Saturday, January 30, 2016

Rebel Galaxy (Xbox One) Review

Rebel Galaxy has headed to home consoles after its recent PC release.  The game gives you a bit of story, then quickly drops you into the action.  There is a little explanation of what to do, but not much.  The game mostly leaves you to your own devices.

I'm ok with a game not holding your hand, but I'd like some information available in the game.  Over and under tutorializing are a frequent problem in games, and Rebel Galaxy is the latter.  The basic buttons are displayed fine on the screen, but figuring out navigation, mining and other things is trial and error.  It has a very old school mentality in that regard.

The best part of the game is just how much freedom they give you.  There is a story, but you don't really have to follow it.  You can run around and fight pirates, get bounty money and do side missions.  If you are more peaceful-minded (or greedy), go mining or become a trader, buying low and selling high.  Want to run afoul of the law?  Then do missions for the pirates and attack traders.  The game does a great job of letting you earn money for upgrades in as many or few ways as you want.

At first, I didn't realize that was the point of the game.  I was trying to do the story missions, and they quickly shot up in difficulty.  I was supposed to do extra stuff to make money, and slowly upgrade my ship and weapons and tackle the story missions as I did so.  It's fine for the game to do that, I just wish I had known earlier.  While you can do many things to earn money, you will likely be doing several of them to get ahead faster.  The side missions are randomized and repeatable, so there is no way to run out.  Plus each station has several each time you visit.  In fact, each new game randomizes the galaxy names and layouts.  It's nice that each player will have a lot of unique experiences while playing, or replaying, the game.

While traveling from station to station and job to job, you will be watching your ship fly.  A lot.  It's not the most interesting thing, but you do have to pay attention.  Fights can come at almost any point, so you should be ready for combat.  The bigger threat of not paying attention is flying too close to a planet or moon, and dying.  There are things to discover floating around, so there is stuff out there.  The game almost feels too realistic, since most times you are driving/flying somewhere, there isn't too much interesting going on, and the kind of interesting you would encounter is not the kind you want to encounter.

Combat is an important part of the game, since no matter what you will be involved in some fisticuffs.  Even if you are an item runner, you will need to know some fighting to know how to get the heck out of there when trouble comes knocking.  Though it is a vital part of the game, there is little instruction on it, as mentioned in part earlier.  Each ship is outfitted with a broadside weapon.  The number of shots of each (and hence its damage) is determined by the number of ports the ship has.  The same applies to the secondary weapons, although these are sometimes less direct weapons.  You can aim turrets manually, but I only really needed that for mining.  Otherwise, they shoot fine on their own.

There is a flak cannon you can equip to deal with enemy missiles, and deal with them you will.  I didn't realize that you have to fire them yourself, so I thought they were useless.  Turns out I didn't see that there is a button for them, so they are not actually useless.  Unfortunately, they are only useful if you aren't going too fast and try to vaguely aim them at the missiles, but they do work.  You do need some way to deal with enemy artillery, since as the game progresses, large enemy ship have a ton of missiles and torpedoes that they will not hesitate to shoot at you.  A lot.

Fights can vary in difficulty pretty wildly.  Since there are no levels of enemies, it can be hard to tell if you are capable of taking out some foes until midway through the fight.  Even if a job is labelled as easier doesn't necessarily mean it is.  Once you go through a few systems, the fights become much harder.  Enemies are numerous and outfitted with arms that eat through your shields and hull.  While you can hire a mercenary, two ships versus ten requires more power or good tactics.  Unless you are really good at destroying enemies, you will likely have to run a lot of jobs to build up money to go and buy better weapons and armor to withstand each new area.

As our moon has its dark side, and there are things I don't like in Rebel Galaxy.  More than there should be.  First off, you can't resize the screen, so the edges are cut off on my TV.  Second, the game starts off pretty loud, and I'm really not a fan of the music choices.  It isn't terrible, but it's some space western-y tunes that remind me of Firefly.  I can and do turn down the music and turn off the vibration, but it has to wait until I actually load up my game to do so.  Plus, with the vibration set to 0%, I have to go in again and change it up then back to get it to recognize that it is supposed to be off any time I boot up the game.  They might be minor, but they do get annoying.

There are still a few other problems I have with the game.  The game saves whenever you leave a station.  It only tells you this if you haven't saved in a while.  There is no on-screen indicator to know that you are saving or have saved.  While you can have multiple games, each has its own solitary save file.  That I can deal with, even if I don't like it.  The freedom the game gives has its downside too.  If you aren't committed to choosing a path or pushing yourself to do things, the game can be very aimless, like all open world/sandbox games.  While the problems aren't a huge deal, they are mostly ones that could easily be fixed.  Again, these problems may be bigger or smaller to you based off your own gaming preferences.

