Saturday, December 31, 2016

ReCore (Xbox One) Review

ReCore is a third person shooting action and adventure game where the main character, Joule, must team up with three robot companions and brave the harsh environment of Eden Prime.  It's a pretty good looking game overall.  Sure, the prismatic cores look a bit...weird, but I'd say it is solid otherwise.

Another really good aspect of the game is Joule's movement.  She starts with a boost dash, that works in midair, and a double jump right off the bat.  She can also dash before jumping, and still gets her air dash.  This allows her to cover a lot of ground quickly.  Plus, it is super vital for many of the harder platforming segments.  In addition to that, one of the robot chassis can pull Joule up special tracks, and another allows her to glide, giving you even more movement and exploration options.  I loved how many movement options Joule had right from the get-go, and that a few were added later.

Sure, it's not perfect, since there were plenty of times I had trouble landing on small platforms because it can be hard to know where exactly you will land, but that's a problem in many 3D platforming games, so while I can complain, I don't hold it against this game only.  Many of the platforming checkpoints aren't too far back, but a few are annoying.  Plus, it is annoying that you can only take 2 of the 3 cores with you, also leaving behind 3 chassis.  Overall, though, I didn't find the platforming too hard, especially considering some of the other games I've played this year.

The shooting in the game is pretty solid, and it even has an automatic lock-on.  Since enemies can run around a lot, this is very, very helpful.  Predictably, it can be hard to pick which target you want when there are numerous enemies clustered together.  The lock on also has a far range, which is sometimes inconvenient in its own way.  Joule's rifle eventually has 4 different colored shots, each effective against enemies that share the same color.  It works much better than I thought it would, and it is worth your time to switch when fighting strong enemies.  If an enemy has one of the colors that Joule can't replicate, hitting it with either color that makes it up (hope you non-artists remembered your color wheel!) will get the bonus damage.

Besides the main dungeons, there are several optional ones.  Well, ostensibly optional.  You need to gather half of the prismatic spheres to actually beat the game, so you will probably need to try out the extra dungeons at some point.  There are three types: combat, traversal and adventure.  Combat involves only fighting, traversal is only platforming, and adventure is a mix of both.  To get the bonuses, you have to shoot all 8 hidden switches, get the yellow key, and do it under a time limit.  That would all be well and good, but unfortunately, you also have to do all of them at the same time for the last bonus.  Yuck.  (I unabashedly used the time cheat to do this, since I don't want to run each dungeon 5+ times.)


I have to also talk about why the game was likely released at a budget price.  It's simply not finished.  This is most obvious in the large areas of the map that have little to no things for you to do.  Sure, they have collectibles and a few chests thrown in there, but you can tell that there is so much  more they could have done.  One area isn't even technically accessible until future DLC makes it traversable (although there is a glitch that can get you out there).  Also, once you are near the end, you have to basically stop and go around to collect prismatic spheres to get through the final dungeon.  This just extends the game unnecessarily.  If it wasn't so obvious, it might not be as distracting.

Is ReCore a fun game?  Overall, I'd say yes.  It's clearly not finished, but I enjoyed playing it.  It took me 20 hours to get to the final dungeon, but several more to track down the cores needed to proceed, which I would have done anyway.  The game was easily worth the price I paid (Black Friday prices).  I would easily recommend the game for action-adventure fans.

The Good:
Fun game, Joule has great movement options and there is lots of exploration.

The Bad:
The game is obviously not complete, but still released.  Having to do all of the dungeon challenges in one run without a cheat isn't fun.

The SaHD:
You know, I'd actually like to see a sequel to this game, but I'm sure it didn't sell well enough to get one, which is a shame.

(ReCore was purchased by reviewer)

Friday, December 23, 2016

The Dwarves (PS4) Review

The Dwarves comes to current gen consoles and PC, and is based off a series of books.  I had not previously heard of the books, but that wasn't really a detriment to the game's setting or story.  Most things were explained enough that I got the basic gist, or were popular enough fantasy ideas (such as magic, the different races, etc.) that I wasn't lost.

While the game first appears to be an action game, you quickly discover it is a real time strategy game.  You will automatically attack whatever target you are facing, but can move around and use your special abilities.  It's also a good idea to move around to fight near your buddies, so they can cover your back.  It is super easy to get surrounded, and you lose health very quickly when you do.  It's also a quick trip to a game over.

The special abilities use the little shield icons that live under your character's health bar.  These are usually built up by taking and receiving damage, but there are a few other special circumstances that can also increase them.  The abilities are mapped to the d-pad, which works fairly well.  Press the direction once to set up the aiming, and then press the X Button to use it.  It's always worth the extra second or two to aim it, even if you are being attacked while doing so.  The X Button will also use the last ability you used, for quickly doing the same thing again.  I'll admit I'm not sure I like that, since I kept trying to hit X to attack, and ended up using an ability.  I'm sure others will like that function, though.  Also note that your special attacks appears to hit your friends (which can inconvenience them), but not damage them (which would be horrible).

The AI will control any characters that you are not currently using, but they will not use your special abilities, for better or worse.  Better because they won't waste them, but worse because you end up having to switch among your characters frequently to use the abilities, making it harder to keep track of any one person.  Considering the big melees you find your characters in, you need to keep track of them.  Thankfully, even when zoomed out enough to see the big picture of what's going on, it was easy enough to see my people and who they were targeting, even if it might not be so easy to do anything about it.

Besides battles, the flow of the game is unique as well.  At first you get a big battle that serves as a tutorial.  Fair enough.  After that, it kicks over to your main character.  There is a bit where you move around and talk to people before setting off to the world map.  Your starting quest is simple enough in premise, but quickly snowballs into an epic journey.  The world map is composed of many points connected by paths.  You can choose where to move along the webwork of places.  However, each move takes 1 day and 1 ration per character, so if you want to wander around, you'll need to find or buy more rations as you go.  There are a multitude of different events at the various points of the map, and they have different resolutions.  For these minor points, it's like a choose your own adventure, and it's actually really cool.  Plus, you can have unique experiences each time you play through the game.  Awesome.

While that's all fine and dandy, there are two huge downsides to the game.  First is the difficulty of the fights.  When your small group fights 3-5 enemies at a time, it works fine.  However, there are plenty of fights against 20 or more enemies, which is absurd.  You have to quickly switch between your characters and use their abilities, or move them out of danger, and then rinse and repeat until the battle is over.  If any one character loses all of their health, it's game over.

This, in turn, highlights the next problem: the load times.  They are long and frequent.  Moving to a new area?  Loading screen.  Plot scene?  Loading.  Died in combat again?  Loading.  Sure, the game looks really pretty, but having to load often and taking its sweet time doing it really drags down the experience, especially after the third time trying a difficult fight.  Yuck.

Overall, The Dwarves has a unique battle system marred by its unforgiving difficulty, and a great map/event system marred by long loading times.  It can be a fun game when it wants to be.  It also has a lot of replay value, if you can get past its hurdles.

The Good:
Battles are unique and can be fun.  The choose your own adventure style map and events gives a lot of replay value.

The Bad:
The battles can be way too difficult, which then highlights the very long (and frequent) load times.

The SaHD:
Is the sequel to this going to be The Elves?

(Review code for The Dwarves was provided by the publisher)

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Sword Art Online: Hollow Realization (PS Vita) Review

Sword Art Online comes in again with its third gaming entry, and again continues the continuity set forth in the first one.  However, playing the others beforehand isn't required, as the developers have learned a few things since the first game released.

