Stranger of Sword City

Experience inc have released a number of dungeon crawlers on the Xbox platforms in Japan over the years. A number of titles on have also been released on the Vita and were localized and published by Nippon Ichi of America–most notably Demon Gaze. Stranger of Sword City on the Xbox One is Experience’s first self-published game they’ve released in North America.

vlcsnap-2016-03-16-15h18m22s566 - Copy
Its very hard to judge Stranger of Sword City without looking at other Experience titles that I’ve played in the past. A lot of core ideas found in their previous games like Demon Gaze return in Sword City albeit tweaked for better or for worse. Its regrettable in some ways because I think Experience released this in North America maybe to introduce dungeon crawling to an audience that may not be accustomed to this genre and as someone well versed in this genre its hard for me not to compare it to other games–especially other games developed by Experience.

vlcsnap-2016-03-16-15h46m08s950
The general set up to Stranger of Sword City is that the airliner you were on crash lands on a mysterious fantasy world and its explained to you that you are now a “stranger” and being not from this new world–the difference in gravity has allowed you to wield powerful weapons you couldn’t possible have been able to carry otherwise. Your job now is to collect Blood Crystals with other strangers and find a way back to the real world. So the setup is kinda like that TV show LOST but with a lot more cutie anime girls and horrifying monsters.

I love the fact that they actually give you an in-world explanation as to why you’re able to fight alongside seasoned warriors despite being some normie with no background in combat. Its a nice little touch. really adds to the world building.
The original Xbox 360 version only had one style of character portraits that were done by Yoko Sukamoto whose style is very dark fantasy. Her monster designs are always just amazing and nightmarish. I think Miss Sukamoto’s designs suit the game’s tone more than other artist’s designs who were added to the Xbox One and Vita versions. Adding Oxijiyen’s art to Sword City makes sense since they’ve worked on a number of other Experience developed games like Demon Gaze and Operation Abyss. Its a nice extra bonus but I really don’t think they fit this setting as well as Yoko Sukamoto’s designs. That being said, being the hypocrite that I am, I tended to gravitate towards Oxijiyen’s designs anyways.

vlcsnap-2016-03-16-15h42m47s372
One thing I really don’t like about the character portraits across the board is that the main NPC character’s portraits are actually selectable when creating party members. Going into this game blind I didn’t realize this and I accidentally gave my main character the same design as one of the major NPC characters. You can even choose the main antagonist’s portrait too. So even though it may look like you have pages and pages of portraits to choose from when making characters, there’s at least 10 to 12 designs that are established characters in the game. Stuff like this breaks my immersion.
While we’re still on the subject of art for a sec, I did some basic research on some of the other Japanese only experience games and what I noticed is that a number of the enemy designs from their Japanese only Entaku no Seito: Students of the Round were reused in this game. There were even designs I recognized from Demon Gaze in Sword City. Its not done to a tremendous degree or anything but Miss Sukamoto’s designs are just so unique that its bothersome in retrospect. This might sound very nitpicky–I know– but bare with me for a sec: I do understand this is indicative of basically every rpg ever, but after noticing it in Sword City I began to have this odd sense of deja vu with almost every aspect of Sword City.
The music in Sword City–thankfully isn’t ripped from previous Experience titles, but its style of Vocaloidy tracks might fool you if you didn’t go back and check Demon Gaze’s music just in case. I’ve never been a huge fan of the Vocaloid-like music in Experience’s titles–I think they worked well with Demon Gaze partly because that game just feels like you’re playing an anime that it just kind of works. The overall dark atmosphere in Sword City really doesn’t mesh with music that sounds more suited in a place like the streets of  Akihabara. I seriously had to check to see if the music was reused from Demon Gaze, its that similar sounding.

