Monday, March 31, 2014

Month Overview: March

Games completed in March:
 Little Big Planet(PSP)                                                                                       5.0
 Mimana: Iyar Chronicle                                                                                     3.0
 Shinobi                                                                                                             8.0
 Kirby's Return to Dreamland                                                                             7.0
 Tales of VS                                                                                                      6.5
 Dissidia 012: Final Fantasy                                                                                9.0
 Tales of Destiny II                                                                                             7.5
 Mobile Suit Gundam Extreme VS - Full Boost                                                   9.5

Overview:
 College has started, which means less gaming time, yay? Let's see, I played three PSP games this month, and logged about 60 hours in Dissidia, and still not done with all the post-game! Gundam Extreme VS Full Boost, a game I've been anticipating for about 2 years, I kid you not, I'd visit the GameFaqs boards and the community boards for this game every single day just for any news regarding new units for Full Boost or a Console port. And hey, I'm doing the same for Maxi Boost now!

Game of March:
 Was there any surprise? I've been in love with the series ever since Federation VS Zeon, it's like these games are tailor-made for me! What else can I say? If it only had a more robust single player offering, I could've easily given it a 10, y'see, while it is a better game than vanilla Extreme VS in almost every single way, comparing the previous' Mission Mode against this one and seeing just how lazy the DLC units are when, once again, compared to vanilla's DLC, kinda makes you wonder if they couldn't have done more? They also took their sweet time porting it, and the Online pass is bullsh!t... But as annoying as those things are, the core game is just so darn fantastic!

Runner-up:
 Not gonna lie, I knew Dissidia was gonna be great. Some things did take me by surprise, and I'm not totally OK with having to equip my characters with stuff in order to keep up with the opposition, but after I put my "I WANT A TRADITIONAL FIGHTER, WITH DEFINED MOVESETS AND SKILL DOING ALL THE TALK" behind, I could enjoy the game. The fact that I logged over 60 hours in about 15 days is proof to that.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Review #106: Mobile Suit Gundam Extreme VS - Full Boost

 "Kamille's a man's name, and I'm a man!"
  Finally, after two years of waiting, the sequel to one of my favorite games of the last generation arrived(And the sequel to this sequel got announced at the same time the PS3 port was announced, fun!). The sequel boasts tweaks to the 60+ returning cast, over 30 new mobile suits(20 if you bought the DLC from the previous game) for a total of 97(Not counting DLC), and a revamped system, but does it completely over shadow its prequel?

 Extreme VS is an Arcade Game through and through, there's no real story to it, but it doesn't need one, and it's the kind of game that you can just pick up and play, even though mastering its nuances, like properly managing your boost gauge to make the most out of your movement will take a while. The game boils down to a two on two arena fighting game, though that's selling it a bit short. There's a 6000 point gauge for each team, and you pick from 90+ units with different costs(1000, 2000, 2500 and 3000), where dying deducts from the 6000 point gauge, your objective? Drop your opponent's gauge to 0.
 You get four buttons: Boost(Used to jump or dash), Beam Rifle/Projectile, Beam Saber/Melee and change lock on. The change lock on button changes who your target is. The other three are pretty self explanatory, but certain mobile suits have up to three other sub weapon gauges(Sometimes there are more than one sub weapon for a single gauge) that are used by mixing either of the other three buttons, and sometimes they get different moves that need charging either the Projectile or Melee button. Most weapons have ammo counts that recharge either by swapping the weapons cartridge, through time or only start recharging after the ammo counts goes to 0. Boost also has its own Gauge, so you have to be mindful not to enter "overheat", which means breaking to a stop wherever you are, and having to wait about a second for the gauge to fully recharge. Resource management is the name of the game. There's a secondary Gauge, the Burst gauge, that increases as you take and deal damage, you can either pull a Half Burst, when the gauge is at 50%, or a Full Burst when it's at 100% that lasts longer and gives better bonuses(Plus, can be activated while taking damage), by pressing the three buttons at the same time. The previous game had  a single Burst Mode, but now you get to choose Assault Burst or Blast Burst, the former favoring rush-in units, while the latter helps units that prefer to fight at a distance.

