Thursday, October 31, 2013

First Archimpressions: Dungeon Siege 3

  Just as I expected.
 Dungeon Siege is a franchise I love. Dungeon Siege 1 is one of my favorite games of all time, with Dungeon Siege 2 coming really close. They have slight differences, while DS 2 lost a bit of it's personality by turning into a bit of a Diablo 2 clone, it was a much better game. Regardless, I love the franchise, and I was incredibly excited once DS 3 was announced. And then I learned that Obsidian, rather than Gas Powered Games was developing it, and my bubble was burst. I played the demo, and my judgement since then still remains: It's a good game, but a Dungeon Siege game in name only.
 Party members have been brought down to two, but the pay off is that it has multiplayer, local at that, and that's very awesome. The game also tries adding conversations with multiple trees and outcomes, but it's a bit meh, Voice acting is hilarious. Potions are completely gone, probably in an effort to make it console-friendly, so it's... eh. Another change is that the game got more involved, insted of the "Your character develops according to how you play it" mechanics of the previous games, each character is now set in an archetype with two different styles. It works, it's fun, but it's no Dungeon Siege. And that completely sums up the game: It works, it's fun, it's not Dungeon Siege.

First Archimpressions: Deadly Premonition: The Director's Cut

 A bit disappointing, really.
 Lemme put you in my shoes. I love Suda 51, my favorite videogame director, and this game's director has been frequently compared to him, he even has a number on his nick name! Jim Sterling gave the game a 10(The Xbox version), one of my favorite videogame critics. Add the fact that it was a X360 exclusive for so many years, I've wanted to play it since then. I knew the PS3 version had framerate issues, but, my god...
 The intro was phenomenal, equal times creepy, bizarre and interesting. But as soon as I was placed in the room with the twins, the frame rate dipped. Hard. And now, under the rain? Jesus.... Here's to hoping it won't get too much in the way, as the game seems wonderfully bizarre.

First Archimpressions: Warriors Orochi 3

 This game is amazing.

 So I've been playing these old Warriors games, and they haven't aged very well... and to go back to this one? Jesus, it's incredible. Take everything that made Dynasty Warriors 7 good, and make it better: You get Warriors Orochi 3. From the HUGE character roster, with NO clones to the tons of fanservice(the good one!) in the way of character interactions, both between universes and between characters from diferent kingdoms and time periods!
 And there are hundreds of enemies on-screen at the same time, way more than 7. While generals look just as good, the common enemies certainly took a hit in detail, but it pays off. There's no slowdown. At all. I'm calling it right now, this is gonna be my favorite Warriors game yet. Cao Pi/Ma Chao/Wang Yuanji, here we come!

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Archview #64: Fragile Dreams: Farewell, Ruins of the Moon

 This is as depressing as it gets.
 Fragile Dreams is a bit hard to fit inside a definite genre, it has some survival horror elements and some RPG elements. Basically, you could call it a Silent Hill for teens. You have your clunky controls, clumsy combat, weapons that break, the need for a flashlight and creepy enemies from survival horror games and the leveling system from RPGs. It's also got one of the most depressing stories I've played in a videogame.
 The game pits you as Seto, a kid who has lived with his grandfather for as long as he could remember, and he recently passed away. For reasons unclear at the start, humanity was wiped out, and as he is now all alone he sets out on a journey to find other humans. Alongside the way, he will have to fight enemies that range from ghosts to beasts as he explores what's left of the world. Seto will also meet a small, but very unique cast of characters compromised of robots, ghosts and maybe even humans.
 The game is set from a third person perspective, and you use the Wiimote to move around your flashlight. Movement is a bit on the stiff side, what doesn't help is that you need to get used to moving the cursor. Unlike most Wii games that use a cursor, when the you point outside the screen, instead of the cursor locking on the last position, it defaults to the center. Another point of annoyance is that the flashlight points at objects, meaning that if you want to turn left at a corner, but as the cursor gets over the wall or a box on the way, it will point at it, making Seto look at the object instead of turning. On cramped spaces with loads of objects, it becomes annoing.  Getting used to it is a must, as most enemies remain invisible to the naked eye, requiring you to aim your flashlight at them.
 Combat also has its quirks. When attacking, sometimes it's hard to tell if the enemy is in Seto's range or not, getting you to hit thin air. There are two major types of weapons: Projectile and Melee. Melee has three subtypes: Sticks(Swords, Pipes), Rods(Poles, Spears) and Hammers(Axes and, well, hammers); Rods and Hammers behave similarly, you can charge the A button for stronger attacks, while Sticks require timing in order to produce a stronger combo; while Projectile weapons have the advantage of range, at the cost of not being able to use the flashlight. You need to keep in mind that weapons break, randomly, however the game usually waits until you are out of combat before breaking it.
 Throughout the game you will come across many items, but Seto has a limited amount of space in his bag, so you will have to think carefully about what to keep and what to leave. There are also plenty of items that require appraising, which can only be done at bonfires. Speaking of Bonfires, they are the only places where you can save your game, and they completely heal you. Randomly, when staying at bonfires a merchant will come by, allowing you to buy or sell weapons. Among the items Seto comes across, there are "Memory" items, these items come in many from hats, bells, bottles and what have you, and they tell the stories of their owners on their last days. This is a sad game, and these stories, while adding depth to the game and granting backstory, they also paint a very depressing picture.
 Visually it's a mixed bag. Enviroments look fantastic, they are very distinctive between each other and they are depressingly beautiful. Everything is abandoned and worn down, while not resorting to browns and greys and having a lot of color, the first time you come across sunlight is very memorable(Although it's almost completely undermined as soon as you have to backtrack and it get's dark as soon as you enter the forest). Characters on the other hand... Seto's clothes design is so intricate that it makes no sense, while Ren's as simple and dumb as it gets. The rest of the cast, on the other hand, look much better and their personalities make them quite engaging. The monsters are also very creepy, without needing to use blood or gore to get their point across. Still, animations are very simple and a bit dated, but nothing too bad.
 Music is used sparingly, but what few pieces there are, they are haunting and solemn. The sound effects are phenomenal, monster have their distinguishing groans, cries, childish laughter... They are fantastic. Voice acting was pretty good too, even if a few of the memory items were a bit weak, and if you don't like it, the Japanese voice track is included, but the english voice overs are fine. Still, the game manages to convey a feeling of loneliness with it's visuals, audio and story, it works and it's very, very immersive.
 The game lasts a good 10-12 hours, and beating the game unlocks art galleries. There is no game plus and no difficulty settings, so after you are done with the game, there's nothing else to do. The game is not too hard, yet not a total cakewalk, I had around 2-3 deaths, but mostly due to negligence on my part.  Despite everything, I think the game is totally worth it, just don't play it on a bad day, unless you want to cry. It's that depressing.
 7 out of 10.

