Nexomon: Extinction Review

Okay it’s time to talk about Nexomon, a game that I picked up on a whim and it turned out to be way better than I was expecting. The story is absolutely epic and a nice change of pace after playing through Need for Speed (2015). In a lot of ways it’s sort of what you could picture Pokemon doing if they ever decided to make a story that was a little more Shonen like in nature. There are certainly a whole lot of twists in this one so by the end you know that you were in a huge RPG.

The game starts out by explaining that the Nexomon and Dragons were in a big war a long time ago. The humans didn’t fare too well in the crossfire but eventually a group did manage to destroy Omnicron, the king of the monsters. The world went into a state of relative peace afterwards but the Tyrants continue to spawn and while the humans do their best to fight, every day is a never ending battle. This can’t be how humanity was supposed to live. In comes Terry (You choose the main character’s name) and he aims to become a guild fighter who will climb up the ranks. Can he save this world?

One of the many reasons why the story is so good is because of all the factions here. You have the humans, the Nexomon, the higher Nexomon known as the Tyrants, the kids of Omnicron, the Dragons, etc. Everyone is mixed in here and the Earth can only take so many factions so naturally there is a lot of action all the time. The game also asks you a lot of moral questions as you have to wonder if you are on the right side at all. I would even go as far as to say the game hints you are on the wrong side for a good chunk of the second half and I would say yes.

Now you are technically presented as doing the right thing at least in as far as you’re seeing things from the main character’s point of view but at the same time you also know that the arguments made in favor of his side are usually used by the villains. Basically the heroes fear the birth of a new creature called Vados who will end up wiping out all Tyrants in the world. This is actually the goal of the heroes so that sounds good right? Well the issue is that Vados is so powerful that he can wipe out all Tyrants in the blink of an eye so if he ever turned rogue then the heroes would be in trouble. Sounds similar to how Lex Luthor views Superman eh? Think about it in that context and it makes everything very interesting.

The game also doesn’t take the easy way out by making Vados a mindless creature or one who is super evil. He is actually fully sentient and even says several times that he will not harm the humans. He just seems like a good guy and as the heroes keep pushing him farther and farther you wonder if he will be able to stay strong or not. The writing here is excellent in how the game never makes any side appear to be too deranged and both sides have a lot of good points throughout the adventure. Throw in some clever 4th wall breaks as well as a lot of witty dialogue and you’ve got yourself a very engaging script. This would make for a really solid anime all the way through if it ever got animated.

Now the gameplay is also important of course so lets get into that. It’s basically Pokemon as you fight in turn based combat battles and catch Nexomon to add to your collection. The type advantages are a little different so you will need to get used to that and the way you catch Nexomon is similar to catching Pokemon but still a bit different as you have to match the right actions on the screen in order to effectively throw the Nexotrap. You can also increase the odds of success by feeding Nexomon or using a specific type of trap. As you play through the game you also get a lot stronger thanks to passive items with permanent boosts like EXP going up by 3% or your catch rates going up. Each one stacks so you really want to open every treasure chest that you can find.

The gameplay is very smooth and is probably one of the better Pokemon homages that I’ve seen in a while. The hubworld is really solid and a nice feature here is that monster encounters only happen in specific patches of grass that you see ahead of time. So you don’t have to be constantly worrying about running away from monsters as you can safely avoid them almost 100% of the time. There are a few select areas like some caves where random encounters will happen but these are few and far between. You can expect that you won’t be seeing these very much at all. So you’ve got quite a few quality of life updates here.

One edge Pokemon does have though is the EXP share system. It feels so odd to go back to only leveling up one Nexomon at a time. I’m glad there is only a trophy for getting one of them to level 99 and not a bunch because that would be a lot of work. I got one of mine to around level 70 so I don’t think it’ll be too hard to get it to 99. You do have cores you can synthesize which allow other Nexomon to get at least some EXP per battle though. So if you grind and get enough materials then eventually you can make your own pseudo EXP share.

So yeah you should have a lot of fun with the gameplay. As more and more games turn to a real time action combat system, it can be fun to go back to the more retro turn based style sometimes. I’ll never turn down real time action of course but I also really like turn based. Why not both as they would say right? This one still has a whole lot of relevance within the video gaming world and as long as it’s done smoothly then it will always work out. At most you could say that one thing the game is lacking is that the opponent can switch Nexomon after one is defeated while you cannot. Feels like a bit of an unfair advantage in the game and considering that in Pokemon both trainers can do this, it felt like an odd change. I always thought the computer was basically cheating a bit tbh.

The difficulty can be a little high at times so you should know that you will be grinding at some points within the game. It is basically inevitable but at the same time you can really focus on one and not worry about the other. The game’s enemies scale up so as you level up, so does everyone else in the game. Wild Nexomon, trainers, etc. So just get one Nexomon really high up and then catch 5 others to make up a team of super powerful fighters. If you do that then you will already be in a good spot and will stay that way for the rest of the game. Also make sure you at least use some strategy because the final boss is actually really difficult and has more phases than your average RPG final boss. Now that was an impressive way to end the game and if I had skipped out on any training then I may have been in trouble.

Overall, Nexomon: Extinction is a great game that I definitely recommend. It had one of the best stories that I’ve seen in a while and the developers did a great job with a fairly low budget. There may not have been big animated cutscenes here but the illustrations were all very well done and so were the sprite based animations within the gameplay. They showed more creativity with these than I’ve seen some AAA titles use. You really felt like the world was alive by the end of the game and it nailed the mix of humor and action. This is the kind of game you can play for hours without worry because of how smooth everything is. Definitely check it out and hopefully they get that sequel in quick!

Overall 8/10

Trials of Mana Review

The Mana series has always been a lot of fun. It may not have gotten quite as popular as Final Fantasy or Dragon Quest but it can certainly hold its own with them. Each title has been really solid so far and this one gives us multiple main characters so there are different ways to experience the story. It gives the adventure a lot more replay value even if it does mean that the platinum trophy will be a lot more difficult to obtain. It’s still worth it in the end.

