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So while I was playing Tales Of Xilla 2 this afternoon I ran into a rather interesting side quest. And so I decided to record it, please pardon the shitty quality, I did this off my phone. I do believe the message is rather important, wouldn't you agree?









The beloved Eiji Aonuma brings us yet another entry into the series we all know and love. A Link Between Worlds is the direct squeal to A Link To The Past -- one of the most praised and loved Zelda games right next to Ocarina Of Time. Over the recent years fans have been complaining about the painfully long intros some of the new Zelda games have had. Eiji and the team have taken this criticism to heart and thus have created a new system within A Link Between Worlds, giving players the chance to rent out all of the weapons right from the get-go.

While this system did open up most of the game right off the bat, I personally think it made the game lack some of its old-school charm. Sacrificing tradition isn't always the key to a better game.



The Legend Of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds (3DS)
Developer: Nintendo EAD Group No.3
Publisher: Nintendo
Release Date: November 22, 2013
MSRP: $39.99

First things first, A Link Between Worlds looks absolutely gorgeous. The art-style is attractive and easy on the eyes. Speaking of which the 3D effect amplifies its beauty, never getting in the way of the action or causing any unnecessary distractions. Instead it makes its already appealing art-style much more fleshed out, enemies look more detailed as does the world around you, simply put -- 3D is a great option when playing A Link Between Worlds.

Along side well crafted graphics and art-style are the controls. They all feel familiar while enhancing flexibility thanks too the 3DS's touch screen. You can easily switch out your items with the "Quick Item" system without stopping the on-going action. Of course what else makes the action enjoyable besides solid controls? Music of course, the music in A Link Between Worlds will all sound familiar -- that's because they're remixed versions from A Link To The Past; I found myself humming along instantly, and it brought back great memories.

A Link Between Worlds throws you into the action instantly. Shortly after being woken up by an obnoxiously loud child named Gully, you're thrust into your first dungeon. Albeit the dungeon is more of a learning curve for new players, as it's a small introduction of things to come. After some brief dialogue exchange, you're sent out on a quest.  



As you adventure onward you soon encounter a small puzzle that requires the famous Bow. It's here that you're introduced to the new renting system, with this system you can rent any of the iconic weapons; granted you have the Ruppee's. From the Boomerang, Ice Wand and the Hookshot they are all up for grabs. This is where the game takes a different turn from its previous predecessors. Honestly this new system made the game way too easy. I see what they were going for, but in the process they forgot to take into account the balance issues this brings. I found myself having no struggle throughout the game because I felt so overpowered right from the start.

Making things even easier -- they implemented another new system, the Stamina Bar (Basically Mana that recharges slowly over time) in which all of your items use. You no longer have to buy arrows, bombs, mana potions, etc. It has all been stream-lined towards the Stamina Bar. I am personally not a big fan of this new implementation, I like the idea of collecting and buying my items, it's what gave the series its slight RPG touch. I love managing my items and strategically using them to my advantage. That being said, I can see how people can come to appreciate this change.

While you do basically acquire almost every item from the start, there are still a few key items that you must find on your own. Amongst them is a new item called Hint Glasses, while it's more of an optional item you can grab it quite early on. Its main purpose is to spoil a puzzle for you if you decide to use it because you've been stuck there for a while, though keep in mind that it does take a Play Coin to function. I'd advise staying away from this item at all costs, as the joy in any Zelda game is that great feeling of beating a tough puzzle that you've been stuck on for a while.



Last but not least is the is the paint-shifting ability. This core mechanic is the center of attention in A Link Between Worlds, a feature I certainly enjoyed. It goes along with the premise of letting Link explore almost everything from the very start. The first thing you do when you see a huge rock blocking a path in any Zelda game is run away and come back later when you have the Power Glove. With Links new power, you have the option of sliding right past that rock, giving you the freedom to explore that area even further. Those small touches breathes new life into such an old series; that's a welcome addition in my book.

The main purpose of this new mechanic is to get you into ''Lorule''. Essentially Hyrule's counterpart. You travel to and from these Kingdoms by paint-shifting into cracks on the walls, these cracks are spread out across both Hyrule and Lorule. Lorule cannot explored like its cheerful counterpart, most of Lorule's ground has been broken. The point here is for you to travel between worlds and find new areas to explore since Lorule is cut off into sections. I found this to be a rather interesting way to get you from point A to B without making things to dull.

