Friday, July 31, 2015

Tembo the Badass Elephant (PS4) Review

When the city is in danger, there is only one to call to save them all... Tembo, the Badass Elephant!  The game starts with a cute scene that sets up the premise - Tembo is called upon to defeat the evil Phantom group taking over the city with its war machines.  Once the premise is quickly out of the way, the game drops you in the shoes, err feet, of Tembo, and off you go.

Tembo is an action platformer where you must make your way through each level, defeat some badguys, and rescue civilians.  There are four sections of the city, after which there is a boss fight.  To unlock the fourth level in each zone, you must defeat a certain number of enemies.  Each stage has citizens to rescue and enemies to defeat, which the game keeps track of.  These are, in essence, collectibles.  Unfortunately, you have to defeat about 90% of the enemies to even get through the game.

I'm fine with collectibles.  I actually like getting them.  I don't like when you have to get a lot of them to even continue.  They should be fun extras.  On a side note, I'm fine with them tied to a special ending, since you should get some reward for getting them.  This is a point of contention with me and one of my fellow reviews.  Either way, you will likely be forced to replay at least one stage to try and get enough enemies to unlock the further stages.  It is annoying and shouldn't be necessary.  I guess it increases playtime, but it is definitely forced.

There aren't many functions for Tembo, but they respond pretty well.  He can jump, charge and spray water from his trunk.  If you hold the jump button, Tembo will flap his legs and float for a bit.  Besides looking funny, it is effective at extending his jump distance a bit.  I have had a few instances where it doesn't respond as well, but it was few and far between.  The charge is your main attack, and in the air it will do a diagonal dive.  This messes me up often, as button presses will queue up, so be careful about mashing attack.  If I did an attack or got hit and went into the air, I would accidentally do the dive attack.  The water is used to put out fires.  You can spray while charging, which is really useful and as far as I can tell, the game doesn't tell you.  Using them together will change the color of Tembo's charge, so you know you are doing it.  Don't over-do it, since water is limited.

While the game looks kind of cute, it isn't easy.  It's not super hard, either, as long as you learn from your defeats.  There is no time limit, but the game always made me feel I had to rush.  Don't.  It is already way too easy to get hit in the game, since you don't have a dodge move and Tembo himself is a large target.  Rushing exacerbates this problem.  There are plenty of places where the enemies get a cheap hit, simply because you didn't know what was off-screen.  Once you do the section again, it is much easier since you know what you are dealing with.

It is also very easy to over think the game.  Most things are straight forward, with just a little pattern recognition to defeat enemies.  The first boss was a good example of me trying to be fancy.  I figured I would have to dodge his attacks and hit him when vulnerable, like most games, but that ended up with me losing a few times.  Eventually, I just kept ramming him and taking the damage, which easily beat him.  I'm not even sure that was the intention, but I'm sad it worked so well.  Action platformers tend not to have the Dynasty Warriors approach (just keep hitting it) to bosses and instead require more finesse, but I guess they skipped that lesson.

Tembo the Badass Elephant is a decent game with a great title.  It controls pretty well, but suffers from forced replay unless you play each stage perfectly.  It's also way to easy to get hit, but it is easy to learn from your failures.  Great animation and character, but only an average platfomer overall.

Monday, July 27, 2015

Lost Dimension (PS3/ PS Vita) Review

Lost Dimension, which I first talked about several months ago when Atlus revealed they would bring it to the US, has finally arrived and I was happy to check it out.  Its claim to fame is the traitor mechanic.  Each floor has a traitor, and you must sniff them out and have them erased to be able to proceed to the next floor.  The catch?  The traitor is randomly determined each time.

Well, not exactly each time.  The first time through a new game, the traitor is always the same.  After that, everyone is free game.  If you do a new game+, the first traitor is then randomized, always leading to new experiences each run and even different experiences for all players.

Each character has a powerful psychic ability, and the main character's is precognition.  Using his Vision, he tries to figure out who the traitor is.  After each battle, you will hear the voices of the participants, with traitor voices in red.  There are three possible traitors each time, so you have to do several battles to help narrow it down.  The game keeps track of the last 10 battles each floor to help you figure it out, and you can mark the characters with a blue, yellow or red highlight if you think they are safe, suspicious, or a traitor.

