Friday, September 19, 2014

Warriors Orochi 3 Ultimate (PS3) Review

The original Warriors Orochi 3 came out two years ago.  Tecmo Koei recently released an updated Ultimate version, which boasts new levels and a few additional characters.  However, the graphics don't seem upgraded as the character portraits seem grainy and there is still a lot of pop-in for the enemy troops.  The rest of the additions are pretty solid though.

The story follows from the second game, but it's not really required to have played it in order to understand what's going on.  Basically, the heroes of Dynasty Warriors and Samurai Warriors were transported to another world where they coexist and defeat an evil entity called Orochi.  A while after their victory, this world is threatened by the appearance of a multi-headed hydra.  You start at the three surviving heroes' assault on the monster.  It doesn't go so well, and you end up being saved by one of the mystics.  Her name is Kaguya, and her power allows you to travel through time to recruit all of the other Warriors characters and have a chance at beating the hydra.

I like the presentation of the story.  It's a nice unified plot, and has a good excuse for so many levels.  You can only jump to places that a recruited character has been, so as you gain more people, you also open up more levels.  Some stages have a character die.  Later you will unlock special stages that allow you to change their fate, and recruit them to your cause.  While not the deepest or best plot I've ever seen, the story mode is fun and well done.  There's also several guest characters from other franchises, like Ninja Gaiden and Bladestorm.  For the Ultimate edition, they even added Sterk from Atelier Rorona and Sophitia from Soul Calibur, among others.  It's a great excuse to put others in a fun hack and slash game, and I approve.

The core fighting is pretty much the same as Dynasty and Samurai Warriors.  You get a regular attack and a charge attack that changes depending on what point in the combo you use it.  There's also a special attack that takes some of your musou meter to use.  Some are attacks, while others are power-ups or something similar.  Instead of the two weapon system from the later Dynasty Warriors games (which came out after the original Orochi 3), you have 3 characters that you can switch between.

One new feature in this system is the ability to summon the other two to fight alongside you.  While they won't recover health and musou when deployed like this, they can attack enemies and allow you to use your multi-person musou attack.  However, my favorite improvement is the Scroll of Enlightenment.  Picking one up gives a temporary buff where any enemy killed gives an experience scroll.  You get a ton of experience this way and it's a lot of fun to see so many scrolls and so many level ups happen so quickly.  The only problem I have is I see no indication of how long it lasts.  Getting a lot of levels helps with the other new addition, "promoting".  Similar to other games, this allows you to start a max level character over at level 1, but with higher stats and more skill slots.  You can do it a maximum of 10 times per officer and end up with ridiculously overpowered characters.

Besides the story mode mentioned above, there are three other modes.  The first one I'll talk about is Duel mode.  It basically turns the game into a fighting game (kind of like the first Dynasty Warriors), where you will face off 3-vs-3.  You can also equip and use special cards that activate different abilities.  The mode isn't bad, but it's fairly uninteresting.  It's something you'll likely play once for the novelty of it, or a few times for the trophies.

There's also a battlefield edit mode, which allows you to change any completed battle by altering lines, enemies, allies and participating officers.  While it could be pretty fun, I'd rather have a more robust level creator.  I can rarely remember which battle took place where, since the levels are all corrupted by Orochi and end up looking similar (save the beach level), so starting by choosing a level to edit didn't help.  It's kind of fun to change lines and stuff, but it doesn't last.  If it were more open, like picking a field (and showing you the map), picking a troop type and selecting where officers went (and it would place the troops automatically), it would be a blast.  As it stands, it's another novelty that you might try once and then forget about.

The last mode is called Gauntlet.  You will start with 5 characters (there are some pre-selected or you can choose any you have unlocked), which cannot be changed until others are unlocked in this mode.  The stages have random "Dragon Portals" which must be activated, and do a variety of things, like summon enemies, heal you, or give items.  One of them will be the exit for the stage, which you must find to complete it.  As you kill enemies, they will get much stronger, and any named officers you defeat will be unlocked so you can use them in Gauntlet mode.  When you beat a stage, you get a crystal that can be used to unlock another stage.