While I found the paint-shafting ability to be a great addition, I found myself wanting more out of it. Without spoiling to much, there comes a point in the game where you get the chance to actually fight while in painting form. That is something I wish they would have experimented more with throughout the game, instead of just relaying on it for puzzle and traveling purposes; a very big missed opportunity on their part. That being said I'd like to see a variation of this new mechanic in future Zelda titles, as I see huge potential within it.



This wouldn't be a Zelda game without some crazy, quirky villain running around causing all types of mayhem. This time the main baddie is, Yuga -- a mad man that's obsessed with making the perfect portraits. Not with great artistic skills, oh no, that would be to simple. Instead he morphs living humans into the perfect paintings, and uses them for his collections. Yuga is a rather interesting character, while he isn't much different from your typical villain he does have a certain flair about him. One thing he did that stood out to me the most was when he kicks Link to the side and starts humming along with the in-game music. Little details like that are what makes his overall character memorable. He is a great addition to the cast of Zelda villains.

The story isn't anything to write home about, it's pretty straight forward and quite obvious. The cast isn't very memorable and quite lack-luster in fact. The only one that really stands out is Ravio the shopkeeper, he has a few lines that made me chuckle here and there. While his character development doesn't happened till near the very end, he is the one NPC I will remember when looking back at the game. I also wouldn't mind seeing Irene The Witch more often, she helps you out on your journey by allowing you to fast travel to save points you have discovered.



The Zelda series is mainly known for its challenging and unique dungeons. Sadly A Link Between Worlds is highly lacking in this department. I found myself clearing all of the dungeons without much thought, flying through them unintentionally. The puzzles are all pretty obvious and mainly consists of you using your paint-shifting ability to land on a switch or pass by a rolling boulder. Every dungeon felt too simple, they lacked a certain style and charm that other Zelda games have had in the past (I'm looking at you Water Temple). That doesn't mean they're necessarily bad, some are quite enjoyable -- you just can't help but feel that so much more could've been done.

If I'd have to pick my favorite dungeon, it would be the Dark Palace. In order to access the dungeon itself you must go through a stealth mini-game -- in a small town that was driven mad and turned into shadow-type creatures. You cannot damage them, instead you must make your way through a small maze without being caught (Reminiscent of Wind Waker). After making your way through said maze you gain access to the Dark Palace. This dungeon is filled with a few secrets of its own, and makes use of your lamp quite a bit; it was overall the most fun I had while dungeon crawling in A Link Between Worlds.

Besides finding new dungeons to tackle, they're plenty of other activates you can do. While the main story line will run you roughly 15-17 hours, there are mini-games, a shell collecting side quest and of course Heart Piece hunting. While Hyrule and Lorule aren't the most fleshed out and compelling worlds, there's still some exploring to be had. The best part is collecting the small baby shells which will than allow you to upgrade your weapons.



A Link Between Worlds brings some new ideas too the table, some great and others take away from what has made the series such a landmark in videogame history. Its main problem is that the game is too easy, taking away some of its challenging factors hurts it quite a bit. While you can unlock Hero mode after completing the game once it would have been a better idea to offer it right from the start.

While it does suffer from not having many memorable experiences, the final battle has easily become one of my favorite top down Zelda battles to date. The game plays and looks absolutely marvelous; if you have a 3DS and are an avid Zelda fan this is a title you should experience for yourself.

The Verdict - 7.5/10








The beloved Altus has once again ported over another marvelous JPRG, and this time around it's Person 3 Portable. If you're a fan of the JRPG scene than you've heard of the Persona series. With its old school turn based combat and charming art-style, the Persona series has become wildly popular over the years -- especially over here in the west. While this title has been here in the states for a while now on the PS2. Atlus has given it a breath of new light with the portable version.

...You also get the chance to make all the girls fall in love with you!



