Monday, November 30, 2015

Review #264: Threads of Fate

 Squaresoft has always been one for presumptuous titles!
 Threads of Fate is one of Squaresoft's lesser known titles. It's not an obscure game by any means, just one that most people tend to forget about. An action rpg in the same vein of Square's own Brave Fencer Musashi, Threads of Fate was a little game that came and went without people noticing.

 You can play as either Rue, a mysterious white haired boy that can transform into monsters and is seeking a Relic to revive his friend, or Mint, an spoiled princess versed in magic that seeks the Relic for world domination. Both scenarios slightly contradict each other, but you need to play both if you want to see the true ending. That said, if you only plan on playing one, Rue is the way to go, as he has the meatier, more serious story, while Mint is mostly comic relief. Each character also gets an exclusive dungeon and a couple of unique boss fights, but nothing major.
 This is a 3D action game with a few RPG elements. There's no levels perse, but you can raise your hitpoints by being hit, magicpoints by using magic, and your defense and strength by buying equipment or potions. Rue and Mint also play differently, Rue has basic weak attacks and a strong attack, but he can also turn into any of the last four different monster types that he defeated, which is often times used to solve puzzles, as Rue himself is the way to go when it comes to fighting most of the time. Mint only has weak attacks, but she can use magic. There's about 6 different 'Magic types', that can be used with different spells, which translates into a LOT of spells. In practice, Rue's game starts off way easier, but his shortcomings catch up to him by the end of the game, while Mint will have a tough time at the start of the game, but end up as a powerhouse by the end.

 The worst part about the game is, easily, level design. Stages are uninspired and boring, the 'Underground Ruins' being the worst of the bunch, being made up of copy pasted rooms over and over again. An NPC will comment on it 'This maze is so confusing' or something like that, as if making a joke about it somehow makes it OK! Also, keep in mind that inside dungeons you can't turn the camera around, so sometimes stuff will hit you from outside your range of vision, heck, it's easy for bosses to get outside the range of your view, so battles now turn into a matter of keeping the boss inside your range of vision AND dodging their attacks, Some enemies also respawn infinitely, which will probably get on the nerves of some. And raising your stats is a pain in the butt, either waste time getting hit, or grind money and buy the stat ups, either way, a time sink. Not that the game is hard enough to justify it anyways!
 Threads of Fate is a decent, but flawed, game. The idea behind the two characters is respectable, and they managed to make both characters feel different enough, although there's not enough exclusive content  to justify a second playthrough, unless your really, really want to see the bonus ending.
6.0 out of 10

Review #263: Inuyasha - A Feudal Fairy Tale

 Yet another licensed animuuu game.
 I had rather fond memories of this game, for whatever reason, as I never ever watched a single episode of the anime series(although I did read one volume of the manga), so I just knew that I had to take this game for a spin, and.... I think I rather I didn't.

 Featuring 12 characters from the show, a Feudal Fairy Tale is a by the numbers licensed fighting game. There's an Story mode of sorts, for each character, VS and a few minigames in case you wanted to waste some time. For what it's worth, each character gets their own opening text, and they interact with characters from the show on their story mode. There really isn't a whole lot more to say about it!
 Gameplay is very by the numbers, there's a Weak and a Strong attack that can be chained together in very simple combos, while the circle button, in conjunction with the directional pad, is used for about three different special attacks per character, there's also a super move, linked to an energy gauge, for each. And that's about it, there's hidden depth to the game, and while there are no 'clones' to speak of(Even though Inuyasha gets to forms!), the gameplay is so shallow that characters don't feel very different from one another.

 For what it's worth, the in-game sprites look really good, characters are rather simple, although I feel that the source material's fault, but animations are fairly expressive and smooth. The screenshots don't do the game much justice, it has to be seen in motion! That said, the rest of the presentation is rather mediocre, music is forgettable, and there's nothing special about the anime stills used to tell the story.
 Inuyasha - A Feudal Fairy Tale isn't a bad game by any means, it simply is incredibly unremarkable, forgettable even. Even fans of the show would be far pressed to be convinced into giving this one a try.
4.5 out of 10

Review #262: Ride to Hell: Retribution

 This game is a joke.
 Full disclosure: I knew exactly what I was getting into when I bought this game, but hey, five bucks. FIVE BUCKS! In case you have been living under a rock, Ride to Hell is an infamously terrible game, featuring bugs galore and awkward fully-clothed sex scenes.