Archview #63: Dynasty Warriors 4

 It's way better than 2, that's for sure.
 This is like the 5th Warriors game I've covered in this blog. In this year. Which means I will be a bit vaguer on it, sue me. What matters is that this game certainly takes after Dynasty Warriors 2, it's clearly the same engine but much more polished.
 At the outset, individual Musou modes have been taken out, instead, each Kingdom has it's own Musou Mode, and you can switch characters, as long as they are part of the kingdom, whenever you want. Other factions, like Dong Zhuo's or Yuan Shao's get shorter musou modes as well. Interestingly, each kingdom has about 4 different endings, and on Shu, Wu and Wei's Musou Modes you can actually take different routes, which lead to different chapters by fulfilling certain conditions.
 Gameplay is just like Dynasty Warriors 2, which means you get the usless bow weapon, if you so choose to use it. What's new, however, is that you can equip your character with multiple items, found when killing generals or secret bonuses, that grant bonus stats! While you increase your stats by enemy drops, you do level up your character(And his weapon), that grants access to 5 extra costumes, per character. Another new feature is dueling, every now and then, an enemy general will introduce him/herself, and you can challenge them to a duel, which boils down to a 1 on 1 in a cage. As for the rest of the gameplay, it's just like DW2, you kill generals and capture enemy gates. The minimap got enhanced, now you can spot important generals as bigger, shiny red dots.
 As for other modes, you get the Free Mode, in which you can play any stage as any general, Challenge mode that has multiple activities(Like killing 100 soldiers in a certain amount of time, breaking crates, etc) and, lastly, a character creator. The character creator is pretty basic, but it's a neat addition, although he can't be used in Musou Mode.
 Visually, it's pretty decent. The draw distance is on the short side, but stages now have a lot more detail and different structures that make them visually appealing. Generals themselves sport a bigger degree of detail, and even the enemy soldiers look a bit better. The voice acting is terrible for the most part, but it's a Dynasty Warriors game, what were you expecting?. Music is still one of DW's best aspects, although the new pieces from this game are not as good as DW 2's or latter games, the ending theme, however, is a winner. And also very cheesy.
 The game can get a bit challenging, specially if you try to take low level generals on higher difficulty stages, heck, the Nanman Campaign is hard even on Easy with a high level general! There are many endings to unlock, although many are very similar between each other, and a total of 42 generals with a few clones. My issue with the combos "locking in" a certain enemy still remain, but it feels "smarter" this time, usually locking onto the generals themselves. Generals no longer get special bonuses when they drop to their feet, which was my biggest annoyance with 2, truly a godsend that makes this game much less frustrating.
 Not my favorite Warriors game by a longshot, but if you want oldschool Warriors games, this is a good choice with few annoyances, although it can get a bit long in the tooth when you realize just how many stages are repeated on every Musou Mode.
 6 out of 10

