While going through and deleting a few half-baked reviews, I ran across this one that I had completely forgotten about from a few years ago, so here it is!
My friend lent me a few DS games that I wanted to play but didn't have, so I tried them out and have collected a few impressions of them here.
Bleach: The 3rd Phantom
I know very little about Bleach, but that isn't a big issue for this game. It is set before the events of the anime/manga so it's more of a prequel. It's a strategy RPG like Disgaea, so I was happy to dive in and give it a try. You move on a grid, but thankfully can attack in a square around your characters, instead of the usual "plus" pattern. When you choose to attack an enemy, the game will show this confrontation from a different viewpoint. It switches to a side view, and the animations for the attacks are really cool and fun to watch. Sometimes the attacks will include a special attack, adding to the damage done.
The only thing I don't like are the skills you can use in battle. Most cannot be used after you move, making healers almost useless. Also, you need to equip your items to use ahead of time, which I didn't catch on to at first. The stat and skill upgrades are nice, though. Upgrading your weapon can give you more skills, extra power for ones you have, or other bonuses. You need to unlock one before the next in the line can be used, so planning is essential, since I don't think you can have all of them. The game was so fun that I bought my own copy. Now if only they made it so it didn't write "Bleach" somewhere on every screen in the game...
Dragonball Z: Attack of the Saiyans
Brought to my attention by Mole during one of the recent podcasts [recent at the time of original writing -editor], I decided to check it out, since I am a fan of Dragonball Z and turn-based RPGs. First off, the game looks good. The map sprites are cool little super deformed version of the characters and the battle animations are nice to look at. The battles themselves are turn-based (as mentioned previously), where you can attack, defend or use a skill. Skills are powerful, but costly. They can be upgraded with points obtained from victories and new skill can be revealed when certain skills level up. There don't seem to be many skills to learn, and it takes awhile to get enough points to buy anything. There's also a "sparking" meter, which is presumably used for super moves. Until you get those (I haven't yet), the meter is pretty useless.
Story-wise, the game starts just before the martial arts tournament when the Z fighters first see Picollo Jr. (the young one). Along the way, you take control of different characters and do various unimportant tasks. It takes over an hour to get Goku in the part, and then fight Picollo. After that, you resume doing unimportant things that presumably lead to the fight with Napa and Vegita. While it's nice that they don't just rehash the show/manga plot verbatim, the things you do just don't feel special or interesting. Also, story bits in the game seem to take longer than they should, since there is a small pause after a text bubble goes away and before characters do their emoticons. They also do them frequently, which just made the uninteresting story bits take that much longer. So while the game looks good and the battles are fun, the story makes the game actually kind of boring. I don't know if I'll play it much more.
This is a game that's been on my radar for awhile. Space exploration and battles with grid-based equipping. It sounded really fun, but the price and availability has always been a drawback. When I started, the first thing I noticed was the graphics. It reminded me of the Transformers DS games which kind of looked like crap. Ugh. Well, I can look past that, especially for an RPG, so I dove further.
It was a letdown. The space battles are interesting, but get annoying pretty quickly. Most things in the game are not explained well at all, adding to the frustration. The more I played the game, the less I liked it. Some are small gripes, like your initial target in space battles is not the ship in the front, which you actually NEED to attack first. There are plenty of big gripes too, like the computer AI being almost perfect. I didn't even get the melee battles, but I read about them, and it seems I dodged a bullet by not getting that far. As sad as it is, I'm going to pass on it and save that chunk of change. I'll happily give my friend back his copy.
Last but not least is Lufia. This is a series I really need to get into, since I enjoyed the original on SNES back in the day (and I still need to get my own copy of that). I have the GBA one, and should really play more, but I wanted to give this one a try since I've seen it for pretty cheap. First off, it is an action RPG, not a turn based, but that wouldn't be enough to deter me. The combat is ok, but not that great. You don't get many moves so it's not as fun as it could be. You get a pretty effect on your attacks midway through the combo, but all they seem to do is obscure parts of the screen for no benefit.
The combat can be a bit wonky, mostly from using the d-pad to move in the 3D space (it would be perfect for the 3DS circle pad). It's easy to get hit, and you take more damage than you might think. This is offset by the "retry with level boost" option on the continue screen. There's also a lot more platforming than I would have guessed, and it's about as bad as you'd suspect. While the game is funny and doesn't really take itself seriously, it's not as fun as the old Lufias. A bit disappointing, and fans are better off skipping this one.