Mario & Luigi: Dream Team Bros. is the fourth game in the Mario & Luigi RPG series, the first game was on the Game Boy Advance and the previous two were on the Nintendo DS, being the first entry for the Nintendo 3DS meant that Dream Team Bros. had to raise the bar even more and give a good first impression for both newcomers and veterans of the series alike, read on to find out if they did.
As with any RPG, there are two main types of gameplay sections in Dream Team Bros.: exploration and battle, like the previous game, Mario and Luigi must solve puzzles during the exploration part of the game in order to not only proceed the plot, but to access optional areas to find items and equipment. Monsters can be seen wandering around the field during exploration and getting the jump on them (literally) will give you a starting advantage in battle, however, the same can be said for the player, while exploring, you should take care not to let enemies sneak up on you, or you will start the battle off with a disadvantage.
The main gimmick of Dream Team Bros., if you couldn't tell from the name, is that you have the chance to explore Luigi's dream world, dotted around the world are a number of creatures known as Pi'illos that have been turned into stone pillows (haha, get it?), when Luigi sleeps on them, a dream portal opens up, allowing Mario to explore his dream world. Whereas exploration around the real world is viewed from a top-down angle, exploration in the dream world is viewed from the side in a traditional, 2D platformer-style angle. Exploring the dream world is very much similar to exploring the interior of Bowser's belly in Bowser's Inside Story, with the help of Luigi's infinite possibilities of powers, you can summon a whole army of Luigis to help you access areas you couldn't before, such as turning into a stack of Luigis or turning into a cone shape to make tornado jumps or even turn into a ball and roll down slopes to destroy obstacles and enemies.
While you're in the dream world, on the touch screen is Luigi's sleeping face, by manipulating certain parts of his face you can affect what's going on in the dream world, for example, you can rub his nose to make him sneeze and blow background objects into the foreground, you can pull his moustache to fling Mario into different locations, or you can even spin around the object he's sleeping on to manipulate gravity, it sounds very strange on paper, but once you see it, it will all make sense. These powers only appear when they are needed, so for example, in an area where you only need to make use of gravity manipulation, you won't be able to utilize his other powers, this is a bit of double-edged sword, for one, you won't confuse one gesture for another when using these powers but for another, you'll be able to figure which powers to use right away when you see the puzzle, it takes away a small amount of guesswork, but I understand why they made that decision. The dream worlds can vary greatly in size, some are just one-screen locations, others act as mini dungeons while some of the story-focused dream world locations are huge, complex dungeons.
Battles are all about timing and pattern-recognition, players with top-notch hand eye coordination and timing can make it through every battle without a scratch, in keeping with the series, pressing buttons at the right time when attacking will allowing you to deal extra damage, when you are being attacked by enemies, you must press the buttons at the right time to avoid their attack, every enemy has an attack that can be countered, you just need to know which attacks they are and when to press the button, every enemy has a unique tell before or during an attack, if you can recognize those tells, you will know whether they're attacking Mario or Luigi, or even both of them but in a set order, and you will be able to avoid their attack. Of course, some attacks are a lot more difficult to avoid than others, some enemies have really tricky attack patterns that require a lot of practice and patience to avoid them, there is no shame in getting hit for the first few times you encounter a new enemy, it can be frustrating, but once you go through a battle without getting hit once, you will feel like a king.
Battles in Luigi's dream world function a little differently, for one, you only control Mario, but Dreamy Luigi appears to help you in every battle, providing a HP and BP boost and dealing extra attacks after every standard attack you do, whether it's with a jump attack or a hammer attack. Bros. Attacks make a comeback from the previous games where you attack with the combined powers of Mario and Luigi, they have their own unique set of Bros. Attacks in real world battles, whereas in the Dream World, Mario has access to "Luiginary Attacks" which takes advantage of the legion of Luigis in order to deal huge damage to his foes. These special moves act as the "spells" of the game and requires BP to use, each of them acts as a short minigame, the better you perform, the more damage you deal.
Badges also make a return to help you in battle, you have a selection of badges in your inventory and you can make a combination of any two for different effects such as restoring your HP or BP, or making you immune to attacks for a short while, it is up to you to experiment and see which combination is best for you. As you deal attacks with perfect timing, your badge meter will be charged and once fully charge, it will stock the effect of the badge combination for you to use at any time in battle without having to use up a turn (you can stock the badge effect up to two times).
As you explore the world and progress through the story, Mario and Luigi will learn special maneuvers, allowing them to reach places they couldn't access before. The game encourages exploration and you will be rewarded for doing so, there are a lot of collectibles in the game, such as beans you use to increase your stats, Pi'illo folk that requires your rescue, or Attack Pieces that teaches you new Bros. Attacks when you collect ten of them from an area. The characters are fun, the game has some good bits of humour here and there that doesn't feel forced, the locations and mini-games are varied and the boss battles are unique, to the point where some require you to hold the system book-style and use both screens to attack.