vlcsnap-2016-03-16-15h56m05s463
The third similarity to previous Experience titles is Sword City’s battle system and its dungeoning mechanics. I don’t actually mind how similar this was to Demon Gaze partly because I found Demon Gaze to be an impressive and refreshing dungeoning experience. More of the same is the best you can ask for, really. Sword City is turn based, as you’d expect, but theres a counter on the left side of the screen that acts as a pool for your Divinity Moves.
Divinities work as their own type of move not to be confused with magic or skills. Divinity moves usually are passive buffs you can activate in a bind like healing your health 10% per round or raising your hit and avoidance percentages. There are also Divinities that are full-out attacks that cost more points to use which may end up being detrimental since expending a large amount of points may lock you out of using a passive ability when you need them. Using the all-out attack works–especially in early in the game, but I suspect that believing that you can brute force bosses with it will be more of a crutch than anything.
In Demon Gaze, abilities like this were earned by killing the major bosses of the game. Sword City follows in a similar suit, but instead of gaining divinities from defeating a handful of bosses, it broadens the scope–the amount of bosses has increased to a stunning degree but now when you beat a boss, or a Lineage, as they’re called in Sword City— they don’t impart a divinity. Instead, they drop Blood Crystals which you trade into one of the three NPCs in the game for Divinities.
You can’t learn all the divinities this time around and instead you have to choose from an intersecting Skill tree. Learning one divinity from a row locks you out of the two others. You have to decide which move work best for you and hope the one you chose has the most use for the Lineage fights ahead.
Lineage fights are the real meat of the game as you can probably surmise since you’ll need their blood gems to acquire new abilities as well as progress through the story. What can make lineage battles both refreshing and sour is how they’re implemented in dungeons. Sometimes they lie in specific areas and you’ll have to draw them out by hiding. This is the standard way lineage fights are handled, however, there are also fights that seem random in how they’re triggered.

vlcsnap-2016-03-16-15h55m13s008
One NPC in town tells you that you that one lineage fight requires you to have some Black Candy in your possession in order for the Lineage Monster to appear. It took me about 5 runs in the dungeon before this sucker finally showed up. Despite annoyances like this, Sword City always has multiple dungeons for you to check out so if you’re not having any luck in one area you can break up the monotony by exploring another dungeon. Because you can tackle dungeons in whatever order you like, its possible to complete main story quests out of order–something I actually really liked. Recently coming off of playing Etrian Oddyssey, this change of pace was welcome and appreciated. Its a major reason why I really enjoy Experience inc dungeon crawlers.

How Stranger of Sword City deals with player death might deter even the most grizzled dungeon crawler veterans and its utilization is what I would say is the most glaring flaws I’ve experienced in a game in a while.

When a party member dies in battle, there are two ways to revive them: You can either shell out an enormous amount of currency to revive them automatically–so much currency that its seemingly impossible to even attempt this until the late game– or you can rest the character for a set number of days. Since there are no inns established in Sword City, time only progresses when you’re out dungeoning.

vlcsnap-2016-03-16-15h53m04s097
On top of that, theres really no way of seeing how much time has passed unless you head back to the base and check on the resting character. In a game like Etrian Oddessy time is show to progress thanks to a nifty timer at the bottom of the screen. Sword City doesn’t do this and the game actually goes out of its way to explain that the world of Sword City is always in a constant state of dusk. I think this is one of the most annoying explanations I’ve ever heard in a game. I can’t help but think that this was done just to annoy players. The rate at which time passes is also painfully slow. I’ve run through entire dungeons only to come back and find that six to eight hours have passed and that I still needed two days and four hours for a character to revive.
Another challenging aspect about death in Sword City is that players have Life Points: when a character loses all their health and dies, they also lose a life point. Characters can have one to three of these points and they’re determined by how old the character is. The older the character, the fewer life points they have. If a character loses all of their life points, they die permanently. On top of this, reviving life points is also done by resting a character for an ungodly amount of time.
Its clear that the developers made these design choices so that you would be constantly creating new characters as you progress through the game . That you were supposed to have a large reserve of back up characters just in case something happened. Personally, I found this to be a waste of time–why go off and train six or so backup characters instead of just reloading to your last save if someone died? You’d waste more time getting new characters to the levels they needed to be than just reloading a few minutes to your last save point.
The entire revival system is probably the only issue of the game that will actively deter players from continuing. A system like this was designed only for the most masochistic at heart.

vlcsnap-2016-03-16-15h44m22s721

At the time of this review I got to this boss before having to call it quits for the sake of releasing this review. Like in Demon Gaze, Stranger of Sword City has a number of insanely steep difficulty curves that will make you wonder if a boss is really vanquishable. This Wyvern is technically a ten hour tutorial check which I found pretty hilarious too. You get a new ability and they tell you to use it when he telegraphs a specific attack but it didn’t matter because he was one shotting my party with his regular attacks.

