May 04 //
Shin Megami Tensei: Devil Survivor 2 Record Breaker (3DS)Developer: AtlusPublisher: AtlusReleased: May 5, 2015 (NA), Fall 2015 (EU)MSRP: $49.99
Tokyo is in shambles. Earthquakes have ravaged the city, knocking out all lines of communication, derailing trains, and flattening entire buildings. There are fires, riots, refugee camps, oh, and an army of demons that threaten humanity's continued survival. Enter a band of plucky teens with demons of their own to save the day and stave off the apocalypse.
That's the lead-in to the "Septentriones Arc," the main story from the original Devil Survivor 2, which is now accompanied by a second campaign called the "Triangulum Arc." The epilogue picks up right where the first part leaves off, leaving our heroes to deal with a new threat.
The continuation isn't quite a full-blown sequel so much as it's a sizable expansion, one that should keep you busy for an extra couple dozen hours on top of the base game. Thankfully, the Triangulum Arc is available from the get-go; so if you've already played through the main story and just want to see the new content, you needn't start from square one.
Of course, newcomers will want to begin with the Septentriones Arc. Despite including a quick refresher at the outset of the journey, the new campaign likely won't make much sense to neophytes jumping into the narrative in media res.
In addition to the new campaign, Atlus has put in the effort to upgrade the overall experience. After doing a side-by-side comparison with the original game, Record Breaker's music really caught my ear. The soundsmiths at Atlus really cleaned up the audio quality, making it sound way more crisp and clear while eliminating a scratchy, fuzzy quality that mars the DS release.
On top of the enhanced sound quality, the team at Atlus USA went ahead re-localized the entire script and kitted it out with full English voiceover, which is a massive improvement over the text-only original. Being able to hear the cast goes a long way to helping flesh out these characters, especially given how lively and rich many of their performances are.
The visuals are also a shade nicer. Again, looking at the games side-by-side, I noticed Record Breaker looks a tad sharper and features slightly more vivid colors. The camera perspective in battle has also been pulled back, which make the sprites appear less chunky.
One of the major complaints a lot of folks seemed to have with Devil Survivor 2 when it launched in 2012 was the difficulty. In our review, Dale North said "the first game's difficulty bar was already set pretty high, but Atlus has turned it up even higher in this sequel with battles that are so difficult that [he] came dangerously close to snapping [his] DS in half." This time around there are multiple difficulty settings, which hopefully should help you keep your system intact.
At its core, Devil Survivor 2: Record Breaker is still a satisfying fusion of classic "MegaTen" and strategy gameplay. And with the new story content and other additions and enhancements, this is definitely the best version of the game. Whether it's enough to warrant a second purchase is debatable, but given a choice between the two, this is without question the one to get.
Record Breaker is finally here, and it was worth the wait If you've ever wanted to experience Shin Megami Tensei: Devil Survivor 2 or wondered what happened to its colorful cast of demon tamers after the credits rolled, now is the time.
Atlus is about to unleash Record Breaker, a new version of the 2012 tactical role-playing game that not only improves the title, but expands upon it with a new arc that advances the story. read feature
Atlus has been all quiet on the Persona 5 front lately, but today we get another look at the most anticipated game of the century, courtesy of this Sony-hosted product page. There's a bounty of images to gape at, but we... read
Chroma Squad, the game about running your own Japanese superhero television studio, is now available on Steam, GOG.com, and the Humble Store for $14.99. What a cool niche. This is part tactical role-playing title, part manage... read
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Mistwalker's Terra Battle is coming to consoles, the studio announced today.
The tactical role-playing game launched on iOS and Android devices last autumn with an intriguing "Download Starter" campaign, promising n... read
Back to school, back to school, to prove to dad...
// Kyle MacGregor
The PlayStation Portable may be several centuries old at this point, but people are still making games for it -- or at least localizing stuff that came out in Japan several years ago. Such is the case with Class of Heroes 3, ... read
More lukewarm Fire Emblem If news (out June 25 in Japan, 2016 in North America).
