Thursday, June 30, 2016

Month Overview: June 2016

 Tally:
999 - Nine Hours, Nine Persons, Nine Doors                         7.5
Professor Layton VS Phoenix Wright - Ace Attorney            8.0
Danganronpa 2 - Goodbye Despair                                         8.5
Danganronpa Another Episode - Ultra Despair Girls             6.5
Lord of Arcana                                                                        2.0


 Now that's a lot of visual novel-style games! Not that I mind, they were pretty good. Even Danganronpa AE was good at what it wanted to be, although it wasn't too good at what it was. Anyways, 999? Pretty good, although I disagreed with a few design choices. Professor Layton VS Phoenix Wright? Now that's a crossover. Danganronpa 2? It starts of very disappointing, but it turns around on its second half and becomes amazing. All in all, I'm pretty satisfied.

 Except with Lord of Arcana, that game can burn in hell for all I care.


Game of June:
 Man, I had a tough time scoring Danganronpa 2. The first 10 hours of the game I was feeling so let down. Fanservice was rampant throughout the entire game, the cast just wasn't very likable, and while the story behind the trials was pretty good, the gameplay was even more annoyingly convoluted. And then I got into the second half, and man, does the game pick up. Most of the fanservice is gone, by this time you've invested more time into the surviving characters and you realized that they had hidden depths, and the story gets SO good. SO. GOOD. I wanted to score it above Danganronpa at times. But there was my issue: Danganronpa 1 was consistently amazing, while Danganronpa 2 does get better than Danganronpa 1, the first half is rather bland. Still, it's a solid game, but lacks the consistency that made the original so good.

Runner-up:
 Alright, so the trials weren't as in-depth as they normally are, but it was understandable considering the target audience. Besides, it made up for it with the addition of Layton's puzzles. The end result is a Phoenix Wright game AND a Professor Layton game at the same time, without one franchise overshadowing the other in terms of presence. Although, y'know, I felt kinda sad that Pheenie was the butt of the joke the entire time, while Layton got nothing but praises. Which makes sense considering that's how both characters are treated in their respective universes, but still!

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Review #331: Lord of Arcana

 Ooooooooooooooooooh boy...
 You know what I like? A good Monster-Hunter clone. Monster Hunter Tri? Loved it. Gods Eater Burst? Adored it, and pre-ordered the sequel. Toukiden Kiwami? 9.0 outta 10, still playing it nowadays on my spare time(The sequel, at least on Vita, isn't looking so hot though). Do you know what I also enjoy? Games in which Swery65 worked on. And you're telling me that Swery65 worked on a Monster Hunter clone? Sold. And then I played and.... full disclosure, I did not finish the game, and frankly, I'm not planning on doing so any time soon. Lord of Arcana is terrible, terrible.

 So, story, seven beasts are sealed in coffin-like things, and as you hunt stuff the seals break and you have to hunt these beasts. That's it. There's no memorable NPCs, no memorable moments, no nothing. I mean, I only got up to the third sealed monster, but it's pretty much just like Monster Hunter: The story is just an excuse to have you hunt things with your created character, who is pretty much a blank slate, personality wise. As per the norm for these games, you have a small town-like hub were you can craft items or equipment using pieces you've scavenged from monsters and accept quests. There's also a store, but they don't sell anything useful.
 And then we get to the gameplay, and where to start with... So, you created your character, picked a weapon, equipped an special attack, and you are ready to do some hunting, right? Well, the first surprise coming your way is how the hunting pans out. In these games you are usually let loose on an area, search enemies and fight them in real time. Here... you will come across enemies on the field, but these represent enemy encounters, as if it was an RPG, meaning that touching them shifts the action to a round arena in which the actual fight takes place. It's as annoying and time consuming as it sounds. Now, you know how these type of games can get very grindy very fast, as hunting for specific enemy parts can get grueling, it's not unusual to have to fight the same enemy over ten times in order to get that specific thing. Well, this game manages to make it even more tedious. There's certain enemy parts, 'cores', which are required for almost everything worth a damn, that can only be harvested at specific times.

