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Review: Monster Monpiece

Jul 06 // Brittany Vincent
Monster Monpiece (PlayStation Vita)Developer: Compile HeartPublisher: Idea FactoryReleased: May 24, 2014MSRP: $29.99  Monster Monpiece is set in the magical world of Yafaniel, where there's a large dearth of male inhabitants. Human women befriend and train Monster Girls, which is where the card battles come in. Young May is a human who's trying to reach the rank her mother did as a powerful monster trainer, but on her journey to become one her friend Elza becomes one of the "Lost." With Elza having succumbed to what's essentially zombification, May has to find a way to cure her before she takes control of the world's Magus Quartzes. While it's not exactly too original of a narrative, it sets a nice tone for the rest of the game, which definitely won't be what many are expecting. Card battles are the heart of the affair, with players collecting hundreds of cards depicting hyper-sexualized versions of mythical creatures like minotaurs. Once you’ve settled on a deck, you’ll use it to send chibi versions of the monster girls to duke it out for supremacy. Battles play out on a 7x3 grid, where the player begins on the left side of the screen and advances toward the opponent on the right. Reaching your opponent's stronghold is the name of the game, which is done so by playing cards each turn in order to summon monster girls and take out your enemy's defenses. [embed]277634:54758:0[/embed] When you place your card, your monster girl will begin rampaging toward the baddies with reckless abandon and attack automatically for the damage number on her card. This leads to inevitable strategic snafus during battle, as no one monster has the ability to carry the rest of her team to face off against an entire deck. You've got typical types such as Melee or Healer, which will aid in your cause tremendously. Place a healer card behind a melee attacker to recover a negligible amount of health each round, or opt to use a card to strengthen the allies in the immediate vicinity. There are also several different species of cards, which lend bonuses and additional combat boosts depending on which you put into play. For instance, each card has its own particular "aura," which comes in four different colors. Put down two cards with the same color in a row and you'll receive a bonus, same as if you can manage to play three in a row. It's the little things that count. Some cards come packing their own special sort of bonus, denoted by a marking on the card. These monster girls are good to go with additional buffs that you'll want to make use of every single time they come up in your deck. These buffs may be additional health points, another turn in battle, or they may bolster the damage done per turn. No matter the case, they're extremely useful and can turn the tide of battle in many ways. Unfortunately, while battles are rewarding and scratch that itch for strategic card placement, there do tend to be entirely too many of them. It's not Skies of Arcadia-level bonkers as far as encounters go, but it can be extremely frustrating, especially if you haven't quite gotten the hang of how best to create decks to combat an onslaught of enemies. And even for those with an abundance of combat prowess, it's never fun to be thrust into battle every five minutes. Outside of battle, the game progresses in a fairly linear fashion where you're exploring a specific map that you can receive money and other spoils from. Until the end of the chapter most of your time is spent in card battles or purchasing new cards and items. It's all fairly simple stuff, things that you would see in any role-playing game, except for one thing. The First Crush Rub minigame has become synonymous with Monster Monpiece, a mode where you "rub" your touch screen until a gauge on-screen reaches the top. You must find the girls' weak spots, rub, pinch, and touch there, until you reach "Extreme Love Mode." You then use the front and rear touch pads to push your girl over the limit. It might be better played in the private confines of your home, but it's a minigame that does help you out in the long run, powering up cards and altering base stats so that you're better prepared for your next battle. It's not a huge deal, but be prepared to face it if you're going to be playing around anyone. I won’t pretend that it’s anything other than sexual, but we’re all adults here. Rub away. Turn down the sound if it bothers you, and power up those cards. You’ll be glad that you did later. In all, Monster Monpiece looks and feels great, and I found myself spending hours on it when I should have stopped long ago to attend to more pressing matters -- something I never expected to happen with such an out-there premise. It simply shouldn't be taken at face value because the cards are "too sexy" or because there happens to be an overtly sexual minigame in which you rub your Vita’s front and rear panels, which is actually completely optional.  It’s an excellent addition to the niche library that has made its home on the Vita, and for $29.99, it’s an intriguing card battler you won’t find anywhere else. Ignore the taboos and give it a shot, especially if you’re looking for something a little different than a dungeon crawler or traditional role-playing game. It’ll thrill you, chill you, and fulfill you, creature of the night.
Monster Monpiece photo
Touch-a, touch-a, touch-a, touch me
Too often, unique and engaging games are passed over due to their risqué content and gimmickry, and Monster Monpiece is inevitably one that will fall victim to this curse. It's not difficult to see why some may be turn...

omg censhorshop!!!! photo
omg censhorshop!!!!

