Saturday, April 30, 2016

Month Overview: April 2016

 Tally:
Senran Kagura - Estival Vs                          6.0
Metal Gear Rising - Revengeance                     8.0
Valkyrie Profile - Lenneth                          7.0
Silent Hill 0rigins                                 7.5
Silent Hill Downpour                                7.0
Silent Hill - Book of Memories                      3.0
Toukiden Kiwami                                     9.0
Samurai Warriors 4-II                               8.0


 It was an interesting month. A lot of Silent Hill, which was really neat, except for Book of Memories. I also started Mass Effect, but tests started as well, so... Yeah, it'll be a while.


 Game of April:
 Toukiden Kiwami is badass. As a matter of fact, I'm still playing it, instead of studying, to this very day. And it looks as if I might spend a chunk o' May playing it as well. It's hard to sell a Monster Hunter clone to somebody who isn't into the series, I mean, let's be honest; they are games about defeating the same 5is-30ish minute long bosses over and over again, in order to carve their parts, and make new equipment pieces, only to get to the new Boss and do the same things all over again. But part of the excitement comes from the fact that the biggest deciding factor in these fights is skill and not your equipment. This game is a lot easier than Monster Hunter, so the feeling isn't as pronounced, but it feels so good when you defeat a Monster by the skin of your teeth, and then on subsequent hunts, you, the player, learn to defeat them more efficiently. It's incredibly rewarding, both thanks to how badass the new armor pieces and weapons are and how good it feels to get good. Althoughbattlesinthisgamereallyaren'tthathardbutstill.

 Runner-up:
 I may have scored a few games higher than this one, heck, I think even Silent Hill 0rigins was a better game. Buuuut, on hindsight, after getting to digest this game a bit... I think it was really good. I've learned to appreciate the mechanics, like having Silent Hill open for you to explore, filled with sidequests to finish. It's definitely a different take on Survival Horror, and I don't think I quite appreciated it when I first played it. I helps that the game places a heavy emphasis on water, particularly rain, and I decided to play the game when it was raining, so the parallels between the game and when I played it made it all the more... delicious.
 Bottom line is: I think I've learned to like it more after finishing it. As a Silent Hill game, it leaves a little to be desired, particularly in monster design, but it has a few interesting ideas that were executed well enough

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Review #323: Samurai Warriors 4-II

 And now, for an actually decent Musou game...
 After Ken's Rage 2's poor showing, I was scared; was I finally getting tired of the Musou genre? I mean, I've probably played more of these games than most people on the west, and while they are not as similar between each other as people make them out to be, the basics are the same: Mash that square button, with the occasional triangle tap, and mow down hundreds upon hundreds of runts. Well, Samurai Warriors 4-II has its fair share of new ideas, and they work out pretty well.

 The game's story is... if you care about story, you're better of playing vanilla Samurai Warriors 4. 4-II's story is divided in 13 campaigns, made out of 5 missions each, although there's a few repeats here and there, some being identical repeats at that. These stories seem to be noncanonical, with a few even contradicting each other, so I must insist, if you care about a more faithful representation of the Sengoku period's history, you'r better off with vanilla SW4. Speaking of vanilla, I didn't play the original release, so this is my first, and only, taste of SW4 and.... some of the character designs are atrocious. Naotora Li in particular is unbearable, with one of the worst personalities in a Warriors game EVER, and Koshosho.... what... what the beep where they thinking? Another thin to keep in mind, is that there are no alternate costumes or colors, barring towell outfits for Naotora and Chokosho, because Japan and Fanservice go hand in hand, god forbid they forget about pandering.
 The first, and best, new addition is the Hyper Attacks. Warriors games always give you a single chain of attacks, done by pressing square, while you can use triangle to finish these combos in different ways, which is why I like to call the triangle the 'modifier button'. Well, Hyper attacks are dashing, high-speed attacks chained by tapping triangle, with square giving you different ways to end the hyper attack combos depending on when you press it. Hyper attacks are a blast to pull off, and allow you to cover a lot of terrain, quickly, while scoring dozens of kills. That said, enemy generals(The enemies that have proper names instead of being cannon fodder) will reflect hyper attacks, and trying to use them in high-morale enemy areas(Areas displayed in red in the minimap) will result in them doing less damage. It makes sense, they are rather overpowered, but the thing about the morale system... is that characters are divided into types: Power-oriented characters get multi-triangle finishers, Normal-oriented characters get longer square chains, Special-oriented characters get different unique skills, while Hyper-oriented characters get longer Hyper attack chains. The problem lies with the morale system.

 Y'see, sub-missions are back. These absolutely ruined Samurai Warriors on the 3DS for me, since they kept bringing the game to a halt. Luckily, now you can turn off the game-pausing notifications n the options menu. Anyways, successfully clearing them will lower the enemy morale, and thus decrease their red areas. Problem being that it's rather easy to screw yourself out of these missions. Maybe you killed someone right before the mission told you not to. Maybe you went in a different direction and you are now too far away to complete it. In these cases you will have to deal with red areas, which can really handicap Hyper oriented characters. Yeah, I'm not much of a fan of sub-missions, since I don't like being told how to tackle the stage, but it's downright annoying having to deal with red areas just because you decided to venture too far away from the next objective. For what it's worth, on the easier difficulties, red areas aren't too bad.
 The other big change comes in the game allowing you to pick two different characters for each stage, and you can change characters on the fly by tapping the select button. And you can also give them simple orders by tapping up on the directional pad. They work well, and it's fun being able to cover more ground at the tap of the button, just keep in mind that if either character dies, it's game over. Musou Attacks have been changed as well, previously(At least in SW3 and Chronicles), you had to hold the Musou Button to pull of the attack, now you simply tap it and the character executes it... but there's also a Rage mode. There's a 5 tier gauge that can be used to dodge certain attacks, break enemy guards, or when filled, activate rage mode. You do more damage, and you get a different, stronger, Musou attack. Lastly, defeated generals may drop weapons, horses or tomes. Weapons and Horses are enhanced by 'fusing' them with other weapons or horses of their type, but tomes are used to enhance your character, by spending them on a grid. There's a ton of different passive and active skills to earn, and I actually really liked the grid system.

 Lastly, after you are are done with Story Mode, or replaying stages in Free Mode, there's a new mode, Survival. Survival is made up of two different towers, which you must climb in order to gain loot, unlock a few characters and... bragging rights. I rather liked the mode, each tower has different 'challenges' or goals, and it gets harder as you go along, and dying means losing your loot, which is why after clearing every floor you get the option to turn tail and keep your spoils. There's also a fairly decent create a character mode, although you can only use your character in Free and Survival Modes.
 The Vita port runs surprisingly well. When there's a ton of units on the screen, a few may disappear, but it's not too bad, and the framerate is decent. It can struggle a bit in stages with water, but it's fairly consistent 30 fps or so most of the time. I mean, it's not perfect, but it's playable, and it's great to finally have a decent Warriors game on the go, after Chronicles left such a sour taste on my mouth.

 Samurai Warriors 4-II takes a lot of steps in the right direction for the franchise. It's a fun game to play when all you want is mindless action. That said... what's up with some of the character designs? And what's up with Naotora? Do we really need waifus in Samurai Warriors? I guess the poor story is excusable considering this is a side game.
 8.0 out of 10

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Now Playing: Samurai Warriors 4-II

 What the Japan happened to the characters?
 So I finished Naomasa's campaign and played the first one in the Yukimura brothers', so I've more or a less a clear idea on where I stand with this one.

 What I did like was the gameplay. Hyper attacks? 10/10. It's a fantastic, satisfying way to traverse the battlegrounds while shredding away through normal enemy troops.
 I hated how Samurai Warriors 3DS worked, stopping the action every single time a sub objective popped up. It really ruined the overall experience for me. They are still here, but you can turn off the game-stopping notifications on the options menu. Thank god.
 I've played with a few of the new characters, and I like the new movesets. It never ceases to amaze me how Koei can keep up pumping new movesets for every single Warriors iterations. Sure, they are not particularly deep or extensive, but they manage to feel different. Well, they Hyper Attacks are a bit more homogeneous across the board, but it feels nice to use them, and the square strings are still unique, so it's forgivable.