Monday, October 28, 2013

First Archimpressions: Fragile Dreams: Farewell, Ruins of the Moon

 It's pretty... different.
 The setting reminds me of Shin Megami Tensei. I just had to get that out of the way, and by the by, it's a pretty neat thing. As for the game... it's certainly aced the presentation front, it's very depressing and I totally bought it. There's a certain scene where Seto buries an AI companion, and it'd be ridiculous until you put yourself in Seto's shoes, that AI was his only companion on his journey, his very own Wilson, it makes sense and makes the scene so much more touching. Enemies are also of the creepy variety, while the dogs feel a bit generic, the first time I came across the hands on the walls, I was completely creeped out. Very awesome.
 Then there's the gameplay, and... it's passable. Movement is a bit clunky, and something I didn't like is that when the Wiimote gets out of focus, Seto defaults to the center. Games usually "lock" the cursor to where the cursor was before the Wiimote got out of range, and initially it's very off putting, but I got used to it by now. Combat is even clunkier, you have to time it, but it's a bit hard predicting weather the enemy is in range or not. Fragile Dreams also makes heavy use of the speakers on the Wiimote, and while it adds ambience, the Hide and Seek scene was very, very annoying. I easily spent around 15 minutes on that damned scene.
 So far the game gets a pass, the setting is very depressing and very fun to explore. Enemies are creepy, and the enviroments look worn out and crumbling, I love it. Basically, the game as a whole makes up for it's clunkier gameplay.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Archview #62: Resident Evil: The Mercenaries 3D

 The ultimate cashgrab?
 Resident Evil: The Mercenaries 3D is based on the Mercenaries minigame that can be found on REvil 4 and 5. Actually, it's not "based off", it's more of a remix of said unlockables. In the Mercenaries, any and all survival horror elements are forgone, Mercenaries is an action game through and through.
 First of all, there's no story nor anything, this is as arcadey as it gets. The initial missions are more of a tutorial than anything, but as soon as you get to the third "chapter", the real game starts. You must pick from one of eight characters, each one with his own unique weapon load out, and try to survive as long as possible while scoring the highest amount of points possible. Each stage has a couple of healing items, time extenders and items that grant you points as you score combo kills, ammo for your weapons is randomly dropped from enemies.
 The game plays like most modern Resident Evil games, with an over-the-shoulder point of view. Hitting the enemies on certain spots(Arms, head, knees) let's you score free, and powerful, melee blows. Melee blows have a lot of advantages, invulnerability, extra time on kill and most of them hit a wide area, plus, you conserve ammo, so using and abusing them quickly becomes the name of the game. Time is limited, so finding every time extender becomes a must, as scoring kills in quick succession as it grants bonus points. The whole point of the game is obtaining the highest amount of points possible.
 The controls work well for the most part. The touchscreen is only used to change your weapons(If you don't fancy the digital pad), but it's also used to look around your surroundings. Honestly, looking around with the touchpad doesn't work too well, so you'd better get used to the over the shoulder camera. A new feature to the resident evil games, is moving while shooting, which is done by holding L and R at the same time. It's not too handy, but it's there, just keep in mind the aim is locked.
 There are lots of unlockables, from costumes, to skills. Yes, skills, there are dozens of them, and you can equip three of them at a time. They offer passive abilities, from better healing to higher critical chances. Beating all 5 chapters unlocks the EX missions, which are way harder than the rest of the game, usually having to deal with two or more monsters with instakill attacks at the same time. Still, unless you like beating your own high scores and what not, the game won't last you that long. Disappointingly so, every stage comes from Resident Evil 4 or 5 mercenaries mode, there's not a single new stage. Also, there are no new monsters. Time extenders and Combo items are in the same places as it's console counterpart. However, stages do have different monster set ups, usually a mix of REvil 4's Ganados and REvil 5's Manjini. The only new thing found in this game is Clair Redfield, who has been missing since Code Veronica.
 Graphically, it looks fantastic, with the added bonus that even with the 3D at it's max it still looks great. The music is all recycled from the console games, and so are the sound effects. As a whole? The music is nothing special, but it fits. Besides the voice overs before each mission, there is no voice acting, at all. My biggest issue with the presentation are the menus, they are very cumbersome. For example, in order to set up skills, you have to go back to the character select screen. Picking missions are also a different screen all together, with the big "Start Mission" button being on the default menu screen. A lot of times I found myself re-starting the mission I had played, having to wait for it to load, just to get back to the menu and then go to the stage select menu, then back to the default menu to start it, pretty annoying.
 Back when it was released, one of it's selling points was the REvil: Revelation demo... and it only lasts 3-5 minutes at most, it feels pretty pointless. I also ran across a bug were an enemy would go through a wall. He got out of it by himself, but it was still bothersome. There's also an online multiplayer mode, but I didn't get to try it.
 Resident Evil: The Mercenaries 3D is a game made out of a minigame, and that should tell you all you need to know. It's functional, but a time waster at most, and it doesn't help knowing that every asset but Claire is recycled. Skills are a nice addition, but hardly make it the definitive version of any mercenaries minigame.
 5 out of 10.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Archview #61: Bakugan: Rise of the Resistance