 Arcade Mode got completely revamped, while it plays just like vanilla Extreme VS did, all routes are different now. There are five routes with 8 stages each, plus, alternate, harder unlockable EX stages. Arcade Mode can be played in Single Player or Multiplayer, both on-line and off-line. Off-line means split screen, which tends to have some framerate issues, not as bad as the previous game though! I also experienced a couple of instances of slowdown in Single Player, but these cases were very rare, and only when a lot of stuff was going on at the same time. Mission Mode also makes a return, but it's a shadow of its former self...
 In vanilla Extreme VS, Mission Mode gave you around 300 different missions to be played in Single Player. Out of the box, now you get 45 missions, but they've been unlocking some every now and then, and we are up to 65 at the moment. These missions tend to be much shorter than the ones before, and they tried to overcompensate the lack of missions by forcing you to play them on four different difficulty settings. Forcing? You see, in Mission Mode you can level up your mobile suit of choice, thing is, there is a level cap unless you unlock its figure, and these are unlocked by playing a certain mission at a certain difficulty(Luckily the game tells you what the price is for each difficulty setting). Another thing you have to unlock are the skills themselves, which are the stats that you can level up. So you'll be playing and replaying each missions for a while, not cool. A small, and probably worthless, bonus, is that using specific mobile suits on specific missions(If you are familiar with Gundam, you'll probably notice on your own which unit to use), which toggles special dialogue between your pilot and the enemy pilot!

 So yeah, the lack of missions is a problem, know what else is? On-line Pass. The developers gave some very lame excuses, but the thing is, in order to access any on-line mode, you need an on-line pass. Mission Mode has exclusive missions for On-line play, and know what's hilarious? You can play these with a CPU partner, but you still need to go on-line to do so, with an on-line pass. And you have to do these missions in order to unlock every upgradeable skill in Mission Mode! Very, very cheap. Another change for the worst, in the previous game you could earn upgrade points with any unit, and they went into a pool that could be spent on anyone. Now each unit earns points towards themselves, want to upgrade your partner's suit? Too bad, you have to play as it in order to earn points for it. Arcade mode? As good as before. Mission Mode? Terrible, when compared to the last game's. On-line Mode? Got better, a ton of new bells and whistles, and you can play every mode on-line now, but Off-line mode got the short end of the stick by a long shot.
 Visually, it's the same game as before, it's a very flashy and colorful game, even if some of the special effects could've been better. It's no graphical marvel, that's for sure, but it allows the game to maintain an steady pace, so I'd say it's worth it. Music... is a somewhat different selection from before, but it's overall pretty good, and no, the Premium G sound edition isn't worth it, it doesn't really add songs as much as replace the other ones. Plus, they are accessible from the disc, it's just a piece of paper with a code! As for the voice acting, every voice actor reprises their role from the anime series, pretty cool.

 As lacking as the Single Player offerings are, I'd say the game is still worth it over vanilla EX anyways. I loved playing with the newly rebalanced units, some even got new moves! The game mechanics also got a bit of an overhaul, the game does feel different. And I had fun playing with the new units, I have a new favorite! The game's focus was never Single Player Mode, not that it's an excuse for such a shallow Mission Mode when the last game's was so robust, but Mission Mode was never the go-to mode for this game and never will be.
 9.5 out of 10.

Friday, March 28, 2014

Gundam Extreme VS Full Boost Impressions Final(12) Part!

Mobile Suit Gundam: Hathaway's Flash

NEW Xi Gundam
 Has a Gerobi beam, Rockets that track(They basically work just like funnels, they track, stop on a stop and then fall down on the enemy). The tracking on the normal Beam Rifle is pretty weak, but two missiles go out whenever you shoot! Lastly, it has a sub weapon that enhances its dash. Alright unit, I don't see myself playing it again though!

Gundam Seed Astray

Gundam Astray Red Frame
  It has more HP, and received a fair amount of tweaks, and a couple of new moves, including one where he throws a giant Katana while in Burst Mode!. It has a very low amount of tools, but it is a close range specialist, plus, Burst Mode turns it into Powered Mode. I love playing as this one, even if I don't find it very useful.

Gundam Astray Blue Frame 2nd L
 It has 20 more HP, just like Red Frame, and a couple of small buffs here and there. Its basic melee consists of it attacking with it knives, very low range, but it can actually use its massive sword to deal loads of damage, at the cost of it having a very slow start up. It's actually pretty fun to use, after you get the hang of it!

