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Role-Playing Games

Fallout video photo
Fallout video

Fallout 4 at its unscripted best

Anything goes!
Nov 18
// Jordan Devore
Much has been said about Fallout 4's imperfect dialog system, but I haven't seen many people bring up the weird, occasionally hilarious things that can happen to you mid-conversation. This ten-second video is one such example. Perhaps even the perfect example.
Fallout 4 armor photo
Fallout 4 armor

If you're using power armor in Fallout 4, you'll want this torso piece

Radiation for the nation
Nov 18
// Nic Rowen
I've been really trying to break the “too good to use” curse in Fallout 4. Now that power armor consumes (semi) rare fusion cores whenever you use it, my natural instinct is to tinker and craft myself the perfect ...
Valkyria shots photo
Valkyria shots

First shots of Valkyria: Azure Revolution and the PS4 remaster

New Valkyria series game coming to PS4
Nov 18
// Steven Hansen
I don't know if it was the Valkyria Chronicles Steam release success or Sega just doing its regular couple years of apologizing with good releases before falling into a funk again, but there is a new, anime-as-hell Valkyria C...
Chrono Trigger photo
Chrono Trigger

The concept for Chrono Trigger came about from a trip to the United States

Man, this game!
Nov 18
// Chris Carter
I had played RPGs before it, but Chrono Trigger was probably the first time that I sat down and became immersed in something for days on end. Having borrowed it from a friend I didn't run into the "rental" problem I had...
We are all 12 photo
We are all 12

The dialogue in Fallout 4 is so much better as farts

I can't stop laughing at this
Nov 18
// Jed Whitaker
Some evil genius decided to completely redo all the voice dialogue in Fallout 4, only instead of words he uses fart sounds. Bethesda spent years writing and recording this dialogue, while this person made it better in just ov...
Fallout 4 photo
Fallout 4

Fallout 4 mod lets you see full sentence dialogue prompts

No more accidental choices
Nov 18
// Laura Kate Dale
Fallout 4's streamlined dialogue options have been a divisive subject among players. Some love the more minimal interface, while others like myself wish we had a clearer idea of what exactly we were about to say. Thankfully, ...
SMT IV: Final photo
SMT IV: Final

Shin Megami Tensei IV: Final gets original SMT IV cast

Including one party member
Nov 17
// Steven Hansen
Atlus is embracing confusing naming conventions with the upcoming Shin Megami Tensei IV: Final, which Atlus has billed as not a direct sequel to SMTIV (you don't have to have played it to play Final) when we last wrote about...
Fallout 4 photo
Fallout 4

We need to dirty that Pip-Boy up a little bit

As carefully as possible, of course
Nov 17
// Brett Makedonski
Anyone who got their hands on the wrist-encapsulating replica Pip-Boy with their copy of Fallout 4 might feel a dissonance between the dirty, grimy in-game world and the shiny coat of paint on the device. For a place wh...
Valkyria Chronicles photo
Valkyria Chronicles

A new Valkyria Chronicles and a remaster are coming to PS4

Next year in Japan
Nov 17
// Jordan Devore
As it turns out, Sega's recent Valkyria trademark was worth getting excited over after all. The company has a new game in the series and a remaster of the original Valkyria Chronicles in development for PlayStation 4, accordi...
Project Setsuna photo
Project Setsuna

Ikenie to Yuki no Setsuna, Tokyo RPG Factory's latest, launches in early 2016

Also known as 'Project Setsuna'
Nov 17
// Chris Carter
Earlier this year at E3, we got a glimpse at "Project Setsuna," and damn was it beautiful. Now the game is known as Ikenie to Yuki no Setsuna, and already has a release date in Japan -- February 18. It'll launch on both ...
Andromeda photo

Is this our first glimpse at the name of the Mass Effect: Andromeda protagonist?