Persona 3 Portable (PSP)
Developer: Atlus
Publisher: Atlus
Released: July 6 2010 (NA)
MSRP: $19.99

Persona 3 Portable takes place in a Japanese city called Iwatodai. Which was built by a very powerful corporation named Kirijo. While experimenting 10 years ago they created something horrible, the Dark Hour. The Dark Hour exists between one day and the next, during this hour most people are transmorgified into black coffins, in this form they are ignorant to the Dark Hour. Not everyone is affected by the Dark Hour though, that's where our heroes come into play. You see, the Dark Hour twists reality making Gekkoukan High School, where our heroes attend school regularly during the day into a huge lumbering labyrinthine named, Tartarus. Monsters better known as Shadows dwell within said tower every night -- preying on the minds of those unlucky enough to still be conscious.

SEES is a group of high school students who are able to summon powerful Persona's to combat the evil shadows that lurk in the Dark Hour. A Persona is known to be someones second soul, a being completely different from the person summoning it. They are summoned with a gun-like object called Evokers. While this ability is extremely powerful, not everyone knows that a Persona lurks within them, just like our main protagonist. Persona 3 portable allows you too play the story as a male or female. This option is new to the series and they only recommend the female character to veterans players, since she will have a different story arcs than the original male counter part. As so, I picked the male.



Persona 3 beings with the protagonist being transferred to Gekkoukan High School. Shortly after you're introduced to the dorm you will be living in, along side the students that will also be living there. Yukari Takeba, Junpei Iori and Mitsuru Kirijo; this is also where you will be introduced too the chairman of the SEES club, Shuji Ikutsuki. Before meeting any of them though you'll encounter a mysterious boy who tells you to sign a contract -- here is where you will select your characters first and last name.

Soon you will learn that SEES is a very peculiar group of students. One night as you sleep another member of SEES comes bursting through the door, Akihiko Sanada, he comes in yelling that he is being chased by giant shadow. A few moments after Yukari goes up stairs to wake you up, the both of you run up to the rooftop hoping that you'll be safe there. You were very mistaken, as the shadow starts crawling up the the building leaving you and Yukari to fend for themselves.

It's here that you awaken to your ability, you summon your Persona, Orpheus -- but something goes awry and Orpheus transforms into Thanatos a Persona that is clearly insanely powerful. Thanatos than proceeds to destroy the monster that was threatening you and Yukari with a couple of violent thrashing attacks; shortly after the shadow is defeated you pass out. You awaken in the one and only Velvet Room, it's here that you meet Igor, he explains to you that the room is a place of consciousness and unconsciousness -- he and his assistant Elizabeth will aid you on your journey by creating new Persona's for you.



Be warned that Persona 3 takes some time to get the ball rolling, you wont be getting into the combat portion of the game for a good 40-50 minutes; since the game moves at a rather slow pace. There's tons of dialogue throughout the whole game. Persona 3 is quite a unique experience, frankly this game is more a of light visual novel when it comes to its story telling. There are rarely any cut scenes, instead everything that is happening on screen is explained through text, leaving what is happening in that segment to the imagination of the player. I honestly didn't think I was going to like this way of story telling since I am so use too big budget cut scenes, but I fell in love with it right away. Leaving so much of the game up to the players imagination can be a risky move, but Atlus nailed it perfectly.

The game has a certain charm to it, and most of that is thanks to its art-style. It's very much anime inspired, which I love. The characters are all very detailed and beautifully drawn, each with a unique style and Persona which adds a ton of personality to the handful of cast members. While the story has its fair share of cliches it still holds up pretty well throughout the whole game; thankfully the cast of characters help it out tremendously as well. Especially Mitsuru, I love her, yeah I said it!

Which brings me to the Social Link portion of the game. Persona's main form of character interaction lies within its S.Link system. Which allows the player to build relationships with certain cast members as well as outsiders. This is where the game turns more into a Dating Sim if you will, which personally took me by surprise. This system not only plays an important role in terms of character development, but also has an impact at the end of the game; to the point where it can alter which ending you get. I can honestly say that after spending countless hours socializing with these fictional characters, I learned to appreciate the amount of writing and hard work that goes into making them feel as real as possible; making them easy to relate too. That's a feat I wish other developers could master.  



Usually RPG's have you traversing treacherous landscapes and beautiful mountain tops in search of a certain weapon or armor in order to progress the story further. Persona 3 does no such thing, actually it doesn't even come close. In fact, the only time you get to see your avatar in motion at all is during your Tartarus visits. Navigating around various points is quite simple, it mainly consists of point and click. Which pretty much sums up traveling. Persona's 3 Portable outer-shell is basically half point and click adventure and half dating sim. Which might not appeal too everyone, but the real meat of the game lies within its combat.