Rebel Galaxy can be very fun.  It might look and sound boring, since between fights there is a lot of flying through space and just staring at the screen.  When you actually play it, it is oddly engaging and easy to get caught up in.  It's one of those games you can sit down and start playing, then look up at the clock and realize you've been playing it for hours.  There are a fair amount of small issues that add up to make Rebel Galaxy good instead of great.  If the game sounds or looks at all interesting to you, definitely try it out for a few hours.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Legend of Heroes: Trails in the Sky SC (PSP) Review

Legend of Heroes: Trails in the Sky SC is the second part of an RPG trilogy for the PSP.  While it may seem odd to release a PSP game now, players can carry over some progress from the first chapter, and PSP games are fully playable on the Vita, so it does make sense.

It also looks fairly good on the small screen.  Graphics-wise, the game seems reminds me of one of those great 90s JRPGs.  The backgrounds are 3D and the camera can be rotated in many areas, allowing you to look around.  The characters look more like rendered 3D models than the straight-up polygons of the scenery.  This makes them stand out in a good way.  Being a fan of older games, and considering the limitations of the base system (PSP), the graphics look nice.  There is also a PC version on Steam, if you want it to look as good as it can.

The game quickly gets going when Josh, the main character's childhood friend/"brother"/secret crush takes off... and it is revealed he was actually working for a secret, evil group of people.  Yeah, so I really should have played the first game, as this probably spoiled some big events in it.  Our main hero, Estelle, is off to find and save Josh.  You can import a save from the previous game or just make a new one.  It obviously won't transfer everything, but you get some items and Estelle's level is the same if it was between 35-40 (otherwise it will be bumped up or down accordingly).  Since I haven't played enough of the first for it to matter, I didn't transfer anything.  Just be aware that this review is written with that in mind.

The game's story is really good.  Estelle's personal goal of finding her friend intertwines well with her professional goal of stopping an evil organization.  The characters are well fleshed out and believable, and you can easily get attached to some of them.  The dialogue and localization is top-notch, which gives extra marks to any RPG.  My only real issue is the lack of refresher of the previous story.  Given the time between the games, and the fact that you can play this without the first, some kind of optional recap would have been really nice.  As it stands, there is a chunk of stuff in the beginning that was tricky to figure out.  Like the battle difficulty (discussed later), this drops off as the game progresses, but considering much shorter and closely released games beat you over the head with a recap, it is disappointing to not have one in a game with such a great story.

Second Chapter is an RPG, so you will be fighting many battles.  Battles take place on a grid, but it's not a strategy RPG.  You can choose to move on the grid if you want, but if you select an enemy to attack and it's within your range, you will just run up and hit it.  If it's not in range, you will move as close as you can to it.  Since normal attacks send most monsters back a bit, it can be a problem hitting them out of range of the rest of your characters.  You can also cast magic, called "arts", but they will not cast instantly.  The turn order in the top left of the screen shows when the spell will take effect, so plan accordingly.  There are a good number of monsters that are much more affected by magic, so you can't just gomp stomp your way through every fight.  At least since enemies show up on the map, you can often times avoid the fight if you need to.

Each character also has unique abilities called Crafts.  These take a resource known as Craft Points (CP for short) to use, and tend to be pretty powerful or useful.  CP is unlike AP (Art Points) in that it is gained from taking or receiving damage.  If the CP meter is filled to at least 100, then a character can cash it all in to use an S-Craft, which is effectively a super move.  These can also be cast when not your turn to jump into the turn order.  Since some turns have effects like healing some HP or a guaranteed critical, it can be very useful to cut in line and take that for an enemy.  I really like the Craft system, since CP are a fairly renewable resource to use when you need it.  Using it with a beneficial turn effect has really helped on some of the harder fights in the game.

Your characters will get a special piece of equipment called an orbment that allows them to equip quartzes.  These crystals affect your stats, but also grant magic spells based off the element(s) it grants.  Each orbment has the same number of slots, but arranged in different lines.  Elements in the same line are added together to grant bigger and costlier spells.  I really like this system, as it allows you some refinements in your character.  Granted, I'm not a fan of the crystals that both increase and decrease stats (attack goes up 6% but defense goes down 3% for example), but most are good.  It's really easy to switch them around to make sure elemental spells are covered, too.  This is also a way to get a chance to apply status ailments on your attacks, which can turn the tide of battle quickly in your favor.

