As if the prospect of a Yo-Kai Watch Ghostbusters parody wasn't hilarious enough, you can now watch ghost cats suit up and fight giant monsters in the newest trailer for Yo-kai Watch Busters. I want it!
It's due out in ...
Nintendo revealed to the world a few months back that the first Yo-Kai Watch game from Level-5 would be localized all across the world, but only gave a nebulous "2016" release date for the US. Now we have a slightl...
Good lord, am I excited. Also, scared. Dragon Quest VIII is coming to Nintendo 3DS, which is potentially the best news ever or a harbinger of the apocalypse. You know, depending on whether Square Enix intends to localize the ...
Wonder Flick R will shut down on September 14, Level-5 just announced.
Following the mobile RPG's reveal in 2013, Level-5 had some trouble getting the project off the ground. Unfortunately, the studio never managed to make go...
The Japanese mobile game market is booming and studios are climbing aboard the money train. Take Level-5, for example. The next installments in the Professor Layton and Fantasy Life series are abandoning their homes on Ninte...
There was a bunch of news out of Level-5 this week, so you might have missed seeing Yo-Kai Watch Busters, an upcoming 3DS action game that's essentially a cutesy take on Ghostbusters through the lens of Japan. I mean, there'...
Along with its Yo-Kai Watch and Fantasy Life announcements, Level-5 also revealed a new IP known as The Snack World. It's going to be another mixed media project with manga, anime, and games being developed for 3DS and smart...
It's a dreadful time to be a Level-5 fan. Or maybe a great one. Dunno. I suppose that all depends on where you exist on this Venn diagram:
Level-5 announced Fantasy Life 2 for smartphones today, which probably disp...
Level-5 has big plans for the Yo-Kai Watch franchise beyond the localization of the first game in 2016. It's also gone and announced three more titles in the franchise last night, including Yo-Kai Watch 3, Yo-kai Watch:...
In case you haven't been paying attention, Level-5's Yo-Kai Watch franchise has been rocking it over in Japan since 2013 with over seven million units in sales. Rumors of a localization have been brewing for over a year ...
I was worried about Yo-Kai Watch when it was first announced. Putting out a manga, anime and game series all in one fell swoop is no small financial undertaking. Given that Level-5 isn't a multi-billion dollar outfit, they h...
Level-5 CEO Akihiro Hino is pumped. After selling tons of copies of Yo-kai Watch in 2014 among a host of other successful IPs, 2015 is looking to be a good year for the developer. Recently, speaking to 4Gamer, he noted that h...
Oct 24 //
Fantasy Life (3DS)Developer: Level-5, 1-UP StudioPublisher: NintendoMSRP: $39.99Released: October 24, 2014
Fantasy Life is the child of Level-5 and Brownie Brown, having begun its own story back in 2009 and finding a Japan-only release in December 2012. With notable names like Yoshitaka Amano and Nobuo Uematsu attached to the project, it's no secret that it was well-received, a project that stole the attention of role-playing fans, particularly those of Brownie Brown, which would eventually change its name to 1-UP Studio. It comes from trusted names, but most of all, it's absolutely adorable; a warm and welcoming sight that will feel simultaneously familiar to RPG lovers and anyone who appreciates Western fantasy alike.
Getting started in Fantasy Life is exceedingly simple, as you choose a gender, body type, face, expression, and more for your character. You can customize him or her right down to the spacing of their eyes, voice, and hairstyle. There are a surprising amount of options for customizing your hero, but then it makes sense that there should be -- this is your "fantasy," after all.
Unfortunately, the beginning of the game is riddled with JRPG narrative tropes, especially as you wake up in the morning in a tiny house and rush out to choose your own Life, which is essentially the job a person chooses for themselves in the game world. There are multiple Lives for various proficiencies, though if you choose one and wish to swap over to another halfway through your training, that's perfectly fine as well. You're never constrained to one job, just like in real life.
The scope of jobs is interesting as well, ranging from the familiar Paladin or Blacksmith to the less flashy Tailor or Cook. Just as there are jobs that find you on the front line of battle, there are also more mundane professions where you'll be completing tasks for townsfolk rather than lifesaving operations. Depending on which Life you choose, you might find yourself slaying a dragon or mining ore to forge weapons. All the jobs are interconnected, so even the smallest role plays a part. Though it would have been simple to offer 12 different jobs and give them the same questlines, playing each Life ends up feeling unique.