Persona 3 uses the old school turn-based combat system that we've all come to know and love. I was also very pleased to find out that the game has done away with random battle encounters. Instead you get to see your enemies before you decide to engage in combat. This makes combat more refreshing and less tedious, which is always a welcome addition when you're playing a RPG for countless hours. Combat seems rather simple at first glance, but you would be gravely mistaken if you think it's a walk in the park. There are a lot of in depth elements in the combat system -- some of which I highly recommend you master early on or you will have a rough time in the later stages of Tartarus. A unique aspect to the overall combat system is the status effect Tired/Sick. If you stay and battle for long periods of time inside of Tartarus, the next day you will wake up feeling Tired -- this effect cuts your damage and defense by half. I highly recommend you rest that night before taking on Tartarus again.

Enemies have weakness and strengths, as do you. Luckily the main character can have multiple Persona's on himself at once, so you can better defend yourself against the shadows. Before picking a fight with a shadow you have the chance to gain a first turn advantage by stabbing it before it notices you, and vice versa. Knowing when to switch out Persona's is half the battle, making sure that you're always one step ahead of your enemy; which is very important since enemies can and will one shot you from full health. One mistake will easily lead to a game over screen, which is one of the main reasons the battles are so intense and engaging.



Leveling up will only rise your HP and SP by a small amount. In order to become stronger you must also level up your Persona as their stats will determine not only your strength but your weaknesses as well. This is where fusing Persona's comes into play. The aforementioned Velvet Room is your key to making new and stronger Persona's, as well as keeping track of all your creations in the Persona Compendium. You may acquire new Persona's by either fusing them or capturing them. Believe it or not, capturing them isn't done with a Pokeball. Instead, after defeating an enemy you might get the chance at playing the "Shuffle Time" mini game -- in which there might be a small chance of a Persona appearing; guess correctly and you'll welcome that Persona into your soul. Though you can only carry a maximum of 12 at a time, so choose wisely.

Besides your combat stats you have other very important stats, Academics, Charm and Courage. These stats heavily impact who you can interact with when it comes to the S.Link portion of the game. You can level them by taking part various activities, ranging from singing karaoke, studying and drinking coffee. Yes drinking coffee rises your charm, don't question it, just drink. Another method to leveling those stats is by actually paying attention in class, teachers will give you lectures from time to time and then quiz you on it right on the spot; pick the correct answer and your academics will slightly increase. That means no skipping through dialogue!



Persona 3 Portable does a marvelous job of keeping you enthralled for what almost seems like limitless amounts of time. With extra's such as side quests, Boss Challenge Mode and an extra end game boss/dungeon. The battle system always keeps you on your toes, making sure you're at tip top shape, while the S.Link system makes you fall for its fantastic cast of characters. The soundtrack is absolutely excellent and it's some of the best music I've ever heard in a videogame. From Opera, Hip-Hop and Rap -- half the time I found myself jamming along as I battle for my life. If you find yourself itching for some great JRPG action on the go, look no further than Persona 3 Portable.

The Verdict - 8.5/10








In the light of these recent videogame reviews many people have forgotten that, reviews are mainly OPINIONS. Yes, that thing that everyone on this planet has. I simply usually just brush off the ignorance and go about my marry old way. Not this time though, I've had enough of peoples stupidity.



People need to stop and realize that not everyone is going to have the same experience while playing a videogame. This is one of the many features that makes this medium so fascinating to begin with. Some people wont understand certain aspects of a game, and that's completely fine, it happens all the time. That doesn't mean you have to go on a rampage and call that person names and tell them they are wrong and should die in a fire. Sadly this happens way to often, especially when it comes to videogame reviews.

Realize that not everyone is going to like what you like. If the game you have been waiting for got a low score, not because of bugs or technical issues but mainly because that particular reviewer didn't find the new tweaks all that enticing; that's okay too. Buy the game yourself, and guess what? You might actually find those new features to be rather fun, where as the reviewer didn't.

What I'm trying to get at is, take the reviewers opinions into consideration. Then buy the game and form your own opinion. Do that instead of calling people names and raging like a 5 year-old.

In short, don't be a flaming pile of mermaid shit.

