Friday, January 27, 2017

RWBY: Grimm Eclipse (Xbox One) Review

I first saw gameplay of RWBY: Grimm Eclipse when Achievement Hunter played the game over a year ago.  A co-op horde hack and slash starring the lead team of the show looked fun.  The game has now been ported over to the Xbox One and PS4, and there's even DLC to play as team JNPR.  Nice!

The X Button is your normal/quick attack, while the Y Button is your stronger attack, which can be charged for more damage.  You have a few attacks in your attack string, and pressing the strong attack at certain points of the combo will result in a unique combo ender.  This is similar to Dynasty Warriors.  As a big fan of that style of combos, I really like to see it in other action games like RWBY as well.  The combos aren't as long as DW, though.

However, they are a lot faster.  In fact, all of the game's action is fast-paced.  This makes it hard to get the exact combo ender you want, but it's not as much of an issue as you are blazing around, attacking foes.  The B Button is used to counter enemies, but the timing is very strict.  If you don't hit the button when it flashes above the enemies, you will probably get hit.  Hit it too early, and you get hit.  Maybe I'm just too old, but the countering seems too strict for me.  I'd prefer to dodge, which you can do with LB, but even that won't save you from most attacks.

To round out the attacks, you can sometimes perform team attacks on stunned enemies.  While they are called team attacks, you don't actually do them with another person.  It's more like one person sets it up, and another does the team attack.  You can still do them in single player.  Lastly, each character has an ultimate attack that uses a meter.  These are strong and (when upgraded) wide attacks that are great to use in a pinch, or just to get some more damage.  They build up pretty quickly, but shamefully there were a few times I tried to use one when I didn't have the meter.  Yup, I got hit.

Thankfully, there is a single player mode where you make your way through the 10 campaign levels, and they are balanced for a single person.  Well, mostly.  You can still die very easily, and dying will end the level.  If you jump right back into the level, you will be at the last checkpoint, so you don't have to do the whole level over again.  Though the levels aren't that long (about 10-20 minutes without dying), and you keep any experience you gained beforehand, so you might want to re-do the level again (or even previous levels) if you want to get stronger and make it a bit easier on you as you make your way through the game.

You can't really smash your way through the game, even on the normal setting.  Enemy damage is too high, and defeat can come on very quickly.  Especially considering enemy attacks have ridiculous tracking and also too large an area of effect.  There were plenty of times that I was visibly outside the range of the enemy's attack, yet it still hit me.  The final boss is a real pain in the butt if you are solo, too, mostly because it will continually summon some of the most annoying enemies in the game.

The level cap is 10, which is enough to get you some nice skills and upgrades.  Some upgrades are either/or, where if you choose one, you can't choose the other.  You also won't get enough skill points for everything, but you can refund your skill points on the stage menu.  This is great so you aren't stuck with skills you don't like, or can even tailor your character for solo or group play.  Many of the skill upgrades must be unlocked, some by the specific character and others among all characters, so better ones may require you to grind for a bit.

For multiplayer, you can do the campaign levels with up to 4 people (note that they are harder, since it is balanced for multiple people), or do a horde mode.  The horde modes has a few different stages, where you must defend objects from enemies.  As you make your way through the waves, more points open up, making it much more difficult to defend them, and likely splitting up your team.  Hopefully you have enough currency to place a turret or two.  If you fail and let even one object get destroyed, that's the end of the horde match.  I would have liked the ability to restart on the current wave, or even be able to lose a point or two before failure.  Your character's level carries over from the other modes, so it's best to at least have a few skills under your belt before trying to get to the higher horde waves.

While playing online, I did run into a few issues.  Sometimes it would drop me after completing a map or stage, and once it was stuck on the result screen.  At first the game would show what characters the other players were using, which was helpful because some achievements are tied to things like that.  Then, it stopped showing that until I was actually in the game.  Yeah, that made getting the achievement for using all of Team RWBY more satisfying from a blind pick, but it would be nice to take the guesswork out of it.  While of course there is lag in any online game, it can be a real killer here.  Fast action, tight countering and high damage are not a good mix with a less than perfect connection.  I've heard of a few other issues, but there is a patch on the way to address and hopefully fix some of these.