Will I still be playing Sword City and should you?
Full disclosure and complete transparency: I received a digital review copy of Stranger of Sword City 20 days in advance of its official release from Experience inc with the agreement that I would review it. Before I received this review copy, I had already pre-ordered the Japanese Xbox One version and will still be purchasing that copy .
I bring this up for one reason: I appreciate the lengths at which Experience inc has promoted and published Stranger of Sword City across the board. The last dungeon crawler that received a home console release in North America was Wizardry: Labyrinth of Lost Souls around five years ago. This genre has found its place on handhelds and has firmly stayed there for years and in spite of this, Experience released one:on the Xbox One of all consoles. Granted, you can still get Stranger of Sword City on the Vita if your heart desires it, but having the option to play on a console? I love it and I hope Experience inc finds a hardcore enough audience that they continue to release these types of games on the Xbox One. Is Stranger of Sword City my favorite game that Experience inc has worked on? No, but in spite of its flaws I will be seeing this game to its end and while its edges are more jagged than rough, Stranger of Sword City is a game I would cautiously recommend to those in dire need for some console dungeoning. There is a rewarding game in here somewhere if you have the patience to weather it through.

Advertisements

How Short is Too Short?

Tags

,

short

Before I start, I should mention that I have not played The Order: 1886 nor do I have any real urge to. I’m also not trying to play Devil’s advocate to stir up anything either. Everything I’m about to say comes from observations from playing video games for most of my life and talking to people who have played videogames most of their lives.

So, The Order is the latest 60 buck short game to be released and its getting a lot of flack for that. Its length shouldn’t have been surprising to anyone, developer Ready at Dawn had made countless statements with how cinematic and filmic this game was going to be from the get go. Was it any really any surprise to anyone that The Order was as long as it was?

What really gets me about this is that reviewers and players alike will judge a game entirely on its length before anything else. It doesn’t matter if a game was good, you always have to tack on how long it took you to beat it as if that was the crux of whether of not the game was actually good. Theres a number of things that just get to me when I hear people talk about games like this, myself included.

I play a lot of shmups nowadays  so I’m constantly paying 60+ bucks on games that, on paper, have playthroughs of less than thirty minutes if you’re just infinite continuing. As a kid up to my teenage years I used to exclusively play RPGs; games that would usually last 50-80 hours. I have a decent appreciation for games that are long and for games that are short. Game length is arbitrary. There is no rule anywhere telling developers that there game must be thiiiiis long to go gold. A lot of people would argue that a publisher charging 60 dollars for a five hour experience should be inexcusable, but how many games do you own that were fifty to sixty bucks (or even more) that were five hours and really good?

On the reverse, how many games do you own that are over 5 hours that you still haven’t completed? How many reviews have you seen about games where the reviewer complains that the game’s fifteen hour playthrough was too long? 5 hours is too short but fifteen hours is too long?  What if we held up classics like ICO to this weird standard? I wonder if The Order was made fourteen years ago along ICO what kind of reception it would have had?

What really gets me the most about complaints of the length of video games is looking up how many players  overall have beaten a certain game. The PS4 has this nifty feature of showing you how many people have trophies the same achievements you have. This kind of information has actually been been used by publishers and developers since the inclusion of achievements and trophies in videogames a generation ago, but I’ll be using the PS4’s trophy information only because I believe its the only one that  that gives you a percentage of  how many people have actually  beaten games besides Steam’s.