NEW Gundam Astray Gold Frame Amatsu
 Looks impossibly badass! It has an invisible dash(Pressing Shoot makes it jump and you can then follow up with a melee combo). It can also sap HP(20-30 HP), which is pretty cool. It has an Stun Shot an a Stun Cable, but all of its ranged tools are pretty weak. Still, I had fun using it, and it looks so badass.

Gundam EXA

Gundam Extreme Type-Leos General:
 All Extreme versions share these traits: Firstly, they start in the very weak Phase 1, it's the same for all units, same weak beam gun, same beam saber combos and a AoE stun. Even though they have 500+ HP, their tools and damage output is like a 1000 cost unit. Over time a gauge increases, can be hastened by dealing or receiving damage, once it reaches 100, it enters Phase 2. Phase 3 works similarly, however, the "evolution" doesn't happen naturally, you have to activate it. Phase 2 and Phase 3 tend to be very similar, but there are subtle differences, so you may not want to go to Phase 3, Phase 3 does behave like a 3000 unit, all of them have loads of tools and very high damage output. Respawning sets you back to Phase 2 and the Gauge at 0. Lastly, all Extreme versions share the same burst Attack, not cool.

NEW Eclipse Phase
 As soon as it enters Phase 2, it loses all melee attacks, but gains missiles and dual beam rifles. Phase 3 grants it a huge Gerobi beam, a exploding ball of energy that stuns, and improved beam rifles and rockets. It also has a 1 time use Gerobi beam to the ground that produces a Nuke, just like one of the Boss' Phases.

NEW Xenon Phase
 Phase 2 turns the Beam gun into a projectile energy ball, 1 ammo, but reloads really fast, and can also be charged for a bigger, faster version. It gains stronger melee combos with a giant beam saber! Phase 3's energy balls gets bigger and stronger, but it takes longer to reload. Charging it produces a shockwave attack, like one of the Boss' Phases. Melee combos get longer, and trades the beam saber(Actually, it uses it on one or two of its strings) for fists and kicks, and an energy cloth just like Master Gundam's. It gets a new very amusing projectile where it throws and energy ball to the sky, which then shoots little energy pellets towards your target! It also gets a Beam sword sweep or stab, depending the direction you are holding.

NEW Aios Phase
 Eclipse Phase was a long range unit, and Xenon Phase was a melee unit, Aios is in-between. Phase 2 and 3 have, basically, the same moveset, but Phase 3's is better. For example, Phase 2 can shoot its funnels toward the opponent, Phase 3 can do it as well, or just place them behind it, so that they shoot when it shoots. Phase 2 gets two rounds of a rather small Gerobi beam, while Phase 3's only has 1 ammo, but it's much bigger. Lastly, Phase 3 gets to shoot "funnel barriers", like the Boss, or throw a spinning beam saber. Probably the one I liked the most!

DLCs

NEW(?) Lacus' Infinite Justice
 The perfect example of why Full Boost's DLC sucks(Or is actually good, since players don't buy "power", as in, those that can't afford them, or just don't want to, don't need to try them out to be competitive?), Lacus' Infinite Justice is exactly like Arthrun's, minus the Assist Call that was switched to Kira and the burst attack that summons Kira as well, but at a 1000 cost. This also means that it's much slower and weaker, and has less ammo. This one is a waste of a slot, at least it's free, but I still don't recommend getting it.

NEW Johnny Ridden's Zaku 2 Kai
 This one was being touted as a clone... it's not! It plays completely different from the other Zaku 2s, and is actually fun to use! It has grenades, like Bernie's Zaku 2, but he throws three at a time, and they explode as soon as they touch the ground. It has few tools, but the damage output is very high!

NEW Gundam Sentinel
 Eh, I didn't care much about this one, but it was highly requested! The only mobile suit in the game without a pilot or a voice, the devs made a bit of a big deal about it, but it isn't, though they shouldn't have placed a black outline for a pilot, it looks silly!. It's certainly a... different type of unit, that belongs at long range. Its melee is very slow and weak, although it has a hilarious grab that has it headbutting the opponent. Its overall mobility is also fairly low, although it has a Mobile Armor Mode. I don't know, I didn't like it too much, has a couple of tools that behave like the Rozen Zulu's, another unit I didn't care much for.

