Atelier Rorona: Alchemist of Arland, the newest in a long running list of Atelier titles and the first of the Alchemist series created by Gust and NIS America, but if you have never heard of any of these games before donít fret cause neither have I.
Our story begins with a history lesson of how the city or Arland was a failing city until they were taught of how to use Machines to make work easier and create better items through Alchemy, with this the town soon flourished. Now we see what were in for, you are Rorona a complete airhead whoís just as amazed as you are when the things she does actually works out (JRPGís the only genre where a person like this can be a main character). Youíre an apprentice Alchemist and through some choices from your master a.k.a not doing any work the city has ideas of getting rid of the Alchemy store and those that work in it. Not wanting to do any work (or so it seems) the master decides to give the shop, and the responsibility to you. Now itís up to you to prove not only the king but to the residents that shop deserves to stay where it is. Sadly it seems that it takes an idiot to successfully pull this off.
The basic plot of the game is that every couple of months you are given a task to complete by the Kingdom which is graded depending on how much you are willing to invest into the tasks at hand. The biggest thing in this game is that everything requires time and health. All of the things you create through Alchemy takes up a certain amount of days depending on what your making, and cause this takes so long to make it also takes away some of your health. If you run out of health you wonít be able to create any more and will have to take a few days off, and if you run out of time for your task you fail. Traveling around the areas to gather ingredients also takes up your time. Also to increase the way you need to think about creating items, is that all materials have certain characteristics that you may or may not want to pass on to the final product. For instance this item may be valuable and have a + 2 to skill boost, but has a crappy condition, and the other is weak but had a good condition. You donít need to care so much about this at times but there will be instances where these small differences can change quite a bit.
Through the game you will be introduced to different characters which you will be able to hire to help you go out into the wilds to fight enemies and unlock different areas, and like the castle every now and then they will ask you to create items for them, which you will be paid for but this also increases their friendship level which changes certain events and the games ending. There is much to do and think about in this game and with everything taking up precious time it may seem complicated at time but once you get into the rhythm you begin to see how easy and intricate they made this game. Itís fun and complex enough that you always want to calculate as much as possible.
Outside of creating through Alchemy you and the party you assemble to scourer the land for materials you fight monster like you would in any other turn based RPG, luckily they do a few things to keep your eye on the screen instead of just hitting the attack button. The only thing you really have to watch is your characters health bars. Because Alchemy takes up health your main character might be low, and because any special ability takes up more HP if you fail in combat you waste even more time getting back to town and lose a chance to collect more items. Also during battle your characters gauges will increase giving them certain actions after another certain character does an attack, or ability, while there mostly tied to the main characters actions others will reveal themselves by playing around.
The Atelier games have been around for over 10 years now and while less than half of the titles have made it out of Japan, and the ones that do usually only make decent to good reviews it still has quite the fan base, and for good reasons. The story simple yet wonderful, the characters and the world grow depending on how deep you want everything to be and it does a great job at blending 2 completely different systems in a memorable way.
Itís been three console generations since the last Splatterhouse was released, but was the time this game was sleeping spent wisely to continue in an already known franchise or should it have stayed just a classic.
For those who are familiar with the original Splatterhouse this game is re-imagining of the original story. You play as Rick, you and your girlfriend Jen go and visit Dr. West in his mansion, obviously things do go so well, Jen gets kidnapped and you get impaled by some beast created by the ďgoodĒ doctor. Taking everything that has just transpired the mask calls out to Rick making a deal to help him get his love back, and while he has given him back his life and the immense power he will need to continue to survive it seems that there is far more conspiring against him then he knows. While this seems obvious thatís all you really get to know for most of the game, the farther you go more of the story is revealed but sadly there isnít much more to learn what you can probably guess yourself after a couple of minutes. Luckily during the game all of the banter between Rick and the Death Mask helps keep the characters themselves seem a bit more interesting, itís not much beyond rude remarks but it shows that this shouldnít be taken seriously.
