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Review: Dragon Ball Z: Battle of Z

Mar 19 // Wesley Ruscher
Dragon Ball Z: Battle of Z (Xbox 360 [reviewed], PS3)Developer: ArtdinkPublisher: Namco BandaiReleased: January 28, 2014 MSRP: $59.99 Since the Budokai series on the PlayStation 2, Dragon Ball Z fans have been trudging through the same tired story on a seemingly annual basis. Battle of Z, as both a positive and negative, embraces that many fans have been there and done that. While it’s refreshing to not be bogged down with the same reprized scenes that made the series what it is today, the utter lack of any true presentations makes the whole experience feel rather lackluster. Instead the focus is on four-versus-four team battles. The single-player portion takes players across the same locals that any seasoned DBZ fan has visited numerous times, but now with the expansiveness that cramming eight fighters into an area can afford. Bigger areas to zip through and teleport around, combined with destructible environments like rocks and trees, while enjoyable at first only add later to the tedium of trying to finish off a fleeing opponent. There are 60 missions to fight through culminating in the Kid Buu Saga, but for the most part even when things mix up slightly -- like taking on a single Great Ape Vegeta -- they feel the same since combat typically falls upon the same rinse and repeat tactics. Additionally, in incorporating teams of four into each battle, much of the anime’s canon is thrown out the window, especially when you decide that four Gokus are better than any team with Yamcha on it. Online play is where Battle of Z is hoping to capture the biggest draw for its players. Sadly, a month out of release and the community is all but barren. In fact, I have only found one online match to date and was promptly kicked. The game allows for both cooperative battle -- that I can only assume makes the mission mode more enjoyable -- and team battle modes. Team battle ranges from standard four-versus-four affairs to eight-player free-for-alls, and even has a capture the Dragon Balls mode, but alas since I have no friends playing online and with the complete omission of any local play, I can only imagine that these modes offer more strategy and excitement than the rather mundane single-player offering. [embed]272149:53038:0[/embed] Perhaps single-player missions would be more engaging if Battle of Z felt like more than just a multiplayer serving of the series’ past titles. Combat is regulated to simple button presses to execute each of the character’s special and normal moves. Combos rely on basic, repetitive button tapping and don’t require much skill to execute. It’s the same formula for fighting the series is known for, and even amid the larger scale of events nothing ever amounts to anything more than isolated one-on-one encounters. It may be four-on-four, but aside from the occasional team up or chase attack, things boil down to the standards that made Dragon Ball Z games what they are today. The only things that truly augment combat are the trading cards and the ability to issue basic support commands to teammates. Trading cards are earned after missions and allow each character to be modified and customized to a player's liking. Stats like strength, speed, and Ki can be increased to make characters near godlike with the right selection. I can only imagine this leading to everyone using the same builds online, but as I stated earlier online (at least on Xbox 360) is near extinct. As for issuing commands, they are regulated to different directions on the D-pad. Players can ask their team to focus on fighting, defense, team attacks, or going all out. For the most part the AI reacts properly, but aside from when I asked my squad to go on defense, I never really felt they acted too different. Then again when are fights in Dragon Ball Z presented as anything less than all out? Dragon Ball Z: Battle of Z could have been something special with its eight-player battles. Prior games have been all style and no substance and unfortunately the latest is more of the same, possibly even less thanks to its bare-bones presentation. If you’re a huge fan of the iconic anime looking for even more fighting action -- and you have friends who are willing to fork out the cash to join you online -- there is some enjoyment to be had. For everyone else, aside from the increased multiplayer, you've already played this before.
Dragon Ball Z reviewed photo
More like Battle of ZzzZzz
On paper, the thought of participating in an eight-player Dragon Ball Z battle sounds like the stuff of fanboy dreams. Blasting Kamehamehas across the chasms of Namek while fighting alongside your favorite Saiyans could be as...