If you are a fan of the show, or multiplayer hack and slash horde-style gameplay, I'd definitely recommend RWBY: Grimm Eclipse.  It has some flaws, but overall I had fun playing the game.

The Good:
Fast paced combat, characters and voices straight from the show.  Quick stages and online horde mode makes for good pick up and play.

The Bad:
You die quick and often.  Enemy hits track too far for my tastes.

The SaHD:
I'd really appreciate it if I could turn off the rumble.  It's largely unnecessary.

(RWBY: Grimm Eclipse code was provided by the publisher)

Friday, January 20, 2017

Everybody's Gone to the Rapture (PS4) Review

Everybody's Gone to the Rapture is an exploration game, a genre sometimes jokingly referred to as "walking simulators".  In it you explore a small village in the English countryside, see the story of some of its inhabitants, and find out where everybody went.

(Looks at the game's title)  Oh.  Mystery solved?  Well, you can at least find out what happened.

First off, I have to say the game looks great.  The graphics are very good, and the environments are very detailed.  The lighting effects are also really realistic.  Sometimes, too much so, as there are times where the game is a little too dark for my tastes.  Still, it looks good, which you could argue is mandatory, since you are just walking around and looking at things.  The walking speed is too slow for my tastes, but you can hold down the R2 Button to speed things up a bit.  Unless you are indoors, in which case you are stuck being slow.

The game is pretty non-linear.  At various places in the sections of town, a story scene will take place.  Some are automatic, and some have to be activated by tilting the controller.  I prefer the automatic ones, since the tilt ones require trial and error to find the sweet spot.  The first one I happened upon seemed to want me to tilt the controller one direction, then quickly the other direction, but that's not how they work.  You have to tilt the controller at a certain angle and hold it until the scene starts.  It's actually kind of annoying.  It also feels superfluous, but I guess it is at least something else to do with the controller.

The game's story is told through these scenes.  Since you have to wander around to see them, you have to piece together the order by yourself.  Each section of the town centers around a character, and if you seek out the scenes, you can see what happened to them before whatever event left the town deserted.  The story and the characters are pretty interesting, and I like that you can skip most of it, even if I wouldn't.

The only real downside to it all is that you don't see the characters.  Everyone is conveyed as a collection of light that brightens when they talk.  Therefore, it is a huge pain to try and keep everyone straight, since you can't see what they actually look like.  I was about halfway through the game when I figured out who most of the people were, but by then I'm sure I missed some important points.  I get what they are going for, but I need to be able to see the characters if I am to remember who is who.

As you might expect from a game that's more 'experience' than 'game', it takes about 6 hours to complete, assuming you go through most of the story scenes.  You can forego most of it and just walk toward the ending and cut down the playtime significantly if you want.  Getting the platinum in the game is a bit of a pain, which might not be expected from this genre, but it's likely you will have to play the game through at least twice, even with a guide.

Even though Everybody's Gone to the Rapture is sometimes too dark, lacks portable maps, can feel slow, and is difficult to keep the characters straight, it's not a bad experience.  It's a very pretty game with a good story.  There's also no loading screens after the initial one.  It's worth playing it for a few hours to see the people's story and piece together what happened.  If you are a trophy hunter, definitely get a guide first, but it won't take you too long to get another platinum.  If you are one of those gamers that mashes through dialogue bits to get to the hittin' and shootin', then I'd recommend skipping this game.

The Good:
The story is pretty interesting.

The Bad:
Easy to get lost and miss things.  Sometimes too dark to see much.  Slow moving speed.

The SaHD:
So who or what are you actually playing as?!

(Everybody's Gone to the Rapture was obtained free from Playstation Plus)

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Last Rebellion (PS3) Review

Last Rebellion was an RPG released several years ago for the Playstation 3, and was largely overlooked by fans.  It has a very unique battle system that may warrant more RPG players taking a second look.  The game star two heroes, Nine and Aisha, who end up having to share a body.  Therefore, while you play as both, you can only use one at a time.  This extends to both field exploration and battle.

Moving around the field is fairly standard, you move around from place to place, finding treasures and encountering monster groups that also wander the map.  Thankfully each dungeon has a special teleport point so you can easily backtrack to one (you will have to at a certain point in the game, too).  There are also save points, but sometimes they are a bit too far apart for my liking.  If you touch one of the monsters walking around, you will begin combat, and in battle is where the game sets itself apart from the competition.

