Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Kamen Rider: Battaride War (PS3) Review

As a fan of Dynasty Warriors games and of Kamen Rider, I was very anxious to get my hands on Kamen Rider: Battride War for the PS3.  Yes, this is from Japan.  Thankfully, the PS3 is region-free for most games, because this game isn't coming out here.  Was it worth the cost to get an import copy?  Ride with me and let's find out... it's showtime!

The riders and the enemies look good.  They are both represented faithfully, which is a surprised considering how many models they have on the screen with no slowdown.  By faithfully, I mean the riders look exactly how they should, and even have their mannerisms (Faiz's hand twitch, for example) intact.  The enemies are destroyed in their own unique way, such as the worms exploding in green flame or the OOO enemies turning into coins.  In short, all of the things in the game are legit.  Maybe a little too legit, since the still pictures of the riders actually look like photos of the actors in the suit.  Regardless, there's lots of good detail that fans of the shows should appreciate.

The music in the game is decent.  It seems fitting to the story parts and different parts of the stages, such as when you have to rush to a certain location or something dramatic is happening.  It's disappointing that only the "premium sound version" has the theme songs of the different riders, and that apparently they will play when fighting the boss of the stage.  As far as I can tell, and have read, the riders and characters are voiced by their actual voice actors, which is awesome.  Although, I was a bit disappointed that the Kuuga in the game is the Decade version of Kuuga and not the original.

The combat in the game is reminiscent of Dynasty Warriors, or more specifically like Sengoku Basara or Bleach: Soul Resurreccion.  The square button is your standard attack string, while the triangle and circle buttons are your special attacks.  Pressing both the triangle and circle buttons together is usually a character or forms' finishing attack, which you must do to the bosses to finish them.  That in particular, while sometimes annoying, is really fun since it is so accurate to the show.  The last main attack is square and X together.  Like an EX move from Street Fighter, it takes some meter, but is a stronger attack that also shrugs off hits.  It can be useful to use to escape a combo, but I rarely used it.

Pressing the R1 button will usually cycle through the forms (or cards) available for your character, while holding it down will activate said form or card.  L1 is the block button, useful for, well, blocking.  L2 will summon and mount your rider's motorcycle.  This can be useful to get to farther places on the stage in a hurry, or to collect the point rings in some stages, but the bikes can be pretty unwieldy.  After getting used to them, as they all behave a little differently, I can say that riding the bike is best used sparingly.  When the meter under your health is full, pressing R2 will activate your super move and put you in your super form.  The super form only lasts as long as you have meter left, so use it wisely for big combos or to finish the bosses in style.  Overall, the controls work fine and I had no trouble with combat.  The biggest issues are controlling the bike, and sometimes I would press the button for the bike and try to quickly accelerate... only to have it not register the L2.  That meant that instead of accelerating the motorcyle, I used my super move.  I'm not sure if it's an issue with the game, the controller, or muscle memory, but I know it's happened to at least one other person.

One of the less impressive parts of the game is the different stages.  There are basically seven locations, the warehouse district, the quarry, the mountain forest, the city, the school/moon base, the snowy area and the underground.  The last two are very small, but they are in fact different, so I counted them.  You will see each of these locations multiple times throughout the different levels in the game.  While this feels accurate to the show (they always seem to fight in a warehouse or at an abandoned quarry), more locations, or different variations of the ones presented would have been nice.

While there is a less than impressive array of stages, the opposite is true for characters.  The latest 14 main riders are all present, along with their different forms.  Most forms are unlocked with enough levels, or attained for a limited time after filling your meter and activating your super attack.  Several of them change the standard combo and special attacks completely, so they are almost new characters.  It's really cool that each character can change so much, since you technically have lots of different characters to use and have fun with.  Although I would love to play as more of the secondary riders that are actually present in this game, and some of the pre-Kuuga riders (Showa Era), the character selection is really good and done right.

You can also equip up to three figures on each character, providing different bonuses like increased attack strength, heath regeneration, earning more shop points, etc.  Most figures are unlocked by buying them in the store, and there are a few that have overlapping effects.  The figures available are good choices, since some are from the different forms, secondary riders and other things not usable in this game.  I'd advise looking up a list of the different figures, then get the best ones (increased shop points and experience) as early as possible.