I have yet to play the second game, Lost Song, but I don't feel like I'm missing any story.  Unlike the first game, Hollow Realization starts with very little backstory.  It's just enough to set up roughly who the characters are, and optional bits explain the overview of the last two games.  It's a huge leap forward from the first game, whose jumbled mess of an explanation was only useful to those that knew the story already.

Before most of that, however, you must complete the battle tutorial.  While I do appreciate games dropping you into the action quickly, this battle tutorials are not for the basics, but for the newer systems.  So, they won't make you press every button (this is how to attack...etc.), or tell you about how to do special moves, but they instead teach you when to stagger enemies and how to chain skills.  Based off this tutorial, the combat is something I'm going to have to get used to.  I'm not even sure I got the skill chain successfully, as it never said that and the monster eventually died.  Either way, I was done with that and ready to move on to the game.

I did eventually 'get' the combat, but it took me a few hours.  While the game appears to be more hack and slash, that won't help you get good at the game.  To put it another way, it works on normal enemies, but not on bosses.  You have a normal combo, but can place an unlocked skill as the combo ender, which is a really cool feature.  Otherwise, you can equip and activate up to four skills.  Rather than be in a standard configuration, they are based on the Triangle button and various commands with it.  It's not the best solution in my book, but you can call up the command bar if you want access to more.

Kirito can also parry enemy attacks.  You rarely have enough time to do it on reaction, so you just have to know when to do it.  I rarely ended up using it, and mostly dodged.  The dodge is much more reliable, but it unfortunately costs SP.  SP is also used to activate skills, and restores slowly, so you have to prioritize which you want to use it on.  The dodge is also unfortunately not an animation skip, so you have to be careful that you aren't in the middle of an attack when you need to use it, as you won't be able to until after the attack finishes.

Since the game is supposed to be you playing as a person playing an MMO, you only really control your main character (Kirito unless you make one).  You can't directly control the other party members you have, such as asking them to heal you, but you have some influence in what they do.  There is an icon on the lower right of the screen that allows you to compliment someone, which, in theory, shapes what abilities they do when in your party.

Still, it would be easier if I could just have them heal me.  Especially Silica.  I don't want to take her along in the first place, but her class is listed as healer, so I expect her to do that.  Kirito doesn't get a healing ability, and I don't want to just chug potions all day when there are other party members with me who can help me stay healthy.  It would give them something to do, since they aren't too keen on attacking.  When you are busy hacking and slashing away at enemies, it's easy to lose sight of your friends, but watch them when you get a chance.  In any instance where you have to sit back for a second (or a named monster puts you to sleep for over 30 excruciating seconds), you may notice that they don't do much.  Sure, they are helpful at using skills for a chain when you ask them too, but they don't attack near as much as you do.  They really do rely on Kirito for everything.

Hollow Realization's story seems par for the course for Sword Art Online.  Kirito quickly meets a young woman that he decided to help for no real reason.  Just like Yui.  And Strea.  And Philia.  And Yuuki...the list goes on.  Here's some minor early-game spoilers.  The girl he helps this time is a null character who has an incomplete quest.  Instead of reporting it, or at least making fun of a bug like a normal gamer would, they decide to protect her.  What?  I'm pretty sure an actual gamer wouldn't try to befriend the bug and help it stay in the game rather than get fixed.  Maybe they are just enamored with her personality, like Yui?  Nope, they blatantly state that she is a null character, meaning she has nothing to her.  She's a place holder.  She is somehow more bland than the Create A Wrestler move stand-ins, Red and Green.  They are also in the game's beta phase, when stuff like this is to be reported and fixed.  Of course doing what they do just rolls into the plot, but it's still a bit of a ridiculous premise to me.

Anyway, on to where the game takes place.  The areas of Ainground are really big.  Much bigger than I would think.  The nice part of this is that you have plenty of space to move around and fight enemies without bumping into additional enemies.  It's really easy to fight one at a time.  The bad part is it takes awhile to go from one end to the other.  The start of each area has a teleporter that, once activated, allows you to warp to it from the map.  Switching areas and returning to town are thankfully very easy affairs.  You only have to deal with the fairly long loading times.

When moving around the first area, the first groups of enemies are appropriately leveled.  The next few groups (still in the first area) were a few levels higher, which made me think I had to grind to get though the first area.  I did grind, but I didn't need to.  Enemies in each area have a level range, so some are higher than their neighbors.  This isn't ideal, as it confused at least one player (me).  Also, you can reasonably take on enemies that are 2-3 levels higher than you (unless they are named monsters), which I didn't know at the time.  Unfortunately, the game will also throw random super high level monsters into an area, but they are easy to avoid until you can actually fight them much, much later in the game.

Most story quests are clearly marked on the map, or at least which area the objective is in, but it isn't always so clear.  There are a few objectives that you are given very basic directions for, and you end up wandering around until you can figure them out.  It can put a damper on progression.  Side quests will tell you in the description where you are likely to complete them, which is very helpful.  However, each area can be rather large, so you still have to run around (or remember) where to fight the required monsters.  There's a third type of quest, which are events that randomly appear on the map when you enter.  These are clearly marked with circles, so you know the area they take place in.  So, even if you are at a loss how to advance the story, there are plenty of things to occupy your time.  Or at least mine, since I love doing side quests.

Will Sword Art Online fans like Hollow Realization?  Likely.  It's not a bad game, even though it has some issues.  I could see the PS4 version being better with regards to loading and draw distance, so that may be the version to get.  Hollow Realization at least makes it more approachable for new fans to jump into the games without an unnecessarily long introduction to the universe.  I can see clear differences between this and the first game in the series, and to me, it still shows that the developers are trying things out to see what works and what doesn't.  It's worth playing for fans of the show, but I still feel we aren't to a great Sword Art Online game...yet.  It is getting closer, though.

The Good:
The game starts off much better than the first one.  Large areas to explore and plenty of quests to complete.

The Bad:
Story quest progression can be very vague at times.  The AI companions aren't very helpful.

The SaHD:
I'd like to see the game go full action RPG, and allow more fluid combat.

(Review code for Sword Art Online: Hollow Realization was provided by the publisher)

Monday, December 5, 2016

Marvel Vs Capcom Infinite - Dream Entrants

Wow.  The game that easily could not have been has been officially announced.  Marvel Vs. Capcom Infinite is coming in 2017 (supposedly).  So far we have seen Ryu (duh), Megaman X (my favorite incarnation, and I'll accept him over Zero since Zero has had his day), and Morrigan (duh) for the Capcom side.  Marvel is bringing Ironman (duh x3), Captain Marvel (awesome), and Captain America (thumbs up, soldier!)

It's back to 2v2 and has also been confirmed that there are no assists this time around, which should help with balance, even if I'll miss them.  The Infinity Stones also make their return.  As of this writing, it is unknown if they behave like they did in Marvel Super Heroes, or maybe even like X-factor from UMvC3.

As is normal with announcements like this, it's time to say who I want added to the roster, even if they have little to no chance (for some of them).  First up, Marvel.

My first Marvel choice is Venom.  It was an easy choice.  With Spiderman and Marvel coming together somewhat, this does have a chance to happen.  Besides being one of my favorite Marvel characters, he was a lot of fun to use in the Vs. series, and I missed him in the previous installment.  His symbiote attacks would be a great addition to the game.

My second choice?  Who else but Juggernaut.  He was always a blast to play, and I want him back.  Not likely, since Marvel and the X-Men are on the skids, but you never know.

Third choice?  Darkhawk.  I have no idea if he's still relevant, as I haven't read his comics since the mid 90s, but his design was always cool.  I don't even remember what moves he might have, but it would be cool to see him in the game.  Not likely, though.