 And this works very... randomly. After you've been on the field for a while, the game will randomly pick a specific area, and killing enemies in that specific area lets you harvest the cores of fallen enemies... if you are lucky. You see, there's an RNG to the RNG. You see, you might want Goblin cores, but the game will suddenly decide 'Hey, see this area filled with Skeletons and not a single Goblin? YOU CAN HARVEST CORES HERE NOW. ENJOY'. And killing enemies grants you the chance to get the core, more often than not you'll get nothing. And bosses, the strongest, most time consuming enemies? They might not even drop their cores as well. SO. MUCH. FUN. And the enemies are so lame, and their animations are lackluster as well. The first boss looks laughably dumb, at least the Bahamut was kinda coolish.
 The combat is simple and boring. You have a normal attack, on square, and a special attack on the triangle button. X is used for blocking and rolling. The combat feels very clunky and stiff, it simply isn't a fun game to play. But the cherry on top? Boss encounters. Do you know the best part about them? In order to kill them you have to engage in a sequence of QTES, and QTES are SO. MUCH. FUN. I can't stress enough just how lousy this game is, it's filled with baffling design choices, lame enemies and lame combat. There's dozens upon dozens of Monster Hunter clones out there, something this horrid just won't cut it.

 Now then, when I play Monster Hunter or Gods Eater, and a boss annihilates me, my immediate thoughts are to claim revenge. Revise my strategy, maybe even my equipment, and I try to tackle the boss again as soon as possible. In Lord of Arcana, Bahamut creamed me and... I just didn't want to try again. About a week later I tried again, and lost again, so I searched for Bahamut online, turns out he is kind of a roadblock for some of us, but, apparently, there's a spear-type weapon that completely wrecks him. But... I just couldn't be bothered to get that weapon. I wasn't having fun with Lord of Arcana, the game is tedious, is clunky and is anything but fun. There's so many other, better, more competent games, so why bother?
 For what it's worth, I looked at Lord of Apocalypse, a Japan only sequel that was released on both the PSP and the Vita, and it looks leagues and bounds better than this game. For instance, Agni, the first boss, while he is a tiny, pathetic creature on Lord of Arcana, in Lord of Apocalypse he is four times as tall, and both of his arms sport the flame gauntlets. His animations and patterns are just as pathetic, but at least he is looks imposing. They got rid of the 'encounter'-based combat, so that you engage enemies on the field itself, as it's meant to be, and you get CPU allies as well, which are bound to make the Single Player campaign more tolerable.

 Lord of Arcana is a terrible game. It's kinda sad, because it's not broken buggy. But the game is undeniably boring and tedious. The game is dull to the point of soullessness, and it makes me incredibly sad to say that, because if Swery 65's games have something, it's a soul, as derivative as they are. They tried to change the Monster Hunter formula, but change for the sake of change is not a good thing, which is why all of its original ideas fell flat on their face, which is why they got rid of them on the enhanced sequel, Lord of Apocalypse. The Monster Hunter-clone market, while still relatively niche, has dozens of fantastic alternatives: The PSP and 3DS have the Monster Hunter franchise, the PSP and Vita have the God Eater franchise and the Vita and PS4 have Toukiden. There's absolutely no reason to play this game.
 2.0 out of 10

Sunday, June 26, 2016

I flippin' adore Orcs & Elves

 This little gem deserves way more exposure than it gets.
 Let me take you back in time, circa 2009ish, back then Mobile games were a tad more rudimentary than they are today, but at least they didn't have microtransactions. Back then we didn't have fancy touchscreens on our cells, or weren't as widespread, so games suffered due to poor controls, so mobile games were little more than novelties or diversions.

 And then I discovered Doom RPG. Hot. Damn. The game was amazing, not in small part due to how it made the most of its medium. You couldn't have games that required twitch reflexes back then, there were some, but they sucked. Doom RPG dealt with this by making the entire game turn based. The world of Doom RPG was divided into an invisible grid, every time you moved from square to square a turn would pass. It sounds very slow paced, but the game never felt slow. And it was a blast to play, there were dozens of weapons, enemies and secrets to find!

 The game could last you anywhere near 10 hours, and it was glorious, I must have played through the game countless times, and back then I already grew out of replaying games I would've beaten recently. Life was good.