Sexual punishment probably scrubbed from Criminal Girls western release


Maybe just don't localize it?
Jul 04
// Steven Hansen
Criminal Girls: Invite Only, a touched up version of the 2010 PSP game Criminal Girls, is coming to Vita in North America and Europe next year, NIS America announced. Criminal Girls involves guiding seven girls through ...
Ar Nosurge photo
Ar Nosurge

Ar Nosurge: Ode to an Unborn Star also coming to North America


Before Europe, in fact
Jul 01
// Steven Hansen
Last week, Ar Nosurge: Ode to an Unborn Star received confirmation of a European launch, but no specific news of a North American release. Well, that didn't last long. Koei Tecmo America has announced the Gust ...
Ar Nosurge photo
Ar Nosurge

Ar Nosurge: Ode to an Unborn Star is coming to Europe, but US release uncertain


At least there's always the possibility
Jun 25
// Brittany Vincent
Ar Nosurge: Ode to an Unborn Star is a sci-fi/fantasy RPG from Tecmo Koei Europe that may or may not be releasing in the US. Figured we'd get that out of the way for anyone who might be interested after reading the synopsis. ...
Suikoden creator photo
Suikoden creator

Suikoden creator working on Western-targeted project


'Targeted mainly towards the overseas audience'
Jun 23
// Steven Hansen
Suikoden creator Yoshitaka Murayama is away from Konami and the series he built, but with his new studio, Blue Moon, he might be making a game that we can all eventually play.  "It’s hard to say with cert...
NIS at E3 2014 photo
NIS at E3 2014

NIS takes us to an island paradise, battles us, then travels back in time


A new series mingles with sequels at NIS' E3 preview
Jun 16
// Natalie Kipper
NIS was a bit of a hidden treasure at E3. The publisher shared a booth with Atlus and it took me stopping and actually looking at what was on display at the demo station to put two and two together. The search was well worth it because I was rewarded with a closer look at three upcoming titles: Danganronpa 2: Goodbye Despair, Disgaea 4: A Promise Revisited, and Natural Doctrine.
Pokemon photo
Pokemon

Get a load of the new Pokemon R/S Mega Evolutions and trainer duds


Decorative spine orbs are so Mega
Jun 07
// Jonathan Holmes
The latest issue of Japanese game mag CoroCoro has revealed some of the new Mega Evolutions for the Pokemon Ruby/Sapphire remakes, including new Megas for starters Sceptile and Swampert, event Pokemon Diance, and series masco...
Persona Ultimax videos photo
Persona Ultimax videos

Yukiko & Yosuke get Persona 4 Ultimax trailers


Brosuke bro-ing out
Jun 06
// Steven Hansen
I got so excited about Yu's Yul Brynner chest on the Persona 4 Ultimax box art that I almost missed new trailers for Yukiko and Yosuke. I never noticed this, but Yosuke's persona sort of looks like the frog navi the frog reporter uses in Mega Man Battle Network 2. Yeah, I like those games.
Persona Arena boxart photo
Persona Arena boxart

The Japanese box art for Persona 4 Ultimax is real good


More boxes like this, please
Jun 06
// Steven Hansen
This is the official box art for the Japanese release of Persona 4 Ultimax. It's pretty great, even with the best characters (Mitsuru and Chie) getting teeny billing. That Yul Brynner chest pose though.
Danganronpa 2 photo
Danganronpa 2

Get pumped for September's Danganronpa 2: Goodbye Despair with new character portraits