 This game has no right being as good as it is.
 I've no idea how the battles pan out in the Bakugan series, but what I'm sure of, is that it's not in a Tower Defense-like manner. Yes, this game is a Tower Defense game with a layer of Bakugan paint, towers are Bakugan, enemies are Bakugan and your avatar is a Bakugan, except when you explore, were you play as a human.
 The story is about some robot-like entities invading the earth, and it's up to Dan and his friends to stop them. The story is very plain, very straightforward and things work out in the most convenient way. Yes, it is a kid's game, it'd be wrong to expect otherwise, but this also means that the story will not engage an older player. Not in the slightest. Luckily, the gameplay makes up for it.
 At the outset, you will play as Dan or any of the five other characters, there's not a whole lot to do while exploring. You can only interact with story-related objects, although there are coins littered about that grant you money. There are also various obstacles that need a specific character to clear, most involve just pressing the A button, so they are little more than barriers. There are also a very few amount of puzzles, but they are very easy to solve. There's also no way to get lost, as the bottom screen always tells you where to go and what you need to do.
 There are no random battles, instead, battles are initiated when the story calls for them. Before each battle you get to pick a Card, which can be found or bought with money, that grants you passive abilities(Like reducing damage to your replicator) and choose your avatar Bakugan. Each playable Bakugan has a different Trap(A special attack of sorts that requires charging a gauge before being able to use it), a different attack and a different passive ability, which range from slowing down nearby enemies to increasing the attack speed of nearby Turret Bakugan. Battles play out like normal Tower Defense games, you have to survive a certain amount of enemy waves, and to do that, you place Towers(Bakugans) alongside the roads that enemies will take to your base. There are six different Tower-Bakugan, each one with different range, Attack power and attack speed. These "towers" cost DNA, which is acquired by killing enemies, and sometimes they drop chunks of DNA which grants you even more of the currency. Each Tower-Bakugan is associated to a different character, and leveling each character up allows you to upgrade the said Tower-Bakugan during each battle. Leveling up each character also enhances their playable Bakugan, granting it more strength.
 The graphics are very minimalist, there's not a whole lot of animations and the sprites themselves are very mediocre. I suppose they look like the anime-portraits, but I wouldn't know. Environments are also very plain, not a whole lot to them. The music is nothing special, I didn't really care for it, and the sound effects are passable. There's a couple of voice clips, but very few and far in-between, makes you wonder why even add them at all(There's less than 10, probably). The game is very short, 5 hours or less, and very easy. I only lost a battle once, the last fight, but I cleared it on my second try. Finishing the game unlocks nothing, but you can replay every battle either from the main menu(Quick Battle) or going to the training Module on the ship.
 All in all, it's not a bad game. The story is really dumb and so is the exploration, but the Tower-Defense portions are actually, really fun. While hardly recommendable to older players, it's not a bad buy at 10 bucks or less.
 5 outta 10.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

First Archimpressions: Bakugan: Rise of the Resistance

 Not as bad as it should.
 I don't like Bakugan. Let me rephrase that, I've no idea what Bakugan is, besides the fact that it's obviously a marketing ploy devised to get parents to buy toys for children, who need to collect them all. Basically, this game should've been bad. But it's not. Also, it was 10 bucks, so I just had to buy it. I had to.
 This is a, surprisingly, a tower defense game, and it's not half bad. The game is fan, visually it's very unimpressive and I didn't care at all for the music, but the gameplay is solid, if predictable. So, yeah, caught me by surprise, not bad.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

First Archimpressions: Resident Evil: The Mercenaries 3D

 It's alright.
 I just finished the first two missions(1-1, 1-2, 1-3, 2-1, 2-2, 2-3), and.... it's alright. Really, I don't know what else to say, it's really nothing special. Stages seem to be ripped out almost entirely from REvil 5, and as someone that played that game, this feels a bit lazy. I'm not liking the character selection either, I've been a fan of Leon since REvil 2(And I didn't even like Revil 2), why Barry or Wesker got chosen over him baffles me.
 I also don't know how I feel about this game, it's like they ripped out the Mercenaries minigame, added some bells and whistles and called it a full game. Capcom even wanted to charge 50 bucks for it and you can't erase your savefile, which sucks. What surprises me most, is that I love arcadey games, and this one fits the bill perfectly... Ah well, maybe I'm just too tired to enjoy it.

Archview #60: Dead or Alive Dimensions

 Officially done with all 3DS fighting games, the ones that reached America anyways.
 Dead or Alive, one of the most sexually gratuitous fighting game series returns, for the first time, on a Nintendo Console. It's biggest draw is that it's basically a compilation of sorts, as it tells the story from DoA 1 to 4, without having a story of it's own. It also has every character and boss from previous entries, as well as stages that come from previous games.
 Usually I like to talk about a game's story or setting on the second paragraph, thing is... the story is really bad. The game's story mode is named Chronicle and it consists on 5 different chapters. Chapters 1 to 4 deal with each DoA game, while the 5th one is focused on Helena, who knows why. It's not like her chapter deepens the story or anything, it's just... there. While the game is touted as chronicling the stories of the games, it's only half right. It does follow the story, but from the point of view of the ninjas. You'll basically play as Kasumi, Ryu, Hayate and Ayane. Even weirder, there are some cutscenes featuring the other characters every now and then, but they seem a bit randomish and out of place, specially if you are new to the series. Even funnier, sometimes you'll have to fight various characters, with no explanation as to why or how they even got there. The story is really stupid, it makes sense though, but it's just really, really dumb. The cutscenes are also a mixed bag, every now and then, the cutscenes will stop animating, and just feature audio over the motionless characters, they don't even move their mouths!. This quickly becomes jarring and annoying, as a cutscene may go from animated to still from scene to scene.
 Besides the awful story mode, you also get Arcade Mode, in which you select from 6 courses trying to get the best time, Tag Challenge that tasks you and a CPU partner with defeating buffed up characters, Survival mode, Wireless mode and Free Versus. There's also a gallery in which you can take pictures of various "figures" that you randomly collect as you play. There are plenty of unlockables, characters, stages and costumes which is really nice.
 Gameplay is the usual DoA triangle of counters: Strikes beat throws, throws beat hold and holds beat strikes. As with most 3D fighters, instead of special moves, you have attack strings. Every attack string is displayed on the bottom screen, and by touching it you can execute it on the spot. The dynamic camera is really satisfying, it gradually zooms in as your combo gets longer, or when you execute powerful moves, it adds a lot of flavor to the game, whithout getting in the way of the player. While the game runs very smoothly, turning on the 3D has a heavy impact on the FPS, so be warned.
 This, being a Dead or Alive game, has fantastic graphics. Animation is smooth, characters are detailed and backgrounds are very pretty. Music is made up from familiar tunes, and honestly, I still like them. Sound effects are satisfying, but the voice acting is awful. I gave up on the english dub midway through chronicle mode, and while the Japanese audio isn't all that good, at least it's more tolerable. All in all, a very appealing package.
 While Tekken is still my jam, Dead or Alive Dimensions is one of the better 3DS fighting games, it's very intuitive and looks really good, instantly lowering the entry barrier from fighters like Tekken or Blazblue, and there's also plenty of stuff to unlock and do, definitely a solid choice, if you don't mind the excessive fanservice and pandering the game provides.
8 out of 10.