 What I didn't like were the character designs. W... where do I start? Character designs in Musou games have always been anachronistic, but they still felt as if they belonged together while feeling feudal in nature. Now we have this:
                                        
 What. The. Flying. Beep. Is. This. Thing? No, seriously, explain that thing to me. It'd be one thing if it were an alternate DLC costume, but it's her main costume. I'm... I'm at a loss for words. And then there's Naotora Li, and she's a mess. He design is fine the way it is, but it's her personality where it falls apart. She's the clumsy, shy waifu type. In real life, she was supposed one of the very, very few women who rose in power in feudal Japan, she was a woman to be respected. Here she is a laughingstock of ridiculousness. Every single time she opens her mouth makes me want to drive my head against a granite column. And let's not even get into the fact that she looks way, waaaay younger than her son, Naomasa Li, and more immature than him. For a Japanese developer, the Musou games have never been too pandering, a few designs might've been a bit questionable, but nothing too ridiculous, but it seems they went full Japan with this game. And then there's Kiyomasa Kato, he was my favorite character in Samurai Warriors 3, but for this game he went Super Saiyan, and he looks stupid. I can't stand to use him because of how dumb he looks. At least there's a character creator.

 All that said, thankfully, I don't really care that much about character designs here. I never cared much for the Samurai Warriors/Sengoku Musou characters, since I never found a character that I really liked. As long as these type of designs don't find their way into the Sangoku Musuo/Dynasty Warriors, we're going to be just fine.

 Basically, I like the game a lot. I dislike most of the character designs, yes, but at the end of the day, it doesn't affect the gameplay, where some of the changes they made I felt were fantastic. I wan the Hyper attacks on Dynasty Warriors, because it feels so good to charge around mowing down dozens upon dozens of enemies.


Friday, April 22, 2016

Review #322: Toukiden Kiwami

 Playstation's answer to Monster Hunter.
 Capcom may have brought, exclusively, the Monster Hunter series to Nintendo, but Playstation fans have now got a substitute in Toukiden. Soul Sacrifice was a nice alternative to MH, it was the same type of game, but with relatively different mechanics, Toukiden, on the other hand, is as close to Monster Hunter as you can get without being a rip-off.

 If there's one field every Monster Hunter clone has bested Monster Hunter in is on the story, and this game is no exception. Basically, a few years ago the 'Awakening' happened, which brought demons, or Oni, into the world, and now humans fight for survival. You play as a new arrival, a created character of your choice, to the Utakata Village, and quickly prove your worth as an Slayer. And y'know, being one of these games, your character actually has some particular abilities unique to himself that quickly make him stand out from the rest. On the hunt you'll be joined by 7 other hunters, each one having their own story arc to go through, and while they are not mindblowing, they are interesting at the very least. I absolutely loved the Japanese art direction they took, Oni are clearly inspired in Japanese folklore and ancient art, while the armor pieces are very, very Japanese,
 I've seen this game described as 'Monster Hunter meets Dynasty Warriors', and as someone who has invested quite some time on the Warriors games, I can safely say that they are wrong. This game isn't even remotely similar to Dynasty Warriors, except, maybe, on the armor designs. The game follows a very simple formula: Go out with up to three CPUs, or players, hunt a big bad boss, get its drops, forge armor and weapons for said parts, slay the boss again and again until you finish your set, and move onward towards a new boss. You don't really need to complete the armor sets, but you get special bonuses for full sets. Plus, most of them look really cool. On the game's defense, the grind seemed much more lenient than on Monster Hunter, bosses don't have as many different drops, and the drop rate for even the rarer drops wasn't too low. That said, you are bound to come across the lack of certain rare drops from rare small enemy spawns that are gonna drive you insane, but there's enough, although not a lot, of information online regarding enemy drops, rare enemy spawns and shiny pickups from each environment. And, if what I've said already didn't make it clear, Monster Hunter clones like this require a hefty time investment, while boss battles start relatively easy when compared to its peers, as soon as you hit Chapter 6, missions will get longer, and some drops will get rarer. As for the game itself, Chapters 1-7 took me about 30 plus hours, and then there's the Kiwami content(8-15) that lasts just as much, and then there's the Online missions, that can be played offline with CPU allies, which are another 15 phases. There's a lot to do in here.

 The game offers a more than decent amount of different weapons, and they each have different styles: The twin knives allow for easy aerial combos, fists allow you to deal extra damage if you time button presses, and rifles allow for distant combat, to name a few. There's bound to be at least one type of weapons that suits your style. Regardless, none of the movesets felt as... deep as movesets in Monster Hunter, but the game plays much, much faster which I liked a lot. The game also offers a ton of customization thanks to Mitama, orbs that grant the player passive effects, as well as different 'spell' set ups. And there's a ton of different spells, and once you get high tier weapons, you can carry more than one Mitama, which allows for a bigger spell pool, of up to four, and even more passive skills, up to three per Mitama. And these allow you to heal yourself, enhance your strength or even temporarily allowing you to leech life off enemies. It's also a lot easier, not only do you have 3 useful CPU allies that can revive you, but you can send your Tenko, a foxy creature of sorts, before each mission to gather materials from the environment, and if you send him to the stage the mission takes place, you may run across him and he'll aid you in battle! And, later on, you will also be able to send party members on previously cleared missions from previous chapters to gather even more materials, including boss materials.
 What sets it apart from Monster Hunter and its ilk is the Purifying system. You can't just damage a boss, not outright, instead you have to sever the physical manifestations of their body and purify them. You can use your mind's eye(Select button) to see what can be severed and how close to the fact it is. But once you sever a limb, you have to purify it, by standing over it and holding the R button until a gauge is depleted. If you take too long, the boss may absorb it back to their body! Dealing damage will increase a weapon gauge, CPUs have their own shared gauge as well, and once filled allow for powerful Destroyer attacks that will instantly cut off whichever limb they hate, but if you miss your target, you have to fill the gauge back up again. Regardless, once a part is purified, you will finally be allowed to damage the boss by hitting that body part. Bosses also have 'rage' meters, and when filled they glow purple, and any attack, anywhere, will hurt them directly. Lastly, bosses have alternate forms that they access after fulfilling certain conditions, some just require them hitting a certain HP percentage, while others will do it after losing all their limbs. It's fun, as some forms can be widely different from their normal form. What's not so fun are the subspecies, for the uninitiated, these games tend to have color variations of the bosses, and they usually have different patterns or attacks... here, they don't. They are exactly like their normal versions, but with different elemental attributes, and maybe more health and damage output.

 I think I may like Toukiden more than Monster Hunter. I think the Mitama system is better than having to produce and buy items, like potions, or whatever. It's more convenient and less time consuming. time better spent hunting monsters. While on Monster Hunter you have to catch bugs, with a net, minerals, with a pick-axe, fish, with a rod AND be on the look out for shiny spots on the ground, here you need only look for the shiny spots on the ground. Sending Tenko to the different environments, and party members on missions for even more materials help alleviate a lot of the unnecessary grinding, which I also found both convenient and smart. I like having actually useful party members, as opposed to silly little critters with limited damage output and uselessness of deciding to cure me after I healed me myself. And if you want to go oldschool, you can simply leave your party members behind. That said, I wasn't a big fan of the purifying system, however, the CPUs are relatively smart, so you can just focus on hacking and slashing away while some of them go stand over them and purify them for you,
 Toukiden Kiwami makes Toukiden - Age of Demons obsolete. The one immutable law of Monster Hunter clones is: It will have an enhanced remake, and this is that. It's got the entire vanilla game included, but it's also got more mission(Twice as many), more monsters(I think twice as well), more weapon types, and alongside the new bosses, new armor sets and weapons to craft from each. And you can carryover your AoD save. Basically, there's no reason as to why you shouldn't get Kiwami over vanilla Toukiden.