Here are  percentage of players who actually beat the last ten games I’ve played:

Syndicate: 21.2%

Life is Strange Chapter 1: 62%

Dying Light: 25%

Resident Evil Remaster: 26%

Dragon Age Inquisition: 17.6%

Alien Isolation: 16%

Shadow of Mordor: 34%

Evil Within: 16%

Call of Duty Advanced Warfare: 26%

Far Cry 4: 28%

My original point was going to be that players rarely beat their games so complaints about the length of a game were pointless in the grand scheme of things, but isn’t it funny that the game with the shortest run time had the most players beat it? Obviously I doubt a billion people played Life is Strange compared to say Call of Duty, but this is the info developers are looking at when they make their games. A shorter game means that their easily distracted player base has more of a chance of actually completing the game they’ve worked for years to finish. Is it really so shocking that a developer might make a short game if it means people will actually complete it?

If you want to slam The Order, there are probably an assortment of things that it actually has done to deserve it, but leave length out of it.

Games I was wrong about in 2014:

I’m pretty sure if you have a blog its against the law not to do some sort of year-in-review retrospective. I played a lot of video games this year and I really should have written about each one instead of completely procrastinating halfway through the year. Hopefully next year will be better.There were so many games that came out this year that were either expectedly average or expectedly great that I thought I’d take this time and try to compile the games I played this year that ended up being better than I expected them to be or much much worse.

2587792-7_1389089751

I thought Alien: Isolation was going to be terrible considering how quiet Sega was about promoting this game in the months before its release. Alien Isolation ended up being probably my favorite mainstream game I played all year. I really can’t even trumpet how perfectly Creative Assembly made an Alien game that felt on par with the first three Alien films. Every aspect of the game felt like the team behind it crafted it while literally watching the first film as they worked. while pausing to get every minutia of the movie’s atmosphere pitch perfect. Every room in the entire game felt like I was in the same universe as the first film. I don’t think I’ve ever played a licensed game that got its atmosphere this perfect before.

2637193-wiiu_mk8_dlc1_tanukimario_sm

Mario Kart 8 wasn’t a purchase I ended up regretting. I hadn’t played a Mario Kart game since Double Dash and while I liked that game, I’ve never been a tremendous fan of the series. I don’t hate them or anything, I’ve just never really gave them a chance before. Mario Kart 8 was amazing though. I’ve played dozens of hours of the online mode and I really hyped about the next piece of DLC. Its really my go to multiplayer game. Shocking since I really thought it would have been Smash

ocbz2_cmcheader-600x337

Onechanbara Z2: Chaos was a game that I thought would have been on par with the previous game in the series, but it ended up being terrible. I didn’t mind that a good 50% of the game was reused from the last game, but I did mind that the game was virtually unplayable at certain parts thanks to what I assume was a lack of bug checking. Boss Fights are basically a coin toss: are they going to be able to juggle you to the point of being able to ignore your recovery invulnerability frames? The controls are marred–no, fucked, too. They added these super duper jumps that really have no purpose in the entire game unless the game’s intention is to jump 50 feet past enemies in enclosed rooms, but because jumping and super jumping are pressure sensitive you end up super jumping when you just want to jump regularly. I can’t even begin to tell you how disappointing this game was for me.

Tales-Of-Xillia-1

A year late, but I finally finished Tales of Xillia…and it was actually really good! I mean, the first half of the game totally sucks and will bore you to tears but once the first major plot twist happens, the game really picked up! It is noticeably rushed and I would have really liked to see a few of the antagonists get a bit more development, but overall I really enjoyed most of the story. Tales games are usually not seen as having tremendously deep storylines, but I find that there are always glimmers of interesting storytelling in this series and Xillia is no different in that respect;it just takes a while to reach it. I still am not the hugest fan of the battle system since I still think Link Artes seem to contradict getting large combos so it stills ends up being probably my least favorite Tales game in terms of gameplay though.

2673067-dd3_intoners7

I thought I was going to end up beating the final ending of Drakengard 3 but was blindsided by one of the worst things I’ve played in a game all year. I never finished the first Drakengard and I hear that game did the same thing with its final boss and I just want to say: not a fan. Pretty mad.