Review: Redux: Dark Matters

Mar 02 // Wesley Ruscher
Redux: Dark Matters (Dreamcast [reviewed], iOS, PC)Developer: Hucast GamesPublisher: Hucast GamesReleased: January 27, 2014 (Dreamcast) / TBA (PC, iOS)MSRP: $49.99 As 2D side-scrolling shoot ‘em up, Redux: Dark Matters rekindles fond memories of the R-Type series, thanks to its visuals and gameplay. Slow and methodical, the game relies on memorization and powerful weapons over the reflex driven “bullet-hell” style shooter that seems to be all the rage today. It also implores a difficulty that requires plenty of skill and dedication to master. Stretched over seven stages, Redux: Dark Matters offers two difficulties paired with two distinct ships. On normal difficulty, the ship is most akin to R-Type’s Arrowhead. As you collect power-ups, you not only build its shot, but also its shield. The shield sits in front of the ship similar to the pod from the R-Type series; the difference being that it’s a stationary means of defense only and not an additional tool for destruction. [embed]270991:52701:0[/embed] The key to success is in building your ship into a flying fortress of defense and offensive while avoiding death, as it only takes one shot to take you out. Once you run out of lives, it’s back to the beginning of the stage stripped of all power, which makes the game extremely challenging to complete. And because the levels build in difficulty (though I found stage 3 to be a major roadblock in having a successful run), finishing the game is near impossible without sufficient firepower. Redux: Dark Matters is clearly a game built for the 1cc (one credit clear). This becomes even more apparent on the title’s harder difficulty: veteran, where your ship lacks any kind of shield, making reflexes and pattern memorization essential. This mode kicked my ass repeatedly and is definitely something I want to master down the road, but it does give the game a different vibe; something fans of the Gradius series may enjoy more.    Whether playing on normal or veteran, Redux: Dark Matters captures the essence of the Dreamcast exceptionally well. The visuals signify a time when the shoot ‘em up was at its pinnacle: colors are muted and gloomy, the visuals a muddied remembrance of a time before high-definition graphics. Although you might feel like someone wiped a layer of vaseline over the screen if you’re using a standard composite hook-up, owners of the Dreamcast’s VGA output shouldn’t feel nearly as left in the past thanks to a nice resolution boost. All that said, Redux: Dark Matters doesn’t quite live up to the predecessors it most resembles original charm. It’s still a solid release for shoot ‘em up fans looking for a new age nostalgic feeling, but it also comes with a price of admission that’s tough to swallow in a day where indie games have moved on to the more lucrative PC and mobile scene. Unless you’re the most diehard of Dreamcast fans, or shoot ‘em ups in general, do yourself a favor and wait for Dark Matters to see some love on a more modern piece of hardware.
Redux Reviewed photo
Dreamcast dj vu
If you told me I’d be playing a brand new Dreamcast game in 2014, back when the system saw its demise in 2002, I’d probably have said you were crazy. It was at that point that Sega moved on to become a software...

Layoffs  photo

Cancelled project at Sony Santa Monica was new open world sci-fi IP

Game rumored to debut at E3
Mar 01
// Wesley Ruscher
Following the recent layoffs that hit Sony Santa Monica earlier this week is the confirmation that a new title the developer was working on has been cancelled. The game, a new sci-fi themed open world IP was apparently f...
Killer Instinct photo
Killer Instinct

New Killer Instinct Killer Cuts album is in the works

Such a feeling
Mar 01
// Wesley Ruscher
Killer Instinct composer Mick Gordon, has announced that a new version of Killer Cuts is scheduled to release this March. The album will feature music Gordon created for the Xbox One reboot of Rare's classic fighting game. No...

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Mario Kart 8

How Mario Kart 8's retro tracks stack up to the originals

Side-by-side comparison is a blast from the past
Feb 23
// Wesley Ruscher
With four retro tracks from the annals of Mario Kart history returning in Mario Kart 8, GameXplain has gone through the trouble of piecing together a head-to-head comparison video that pits the originals against their HD upg...
Capcom DLC photo
Capcom DLC

DLC accounts for about 15% of Capcom's game sales

Expected to increase in 2014
Feb 23
// Wesley Ruscher
Downloadable content has been a tricky business for Capcom over the years. A quick search of the words "on disc DLC" promptly brings up the Japanese developer's name before any other company. Even with their struggles of disc...
Valhalla Knights 3 Gold photo
Valhalla Knights 3 Gold

WTF: This is one of the weirdest Japanese trailers ever

Oh my gold!
Feb 22
// Wesley Ruscher
I have no idea what's going on in this trailer for the recently released, Japanese and PS Vita only, Valhalla Knights 3 Gold, but I have to say I'm mildly entertained. Well more entertained than I was when I reviewed th...