 Toukiden Kiwami is a fantastic game, it just might be my favorite Monster Hunter clone yet. It's probably the easiest one as well until you get into the latter chapters, some of the optional missions can be downright brutal. However, as much as I liked the game, these games are very, very repetitive, and as much as the game tries to alleviate the grind, you will eventually have to fight a boss more than once to craft that shiny new piece of armor, which is something to keep in mind. Regardless, for Monster Hunter fans that like the genre not exclusively for the challenge would do well to give it a look.
9.0 out of 10

Sunday, April 17, 2016

My Favorite Playstation 3 Games

 Here's the gist of it, in this world there's only one constant I'm entirely subjected to: Change. I am a person, and right now I'm not the same man that I was when I first began writing, heck, that guy wasn't even the same guy that wanted to write this in the first place! What I want to get to, once I stop digressing, is that this list is how I feel right now, at this very moment, so when and if I feel like making this list again, and knowing myself I probably will, it might change.

 So, what is that list? These are the games I liked the most on each particular system, this time around the Playstation 3. These are not necessarily the games I consider best, but the ones I liked the most and the ones I have the fondest memories of. For these lists I tried to stay away from multiplatform games, or from ports. I tried to, but in a few cases it was impossible to.

 As a matter of fact, avoiding multiplatform games was nigh impossible when discussing my favorite games on this system, since it seems most games are multiplatform nowadays... which is not necessarily a bad thing, since more people can play more games!



10) Assassin's Creed 2
 Assassin's Creed 1 was... underwhelming, to say the least, but Assassin's Creed 2? Hot damn! The parkour system was perfected, feeling smoother than ever, there was a ton of game to explore, and a lot of sidequests to fulfill and a ton of things collect. And this is a personal preference of mine, but I loved seeing the different armors reflected on Ezio. The story and presentation were pretty good as well, sure character models were a bit lacking, but the environments were gorgeous, which is all the better considering the huge amounts of exploring you were going to do.

9) Infamous 2
 I'm not sure about what I was expecting when I played Infamous 2. Infamous 1 was a fun game, with an excellent plot twist, but a mediocre story. Infamous 2 not only has a better story, but made the gameplay much more fun. Differences between 'Evil' and 'Good' powers were much more pronounced, and now you even got to experiment with Ice and Fire. I remember doing the 'Good' playthrough, so I got stuck with the lame Ice powers... and then I earned the 'Ice Shotgun', which not only was pretty damn effective, it also felt amazing to use. And that's one of the game's better strength: How good it feels to play it. Just moving around using all your various powers feels amazing by itself, but the combat moves are just as fun to use and experiment with.

8) Deadly Premonition
 If you were to take apart the game and dissect it piece by piece you'd end up with... with a mess of broken pieces. At face value, you wouldn't be wrong in saying that the game is pretty bad. And it is, but it's the 'so bad it's good' kind of game. Clearly inspired by Twin Peaks, it takes the insanity of its citizens to 11. Every character is memorable thanks to their quirks and storylines, and the game itself is just so damn endearing, with Francis York Morgan being among my favorite characters ever. Ever. I'm a huge advocate of gameplay over story, but this game has mediocre, if not terrible, gameplay with an insane story full of personality and memorable moments. And not everyone will 'get' the game, and that's alright because it's not a game for everyone, either you'll end up hating it for being so bad, or you'll learn to love its craziness.

7) Killer is Dead
 Disclaimer: Suda 51 is my favorite director ever, his crazy style is something I simply adore, and just as with Swery 65's masterpiece, Deadly Premonition, his games are not for everyone. That aside, I don't know if Suda 51 set out to do it on purpose, but with Killer is Dead he managed to mix elements from both No More Heroes and Killer7 on an entirely different product. It has the artstyle and some of the themes from Killer7, but with gameplay more akin to No More Heroes, Killer is Dead is like most Suda 51 games: Incomprehensible and shallow on the outer surface, but if you are willing to look deeper, you'll be rewarded with a fantastic story, and I do recommend going out of your way to find some of the explanations people have written about it, there was this piece about how the story was related to chess... as well as a decently deep combat system that encourages avoiding damage in order to get stronger attacks.

6) Journey
 I said it before, and I'll say it again: The three hours I spent on Journey were some of the best hours I ever spent on a game. A very minimalist game, but one that is a joy to experience. It's so minimalist that there really isn't a lot to say about the game, it's fun, it's interesting, it's engaging, it's gorgeous and it's even a little emotional. It's phenomenal.

5) Uncharted 3
 Assassin's Creed 1 was alrightish, but Uncharted 1 was vomit inducing. Then came Uncharted 2 and holy chipotle, it was great. And then came Uncharted 3. A lot of people argue that Uncharted 2 is a better game, often citing the story, and it's true, Uncharted 2 has a better story, no in small part because, when it came to Uncharted 3, they though of scenes and set pieces and built the game around them. But y'know, when it comes to videogame's, in my book, gameplay triumphs over story almost every time. So I don't care that the story isn't as good, all I care about is that this game has some of the most exciting scenes I've ever played in a videogame, period. If I wanted a good story I'd read a book, or watch a movie, but when I game I want exciting gameplay, and this delivers in spades.

4) The Evil Within
 I've mentioned in a previous list just how much I adored Resident Evil 4. Well, take Resident Evil 4 and make it even better and you get The Evil Within. The story is interesting, the environments are creepy, ammo is relatively scarce, but when the actions begins, it doesn't let up. I've seen a lot of people saying that the game isn't proper horror, but personally, I thought that it had enough horror elements and enough action elements as to properly work. But then again, this year I've been playing tons of Survival Horror games, and spoilers, I always ended up with my inventories full of ammo, heck, I'd argue I had more ammo problems in this game than in any Resident Evil or Silent Hill I played this year.
 But I digress, as per usual, I enjoyed the hell out of The Evil Within, it was one of the best games I played this year, and of the best I've on the console.

3) Darksiders
 Man, Darksiders... Darksiders was something special. It didn't have a single original thing to its name, but every thing it borrowed, it worked fantastically, and it meshed with the other elements perfectly. I loved the story, the settings, the characters and Joe Madureira's badass art helped a lot in bringing its world to life. As for the gameplay, it's God of War meets The Legend of Zelda, and it works surprisingly well, earning new tools to access new places was fun, as was traversing the various different settings of a post apocalyptic(Literally!) world. The combat wasn't as combo heavy or as deep as other hack and slash games, but it didn't really need to, it's as deep as this game required. It also received a sequel, that added a ton of welcome mechanics, like deeper RPG elements and even loot, but the setting wasn't as interesting, and a ton of the sidequests were a bit too vague. Regardless, it was a quality game, and regardless, they still owe us two games, at least.

2) Mobile Suit Gundam Extreme VS Full Boost
 I've talked about these games, nay, about this franchise a lot in my blog, because I really do love it. Heck, I've even made posts describing how I felt about each unit on vanilla Full Boost and Gundam Vs Gundam Final Plus, because I have a blast trying every unit. And the reason I love this games so much is that they feel as if they had been made for me. I love the arcadey, fast paced action with the emphasis on 2 on 2 fighting over all kinds of terrains. It helps that I've always liked Gundam designs, and these games have(Usually... cough Extreme Force cough) an enormous amount of different units to play. I adore this franchise, and I'm still waiting for a console port of Maxi Boost.