Get Super High School Level excited
Jun 04
// Brittany Vincent
If you've been patiently waiting for your next tasty dose of Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc, I've got something to sate your hunger. Danganronpa 2: Goodbye Despair is dated for a September 2 release for Vita owners, but in ...
God Eater 2 photo
God Eater 2

God Eater 2 getting Return of the Defense Unit DLC next month


New playable characters plus characters from the last game
May 27
// Steven Hansen
God Eater 2 is getting DLC, Another Episode, meant to bring back older versions of the original game's Defense Unit. There are also some new characters being introduced initially as NPCs, but beating the DLC will make them p...
Monster Monpiece photo
Monster Monpiece

Get your card battle on with Monster Monpiece, out today


It's actually a strategic card battler, you pervs, gawwwd
May 27
// Brittany Vincent
Monster Monpiece has finally arrived, and I can't wait to tear into it. Card battling has been my forte, all the way from my Pokémon TCG League days up to now, where I reminisce about Triple Triad daily. There's someth...

Review: World End Economica Episode 1

May 26 // Brittany Vincent
World End Economica Episode 1 (PC)Developer: Spicy TailsPublisher: Sekai ProjectRelease: May 5, 2014MRSP: $12.99 The tale of pipsqueak stock broker Yoshiharu (nicknamed "Hal") is one that piqued my interest right away, as it didn't include your average (and faceless) high school student seeking a girlfriend or sifting through a boring harem. Its sci-fi lilt brought with it an air of freedom from the chains that traditionally bind VN protagonists, and thus I was all in from the beginning. World End Economica follows the completion of mankind's greatest accomplishment: colonization of the moon. Humanity is migrating to space, though this advancement creates as many new problems as it does opportunities. There's a growing rift between those born on the moon and those born on Earth, and it's clear through Yoshiharu's journeys that "moon children" aren't exactly welcomed on our blue planet. As the teenage son of the very first two colonists on the moon, Hal decides he's had it with working-class life and wants to strike it rich through stock trading. He drifts from net cafe to net cafe, a vagabond narrowly avoiding scrapes with the police, until he runs into Lisa, a friendly church owner who gives him room and board. [embed]275263:54020:0[/embed] Unfortunately, there's another teenage runaway who's also taken up residence with Lisa, and she's as tsundere as they come. She's a mathematical genius, but a loner through and through. In case you couldn't guess that simply by looking at her (her character design is typical of the archetype), the novel finds plenty of ways to remind you here and there of how "cold" she truly is. Hal and Hagana simply can't get along, and right about where they begin their ceaseless bickering is when I decided World End Economica just wasn't doing it for me. There's something to be said about new and gripping ideas when it comes to visual novels, and with a story that appears to be heavily focused on elements so far outside the norm for the genre, seeing cookie-cutter tsundere girls and a protagonist who's little more than a selfish brat is more than a little disappointing. It's especially disconcerting when you factor in the main focus of this episode, which happens to be a virtual stock trading competition that Hal will be competing in. There's so much fluff masquerading as character development from the beginning up until the big reveal that it's difficult to maintain even a passing interest in what the characters are actually doing. Given that I didn't connect with any of the cast at all in the first place other than with Hal and his love of money, it was a difficult read. While both Hal and Hagana do tend to soften considerably and both become more personable near the end of the episode, I didn't feel moved to investigate the next one -- especially if it all it's going to deliver is a heavy dose of exposition with characters I'm not even interested in learning more about. And then there's the stock trading itself. For a game wholly based on the idea of virtual stock trading, there's little to no visual representation of said activity or any attempt to involve readers in the economical side of things beyond technical jargon and straightforward descriptions of how playing the stock trade actually works. I was hoping there would be at least a few interesting attempts at making the trading accessible for any type of audience, but it just didn't work out, and with bland visuals and sometimes black screens accompanying simple text, I found myself bored to tears more often than not. When reading is already your primary interaction with a VN, the story has to keep you entertained, and this one failed to on several occasions.  Luckily, the CG scenes were quite aesthetically pleasing, even if the character models themselves had an amateurish feel to them overall. Poses don't always seem natural, and there's a strange look to the shading in some areas, particularly the necks on both male and female characters. It's hard to ignore, especially considering the fact that it gives young girls the appearance of having wrinkled skin where there should be a youthful complexion. And the music's nice when it's around, but wholly forgettable. World End Economica has so much going for it: an interesting premise, a protagonist with an actual design and personality (even if it is a little rotten) and the opportunity to capitalize on a business rarely (if ever) explored in video games: stock trading. Unfortunately, it squanders the opportunity to capitalize on these great bullet points and winds up a generic, muddled mess of pacing issues, bland dialogue, and characters too difficult to connect with. There are plenty of other more meaty and fulfilling visual novels out there that may be a little more expensive than this budget indie release, but you'll come out of those feeling much better about your purchase than you would about World End Economica.
World End Economica photo
Don't fly me to the moon
Visual novels are a finicky medium. It's difficult enough to drum up interest because of their exotic origins, and harder still to find an audience due to their nature -- it's a bunch of reading. And you can't always be sure ...

