the use of the Fate Revolution Circuit. Also, in true roguelike fashion, Renya starts every dungeon at level one, and if he dies he loses all of the items he had on him as well as half of his money. Fret not though, like I mentioned, there is consistent progress here much like in Z.H.P, or a more recent and much more loose comparison, Rogue Legacy. Even though the consequences of dying are sort of brutal, no effort when dungeon-crawling is wasted because everything contributes to Renya getting stronger. Whether or not Renya successfully completes a dungeon, miserably dies, or wisely escapes uses an "Exit" item when overwhelmed, Renya gets an increase to his "total level" which raises all of his base stats based on how much progress he made. In addition, there is also the "Divinigram", which is also used to further compound Renya's, or any of the Angels who accompany him, stats as well as making them more resilient to status ailments, strengthening parts of their body (to directly correspond with making equipment more powerful), stronger against certain foes, and more. Both the "Divinigram" and the "Burst" mechanics play off each other in an integral way. As Renya, or his angel allies, continue to progress in dungeons, their equipment gets stronger the more often they use it, that is up until it "Bursts." The burst mechanic reverts equipment to its default stats, unless it is strengthened at the Blacksmith, so it takes longer to reach the "Burst" status, but you also receive a stat tile piece to place on the "Divinigram" based on the equipment type. The Divinigram is sort of like a much more deep/versatile version of FFX's Sphere grid, where you place down specific stat tiles, whether it be defense, attack, speed(/evasion), or hit (%), which you gain from Bursts, among a large board. To add an extra layer of depth, the player can manipulate "god energy" on the Divinigram which flows through the stat panels and can be used to boost individual attributes based on the "holy artifacts" on the the Divinigram. It sounds really complicated, but really, it just means you should actively use different pieces of equipment until they Burst to reap new panels to further increase Renya's or the angel's stats and, can/should, organize them in a certain way so they can get even stronger beyond that. Guided Fate also eases you into these mechanics gradually, so your brain doesn't explode learning how these nuances work, or leave you to fend for yourself, as with many other NIS RPGs. In general, It's a very rewarding system that makes room for a lot of customization and makes this game quite a bit more approachable than most other NIS properties, and is much less deliberately grindy as well because of it. If I have one real complaint towards The Guided Fate Paradox, it is probably in its replay value in comparison to other NIS properties. The title certainly has more to work towards than most RPGs in the long-run, with a few very challenging and time-consuming optional dungeons to take on and some neat Easter eggs for NIS fans to notice too, but unlike other NIS stuff it doesn't feel like you've barely scratched the surface after beating the main story. The narrative also has a pretty concrete (and admittedly, sort of underwhelming) singular ending, meaning there is no post-game (it does have new-game-plus where you maintain your progress, though), and it doesn't have divergent narrative paths as seen with titles like Soul Nomad. Even if I enjoyed the game a lot, and will continue to chip away at the optional content, it is a little disappointing considering how I wish there was a bit more incentive to go crazy with stat grinding late-game. As I work towards it, maybe I can hope for an eventual enhanced Vita port with more post-game content, like recent Disgaea ports, considering how the game was originally intended to be released on that system? To my surprise, the usual Tenpei Sato does not reprise his music compositional role in what seems like every NIS title; instead we get to see the work of a Japanese Gothic rock band by the name of Yosei Teikoku, which some anime fans may recognize their work when doing the first opening song for Mirai Nikki (or Future Diary). Personally, I was really caught off guard by the sheer variety and quality of the overall soundtrack, which really played on my expectations of what I“d expect it to be, even after being vaguely familiar with the band's previous work. Sure, there are some intense, J-Rock tracks for some specific battle themes but there is even more songs that very much atmospheric and complements game's heavenly, and at times hellish, setting. Another pleasant surprise I found was with the English dub of the game, which I found myself much preferring over the Japanese counterpart. Also, to my surprise, the dub was full of voice actors I didn't recognize, considering how I'm more well-versed than I should be with them. In general, the audio design is great in The Guided Fate Paradox, especially on the musical front. If you asked me recently about how I felt about Nippon Ichi games, I'd be hesitant to say I am a big fan their products, despite playing most of their localized properties and enjoying titles like Disgaea 4, Soul Nomad, and Z.H.P. If you asked me how I felt about the company after playing The Guided Fate Paradox, however, I would sing a very different and much more positive overall tune towards them. Guided Fate is a constantly rewarding, deep, challenging, and intriguing mix of both SRPG and roguelike elements on the PS3. Even in a year where fans of SRPGs were graced by the excellent Fire Emblem: Awakening, or that of roguelikes with Rogue Lagacy, The Guided Fate Paradox ascends above as not only my favorite NIS title, but also my personal favorite example of both SRPG and roguelike this year with its fantastic gameplay hybrid. Pros: + Intriguing narrative that blends humor and serious storytelling well + Varied dungeon design with some creative boss fights + Great soundtrack and solid English dub + Strategic and challenging gameplay that constantly encourages the player to change things up + Deep with RPG customization that is constantly rewarding Cons: - Story scenes are occasionally a bit bloated with exposition with some predictable plot points - Doesn“t quite have the replay value of other NIS SRPGs Overall Score: 9 (out of 10) Fantastic The Guided Fate Paradox expertly blends both Strategy-RPG and roguelike into one very finely tuned algorithm that should more than satiate fans of either.
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    The Guided Fate Paradox