1) Borderlands 2
                                         
 The other franchise I praise a lot in my blog: Borderlands. I'm not particularly fond of first person shooters, but somehow, somehow, fusing it with Diablo was a genius idea. Millions of different guns, interesting skill trees and classes, a fantastic art direction and a whole lotta game to go through make it one of my choice games. And one of the things that really do it for me, is the excellent multiplayer mode, and what makes it so good are the many different skills that are meant exclusively for this mode, like healing bullets. You heal your teammate by shooting at him. You shoot at your partner to heal him. Genius. Oh, and the co-op? It's local.

Now Playing: Toukiden Kiwami

 I guess Omega Force wanted a break from the Warriors series?
 There's an spoken rule when it comes to Monster Hunter games: If thee are worth thy salt, thee shall haveth an upgradedeth rerelease', which is sort of appropriate considering Capcom, Kings of the Updated Rerelease, more or less created the genre. And no, I'm not even gonna get into the PSO VS MH debate, because it's not worth it. Regardless, Toukiden Kiwami is Toukiden's updated rerealese, and considering I didn't own a Vita during the original release, I have not, and will not, played the original release.

 Anyways, I just did the first two missions and these are my initial impressions:

 - It's really fast, feels more like Gods Eater Burst than Monster Hunter, when it comes to speed.
 - I seem to be missing my attacks a lot. This didn't happen in GEB or even in Monster Hunter. Hopefully it's only an issue with the small, fodder enemies.
 - I love the eastern setting, what I've seen of the armors look straight out of their better Samurai Warriors designs, like Mitsunari. It's like everyone is a different variation of Mitsunari, and I love it.

 All that said, I'd lie if I said that I liked it, missing my attacks all the time isn't very fun. I mean, let's be honest, the objective in these games are the big, bad monsters, but so far, it hasn't made a good impression. I was also a bit let down seeing that it's gonna be a gathering game when it comes to upgrading, and I understand how hypocritical it is of me to complain about that when I praise Monster Hunter so much, but I think it has to do with the fact that I actually enjoy Monster Hunter, sure, hunting 10+ Lagiacruses waiting for that random drop was a bit of a pain, but having each hunt being easier and easier, since I was learning how to fight it, made it rewarding. Regardless, the game hasn't hooked me yet, so maybe, and if it hooks me, I won't see it so negatively!

Review #321: Silent Hill - Book of Memories

 Memories I'd like to forget, that is!
 Fact: People hate change, particularly when it comes to Gaming. A ton of games get a ton of flak, and don't even get a fair chance, when it's a established franchise trying or doing something widely different. Silent Hill Book of Memories is not a survival horror game, it's not even a horror game, it's a dungeon crawling RPG. It's also a bad game, but not because it's different but because it's not a good game period.

 The game starts with you choosing a trinket, a class and customizing your character's look. You are never told what the trinket does, or how each class is different from each other, which is just dandy, so lemme tell you instead: The trinket gives you a passive boost, like extra defense, and the class only makes two of your starting attributes better. After that is dealt with, you are treated to a short cutscene that set ups the game: You get the Book of Memories, a book that allows you to alter the past, and in doing that, alter the present. And that's about it. There's not a lot of story, and it's told almost exclusively through short, confusing notes and some audio clips. Y'know, in previous games you'd get newspaper cut outs, scribbled pieces of papers and what not as notes, here you get dull, brown notes that sometimes are hard to figure out who they were written by, because it turns out you find notes written by yourself as well. It's very confusing, and it's not even interesting. There's also about six different endings, most which are rather bittersweet, which, on a Survival Horror game, would've been fantastic, but in this game, they just feel unsatisfying. That said, the game has an 'endless mode', which apparently is made up of 500 randomly generated floors, after finishing the 21 floor storyline. On a good dungeon crawler, that would've been a fantastic post-game. If only....
 Alright, so the story is a blunder, no big deal, this is a game after all. It's... it's not very good. Basically, you go from identical looking corridor to square arenas to identical looking corridor to another square arena, over and over again. And they are randomly generated. It's all very, very uninspired and it quickly grows old. There's about seven different themes for these areas, but the areas are so samey that it wouldn't even have mattered if there were a thousand different themes. You have a flashlight in this game, which makes enemies more aggressive, but you also need it to reveal highlighted objects, and these highlighted objects can be looted for. It's a necessity because you need keys, and keys are hidden away in these objects. Most of the time, it's not too bad, I just kept the flashlight on all the time and kept checking all the objects, not because of the loot, since there's nothing of worth, but because I needed the keys... until you get to the Blood themed levels. These interactive objects are highlighted in red. Objects in the Blood themed levels are red, so it's pretty easy to skip a key. And skipping a key means, potentially, having to reexplore the entire dungeon, which can take a while, and it doesn't even offer interesting views to make the backtracking enjoyable. You may also come across 'phantom rooms' during the initial 21 zones, and just as with the character creator, you don't get any hint as to what you have to do on each. There's some that still remain a mystery to me on just what was I supposed to do to get the Light/Neutral/Blood outcomes.

 Most people play Dungeon Crawlers for the loot, if you do too... you won't like this game. Weapons lack modifiers, so a knife will always be a knife. They are also meant to be disposable, they break pretty easily, although you can carry a few wrenches to fix them. A modern day dungeon crawler sounds like an interesting idea, getting guns, shotguns, planks of wood, knives, fire axes, etc, but in practice? The weapons are dull. They should've added modifiers, should have made it exciting to find weapons. Like a poisoned plank of wood! Or a fire axe that's actually on fire! But nope, boring, dull, mundane weapons you are not supposed to grow fond of. Later on you'll also find 'objects' that can be equipped on your stats for boosts. These objects reference items from all over the Silent Hill universe, but references a good game do not make. Weapons come in two varieties: Two handed weapons, like pick axes, shotguns or hammers and single handed weapons, like pistols, uzis or knives. You can make any combination of single handed weapons, like having a pistol on the square button and a knife on the triangle button... or you can dual wield uzis(Although you have to fire them one at a time). The combat itself is... it's alright. There's nothing special, just hack away enemies and carry on on your merry way. You can dodge, block and parry with the circle button if you so wish. There're no skill trees, passive or active skills to learn as you level up, but you can buy a few special powers done by holding the R button and another button. There's no depth, no nuance to the combat.
 But what really kills the game are the interface and the touch-screen controls. Touch screen controls are a fantastic idea, when optional. Here you must use them to pick up weapons, provided the game actually registers that you are close or even on top of the weapon. Using health packs, or swapping weapons from your inventory is all done through the touchscreen, in real time, and it works as well as you'd expect: Accidentally closing the bag when trying to heal, healing when trying to reload, etc. The game can have a hard time registering what you pressed, and it doesn't help when you are frantic while about to die in the midst of combat. To be fair, ever since I downloaded the patch, it seemed to have started registering my inputs better, but still. Most of the menus are also navigated through the touchscreen, which is relatively annoying seeing how small all the buttons are. But the kicker to the whole experience are the loading times, which, for a handheld game, are unacceptably long.

 Public Service Announcement: You should probably download the patch. By itself the game is already relatively challenging, add to it accidental deaths due to the game not registering you touching the health packs. Well, originally, dying meant restarting the entire level, losing all your progress and having to endure the whole loading process again. With the patch, all your progress through the level is kept, you just need to go back to where you died and retrieve your health packs, ammo and wrenches. Well, a few of them, I always went from a full 9 stock of each to 2-3 of each, which can be crippling. And from what I read, it seems poison traps could instantly kill you before the patch, oh boy, having to endure that on top of the already messy interface, and having to go through the entire loading screen again.... Just, just download the patch.
 The game employs a rather weird karma system, that goes from 'Blood' to 'Light', and it affects the ending as well as the powers you can use. What makes it weird is how you obtain it: Enemies come in three varieties: Blood, Light and Steel. Blood enemies leave Light blood upon defeat, and Light enemies leave Blood... Blood, walking over these puddles of blood are what tilts your Karma meter in either direction. It's a mess. Literally. You actually have to avoid blood puddles if you want to have a particular Karma, so not only do you have to avoid monsters, avoid invisible traps that can't be deactivated, you also have to wait until the puddles of blood go away. And sometimes, you might come across Invincibility traps that make whoever steps on it invulnerable for 10 seconds, so you also have to add trying to reactivate them yourself or make sure the enemies don't walk over them. Does that sound like a fun game mechanic? Because it's not, it only adds even more annoyance.