Gauntlet mode is pretty fun, but the random nature can make it near impossible to complete stages.  I was able to beat the tutorial very easily, but it took me 3 or 4 tries to actually beat the first stage.  Enemy levels shoot up very quickly, so it become important to find the exit first, then get some experience, items and defeat enemy officers.  The biggest knock against the mode is the uneven difficulty.  It's fun, but can get downright brutal if you aren't lucky.  One piece of advice from my friend DTJAAAAM: get and use the formation skill that allows you to see where the exit is.  The mode will be much easier then.  Also, you can edit the colors of officers that you are using in Gauntlet mode, which is cool in any game.

There are a lot of stages in the original Orochi 3, and Ultimate about doubles the amount.  Since each battle takes about 10-20 minutes (more with loading, dialogue and preparations), I would say it's about 50 or so hours to do all of the story missions.  Add in the time for Gauntlet mode, and you will easily get your money's worth from the game.  You'll likely get some replay out of Gauntlet mode, since you're supposed to go through it multiple times to get all the good stuff.  If you are a trophy hunter, you will be in it for the long haul.  If you have a save file for the original Warriors Orochi 3, you can save yourself 20 or so hours, and jump into the new stuff with your leveled officers.

If you are a fan of Dynasty or Samurai Warriors (or even the upcoming Hyrule Warriors), then I'd easily recommend Warriors Orochi 3 Ultimate.  Even if you have played the original release, there is enough new content that I would still recommend picking up the game.  Some of the visuals look a bit grainy, but the game is fun and there are many an hour to be spent clearing the story.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Danganronpa 2: Goodbye Despair (Vita) Review

The first Danganronpa was a pleasant surprise.  It had a unique premise and I got sucked into the story.  Since I loved the first game, I was excited to see the sequel was also coming to the US, and sooner than I thought it would.  I was very eager to check it out and see if it could top the first game.

Although in a different setting, Danganronpa 2 has a flow and look very similar to the first.  You start in Daily Life until a murder is discovered.  Then the game enters Deadly Life, where you must investigate the scene(s) of the crime and collect evidence and testimony.  Afterwards, all survivors make their way to the Class Trial where you have to figure out who committed the crime and how.  Once the culprit has been found out and voted on, they will be brutally punished.  The concept of the game is still great.  As you go along and get to know the characters more, it can be painful to watch them drop one after another until the conclusion of the game.  Another nice touch is the UI colors (for dialogue boxes and such) will change color depending on the section of game you are in (Daily Life, investigation or trial).

First, I'll start with the positive changes.  The map is better and easier to navigate and understand.  While you can use it to fast travel, you actually get rewarded for walking to your destinations.  Taking steps, investigating things and talking to people will help you level up.  Your level will determine the maximum number of skills you can equip, so there's no reason not to get some.

Some of the other changes are just average, although that might sound scarier when you realize there was only one real positive change.  Anyway, you now have a Tamagatchi-like pet in your student handbook that you can give presents to and clean up after it.  After a certain number of steps, it will grow up into a different animal.  Once you take even more steps (and prevent it from dying) it will leave and give you some Monokuma coins and presents.  It's not really a bad thing, but it doesn't feel necessary, so it ends up being average.

They have also added hidden Monokumas around each chapter that you have to find.  Some are really well hidden, and each gives 10 Monokuma coins when you find them.  There's no real reason for them, except to give you something else to do/ miss as you make your way through the game, and a trophy or two.  One of the new games in the Trial section is okay as well.  Called "Logic Dive", you will race down a cylindrical field while gathering your thoughts.  At three separate parts, there will be a question that you choose an answer for by going to that side.  If you choose correctly, you will continue on.  If not, you fall off and are set back before the question so you can do it right.  It's not terrible, but it doesn't feel like it needs to be there.  It certainly makes Danganronpa 2 feel more "video game-y" than it did previously, if that's what you wanted from the series.

Now on to the changes or additions that I didn't like, and I'll start near the top of the list.  One of the new mini-games during the trial is called "Rebuttal Showdown".  It's a one on one argument, where you will cut down your opponent's statements.  Truth Bullets become Truth Blades and are still used for the same purpose.  A nice idea, since you will literally cut down their argument, but not good in execution.  Since you spend your time swiping or using the stick to cut their statements, you aren't paying attention to what they are saying.  Most comments take multiple swipes, so you might accidentally hit a key statement while trying to make headway.  Hitting a key statement basically sets you back the whole section, and is really annoying.  You need to use the correct Truth Blade on a key statement to end it.  If you remember the previous statement that it's hard to listen to what they are saying and you see the folly of this addition.  You'll have to figure out before they start which evidence you will likely need because you won't have time while it's going.  Ugh.