When you have narrowed it down, it is a good idea to spend a Vision Point to delve into one of their psyches and confirm whether or not they are a traitor.  You can of course do it at any time, but you only earn 3 Vision Points per tower level.  They do carry through the game, so if you only spend two on one level, you can have four the next one.  The mini-game to run through their psyche isn't too bad.  You just turn to see where the text is coming from and run toward it a few times.  The only downside is when you confirm the traitor is one of the characters you like using.

Once you figure out who the traitor is, you then have to shift your teammates' votes onto that person.  Or, if you want, any person you choose.  After each battle, you will likely be approached by a teammate and asked who you think the traitor is, or they will mention who they suspect.  Your answers will help determine who they will vote for.  Until you have a better idea who the suspect is, choose "I don't know".  It makes it much easier to change their opinion if you don't have to undo your previous work first.  I learned this the hard way.  At the end of each chapter, you enter a judgment room and cast your votes, and the rest of the team casts theirs as well.  Then, one person is eliminated and you move on to the next level.

Lost Dimension's battles are like a gridless SRPG.  Therefore, you have a movement radius that you can move around in, which will shrink as you approach the edges.  Two of your teammates even have special movement abilities, hovering and teleporting, which lead to some interesting strategies in battles.  Characters have certain weapon types, like pistols or knives, that determine their attack range.  You can also learn many skills that have different ranges for more flexibility.  To be the most effective in combat, learning where to place your characters is key.  Utilize those assist attacks!

Every other level a character gets a gift point that is used to purchase a skill or skill upgrade.  They each have a different skill tree that encompasses three different skill sets.  Purchasing all of one group (defined by colored box) will even grant another special skill, some of which are amazing.  The healer, for example, gets one that grants his normal attack a chance to apply any status ailment.  Some of them will benefit all the characters in battle, so I consider it worth it to get them.

When a character gets erased, they leave behind a materia for each skill group (up to the three) that you had purchased at least one skill in.  Equipping it to a character grants them all of the purchased skills, and may even unlock a special combo skill in their own tree.  I really like that once a character is erased, you can still use their skills.  I was paranoid my first run through that the healer would be a traitor, and I would have to rely on items to heal, but it was all for naught, since I could easily make a replacement healer.

The only real downside to the skill tree screen is how little of it you can see at a time on the Vita's screen.  Since so much space is needed for the header and other stuff, you don't have much room left over to see the tree.  I resorted to repeatedly turning off the info window to get a better view, and turning it back on to see the skill's effect.  This is slightly better on the PS3 version, since you have a bigger screen, but it is still cramped.

Now, as much as I like the game, it definitely is not perfect.  My biggest complaint is the saving.  When you start a new game, you pick a slot, and that is where it will save to.  So, no multiple save files.  Yuck.  While this makes the traitor mechanic more impactful, it makes me uneasy, since I love to save a lot and have back-up saves.  The game will also auto save after each battle and when you enter the judgment, so be careful!  The after battle save is annoying since the camaraderie missions are not repeatable, leaving you a small window to reset the game if you don't get the highest rank and you want it.  Other than that, my other detraction is the random loading.  The game would load at random times during the attack/assist/counter phases.  Not a deal breaker, but just strange looking to attack, then load, then the assists and then counters.  This didn't seem to be much of an issue on the PS3 version.

Each level of the tower has three main (story) missions and three sub missions, not counting the special missions for your teammates and such.  It doesn't seem like much, but you will be doing some of the levels over a few times.  It is mostly to help determine the traitor, and then sway the votes how you want them, but it does help to get the extra experience and money.  So, there is some grinding, but at least it's not directly for experience.  All of your characters will get experience, but those not in the battle will get a little less.  This is good so you aren't wasting time training up people to use if you need a replacement, or to help narrow down who is betraying you.  It took me maybe 25 hours in my first run through the game to beat it.  I don't know for sure, since I see no game clock to tell me how long I played.

Since most of the traitors are randomly determined, there is replayability to the game.  There is a new game+, which is always welcome in my book.  You only really carry over the camaraderie of your teammates, which is needed for the best ending, and you get a handful of bonus skill points when starting out.  The game isn't really difficult, even if some battles can be harder than others.  Most of the challenge is from trying to get the highest rank on each of the fights.  The trophies aren't too hard either, but will require three playthroughs to get them all.  Well, you can do it in two if you are really lucky and the people who still need camaraderie aren't traitors the second time.