The difficulty in battle feels a bit unbalanced at times.  Fighting enemies on equal footing will likely result in you taking a lot of unnecessary damage.  If I got a preemptive strike, on the other hand, the battles were almost too easy.  There are also plenty of enemies with status ailments on their normal attacks.  These can be ridiculously deadly, so any advantage you can get is a plus.  Normal fights did get slightly easier with time, so the initial hurdle may have been because I didn't transfer a save into the game, as the starting difference would peter out over time.  Special fights against quest monsters and chest enemies can be tricky though, since you cannot get a preemptive strike.  Enemies are pretty powerful, so smart use of items and abilities will get you through them.  Strangely, boss fights were not as hard as I would have though.  Maybe they were easier since I did a lot of fighting while doing all of the side quests, or maybe they are more balanced than others.

While the world Estelle and company run around in is nice, I do have a slight problem with it.  I'm not the best with directions, and I'm thankful that towns have a mini-map so I don't get (as) lost.  Dungeons do not usually have maps for them, making it much harder to navigate.  I can eventually make my way through them, but I like to make sure that I've hit all the side paths and gathered all the treasure lying around.  The lack of a mini-map makes that much harder.  Since you can rotate the screen, I would have to remember cardinal directions rather than "I took the right path first".  Again, this might not be a problem for other people, but I would have really liked mini-maps for the dungeons.  You can save anywhere in dungeons (and towns), though, and you have plenty of save slots, which is always great in my book.

The game is also really long.  Remember RPGs about a decade ago when they ran 80 hours instead of 20-30?  Trails in the Sky SC is closer to the former.  There are 8 numbered chapters, a prologue and a finale.  The prologue itself took me 4 hours, which is crazy long for what in most games is a cut scene or two and a tutorial battle.  Other chapters ran me about 8 hours on average.  I am a completionist, so I pretty much did every side quest I could.  Unfortunately, it is easy to miss some by progressing the main story too far.  You could cut down on playtime if you ignore most of the side quests, but you might need to do some grinding to compensate.  Either way, just going through the game will take a long time.

Legend of Heroes: Trails in the Sky SC reminds me a lot of the PS1 era RPGs.  It has a good story with good characters, but could do more to introduce them to new players or those that don't remember the entire first game.  Otherwise, it is a fun RPG with unique battles.  I like the craft/art system, and the super moves are useful and fun to watch.  The game is really long, too, so you easily get your money's worth.  Fans of JRPGs, especially ones from the turn-based golden age, should definitely check it out.  If possible, I'd recommend playing the previous game first, then jump straight into the Second Chapter.

Friday, January 22, 2016

Slice It! (3DS) Review

Slice It! has made its way to the 3DS E-shop after being available on mobile devices.  It is an interesting puzzle game that tasks you with drawing lines to slice an object into a set number of equally sized sections in order to complete a stage.

The game has two different ways to play, either one of the episodes, or Slice It! Quick.  The two episodes each have 100 puzzles divided evenly over 5 pages.  For each of the puzzles, you have a set number of lines to use and set number of pieces the object has to be divided into.  At first it's pretty simple.  After a few puzzles, it gets harder.  You can't cut the pieces too small, otherwise you will fail.  You also have to use each line, even if the puzzle can be done in less.  It gets pretty challenging as you progress through the game.  Hints are helpful, but they are not per puzzle, so you can quickly run out of them.  You can earn more by playing Slice It! Quick (see below), but that can take awhile as well, especially if you need multiple for one puzzle (don't judge me!).  If you use a hint, do your best to complete the puzzle, since if you exit out, the hint will not show back up, but will have been used.

The second episode is similar to the first, but adds some twists including areas that you cannot draw lines through and ones that reflect the drawn line.  These are pretty interesting ways to add something unique to the mix instead of just harder puzzles.  It is possible to skip any puzzles that you are struggling with, but you do have to complete one full page (by getting at least one star on a puzzle) to move on to the next.  Once you finish the first episode, the other unlocks.  There is also a gift area with 40 more puzzles.

Slice It! Quick is just that: trying to solve a puzzle quickly.  You start with 30 seconds and try to complete as many randomly sequenced puzzles as you can in the time frame.  Thankfully, they puzzles aren't hard in this version, since the emphasis is on speed.  If you fail a puzzle, you lose 3 seconds from your time, but a perfect will give you 3 more.  There are sometimes "challenge" puzzles that stop the clock, but are a little more complicated than the standard ones in this mode.  For every 20 that you are able to do, you are also rewarded with a hint for the episodes.