-King Zelos








I was lucky enough to get an invite to the Dark Souls II beta testing earlier this week. Was even luckier to have the chance to download it, since there was only 5,000 downloads available. I had a 3 hour time limit to soak up as much information as possible. Most of the things written down below are subject to change with the final copy of the game, so keep that in mind while reading my impression. Without further ado, I bring you Dark Souls II.




Combat

Combat is the heart and soul of the souls series. They didn't change much, but enough for you to take notice. The first thing I noticed was that heavy weapons have longer attack animations, leaving you open for much longer than previous Soul games. You must time and aim your attacks with lager weapons against smarter enemies or you will be severely punished. The upside to the larger weapons is the amount of damage they now do, greatly increased by your strength stat which now gives bonus ATK damage to all STR based weapons.

Movement feels slightly different from both Demon's Souls and Dark Souls. It feels a bit faster and more fluid - even when wearing heavy armor. Pretty much confirming my previous thoughts on the movement speed change. That being said this small change is good. Nothing too over the top, you can still control your character just fine, if not better. The same can be said for the rolling mechanic, depending on your equipment weight, you can roll quicker and further.

Another important combat aspect is parrying. It has been improved upon greatly. The animation for it now is a bit slower allowing you to have a greater window of opportunity to riposte, even allowing you to parry more than one attack at a time. Now instead of your character automatically riposting after a parry the enemy will fall to its knees, allowing you the option to either finish it off with a high damage thrust, back off and give you a chance to heal or run away, the option is yours. This opens up a ton of options when faced with a sticky situation, yet another welcome change.

Course this wouldn't be a Souls game without a shield! Blocking has also been slightly tweaked. You now have a stat that determines how fast you raise your shield, so you actually have to time your blocks ahead of time. Also, most enemies will no longer bounce off your shield when attacking, so no more block>wait for attack>counter. Which changes the flow of combat more than you think.

Yet another great buff I noticed was for the one handed weapons. They are way stronger then before. The soul series has always suffered from big sword syndrome, were come late game everyone is using greatswords or huge blunt weapons for their high damage and stun abilities. It seems like they want to balance this out, which I am totally fine with. Hell, the short sword I was using with the Hunter was killing enemies in 2-3 hits, while the Halberd the Temple Knight has was weaker and slower.

The last feature I'd like to touch upon is the death penalty. Now every time you die, you lose 10% of your maximum HP to a cap of 50% I believe. Making the game that much harder, so try and learn from your mistakes as much as possible or suffer the consequences.



Online Component

Took me a while but after some time I finally got to summon some random people. Works just like any other Souls game, expect this time there is a timer on the person you are summoning. I was summoned once and I noticed a quick sand timer at the top left corner of my screen. How much time I had was unclear, I didn't get to time out since the host died.

Invading also works just as before. Though they said you can now be invaded while human or hollow, it seems like it is way easier to get invaded while in human form. It happened to me around 3 times while human and 0 while hollow. The connection was fantastic, granted there was a limit on the amount of players in the beta, still if it's a sign of what's to come - sign me up! I experienced no lag while fighting the invader or while I was a white phantom; so in terms of connectivity they are doing a great job thus far.



Classes

Since we had limited time I only got to play 4 of the classes. Temple Knight, Warrior, Sorcerer and Hunter. I'll break them down individually.

Temple Knight: The cleric and warrior hybrid class. If you've played any of the other souls game it's pretty much the exact same. They start off with Heavy Armor a Halberd, Medium Shield and some sort of holy object to cast miracles spells. In this case they start you off with Heal (4 uses) and War (2 uses). War is a holy buff that temporarily boosts your damage and defense for a short amount of time for you and any allies close to you. The 3rd spell is a dark one, shooting a blot of dark energy towards an enemy which deals damage and drains their stamina. Strong class over all, but I found them very weak compared to some of the other classes.

Sorcerer: Your standard intelligence based class. They started me off with Soul Arrow (20 uses) Soul Shower (4 uses) Souls Greatsword (4 uses) and heal, which is completely useless since you cannot cast miracles with a large wooden rod. Instead you can switch out heal for Fire Whip (5 uses). All of the spells look and feel great to cast, though now casting spells drains your stamina; so choose wisely when you want to spam cast an enemy, you may end up dying due to not having enough stamina to dodge roll. A huge problem with this class is when you run out of spell usage - you become completely useless, at least in the beta since your back up weapon is a small dagger that deals small amounts of damage. Before I forget, holding your staff with both hands nearly doubles the damage of your spells, very useful tactic to get the most out of your spells.