Freedom_03I bought Freedom Planet last night after see it was on sale and was blown away at how amazing this game ended up being. I remember hearing about it when its Kickstarter launched but thought it was going to be nothing more than a wannabe Sonic game ripoff. While it is obvious that Freedom Planet was inspired by the likes of the classic Genesis Sonic games, it ended up being an amazing mash of Sonic and Treasure developed games like Gunstar Heroes and Dynamite Heady. Unlike Shovel Knight, which borrowed heavily from many NES classic games, Freedom Planet’s inspirations where just that: inspirations. Freedom Planet was its own game, inspired by classics but also able to stand on its own– never fully adopting the mechanics and series it was in reverence of while Shovel Knight felt like Frankenstein’s Monster of classic game mechanics sewn together; not fully its own game.

Titanfall doesn’t fall far enough from the Call of Duty Tree

Tags

, , , ,

Titanfall

Its amazing to think that its been a little over four years since the Activision/ West and Zampella incident occured. For those of you that don’t remember,  in March 2010, mere months after Jason West’s and Vince Zampella’s culturally defining game “Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2” had come out, Activision up and fired West and Zampella without giving them their bonuses, claiming they were dismissed for breach of contract and colluding with Activision’s rival company, Electronic Arts. Four years later after Zampella and West formed Respawn Entertainment and released their first game published by EA: Titanfall. There was a bit of hype before this game partly because the people behind the original Call of Duty: Modern Warfare games were making The Next Big Thing.

After 4 years and arguably the best experience with making critically acclaimed first person shooters, I have no idea why West and Zampella’s new game feels so compromised.

Titanfall2.jpg

Right off the bat, if you’re expecting a single player campaign, you’re going to be sorely disappointed. Titanfall is entirely and online multiplayer game only. It does actually have a Campaign, but the campaign is just 9 stages of Attrition( basically Deathmatch) and Hardpoint (Capture point) with some semblance of a story running in the background of the matches. It actually took me about three playthroughs of campaign mode to finally piece together  Titanfall’s story. On top of that, theres two sides of the campaign so in order to full get the story, you’ll have to play it with both factions. Of course, I should mention that the campaign is a complete waste of time. Not matter what side you’re on or if you win or lose, the story concludes exactly the same way: disappointing. I have a feeling the campaign mode was only added after people began grumbling that the game wouldn’t be featuring a real campaign mode like the ones in Call of Duty. Like this was some sort of quickly developed appeasement. The biggest problem I have with the campaign mode is that it only offers two of the 5 game modes.

Speaking of game modes, its utterly astounding how generic and uncreative the modes they designed are. Out of the five modes, there are probably only two that I really enjoyed.

Attrition is basically Team Deathmatch, the only twist being that players get points not for just killing other player characters, but also the enemy computer AI grunt enemies, and enemy Titans. The whole mode feels more like a race: who can farm grunts kills faster? Its funny too because a lot of the players I went up against entirely dismissed grunt enemies, not understanding that they were the key to victory.

Pilot Hunter is Attrition except now you only get points for killing player characters. Kind of felt unnecessary considering its a very small deviation of Attrition.

Hardpoint Domination is one of the more cooperative teamwork modes where you team has to capture and hold up to three points on the map until you get enough points. I actually find this to be the most frustrating modes only because I found that my team was never coordinated. A lot of players would just jump ship and just start playing like it with Deathmatch instead of focusing on the actual objective. It didn’t help that almost no one uses a mic either.

Capture the Flag is a mode I think everyone is familiar with. Nothing to really talk about except that the general size of the maps in Titanfall work well with Capture the Flag. I find this to be the campiest mode so despite it being decent, I tended to avoid it.

Last Titan Standing is a rather unique take on Team Deathmatch: every player starts automatically in their Titan. Once one team’s side has lost all their Titans in battle, they lose. This is one of the more strategic and tense multiplayer modes in the game. You really have to know the maps well and hopefully you have a team thats up on communication. Titan’s deal a destructive amount of damage and if your opposition  is coordinated and manage to flank your team, they’ll tear you up like paper.