With engaging writing and interesting interactions between characters, even if you choose to play as an Angler or a Cook, there's still plenty to see and do. And if and when you get bored with their minigames, you can just switch to a different profession at the drop of the hat to begin earning stars for another job. You'll retain many of your skills and recipes when switching, except for Special Skills that are tied to the Life you're currently developing. It's up to you to select which classes are important to spend time on in order to ensure your character has access to a wealth of different abilities and proficiencies that complement each other.
But don't mistake versatility for a game that requires you to learn all of these jobs to train a machine who can slay monsters and knit a mean sweater. You're never forced to pursue specific skills and there's no dark cloud hanging around the world of Reveria nudging you to pursue different skills in order to complete a quest.
You can play at your own pace, and if that means diverging from the main quest to focus on learning how to craft potions or forge weapons, that's your prerogative. That's where all the fun lies -- spending time trying new things and figuring out what it is you like to do within the game. It's a lot like real life in that regard, without any of the risks attached to uprooting and learning a completely new trade when the mood strikes. There's no hurry to complete anything, and that's what makes the game work so well.
Everything is done at a leisurely yet satisfying pace, even combat, which finds skills assigned to single buttons that works quite well with the real-time hack-and-slash system. You may need a bit to get used to timing your strikes, but it's simple to master and complements the rest of the game well. The minigames surrounding item production are easy to learn as well, though if you happen to botch a crafting session while at a workbench, you can simply start over.
Aside from earning XP and levels, however, there's an additional system in play that's important to focus on. It's called Bliss, and you receive Bliss points when you explore Reveria and complete tasks for others. As you decorate your home, buy a new residence, or interact with the game in ways beyond combat and training, you'll earn Bliss points that can be used to upgrade your bag, allow for home expansion, and more. It's an interesting system that encourages players to focus on aspects of the game beyond combat and grinding, and acts as a reward system for completing tasks you were going to have to do anyway.
There's simply no shortage of things to complete in Fantasy Life. Beyond single-player's vast amount of things to do, you can also invite other players locally or online in groups of three to tackle tasks together. You can't complete the game while working with friends, but you playing together via Link mode does allow for some MMORPG-styled fun that ensures each player's individual strengths are pooled together in a manner that's beneficial for everyone.
Of course, Fantasy Life's relaxed nature may not be for everyone. The lengthy tutorials and even the fact that there's no true urgency for the main storyline to be completed will grate on some players' nerves. There's also the caveat that playing multiplayer with friends doesn't allow for "true" progress. They're minor nitpicks, but issues nevertheless, especially for a game where multiplayer is such an enticing proposition.
But there's so much to love about Fantasy Life, from its whimsical and colorful illustrations and lighthearted tone to its varied soundtrack. It's truly a role-playing game that allows you to forge your own path, and a breath of fresh air that feels at home on the 3DS. If you're looking for something to scratch that Animal Crossing or Tomodachi Life itch with a little more substance, Fantasy Life is the game for you.
Trip the life fantastic One of the biggest gripes I hear from friends interested in but hesitant to play Japanese role-playing games is that they're too "complicated." It's a sentiment I've never understood; several take great pains to be accessible...
It feels like we've been waiting forever for Fantasy Life -- and we have! Years, in fact. Japan even got a full expansion before we even got the base game, but here we are with the game launching now in EU territories, ...
Aug 30 //
Professor Layton vs Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney (3DS)Developer: Capcom, Level-5Publisher: NintendoRelease Date: August 29, 2014MSRP: $29.99
The story revolves around the main characters from each game: Professor Layton, Apprentice Luke, Ace Attorney Phoenix Wright, and Spiritual Medium Maya Fey. It doesn't take long for these characters to meet up in a town called Labyrinthia, a town on no map and completely run by one person: the Storyteller. It's also a town that seems to be caught in the past: knights keep order and there's no modern technology to speak of.
The Storyteller is exactly that: the one who pens the "story" for the town of Labyrinthia. However, the town has been having some major issues with magic-using witches in the past years, and everything seems to be coming to a head just as the four protagonists enter the scene.
The characters of Labyrinthia deserve a very special mention. There are numerous characters that easily steal the spotlight during the courtroom scenes, which is largely due to the fantastic writing. The game's tone ranges from incredibly serious to downright hysterical while hitting every note in between. Characters come to life, scenes nail the correct tones, and the unpredictable story itself all come from the brilliant writing throughout.
