Saturday, January 17, 2015

Funk of Titans (Xbox One) Review



Funk of Titans on Xbox One is a new take on the popular runner-type games, with a few extra twists to add something new.  In this new version of Roman mythology, you play as Perseus and have to prove that funk is still the best.  I really dig the style of the game, where Zeus looks like The Matrix's Morpheus, and Perseus looks like Black Dynamite.  I'm not fond of Hercules being a pimply-faced fat guy, but I can deal with it.  My favorite might be the Medusa, who looks like she fell right out of the 80s.  It's certainly a unique take on Roman mythology, and I like it.

The core of the game is very similar to the "runner" style of games, where you character automatically runs (usually to the right), and you just have to time your jumps to make it through the level.  You can also wall jump at certain places, and bounce off of enemy heads for more height.  Since you won't control your running left or right, it can be easy to miss vinyls either directly, or because you didn't jump soon enough to bounce off an enemy's head.  There are enemies you cannot stomp on, but you do have a weapon that you can attack them with.  There's also spring boards to launch you around the level (think the springs from the old Sonic games), and other contraptions that add to the stages and make each one feel unique.

There are 3 areas with 15 levels in each one.  Each level only takes a few minutes to complete, but there is some replay value.  There are three additional goals per level: getting all the vinyls (100 per level), completing a stage without getting hit, and finding the Pegasus.  Usually finding the Pegasus is the easiest, assuming you have the correct weapon, and remaining unscathed isn't as hard as it sounds.  You die in two hits, so by the time you master a level, it isn't very hard to not get hit.  Collecting all the vinyls, on the other hand, can be tricky.  There are 100 per level, and it is very easy to miss one if you mis-time a jump.  The vinyls are used to buy new weapons and helmets in the shop, or even buy a ticket for the Pegasus bonus stage.  I recommend the "Funk Trooper" or "Funktimus" helmet... but that's just a personal bias.

If you want to get all medals in a level, you will have to replay several of them.  Not only because you will likely miss some vinyls, or die at some point, bu sometimes the Pegasus is behind a magic door that can only be broken down by a certain weapon, which you might not have access to.  To be able to buy them, you have to increase your hero level by completing Zeus' missions.  Zeus will give you three objectives per hero level, and you need to complete all three to level up.  They range from things like "complete 3 levels naked", "defeat x number of guards with a head stomp" and other things that can be done in the game.  They aren't too hard, but you may have to replay certain levels to easily fulfill them, as they only start tracking once Zeus gives them to you.

The Pegasus bonus stages are in a different style to the main game.  You ride on the Pegasus and holding the A Button will have you ascend, while letting go will cause you to sink.  It takes time to fly up, so you have to carefully time your holding to try to grab vinyls while not crashing.  The best I can equate it to (since I haven't played many runner type games) is Jetpack Joyride, but with the added caveat of you aren't allowed to touch the ground.

To round out the different playstyles in the game, there are grunt fights and a titan fight to end each area.  They are both similar to each other, as you have to perform 3 long QTE sequences.  The button you have to push flashes briefly on the screen in relation to where it is on the controller (very nice).  Thankfully, you don't have to get them all correct in order to beat the stage, but you do if you want to get all three gold medals from the stage.  Granted, that only helps if you are a completionist, or are going for achievements.  Speaking of achievements, they aren't too hard for the game, but will require you to get every gold medal and complete all of Zeus' missions.  So while the game isn't that long, getting your thousand gamerscore will have you replay the levels several times.

While I haven't played many runner type games, Funk of Titans is pretty fun.  I think a lot of runner games are free to play traps with microtransactions, but thankfully this game isn't.  The price isn't too bad, and you do get a few hours of fun out of the game.  It has a fresh take on Roman mythology, and has enough elements that it doesn't feel stale.  It's not too difficult that you won't be able to beat it, either.

Monday, January 12, 2015

Best of 2014!

Since we are into the new year, I figured I would take a look back to some of the good games I played last year.  Some I reviewed on the site, others I did not.  I limited it to games that came out in 2014.