    From the album: The Guided Fate Paradox

    © http://adala-news

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    From the album: The Guided Fate Paradox

    © http://nisamerica.com/

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    From the album: The Guided Fate Paradox

    © http://nisamerica.com/

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    From the album: The Guided Fate Paradox

    © http://nisamerica.com/

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    From the album: The Guided Fate Paradox

    © http://nisamerica.com/

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    From the album: The Guided Fate Paradox

    © http://nisamerica.com/

  16. Project X Zone is one of those games that many thought would never leave Japan. Thanks to Namco Bandai taking care of publishing in North America, however, 3DS owners will get to play the Capcom/Sega/Namco Bandai SRPG collaboration this summer. On top of releasing a new trailer today, which you can view below, Namco Bandai also announced that all copies of Project X Zone will be upgraded to a "limited edition." This limited edition includes a mini-art book, poster, and music CD. Project X Zone releases exclusively for 3DS on June 25th in NA and July 5th in Europe (no word yet if Europeans will also be receiving this limited edition).
  17. Fire Emblem: Awakening for the Nintendo 3DS will be hitting American store shelves in just a few days, and a new trailer has just been released that shows what to expect from the game in terms of its leveling system, including how characters advance their skills and change classes. This "character progression" trailer won't teach advanced players too many new things, but it certainly is helpful for newcomers. If you ARE an advanced player, though, it's still interesting to watch, and continues to show just how good the game looks: As you can see from this trailer, characters gain experience in battle and level up, improving their stats in the process. Characters will also improve their skills with certain weapons, making them more useful in battle. And once a character reaches level 10, they are able to use a Master Seal to advance from their base class to a better one. There is also an item known as the Second Seal, which will allow players to change a character's base class. Something else this trailer shows is the fact that characters all play their own specific role in battles. For example, some characters are purely fighters and have to rely on items to heal themselves with, while other characters, such as a cleric, can only perform healing moves, making them unable to attack enemies. Characters also have different weaknesses, which enemies are certainly aware of and will not hesitate to take advantage of. People dying to get their hands on this game need not wait long, as Fire Emblem: Awakening will be hitting shores on February 4th. If you're a Fire Emblem fan, how excited are you for this game? And if you haven't played any of these games before, will this one be your entry point?
  18. Marcus Estrada

    Disgaea 1 and 2 Making Way to PSN

    If you have never played 2003's Disgaea: Hour of Darkness, then you're not alone. Although the game was quite loved, it initially squeaked by with a small print run. Eventually, it became less rare but it has been years since then. Similarly, Disgaea 2: Cursed Memories in 2006 had a larger audience, but still skipped some SRPG radars. If you just never got around to finding a copy then NIS is set to make your day. They have announced that both the first and second games in the series are coming to PSN. Although both games have had ports to various systems such as PSP and DS, this may be a way some prefer to nab them. Disgaea: Hour of Darkness will be available on this Tuesday (tomorrow!). Then you'll be given a lone week to push through the game as Disgaea 2 will arrive the following week on the 22nd. Both PS2 Classics are priced at $10. Do you like the Disgaea series?
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    xcom screen

    From the album: Barrel's storage of pics

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