Warrior: The power house. The man with the insanely large greatsword, and for good reason too, those nasty undead need to die! Nothing really special about this class. Standard heavy armor, medium shield, straight sword and greatsword. It's the power class with slow attacks, moving along.

Hunter: Dex based god! They start out with light armor a bow, small shield and short sword. I believe next to the dual swordsmen the Hunter is the 2nd fastest class. Her movement and dodge roll are very quick. Shooting with the bow now drains your stamina, so choose each shot carefully. The longer you hold down the bow, the stronger the attack, though it has a cap so you can't super mega buster 1 arrow worth all your stamina. Again besides the speed boosts, it's the standard hunter class.



Level Design And Over All Difficulty

The first thing you will notice when you start playing Dark Souls II is how DARK it is. This time around one of your greatest enemies is the darkness. Forcing you choose, shield? Or torch light? 9/10 times choosing the shield will get you killed. I should know, it's the first thing I tried. No you can't be slick either, you cannot light the torch and then switch to it when ever you please. They made sure to make this as hard as possible for the player. Believe me you, it works. Three minutes into the beta and I'm thrown into this small dark cave passing, I thought I'd be fine walking slowly trying not to fall, that didn't work out to well - at all! A few steps later and I fall to my death - lesson learned. Granted this wont be much a of problem when we master the game with repeated NG+'s and memorize all of the levels.

The level we were given to play around with was a dark forest with even darker caves passages. This level was made for two reasons: to make sure you either fall to your death, or get overwhelmed by enemy ambushes. Trust me, it works. Both of these things happened to me. Speaking of which, enemy design and their AI has been improved 10 fold. Just on vision alone, they can spot you from 40-50 yards away, and they'll come CHARGING at you full force. Running wont do you any good either - that will make it worse for you since you'll easily be surrounded by mobs of monsters that can kill you in 2-3 hits. You must take your time and choose your battles wisely, or else you'll be looking at the ''You Died'' screen a lot.

The forest portion of the beta was crawling with these massive blobs of meat with 2 huge Shotel's in each hand. While their attacks were slow and predictable, one wrong move on your part and you lose half your health or die instantly. They also have surprise attacks - just when you think you can out smart their movements, out of nowhere they'll launch a massive speed charge attack, swinging their Shotel's around like mad men. Be patient and you can easily take them out with back attacks, which deal massive damage. That's not the only enemy you'll be facing though, they mix the slow and strong with the fast and annoying, which leads me to the next enemy, forest ninjas!

These cock suckers are the worst! Not only are they fully dressed in black, making them extremely hard to see, they attack in packs and ambush you with ease. Feeling overwhelmed? Wanna try running? NOPE, arrows to the back of your head, bitch! They fear nothing and will hunt you down if you try to run. Oh but I can block than counter, right? Wrong again, remember what I said about most enemies not staggering after hitting your shield? The ninjas are one of them, instead after hitting your shield, they will launch a massive back jump dodge attack. Resetting the battle. The best way to kill these annoying little fuckers is either attack first and stun lock them with your weapon or parry their attacks and finish them off with a one hit riposte. This is just one of the many enemy AI improvements, and are all a welcome change. There's a couple of other enemies as well, mainly red NPC phantoms, but I wont spoil those for you. Figure it out when you get your hands on the game.

If you manage to survive the level and its wave of ambushing enemies and dark pitfalls, you'll come across a giant fog wall where you meet the Skeleton King. Now I wouldn't really call him a boss, he falls more into the mini-boss category, like Pinwheel in Dark Souls. As soon as you enter the fog you'll be greeted with 3 large skeletons, two of them wielding a scythe and one a giant rod to cast black magics. They all do very little damage, the key to this battle is to not get greedy, just because they don't do a lot of damage doesn't mean you should go all out and waste your stamina. Time your attacks and take out the mage first, after that the other two will be easy. After defeating the scythe brothers you'll be swamped with a bunch of regular skeletons and wait for it... Wheel Skeleton mobs, the ones from Dark Souls. Those evil things are back and out for revenge! Dodge roll is your best friend!