Hangman's Gambit returns with a new twist and is ironically named "Improved Hangman's Gambit".  instead of just picking the correct letters to spell out a word or phrase, you have to play a matching game.  Different letters will float across the screen and you have to match two of the same to make it bigger.  The bigger letters can be exploded (if you don't need them) or taken (if they are).  Big letters don't stick around very long, and will hurt you if they explode on their own.  If a letter touches a letter that isn't the same will also result in damage.  The word or phrase must also be spelled sequentially.  The whole order is random, so you can easily get screwed out of health if it wants to put a mismatch close together, or maybe not give you the first letter you need for a minute or so.  Not only does it make the no damage trophy way to difficult to get, it's also really annoying in general.  It's another change that I feel was to make the game feel more like a video game, and wasn't necessary since the first game was so good.  So despite the name, Hangman's Gambit was not improved at all.

The story for Danganronpa 2 takes longer than the first.  Thankfully, it didn't drag on, and the pacing was pretty good.  The game is also harder.  The trials seem more strict and it was more difficult for me to figure out what evidence they wanted presented where.  Some of the added difficulty comes from the new and updated mini-games mentioned above.  Overall, the story was pretty good, although not as good as the first, and it was harder to figure out "whodunnit" until close to the end.  Personally, I liked figuring it out sooner, as then I had an actual sense of accomplishment instead of just waiting for a twist.  While I can't go into specifics on the story, it did have some annoying parts and characters, but I cared about more of the characters than I did in the first game.

Like School mode in the previous game, there is an Island mode here.  It mostly allows you to clean up the trophies and skills while interacting with the characters and squeezing more playtime out of the game.  It's still fun, but the core game annoyed me enough that I didn't want to spend much extra time with it, which is the opposite of the first Danganronpa.  There's also a game where you play as Monomi and fight the Monobeasts, which is hinted at in the story.  The game is okay, but make sure you read the controls first.  There's no tutorial, and the game was pretty weird so it took me awhile to figure out what to do.  Like half of the stuff in the game, it's not bad, but doesn't feel like it needed to be added.

So, would I recommend the game?  If you really liked the first, and want more of the story, it is worth playing.  You might want to put the "action" difficulty down to make the newer mini-games less horrible.  The story isn't quite as good as the first, but I think the characters are better.  The additions feel like they wanted to make the game more video game-like than its predecessor, which I think was very unnecessary.  I really wanted to like it, but Danganronpa 2 was disappointing.  People looking to get into the series should stick with the first and enjoy that.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Akiba's Trip (Vita) Review

Akiba's Trip: Undead & Undressed follows the story of your protagonist and his friends as they fight to rid their beloved Akibahara from Synthesters, which are effectively man-made vampires.  The hero is turned into one at the outset of the story, and must use his new strength to stop the rest.  How do you stop a vampire?  Get sunlight on its skin.  So, you and a partner will fight enemies and ultimately strip off their clothes to expose them... to the sun.

Before the story starts, you will name and clothe your character.  At first, you don't really have many clothing options, but you will get plenty throughout the game.  Because of this, you will mostly be playing as a silent protagonist.  You do get to make numerous dialogue choices during the game, which affects who partners with you, the affection level of the others toward you, and even the ending you receive at the end of the game.  The ending you get will offer different unlocks, including player models that can be changed when starting a new game +.

Akiba's Trip is mission-based.  The story has you run to various areas of the map, usually fight some bad guys, then return for more dialog.  The areas can be pretty small, and there is loading as you travel between each one.  Thankfully, the map can be used to quick travel, saving you a lot of time.  The only real complaint I have about moving around everywhere is that you have to be careful not to run into others.  If you do, you bump into the person, making them yelp and both of you stumble for a bit.  It doesn't really hinder gameplay, but it is annoying, especially in the more cramped areas.