Would certainly make some sense
Nov 17
// Laura Kate Dale
The internet is full of really eagle-eyed geeks, the kind of people willing to freeze frame trailers that seemingly show off absolutely nothing and find nuggets of new information in them. Sometimes they are right on the mone...
Fallout myths photo
Fallout myths

Well, that's one way to enter a locked building in Fallout 4

Fallout 4 Mythbusters
Nov 16
// Jordan Devore
In this first Fallout 4 episode of the YouTube show Mythbusters, we're shown a trick to enter locked buildings. Turns out you can just peek through a window and sit on furniture to warp inside. There can't be very many locations where that would work, but it's amusing all the same. And speaking of amusing, try holding up an item the next time you chat with someone.
Disgaea on Steam photo
Disgaea on Steam

I hope Disgaea on Steam is a sign of things to come

The first game hits PC in February
Nov 16
// Jordan Devore
NIS is bringing the original Disgaea to Steam. Cool, right? The strategy role-playing game will be available on PC in February with enhancements including an updated user interface and textures, Steam achievements and cloud s...
Fallout 4 photo
Fallout 4

Fallout 4 has a room with all the weapons and items, and it's easy to find

Nov 16
// Brett Makedonski
Fallout 4's the type of game that's dripping with secrets for the community to discover. Its open world holds so much potential to hide things from players, knowing that they'll inevitably find them. One such room has been f...
Fallout 4 photo
Fallout 4

Yes, the first game breaking Fallout 4 bug has been found

Be careful where you travel
Nov 16
// Laura Kate Dale
It was only a matter of time, but the first repeatable game breaking bug has been found in Fallout 4. We all knew this was coming. The bug, which crashes to desktop on PC, is triggered as part of a settlement quest where play...
Arcanum photo

Design documents for a sequel to Arcanum: Of Steamworks and Magick Obscura uncovered

More inspired by Deus Ex and Thief
Nov 16
// Joe Parlock
Way back in 2001, gone-but-not-forgotten developer Troika released Arcanum: Of Steamworks of Magick Obscura. It was an utterly fantastic (if buggy) RPG set in a vast, strange steampunk fantasy world where the long-established...

Quick tips for making friends in Yo-Kai Watch

Nov 15 // Ben Davis
The main thing you'll want to do when trying to befriend a certain Yo-Kai is figure out which type of food is its favorite. This can be a bit difficult, as there's no way to know for sure without throwing a bunch of different things at it and seeing which one it likes best. Plus, there are a ton of food types to choose from (rice balls, bread, candy, milk, burgers, ramen, vegetables, meat, and more). Some of them are easy to guess: for example, Mochismo, the Yo-Kai based on mochi, likes rice balls; and Chummer, the shark Yo-Kai who can be seen eating grass, likes vegetables. For everyone else, it might be simpler to just look up a guide rather than waste a bunch of food trying to figure out what they like the most. The best guide I've come across can be found here. When using food during battle, press the Y button to use the food on an enemy rather than a member of your party. The food will usually be eaten by the center enemy in battle, so if you're looking to befriend a different one, either defeat the middle Yo-Kai first and then use a food item, or place a pin on the enemy you want to focus on. Strangely enough, it can sometimes end up that a Yo-Kai other than the one you threw food at will ask to be friends after the battle, which can be annoying, but it happens. Another good tip for making friends is to try and find a Yo-Kai with the Popularity skill. This skill makes foes more likely to become friendly after battle, so it's always a good idea to have someone with this skill on your team while hunting for new pals. Yo-Kai with the Popularity skill include Cupistol, Casanuva, Shmoopie, and Pinkipoo. But make sure you don't have Casanono or Pookivil on your team, because their Unpopularity skill might scare potential friends away. Cupistol and Shmoopie can be found relatively early on, so they will probably be the best bet for players just starting out. Cupistol is a rank D Yo-Kai who can be found in the Downtown area around Graduate Street to the north. Look around the trees there for a rank D to appear on your watch. Cupistol will also sometimes appear along with Happierre, a rank C Yo-Kai who can be found in the trees in that same area. Make sure to bring lots of bread when trying to befriend Cupistol. Shmoopie is a rank C Yo-Kai who can be found in the grassy patches of Mount Wildwood. I believe this one always appears alone, so no need to worry about accidentally befriending someone else. Shmoopie likes hamburgers, so stock up on those before hunting for him. The other two, Casanuva and Pinkipoo, can only be found later in the game. Casanuva can be evolved from a Cupistol if fused with the Love Buster item. Likewise, Pinkipoo can be evolved from Shmoopie when combined with the Love Scepter. They can also be found in the wild. Casanuva likes to hang out in Nocturne Hospital, sometimes alone and often as a counterpart with Betterfly or Compunzer. Pinkipoo can be found in the final area of the game, which is maybe a bit spoilery so I won't get into it here, but you'll know it when you see it. Both Casanuva and Pinkipoo enjoy the same food as their unevolved forms (bread and hamburgers, respectively). The final tip is a bit more unreliable, but if you get lucky it can really help. Occasionally during battle, a floating wisp will appear which can be hit with a pin for various rewards. Sometimes, a bunch of hearts will pop out of the wisp, which means foes will be much more likely to become friendly after the battle. It's not something you can count on, but if you ever see a wisp during a fight with a Yo-Kai that you really want, be sure to hit it with a pin just in case! Of course, even after doing all of this, there's still a chance that the Yo-Kai will not want to be your friend, which can be frustrating. But these tips should increase your chances significantly. I found that after obtaining a Casanuva, I was spending way less time grinding for friends, so apparently the Popularity skill works well, especially when combined with food. Just keep at it and eventually you'll have all the friends you could want!
Yo-Kai Watch tips photo
Just be my friend already!
Yo-Kai Watch recently released in the west earlier this month. I've been having a blast with it, but I've also been having some difficulties as well. So far I haven't been able to find any good guides to help walk me through ...