I decided to play as Duran and so during the game I set up a party of 3 characters and I suppose you would get the other 3 if you go through a different route. Duran was an ordinary soldier of his kingdom until a fire mage broke in one day and slaughtered everyone. Duran now has to avenge his people by gaining great power. A fairy ends up entering into a binding contract with him so Duran must also save the world but fortunately that will put him in the crosshairs of the mage. Does he really have enough power to defeat such a foe though or will he need some help?

The gameplay style is that of a real time 3D adventure. You use your sword or staff to whack away at the opponents and can roll to dodge attacks. You also have items and super moves at the ready to keep things balanced as well. Your characters move a bit on the slow side so you have to be careful about using the rolls though. It’s meant to be a high risk high reward move so it will get you out of the line of fire but has a lot of stun. Make sure you time your rolls well to really maximize how well you fight. I liked how the game really encourages you to dodge because otherwise the enemies deal incredible amounts of damage.

The only catch here is that the AI for your partners makes Donald and Goofy look smart in comparison. Expect them to get hit by literally every attack that the boss throws your way. They rarely ever remember to use their super attacks at the right time even if you turn them to the most aggressive settings possible. You will have to do a lot on your own here so keep switching between characters but the rough part is they’ll bump your character off after you’ve switched. I died two times because of that which was rough. The game can be difficult but the exp system is well crafted so you can always just go back to training and then you’ll be okay.

It’s a very solid PG with no real gameplay issues there. The platforming is done well too and running away from enemies is seamless. There are a lot of collectibles which will take time to obtain but it’s not overdone either so you feel like you could actually get them all. One day it may be fun to go back and platinum this title because it seems like it would be a pleasant walkthrough. I’d also get a chance to experience the game’s bonus story and see what that’s all about.

The graphics here are really solid. It’s all very colorful although I would have liked some fights within the cutscenes. Those can be harder to set up but the payoff is always great. You want to see how strong the characters really are without gameplay mechanics and this would be the best way to find that out. Meanwhile for the soundtrack, it’s good although I wouldn’t say it’s super memorable. It gets points for having a lot of themes though. Quite a few of the bosses had unique themes instead of the game just having one stock boss theme for everybody. I always thought that was a good idea.

The game’s length is pretty good. Apparently it’s usually around 20 hours although I knocked it out a good deal sooner. The length will probably depend on how much you level grind while going through the game. It makes things easier and you won’t die against bosses as much. You can speed it up further by skipping character intros but I liked seeing the origin of everyone I came across. Personally it helped make this feel like more of a cinematic adventure and you also identify with the characters this way. It’s like a crossover effect with each character doing their own thing until you meet.

Now there is one thing I would have to criticize here and it’s the loading times. The game has a loading screen pop up constantly. It shows up for every area you walk across and even between cutscenes. The loading times are fairly extensive so if you went the wrong way by mistake get ready to have two of those in a row. It’s absolutely not game breaking or anything, but it can be annoying since it’s very noticeable. I haven’t played a game with this many long loading screens in quite a while.

Of course when your biggest issue in a game is the loading screens then you know that you’re playing a great game. Duran makes for a fun main character. He’s your classic hero trying to avenge his village and save the world. Then you have Angela who is a fun mage. She isn’t very good with magic initially so she is working on getting better at it as the game goes on. There are other characters who get big and small roles depending on which story you’re playing. There are also a number of villains and different factions here. some don’t do a lot so I’m betting they’re in other stories as well. It really makes this feel like you’re watching part of a bigger adventure through one character’s eyes and so the game succeeded in what it was trying to do there. You won’t be forgetting the game anytime soon after you complete it.

Overall, Trials of Mana is definitely a great game. You’ll have fun with it as you have a quality story and good characters. The gameplay is on point which is always the important thing and there are a number of quality of life features the title has that can’t be understated. For example, it’s got a map feature that actually works. The game always clearly marks on the map where to go next so it’s impossible to get lost. I always appreciate that and every location is also noted on the map for when you want to do some free travel. The levels even tell you how many treasure chests are remaining in the area so you don’t have to guess. These are all features that are great to have here and you earn bonuses for finding collectibles that enhance the experience even more. This is definitely the way to go when making an RPG as comfortable as possible.

Overall 8/10

Mario + Rabbids Sparks of Hope Review

It’s time to talk about Super Mario. He has had many adventures over the years but if you think about it the games have seemed to be drying up a bit lately. You just don’t see them coming out with the same amount of titles that they used to. It’s a real shame to be honest but it means that you have to really appreciate the ones that you do get. I finally got this game and it’s definitely a great title. I would say it easily beats the first one. I would still rather the rabbids be cut out entirely so it’s just the Mario characters though.

The story starts with Mario and friends needing to fight once more when a villain known as Cursa appears. This foe is so powerful, so evil that it threatens to destroy the entire universe. Mario and friends will have to team up with their Rabbid counterparts to fight this threat off but will those rabbids only serve to speed up the heroes’ defeat? That may have been the case but this time there is another member of the group named Edge. This isn’t a rabbid version of anybody and yet she is extremely powerful so her whole persona is a mystery. She clearly is keeping some secrets but perhaps Mario and friends are too so they all need to keep each other at arm’s length.

Like the first game this is a tactical title which is always fun since there aren’t a ton of those. You get to really enjoy playing as all of the characters too since they all have different abilities and strengths. Ultimately my main lineup was Mario, Rabbid Peach, and Edge. For the first half of the game I used normal Peach but eventually the healing skills were just more efficient for me than the barriers. You can use the terrain to your advantage and if you really master each ability then you will be coasting through this one in no time. If not, then the game can actually be rather difficult. It’s not for the faint of hart and there is no true way to grind out levels here because you don’t get exp for beating normal minions. I’d have preferred if you could just level up like crazy but I understand if the game just wanted to make this one a little more difficult. It’s certainly the right way to approach that goal since it forces you to really use your head.