 And then came Doom RPG II. And... I don't have many memories of it, for whatever reason. But there was another game released by ID Software that used the same engine: Orcs & Elves. It had everything that made Doom RPG so good, but transported to a fantastic medieval setting. And the game benefited from it. Having flaming swords over pistols, a bow over a shot gun, a warhammer over a bazooka made it much more exciting. And Doom's enemies might be cool, but the new monsters were badass.
 And almost as soon as I found out about Orcs & Elves, a Nintendo DS port was announced, I remember watching the reveal trailer over and over again on Gametrailers.com. And I eventually bought the game on the day it was released. And there's no two ways about it, Orcs & Elves on the DS makes the Mobile version completely obsolete. That said, I would eventually return to this version, since I kinda never leave my home without my phone, while the DS usually stays at home.

 Orcs & Elves on the DS is everything Orcs & Elves was on the Mobile phone but better. The additional screen helps to make the interface friendlier, although to be honest, it takes a bit of time to get used to it, but once it clicks, you'll be using potions and toggling the map on and off with ease. The entire graphics were remade, the various environments now pack even more detail than before, and it looks glorious, not to mention the new enemy sprites; I thought the sprites on the mobile version were badass, but I was awestruck the moment I saw an Orc on the DS version for the first time.

 This port was a faithful remake of the Mobile game, but they didn't stop there, as this port features two new areas. I'm not gonna lie, the cavernous labyrinth area is a bit of a drag, but the new underground cave was a fantastic addition.
 Eventually, Orcs & Elves II would be released, and it was a step up from the first game in every single way. New enemies, new weapons, a longer storyline. It was also a bit ambitious, featuring towns and friendly NPCs. While I was a bit apprehensive of the game at first, since I didn't like the new protagonist: Valin, a Thief who stole the talking wand from the first game's hero, but the interactions between him and Ellon the wand eventually won me over. It was fun how Ellon would refuse to attack at first, but eventually warmed up to Valin, while Valin grew into a hero himself.

 Ah! How I remained hopeful that O&E2 would receive an enhanced DS port as well! But sadly that never came to be. And it's a shame, since the franchise died after that. I think there was a third entry on the Doom RPG series, and there was also a Wolfenstein RPG, but by then my phone was too outdated to play them... and nowadays, the games are so outdated for my phone that they are incompatible!

 Here's to you, Orcs & Elves, you were a fantastic two-game franchise that made the most of its platform to deliver an excellent game that worked perfectly around the limitations of its medium.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Review #330: Danganronpa Another Episode - Ultra Despair Girls

 Because just one Monokuma wasn't enough,
 After two Phoenix Wright-like visual novels, there was only one direction in which Spike Chunsoft could take the franchise: Third person shooter. The genre shift makes sense, considering you can't really move the story forwards through 'killing games', but the end result is a bit mixed.

 The game takes place before Danganronpa 2, but after the first one, and while it'd make sense to play it before DR 2, it kinda gives away the answer to one of its mysteries. Regardless, the game sees you as Komaru Naegi, Makoto Naegi's sister, as she allies herself with Danganronpa 1's survivor Toko Fukawa. Both girl must survive Towa City's children's rule of terror. At the outset, this feels like a much more brutal take on  'Children of the Corn', with children massacring adults in gruesome ways, one of them even turns them into puppets by nailing their corpses to wood planks. The physical violence is dealt with simplified, undetailed monochromatic 3D models for the adults, so most of the violence is implied. But it doesn't stop there, this might be the darkest Danganronpa yet, dealing with themes of child abuse, mental and physical, spliced with the usual Danganronpa humor. It's a mixed result. Some of the scenes are fantastic, having the kids relieve their traumas can be heartwrenching, but this, being a Japanese game, couldn't contain themselves from gratuitous panty shots, particularly on the rape victim. On the child rape victim. Like, seriously, Japan? Seriously? This game actually suffers due to the unnecessary fanservice, bordering into the unsavory at times. As for the rest of the plot, watching Komaru and Toko become friends can be endearing, finding collectibles, in the form of Manga and Books, initiates conversations between both of them and their different tastes. It's a great idea, on paper, and helps fleshing them out. Overall, the story is really good, and I love how it delves into darker themes that few games would dare, but they took a few missteps with a few of the characters.
 You'll be controlling Komaru and her trusty hack-gun-megaphone weapon, which is operated by shouting 'word bullets' through it. There's 8 different bullets, 2 of them(Move/Detect) used to solve puzzles or activate certain interactive elements, and the other 6 used for combat. There's plenty of variety, 'Burn' works like a machine gun, 'Knockback' works like a Shotgun, that deals no damage, but can deflect certain projectiles and destroy shields, 'Paralyze' which works as advertised and can be used on water for added effect, 'Link', that lets you control an enemy, and 'Dance' which makes an enemy dance. But your main means of offence will be 'Break', the 'peagun' so to speak, but it has a nifty little perk: Landing a hit on a weakpoint, the different Monokumas' red eyes, you'll deal extra damage, and your next 'Break' shot will be stronger as well. Bullets can also be enhanced with 'Bling Bullets', bought at different vendors spread throughout Towa city, in order to enhance them in various ways. Komaru herself levels up, and you can equip a ton of different skills on her, from extra hit points, to letting you run while aiming.