Van Helsing Final Cut photo
Van Helsing Final Cut

Van Helsing's Final Cut is the most 'Incredible' yet

Unless you've already played
Nov 15
// Patrick Hancock
Recently, NeocoreGames released The Incredible Adventures of Van Helsing: Final Cut on Steam, a compilation of the three games in the series. Past titles have varied in quality; the first game was good but buggy, the sec...
Fallout 4 photo
Fallout 4

Someone recreated the piano scene from Big in Fallout 4

And it only took 19 hours!
Nov 14
// Jordan Devore
Settlement building in Fallout 4 isn't as user friendly or refined as it should be (I'd like my garden of melons to not float three feet off the ground, if at all possible), but that isn't going to hold people back from making impressive things. Take, for instance, this walking piano:

Xenoblade Chronicles X is sprawling and unforgiving, and I love that

Nov 14 // Chris Carter
Xenoblade Chronicles X starts off with a straight-forward premise: humans have been pushed off Earth by aliens in the future, and only one "ark" is said to have made it to a far off new planet. It's a Macross-esque setting where humans are fairly advanced with their weaponry and warfare, including the Skells (mechs). From there, your character (male or female) awakens in a pod, is greeted by your first party member, and the adventure begins. I really mean "your adventure," because early on, the story mostly takes a backseat beyond a brief rundown of the situation on this new planet. This is something I'm completely okay with because of how Monolith Soft has crafted each gigantic map. There are hundreds of locations to find, secret dungeons to delve into, and enemies to battle -- and nearly all of it rewards you for your efforts. Seeing gigantic, screens-high enemies towering over me induced Final Fantasy XI Notorious Monster flashbacks, you know, in a good way. Your primary source of damage is by way of auto-attacks, but combat gets much deeper once players start unlocking more abilities. Flanking options, bonus effects (for those who patiently wait for double cooldowns), and the power to instantly switch between melee and ranged attacks are a few mechanics that pop up. Dashing is also enabled in combat, which makes for some awesome fights when popping off an enemy appendage with a rifle, and running in with dual daggers to slash at their exposed body. [embed]320860:61101:0[/embed] I'm over 20 hours in so far and still don't have access to the Skells. Very early on there's an option to buy one for an exorbitantly unattainable price, but you still need a "license" to pilot them, which I haven't obtained yet. I've already seen this design choice turn off some prospective players out there after hearing impressions from the Japanese release, but I have to say, it doesn't bother me. Movement is fairly swift, as players can sprint indefinitely and leap high into the air like a superhero. It's very easy to get from place to place, and fast travel -- it still exists. Stay tuned for our review at the end of the month.
Xenoblade Chronicles X photo
Our review is coming later this month
I've played MMOs with smaller zones than Xenoblade Chronicles X. The scale here is absolutely breathtaking, and a mite surreal once you realize that you're playing on the Wii U, where the development team couldn't even optimize the game on a single disc. Here's a few thoughts after spending a ton of time with the experience.