The game has element typing too so you want to pick the right one to use at an enemy or you will suffer its wrath. The gameplay was definitely developed really well. You can feel the attention to detail there. This can even compete with Disgaea in just how many mechanics you have to think about and how streamlined they all are. You will definitely be having fun playing the game at all times as a result. There’s a whole lot to enjoy here and the game is a pretty decent length. I’d say it’ll take you around 13-15 hours to complete the story. After that you also have replay value to go and beat the rest of the sub quests. I’m not sure exactly what this gets you so that’ll determine if it’s really worth it or not but at least beating the story will still take some time.

Edge was a great addition to the cast because she’s a lot more serious than the other Rabbids. They all talk in this game but the others’ dialogue is usually quite dreadful so you want to ignore it the whole time. Edge at least has real things to say and is important to the plot. Put her in an even more serious setting and she would absolutely thrive while the other characters would really falter. Edge is built different and of course her gameplay is also fantastic. I recommend getting her the 4 dashes immediately. If you pair that with the increased movement and each dash getting stronger then it is a very lethal attack combination. It helped me a whole lot in the final levels.

Then Cursa makes for a pretty solid villain as well. Great design and good powers all around. I would have liked some real dialogue from Cursa though, that would have helped make the villain a lot more high tier. Still a strong villain though and an improvement over all of the forgettable villains from the first game. This one had on screen presence which is important. Also some good backstory and in general the game’s story was way better than the first one. The first did have a story too but far less dialogue and lower stakes so this one improved in every way.

In general that was a solid point for this game which is that it did improve upon the first one in virtually every area. That is a lot harder to do than you would expect after all. It’s always tempting to add some kind of annoying gimmick or something but Nintendo restrained themselves. All of the mechanics actually make sense within the framework of the game which is super important. Additionally, the graphics are excellent here. This looks like a AAA Nintendo game and I suppose it should since that really is the game in a nutshell. This is meant to tide us over for the next big Mario game after all.

In closing I would just say to focus your upgrades on each character’s special moves. They all share general upgrades as well like longer glide distance and more health but each time it just seems to be more worth your while to go for the character specific abilities. 4 dashes for Edge worked wonders and I got Mario’s reaction ability to strike twice every turn. These are the kinds of abilities that will pay dividends almost immediately. You absolutely want to have these abilities on hand. Then if you have a healer you can methodically take the enemies down and keep it moving. In most cases you want to go fast since new enemies will keep on spawning.

Overall, This was a great game. It had solid gameplay, the graphics were great, soundtrack was on point, etc. The game was very solid all around which is critical to being a great game and since the price won’t be getting much lower I would suggest buying the game now. You may as well after all and dive into the hype now. We’ll see if they make a third one at some point although I think they should keep the gameplay style but have them crossover with something else instead. Imagine Mario teaming up with Sonic or Mega Man instead? Now that would be a blast and a half for sure.

Overall 8/10

Cuphead Review

Cuphead is one of those games that made a lot of waves when it first came out. This was known as the ultimate platformer with a high level of difficulty. You don’t see too many crazy hard platformers like this nowadays and Cuphead lives up to the hype. It is very difficult and some of the bosses will take a whole lot of tries but the game is so well designed that it’s never frustrating. It’s always difficult in a fair way where you know that you can defeat the opponent eventually and the levels aren’t very long so you don’t mind retrying over and over again.

The game starts off with Mugman and Cuphead getting a little too overconfident and making a deal with the devil. If they win the game then they’ll get rich but if they lose then he will claim their souls. Naturally they lose so all hope is lost but the devil gives them a deal. If they steal the souls of a bunch of people who escaped then they can get theirs back but an elder warns the heroes not to be fooled a second time. So instead they will get the souls and then try to defeat the devil, but do they have the power to pull this off?

One thing that stands out about this game is that it’s basically a big boss rush. You constantly go up against all of these absolutely massive bosses and you have to defeat them before they defeat you. There are no health upgrades or levels to grind. You have to use pure talent to try and overcome the boss. The only thing you can switch up are your weapons and much like a Mega Man game you will find that some weapons are best for different circumstances. None will deal extra elemental damage but the way they work is different.

For example you have the homing gun which is really weak but will go after an opponent anywhere. So if you are confident in your dodging skills you should use this one. It will prolong every fight but you can focus completely on dodging while holding down the shoot button since it won’t matter what direction you’re facing. I used this one for a pair of bosses because it was handy. Then you have the shotgun spreader which does a ton of damage but it super short range. I liked using that one as my sub weapon near the end so when the boss would gloat or stop moving I would run in and start blasting.

I didn’t use the rest of the weapons though. For the vast majority of the game I stuck with the normal peashooter because it’s really a terrific balanced weapon. It’s like using a Mega Buster in Mega Man and gets the job done. Additionally I think it’s the best for practicing your fundamentals because you have to fight carefully in order to use it well. I would say to usually use the first round or two to just focus on learning the enemy attack patterns and then after that you can really go in and start playing aggressively. You just don’t want to do that at the start because you’ll be taking damage like crazy that way.

As I said the levels are short though and they’re a lot of fun. You really feel a sense of accomplishment when you go through the bosses and learn how to get around their attacks. There is also a parry system to block but I never got too good on that one so I really focused on dodging instead. For me at least that seemed to be a better approach. There are also a few normal platformer levels which are always fun to play through. They were never as difficult as the boss battles but they still had their own challenges to be sure. The enemies all keep on respawning there so you have to do your best to work around them.

The graphics here are really solid. The game is bright and colorful as it goes for that very retro appeal. The cutscenes are also drawn like a very old Disney cartoon. If this gets a sequel I’d like to see more fully animated cutscenes but the game really focused the attention on gameplay and that’s never a bad move. The soundtrack is also really fun. I like the little intro quotes from the narrator at the beginning of each boss battle and the characters have great intro animations as well. There are a lot of small touches like that which help to take the game to the next level.

The physical version of the game even brought the DLC along with it so that was cool. It’s pretty short but more content is always a good thing. I don’t think I’ll be getting the Platinum for this game though. You’d have to S rank every boss which sounds incredibly difficult. I didn’t get a single S rank after all so I was quite far from that. It does help the overall replay value of the game though. It’s not the longest title out there but the sheer difficulty should extend the playtime. I consider myself to be a master of bullet hell and platforming games and even I had to retry some bosses a significant amount of times. So don’t worry about trying to blast through the game and just enjoy each attempt. Failing and trying to improve are part of what makes the game so much fun after all.