The game fighting style isnít much more than you can guess by reading the title. Thereís your basic punches and throws, the odd weapon lying around that basically means a kill to enemies outside of the big guys, and when you utilize the masks power to improve your already useful arsenal (a.k.a your arms) by growing spikes and such to rip through all enemies, sadly this takes up a lot of your blood meter which also acts as your recovery ability, by sapping all enemies around you to heal yourself. So itís your choice to use the meter for power or optional healing when needed, but they made the recovery way to easy in this game, unless you get killed by a cheap death or a trap pit, youíll usually have more than enough to heal your way past bosses. In many areas they decided to take a 2D approach to help pay tribute to the game before it, good news is that it works and is quite enjoyable, and by completing through the game the other three Splatterhouse games are unlocked so you can get more of this franchise. By fighting enemies you will rank up points which you can spend on upgrading your health speed of attacks, etc, while later on they do cost quite a bit they do feel balanced even though you might just stick to the same few combos.
While it did take a long time for the newest title to get out from this franchise I wish that it had been in development a bit longer, there are many things that could have been improved to make the game better. For instance in a game like Devil May Cry when you get about halfway through the room the exits will be sealed and then you either fight or solve a puzzle to get out, in this game you will find yourself getting to the door and end up running around until the game catches up to what needs to be done, the same is when you finish clearing the room of enemies, you will stand at the gate waiting for it to open, which is annoyed by itself but on the odd time you have a timer it can be a bit frustrating. For taking out enemies if you get there health low enough you can do a ďsplatterkillĒ which kills them in a fancy way by using either the analogue or the buttons to pull them off but after the first few it get quite tiresome and the bigger guys can only die by using these so it gets irritating by the games end. Loading times are horrible even to redo an area it takes far too long and during loading screens are the same two 4 second loops over and over so it get increasingly annoying. Another big problem that I encounter quite a few times was that at times certain actions just wouldnít work, youíd try to get into your powerful form but it wouldnít let you ending up in a cheap death, then after trying again it would work just fine.
Though this game has many up and downs it doesnít do much to keep the interest through the whole main story which is only about 6 hours long, they did include the original games and an additional Survival Arenaís but itís the same stuff form the main story so if this is your kind of game youíll have enough to play for a while but sadly there could have done so much more to make this game more fluid in and out of combat and made the story more interesting to the player and to the game itself.
It has only been a year since the last Assassin title and know with a large emphasis on team mates and multiplayer is there enough to make this a must buy on your holiday list or is it just a quick cash in.
This gameís is a continuation of Ezioís story, starting off with a quick recap of the first two games and then quickly getting back into the game play by starting just before the final cut scene in the second game ends. While they do a job of getting the overall idea of the game it will be easier to understand for those that are caught up with the entire story. After a great confusion of what to do after finishing his long quest Ezio decides to go home believing that his work is finally done but sadly that is not the case, with his villa under attack from Caesarís Army and after doing everything you could, all that you worked so hard on in the second game are destroyed and to video game fashion during this you lose all of your money and equipment. After a terrible voyage you find yourself in Rome and with nothing but the devastation of what happened to your home only vengeance is running through Ezioís mind.
When this game was first announced it was an intriguing idea to bring a co-op idea into the fast and intricate fighting style of this game. Along the way you will run into people that you can help and in turn they will work for you doing assignments all over the country earning you money and they experience. While there not running across the land you can call upon them to fight your enemies so you stay hidden or when there is just too many of them. They work magnificently, one call and from the top of buildings or behind ruins they will get rid of your targets and as fast as they got there they leave like true assassins. However while this is a good way to stay hidden itís not really needed for any other reason than gaining more cash, fighting in this game is easier than the previous ones (if that is possible). Like before even if youíre completely surrounded enemies will wait and go one at a time so you can counter kill them, now when you get a kill you can go into a kill streak where ever enemy will die in a single hit and will never block making huge assaults a cake walk. Very quickly you are able to gain new items and weapons but outside of the hidden blade I doubt you will be using much of anything else, only on the fact that there is just no reason to. Other than that the rest of the game play hasnít changed at all, which is good, why change what isnít exactly broken.
Like the previous games the landscape is vast and just getting to the next mission or finding optional side quests can take quite a bit of time, and while that is a good opportunity to do some of the extras for those that want to progress in the story will be happy to find that there are passageways that will take them to any area in the game as long as they have been upgraded to do so. For this you will need money to buy them but you can also buy stores and landmarks all over Rome, while the last game did this it was way too easy for the small area of things to buy but now it feels far more worked out.
