Tuesday, July 25, 2017
Yonder: The Cloud Catcher Chronicles (PS4) Review
At the start of Yonder, you survive a shipwreck and wake up on a mysterious island. After meeting some friendly locals, you then set about helping clear the island of the murk that is slowly taking over. To do so, the Cloud Catcher must be repaired.
Despite how the game might sound, there is no fighting whatsoever in Yonder. It's just nice, peaceful, and fun. You go around the different biomes, collecting materials, items, and solving quests. To gather from various places, you need the appropriate tool, which you just switch to with the L/R Buttons. Gathered materials are sometimes used for quests, but mostly for crafting and trading.
The island is pretty big, but not as big as it looks. This is actually good because you will be running around it a lot. There are a few teleport places, but some are only active at certain times of day, and others have to be unlocked. Until then, you will be hoofing it. Also, some of the teleport points aren't in the most convenient locations, or even that close to what you need. Admittedly, having a ridiculously good teleport system would kind of ruin parts of the game, but for the first half of the game, I really would have liked a better fast travel method.
Crafting is not quite what I thought it would be like. Since you can get a lot of materials, I figured you would use a lot of them to make stuff. In reality, you will use some, but most crafting materials are things you have to trade for. You don't buy and sell, but instead trade what you have (all items have a value) for other things. Different places offer different stuff, and some items will have a discount or markup. Unfortunately, you will be doing a lot of trading to be able to do crafting, so you will have to learn how best to exploit the system. I ignored it for several hours, until I figured out my flour/wood strategy to get started, and then I was only held back by places not having enough materials that I needed to trade for.
You also unlock several farms as you play the game. On these plots of land, you can place material conversion machines (butter churner, etc.), planters to grow stuff, and animal shelters. To actually adopt an animal, you have to give it food it likes, then lead it back to the pen. It's a little painful, but thankfully you don't have to do it often. There are really useful things you can do on your farms, but it's a section of the game I ignored for many hours. Partially because crafting the items you need is very expensive, and partly because it took way too long before I actually got items from my first animals. I think that second part was a glitch, though. Once I was near the end and finally sat down and did a ton of crafting and trading, I realized just how useful the farm is, and that I should have tried to get it all together much earlier. Now if only it wasn't so expensive to hire a helper...
The expensive crafting and the sometimes awkward jump physics near walls aren't my biggest gripes with the game. That is saved for the inventory. It strangely doesn't sort very well, and there is no button to press to sort it for you. Yes, you can filter, but it's also a pain to cycle through the filters, instead of being able to pick one. Auto sorting would be a much, much nicer option, and I really wish it were there. It makes crafting more of a chore, since you will have to really look through all of your stuff. Plus, it can be hard to know how many stacks you have of something, since they won't be next to each other.
If you so choose, you can focus on just the main story quests. I'm not that kind of guy, so I spent a lot of time wandering around, trying to find everything. I don't know how long it took me to go through most of it (I haven't finished every quest), but I'd estimate around 20-25 hours. You could do it much quicker if you focus, but it would take you longer if you decide to 100% the game and get all of the trophies.
Yonder: The Cloud Catcher Chronicles is a fun adventure game. I really like exploring in games like this, so it really hit the spot for me. Sadly, some people will be turned off because there isn't any fighting and/or a lot of collecting, but it's a great game to relax and play. Most times I wanted to just keep running around and find more stuff, or complete one more quest. It's definitely worth the money, and a definite recommendation for adventure fans.
As I go to post the review, there was apparently a patch drop earlier today. One thing addressed is the limited number of basic trade goods needed for recipes, plus a way to craft them. A second is giving a tree and plant growing place when you first get a farm...definitely useful. I haven't tested it out yet, but these will definitely improve the experience.
Super relaxing adventure game where you run around and collect stuff.
Inventory really needs a sort option. Sometimes it can take awhile to get all the crafting stuff you need.
Troll Island...ha ha ha.
(Review code for Yonder was provided by the publisher)
Thursday, July 20, 2017
Valkyria Revolution (Xbox One) Review
When first shown, Valkyria Revolution irked some people. They thought it was supposed to be a sequel to Valkyria Chronicles, despite not having a number after it, or even having the same name. It's a spin-off, and as such, does play pretty different from Chronicles.