Overall, Cuphead is a great game. I definitely had a lot of fun with it and I’d really be up for a sequel at some point. There’s a whole lot more that you can do with the Cuphead mythos after all and nobody else has really jumped on the idea of a platformer game that focuses on bosses so Cuphead can still grab that as its main gimmick. Who doesn’t like boss fights right? I’m sure it’s difficult to create so many unique ones like this one did but it worked perfectly. I definitely recommend playing through this one 100%. It doesn’t get much better than this!

Overall 8/10

Driver: San Francisco Review

This game I’ve had in the closet for so many years. Earlier this year I finally bought the two previous installments so it was time at last to play this one. I greatly enjoyed the first game which is still one of the definitive driving games of all time but the last two were more standard. This one brings things back to a high point and is a great game. It certainly wins in plot but the original still has the best gameplay and at this point I think that will be tough to surpass.

The game starts with John Tanner putting a villain behind bars but unfortunately he breaks out almost immediately and gets revenge by putting John in a coma. Now here’s where things start to get tricky. So John wakes up back in the car but now he has super powers. He can possess anybody at will which is cool and then his real body becomes a quiet zombie on autopilot in the meantime. With these powers maybe he can stop the villain and save the city. There is a big bomb being created so there’s a race against time. But how come he keeps getting visions where he is still in the hospital and seeing weird signs? Well no time to worry about that now!

The Driver games are usually as realistic as they get so it’s a bit odd to see the game take more of a supernatural approach but it leads to one of the best driving game mechanics that I’ve seen in a while. The story is also fun with this. It plays out like a very interactive movie. In each level there is a lot of dialogue and of course there are a whole lot of cutscenes scattered throughout the game. That helps to make the whole thing feel really high budget. Another nice thing is they recorded a good amount of dialogue for each mission so when you die and try again, you’ll usually near some new lines as well. It’s a clever way to keep things from feeling too stale if you were to hear the same lines every time.

Now for the gameplay, mainly you’ve got the driving as normal. Unfortunately this part isn’t as polished as the average driving game. Turns are really difficult to make here as the cars have a very tough time turning while moving forward. You’re going to be bumping a whole lot and the car also tends to go unbalanced really quickly if you hit anything. Definitely something to keep in mind the whole time you are playing. You will really want to slow down for those turns, but fortunately there aren’t too many races. Mainly this just gets tricky when you are trying to evade the cops so instead of looking for the hidden paths, try driving into traffic and dodging the cars. That will help you lose them quick.

Now for the new mechanic. As a ghost you can fly out of your car and possess somebody. You can move around the field from a bird’s eye view and have 3 different zooms on this. It’s really fun to take over the cars and they come in real handy when attacking your enemies. You can take control of a car and just have him ram into the villain. You can do this at any point to any car so it makes it really hard for the opponent to even try to dodge. It also makes for some interesting boss fights later on in the game. You know a lot of times I’m not a big fan of new mechanics and gimmicks if they don’t work just right but this is one that actually was a success.

It enhances the game which is exactly what a gimmick should do and it was fun to use the whole time. I never got bored of it that’s for sure. There’s a trophy for doing that 1000 times and I made it through about 400 so I better get to work on grinding the rest out. The game’s length is fairly decent. I want to say the game is about 5-6 hours long. Maybe a little above that but roughly in that range. For most genres that probably sounds small but the previous 2 Driver games were about 90 minutes so this is still a big improvement. There is also replay value to get more trophies although unfortunately the servers are down so the Platinum is impossible to obtain now. It’s too bad that couldn’t have stayed up longer. Still there is some replay value here as a result.

The graphics are really solid here. This feels like more of a high end PS3 game in that area. The game loves showing off the big zoom ins as a result. While you’re in the gameplay everything is clear and you can always tell what is happening. The stages will sometimes have a fun visual effect like turning blue or yellow depending on what is going on with John’s psyche and that’s always a nice touch. The soundtrack has a ton of lyrical songs. For the most part they seemed pretty solid. I didn’t get any that were really obnoxious and it never takes over the sound of the dialogue coming through. Whoever did the sound mixing did a good job for this game that’s for sure.

Overall, Driver was a lot of fun to play through. If the driving was just a little smoother it would make the game even better. After all I love pushing through tight corners and really styling on the opponents but with the controls like this I couldn’t quite do that. Still the story is a lot of fun and I give the game tons of credit for having full voice acting for every single cutscene. Whether it was a story mission or one of the side ones, everything had the voices on point and I think that’s great. It’s not something that you see everywhere even if you would expect that to be the standard at this point. So the game has to get a lot of credit for that all around. If you haven’t gotten this game yet then you definitely should. The story alone is worth the purchase as this would make for a great movie. You can also get a good price for it nowadays.

Overall 8/10

Star Ocean: The Divine Force Review

Right here, right now, it’s time to talk about Star Ocean! I can’t say I’m super familiar with the series compared to other RPG titles like Final Fantasy but I like the genre and I like sci-fi so you can’t go wrong. I figured I’d get this one day 1 because it looked like fun and it makes for a really fun game. It took around 30 hours to clear this one so you’ve got a sizable amount of story and cutscenes to get through. I consider this to be an absolute win and I look forward to playing more games in the series.

The game starts off with captain Raymond piloting his ship when they are attacked by the federation. His crew all manage to escape but they are scattered on a nearby planet which isn’t very developed. There are no high tech weapons or equipment on the planet and of course its medicine isn’t great either. Raymond knows he has to find his friends very quickly or it could get rough. He meets up with Laeticia, a mysterious girl who talks in a very formal manner and her bodyguard Albaird. They have a mission of their own and volunteer to help Raymond find his friends if he helps them out with some things as well. Time is of the essence so he agrees…hopefully these two are on the up and up!