 But Komaru isn't alone, pressing triangle will have Toko use a stungun to her temples(Seriously) and switch into Genocider Jack. Toko doesn't take damage, but she runs on an energy meter, so you could consider her Komaru's 'super powered mode'. She fights with her scissors in close combat, and she can be enhanced as well, although instead of equipping skills on her, you buy the enhancements at the same vendors that sell bling bullets.
 The way the game plays out is a bit weird. For instance, while it is a third person shooter, this is more of an adventure game. Initially, Komaru can only take three hits(Up to five through skills), but it's not much of a liability since most enemies are really slow. Not to say that the game is a cakewalk, since I played in normal and I died a couple of times, but a high octane action game this is not. There's also a ton of 'puzzle rooms'(About 6 per chapter, for a total of 30) that require skillful use of your Bullets to solve. Another thing to keep in mind is that the is very story heavy. So much so that there's a lot of reading and cutscenes. I'm talking about Metal Gear Solid-like ratios of cutscene-to-gameplay, you might get 4 minutes of gameplay before the next cutscene or event starts, to the point of annoyance at times, since you don't really need cutscenes to tell you that yes, effectively you are on the right track. As a matter of fact, and as I mentioned previously, some of the collectibles initiate conversations, bringing yet another stop to the gameplay. What I mean to say with all this long diatribe is that this game will, more likely than not, not appeal to fans of traditional third person shooters.

 Not that the gameplay itself is brilliant either. I felt like the behind-the-back camera was a bit too close to Komaru and Toko, and, maybe it was just me, but I felt aiming was a bit tough. And I'm talking about aiming at slow moving enemies! There's a few skills that tighten the reticule's speed, which helps a bit, but still. And then there's the framerate which isn't very smooth. Heck, the game's easy mode grants you regenerating battery gauge, for Toko, so that you can just tear your way through the game, in case the story is everything that you are interested in. And the huge amount of cutscenes will get in the way of replaying the game, since skipping them is a bit of a hassle. Firstly, you have to wait 1-2 seconds before the start button becomes responsive during a cutscene, secondly, pressing start gives you the option to skip the cutscene, instead of directly skipping it, and thirdly you might get 3-5 cutscenes straight, which translates into a lot of waiting before you can finally play the game. Being someone that got the Platinum Trophies on both previous Danganronpas, I was gonna do the same for this one, but after spending about 10 seconds skipping cutscenes on Chapter 1 I gave up on it. Too boring.
 I've a bit of mixed feelings with Ultra Despair Girls. As a third person shooter, it's not very competent, but I had fun with the game. And while, eventually, I was grumbling every time I grabbed a collectible that triggered a conversation, I still read them, since they were endearing. It's as if you really want to play the game, but the game doesn't want you to play it, it wants you to read it. And don't get me wrong, the story is good, the gameplay, despite its technical flaws, is fun, but the frequent stops and halts throughout the game can be fairly annoying.

 I guess you could say that Danganronpa Another Episode is not good at what it is, a third person shooter, but is good at what it wants to be: A third-person shooter that Danganronpa fans can enjoy. If you are into the franchise, by all means indulge in Another Episode, otherwise abstain.
6.5 out of 10

Monday, June 20, 2016

Review #329: Danganronpa 2 - Goodbye Despair

 Don't despair, Danganronpa is back!
 Danganronpa 1 was fantastic, while I wasn't much of a fan of the Trials, the story caught me by the hook and didn't let go. So of course, I had to get my hands on the sequel, and, now, having played it, I've a bit of mixed feelings about it.