Gundam Extreme VS Full Boost Impressions part 11

Hildolfr
 It got a fair bit of changes on how the guns work on Tank Mode, plus, a new weapon on it. As a whole, it received a ton of nerfs everywhere. I don't really like it too much, movement is awkward, and it's kinda hard to use.

Mobile Suit Gundam Crossbone

Crossbone Gundam X-1
 Received a ton of little buffs. X-1 is a really fun unit to use, it has a badass one-time mantle(Cloth) that can shield for up to 120 in beam damage, and some pretty kick ass melee tools. It works pretty well at mid range to close-range.

Crossbone Gundam X-2
 Bumped down to 2000(Booo!), which also means the corresponding nerfs to its overall output. Just like X-1, it has a badass cloth that protects from beams, only 100 damage, but it can be taken on and off at will, plus, it regenerates after it breaks! The way it takes it off is really badass. It got a couple of buffs to the reloading of its subweapons. It's a pretty decent suit, not as fun to use as X-1, and no noteworthy melee tools, but it has plenty of mid range and long range projectiles, including a pretty decent Gerobi.

Crossbone Gundam X-1 Full Cloth
 Full Cloth was, in my opinion, the best Mobile Suit in Vanilla Extreme VS, it was really friggin' good, had a cloth beam-shield, and could buff, temporarily both its melee and or its beam crossbow. It received a couple of nerfs, noticeably, lower health, and if under cost-over, the Cloth doesn't respawn. Bummer, still real good.

NEW Crossbone Gundam X-3
 Finally we got the last, but certainly not best, Crossbone Gundam! X-3 is a pretty good all-around unit, unlike its brethen, it doesn't wear a cloth, but it has some pretty hilarious moves. It can throw burning logs of wood, it also throws some type of Mobile Armor after spinning by its tail. Finally, it has the same temprorary buff to its melee that X-3 has, and a one time nuke shot. I like it!

Mobile Suit Gundam SideStory: Blue Destiny

NEW Efreet Kai
 Eh, it's... different. For starters, very little ammo on its two projectile weapons, every shot must count! It's pretty fast for a 1000 unit, and it has a System subweapon that grants it a swift dodge towards the opponent. Its melee is pretty decent, as it should be, since it has so little ammo.

NEW Blue Destiny
 Eh, it feels a tad weak for a 2000 unit. It has a decent variety of tools in its movesets, from missiles that allow from set upping, to a jump-slide type move. Its melee, however, is incredibly weak and slow... until you enter Burst, where it suddenly gets a completely different, and way stronger, melee moveset.

Mobile Suit Gundam: Beltorchika's Children

Hi-Nu Gundam
 Even though this one always scores lower on Tier Lists than Nu Gundam, I've always preferred it much more. Why? The Funnels can be placed behind Hi-Nu, so that they shoot when it shoots, instead of just being able to send them towards the target. It received a couple of adjustments, but it feels just like it used to.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Archile's Grab Bag: Grey skies edition

 Sure looks like it's gonna rain today, dang it!
  Bravely Default: Often referred as the true successor to the Final Fantasy series, I've been keeping an eye out on it, and the demo was fantastic. Oh, and the how censorship debacle? It's ridiculous how people would complain when it's merely cosmetic, and simply desexualizes some very stupid looking costumes, it makes the girls look better, and it's not like they removed content, geez.
  Aquapazza: My quest to own all fighting game continues, scratch another one off the list.
  Street Fighter Alpha 3 MAX: Street Fighter 3 is my favorite Street Fighter series, but very close second is the Alpha series, with Alpha 3 on top. I understand mos people prefer 2, due to balancing issues, but I love the huge amount of characters and the variety of modes you can use each character with.
  Orphen - Scion of Sorcery: Since I've been getting reacquainted with the anime series, might as well do so with the game as well. I remember it being terrible, a terrible, terrible RPG, but the series is quite good(So far, Nostalgia don't fail me) so maybe I can tolerate it. Hopefully.
  Dungeon Explorer: Back when the DS was my main system of choice, Dungeon Explorer quickly became my favorite game on the System back when it was released, I would play it and replay it many times over and with multiple classes, yet, whenever I saw videos of the PSP version, it just looked so much better. Looks can be deceiving, true, but I just need to give this one a whirl!
 Patapon/Loco Roco Dual Pack: I don't have much to say about these, it was a cheap package, and it included some fairly unique games.

