Blazblue Cross Tag Battle Review

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It’s time to take a look at one of the most eagerly awaited games of 2018! The instant that the first teaser trailer came out I knew that this was going to be an all star title. RWBY characters were finally getting a chance in the spotlight and I was also finally able to experience the Blazblue fighting style. Needless to say the game is a blast. Unfortunately while the game was expected to be relatively low budget, I still did expect a little more than what the game had to offer. It’s a great title, but perhaps one that I cannot call masterful.

The premise of the game’s story is that every character from 4 different worlds have been kidnapped. Each world gets 4-8 different fighters who compete in a big tournament to decide all of their fates. The champion must grab all 4 of the Keystones and make it to the end. Sounds simple enough, but will this mysterious cosmic being really let them go so easily? You typically can’t trust these mysterious characters. Most of the characters here just want to fight so don’t expect most confrontations to end calmly.

There are 4 stories, one for each of the various series in the game. The stories have 8 battles within them and a general story in the background. Blazblue is the only story with multiple endings though. The stories are fairly quick at around 70 minutes each and only around 10 if you skip cutscenes. The cutscenes are pretty long and have voice acting which is great but each character only has 1 stock pose. This means that characters look like they’re about to fight in every scene even when it’s a peaceful discussion. The most obvious example of this is the Persona character whose illustration shows her throwing out a kick. You see this same kick for every single scene she is in. Most games come with at least 3 illustrations for exactly this reason and it’s actually a little crazy that this game only uses one. I’ve seen mobile games with what looks like a higher budget.

Also, the story doesn’t even make much sense at all. The high above being needs energy from the combatants in order to take over their worlds. She even has a rule in place that prevents them from fighting unless it’s a tag battle so as not to waste her time. Yet, she loses control of the characters randomly at times. Sometimes she is eavesdropping on the heroes to know their plans and sometimes she just doesn’t. She does such a glorious job of messing everything up that it makes it tough for you to take the game seriously. Her power level is just very inconsistent and most of the characters act completely out of character as well. I just think the story could have been way better and honestly it is the weakest part of the game. I wouldn’t even call the game low budget at all if not for the story. The story is what makes it appear that way with the writers just phoning in the plot and not really doing much with it. If we ever do get a sequel or a full fledged RWBY game, I hope they put ore thought into it.

The gameplay is your standard 2D fighter. You attack other players with long combos and finals smashes as you attempt to get their life bars down to 0. The battles are all 2 on 2 so tagging in and out adds to the strategy of it all. There are easy auto combos that you can use while you start the game, but eventually you want to move onto more advanced techniques or you will be doomed against the stronger foes. I have no complaints with the gameplay as it flows very well and is just very well done.

There are quite a few different modes to play here aside from the story. Naturally there is the training mode which is pretty handy as well as Tactics mode. There you learn combos and complete tutorials about the game. The vast majority of the game’s replay value is through it’s online and local multiplayer mode of course. Knowing this, most of the trophies in the game are obtained through these features. You can even obtain the Platinum in around 3 hours if you are truly rushing. If you don’t have online then you want to play a lot of multiplayer matches locally. If you are just playing for single player content then you will be done very quickly.

The game got a lot of controversy for locking half of the characters behind a paywall and rightfully so. The developers are basically just reusing the characters from previous games so it hardly costs them anything. I do appreciate the price of the game being reduced to help justify this, but it’s still not a good look. As a result you fight some characters in the game that you can’t even play as. We’ll see how much each character is, but I don’t think I will be purchasing any of them. I just don’t play the game enough to make it worth it as opposed to something like Smash 4.

One of the big positives of the game is its rich soundtrack. Blazblue has always had a bunch of great themes and now we get to hear the RWBY ones alongside it. Persona and Under Night’s themes aren’t bad either so it’s just a very complete soundtrack. It’s nice to have voice acting for all of the characters as well since it makes the game look more polished. The graphics are certainly top of the line so the game’s developers spared no expense in this arena. The Astral Finish move that each of the characters have looks great and the gameplay is very bright and dynamic. Even if some aspects of the game were rushed, these certainly weren’t.

Overall, Cross Tag Battle is a great game. You just have to decide on if you want to look at it in a glass half full view where you’re just glad that the game actually got made and licensed or in a half empty view where there is so much more that could have been done with it. It’s not perfect, but it’s still a game that I had a blast playing even if it was a rather brief experience. I’ll at least go back to unlock some more trophies and if I ever buy a month of PS+ to get some online trophies maybe I’ll even go for the Platinum. Surely getting to Silver Rank online won’t be that tough right? I’d recommend checking this game out if you’re a big fan of fighters or just want to be able to play as Team RWBY. That alone makes the purchase worth it.

Overall 8/10

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Dragon Ball Legends Review

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It’s time to look at a recent app game that was getting a lot of hype when it was coming out. Finally, Dragon Ball was getting a big fighting game that would take the world by storm. It felt like this was a long time coming. After playing the game for a while, I can definitely say that there is more to it than a lot of other titles. It still does have some limitations of course and is rather slow paced as you can expect from a game that will try to drag itself out for a few years, but it’s a solid way to spend some time and continue the story from Super.