 

2531159-titanfall

Titans are a nice addition to a game that, without them, would almost play entirely like a Modern Warfare game. Instead of Modern Warfare’s Killstreaks system where the more consecutive kills you get you’re then rewarded with some kind of bonus kill mechanic, Titanfall instead rewards players with their very own Titan to pilot of set up as a computer controlled ally. One of my absolute favorite things about the Titans is that once you’re able to call one down, you can set exactly where it will drop. So, if your timing and placement is just right, you can actually have your Titan instantly crush an enemy Titan by falling right on top of it. One of the more disappointing aspects of Titans is how much of a pain in the ass they are to take down. Players are given an Anti-Titan weapon like a homing rocket launcher and a grenade launcher, but Titan’s shields are usually too strong to deal direct damage. By the time you start attacking them, they know exactly where you are and can rip you to shreds with their own guns. It also doesn’t help that even though you can jump on enemy titans and directly attack their weak point, the initial rodeo animation is far too long so enemy players have more than enemy time to make work of you before you even begin to damage their Titans.

I found that the most disappointing aspect of Titanfall was how it handled customization. Like, Modern Warfare, Titanfall has Loadouts: character slots that you can customize with various weapons and abilities which allows you to make something that could fit with your play style. Its a fairly important aspect in Modern Warfare’s multiplayer and with Zampella and West working on Titanfall, I figured that this game would just be chock full of weapons, side arms, and abilities. Its not, however. Even looking back at Modern Warfare 2, Titanfall’s options are barren. The most upsetting customization option (or lack thereof) would definitely be the abilities you can equip: there are only three. You can either run really fast for a short period of time, cloak yourself for a short period of time, or look through walls for a short period of time. Thats it. The passive abilities you can equip are a little more varied, but on the other side, there are only a handful of passive abilities for Titans. All of the customization in the game is just so wonky and really leaves you wanting more.

But in a way, thats the whole game in a nutshell. Titanfall has glimpses of promise, but it feels like a game that came out four years too late. Its stuck in the past when Modern Warfare 2 was king. Its lack of creative multiplayer modes, lack of a single player campaign, limited customization, its 60 dollar asking price, and its 25 dollar season pass…there are so many things working against Titanfall. While I did enjoy the dozens of hours I put into this game, I can’t truly recommend Titanfall since so much of the game is just so lacking. Hopefully the inevitable Titanfall 2 makes up for this.

 

Shovel Knight: Not Shovelware, But I didn’t really Dig it either.

Tags

, , , , ,

Image

Its easy to tell what games inspired Shovel Knight in the first five minutes of playing it. Its Mega Man, DuckTales, Zelda II, Super Mario Bros. 3, and even a little Castlevania. The problem is that three hours later when you’ve finished this game, you realize that its a game so wrapped up in wanting be all these classic games that it actually did nothing unique. If you liked all those previously mentioned games you’ll probably get a kick out of Shovel Knight for one playthrough but you’ll probably forget this game even existed six months from now.

The nicest thing I can say about Shovel Knight is that Yacht Club Games is very adept at taking a lot of the best things that made retro games so fun. You can tell this team lives and breathes Mega Man and the NES Duck Tales games. They’ve done a pretty good job replicating those games in Shovel Knight, but I think Shovel Knight ends up not having an identity of its own. You have Stages built just like Mega Man stages and Shovel Knight himself plays almost exactly like Scrooge McDuck played like in those NES Duck Tales games right down to the fact that shovel knight can bounce on enemy with his shovel.

The only unique thing Shovel Knight does with its stages are the check points which you can destroy for extra money but means that you can no longer restart at that checkpoint. The problem is that there really isn’t much you need with money and the only thing the game really rewards you for destroying all the check points is a pseudo-achievement point. So basically nothing.

Image

The stages themselves are fine, but none of them seem consistently the same length. Spectre Knight and King Knight have relatively short and breezy stages while Propeller Knight’s stage just NEVER ENDS.  The real issue I had with the stages is that all the stages revolve around the Duck Tales “Cane/pogostick bounce” feature. Because you don’t actually end up taking Boss’ signature moves like in Mega Man and the fact that the moves you can get in Shovel Knight are entirely optional, it means the game revolves only around this one feature. A feature that was already fully explored in 2013’s Duck Tales remake but also again this year in Donkey Kong: Jungle Freeze. Its a tired mechanic and its too bad that Shovel Knight bet all its chips on it.