Bravely Default
This is old school RPG goodness.  It has a robust class system, even bordering on too many classes.  The story isn't too bad, but like others have said, it gets too lazy and repetitive in the last third of the game.  Still a solid choice for RPG fans with a 3DS, as you can still get 50+ hours until it takes a dive.

Fairy Fencer F
While not the best game I've played, it was certainly very fun.  The combat is based off the Hyperdimension Neptunia games.  I started off not liking the characters, but they grew on me.  I found myself wanting to play it more and more.  It will be coming to PCs later in 2015, and I'm hoping the PS4 sequel comes to the states.

South Park: The Stick of Truth
There's a reason two out of three XGR people choose it as their RPG of the year.  It's a great turn based RPG with a lot of humor.  There are references to just about everything from the show, so even if you haven't seen them all, there is stuff you will get.  It's a fun game, but short, and all RPG fans owe it to themselves to try the game out.

Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc
Easily the best plot in a game from 2014.  I got sucked into the story quickly and completely.  The game is a fun mix of Phoenix Wright and SAW.  The game may be bleak, but it should keep you engaged for the whole ride.  Even if the sequel took some missteps, the first Danganronpa is a great game, and easily one of the best I played last year.

Toukiden: Age of Demons
Tecmo Koei's foray into the monster hunting genre is a really solid action game.  It has enough similarities to the famous Capcom series, while adding new and welcome additions.  I played it for 50 or so hours for my review, and continued to play for 25 more.  I'm still not done and I'd love to play more.  Japan is getting an enhanced version with more content in the future, and that may come to the US as well.  So even though the game is good, and worth your money, you might be better off waiting for the "G" version... or whatever they call it.

Shovel Knight
Probably the zenith of an original game that is obviously inspired by the NES era of games.  It's difficult, but fair, and fun to play.  It's a great mix of Mario, Ducktales and Castlevania.  If you played games on the NES back in the day, make sure to try out Shovel Knight.

There's still more reviews to come in the next year.  While my current class will take a lot of time away, I will still be putting up reviews.  Coming soon is Funk of Titans, Citizens of Earth and Neptunia ReBirth 2!

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Destiny (Xbox 360 / Xbox One) Review


To close out 2014, I figured I would review the most hyped game of the year.  I've spent many hours in Destiny, on both 360 and the Xbox One, so it's time to see how fun the half-billion dollar game really is.

First off, the game looks really good.  Even on the 360, the scenery, models and effects are top notch.  I'd say the scenery is some of the best and most detailed I've seen in a console game.  Of course, the Xbox One version is slightly better, but the difference isn't as big as you might suspect.  The biggest graphical addition there is the light effects.  The loading screen ships have little blinking lights, and the areas have much more dynamic lighting.

Second, the gun play is pretty solid.  It's not the best ever, as I've seen some people proclaim, but it's fairly satisfying.  I played the beta on the PS3 and 360, and the full game on 360 and XB1.  The 360 controller was definitely the best fit for me, and felt the most comfortable for the controls.  The only problem I had with the guns is the damage.  As you get further in the game, and notably in the Strikes and Raids, the enemies start to have JRPG levels of health.  This means you are pumping hundreds, if not thousands, or rounds into them before they die.  It gets boring having to shoot things so much.  So while the controls and guns work well, the damage they output doesn't keep up.

The game is an MMO in all but name.  You have to be online to play, and there are several other players around.  You will probably want to play with friends, seeing at how cumbersome it is to invite others to play in your party, or "firesquad".  It's also nigh impossible to communicate with others.  You get 4 different emotes, but you will probably only use 2... and one of them is to dance.  They added a firesquad chat channel, which could help, but this was so late into the game that most people don't use it, and instead play with friends and use party chat.  It's a strange decision to release an MMO with little to no way to communicate, but that's just what Bungie did.