As you can probably tell, I really like Lost Dimension.  It is a strategy RPG, which I enjoy, has a really unique and fun traitor mechanic that has you play amateur detective to figure out who is betraying your team, and a nice skill and materia system that is fun to play around with.  It was easy to keep playing the game, and I felt like I was making progress every time I played.  After finishing the game once, I immediately started a new game plus, and played a bit more.  I forced myself to stop so I could actually write up the review.  Lost Dimension is a fun game that I recommend to RPG and SRPG fans.  Which version is likely determined by what system you have, but the Vita version seems to load slightly more often, and the PS3 version doesn't look quite as good.

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Samurai Warriors Chronicles 3 (PS Vita) Review

Samurai Warriors Chronicles 3 marks the Chronicles series' first foray onto the Vita.  While there have been other Warriors games on the great handheld system, the Chronicles series has a few key differences to set it apart.

You will primarily play as your own created character.  While this is possible in other Warriors games, namely the Empires series, this time the created warrior is the main character.  You will follow their journey through the Sengoku time period and work for different factions as you do your part to unite feudal Japan.  There is a fair bit of fiction here, since the person you created didn't exist, but it is a good way to experience the timeline and get a feel for when things happened.  While I like the more focused character or faction stories, I have wanted one that just went through the whole history, so it is easier to grasp the chronological order of events.

Granted, this one doesn't go through everything, but it also includes some theoretical plot lines, which I enjoyed in one of the recent Dynasty Warriors games.  Before and after each battle there are some scenes, which may allow you to increase your friendship with the various officers.  There are also many extra scenes that either give you an opportunity to raise friendship, or open up the theoretical battles.  It is possible to ignore most scenes if you are so inclined.  Friendship can be raised at the teahouse, and there is a button on the stage select screen that will filter out the events and leave only the battles.

The other thing that sets it apart is during battle.  Where before you controlled one or two characters, you now control up to four.  Each can be quickly switched between, but there are times where you cannot use some of the characters because of the story.  While it is really nice to have multiple characters to help you complete all the objectives, the game is balanced for this, so the objectives are all over the map.  This can make things much more hectic than I would like.  Most objectives are required to finish the map, but there are a few extras for bonuses.  It can make you scramble, but at least they try to make it worth it.  However, I still wouldn't mind a little less stress in some of the battles.

Besides scrambling around the battlefield, there is another thing that makes the later levels harder.  Often times you are using new characters for a battle, so they start at the default level, which is five.  At first I felt bad about using my higher level create-a-warrior (CAW) to tear through enemies, but towards the end, it was necessary.  If the first time you can use a particular person is later on, and their default level is far below the level of enemies, it makes the battle harder than it should be.  Can you kill the officers?  Yes, but it will take time.  You can still make it through battles, so I shouldn't really complain, but you will likely fail a few missions and have to replay the battle again.  Afterwards, the new characters should unlock, so you can actually raise their levels and buff up their weapons.

The AI in the battles can be really hit or miss.  Half the time they go where they are needed, so it doesn't seem like you have to baby them.  Then, the other half of the time, they just sit around somewhere and don't do much.  Therefore, you do have to baby them and set their destination.  So either you waste time checking them, or run the risk of them not helping, both of which are an inconvenience.

Other than that, battles still function the same as they did in Samurai Warriors 4.  Square is your normal attack and triangle is your awesome hyper attack.  Each has different combo enders if you use the opposite button at different points in the combo.  Hyper attacks are great for mowing down grunts, but are ineffective on lieutenants.  Each character can also use a War Art ability, like restoring health or weakening the enemy's defense.  They function similarly to the strategy cards in the Dynasty Warriors Empires series.  I still like the combat, although the hyper attacks seem to have been weakened somewhat.

Besides the story mode, there is also Challenge Mode.  You pick four characters and start in a castle.  There is a time limit and you are given quests to complete.  If you complete the quest, you get a reward and bonus time.  The idea is to complete as many quests as possible and build up points.  Before time runs out, a character (or multiple depending on the castle chosen) must make it to the exit point.  If you don't, you won't get all of the points you earned.  At least you get to keep some.  Sadly, you don't get experience in this mode, but the points can be used to buy some really good stuff, including the strongest weapons.