The story mode is 50 stages and can take about 20 or more hours to get through.  Once you finish the first few stages, you can freely choose to start the next three chapters in any order you want.  The basic structure for the first half of the game is to do a stage where you defeat a rider and the secondary rider from a show, then the next stage has you play as that rider, and defeat their featured villain.  Completing this second stage then unlocks the rider for play.  After unlocking 4-5 riders in a chapter, you will have a final stage that furthers the plot.  The second half of story mode is continuing the plot to its resolution.  The language barrier might not prevent me from the menus or equipment, but it did prevent me from understanding most of the story.  I could piece together some of it, but I'm betting some of it just passed me by.

The other main section of the game is Rider Road.  You will be tasked with completing three preset stages (listed beforehand) with no healing in between, but you get stat boosts once they are done.  They use the same stages as story mode, complete with cut scenes.  It's a little lazy, but getting stat boosts makes up for it.  You can also replay any stage in Free Mode, which is nice for grinding experience, shop points, or driving distance.

There are two DLC characters for the game.  They are free, but require you to create a Japanese PSN account if you don't already have one.  You will have to navigate the Japanese PSN store to find them, but it's worth the trouble.  Most of the trophies for the game will be earned by completing the story and rider road sections of the game.  After that, the ones most likely left are the grind heavy ones, namely acquiring all the figures, driving a total of 555km, and having over 100,000 combo hits total.  The first two in particular will take awhile, since there are some expensive figures and you don't drive very far in the different stages.

I really like Kamen Rider: Battride War.  It's a good Kamen Rider game, and is even a decent hack and slash, more so if you know who most of these people are.  It's fairly import-friendly, since it is on the PS3 and the menus and such aren't too hard to figure out.  My only complaints are the lack of stages, and having more playable secondary riders or the riders from before 2000's Kuuga.  If they continue to add more riders in subsequent games, like Dynasty Warriors, I will gladly look forward to more of these games being released.  Clock over!

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Final Exam (XBLA) Review

The four main characters of Final Exam were making their way to their high school reunion when they discovered monsters.  Now it is your task to survive in this side-scrolling co-op action game.  The story is told in the same style as motion comics, so there are mostly still images with voiced dialogue on top.  It looks good and the scenes are succinct enough to not get in the way of playing.

The first objective of the game is to fight the monsters in an effort to survive.  Attacks are done with the X Button, and are broken up into a standard combo, a launch attack and a smash (knockdown) attack.  You can get an air combo too, if you want to be fancy after launching an opponent.  Enemies attack frequently, so you will need to make use of your dodge.  This is done with the Y Button, which took me a while to get used to, since I don't think any game I've played had the Y Button as a dodge.  The Right Stick aims your firearm (Right Trigger) and explosive (Right Bumper).  The B Button is your multi-purpose button, allowing you to climb staircases, grab mission objectives or place objects.  To round out the controls, the Left Trigger will pick up objectives (or enemies) and the Left Bumper is used to activate your special moves, once the corresponding upgrade has been purchased.

The controls all worked fine, once I got used to the Y Button for dodging.  At first I would try to be fancy and launch enemies so I could combo them in the air, but this was not necessary.  It was far better to just combo them normally.  Yes, you get less points for not being fancy, but it was easier to just keep it simple when there are numerous enemies around, all trying to kill you.  Enemies will roll out of your combo when they get the chance, so you need to pay attention and stay on them.  The air combo and smash are very useful on the airborne enemies.  Shooting enemies didn't always stun them, but it's great for the enemies that like to hang on the ceiling to attack you.  The enemies are also really aggressive, and frequently ignore being shot and on fire to run up and attack you, so keep on your toes!