This mode is a great alternative to the main one.  While I'm not the speediest of people, it's nice to bounce between the two.  After doing some puzzles from the episodes, I like to do a round of Slice It! Quick to kind of cleanse the pallet.  Or if I need to get a hint or two back.  That's probably how it will mostly be used, but I like the dichotomy of one set for thinking and the other for speed.  Just make sure to take the extra quarter second to make sure your are lined up correctly...the penalty is not worth the carelessness!

Slice It! is a pretty fun and quick puzzle game.  Some of the stages were pretty hard for me, but being a puzzle game, that experience will differ from person to person.  It's a bit more linear that I would like, since being stuck on a puzzle can halt your progress to the next page or unlock.  There are a lot of puzzles to solve, so it's easy to get your money's worth.  It's also a good pick up and play game for when you have a few minutes to solve some puzzles.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

The Deadly Tower of Monsters (PS4) Review

The Deadly Tower of Monsters is an attempt to recreate a cheesy, low-budget sci-fi movie from the 70s and make a video game around the director's commentary on the re-release of the movie.  It's a great idea, and it's pulled off well, which makes the whole thing work.

One of the reasons it works so well is because the developers committed to the idea of the game.  There are times when you can see the strings attached to flying things.  When the heroes die, they become stunt dummies.  The weapons you pick up are clearly mundane objects that the prop department added things to in order to make it more sci-fi.  Enemies are guys in suits or even stop motion monsters, and they look like it.  There's even a grainy filter on the game that simulates a VHS tape (this can be turned off if you are not cool enough).  Putting the VHS filter on the audio makes it kind of warped in a few places.

The other good part of the presentation is the director's commentary itself.  He's kind of a stereotypical chauvinistic ass, but that's the point.  He boasts about the terrible working conditions he put people through.  He tries to explain away the inconsistencies of the movie.  He stumbles over $30 words while trying to sound smart.  To top it off, he'll even throw in a few chauvinistic remarks.  Even though all the actors do good work, the director is easily the star of the game.

Primary, Deadly Tower is a 3D action game.  Your characters run around the different areas, ascending the tower.  You get a melee attack and a ranged attack, and two weapons to swap between for each.  There are over 20 weapons in the game, split between the two attack types.  Each weapon is also upgradeable with cogs you pick up.  The ranged weapons have an energy meter that depletes when you fire them, and it refills over time.  It's fairly standard for the genre, but I really do like the upgraded weapons, since they tend to have some silly comment on them related to what it is, or how silly and sci-fi they look.  The melee upgrades in particular tend to make the weapons a little more goofy to fit with the theme of the game.

The best defensive maneuver the heroes have is a dodge roll.  However, if you use it right when an enemy attack would hit you, it will instead be a parry that will knock the enemy back and cause some damage.  Doing it to a projectile attack will send it back at the attacker.  Thankfully it is not necessary to master it.  While you will get hit a lot, especially in melee combat, you don't usually take a lot of damage.  Enemies will frequently drop cubes that restore a little health and larger health pickups are scattered around the map, so I rarely ran low on health.

Each of the playable heroes will get some powers that help with either combat or exploration.  They all share a force push to knock enemies away and one other that I won't spoil.  Dick's unique skills are a landmine that can clear out certain rocks and a dash.  Scarlett gets a electric barrier and a speedy run.  Robot gets a time slow field and a chain lightning bolt.  The way the powers are used to open up other areas and get some of the collectibles is well done.  Even if you need to switch to a particular hero for a certain part, there are many handy "sleep chambers" that let you do so.

While there isn't a ton of it, there is some platforming in the game.  It's not too taxing, save for one part later in the game.  If you happen to fall in the water at the bottom, a fish will eat you and you return to the nearest shore, with some commentary from the director.  Falling off of a ledge would be slightly more problematic, but you soon get an air teleport that will warp you back up to the ledge you fell from.  That comes in really handy when grabbing a few collectibles or falling through the rings.  It's actually a really nice feature that I now wish was in other games.  You also get a rocket pack that will allow you to hover for a short amount of time, or help break your fall so you don't die.  It has no upward thrust, so it can't be used as a double jump unfortunately.  I have used it to skirt around a few obstructions.  I'm not sure if that's intended, or just a happy coincidence.