The engine is based of of Samurai Warriors 4, but also has some other changes beside the story and character focus.  The weapons have also changed.  It took me a bit to understand and then "get" it, but it is a nice system that I ended up really liking.  You will start with 5 weapons of the lowest tier, one each for fire, ice, thunder, earth and wind (there still is death element, but you don't start with a weapon that has it).  Some of the items you find in the stage are elemental stones that will give experience and stat boosts to weapons of the same element.  At the end of the stage, you choose which participant gets the stone, and it automatically adds the boosts to it.  Once it reaches the max level, you can visit the blacksmith to have it upgraded to the next tier.  If you want, you can assign an element to each character's weapon, or buff up all the weapons of a single character.  It's a very effective way of making sure the weapons level up with your characters, and you can of course put on some skills to help out.

The UI for battles isn't intrusive on the Vita's screen, but the game looks even better on the Playstation TV.  The controller just feels better to me for Samurai Warriors action.  The game still plays fine on the Vita, so no worries there.  Samurai Warriors Chronicles 3 is a lot of fun, but not quite as fun as Samurai Warriors 4.  The hectic four person battles can make it really hard to keep track of everything, but it's still a good game to get your hack and slash fix on to go.  Plus, the new weapon upgrade is really nice once I figured it out and got used to the changes.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Red Goddess: Inner World (PS4) Review

Red Goddess: Inner World stars Divine, a daughter of the gods, as she navigates her inner world to discover her forgotten memories of the past.  It is an action/adventure metroidvania style game, which is a genre I really like.  The game is pretty linear, as you have to collect crystals to proceed through certain gates, and there weren't really any you could skip.  The map does a good job of showing where they are, but it would also be nice if it showed checkpoints on it too, or maybe even coins that you saw but haven't grabbed.

There are three basic forms that you use to make your way through the game.  The first is Divine herself, who can levitate some objects but also gets the super useful wall jump and double jump.  Then there is the red rage form, which can attack enemies and break red blocks.  The third is the blue fear form, which can also attack enemies and destroy blue blocks.  Note that there is a short cooldown when switching, so make sure you are pressing the correct button, otherwise you have a second or two before you can change again.  It isn't a big deal, but I did mix up which button changed to which form more than a few times.

Exploration is mostly done with Divine, and is pretty standard.  Unfortunately, her jump feels a bit float-y so I had some trouble aiming her during the jumping sections that required precision.  She also cannot bounce, so after you land, there is a bit of momentum to carry her a tad forward, that again, made some jumping more troublesome than it should have been.  You also cannot jump right after you land.  It's not the end of the world, but I prefer platforming controls to be super precise when you require that precision from the player.

Combat is also a mixed bag.  On one hand you get some satisfying attacks, since you can launch targets into the air and combo them, or hit them back to the ground.  On the other you get enemies that can get annoying when fighting multiples.  If they overlap, it can be hard to know when to dodge, since it is hard to see them all.  Some enemies shoot fireballs at a distance, and it can be troublesome to get over to them while dealing with their friends.  You do get a handy dodge roll, but that isn't always enough to save you.

There are also a few minor problems I have with the game.  First and foremost being how easy it is to die.  There are plenty of pits that if you fall into, instant death.  Also, numerous spikes that will outright kill you.  Of course, not all spikes will do that, some just damage you.  If you take damage, you do not get any invincibility frames, which is standard for a reason.  All too often I would get hit and fly back, only to land on something that would either hurt me again, or just kill me.  Ugh.  This would be less of an issue, but I feel there are not enough checkpoints, and the penalty for death is waiting 30+ seconds for the game to load.  It won't bother everyone, but one of my pet peeves is load times after a death.  I realize it is not always something that can be changed, though.

Also, I want to specifically call out a chase sequence that happens in the game.  I'm not sure why there always seems to be at least one of them stuck in every game in this genre, but I don't like them.  Rushing people through part of your game tends to highlight the flaws in said game, at least in my opinion.  While running and jumping through the section, you have to dodge a few fireballs from enemies.  It shouldn't be too hard, but getting hit by one can easily send you flying back, and either into a pit (death) or cost you a chunk of time (likely death).  There are numerous pits, too, and parts where you will automatically wall cling, making the section harder than it should be.  You will likely have several deaths, all resulting in waiting for the game to load, then starting with an un-skippable cutscene.  Well, all the cutscenes are un-skippable, which again, should not be a thing anymore.