Friday, October 18, 2013

Archview #59: Blazblue : Continuum Shift II

 Well, it's better than Guilty Gear Advance. In some ways, anyways.
 Blazblue Continuum Shift II is the 3rd revision of the Blazblue fighting game series. Unlike most fighting games, there's a whole lot of story to Blazblue, and it ain't half bad. It's also a very fast 2-D fighting game with a lot of flash without sacrificing substance.
 The story is a bit too convoluted to go in-depth while avoiding getting mixed up in it's many unique terms, needless to say, it's a popurri of anime cliches and tropes, but for some reason, it has a huge fanbase. The story is not bad, and most characters are certainly interesting, but they are not as unique as Guilty Gears's, this time the anime roots are very easy to spot, with a disappointingly large amount of needless fanservice.
 Firstly, there are loads of Modes, the classic Versus and Training modes are present, then there's the Arcade mode, self explanatory, Score Attack in which you have to defeat Unlimited(Overpowered) version of the characters on the hardest AI setting, a pretty good Tutorial mode that teaches you the basics of the game, Challenge Mode that tasks you with performing combos with each character, Legion 1.5 that is a grid-based affair, in which you add defeated characters to your roster as you beat the stages on the grid and  Abyss which is the Survival mode, with a few perks like leveling up your stats as you go. There's another mode, easily the most time consuming, Story, in which you follow each character's story with branching paths. Be warned, there's a lot of reading involved with little to few visual aides besides the character cut-outs.
 If that wasn't enough, playing through the game scores you points that can be used in the Gallery to purchase various art pieces or unlockable colors and the Unlimited versions of each character. As for the touch screen, it's only use is to display the movelist, and frankly, it's pretty handy. As good as all of this sounds, the game suffers from slowdown, not present in the console version. Playing in 3D is even worse, as the slowdown gets heavier.
 The graphics took a heavy hit, stages are no longer tridimentional, and the sprites lack a lot of detail. While it's hardly a deal breaker, and if you aren't familiar with the console version you won't even notice, as they still look good. What doesn't look too good are the images from the gallery, if you zoom to much they get very blurry. The music is fantastic, and sounds almost as good as the console, voice acting is avaiable in both japanese and english but the quality isn't too sharp. Sound effects also sound a bit off, hits don't really sounds like hits.
 As a whole, it's functional. While there is a lot of content, the slowdown can get a bit unnerving, and the anime-influence may be hit or miss. Frankly, there are better fighting games on the 3DS, and the PSP has a superior version of this very same game, making it a hard sell.
 5 out of 10.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

First Archimpressions: Dead or Alive: Dimensions

 .... wow.

 I've been playing fighting games for my entire life, it is my favorite genre after all, but I swear to god, none as stupid as Dead or Alive: Dimensions. For starters, I've never been a fan of their fanservice-centered female cast, they are shallow characters that wear stupid clothes, trying to target various "moe" or fetishes, and the core fanbase that they have developed eat it all up. Seriously, I've been to the Gamefaqs DoA forum and it's filled with perverts discussing the most inconsequential, and sadly, most notorious fanservicey features, like the photos. I digress, why is this game so stupid? Chronicle Mode. It aims to tell the story from DoA 1 to DoA 4 I believe, but it's so bad. Dialogue is cheesy, cutscenes are cheesy, and while the story makes sense, inside it's context, it's really dumb. Characters are dumb and borderline incestuous(Kasumi towards Hayate?), the situations they are put in and how it develops is even sillier. And the cutscenes? Jesus christ, they go from CG to fully animated to... characters standing still over voice overs? There's no transition between fully animated and the "stills", and it gets jarring and annoying real fast real soon.
 Sadly, what attracts me to the series is the gameplay. DoA is a very pick-up-and-play fighter, the strings are much easier than Tekken's and the system is much friendlier than Virtua Fighter, so it's easy to get other people go play and do decently. And the gameplay is pretty spot on, which is really cool. The camera angles on the heavier hits is really satisfying, so props to it. The 3D looks very good, but at the cost of FPS, I dunno about you, but I prefer my games silky smooth, so I won't be playing much in 3D.
 I'm really tired, but before hitting the sack... why is Hayabusa such a prick? Also, slapping Kasumi? Since when did Hayabusa hit women?... Well, all the time, but this was uncalled for, it was not a fight... I think they might've ruined Hayabusa, no wonder the new DoA went in a different direction.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Archview #58: Tales of Xillia