 I think the game's biggest mistake was building the game around the franchise instead of doing it around the genre. The Dungeon Crawler genre thrives on the addictive nature of gathering loot, something that's missing here. Where are the skill trees? Passive skills? Active skills? Where are the large hordes of enemies? All we get are uninspired weapons that are meant to be disposed of, trying to force the flashlight to add unrewarding busywork to the game, a Karma system that doesn't work very well, repetitive puzzles at the end of every flippin' world. Having enemies, weapons and objects referencing every single Silent Hill game can only take you so far. References are fun, when the game IS fun, but they can't make a bad game any better. At all. I knew they were trying too hard the moment they use Silent Hill 3's best line: 'Did they look like monsters to you?' In Silent Hill 3 that line had a lot of weight, of ambiguity to it, that made sense in that game, and gave the whole ordeal, and future ordeals in subsequent Silent Hill games, a completely new twist. Games about horror, psychological horror at that. Here it just feels like misguided pandering, since the game isn't trying to scare you, it's not trying to make you think, it's a game with no depth either on the story or gameplay front, so using that line, verbatim, was nothing more than a cheap, cheap reference, that instead of making me smile, made me feel more cynical about the entire game.
 To say that I disliked Book of Memories is an understatement. I don't like it because it's 'Silent Hill in name only', I don't like it because it's not scary in the slightest, I dislike it because it's a bad game, period. Repetitive and uninspired gameplay, with design choices that clash with each other make the game a chore to play. They tried to add Dungeon Crawler elements with Survival Horror elements, but it just doesn't work like that. Look at the GBA Lord of the Rings games, look at TMNT's 3DS Dungeon Crawlers, they made dungeon crawlers first and then put the franchise on top of it, even if they didn't do their respective franchise justice, they were still fine, fun games on their own, which is what really matters in the end. The Silent Hill elements should have come second. Strip the Silent Hill elements from Book of Memories, and what have you got left?
 3.0 out of 10

Review #320: Silent Hill Downpour

 When it rains, it pours.
 Downpour was the second Silent Hill game to be released during the first generation of HD consoles. As with any post-SH 4 game in the franchise, it was not developed by Team Silent. It's... It's an interesting game, it has some rather neat ideas, a relatively engaging plot and a couple of flaws. There's also a lot of rain.

 The main character is Murphy Pendleton, a prisoner who you join on the day he's being transferred. As luck would have it, disaster strikes, the prisoner bus spins out of control and crashes right on Silent Hill. But that's OK, because Silent Hill is one hell of a Therapy Session, and Murphy has a lot to come to peace with. I really liked the plot, it's a very mature, serious story that deals with a rather large variety of themes which I'd rather not even mention as not to spoil anything. I also liked the way its told, not only through cutscenes, but through various paper clips and notes found throughout the game, I enjoyed piecing together Murphy's past myself, even before the game made it more explicit through cutscenes. That said, there were a few... weird moments, with certain characters popping at just the most opportune moments, but I'm willing to let them slide. As per usual for the series, there's a lot of alternate endings, however, the way you act through the game not only changes the ending, but also some of Murphy's backstory. Some would call it cheap, but me, personally, found it an interesting idea. It makes sense for a... meaner Murphy to have had committed more serious misdemeanors in the past than a Murphy who's being nicer. I dunno, I think it works. Where the game does suffer is monster design. Both in behavior and design they are all very... humanoid, with predictable movements and robotic animations. Silent Hill has had always had enemies that reflected the psyche of a character, being the hero or an antagonist, here.... they look pretty generic and uninspired. That said, there's this 'Wheelchair Monster' that actually falls right in line with what most of Silent Hill has to offer, and is actually related to the hero. The game really could've used more designs like that one.
 You'll spend most of your time running throughout the streets of Silent Hill. While you could simply go straight away to your destination, exploration is rewarded with sidequests. You may come across certain open doors(or windows!), NPCs or even notes that trigger them. Not all of them are equally rewarding, but some of the are very memorable, like this one scene where you have to spin a music record backwards, and you get to see a murder scene in reverse. It's very creepy, creative and, in a very twisted way, cool. That said, some of the quests can be very vague, there aren't many pointers or hints, and Silent Hill is rather large, so it can be a bit of a pain solving these by yourself. As a matter of fact, sometimes even getting to your next plot-related objective can be tough, since Murphy won't always mark the next destination on the map. When all is said and done, I liked the idea behind the sidequests, although more hints would've been nice, and I actually enjoyed most of the puzzles in the game, even if a few of them were reused, like the 5-lock vaults.

 Then we've got the combat, which is serviceable. Murphy can either carry two guns, or one gun and a melee weapon. Guns work as you'd expect, and you can walk while you aim and shoot, which bears mentioning seeing how many survival horror games root you to your spot. Melee combat is a bit... spotty. You can both attack and defend with your weapons, but you also have to keep in mind that they will eventually break. You shouldn't worry too much though, as the streets and building interiors are littered with weapons, so you'll never find yourself defenseless. And in the very rare case that you do, Murphy can always count on his weak fists to help him put some distance between himself and the enemies. Still, combat never really felt... smooth, most of the enemies gained super armor after 2-3 of your strikes, forcing you to block incoming attacks. It's hard to explain, but it doesn't feel very well. Regardless, it's not terrible, it simply lacked more polish. Lastly, the way swapping equipped weapons work is a bit weird, as equipping your gun will make Murphy drop his melee weapon, instead of storing it or somethin'.
 The graphics may be a bit bland, with some rather jerky animations, and the voice acting left a lot to be desired, but they actually nailed the atmosphere. They actually spooked me once or twice, as a matter of fact. While the Horror is at times a bit different from what one would expect of Silent Hill, the Silent Hill brand of horror is definitely present in the game, with otherwordly rusted environments making themselves present every now and then, plus, your trusty radio is always there to warn you that danger is nearby... even if you can't see it. Still, where this game's style differs from the other Silent Hill's is that this is probably the most 'mundane' of them all, with mostly humanoid monsters, in a very grey/blue/brown city. You could probably argue that the art direction they went with was a bit soulless, and I'd agree a bit. Luckily, the game makes up for it with some truly frightening scenes.

 Sadly, it seems like the game is a bit broken. From what I could gather, it seems the PS3 is the worst version, although a patch came out, which is how I played it. Still, sometimes the framerate can take a huge hit, mostly, but not exclusively, when the game is saving or loading, which isn't unheard of, but whenever you earn a trophy the game might even freeze for a second or two. It's a bit worrisome at first, since you think that it's a honest to goodness freeze, but you get used to it eventually.
 Downpour is far from being perfect, but its a genuinely creepy, fun game. I liked exploring Silent Hills, I liked solving its puzzles, I liked figuring it out Murphy's story and I liked the story itself. With a little more polishing the close-ranged combat and the techical issues, and a little more time spent designing better monsters, it could've been a really great game. Regardless, one's gotta acknowledge all it does right as well: The fun, sometimes challenging puzzles, some of fantastically creepy scenes and moments, the interesting story and how its told and, of course, how well they managed to create a creepy atmosphere that lasts all the way through to the end.
 7.0 out of 10

Friday, April 15, 2016

Now Playing: Silent Hill - Downpour

 I think it's OK to call myself a fan now?
 Since it's raining right now, and since Book of Memories is so bad, it felt appropriate to play this game now. Having sunk one hour in it already, I already stand on a somewhat solid ground on how I feel about the game.