The secondary objective of the levels is to find your way to the exit.  This can involve escorting people, finding items that people need or finding switches for doors.  You'll do this while enemies come at you a few at a time, with an occasional horde of enemies to halt your progress.  Even though the enemies will continuously spawn throughout the level, it's worth fighting them.  Not only will this increase your score, but running away won't help, since baddies will re-spawn near you if they get too far away.  It can get frustrating when you are being hounded by monsters while trying to carry a crate to a location, or have a horde spawn while you are grabbing an objective.  Usually it's not too bad, but on the occasion that there are multiple types of enemies mobbing around you, it can be hard to see where you are, and even harder to avoid it all unscathed.

The levels themselves are pretty expansive, with lots of room to explore.  Every so often the game will mix things up with something new.  One section has you atop a subway car, dodging signs, while another has you riding on a flying enemy, mimicking a shoot-em-up (shmup).  These sections are fun diversions, but they do tend to last a little too long for my liking.  The shmup section in particular was my least favorite.  It's just too long, and you use your equipped gun.  They do give you ammo during the section, but not enough to actually be a shoot-em-up, so it's really more of a fly and hit things (faht?).  When playing co-op on that section, you also can't revive someone that dies, making it harder than it should be.  That was kind of a let down, since I really enjoy shmups.

While collecting weapons has an obvious positive effect, finding both them and the cans scattered throughout the stages also levels up your character.  Finding all the cans and both weapons in a stage will each grant 1 CP, which is used to upgrade your stats, like health and damage.  Completing the level grants you 1 SP which can be used to purchase passive and active skills.  Your score at the end of the level will also grant up to 3 SP.  Obtaining all of them in a particular level will get you the "golden glove" rating for that stage.

Getting a high score is where the best mechanic in the game comes in.  Your combo will help determine the amount of points you get.  Getting hit breaks your combo, so dodging is very important if you want get high scores and the associated SP.  However, there are times when there is a lull in the action, or if you want to guarantee the large bonus from a combo.  Manual validation is used to get the most out of these situations.  Your combo counter and bonus score will remain until you are hit or decide to cash it in by pressing down on the D-pad.  This is a great mechanic.  You can play it safe, go for broke, or somewhere in between.  Just make sure to turn it on in the options, and you should see your score soar!

Not counting the tutorial, there are 8 different levels to play, and they each run about 30-40 minutes each.  There are also four characters, each with different skills and max stats, so you can find one that fits your play style.  If you are a completionist, you will likely go through each level at least twice so you can get the collectibles and the CP from the score.  If you want all the achievements, you'll want to find all the collectibles, weapons, get all character points, complete every level on hard, and play a level in both co-op modes (local and online).  The game can get pretty challenging even on the regular setting, so you will want a maxed out character and probably some friends if you hope to tackle the "rock hard" difficulty (especially the last level).

Of course, the game is centered around the co-op experience, so I would be remiss if I didn't explore that as well.  Being revived instead of losing a life is great, as is getting protection for the sections where you must carry items around.  The game makes up for this by throwing more enemies at you, but you don't seem to get more item drops.  Also, local co-op shares the bonus counter, so either player getting hit will break it.  The trade off is that it does increase faster, but is a lot harder to maintain.  Online, however, is much better.  Without being tied to a single screen, each player can run off and do objectives separately, making the levels much faster and less tedious.  Bosses will have a lot more health, though, so be careful on those parts.  Other than that, playing co-op, especially online, is where the game is the most fun.

The single player experience of Final Exam was enjoyable enough, but had frequent frustrations.  It can be easy to lose where your character is when swarmed with enemies.  However, pulling off impressive combos and getting a big bonus is a lot of fun, and was playing online co-op.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Blood Knights (XBLA) Review

Blood Knights is a downloadable hack and slash fantasy game out now for the Xbox 360 and PC and coming soon the the PS3.  It stars a soldier captain named Jeremy who is bound to a vampire named Alysa on a quest to find the Blood Seal so humans can win the war against the vampires.  After being left for dead, Jeremy takes his bound blood sucker along and attempts to fulfill his mission.