The fighting in the game is pretty unique, but has some resemblance to Clan of Champions.  There are three attacks, one for low, mid, and high, and each will damage clothing on the corresponding place.  You will only do damage to clothes, so there isn't much reason to keep hitting an exposed body part.  Once the durability of the clothing item is down, you can hold the button to attempt to rip it off.  If multiple articles of clothing are able to be ripped, you can chain strip with correct button presses and timing.  Chain strip enough and you can even activate a super move that will remove their underwear (don't worry, they will be covered in light)!  It's actually pretty fun and amusing to do so, plus it nets you underwear that you can equip.  As a nice touch, there is even a piece of equipment that changes what animations you do when tearing off clothes.

While combat is fun, it can get frustrating when fighting many enemies.  One on one fights are easy.  Two or three enemies is fairly manageable too, especially if you have a partner to even things out.  There are a few fights against four or more, which can get hard.  Enemies like to dodge a lot, and they can easily take advantage of you not targeting them, or when their friends get a hit in.  Targeting an enemy is automatic, which leads to its own frustrations.  Using counter attacks helps some, but it's no real substitute for having some kind of area of effect special attack.  Finding the weapon type that works the best for you will also help, as they each have strengths and weaknesses.  There are four kinds of weapons- fist, sword, heavy and long- and many variants within.  Weapons and clothes can all be maxed out at the damage/defense cap, so you can pick your favorites and not have to worry about it needing to be replaced.

The main quest of the game takes a few hours to complete, but there are a lot of side quests to help pad that out.  Usually, they are an excuse to beat up some more Synthesters, but there are occasional fetch quests or ones that involve the character's cellphone camera.  There are also several endings, at least 2 per girl, and multiple difficulties, so there are good excuses to run through the game a few times.  Plus, getting a girl's ending allows you to use their model for your main character when you start a new run through the story.  On the normal setting, the game isn't too hard, but can get frustrating at a few parts.  Usually it's when you get chain hit by a surrounding group, or when you are doing the sidequest to fight 48 enemies (there are two of these).

The trophies are pretty standard, with making your way through the game, doing side quests and collecting various pieces of equipment making the bulk of the list.  Of course there are some for beating the game on the different difficulties, too.  There's even one for collecting the flyers that some NPCs hand out.  It's neat that they put real stores in the game, and they even have ads for them on the loading screens.  You can turn them off if you want, but I liked seeing them.  For some reason, the ads didn't bother me, but it could be because they aren't ads I would ever see, since I don't live in Japan.  It was actually pretty cool to see them!

Akiba's Trip is a lot of fun.  Fights are silly and rewarding, even with the occasional frustration.  At first, I thought it was going to be more fan-service oriented, and that all the enemies were going to be women.  That isn't the case, as the game is very fair in its treatment of the different sexes.  There's also dual language support, so hopefully everyone can be happy.  If you like quirky games, fun action games, or even just a fresh take on hunting vampires, I would strongly suggest playing Akiba's Trip.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

New Video Content on my Youtube Channel

I'm glad to finally get some more video content for my YouTube Channel.  I still have a lot of unused Monster Hunter Tri videos that I could make, but those might be too old for people to care.  I also had a ton of Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate videos, with audio... but the stupid laptop had a bad hard drive and I ended up losing all of it.  I'm still a little bitter/sad/angry about it, since there's nothing I can do to get it back.  I guess it's just another thing to file against Sony.

Anyway, first up is my first Transformers video review, the Vehicon from the Transformers Prime line of toys.  After seeing some other people do reviews for the last few months, I got a webcam and decided to try it myself.  I have a few more already filmed but not edited for the next few weeks, too.  As much as I'd like to do more of the recent toys, I can't really get a lot of those, so my reviews will be a mix of older and newer ones.  The first few videos will be a bit rough as I become more comfortable doing them, so bear with me and I hope you enjoy them!

The other content I'm finally putting out is a "Let's Play" that I'm doing with my wife.  We've discussed doing them before, and which titles to do, and decided to start with Legend of Dragoon PS1 Classic.  It was on sale a few months ago, so I purchased the digital copy (I still have my physical copy somewhere) and thought it would be fun to replay it while recording ourselves.  While not quite as unknown as most of the games we enjoy, it's fun to bring some more exposure to an overlooked gem in the Playstation's RPG library.  I'm not sure if we will play through the whole game, but hopefully there's some interest in watching us play and talk about stuff.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Hyperdimension Neptunia Re;Birth1 (Vita) Review

Hyperdimension Neptunia Re;Birth 1 is a remake of the first Hyperdimension Neptunia game.  Not content with being just a port to the Vita, the game boasts a reworked story, guest appearances by later characters, and the battle system from the later games.  To me, changing the story is a mixed bag, since it was the one aspect that I wanted to experience in the first game.  It's a good thing for those that completed it, since they have something new to experience, but since most people skipped the first, they are the ones missing out.  Like all of the Neptunia games, the story is silly and has some great lines, and it was pretty enjoyable.