When the game first launched, it had some framerate issues, but those have since been patched.  So if you do play the game, make sure you get the update to make it run a lot smoother.  However, I had a save file that was started before the patch, and made a section afterwards become unplayable.  When I got to a certain section of the spider caves, the area would not load and I would fall though the map.  I started a new save file and got past that part, but I wasn't too happy about having to re-do 2+ hours again, considering that also contained the chase sequence I don't like.

Admittedly, Red Goddess: Inner World does have some issues and is a bit rough, however, it is still kind of fun to play.  If you can look past or deal with those, there is a decent, linear, action/adventure metroidvania game to play.

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Mighty Switch Force: Hyper Drive Edition (PC) Review

Mighty Switch Force: Hyper Drive Edition is now on Steam for PCs, and wow, I like the way it looks.  Graphics aren't everything, but I do appreciate detailed animations, and WayForward delivers again.  Also, the visuals are smooth and the models look great.  I feel bad gushing about the visuals, but combining nice cartoon-y graphics with great animations just makes me smile.

Anyway, when I first booted up the game, I didn't have a controller plugged into my PC.  The game seemed to assume I did, since any button prompts were from the Xbox 360's controller.  That was my first clue to use a controller.  I marched ahead, and found the keyboard to be... serviceable.  Like most action or platforming games, the controller just works best (sorry PC elitists!).  On the controller, though, the controls are pretty tight.  They pretty much have to be, since there are times when you need extreme accuracy to get through.

Mighty Switch Force is a puzzle platformer, and as Patty Wagon you must find five criminal girls around each stage.  You can shoot, jump and "switch", which will change certain blocks.  The goal is to get all five criminals, then make your way to the exit, which just happens to be a robot that you climb in and take off.  The puzzle aspects are finding out where the criminals are, and how to get to them.

I'm not too fond of puzzle games, but I will admit that the puzzles in Mighty Switch Force are pretty clever.  There are a few different types of blocks that react differently when you switch.  There are the standard blocks that appear during one part of the switch and not the other, but a few other special ones that, for better or worse, don't have any tutorial on to know how they work.  It takes a bit of trial and error to understand how they work, but once you do, it is fairly easy to know what to do with them.  Sadly, this kind of discovery is all but gone in today's game market, but it sure took me back when I realized I had to figure out what the special blocks did, instead of having the game tell me in great detail.

One type of special block will launch you in a direction if you switch while in the same space as it, while another will change when it switches out if you stand on it while swapping.  Be careful standing in the same space as a block while switching, since most blocks will launch you at the screen and do damage.  It's a cool animation, but pretty embarrassing to do the first time.  However, doing that to enemies is actually another puzzle the game uses, which I though was pretty neat.

There are 16 stages, called incidents, to do and then a few bonus stages.  You can also unlock and do "hyper" versions of these stages, which are slightly remixed from the original.  Now you know where the title comes from.  Each stage has a par time limit, but thankfully you can complete them in over that time.  It would be near impossible to do the par time on your first try, so you will need to repeat the stages if you are aiming to get your time down.  It's a decent value for you money, especially if you re-do the stages to try for under par.  Otherwise, each stage will take you about 2-7 minutes to complete.

I will admit that the game gets hard.  Some of the latter stages require exact timing to get though them.  The launching blocks tend to be in groups, so you have to quickly switch when the time is right.  It is much harder than it sounds... and makes me feel old when I mistime it.  There are also a few jumping parts where you have to jump, switch, move and switch again, all before you land from you jump.  Yikes.  Each hit takes one heart you have and may send you back to the latest checkpoint.  If you lose them all, you have to restart the level.  So while each level might not be very long, you could potentially do some again, even if not trying to improve your time.

Mighty Switch Force: Hyper Drive Edition is pretty quick and fun, even though I'm not really into puzzle games.  It ran pretty well on both my PC (i7) and laptop (i5), just make sure you have a controller to use.  The puzzles are pretty clever and the game requires some exact timing.  It gets pretty hard, but puzzle fans and even fans of difficult platformers should check it out.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Shantae: Risky's Revenge - Director's Cut (PS4) Review

Shantae: Risky's Revenge - Director's Cut, besides being a long and kind of silly title, is an enhanced port of the DS title from a few years ago.  It stars Shantae, the half-genie hero, as she fights to reclaim a magical lamp from her nemesis, Risky the pirate (who is busty like all of the ladies in the game).  The game plays surprisingly well on the home console, with the only inconvenience being the map.  Without the second screen, you have to access the menu, then move the cursor to the "map" selection and use it.  It would be nice if there was a way to access it directly, like maybe using the other side of the touch pad, just as Diablo III: UEE did.