The game isn't too long, taking about 4-5 hours to beat.  If you go looking for the collectibles or the trophies, then it's closer to 8-10 hours.  The touch pad is a convenient teleport to jump around the map to gather up anything you missed.  There isn't much replay value after that, since none of the trophies are missable.  The game isn't too hard, either.  The only times I died were from falling too far and the jetpack not saving me.  Once or twice I was low on health during a fight, but I never actually ran out.

The Deadly Tower of Monsters is a great idea for a game that the developers went full in on.  As a result, I think it was pulled of pretty well.  I laughed at several parts, even though my 8 year old had no idea why I was laughing.  The action of the game is fairly standard and the only real problem I had was the weird collision near many of the obstacles.  When in tight quarters, the player model tended to get stuck in a jump animation and it can be tricky to get out.  It's only about a 5-10 hour game, depending on if you are going for the platinum trophy or collectibles.  Fans of cheesy sci-fi movies should check the game out for some laughs, as I was pleasantly surprised at how fun the game was.

Friday, January 15, 2016

Far Cry 3 (Xbox 360) Early Impressions

Yes, Far Cry 3 came out a few years ago, and since that time I've heard a lot of good things about.  It sounded fun, but I kept putting off getting the game.  I recently got it for cheap and tried it out.

You know what?  I'm liking it.  The story is pretty interesting so far, but I know it doesn't get as cool as it could have.  The missions aren't too hard yet, and there seems to be a good amount of them.  In general, there is a lot of stuff you can do based solely on the map in the game.  Similar to Assassin's Creed, there are tower-like areas that show you chunks of the map.  They have some challenges scattered around that give extra experience or items.  It also marks the different areas that animals roam so you can hunt them.

You could hunt for extra money, but the real use of the animal pelts is for crafting.  All the upgrades that allow you to carry more things (items, weapons, ammo, etc.) are made from this menu.  It's pretty cool, but can be a pain to carry around all the pelts in case you need them.  Probably my second highest complaint is that the inventory system seems small.  Items don't really stack, so if you grab a lot of stuff (like me), you eat up a lot of space with stuff you will use in the future.  It's not a deal-killer, but kind of annoying.

My biggest complaint is fighting animals.  Using guns and stealth kills works wonderfully when against other human opponents, but small animals that run up to you and bite...not so much.  It's less a problem with the game than it is very annoying.  Plus, if you snipe an animal, they are pretty good about running up to fight you.  So I'm supposed to believe that animals can trace the shot?  That's nigh impossible, but whatever, video game stuff.

Far Cry 3 is definitely a game I like so far, and will come back to when I have the time.  It could easily keep me occupied with the variety of missions and things offered.  The level up system is neat, with three skill trees full of skills.  Gunning non-animal enemies is fun.  The water is a bit scary, since I'm like that, and the sharks don't make it any friendlier.  It reminds me a lot of Dying Light, which is a good thing.  Playing the game reminds me that I need to play more Blood Dragon as well.

Saturday, January 9, 2016

Eiyuu Senki - The World Conquest (PS3) Review

Strangely, I hadn't heard of Eiyuu Senki - The World Conquest until it appeared on the Playstation 3's online store.  It's a strategy game where you must, as the title states, conquer the world.  Also, each region is inhabited by famous historical and mythological characters... and they have all been gender-swapped to be female (except Joan of Arc).  Rule 63 is in full effect here, and considering the original nature of the game (it was very much for 'adults'), that is no surprise.  Time to be the hero and unite the entire world, all while having the ladies fall head over heels for you.

The console release of Eiyuu Senki does prove that you can remove the naughty bits and still have a good game.  I haven't been able to compare it much to the PC uncensored Japanese release, but there are a few points where I'm sure something was take out or altered.  On one hand, I would like to try the untouched version, but on the other, it being changed means it actually comes out here on a system I would play it on (sorry PC people).  I still wouldn't play it around younger audiences that can read, as there is a lot of suggestive dialogue and some swears (mostly from one character in particular).  The story is pretty good, with a few nice twists.  Plus, several parts of the dialogue and the events that you can view were funny.

When you need to scare off some bandits or take down a region's leader, it will likely involve a fight.  Combat in Eiyuu Senki takes place on a 3x6 grid, with your side occupying the left half, and your opponent the right.  You can choose up to six people to place in battle, and where their initial position is.  The top center of the screen shows the turn order, which is dependent on your speed stat and what actions you take.  You can attack an opposing unit (if it's within your range), wait or move.  If there is a full column between both forces, you can use the 'advance' function to move your entire force toward theirs.  Skills are either attacking (damage) or support (heal, debuff, etc.) and require brave points to use.  The brave points are the little stars you have in the upper left of the screen.  Every time the meter fills, you gain one.  Doing or receiving damage are the most common ways of getting brave meter, and using the skills at the right time can actually change the battle in your favor.