Sadly, a few of the characters in the original have not returned for various reasons (real world or otherwise).  To replace them, some of the characters from Victory have been added.  The upside is the DLC tickets I purchased for the first game aren't as much of a waste, since I won't be able to use them here.  The bigger upside is you actually get the other CPUs in your party at various points in the game.  Before, you had to do crazy long quest chains and raise their shares very high to get them.  It feels more natural to get them this way, since they fit better into the story and the overall quest of the game.  There are three characters that are DLC, and thankfully they are cheap.  As of this writing, they are only a dollar each, which is better than the previous games' prices for characters (about $3 each).  They aren't necessary, but fans of the series will probably like to purchase them.

The gameplay is more in-line with the sequels than the original Neptunia.  Battles are started by contacting a creature on the map, and then fought in a small area.  You can move in a circle around your starting location, and your attack area is a little box.  Different weapons and skills have different areas of effect, and it is very possible to hit multiple enemies with a single turn.  EX Finishers and EXE Drives make their return, allowing you damaging combo enders and super moves respectively.  It's a good system, because it encourages some strategy, like where to position your people, and which attacks to use when.  It's an improvement over the original game, simply because you can heal outside of battle.  Well, you can with items, and they are easy enough to afford.

Another addition to the game is the "Remake" system.  You will frequently get plans that, when developed, allow you change dungeons.  They can be added to the world map, have the harvest items change, or even add stronger enemies.  It's a nice system and easy to understand.  There was a similar thing with flags previously in the series, but this is much more fully realized, plus easier to use.  Several of the settings can be toggled off to meet your needs.  The plans can also add new items to the shops plus other bonuses, like having a 100% escape chance from battle.

Although, with this system it is possible to open up extra dungeons before you have a hope of defeating the enemies in them.  My biggest gripe with the game is the balance, and the aforementioned aspect doesn't help.  Bosses tended to be much, much stronger than the enemies in their dungeon.  While this makes sense, it was annoying to be able to easily beat every encounter in a dungeon, but still get wrecked by the boss.  Occasionally, there are even times where there is a back to back boss fight, where the second boss is significantly stronger than the first.  The difficulty balance of this entry into the series isn't quite as good as the previous ones.  The times I encountered something similar in them, it was much later in the game.

Sadly, the best way around this is to grind.  I ended up grinding in pretty much every dungeon, so I would have enough levels to beat the boss, have enough materials for plans, and be able to complete quests.  The grinding itself isn't so bad, but the necessity of it put me off.  When a boss or tough enemy didn't kill me, I kept on playing and enjoying the game.  The random difficulty spikes are bad, but once past them the game was fun.  So you will get a good amount of playtime from the game, but a chunk of that is because of all the grinding you need to do.  Either that, or save some time and use the remix option to make enemies weaker.  It seems to only affect their attack power, not their HP, but every little bit can help.

Hyperdimension Neptunia Re;Birth 1 does a really good job remaking the first game and fixing the biggest flaw it had (the no healing outside of battle).  While sadly the only way to experience the original story is with the original game, this one fits better into the later continuities, and is just as silly and funny as all the others.  The game is easier and more fun, but requires lots of grinding to make your way through the game.  At times, the difficulty spikes made me want to stop playing.  I'm glad I didn't, since the game is really engaging when I wasn't seeing the game over screen every 20 minutes.  Although you will see each dungeon map reused for other dungeons, the game is fun and fans of the Hyperdimension Neptunia series will enjoy it.  This also makes a great entry into the series, since it is a remake of the first game, and gives a good taste of the series as a whole.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Disgaea 4: A Promise Revisited (Vita) Review

As was the case with the previous Disgaeas, Disgaea 4 has made its way to handhelds, currently the Vita.  It brings some new improvements and the DLC while making it all portable.  The game looks great on the Vita's screen, although there were times where it was hard to see the field because there is only so much space and the text has to be readable.  Thankfully, most times you can minimize the clutter and it never hindered me, it was just a minor annoyance.  The audio sounds a little off, but I'm betting it's because of the Vita's built-in speakers.