 The story has you playing as this guy named Jake, who is back from the military, and soon his brother is killed and he is left for dead, but somehow, he survives and now he is out for revenge. This is the thing, I can see what they were going for, a gritty motorbike soap opera, probably inspired by Sons of Anarchy. I can see it, their heart was in the right place... kindaish, but the execution is laughable. Voice acting is terrible, cutscenes lack music and sometimes even sound effects. The story moves at a very haphazard way, sometimes the way one scene moves into the next just makes no sense, women drop their panties(figuratively, since, y'know, fully clothed sex scenes) after you beat up their assailants and just have sex with Jake on the very same room the baddies are laying over their own blood. It's a mediocre story, with terrible characters and poor logic behind their actions.
 There's two different gameplay types: Third person action and motorbike scenes, but they have one thing in common: absolutely wonky hitboxes. Combat allows for hand-to-hand affairs, which end up in tedium, or you can just use guns. While enemies are bullet sponges, if you master the art of the headshot, you can just cruise through the game, and this is my advised method for getting through the game: Headshot them bastards! Whether you choose to go the slow and repetitive way and fight your way through the game, or choose the fast, but equally repetitive and dull, headshot tactic, it doesn't matter, because the game feels dull and lifeless. It simply isn't any fun. Then there's the motorbike segments, on-wheels combat consists on mashing whatever button the game tells you to mash when you are approached by enemies, and pressing triangle at the right times to go below certain obstacles, but you'd better press it early, or else the game will assume you hit the object, even if it didn't even touch your head.

 That's not to say that the game lacks any positives... for instance, the bike customization is rather in-depth, even if the customization only affects the look of your bike. And hey, the first few times, landing headshots feels rather satisfying, as the game slows down while a crunchy 'splash' sounds and  fountain of blood comes out of their faces.... at least the first ten times. There's also the soundtrack, which kinda decent... at times.
 Buggy, unfinished, ugly, stupid... all of them are valid when it comes to describing this game, but the game is almost at the 'so bad it's good' range, for less than five bucks, I dare say that it's worth it just to see how bad it is. Because, as bad as the game is, it's playable, it's functional... it just isn't any good.
2.5 out of 10

Review #261: Guilty Gear Xrd Sign

 Guilty Gear is back!
 Guilty Gear is back, but it's not exactly the same game that you might remember, whether that's good or bad depends on who you ask, but judging from the game's audience, I think it's a good thing... for them.

 As per usual with Fighting Games, modes come first: Story Mode, Arcade Mode ,VS(Online and Offline) and M. O. M. mode. Arcade and VS are self explanatory, while M. O. M. is a returning mode from previous games, a survival of sorts. What's interesting is the new Story Mode, it's about 200 minutes long and doesn't feature any fights at all, it's just... cutscenes. Not that that's necessarily a bad thing, just look at Blazblue's story.... Anyways, the story is very... anime to say the least, so your mileage may vary on that, at least it's not as disgustingly cliched as Blazblue's. Speaking of Blazblue... the new characters are all sorts of terrible. Let's go one by one:
Ramlethal: A fanservice character that looks as if she came straight out of Blazblue.
Bedman: He looks dumb, but in-game he is rather fun to look at, that said, his personality is terrible because he share is with...
Elpelth: Fist of all, she is on-disc DLC while being on the game's cover, which already makes her annoying. She exists only because of her ample buxom and wide cleavage. And she is a waifu, not only due to her personality, but because she is looking for a husband. But worst of all? She shares her character trait with Bedman: She just won't shut up. And she looks as if she came straight out of Blazblue.
Leo: Another on-disc character that appears on the cover, which makes me hate him already.... but, he does fit the Guilty Gear world pretty well... which is probably why he is DLC.
Yeah, you could say that I didn't like the new characters. But hey, I liked most of the returning characters redesigns. Ky Kiske, my main, I disliked a lot, disappointingly, and I just can't take Axl seriously with those shorts(Funnily enough, they look better than they did in Guilty Gear 1!).
 But that's all superficial what really matters is gameplay, and Guilty Gear Xrd delivers in a big way. If you've ever played Guilty Gear, you'll be right at home here, as it plays just like the other games. Roman Cancels have been simplified, not longer requiring ungodly timing and reflexes. I doubt a single soul will feel the game is any more 'casual' because of this, as Guilty Gear was notorious for its complexity. And hey, even if you don't intend to play the game competitively, the game is fast and loose, so that even if you mash buttons you can easily link up normals into specials or supers.

