Saturday, April 30, 2016

Fairune (3DS): the Good, the Bad and the SaHD

The Good:
The game is a pretty fun adventure game, reminiscent of the first Legend of Zelda, except you walk into enemies to defeat them.  You take damage as well, but only if the enemy gives experience (which they only do for about 2 levels).

The Bad:
While there is no real penalty for death, you have to walk all the way back to where you were, which is sometimes more of a pain than an actual penalty.  Also, there are a lot of puzzles, and it can be a pain in the butt to figure them out, assuming they actually have clues.  Some require you to walk off the screen at random areas you wouldn't know about.  One near the end requires the touch screen, which was not used at any other part of the game.  Gah!

The SaHD:
I paid a dollar for the game, and it took me about 2.5 hours to beat.  It was fun and worth the price.  There are a few extra things I can still do, like get the secret items and monsters for the collection.  There's even some speedrunning achievements.  Trouble is, I'd have to start a new file, since I'm stuck where I saved at the end.  I wouldn't immediately go back to the game, but maybe at some point in the future.

(Fairune was purchased from the 3DS E-shop)

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Bravely Second (3DS) Preview - The Second 10 Hours

Done with chapter 1 and onto the next 10 hours of the game!

First off, there is a job called Catmancer.

Just let that sink in.

Yeah, I'm right there with you if you face-palmed at that.  It's... a unique choice, to be sure.  It is this game's version of a Blue Mage, since they can learn some enemy attacks.  Unlike a Blue Mage, the Catmancer is really good at heavy armor, axes and fist weapons, making it a useful and unique combination.  Who knew?  It's a silly concept, but they made the Blue Mage a better class, rather than a worse version of a Red Mage.

Although, instead of MP, it uses items to fuel its abilities.  While I prefer MP, as it is readily renewable, the items thing might be ok if there are plenty available.  It gets an ability to dig and get a cat item that varies by location, which is good.  Plus, there are special ways to kill some enemies to get more.  The best way is to simply buy them if you upgrade the right stuff at Fort Lune.  There are also food items that unlock with them... wait, is there a chef class?  Sigh...

They are also going all in the Ba'als.  I fought one in the story (it was the last boss of the demo), and then they show up at Fort Lune as optional fights.  They love that their name sounds like "ball" and pun it up with that.  Stuff like "ba'al busting" and the like.  Kind of chuckle worthy, but gets old fast (which is weird because I normally like puns).  I've also assembled a full team of guests from the daily net invites, so my base is proceeding nicely when I have the game in sleep mode.

Last time I was complaining about the recycled characters, and I'll expand that here with the recycled locations.  They do add new towns, but you seem to repeat many places that you went to in the last game.  Some may have changed layouts, but I don't think they all did.  If there are no changes, then I really don't like just recycling the locations, as it comes across as lazy.  I'm fine with reuse if they do something unique with them, or enough time has passed.  Two in-game years isn't really enough for much change.

On the progression of the story, the bosses aren't giving me too much trouble.  When they start to, I can sock it to them with the Special attacks.  Unlocking some of the modifiers for them makes them even better.  The special my bow thief uses can easily do over half of some bosses' health.  Admittedly, I don't nuke them outright, and try to save the Special for if I need it, or to finish them off when low and I don't want to deal with their crap any more.  I probably should do it from the start and just be done with them.

This next part might be considered a spoiler.  The last boss of the chapter is a two headed... snake... frog... thing.  It's gross looking.  It looks like a de-winged Gigginox for anyone that has played Monster Hunter Tri/3 Ultimate.  It's one creature, but the heads are separate targets.  When one dies, it pops and leaves an...interesting looking hole.  Eww.

It worked out pretty well, since I ended the first chapter at just under 20 hours.  I'll have to take a break from the game for now, since I need the 3DS to review another game, Langrisser (review coming soon!)

< The First 10 Hours   |   Hours 20-30 >

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Senran Kagura: Estival Versus (PS4) Review

Finally...the girls have consoles!  Sorry for that rock-solid intro, but I'm almost as excited to finally review the game than I am of it being available on a home console for the first time.  Senran Kagura: Estival Versus takes place after Shinovi Versus, and is in that continuity.  (Don't get me started on that...)

Much like its predecessor, Estival Versus is a 3D action game where the girls have been summoned to a tropical island where the dead reside.  In order to go home, they much participate in the Bon Festival, and destroy their opponents' festival platforms.  Besides being an excuse to have the girls in swimsuits (I'm not sure the game needed and excuse...), the platform destruction is worked in to the game, and we get to meet Ryona and Ryobi's departed sister.  Story scenes this time around are less narration by the characters and more interaction between the characters.  Most times it's not as deep as the other (no, seriously, there is really good story in these games), but they deal with some good themes.

Each stage is a battle where you have to fight some enemies of various types, and usually fight another character (or multiple) as a boss fight.  The square attack is used for your normal attack string, the end of which usually has a launcher.  The triangle button is your signature breach art, and you can hold it for a block-breaking attack.  X button is jump and the circle button is dash.  Unfortunately, there is a big downtime at the end of a dash where you cannot move while the animation finishes.  It really slows down the action, but I suppose it is a balancing thing for the versus modes.  Being stuck in a slow animation is still not fun, as much of the action feels slower than previous games in the series.  Some can be canceled by jumping, dashing or blocking, but it's a pain to deal with in the first place, since other games in the genre aren't near as egregious.

The girls can also transform into their shinobi forms when you have at least one super meter.  The transformation animations are more involved this time around.  The shinobi form gives you slightly different attacks, and multiple air dashes to continue combos.  You also gain access to your super arts, which can be devastating when used correctly.  Instead of transforming to the shinobi form, you can shred your own clothes and go into "frantic" mode, which increases your speed and damage, but lowers your defense.  You also have access to new attacks and your super arts in this mode.  Of course, during battle both your an your opponents will get their clothing torn, and finishing them off with a super can completely strip them, complete with balls of light covering their parts (which I honestly prefer to the chibi faces and streak of light).