Remember, the game is being sold Pokemon style (or Oracle of Ages/Oracle of Seasons style) with separate Black and White releases with a third, ... read
Apr 29 //
Omega Quintet (PS4) Developer: Compile HeartPublisher: Idea Factory (JP), Idea Factory International (US/EU)Released: October 2, 2014 (JP) / April 28, 2015 (US) / May 1, 2015 (EU)MSRP: $59.99
Speaking of other "firsts," playing Omega Quintet brings to mind the very first Hyperdimension Neptunia title. That's not a good sign, seeing as the original game literally put Matt Razak to sleep back in 2011. Indeed, despite being, on paper, one of the most feature-rich titles Compile Heart has produced, the experience of playing Omega Quintet feels decidedly regressive, a far cry from the comparative refinement that the Neptunia franchise has managed to cultivate over the years.
Perhaps some of that disconnect is cultural. Whereas the Neptunia series' light parody of the game industry and its never-ending platform wars will be familiar to most gamers, idol culture -- which informs much of Omega Quintet's setup -- is largely absent outside of Japan. Many of its references to the peculiarities of pop-princess life fall flat for lack of that common ground.
On the other hand, not even Neptunia could be considered especially sophisticated in its satire. Anyone familiar with that series would know that the premises, however niche or inventive, really serve as a framework on which to drape a proven mix of cute girls, complex battle systems, anime-tinged humor, and sexualization. Omega Quintet is in much the same way, and its paeans to the life of celebrities are ultimately skin-deep. Except even by those lowered standards and tempered expectations, the game still comes across as lazy and half-hearted, without the charm or spark that helped its cousins rise above their otherwise mundane core.
Omega Quintet at least sounds interesting at first. Its future-set, ostensibly apocalyptic setting is cutely subverted by the fact that the Blare, an existence pushing humanity to the brink of extinction, can only be stopped by the Verse Maidens, a troupe of magical girl idols who sing and fight with giant weapons called "Mics". The Verse Maidens are powered by the adoration of the people, which necessitates their fights being broadcast live like a concert. Sadly, the last active Verse Maiden, Momoka, is retiring, because she's apparently much older than she looks. Enter Otoha, a fresh-faced youngster, and her male friend/player stand-in Takt, as the newest Verse Maiden recruit and the team manager, respectively. As more new Verse Maidens join to take up the reins, various anime-flavored antics ensue alongside goodly amounts of suggestive posing, relationship-building, wacky conversations, and of course, saving the world.
The catch, unfortunately, is that all this cutsey waifu fun has to be experienced from the perspective of Takt, one of the least likable male leads ever to be inflicted on videogames. It's as if whomever wrote his lines mistook being a total prick for an aloof kind of coolness. Every word from his mouth is marinated in pointless sarcasm and brain-dead snark that it makes the event scenes -- which already run far too long and stretch their one-note jokes to the breaking point as it is -- a grating exercise in tedium. If he can't even be bothered to care what's going on, why should we?
The game can't even be bothered to fully incorporate its premise into the main structure. Omega Quintet comes with a surprisingly robust "PVS" mode, which allows players to essentially construct dance and concert videos from the game's (rather small) collection of idol songs, complete with video recording and upload functions, but there's rarely any point or main-game benefit to engaging it. Ironically, despite the fact that this game is supposed to be Compile Heart's "idol RPG," Neptunia Producing Perfection, which is more of an actual idol-centric game than this could hope to be, came out last year.
If there is a group that could look forward to enjoying Omega Quintet, it's the crowd that comes to JRPGs not for narrative or anime antics, but for abstract and engaging battle systems. Omega Quintet's is enjoyably complex and interesting to master. Where the trend in RPG battle has moved away from menus and into quasi-action game territory, Omega Quintet is all too happy to throw players into a sea of menu selections and gauge-driven turn-based combat.