To my surprise -- I beat most of beta with the Hunter class. I did not expect this at all. It made me notice something very important, movement speed and large amounts of stamina are more important than ever in the Souls universe. Mainly because of the changes to how the shield works now, dodging is way more viable than before. Moving around quickly and out maneuvering your opponents seems to be a way better alternative than trying to tank your way through. Though of course the downside is taking way more damage, thus making you time your rolls perfectly, especially since rolls now have a smaller invincibility frame, which I believe can only be upgraded through the agility stat.

Overall the game feels fantastic. Slightly increasing the difficulty we all know and love, while keeping it fair and fun to play. All of the changes that they've made so far have improved the games feel and combat. Enemies are smarter, stronger and more relentless, forcing to you change your combat style on the fly. Adapt quickly and you will prevail, choose to panic and get angry and you'll die repeatedly. Worry not Soul fans, the game is in good hands and so far it's being done justice.

To close this out, I'll leave you with some of the changes they've made to the individual stats in Dark Souls II. Enjoy!



Dark Souls II Beta Stats

Vigor
An Attribute that determines Hp

Endurance
An attribute that determines your overall stamina

Vitality
An attribute that determines your maximum equipment load.

Attunement
Attribute governing number of spells that can ne attuned.
Boots spell-casting speed

Strength
Attribute required to wield heavy, powerful weapons.
Also boots weapon ATK.

Dexterity
Attribute required to wield weapons requiring finesse.
Boosts poison and bleed effects.

Resistance
Attribute governing defense.
Boosts poison resist and bleed resist

Agility
Attribute governing swiftness of movement.
Boosts speed of evasion, blocking, and other actions.

Intelligence
Attribute required for sorceries and other spells.
Boosts proficiency in magic and fire ATK and DEF

Faith
Attribute required for miracles and other spells.
Boosts proficiency in lightning and dark ATK and DEF

The below stats cannot be leveled up individually.

Evasion
The ability to adroitly evade attacks

Action Speed
The ability to quickly raise a shield, use times, etc.
Improves with agility

Trap disabling
Chance of disabling traps on objects like chests.
Improves with agility







King Zelos
10:52 PM on 09.15.2013

Hideo Baba and the team strike once again! Bringing us yet another wonderful entry in the Tales series, Tales Of Xillia. Like its previous predecessors, they slightly innovate on the core mechanics of the game. Tweaking certain elements while still leaving what has made the series such a successful hit among the JRPG fans. Tales Of Xillia is definitely a fantastic entry into the Tales family, it is not however - without its flaws.



Tales Of Xillia (Playstation 3)
Developer: Namco Tales Studio
Publisher: Namco Bandi
Released: August 6th, 2013 (NA)
MSRP: $59.99

Tales Of Xillia stars an unlikely band of heroes trying to save the world from certain destruction. What is at the head of said destruction? A powerful weapon, that if left in the hands of humans can break out an out all war between two nations; or worse, the whole world. With this information at hand, our heroes team up to try and save the world.

This journey begins when a ''Do-Gooder'' named Jude Mathis who crosses paths with the Goddess, Milla Maxwell, while searching for his teacher. While exploring, Jude quickly finds out that he has bitten off more than he can chew; when he follows Milla into the laboratory. In your typical RPG manner, things don't go as planned and our unlikely hero Jude joins forces with Milla.

Before embarking on this dangerous journey, players will have the choice of which main characters story they would like to follow. While Milla and Jude's goal are one in the same, there are certain breaking points throughout the story that give you a different cut-scene or dungeon depending on who you choose to play as. This gives the player an incentive to replay the game and experience the story from a slightly different prospective.



Along this adventure, Milla and Jude come across an array of different and interesting characters. Each one with a past that comes back to haunt them one way or another. They end up joining your party under different circumstances. Course - this wouldn't be a JRPG if it didn't have its anime cliche -esk cast. From your womanizing know-it-all mercenary, to your young and cute little girl with amazing magical powers - there is no shortage of it here; and by me, that's perfectly fine.