Gundam Extreme VS Full Boost Impressions part 10

Zaku II Kai
 Poor Zaku II got a couple of nerfs to how the grenades work, the damage they deal, and the fact that they only start reloading after you go out of ammo, but then again, Zaku II Kai was, probably, the best 1000 unit in Vanilla. This is a great mid-close range 1000 unit with a hilarious Santa decoy.

Mobile Suit Gundam 0083: Stardust Memory

GP 01 Zephyrantes Full Vernian
 It got minor buffs to its mobility and its charge weapons, plus a new subweapon. It works best at close-mid range. I don't know, it's a very straightforward and plain unit, I don't like it too much, although the Izuna drop is pretty cool.

GP 02 Physalis
 It's now a 2500, with the appropriate buffs, more Hp, faster(It's still a very slow unit!) and a longer red lock on target. It works fine at close range and long range, but his start-up on his stronger long range weapons is probably a bit too long for mid range. It's alright.

NEW GP03 Dendrobium Stamen
 This unit has tools to work at any range, and what's more, it has a fairly unique moveset, plus, it looks like a total badass when it holds both cannons on its arms. I loved playing as this one!

NEW Gerbera Tetra
 Fantastic mid-range unit that is very fun to use(Maybe it's not that good, but I enjoyed using it). Has two machine-gun tools that work pretty well and a one time timed mobility boost.

The 08th MS Team

EZ-8 Gundam
 Many buffs, including to its health. It has two modes, a Cannon for mid-range combat and a more balanced beam rifle/machine gun set-up, none are timed and can be switched at will. I guess it's a bit fun to use.

Gouf Custom
 Got a couple of tweaks here and there. It has to be said, zipping up and down with the cable is so much fun(Even thought boost doesn't regenerate while you use it anymore), and the melee combos look pretty badass. Speaking of Badass, it can use a piece of broken bridge as a projectile weapon. Lastly, it has a 50 Ammo minigun, and once it's used up, it starts using a 10 ammo(that reloads) mini minigun.

BONUS

MS Igloo

Zuda
 Received a ton of tweaks, both buffs and nerfs, to how its weapons operate. IT has plenty of tools, they are weak, but he has plenty of them. Its gimmick is that it can use a Kamikaze attack, but I don't like this one too much, there are just so many better and deadlier 1000 units...

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Now Playing: Shadow Madness

 I used to play this one early in the mornings, back when I was younger.
 Well, the first thing I noticed? This game looks awful. I mean, it was never a good looking game, but man, has it aged badly. The next thing that happens, is that the game thrusts you into combat and... man, is this needlessly complicated! As you go through menus, the enemies will pound you into the floor, since it takes place in real time! Who came up with this?!

 It's not all bad, the music is fairly good, and the writing is pretty sharp(Sounds like I'm quoting the back of the box, but I swear the writing is pretty fun, there are some very witty lines and exchanges).

 I've gone through the second boss(Counting Red Tom, who I think I wasn't supposed to be able to beat so early(I'm playing on Normal difficulty), since it could one shot Dart when it did its strongest move, but by spamming reviving items, using the Twitch attack and the summoning magic, I persevered and got some pretty strong armor. Then I beat Rockra, who guarded the road to Karillion and... saved right outside its doors. I'm having more fun than I was expecting!

Review #105: Tales of Destiny II

 It's Tales of Eternia in Japan, just saying.
 Tales of Destiny II was the second Tales of game to be released on the original Playstation, it was also named "Tales of Eternia" in Japan, but I guess since the Tales of franchise didn't have a solid foundation(Tales of Phantasia hadn't left Japan), they decided to make it look like a direct sequel. Like the other Tales of games, while it looks like an average JRPG, random encounters and all, battles take place in real time, on a 2-D plane, it is their staple after all!