That said, there are several similarities in Revolution. The graphics have that hatched water color look to them, and the story menu is similarly contained in a book. Starting out in the game is pretty rough, though. There are several long cut scenes setting up the story, and a multi-part battle to go through, all before you can save. It took me an hour to get to that point. While I'm okay with the long scenes, spending so much time before you can first save is not my cup of tea. The story is good, though.
Combat is action-oriented. You can run, jump, block, and dodge on the battlefield. While it does kind of play like a hack and slash, you don't just run around mashing attack. You can attack or use your menu when your action gauge has filled, and it does so pretty fast. If you open the menu, time freezes, so you have time to select what you want and aim it properly. From this menu, you can cast your ragnite magic abilities, use your secondary weapon (gun), or grenade. Grenades and magic attacks are very useful...and fun. Blowing up a small group of enemies and making the rest afraid is way too satisfying.
There are sometimes a few bases you can/will take over, sometimes a boss fight, and others you will defend your base from foes. Small enemy groups have commanders that make their squad tougher. Killing them first can make the rest afraid. To keep it fair, your squad members can also receive that status ailment, especially when taking heavy fire from an enemy tank. Well, they are called tanks, but they are combat walkers, which are pretty cool. The battles were pretty fun, save for the occasional crazy tough boss fight.
Besides the story battles, there are free maps you can undertake for more experience, items and money. The game also introduces special defend and attack missions, which you can keep and expand your area of influence/territory. For the defense missions, if you ignore them for too long, you will lose that area. I'm not really a fan of that, since it kind of forces you to stall your forward momentum to take care of it. Overall, the battles aren't usually very hard, but some can become quite tense.
When not in a fight, you can run around the town, talk to people, view events, shop, and upgrade. Upgrading the sub-weapons and grenades just costs money. Upgrading the weapon's grid requires you to sacrifice ragnite. Trouble is, ragnite is also equipped to give your character their magical skills. You will have to upgrade their weapon's grid to be able to equip stronger ragnite, so figuring out the balance is an evolving process. Even after playing for many hours, I was still probably too cautious with giving up my ragnite.
When not in battle or running around town, you are probably viewing cut scenes. As mentioned earlier, they can be numerous and lengthy. You can skip them if you are so inclined. There are also other scenes that are unlocked while you play, but they aren't required to view. On one hand, it's nice there's so much story, as it helps to further flesh out the world and characters, but at some point it feels like overkill. A lot of the game's length feels like its from the story cut scenes, as the balance between story and combat isn't the best.
The last gripe I have about the game is the menu. Moving the cursor in the menu requires the d-pad. As an option, sure, but as the only way, I don't like it. There are menus that can be better served by using the d-pad, but some (like confirming a save) really don't need it. I'm already on the stick, why should I have to switch to hit one direction? Also, the d-pad sensitivity seems wonky at times. It could be my controller, but I haven't had the issue in other games I've played recently.
Valkyria Revolution is a fun action RPG that is sometimes bogged down by lengthy cut scenes. As long as you have realistic expectations, it's worth actually trying out.
The story is good.
But, it can take awhile to get through the cut scenes.
It's weird that people can get so up in arms about a spin-off that's not trying to be a sequel, then they are to a main character completely changing while supposedly being the same person.
(Review code for Valkyria Revolution was provided by the publisher)
Friday, July 14, 2017
Ever Oasis (3DS) Review
Chaos is taking over the entire land, and only the power of the water spirits can keep it at bay. You, as a new chieftain of the last oasis, must gather residents to help combat the coming darkness. That's the basis for one of Nintendo's newest 3DS offerings, Ever Oasis.
First and foremost, you will be gathering different people to live at your oasis. Sometimes you find characters in the wild, and they will agree to visit your oasis. Sometimes they visit if you have the right shops available. You will usually have to do some sort of small quest to have them permanently live in your oasis. It's pretty fun for me to track them all down and do their quests. I would have done so even if the oasis level and happiness meter weren't so critical in the game.