Gameplay is divided into two distinct sections: puzzle solving while navigating the town and court cases. The former will be familiar to anyone who has played a Professor Layton game in the past, and the latter familiar to Ace Attorney players. The major issue here is that they almost never blend together. Instead they act like oil and water, with each section being completely separate from the other. It is important to note, however, that despite this lack of congruence, the game does not feel disjointed, largely due to the character interactions between the two sets of protagonists.
There is a moment towards the end of the game where the two gameplay types cease to act like oil and water and instead act like peanut butter and chocolate. Needless to say, this moment is nothing short of pure gameplay bliss and one of the most memorable moments of the entire game.
The Layton-inspired puzzles are various logic puzzles. For players unfamiliar with the games, these puzzles often require a decent amount of brainpower and/or trial and error to solve correctly, and the objective of each puzzle is different. The difficulty of these puzzles is widely inconsistent, as some of the final puzzles are laughably simple.
Some puzzles are required to progress, while others are included simply for players who want to try more puzzles. The context for these "extra" puzzles is always absurd, in an endearing way. Meeting someone on the street and having them challenge the player to a puzzle just because is absolutely ridiculous and perfect. The story puzzles are always given context and make a remarkable amount of sense within that context, making them feel very real.
As for the Ace Attorney-inspired court cases, players will listen to witnesses tell their testimony, and then have a chance to point out any inconsistencies or contradictions they can find. Players can "Press" the witness, which involves Phoenix Wright asking for more clarification on a specific statement. Players can also Present information to the court, which will bring up a key piece of evidence to hopefully point out a flaw in a witness' testimony.
This time around, there can be more than one person on the witness stand at a time. This allows for a slightly different mechanic of asking two witnesses about the same topic. While pressing a witness, another witness may make a sound if they hear something funky. At that point, the player can move to that witness and ask why they had a reaction to what was said. It's a decent mechanic that lends itself to a little bit of repetition, since the original witness' testimony will be cut short when moving to another witness, and to hear the entire testimony players will have to press the original witness again.
Hint Coins can be found while exploring the town and can be utilized in both the Layton-style puzzles and the Ace Attorney-esque courtroom scenes. During the logic puzzles, Hint Coins will slowly reveal more of the solution, until finally telling the player "alright fine here's the answer," essentially. In the courtroom, Hint Coins can be used when a player has no clue what to do next. The game will then let the player know who to Press or Present to, and when presenting, Hint Coins will remove certain incorrect options from the evidence to narrow it down for the player.
The game's visual style and technical capabilities are wonderful. The town of Labyrinthia truly does feel alive with vibrant characters while maintaining a sense of a seedy underbelly and something very sinister lurking around. There are some moments in the game where the framerate becomes noticeably terrible. This is often when there are many animated characters on the screen, and happens whether the 3D slider is on or off. Speaking of which, the stereoscopic 3D presentation is great and is easily the best way to experience the game. The music and sound effects from each game make an appearance, but much of the music is new to go with the "Middle Ages" theme of the town of Labyrinthia.
Professor Layton vs Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney is two great tastes that taste great together, even if they don't congeal together until the finale. But wow, what a finale it is! The framerate issues are very unfortunate and the new Ace Attorney mechanics can make the game a bit repetitive, but with over 20 hours of well-written content, this is a game who will please fans of either series, and will delight anyone who is a fan of both series. This game is also a great entry point for either series, since it offers a glimpse into both without heavily favoring one or the other.
Gentlemanly and Objectiony You got chocolate in my peanut butter! You got peanut butter in my chocolate!
Reese's Peanut Butter Cups are great. Personally, my favorite part is the edge, as long as you still get a little bit of peanut butter along ...
Yo-Kai Watch is readying for global expansion, according to Level-5 president Akihiro Hino.
Speaking with Zakzak, Hino revealed the studio is eyeing overseas markets in preparation for an international launch sometime ne...
Level-5's 3DS role-playing game Fantasy Life is releasing in Europe on September 26, 2014, Nintendo has announced. As a reminder, we're getting it here in the States on October 24.
This overview trailer is perfect if, like m...
Yo-Kai Watch 2 only just launched in Japan last month, but the Nintendo 3DS role-playing game has already managed to sell 2,093,992 units, according to the number crunchers at Media Create.
Yo-Kai Watch 2 is officially a hit. The 3DS role-playing game from Ni no Kuni studio Level-5 sold 1.28 million copies in first four days on the Japanese market. Good lord.