Review: Inazuma Eleven

Feb 20 // Wesley Ruscher
Inazuma Eleven (3DS)Developer: Level-5Publisher: Level-5Released: February 13, 2014MSRP: $19.99 Centered on the globally popular sport of soccer, Inazuma Eleven tells the story of a ragtag group of junior highers on the verge of having their club disbanded -- unless they win an impromptu match against the school that holds a 40 year championship reign. It’s a near impossible task for the kids of Raimon Junior High, since their team is lazy and out of shape, outside of their gung-ho captain Mark Evans -- but there’s one bit of fortune that may turn everything around for them: a new student, with a mysterious soccer past, has recently transferred into the school. It’s a pretty typical setup for those familiar with any sports anime, or the Bad News Bears, but it serves as a solid delivery method for telling a sports story with heart. Its focus around a group of young teens keeps it lighthearted throughout, but it should still strike a chord with a gamer of any age thanks to the “against all odds” spirit the game radiates. If you dig games like Pokemon, and the perseverance found in a movie like Rocky, then thematically, you’ll be right at home. [embed]270779:52637:0[/embed] What made the story the most engaging to me wasn't the overall path it took, but instead the attachments I made with certain players on the team. In a traditional sports game, you may have a favorite player because of their accomplishments in real life, but rarely is there any sort of emotion vested in the virtual accolades that transpire over the course of a video game. As my team began to take shape, I relied on a combination of eleven players that I had personally trained to overcome the odds. And by the end they weren't just a list of stats with some spectacular skills, but players I actually cared about. Typical to RPGs, a player’s skills are mainly grown from on-the-field experience. Soccer matches and battles serves as the main form of leveling up your squad, but there are also ways to specifically target the improvement of select player attributes. In each of the game’s locations, you will find dedicated spots where the game’s currency (Prestige Points) can be spent to increase attributes like kicking strength, speed, or ball control. In these scenes, you may find your player dribbling around cones, carrying boxes off a truck, or kicking the trunk of tree -- like Jean Claude Van Damme in Kickboxer -- to become the best of the best. While this only increases one particular stat for one character at a time, a sort of “soccer dungeon” opens up later in the game, which upon completion, can increase these same attributes across the whole team. As important as it is to have a well balanced team, all of this would be for nothing if the actual soccer portion of the game was not as fun and in-depth as it is. Thankfully it’s just as great as everything else, if not better, due to an ingenious strategic take on the sport. Whether it’s in the game’s 4 vs 4 random encounter battles or its full 11 vs 11 matches against rival schools, Inazuma Eleven’s gameplay is extremely refreshing. In its 4 vs 4 matches, players are tasked with simple “beat the clock” objectives to win. It may be something as simplistic as stealing the ball from the opponent, or a more difficult task like scoring a goal first, but they rarely last more than 30 seconds. They can happen anytime you are wandering an outside area -- which I found quite hilarious at first, since the thought of a random fight in a sports game had never crossed my mind -- but they keep the game from falling into a repetitive story-and-soccer-match cycle. Not to mention they are quite integral in preparing squad mates for the heated soccer matches that typically wait at the end of each game’s chapters. The 11-on-11 action is the main draw for Inazuma Eleven’s gameplay. So much so, that the game even includes a local versus mode that lets players battle their custom teams against each other. In these matches, the true strategic nature of the game is on full display. Similar to a real-time strategy game, players are controlled with the stylus on the 3DS’s lower screen like little tactical units. For the most part, their A.I. dictates the best course of action, but players can draw paths to where they want them to go to either lead offensive strikes or cut off opponents in the open field. Additionally, the action can be paused using a “timeout” to draw up and execute more efficient plays. What takes each match to the next level -- and additionally prompts a “do not try this at home” warning when the game boots up -- is the over-the-top anime-esque abilities every soccer player possesses. Flaming tornado strikes, teleporting slide tackles, giant rock formations bursting from the earth that stop players in their tracks; Inazuma Eleven forgoes a realistic soccer game for some jaw-dropping, 3D-animated spectaculars.   While they help heighten the intensity of a given match, they also greatly increase the game’s strategic merits. Each move, along with each player, has an affinity to one of four elements: earth, fire, wood, and air. Fire is stronger than wood, wood greater than air, and so on. Scouting the field ahead of time, and switching in accommodating teammates to counter elemental match-ups is a major key to success on the field. It’s not just about having the skills to dribble past your opponents to set up the perfect shot that I enjoyed so much, but the satisfaction of truly commanding the soccer field with a team I worked so hard to whip into shape. There’s a lot to love for both sports and RPG fans in Inazuma Eleven. The game is beyond deep -- thanks to 1,000 characters that can be molded into soccer gods – has a charming story, and some highly rewarding strategic gameplay. And to think it’s taken this long for a Japanese RPG centered on a sport to hit this side of the pacific. Sure, RPG elements have been creeping into the American sports scene for years, but stat management does not equate to any of the charm a company like Level-5 can create. Inazuma Eleven is one of the best role-playing experiences I've had in a long time, and more importantly, rekindled a youthful feeling I've grown to miss.
Inazuma reviewed! photo
A near perfect shot
When I was a young kid, I loved nothing more than playing classic sport video games like Bases Loaded, Blades of Steel, Double Dribble, Tecmo Bowl, and Mike Tyson’s Punch-Out!!. While I enjoyed the likes of Super Mari...

2D baby! photo
2D baby!

Sega's next Shining game is a 2D fighter

BLADE ARCUS from Shining is a weird name
Feb 16
// Wesley Ruscher
Along time ago, in an arcade far far away, Sega was king of the scene. Some of the industries best fighters (Virtua Fighter 2, Fighting Vipers, Virtual On...) were developed and powered by the once dominant developer. But al...
Deep Down photo
Deep Down

Deep Down will not have playable female characters

New information on Capcom's PS4 RPG comes to light
Feb 16
// Wesley Ruscher
Capcom's Deep Down has been on many gamer's radar since it was first announced back at the system's unveiling. As Sony's latest console edges closer and closer to its Japanese this month, so does new information regarding the...
Terraria photo

Well that's a crap ton of stuff added to Terraria

Everything, but the kitchen sink
Feb 16
// Wesley Ruscher
The Terraria 1.2.3 update is here and let's just say it's quite huge. To be honest, I'm not going to even attempt to break down all the fancy new tweaks the 2D action-adventure indie sandbox title received. Just take a g...
Super Smash Bros. photo
Super Smash Bros.