However, it isn't quite as cut and dry as you might think.  There is a rock-paper-scissors like chart of which type does more damage to which others.  While you will get more damage by taking advantage of that, any brave points for such and attack will go to your opponent.  It's an interesting balancing mechanic that has you thinking about immediate benefit versus long-term benefit.  Early on, the brave points aren't as important since you don't have many skills that use them, so the choice is easier.  As you progress through the game, that choice becomes more important.  Are you willing to trade that damage boost for potentially fueling an enemy's ultimate attack?  It is a really unique part of the game, and I like that it changes what you plans are.

Before placing a unit on the field, you can see their attack ranges, type and stats.  Since a person can only be used once per turn, you might not want to take all six every time, or at least not take all your heavy hitters in one fight.  After awhile, the battlefields will also have effects on the ground, such as reducing your defense, or raising all of your stats.  Unfortunately, the spread of them isn't always fair, and there are plenty of times where the field effects are totally against you.  Clever use of placing units and moving/advancing will help sometimes, but other times you just have to suck it up and deal with it.

A great shot of the battlefield.  It also coincidentally shows a few of the characters I like to use.

However fighting is only part of what you do.  The other half of the game revolves around viewing character skits and deciding who and where to fight the other armies.  Every turn you get an allotment of Action Points (2-4 depending on the point in the story you are) that have to be divided up between viewing the extra events and fighting battles.  Most times the choice is up to the player.  You can view all the mission events, then focus on battles, the opposite of that, or anywhere in the middle.  Personally, I found the best balance to be in the middle, so I wasn't constantly fighting or reading.  When you end your turn, any hostile nations may attack you in a bid to reclaim their territory or grab some of yours.  If you have any characters left, you can fight to repel them.

This is where another part of the strategy in the game lies.  Early on, you won't have as many characters, so choosing who to use and save for later in the turn is important.  Most times you can give up the town and just fight for it again later if you need to, but I always tried to leave a few left to repel an invasion.  Later in the game that is much less of a problem.  You have so many characters that is it nearly impossible to use them all.  At the end of each turn, you will gain money and each character will heal 10% of their troops/HP.  Any enemy invading/defending forces will also gain some health back.  Hostile forces will also be "slightly upgraded", which basically means their max troops/HP will increase a bit.  It is possible to sit around for many turns and build up a lot of money, but it really isn't necessary.

If you lose a fight, you many times can choose to replay it (which may allow you to try different characters), or even back up an action.  Sometimes you can just give up and let the opposing forces take the town back.  I only ever had to do that early on, when I didn't have enough character to make headway and defend.  The only other time I considered losing a fight to throw more people at the problem (since the opponent would retain their lost health) was at a point in the story when my ports were taken.  Unfortunately, I wasn't allowed to at that time.  It kind of sucked that when I actually wanted to make use of something was one of the few times I couldn't, but I just powered through.  There's also an option in the middle of the fight to restart, which helped me a lot in one of the final true ending fights (stupid "original lust king").

The 'Missions' you can undertake  are usually events scenes that have lots of character interactions.  Some involve battles, which is always shown and mentioned beforehand so you aren't unprepared.  Some will give you a new character, item or money.  Most of them will deepen the relationship between the main person involved and the hero.  These are necessary to give characters more skills and equipment slots.  Each mission has set requirements, which you fill by committing characters to them.  All character in Eiyuu Senki have non-battle skills and you have to add enough of each required type to actually do the mission.

It honestly sounds more complicated than it is, as I was able to understand what to do right away.  Since you can only use a character once a turn, you must make careful choices who you send on a mission, and when to do it.  Missions also take an action point to do.  It is very easy to get behind on character missions as you progress through the game.  I was pretty diligent about them, but toward the end I got so many characters that I feel behind quickly.  While I could ignore them, I try to be a completionsit, so I want to see them all.  Plus, the extra skills and items are appreciated.  If you don't care who you send, there is a very helpful 'auto select' function to fill out the requirements.  Some missions are missable, but usually they are ones that help you defeat your current hostile enemy.  I would have been more annoyed at this, but you don't actually lose anything or really miss anything, so I quickly forgot about them.