When a Seedling (one of the races in Ever Oasis) decides to live in your town, you can put up their specific "Bloom Booth" shop. Doing so the first time costs Dewadems (the game's currency), but you can move them around afterwards. There's also special items you can place that increase sales, which you can go around and collect a portion of. This is good because you will be the one resupplying them. You give them some specific raw items, and they make the goods and sell them each day. It's not as time consuming as I at first thought it would be, and it's pretty fun, too.
Battle is a relatively simple affair. You have two different attacks, but very small and limited combos (you get a few more as you level up). Your normal attack is pretty quick, while the strong attack takes more time, but packs a bigger punch. Some combos will knock the enemy over, which gives you a few extra seconds to hit them. You can lock on to enemies, which is really helpful on bosses. Many times the lock-on did give me trouble. It also centers the camera (for players without the New 3DS), which it tended to do when I would press it to lock on to a monster. Having to struggle with that made it much easier for me to get hit.
Your chieftain also gets a pretty decent dodge roll. You don't seem to get much (if any) invincibility from it, but it's pretty useful nonetheless. It was responsive, and went the direction I wanted it to, both of which are critical for in-game dodges. Characters can also get SP moves, which you have to build up the meter for (it starts empty when you leave the oasis). These are kind of helpful, but you get them late enough that I usually forgot about them.
Unfortunately, it is really easy to get hit in battle. Plus, you don't seem to have any invincibility on knock down, so enemies can chain hit you to pile on the damage. To compound this, character max HP is very, very low. Thankfully, your oasis happiness helps out with that. When you leave the oasis, it effectively increases your party's max HP by a lot. Also, you can resurrect on the spot a few times depending on your oasis' level. This helps even out the combat. While the chunks of damage you take did bother me, I will admit I rarely died...and even more rarely used healing items. It was usually easier to pop back to the oasis if I desperately needed to heal. When returning, your party gets the experience for any enemies defeated, too, so it was a win/win.
There are many areas and even a few dungeons in the game. Most have some light puzzle solving, like using a spear for a switch, turning into a ball to fit in a small hole, or using a crossbow to hit a high switch. I like that there are several uses for different things, like weapons and skills, but it can be a pain to switch to them. Teleporting back to the oasis isn't hard, and neither is teleporting back, but having to drag someone off the list to help you in one room can get tiresome. It's a bigger problem as the game goes on, since you get more abilities and weapon types, for more puzzle bits. Still, it was never enough to make me stop playing.
Ever Oasis is one of those games that takes way longer than it seems. It's also one that I would end up playing longer than I thought I would, simply because I would get wrapped up in recruiting new people or exploring new areas. It's not an overly hard game, though there are harder fights. While there were a few small things that bothered me, the game was a lot of fun, and I enjoyed playing it. I'd recommend it for action RPG fans looking for something new.
Recruiting characters has many benefits that quickly amass.
You can lose your health really fast in combat.
Serkah mouths are kinda creepy when they talk.
(Review code for Ever Oasis was provided by the publisher)
Tuesday, July 11, 2017
Operation Babel: New Tokyo Legacy (PS Vita) Review
By Tina Hand
Operation Babel is a direct sequel to Operation Abyss: New Tokyo Legacy. It picks up directly after the conclusion of the previous game. Everything is nearly identical to the game's predecessor, from enemies to game mechanics, with only a few tiny but significant changes. Plot-wise, it's like most dungeon-crawlers, in that the plot is really just kind of an aside to the constant revisiting of dungeons. You are shown fairly early on what the world will be like if you fail to defeat the ultimate enemy, and while the post-apocalyptic/altered reality vibe is fitting for a game of this nature, I felt they spent too much time focused on what it would mean for the characters and their narrow window of the world, rather than the entirety of the globe. If the player characters actually had development, this would be more tolerable, but like the previous game it allows you to create your own party, so the player characters really only have whatever development you can come up with on your own.