 So, what's Danganronpa about? It's a visual-novel styled adventure game. Taking place from Hajime Hinata's point of view, he, alongside 15 other teenagers find themselves stranded on an Island, where a Bunny named Usami kinda forces them to make friends and gather hope fragments. And then Monokuma, a half-black half-white cartoonesque bear takes over and forces the 16 students to kill each other. When not reading dozens upon dozens of lines of text that advance the story in a mostly linear fashion, you'll sometimes be allowed to explore the Island and chatter with the other students. At least until disaster strikes and one of the students decides to murder one of his peers, then you'll have to investigate and gather clues, in order to solve the mystery surrounding the murder and finding out the culprit... or perish. The story can be very bleak sometimes, but it's also pretty humorous in tone, it's a weird mixture that works relatively well, and the game's art direction works wonders with the game's themes.
 I kinda liked the story, but... I've to compare it with Danganronpa 1's, because there's things I preferred, and others I felt it took a step back. For instance, on the outset, the new characters are kinda lame. Danganronpa had funny, quirky characters that played around tropes. Sure, there were a few predictable and generic stereotypes. but they were the minority. Now the game has gone full Japan, most of the girls fall under one or more waifu stereotypes, there's the girl that's always apologizing, the girl that always talks about what 'boys have to do', the little girl that hides a perverse side, the girl that know nothing of the world, etc. It tries to pander to the Otaku culture, and it loses a lot of originality due to it. The male cast doesn't fare much better either. There's the mandatory pervert(who actually has a speck of originality, being bisexual, for a change), then there's the pervert with a crush, and there's also a guy that constantly mentions how he 'has to take a shit', because that's supposed to be funny somehow? The game doesn't stop there when trying to pander to the Otaku culture, there's a whole lot more of fanservice in the game, they actually go out of their way to put as many erotic CG as they can. I was rolling my eyes most of the time...

 ...until I finished chapter 3. Then the fanservice stops. And by that time, you've probably made more advances, during your free time, on the individual character's stories. Turns out the second half of the game is phenomenal, the twist at the end is excellent, and I'd say that everything that happens on this second half is even better than Danganronpa 1's story. That said, you will probably find a lot of parallels between this characters and the ones from the previous game, some praised it, since they did it to 'play with the players expectations'. I call it a waste. This kind of twist would be neat on a third or fourth entry, not in the second game. I mean, even the murders share similarities with the ones from the previous game, and it's done on purpose, and while I think the new murders panned out much better than the previous one's, I still think I would've preferred more originality on a sequel. Word of warning: This game reaveals the plot twists from the previous game as if they were nothing, so you'd probably want to play the first game first.
 And then we have the trials. It's no exaggeration to say that I didn't really like these gameplay segments before, and now I like them even less. For instance, previously you only had to 'shoot' your evidence at contradictory statements, now you'll also come across blue statements, on which evidence is used to agree with. It adds more nuance to an already convoluted game. Hangman's gambits have been 'improved'. or so the game claims, now you have to go through a minigame, in which you must form a word out of moving letters that appear on the screen. Problem is, words are rather long, letter must be picked up in order, and you'll spend a lot of time waiting for the letters you need to appear. Plus, you need two of the same letter in order to 'get' it, but if two different letters collide, you lose health... and I found myself losing health due to offscreen crashes a lot. It can be both unfair and tedious. Panic Talk Actions, the rhythm minigame, has been tweaked a bit, it's a bit simpler now, since you don't need to press the buttons in time every time, but just hold on a beat, and then let go on another.

 But there's even more new elements. There's the Logic Dives, which are a skateboarding-sort-of minigame, where you must jump and pick the correct roads for answers... it's rather fun to be honest, at least when the collision detection on the road works correctly, some of the jumps later on can be a bit of a pain. Then there's 'rebuttal duels', where you must slash across the screen in order to be able to use an evidence 'blade' to cut a contradiction. It's a bit annoying as well, since sometimes it will devolve into a mashing game, because gamers love those. In conclusion, I think the trials have gotten even worse. I didn't like them before, and I like them even less now. That said, as I've mentioned previously, the murders themselves are much more interesting, so I don't really mind slugging through these sections.
 Playing through the game unlocks six different levels on 'Magical Girl Unami' minigame, an arcade like arena game where you, as Unami, must defeat enemies by running in circles(To cast spells) or jumping over them. It's a surprisingly fun diversion. Beating the game however unlocks two things: Danganronpa IF, a short story, with no gameplay, dealing with an alternate take on Danganronpa 1, and 'Island Mode', a micromanagement minigame that is surprisingly fun.