Little Mac may be the fastest Super Smash Bros. fighter

Float like a butterfly....
Feb 16
// Wesley Ruscher
With the announcement of Little Mac, of Punch-Out!! fame, coming to the upcoming Wii U/3DS edition of Super Smash Bros., many (myself included) have been wondering just how well the pint-sized puncher is going to fare agains...
Legendary Wars photo
Legendary Wars

Legendary Wars marches on to Android

It's about time!
Feb 15
// Wesley Ruscher
It's been three years, but one of my favorite mobile strategy titles, Legendary Wars, has finally come to Android, via the Google Play Store. In this RTS-RPG hybrid you directly control an ever growing army of knights, wizar...

Review: Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc

Feb 10 // Wesley Ruscher
Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc (PS Vita)Developer: Spike ChunsoftPublisher: NIS AmericaReleased: February 11, 2014MSRP: $39.99 As Makoto Naegi, you've been accepted to the prestigious Hope’s Peak Academy, a school that only admits the most talented “Ultimate” students of various fields each year. Though strangely for Makoto, he’s pretty average across the board and only got the chance to enroll because he won a raffle as the “Ultimate Lucky Student.” However, upon reaching the school’s gates, his luck begins to run out. Inexplicably, Makoto suddenly loses consciousness only to awake hours later in what appears to be the school’s gym surrounded by 14 other “Ultimate” students. No one knows what is going on, except for one fact: they’re trapped. [embed]270284:52512:0[/embed] It’s here where a maniacal remote-controlled bear named Monokuma appears -- a two-faced Teddy Ruxpin looking monster, with a penchant for rules -- who drops the bombshell that all the students are now imprisoned at the school for the rest of their lives. That is, unless they are willing to do the unthinkable to earn graduation from the academy: murder another student without getting caught. Well it wouldn't be much of game, or a story, if some of the students didn't eventually succumb to the pressures and start killing each other. In the time leading up to a murder event, known as “the Daily Life,” you’ll spend the majority of it getting to know each student and trying to understand the situation that has befallen you. During this time, you’ll explore the available areas of the school from a first-person perspective. Similar to the investigation scenes in the Phoenix Wright series, you’re free to scour each area in search of information or to perhaps talk to a student hanging out in the area. Once all the information is collected for the day, the game pushes the story forward. Eventually the game awards the player with “free time,” which allows Makoto to roam the school and build stronger relations with other students. Akin to Persona’s Social Link segments, whom you talk to is completely your choice. Additionally, you can also purchase gifts from a capsule vending machine to gift to them in order to increase your bonding. The interactions are quite simple, but they are a necessity since they also allow Makoto to build up special skills that he can later use in the game’s main attraction: Class Trials. All this good willed nature comes to an end with the discovery of a murder, in which the game enters the “Deadly life” section of gameplay. The first phase consists of investigating and collecting clues, called “Truth Bullets,” for the looming trial ahead. Like the earlier phases of the Daily Life, the game pushes the story forward upon the collection of all pertinent information. These moments that lead up to the Class Trial could be very tedious under a poor script. And though NIS America’s localization is usually hit or miss with me, the majority of the characters here are exceptionally interesting. I found myself enjoying the messed up situations that surrounded even the more flamboyant characters; waiting to see how they would respond once the crap hit the fan. Of course, with fourteen characters you’re bound to find tropes, but their predictable tendencies are often used to throw players off the scent. Additionally, the game moves at a much more rapid pace than most other adventure/visual novel style games which helps keep the tension focused throughout. Once the Class Trial begins though, the tension magnifies immensely. Similar to the Phoenix Wright series, false accusations can be your undoing, but unlike those games, time also serves as your opponent. There are four main styles used for figuring out who the culprit is in each trial (Nonstop Debates, Epiphany Anagram, Machinegun Talk Battle, and Climax Logic) and they get progressively more difficult as the game moves on. Nonstop debates lead off each trial and involve all surviving classmates. During these discussions, it’s up to the player to find contradictions in specific highlighted phrases and shoot them down with the acquired Truth Bullets gathered from the previous investigation. White noise created from other students can interfere with hitting the right statement in later trials in addition to some other surprise elements that are added later to up the difficulty of these scenes. As the answers begin to unfold in the trial, players eventually get into a one-on-one Machinegun Talk Battle debate with a fellow student. This style threw me for a loop the first time, as it mixes rhythm based gameplay with shooting down a student’s remarks. Progressively, like the other styles, it gets harder to maintain the rhythm further since opponents can make your tempo bar disappear or change the speed of the rhythm entirely. The idea to add action, via shooting or by rhythm, segments into the actual trial is something I really enjoyed once I got the hang of things. It cleverly brings tension -- something you would actually feel if your life was on the line -- during every murder trial. The fact that things get more difficult, later in the game, only amplifies the disparity of the situation at hand. Getting an answer wrong is one thing, but it’s entirely different when you choke under the pressure of time. My favorite of the gameplay styles though was the Climax Logic puzzle. In this style, a comic strip -- that recreates the events of the murder -- must be put together using the fragments of information derived from the trial with the basic facts already known. Time is your only enemy here, but there are typically extra potential answers to each slot in the puzzle that can lead a player astray. Danganronpa mixes a variety of art styles throughout each case, but the way it all comes together helps paint an exquisitely disturbing picture. Its mix of 2D and 3D, over-the-top death scenes, hyper stylized murder images (with neon pink blood) combined with a well thought out story make the game’s world all that much more alluring, even amongst its sadistic nature. Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc is easily one of the most intriguing games I've played in quite some time. It’s as if Persona and Phoenix Wright got together and had a little demon spawn that I didn't want to put down -- no matter how disturbing it can be at times. For fans of adventure/visual novel games, this is an easy must play on Vita this year. But it’s also a great entry for those who tend to find this type of game a little on the slow side and well worth the time.
Trigger Happy Havoc  photo
Phoenix Wright X Persona
Adventure games enable developers to guide their audience on an incredibly focused journey. Completely scripted -- with little variation or user input that impacts the outcome -- they rely on the quality of their storytelli...