While the basic combat is mostly the same, they added a few new touches.  The girls can run up walls now, and preform a diving attack while doing it.  There are bomb items you can pick up and throw at enemies for various effects, like freezing or poisoning them.  My favorite bomb is the puppet one that gives you a pilot-able mech suit for a short time.  They have also added a friend on some missions.  You can use them to bust you out of a combo, continue yours, or team up for a flashy mid-air combo attack.  While this is a step in the right direction, I'm still hoping for an actual tag mechanic or even -gasp- couch co-op.

My favorite addition to the series is the location KOs.  Called "creative finishes", these are like stage fatalities, but with covered nudity ("conveniently placed apostrophes") instead of gore.  If you finish your opponent near certain areas of the stages (denoted by a sign with a "!" on it), they will be stripped and be launched into the environment for some more humiliation.  Several more have been added through patches to the Japanese version, which are included in the US release.  While most of them are location-based, there are three that are tied to specific costumes available from Ayame's store.  Those won't shred like normal, but offer a unique finish animation.

The story is presented as a long, single narrative where each stage has a set girl for you to use.  Once you have completed a level, you are free to do it again with any of the unlocked shinobi.  I like the single narrative aspect of the story presentation, but there is still some problems with being under-leveled.  Later on in the story it will bump a character's level up to 10, which does help.  As you make your way through the story, you will eventually unlock the extra (non-DLC) characters. It's a pretty long story, will 8 days having 5 or so missions each (usually one per school/group of shinobi).  Half the missions aren't very hard, but the ones against multiple girls (of which there are many) can be tricky.

The AI is about the same as it has always been, where it likes to attack the moment you are within range, or zip around you while you are trying to hit them.  In the final stages, it seemed that I would be assaulting them, and then I would just get hit.  Or, they would recover from me hitting them before I did.  Yikes.  They seem less prone to break out of your air combos, but probably because the button mashing mini-game from Shinovi Versus is gone.  While the AI doing these things might be them taking full advantage of the game's systems, I don't think it's what they should do on an "easy" setting.  It's true that I only failed a stage once or twice, but it had frustrating parts nonetheless.

Each character also has a mini story that becomes available as you destroy the festival platforms in the story.  Each story stage shows how many platforms there are, so it is easy to see where you missed them.  The "Girls Heart" stories open in a weird order, but you can see how many platforms you need to unlock them.  There are five stages in each one, and some dialogue in the stages that furthers the short stories.  They are pretty fun, a great way to get more experience, money and a nice picture at the end.  They can be pretty humorous, too.

Like Shinovi Versus before it, there are multiplayer modes in Estival Versus.  Hence why the word "versus" is in the title.  The modes have been expanded a bit since last time, and one addition in particular I actually like.  There is Point Battle (try to get the highest points by killing enemies), Understorm (collect panties that drop around the arena), Capture the Bra (it's a flag), Queen of the Hills (destroy platforms), Walker Battle (fight in the mechs), Shinobi Deathmatch (self explanatory) and Shinobi Survival.  Of the actual versus ones, Queen of the Hills, is the best, simply because it has team creative finishes.  I really like Shinobi Survival, because it is co-op against waves of enemies.  It's a great place to get experience for characters, but doesn't seem good for money.  You can do it by yourself, but the score won't upload, which is fine.  I'd love to play it with my friends if any of them get this game.  It's worth noting that the versus modes can have up to 10 people on the PS4 (only 4 for the survival mode), and 4 players max for the Vita version.

As a fan of the Senran Kagura games, I was happy to finally see one on a console, and Estival Versus did not disappoint.  The story is long and involved, but there doesn't seem to be as much exposition as previous titles.  There are some balance changes to the characters that I'm not too fond of, but it doesn't ruin the experience for me.  Multiplayer modes have returned (meh), but have added a co-op survival (nice!).  The AI can still be annoying, but the game overall is very fun.  Not one I would play around the kids, though.

The Good:
Same fast-paced, ninja stripping action, now with environmental humiliations and more characters!

The Bad:
The CPU opponents.  They can easily move out of the way of whatever they want, shrug off as many hits as they want, and hit you out of just about anything.  Fun!

The SaHD:
I'm glad some of the characters I really like using haven't been nerfed.  It seems like every game they tweak the characters, which usually results in some becoming terrible.  Katsuragi still hasn't recovered from the first 3DS game, where she was great...and now is not.  Haruka has been tooled with and is somewhat better, but still not good.  Ryona fell far from the previous game where she was top-tier, and Mirai somehow got worse.  Sadly though, I think newcomer Hanabi is the worst character.  Hopefully them make her more usable in a future game.

I'm still gunning for the platinum in the game, time permitting.  I only need to finish buying everything in the store and I'm good!

Score: 8.8/10

(Review code for Senran Kagura: Estival Versus was provided by the publisher.)

Monday, April 25, 2016

Bravely Second (3DS) Preview - The First 10 Hours

Well, I talked a bit about the demo, so I figure I might as well chronicle some of my progress in the full release of Bravely Second (and limit the spoilers as much as I can).  I really enjoyed the first one, but didn't finish it sadly (put in over 60 hours though).  I got to the part that everybody hates, where you start playing Groundhog Day Simulator.  I got the idea they were going for, but it was too long and could have been done much better.  So, I moved on to other games, since they don't review themselves!

Thankfully the game starts off with a recap of the first game.  Besides being a great refresher for fans, it helps people like me who didn't want to put up with the bulls ideas the first one had at the end.  Note I had a used copy of the original, so I did see the subtitle change, and hence, had some idea what was going on.

From that good part we then jump into the story, which starts with an unwinable fight versus a stupidly over-powered foe.  Yup, two of my least favorite things right off the bat!  I guess they have to make the new foe threatening, but the party fighting him would have done much, much better than that.  Sigh.