 I've read everywhere that Danganronpa 2 is supposed to be an 'even better sequel' but.... as much as I liked the second half of the game, I think the gameplay took a dive for the worse. And as good as the game gets, it starts off on a rather low note. And by no means am I saying the game is bad, because by the end of the game I was having as much fun as I was with the first one, but it takes a long while to get there. It's a fact that the new environment provides a lot more variety on backgrounds and what not, but I really enjoyed the highschool theme from the previous game. Regardless, it's another great Danganronpa game, but the should've spent less time trying to appeal to the Otaku culture and trying to provide 'twists' to Danganronpa 1's characters and murders, and more time being more original.

8.5 out of 9.0.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Review #328: Professor Layton VS Phoenix Wright - Ace Attorney

 Right, I am.
 I would've never thought of having Phoenix Wright crossing over with Professor Layton, but as soon as it was announced, it made so much sense! Two heroes who solve all their issues with logic, one applies it on puzzles, while the other applies it to make sense out of various murder cases. And thus, here is it, the most logical crossover ever made, marrying the puzzles from the Layton series with the court trials from Phoenix Wright, and it's fantastic. Also, I'm only familiar with the Phoenix Wright franchise, so that was my viewpoint.

 The story revolves around Labyrinthia, a town stuck in the medieval age, where witches are real. The plot has both Layton and his gentleman-in-training Luke as well as Phoenix and his ace assistant Maya stumble into the town of Labyrinthia, where witch hunts take place daily. At first I was a bit worried about this supernatural spin on the court trials, since, while Phoenix Wright is no stranger to the supernatural, it was never this blatant. But magic in Labyrinthia follows rules. namely, a witch needs a scepter as well as up to two magical stones for up to two magical spells, which must be spoken aloud if a witch was to cast magic. I found the story to be very entertaining and engaging, and, as far as my little knowledge of Layton goes, true to the characters. Maybe a bit too true, while Layton is praised by almost everyone, Phoenix is the butt of the joke most of the time. Which makes sense, in universe, but at the end of the day Layton is the best at what he does... as well as at what Phoenix does. Phoenix never shocks Layton with a realization or theory, but it's made clear that Phoenix always plays catch-up to Layton's discoveries, even on the court trials, which I felt was a bit unfair to Pheenie. That aside, there's plot twists that you just won't see coming, due to how ridiculous(in a good way!) they are. And while the Phoenix Wright games have always dealt with murder and death, this game starts out a bit... darker, with witches, once found guilty, being burned to death on the spot.
 The game is divided in about 10 chapters, with a total of 70 puzzles and about 4 court cases, which lasted me about 18 hours. Usually, chapters alternate between 'adventure' style chapters that have you navigate the cast throughout the world of Labyrinthia, while solving puzzles to advance the plot and Court Cases, in which you play as Phoenix Wright and have to use evidence to point out contradictions in the witnesses' testimonies. From what I could gather, these puzzles are much simpler than the ones found in the Layton games, and I can tell you first hand that Phoenix cases are simpler as well. For instance, most evidence is produced during the trials themselves, as it advances or as you press the witnesses to elaborate on their testimonies. without 'investigation' phases to gather evidence beforehand. There's also a new gimmick, this time around you will have to cross-examine multiple witnesses at once, and you'll be able to press other witnesses if you notice they startle during another's words.

 Not having play the Layton games before, I did find most of the puzzles relatively easy to figure out. Since there's 70 of them, naturally I loved a few and hated a few, but all in all, there's plenty of variety. You can also gather 'hint coins' during the puzzle-themed chapters, which can be used to buy hints on both puzzles and court cases. If you ask me, I feel like this game is a fantastic starting point for people interested on dabbling on either franchise. The court cases are relatively simple, easing you into the trials you'd face on the main games(Although, honestly, the difficulty cirve resets on every game, and they ease you pretty well as the games go along), and the puzzles are simple enough as to give you a taste on to what you'd find on Layton, plus, the story does justice to the characters, and while I found a few nods to previous Ace Attorney games, you don't need to know anything about either to enjoy the story.
 Finishing the game lets you download(For free, and it's a second-long download, which makes me wonder why have them locked under a line of code...) 12 bonus chapters, each one features a short story segment as well as a new puzzle. I thought they were a drag. I mean, I liked the new puzzles, but the story was very boring. It serves as an epilogue of sorts, but suddenly every character is self-aware that they are in a videogame... I dunno, I felt the new story bits were boring, but at least you get new puzzles.