There is a story mode that takes you through and unlocks each area of the game.  It spans multiple planets (and the moon!), with each having about 5 missions.  While broad in scope, it is light on duration.  My friend and I completed the story mode in two days.  Even if you do it with all 3 character slots, it still isn't much.  There are Strikes on each planet to give you a group-oriented challenge, but there are still only 5 total.  The Strikes are pretty fun, but they get old fast, since you are expected to run them many, many, many times.  There's also a Raid.  Yes, only one unless you buy DLC.  It's not very fun at all, at least to me.  It's long but with checkpoints that stay up for a week in case you cannot finish in one go.  That's about the only positive thing I can say about them.  Although other people think it's the best part of the game, I think it might be the worst.

Once you reach level 20, the experience cap, you will need to gain "light" to level up further.  Light is a stat on high level armor that will increase your level up to 30.  It's a nice, new concept, but inherently flawed.  While before you could chug away and earn experience to get new levels, now you are the mercy of a random number generator for loot to get those levels.  I'm one of those people who rarely gets good drops in games, which causes me to lag behind others for no reason other than the game doesn't want to give me better stuff.  Not skill or time based... just random luck.  Yuck.

The alternative is to buy some better equipment, which has me commit days to get enough "marks" or "strange coins" (which are also subject to the RNG) to get them.  This would be less of an issue if they game had more content.  This is probably my main complaint with the game.  It simply asks you to play so much, and offers so little to do.  Sure, there are daily bounties to kill certain enemies, or other such things, but by the time you finally get some good gear, you've done them all several times already.  There's even weekly caps on the marks you can earn.  So they want you to play too much already, but then punish you for playing a lot.  Whoever made such a terrible decision shouldn't have a job.  At least they fixed the unidentified items, now maybe the rest of the game?

If you want a better chance at better rewards, you can do harder versions of the Strikes.  These have minimum level requirements, so you can't be boosted through them to catch up to other people.  Some of these are entirely doable, but some are ridiculously stacked against you.  That isn't to say they are impossible, just close to it.  While there is the Dark Souls crowd that loves to overcome those odds, there are people like me, who have nothing to prove, that will just move on.  I'm fine with a challenge, but I hate unfair odds.  It's artificial challenge if they just let enemies one shot you, but take 1200 bullets to the head to kill.

Destiny is best played with friends.  Even then, it's not the best recommendation I could make.  The game is really pretty and has some good shooting, but falls flat in just about every other area.  It has not nearly enough content for how much they expect you to play.  There's some timed events and other things to try and add variety, but it's all based on the small pool of things already in the game.  It's even harder to recommend it if you are going to play by yourself.  Destiny is a collection of missed opportunities and a mystery of where its massive cost went.  There's at least a decent core to build upon for the inevitable sequel, which will hopefully address its issues and make it a great game.

Friday, December 19, 2014

Akiba's Trip: Undead and Undressed (PS4) Review


Akiba's Trip: Undead and Undressed, the vampire stripping action game, has made its way to the PS4, and brought along all its DLC with it on one disc.  The visuals are noticeably better than the Vita version, as they are much smoother.  It's still cel shaded and looks good.  There are both English and Japanese for the spoken lines, so both sides can be pleased.

The two biggest improvements for the game are the loading and the included DLC.  The DLC for the PS3 and Vita versions was a mix of free and paid weapons and costume pieces, so it's nice to see them all included without having to shell out extra money or wait until they are on the store.  They are accessible early, but don't really provide amazing bonuses.  That's ok, since the upgrade system makes them as good as you want.  My personal favorites are the two handed sword from Ragnarok Odyssey Ace (along with armor fit for female characters), and the prinny.  Maybe I'm a bit biased, but swinging around a prinny that explodes on contact is really fun.

However the loading is going to be the improvement most people will be more thankful for.  The original game had loading for each area, which added some wait time depending on how far you wanted to go and if you fast traveled.  Now, it is much faster.  The strange downside to this is you won't see the loading screen ads as often or as long.  I'm not really complaining, but I do like the ads, since it's very unlikely that I will get to the actual Akibahara and see them in person.