At its core, the game's battling relies on using attacks of varying effectiveness, range, and recovery time to manipulate the turn order. Stacking commands and attacks so that the Verse Maidens all take their turns in quick succession unlocks powerful Harmonics attacks, and building "Voltage" (a gauge representing the audience's fervor) eventually results in engaging the cinematic "Live Concert" mode, a sort of super attack that involves big damage, over-the-top animation, and background lyrics. Throw in Takt's ability to partner up with the Verse Maidens to deliver follow-ups or stat boosts, as well as score-boosting Overkill systems, a Sphere-Grid-like character progression system, and even item and gear crafting, and there's plenty of mechanical fat to chew on. If only the context and characters surrounding this part of the game were more worthwhile.
Though there's nothing explicitly wrong with it, Omega Quintet feels far too much like a "by-the-numbers" Compile Heart title to do justice to the studio's first current-gen effort. Its narrative and aesthetic "fluff" ultimately fail to support its dense and otherwise engrossing mechanical heart. For a game about a bunch of girls finding their voices and path in the world, it has distressingly little "voice" of its own.
[This review is based on a retail build of the game provided by the publisher.]
Same old song and dance routine Omega Quintet is a game of firsts. Chronologically, it's the PlayStation 4's first exclusive Japanese RPG (Final Fantasy Type-0 originally being a PSP game). It's also developer Compile Heart's first PS4 game, and by certain logic, the first JRPG to plumb Japan's idol subculture.
If only being such a pioneer had resulted in a game that actually put its best foot forward. read feature
First the patch for faster load times, now this fan-made map of Bloodborne -- damn, shouldn't have raced through the game like that. I'm missing out! There's always the inevitable fourth playthrough and beyond, I suppose.
Apr 28 //
Hyperdevotion Noire: Goddess Black Heart (PlayStation Vita)Developer: Sting, Compile HeartPublisher: Idea Factory InternationalReleased: February 24, 2015 (NA) February 27, 2015 (EU)MSRP: $39.99
Why was I so hopeful for Hyperdimension Neptunia? Well, the concept of a game that parodies the console wars is almost too good to give up on. The series follows a group of anthropomorphized gaming consoles, each the ruler of her own kingdom, all vying for dominance in what's effectively a grand popularity contest.
It's a cute idea, at the very least, with the potential for so much more. I hoped it would be a clever satire, something introspective and comedic that poked fun at the industry in an interesting or meaningful way. Instead, I discovered one jejune RPG after the next, a middling collection of games that lean all too heavily on fan service as crutch.
What I wanted this series to be and what it is are two very different things. I probably should have realized that before now, but well, here we are.
The latest entry in the franchise, Hyperdevotion Noire: Goddess Black Heart, may be a spin-off, but it hews closely to its source material -- albeit with one notable exception. This is a strategy role-playing game, rather than a more traditional one. However, aside from the difference in combat, those familiar with Compile Heart's previous efforts will know exactly what to expect out of this one. But let's talk about what makes this entry unique.
The action takes place on grid-based battlefields. There, players act as the general of a small army, moving units to support allies and assault foes. In addition to the SP gauge, used for special attacks, there's an LP meter, which fuels even more powerful moves and allows the central protagonists to transform into their more powerful goddess forms. LP is an interesting resource, as it's gained by performing special attacks while flanked by friendly units. This will result in a kissing animation, which doubles as a power-up.
This system is a key component of a successful strategy on the battlefield, but it isn't without risk. As you might expect, clustering into tightly-packed ranks makes units more susceptible to area-of-effect attacks, meaning it could as easily pave the way to victory as it could to your undoing.