As with any RPG you can bet that the plot changes a whole lot and gets expanded on as you play more and more. The story is very detailed and there are a whole lot of cutscenes talking about the rules of the federation and why it isn’t so easy to just hop in and save everyone with high tech teleporters. Raymond is aligned with a planet that opted not to join the Federation and so there is a lot of bad blood there. Meanwhile the federation really wants everyone to join to a rather unhealthy degree and they seem really shady. That’s not even accounting for all of the drama on the planet itself with the King and his subjects being on different pages as well.

At times this can make for a bit of a slow beginning as a result of that but the story really does pick up the more you go through the game. Once the various alien species show up then you get a lot of extra developments. You also have a lot of super forms and then a whole plot involving A.I. and how alive they truly are. It’s all pretty good stuff so you’ll have a good time. Ultimately it may not surpass some of the bigger RPG titles in a pure story sense but it’s well balanced in all areas.

As for the gameplay, it’s a 3D hack and slash. You have your basic attack, strong attack, and quick attack. Unlike most games where these are locked in, you can completely customize which button you want to use for which attack. You have around 15-20 by the end so you can just stick to using the attacks you want or mix and match. You can also assign full combos to each button to make things a bit easier. Personally I mainly just stuck to one attack. Once I got the flurry move I wanted I never ended up using another physical attack. It was just way too good and by the stats it was the strongest move so why switch it anyway right?

Aside from the main fighting moves you also have a final smash type attack that charges as you fight. It can be really handy in taking down the last bits of an opponent’s health bar. Then you have your DUMA which is basically a little robot that lets you hover in the air, create barriers, and do charge attacks. This guy is worth spamming on all minions because you can quickly get behind them for sneak attacks that deal extra damage. Additionally you can change directions in mid air while attacking which is handy as well. It won’t always work on bosses but it’s good to keep in mind.

Meanwhile the graphics are definitely really solid. The art style may take a little getting used to. I’ve heard some refer to the characters as looking like dolls and after that you can’t help but notice it. Still the visuals are on point and this still feels like a new gen title. A good amount of effort was put into it. Meanwhile the opening theme for the game is really solid. It’s a fun rock theme that feels like something out of the 90s. It was definitely real nostalgic to hear that although in the game I would have liked to have seen some more memorable boss fights. Surprisingly within the actual game you won’t have too many distinct tracks. They sort of just blend together for the most part.

In terms of content you’ve got a lot here. The main game is 29 hours as I noted but then you’ve also got a fairly extensive amount of replay value. There are numerous endings to obtain in the game and then aside from that you can try to get the Platinum trophy which will definitely take a while. I’d be surprised if you could beat it in any less time than 50 hours. This is a full adventure and even that may be understating it. So you’ll definitely be getting a good amount of content for your dollar and it’s worth the full price.

As far as the characters go, Raymond makes for a pretty good main character. He’s not afraid to talk tough to the Federation and tells it like it is. He doesn’t make promises without learning the details first and he is always thinking. It’s clear why he is the captain of a full crew because he is a very smart main character. He can be impulsive but balances the two attributes really well.

Then you have Elena who is a solid main heroine. As an android she tends to look at things logically but unlike most she is still able to keep her common sense and can understand humans well enough to act like one. Sometimes you’ll even end up forgetting that she is an android. She’s probably one of the most well rounded characters in the game and you can always count on her in a pinch. Without her the characters would have not made it quite so far.

Laeticia is the other main heroine here and she goes through a good character arc as she learns how to really be a great ruler. Raymond helps her become more flexible and she’s good in a fight. I definitely enjoyed her character and even her bodyguard Albaird looked decently good in the game. By the end he also loosened up a lot and was ready to stand with the other heroes.

Nina is a bit younger so she doesn’t get to fight on the front lines as much but she does well as a medic. While she is technically around for the whole game, her role feels a bit smaller though. Midas is someone who very reluctantly starts to help but that’s mainly thanks to Malkya. The two have a solid connection as she is basically immortal and he is super interested in science so it works out well. Then we have Marielle who is given a really tough time by Raymond at first due to her ties to the Federation. She does well in not making the same mistakes that most of them did though and gradually earns his trust.

Finally there is DUMA who is a fun robot type character even if he can take a little long to get on the ball about what’s going on here. Since he looks at everything logically, it can throw him for a loop when people don’t follow any kind of logic. So we’ve got a strong hero group here but the villains are more on the forgettable side. You’ve got corrupt kings and leaders but some of them are almost interchangeable. I liked the two alien villains a lot more and ultimately they were just minions. The final boss has a cool design though so I’ll give him that. At least you know that the battles will be visually entertaining the whole time.

Overall, Star Ocean: The Divine Force is a great game. It’s got a very detailed plot and the gameplay is on point. There’s actually a lot to dive into there so you’ll want to really absorb the tutorials. If I’m drilling down a bit more the one thing they messed up on is the equipment screen. When trying on an equipment it shows you all the characters and who it would work on but no indication of which character you are viewing currently which is a little annoying. Super minor since you can back out of the menu to check that but it’s the kind of thing that a quality of life update would certainly fix. It’s got every element that you need in order to have a great time and I hope to see the series continue with more games in the future. Perhaps we can get some more space exploration in the next title but either way this worked out well. If you’re on the fence about the game then I would definitely recommend making the tough call and buying it now. You won’t regret making the purchase.

Overall 8/10

Pokemon Scarlet Review

It’s time for the next big Pokemon event game! It’s always fun to have the Gym Leaders and Elite 4 running around. It’s been a little while since we really got to have that whole setup here as Arceus was a bit different from the usual path. All in all I would say this was definitely a big success. The plot may be the weakest one among all of the main-line Pokemon games but the gameplay is nostalgic and you should have a really good time here.

The game starts you off as a new student who will be attending a fun Pokemon school. There are 3 paths for you to embark on, the Gym Leader course, the Titans course, and stopping the Starfall group. Only after you have completed all 3 routes will you be able to unlock the final story and complete the game. Initially I thought it was going to be more like you complete one path and beat the game, then optionally play the others but in the end they’re all interconnected. The levels also match up that way and each path has their perks so I recommend just always going for the one closest to you.