Senran Kagura photo
Senran Kagura

Senran Kagura: Ninja Flash is being localized by FUNimation


They 'flash,' alright
May 21
// Brittany Vincent
Fans of rip-your-clothes-off-while-fighting-to-the-death Senran Kagura Burst should be tickled pink, as the popular ninja girl beat-'em-up is receiving an anime series courtesy of FUNimation. Tamsoft's side-scrolling saga wa...
Shining Resonance photo
Shining Resonance

Shining Resonance is an upcoming RPG from the developer of Wild Arms


Wild Arms was awesome, so hopefully this is too
May 14
// Brittany Vincent
When Sega revealed a new game in the Shining series in February, then disappointed fans everywhere by showcasing a fighting game rather than an RPG, butts were significantly hurt. Now, there may be a light on the horizon yet....
Tokyo 23-Ku Seifuku Wars photo
Tokyo 23-Ku Seifuku Wars

GungHo bringing six more Japanese PS1 classics to PSN


Tokyo 23-Ku Seifuku Wars!!!
May 12
// Steven Hansen
Better brush up on your Japanese. GungHo is bringing six more Japanese PS1 games -- still in Japanese -- to the PSN, at $6 a pop. You may be able to get by with minimal language knowledge with some of them, but you might find...
Akiba's Trip photo
Akiba's Trip

Akiba's Trip: Undead & Undressed will feature dual audio tracks


Also, 'strip portraits' for male characters as well as the women!
May 09
// Brittany Vincent
Infiltrate virtual Akihabara in Akiba's Trip: Undead & Undressed, an upcoming brawler that XSEED Games has gone to great lengths to localize properly. XSEED announced today that beat-the-pants-off-of-your-enemy Akihabara ...
Really? Really! photo
Really? Really!

MangaGamer puts Shuffle! sequel Really? Really! up for preorder


Really? Yes, really
May 09
// Brittany Vincent
MangaGamer has just announced that Really? Really!, the third game in the heart-wrenching Shuffle! franchise, is now available for preorder for a June 6 release. It's nowhere near the caliber of Steins;Gate, if my review was ...