Considering this is likely some sort of tie-in to the Infinity War movie, I think it's likely to include Thanos.  I don't want him as the boss, or even at boss level strength, but having copies of the gems would give him a great move set.

My first Capcom choice might be obvious.  I want a hunter from Monster Hunter.  I don't want different stances or other gimmicks to incorporate the various weapons.  Just make them special moves.  Give them the great sword as a default (slow, good range, heavy hitting), and make the hammer spin a special move, maybe the insect glaive vault as another, bowgun as a get the picture.  Plus, I want a super where the hunter does a superman dive, and if it connects, the Rathalos runs over the opponent.  Awesome!  I think there is some chance of this happening, since Capcom is understanding that the series does sell outside of Japan, but we shall see.

Next would be to bring back Phoenix Wright.  Keep him mostly as he was, but don't make him a joke character.  Let him actually be effective enough to work on a team.  If not, I will keep comparing the developers to Sam Raimi and his travesty of Spiderman 3.  *shudder*  Anyway, I don't think this is likely, but I'd like it to happen.

I got to rep another Capcom favorite, Sengoku Basara.  After some deliberation, I went with Masamune Date.  Not my favorite, but his 6 sword style will definitely set him apart from other combatants.  Plus, he's one of the two poster boys for the franchise, so that will help.  Again, not likely, but it should be.

While we already have a Darkstalker, I always pull for Jedah to be included in the crossover games.  Why?  He's the coolest one.  He has great moves, a unique look, but plays familiar enough to not be an oddity.  Plus hearing that laugh while doing one of his two awesome super moves would be great.  I think he has about zero chances of being in a game over Morrigan and Felicia, since that's all people care about from Darkstalkers.  As long as there is no Dimitri, I can deal with that.

Another great series that I want a character included from is Rival Schools.  Most of them might appear too 'normal' to hang with the rest of the cast, so I have to lean toward Demon Hyo as the entrant.  His dual swords (one of which is a broken blade with phantom cool!) and fearsome demeanor would fit right in with the rest of the cast, and still rep another Capcom forgotten favorite.

Did I go this long without recommending someone from Power Stone?  It was the first thing that jumped into my mind when Ryu yelled it out in the trailer, so of course I would put someone in from that series.  My constant choice for that is Ryoma, since he's really cool.  Plus, he could take back his move that Virgil stole in UMvC3.  Either give him his Power Stone form as a super/gem move, or even leave him in it the whole time, I don't care.  Another forgotten Capcom classic that needs to be represented.  I think all of my Capcom picks are very unlikely, but they do need to bring in some fresh blood from lesser known and lesser shown titles.

Last, I'm going to recommend a boss for the game.  No, it's not as great as Galactus (who Ghost Rider could obliterate), but the end of the trailer made me think of Ultron.  Then I thought he could be a great boss.  From the old Marvel cards I collected, I remember Ultron would upgrade himself after each defeat to have a stronger form.  So, make him a 3 stage fight like Abyss from MvC2.  He has 3 different forms, each stronger than the last.  If you wanted to cross him with Capcom, infect him with the Sigma virus.  Or make him integrated with Sigma.  However, I would prefer that at least one form is the P90-X Hardball mech from Lost Planet.  It's big, mechanical, ties a Marvel character into a Capcom one, and is reminiscent of Tatsunoku Versus Capcom.  I haven't worked out the other forms yet, but so far I'm liking the idea!

I don't usually do this, but please leave any dream picks you have in the comments section below.  I'm interested in what characters other people want in!

Friday, December 2, 2016

A King's Tale: Final Fantasy XV (Xbox One) Review

Set years before Final Fantasy XV, A King's Tale is Noctis' father telling him a bedtime story.  To keep with the way-back feeling of the setting, the game is a 16 bit retro side scrolling beat-em-up.  How can that go wrong?

There are three different attacks and a dodge set to the face buttons.  X is your quick attack, Y is the strong attack, and B is the shield bash.  Different combinations of the buttons make up the simple 3-hit combos in the game, all of which are available from the start.  If you are not near your enemy, the quick and strong attacks will have Regis throw his sword and teleport to it and continue his combo.  This usually works, but sometimes you end up teleporting to another foe when you are trying to fight the one in front of you.  The shield bash only does damage as a combo ender.  It also deflects projectile attacks back at the sender, where the quick attack will send it at another target.  The dodge is set to the A Button, and is useful to get behind enemies, or get out of a group of them for some breathing room.

Regis can also use magic, but not from the start.  As you progress, you unlock 3 different elemental spells that must be charged to be used.  Oh, and you need MP, too.  Sometimes defeated enemies drop MP pickups, which is the only way to refill MP.  It's not much, so you really need to save it for when you need it, such as against the magic-weak Flan.

If you can hit enemies enough without being hit yourself, you can summon one of Regis' friends for a devastating attack.  Plus, his Armiger gauge will also be building, which allows Regis to do a super strong attack at a single target.  Summoning any of his friends beforehand will allow them to do an extra attack during the Armiger attack.  These are really useful, but the not getting hit part means it's hard to use these wonderful tools when you may need them most.  Still, they can be crucial on boss fights to help you survive.

Combat in the game is pretty fun, but does hamper some of that fun behind a wall of complexity.  Different enemies are vulnerable to different types of attacks.  Pretty standard fare for the genre nowadays.  When they are then mostly immune to the other two attacks, it gets really messy when different types all cluster together.  There's also two different enemies that are only really vulnerable to the shield attacks.  So, you end up just mashing B to defeat them.  This isn't too excited, and since only 1 of your three attacks does damage, it takes longer than it should.

Plus, sometimes there are simpler ways around the complexity.  Flans are very resistant to physical attacks, but you can wail on them, build up a companion attack, and just use that to destroy them.  No need to use MP.  Cactuars will dodge after you hit them once, but they always try to go behind you.  If you turn and attack, you will likely hit them with a combo ender and stun them, which allows you to then mash attack to kill or seriously injure them.  While there is a fancier method, why not just do that and save yourself the time and effort?  I can get behind complex situations, but when there is a simple solution, the complexity isn't that well implemented.

The story mode can be completed in under 2 hours, which is really short.  As an old-school Final Fantasy fan, I did appreciate the final boss, who you will just have to see for yourself.  There is an alternate ending if you are so inclined to go through it again.  Upon completion, you unlock dream battles, which are small arena-like fights with special conditions, like fighting many ranged enemies, all flans, etc.  Each also has a challenge star, which are optional challenges for each mission, like not using magic, or doing it quickly.  This does add a little more content, but it's about the simplest thing they could add.  Some last a lot longer than they should, which also helps to limit the fun you have.

Obviously I'm going to love the look of the game, and is was pretty fun, too.  It was overall a good freebie for preorders of Final Fantasy XV, and might be worth a few extra bucks ($5 or less) if sold at a later date.  It's pretty short and there isn't much replay, but it is totally worth playing for beat-em-up fans or old-school gamers.

The Good:
Fun little downloadable freebie with awesome retro graphics.

The Bad:
Tries to be more complicated that it should be, makes later fights messy.  Short.

The SaHD:
Is the town really called Insomnia?  Is that the best they could do?

(Download code for A King's Tale: Final Fantasy was obtained free with preorder)

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Darksiders: Warmastered Edition (Xbox One) Review

Following in the heels of its...sequel, the first Darksiders game comes to the current generation of consoles in this port remaster.  I'm not sure why the first game was remastered second, but like its brethren, it boasts graphical and lighting upgrades.  It also has a super smooth frame rate, for better or worse.