The game has a map which is handy since the world is so big but it also does have its limitations. You can’t tell what level a raid is until you walk over there. It’s also hard to tell which gym/encounter is next on the list but I was okay with that one because it does help to emulate how a trainer might tackle things out of order. I found this to be the most difficult Pokemon game by far as I actually lost some battles and had to go back and train. It turned out that I was playing the Gym Leaders in reverse order by mistake. No wonder one of them had Level 50s early on. I must have taken a wrong turn on one of the routes but either way it was cool.

It did mean that the second half of the game mostly turned into a cakewalk though as I fought a guy with level 15s near the very end of the game. It did explain why my rival Nemona was so much weaker than the gym leaders at first since I guess the programming has a set level for her Pokemon based on how many badges I’ve obtained as opposed to which ones. Once you unlock sprinting and gliding you have a lot more fun traversing the world. It may be hard to adjust to the lower speed after playing Sonic Frontiers for so long but you get the hang of it. It was an ambitious map and I would say the game did a good job of it.

The gameplay feels like classic Pokemon once you actually get into the battles. For the first time in a while I also got to fight blind to an extent as I don’t know almost any of the new Pokemon and their types. It was fun getting that sense of mystery as I struggled to find the right attacks to use. This especially became big during the Elite 4 battles which are handled perfectly. You feel the majesty and mystery surrounding each fighter and the new musical theme that is introduced there works really well. Definitely no issues on the gameplay here.

The game succeeds because it’s just a lot of fun. At the end of the day who doesn’t like just getting out there and fighting in Pokemon battles right? What does hurt the game when comparing it to other big ones like Ruby and Fire Red is the story though. As I mentioned earlier, it’s just not that good. Most of it feels rather aimless and low stakes even for Pokemon. You fight a Titan and get a little cutscene, then this is repeated over and over for each fight. Likewise the Starfall events all have you beat someone and then see their tragic story. For the first time that I can think of, there is no evil group here. (Pokemon Shield may not have had an evil group either although I’m not 100%. If that is the case maybe they’re being phased out) So you’re never in any actual danger there.

The gym leaders are fun even if it’ll take me a while to learn their names. Larry is definitely the highlight there and it’s extremely impressive that he actually performs double duty as a gym leader and an elite four member. That has to be a huge time commitment and he makes it look easy. The game does start to turn up in the climax though so at least the final story event is pretty hype. I enjoyed the last battles but it felt like a preview of what the whole game could have been like. I’m not asking for anything crazy but even having an antagonist like Team Rocket running around would be fun. Give me some kind of trial to surpass as I prove that I’m the true Pokemon master.

A highlight from the characters perspective is Nemona though. She’s your rival here and while she is on the nicer side, she really likes battling. She constantly talks about challenging you and is very enthusiastic. Nemona is a supportive character who just wants to help the lead do his best and the fact that she beat the Elite 4 and the old champion so easily is impressive. Not only was she holding back but she was fairly young when she conquered them based on the dialogue. Yes, this looks really bad on the original champion who may be the least impressive one in the franchise but Nemona makes up for it by being the most memorable rival in a very long time. I am inclined to say that she beats every rival after Ruby in the game series.

As for the graphics, you’ve certainly seen the memes all around. There are a lot of visual glitches running around here like things popping in and out, character models being off point, and some severe lag. It’s clear that graphics weren’t a big point of emphasis here but ultimately it still looks good. In the context of this being a AAA Switch title then it’s well below expectations as it looks more like a Wii game but ultimately you can always tell where you’re at and the colors are fun. I didn’t really have a problem with it and you likely won’t run into any real glitches that affect gameplay so you’re good on this end.

The soundtrack is definitely on the weaker side though. Most of the new tracks don’t really land all that effectively. I liked the Elite 4 theme and the final boss theme but the rest weren’t so great. Still decent though and I don’t mind listening to them but they are a step below what you would expect. I think the issue is that most of the themes try remixing older tunes or taking elements from them instead of trying something completely new and that was a mistake. You always have to try and innovate as much as possible.

The campaign took me around 20 hours to complete so that’s a pretty reasonable amount of time. Between the 3 paths and then the last one it felt like there was a lot of content to play through. The game also has a post game that you can work on completing as well which involves a lot of battles. The game isn’t afraid to get a little difficult so you could look forward to some fun challenges there. In the end it did a great job of not being a cakewalk and so you do have to actually put some effort into the game if you want to complete it.

Overall, Pokemon Scarlet is a great game. At the end of the day it gives you all of the classic Pokemon staples that you would hope to see here. There’s a whole lot to enjoy and just filling up the Pokedex will likely take a very long time. I believe I caught less than 40 Pokemon and there are several hundred in here. Go forth and try to claim your mantle as the champion! Not sure how long it’ll be before we get the next big installment with a bunch of new Pokemon but this game can certainly last a whole lot longer if you want it too and then the gap won’t feel so large.

Overall 8/10

Kingdom Hearts Melody of Memory Review

Melody of Memory is a game that looked pretty fun when it came out. I didn’t end up getting it day 1 but I’ve gotten low key a bit more into these rhythm type games. I like testing my reaction times and how quickly I can hit the objects at the right time. This looked like it would be a fairly high budget version of that and the game doesn’t disappoint. If you’re going to get a rhythm game then you really can’t do much better than this one. Every part of the game from presentation to gameplay is on point.

The game is effectively Kairi recounting the events from the entire series. This goes from the very first game in the series all the way to Kingdom Hearts III. Additionally at the very end of the game we also get to see some events after 3 which was a lot of fun. They put in a good amount of plot development here which feels like a nice treat after going through all of the recaps.

So why does the game work so well? Part of it is just because of how polished it all is. Right when you launch the game you’re greeted with a lot of great music, top notch visuals, and everything feels very user friendly. You can immediately tell what you have to do and you can also look around in free roam to quickly see how long the game is. There are just so many great tools right at your finger tips and there is a ton of replay value here. Even after beating all of the levels, you can play on different difficulty levels and earn some PS4 trophies.