Unfortunately, you can't simply import your party from the previous game, so no matter the fact that this is a literal sequel you will be starting all over at the beginning. This does have some benefit, as it levels the playing field between those who have played before and those who never have, but at the same time it would have been nice not to have to start from square one. Like the previous game, you are given the ability to create a party from scratch or to take a pre-constructed group and use them. You can create parties of up to six characters (and with all the things you need in a dungeon, I have no idea why you would ever take less than the full compliment of characters), each with varying stats and classes. The first thing to note with character creation is that after a few levels, your character will be able to add a sub-class. Sub-classes get to learn the skills of the class chosen, but don't get the strengths or drawbacks of that class. So giving a fighter a mage sub-class will allow them to learn spells, but their intelligence won't get a boost so those spells will be very weak. It's a great way to slide a couple of the less-useful classes into your party without having to hamstring yourself by putting in a party member whose only purpose is to identify unknown items.
They have retained the Unity Gauge from the previous game, which is both useful and not. While it's great to have the extra options (a reliable battle escape, for one), they've toned down the power of the offensive options and reduced the usefulness of the defensive options, so really the only thing its good for now is running away. Most of the time, this is completely unnecessary, as enemies will either fall quickly or run away on their own. It makes the Unity Gauge almost useless, though when you get ambushed by a Wanted Variant (a special type of powered-up monster), it can save your party.
Unfortunately one of the tiny but significant changes they've made was to reduce the encounter rate. Why is this a bad thing, you ask? In a game that requires hundreds of hours to progress and complete, the fact that I can spend an hour of real time wandering around a dungeon without EVER encountering a monster is just ridiculous. To try and compensate, they've included an item that increases the encounter rate. Unfortunately, that just brings the rate up to what it should be normally. It still requires hours and hours of play time to get anywhere significant level-wise. And with experience being split between main- and sub-classes, it takes even longer to level up. In almost thirty hours of game play, my party is level 11.
Dungeons run on the same principle as the previous game. Movement is forwards, turn left or right, or strafe side to side. Everything is a grid pattern, with hidden walls, hidden doors, and secret passageways almost from the outset. It also retains the pesky gimmick panels from previous games, like shock-floors, rotation panels, and waterways that are only there to annoy and confuse. Also like the previous game, quests are very vague with their instructions, telling you "go here and investigate", or "gather this random item but we won't tell you where from". As before, this gets highly irritating very quickly, as it prevents a player from being able to form dungeon exploration strategies. There's a difference between providing a babying tutorial and providing an item book that shows you where you found something, and thus where you're likely to find it again. Even telling me what monsters drop items would be useful.
One of the things they didn't change was having to use a rare and expensive item to save inside a dungeon. You get one for free every time you defeat a Wanted Variant and return to town, but not all dungeons have Wanted Variants in them when you first go in, and beating them isn't exactly easy. They also didn't balance out the equipment drops for the dungeons. I was frequently wasting time getting very low-level equipment in higher level dungeons, which makes it near-impossible to beat bosses. If my party is level 10, the boss is level 10, and I'm wearing level 3 equipment, I'm going to die. Period. No amount of skill or strategy can compensate for weak equipment.
On the whole, if you liked the previous game then the additions made to Operation Babel will certainly appeal. If you love spending hours in dungeon crawlers, and have the patience of a saint, this will fulfill that need. However, if you don't have hundreds of hours to invest in the game, or if you get frustrated with vague instructions, this will piss you off faster than hitting a cat with a spray bottle. The balance has been tweaked, the encounter rate reduced, the item drops leveled down, and the instructions were not improved. It is fun, but if you aren't wholly invested it will get very dull and repetitive very quickly.
Friday, July 7, 2017
Tokyo Xanadu (PS Vita) Review
A few days before I started playing Tokyo Xanadu, I finally cracked open my copy of Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel. Why is this relevant? Well, they are both made by the same company (Nihon Falcom), and had a few similarities, which I found kind of funny.
You play as Kou, a high school student who accidentally stumbles upon the hidden world of Eclipses. These are doorways to another dimension brought about by strong emotions. He quickly meets Asuka, a person who goes around fighting monsters to close the Eclipses, and decides to try and help her out. As such, the game goes through a period of several months as new doors open, and Kou and his friends use their new powers to make sure the Eclipses get shut down.