 I normally don't really care about graphics, but this game's deserve a special mention: Guilty Gear Xrd looks amazing. At times it feels as if it was 2-D, but it's actually 3-D. And I say this as an extremely good thing, what Arksys has managed with this game is nothing short of awesome. If you play on the PS3, you might have to turn down the background animations on the Options menu in order to keep a steady 60 FPS, but it doesn't take away from the amazing character models and animation. Some might be a bit disappointed by the small roster(16 characters), but seeing how it's a completely new engine, and how great each character looks, it's very understandable. Plus, you know ArkSys, by the third-fourth iteration of the game, I bet most of the old cast will be back.
 As great as I found the game to be, I just didn't have as much fun with it as I thought I would. Maybe I'm just burned out from ArkSys fighters, since they are all more or less the same. That said, don't let me deter you from getting GGXrd, I'd hesitate to call it the best game in the franchise, but it's a great foundation for future iterations.
 7.5 out of 10

Review #260: Dynasty Warriors 8

 Do not pursue Lu Bu!
 Dynasty Warriors is back and it's better than ever! By now, everyone should be familiar with the 'Warriors' franchise by now, they are what I like to consider the evolution of the 'Beat'em up' genre. Some love it, some hate it, but in the end it doesn't matter, as the games won't stop coming any time soon!

 Y'know, I could basically copy paste my description from DW 7 or 6's story and it would still hold water, since each game in the franchise is basically a retelling of the same story(Or stories if you wanna be technical about it). DW8 follows the steps of 7, being a somewhat faithful adaptation of the novel, while taking some elements from real history, which inspired said novel. Basically, the four kingdom, Shu, Wei, Wu and Jin get their own story modes, but this time around, there's optional objectives to complete, which will allow you to take an alternate route near the end and get a 'happy' ending. What's more, this time around you get to pick from about 3 generals before each chapter, so you are no longer confined to playing as a designated character on each chapter. As for the execution of the story, in some ways it's better than DW 7, but falls short in others. The game has almost 80 characters now, which means that not every character gets the same time in the limelight. Take Zhang Liao for example, his portrayal in DW 7 was excellent, but in DW8 he doesn't get many scenes. Basically, your mileage may vary depending on which characters you like. Once you are done with the rather lengthy Story Mode, there's Free Mode, in which you can take any general to any battle from the Story Mode, and Ambition Mode, in which you go through different skirmishes to gain fame, gain allies and build a giant Pagoda.
 The game plays like any other entry in the franchise, but it has a few added features and gimmicks. Now, each weapon has a different affinity(Earth, Heaven, People), which works in a rock-paper-scissors way, fight a general using a weapon weak to theirs and you won't be able to stagger them with your attacks, use a weapon strong to theirs and you'll deal extra damage, as well as gaining access to a flurry of slashes that cover a wide area if you pummel them for a while. There's a new Rage Gauge, that once filled can be used to execute a Rage Musou, it combines the devastating crowd-clearing properties of a musou attack, while keeping you on the move. It's amazing. Now there's a different weapon for each general, for a total of over 70 different movesets, and each general has a EX weapon with which he can use a unique attack exclusive to him. Oh, and holding the button that calls your mount now makes it so that your character automatically gets on it when it gets close to you.

 It's hard for me to put my finger on it, but while I found Dynasty Warriors 7 rather lacking, I found this game to be amazing. If you liked Dynasty Warriors, you just can't skip 8, if you want to get into the series, this is the game to get. It will fail to turn nay-sayers, but this is the finest Dynasty Warriors yet.
9.0 out of 10

Review #259: Saint Seiya - Soldiers' Soul

 Burn, my Cosmo!
 It's no secret that I'm not fond of Saint Seiya. The story is dumb and, most of the time, makes no sense. But I can respect the concept behind it, teenagers fighting in colorful and shiny armors, with unique signature attacks and all that jazz. So that's the beauty behind the videogame: You get the concept, without the story.