I must point out that the soundtrack for this game is absolutely fantastic, especially the boss battle theme, just when I thought the music in Bowser's Inside Story couldn't be topped, I was proven wrong with this game. Even little things with the sound, where your footsteps sound different depending on the ground you're walking on was considered, it's truly an amazing touch of detail that puts a smile on your face.
The game took me a grand total of 36 hours to complete, and that is without rushing or collecting all the collectibles in the game, the game does not require a lot of grinding and you should be able to go through all the boss battles just fine as long you don't skip enemies and miss out on EXP, should you fail any battle however, you are given the option to retry the battle on Easy Mode which severely boosts Mario and Luigi's stats to the point where they become next to invincible and deal stupid amounts of damage. Upon completing the game, you unlock Hard Mode, which some players may find welcoming, especially for veteran players seeking a challenge on a second playthrough.
In conclusion, Mario & Luigi: Dream Team Bros. is a worthy addition to your 3DS collection and is a definite buy, you are getting a huge adventure that is going to last you a while, thrown in with lots of enjoyment, comedy, satisfying moments and challenging battles.
Tales of Xillia 2 is the fourteenth mothership title in the "Tales" series, a Japanese Role-Playing Game series developed by Namco Bandai Games. This game is a sequel to the original Tales of Xillia, which was released in 2011 exclusively for the PlayStation 3 in Japan, and will be released this year in August for America and Europe. The game puts the player in the role of Ludger Will Kresnik as he fights through monsters, explore dungeons, complete quests, meet characters from the previous game and travel to alternate realities in order to pay off a 20,000,000 Gald debt.
The game plays quite similar to Tales of Graces and exactly like Tales of Xillia, however, unlike any of the Tales games before Xillia, the game world is viewed with camera angle behind the main character with free camera control so you can see and interact with the environment much clearly than before. Every town, dungeon and outdoor location has something to do and you never feel like you're spending too much time doing one thing or another, if you're not exploring, you're in engaging battles, if you're not in battles, you're looking for treasure out in the open, there's a lot to do in this game.
As you pay off the 20 Million debt little by little, new areas will open up allowing Ludger and his friends to progress with their exploration as well as continue on the story, it doesn't usually take long to rack up large amounts of Gald, as battles and quests are extremely generous in the amount of Gald they reward you with, the quests are your usual "look for x amount of item y and bring it back to the quest board" and "slay x amount of y monster and report back", making a return from Tales of Vesperia are the Giganto Monsters which are essentially optional minibosses that roam the overworld, if you manage to fall one of them, you can turn the quest in and get massive reward.
The battle system is identical of that to Tales of Xillia, you control one of four party members in battle and you move left and right in a line, while pressing up or down or forward while pressing the artes button will unleash one of your artes, which are basically special moves that consumes TP, if you hold down the L2 button, you can free run around the battlefield, very much like all the modern Tales games; the Character Link system returns from Tales of Xillia too, in battle, you can link up with one of your party members who can support your every action as well unleash Link Artes with your character, the Link Artes are all very flashy and unique knowing which do what really gives you the upper hand in battle.
A slight addition to the Tales of Xillia battle system is the main character himself; Ludger can switch between three different weapon types: swords, hammer and guns on the fly, each weapon type has a different moveset and knowing which one to use on which enemy as well as when to switch makes winning battles a lot quicker, but it's fine if you don't wish to micro-manage, Ludger also has the ability to enter his "Corpse Shell" when you unlock that ability, by pressing L3 and R3 together when the gauge fills up, Ludger transforms and pulls himself and the enemies into a separate dimension where he will have infinite HP and TP as well as buffed stats and a completely different moveset, this ability is very useful against some of the tougher bosses and can be considered rather overpowered, on top of the fact that Ludger is a rather overpowered character himself without Corpse Shell, being able to use abilities of every element (sword, hammer, guns, fire, water, wind, earth, light and dark) and being extremely fast in battle too.
Another addition to the game are "Character Episodes" which are side quests that focuses on one your party members, some of these episodes are rather short and just consists of dialogue, but most of them require you to go to different areas and do battle with enemies, while in a Character Episode or a Storyline Chapter, you are typically forced to bring one or two certain party members along (You must always have Ludger in your party at all times), but outside of that, you can freely switch between your party members in town from the menu. On top of that, anyone who's not in your present party will also gain EXP so no character will ever be underpowered.
Throughout the scenes in the game, as well as the various skits you view, dialogue options may come up, prompting you to choose what Ludger will say, or do at that moment, they are chosen by pressing either L1 or R1, some of these prompts are even timed, forcing you to think quickly, there are no penalties for choosing the "wrong" thing to do, but sometimes, there are benefits for choosing the "correct" choice, whether its improving your relationship with one of the party members, or avoiding needless battle.
The Lilial Orb level-up system is absent from the first Tales of Xillia, instead, you equip E. Cores on certain characters which can teach them new artes, improve their artes and/or give them new passive abilities, and improve their elemental strength, these can be switched at any time from the menu and is rather simple to understand.