I actually didn’t hate Shovel Knight, I just wish it was more of its own game and didn’t rely so much on only piggybacking on classic mechanics. I think Shovel Knight is worth checking out, but I’d definitely wait for a price drop or find a time machine so you could have backed the game for ten bucks rather than spending the 15 bucks it costs now. If there is one thing I can recommend from Shovel Knight, its the music which you can luckily pay for here for any price you want to give the composer: http://virt.bandcamp.com/album/shovel-knight-original-soundtrack

 

 

 

Demon Gaze: A Sight For Sore Eyes For Game Starved Vita Owners

Tags

, , , ,

I’ve never been really good at dungeon crawlers. Despite having picked up every Etrian Odyssey game on release for the last seven years, picking up every copy of Wizardry I can find, and dabbling in some of the more lesser known games in this genre (the oldschool Rance games, Unchained Blades, The Dark Spire, Evolution,etc), its a genre that really doesn’t like me as much as I like it.

What I’m getting at is this: Demon Gaze may not be the best dungeon crawler out there, but I enjoyed every hour of this game to its completion.

Image

Demon Gaze is the story about a Demon Gazer, someone who is a mix of both human and demon who can seal demons with the power of their eyes.  He finds himself lodging at the Dragon Princess Inn who is run by a mysterious and penny pinching girl who tasks him with capturing Demon Gods so that he can eventually halt the resurrection of a Great Demon God know only as Sol. It may not be the most awe inspiring story, but there were a number of twists that I did not see coming and it kept me interested all the way through.

While the game has its standard classes you’d expect from a dungeon crawler; Tanky Paladins, crowd controlling samurais, healers, and wizards–the game’s protagonist, the Gazer, is a unique class who can summon the Demon bosses they have captured to fight along side them. However, they are drawbacks to summoning these demons. The Demons run on a chain-like gauge at the top of the screen and each turn that a demon is out, the gauge slowly decreases. Once the gauge is completely empty, the demon becomes berserk, attacking enemies and allies alike. While this may seem daunting, I never lost the gauge completely since it seems that whenever you attack an enemy, the gauge fills more than it decreases by the end of each turn.

ImageWhile Demon Gaze is probably easier than most dungeon crawlers out there, the game does a pretty good job at keeping you on your toes thanks to a number of proficiency hurdles sprinkled throughout the game. Just when you think you can power through yet another boss, one will pop up where you actually have to pay attention to what you’re doing. For example,theres a boss right near the end that heals a good chunk of it’s health every three turns and targets the Gazer character attempting to seal their ability to use demons in battle rendering your team’s biggest damage dealer utterly useless. The final boss is also pretty tricky if you don’t fully pay attention and prepare ahead of time. The fluctuating difficulty may actually be the game’s biggest strength, really. By the time the game got pretty difficult, I was so far into it that I didn’t want to give up and chalk this up as a win for the Dungeon Crawler Genre for the umpteenth time. It eventually made beating this game feel that much more rewarding.

 

Image

Demon Gaze’s dungeons themselves are pretty simple in structure, but one of the more interesting aspects is how the dungeons work: Demon Gaze isn’t about running to the end of a dungeon and just beating the boss. Instead, the player has to run around the dungeon looking for Demon Circles, small landmarks where the player can summon enemies  to receive equipment and other loot. Each dungeon can have anywhere from 7 to 16 of these points– capturing half of the points rewards you with fighting the Demon God in their regular form and once all of these points have been captured the boss will finally show itself in its true form;only then can you seal the Demon God for good. I really liked how the game organically made you search out the dungeons. You weren’t rushing through the dungeon just looking for the big bad and the exit, you were meticulously mapping the dungeon for all of its demon circles.

There was one aspect of the dungeon crawling that was a pretty big doubled edge sword, however. Much like games like Demon’s Souls and Dark Souls, players can leave messages for other players in these dungeons. This was great when you were stuck in a dungeon or wanted to find hidden treasure, but it was a complete fail at the same time because many players used these messages to subtly spoil some of the game’s more shocking plot twists. You can turn off the messages if you want to, which is nice, but its just too bad a small portion of the community were dicks.