So those are the differences for any people that have played the first.  For the rest, here's a rundown of how the game works.  You play as an otaku that has undergone an experiment that grants him enhanced strength, but a weakness to light and increased hunger.  You are essentially a man-made vampire, and as a member of the Akiba Freedom Fighters (a collection of otaku wanting to keep Akiba safe), you fight other Synthesters.  To defeat them, you have to expose their skin to sunlight.  That requires you to rip off their clothes.

It's not near as graphic as you might think.  Characters are still in their underwear when fully stripped.  Well, unless they are finished with a big enough chain strip.  Then their underwear drops and is replaced with shining light.  So, no nudity in the game.  And it's a pretty even split between male and female opponents, so it's not exploitative, either.  It's fairly tongue-in-cheek, since they poke fun of it in the game, too.

Combat is a three button attack system, one for lower, middle and upper clothing items.  You get different combo attacks based on your weapon type and weapon.  Holding down the corresponding button will attempt to rip that article of clothing off.  If you haven't done enough damage, you will get knocked away.  If you've done a good amount, but still not enough to rip it off in one go, you will have a button mashing struggle to do some more damage and possibly destroy it.  Once all the articles of clothing are off an opponent (or you), they are defeated.  You can also block, counter, and even counter strip.  If you rip a piece off and there are other opponents with weakened clothing, you will proceed to strip them, provided you press the correct button in time.  This is a chain strip, and doing enough in a row will result in a super move that will leave them without any underwear and running for the hills!

The basic flow of the game is to read a little story, then go off and beat some Synthesters, then return for more plot.  It's not the most involved game, but it's fun.  It's also not very long, as the first time through took me 10 hours (8 on this version, since I've done it before).  There are multiple endings and difficulties, with lots of weapons and clothes to collect and power up.  This gives the game lots of replay value, for at least the endings.

While the game won't be for everyone, I enjoy Akiba's Trip: Undead and Undressed.  It's a silly premise, but fun to go through.  There are a few frustrating moments, but not "throw your controller" bad.  It's a fairly short game with lots of replay value.  If you have already played the Vita or PS3 version, the improved visuals, included DLC and faster loading probably aren't enough to make you buy it again, but I'd recommend this version of the game for those that haven't, and have a PS4.  Too bad progress from other versions doesn't carry over!

Monday, December 8, 2014

Rollers of the Realm (PS4/Vita) Review


Rollers of the Realm combines pinball with some traditional RPG elements.  You get experience, gold, can buy equipment... you get the idea.  The premise is pretty cool.  As a big fan of Puzzle Quest, I was excited to try another "combine X with an RPG" which, in this case, an video pinball game.

Unfortunately, I forgot that video pinball games have pretty bad physics.  In fact, I do this pretty often.  I like pinball, but don't want to pay to play it in arcades, since the time you play is mostly decided by random luck.  So, video pinball is a much cheaper alternative.  However, the physics are always just a little off, which quickly ruins the experience for me.  Plus, it's hard to get the length of pinball on a screen that is stretched the other direction.  That could actually work on the Vita version, but the actual areas are not designed for it, so it's not even an option.

Anyway, Rollers of the Realm unfortunately also suffers this fate.  The physics feel off, and the screen aspect ratio works against you.  There are stages that have multiple areas, which is neat, and there is a good variety of stages to boot.  Though, they do like to put obstacles, mainly enemies, close enough to your paddles that they can easily smack your ball down the hold.  Add some player-unfriendly design to the wonky physics, and you get a equation of frustration.

To make things a little better, you can hire other characters and buy equipment for your party.  Each piece of equipment shows what stats it effects, but there is no explanation of what each stat actually does.  I think I figured most out after playing the game awhile and matching things up, but it's not very intuitive.  Plus, I wasn't sure how to equip things, or even if I had to.  There are some similar pieces (like different weapons) for some characters, and I have to assume the effects stack, since it didn't seem like I had to equip anything.