 The story puts you in the role of Reid, a young man that wants nothing but to eat good meals and live a lazy, stress free life. His friend, Farah, is a do-gooder, who ropes him into aiding Meredy, a mysterious waif that comes from Celestia, a planet kept separated from Inferia by a barrier of sorts. Something I quite liked about this game, were the characters, both the main characters and the secondary cast, and the situations characters were placed in. For a Tales of game, it has a pretty fresh cast of characters, Reid, the hero, is anything but heroical(At least for most of the game), or Keele, a childhood friend, is pretty obnoxious even if he doesn't realize it. As for the troubles the characters get in, while none are too shocking, there are a couple of surprises.
 The game plays just like any other JRPG, you go from town to dungeon to town to dungeon ad nauseam. When outside towns, while walking around you may topple into a random encounter, these battles are played out in real time, you take control of one character and the CPU takes care of the other three. You can customize their behavior somewhat by tweaking some parameters or setting guidelines, but you can tell them to use an item or a spell at any time. As for the character you play as, you get normal attacks on the X button, and you can set Artes(Skills or spells) to the circle button plus a directional input. A unique gimmick on this particular game is Fringing, as you go through the game you'll gain the aid of Greater Craymels, and you can set them to either Keele or Meredy's Craymel Cage. Depending on how you arrange the Craymels, means who gets which spells, it's not exactly rocket science, but it does lend itself to experimentation.

 While combat is very fast paced and fun, I had some troubles early on in the game. Turns out you don't get a real healer until much later in the game, which made certain boss battles very hard. This is one of those RPGs in which hoarding items doesn't work, you are going to have to use them to heal up during battles. Cooking, which is done by buying ingredients, and can be done once after each battle, is another must during the early stages of the game. The game then gets another difficulty spike during the first half of the second disc, with enemies that just refuse to flinch, but after you get through the second hump, the difficulty remains there, more or less.
 There's plenty to do in Destiny II, from finding all the Wonder Chefs in each town, to a ton of sidequests and optional scenes that you just might need some kind of guide to find them all. There are also a handful of Hideouts to track, once you get the GPS, filled with hidden goodies. All in all, it lasts more than 30 hours, and beating the game earns you New Game+, that houses a new dungeon(You can also trick the game into thinking that you are in New Game+ by reloading your pre-last boss savefile after finishing the game and saving the Data on another slot...).

 The presentation is the most lackluster aspect of the game. Sprites, both on the main characters and on the enemies, should've used a couple more frames, animation just isn't too good. And the color palette that the game employs gives the game a somewhat washed out look. Music isn't particularly good, but I expected a bit more from a Tales of game, and the voice acting is terrible, these were the early days of Voice Acting in videogames after all!

 All in all? It's a fairly good game, it does have two annoying difficulty spikes, and it might not look too good, but the overall game is very entertaining, with lots to do and find. The cast of characters is fairly engaging as well, and it's nice to see such variety on the cast, since Tales of loves recycling certain tropes.
 7.0 out of 10.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Review #104: Dissidia 012: Final Fantasy

 The name sure is a handful.
 Dissidia is a real oddity, it's a one on one arena-based fighter featuring characters from most numbered Final Fantasy games. But it's not a simple fighter, oh no, it really tries to do its own thing, and it actually works pretty well.

 I'll get the gameplay out of the way first. Firstly, the camera is behind you, third person, almost all the time, and you are free to move around pretty large arenas. You can move in any direction, you can double jump, you can run on walls or rails at the push of a button, and you can dash towards your enemy. After you get used to moving around, then comes the fighting, there's two numbered gauges that you need to keep track of, HP and Bravery. Circle attacks sap your opponent's Bravery and adds it to your own, you can then press Square to use a Special Move that actually deals damage equal to your Bravery to their HP. It's way easier to understand when you play. If at any time your Bravery drops below zero, you enter Break status, where your attacks don't sap Bravery(But do add to yours) and you can't hurt their HP, you exit Break status by letting your Bravery raise back to its default number. There's two other gauges at play, Assist and EX. The Assist gauge is made up of two blocks, using one block lets you summon your partner to deal an attack that saps Bravery, while using two blocks makes them use an attack that deals your Bravery into damage. EX is raised by grabbing orbs that drops when you hit your opponent or grabbing the EX icons that appear on the stage, once it's full, you can enter EX mode that raises your stats and lets you use a special ender if you hit with a Bravery attack. While the camera is not perfect, it does a good job at keeping up with the action and not getting stuck behind objects, except when your opponent goes above you, in which case you depend on the D-pad to move the camera up. It sounds convoluted, but it's actually very easy to just pick up and start playing.
 It doesn't end there, something that I didn't like, but that's probably because I expected something more defined, is that everything in this game revolves around customization. There's actually five different currencies, Experience Points that go towards leveling up your characters, AP that goes towards mastering skills, KP that is used on Moogle Shops and can only be earned on Story modes, PP that is used to unlock stuff and Gil that is used to buy items. That's a lot of numbers. Going back to customization, you can actually attach 6 different "combos"(3 on air and 3 on ground) to the circle button, and then 6 Bravery Attacks. You earn both of these by leveling up, allowing you to somewhat tailor your character to your liking. Once again, as fun as this sort of customization this is, I would've preferred defined movesets, but that's just me. Besides Attacks, as you level up you also earn skills or passive attributes that you can set on your characters, thing is, you have a numbered gauge(I think the maximum is 450 at level 100), and each attack and skill "costs" a certain amount of points, so you can't equip everything you like. But by playing you earn AP, and mastering an skills greatly reduces their cost, so that you can equip more things at a time. It sounds like a grind, and it is, but there are ways to lessen it in the form of Calendar bonuses and equipment. Calendar bonuses means that, certain days, the amount of some of the currencies you earn is increased. You can increase these bonuses by buying them with PP, and you can increase the frequency of these bonuses by buying them with PP as well. Furthermore, you can also set a day so that every week, on that day, you earn bonuses on every currency.