 Another thing that bears mentioning, is how good everything looks. The graphics are fantastic, sure, the game can chug a bit on the most intricate backgrounds when three characters are on-screen at once, but this being a game that revolves around reading, and reading a lot, it doesn't matter. Charmingly, Phoenix and Maya look like they do on their games(Which is to say anime-realisticish) while Layton and Luke look like they do on their games(Which is to say cartoonish), while the NPCs are a mixture of both, with main supporting characters taking after PW's style, and the secondary characters, like NPCs, taking after Layton's. It sounds as if it'd be a visual mess, but they mix relatively well. Voice acting and the soundtrack are top notch as well, they got fantastic voice actors for both Phoenix and Maya.
 I adored Professor Layton VS Phoenix Wright, it's probably one of the best crossovers I've ever played or seen. It's not surprising how well both gameplay styles mesh together, but they managed to weave a fun, interesting and somewhat original tale tying everything together. While I'd recommend any Phoenix Wright game before this one, if what you want is Phoenix Wright, it does feel like a Phoenix Wrightish game, and I'm sure it feels like a Layton game as well. It's understandable why the puzzles and trials may be somewhat simpler than the ones from the main games, and I didn't mind it at all.The only thing left for me to say is.... I want a sequel.
 8.0 out of 10

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Now Playing: Professor Layton VS Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney

 Unsurprisingly, it's really, really good.
 I can tell you first hand that Phoenix Wright has consistently pumped out great games, and while I never played a single Layton game, I know that his games have been well received as well. So it was a no brainer that this game was gonna be decent at the least. Since I've been in a text-heavy game romp, and since Capcom, king of good decisions, decided to to release Phoenix Wright 5 digitally, I decided it was high time I played Professor Layton VS Phoenix Wright, I mean, Phoenix Wright IS one of my favorite video game franchises after all!

 So, let's start with the good:
 I've only played the prologue, which featured no Trials, and very little Phoenix Wright, and I'm already having fun.
 The puzzles were amusing.
 The presentation is exquisite, voice acting is charming and both Nick and Maya's voice actors fit their characters perfectly. The graphics are beautiful as well.

 What I didn't like:
 Supernatural entities? It seems the game will involve the supernatural. I don't know about Layton, but Phoenix Wright has always been grounded in reality. More or less. It might've a few quirks, like Apollo being able to tell when someone is lying, or the Fey family being able to channel spirits, but the assassinations have always been relatively plausible. But now we are involving witches, witchcraft, crow-like witches with telekinetic abilities... I'm pretty sure this game will have trials, but if we involve the supernatural into it... then 'A wizard did it' would be a great excuse as any to get outta trouble! 'Oh, a witch left my fingertips on the crime scene.', and it'd be totally valid since witches do exist now. But to be fair, I've yet to play as Phoenix, so let's see how the game goes about it.

Monday, June 6, 2016

Review #327: 999 - Nine Hours, Nine Persons, Nine Doors

 That's a lot of nines.
 I like me some visual novels. Very linear, story driven games in which you read, read, make a choice, read, read, read, make a choice, etc. And after finding out that 999 was made by the same developer that made the fantastic Danganronpa, I just had to give it a whirl.