After that the story gets much better, as you assemble the game's main cast during the prologue.  This part clocked in at 5 hours for me, which is crazy for a prologue (the previous record was 4 for Trails in the Sky).  Also near the end of it is a great scene that makes good use of the 3DS's gyroscope.  You see the point of view of the last party member, and can move the system around to see various things.  You can focus on people talking to you, or look at the extra details in the scenery.  It's really cool, and apparently was also shown at the end of the previous game.  Either way, I wouldn't mind another scene like that, or more games to have something cool like that (but I wouldn't want it overdone).

In Chapter 1, you also get your first side quests.  These will reward you with a new job.  Well, new to you in the game.  Since Bravely Second boasts new job classes, the previous ones are gained from side quests.  This would be neat, but they worked in a choice system to it.  So when you do a side quest to unlock a job, you have to choose which side to fight, and that is the job you get.  You get the other one later, but it's still kind of dumb to me.  The philosophical choices presented would be more impactful if I wasn't siding with whichever job I wanted less instead of who I agreed with.

Plus, since these jobs are from the first game, the same people have them.  I'm sure they should be dead, since you kill them several times during the previous game.  I don't really like recycling a lot of characters, especially when it doesn't make sense.  At least previous players will have an idea how to fight and beat them.

The "one more fight" mechanic is great and a real time-saver.  If you kill the enemy during the first turn, you can battle again immediately.  While you won't recover any BP, meaning you can't go on forever, you get a bonus multiplier to money, experience and job points.  It is almost always worth doing.  I have the encounter rate set lower most of the time.  Using the "one more fight" I can fight less often on the map, but I still don't need to grind.  I love it.

The last thing I'll talk about for my first 10 hour foray into the game is the chomper making mini-game.  At one point a creepy owl gives you stuff to make plush chompers.  You do this while the system is open, and you your characters make dolls.  There are upgrades you can buy and use to make them faster, make more per batch, or sell them for more points.  You can also exchange the points for money (the starting rate is atrocious).  I have no idea why this was put into the game.  It doesn't really add anything, and just comes across as bizarre.  I guess it doesn't hurt anything, but it's a very WTF inclusion.

|  The Second 10 Hours >

Friday, April 22, 2016

Trulon: The Shadow Engine (PC) Review

I will admit that I had not heard of Trulon: The Shadow Engine before its PC release.  Once I saw it was an RPG that used a card system in its turn-based fights, I was interested in trying it out.  As a fan of both collectible card games and role-playing games, I have enjoyed the other mashups I've tried.

Repeat readers of my reviews may know that I love sprites and 16-bit looks to games.  Trulon pulls it off very well, and even has some nice animations.  The way the characters move and animate is really cool looking.  When you activate a card, it shows a more close-up view that reminds me of the pre-battle animations in Pokemon.  There are a few different attack animations based on which card you use.  It would be nice if all the different types of cards got unique animations, at least for the party members, but having as many as they do is nice.

When battle starts, you are given a few cards (called Tactics) from your character's deck on the bottom left side of the screen.  The bottom right side has a wildcard and the standard attack (these will replenish).  Every time your turn comes up, you will draw another card.  You can run out of cards in your deck, but will always be able to use a wildcard and the default attack.  To use a card, you drag it to the target.  The animation plays and it shows the damage done (or other effect).  Simple and it gets the job done, but there is strategy involved in when to use certain cards, as they may allow more cards to be played, or affect attack and defense.

Your party members can also equip up to three items to boost their stats or give other effects.  Many are typical "give x HP, Str, etc.", but some will give bonuses depending on cards used during combat.  At a certain point in the game, it will randomly assign cards as an "Assault Tactic", noted by the lightning bolt on it.  The equipment pieces that affect these can be very useful, giving you a small heal, stunning opponents and more, just for using the right card.  It's easy to switch equipment, which is good since it pays to play around with your loadout and figure out what is most effective for your playstyle.

Admittedly, battles are harder than I thought they would be.  I usually wipe out the weaker enemies first, then the stronger, but most times the opposite seems more effective in Trulon.  Some enemies can do a lot of damage, and you need to eliminate them fast or have a cards that mitigate the threat.  Part of the difficulty is due to the card-based battle system.  You might have the right attacks for the situation, but you have to have them in your hand to be of any use.  It adds a random element to the battles that I'm not too fond of.  I prefer reliability in my RPG fights, but the card system is still fun.  At least if you lose a fight, it puts you back right before that, so there isn't a whole lot of pressure, just some wasted time.  At least you aren't severely punished for something that is largely out of your control.

On the world map, in a town, or exploring a dungeon is done by clicking where you want to go.  The world map doesn't always point you in the right direction, but the areas aren't too big so you shouldn't get lost much.  While moving around it, there are also random locations of interest.  While these are mostly fights, there are some that are just items.  The player is free to skip these, and can even walk out of them if you don't like the enemies present.  In dungeons, the enemies sit around at various places, so you can see what you are going to fight.  They don't really respawn, either, so you will have to fight on the world map if you want to grind.  Grinding isn't really necessary if you are careful about what cards and equipment you carry into battle.

The story is interesting enough, but the game is a little on the short side for an RPG.  There's even an achievement for beating it in under 5 hours if you are so inclined (this would be best to do after a first run).  The save system in the game is not ideal for me.  I looked through the menus to find a save option, and even scoured the town, thinking the game may use old school save points.  Nope.  The game saves when you exit it, and automatically at various points.  While not my preferred method of saving, I didn't have the autosave mess up on me, which really helped me out when I had a soft-lock bug while playing.

Trulon: The Shadow Engine is a pretty fun, but short, RPG.  The card-based fights is the game's biggest strength, making it very unique.  It is also its biggest weakness, making the fights much more random, longer and more difficulty than they have to be.  Either way, I had fun guiding Gladia and her compatriots on their adventure.

The Good:
I really like the character animations.  The card-based fights are innovative and unique.

The Bad:
However, they (the card-based fights) are also too random.  Many times I know I have the card I need in my deck, but I don't have it in my hand, making the battle take longer than it normally should.

The SaHD:
Sometimes going back to a previous area would cause dialogue scenes to replay.  While that did help me get two of the achievements, that should probably be fixed.