Gameplay is similar to other Disgaeas.  Battles are all on a grid-based area, with your movement and attack ranges dictated in # of panels.  There are colored areas, called geopanels, that can have various effects if a geoblock is placed on it, which affects all panels of the same color.  Unlike the geosymbols from other Disgaea games, the blocks can be stood upon to also gain there effects.  Plus, there if a block of one color is thrown onto others, they will disappear, similar to puzzle games where you match the colors.  I really like these changes and hope they return in future games.  Old staples from the other games, like lifting, throwing and tower attacks are still present here.

The game controls really well on the Vita, with the only negative being the slowdown that occurs in the item world.  Floors with item generals are so big with so many effects that the system is trying hard to display them all.  Moving the cursor is noticeably slower, and using skills also makes everything look like it's in slow motion.  The touch screen functions aren't very plentiful, but they don't need to be.  What is there works fine, even if I rarely used it.

The biggest gripe I have with Disgaea 4: A Promise Revisited is the reliance on mana.  In the other titles, mana was used to pass bills in the senate (or version therein), make characters and reincarnate.  Now, almost everything seems to need it.  Want to learn a weapon skill or spell?  Need the mana for it.  Want to make that skill stronger?  Use mana for it.  I can't decide if I like powering up skills and spells with mana.  On one hand, it's great because it makes them noticeably stronger, and you can finally upgrade skills like Espoir painlessly.  On the other, it sucks to have to choose to power up a spell and increase its damage range, or save up for a new spell.

Because of the new system, you also don't get weapon proficiency.  I'm ok with this, since it makes it easier to switch weapons types if you have too many of a particular type.  However, then you need mana to buy the weapon skills.  To make it better, units will learn unique skills, which are awesome (and I hope they return in future games).  Overall, I'm torn by the system.  I like parts of the mana necessity, but not others.  I can't say it's an improvement, but it's not really worse, either.  While you do get a lot more mana in Disgaea 4 than previous games, the huge need of it isn't necessarily for the better.

The item world of course returns.  For the uninitiated, the item world allows you to enter any item or piece of equipment you own to power it up.  It makes a series of random dungeon floors that you have to traverse.  Every ten floors you get an option to exit for free, otherwise you need to use an item.  In addition, there is a feature called Charaworld.  It's like the item world, except you go into one of your characters to power them up.  Things that before were done from the senate, like increasing your movement panels or throw distance, are done in this way.  It's cool, but sadly this is the way you learn other spells and skills.  While I like the charaworld for its other functions, I vastly prefer the mentor/pupil system for learning skills.  Especially the one in Disgaea D2, since you could change them so easily.  Also, it does take awhile to get the charaworld, since you have to reincarnate and store 100 levels with a single person to get the bill for the senate to pass.

As in the other portable versions of Disgaea, there are added features to pull those repeat buyers back in.  First off is the cheat shop, found in D2, which, while not as robust as that game's one, is still great.  That could be why the mana wasn't as big a problem as I though it would be at the start.  All of the DLC characters and things are in the game as well, although you have to beat it to get access.  They even threw in two extra stories, Fuka and Desco's (ugh) and Valvatorez and Artina's backstory.  They are fun extras, but if you've played the PS3 game, it might not be enough to pull you back in.  Normally, these open up when the main game is completed, but there is a code to unlock them from the outset.

As with all the other Disgaeas, A Promise Revisited is long with lots to do.  I lost count how many hours I sank into just the main story so I could complete it (it was easily over 40).  I felt it went on too long though, considering they call the last four chapters "the final chapter".  The story was engaging and interesting, which helped push my through to the end.  A few of the battles in those chapters felt like filler battles to pad its length.  The other part I really didn't like was all the artificial difficulty.  Since they want you to grind and overpower your characters, many battles had odds completely stacked against you.  Large areas of ally damage or enemy boost were common, or setups where enemies would fuse and magichange to catapult their stats.  Many of those times could be countered with understanding how to work the system and change it in your favor.