 For a 15th year celebration, it could've been so much more.
 Tales of Xillia prides itself as the celebration of 'Tales of" 15th year anniversary game. It doesn't mean it's a crossover game, as most games in the series, it's a stand alone game, although it had a sequel in Japan that's coming over next year.
 For a series first, you have to choose a main character, Jude or Milla. Altough you can play as any character during the playthrough, the main character decides the point of view the game will take, and you will also have a couple of different events when they split up. You don't really need to play as both characters, while the compliment and flesh each other out, most stuff is conveyed to the rest of the characters when they meet up.
 The game takes place in the world of Rieze Maxia, a world where people and spirits coexist and have symbiotic relationship, where both parts help each other. As per usual, someone is trying to break the balance and abuse spirits, so Maxwell; Lord of Spirits; won't stand for that. He takes human form and decides to protect the sprits from the greedy humans, and along the way he meets up with Jude and together they set out on a journey that will take them all around the world and beyond. The story is very typical JRPG stuff, you will see most twists coming, but side-events really flesh out the world and it's characters, which is pretty cool. Speaking of characters, if you've ever played a Tales of game before, they will seem very similar. Most characters share various traits from previous games casts, so they actually feel a little samey at their most basic.
 The gameplay is, in my opinion, the best a Tales of has ever had. Combat has 4 of your characters against the various enemies. It takes place in real time, so while you take control of 1 of them, the CPU controls the other 3. The game allows you to customize how they will behave during battle, so they rarely get in the way. You can also swap any character that's battling for one the characters that are on the bench at any time during a battle. They reintroduce the CC from Graces F, but now it's called AC, although it functions roughly in the same way. The AC gauge is what limits the amount of stuff you can pull off before you character stops attacking, and unlike Graces' CC, it fully recharges a second after you stop attacking. By pressing the X button mixed with different direction on the analog stick, you perform normal attacks that only consume AC. The Circle button performs your Artes, which double as special attacks and spells depending on the character, and consume both AC and TP, which is basically mana. Characters usually have a big pool of artes, so you can have to set them up on 'Circle+Up', 'Circle+sides', 'Circle+down' and 'Circle' shortcuts, although you can change them at any time, even during combat. The newest addition to the combat is Linking. You can link with any of the 3 other companions that are on the battlefield at any time, and linking produces many benefits, among them, sharing the TP cost of artes between both parts. Each Link partner also has his or her own special gimmick, Alvin, for example, breaks the guards of guarding enemies. Linking also allows you to mix Artes between characters for even stronger attacks, and is the only way to enter Overlimit mode, which grants you infinite AC for a short while.
 While not battling, you'll be exploring the many towns of Rieze Maxia. Just like Graces, there's no overworld, instead, every town and dungeon are connected either by boat or by road, and pretty early in the game you unlock "Free travel", that allows you to warp to any previously visited location on the fly. Roads tend to be very wide areas filled with enemies, touching one gets you into combat, so you can avoid them at will. While it's very colorful, areas also filled very barren, with very few distinguishing landmarks, and feel more like arenas filled with monsters. Dungeons are very linear, with few puzzles, and while not necessarily a bad thing, the final and the secret dungeons where quite a disappointment, when compared to previous Tales of games, definitely showing how rushed the game was. Towns don't fare much better, while they are beautiful to look at, they are a bit on the small side. The worst offenders are the seahavens, they all look exactly the same, even though it's fairly obvious that it was meant to fit the town of Leronde.
 One thing that did not sit well with me was the shops. Instead of each shop having it's own shops, there's a "Expand" system in place. Y'see, throughout the land you will find shiny dots that conceal materials. Monsters also drop materials. While in Graces you could either sell them or use them to craft stronger weapons or items, here they can only be sold or donated. You donate materials to the shops in order to expand their inventory. One of the things I love the most in RPGs, is when discovering new towns, to go straight to the shops for new equipment that's only available there, that feeling? It's now gone, as every shop is the same, regardless of where you are. This also makes it very easy to break the game. The game is quite easy on it's Normal difficulty, and soon enough you'll be able to tackle high level monsters. It won't be easy, but one of the earliest towns has a road to a high level area. This area also has high-level materials, so you can overlevel both you characters and the shops.
 Titles, which are usually a bit important on Tales of games, have also been changed up. Each character doesn't have titles, instead, they behave more as achievements, and they take the place of "Grade", which is used to buy benefits for your New Game+. Leveling up is also a bit different, when you level up, instead of gaining preset stat increases, you get points to spend in the "Lillium Orb". Each character has basically the same Orb, and there you can choose which stats to increase, filling certain slots also gets you new Artes or passive skills. Last gameplay-related thing worth mentioning is that you can now move the camera anytime, anywhere, and it feels good.
 Visually, it's a very colorful game, and it has some grandiose vistas, sadly, most of them are merely backgrounds, as hidden walls limit where you can and can't go. The game also relies on the classic stock animations, you know, for example Jude has a "thinking" pose whenever he is supposed to be thinking. While it is reminiscent of classic RPGs, it also feels a teeny bit lazy. Less forgivable is the amount of pop-up present in towns, sometimes you'll just see people pop up a couple of seconds after it finished loading. There is also quite a bit of slowdown on certain battles. Music is really good, and the voice acting was phenomenal. While some people seem to dislike Milla's voice, I felt she was fine, not the strongest performance, but not bad.
 Tales of Xillia is not a bad game. But it was very rushed and it shows, even in it's length, being shorter than your typical Tales of game. And as many shortcomings as it has, it also has, in my opinion, the best battle system Tales has ever had, and that's gotta be worth something. Right?
 7 out of 10.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Tales of Xillia... part 2