 Going back to customization, there is another layer: equipment. Luckily, equipment is shared by everyone, so buying something for one characters means that everyone gets access to it, if they can equip it. I can see the value of this sort of customization, I do, but I would've preferred something that's more balanced, so that it doesn't matter what your equipment is, or what your level is, characters would be well balanced so that skill would do all the talking. Regardless, the game takes customization to another level by actually allowing you to somewhat tweak the mechanics so that you can create your own rulesets for use in Free Battles! This is actually really cool, as it can make for widely different experiences. The game also offers a Quest Creator, if you are so inclined, so that you can create custom quests for other players to take part in! If you are the sort of person that loves tweaking with stuff, this is your game.
 There are 3 different story modes in the game, Scenario 012 that follows the story of the six new characters and lasts a solid 10-20 hours, Scenario 013 that lasts twice as much and follows the 10 main characters, and lastly Scenario 000 that holds the game's toughest opponents. Story Modes have you traverse a rather bland overworld as you enter gates, once inside a Gate, the game enters into a grid, in which there are different types of enemies, items and an objective you have to reach. Enemies are stationery, so you can engage them at will, but sometimes you can just enter the objective and move on if you so wish. Besides Story Mode, you get Arcade Mode, Time Attack and Labyrinth Mode. To say that there is a lot to do and see is an understatement. Story Mode also has tons of fully voiced-cutscenes, and while the story is pretty dumb and needlessly convoluted, watching characters that you recognize interact with each other is pretty cool treat.

 There's about 32 characters, each one has 2 alternate costumes, and there are over 20 stages, even if some are just alternate versions of other stages. While the cast is not very diverse, as it consists of, mainly, very effeminate men, it does contain every main character and main villain of the first ten numbered Final Fantasy games. Most stuff has to be unlocked with PP, but there is an overabundance of extras to unlock, you won't be getting done with this game any time soon, and that is actually fantastic.
 Dissidia 012 boasts some great looking graphics, from the stages to the character models themselves. While some may be shocked at how effeminate some of the older characters look, they are actually very faithful to Amano's original art, the NES and SNES just couldn't do Amano's designs justice. Besides that, characters enjoy a great deal of detail on their models, and the stages themselves have tons of objects that break as your throw your opponent around, and there is no slowdown whatsoever. As for the music, every piece comes from Final Fantasy games, and you are bound to recognize a lot of tunes if you have been following the series. The soundtrack is huge, with more than a handful of songs already unlocked, and some that you need to(with PP). As for the voice-acting, it gets the job done. Not all voice actors are equally as good, but none of them are terrible.

 Dissidia 012: Final Fantasy is the first must-have title I have played on the PSP, there's just so much for the player to do, it just keeps on giving. The Gameplay, while hardly competitive, is very easy to get into.
 9.0 out of 10.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Review #103: Tales of VS

 Just a speck away from recommendable.
 It worked for Square-Enix and Final Fantasy, so Namco just had to try their hand at a fighting game spin-off from their own venerable, if somewhat  underrated on the west, franchise. While Dissidia went for a rather unorthodox approach, Tales of VS is much easier to grasp, but it has its fair share of shortcomings.