(Review code for Trulon: The Shadow Engine was provided by the publisher)

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Bravely Second [Demo] (3DS): the Good, the Bad and the SaHD

The Good:
Meaty demo that gives you a good taste of the final game.  Once I understood how to use it effectively, the "One More Fight" mechanic is great.  It's free and you can easily play it for 8 hours+!

The Bad:
The second to last boss fight is brutally hard.  Even harder than the final boss of the demo on the hard setting.  Ugh, such bad memories.

The SaHD:
I'm glad that there are bonuses to transfer over to the full version, but some of them are really tedious, like filling out the beastiary.  You have to fight each non-boss monster something like 100 times.  Yuck.  The bonuses are nice, but not worth seeking out in the demo, unless you are killing time until you can get the full version.

(Bravely Second [Demo] was obtained as a free download from the Nintendo E-shop)

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Stranger of Sword City (PS Vita/ Xbox One) Review

By Aly Hand

For a game with a name that's mostly a mouthful, it is a surprisingly easy thing to describe, at least at first glance. A first-person dungeon crawler in the old Wizardry-style, it has noticeable similarities to other games in the genre, like Dungeon Travelers 2 or Class of Heroes. The basic gameplay is the same, where you and your carefully constructed party venture forth into unexplored dungeons in search of monsters to kill and countless reams of treasure to collect. Available on both Xbox One [published by Experience, Inc.] and Playsation Vita [published by NIS America], the game actually has some differences between versions but they are small and mostly cosmetic.

Perhaps the first thing to notice, however, is the art style. Unlike other games of the genre, players have a choice between the game's characters being displayed in an anime style or in a style more reminiscent of Western-style RPGs. When creating your player character, you have the option of choosing one of many portraits available, from either style. Of note, the portraits available are one of the differences between versions. The Xbox One version of the game provides portraits of some NPCs as selectable options when creating a character, where the Vita version does not.

One thing both versions have in common, however, is one of the things that makes this game stand out against its competitors, and that is the Life system. When first creating a character, whether the main player character or a member of a supporting party, the player has an option to set the age of the character. Age determines the speed with which a character recovers from death, and how many "lives" that character has before they die permanently. "Lives" can be recovered by removing the dead player from the party at the base, or paying money to have them restored. Once a character runs out of "lives", however, he or she dies permanently and can't be recovered. Age also affects a character's starting bonus points, which allows the player to adjust their stats before completing the creation process. The older a character is the higher their minimum bonus. The main player character is the only exception to this, as the main player character can not die permanently no matter what, so it is to the player's advantage to jack up the age and rake in the bonus points. Age does not impact any other part of the character creation process, so it's best to take advantage of it wherever possible.

When I say take advantage, I do mean that in the most literal sense. I first started playing the Xbox One version of the game, and it quickly became nick-named "Dungeon Disaster" for how often things went horribly, horribly wrong. It is not a game I would recommend for the casual player, if only because a single moment can land you on a Game Over screen before you get to a point where you can save. Even the initial battle, where you are introduced to the main NPC characters and start getting a sense of the plot of the game can end your run, and what is worse it can happen BEFORE you ever get a chance to save.  [Editor's note: I am a very casual player of dungeon RPGs.  The author of the review (my wife) is well versed in the genre.]

Like others of its kind, it has numerous trick floors, with teleport panels, traps, hidden doors and paths, one-way walls, and all kinds of other gimmicks to make your grinding even more difficult. And grinding you will do. In spades. Unlike other games of this genre, the dungeons you get initially have very low encounter rates, so unless you specifically walk into a battle icon, grinding requires a great deal of patience, entering and exiting a dungeon numerous times. They have, however, added something distinctive and that's the "hide" system. In every dungeon there are specific rooms where you can "hide" in exchange for morale points. "Hiding" will allow you to trigger a battle with a guaranteed item drop, so long as you kill the "item captain" guarding it. Using this mechanic to your advantage will drastically reduce time spent grinding as well as allow you to bolster your party with new and potentially unique equipment. It also showcases another difference between versions. In the Vita version, pressing the circle button will automatically bring up the "hide" mechanic, where in the Xbox One version you have to actually go into the menu and prompt it.

Battles and formations work like most other versions of the genre. Party "formation" is simplified: your first three characters are your front row, and last three are your back row. They do, however, have one feature that makes grinding less time-consuming. They have a repeat button. During battle, you can set your party's actions, and then, on the following turn, have them repeat those actions without change. Even better, you can run a battle faster by selecting "Fast Action" rather than just "Action". By adding these features, it makes the heavy grinding more tolerable because it doesn't end up adding hundreds of hours to your playtime.

The main point to the dungeon crawling is to find and eliminate special monsters called "Lineage types". These monsters drop a plot item called a Blood Crystal when killed that supposedly means they will not regenerate. The player then gives these Blood Crystals to one of three NPCs to get special skills called "Divinities". Divinities use up Morale Points just like hiding, but unlike hiding you can use them at any point in a battle. They are, on more than one occasion, the only thing between you and certain death.

Menus are somewhat clunky, and it takes a bit to get used to how to do things in them. Many of the menu features are of limited use, frequently ignored and often in the way, preventing the player from quickly accessing things that are needed. For example, when a character levels up, the player must go to the menu, select "Party", then "Member", then the character to level up, then at the bottom, the "Level Up" option. While this gives players the ability to level up in their own time, it also means that any experience earned after leveling up is wasted until the player actually chooses to do so.

Overall, the game is still fairly basic, and for fans of the genre it adds just enough to make itself stand out. The difficulty makes it something I would not recommend for the casual player or someone who has never played this type of game before, and permanent character death, while a long-familiar staple of this type of game, is a little too easy to accomplish without even trying. It is pretty,
and it has some good features, but for a game that is asking the player to invest hundreds of hours there just isn't enough to make it stand above its predecessors.  Fans of DRPGs with an Xbox One will likely want this as it is at the top of a very short list.  Vita users can find better offerings in the genre, but don't need to skip this one if they have completed those ones.