Unlike the sequel, the first Darksiders is pure action and adventure.  You attack with War's really cool sword, named Chaoseater, using the X Button.  He can continuously chain his attacks together, and also use several purchasable upgraded skills.  The Y Button attacks with War's sub-weapon, either a scythe or gauntlets.  War can block some attacks, but also parry and counter them if you block at the right time.  This is really useful, since the game is pretty generous with the timing.  It helps add extra damage to tough foes while conserving your health.

You can also buy, upgrade, and equip 4 special attacks that take Wrath (the yellow energy under your health).  These are actually pretty useful.  There are other special attacks you can buy and upgrade, but are used with special input commands.  Not fireball motions, but things like targeting an enemy and holding back from him while attacking, or holding the attack button in the air.  It's best to try them all out to see what works with your tactics, but I ended up not using very many of them, and used my souls to buy things that I deemed more important.

On his quest for redemption, War agrees to help defeat the Destroyer, a malevolent being of immense power that probably doesn't play well with others, based on its name.  To do so, he must first find and slay its strongest minions and give their hearts to the one who would show War the way into the Destroyer's black citadel.  Each minion is holed up in a different dungeon.  Inside these dungeons, there are special items and weapons that will not only help you defeat them, but also give you new ways to traverse the environment and collect treasures.  If that formula sounds familiar, it's because it is very reminiscent of the Legend of Zelda.  Even so, it is definitely "inspired by" and not a direct copy, as the games feel very different.  War can even ride his horse in many of the open areas, and teleport from shop to shop, so you aren't stuck walking everywhere.

Since this is an action/adventure game, if there are any hard parts, you just have to get better at the game.  Grinding won't do much for you.  Even so, the game is perfectly complete-able on the Easy and Normal setting, although Hard gave me a lot of trouble back when I played the original.  Beating bosses and other difficult enemies is all about reading patterns and using the right tool or attack.  The game has several dungeons, and runs about 15-20 hours depending on how much extra treasure you want to find.  While there is no real new game plus, you can keep the abyssal armor if you manage to find all 10 pieces, which makes the harder difficulties much more manageable.  Achievements and trophies are the same as they were for the original release, so if you got them there, you can do it again.

As mentioned at the start, the game looks really good.  The graphics and frame rate are smooth, and the lighting looks natural.  Besides the too smooth graphics when rotating the camera, I have two other problems with this remaster.  First, explosion sounds don't always play when they should.  If you are right next to them, they make noise, but being a bit away from them (which you really should do for explosions) makes no sound.  Another thing that cropped up was random graphic effects just appearing on the screen.  Stuff like lava bursts and the energy the swirls around the flight orbs would just appear at random places of the screen sometimes.  I'm not sure what it was tied to, but it would go away after closing out the game.  It's not a big deal, as it didn't impede gameplay, but it was noticeable.

I enjoyed playing both Darksiders games, even with the differences between them.  Small annoyances aside, this is the best version of the first game, and well worth playing for action/adventure fans, especially if you like visceral combat and light puzzle solving.  Upon release several years ago, the original was likened to God of War crossed with Legend of Zelda, which is accurate, but I enjoyed Darksiders more than either of those.  If you skipped it last generation, then I recommend playing the game.  However, if you already have completed it, the Warmastered Edition doesn't add anything new except a very pretty coat of paint.

The Good:
The best looking and running version of a good and fun action/adventure game.

The Bad:
A few odd graphic and sound glitches.

The SaHD:
The dungeon with the Portal-like gun gives me a headache.  Hopefully, this and Darksiders II Deathinitive Edition sold well enough to justify a third game.  I want to continue the story of the Horsemen!

(Review code for Darksiders: Warmastered Edition was provided by the publisher)

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Dragon Quest Heroes (PS4) Review

After checking out the import copy of Dragon Quest Heroes lent to me by my friend, I eventually bought my own copy of the US release.  More than just a Dynasty Warriors game with a Dragon Quest skin, they game does add new elements to a familiar formula, even if it isn't always for the best.

Combos are similar to the Warriors games, with weak and strong attacks.  For some characters, the strong attack at the end of a combo will give different moves.  Unfortunately, this is for less than half of the characters.  Even more unfortunate, the combo caps out at four attacks.  The rest of the characters have even less moves, so the normal attack strings end up feeling too simplified and limiting, even if there are some cool effects with them.  Even more strange, this is the more complex mode for attacking.  I'm not sure what they are saying about Dragon Quest players, but this is far from the most appropriate Warriors-style game to put that limitation in.

Each character will also have some magic skills to use.  These are mapped to the face buttons when holding the correct shoulder button.  Most are attacks of some kind, but the characters usually have one buff or heal, too.  These all cost MP to cast, and some can be charged if you buy the appropriate skill.  Most are really cool to look at and helpful in combat.  Whenever a character levels up, they gain skill points that you can use to buy the action skills or a whole host of passives.  Some take a lot of skill points, so either save up, or pony up the gold to re-spec.  Thankfully, that is an option.

Besides the normal combat, Dragon Quest Heroes has many stages where you must defend an object or person from waves of enemies.  At various corners of the map, there are enemies that open a portal to summon more and more enemies.  Since you can't break up your party, or enlist the help of another player, you must use the very monsters you are fighting.  Sometimes fallen foes drop monster coins, which can be used to summon a monster to help out.  There are two flavors, sentry and savior.  Savior is basically summoning the monster for an attack, and the coin is gone afterwards.  Sentry monsters stay around the area summoned to, and help fight off other monsters.  Basically, you want to kill monsters, get the coins, and summon them to defend one or more lines from the portals, while you run to the other and clear it out.  Rinse and repeat until all the portals are down and the monsters flee.

The story mode boils down to three stages types.  First is kill all, which is pretty self explanatory.  Second are the defensive missions explained above.  Third are the boss fights, which are against giant creatures.  Usually there are turrets or something else around to help you fight these gigantic threats.  I think the defending missions are an okay addition to the game, but there were too many of them for my taste.  This felt really out of place, since tower defense isn't an integral part of either the Warriors games or Dragon Quest.  I would have preferred a few more kill all, and maybe some bigger maps for them, too.  A few more traditional DW style levels would not have hurt the game.

The story is a pretty loose good versus evil tale that makes excuses to toss in characters from different Dragon Quest worlds and make you have to protect someone or something a lot of the time.  It's not overly hard, but sometimes enemies dish out very high damage for no real reason.  There are also a multitude of side quests to take on, which are usually go kill X amount of Y enemy, or bring me X of Y item.  Rewards are money or  extra items to help with the accessory crafting system.  While you cannot replay story missions, you can go to their areas and fight never ending streams of monsters.  These are what you use to grind for either experience or items, and it actually works pretty well.  Although, giving more experience would have been a nice boon, or at least having much smaller areas that just keep spawning enemies.  I really like these stage types, but they could be fantastic with a little tweaking.  It would be nice to have these in other Warriors-style games.

If you read my preview of the import version, you may remember that I liked the way the game looks, but am not too keen on the audio.  This still holds true for the localized version.  The game looks great.  Akira Toriyama's art style translated wonderfully to 3D.  The locations and spell effects are really cool looking.  While the music and sound effects are super legit and appropriate, they feel really disjointed because they feel so old.  While I almost always love it when a game is so appreciative of its source, I think they could have made the sounds more modern to better fit with the game.

Also, there are a few other holdovers from the Dragon Quest RPGs that drag down the experience.  Some functions, like saving and pretty much everything else on the airship, just have too much text.  I know you came from an RPG, you don't have to have extra text every time I need to use these services, save that for actual dialogue.  After saving at the church, they still ask if you want to go to the title screen.  Yes, it is traditional in a DQ game to have that, but it hasn't been necessary for the last 20 years, either.