 Soldiers' Souls is, basically, what Brave Soldiers should have been. Gameplay has been polished, and it's much tighter this time around, more characters and in-game unlockables and more modes. Let's start with the characters; the previous game's roster was made up of mostly clones... that hasn't changed. The new characters are Asgard's God Warriors and Hilda, for a total of 8 new characters... mostly, Bud and Syd play almost exactly the same, they are even more cloney than Saga and Kannon. Then there's the new 12 Gold Saints wearing the God Cloths.... which play exactly like their normal counterparts, except that they are 'broken.' These 12 characters build up their cosmo gauge extremely fast, and their 'Big Bang Attacks'(Ultras) have no startup whatsoever, basically, if you are not playing as any of these 12 characters, you are handicapping yourself. Ikki, Shun, Hyoga and Shiryu get their God Cloths as well, but not the enhanced cosmo gain. As a matter of fact, you can now change which Big Bang attack you want to use at the character select screen, but the Big Bang Attacks haven't been touched up at all, so they still get almost uncomboable start up times.
 All the modes and VS variations from the previous game return, alongside a new 'Battle of Gold' mode and a revised Story Mode. The new Story Mode is much more detailed, and while the cutscenes reek of a short budget, they are serviceable. That said, the mode itself is a drag, each 'chapter' is made up of two fights against the SAME enemy, and there's so much exposition with little more than flapping mouths. What's worse is that this is the only way to unlock characters, and you only start with 5 Saints at the start of the game. If you played the previous game, you are mostly unlocking what you already unlocked the last time around! As for Battle of Gold, the what if scenarios are moderately amusing, but for whatever reason they decided that you needed to buy 'torches' in order to proceed. Not only is it annoying, since costumes are expensive, but if you run out of torches you just can't buy them at the chapter select, oh no, you have to go all the way back to the main menu, then collection, then the store. On the other hand, all the DLC costumes from the previous game can be bought for in-game currency, and the game has no DLC, major props for that!

 But what really matters, Gameplay, has seen major improvements. Firstly, cosmo is much harder to gain, so combos are no longer worthless! Controls have been reworked, so no awkward fingers gymnastics to pull off the different special moves, just hold R2 and then Square, Triangle or Circle. All characters now have access to a new move, 'Photon', which is basically a weak projectile, although there's about 4 or 5 different types of Photons shared among the cast. Lastly, and this pertains the PS3 port only, the game has a few framerate issues during Big Bang Attack cutscenes and when Hypnos or Thanatos use their normal moves, but they are tolerable.
 Saint Seiya Soldiers' Souls is a decent time waster for the uninterested in the franchise, and a more than decent game for fans. I dare say that the game has more depth than your average licensed fighter, but don't expect to see it played competitively any time soon.
 6.0 out of 10

Monday, November 2, 2015

Now Playing: Dynasty Warriors 8

 Mayhaps the best 'Warriors' game yet?
 It's no secret that I've a bit of a soft spot of the 'Warriors' franchise, something about bashing thousands of soldiers' heads in just sounds so appealing in my book! As someone who has somewhat followed the franchise since Dynasty Warriors 2, I'm quite tempted to say that this is the best 'Warriors' game yet.

 So, I've cleared Wei's story(Both routes) and find myself midway through Shu's campaign, and I think I'm in love. For starters, the game has, what I feel are, the best character designs yet. As for how the story is told, it follows DW 7's brilliant blueprint.
 On the surface, the combat is exactly like it was in DW 7, but there's a ton of new weapons, there's a unique weapon for each of the 80+ characters in the roster as a matter of fact, and every moveset I've tried so far(And I've tried a lot!) feels so flashy and rewarding. And the new 'Rage' mechanic? It sounded and looked gimmicky, but lemme tell ya, it feels SO. DARN. GOOD to execute.

 Surprisingly, I always felt that Dynasty Warriors 7 was lacking 'something', and I can't quite put my finger on what, but this game's got it. I'd go as far as to say that this game is as good, if not better than Warriors Orochi 3, a game that celebrated everything 'Warriors', that's how much I'm digging this game.

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Month Overview: October 2015

 Games finished in September 2015:
J-Stars Victory VS+                                6.0
3D Classics - Kirby's Adventure             5.0
Animal Crossing Wild World                 4.0

 Unsurprisingly I didn't play much. Plus, I began Soul Sacrifice and Dynasty Warriors 8!

Game of October:
 I'm not gonna beat around the bush, while I thought that J-Stars was above average when it came to anime games, I didn't find it a whole lot of fun after the novelty wore off.

 Not a bad game perse, but seeing how there are better alternatives to this version...