(Review codes for Stranger of Sword City were provided by the publishers)

Monday, April 18, 2016

Battleborn [Beta] (PS4): the Good, the Bad and the SaHD

The Good:
I can't overstate how much I appreciate that there is a story that can be done solo or co-op.  I'm bad at the competitive portion of most games, so I like having a fun option for people like myself.

The Bad:
The game is fast paced and hectic...I didn't always know what was going on.  Plus, the story missions were pretty hard.

The SaHD:
I tried one round of the versus.  I was on a team of low level people (1-5), and our opponents were very high level (20-50+), so it was really unbalanced.  There was a vote to surrender only 4 minutes in, and it just seemed to instantly pass without me even getting to vote.

Yeah...I'm definitely interested in checking out the campaign levels, but will likely not put much time into the versus modes.  The game felt very much like a fast-paced Borderlands, which isn't a bad thing.  Just one I would have to get used to.

(Battleborn [Beta] was obtained as a free download from the Playstation Store)

Saturday, April 16, 2016

Project X Zone 2 [Demo] (3DS): the Good, the Bad and the SaHD

The Good:
The demo showcases the combat, which I still really enjoy.  Plus, you get a bonus in the real game for completing the demo.  UP TO 10 TIMES!  That's crazy (crazy cool), and I want more demos to do things like that.

The Bad:
Skipping all the talking is a chore.  The start button will skip a small section, but you still end up having to mash it to get through it all.  This isn't a problem the first time through, but it sucks after the second time.

The SaHD:
The game tells you the enemies get harder if you go through again, but it does so each time you go through, which I didn't know.  The enemies were actually a threat during my 9th and 10th cycle.

I'm really looking forward to the full version, since I loved the first game.  I didn't get a review code, so I'll have to buy it at some point.  This kind of works out, since I prefer to have any Nintendo software in physical format (their digital system sucks).

(Project X Zone 2 Demo was obtained as a free download from the 3DS E-shop)

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Lords of the Fallen (Xbox One): the Good, the Bad and the SaHD

The Good:
The environments, the enemies and some of the armor designs are really nice.

The Bad:
Pretty much everything else.

The SaHD:
This game really reminds me why I don't like Souls games.  I don't like the controls (they are awkward and wonky), hit detection just doesn't seem really good and the game loves to punish you for stuff that isn't your fault (though some of it is).  They just aren't fun to me.

(Lords of the Fallen was obtained for free as part of the Games with Gold promotion.)

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Chronicles of Teddy: Harmony of Exidus (PS4) Review

Not knowng what to expect with Chronicles of Teddy: Harmony of Exidus (it wasn't a game that was really on my radar), I was almost immediately hit with a massive wave of nostalgia as it started.  The look of the intro was heavily influenced by the Legend of Zelda, which honestly, is a great source of inspiration.  The backstory of the game is presented in a great way, by chunks of text scrolling up the screen.  If you ever left the original Zelda game run its demo/attract mode, you will know what I'm talking about.  The backstory is much longer than I would have thought though, and gives you a good idea what's going on.  Then, it pretty much drops you into the action.

I will say that visually and aurally, Chronicles of Teddy is very charming.  I love the sprite look of the game and the animations.  There are a lot of little details in the environment, especially buried in the ground.  The world has its own story, and I would love to know more about it.  The music is good too.  It really should be, since they have such musically-based puzzles and even an invented musical language.  The look and sounds of the game are easily the high point for me.

The comparison to the Legend of Zelda doesn't end with the intro, though.  Chronicles of Teddy is a side-scrolling action platformer that has a striking similarity to Zelda II.  That could go either way, depending on your feelings for that game.  The main character's attack range is ridiculously short.  So much so that it is a massive hindrance to combat.  You have to get so close to enemies to actually hit them that you will likely get hit as well.  This might be passable, but the hit detection is also off.  Meaning together, you have an even shorter attack range.  It's...just not good, from a player standpoint.  I've found the best attack is the downward thrust when jumping.  However, there are several enemies that are all but immune to it.  Of course.  At least there is a fair amount of health pick-ups strewn about the areas.

The look and awkward combat aren't the only things like old-school games.  Chronicles of Teddy also slavishly devotes its lack of tutorials to the games of yesteryear.  You quickly get your weapon, and the game shows you how to dash with a nice stone in the background.  Then...nothing.  You have to figure out everything else.  As I've said before, I don't want a game to hold my hand, but I don't want them to offer nothing.  That's just as bad.

You spend a lot of time wandering through the areas, trying to find out where to go to proceed.  You encounter a lot of puzzles, usually based around the musical language, and have to figure out what to do on your own.  While others may solve puzzles and get a sense of accomplishment, I tend to get annoyed if the answer takes too long.  The two biggest grievances I have with the non-existent help is the store and the final dungeon item.

Players encounter the store very early on, but there are no explanations as to what the items are.  I have to assume the sword and overalls will give more attack and defense.  I'm sure the sword does, but I'm not convinced on the overalls.  There's also a ring.  I had no idea what it did for 90% of the game.  I think it affects the meter that the final dungeon item uses, but I'm not sure.  There's also a heart container you can buy, but you won't know that until you buy it or find another during your adventure.  The most expensive item in the store is a spider coin.  I had no idea what they did until near the end.

The final dungeon item is a scroll.  It allows you to break a specific type of block.  Trouble is, they have no explanation of how to actually use it.  Eventually I figured out that I had to double tap down when in the air.  Would it really be so hard to put another stone in the background that showed that?  Why make me annoyed for no reason?  The item is a scroll, that the main character apparently understands, but can't communicate how?  That doesn't even make sense!

The game sure does look nice.
Then there's also the puzzles.  Many require you to play notes on your instrument, and mimic the notes you hear.  I'm not very musically inclined, so it's much harder for me to do some of that stuff.  Also, turn down the music volume in the options so it's easier to actually hear the notes and not the extraneous sounds.  There are doors that require specific words to open.  Problem is, the word changes.  I don't know why...the doors look the same.  There are clues to some puzzles, and many of those are obtuse.  There are either written in the background or vaguely referenced in a picture.  It might not actually be as hard as I make out, but there are at least a few that I really disliked.