Each monster has multiple areas that you can target.  A physical attack to any part will 'stamp' it as well as do damage.  If you attack the pieces in the right order, you increase your combo, which in turn gives more experience at the end of the fight.  The correct order for each monster is different and hidden until you attack a part in the correct order to show it.  Each attack takes 1 CP, and you can target each body part once per turn.  However, you can do this for each enemy.  This means you can do a lot of attacks in one turn, provided you have the CP for it.  Each turn refills a portion of CP, and it carries over between battles.  The other two ways to fill your CP is by hitting the special items on the map, or by using a magic spell.  Managing your CP is a constant struggle until later in the game.

Magic behaves differently, however.  Instead of picking a target, each offensive spell cast will hit whatever is stamped.  The more stamps, the more spells cast.  Since it only takes 1 CP to cast a spell, the general idea is to stamp many parts, and cast to hit them all again for cheap.  Each monster is susceptible to a different element or type of spell (fire, light, axe, arrow, etc.), and this takes more experimentation than finding the correct attack order.  However, magic usually isn't as damaging as just physically hitting them, even if you exploit a weakness.  So, it's just better to keep attacking, especially later in the game when you have a lot of CP, and use MP for buffs and heals.  You could also use it on debuffs, but like many RPGs, those are worthless to cast on enemies.

That's not all, though.  Since the plot revolves around things being brought back to life, enemies won't stay dead when they run out of HP.  Instead, they lie on the ground and must be sealed by Aisha to actually disappear.  Sealing also restores some HP.  Nine can use a similar function to absorb MP, but it will shorten the time an enemy stays down.  Unfortunately, when they get up, they are fully recovered, which is a bit much.  It is rarely a problem, since they stay down a few turns and it's easy to just dedicate a turn to seal what you can if need be.  Thankfully you don't need to seal bosses.

Last Rebellion is far from the most balanced game.  Fighting a group of 4-5 enemies can easily destroy you in damage alone.  If you hit an enemy's red number, it can cause them to go berserk and do more damage, which can change the battle from a win to a loss.  Also, while status ailments are near useless to use, they are devastating to suffer.  There are many flavors, but two basic types: take damage or can't act.  I don't know why there are several types that only do one of two things, but that's what's here.  True, paralysis does let you cast magic, but it's probably not going to save you.  Ailments unfortunately affect both characters at once, which is why you can get quickly wrecked if you suffer the wrong one.  If the enemy moves first, you are probably toast unless you out level them significantly.

On the flip side, racking up the bonus from combos will allow you to quickly out level enemies, to the point where they give little to no experience.  I've had several battles where I gain 4 levels, making me almost too strong for the rest of the dungeon.  I like being able to power up so quickly, but when it makes the rest of the dungeon a chore, even if you can instantly seal weaker monsters, it's not very balanced.

There's also not too many enemy models in the game.  So to populate the areas, you fight some palette swaps.  That's fine, and I understand that.  However, many of the palette swaps in Last Rebellion don't change much.  Maybe the eye color is different, or the model is slightly bigger.  It's hard to tell them apart...which is made worse by the developers putting them both in the same area.  For example, you might fight a lizard enemy, and there are two more kinds of that same lizard in the same dungeon, one might be a little bigger, and the other maybe a slightly different color.  Someone needed to go over it again and either spread them out, or make the differences more pronouned.

Being an RPG, I thought the game would be longer.  Last Rebellion clocks in at under 20 hours, and can be even shorter if you follow a guide.  It did feel a little short, but story-wise, I don't think the game could have been much longer without being obviously drawn out.  There's also no post-game stuff to do, only some late game optional enemies.  Bonus points for some of them being Prinnies, but that can't overcome the fact that there is no real replay value in the game.

It's not very long and has its faults, but I enjoyed Last Rebellion.  The unique mechanics where a nice idea to add something unique to RPG battles, but weren't quite balanced properly.  A little more polishing (or a sequel) would do wonders for the title.  It also looks dated by today's standards.  Still, I'd recommend RPG fans try it out if you get a chance.

The Good:
Unique battle system of stamping monster parts and unleashing magic on each stamped part.  Two characters, one body.