These maniacs actually made the shishkebab from Fallout 4

Seems like a bad (awesome) idea
Nov 13
// Nic Rowen
Fallout's shishkebab might not be the most practical of weapons out there, but it will always score top marks for style. Caleb Kraft from Make, along with Platinmfungi tapped into the spirit of the wasteland and cobbled toge...
Indivisible photo

Indivisible crowdfunding campaign extended

About $500K left to go
Nov 13
// Jordan Devore
It's not over yet. Lab Zero Games has secured a 20-day extension on its Indiegogo campaign for Indivisible, a stylish side-scrolling RPG with shades of Valkyrie Profile and Super Metroid. As it now stands, Lab Zero has raised...
Mah tee tees photo
Mah tee tees

Nintendo removes boob size customization from Xenoblade Chronicles X localizations

All versions lack bulge sliders
Nov 13
// Jed Whitaker
The lovely people at GameXplain report that not only have the swimsuits for the teenage character Lin been changed during the localization of Xenoblade Chronicles X, but a breast-size customization slider has also been removed. According to the YouTube group, the rest of game remains largely unchanged gameplay-wise, and I'd say that is what is important.
MLB photo

Major League Baseball is coming after a Big Papi Fallout 4 mod

Wicked uncool
Nov 13
// Brett Makedonski
Fallout 4 takes place in Boston, the home of Major League Baseball team the Red Sawwwx. In fact, the club's stadium, Fenway Park, serves a large role as one of the bigger settlements and markets in the game. One NPC eve...
Star Fox outfit photo
Star Fox outfit

Star Fox and Monster Hunter X are a winning combination

Let's rock 'n' roll
Nov 13
// Jordan Devore
There's no real reason for me to get this much enjoyment out of costumes in Monster Hunter, a series I don't even play, and yet here we are once again. The little promo videos are entertaining. Monster Hunter X, which releases in Japan on November 28, also has a Star Fox outfit. So, an animal character wearing another animal character's iconic garb. It's about as great as you'd hope.
Xenoblade Chronicles X photo
Xenoblade Chronicles X

You'll want to install the Xenoblade Chronicles X data packs before launch

Live on the eShop now
Nov 13
// Chris Carter
Yesterday during its Nintendo Direct event, the publisher let loose upon the world four loading packs for Xenoblade Chronicles X, which isn't even set to launch until early December. So what's the deal? Basically, you can ins...

Figuring out which of the usual suspects I'll play in Fallout 4

Nov 13 // Nic Rowen
Character creation is something I love in games, maybe a little too much. As I’ve talked about before, I have a tendency to slip into an eternal planning mode -- sketching out possible character builds, ideas, and dorky little stories -- while never actually sitting down to play any of them out if I’m not careful. Or I end up chain-smoking characters, making one, playing around for an hour or so (which barely counts as playing at all when you’re talking about the Fallouts and Dragon Ages of the world), and wandering back to the “new game” screen to try out another one. Pretty soon, I’ve had the game for over a week and have only managed to see the tutorial area. Not a great use of one’s time. What I’ve come to over the past few years has been a system of recycling a few characters over in different games in different genres. I take the same characters with the same basic preferences and attitudes and run with them. Building around a few personality traits like “loves sneak attacks and charms his way through conversations” or “always goes with the most aggressive combat option available and never tells a lie” and try to fit them into whatever game I’m playing. Sometimes that means running straight at the enemy with a two-handed sword, other times it means teleporting to them with a nuclear-powered shotgun in hand. To me, it’s been the best middle ground between ruthlessly planning out my characters and pointlessly faffing about. Not only do I have a rough idea of what kind of skills, equipment, and storylines I want to lean towards with a character, but by having clearly defined characters with their own weird ways of going about their business, it also keeps the gameplay fresh. I’ve made characters based on myself in the past, or just gone with the generic hero type they start you with, but you know what? That’s boring. When I call a character Nic, curse him with a mop of red hair, a slightly round face, and send him out to save the galaxy or tame the wasteland, he always turns out to be a real fence-sitting drag about it. Because I can’t help but start approaching the game the way I would in real life, as a kind of generally decent guy who doesn’t want to set off a nuclear bomb in the middle of a crowded settlement, or really stick his nose in other people’s business either. I end up equipping weapons and armor based on stats and efficiency because it’s not like I have a strong preference in real life. Left to my own devices, things tend to be a little drab. But if I put myself in the shoes of Jabberwalk, a bomb-chucking madman, it’s a different story. Or Sophie, a de facto serial killer who always takes the most backstabbing or underhanded “solution” to a problem possible and has a real love for stilettos and straight razors. Or Gershom, a lumbering old man driven by his principals to help the weak as best he can, and grind the wicked into a fine paste with the biggest hammer or piece of unwieldy artillery around. Or maybe Piss-Pot, a disgusting lizardman who is always a treat to try and build in games that don't include lizardmen as an option. Things get interesting fast with those weirdos. Their baked-in preferences force me to approach the game differently, to play around with different perks, conversation choices, and gear that I might not touch otherwise. Which leads me to Fallout 4 and trying to figure out which of my little rotating cast would fit the game best. Fallout 4, annoyingly enough, starts out presupposing the player character is the type to have successfully held down a pre-war job and a working relationship, not exactly traits a lot of my characters tend to fit in with (which maybe says a little bit more about myself than my characters). I plan to spend a lot of time wandering the Boston wasteland, and I want to make sure I’m doing it with a character that will enjoy it as much as I’m hoping I will, so it’s not a decision I take lightly. I’m leaning towards a sneaky type of character; the villainous side quests in Fallout are always the best, after all. I’d love to know how other people do it. Do you make a fresh character out of whole cloth every time you start a new game? Brew up a self-insertion character and stab orcs or shoot super mutants as a slightly cooler version of yourself? Or is this the most obvious thing in the world and everybody has their own set of recurring characters like me and I’m the last one to know about it? Did Fallout 4’s implied backstory change the way you made your character this time around? Let me know in the comments!
Character creation photo
A man's character is his fate
I never walk into a character creation screen alone. Every time I start a new RPG where you have to brew up a character to spend the next 30-80 hours with, I bring a few familiar faces with me. A small cast of characters I&rs...