The level design at work here is interesting and varied, constantly shaking things up with a range of traps, puzzles, and obstacles. The objectives are similarly diverse, though I'm not sure the assortment makes the combat terribly compelling. Despite minimal repetition, the pace of play here feels inordinately slow. Battles often feel overly long and drawn out, especially when a protracted series of turns are dedicated entirely to positioning. There are a lot of lulls in the action that mar an otherwise competent tactical experience.
The story doesn't help in that regard, with a hackneyed plot and shallow, tropey characters that talk forever about nothing at all. There's some mild referential humor to be found, but it's mostly about the fan service. It has plenty of pantsu and giant, jiggling breasts, which is made all the more creepy by the new chibi art direction. The entire cast look like abominable hypersexualized infants.
Speaking of said characters, most of the ones you'll be taking into battle over the course of the game are based on popular Japanese videogame franchises. This was actually one of my favorite parts of the experience, as taking personifications of the Street Fighter, Yakuza, and Dragon Quest (I could go on and on) series into the field was a real joy. Their special attacks (like the Metal Gear-inspired Lid's cardboard box stealth attack) are particularly charming, and serve as nice nods to players who are familiar with the source material.
It's just a pity that these characters are often relegated to a support role, as the familiar faces are far more useful on the battlefield. Since Noire, Blanc, Neptune, and Vert can all transform into their extremely mighty goddess forms, it pays to deploy them over your favorites. While transformed, the goddesses are able to fly, making them immune to traps and elements of the landscape that limit conventional troopers. It's a lamentable design choice, impelling players to use the same, stale heroines rather than the revolving door of refreshing newcomers.
There are other questionable choices that hamper the experience, like: lengthy enemy turns, the constant influx of tutorial messages that are more busy than informative, a loading period at the beginning of each fight where the game makes you watch combatants materialize out of thin air, one-hit kills, and a bizarre movement mechanic that doesn't allow you to move units exactly where you'd like them to go -- even if that space is in range. There are just dozens of little annoyances peppered throughout the experience that require the player to be very patient and forgiving. It's unfortunate because there's a decent strategy RPG at Goddess Black Heart's core, but the game just can't seem to get out of its own way.
Hyperdimension Neptunia fans may well enjoy this one, but I can't count myself among them. The series has an alluring premise, but it just doesn't push the idea far enough for me. The cloying characters and banal story are just so incredibly vapid, and the respectable strategic gameplay just isn't enough to compensate for the myriad of drawbacks and stumbling blocks.
Sorry Noire, but it's time we go our separate ways.
[This review is based on a retail build of the game provided by the publisher.]
It's not you, it's me Falling in love with potential can be dangerous. A mistake people make far too often when forging new relationships is placing undue expectations on others. People grow and change, but it's impossible to know how or when that... read feature
Apr 28 //
Steven Hansen The two also talked new features that will make it in Final Fantasy XV, including difficulty options. The more action-oriented style seems to have fans clamoring for an easier setting. Voice acting will be improved, too, as the demo's acting represents non-final dialogue (Noctis will sound less like Batman). The sexy mechanic Cid, however, will stay sexy. "She's actually not meant to be an erotic character," Tabata said, explaining that her cleavage represents her "energetic...cheerful, and active character." He was also perplexed by the "too sexy" complaints, which mostly came from Europe, combined with the desire for a female party member, again hitting up the "bro-trip, men can't be themselves around women" excuse that sort of flies in the face of series history.
Other little changes are already promised or underway. A mini-map will be added with enemy radar now being considered additionally. You'll be able to evade and cancel out of most attacks. You were meant to be able to warp outside of battle, but the team hasn't been able to implement it without bugs (and might not be able to).
So, if it wasn't obvious, Final Fantasy XV is still a work in progress. This is where we loop back to the headline and note that the game will have a short trailer at E3, but "the promotion for the main title will officially begin at Gamescom" in August, a month ahead of the Tokyo Game Show.