Combat is very action-driven. You have a normal attack, a jump, a projectile attack, and a dodge. You can also hold down the projectile button for a powerful charge attack. Both that and the projectile take SP, which fills over time, or from normal attacks. Attacking is fun, but the SP can feel limiting when you are attacking enemies that are resistant to your physical attacks and need to be hit by your projectiles. Plus, the dodge doesn't seem very good. It's not an animation skip, so you can't cover for attack vulnerabilities, and it theoretically has invincibility frames. I don't think I've ever hit them. Considering how easy it is to get hit (there are a lot of cheap attacks), I would have liked a block, too, or at least a slightly better dodge.
A second meter you have in battle is for your X-Drive. Using this will temporarily make all your attacks strike the enemy's elemental weakness, and give you infinite SP. There's also a bonus effect depending on the element of your partner. If that weren't enough, there is a third meter to fill, this time for your X-Strike. These are basically super moves, which of course I save for boss fights. they aren't quite as strong as I'd like, but they are useful.
Each Eclipse is a different dungeon. They don't usually take that long to navigate, which is good because you are ranked on their completion. Speed isn't the most important factor, though. They also rate you on how many things you smash, enemies killed, and if you took advantage of an enemy's elemental weakness. Sadly, it isn't always possible to get 100% for that, since you can only have three people with you at a time. Switching to your partner is pretty easy, but switching to the "support" (third character) feels cumbersome. You can always return to any completed Eclipse to grind or increase your rank.
Each character has a
When you are not in a dungeon, you will run around and talk to people, advance the story, and maybe do some side quests. Like Trails of Cold Steel, many of the people you talk to are tracked in your phone, and there are several pieces of information to learn about them as the story progresses. You can also get side quests from an app. Unfortunately, some are not shown in this way. As a completionist, this bugs me.
The more important characters also have character episodes, where you can hang out with them, or help them out, and become closer friends. As the game goes on, more people are added, and there are only a limited number of times you can spend with people per chapter. If there is a free Eclipse, you will get an extra shard, but it's still nowhere near enough to spend time with everybody. You are also at the mercy of who is available, so it's hard to focus on one or two special people. I will give the game big props for being very clear about when the story is going to proceed, so it's hard to do so before you are ready.
My only real gripe with the game is that the localization feels a bit rushed, as there were several instances of typos. The most glaring one was the shards used for the character episodes. They are referred to as both affinity and infinity shards. One time it's even called a Friendship shard. Affinity makes more sense, but at the very least there shouldn't be two different names for the same thing. Well, unless the character has a real name, but is always referred to as "mid-boss".
Tokyo Xanadu is a really fun action RPG that I enjoyed playing. The difficulty felt about right (although it was a little too easy to get hit), and the length was good. It is likely overshadowed by the enhanced version coming to PS4 later this year, but the Vita version is worth playing.
I don't know if I could point to anything specific, but the game was just really fun.
Hidden side quests, and of course the typos.
Wow, character models don't wear shoes in some indoor areas...nice touch!
(Review code for Tokyo Xanadu was provided by the publisher)
Tuesday, July 4, 2017
Ghost Blade HD (Xbox One) Review
Ghost Blade HD is another bullet hell shmup on home consoles, and I was happy to get my hands on a review code for the game.
There are three different ships, each piloted by a different lady, and each with different shot patterns. You get the basic shot, which covers more area (some much more than others), but isn't very strong. Next is a focus shot, which is skinnier than your ship, but packs a mean punch. Finally, all three ships get a limited bomb attack. The bomb is the same for all three ladies, and on the whole, the bombs are underwhelming. They hit an area in front of your ship. It doesn't even effect the whole screen. It's not too powerful on bosses, either. It does make you invincible for a few seconds, so it does have a use, but could be better.
The game has five stages, and three different difficulties. Easy was nice because there are fewer bullets, but it has auto-bomb. I'm not a fan of that. Yes, it makes the game easier, but it also doesn't help you learn timing the bomb for maximum benefit. There is a lot of stuff going on on the screen at once, which can make it feel a little cluttered, not to mention confusing. There was an option to turn the background down, so I tried that and it does help a little. Still, there are several different bullet types and colors flying around with other things, and it can be hard to differentiate the threats from the non-threats quickly. Practicing does help, though.