A few battles, notably in the last two chapters, would make me roll my eyes with how cheap they were.  The real final boss is especially guilty, as it can move almost the entire field, attacks a large area, has jacked up stats, and gets a 10% stat boost for every enemy on the field.  Did I mention it also creates and enemy every turn?  Yeah, it's frustrating... but not impossible.  I wouldn't mind stuff like that for extra battles, but I don't like them while I'm just getting through the story.  Good tactics could overcome many of the one-sided levels, but there's always at least the option of grinding and using brute force to get through.

Disgaea 4: A Promise Revisited has a lot of content for your money.  If you like strategy RPGs or the Disgaea series, I definitely recommend picking it up.  If you have not played Disgaea 4 on the PS3 (me), then get this version instead, since it has several additions and improvements.  If you have played #4 before, there is some new content that you can actually jump to right away (hopefully one day the console save files will carry over to the handheld ones, so you can save yourself a few hundred hours), so it would be worth playing if you wouldn't mind starting over.  The story might drag on for a bit and there is an over-reliance on mana, but the story is engaging, the game is fun and there is a ton of stuff to do.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2014, Xbox 360) Review

Released around the same time as TMNT: Out of the Shadows, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles is based off of the recent Nickelodeon cartoon.  The graphics are pretty good, and are close to the cartoon's visuals, but there is a lot of clipping in the game.  As far as I can tell, the cartoon's voice cast all reprise their roles, but the audio quality is spotty.  Some lines are fine, but others sound terrible, as if the microphone was too sensitive, or that the volume was turned up to equalize it.  The audio is just poorly done overall.

You have all four turtles at the outset, and can switch between them just about whenever you want with the d-pad.  The game is reminiscent of the old arcade games, even down to the life bar.  It's total hack and slash gameplay.  To mix it up a bit, you can throw enemies when they are stunned, use a radial attack or super attack when your special meter is filled, and even get some ninja tools.  The throws don't always work when they are supposed to, since if an enemy is doing an action, you can't throw them until it's done.  Like one of the old NES games, you can even throw the enemies onto the screen.  It's a nice throwback to the old game, and even kind of funny, but its obstructs the view until it's gone.  The ninja tools -shuriken, smoke bombs and flash bombs- are fun to use, but you don't get them very often, and they cannot be carried to the next stage.  It would have been more fun if they either carried over, or if they were available in more stages.

Overall, it's not a very difficult game.  You get several lives, and you don't reach game over until all the lives are gone and all the turtles have run out of health.  Enemy attacks are usually easy to dodge, provided you can move away from them.  The hit detection is very spotty.  Frequently I would get stuck on enemies and different parts of the environment while trying to move around.  If in the middle of a fight, I would usually get hit because of this.  It's not game-breaking, but it could have used a lot more polish to make it work properly.  Especially the AI, since they don't really help attack at all, only occasionally throwing an enemy that you were probably starting to attack.

The game has 15 different levels, and the time it takes for each one ranges from about 3-15 minutes your first time through, especially if you are seeking the collectibles.  The collectibles are worth finding, since they unlock upgrades and other game modes.  To run through the game with my 7 year old son, it took just over two and a half hours.  We had found all but two of the collectibles, so we did go back for those later.  Beating the game unlocks a Time Attack mode, where you will do the same stages (including the unskippable cutscenes), but try to get under a target time.  The only stages that are difficult to do like this are the boss stages.  Bosses are only vulnerable to damage at certain times, but their attack pattern is random, so you might be waiting awhile before you can actually hit them.

There's also a Survival mode, where you just fight waves of enemies.  It was kind of fun to do that, but again, it's mostly mindless button mashing.  The game was very forgiving, and we made it to wave 40 before we let ourselves die because the waves were becoming ridiculously long.  If you collect all the mutagen canisters, you unlock a silly old-school style arcade game where you fly a ship around a city and blast aliens.  Not a great reward, but at least better than its associated achievement.  The achievements in the game are not hard at all, so I suspect it will show up on many a achievement hunter's gamercard.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles did have its fun.  I played through the whole game co-op with my 7 year old and he had a blast.  The game is short, and very unpolished, but worth a rental if you are a fan of TMNT.  The game is more aimed at children, and my son had a lot of fun playing it, and even played on his own for a few hours.  It's not really worth purchasing, unless it's for a younger kid, and even then I wouldn't recommend it at it's release price.  However, it is a lot better than Out of the Shadows.