The flow of the game follows a very predictable pattern.  You find a book in the library, go into the book, find a way into the dungeon in that area (usually past a guardian), find the dungeon item, then beat the boss.  Rinse and repeat.  There's nothing wrong with that, as I always looked forward to getting the dungeon item so I could explore more areas and get more treasures.  There is a fair amount of backtracking, as some required items are in previous areas.  It's pretty much par for the course for the genre though.  My biggest complaint is the save system.  You start at the start of the area or dungeon wherever you save (or die).  I realize that's the way it works in Legend of Zelda, but that was due to limitations at the time.  You are actually allowed to make the game player friendly instead of a chore!

Since the game is modeled after old-school games in many ways, it shares that old-school difficulty.  It's not insurmountable, but there are a lot of hard parts to the game.  Part of that is the large hitbox the main character has, which leads to a lot of unfair damage.  Some enemies are a massive pain to deal with, and some of the bosses are just as painful.  A few platforming sections later in the game are brutal and require pinpoint accuracy.  My personal most hated spot is one part at the end of game where you have to do crazy platforming that revolves around bouncing off of enemies and their projectiles.  It's stupid hard, but at least it's optional.  Therefore, I skipped it (after several failed attempts).

It took me about 12 or so hours to get to the final boss, but I did a lot of the optional stuff (not all the fireflies, though).  If the game were straightforward, it would be less time, but they want you to explore and sit around trying to figure out what to do, which obviously eats up more time.  Trying to do completion would run a few more hours, unless you had a guide of some sort.  There is a new game+ option, which I'm always happy to see.

While Chronicles of Teddy: Harmony of Exidus looks and sounds charming, it is devilishly unforgiving.  The game offers little help for any puzzle, has really annoying enemies and platforming segments.  There are fun parts to the game, they just are buried by the overly annoying sections.  It tries so hard to get you to stop playing it, which is a baffling choice to be sure.  Fans of Zelda II or maybe even the Dark Souls crowd might get a lot of enjoyment out of Chronicles of Teddy.

The Good:
The game looks so charming and cool.  Even if I'm not musically-inclined, the music-based language and puzzles are thought out and kinda neat.

The Bad:
The combat.  Hit detection is not good and your range is abysmal.  The game offers no real help whatsoever for anything in it, which is annoying.

The SaHD:
Zelda II really should have been a much better game.  Chronicles of Teddy does a lot to improve it, but is held back by trying too hard to ape it.

(Review code for Chronicles of Teddy was provided by the publisher)

Saturday, April 9, 2016

The Good, The Bad, and The SaHD

We (me) here at the SaHDGamer have decided to add something new to our reviews.  As a sort of recap, the end of each review will feature a new section: The Good, The Bad and The SaHD.  These will highlight highlights and lowlights of each game, and also whatever comment I would like to make on it (that's the SaHD part, obviously).

As this will be added to reviews going forward (for the foreseeable future), I will do my best to also add them in to the older reviews as well.  I'm not sure about adding to any reviews my wife wrote, so they may not appear there.  Quick reviews of games that I've only played a bit of will likely only have this in place of a less "quick" write-up.  Rest assured my full reviews will still be as choc full of info, just with new additions.

This may help viewing as a sort of "too long; didn't read" version of my reviews, just scroll down to the bottom!  I'm not sure if I want to add scores, as it is too easy to infer what you want from them, instead of what the writer is actually saying.  If people do want scores, though, I could put some in.  Let me know in the comments.

Either way, enjoy the changes at!  Oh, and for any Twitter followers, I will also add a new hashtag: #goodbadsahd.

Friday, April 8, 2016

Stranger of Sword City: The Beginnining

Seeing as how I have a review code for both the Xbox One and PS Vita version of Stranger of Sword City, I figured I could at least try one and maybe lighten the load my wife will have reviewing the game(s).

So when it starts up, I left the difficulty on normal.  I wasn't sure why my wife moved it to beginner, since she likes these types of games.  Either way, I figured 'normal' would give us some difference to talk about.

After the intro, I pick one of the cooler portraits that my wife didn't use yet on her game.  I went into the game and made my way through the first little area into the first fight.  I made it through that and continued on.  I really was hoping for a place to save

Then just before exiting the first area, you get jumped by a frog.  It's not exactly a boss fight, but the girl with you reacts as though it is a fearsome fight.

Which it is.

Since the girl was about half health, I used a potion on her.  It healed next to nothing (like 5% of her max or less), so I didn't waste anymore.  Then the boss killed my character in one hit.

"Oh, so I'm supposed to lose this fight," I thought to myself.  Then the boss quickly killed the girl...and it went to a black screen.

The start screen appeared and I went silent.

Nope, I was supposed to win that fight...somehow.  Better yet, there was no save point yet, so you can easily lose before you can save the game.  Wow.

I exited the game and wish my wife well in reviewing it.

(I think the title of the post sounds like a bad movie, so I left it.)

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Aegis of Earth: Protonovus Assault (PS4/ PS3/ PS Vita) Review

Aegis of Earth: Protonovus Assault is a very unique tower defense-style game.  Well, I'm not well versed in the genre (I'm not sure why...I should love them), so there very well could be another game like it, but I digress.  Instead of setting up contraptions on the routes the monsters take and kill them that way, you put your contraptions around your city.  To combat threats from any angle, you move that section of city so your weapons can attack it.

Honestly, it's a pretty cool idea that fits very well to the world they created.  The monsters move toward the center of your city, which is a big tower, and you put your defenses around it.  When enemies come from a different side, you can rotate one of the three main rings around your city to have your weapons fire on them.  You get a few types of weapons, like cannons, missiles and rapid-fire guns, and each has its own best usage.  Plus, early on you learn to combine two or three of the same type when lined up to be even stronger.  You also get more experience for killing enemies with it, so besides being legit anime, it serves a useful purpose.