What I liked:
 - The atmosphere. Recently, well, somewhat recently, I've started to appreciate games that take their time to build the atmosphere. Kinda like Twilight Princess, in which you spend about an hour doing mundane tasks before you even get your first blade. Well, it's about 50 minutes here before you see the first enemy, and all the while before that, the game builds its atmosphere perfectly. Exploring abandoned, worn down buildings, and then getting your first experience of Silent Hill's Darkside. And the environments feel pretty Silent Hillish. It's a tiny bit different from previous games, but you can still tell the strong Silent Hill influence.

What I didn't like:
 -Wielding weapons is a bit cumbersome. Dumb things like taking out your gun making you drop your melee weapon. It's not terrible, but it feels a bit unpolished.

 - The combat and the monsters. Both things are tied together, but... enemies block attacks now. Yeah... it feels a bit weird, because they do it with their arms. And it's tied together because enemies... they feel uninspired. Silent Hill 3, 4 and 0rigins, and from what I remember 2 as well, had these weird creatures that moved in jerky, unnatural yet organic ways. You could say that they felt like twisted life forms. These enemies, at least the ones I encountered, move in a very robotic fashion. Swipe, Swipe. opening. And then you Attack, attack, they block, so then you block, they swipe, you either attack or block the next swipe, etc. It feels very predictable and robotic. They aren't as creepy as previous monsters in the franchise.

- The graphics. Truth be told, I don't care about graphics most of the time, but the character models look a bit subpar, and the humans' animations look jerky.

 Regardless, while I have more bad things to say about the game than good ones, I'm still enjoying the game. The atmosphere is really well done, which makes up for the disappointing enemies, and who knows, they might get better eventually, I mean, I only encountered one enemy type after all! And while the combat system is robot, it's not necessarily bad, just mediocre.

Now Playing: Silent Hill - Book of Memories

 W... what the hell is this... this thing??
 Look, I'm the kind of guy that is open to change. I'm open to franchises trying new things, I'm open to introducing new characters, to reboot games with entirely different premises. I am. As long as the game is competent, as long as the game is fun.

 Silent Hill Book of Memories is a mess. Let's start with the first thing that pops up in your face when you start the game: You have to select a trinket from about 8. You're told nothing about what these things are or what the hell they do. I thought I was picking a savefile. But whatever, maybe it's done on purpose, pick something and let it have a hidden bonus to your character. Whatever. Then you go into the character creator, and you have to pick a class from the very, very descriptive names such as 'Preppy', 'Goth' or 'Rocker'. How the hell am I supposed to know that Rocker gives you a plus to strength and vitality, or that Jock has better strength and dexterity? You don't. Best design choice ever. Ever.

 And don't let me get started on the menus, they are a mess, cramping a ton of options and choices between a lot of tabs. And as per usual, very little of what is what is told to the player. Just what is the 'VOIT' option on the 'Options' menu? and why is it grayed out? will somebody tell me? Please? And menus are explored with the touchscreen. Genius. Touch controls on menus work great as an alternative, since sometimes, it's more convenient. Not here, where buttons are very, very small. Menus are a mess, plain and simple. And the touchscreen is used to pick up stuff from the environment, for whatever reason. I hate it. And since I'm at it, the graphics. The graphics are terrible, my character's neck had missing polygons that let you see the bed through them. On the opening cutscene. Seriously, Konami, seriously?

 And then we get down to the gameplay. It's a Diablo clone. I love Silent Hill and I love Diablo. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles did it, and that game was a blast! And this game was developed by Wayforward, it can't be bad, right? Right? It's pretty bad. Something I really like when it comes to dungeon crawling RPGs is getting all this different weapons, with different modifiers and seeing them on the character models. Here you do get different weapons... slabs of wood, knives, mauls... but without modifiers. It's pretty mundane stuff, which makes sense in a Survival Horror game, but it's downright lame on a dungeon crawling game. And apparently weapon types get stronger the more you use them, not that it matters since weapons break after a while. And y'know, that's borrowed from the other Silent Hill games, where it makes sense for weapons to be discarded just like that. But on a dungeon crawling game? Seriously? I like getting bigger, better, shinier weapons, not having a ton of dull, repetitive weapons that are meant to be discarded and disposed off.  What makes Dungeon Crawing games so addictive is growing stronger, getting better weapons and armors. There aren't even armor pieces in this game, it seems. Like what the hell, TMNT on the 3DS felt like a Diablo-lite, well, this is like a Diablo-lite-lite. Seriously.

 I only cleared one Zone, but everything seems to imply that there're no skills or active/passive skills... seriously? Look, Silent Hill games did their own thing, and they did it right. And I understand why they decided to borrow things from those games for this one, as to not alienate players, or to remind them of previous games... but things like disposable weapons that are meant to be discarded doesn't mesh well with this game. They should've done what TMNT did and build the game around the genre and not around the franchise. This feels like a poorly put together game that isn't too sure of what it wants to be. It's a Dungeon Crawler at its core, but it's missing its best elements. It tries to be a horror game, but it just isn't scary, having the flashlight affect the enemy's aggressiveness makes no sense when the game is built around defeating enemies. Why even have the flashlight? I mean, seriously man, it's such a useless mechanic. And if certain parts of the game, later down the line, force me into avoiding certain enemies... then they're doing something wrong, because this genre is about mowing down enemies, not avoiding them. And the loading times, sweet Jesus, the loading times...

 I really don't understand what they were thinking when they came up with this game. Maybe Wayforward was making another game and Konami coerced them into slapping the Silent Hill name on top of it? Maybe Konami wanted to take Silent Hill into this new direction but Wayforward tried to compromise by shoehorning Silent Hill enemies that made no sense on this genre? I... really don't understand. Who is this game meant to please? People that love the survival horror genre? They won't be happy with this game. People that love Dungeon Crawlers like Diablo? This won't satisfy them, it's missing some of its best, most addictive features. People that like both Silent Hill and Dungeon Crawlers? Not only is that audience smaller than the other two, but both Silent Hill and Dungeon Crawler elements don't mix well together, so it won't make them happy either.

 Silent Hill Book of Memories, so far, is nothing less than a mess. Conflicting ideas and a horrible interface... I really can't see this game getting any better.

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Review #319: Silent Hill 0rigins

 Did they seriously go with 0rigins? With a 0? Seriously?
 After Silent Hill 4 Konami decided that the only direction they could take the franchise was backwards, and with that, I mean back in time. Taking place before the first Silent Hill, and developed by a different studio based outside Japan, Silent Hill 0rigins manages to capture the spirit of the franchise, and offers new insight into Silent Hill's sweetheart, Alessa. Even if it slightly contradicts a few events from the first game.

 Supposedly, you find out about a certain accident that saw a house burned down with Alessa inside during Silent Hill 1's story. Well, this game pick only a few moments before that fire, with Travis Grady stopping in the middle of somewhere to follow a little girl who leads him to the burning house. Travis, being the good guy that he is, rescues the girl and passes out, only to find himself inside Silent Hill. The roads are blocked, the girl is, supposedly, dead. And someone is guiding him somewhere. And like every good Silent Hill protagonist, Travis has his own demons to face, literally. I've read some people call the story a bit derivative of Silent Hill 2, which I didn't play in its entirety, but there's a Pyramid-head like enemy, and a few enemies that represent the same things they did for James. Still, I liked the story, I found it to be perfectly in line for the series, and I also really liked the enemy design and how it tied to Travis, particularly the Carrion enemies, who are reminiscent of a twisted take on Roadkill.
 Gameplay is standard Silent Hill fare(well, at least the couple I played, 2 and 3), having Travis go from area to area. Unlike, say Resident Evil, while the entire game takes place in Silent hill, each 'section', or 'level', or however you want to call it is clearly defined: The Hospital, The Sanitarium, the Theater and the Motel. Each level is one relatively long, self-contained area filled with puzzles and enemies. Each building also comes in two flavors, when Travis comes in front of a mirror, he will warp to the 'Mirror world' version of the stage, while the layout remains the same, enemy and item placement will be different, and certain doors that were locked before will now be open and vice versa. And that's the game's main mechanic, traversing both versions of an area in order to collect the information and items required to clear puzzles and then make your way to the boss. And to the game's credit, some puzzles can be rather hard. To the game's... discredit, however, unlike previous games, there's no difficulty toggle, so you'll have to deal with the same puzzle difficulty and enemy difficulty, which, y'know, I'm fine with it on practice, but I like it when games let you tailor the difficulty to your preferences.