Another thing that took some getting used to was the extra point stars. When you kill some enemies, their shots will turn into extra point stars, which then fly toward you (auto collect). It took me a bit to get used to that. Granted, it's nice, but at first it's scary. You are barely dodging some bullets when all of a sudden, they change their look and zoom toward you. My initial reaction was a fraction of a second of panic. Once I had a better grasp of when it would happen (since it's not all enemies, all bullets, or all of the same color/type), it was fine.
Besides the normal modes, Ghost Blade HD has the requisite Score Attack and Practice modes. Score Attack is nice in that you have infinite lives...although that won't really help you get a high score. It also has a set stage that has a different enemy configuration from any other. Practice will let you, well, practice any stage or boss that you have previously encountered. You can set the number of lives and bombs, too. I like it for practicing the further out stages and bosses, since that's where I ran into the most trouble.
Ghost Blade HD doesn't do anything new for the genre, but it doesn't have to. It's a solid, fun, and quick bullet hell game that I would definitely recommend to fans of the genre.
Solid and fun shmup action.
The screen can get very busy and hard to make out threats.
At first, I thought concentrating on the game would make me do better. Eventually my mind wandered to other things, and that's when I started doing really well.
(Review code for Ghost Blade HD was provided by the publisher)
Saturday, July 1, 2017
Superdimension Neptune VS Sega Hard Girls (Steam) Review
Idea Factory International continues to bring their titles to Steam, so I recently checked out the PC version of Superdimension Neptune VS Sega Hard Girls. I previously checked out the PS Vita version, which I enjoyed quite a bit, and I expect this version to be in line with all the others.
Instead of starring Neptune or one of the other (non-Vert) goddesses, this one focuses on IF and her new friend Segami, as they battle to repair time and keep the history of Gamindustri safe. Along the way they will meet new characters modeled and named after various Sega consoles (remember when they made those?) Dungeons are mostly what you would expect: 3D environments to run and jump around in, with enemies patrolling around. Now you can also climb ladders, monkey bar swing across rope lines, and crawl through small openings. There's also coins and baseballs to collect, and item boxes to open.
Touching an enemy in the field (or getting to a certain point in story scenes) will start a fight. Combat also looks familiar, but with some new tweaks and twists to keep it fresh. You still move around a small plain to aim your attacks, but now each action fills part of your action gauge. The more you do, the higher it goes, and the longer your next turn will take to come around. If you fill it into the red zone, your turn ends by itself. Normal attacks fill it a small amount, but there's also a charge attack that fills it the rest of the way, but you get a strong attack for the sacrifice.
Special skills require SP to use, which builds up as you attack in battle. This is great because you can always build it up, but bad if you want to switch around your characters. I usually ended up just saving it for boss fights. A new addition is the Fever Meter. When it is filled, grab the star that appears and your characters can continuously take turns while it lasts. This prevents the enemy from having their turns, and, like SP, is best used on bosses. Combat as a whole was pretty fun, and the different systems gave it some strategy.
Progress through the story is made by undertaking missions. There's a limit to how long each quest will hang around, and that number decreases whenever a quest is completed. This means you are going to miss some quests, since there are more than you can do. You have to be a little careful of what ones you choose, since some will be very difficult or impossible on your first run through the game. There is a great new game+ that lets you keep just about everything. This make it easier to run through the game subsequent times. My first run on the Vita version was under 25 hours, and I ended up going through the game a second time.
I probably sound like a broken record with a lot of my PC reviews, but the game ran fine on my i7/16gb machine. I didn't encounter any weird problems in the few hours I played. The keyboard and mouse work ok, but I far prefer the controller for this style game, and the Xbox 360 pad worked great. Fans of Neptunia games should definitely check the game out. Superdimension Neptune is a solid JRPG.
Fun RPG featuring everybody's favorite scout, IF! Plus, several new characters.
Bosses can and will require grinding.
I'm never getting a Vert-based game am I?
(Review code for Superdimension Neptune was provided by the publisher)
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