The Bad:
It's not balanced.  Multiple, faster enemies will likely destroy you, and you can out level a dungeon in one or two good fights.

The SaHD:
If you can't move, how can the characters switch places?  Is it to waste time or lazy programming?

(Last Rebellion was purchased by reviewer)

Friday, January 6, 2017

2016: The Good, The Bad, The SaHD

2016, what an infamous year.  A lot of bad stuff happening in the world at large, so let's find some good in the small hobbies I have.

The Good:
Gaming wise, I really enjoyed Trillion: God of Destruction on the Vita, and Digimon Cyber Story on the PS4.  Bravely Second wasn't perfect, but had a lot of content and kept me playing for almost 80 hours.  Hyrule Warriors Legends also ate up a ton of my time, and is improved from the Wii U release (but can still be made better).

Dex was a game that I had not heard about until around its release, and was pleasantly surprised at how much fun it was.  It was a great mix of 2D, RPG and action game, and I would encourage people to check it out.  Lastly, I have to point out the wonderful visuals of Shantae and the Pirate's Curse.  The artwork and animation is top-notch and it's impossible for me not to gush about them.  Half-Genie Hero looks great too, but I haven't had the chance to play it yet.

On the toy front, we have the latest Transformers line: Titans Return.  A few years ago, I realized how much I like the idea of a robot that turns into a vehicle that a smaller robot can ride in.  This entire line is about that, and they are some really cool toys!  They have some really good interactivity with each other, since you can swap heads, some weapons become little vehicles, or even attach on to the larger ones as turrets!  Yes, it makes me feel like an 8 year old, but it's cool.

Light FX Kylo Ren!  He's really cool looking, and fun to use in the game.

In pro wrestling, we even got a new promotion!  What Culture, who have gained a big following for their wrestling related shows on YouTube, launched their own promotion, WCPW.  While there are some minor issues and some silly stories, they have also highlighted some really great talent that I would not have been able to see before.  The first match I saw with Martin Kirby and El Ligero was fantastic, as was their rematch.  It quickly made me a fan of theirs.  I'm also a fan of Joe Hendry's song parody entrances.

On the WWE side, Shinsuke Nakamura really impressed in his debut match, and it is great to see AJ Styles there, too.

Movie-wise, I saw Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens earlier in the year, and enjoyed it a lot.  I don't like J. J. Abrams, but he made a good Star Wars movie.  I know the movie came out in 2015, but I saw it early 2016, and it came out on DVD/Blu-ray then too, so it counts.

Along a similar vein, Deadpool was just as funny as I hoped it would be, and my wife and I enjoyed that movie as well.  At the end of the year, we also managed to see Rogue One with our family (my parents took us all out to see it), and we really liked it too.  A bit too much "American action movie", but still good.

The Bad:
Probably the worst game-related things this year was the canceling of Disney Infinity and the closing of the main studio.  A lot of people lost their jobs through no real fault of their own, which is always bullcrap.  The series got better with each entry, and several of the figures are fantastic.  If they were more open to what figures worked in what playsets, and didn't overproduce 2.0, it would probably still be around.  After seeing Rogue One, I would have loved to get a playset and figures for it (especially K-2SO, my brother from another mother).  Hopefully they make a console version like the PC's Gold Edition, which just has everything included, no need for figures.  It's an idea I had in my now-scrapped article about how to salvage Disney Infinity after they shut it all down.  I'd gladly pay a few bucks to have that on a console.

Another low point in gaming was Exile's End.  Wow, did that game take a great genre (Metroidvania) and just mess it up.  On the whole, there were too many games that seemed to focus on absurd difficulty, instead of making it balanced or fun.  I don't want games too easy necessarily, but I don't want to make my fingers bleed just to get through a dungeon.

If you read above, you may be surprised to read this, but sadly, the Transformers Titans Return line also has an entry on this side of the line.  While the figure look cool, and are really fun, the quality control on them is inconsistent at best, and bad at worst.  I've had way too many issues with loose joints and other things that I haven't had an issue with on this large a scale.  The headmasters Titan Masters (the small guys that turn into the heads) are usually ridiculously loose when placed on the robots.  It's sad, since that is the whole point of the gimmick.  If the Combiner Wars toys from last year didn't always fit together, that could bring down the whole line.  Stupidly lose heads may do that for Titans Return.  Besides that, all but one toy I've purchased (good job, Brainstorm!) has at least one loose joint, or even hands that can't securely hold weapons.  It's a big bummer!