 Now then, as for the combat... it's a bit of a mixed bag. Something that I really like with Silent Hill games is that melee is almost always a viable strategy. Not always the best or the most efficient, but it can get the work done. They went the extra mile in this one, Travis can PUNCH HIS ENEMIES TO DEATH. Travis. Can. Punch. His. Enemies. To. Death. Badass. Or you could turn off your flashlight and try to sneak or run your way through, but I digress. There's a reason for Travis' fists of death, close-range weapons actually break this time around. Not that it really matters, since there's hundreds of them, and Travis has infinite inventory space to carry typewriters, iron wrenches and even slabs of wood. Then there's also a large variety of long-range weapons... The game might seem hard, because enemies re very resilient, and the enemies start tough from the start, probably a byproduct of being on a handled, and therefore trying to have a more distilled, experience, but by the end of the game you'll be overflowing with healing items, guns and melee weapons.
 The game had a few audio issues, it seems like... either the voice samples lost quality or something, as you'll hear how certain parts of certain dialogues suddenly go up in volume and lose some sharpness. And while, most of the time, you can put the camera behind your back with the L button, there's a few forced fixed camera angles that will mess you up. Lastly, I played the PSP version, and sometimes it felt like... the audio disappeared when it shouldn't have? I'm not entirely sure though. That said, I've read that the PS2 version is a bit of a bugfest, so pick your console carefully.

 I loved Silent Hill 0rigins, I really did. It's almost surprising, considering how it came from a different development team, and on a handled device! Yet they managed to capture the feeling of the series perfectly. I found myself easily engrossed in the game, waiting for nightfall and dimming the lights, as to get the best atmosphere possible. It's not a perfect game, particularly if you compare it against Silent Hill 3 and 4, it doesn't have as many spooks, and the combat is a bit wonkier than on those games. But even then, all things considered, it's a game I enjoyed. A lot.
 7.5 out of 10



Monday, April 11, 2016

Now Playing: Silent Hill 0rgins

 Did Konami really, REALLY titled it '0'rigins? Seriously? I guess they did...
 So there I was, thinking to myself 'Sigh, I really have to play Mass Effect? That'd mean leving my room. Sigh', so I did the only thing that made sense: Started Silent Hill 0rigins.

 So far so good, I just cleared the Hospital section, and the game is relatively fun. I hate how it seems like you can't kill enemies while in the Darkside, I lost a bunch of health and a few melee weapons to the nurses. Speaking of nurses, I found it interesting how they decided to open up the game with the nurses so soon!

 It seems to run at a pretty consistent framerate, sometimes clearly going over 30, goddamn, PSP games usually have framerate issues!

Review #318: Valkyrie Profile - Lenneth

 It has seen better days.
 Valkyrie Profile was a fun little JRPG on the PSone, one that was produced in rather small quantities, so good luck finding it for cheap! Luckily, there's this PSP port of the same game available on the cheap. Valkyrie Profile has... it has certainly aged a bit, but it's still a relatively fun little adventure while it lasts.

  The story pits you as the Valkyrie named... Valkyrie. At least until you learn her real name later down the line(Not like you could easily figure it out...), and she is tasked with bringing Einherjar, souls of fallen men, to Nibleheim in order to fight the Vaenir and prevent Ragnarok, The game features about 20 different playable characters, all with their own backstory and.. and that's pretty much all the character development they'll ever get. Y'see, the game is divided in 8 chapters divided into 28 periods each, and during each chapter there's different dungeons to explore and different Einherjar to recruit, but before getting them, you are treated to their last moments. The game can get pretty depressing, seeing them die, betrayed, tortured or by sacrificing themselves... And the writing is pretty sharp, so it's easy to like these characters. As for the overall plot, it's easy to forget that it's actually there, as there's not a whole lot of story outside the end of the world and the different Einherjar. There's also three different ending, but only ending A gives you any kind of closure, and it delves into who and what Valkyrie is, as well as revealing more about the gods... basically, aim for Ending A.
 There's three difficulty settings: Easy, Normal and Hard. What changes the most are which dungeons are available, Easy has mostly straightforward dungeons, while Hard has the most complex ones. Easy is actually the hardest difficulty settings, enemies don't give much experience points, equipment isn't as good and you don't get the best characters, plus, you lose access to ending A. Besides dungeons and a few characters exclusive to Hard, the real difference between Normal and Hard is that on Hard, every character starts off at level 1... which can actually be a good thing, since there's a few items you can use to boosts their stats on leveling up, allowing you to have some pretty tough party members. There's also a bonus dungeon, unlockable on Normal and Hard, by using the last Save Spot in the game, but the only way to get the extra goodies, like bonus characters, is to use the 8 Flame Jewels, which are only found in Hard Mode, and hopefully you found them all, cause there's no going back to previous dungeons during this bonus dungeon.

 Where the game shined the most back in the day was with its combat system, you make a party of four, and each character is tied to a different face button. Depending on which weapon they have equipped, they can deliver up to three different attacks, and you want to create combos in order to fill a gauge that allows you characters to unleash powerful super moves. It bears mentioning that, while it's relatively fun, it's a bit more slower paced than it sounds. Until you get the really good weapons, battles can take a while, not due to their difficulty, but because of all the damage enemies soak, or them deciding to block and/or dodge your attacks.
 Dungeons are explored in 2D, and Valkyrie can create crystals as platforms, or even break them to boost herself, which in theory lends itself to some interesting puzzling and jumping. In theory. I played the game on hard, which means I got the most complex dungeons, and they can be downright terrible as level design goes. From labyrinthine roads, that you must go all the way back on foot upon defeating a boss, to the game demanding more precision on your jumping than the controls allow. Maybe the PSP isn't very comfortable when it comes to jumping from moving platforms or disappearing blocks or what have you, but at least on this console, dungeons can be a pain in the neck.

 The worst part about the game is getting the A ending, it's impossibly convoluted and has oh so many ways for the player to screw up. Basically, up to chapter 7 I advise you to get a FAQ and follow it to a tee. There're no hints whatsoever as to what you have to do. You have to learn about the Seal gauge, and somehow you must figure out which events trigger it to lower. And you also must avoid doing key scenes until a certain chapter unless you want to lock yourself out of the A ending. And there's absolutely no hints about it, but Lucian must be sent to Odin during chapter 5 or 6. Having to second guess myself why consulting a FAQ just to make sure I don't screw up is not my idea of fun, and Ending B is so boring and dull, that the only way to get a satisfactory ending is with Ending A.
 As for the PSP port, it's based on the Japanese release of VP, which means item sorting is out, not that I really needed it, but it would've been convenient. The Graphics can get relatively blurry as well, it didn't bother me too much, but it doesn't look as good as the original PSOne version. And lastly, this port introduced about 15 CG cutscenes. I was afraid they'd look terrible, but they are actually pretty alright. A bit out of place on an strictly 2D game, but they are not bad at all.

 Valkyrie Profile - Lenneth has certainly aged a bit. Dungeons can get pretty annoying, at least on hard mode, both due to the nature of some of the puzzles as well as to the precise jumping and reactions it demands, and locking the A Ending behind such convoluted means is downright mean. But even then, there's plenty of fun to be had if you don't mind its age and its rather slow pace.
 7.0 out of 10

My Favorite Wii Games

 Here's the gist of it, in this world there's only one constant I'm entirely subjected to: Change. I am a person, and right now I'm not the same man that I was when I first began writing, heck, that guy wasn't even the same guy that wanted to write this in the first place! What I want to get to, once I stop digressing, is that this list is how I feel right now, at this very moment, so when and if I feel like making this list again, and knowing myself I probably will, it might change.