So, is the game worth playing?  If you are a Warriors fan, it is worth trying out, but only buy it if you really like the defending stages.  Fans of Dragon Quest will likely get more out of this, as it is legit to a fault in its presentation.  The game was fun, but the tower defense missions were too numerous for something that isn't appropriate to either involved franchise.

The Good:
The game looks great, and adds a new mechanic to a familiar formula.

The Bad:
However, they use that new mechanic too much.  The old school sounds are appropriate, but don't mesh with the rest of the presentation.

The SaHD:
I really wish I could disable the characters talking through the controller's microphone.  It's really annoying.  I do hope they make a more traditional mash-up with Final Fantasy soon!

(Dragon Quest Heroes was purchased by the reviewer for under $20)

Friday, November 18, 2016

Yomawari: Night Alone (PS Vita) Review

After abruptly losing her dog, a little girl goes home and her sister goes to look for it.  As it gets darker, the little girl ventures out to find her sister.  However, you will soon learn that scary monster lurk around every corner.  It is up to you to guide the girl to safety and locate her sister in one of the Vita's scariest and creepiest offering, Yomawari: Night Alone.

At first glance, the game looks like a horror game, and it that is fairly accurate.  You play as a little girl, who has no weapons against the evil shadows that roam the town.  Therefore, it is a lot like a survival horror game.  You quickly get a flashlight that can show you where most monsters are, and you have to either avoid them, run away from them, or sneak by.  It took me way too long to realize the right stick can aim the flashlight.  It's really useful, but I do find myself swinging it around from side to side like a paranoid horror movie extra.  And just like them, if the girl gets caught, she gets killed.

There are places around town for you to hide.  While hiding, you can only see the girl, and vague red mist that represents the enemies.  There's also a heartbeat that lets you know how close they are.  It really keeps the adrenaline pumping while you are hiding.  Overall, the game has a great presentation that is unsettling and creepy without being graphic (see Corpse Party if that's what you want).

While on your quest to find your sister, you have various places that you can go to that change during the course of the game.  Some place may not be open when you first wander by it, but you will eventually need to go there.  Along the way, you have some basic puzzles to figure out, like finding items that let you pass areas or unlock doors.  So in addition to dodging various ghosts and monsters, you also need to solve how to get to where you need to go.

The girl can also pic up rocks, coins and fish crackers.  Rocks can distract monsters, fish crackers feed cats, but coins have the best use.  Whenever you go by a Jizo statue, you can offer a coin to make a quick save.  They also act as teleporters, that can move you quickly from one statue to another.  The girl can also return to her house from the map, if you want to full save.  Then, stop by the nearest statue and jump right back in to whatever you were just doing (porting around doesn't cost a coin).  I'm one of those people that saves a lot (Psycho Mantis told me I like to kick my tires before I leave), so this is a very useful function.

It's pretty easy to pass by some of the side stuff in the game if you focus on the story, but you are allowed to go back at the end of the game and other points to get the extra items.  Yomawari is a pretty fun and creepy game that offers a few hours of playtime.  It's part survival horror and part puzzle, and while you will die easily and repeatedly, it's not that frustrating.  Well, unless you can't figure out where to go and what to do.  It's a solid offering on the PS Vita for horror fans, or even puzzle gamers.

The Good:
Great at setting the tone for the game early on.  A very creepy game.

The Bad:
Not always clear where to go/what to do.  Sometimes you can actually go past things that it appears to steer you away from.

The SaHD:
While I'm not a fan of limited saves, like ink ribbons, paying coins to Jizo was a cute and appropriate way to do it, so I can't be too mad.

(Review code for Yomawari: Night Alone was provided by the publisher)

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Destroy All Humans! (PS4) Review

My first foray into the Destroy All Humans! franchise was with its final game, Path of the Furon, on the Xbox 360.  I was interested in the series before that, but for one reason or another didn't try it out.  So, I jumped on the chance to review the first game when it was released on PS4.  Admittedly, I thought it was one of the popular remasters that are plag-, uh, I mean, ever present in our current gaming scene.  However, it is one of the PS2 games being released on PS4, meaning it only really has upscaled graphics and trophies.  It's also widescreen, except for the cinematics.

It was quickly apparent just how much the game was from the PS2 era.  The controls felt a bit off for some of the functions.  For example, R1 is shoot, which is definitely an old school Playstation thing.  The one that got me the most, even after several hours, is that going back from a menu isn't the ever useful Circle button.  For whatever reason, it is the Triangle button.  There's also fall damage, and you may know that I don't really like that, especially in a game where they give you a jetpack.  I've been able to avoid it for the most part, but there are still times I fall just a bit too far, even if it doesn't feel like it, and take some damage.

When I say "damage", I don't really mean health damage.  Crypto has regenerating shields, but doesn't seem to be able to take a hit past that.  You don't get hit too often, but the damage when you do seems high.  I'll pretty much chalk all of these things up as signs of the time.  I don't really expect them to be changed in a non-remastered remastered release, but it is something to be aware of.  It is a good way to remind people what games where like, even 10 years ago.

Crypto gets several weapons in his fight against humanity.  First is his gun, which can shoot a steady stream of energy.  This shocks the target, and can jump to others nearby as well.  It does get upgrades that allow it to change into a disintegration ray and fire explosive shots, among others.  Most shots have limited ammo, but the basic blaster has a recharging energy meter.

Besides his gun, Crypto has some mental powers at his disposal.  He can levitate things with his mind, and even read the thoughts of others.  He can assume the disguise of any one walking around, which helps keep the alert meter down.  Too bad you can't pick up anything while in disguise.  To top it all off, Crypto can climb into his saucer and lay waste to enemy vehicles and buildings.  Yes, it is fun, but the energy of the death ray drains a little too fast for my tastes.  Thinking back to Path of the Furon, I think most of these minor complaints were ironed out and made more fun by then.

The game is mission based.  When you enter the area of your next mission, it starts automatically.  When you finish, the game saves and you get your reward.  You are allowed to roam around the surrounding area, but you have to beam back up to your ship to get the next mission.  It's a very strange design decision.  If you don't want to take the next mission, you can always stay down in the area, or return to a previous area for side missions and collectibles.  Too bad there aren't any in-game maps to help you.  Plus, the side mission markers don't disappear, or change appearance in any way to signify that you have completed them.  It's not a deal breaker, but it's really annoying to try and remember which side missions you have done when there is no real way to keep track in the game.

The game takes about 10 hours to do all the missions, and a few more if you do the side missions and collectibles.  It's not overly tough, but there are definitely some harder missions that may cause you to go back to the spaceship and try again.  No mid-mission checkpoints here!  You will also get shot a lot when running around to grab the collectibles, since there is no stealthy way to get them.  Again, not a huge deal, but it does get annoying after a few minutes of getting attacked from the constantly respawning enemies while you are just trying to track down the last few probes.  However, you can use the cheat codes to your hearts content (and I'd even recommend it for a few missions) without disabling trophies.  Take that modern gaming!

Overall, Destroy All Humans! was pretty fun, but it definitely shows its age.  The shooting and mental powers gameplay is solid, and I really enjoy the humor of the game.  The mission structure could be better, and I would have liked a few improvements to the game to make it an actual remaster instead of just an upscaled re-release.  If you have not played the franchise and want a jumping in point, this is a good place to start.

The Good:
Funny game with a good premise.  Killing enemies with the disintegration ray is cool.

The Bad:
Having to go back to the ship to take the next mission, and no checkpoints in longer, multi-part missions.

The SaHD:
I've heard the sequel was the best of the series, so I hope that's next to get re-released.