 The premise is as follows: You follow Junpei, one of nine different captives that have been trapped on a sinking ship, and had numbered bracelets attached to their arms. Throughout the ship they will find different numbered doors, 1-9, and only 3 to 5 people may pass through a door, if the sum of their bracelets' digital root equals to the number on the door. There's mystery, murder, betrayal and multiple endings. As for the story itself, I found it decent, but flawed. Some of the dialogue feels forced, as sometimes out of the blue, characters will decide to mention things, like Prospagnosia, and who'd knew that eventually you'd discover a character that suffers from it! Or they will decide to mention occult stuff, and who'd knew, it'd end up being pertinent to their situation! And they will offer fairly long winded, detailed explanations, while under the strain of time, they have 9 hours before they go boom, after all! And every little things ends up being pertinent. Who'd knew! Also, the game is relatively realistic, but all the realism is thrown out of the window when you enter the True Ending Route, dealing with preternatural themes that really brought me out of the game. Lastly, I know that Danganronpa came out after this game, but I had played it before even touching 999, and... let's say that I knew who Zero was immediately. Still, there's moments of absolute brilliance, but talking about them, or even hinting at them, would put me into spoiler territory.
 When you are not reading or deciding on which door to take, you'll be tasked with solving different puzzles in order to proceed. I'm gonna be honest, I found the puzzle sections to be a drag. Not only do they commit the sin of feeling like a pixel hunt, having to click on every little thing that you see, including stuff that looks like background decoration, but sometimes some objects will only trigger after you have interacted with others. Take the Kitchen puzzle, for instance, there's four piles of plates as well as a bill. You need that bill, but you can only take it after you've interacted with the four different piles of plates! Yeah, I didn't have much fun with the puzzles.

 Another issue I had was with the game's overall speed. Unless you are replaying a scene or puzzle, you can't skip the text. The problem lies when you have to retry a puzzle, as the game will force you to go through the slowly scrolling tutorial text every time you attempt it. Heck, even if you accidentally tap on something you've already interacted with, you are forced to read the text again. It's very annoying. I also found myself reading faster than the text would scroll during the story scenes, but I didn't mind it so much then, it's only during the puzzle sections that it really becomes an issue. At least, on future playthroughs, you can just fastforward the explanation texts.
 Ah, future playthroughs, the game doesn't handle them as well as I would've liked it to. Firstly, you can only fastforward text, not skip it. It sounds inconsequential, but fast forwarding text can take a couple of minutes before you get into any kind of new stuff, which can be boring. Imagine yourself holding right on the directional pad, fastforwarding the text, trying to keep yourself busy in any other way until you get to something new. The game will also have you doing the puzzles. Again. If you want to get every unique ending, it translates into solving the initial puzzle five times. And if you want the real ending, it will take at least two playthroughs. And the game doesn't allow you to skip puzzles if you already know the answer, oh no, you can't even attempt to introduce codes until you find the hints. It means busy work, a lot of busy work that could be better spent trying to solve the puzzles you haven't encountered yet.

 999 is an alright game, but I'd hesitate to favor it as much as people do. 'One of the DS's best hidden gems'? Doubt it. 'The best Visual Novel on the DS!'? I hope not. And mind you, the story itself is interesting, when you aren't rolling your eyes at all the super natural stuff, but I don't think the game lives up to the huge amounts of praise it gets. There's a lot of annoying little things with the puzzles, there's a ton of dialogue that feels forced, then there's all the annoyances related to the required multiple playthroughs.... It's a good game, but flawed.
 7.5 out of 10

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Now Playing: 999 - Nine Hours, Nine Persons, Nine Doors

 Not impressed.
 So I had just played Danganronpa, and while waiting for Danganronpa 2 to arrive I began to grow antsy. I've always had 999 on my backlog, and having learned that it was made by Chunsoft, Danganronpa's developer, and that it had a similar murder-mystery theme, albeit a bit more 'Saw' rather than 'Battle Royale', I decided to take it for a spin. Plus, people consider it one of the DS' hidden gems, so, y'know, why not? Besides, Lords of Arcana is a drag and I've been barely logging playtime on it, so.......

 Anyways, I just finished the first puzzle, and man, am I disappointed. This first puzzle felt like a pixel hunt, objects that looked like background elements wound up being crucial hotspots. Compare and contrast with Danganronpa, where everything pops, and even then, you can press a button to highlight every interactive element on the background. And to add insult to injury, the text scrolls oh so slowly. I had to retry the blue briefcase puzzle a few times(TURNS OUT THAT WHITE WARDROBE WASN'T JUST DECOR!), but the game just had to explain to me how the mini-game worked over and over and over again, and I couldn't skip it. Seriously??? The same goes for the tutorial, it went on and on and on and on, and with no way whatsoever to speed it.

 First impressions? The game blooooooooooows. Hopefully I'll end up retracting my words once everything's said and done, but judging by this very first puzzle, it's not looking very bright. Still, I remain hopeful, thanks to the game's reputation and the fact that I felt Danganronpa's weakest element was the gameplay itself, so, y'know, I can permit myself to remain ever hopeful.