There's a fair bit of customisation in the game, especially after the disappointing amount of attachments in Tales of Graces f outside of purchasing additional content from the PSN store, each character has a wide array of costumes and hairstyles which you can change at any time, you can also add up to three attachments to any one of them, such as party hats, glasses, shades, dolls, etc. they can also be fully customised, you can place them anywhere on their body, change its direction, increase and decrease its size and even change the colour of it.
In conclusion, Tales of Xillia 2 is a very satisfying experience, it takes everything Tales of Xillia did and improves it massively, it's a JRPG with a great plot, interesting characters, fantastic music, engaging battle system, addicting progression and customisation, best of all, there are no random battles and no backtracking as the game gives you a quick-travel system almost right off the bat.
Go buy it, especially if you like Tales of Xillia or any Tales game. If you're into JRPGs but have never played a Tales game before, I recommend you try out Tales of Xillia first.
How many times did I say "party member" in this review?
I recently completed Fire Emblem: Awakening several times, hurray for importing! I'm sick of late and crappy European release dates, but I really blame Nintendo for region-locking their damn systems.
Anyway, having completed my second playthrough on Hard/Casual, I decided to select the New Game option once more and was deciding whether or not I should do a third playthrough on Lunatic difficulty, shortly after, however, I was staring at the "Classic" and "Casual" options and it got me thinking.
(For those who don't know, the Classic option has permadeath on your units, while the Casual options lets your units return to you next battle after death, and allows you to save at any time during battles).
The thing is, the option of Classic and Casual has no effect on difficulty whatsoever, that's what the actual difficulty options are there for.
What the game really asking you is "Do you want to save a lot of time?" if yes, choose Casual, if not, Classic. In Classic, you can't save during battles and when an ally dies, you're going to have to reset, and what does that waste? Time. I'm sorry, but when I'm playing a video game, I want to have fun, I want to be entertained, I hate wasting my time doing ANYTHING, that's why I also hate games with no checkpoint in between long stretches of gameplay.
I don't have a problem with people playing Classic mode in Fire Emblem if they feel that that is the "true way to enjoy Fire Emblem", but for people who think they are hardcore and want to show off by telling others that they completed Fire Emblem: Awakening on Lunatic/Classic or Lunatic+/Classic, I want to just punch you.
#3 Dishonored (Multiplatform)
Great combination of Deus Ex and Bioshock, has fantastic stealth mechanics and addicting gameplay and a fine example of a game not needing Multiplayer to be successful. Also, known as "Bioshock Infinite Early", if Infinite does not surpass this, I will be disappointed.
#2 Far Cry 3 (Multiplatform)
What I would call a combination of Just Cause 2 and Assassin's Creed 3, huge open world, lots of optional content, fun gameplay, great characters and voice-acting and just an all-around bloody, good time.
#1 Tales of Xillia 2 (Playstation 3)
A fantastic JRPG that transcends the original in every possible way, which is what sequels are meant to do. My love for the Tales series only grows stronger at this point.
Games of the Year (Handhelds)
#3 Zero Escape: Virtue's Last Reward (Multiplatform)
I'm in love with the 999 story, I have not yet completed this game as of the time of writing this list, but I just love these adventure games and I'm pretty sure I'll end up falling in love with this game as well, and I'm looking forward to the third game.
#2 Professor Layton and the Miracle Mask (Nintendo 3DS)
Great entry in the Layton series, fantastic story and characters, and great use of the 3DS' features for the puzzles.
#1 Persona 4 Golden (Playstation Vita)
I put over 200 hours into this game and I'm not bored of it yet, that might say something about what I think of this masterpiece.
Defender's Quest: Valley of the Forgotten (PC)
Guild Wars 2 (PC)
Hitman: Absolution (Multiplatform)
Layton vs. Wright (Nintendo 3DS)
New Super Mario Bros. U (Wii U)
Silent Hill: Book of Memories (Playstation Vita)
Silent Hill: Downpour (Multiplatform)
The Walking Dead: A Telltale Games Series (Multiplatform)
Torchlight II (PC)
Disappointments of the Year
Borderlands 2 (Multiplatform)
Game isn't bad, just slow and boring, and when a game is boring, it's not entertaining, which is the entire point of playing a video game; to be entertained. I was already angry by the time I reached Sanctuary, and I forced myself to reach level 23 because I really wanted to like the game. It resulted in me snapping the disc in half.
Diablo III (PC)
Blizzard took out too many choices and everything that made Diablo II fun, not to mention that I paid £40 for a game that I literally could not play for a month after my initial purchase; it's not a bad game, but it didn't turn out to be what I expected, go play Torchlight II instead.
Worst Game of 2012
Revelations 2012 (PC)
Don't play it, don't spend money on it, don't even play it for free, because you would still be spending time on it, and spending time on it is the game actively taking time off of your life, that sir, is technically murder.
Anticipations of 2013
Fire Emblem: Awakening (Nintendo 3DS)
Dead Space 3 (Multiplatform)
Bioshock Infinite (Multiplatform)
Dragon Quest VII (Nintendo 3DS)