(Review code for Destroy All Humans! was provided by the publisher)

Wednesday, November 9, 2016


I enjoy playing visual novels, and really wanted to try STEINS;GATE when it first released on the Vita.  I didn't get a chance to, so I jumped at the chance to try out the PC version.

The game starts out introducing us to the main character that we will be following around and he's...well, an idiot.  Okabe Rintaro (Japanese order) fancies himself a mad scientist (named Hououin Kyouma) on the run from the evil Organization.  He's pretty much that guy that didn't really grow-up, and still plays pretend.  Even so, his silliness is the cause of some funny dialogue (I like that he keeps adding "name subject to change" for the Phonewave), and a surprising amount of other characters go along with his disillusion.

There are a surprising amount of pop culture references, and they even figure in to the plot, some heavier than others.  Many of the references are obvious, but the names are changed.  All entries are put into the game's encyclopedia so you can read them later if you so desire.  The pop culture reference might make you think the game is a more silly, parody type of game, but it isn't.  There is a scene early on that at first glance would support that, but...well, I don't want to ruin it.  The game, and the science it presents, are both taken seriously.  I'll admit I don't know if all of the science was accurate when the game was created, but what little I do recognize seems legitimate.

STEINS;GATE is also a very long game, especially for a visual novel.  Clocking in at around 25 hours (assuming you read the story, which you should!), it takes several hours to even get to the first branching path.  There are six different endings to uncover as well as befriending the various characters through phone email responses.  Unless you want to re-read a big chunk of the game, creative use of the save files is recommended.  Thankfully you get more than enough, and you can even lock them so you don't accidentally save over them!

The game ran really well on my PC.  As a visual novel, it should run fine on many machines.  I tried using both mouse and keyboard and a controller to play the game.  Since a vast majority of the game is reading, either works well enough for that.  There are several points where you have to take out your phone, whether to read messages or respond to emails, and here is where I have to recommend the controller.  Despite having many more buttons on it, the keyboard doesn't seem to have one that calls up the phone.  The options only list the controller buttons, which are, by default, mapped to the triggers on an Xbox 360 controller.  I didn't see an option to set it on the keyboard, which effectively locks off an important function in the game.

STEINS;GATE was a really good story, and a good visual novel.  It does take awhile to get going, but that's because the story is long and involved.  I had fun playing the game, however I still would prefer to play the Vita version.  Even so, the game is an easy recommendation to science fans, and fans of visual novels.  Definitely a great one, and I'm looking forward to the sequel!

The Good:
A very hefty length for a visual novel with a really good story.  Locking save files is a great idea.

The Bad:
The story is a slow burn that takes awhile to really get going.

The SaHD:
The early scene with the alpaca game was done brilliantly.

(Review code for STEINS;GATE was provided by the publisher)

Monday, November 7, 2016

Exile's End (PS4) Review

When I first saw footage of Exile's End, I was definitely intrigued.  It appeared to be a metroidvania game, which is a genre I very much enjoy.  When I tried the game out, I soon learned that is only part of what the game is.  Especially in the beginning, the game feels more like a survival horror game.

Why is that?  Well, you don't have any weapons at the start of the game.  In fact, you can't even fall too far without taking damage.  I already dislike fall damage, and putting it in a game like this doesn't make me like it any more.  It slows down the first few minutes of the game.  While it gets corrected quickly, it still leaves its stain on the rest of the experience.

The weapon situation, though, is far more annoying.  While I can accept not starting the game with a weapon, the first one you get is a rock.  Yup, just a plain rock.  You can hold a few, and even retrieve them after thrown (as long as you don't leave the screen), but they are next to useless.  For starters, they fly in an arc.  If that doesn't sound bad to you, you obviously have not experienced that, or seen the AVGN video on Friday the 13th on NES.  After what feels like forever (although it is only about 15-30 excruciating minutes), you get a pistol.  It thankfully has unlimited ammo, and works pretty well, even if it is weak.  Other weapons you get are limited by either ammo or energy, making them useful only in certain situations.  Otherwise, stick with the pistol.

One of my biggest problems with the game is some poor design choices.  The best example is a point where you have to destroy alien...thingys...sitting on the ground.  You come across one, the character remarks about it, and you move on.  Trouble is, you can blow them up with grenades.  It's not mentioned, so you would have to try that to see it's possible.  Furthermore, you don't even know you have to do it.  It removes some stone barriers that block your path.  Too bad the alien devices are far enough away that it's far fetched to think there is a connection.  However, there is one that is that is right in front of one, so you can see it.

It's behind another one, meaning you have to figure it out before the game shows you it is possible.

Now, I don't want it to have a cut scene every time a door opens (thanks, Legend of Zelda!), but it's not too much to ask to have something designed well enough that it can be figured out in a reasonable amount of time.  There's more stuff like this in the game, such as the black background of the health and energy meter blending in too much, staying crouched after landing from a high jump/fall, or the disproportionate amount of energy pickups to health ones.  They may be small on their own, but adding them all together makes it a big problem.

There are no save point areas in the game, as the game auto saves whenever you enter a screen.  This is both good and bad.  Good because if when you die, you don't start back too far from where you were.  Bad because you can easily get stuck.  A save room usually would refill your health, so you get none of that in Exile's End.  Instead, you can get stuck with low HP, and having to hope you can kill the next enemy and that it drops health so you can survive and not get sent to the title screen repeatedly.  There were times that I contemplated starting over, since I was in a tough spot with a sliver of HP left.  That's not really a good thing.

That might not be as big of an issue, but the game is filled with cheap hits and deaths.  The cheap deaths, usually done by floors of spikes you can't see until it is too late, are easier to deal with, since they are spaced apart and the frequent auto saves mitigate their threat.  The cheap hits are far worse, since they take advantage of those frequent saves to hurt you.  Besides instantly turning and shooting enemies, there are also enemies that pop onto the screen, leaving you next to no time to react to their inclusion.  Top it off with numerous places that have ceiling spikes just outside of your camera range (and above ledges you have to jump to), and you have a recipe for making people quit.

Exile's End ended up being a disappointment.  Even thought the graphics are great, I was expecting a more metroidvania style game, not a awkward 2D wannabe Souls game dressed up like one.  It thankfully isn't very long (there's a 3 hour speed run trophy), but it will definitely leave an impression.  If you have exhausted all other metroidvania options on the PS4, then it might be worth trying out the game, but I definitely can't recommend it over other offerings on the console.

The Good:
The retro graphics, enemy and location designs are really good.

The Bad:
Many puzzle and gameplay design choices.  I'd be more specific here but you can just re-read above.

The SaHD:
I'm surprised there is no option to end your exile by turning the pistol on yourself.  It would only take 10 shots...

(Review code for Exile's End was provided by the publisher)

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

DoDonPachi Resurrection (PC) Review

Shmups!  I love to play them, and we don't get near enough of them in the US.  DoDonPachi Resurrection was one of those that was released for a home console (Xbox 360), but not in the US.  Therefore, I was happy to jump at the chance to play and review the PC port of the game.

Strangely, the system message are set to Japanese when I first loaded the game.  Thankfully the menu was in English, so I was able to change that quickly.  You are also greeted with a multitude of game types.  There is Ver 1.5, which seems to be the core game.  Next is Ver 1.51, which has some slight changes, plus you can get crazy points, but no achievements, sadly.  Then there is Arrange B, which is like a score attack for a stage, and Arrange L, which doesn't have bombs or allow you to pick a ship, but you can change the position of your options (little satellites that shoot with you).  Too bad this is the only mode that allows you to switch option positions, since I don't like the ship you are stuck with, but really like the position switching mechanic.