Bugs! photo

Arkham Origins progression blocking bugs won't be fixed

Well at least not anytime soon, as DLC is top priority
Feb 09
// Wesley Ruscher
In a recent post on the Batman: Arkham Origins support forms, it has been stated that there are no current plans to fix any more of the numerous progression blocking bugs that have yet to be addressed. Instead, all effor...
Moblins photo

The Legend of Zelda's Moblins have an identity crisis

I feel like some bacon
Feb 09
// Wesley Ruscher
Bulldogs or pigs? Why can't The Legend of Zelda's Moblins make up their minds on just who they want to be? Actually, it's quite interesting to see how these absent minded minions of Gannon have continuously bounced back and ...
Hats! photo

BioShock themed goodies come to Team Fortress 2

Free with BioShock: Infinite Season Pass
Feb 09
// Wesley Ruscher
Who doesn't love a shiny new hat, or two, to wear during their Team Fortress 2 shenanigans? Well if you've been looking to spruce up the old noggin with a little BioShock love, then Irrational Games has a treat for you.....
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Sega's retail sales struggle, while digital market grows

Can PSO 2 come out officially in NA...please
Feb 09
// Wesley Ruscher
While Sega saw a continued decline in software sales this past fiscal year, its mobile division is continuing to grow, according to a recent report issued by Sega Sammy Holdings Inc. Even with titles like Sonic Lost World and...
AAA Games photo
AAA Games

AAA game business unprofitable says Just Cause dev

Business is 'not healthy at the moment'
Feb 08
// Wesley Ruscher
Profitability in AAA titles nowadays is tricky business. We scoff when companies claim a game that sells 3.5 million copies is not a success, and perhaps rightfully so. Amidst the inflating development costs of the new consol...
Flappy Bird photo
Flappy Bird

Flappy Bird creator says he's taking the game down

Creator "cannot take this anymore"
Feb 08
// Wesley Ruscher
Flappy Bird creator Dong Nguyen has announced via Twitter that he will be taking the game down some point on Sunday. He has stated that he "cannot take this anymore." In subsequent tweets, Nguyen explains that the taking down...
Peter Molyneux photo
Peter Molyneux

Peter Molyneux questions the new Dungeon Keeper

Fabled developer weighs in
Feb 08
// Wesley Ruscher
EA's recent mobile reincarnation of the classic Bullfrog Productions strategy game Dungeon Keeper, has undoubtedly received its fair share of criticism over the passing week. Our own Chris Carter called it "...a hol...