The first thing you will likely notice with the game is the graphics.  It is some nice sprite artwork, with the trademark amazing animations of WayForward.  However, it is still clearly an upscaled version of a portable game.  This isn't too big of an issue for me, but after seeing what they did with Mighty Switch Force: Hyper Edition, I would have loved for Shantae to get the same treatment.  Although, the bust shots during dialogue look great!

The game is basically a metroidvania action adventure game.  You run around, jump to different platforms and attack enemies... with your hair.  The controls are tight, which is necessary for a game like this.  You also have a few different magic spells that you can buy and use, but you can only equip one at a time.  I didn't switch them often, so this isn't as limited as it sounds.  Shantae can also learn magical transformations that she can access from dancing.  Yeah, the genie theme extends to belly dancing magic.  It is fitting, though.

The three forms each allow for a different ability.  The monkey allows you to climb some walls, the elephant can charge to open up a few caves, and the mermaid allows you to swim underwater.  Standard, but if it's not broken, it doesn't need fixing.  One of the most unique things about a few areas is how there are multiple 2D planes linked together in the fore or background.  There are special panels that allow you to jump into the plane in one of the two directions.  In an awesome touch, you can see the ones in the background, and they are slightly clouded, so you don't get confused.  It works well and looks really cool.

Unfortunately, as fun as the game is, it is a bit on the short side.  My run through the game was just under 4.5 hours, and an hour more to grab the items I was missing (it took me 6 hours total for the DS version, for comparison's sake).  Difficulty is pretty good though, as the fights can be tough, but not overly so.  Shantae's hitbox feels a bit big, but so does her attack range, so it almost evens out.  It still makes a few enemies a pain though.  Platforming in the game is more unforgiving than the fights.  There are many sections that require you to be very precise, and it can get a little frustrating.  It isn't throw your controller hard, but there might be some swearing.

While the game is short, there are a few endings depending on how much stuff you found and how long it took, which gives the game some replay value.  Granted, I don't do speed runs, so I won't get those endings, but I am more than happy to find all the items.  There's also the new mode added where Shantae has more magic power, but she takes more damage.  The best part about that mode is the costume change... her outfit is very similar to an infamous Return of the Jedi costume.  The trophy list isn't too complicated, but there is one hard trophy that requires you to beat the game without grabbing any life extenders.  Yikes!  Completion here will be for the dedicated and skilled only.

Shantae: Risky's Revenge - Director's Cut is a fun game.  It is a very good action/adventure metroidvania game with solid controls.  The only real negative about the game is the length.  It kept me wanting more after the final boss, so here's hoping the other installments in the series get the home console treatment.  Or even better, a new entry that is native to consoles so it can be a much longer game.

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Hyperdimension Netunia Re;Birth3: V Generation (PS Vita/PC) Review

What better time to review the recently released Hyperdimension Neptunia Re;Birth3: V Generation then after refreshing myself on the first two on PC?  This game is an enhanced port/remake of Hyperdimension Neptunia Victory that came out a few years ago on the PS3.  It boasts a few new changes to bring it in line with how the series has evolved on the Vita in the last two years.

Like the previous titles in the series, exploration is in a 3D world that you run and jump around in.  Making contact with an enemy starts a fight.  However, the hidden treasures from the previous game are gone.  I'm okay with that.  They were fun, but I always felt obligated to track them down every time I went into a dungeon, and now I don't have that added stress.  In their place, they now have (mostly) invisible blocks.  I found a few at first, but didn't know what they were.  I figured it was something that would be unlocked later, but I was wrong.  If you jump, you can get a few coins and occasionally an item.  It's actually a fun little nod to Super Mario Bros.

Battles are turn based.  Characters can move around in a set radius when their turn comes up.  Your attack range is determined by your equipped weapon or any skill you use.  After your initial attack, you can combo from one of three buttons, each with a different focus.  One is for more hits, another for more attack power, and a third for breaking the guard gauge.  While they all have their uses, I find the attack centered one the best to use in most situations.  A lot of enemies seem to die before their guard is broken, and on the more powerful ones, their guard will break eventually no matter which you use.  It's probably not ideal, but it does get the job done.  The flow of battle is the same as previous entries, but several other battle factors have changed.