Fallout 4 photo
Fallout 4

Bethesda shipped a whole lot of copies of Fallout 4

Some records fell, too
Nov 13
// Brett Makedonski
There was never any doubt that Fallout 4 would sell well, but we never had any numbers from Bethesda to gauge its expectations. The publisher just announced how many units it shipped for the game's launch; judging by tho...

Review: Stella Glow

Nov 13 // Chris Carter
Stella Glow (3DS)Developer: ImageepochPublisher: AtlusMSRP: $49.99Release Date: November 17, 2015 Our journey begins with Alto, a young man who (surprise) has amnesia, and is found by a girl named Risette, who takes him into her mother's house. Three years later Alto encounters Hilda, a "sort of good sort of bad" witch, who is commonly referred to as "The Witch of Disaster" -- with a name like that, who wouldn't be inclined to be bad sometimes? Risette then unlocks an ancient power from one of Alto's artifacts, and becomes a witch herself -- then it's off to the royal palace, where they are tasked with hunting Hilda by recruiting more witches. You can probably guess where it goes from here. Alto is a country boy of sorts, but accepts to call to become a reluctant "aw shucks" shonen sword master. The rest of the party runs the gamut of anime tropes, and while they can occasionally get annoying, the cast is memorable enough and all sport a great set of designs. There are a few nuanced storylines peppered in, like the tale of a misunderstood witch who was doomed to live as an outcast. Another character hides her face in a cardboard box because she's shy, but wears revealing clothing. The cast is massive, and since there's no "job" switching in Stella Glow, all of them act unique both in and out of combat. Speaking of combat, much like the Arc series, it's still a lot like Final Fantasy Tactics. Utilizing chibi characters on a grid-like format, players can move about the battlefield, use items or skills, and choose to "wait" in a specific direction to guard against directional attacks. A lot of games still use the grid style because it works, even to this day. There's a certain order to it that warrants a respect beyond relegating it to "old school nostalgia," and planning out party movements and attacks is never a chore. When you're actually engaged with an enemy an Advanced Wars style miniature cutscene will play, and as expected, some characters have counter-attacks available. As previously stated, the cast really makes a different here, as some party members have access to special abilities like guarding characters they're adjacent to, which makes placement paramount. Don't expect a whole lot of depth and customization though (stats are applied instantly, and equipment management isn't all that difficult, even accounting for the materia-like socket system). [embed]320467:61085:0[/embed] Really, the game isn't all that tough in general. I feel like it will be challenging enough for those of you who don't keep up with the genre, but for veterans, you'll rarely find a taxing quest until later in the storyline. This is partially due to the fact that the AI isn't overly aggressive, and tends to hang back more, waiting for a better opportunity to strike. On the flipside, that means that there's no frustrating fake difficulty spikes for the sake of it. Like most SRPGs, Stella is hella long. There's at least 40 hours of gameplay here if you only opt for the story, and leveling up characters, locating the additional endings (over 10), completing sidequests and sidestories will likely elevate it to double that. Like most games with a billion endings, your mileage may vary depending on your affinity towards a specific character, but the ones I saw ranged from unsatisfying to sufficient. For those you are wondering, the voicework is in English, and the songs, which are heavily woven into the game's narrative, are performed in Japanese. In many ways, Stella Glow is a by-the-numbers strategy RPG, but it does have a partially interesting cast, some unique storylines, and a working combat system. Imageepoch has had some ups and downs in their lengthy career, but thankfully they can at least end on somewhat of a high note. [This review is based on a retail build of the game provided by the publisher.]
Stella Glow photo
Imageepoch's swan song
That's all she wrote for Imageepoch. The developer responsible for the Luminos Arc series and Arc Rise Fantasia filed for bankruptcy earlier this year, and it seems like they're out of the industry entirely with the laun...