Goals for levels aren't always stated from the start, but it's usually "kill guys until you can continue".  There are a good amount of stages in the game, so trudging through the game should get you your money's worth.  Sadly, the bulk of your play time will be retrying stages after dying (again), or replaying them for more money to buy equipment or extra party members.  Thankfully, each party member counts as a life in the game, and you can resurrect people if you get enough mana.  The trophies can also take awhile... at least 10 hours.  I say that since there's one for playing the game for 600 minutes.  Yuck.  Plus, if you are a platinum hunter, the trophy spread of the game is for a downloadable, so the highest you get is one gold trophy.

I'm sure there are people out there who would enjoy the game.  If you are fine with the hit or miss physics in video pinball games, then go ahead and play Rollers of the Realm.  If unreliable gameplay or random deaths annoy you, stay away.  I found the game more frustrating than fun, and was let down when I finally had a chance to play it.  The concept is neat, but the execution needs work.

Friday, November 28, 2014

Costume Quest 2 (Xbox 360) Review


Four years after the release of the charming and fun Costume Quest, we are finally treated to a sequel.  Set just after the events of the first game's Grubbins on Ice expansion, Costume Quest 2 gives us another story of siblings Wren and Reynold saving the world.  This time, they must travel through time and stop a candy-deprived dentist from taking over the world.  Yes, the plot is silly, and not as good as the first, but it's well told and there are some good lines.

The game looks a lot like the first, with stylized cel-shaded locations and characters.  You still walk around a small area and find chests, hit candy out of objects, trick or treat, and find enemies.  You can still strike enemies from behind for a little extra damage at the start of battle.  The roller skates that allow you to boost up ramps return as well  So, in a lot of ways, it's more of the same, which is a good thing.

It's not the exact same, though.  The bonus for getting a preemptive strike doesn't seem as powerful.  You lose your previous costumes, but the new ones have some new exploration abilities to use on the maps.  There's now pinatas strewn about to give you more candy, and respawning enemies to help boost your level.  You can also buy maps of each visited area to make sure you have collected every secret in them.  There's also purchasable upgrades for each costume that not only power it up, but change its appearance.

Battles are, again, a similar affair to the first.  Time a button press correctly and you get more damage.  Do the same on defense to cut down your damage received.  To add something new, you will also get a combo attack for some more damage, and a counter attack on the defensive side.  The counter move is really nice, but you get it pretty late in the game.  Given how short it is, you don't get much time to enjoy it.  Special moves now require a meter to be filled, and aren't usable every 3rd or 4th turn as they were previously.  They do seem more powerful to compensate, though.  Stamps are gone and replaced with cards.  The cooldown on each is several battles, so save them for when they are needed most.  I rarely used any because the cooldown was high.  There are some really nice ones that boost xp and candy (money) gain, and even ones that make enemies damage themselves when they attack.  A good variety to play around with.

The biggest downside of the game is the length.  I had about 8 hours on the clock when I had finished the game and got every achievement, card, costume and quest completed.  Outside of missing the one missable achievement, there aren't many reasons to replay except to play it again.  The game also isn't too hard.  It feels like damage is higher than the previous game, but it still feels more forgiving.  And that is with me having the useless candy corn costume in my party the whole time.

If you are a fan of the original Costume Quest, you should definitely get Costume Quest 2.  It may be short and sometimes feel formulaic, but it's more of the same battles and exploration that you enjoyed previously, but with some cool new costumes.  If you like turn-based RPGs, I'd recommend starting with the first Costume Quest, but this is still a very solid title.  It pretty much does what a good sequel should, keep the good and familiar while adding a few new things to liven it up.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Senran Kagura: Bon Appetit (Vita) Review


Hot off the heels of Shinovi Versus, Senran Kagura hits us with another domestic release, Bon Appetit.  While the previous two are action games, this one is... a rhythm game about cooking battles.  Yes, you read that correctly.  As is clearly stated from the outset, this is just a silly side game and has no bearing on the actual plot.