You have limited spaces on the rings, since they are only so big.  Planning what to put where is important, because units can only combine when lined up.  Since it is a city, you also need power plants to make enough electricity to power your stuff, and places for people to live.  The more people in your city, the more money you get after each fight.  The happier the people are (when you win and have low damage and low to no casualties), the more refugees come to try and live there.  Structures can be upgraded and leveled up to raise their stats, and you can even modify them, which have various effects, including adding living spaces for your offensive units.  Because when I move to a fortress city, I'd want to live under the missile silo.  Oh, wait...

It takes valuable resources to build and upgrade the facilities, and many must first be researched.  While you can grind out some extra fights to recoup some if you made a bad decision, it is much more effective to plan out what you are going to to.  You can only build so much of any given unit, because the city can only hold so much.  There are also a few condemned areas that must be cleaned up first.  All constructed units can be moved around, which is really helpful.  It's also a lot cheaper than tearing it down and putting it elsewhere.  The first three rings hold all your units, but there is also a special fourth ring.  This is mostly used for disposable units, like shields.  One of the shields can even absorb enemy attacks to power your ultra secret weapon!

The mission select screen shows three missions that are just fights against 1-3 types of enemies.  The only last a few minutes tops.  If you need to, you can grind on these missions as they are three different ones each time, and you get experience, crystals and money after each one, plus some new people to live in your city.  There are special missions in the orders/requests tab that give better rewards and are worth doing if you can.  There are a few different types of enemies, each with a preferred way of dealing with them.  Unfortunately, you will see all the different types within the first hour or two.  It can still be a challenge to deal with different amounts and configurations, though.

When in a mission, enemies will appear and move toward the central tower of your city.  Your defenses must attack and kill them before they can damage it too much.  If they manage to destroy it, it's game over.  Some enemies will target your defenses, too.  Any damage to a unit in zone (ring) 1-3 will be repaired after the battle.  However, if a residential unit is damaged or destroyed, some of your citizens will die, and the overall happiness of the city will dive as well.  Stopping most enemies isn't a problem, except for the space/time anomalies that summon monsters close to the city.  Those are annoying, since they are random and can really make you scramble.

Then, there are the boss fights.  When the Alt. Density levels (shown at the lower left) are over a certain amount, a boss monster can appear in a mission.  While this feels a lot more organic, it's also kind of annoying.  Bosses are very powerful, and having them appear at the end of a wave is not a welcome surprise.  The random nature also makes it impossible to plan for.  The bosses are definitely harder than normal enemies.  Each is different in what gimmick it uses while attacking you.  The best way to take them down is to learn when to hit it with your USW.  Also, killing them with the giant laser cannon is very satisfying.

You get a handful of characters over the course of the game, and each has a specialty.  While they all look unique, I really appreciate that they wear similar uniforms and have similar colors.  It really makes it look like they all belong together in the same unit, a design choice often overlooked.  There are six different jobs for them, and each character has special abilities.  The abilities are useful for certain things, like battle effects or getting extra money after battle, so it pays to use them all.  Well, you kind of have to.  The characters have a focus percent that helps dictate how often the abilities trigger.  As you use the characters, their focus rises.  They also have energy, which diminishes while characters are being used.  If you decide to put them on the sidelines and replace them with another character, their energy rises, but focus falls.  When you finish a mission, you can select one person to praise.  This not only gives them extra experience, but also an energy boost.  While it might seem like an extra thing, it is very important to use this boost wisely early on in the game.  If a character does not have a replacement at their station, you will need to use this boost to keep them going.

Aegis of Earth isn't too hard for the most part, but some of the missions and bosses can be tricky until you get some more upgrades.  It's also really easy for me to get flustered in the more hectic missions, which then makes me fumble a lot more with the controls.  Once you get far enough in the game, you have much more freedom to place your units, which makes the game a lot easier.  However, it also removes a lot of the strategy since you can just cookie-cutter built all the cities.  It is nice since some of the default city layouts are a pain to work with.

The game is longer than I initially thought, being divided into chapters and sub-chapters.  Each sub-chapter has a scene that plays out with the characters interacting, and a few requirements to move on.  It's pretty clear what you have to do to move on.  However, sometimes the offered missions don't mesh with your objectives, so you have to complete one to get others to show up.

I'm not great at tower defense games, but I did enjoy Aegis of Earth.  My son watched me play for awhile and he really wanted to play it too.  He isn't as far as me, but also enjoys the game.  Turning sections of your city to respond to the waves of enemies is really unique and interesting.  Combining your weapons and having the powerful laser in your command tower feels like a Saturday morning anime show.  Except for the bosses, the game shows just about all it has to offer in the first few hours.  It's a game I would recommend to anyone that thinks it sounds interesting, or tower defense fans.

The Good:
New and innovative twist on the tower defense genre.

The Bad:
Until you can clear up the condemned sectors, some city layouts are terrible.

The SaHD:
The weapons merging and the giant laser cannon weapon are so cool.  Yes, I'm apparently 8 years old.

(Review codes for Aegis of Earth: Protonovus Assault provided by the publisher)

Friday, April 1, 2016

Murasaki Mist: Akara's Journey (PS Vita) Review

Murasaki Mist: Akara's Journey recently released on the PS Vita, and bills itself as a hack and slash action game.  When you start it up, it first gives you the backstory on the world you are entering.  The backstory itself has a cool presentation.  It is framed as an old film, reminiscent of the educational ones I remember watching in school many years ago.

On to the story!  Actually, I think the story they have in place is pretty good.  It's an alternate version of our world, where a man made a pact with demons in return for technology.  The demons later invaded our world and massacred many people.  The game picks up many, many years later, where the demons control much of our desolated planet and come along every few years and kill off a bunch of humans.  Akara eventually joins up with others to try and end the demon scourge once and for all.  Characters in the game are done decently as well.  They have personality, like to swear, and aren't tropes.