For starters, there is an extra combo slot available... although it is gained from a plan, and it seems to be one of each type per person per slot.  Three plans per character, times... yeah, that is a lot of plans.  While it does increase your damage by a chunk, it takes too long to start getting them.  Ex Finishers, which are set at the end of a combo, are now restricted in which slot it can be put.  It's a minor inconvenience, but still worth noting.  These finishers are now based of a character's individual SP level instead of a group meter.  This is more streamlined and I like it.

SP is now 1000 by default, and each 250 is one level.  You gain this SP by attacking, and use it for skills.  This is probably the most significant change in the game, and it makes SP much more user friendly.  Before it was much more like MP, so it was restored when you left the dungeon, leveled up or used an item.  This new system makes it easier to use and replenish, especially in boss battles.  When a slain enemy drops an item, it is shown on the screen by an icon, so you know who dropped the item and even what type of item is was.  I really like the changes to combat, and I hope they stick around for the next iteration of the series.

Plans are again part of the game, and again their reach is expanded.  Besides adding new dungeons, new items and changing enemies, there are some functionality ones.  You can change the battle music, or even one that lets you tilt the characters backwards on the equip screen... so you can peek up their skirts.  Well, not every change is amazing, I guess.  The biggest is that there are now plans that are specific to the character.  Several of these are gained from the Nepedia challenges, which I liked doing for the stat bonuses anyway.  On a side note, I'm glad those have returned.  I missed them!

Stella's Dungeon, probably my favorite addition to the previous game, also returns and also has some changes.  See a pattern here?  Anyway, you now explore Neptral Tower instead of the various dungeons around Gamindustri.  Each area is broken up into 100+ floors of the tower, and you choose what level to explore to, and it shows how long it takes her to explore it.  This happens in real time, whether you are playing or not.  You can get equipment for Stella to make her travels easier, and even some free items for your party.  The other change, besides the location, is that the scout is now changeable.  Instead of Felis, you can use several other random denizens of Gamindustri, all with different skills to help Stella.  This changes make it slightly better, and I still like Stella's Dungeon.

There is some DLC for the game, the best of which is free (as of this review).  There is a bunch of characters available to download from two different packs, and I'd suggest you do so.  They start at level 1, but make it easy to fill out your party and sub-party.  Plus, the oracles from the various lands are more powerful than a character at level 20, so they can help you get through faster.  Yeah, some will shun this, but it's nice if you have already played the original version, and want to get through it faster since you have already done it and there is no way to transfer your save.  Either way, a nice bonus for free.

Supposedly, the story had some changes, but I didn't notice them.  Maybe it's been too long since I played the original, or maybe they are much farther in the game and I didn't get to them yet.  Either way, the other noticeable changes are nice and make the game experience better.  SP is gained from attacking, which makes healers more useful in long boss battles.  Hyperdimension Neptunia Re;Birth3: V Generation is a fun game, but I finally realized one problem I have with the series as a whole.  It is hard to play in small bursts.  I don't always feel like I'm making headway through the game unless I spend a long time playing.  It reminds me of the Elder Scrolls games in that respect, where you can play for a few hours and not feel like you did much of anything.  It's not enough to stop me playing, as the game is pretty fun, but it changes how long I play each session.

[Update 10/30/15: PC version (Steam)]
I played the PC version for a few hours, and it ran really well on my i7-4790, 16GB Ram.  I at first tried to keyboard/mouse, which would have worked better had I mapped the keys.  I'm not sure what the defaults are for that, but I could only get a few things to work.  The buttons it displays are the Xbox 360 controller buttons, which I used after restarting the game.  The controller works beautifully for the game.

Of course it is the best looking version of the game, running in 1080p and with what seems like 60fps.  Other than that it pretty much plays the same as the Vita version.  There are several pieces of DLC available, with the best being the extra characters.  I wouldn't use them (especially Histoire) if you want the most challenge.

I also just found the menu option to tweak the radius of ranged attacks.  I went back to check and it is in the Vita version, too.  The problem is, I can't seem to get it to work.  I'm not sure what they count as a ranged attack, since every one I tried it on did nothing.