Review: Sorcery Saga: Curse of the Great Curry God

Feb 02 // Wesley Ruscher
Sorcery Saga: Curse of the Great Curry God (PS Vita)Developer: Compile Heart, ZeroDivPublisher: Aksys GamesReleased: December 10, 2013MSRP: $39.99 Sorcery Saga tells a story that is about as light-hearted as it gets. Pupuru, a recently suspended magic school student, loves nothing more than the delicious curry from Smile Curry. It’s the local restaurant that is facing tough times due to the new mega trendy chain store that has opened up in town. Sort of like the Starbucks of curry shops, this corporate conglomeration is running out all the local competition with its cheap and quick curry. Luckily for Pupuru, and her local shop, she’s happened to come across a magical book with the recipe for the “Ultimate Curry.” It’s the one thing that can save her favorite delicatessen – and something that requires Pupuru to embark on an epic quest to gather all the necessary ingredients. Though she may not be saving the world, she’s saving her world and it couldn't be any more delightful. [embed]269883:52430:0[/embed] If you dig lighthearted anime, then you will be right at home with the game’s narrative. Ever since 999, Akysys Games has consistently delivered excellently penned banter. The game’s cast of characters is quite ridiculous, but I often found myself laughing at the absurdity of every situation between dungeon crawls. Perhaps my favorite side character was Gigadis, an evil lord from the netherworld and stalker of Pupuru. His brashness and idiotic ways can be cringeworthy at times, but it’s of no fault of the localization. The guy just constantly puts his foot in his mouth and is borderline creepy with his failed attempts to get Pupuru to fall for him (kind of like the vampire dude from Twilight -- editor’s note: this comes by way of my girlfriend). Additionally, his overly cocky theme song -- comprised of broken English -- championing why he is the greatest ever, is another reason I couldn’t help but root for the buffoon.  Alas, while you will spend a decent amount of time pushing through the game’s story segments, the meat of Sorcery Saga is not nearly as sweet as the rest of the game’s presentation. At its core this title is a hardcore Japanese roguelike. Similar to games like Shiren the Wanderer and The Guided Fate Paradox (one of my favorite titles from last year) the majority of your time will be spent grinding away through the depths of many punishing dungeons. Roguelikes are known for their often unfair difficulty spikes and Sorcery Saga is no different. The game starts innocently, as it warms players to its subtle nuances that separates it from others in the genre, but by the time the third dungeon is reached you can expect more than a few occasions that make you want to toss your Vita in disgust. Death can come swiftly without notice, no matter how prepared you are. The game incorporates all the nastiest staples of the genre and it’s not afraid to pile them on and make you cry. There are enemies that can walk through walls; randomly overly powerful suicidal creatures; traps that cause status ailments; random floors that take away abilities (like using items or spells); and random floors filled with overwhelming amounts of monsters. The sense of elation when you overcome the odds is one of the greatest gifts the game can instill in its players, but sadly dying and losing all your on-hand inventory is an all too frequent occurrence. The game does do a modest job in bringing a sense of freshness to the genre with its cooking system. Along with dropping weapons, gear, and other useful items, defeated enemies drop basic ingredients for creating your own delicious curry. Collecting these items in each dungeon, and then bringing back to Curry Smile, will grant Pupuru with guaranteed recipes she can execute in a dungeon when no enemies are present. You can still attempt to mix ingredients without recipes, but often the results end in inedible disasters. Where cooking comes in handy is in the status buffs it can provide for Pupuru and her A.I.-controlled partner Kuu. Cooking the right curry recipe can make all the difference in successfully navigating any one of the game’s tumultuous floors. But luck still plays a major factor since the status isn't permanent and food can rot as well. The other standout feature to Sorcery Saga is Pupuru’s bunny-like companion Kuu. He fights alongside of you in dungeons and is quite handy when he behaves properly. Like Pupuru, he begins each dungeon at level one (it’s a roguelike thing), but how he gets stronger is all up to the player. A garbage disposal of sorts, Kuu levels up from all the unwanted items you feed him. The types of items you toss down his gullet additionally grants him extra skills (like weapon forging) that can make all the difference in escaping the game’s later stages. My only real complaint of Kuu comes from the way he sometime just does what he wants. He can often get stuck on an obstacle, and subsequently left behind. You need him alive to progress floors, so when he goes off and dies having to backtrack for him and can be quite costly. He’s a great companion when he’s by your side, but he can also be your worst nightmare  -- especially when he’s starving, since his hunger pangs attract monsters. The only other thing that irked me in Sorcery Saga was the random slowdown that would hit the game at times. When you look at the game’s visuals, you can’t help but think you’re playing an uprezzed PS One game -- which makes this phenomenon all the more strange. It’s never to the point where it makes the game unplayable, but it’s frankly inexcusable for a game with such simple graphics. In the end, Sorcery Saga was a title that took me by surprise. It may not the best of games, but it’s far from the worst. Its lighthearted nature is hard to recommend if you're not a fan of the genre, but if you're willing to try something a little different, there’s enough delicious pleasantries served throughout to satisfy anyone's dungeon-crawling cravings.
Sorcery Saga reviewed photo
I'm still hungry
With the amount of role-playing adventures I’ve journeyed through in my life that culminate in apocalyptic showdowns, I’m a little tired. Save the world, rinse, and repeat. It’s so rare that a Japanese RPG d...