However, there are problems.  The dialogue and menus have many typos and grammatical mistakes.  It's not every sentence, but it almost seems that way.  As far as I can tell, the studio is a few people and isn't located in the United States, so I understand why it is like that, and give the game a pass on that for now.  Actually, most times I find it pretty funny, which probably makes me a horrible person.  Still, it would have been a good idea to pass the script by an editor before implementing it.  Character portraits are also uneven, with some looking notably more detailed and a few of them different sizes for some reason.

Being a hack and slash game, you will be doing a lot of combat.  Unfortunately, the combat is a say the least.  The arc you swing your weapon in has a slightly more narrow hitbox than it would otherwise seem.  Hitting enemies seems very specific, which makes it harder to hack and slash.  You have attacks that take mana, which aren't super useful.  One lets you throw daggers, that has limited ammunition.  So it takes ammo and MP...yuck.  Akara also learns two magic spells, which are very useful.  For most of the game, you need to hit enemies to fill your MP, and it likes to reset to zero every other map or so.  Aiming the spells and special attacks is harder than I think it should be.  Sadly, I have a similar complaint with the normal attacks.

Enemies can be really brutal, even on the normal setting.  It is way too easy to get hit, which will either knock you down (so they can get some more cheap hits on you) or knock you back (and backwards, making aiming even more annoying).  Yeah, not fun.  Your normal attacks will also knock enemies back some, which is a huge pain for ranged enemies.  Ranged enemies are actually the most dangerous in the game.  Non-magic ranged enemies have guns, which can near-instantly hit you, and knock you down.  Later you fight enemies with rapid fire guns that can do a ton of damage in short order.

Magic-based ranged enemies are somehow even deadlier.  There are three basic enemy spells.  The first is a rock throw that flies straight at you.  It is fast and hits multiple times, pushing you away.  Again, that makes trying to hit them a real pain.  Second is a beam type attack that a few enemies have.  It is strong, hits multiple times, and can easily kill you in a few hits.  Last, and most annoying, is a meteor-rain type AoE.  Once you see the animation, it will usually immediately hit you for a ton of damage.  It can easily kill you in 2 or 3 hits, or one if you aren't at full health.  At any point in the game.  The spell can also hit up to 3 times as far as I've seen.  It's absurd.  Fighting multiple mages is a real crap-shoot, as they can just end your session and send you back to the last checkpoint.

There are bosses in the game, and they are actually hard.  They can hit for a lot of damage, and have a big health bar.  Most times you treat them like normal fights-hit them, try to avoid being hit, and just heal through the damage.  It's not the most efficient way to fight, but it seems to really be the only way to fight in Murasaki Mist.  The roll does have its uses, but it isn't nearly as effective as it should be.

When you are defeated in the game, it sends you back to the last checkpoint.  Any treasure chests you found stay open, and I think you keep whatever was in them.  You get a lot of loot in the game so I wasn't able to verify it every time.  Enemies respawn and you lose any experience and levels you gained since the checkpoint.  It's a real hassle in a few spots of the game, especially the last area.  There is a save function in the game, but it only saves the checkpoint, so loading won't save you anything.  At least then you can re-grab the chests...

If only it ended there.  There was a place or two where I was able to walks out of the bounds of the map.  Amazingly the ground continued out where you aren't supposed to be.  There were places where I would sink a bit into the floor, but didn't fall through it.  When I got close enough to a zone point it put me back a map screen, which then fixed it.  The game also crashed on me at least five times, one of which I was able to replicate (you can take the dude out of testing, but can't take testing out of the dude).  The other times, the game crashed when I either moved forward a map or when it was finished with a scene of story.  There wasn't really any rhyme or reason to it that I noticed...maybe I was playing the game too long without closing it?

The menu itself is also a bit awkward.  When you are in it, there are a few different categories: status, save/load, map and tutorial.  To move to the next one, you press the R Button.  To move back go the long way around by pressing R more times.  The L Button doesn't do anything in the menu, as far as I can tell, and there is no quick way to move back.  There's also a map button on the status tab that doesn't work.  The tutorial tab has a hidden button that, when clicked, crashes the game.  Yikes.  Akara can also dual wield weapons.  Well, she actually has to.  Once you put a weapon in her other hand, you cannot remove it.  You can place a stronger one, put it many times refused to put a weaker one in her left hand.  The manual says that Akara's damage is 75% main hand and 25% offhand (I was tempted to put three f's in there), so if your offhand weapon is weaker than the main, you are theoretically lowering your damage versus if you were allowed to just have one weapon.  It's all just very strange and doesn't seem finished.

We're almost done, I promise.

Story completion clocks in at around 10 hours of so, which is pretty decent.  I have to estimate the time, since it doesn't quite track it in the game.  There is an "hour" counter on the status menu tab, but it's been stuck at 1:06 for me the whole game.  The save files do have a time listed, but they seem to reset when you either turn off the game or re-load...I don't know why.  There is also a colosseum at one point in the game.  Getting the trophy for beating all 41 fights took about an extra 3 hours or so, bumping total completion time to about 13 hours.  Most of the trophies cannot be missed.  The few that are would take another playthrough, since the game is very linear and rarely, if ever, lets you backtrack.

All in all, Murasaki Mist: Akara's Journey just felt unfinished.  Sure, you can complete the game, but it has many flaws.  The combat is uneven and wonky, the text is full of typos and grammatical mistakes, and the game crashed on me several times (one of which is repeatable).  I earned a lot of money in the game, and didn't need to spend any of it.  I think I bought maybe 1 or 2 things at the end, just to do it.  The game is not terrible, even though it may sound it, but it definitely needs another layer of polish and some more QA testing before it released.  As it stands, the open ending might not ever bring a sequel, which could actually be a really fun game.  I somehow don't hate the game, but also don't think it's very good in its current state.

The Good:
The story is pretty neat and the world setting is unique.

The Bad:
An English-speaking editor should really look all the dialogue over.  The combat is really wonky, too.

The SaHD:
I'm amazed I went the whole way through the game and got all the trophies.  I'm also strangely interested in a potential sequel.

(Review code for Murasaki Mist: Akara's Journey was supplied by the publisher)