It's with these fantastic supporting cast of characters that Tales Of Xillia delivers an extra layer of story telling. Giving you the option to dive deeper into your party members history, allowing for a better understanding of what they are truly trying to achieve; all while trying to save the world along side with you. It's these character interactions that Namco Tales Studio always nails on the head, I've always felt strong connections with the characters that they create in their Tales series; and Tales Of Xillia is no different.

Some prime examples of said characters are, Alvin. While his personalty shines through as the lying and sarcastic type, there's truly way more too it than that. In-order to find out why he acts this way, you have to work for it. By interacting with certain people in the world, or triggering side-quests at certain points in the game. While all of this is completely optional it is always rewarding to go off the beat-and-path to acquire these small titbits of information.



This wouldn't be a JRPG if our adventurer's didn't have to travel through beautiful and treacherous landscapes. Sadly, Tales Of Xilla is highly lacking when it comes to this department. Most of the outside terrain is rather dull, and feels like they copy and pasted these areas multiple times, making slight adjustments, as to make them look different. With an exception of a few areas, this problem is highly evident and is a complete turn off when exploring.

Sadly the dungeon design doesn't differ much from its outside terrain counter part. With its simple and unchallenging design choices. I felt no struggle at all getting through the games mundane dungeons, which may I add are very short - with the exception of one or two end game ones. Puzzle elements are far and few between, in fact to the point where the puzzle elements are almost non-existent. Mostly consisting of pushing a box from point A to point B.



The Tales series is known for its fun and engaging combat. With each new title, they enhance and tweak the combat system - making it so it's always slightly different from its previous predecessors. Just like the titles before it, Tales Of Xillia is no exception. This time around they've added the ''Linking'' system. At the start of battle you may choose from 3 of your current party members and Link up with them. Linking allows your partner to run behind the enemy you are targeting, therefor completely surrounding the opponent. This is just one of the many perks, others include: Art Chaining, Altering Current Arts and most importantly allowing you to perform your High Ougi (Mystic Art).

Each party member also offers a unique Linking ability, for example, Linking up with Milla gives her a chance to bind an enemy; allowing you to unleash countless attacks without enemy retaliation. Whilst Linking up with Alvin will give him the Block-Breaker ability, a fantastic skill for boss fights. They've also made switching out your party members while in combat a breeze, allowing you to link together multiple chaining arts without disrupting the flow of combat. Every battle is a blast, you may learn a new combo or chain together some interesting arts you never thought would work. This is one of the many strengths the combat system holds.

Another great assist about the combat system is that - it's never forced. Battles take place when you run up to an enemy and trigger a combat sequence, which is completely avoidable if you choose to run pass the enemy instead. You can also trigger linked encounters which can happen when you run into two enemies that are close to each other, doubling the amount of enemies, experience and gold; a great way to level up your party quickly. Enemies can also trigger back-attacks, if you are facing away from an enemy and they trigger a combat sequence - you will be at a disadvantage when combat starts, and vice-versa.

While the combat system is wicked fun, you'll find it getting a bit dull if you don't ramp up the difficulty setting. Personally I started the game on moderate difficulty setting, and while challenging for the first 25+ hours or so - it quickly started to deteriorate as I grew stronger. I found that, turning it up to Hard difficulty made for the perfect balance between the damage I was giving and receiving, making me stay at the top of my game and kept it from getting uneventful. Of course everyone is different in their play styles, so choose whatever you enjoy the best.



The second feature they've added besides Linking, is the Lilium Orb level up system. Where you get to pick and choose a path for each one of your party members. Adding an extra layer of customization to the way you want to fight. If you are not the perfectionist type and don't want to be bothered with such tasks - there's always the auto-level button which picks the best path for that character. While I don't recommend doing this, the option is always there.

This gives Tales Of Xillia a slightly more personal play-style compared to previous titles. Where you'd have to use a certain skills 400 times or more to unlock a newer, or stronger version of said skill. It's a nice way to break the mold and try something new and refreshing. The skill system has also made its way here, where you choose which passive abilities you want active in the heat of battle. The small tweak here is that passive skills become stronger when linked with a partner.



Tales Of Xillia is a fantastic and memorable experience; with its delightful cast of characters and well written story. While it never shied away from its core roots, the combat, art style and music were all well worth the 100+ hours I poured into it. The small tweaks were all a welcome addition and yet the game still feels familiar and right at home. A must have for any JRPG fan out there.

The Verdict - 8/10