The obvious biggest change to this game is the multiplayer, which takes on a different idea compared to pretty much all other multiplayer games. Other games want to you running to kill your enemies and finish your objections as fast as possible; this game wants you to go as slow as possible. You are given the task of killing another person in the stealthiest of way not only because you get more points for it but because there are others out to kill you as well. For those that like to run around to find your target might not like this game for its all about blending in and moving as slow as possible to look like an NPC. Things like running, climbing or anything that you would do in the games single player is a definite give away to everyone else. Despite that, the multiplayer is actually pretty fun, planning routes and acting in ways you and the idea of humans doing their best to not be humans gives it a bit of depth that is quite a bit of fun. Thatís not to say its without its problems, somewhat small maps making it easy to be killed because they saw you get someone else, and occasional spawning right beside your mark is a bit of an annoyance, other than that itís a good addition to what they already give you.
With it originally looking like a multiplayer addition with a quickly thrown in story, itís obvious we got so much more than that. A great story that helps the story and everyone in it, and a fun multiplayer that isnít afraid to do its own thing, for those that havenít tried these game yet now would be the best time.
With the final Harry Potter book being split into a two parts can EA prove that they arenít just selling us half a game at full price?
For those that arenít exactly sure what the story is hereís a quick rundown of what youíll be hearing quite a bit over and over. You and your friends are out to destroy a dark evil wizard by finding pieces of his soul hidden around the world, and of course dark evil wizard doesnít like you so he sends out his minions to find you so he can do you in himself. Yeah it sounds a lot more interesting in the books but trust me what the game makes you listen to seems even weaker than what I just wrote. Also to accompany a feeble attempt to a good story is a failed attempt at almost all spoken dialogue. It always feels off, or it just does as little as possible to show the feeling of the character and whatís happening around them. They did bring in some of the original voices for this title but even still it doesnít do much to help.
For reasons unknown to me they decided to change the entire gameplay style compared to all of the other ones. It now acts like a Gears of War with magic and that might sound cool to some but it once again fails to hit the mark. In past games everything was about finesse, and ability, when you learned a spell you knew that it would be useful in puzzles and certain enemies but now you pretty much just mash on the shoot button and enemies will take quite a few hits, then with the amount of enemies that you will have to face you will be hitting the attack button so much that your finger will probably start to hurt youíd wish that you could hold it down, and even though you do learn new spells along the way you only ever need to use one, which ever you choose to use, the entire time. What doesnít help is that this game is also very linear, other than the odd go left for 20 seconds the whole game is pretty much a straight path and it doesnít help the player when ever few minutes the game tells you to active the spell that shows you exactly where you need to go, as if they thought the game confusing on where you need to go, and it is, it is confusing because the games controls donít seems to move quite correctly, the movement seems off and when you actually want to use their guidance spell it doesnít want to work.
Like almost all movie-tie in games itís a short experience. It will take you about 6 hours to finish it. They try to lengthen it by throwing the same ďmissionsĒ at you that donít do anything for the game but waste your time for it has nothing to do with the story or keeping things interesting. There are times where you will have to use stealth to move around without being spotted to gather Intel and get away from your enemies and while this may work at times when you are supposed to use stealth it feels clunky and at times useless.
I am a fan of the books and some of the older Harry Potter games and adding a Gears of War style of fighting seemed like a decent idea to help relay the war and the feeling dread that is in the final book but by the time you get close to the end of the game youíll most likely be running past everything just so you can get the game over with.
For anyone who has heard of what the Saw franchise is like, Konamiís second title will be more or the less the same as all others that came before it. Youíve done bad things in life so now you are being punished in hopes that you will see the light and if by chance you do survive you will go on to lead a long and good life. You play as the son of detective Tapp, the main character from the first game, a reporter who by using his writing capabilities ruined his father and thus stopped all cases he was working on. Thus the game of Jigsaw begins.