There are harder and easier parts of the game, part of which is dictated in the order you take over the world.  Overall the game isn't too hard, which I like.  However, you can make it harder.  If you take over the more difficult opponents, you can gain an extra bonus item that will in turn make all other opponents stronger.  You can keep this up if you want to get the hardest experience possible.  It's certainly an interesting way to choose your difficulty.  As long as you don't sit there against an opposing force to buff them, and don't leave yourself without a possible defense, the game is very manageable and fun.  I don't think it is possible to make the game unwinnable, though.  You should earn enough money and have enough characters to brute force your way through any opponents.

The game is more linear than I thought it would be.  There are times when you have the freedom to choose the next area you will conquer, but the characters you get and the important plot points are all set.  This is fine, though, because there are a lot of other armies to conquer.  Considering your start on a small island nation and have to take over the world (I tried to type it in a Brain voice), it makes sense that the game can take awhile to beat.  If you skip through the text it would be much faster, but where's the fun in that?  If you try to view every event and conquer everybody, you are likely looking at a 50+ hour completion time.  Of course, the time you take to conquer each region is somewhat variable, depending on how aggressive you both are.

There are two endings, which is very possible to do in one playthrough when you know the qualifications and make a separate save at the appropriate time.  Even if you don't want to do so, going through the game again isn't bad, since you have some freedom in who to take on at certain points.  You can even keep your items in a new game plus mode, to help with the higher difficulties you might face.  Some of the items would allow you to breeze through the first half of the game, and getting duplicates of others would help you do the areas in any order to gain some of the missed items.

I really enjoyed playing Eiyuu Senki - The World Conquest.  It was actually one of the most fun games I played in 2015 (yes I'm aware the review is out in 2016).  The premise of all these famous characters as females was pretty cool.  Several parts of the dialogue were funny.  Even if the 'true ending' takes a Star Ocean 3 turn, I still enjoyed it and it all made sense.  Battles are fun and surprisingly tactical, especially late in the game.  It took me a long time to beat the game, and there is some incentive to play through again.  The biggest complaint I have about the game is that some of the text can be hard to read - whether because it doesn't scale well or it's white text on a light background.  If you are a fan of JPRGs or strategy/tactical RPGs, I would highly recommend Eiyuu Senki, as long as you are fine that your main character is assembling a harem of world famous people.  I'm really hoping the expanded Eiyuu Senki Gold makes it way to the US, as I would love to play it uncensored, even if it were the PC version (shock!)

(Review code for Eiyuu Senki - The World Conquest was provided by the publisher.)

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Yakuza 5 (PS3) Early Impressions

So in the past few months, I've gotten review codes for several RPGs and longer games.  In an effort to actually show that I am (slowly) working on going through them, some will get broken into two posts, one about early impressions I have with the game, then a more full-featured review when I've put a lot more time into the game.  Yakuza 5 seemed like a good candidate for this, since I was told to "take my time" with it, in an effort to see and review all the game has to offer.

Firstly, I have not played any previous Yakuza games.  Sure, I've wanted to, but never bought one or got around to trying one.  I thought they were more open world games, something very much like Sleeping Dogs, but they aren't.  There are times you can roam around, but you can't just do whatever you want, willy-nilly.  There's usually an actual goal, like get something at a store or go home for the night.

It's actually a very story-driven game, which surprised me.  Even though this is the fifth entry in the series, there was enough explanation during the first sections that I got a sense of what was going on and who certain people were.  I didn't feel aliened (yet, that could change) as a new player, which I really appreciate.  It's likely that if I had played the others, I would get a greater understanding, but so far nothing has been confusing.  Anything that needs explaining has had just enough that I get it, but not so much that it brings the story to a halt.

There is fighting in the game, and it is more like a 3D brawler.  You get combo moves, a block and even special "Heat" moves when a meter is filled.  You can even grab guys off the ground or just stomp on them.  My first fight ended when I did a giant swing to a prone opponent (it was a Heat move), but it didn't have the full space.  So, I just smacked him into the wall (ouch), dropped him and did a jumping stomp.  It even has that Batman: Arkham style slow-mo camera for the end, which can make dramatic endings that much cooler.

The enemies quickly learned to block, so we will see if the combat gets annoying or stays fun.  I'm anxious to see how the rest of the game turns out, but so far I'm liking Yakuza 5.  Kudos that the fifth entry isn't confusing to a new player!

Saturday, January 2, 2016

Year End Wrap-Up, part 4

The Future
While the first two parts looked at the past, the fourth will look to the future.  There's a few things, mostly gaming related, that are on my radar for next year.