Obtaining the platinum trophy here would definitely take a very long time but at the same time it feels very doable. It’s not the kind of platinum that ever feels impossible, it would just take a lot of effort. I could see myself going for it someday but right now the game is long enough where I wouldn’t be putting that as one of my higher priorities. The normal game length is already rather solid as it is.

So for the gameplay, it’s classic rhythm style. You have to press buttons at the right time in order to score points and keep moving forward. If you completely miss by pressing the button too quickly or too slowly then you will lose your chain as well as some health. Do this too often and you will lose the level. On both easy and standard difficulties you probably won’t have to worry about losing very much but once you hit critical mode then that starts to be a real concern. I tried to do one level in critical mode and lost quite a few times.

Note that you don’t need to touch critical mode in order to beat the game although if your skills are good enough it can speed things up. See, each level grants you up to 3 stars if you can complete the level while meeting certain conditions. There are a lot of gates that block your way based on the amount of stars that you have. So the more you can 3/3 complete a stage, the less stages you actually have to play in order to complete the game. For example, there were a number of stages I didn’t have to play because I always tried to maximize my stars right from the start.

They don’t start asking you to beat the levels on critical mode until near the end. I mainly stuck with standard so towards the end I had to play almost all of the levels. It’s always a good idea to check what the stars are for before you play the stage. That way you can plan out which stars you want to aim for and which ones you will just bypass instead. There are also different kinds of stages. Most are the standard levels but then you have some boss levels. These add 2 new buttons to worry about which are the analog sticks. You will have to move them in different directions all while pressing the various buttons. The timing really gets tough.

But it gets tough in a fun way. Part of what works about this game is that the difficulty level can be intense but each level isn’t long so replaying it isn’t bad. The series also has a lot of great tracks throughout and so you don’t feel bad about having to get in there several times. It also feels fair even when it’s being very difficult. Like you know that you had a chance and just didn’t capitalize on it.

As you play through the game you’ll find out what works for you and what the most efficient way to land your combos is. For me I liked to just use the X button for all 3 sides when I could and then when 2 buttons were needed I would use L1 if opponents were on the left and R1 for the right. Some may like to keep this a bit more strict and always use L1 for the left to increase muscle memory. It’s all strategy that you can decide on your own since the game really leaves you to your own devices. Again, the levels are short so feel free to experiment and if it doesn’t work out you can just try the stage again.

Overall, Melody of Memory is a very great game. It really was nice that they used the climax as a way to continue the story and we got a cool battle cutscene out of it. Reliving the memories of the other games was also a lot of fun. The only change I would have made would be to have had some of the actual dialogue there instead of Kairi just narrating it all but I suppose that could have taken away a bit from her being the main character. It still made sense to me but that’s probably why they made that move. If you haven’t bought this game yet, I would definitely recommend changing that asap!

Overall 8/10

Team Sonic Racing Review

Sonic has returned with another racing game! I think that means he now has 7 which is really impressive. (3 Riders, Sonic R, 2 Sonic and Sega racing, then this one) He is all about speed though so in a way it does make sense. While I think the gameplay for the Sega racing titles is a little bit better, I appreciate that this one has a real story and full voice acting. It’s nostalgic seeing all of the old Sonic characters running around here.

The story starts with a new character inviting Sonic and friends into a big racing event he’s hosting. The guy even sent invites to the future and to other dimensions so that Blaze and Silver can compete. Most of the characters think something real funny is going on but Sonic is just interested in the cars. Now he can really test his speed skills so he goes to work on challenging Shadow. Will things end okay or has he underestimated this guy?

The story is surprisingly long for a racing game which is pretty nice. It took me two days to complete but I put in several hours of work on each day. There are 7 chapters so around 7 hours sounds right. There are a bunch of levels to play outside of the main story and they probably all have cutscenes so that’s good for replay value. Basically there are different routes you can take to get to each chapter and so I chose the most direct option each time. I figured that made the most sense right? It’s nice to see that the game has the replay value at the ready though.

There is also the matter of obtaining the PS4 trophies but those looked rather difficult to get so I don’t think that I’ll be spending too much time on that for a while. Maybe I’ll grab a few here and there though just to increase my overall average. The character roster is a little on the small side but we have Sonic, Shadow, Silver, and Metal Sonic so as long as I have my hedgehog squad then we’re set.

The graphics are really nice. The game definitely looks modern and they did not waste the budget here. This has the look of a modern Sonic title even if it doesn’t quite have the detailed story or length you would need to be a big one. Where the game really shines though is the soundtrack. There are a ton of great remixes here. The lyrical song at the beginning also sounds like the BioLizard track just with different lyrics. There are so many great songs to listen to here that you will definitely want to play them on Youtube afterwards. This way you can really listen to them since you don’t have to worry about the track.

As for the gameplay itself, it’s your classic 3D racer. You have to drive as fast as possible in order to get to the end of the stage. If you’re in first then you have probably won but it actually depends on your two teammates. If they finish too far in the back then it brings your average down and you could actually lose. Not much you can do to help them though so just focus on getting to the front. You can throw items forwards and back but one new mechanic is that you can give your items to a teammate.

Doing so increases your final smash gauge and then you can activate that to move at super speeds for a little while. It’s really a great deal so I recommend doing that as often as possible. I would just give all my items away to be honest because it’s not like they were helping me all that much on my end. The item are surprisingly weak so often times they won’t have much of an impact on the battle at hand.

Some levels will be a little different though like you have to smash robots or rings as you go to the end instead of it being a pure race. It’s an interesting way to shake things up I’ll give you that. In general I preferred the races but I understand how this could be seen as a fun change of pace. It does ensure that you are trying out different things. I took the chance to also switch characters a few times. Mainly I stuck to Sonic and Shadow but it was fun hearing the other characters from time to time.

I can’t stress enough how great it was to have full voice acting here. Even just hearing them talk during the races or in the mini cutscenes was fun. Voice acting is always a good way to take a game to the next level and it makes everything feel more grand. The story itself was rather low key but the voice acting made it a lot more fun. If I was the devs I would have made Super Sonic playable in the last level and made the villain a bit bigger but in the end I’m just glad we had a true story like this. We even had a bunch of old characters show up to have fun with the group.