 Just finished the Colosseum and the extra dungeon...
 Colosseum? No cameo battle. Every Tales of mothership title has had a Colosseum, and they always put a cameo battle with heroes from other games of the series.... Not this time, a bit disappointing, seems it's a trend in the game?
 And after clearing the extra dungeon, the problem with the game became clear: They run out of money. The whole entirety of the extra dungeon is made up of towns, dungeons or landscapes you previously visited. They use the excuse that it's based on the heroes' thoughts, but that's just an excuse.
 The game was also pretty short, for a Tales of game, I clocked 45 hours and I did everything that could be done. Arguably, being the first game with two protagonists, playing the game as Milla does have it's exclusive scenes, but I really doubt it's over two hours of exclusive content.
 The Archview is coming tomorrow, or rather, later today when I wake up. While I liked the combat system more than Graces, the rest of the game wasn't as fulfilling. The cast of characters is too typical of a Tales game, and since I had played Graces before, it was a bit... reiterative. Casts of heroes between Tales games usually share a lot of similarities, which makes them feel a bit samey. There's always a Traitor, there's always a kid. there's always an older party member, most of the time you get the main character's best friend and when you don't, he usually gets close to another male member, not the oldest one. There's always two worlds or realms too.... My point is, it's easy to know what to expect of a Tales game, so it's probably a good idea not to play two of them in such a short time span.... ah well.

Tales of Xillia....

 That last boss... That last dungeon...
 What a disappointment.
 "Tales of", at least the mothership titles, tend to have long and complicated last dungeons.... Tales of Xillia didn't. It was as simple, straight-forward and short as it gets. And to top it all off? The last boss was such a letdown. Gaius simply powered up, and you had to beat them... Kinda reminiscent of Richter from Tales of Symphonia: Dawn of the New World, and we all know how I feel about that one(Spoilers: I hate it. At least for the initial 30-40 hours).
 The ending was satisfying though, however, that last stretch felt so... so... rushed maybe? Looking back, dungeons did were on the simpler side, but still... Ah well, I'm gonna tackle the secret dungeon, maybe this one picks up the slack...

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Archview #57: Super Street Fighter IV: 3D Edition

 Portables have come a long way....
 My first portable system was a Gameboy Color, and ever since I've been very fond of portable gaming, probably having a lot to do with me liking 2D games. Regardless, back then we got portable games that shared the name of a console game, but were nothing alike. Turok 2, for example, was a great FPS on the N64, yet it was an action-adventure side-scroller on the Gameboy Color. By the time the Gameboy Advance rolled in, the trend was still going on. One of my favorite GBA games is Street Fighter Alpha 3: Upper. A lot of sacrifices had to be made, it only had 4 buttons for example, but I liked the end product. Where am I going with all this? Super Street Fighter IV: 3D Edition is as faithful as it gets.
 As with Street Fighter IV, I won't describe the whole game, but I will mention what makes this port so good without delving into the finer linings of it's mechanics. For starters, keep in mind that this is chocolate SFIV, just the first update. This is before Arcade Edition(No Yun, Yang, Oni or Evil Ryu) and therefore, before Arcade Edition 2012, and with Ultra Street Fighter IV on the horizon, this is a very outdated version of the game.
 Every mode, Arcade, Versus, Training, Online(With less features though), Challenge, Car destruction and Barrel destruction made it in. The challenges where simplified, which makes sense since the 3DS is not the best tool when it comes to fighting games. There's also a new figure collecting mode, where you use points earned through normal gameplay on Slots. These figures are also part of the Spot Pass features, which I totally couldn't use(Welcome to my world), so I can't comment too much on them. There's a new optional camera angle that makes the most of the 3D features, but it's just a novelty. The game is also as complete as it gets, it has every cutscene, ending, intro and rival movies intact, plus, every character gets every costume that was available at the time(1 for the newcomers, 2 for the vanilla cast). However, one thing that it's missing is the dual audio option, you only get English dubs and that's it, it's not too bad, but voices aren't synched to the models, so it might look a bit odd.
 The first time I launched the game, it felt slower or something. I couldn't quite put my finger on it, but the movement fell odd. Turns out you can't run the game at 60 FPS unless you completely turn off the 3D option at the main menu. While the 3D is alright and is one feature the console version doesn't have, I'd rather have the game at 60 FPS. Graphically, the stages were the most affected. There's no animations whatsoever, crowds are static, which at first is a bit off-putting, but it wears off pretty soon. A lot of background objects are now flat, it hardly affects gameplay, but it's easy to notice when the camera moves around during intros and winposes, hardly a dealbreaker. Models, however, look fantastic, while there's a lot of clipping through clothes(Figure the 3DS can't handle their phyrics), it's not too bad, as the models themselves look very detailed.
 The 3DS was not made for fighters. The game tries to remedy that by offering four shortcuts on the bottom screen. It actually works pretty well, and offers some advantages to charge characters, as it means not having to charge that Sonic Boom. Keep in mind that you will have to set up the controls for every character indivually, which is annoying when you want Hard Punch to be R and Roundhouse to be L. There's 35 characters after all.
 As a whole, it's a fantastic package. They even managed to fit trophies/achievements in, and while they are even more useless than their console counterparts, they are still here. While I prefer Tekken's gameplay, as a package, there's no going wrong with Super Street Fighter IV: 3D Edition, you get an almost console-perfect port, whose only real fault is the graphics, on the go.
 9 out of 10.