From Bamco (Bandai Namco), I really want to play Project X Zone 2 and Digimon: Cyber Sleuth.  I loved the first PXZ and I'm confidant I'll like the sequel as long as the combat hasn't been ruined.  Sure, they have shuffled some teams around, for better or worse, but I like a lot of the character choices.  It's still a game that I'm likely to sink hours into.

I've liked the Digimon franchise since I watched the first season, and I've actually enjoyed a lot of the video games.  It's been years since we had a Digimon RPG, as the last one were the Dusk and Dawn versions of Digimon World on the DS.  While initially I wanted the Vita version of Cyber Sleuth, I might go with the PS4 version.  Even the pre-order DLC looks awesome.  Agumon dressed as Tai is cool, and you get Beelzemon Bluster Mode!  I already know my favorite Diaboromon is in the game, so that's two slots on my team that are already taken.

Bandai Namco also announced late in 2015 that they are bringing over God Eater Resurrection and God Eater 2 Rage Burst.  I enjoyed what I played of Gods Eater Burst on the PSP a year or so ago, and would love to play these on a more current system.  Hopefully the release of these is spread a bit through the year, rather than have two different God Eater games for two different systems (PS4 and Vita) release simultaneously.  It would be a bit confusing.  Given their track record, I might not get review copies for any of these four titles, but I will definitely check them out down the road.

A few more games I'm looking forward to that may or may not end up being released in 2016.  No Man's Sky, which I am really hoping to review, still looks like a lot of fun to just go exploring the universe.  I'd also like to see more of two hopefuls, Horizon: Zero Dawn and Re:Core.  We have seen very little about these, and if they aren't releasing in 2016, I'd like to see a good chunk of gameplay to see if they look good or just mediocre.  Who knows, we may even see Mighty No.9 release as well!

In non-gaming areas, I'm also psyched to see some cool looking Transformers toys coming out next year with Titan Wars.  While not as cool as this year's Combiner Wars, there are some good toys shown that I'm going to try and get.  He'll be expensive, but the Fort Maximus looks cool and I'm hoping for a recolor/remold of the leader class Blaster as my favored Soundwave.  While the games I know I can either get a review copy of or wait for a great price, that doesn't usually work with the TF toys.  I'll have to figure out some way to get the money for them, but I'll likely have to continue to be choosy about which ones I pick up, and hope that the Hasbro Toy shop has them in stock when they have the % off coupon codes.

There were a lot of fun games I played in 2015, and 2016 should have its fair share as well.  Happy new year readers!

Friday, January 1, 2016

Year End Wrap-Up, part 3

Games to Revisit
Getting copies of games to review is really awesome, and reviewing a game pushes me to beat it if I can in the time allotted.  However, I don't always get to play as much as I want of a game, due to actually getting the review out in a timely manner and other scheduling things (stupid real life).

Of course Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate will go here.  My buddy Mark Tatsu and I were so close to the end, and we've fought all but like 4 monsters.  If it wasn't for him getting married and other silly things we would have done it, too.  Now, I'm not advocating that he give up his life to play more Monster Hunter with me, but he definitely could have tried to work it in.  It's not like I wasn't making time for it, and he doesn't even have kids.

I've played a few visual novels in 2015, and I enjoyed them.  For Amnesia: Memories, Norn9 and Code: Realize, I would really like to get all the endings, and the platinum trophies if I could.  Another platinum I'd love to get is for Lost Dimension.  I really liked that game and would love to have enough time to finish my second run and hopefully get the rest of the trophies.  Well, maybe a third run so I can save my waifu Mana...

There are three other RPGs that I would add to the list of games I want to play more.  Omega Quintet was a game I found humorous and fun, and would love to put another 30 hours into.  Sword Art Online RE: Hollow Fragment is also on that list, since it is basically two games merged into one.  I liked it and would love to have to time to pour into it and get the platinum.  To round out the RPG list is, predictably, Disgaea 5.  I've really enjoyed the series, and I would like to devote more time to leveling up my characters and doing post-game stuff and a lot of the extra things you can do in the game.

Since I enjoy hack and slash games, I might as well include some recent Warriors games.  Samurai Warriors 4-II, Samurai Warriors Chronicles 3 and One Piece: Pirate Warriors 3 still have a handful of content I haven't completed, and I want to.  Those should be easier because it is very possible to pick up and play, and my son enjoys playing them too.  I could play with him or have him play them and grind me out some drops, hahaha.  Anyway, I'd also like to add Dynasty Warriors Gundam 3, since I haven't finished that one off and I've had it for years.  Good game, though.