The best and worst games of the week - A Bravely January

Feb 02 // Wesley Ruscher
The Banner Saga (Windows PC [reviewed], Mac, Linux)Developer: StoicPublisher: StoicRelease: January 14, 2014MSRP: $24.99 This game feels like a project created by artists. It's uncompromising to a fault. Tiptoeing its way around trite conventions and hackneyed design choices, I have no doubt that the team at Stoic created the game they wanted to make. By the end of the journey, I cared for my banner like a shepherd tending to his flock. I commiserated with their hardships, as the thread of despondency wove its way throughout virtually every aspect of the experience. Read the full The Banner Saga review  Nidhogg (PC)Developer: MesshofPublisher: MesshofMSRP: $14.99Release Date: January 13, 2014 Nidhogg is a perfect game wrapped in a not-so-perfect package. When playing locally against another human, it is the epitome of competition. Playing online is a mixed bag of lag, disconnects, and a weird chat system. Hopefully some of the bugs get ironed out over time, especially whatever stopped the tutorial from functioning, to make everything more functional as a whole. Read the full Nidhogg review  Muramasa Rebirth: Fishy Tales of the Nekomata (PlayStation Vita)Developer: MarvelousAQLPublisher: Aksys GamesReleased: January 14, 2014 (US) / January 22, 2014 (EU)MSRP: $4.99 I heartily enjoyed my time as a cat in Muramasa Rebirth, and I can't wait to see what the other DLC stories can do. Vanillaware ingeniously was able to tie the heart of the game into its first Genroku Legends side story, while giving it a fine heart of its own. It's so well done in fact, that I could easily see a full game starring Okoi one day. Read the full Fishy Tales of the Nekomata review  Two Brothers (PC)Developer: Ackk StudiosPublisher: Ackk StudiosReleased: December 3, 2013MSRP: $14.99 It's very much the type of game you play for the story, which has flashes of brilliance that can only be effectively realized in an interactive medium such as this. Unfortunately, it's tied to lackluster mechanics, technical problems, and a disappointing lack of polish. Two Brothers may not be an overall success, but its best moments are worth experiencing first-hand. Read the full Two Brothers review  Continue?9876543210 (Linux, Mac, PC[reviewed])Developer: Jason OdaPublisher: Jason OdaMSRP: $9.99Release Date: January 3, 2014  Continue?9876543210 truly does feel like a personal and emotional experience: someone else’spersonal and emotional experience. It did not connect to me the way it was seemingly intended to. Good “experience” games either have super simple controls so that the player never has to think about them, or the controls and mechanics tie directly into the game’s central themes. Continue?9876543210 does neither. Read the full Continue?9876543210 review  OlliOlli (PS Vita)Developer: Roll7Publisher: Roll7Release Date: January 27, 2014MSRP: $12.99 There's a lot to love about OlliOlli. The game is in the sweetspot of "simple to control" and "just difficult enough" to keep you playing without tearing your hair out. The Daily Grind and Spots challenges will keep the score-centric crowd happy, and Career mode will have you blistering your thumbs as you try to perfect each level. A masterpiece. Read the full OlliOlli review  Broken Age: Act 1 (PC)Developer: Double Fine ProductionsPublisher: Double Fine ProductionsRelease Date: January 14, 2014 (for backers) / January 28, 2014MSRP: $24.99 (with free update for Act 2) I haven’t felt this surge of nostalgia and excitement about a game in a long time, and I truly thinkBroken Age will be looked back fondly as one of the greats. That being said, the first Act is only a few short hours and ended on a nail-biting cliffhanger with no word on how long we’ll be waiting for the rest of the game. In some ways I feel cheated, but in the end it’s the heart of the game that matters - and that certainly isn't broken. Read the full Broken Age: Act 1 review  Dead Rising 3: Operation Broken Eagle (Xbox One)Developer: Capcom VancouverPublisher: Microsoft StudiosRelease Date: January 21, 2014MSRP: $9.99 As it stands, there is literally no reason to get Broken Eagle. It's criminally short, you can't enjoy it with a friend, there are no real benefits if your character is maxed out from already playing the core game, and it doesn't add to the overarching lore in any meaningful way. Hopefully the other Season Pass offerings will be an improvement, since we still have three to go. Read the full Operation Broken Eagle review  Soul Fjord (Ouya)Developer: Airtight GamesPublisher: Airtight GamesRelease: January 28, 2014MSRP: Free, with microtransactions Soul Fjord started with a good idea, and even has a few redeeming qualities, but in the end, it is just too dull to be enjoyable for longer than a few minutes. The free-to-play aspects don't ruin the experience, but they don't particularly help it either. If nothing else, Ouya owners should probably give this a try since it costs nothing upfront, but this is not the system savior that we have been hoping for. Read the full Soul Fjord review Bravely Default (3DS)Developer: Silicon StudioPublisher: Square EnixRelease: February 7, 2014MSRP: $39.99 Bravely Default gave me an experience that seemed to put me right back in my bedroom in the middle 1990s, where I'd sit in front of a small Hitachi television set and play the day away with a Super Nintendo controller in hand, so engrossed that I'd forget to eat. It harkens back to a time where we were all in love 16-bit Japanese role-playing games, and couldn't get enough of them. Read the full Bravely Default review Call of Duty: Ghosts: Onslaught DLC (PC, PS3, PS4, Xbox 360, Xbox One [reviewed])Developer: Infinity WardPublisher: ActivisionReleased: January 28, 2014 (Xbox 360, Xbox One) / TBA (PC, PS3, PS4)MSRP: $14.99 ($50 Season Pass for four packs) I was pleasantly surprised by Onslaught, especially considering the fact that Ghosts was so underwhelming. Although it won't do too much to change your mind if you're an adamant Call of Duty hater, the new Extinction episode is promising, and there are three solid maps here for the taking. Read the full Onslaught review  Octodad: Dadliest Catch (Linux, Mac, PC [reviewed], PlayStation 4)Developer: Young Horses, Inc.Publisher: Young Horses, Inc.Release: January 30, 2014 (Linux, Mac, PC), March 2014 (PlayStation 4)MSRP: $14.99 ($11.99 until February 6)Rig: AMD Phenom II X2 555 @ 3.2 GHz, with 4GB of RAM, ATI Radeon HD 5700, Windows 7 64-bit n the end, I would not be surprised to hear that the Octodad community is thriving years down the road. It exudes a certain weirdness and charm that makes it stand out from a lot of other titles out there, and there are tools in place for it to live on past the point when the credits start to roll. Though it has some issues with framerate drops and its approach to control is definitely not for everybody, Dadliest Catch kept a smile on my face for most of its duration. Read the full Octodad: Dadliest Catch review Dungeon Keeper (Android, iPad, iPhone [reviewed on an iPhone 5])Developer: Electronic Arts, Mythic EntertainmentPublisher: Electronic ArtsReleased: January 31, 2014MSRP: Free It's a huge shame, because Dungeon Keeper is such a great franchise. I vividly remember getting hooked on the original for the very first time, and hooking in non-strategy fans with its unique perspective and visual style. But you're getting none of that here, as you're instead presented with a hollow freemium shell of what once was. Do yourself a favor and go to and grab the original. Read the full Dungeon Keeper review Polk N1 Gaming SurroundBar
Reviews!!! photo
Week ending 2/1
January has come and gone, but that doesn't mean there weren't some great games to play. Just look at all the amazing "indie" games that hit the PC this month. We had the fruition of two KickStarter campaigns finally see the ...