Tales of Xillia 2 coming west this August, collector's edition detailed

Apr 22 // Steven Hansen
Xillia 2 has an inverted structure from the first, set mostly in the less magical Olympios one year after the first game. It's centered around the badly dressed 20 year old Ludger Kresnik and the 8 year old Elle who, in a bit of reverse The Last of Us, saw her father gunned down in front of her. This is all reflective of what is meant to be a darker story focusing on player choice. The point of view is always Ludger's and throughout the story you'll be tasked with making binary choices (mapped to L1 and R1) that affect how certain scenes play out, Ludger's relationship with party characters, and the end of the game.  We were treated to a cutscene where Ludger's brother, Julius, who works for a spurious company, tries to kill you and you have to choose between forcefully stopping him or reasoning with him. The some weird stuff went down where Elle's amulet started glowing and drilled itself into Ludger's head and he got weird face tattoos and monster hands. What is it with anime and face tattoos? It also follows the gaming-wide conflation of grittiness and maturity. "We changed the atmosphere to be a bit darker compared to the previous Tales of Xillia. In [the first game], the target audience is teenagers, 15-18, but for Tales of Xillia 2 our target audience is those who are older than 20 years old so we wanted to make a bit more mature and darker atmosphere." Ludger's crazy transformation is eventually represented in Xillia 2's "Cross Dual Raid Linear Motion Battle System," as he can transform and wreck house in his powerful monster form. There's also a real-time weapon swap system allowing for Ludger to swap between dual blades, a sledgehammer and dual pistols. Linking to characters allows for support attacks -- linked artes -- which are dependent on character affinity, which can change based on choices made during cutscenes. It took Xillia two and half years to release in the west after its Japanese release. Xillia 2 has a 15 month difference. Next year's Tales of Zestiria should be ready three to six months after its Japanese release. Congratualtions, Tales fans. Namco realized you want to play its games and will be working harder to get them to you in a timely manner.
Tales of Xillia 2 preview photo
Embracing a binary choice system
We knew Tales of Xillia 2 would be coming to the Americas before the first Tales of Xillia came out, but now we have a date, along with a bulky collector's edition. You can get your hands on the PS3 RPG on August 19 in North ...

More Vita games photo
More Vita games

Fairy Fencer F and Disgaea 4 Vita dated for the west


More Japanese games to go with Danganronpa 2
Apr 18
// Steven Hansen
Earlier today, Danganronpa 2: Goodbye Despair got a release date for North American Vitas: September 2. I still need to play the first. Anyway, more Japanese games have western release dates. Compile Heart's RPG Fairy Fencer ...
CENSORSHIP!!!!!! photo
CENSORSHIP!!!!!!

Azure Striker compromises appeal to boys 10-14, adds braid back


Gravure liker
Apr 17
// Steven Hansen
Keiji Inafune's other not Mega Man game is Azure Striker: Gunvolt. Its main character, Gunvolt, was viciously censored for the planned Western release, as you can see below. And by viciously censored I mean his designed was c...

Review: Steins;Gate

Apr 16 // Brittany Vincent
Steins;Gate (PC)Developer: 5pb., Nitroplus Publisher: JAST USAReleased: March 31, 2014MSRP: $29.99 Find out by stepping into the shoes of one Rintarou Okabe, self-proclaimed "mad scientist" and college student who prefers to go by the alias Hououin Kyouma. He's also "Okarin" to his friends, a motley crew of individuals you wouldn't expect to have befriended such a weirdo with the delusions of grandeur Okabe has. Mayuri, his childhood best friend, is so innocent and oblivious to the world around her you wonder what's really going on in her head, while Kurisu the genius girl is abrasive, but Okabe's intellectual equal. Then there's buffoonish hacker Daru, androgynous Luka, and the rest of the cast with their own sets of quirks.  Rather than simply acting as supporting cast members, each and every one of these characters is fleshed out in a manner that gives them as much life as Okabe, impressing a weight upon your relationship with each and ensuring you feel the gravity of more pressing situations as you progress. When you're faced with difficult decisions regarding your friends' lives later on, it becomes startlingly obvious just how much Steins;Gate has forced you to care about them. [embed]273092:53422:0[/embed] This may seem difficult to do, since interaction in-game is much different than that of other visual novels. In fact, you'll be staring at a cell phone screen most of the time, waiting for your next "D-mail" to arrive. Fittingly, that's short for "DeLorean mail." You'll also be engaged in face-to-face discussion, which could be interrupted by voice calls as well. These events are where you begin traveling down branching paths, hurtling toward one of the multiple endings. The first half of the game is spent attempting to decipher how time travel actually works, which is admittedly confusing at first, but quite deftly explained via Okabe's hilarious tirades and at times harrowing inner dialogue. This is a man charged with the sole responsibility of noting differences between several diverging timelines. A mistake could mean watching his friends die again and again, and if you don't play your cards right, that's exactly what could happen.  While you'll have plenty of time to acclimate yourself to the game's Phone Trigger system, you'll also be introduced to other methods of time traveling, as well as multiverse theories and parallel universes that twist and turn into deliciously convoluted territory. It can be tempting to skim through page after page of text (it's a visual novel, so obviously there's a lot) but you'll want to pay close attention, lest you gloss over subtle cues that really tie everything together. Unfortunately, those same subtleties can be obfuscating for those unfamiliar with internet slang like that used on 4chan, the rules of time travel, or even the fact that the Phone Trigger system replaces branching dialogue options. There's an index to be used as reference if you need help researching specific terms, and there's a decent bit of expository text, but sometimes you're left to your own devices. It can be understandably overwhelming to anyone having chosen Steins;Gate as their first visual novel experience. In addition, the first 30% percent of the game is a bit plodding compared to the high-octane drama that unfolds during later moments, a pacing issue that could frustrate players too impatient to stick around and see how intense things get. And things will indeed get intense. Steins;Gate is a taxing game, but it's also quite beautiful, from the talented Japanese voice cast (no English dub, unfortunately) to artist huke's unorthodox visuals. It's an exemplary visual novel with a thrilling premise, memorable characters, and a fantastic "true" ending that may very well move you to tears. If you've played Saya no Uta (a personal favorite) one time too many, branch out to Steins;Gate and then devour the anime series. Then immerse yourself in time travel literature, because you're definitely going to want to.
Steins;Gate photo
The life and times of Hououin Kyouma
Time travel is infinitely more interesting once you leave the trappings of the TARDIS or any one of those familiar (some would say hackneyed) science fiction mainstays behind. Steins;Gate, the visual novel that inspired a ...