My gameplay tip would be to drift as often as possible. You can get a ton of little boosts that way. Also, give all of your items to your partners so that you build up your meter as soon as possible. From that point, make sure to check where you are in the race. If you have enough time to get a second final attack then use it, but otherwise save it until near the goal. That’s usually the best way to ensure all 3 members of your team make it at good spots in the race.

Overall, Team Sonic Racing is a great racing game. It does get a little overshadowed by Mario Kart as with all racing games at this point but I’d say this one can still hold its own as a side game. I wouldn’t say that it actually beats Mario Kart or anything like that as that game is still way more polished but a good amount of effort was put into this one as well. It doesn’t just feel like some low budget clone or anything like that. The game went all in and I’d like to see more Sonic racing games in the future. In the meanwhile the game is rather cheap now so this is a good chance to pick it up.

Overall 8/10

Star Wars Knights of the Old Republic Review

This was always one of the most well known Star Wars games. It’s pretty much a living legend and for good reason as it is a very detailed action RPG with a ton of mechanics and a detailed story. I would say it lives up to the hype as I had a blast with it. Get ready for a very difficult final level though, the more you train the better.

The game starts off by introducing us to the main character who has amnesia and is aboard a republic ship that is crashing for some reason. He manages to escape with Carth, a reputable republic soldier. They end up rescuing a Jedi Warrior known as Bastila and the three of them have a very uneasy alliance. The main objective is to stop the Sith and to do that they need to find out how the villains have amassed such an unending army. There has to be foul play at work here but finding the source of that won’t be easy. The only clue they have to go on is something called the Star Forge but what that is remains a mystery.

Right away one of the things I enjoyed about the game is all of the dialogue options. You can constantly act like a jerk, take the nice guy approach, or just go for pure chaos. The dialogue options also have a big impact on the game itself so it’s not like you’re just fluffing out the game length. I ended up not getting to recruit two members to the team because I didn’t say the right things. The ending was also very different because of the route I went. It helps to make the whole experience feel a lot more authentic to me.

The story here is also very long so you can expect to be playing this game for a long while. There is a lot of time for the characters to develop and there are tons of side quests and extra content to play. For the most part I stuck to the main story beats but you could easily add several hours onto the play time if you want to go and explore. It can also be useful for EXP as this is one game where it’s not so easy to grind. Most worlds don’t allow enemies to respawn once you defeat them so you will be stuck after you have defeated them all. I recommend beating as many enemies as you can.

The gameplay is pretty much that of an auto battler where you keep changing the moves as they fight. Think of it like you’re the head coach and the fighters have to do whatever you tell them. I would have liked to actually do the battling myself so that part of the gameplay can be a little weak. The whole “Let the A.I. decide what to do” angle usually isn’t really my thing. That said, I would say the game has a good amount of polish to it so it works out well enough. There is definitely a whole lot of depth to this system as well.

Whenever you level up you get to decide which stats and skills to increase. It’s a bit overwhelming with the amount of options so usually I would do the auto level and just let the computer decide. This can make the end of the game even more difficult so it may be worth researching what the optimal build is. Of course it can be fun to just go with your gut so choose the option that seems like it will be the most enjoyable and you can’t go wrong there.

The graphics really hold up here. I like the designs of the levels and characters. Then the actual combat looks good too and it’s all got a very distinctive style to it. It really holds up while playing this port. I also liked the soundtrack well enough although it doesn’t stand out as it’s mainly the kind of Star Wars themes you’d expect to hear. Perhaps they are iconic but at this point you’ve really heard them all before.

The character cast is one of the biggest strengths here. The main character gets a lot of development and of course because you can decide how he develops then that makes the whole game more interesting too. In fact, your choices even determine how you will fight the final boss which is massive. I had to break out all of the cheese strategies for him including using some rather villainous tactics. Look, this guy was going to keep regenerating all of his health over and over so I had to put a top to that. I succeeded and then ran away a while to regain my strength. The final boss ended up being really long but I won in the end so that’s what counts right?

The game also has some quality of life features that I would highly recommend using. For starters you can save the game anywhere. I highly advise having several backup slots at different points so you don’t get stuck. There is one game breaking bug after all which I got trapped in but fortunately I had a backup save just a few minutes away. In one of the final temples just save a lot because the glitch room is the one where there are two light towers. I can’t say I remember the exact planet though so just keep your guard up.

Then for the final boss, don’t be afraid to just run a lot. It may take a while but you’ll win in the end and that’s what counts. The Star Forge itself is incredibly difficult but one thing you should know is that the enemies actually aren’t endless. After a bunch of waves they do finish so just heal up and save between waves. Eventually you will beat them and can move forward. It had to be one of the most challenging final areas I’ve played through in a long while so it felt nice knocking that one out.

As for the other characters, Carth was one of the big ones. I like how he can’t really trust anyone and always seems like he’s about to pick a fight. The guy may not use the Force but he can defend himself and knows how to fight. He was responsible for a lot of the great banter along with Bastila. Bastila is a Jedi who is very by the books so naturally she tends to have a lot of disagreements with the main character since I tend to be more on the impulsive side. I would say the script was always at its best when these 3 were fighting.

Then you also had characters like Canderous the Mandalorian who naturally didn’t get along with Carth due to their respective backstories. Malak also made for a good villain. He perhaps gets a little overshadowed by some of the heroes but he was a very imposing presence all the same. There are a lot of other characters who get big roles here so you’ll want to play the game to see them. The game is also long enough where you really feel like you’ve gone on a full adventure by the end of it.

Overall, This is a great Star Wars game that you don’t want to miss out on. You feel like you were watching a movie here and this could really be adapted for the big screen. It was definitely a lot of fun playing it on the Switch and I can also confirm that it’s the hardest one that I’ve played. An RPG with limited leveling up functionality is definitely not something to take lightly. That said, just fight smart and have a lot of backup saves. You’ll be just fine by the end of it and if you absolutely need to, you’ll be able to go back and level up. Just don’t use up all your saves in the final dungeon because then there really is no way out!

Overall 8/10