In movies, I have two main contenders for horrible movies I saw in 2016.  First is Jem.  Yes, it came out last year, but it was released for sale this year, so ha!  The movie is bad...terrible, even.  It has very little to do with the original cartoon, but also feel like how they would update the story for a modern and smartphone obsessed audience.  It's also terribly cliche, and felt like it was automatically written by a computer program.  I'm surprised I made it through the whole thing.  However, it wasn't the worst movie I saw this year...

That honor goes to Batman v. Superman.

"Are you serious bro?"

Quite.  At least Jem had logical progression, even if it felt way too fast.  The movie flowed from one scene to the next and didn't feel jumbled.  It also clocked in at half the time of BvS, which is another plus.  Batman v. Superman was just a mess.  It wasn't interesting, plot points didn't make sense, it was long, and filled with stupidity.  There were only 2 parts I enjoyed, the famous Batman in the warehouse scene, since it was entertaining and he straight-up murdered people, and when (SPOILER) Superman drives the spear into Doomsday while impaling himself.  The whole 4 hour train wreck was not worth the 5 minutes of decent.  It's just not a good movie.

The SaHD:
Well, for one, there were a few reviews that were suspiciously absent from my site, mostly because I didn't get codes for them.  It's not really an entitlement issue, but when a company is really good about giving you review codes, it's jarring when they "run out" all of a sudden.  It's nitpicky, but it was sad that there were a few games I was very looking forward to that I ended up not reviewing.  One day I may get to it, once I have purchased my own copies.

I might as well mention the Nintendo Switch here.  I like the idea behind it, but until we have some hard facts, I can't be fully excited.  Given Nintendo's track record of the 3DS and the Wii U, I expect the battery life on the Switch to be abysmal.  Both players being able to use half of a pad is a neat concept, but very much  limits what you can play like that, plus those are probably way too small for my hands.  The commercial was also very millennial-centric, but I think that group has moved on from console gaming, so it feels weird to appear to market toward them.  I'll still reserve full judgement until I try one out, but I am cautiously optimistic about the whole thing.

So long 2016, don't let the door hit you on the way out, and I'm glad we never have to see each other again.  Here's hoping 2017 is much better.  Happy New Year!

Monday, January 2, 2017

Bravely Second: The Finale (Hour 60+)

First off, since this is the end of the game, all but the end of this section is going to probably be filled with -Spoilers-, so hold off reading until you have either beat the game, or don't care.  However, I will throw in a Good, Bad and SaHD section past that, at the end, to sum it up as best I can.

I cleaned up the last summon I needed, Giratabulu, and also snagged the last side quest for the Templar job.  That extra HP should come in handy.

While a lot of stuff from the first game was recycled, not everything was.  Two of the jobs didn't come back.  The Vampire I only really miss for its passives, and the Sage job was late enough that I didn't get much time with it last game.  Even so, plenty of jobs from last time were near negated by new ones, so it seems odd to toss those two when they could have done it to add more jobs.

Speaking of the Vampire job class, there is a point where you have to go back to the castle, even if the master is gone.  I really didn't like this dungeon the second time around.  For starters, you can't raise or lower the encounter rate.  I could deal with that, but the enemies are annoying, so I want to turn them off.  There are cerberus enemies that have a very damaging counter attack, even if you miss.  There are also some chomper enemies that will poison counter any physical attacks.  Even ranged ones.  That's...a very far poison aura.  Ugh.

They also cram some extra story in this dungeon.  Personally, I thought it was kind of dumb.  They really go to great lengths to shove the new characters' backstories into previous characters' backstories, with mixed results.  Plus, and this is an extra (SPOILER) tag for you, they also undo any sympathy you might have for Janne.  They want you to feel sorry that his family was killed, but his father defended the church that caused the plague, so he's kind of an ass.  He's not much better than Yew's father, so Janne should just shut up about it.

The top culminates with a boss fight against the Yokai.  It's about time she gets her comeuppance!  Except she has a multi-hit instant death attack.  Yeah, she has balance in spades...*rolls eyes*

So after beating her, the weird pillar things spotted around the world finally have a use.  They contain the special sin monsters that power Yokai's job abilities.  Sadly, they are some of the most gimmicky fights in the game.