Review: Sword Art Online: Lost Song

Nov 13 // Josh Tolentino
Sword Art Online: Lost Song (PS4, PS3, PS Vita [reviewed])Developer: ArtdinkPublisher: Bandai Namco GamesMSRP: $39.99 (Vita), $59.99 (PS4)Released: November 17, 2015 (NA), November 13, 2015 (EU), April 28, 2015 (SEA), March 26, 2015 (JP) [Note: This review is based on the English-language version of Lost Song released in Southeast Asia on April 28, 2015. While there may be some differences between this version and the North American/EU ones, we expect the core experience will be highly similar, if not identical.] Let's not mince words: Like its predecessor Sword Art Online: Hollow Fragment, Lost Song is meant for existing fans of Sword Art Online (or at least of Hollow Fragment), and few else outside that sphere. In fact, Lost Song's main plot virtually ensures that only those invested Kirito and the gang's adventures and interactions will find fulfillment from the game's narrative.  But first, an aside: When it came to the anime and novels, the reason the ALO-set story arcs felt so weak was the overriding sense that the show was treading water. In contrast to original's grand hook of "dying in the game means death for real", the goal of Kirito playing ALO to search for Asuna carried not nearly as much weight. This was exacerbated in the second season, which followed up an excellent murder mystery set in Gun Gale Online with Kirito and his pals literally just doing a raid and some quests in ALO for a nice sword. It came to pass that when ALO was onscreen, Sword Art Online became less about exciting adventures and speculative future game design than essentially watching a bunch of nonexistent Let's Players play a nonexistent game. Lost Song falls afoul of ALO's curse as well, with even its central story afflicted with the same sense of meandering and lack of stakes. Still placed in Hollow Fragment's alternative timeline (which saw the cast stuck in SAO for much longer than in the "canon", and adding characters like Sinon under different circumstances), Lost Song sees Kirito and his posse moving to ALfheim Online right on time for the game to debut "Svart ALfheim", its first expansion, consisting of five massive floating islands. Being the top-class gamers they are, the crew resolves to be the first to burn through it. [embed]318569:61096:0[/embed] The quest for "world-first" (a motivation familiar to anyone who's played an MMO) eventually brings them into conflict with Shamrock, a massive guild run by Seven, an idol/scientist (!) who's taking the opportunity run a big social experiment within ALO. If the whole premise of Lost Song's plot sounds like the kind of inter-guild "drama" that plays out on forums and social media feeds for actual games today, one wouldn't be too far off. This puts the bulk of the game's narrative appeal in the interactions between cast members new and old, told via entertaining Tales of-style vignettes, in-game events, and lengthy personal quests, some of which adapt storylines from the canon like the well-received "Mother's Rosario" arc. In a nice touch, these events are mostly encountered semi-randomly and often without explicit prompting. A minor thing, to be sure, but one that channels the "live" qualities of MMO play, where impromptu encounters and stories grow even against otherwise static environs and content. Ultimately, though, those invested in seeing the characters of Sword Art Online again, sporting their ALO-styled redesigns and touting long-running in-jokes, will get their fill, but players seeking epic adventure or the kind of JRPG saga that ends with the heroes saving the world will come away disappointed. It doesn't help, either, that Lost Song doesn't work very hard to introduce players to the characters themselves. In some ways that's to be expected, seeing as this is a sequel to Hollow Fragment and mostly features the same faces (with a few more added), but curious folks who just want to know what the fuss over Sword Art Online is all about would be better served by picking up Re: Hollow Fragment (the "Director's Cut" PS4 port of Hollow Fragment), or just watching the anime. Narrative pitfalls aside, Lost Song is at least less of a slog to play, mechanically, bringing some new, entertaining gimmicks to the table. The combat system ditches the auto-attacks, casting times, and menus of Hollow Fragment for a straightforward, directly-controlled action-RPG setup. Players