Actually, the latest estimates put the ope...
Jul 16 //
What you're really going to get in terms of the meat of the game (outside of maxing out all 12 jobs) is player choice. Although I only got a taste of what's to come, there are enough options to choose from to the point where you should theoretically have a completely different path from all your friends.
You can't change lives on the fly (which can get annoying if you have all 12 active), but there's an instant teleport option to bring you back to the appropriate location to switch. While this system does feel like a bit of a time sink, the fact that every job can viably fight most enemies and gather up materials anyway is a nice touch.
Job-wise, you can choose between the Paladin, Mercenary, Hunter, Wizard, Cook, Angler, Woodcutter, Miner, Blacksmith, Carpenter, Tailor, and Alchemist. Paladin was my personal favorite, and I enjoyed the synergy between it and the Blacksmith job, which let me forge my own weapons and armor. The neat thing though is that the Blacksmith could also level-up his skill in the same weapons and wield a sword as needed.
Combat is a relatively simple affair, but that makes it just as easy to get out and start slicing things for materials to bring back to town and synthesize. Actual item creation takes place in the form of a fun mini-game, which you can make easier (or faster) by way of special class abilities that you can enact at any moment. It's all very easy to pick up.
Even though I didn't get to play it for long, it's clear that Fantasy Life is a huge game. Odds are you'll spend over a hundred hours maxing out every job, not to mention the side distractions like multiplayer, customization, and room decoration. I can't wait to try the full version for myself later this year.
Play how you want During a hands-on Nintendo event, I was given the option to play a number of upcoming games -- naturally, I gravitated towards Fantasy Life, which I've been waiting a few years to see in action overseas. Developed by the...
[Update: Japanese sales tracking authority Media Creates estimates the figure of Yo-Kai Watch 2 opening weekend sales to be over 1.31 million.]
Yo-Kai Watch 2 sales eclipsed 1,281,096 units after a mere four days on the ...
Level-5 is considering international expansion for its popular Yo-Kai Watch franchise "in a big way," company president Akihiro Hino revealed to Weekly Famitsu.
It isn't hard to see why. The Pokémon-like property ...
Woops, made myself sad again that Japan gets Level-5's Yo-kai Watch 2 and we haven't even gotten the first. I spotted at least two awesome cat monsters I just want to be friends with and give three in one tick, flea, and heart worm medicine to.
After announcing Level-5's Fantasy Life life-simulation RPG during Nintendo's Treehouse event, the product development team took some time out to stream the game to provide some additional details on how the game works and w...
Thank you, based Level-5! After announcing Fantasy Life, Nintendo revealed that we've also got this gem of a game to look forward to from the Yokai Watch developer (and Capcom too, of course.) We've been clamoring for it for...
Level-5 is bringing its glorious MMO-inspired Fantasy Life to Western gamers, and it looks to be every bit of a treat. Combining Animal Crossing-like sensibilities with the role-playing and combat of an MMO, Fantasy Life is ...
Is there a time in your life when you can have too many Nintendo 3DS units in your home? If I were to purchase every single system I like on a whim, I think I'd find out soon enough. This Yo-kai Watch 3DS XL is the bee's knee...
Oh my gosh, that music is just as good as the music from the first Yo-kai Watch. Give it here, Level-5. Ni no Kuni did well enough and Bravely Default et al. have shown JRPG will sell on the 3DS in the Americas and Eurovisio...
Mar 10 //
Professor Layton and the Azran Legacy (3DS)Developer: Level-5Publisher: NintendoReleased: February 28, 2014MSRP: $39.99
While each Professor Layton game features a largely self-contained story, Azran Legacy does a bit more to tie the series together than previous entries have, with the ancient Azran civilization's technology offered as an explanation for some of the more unbelievable events from Luke and Layton's earlier adventures. The cities of Misthallery and Monte d'Or are given a nod, but knowledge of prior events is not strictly necessary to enjoy Azran Legacy.
As usual, the story begins with Layton receiving a letter, urging him to assist in a puzzling archaeological matter. This time, it is from a man named Professor Sycamore, an expert on the ancient Azran civilization. Sycamore claims to have found a "living mummy," and requires Layton's help to resuscitate her. Being the gentleman that he is, Layton obliges.
During this section, players can choose which location to explore, and may start one before finishing another. After completing a location, new puzzles and character interactions show up in order to incentivize revisiting areas. Through Granny Riddleton's cat Keats, those who would rather not retread old ground can still play missed puzzles later on.