Being a rhythm game, you must push the correct button or direction at the correct moment.  There are two different lines that go from right to left that these buttons appear on.  I'm not sure why there are two, but I think it's so they can fit more buttons in a smaller area.  The directional buttons that must be pressed are color-coordinated to correspond to the face button (circle, triangle, etc.) so it's easier to see when there are a lot of quick moving buttons on the screen.  Granted, the buttons are color coded on the system controllers, not the Vita, so it's borderline silly to do that for a Vita game.  Silly as it is, it's still helpful, especially when there are so many buttons shooting along.

Each of the 10 songs are separated into three rounds.  Winning one of the first two rounds will damage the clothing of the opponent.  If you win the first two rounds and do really well on the third, you will completely strip the opponent, and they will be wearing the now infamous chibi faces and light stripe.  There's also two halves of a heart meter (one per round) that if you fill, will create a special heart button that can give you a humiliating camera view in the background for a few seconds.  While this is a reward for performing well, it's also distracting.  If you ignore it to do better, then it's not much of a reward, huh?  I probably shouldn't admit this, but I've almost dropped a combo a few times while they are playing in the background.  Plus, they look so sad at the end of the scene that I almost feel bad doing it.  Almost.

Winning a round treats you to a scene of Hanzo (Asuka's grandfather, master ninja and tournament creator) enjoying the dish.  Each girl creates a different dish, so there are 10 of these scenes.  The are definitely silly and over the top, but they get old pretty fast, and I was skipping them after seeing them two or three times.  However, the real treat for winning and completely stripping your opponent isn't Hanzo's scene... it's the special.  Your opponent will be placed on a pastry and covered with whipped cream and chocolate syrup.  It's as suggestive as you might think.  While it fits the tone of the game, I think it's even more risque than anything else so far in the series.  And that's an accomplishment, to be honest.  I didn't think it possible while keeping the game under an AO rating, but they did it.  To me, it's not a problem since it's on a handheld system, but as with the action games in the series, I wouldn't play it around my kids.

There are three settings, easy, normal and hard.  Easy is really easy.  I rarely missed even one note in a song, and I'm not really well versed in the current rhythm genre (I was really good at Bust a Groove and decent at Parappa).  Normal seems like a big step up from easy, and was challenging.  I can now consistently win at the normal setting (except Daidoji's song), but not without a mistake or two.  Hard is ridiculous to me, since that's where they add in the up direction and the triangle button, plus have more and harder button sequences.  The way it plays reminds me of the Hatsune Miku game demo I tried a year or so ago.  On the harder settings, the challenge for me was hitting the strange sequence of buttons and not on getting the timing.  I'm not sure if that's how rhythm games are nowadays, but I would prefer the focus be on timing.  Even so, I was able to complete all 10 stories on easy or normal.

Each character's story is 5 levels long, and takes about 30 minutes total to make your way through.  There's 10 girls to use (or 11 if you purchased the DLC characters for Shinovi Versus) and many costumes and underwear selections to unlock.  Each girl has their own song, 2 of which are vocal.  There's also an arcade mode which picks opponents based on the difficulty you select.  It's a decent value for $15, and you'll get your money's worth if you go after the platinum.  A few of the trophies require you to grind out a lot of songs, so if you really like the game, you might want to hold off on those until you get the DLC expansion that adds the girls from Shinovi Versus to give you a broader selection of characters and songs.

Fans of the Senran Kagura series will get the most out of the game.  It's a different style, but you'll know the characters and situations, and get more out of whatever story is present.  Rhythm fans may also enjoy it, but I'm not sure how it stacks up to other rhythm offerings.  Plus, if you aren't accustomed to the world of Senran Kagura, some of the racier aspects might be startling.  The game itself is decent, but I don't think it would convert anyone not into the series.  If you are a Senran Kagura fan and rhythm games are not your thing, you can skip it and not miss out on any ongoing plot.  If you are interested, the game isn't very expensive unless you get it and the forthcoming expansion, plus, a lot of the Shinovi Versus DLC (free and otherwise) will also work in Bon Appetit.