can string together combos of light and heavy attacks, controlling any three of up to seventeen playable characters (they can even replace Kirito as the leader!), each wielding a number of weapons with signature skills and magic. Special moves and magic can be triggered by combining shoulder and face buttons. New attacks, spells, and passive effects can be unlocked by leveling up their weapon skills through use, and assigning them to preferred button combinations. A Union gauge fills up in battle, and when triggered enables devastating "Switch" attacks involving the whole party. While simpler and arguably less deep than Hollow Fragment, the new system is more engaging and wastes less time. Most low-level foes can be dispatched in seconds, and fighting large bosses rewards mobility and effective use of buffs and debuffs to chop away at their massive, stacked health bars. AI companions fight and support effectively, and need little in the way of handholding unless severely under-leveled. New gear can be found in the field, or bought, identified, and upgraded at Agil and Lisbeth's shops while Side Quests and Extra Quests can be accepted at the hub town's tavern. Side Quests usually fall into the "Kill X number of Y enemy" category, but Extra Quests usually pose an additional challenge, involving big takedowns of one or more boss-class foes for better rewards. And then there's the flying. Being a fairy-themed game, ALO plants wings on all its characters to enable long-distance travel and a level of verticality rarely embraced in the RPG space. Lost Song gladly obliges, featuring huge, open-world maps populated by roaming enemies and dotted with dungeons at varying altitudes. Players can switch from running on the ground to hovering to racing through the air with a flick of the D-pad. While a bit fiddly at first, this mobility quickly becomes second nature and makes a genuine difference when fighting outdoors, as aerial dashes can be used to set up powerful charging attacks, and hovering up high can put safe distances between players and ground-bound foes. Fighting indoors, however, is more of a chore, as most dungeons prohibit flying and often take place against large numbers of enemies spawning in ways that cause the combat camera and lock-on function to freak out unpleasantly. Worse still, the dungeons themselves are so bland and unimaginative that I initially mistook them for being procedurally generated. Having players visit these dungeons in order to progress just hammers home the apathetic level design. And there's even multiplayer, making Lost Song the only Sword Art Online game that's actually, well, online. Local and online play sessions are available, including a PVP versus mode, and team battles against roided-out versions of the single-player bosses. It's an alright option to have, but there's little compelling reason to engage with it. Players can use custom characters, but the customization options are so limited that anything created just resembles the generic NPC characters littering the hub world. For better or worse, Sword Art Online: Lost Song replicates both the highs and lows of its predecessors. Existing fans of the series will find plenty to like in the further adventures of Kirito and his MMO pals, despite a dull main story. The revamped mechanics also support a steady drip-feed of Sword Art Online fan service mainly by not getting in the way too much. Unfortunately, Lost Song stumbles hardest when trying to engage players outside that sphere of pre-existing investment, and in some ways ends up an even less suitable jumping-off point for newbies who want to get in on enjoying the franchise. My advice to those folks would be to watch the anime or try out Hollow Fragment first. If they're still jonesing for some more of this motley crew of irredeemable MMO nerds when they're done, then Lost Song will be music to their ears. [This review is based on a retail copy of the game acquired by the reviewer.] Fallout 4 (PC, PS4, Xbox One [reviewed])Developer: Bethesda Game StudiosPublisher: Bethesda SoftworksMSRP: $59.99Released: November 10, 2015
SAO: Lost Song Review photo
Familiar Tune
Ask most folks who watched the Sword Art Online anime series, and they'll likely tell you that the show's weaker moments usually coincided with events set in ALfheim Online (ALO), a fairy-themed virtual reality MMO that ...

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