Another small disappointment I had with this game is that the first half of the game throws you a lot of unnecessary busy work after each Demon God you capture. I understand most of the busywork you did after each Boss was done so that you got to know the characters of the game’s Inn but it just wasn’t done well. A lot of times you would capture a demon and have to do a seemingly unrelated quest before a character would finally grant you access to the Demon you had captured.

ImageDemon Gaze may be easier than some of the more hardcore dungeon crawlers out here, but it still ended up being such a great game in its own right. Complaining about not having anything to play on the VIta? Do yourself a favor and treat yourself to this game.

If you want Perfect Producing, stick with iDOLM@STER

Tags

, , , ,

ImageHyperdimension Neptunia: Producing Perfection is, I believe, North America’s first foray into the idol producing genre, and what a disappointing one at that.

Maybe I’m just spoiled from playing the iDOLM@STER games. Less than a month ago I picked up iDOLM@STER: One for All and was completely blown away with how streamlined that series has become over each iteration. Going from One For All to Producing Perfection really left me sour. Its not that I was expecting Producing Perfection to be on the same tier as iM@S, but I figured this would be a decent little handheld. Its not.

The gist of Producing Perfection is that the Gameindustri Goddesses have been losing appeal ever since a nefarious idol group showed up and stole their followers. In retaliation, the Goddesses summon you to produce them so you can rise their ranks as idols to put down MOB48 once and for all. You have 180 days to boost your Goddesses stats, fans, and affections.

Image

Everyday, you’re given one action to take usually boiling down to Training your character to raise your character’s stats, taking on Jobs to raise your character’s fans, resting, or preforming in a concert. Right off the bat I was pretty disappointed with how they made you raise stats. Instead of having some kind of interactive mini-game to play in order to raise stats, its just a menu selection that seemingly raises your stats arbitrarily. Because this lacks something for the player to do, its wholly unsatisfying. Your stats seem to raise randomly and theres no real way to know if today your idol will do well or poorly. It ends up feeling like you’re just grinding out a selection, not doing anything meaningful.

The concerts, the real meat of the games is even worse. Concerts are done so that you can raise your rank and gain new fans along the way. Because they’re such an integral part of an idol producing game, you’d really expect there to be some kind of gameplay. Now, I will admit I may have missed the finer intricacies of this gameplay system, but considering the game and the game’s manual tells you fuck all about what to do, this is what I believe constitutes “gamplay” : Twirling the camera around and hitting stage effect buttons at certain times during songs.

ImageIts a complete joke. Even not fully understanding how this exactly worked, I was getting the highest rating possible and never failed a song. I have no idea how you could fail a song in all honesty. Theres no challenge. Despite the whole game centering on taking down MOB48 in the rankings, you never actively  compete with them in concerts either. I’m actually a bit upset that they didn’t attempt to rip off the iM@S series outright, at least then this game might have been at least decent.

Image

The whole game feels like a missed opportunity. This will probably be North America’s first and last exposure to the idol producing genre. Its a shame too since these games can be incredibly deep and rewarding. If you are honestly interested in checking out this genre, I highly recommend Namco Bandai’s iDOLM@STER: One For All instead. If you just like Neptunia, I’d still avoid this.

Dai-3-Ji Super Robot Taisen Z Jigoku-hen

Tags

, , , , ,

Image

Some people have Marvel vs Capcom for their crossover fix ,but me? Years ago, when I discovered that there was a video game series that had the likes of GaoGaiGar, Evangelion, and Gunbuster teaming up to fight evil space invaders, it was as if I had found out one of my childhood wishes had been granted.The Super Robot Taisen series has been a series that I’ve vicariously experienced for almost a decade. I’ve bought almost  every game in the series from the Super Famicom ones now to the most recent. Its a series that I’ve loved from afar, but really never experienced fully due to the language barrier and just simple patience. As of yesterday, that’s changed. After three weeks and 48 hours of game time, I finally have one of these games under my belt. Continue reading