First of Iím going to say that their newest title looks much better than the first one but one of the downfalls is that it can get far too dark at times, and while that is used to benefit the atmosphere, and certain puzzles other times it too much of an annoyance when you canít see what youíre supposed to walk on. The atmosphere and the mood of the areas are done very well, you feel the pain and intensity across the game and while it does make you wonder how Jigsaw was able to find an entire street filled with abandoned warehouses entirely stocked with everything he could need to build dozens of puzzles going on at the same time and some more elaborate than those in the films. Sadly the traps in this game arenít much to talk about, all of the games puzzles, traps, and side missions are extremely easy, except the odd one that may make you scratch your brain out and not due to a sudden spike in difficulty but from a lack of any instructions. I get that they want you to think through everything but when they tell you nothing and thereís nothing you can really do but keep trying until you either die enough times and give up or you finally realize what to do, isnít what I would call good game design.
While theyíve done more to make the game look better and act better, especially during the odd battle which was quite the chore in the first game, but they havenít done anything to how linear the game is, if anything they made it even more so. While in the last game you were able to collect items that you could use in order to open locked doors and the like but now you will only fins what you need, thereís a locked door you will find a nail, an enemy is coming up you will find a weapon, everything is open to you but because of way they went around doing it the game seems lacking. Combat isnít much to talk about hit button when told to, battle won. This game does try to add more to it by leaving a lot of collectable around that will reveal more about the franchise and the characters in it, and others are behind devilish puzzles but by the end of the game you will find most of them without any real trouble mostly doing nothing more than wasting a few seconds here and there.
While this game does do enough things differently to make it seems a bit more than the first game with a 2 slapped on the end but sadly they take out almost as much as they add in which is a bit upsetting. I did enjoy playing this game, every room you would enter would make you check everything hoping to learn more and see more of what you can do as the player, but with a 8 hour playtime and only really getting achievements/trophies as an incentive to play through again there isnít much of a reason to come back except for the few perfectionists.
We begin by seeing a nice view of San Francisco. Familyís walking through the park, sunlight glistening off the water, which is soon abrupted by a giant space station that by using a power much like the Death Star to destroy the city, from here Russia demands The United States to surrender or else they will fall. Obviously with this being the United States, and a video game surrender is not an option. So you, Sam, the man that is wearing the powerful ARS battle suit your off to go find one of your friends that has gotten kidnapped and to stop the weapon that will bring about another great war. Sadly thatís about as far as the story truly goes. Along the way more is revealed but its full holes and questions with no answers.
One of the things that stood out to me was how even though the games main protagonist is a mechanical battle suit we are not stuck in the silent era, and more importantly the places you go arenít lifeless. Everything is bright and full of color, itís good to see that were not always stuck in a dull grey/dark brown like in most games that is trying to be considered hardcore. Combat is where this game shines its brightest. Even though it does steal its main concepts from Gears of War and a lot of extra visuals from Metal Gear, what they add makes the experience something that should be played at least once. Along with the usual running, gunning and hiding behind the walls large enough to be used as cover, youíll be implementing your suits AR mode, when in this mode time slows down and thus all enemies are a much easier target but by using this your suit will start to heat up and when it reaches it max youíll be vulnerable to enemy attack, using this in conjunction with your suits grind rails to very quickly rail around entire areas and getting behind enemy lines youíll be able to pick off targets and locate weak spots with ease.
This game only has a couple of different weapons throughout the game but cool thing theyíve done with this is you only have 1 weapon that is able to record up to 3 different weapons into its databanks and thus transform into it at any time, so when you trade a old gun for a new one you really just trading the memory banks, which is easier for the weapons upgrades which you find by picking up newer versions of it or random enemies will drop a upgrade which you can give to any weapon of your choice. So Iíd say choose your 3 favorite guns and then just leave it at that. What a lot games do too much these days is throw in Quick Time Events that arenít needed and end up throwing people off, luckily this game doesnít do that, the QTE in this game are minimal, and many you can initiate if you choose so, if not just keep using your gun, but the ones that you do active are usually outrageous. One thing that didnít keep up with the games amazing visuals and fast-paced battles are the voice acting. Every main character failed to portray the being that there acting to be, and Sam seems to have a problem with himself so heís trying his hardest to be the next Solid Snake, but fails at that as well.
I had a lot of fun playing though this game, its fast, tons of action and many collectables to find and upgrade youíll be able to have more to do after the main campaigns 6 to 7 hour play through, sadly though after beating this game once I donít have any real reason to do so again, except for those who want to find everything and put their skills to the test in GOD HARD mode there really isnít much to come back to.