La-Mulana 2 photo
La-Mulana 2

La-Mulana 2 aims to be more 'intuitive,' still hard as heck


Archaeological action exploration game
Apr 16
// Steven Hansen
La-Mulana was regarded by some as the hardest game ever. This isn't going to change, though Nigoro's Takami Naramura wants it to be slightly more intuitive so perhaps all those deaths don't lead to warranted frustration and ...
Square to stop sucking? photo
Square to stop sucking?

Bravely Default's success has Square refocusing on 'heavy JRPGs' & 'core' audience


Dr. Square Enix or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the JRPG
Mar 31
// Steven Hansen
Square Enix will work on its next global releases, "without focusing too much on the ‘global’ aspect," president Yosuke Matsuda told Nikkei Trendy. "For example, in the past, when we developed console games with a...
Senran Kagura Bust photo
Senran Kagura Bust

Senran Kagura Burst box art was almost even sexier


This is a brawler, by the way
Mar 14
// Steven Hansen
Marvelous AQL didn't shy away from titillation with apparent porn game Senran Kagura Burst's European box art. The initial plan was even more blatant. The original box art design, prototyped above, was a slip cover. The outer...
Pokemon XY movie photo
Pokemon XY movie

Legendaries square off again in the Pokemon XY movie trailer


Also a brief look at the Klefki short
Mar 10
// Steven Hansen
Here's some pretty but unremarkable footage from the upcoming 17th Pokemon movie Cocoon of Destruction. Members of an old folks' home suddenly feel lively and not like dying after discovering the rejuvenating powers of aline...
Freedom Wars photo
Freedom Wars

Freedom Wars warns of million year prisons, giant monsters


'Freedom is what you do with what's been done to you'
Mar 05
// Steven Hansen
Our freedom is under attack, America (or Japan). First it was the war on Christmas. Then the war on Christianity. Soon we will all be born slaves, toiling for the mooching liberal welfare state and unable to bring guns into ...
XBlaze Code: Embryo photo
XBlaze Code: Embryo

BlazBlue visual novel coming to PS3/Vita in North America


XBlaze Code: Embryo
Feb 11
// Steven Hansen
XBlaze Code: Embryo is a visual novel set 200 years before the events of BlazBlue.  XBlaze tells the story of Touya Kagari, a mostly unremarkable high school sophomore with a remarkable past, and his transformation fro...

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...







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