There are two characters you can control in the game.  Jeremy is a dual-wielding close range fighter.  One ability is a very strong attack, useful on a strong minion or to get a weak one out of the way quickly.  The other is an area clearing whirlwind attack, great for damaging groups or giving yourself some space.  All abilities are on a cooldown, so you can use them frequently.  The character switch is also on a cooldown, so you can't swap, use an ability, then switch back immediately.  The second character is Alysa, who has two crossbows and fights enemies from a distance.  She can throw grenades to damage groups of enemies and has a very useful fire arrow attack that, besides being very damaging, can ignite explosive barrels.

The controls take a bit to get used to.  Jumping is done with the A Button and Y is used to switch.  Late in the game, the B Button activates a blood shield, but I didn't end up using it.  The Left Bumper is the first special ability (power attack and fire arrow), while Right Trigger is the second (whirlwind and grenade).  Left Trigger is the blood suck move, from which you can push (Alysa) or pull (Jeremey) the enemy.  Jeremy attacks with the X Button and can dodge with the right stick and Alysa aims with the right stick, but shoots with Right Bumper.  In the beginning, I would try to shoot with Right Trigger instead of the Bumper, so I lost a fair amount of grenades before setting myself straight.  As I said before, it took me a bit to be comfortable with the controls.

Overall, Alysa was much more useful a character, as her range and mobility made the game fairly easy (I was playing on Normal).  Jeremy could dish out some good damage, and the dodge was helpful, but it is very easy to get hit.  It doesn't take much damage to do you in for good, but there are plenty of places to fill up your health between fights, plus you can drain a bit from most of the enemies.  Most foes you face aren't very hard, even the bosses.  The most trouble I had with a fight was against the first golem you fight, but that was only because I didn't realize you have to use the vampire pull to defeat them after their health is gone.

Blood Knights is a linear game.  After completing a dungeon, you move on to the next and cannot revisit the previous area.  You can revisit the town to buy and sell things, but you won't be able to go back and get treasure chests or Blood Coins you may have missed.  You wouldn't need to go back to fight enemies or anything like that, but being able to snag the missing coins would be nice.  That said, the game does move in a logical fashion, so the player knows why they are going from point A to point B, and the story is pretty easy to follow.  The story is not bad, but the voice acting...is about what you would expect.  Graphic-wise, I actually thought the game looked pretty good.  The scenery detail was nice, and the weapons and armor you get are shown on your character.  It's not the best, but I actually liked it.

After getting enough kills, you will level up, and can choose one skill from a list to upgrade.  Well, most of the skills can be upgraded anyway, as a few don't have any upgrades.  The game tells you what each upgrade does before you buy it.  There are some really useful ones, like the attack and movement speed increase for Alysa, and some that are less useful, like reducing the cost of things from the store.  Life, attack strength and luck can be increased for every five Blood Coins you find.  There are several pieces of equipment to put on, and both characters each have two weapons.  You will find most of the equipment in treasure chests scattered and hidden in the levels, but you can also buy things from the vendors.  Most of the good stuff will come from the chests, so you shouldn't need to buy much of any items, really.

One run though all 7 chapters of the story took me just under 6 hours.  There's really only two achievements for going through the story, and the rest are missable.  You get some of the achievements for killing guys certain ways, collecting all of the Blood Coins, and making three "human" or "vampire" decisions.  As there are only really three choices in the game, this is easily missable!  My favorite one is to throw ten enemies off of ledges with the vampire push ability.  I'm always a fan of throwing guys off into the abyss.  If you wanted all of the achievements, you would have to go through most of the game at least twice (to make choices for both sides) and play some of the co-op, effectively making it 8-10 hours total.

So how is the co-op?  Battle wise, the game is fine in co-op, but not as easy as single player, since someone will have to be Jeremy.  The platforming is a lot harder, since you have to use your vampire push and pull abilities to traverse the levels.  Playing through the game once on single player made it harder, since I was used to being able to jump all of the gaps and hills, and the game wasn't very clear that I had to use the push and pull to travel what I could easily by myself.  Well, if it did tell me, then it was easily missed, since my wife and I fell to our deaths a time or two before figuring out what we needed to do.  You'll want to be well coordinated if you intend to go through the whole game with a partner.  You'll also end up accidentally grabbing the wrong target with the blood suck a lot, if what I played was any indication.  It wasn't horrible, but I'd recommend sticking with single player.