Next are the three Black Label choices.  The one just called Black Label is a harder version of the core game, where enemies shoot many more bullets.  Novice is an easier version, and Arrange is, well, slightly arranged.  Also, Arrange doesn't allow you to choose a ship, but instead gives you a unique one to use.  Too bad it's only used in this mode, since I really like this ship.  Besides those, you can do Score Attack or Training versions of any of the aforementioned modes.

Like most bullet-hell shmups, you move your ship around and shoot at lots of enemy crafts while dodging a ton of bullets.  In DoDonPachi Resurrection, tapping the shoot button will fire your shots in more of a spread pattern, perfect for large waves of weak fighters.  If you hold the button down, it concentrates your fire into a narrow laser.  This is much stronger than the normal shot, but more focused, ideal for bosses and other tough enemies.  I actually really like this system, since you can quickly and easily switch your shot type, with only needing one button.  The only real downside is mashing the shot button so much when going through the stages.  It would get really noisy with an arcade stick!  In some of the modes, you can set each shot as a different button if the mechanic doesn't appeal to you.  I only played the game with an Xbox 360 controller, and the stick moved the ship a bit too quickly for my tastes, which resulted in many a crashed ship.  I don't think the keyboard and mouse would fix that problem for me, so I'd have to try out some different controllers to find a perfect fit.

In some of the game modes, you can select bomb style, power style, or strong style (but can you be the king of it?).  Bomb style is just what it sounds like, you have a stock of bombs.  Power allows you to use Hyper mode, but you don't have bombs.  Strong style is a combination of the two.  Personally, I need the bombs more than the hyper mode.  The bombs not only protect you by destroying enemy bullets, but they also do damage and even activate automatically when you are hit (in most of the modes).  Hyper mode requires filling a gauge, but when you activate it, your shots are much bigger and stronger.  Seeing it with the spread is screen-clearingly fun!

As fun as the game is, I did have a few problems with it.  Mostly, it is the numerous little systems in the game that it doesn't explain (or if it doesn't, I haven't found where).  Hyper mode requires filling a meter...sometimes.  Others, it takes from you bomb stock.  I'm not sure which is when.  There's also a Red Gauge in some modes.  I have no real idea what it does or how to fill it.  I assume the enemies fire more bullets when it is full, but that is just a guess on my part.  Black Label has numbered chips to collect.  I don't know how to make them spawn as certain numbers, or exactly how they work.  I only know they are multiplier chips because of the achievement descriptions.  Lastly, many enemies have laser attacks.  These aren't avoidable, so you have to use your laser attack, which shields you from them.  I eventually figured that out, but knowing it ahead of time would have been nice.

Being a shmup, a normal game only lasts about 30 minutes.  Of course, the point of these games is not usually to beat it, but to beat it on one credit.  I'm not sure I ever could beat this particular game on  one credit, as the later levels are really crazy with the shots everywhere.  Plus, the secret boss at the end is beyond ridiculous with its attacks and HP.  I do want to get better at the game, since I think it is fun (except the secret boss).  If you are a stickler for achievements, the game has 100 of them for you to try.  They are spread across the various modes (mostly normal and black label though), but 100 seems like an excessively high number.

DoDonPachi Resurrection is a fun shmup that I would definitely recommend to fans of the genre.  It's not the most clear in terms of mechanics, but it does offer multiple modes to play around in.  For shmup fans, I would say it is worth the price, as you will get your money's worth playing all the modes, getting better at the game, and maybe even trying for the long list of achievements.

The Good:
The two shot type system works surprisingly well, lots of game types.

The Bad:
Even on the default setting, the later levels are crazy.  It can be really easy to lose yourself in all the pretty effects everywhere.

The SaHD:
The secret boss got really boring after fighting him for 20 minutes.  It really needs a lot less health, that is ridiculous.

(Review code for DoDonPachi Resurrection was provided by the publisher)

Monday, October 31, 2016

Trillion: God of Destruction (PC) Review

Trillion: God of Destruction is part sim and part strategy RPG, combined together in a game I rather enjoyed on the PS Vita.  You take control of the Supreme Overlord, and must train your chosen vassal to make them strong enough to defeat the underworld eater with one trillion hit points.  It's a very daunting task that has you managing stat growth, rest and attacking the beast in short bursts to whittle down its massive HP bar.

The game is divided into two main parts: training and battle.  Training is basically selecting things from menus to increase your experience in one of 6 areas.  This experience is used to purchase stat upgrades, active skills, and passive skills.  Each training increases fatigue, which in turn increases the chance for getting a bad result from training (either lower experience gain or even injury).  So, you have to balance getting stats and resting, while also juggling the time limit before Trillion eats its way through the Netherworld.  What, you thought it would wait for you?

Battles are all grid-based and resemble strategy RPGs, or more accurately, mystery dungeon style games.  All turns are taken at the same time, depending on speed.  So, if you are fast enough, you can move twice in the span others move once.  You can move or attack in the eight adjacent squares.  Each character also has special attacks that consume MP when used.  Besides the fights against Trillion itself, there are smaller fights in the Valley of Swords and the mock battles against Mokujin.  The latter is very useful in figuring out how best to battle Trillion...except for the final form.

Time ticks down for every choice, from training to resting.  There is a constant counter on the menu that shows how long you have left before Trillion moves.  However, you can flee the battle with the mighty beast and buy yourself more time.  There is a limit to this, so you can't do it indefinitely.  When Trillion does inevitably destroy one of the overlords, another steps up to take her place, and even inherits some of the experience to make it easier the next time.  Easier does not mean easy, as it is very much possible and probable that you will lose your first run through the game, even with its numerous extensions.  Still, future runs are easier with new game+, so you can eventually win.

I played a few hours of the PC version on my i7 with 16GB RAM.  The game looks its best on the PC, and the frame rate was really smooth in battle.  However, there were two separate times the game soft locked on me.  Both times it was trying to load up a tutorial message, and got stuck on a black loading screen.  I'm not sure why that is, since many other similar messages happened without incident.  Since the game is not very action heavy, the keyboard and mouse works fine for the game, but I still prefer to use a controller.

Trillion: God of Destruction is a game I very much enjoyed on the Vita, and this version looks slightly better.  I had a few hiccups when playing the game, but it is still a game that I would recommend to JRPG fans, as it is a very unique offering and worth trying out.

The Good:
Best looking version of a game I enjoyed playing.  Very unique blend of training sim and mystery dungeon RPG.

The Bad:
Very easy to fail your first run, too many random events.

The SaHD:
The third form of Trillion is really a pain in the butt.

(Review code for Trillion was provided by the publisher)

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

MegaTagmension Blanc VS Neptune + Zombies (PC) Review

MegaTagmension Blanc VS Neptune + Zombies is certainly a mouthful, but also a spiritual sequel to Hyperdimension Neptunia U: Action Unleashed.  As such, it is a 3D action game where you hack and slash your way through groups of enemies and tough bosses.  After reviewing the PS Vita release, I have come back for seconds with the PC release on Steam(here).

The game follows the Gamicademy movie club as they seek to make a zombie movie to help out their school.  They quickly enlist Blanc to write, direct and star in the movie.  It's a very silly story, frequently lampooning the zombie apocalypse genre.  To make your way through the game, you take on a series of 'cuts' (basically missions) that go through the film club's ordeals while making the movie and saving the day.  It's fairly linear, which is an improvement over Action Unleashed, but still has good replay value.  Some scenes are slightly different depending on who you choose to use.  Each mission is short, but overall you get several hours of gameplay spread over the 12 chapters.