WildStar photo

WildStar lets you customize the crap out of everything

Make rainbows in the sky!
Feb 01
// Wesley Ruscher
If it's one thing the upcoming MMO WildStar has going for it, besides a beautiful art style, it's the amount of customization it affords players. The latest DevSpeak video from the team at Carbine Studios delves into some of...
Yaiba: Ninja Gaiden Z photo
Yaiba: Ninja Gaiden Z

Zombies make out in this Yaiba: Ninja Gaiden Z video

Also, see the Mighty No. 9 skin in action
Feb 01
// Wesley Ruscher
Yaiba: Ninja Gaiden Z looks disgusting; over-the-top; insane; and unabashedly offensive, yet I still can't wait to give it a go. The latest trailer above sheds some light on a few of the game's more interesting costumes, and let's just say the school girl outfit is not quite what one would expect. Will you be picking up Yaiba: Ninja Gaiden Z when it drops this March? 
Nintendo  photo

Nintendo World Championship won't sell for $99,902

Top bidder retracts offer
Jan 26
// Wesley Ruscher
[Update 2] I reached out to the seller and unfortunately the winning bidder has retracted his offer. "The unfortunate reality is the second I approached the winning buyer with payment options, they retracted their bid claimin...
Super Heroine Chronicle photo
Super Heroine Chronicle

Super Heroine Chronicle is one game NA will never see

Though stranger things have happened
Jan 25
// Wesley Ruscher
If it's one thing An American Tale taught me, it's to "never say never." But come on, what really are the chances of Super Heroine Chronicle landing on North American shores? It takes the mash-up wackiness of the Super Robot...
Steam refunds photo
Steam refunds

Steam now offers self refunds on pre-ordered games

Well sort of that is...
Jan 25
// Wesley Ruscher
While generally at the forefront of digital distribution, it has taken Valve's Steam a little time to catch the likes of Origin and GoG in terms of self-activated digital refunds. Any pre-ordered item that a user has on their...
Mario Kart photo
Mario Kart

Why don't more games do this? Mario Kart's linked world

Mario Kart: Double Dash's world is connected
Jan 25
// Wesley Ruscher
It's no secret that Nintendo puts a lot of love into their games, but I had no idea they had gone this far with my favorite mascot racer, Mario Kart: Double Dash. Thanks to another informative video from the folks over at Ga...
Dead Space photo
Dead Space

Ride to Hell in this amazing Dead Space motorcycle helmet

It's soooo shiny
Jan 25
// Wesley Ruscher
I'm pretty sure I'd never ride a motorcycle, but if I had this custom made Dead Space helmet I might have to reconsider.  Crafted by Xtreme Kreations, the attention to detail on this one of a kind piece is quit...

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