Blood Knights is a bit on the short side, but it follows a logical course.  The progression feels very natural, however, it would be nice to be able to return to areas for us completionists that missed a coin or two.  The controls take some getting used to, but the game is fairly fun, even if it got stuck loading the game a few times.  I'd go with the single player experience unless you have a partner that you can be very coordinated with.

Saturday, November 9, 2013

The Guided Fate Paradox (PS3) Review

Renya is a very unlucky man.  As The Guided Fate Paradox opens, he explains to us that he has never won any kind of contest or random drawing in his life.  So when he wins a local lottery that makes him God, it seems as though his luck is changing.  Or maybe playing God is not as lucky as it would seem...

The Guided Fate Paradox is a mystery dungeon style game where players must guide Renya and his angelic sidekick through wishes he must grant.  I like the premise of the game, even if it would be hard to fully describe to someone who hasn't played it.  Basically, you must go into a machine and battle through random dungeon layouts and fight a boss, all to get stronger and grant someone's wish.  The story is broken up into several wishes that are filtered through a machine and then hand-picked by the angels who serve Renya.  I actually think most of the plots were pretty good, as what was going on wasn't immediately apparent.  However, going through a dungeon the first time took a lot longer than it felt like it needed to, thanks to the numerous cut scenes.  They weren't bad, but really broke up the flow of playing, since you would get a lengthy scene for every new floor.  After going through a dungeon once for the story, I was amazed at how much faster the subsequent trips were.

If you don't know what a mystery dungeon style game is, don't worry.  The term refers to a game where dungeons have a set number of floors, but the layout of it all is random.  Rooms are uncovered on the map when you enter them, but the hallways connecting them always have a "fog of war" effect, limiting your visual distance.  I appreciate that they actually point this out and give a reason for it in the dialogue, which is part of the humor of the game.  Anyway, enemy, item and exit locations are also random.  I've gone through a dungeon several times and found new pieces of equipment that I hadn't seen yet.  So while it is fun to wander into a different experience each time, the randomness of each trip can be very good or very bad.

However, my favorite thing about the dungeons is that each one has a different gimmick to keep things fresh.  The first is pretty standard, easing the player into the style of game, but they quickly change.  There's one that has you jumping down to different levels and using a cannon to go back up.  Another is a sea floor, where there are no defined hallways, so you have to wander around to find the "rooms" on each floor.  My favorite is the level where each floor is a cube that you walk across, and walking off the edge rotates it accordingly.  It's a really fun one, plus the floors themselves are pretty short and you can make your way through it pretty quickly.

Movement through each floor is done one turn at a time, which equates to one action.  Enemies only move when you do.  If you take a step, the enemy will too.  If you attack an enemy, the enemy will also do their own action.  You have no time limit between actions, so you can take your time and plan what to do.  Special moves are dependent on what your equipment is, and takes a certain amount of SP to execute.  HP and SP are filled automatically as you walk around, and moving around drains energy.  If you run out of energy, you will start to lose health.  You can restore energy with different food items, and health with healing items if you need it restored quickly.  These kinds of limits are not as bad as they seem, since you usually find enough food, or the dungeon is over before it is an issue.  Some of the long bonus dungeons will be a lot harder unless you come prepared.

The boss fights are more like puzzles than a straight up fight.  You still have to fight, but there are tricks for how and when you can damage them.  They aren't too hard, although I did have problems with one that tasked you with protecting a knight while fighting off hordes of demons by firing cannons at them and knocking down ladders they were climbing.  Even so, the boss fights are interesting, since they also add something new each dungeon to spice things up.

Items in The Guided Fate Paradox have durability, but not in the way you are used to.  The item gauge fills up, not down, and when it reaches the top, the item will "burst".  While I loathe durability, I like this system because you can make weapons and armor stronger after they have burst.  Taking it to the blacksmith and paying some money will raise the stats of the item.  Also, later in the game burst equipment can be combined to make stronger pieces of equipment.  However, that isn't the best part of items bursting.