The action in the game is solid, although I prefer the previous game's special move system to MegaTagmension's cooldown.  The tag mechanic works well, but I rarely ended up needing it.  There's a weapon upgrade system that has a combo of being confusing and not very useful, ensuring that I almost completely ignore it.  The multiplayer can thankfully be done by yourself, and offers some very unique boss monsters to fight for their loot.  It's a fun addition that lets you play with other people (still strangely no local co-op).  I only tried online a few times, and it worked really well for me when I eventually found a game/had people join me.

While it is probably possible to play the game with the keyboard and mouse, that is no way to play an action-heavy game.  The Xbox 360 controller comes to the rescue once again, and it feel really good.  It ran flawlessly with the game, and I think it plays better than it did on the Vita, and certainly better than on the Playstation TV (Vita TV for those in the know).  The game also looks better in this incarnation, as would be expected, and runs really smooth on my system (i7, 16gb ram).

MegaTagmension Blanc VS Neptune + Zombies is a fun action hack and slash game.  It is more focused than the previous offering, and I would recommend it for fans of that game or any of the Neptunia series to try out.  It isn't that hard, and you can play with your friends (or strangers) online.  It's not going to replace the main series, but it is a very fun diversion for 10-20 hours.

The Good:
Fun hack and slash action game, good character selection, fun story.

The Bad:
Bosses can be much stronger than the stage level suggests, ignorable crafting system.

The SaHD:
Still hoping for the Vert themed game... (although Iffy's was fun)

(Review code for MegaTagmension Blanc was provided by the publisher)

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Azure Striker Gunvolt 2 (3DS) Review

Azure Striker Gunvolt 2 brings back the run and gun action of the previous game, but adds a much appreciated extra - a whole new character.  The formula is similar to last time, you pick a stage, run through it trying not to get hit, and beat the boss at the end.  Copen, the added player character, will fight the same bosses, but in a different order, giving players a different experience in his journey.

Gunvolt is an adept with lightning powers, and his abilities are near identical to those from the last game.  As such, his gun isn't his main source of damage.  It still does a tiny bit, but its main purpose it to tag enemies.  By default, he can tag up to three enemies (or even stack them on fewer targets), which will focus his lightning attack onto them.  This attack is much stronger than just using his voltage field, but that has its own uses too.  Since it is a field around him, it can destroy physical projectiles, making a useful shield.  It's also used to power occasional things in the environment.  Using his powers drains his EP meter that you can let refill slowly on its own, or press down twice to charge it up quickly (but you are open to attack during this time).

Gunvolt can also dash and jump, but cannot dash in the air without an item (bummer).  If he still has power left in his EP meter, taking a hit will drain some of that instead of doing health damage.  This is paramount to your survival in the game.  There are plenty of times where you can't avoid damage, and have to use the shield to avoid HP damage.  When he defeats some of the bosses in the game, Gunvolt gets a different shot type for his gun, which can make it easier to tag some enemies.  Lastly, Gunvolt has three SP marks in the lower left of the screen that allow him some special attacks.  The default is a strong attack, and he quickly learns a healing one.  This was very useful to me, but it is a very weak heal.  There are other SP skills he learns, but I didn't end up using any others, since I needed the heal so often.

Copen, Gunvolt's rival, is also playable in this game, and plays differently than his blue counterpart.  For starters, his gun does more damage, and is his main source of attack.  Copen also has an air dash.  However, his air dash consumes a refillable resource called Bullits.  These also power his anti-damage shield, called prevasion, like Gunvolt's.  There are a few times where I ran out of Bullits when air dashing around, causing me to fall in pits.  One of the hazards of trying to rush through a stage combined with old habits.  If you dash into an enemy, it marks them so Copen's attacks will track the target.  This is a really useful function that I discovered on accident, since I didn't see the game point it out.  It is hidden in the Help section, but I doubt I would have looked there if I didn't stumble upon it by accident.

Where Gunvolt gets different shot types from bosses, Copen can somewhat mimic their attacks.  This is yet another meter he has, but it really feels natural to me as an old Megaman player.  In addition to the nice attacks and damage they cause, Copen can still use his gun while using the boss attacks, meaning he can dish out some serious damage in short order.  It's one of the big reasons I had much more fun using Copen than Gunvolt.  The other was the difference between their prevasion shields.  Using Copen's takes away from your mobility (air dash), where Gunvolt's takes away from your attack (can't use the voltage field).  However, I had the same problem charging both of their respective meters.  Pressing down twice to charge didn't always register, regardless of which pad I used to control them.

Overall, the game wasn't too hard for me.  There were a few tricky spots, especially with Gunvolt, but I was able to persevere through them.  With Copen, I was able to dispatch all the bosses without dying, thanks in part to his playstyle and stronger heal.  Admittedly, I think the game would be better if you could dodge all the attacks the bosses have.  There are several that hit the entire screen, or enough of it to effectively do the same thing.  It goes against my Megaman/Monster Hunter instincts, but you are supposed to abuse the anti-damage shields for both characters to get through without taking damage.  Still, I'd rather all attacks be avoidable.  Especially since most bosses have cheap hits that are hard to survive even with the shield.

Gunvolt also has some RPG elements.  Killing enemies gives experience that will level you up.  Levels grant more health, so the game becomes easier as you play through it.  Also, there is equipment that you can craft.  The pieces necessary to craft them come from the bonus game at the end of every level.  It takes a lot of luck or grinding to get most of the pieces.  By the time I had finished the game, I only had enough pieces to make one thing for each character.  Copen's was a skill chip I really wanted, which is nice, but if I got that far without it, I probably didn't need it at all.  If you do want them, then replaying levels and attempting the challenges is the only way to go.  Too bad you have to replay a stage to attempt the challenges for it.

The missing mid-battle dialogue was such a big deal after it was removed from the first game.  While on one hand I am glad to have it included in Gunvolt 2, on the other hand it is useless.  If the game stopped so you could actually read it, it would probably be better.  As it stands, your character banter while the action is going on, meaning you either take lots of damage to try and read it, or just ignore it.  To make matters worse, the dialogue box and character portrait takes up valuable screen space, making the fight even harder.  It's sadly better to just turn them off.

It only takes about 3 hours to make it through one of the characters' story, so double that for the whole package.  Even so, it's a game that I can see myself replaying, just to get better at fighting the bosses, and figuring out which weapon is best for each.  I wouldn't want to replay the levels just for material drops, but that would happen as I was re-playing through the game, and it is certainly an option to other players out there.  There are also challenges to try and complete for extra items, but you unfortunately can't get most of them your first time through the stage.

Overall, Azure Striker Gunvolt 2 is a very fun game.  It is very reminiscent of the old and awesome Megaman X games, while being different enough to not be a copy.  The game isn't very long, but there are reasons to replay the stages, and having two different characters is always a plus.  The prevasion shield is a useful mechanic, even if I think the game relies on it a bit too much.  I had a ton of fun playing as Copen, so I hope he continues to show up in the game.  I would definitely recommend the game to fans of the first Azure Striker Gunvolt, Megaman games, and side-scrolling action games.

The Good:
A fun and challenging side-scrolling action game that I can see lots of potential in learning enemy/boss patterns in order to improve.  Playing as Copen was a lot of fun.

The Bad:
Have to replay stages/grind to get drops to make equipment you don't really need.  Some enemy attacks unavoidable.

The SaHD:
The ice/slippery level is really annoying.  Can we as a gaming community just stop doing these kinds of levels?  It was cute the first few times, back on the NES, but they just aren't fun.  Do any players actually enjoy them?

(Review code for Azure Striker Gunvolt 2 was provided by the publisher)