 So, what is that list? These are the games I liked the most on each particular system, this time around the Nintendo Wii. These are not necessarily the games I consider best, but the ones I liked the most and the ones I have the fondest memories of. For these lists I tried to stay away from multiplatform games, or from ports. I tried to, but in a few cases it was impossible to.


10) Red Steel 2
 So, I never really liked Motion controls, which begs the question just why did I buy a Wii, and said reason is entry number 4 on this list, but I'm getting ahead of myself. Red Steel 2 was the first game I truly, really adored despite it being built around the motion controls. But it works. I remember feeling my arms sore after some sessions with this game, but I always felt like it was worth it. The art direction is fantastic, and the moves look so cool, and it feels good to pull them off. And... I can't believe I'm gonna say this, but I think the motion controls actually do add to the overall experience.

9) Mario Kart Wii
 Mario Kart DS might be the Mario Kart I like the most, but Mario Kart Wii is, easily, the Mario Kart I've spent the most time with. I've played this game with most of my buddies, I've played it online, and I even played it online with and against some of my friends. The amount of fun I've had with this game is undeniable... at least when not trying to unlock everything and having to deal with the blue shells!

8) The Legend of Zelda - Skyward Sword
 Apparently, it's cool to dislike Skyward Sword now, but that's alright, my views are not as flimsy as most of Zelda's fanboys. If only it wasn't for the motion controls, this would've been my favorite Zelda ever. Not only do you get the usual assortment of puzzles and goodies to find, not only does it have a fantastic new water-colored art-direction, but for the first time ever in a Zelda game, it made me care about the characters. Zelda was loveable, Impa had a surprising amount of depth and some of the best moments in the game, and it made me care about Groose. It made me care about flippin' Groose. It's the newest Zelda out there, I've only finished it once, unlike the hundreds of times I finished Ocarina of Time or the three times I finished Twilight Princess, and even then, it has more memorable moments and characters than both of those games combined. I should probably mention that I did finish other Zelda games, but I don't really like 2D Zelda games, don't even let me get started on how much A Link to the Past bored me...

7) The Last Story
 Ah, The Last Story, you poor thing you. Victim of mixed opinions, heck, as a matter of fact, my two favorite critics, ProJared and Jim Sterling, the latter with whom I usually agree with on his reviews, hated it. I remember after reading a few more reviews I came to the conclusion that your enjoyment of the game is directly related to the CPU allies, those that found them useful usually liked it, but those that found them useless usually hated it. I had no problems with the CPU allies, and I really, really enjoyed it. I liked the loveable cast of characters, I liked the story, even if a few twists were a bit predictable, I liked the customization and I liked the art direction.

6) Xenoblade Chronicles
 Operation Rainfall: Success. There was a lot of weight heaving on Xenoblade's shoulders, a game that had been released in Japan and Europe years prior, which made it outdated by default. But Xenoblade pulled through. Featuring a massive world, where if you can see it, you can reach it. Featuring a decent combat system built around changing the future and comboing skills together, which while not perfect(I hated the fact that your attacks would miss 90% of the time against enemies that overleveled you), worked great. There was also a ton of little neat touches, like the armors reflecting on the character models, and when flashbacks played, the characters would wear the armors they wore back then!
 I was particularly fond of the story, since it was very reminiscent of Xenogears', as a matter of fact, it felt like a remake of sorts. Much more of a spiritual sequel to it than the terrible, terrible Xenosaga series.

5) Arc Rise Fantasia
 Oh, Arc Rise Fantasia, you poor, poor thing you. As soon as the first English trailer dropped, most people completely forsook about the game due to its terrible voice-acting. And it is terrible, but all the people that refused to give it a chance because of that missed out on a fantastic JRPG. Clearly inspired on the Tales of series, which shows, they even borrowed the skits! The game has a somewhat original combat system, and it gets really tough, really fast unless you learn to rely on Magic.
 Regardless, where it really shines, and where it matters most in an RPG, is in its story. There's this particular moment in the game where half your party betrays you for different reasons, which is one of my favorite moments in a JRPG ever. EVER. It was there and then that I realized just how much this game engaged me, and it only got better and better afterwards. It's hard to be original, particularly now a days, where JRPGs go full anime and try to cover as many waifu stereotypes and cliche scenes as possible, but then there's Arc Rise Fantasia, doing its own thing, even deconstructing a few tropes along the way.

4) Super Smash Bros. Brawl
 This is single handedly the reason I decided to get a Wii. And I adored this game, spending over 200 hours in it. In hindsight, it's probably among the weakest entries in the franchise, and whoever came up with tripping, even while playing at a casual level, needs to revise his priorities. But even, even taking tripping into account, this is Smash Bros, and it's still a damn fun game, with the largest character roster to date(At the time), and countless forms of fan service, from hundreds of trophies with colorful descriptions, stickers, timed demos, to a ton of achievements to clear! Few games pack as much stuff to do as Brawl, and it's all fun to play through. And say what you will about Sub-Space Emissary, I liked it, and the cutscenes were damn good.

3) Tatsunoko VS Capcom
 When it comes to 2-D fighting games, I love them. I have a few favorites, Street Fighter III, Garou - Mark of the Wolves, NeoGeo Battle Coliseum, Capcom VS SNK 2... but one of them stands tall above the rest: Tatsunoko VS Capcom. I even consider it a superior game to its successor, Marvel VS Capcom 3. I could go on and on about how much I love the mechanics, the Baroque system, the character roster or the stylized graphics... but I think this sums everything up pretty nicely: I bought an Arcade Stick just for this one game. And I regret nothing, I used to rock that Soki/ Tekkaman Blade team like there was no tomorrow. And I even took the game online against a couple of buddies.

2) Resident Evil 4
 Alright, so I've pretty much tiptoed around the 'No Ports' rule I decided to use all throughout my lists, by shielding myself with excuses. But, but, I think the Wii's unique control scheme makes the game feel different enough from the other versions of the game, and I'd argue, that it plays much better than the other versions. Alright, so the gameplay is an absolute blast, I mean, this game did change third person shooters forever(Or at least up to 2016, where its influence is still felt to this very day), but it's more than just that. It's about the fantastic setpieces, like having to survive a zombie raid inside a little house, not unlike a few horror movies. Or what about infiltrating a castle full of Ganado? Like, seriously, I could sing this game praises all day long and it still wouldn't be enough.

1) No More Heroes/ No More Heroes 2
 It's tough having to pick between both games. While No More Heroes 1 has more personality. you just can't deny just how much better the combat is on the second game. Still, personality is half the reason why these games are so good. Suda 51 games have a certain quality to them, a certain insanity that makes each game he directs an absolute pleasure to go through. At face value, the story in the first game makes no sense, but it's built around its unique personality, its characters, its fantastic dialogue, its truly hilarious moments. No More Heroes 2 toned down the insanity a bit, a few of the bosses weren't quite as memorable as NMH 1's, but the gameplay got polished immensely. The way the different beam sabers work, how much more smoothly the combos flowed, or even letting you switch between beam sabers at will. Both are unforgettable games that showcase Suda 51's style perfectly, a style that, on the surface, favors style over substance, but if you're willing to look, hides a surprising amount of depth. Both to the stories and as to the gameplay, hiding a few mechanics that are up to the player to discover by himself.
 Oh, and Robin Atkin Downes did a stellar job with the role of Travis Touchdown, it introduced me to his voice, and it's a pleasure getting to discover him on plenty of other games, easily becoming my favorite voice actor in the gamingdom.