Once the setup is complete and the game really starts going, it opens up differently than most other Layton games. Rather than taking place in one main location, progressing through new areas linearly, Azran Legacy allows players to fly across the globe to eight different places, each with its own mini-story to unfold. It almost feels like episodic content embedded inside the full game.
Building on the progress made with Miracle Mask, Azran Legacy looks fantastic on the 3DS. The cartoon cutscenes are beautiful, the hand-drawn backgrounds are detailed and expansive, and even the 3D character models look like they have gotten an upgrade. With the locations spanning between a dusty desert mining town to a frozen mountain village, the environments are varied enough to hold interest through all of the touch screen tapping.
And there is a lot of tapping. As with other Professor Layton games, players will tap to talk with characters and tap to find hint coins (currency used to facilitate solving difficult puzzles). Additionally, certain environmental objects can be interacted with in small ways; food gets eaten (presumably by Luke), pots and pans rattle, stone cracks and breaks to reveal hidden objects, and more. An exploration idea that is not expounded upon is one of timing. In a particular alley, tapping a basketball sets it off rolling, while tapping a manhole opens it up and subsequently closes it. If initiated in the correct order, the basketball falls into the manhole, and only then is the player rewarded with a hint coin. More interactions like this would have kept things a bit fresher.
Still, there are other things to be found by tapping. Puzzles are hidden across the landscape, as are small trinkets that are useless outside of completionist obsession. Azran Legacy's StreetPass functionality comes into play here, where players can find named items across the landscape, and set challenges for other players to find those same items. By finding items sent through StreetPass, players can earn a different type of currency to purchase otherwise locked trinkets, puzzles, and even locations.
Most importantly, the strength of a given Professor Layton game comes down to the quality of the puzzles. As expected, the puzzles found in Azran Legacy are hit-or-miss, though there are more hits than misses. There are arithmetic puzzles, spatial reasoning puzzles, logic puzzles, trick question puzzles, and some less savory puzzles. Though there are not nearly as many sliding block puzzles as there have been in the past, they have been replaced with puzzles that are mechanically different but play out in largely the same way: trial and error, frustration, hints that only reveal the exact sequence of moves necessary to complete them. Where other puzzles focus on critical thinking skills, these are so mindless they end up falling flat.
Thankfully, there are over 100 puzzles in the main arc of Azran Legacy, so the ones that do not stimulate the brain are easily skipped with little penalty. In addition to the included puzzles, the Daily Puzzle is back with 385 more, drip-fed to players once per day for a year (with 20 to start).
Also a staple of the series, three unique puzzle minigames come up over the course of the game. This time, the minigames are Dress Up, Nutty Roller, and Bloom Burst. Nutty Roller tasks players with getting a spherical nut to a goal square by hitting it with rolling boulders, and it works well enough aside from its immovable camera occasionally obscuring important map elements. Bloom Burst has players placing flowers on a square grid in order to set off a chain reaction to make trees blossom while avoiding mushrooms, and its combination of forethought and deductive reasoning would be good enough to warrant its own game, if more puzzles were made available.
Dress Up is an interesting idea in which Layton has a limited inventory of clothing items and must match them to each individual request. However, given the way new items are procured (through solving other puzzles over the course of the game), it results in one big interconnected puzzle that cannot be truly solved until all of the necessary parts are collected, rather than eight individual puzzles that can be successfully attempted as they are unlocked. While the idea is sound, it does not really work well as presented.
All in all, Professor Layton and the Azran Legacy turns out about how fans of the series would expect. Over the course of the 25-hour campaign, players will enjoy charming dialogue from beloved characters alongside puzzles that run the gamut between boring and thought-provoking, all gussied up with top-notch art and animation.
What it does to differentiate itself from previous entries in the series is mostly superficial, but Layton fans and puzzle lovers do not really need or want a great departure for the series. All we want is a puzzle-solving adventure, and Azran Legacy delivers a good one.
Puzzle solving is a most gentlemanly pursuit With five previous games and one movie under his belt, Professor Layton's reputation precedes him. Since 2007's Professor Layton and the Curious Village, Level-5 has been giving players control of the eminent gentleman Layton...
Ni no Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch has passed 1.1M worldwide sales since its January 2013 release. Which maybe doesn't seem like that much with Tomb Raider needing five times that for profitability and unfinished games like...