When the item bursts, it will give you a tile that can raise the stats of your characters.  The tile will be one of the four stat types -strength, defense, speed or accuracy- and must be placed on a character's Divinogram to be effective.  "What is the Divinogram?" you might ask.  Think of it as a game board that you place the pieces on.  The tiles will increase your stats, and you can also place Holy Symbols on top of those.  Most Holy Symbols will negate what is beneath them, but increase the effectiveness of equipment, raise ailment resistance, increase carry capacity and more.  Plus, there are special statues that deliver "god energy" to these Holy Symbols and strengthen them.  The more tiles the energy stream travels over, the better the effect.  A combination of direction changing symbols (that don't negate what is below them) and a winding path will lead to large boosts to your symbols and in the end, your characters.  Acquiring, placing and routing all of the tiles and paths is my favorite part of the game.  It took me a bit to realize this, but once I made winding paths over as many tiles as possible, my equipment got a lot better and it was easier to move through the dungeons.

Whenever you leave a dungeon, your character's levels are reset to 1.  While this isn't the most fun, any levels you gain while in a dungeon are added to your Total Lv count, which in turn makes you stronger.  Add to this the Divinogram modifications, and your character will steadily get stronger, even if it doesn't feel like it.  Plus, the equipment you keep will give you advantages for any further excursions.  So get as many levels as you can in each dungeon, and keep bursting your equipment.

As in most mystery dungeon games, dying is to be expected, and the punishment harsh.  When you run out of HP, you are kicked out of the machine, and lose any and all items you had equipped and in your inventory.  Yeah, it sucks when that happens, and I'm not ashamed to admit I reset the game once or twice instead of losing some good equipment.  Half of your money is also gone, so store what you can in the bank once available.  You will still add to your Total Lv, so you don't quite lose everything, but it can be a small consolation to a frustrating situation.  Especially since sometimes the death feels out of your hands.  Always carry an Exit item (which you don't have access to until you've died once in a dungeon...thanks, Lilliel), and use it if things look bleak.  Pushing your luck is a great way to lose your good stuff.  Yes, the stuff is replaceable, but losing an item you burst several times is not fun.

There are 10 chapters in the game, and it can take awhile to make your way through one.  While this is mostly because of the cut scenes, you might have to do some grinding if you aren't feeling very lucky making your way granting every wish.  It does keep track of how many times you have gone through the game, but most of the end game content doesn't require you to beat the game multiple times.  Besides the main dungeons, you also have access to a few dungeons that go much farther down than 15 floors, and may offer you fights against some characters that fans of NIS games will recognize.  The trophies are fairly spaced out as well, with some for doing something the first time, a few through the story, and the last few for beating the guest bosses and obtaining all of the items.  Getting all of them will take quite some time, but you can make your way through just the story in about 20-30 hours.

The Guided Fate Paradox has a decent story (even if it frequently interrupts your dungeon diving) with a few lighthearted parts to poke fun at some of the tropes of the mystery dungeon genre.  Dying is expected but still ultimately frustrating, but powering up your stats with the Divinogram and bursting equipment is really fun.  It's a fun game that has different gimmicks to the dungeons and bosses to keep it interesting while you make your way through the dungeons and pick up all sorts of crazy equipment.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Destiny of Spirits (Vita): Beta Impressions

Destiny of Spirits is a free to play RPG on the PS Vita.  For battle, you use a party of three monsters to battle other monsters.  There is a little meter under each monster that fills, and when filled, the monster will attack.  Each monster also has a special ability that uses a communal SP meter that refills between missions.  The targets and menu options are mapped to the touch screen, and it responds really well.  Just like most RPGs, there is an elemental chart where each element is strong against one element and weak to another.

The game breaks the world up into a grid, and places you on it according to your location.  There are a few missions per area, and once you finish them, a boss fight will appear.  If you defeat the boss, that area becomes purified, and you can choose to do more missions in neighboring areas.  I like that it your location changes your starting point, plus it shows you where your friends are on the map.  Monsters you can get from summoning are dependent on region (America, Europe, Asia, etc), which would bother me more, but you can get those from the destiny summons (more on that below).  Plus, it is really easy to send friend requests to other regions, and you can trade for monsters you may not be able to get.  I wasn't able to try the trade function yet, so it might not be that easy, especially if you have to coordinate it.