First was Satan, the sin of wrath.  He's a dragon.  So, the dragon sin of wrath?  Anyway, it just berserks you, and there's no item or ability to fix it.  Sucks, but I was able to power through.

Second is Lucifer.  It has a very strong counter move, but that's about it.  I was able to defeat it the first time.

Mammon, the sin of avarice (greed), just stole BP from me.  It can evidently steal stats, too, but it didn't do that to me.  Other than that it would just hit physically or use blizzaja.  It wasn't an easy fight, but it wasn't that hard, either.

Fourth I went to fight Asmodeus, the sin of lust.  Boy, is this fight terrible.  It can remove you from battle by absorbing you.  The only way to come back is for Asmodeus to do it.  Nothing else work, just waiting and hoping.  It doesn't even have to return you if the random number doesn't come up, which is crap.  If everyone is over, man.  Not fun, but I did manage to beat it on the second try, once I knew about its tricks.

I got sick of the gimmicky end game fights, and just decided to end the final boss.  So you fight Anne and kick her little...oh, wait, you probably won't the first time.  She has a skill that reduces a target's max HP to 1.  Yup, that's cheap.  The only way to fix it is to cast Undo, but you have to know that ahead of time and have the skill equipped.  I just started smashing her, with plenty of resurrection mist to go around.

So on to the final boss finally then?  The first form at least.  It has a skill that commands one character to kill another.  It's not automatic, so why should I listen to that jerk?  Oh, because if you don't, he will hit your party with just under 100,000 damage.  Fair!

Yup, another stupid gimmick for a boss fight.  I'm sensing a trend here.  Anyway, after beating that form, the second form...was surprisingly normal.  It did buff its hands, but they were pretty easy to kill so it didn't matter much.  I just attacked and healed as normal and it eventually died.  It was really refreshing to just have a normal RPG fight at the end.  Final boss destroyed at just over 70 hours!

I then decided to pick off the last three sin bosses.  First was Belphegor (sloth).  It shifts its weakness after an attack, so my usual strategy didn't work at all.  Everything that it wasn't weak to would heal it, even attacks without elements.  Yes, again, that is a dumb decision, but I still killed him after working out a battle flow.

Second was Leviathan, the sin of envy.  Boy, I don't envy people who fight this boss.  I had originally tried this fight before beating the game, and was likely the cause of me just going to beat it instead of putting up with this nonsense.  It's one of the super bosses from the town in the first game, the four snakes.  This stupid thing is the source of the multi-hit instant death attack that Yokai does.  Plus, as an added bonus, Leviathan will brave to do it multiple times in a turn.  Yeah, stupid.  I was able to get two part members immune to the death portion of it, which helped.  It eventually went down like all the others.

Last was Beelzebub (gluttony).  This fight was pretty easy, since the gimmick is one I've seen before.  Every few turns he would use the gluttony skill, which lets him absorb anything as healing.  I tried a few things, even healing him, to see what would work.  Just waiting it out is the best option.  After a few turns, he will spit acid at the party, which does very little damage if you don't attack him beforehand.  Last sin down, so the Yokai is ready to be mastered!

There were also two bonus dungeons that opened up after clearing the main story, so I decided to check them out a bit.  I could tell they were going to be annoying, so I instead spent some time to grind up jobs to get the mastery (level 11) for them.  I realized I would have to sink even more time into the game to go through with it all, and decided to call it (for now).  I wrote some notes in the 3DS' game notes section, and stopped playing just shy of 80 hours.  Fun game, but the story went on a bit too long and the gimmicky fights near the end soured some of the experience.  Good game, though, and worth playing!

-End Spoilers-

< Hour 40-60

The Good:
Most of the new jobs are really good with some great new skills.  Chain battles are fantastic, as you can grind really fast with less running in circles for battles.  Overall the game was really fun.

The Bad:
The gimmick fights near the end of the game.  The story felt like it went on for a bit too long as well.

The SaHD:
I was annoyed I didn't get my preorder costumes, but you can buy them in the game...for way too much pg.

(Bravely Second Collector's Edition was pre-ordered and purchased on release day)