Saturday, January 31, 2015

Brandish: The Dark Revenant (PSP) Review

Yes, as you may have heard, Brandish: The Dark Revenant is an actual PSP game, released in 2015!  It is fully playable on the Vita, as that is what I used.  This updated SNES game looks good, and made some positive changes to how the game plays.

The game starts after an explosion has dropped you and your rival into an underground area.  As Ares, you must make your way to the surface and escape.  The controls took some getting used to, since it uses the d-pad and I'm so used to the little analog stick.  Circle is attack when an enemy is in front of you, but holding it will block.  You also automatically block attacks from the front if you aren't moving or attacking.  Combat has a pretty nice flow once you get used to it.  Patience and proper placement is rewarded as you wait to strike until just after an opponent has.  X is the jump button, which I do occasionally hit to strike, and jump over an opponent.  It wasn't very often, but I sadly did it more than once.

Holding the analog stick in a direction and pressing Circle will activate one of the items (or spells) in the assigned slot.  I did have some trouble with it not activating when I pressed the buttons, and I am not fully sure why.  It wasn't a big deal, and it might not affect everyone, but I thought it worth mentioning.

Triangle is your "do stuff" button, which picks up items, activates switches and so on.  Square is the inventory button.  While I'm used to Triangle being inventory, I didn't mix them up, and quickly got used to them.  Movement did take some adjustments, though.  Up moves you forward, while left and right turn you instead of moving in that direction.  The L and R Buttons will strafe in the corresponding direction.  The controls are by no means bad, but they did take awhile to adjust to... and even then I would still make some mistakes.

Even though you have stats, levels and experience, the game feels more like an adventure game than an RPG.  Most floors have enemies, but they aren't "filled" with them, so the combat is far from constant.  Some floors don't have any foes, but are instead a big puzzle.  Since many weapons only have so many uses, it's good that you aren't constantly fighting.  Most floors straddle the line of having monsters with a few tricks to solve.  It's really nice that it's not a dungeon killfest or a straight-up puzzle game, and I really like the balance Brandish has with all of its aspects.

There are over 40 floors to clear, spread over several areas, in the game.  It will probably take you 15-20 hours for a first run.  Beating the game once will unlock a bonus mode which will offer a few more hours of playtime.  The game does have its share of difficulty, but I rarely found it hard.  The two notable exceptions are the Darkness areas and the final boss.  Those are hard, but they are the only things I felt were on the unfair side of the line.  The rest of the game is a challenge, but very forgiving, since you can save just about anywhere, and you get plenty of healing items and weapons.

Game progression is linear, so there's no hub or safe areas.  It was also engaging.  Frequently I would sit down to play for a few minutes, but wound up playing for much longer because I was having fun.  It's easy to get sucked in and just want to do "one more floor".  Brandish: The Dark Revenant is a good game, and one I would recommend to fans of dungeon crawler RPGs and of the "punishing but fair" action games.  It was more fun than I expected and it was a satisfying experience to get to the end, even if the final boss was annoying.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Hyperdimension Neptunia Re;Birth2: Sister's Generation

Like the previous game, Hyperdimension Neptunia Mk 2 has been remade for the Vita.  While the first game had some major revisions, this game didn't have as much to change.  The story and characters are slightly reworked, as they have removed one and added a few more, and even increased the roles some of them play in the story.  The core plot of Hyperdimension Neptunia Re;Birth2: Sister's Generation follows Nepgear, the little sister of Neptune, banding the other CPU candidates (the handhelds, since the CPUs themselves represent the consoles) together to free the CPUs from the Gamindustri graveyard.

The flow of the game and combat have also been updated.  You still do some plot, which usually opens a new dungeon, go to the dungeon for a boss and/or more plot, then return to town and repeat.  It's not really as bland as I am making it sound, thanks to the writing for the characters, but progression does follow a predictable flow.  The game still doesn't take itself too seriously, since this is a parody of the industry, with lots of references and nods to video games.

Dungeons are small areas that have monster moving around them.  There's a few different ones, but if you have played any of the series, they are areas you have seen before.  A fight starts when you make contact with the moving enemies.  Whenever a character's turn comes up, they can move freely in a circle around their starting location.  Your weapon's attack range is shown as a box in front of your character, which is used to aim your attacks.  Using both the movement and the aiming, it is very possible and advisable to hit multiple enemies with each attack.  CPUs and CPU candidates can even transform into a more powerful form if you need an extra edge in battle.  The combo/attack/SP systems have been streamlined in the games since the original release of Mk 2, and those changes are reflected here.

The plans from ReBirth 1 make a return, which allow you to add items to the shop, add dungeons, and even change enemy spawns and gather-able loot.  I really like the plans, and am glad that they returned.  Besides being fun things to unlock, you can make the enemies harder, or add new enemies, making it easier to grind levels, gain specific loot or complete quests.  You probably will have to do some grinding, as I hit a few points where I just wasn't strong enough to fight a boss, or one of the powerful monsters lurking in the dungeons.  I've had those points in all of the other Neptunia games, and ReBirth 2 is no exception.

One last addition to the game that I really enjoyed was Stella's Dungeon.  Unlockable through the plans system, it adds a little minigame where you send Stella, one of the NPC people, and her cat through various dungeons in search of items.  You select a dungeon and an area, equip her, and let her go.  She travels in real time, so when it says 10 minutes, you can either play or put it in sleep mode for 10 minutes and she will return.  Even though you don't actually do anything with Stella's Dungeon, it's oddly fun for me.  I like sending her out so she clears a dungeon and brings me back a few items.

The length of the game is about the same as before, being about 35+ hours, and there are still multiple endings if you want an excuse to play even more.  While ReBirth 2 isn't quite as overhauled as ReBirth 1, there's still some good changes and it's easy to recommend it to players who haven't played the original release, especially if you enjoy RPGs.  For returning players, it's probably still worth playing, as the game is still fun.  While only Vita and Playstation TV owners are currently the only ones who can play it, both ReBirth 1 and 2 are on their way to Steam.  If you haven't played any of the Hyperdimension Neptunia games, it's not necessary to start at the beginning, as they don't directly connect, but are similar in nature.  So if you are more interested in the handheld wars, jump right in to Nepgear's story!

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!