 For starters, this is a Japanese exclusive game, and I don't know a lick of Japanese, which means that I don't have the slightest idea of what the hell is going on, but there are 9 different story modes, each one lasts about 2 hours, presumably more if you don't skip every fully-voiced scene. Buyer beware, while you can be almost fine as long as you get some menu translations, and a translation for what each stat is, you'll be missing out on a lot of customization options that could, possibly, make the game much more entertaining.
 Battles take place over arenas filled with many platforms and, sometimes, hazards, such as rolling barrels or laser beams from the sides, and they support up to four players. Stages are rather dull, and despite the hazards, lifeless, but the 2D backgrounds behind the platforms are taken from various dungeons or landmarks from Tales games. Good news? Characters play almost just like they did on their original games, albeit limited to a 2D plane if they came from a 3D Tales of game. Besides jumping up and down, you get normal attacks and Artes. You can assign up to 4 artes on each character, they earn more as they level up(More on this later), and these consume TP(A secondary gauge below your HP bar). Then you also get guard, that protects against normal attacks, but you receive full damage from spells, and a magic guard(Guard plus down on the pad) that blocks magic but leaves you open to physical attacks. Lastly, items may pop up on the stage, and these range from healing items to damaging spells, and every time you pick one up, it's stored until you press triangle or lose it when you die.

 Characters are divided into two major classes, Warriors and Mages. Warriors are, by far, the best type of characters, as their artes are executed as soon as you press circle plus a direction on the pad. Mages, on the other hand, must take their sweet time casting the spells before they go off(But they deal major damage). First issue with this? Mages are completely useless in single player games, the CPU will gang up on you, and your ally won't even try to cover you as you chant your spell, so if you want a mage, have your ally CPU use it while you protect him. Then there's the fact that the camera doesn't cover the whole arena, while you get markers showing you were, offscreen, an enemy, is you will be running against the border of the screen, not knowing what awaits you. Very annoying. Even worse, the CPU loves grabbing items, you will find yourself chasing your running enemy every single time, and it behaves like this on every difficulty level. The cherry on top is that you won't even know where your enemy is running to, as the camera doesn't cover the whole arena, many times the item is offscreen, which also means that the CPU has the advantage of knowing where everything is.
 While I think most people would enjoy customizing each character, I would've preferred something more defined. Customizing means that you have to grind for experience points, to unlock the full moveset and raise individual stats, and for gold, to get weapons, armors, rings and skills for your character. Playing Arcade Mode with an underleveled character and a stronger partner means that you'll fight against two CPUs that match the level of your highest level character, making grinding for characters that don't have an story mode a bit of a chore. Speaking of Story Mode, these play out on a map, and while your main objective is to head towards the banners, there are crossed sword icons, touching these means engaging in a fight... These battles, at the beginning of the mode with your level 0 characters, are very challenging, so you are better off clearing a couple of main objectives in order to unlock the first items on the store for your characters, only then do these become fair. Stan's Story Mode is particularly annoying, as he gets no partner, but has to fight against two CPUs at all times, they will gang up on you and they will wreck you, specially early in the game when you have no equipment.

 As for content, you get 35 characters, the roster is pretty diverse, even if Legendia and Eternia only get one representative each. Even though this is a Japanese exclusive game, if you've been following the games that reached stateside, you will be familiar with 24 out of these 35 characters. Besides Story Mode, you get Arcade Mode, Survival Mode, Free Battle Mode and Special Battle. Special Battle has 20 challenges for you to complete, making you play as a set character with special conditions. Then there's the unlockable Tales of Wallbreaker, a 2D minigame, with its own roster of unlockable fighters, in which you try to break any of the two walls surrounding you and your opponent by throwing him or her against the walls. Fairly entertaining for such a small treat.
 Graphically, characters look very neat, with an stylized cell-shaded look that actually works pretty well. It's a very colorful game, and most animations are pretty cool looking, with a couple of odd looking ones sadly, bonus points for each character getting the Artes that he or she used in his or her game. As for the music, it's all taken from the games the characters represent, and the Story Mode scenes are fully voice-acted.

 Overall, it's a good game, but unless you are planning on playing it with real people, expect to be annoyed frequently. Sadly, the only way to unlock characters is to dredge through Story Modes, and then you have to grind battles in order to earn Experience(for that one character that you want to use) and gold to buy them their own equipment and skills... This game could've been so much better.
 6.0 out of 10