There are several ways to get monsters for your party.  When starting out, the game gives you one.  To get more, you can spend Summoning Stones, which can be obtained from winning battles, and at least in the beta, as a bonus for logging in.  These can be spent to get a random summon, either common or uncommon.  Destiny Orbs can be used to summon a random uncommon, rare or super rare monster.  There may be something above super rare (maybe ultra rare?), but I didn't see it.  Some Destiny Orbs were given as login bonuses, but I suspect those will be purchasable in the store (the store option didn't work in the beta).  They could be used to heal your party (they will heal after 30 minutes), increase your total monster capacity, and summon special monsters.  The special monsters are only available for a certain time, and the ones in the beta were related to the Playstation cats (Koro and Toro I believe) and the characters from Gravity Rush.  A pretty cool idea that they have Sony themed characters that you can get for your party... maybe we will see some God of War characters in the future, too.

The other ways to get more monsters was a destiny summon that you can do once per day.  When you log in, you can choose a person taken from a random list of other players, and it will summon two of a random monster and give you each one of them.  It's pretty nice, and I actually got a rare monster or two out of it.  You can rarely get a monster as a reward for a mission, and you can also "hunt" them.  For this it requires location data, so if you use your Vita while travelling, you can probably get some nice new monsters.  I was only able to use it once, unfortunately.

To make the monsters stronger, you have to fuse others into one of your choosing.  You can fuse up to five at a time into a chosen "base" monster.  You get more experience if they are the same element, and presumably, more for rarer monsters or ones with higher levels.  It would have been nice if you could see how much experience you are going to get before you fuse them, to see if it is even worth it, or if it's better to fuse more than two at a time, but they don't tell you until after it's too later.  It wasn't that hard to get more summoning stones from fights so you could get more monsters to rais the level of the ones you like, but I would like to get the most out of what I'm giving up.  To finalize the fusion process, you need to spend Spirit Points.  For those of you keeping score, that's three different kinds of numbers you need to be aware of when not in battle.

You can also use the Spirit Points to "rent" a monster from another player for a mission.  It's a nice function, since the person you rented it from will get some of those points.  It also allows you to try out other monsters you may not have yet, or get help from a higher level or an element that could help you out.  You can't pick which monster it will temporarily replace, which is not a great thing, but you get plenty of Spirit Points, so it was a good thing to spend them on.  Also, if one of the random people on your list is a friend, you get a discount for renting their monster.

Every day you play Destiny of Spirits, your luck and elemental affinity will change.  Affinity will change which element of your is stronger in battle, so take advantage of it whenever you can.  Luck affects things like critical rate, drop rate and acquiring rarer monsters from the random drawings.  If you are so inclined, Destiny Orbs can be used to boost your luck (or drop it) for the day.  I think I got "average" luck every day I played (all 7), and didn't spend any orbs to increase it.

Besides the special monster availability, the other timed event during the beta was a special raid boss encounter.  The raid boss could appear in any zone you were in, but you could choose not to fight it.  It's HP would not deplete if you lost, since you are meant to take it on with groups of other people.  The one I fought was totally beatable solo, but I took me two tries and several monsters to win.  Beating the raid boss at different levels and more times gives several rewards.  The one I wanted was the playable version of the raid boss, but I didn't fight her enough.  Still, I thought it was a neat idea to put into the game so players check back to see what new events will keep them playing or get them back into the game.

Destiny of Spirits was pretty fun.  I'm not sure how intrusive the shop will be, and how much money you will need to put in to get the Destiny Orbs, so it could still go horribly, horribly wrong.  It used the Vita features well, but the reliance on having an internet connection can make it hard to play on the go (unless you have 3G), since I had to be close to my Wi-Fi access point to not error out.  That also made each facet of the game take a bit too long to load.  Other than that, I liked the game and will definitely try the full version when it comes out.  It's a good pick up and play game.