The PC version is solid if you want to play the game and didn't have a Vita or would rather play it on your computer.

Saturday, July 4, 2015

Summer Gaming List

For the last few summers, I've assembled a few games that I want to play and try to complete while I have the extra time.  I also attempt this the few times the kids go visit their grandparents, but the summer is a longer time frame, and I have actually got some done the past few years.

This year, I have noted down a few physical and some digital titles that I intend to at least play for a few hours, to see if I want to stick with them.  If I don't, I can safely delete them or put them away in the collection (plastic tubs in the closet).  If I do, then hopefully I can beat a few before school starts in a few months.  I will note that I will not likely finish all of them.  I still have games to review, but in my free time I hope to work on at least lessening some of my massive backlog.  At this point I cannot deplete it, but merely chip away at it and hope to clear out some space.

Here is the list of games for this summer:
Playstation 3
-Front Mission Evolved
-Jak and Daxter 3 (Collection)
-Sly Cooper: Thieves in Time
-Hunted: The Demon's Forge
-Uncharted 2

Xbox 360
-Army of Two: 40th Day
-Killer is Dead
-Gears of War: Judgment

Xbox One
-Crimson Dragon

I was originally going to put the Fast and the Furious Forza Horizon 2 standalone game on the list, but one day I decided to try it.  A few hours later I had completed it and had all but one achievement.  They weren't kidding when they said it was quick to complete and get your points.  It only took 4 hours or so, with all the loading.  So, no need to put it on the list, since it is already done!

I'll check in with this at the end of the summer (about mid-September before my class starts), and we will see just how much or little I did.

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Hyperdimension Neptunia Re;Birth1 and 2 (PC, Steam) Quick Look

Hyperdimension Neptunia Re;Birth1

Last year, Idea Factory International announced they were bringing some titles to PC by way of Steam.  I'm not much of a PC gamer, but I thought it was pretty cool, since the more people that can play them, the better.  The first one they released was Hyperdimention Neptunia Re;Birth1.

At first I wasn't sure if my PC would even run it competently, since it is a mid-range machine from 4 years ago.  Surprisingly, it ran well.  There were no hiccups or anything like that, but the screen would go black at the end of the results screen.  I'm not sure why, since I don't remember that from the Vita version.

I tried the keyboard and mouse for the game, to get the true PC experience.  It was serviceable but  weird.  It might be different if you are used to playing games like that on a keyboard, but I vastly preferred the controller.  Since the game was first developed for (home and portable) consoles, the controller is perfect for playing it.

Content-wise, it is the same as the Vita version, and so is the story.  Hyperdimension Neptunia games are centered around Neptune, who is representative of the Sega consoles.  Each nation and CPU goddess are a different first party game manufacturer, so in a way you are playing through the console wars.  It's not as knock-down drag out nasty as it is in the real world, though.  The game is pretty light-hearted and doesn't take itself too seriously.

Since I already reviewed the PS Vita version, you can check out that review if you would like more details on the gameplay and other stuff.  It surprising ran fine on my machine at the time, which is a big plus for me.  Neptunia looks really good and fluid in 1080p!

Hyperdimension Neptunia Re;Birth2: Sisters Generation

Since I already covered the Vita version of Hyperdimension Neptunia Re;Birth2 and the content and story is the same, this will mostly cover how it ran and felt.  For starters, much like the first Re;Birth on PC, the game looks really nice and fluid.  The visuals sure are a step up from the Vita version.  Yes, this is to be expected, and graphics aren't everything, but it does looks better, so I felt I should mention that.

I learned last time to just stick with the controller instead of the keyboard and mouse combo.  I used the Xbox 360 controller, and it worked perfectly.  So perfectly, in fact, that maybe they should bring the series to the MS platforms... well, a man can dream.  Between playing this and the previous game, I had purchased a new computer.  The newer one is considerably more powerful, and ran Re;Birth2 with no issues for the few hours I played it.

For both titles, if you have been interested in the series and didn't have a Vita, then you should get the PC versions.  They aren't connected much story-wise, despite having many of the same characters, so no need to play one before the other in order to get the whole story.  The first game deals with introducing the four CPU goddesses, and the second focuses on their sisters.  The main CPUs represent the consoles, and the sisters are the portable consoles.  The PC version's content is identical to the Vita, and you can play it in nice 1080p and a smooth frame rate, plus on a bigger screen!