First Archimpressions: Blazblue: Continuum Shift II

 Not as bad as they say, not as good as it could...

 I've always been a fan of Guilty Gear, and while Blazblue never clicked with me as GG did, I could still appreciate it for what it was. Well, I had a blast with Guilty Gear X on the Gameboy Advance, a port a lot of people like to put on blast. Not me. I loved the hell out of that game, as gimped as it was. Where am I going? Once again I am presented with a gimped port of an Arksys fighter... and once again, I like it.
 Sure, the graphics are much simpler. The sound is really bad(Remember how GGX Advance sounded like a Gameboy Color game?). There's quite a bit of slowdown too... yet I can still see myself having fun on the long run with this game. What little I played, I like, mostly due to how good Blazblue is in itself. The simpler sprites are also kinda charming, although the slowdown is not welcome at all. The sound effects are hilariously bad, punches sound like whiffed hits.
 So yeah, that's it. Don't wanna give too much away before the Archview, heh. Speaking of Archviews, I finished SSFIV:3DE, so I will probably write it after I wake up. I never wrote part 2 of my  First Impressions on Tales of Xillia, but all that needs to be said is that it's a pretty good game, and I'm liking the combat a tiny bit more than Graces. And that means a lot.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

First Archimpressions part 1: Tales of Xillia

 I've put less than an hour in the game, hey time constraints, so I didn't get to battle, hence part 1. So very very very first impressions? It feels like Graces, but better, and that's a really good thing. For starters, you can move the camera, and it feels good, actually, it's a bit loose, but I didn't mind too much. Movement also feels similar to Graces, and so does costume/accessory switching. I didn't check if titles worked the same, but I'm betting yes.
 Visually it's... it's not all that better than Graces. Characters have individual fingers now, which is cool. Still, something about the models rub me the wrong way, maybe their emotionless faces and their realistic looking hands coming from simpler arms? I dunno. Music.... I only heard one track, but it sounded really nice, and very different from Graces. Graces musical pieces felt like previous Tales games I've played, so this sounding different is pretty nice. Voice acting so far is... decent, there hasn't been a whole lot of situations or voiced scenes, but they've been alright. I wasn't too fond of Milla's voice, but I heard very little of her.
 I dunno, I wanna play more, I'll try to sneak some Xillia during the month.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Month Overview: Game of September

 Games completed in September:
 Street Fighter IV                                     7
 Zone of the Enders HD Collection          10
 Dragon Ball Budokai HD Collection        7
 Tales of Graces F                                    8
 Dynasty Warriors 2                                 4
 Forever Kingdom                                    5
 Genji: Days of the Blade                          5

 Eh... Well, at least I got to revisit Zone of the Enders 2 and remind myself why I loved it so much. Genji 2 wasn't really a letdown since I knew how mediocre it was. Forever Kingdom on the other hand.... I knew Evergrace wasn't too good, since I had played it, but for some reason I expected something really good out of FK(In the coffee?). Dynasty Warriors 2 was also awful, I loved it as a 11 year old boy, but after playing the newer installments, there's no going back. Ever.

 Game of the Month:
 I could've gone with ZoE 2, I could. But I knew that game, as good as it was, I was already familiar with it. Tales of Graces  however, was something completely new. I spent over 60 hours on this little game, and grew closer to it's cast of characters. Hubert interested me the most, and after Richard became playable, all the skits became hilariously good. The Mask of Barona, need I say more? The gameplay was pretty good too, I wasn't too fond of the CC, but it wasn't bad, simply not my cup of tea.

 I played ZoE 2 three times from beginning to end. And I loved every second of each. That's how good ZoE 2 is, that's how well it has aged. Since this is the HD Collection, you also get ZoE 1, which isn't even half as good as 2, but it's there, so why complain? I don't know how bad it was before the patch, but after the patch it was as good as it needed to be.