Final Fantasy XV feedback live stream full report: Episode Duscae 2.0 coming mid-May [Gematsu]
Demo gets camera, combat and targeting tweaks, main game gets difficulty settings
Ok. Final Fantasy XV isn't skipping E3. It'll only pay lip service, though.
The above Final Fantasy XV Active Time Report, which is helpfully subtitled in English, sees director Hajime Tabata and marketing manager Akio Ofuji... read feature
Apr 28 //
To get a full rundown of the new class, I had a chance to play a short session with Patrick "TreeShark" Sun, a producer for the game at US publisher En Masse Entertainment. To kick things off I noted my extended absence from the game, and asked what improvements have been made that could possibly snare returning players.
Unsurprisingly he noted that the Gunner was a perfect excuse to come back, stating that it was "much more fluid and devastating than any other class." He went on to say that "there's so much more to do at this point now that we're in the Fate of Arun update. There's flying guild halls that are part of the live environment and not instanced, many more dungeons to play." I asked about the player count, and Sun was able to confirm that they're currently at four million registered users -- no word on how many converted into paying customers.
In terms of the Gunner itself (which can only be played by a female character), it sounds like PR speak, but it really was a more fluid class -- perhaps one of the most fluid I've ever played in an MMO. Combined with the already active battle system that highlights plug and play controller usage, the class has a ton of tools at its disposal without feeling overpowered.
Gunners aren't your typical ranged role, as they'll employ heavy armor, sharing a loot table with Berserkers. They're not as fast as some speed-based classes, but they excel at using combo-based abilities and other active talents. Take the rocket jump, which is not only a really cool dodge that flings you in the direction of your last movement input, but an attack as well. Sun said that the team "really wanted to put something in there as an homage to Quake and Unreal, thus the rocket jump was born."
Standard-attacks are basic bullet shots, but the other skills include a pulse blast with the option to detonate (just like the pulse rifle in Unreal), a minion that can either heal you or be used as an instant tether jump point, the ability to deploy a turret, and of course, rain of fire area-of-effect (AOE) techniques. Dodging around felt more active as a Gunner, and it really feels like Bluehole Studio has mastered the engine at this point.
My favorite mechanic however is Willpower, a stat that raises as you actively engage enemies in rapid succession. Sun described it as a "limit break," where you can unleash a powered-up ability like an orbital strike, gatling gun, or a gigantic fire-based AOE. The mechanic is pretty stylish, as you'll immediately be able to notice it by way of your glowing blue gun.
Beyond the functionality, the Gunner itself is a pretty cool looking class, and the weaponry itself is easily the best part -- over-the-top, and wonderful. It will be available on May 5, which is not-so-coincidentally the same day that TERA hits Steam, and the celebration of its three-year anniversary.
Hands-on before the May 5 launch I was really into TERA Online when it first came out. I couldn't stop playing for days on end, and even after I cut back, I was still running dungeons for months. But when it time to create another character, I quit beca... read feature
'...it's clear we didn't understand exactly what we were doing' Earlier today, Bethesda tried to justify its decision to let people charge money for The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim mods on Steam, but it was just the latest in a string of failed attempts at damage control. Now there's word fro... read feature
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There's a special Nintendo Direct going on right now for Xenoblade Chronicles X.
As someone who has paid little attention thus far, I have no idea what's happening despite the Direct's best attempts at setting the stage and l... read
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The episodic role-playing game takes place nearly two decades after the events of the original Final Fantasy IV. The story follo... read
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Steven had a hard time tempering his excitement&nb... read
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The quest description sets the scene:... read
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Lord of Magna: Maiden Heaven would be the Game of the Year if we handed out awards to games based on the wit and cunning of their subtitles. Alas, we do not. But we definitely see what you did there, XSEED. So, kudos.
The Ni... read
Are you ready for Noctis to start showing up in more Final Fantasy games? It was kind of a given seeing how pretty much every series protagonist ends up in some smartphone or "all-stars" title at some point, but Final Fantasy... read