The plot follows a Saiyan named Shallot. He has amnesia which is always a convenient plot device since this way he can start off rather weak and grow stronger as the game progresses. He doesn’t know what is happening, but fortunately Beerus is here to explain. There is a big tournament going on that spans all of time. Fighters have been brought over from every era in order to participate. The intent is to see who the strongest of all is…in theory. Actually, Beerus is being forced to do this by an unknown villain who has kidnapped the Supreme Kai. He wants us to figure out who is pulling the strings, but honestly that sounds rather difficult if this guy decides not to enter the tournament. Don’t focus on the plot too much I guess. Shallot is on board so he will now team up with Bulma from the original Dragon Ball series as well as Jaco to try and win this thing.

The reason why the OP Super versions of the characters were not brought into the mix is because the villain is apparently keeping tabs on them so Beerus doesn’t dare approach. Of course, you may be wondering why they haven’t just shown up yet anyway as they one shot everyone. So far we have only been running across guys from Arc 1 of DBZ so surely they wouldn’t be much of an obstacle. The in universe reason may be that the place is simply so massive that you can have a bunch of battles going on at once, but out of universe it’s just that the game wants to trickle in the characters arc by arc. I hope they speed it up a little though because it feels like otherwise this will be one of those games that dies out long before it hits the final arc.

Part 1 just ended earlier today so I’m not sure how long the wait will be until Part 2. Hopefully it’s just a short wait so then the game’s plot actually will be able to move. If it’s like Fire Emblem Heroes then we can expect a new chapter every 2 weeks and since each part is 7 chapters then we’ll finish a part roughly every 4 months. That’s quite a bit of time so hopefully it is a little quicker than that. While the plot may not be very believable it is a fun one so I’ll give the game some props there. I’ll also give it some more for making Shallot an actual character as opposed to someone with no actual name that has no real personality. He even talks a bit as the game does include a bit of voice acting. (To be precise, Shallot talks a lot, but you hear him once in a while)

Shallot is a decent enough character even if he is pretty rude the whole time. He’s constantly yelling at everyone and can’t seem to really grasp the concept of power levels. Since he couldn’t even beat Nappa at first, what makes him think that he can take on someone like Beerus? There’s being confident and then there’s just putting up a weak front. His Zenkai Boosts are fairly good though as he went from Raditz level to Zarbon in a single part. Maybe by the end of the second part he will be up to Final Form Frieza or something. That would definitely be neat.

We also have the rival character who shows up for a bit. He’s an interesting figure who is more of a specialist than a fighter. He can teleport and use various magical spells to complement his sword based fighting style. He ran off though and I don’t recall his name at the moment, but I’m sure that we haven’t seen the last of him. There is also Dark Shallot who shows up near the end. It seems that he might be the future version of the normal Shallot so that will make for a fun match. He’s considerably stronger than the heroic version which is to be expected, but fortunately Goku put him in his place. Since this is Super Goku he should be leagues stronger than any of these fighters.

The graphics are pretty good and the game certainly put a lot of effort into them. The opening cinematic is excellent and wouldn’t look out of place in a big budget title. The gameplay animations are smooth and the character models are on point. Meanwhile the soundtrack is a little weak, but hopefully they will add more tunes soon. Mobile games don’t tend to have a lot of them, but I’d certainly like to see that.

Then we come to the gameplay. It is your typical tap fighter, but with a few extra gameplay wrinkles to make it more unique. You are given some cards during the battle. They come in 4 types, punches, ki blasts, special attack, and status change. They are fairly explanatory, but once you get hit by the punch or ki blast you are stuck in hit stun and must eat a full combo. Each fighter has 100 energy so if you get hit by the first combo and they have 3 more cards with energy totaling less than what they have left you must eat 4 combos in a row. You can potentially beat an opponent in one shot like this. Most fights are 3 on 3 so use your strategy here. Do you want to use your combo right away or save it until the final fighter? Then you’ve got burst rush which is essentially a one hit KO attack in most circumstances. You only get 1 per battle so use it wisely. Then you’ve got dodging and character specific abilities which don’t need cards. There’s a lot to master here so try to get used to it all. I definitely find the gameplay pretty fun. It’s probably the closest thing we’ll ever get to a true 3D fighter on the mobile since there is no control stick to use.

Your character levels also matter quite a lot here. Each character can go up to level 1000 and at that level your attacks do massive damage. There is almost no way for a weaker fighter to beat a stronger one if the gap is wide enough and your levels stick with you online as opposed to other games. At the moment I am 10-0 online, but most of my opponents were bots. Supposedly that issue was fixed today so I imagine my win rate would drop if I went back. Maxing out anyone will take a long time unless you pay since materials and Zenny don’t just grow on trees. Of course if you play the game enough then of course you can speed up the process.

As far as the game modes go you have the main story and PVP. You also have mini stories that follow the DBZ anime without the OC character (Up to Nappa at the moment) and daily missions you can complete for extra energy and characters. There are also Adventures where you send a character off for a few hours and they bring you back items in return. Then we have actual Missions where you get rewards for completing objectives. There are even more modes in store for you but that’s the general premise. When it comes to replay value this game is basically infinite but of course it can also be easy to burn yourself out if you play it too hard. Now that I’m caught up with the story I’ve dialed it back a bit like with Sonic Forces. That game eventually died completely but this one should at least live as much as Fire Emblem Heroes until the story is over. I just check in every other week to play the latest story although in Dragon Ball I’ll try to at least keep the daily streak alive for the items and keep sending my guys off to train to get the easy level ups.

Finally, I have to give the game some props for how they handle reused fighters. In Fire Emblem Heroes it’s annoying to get an old hero because it is basically worthless. You just have to trash the fighter for a few feathers, but you need 20000 to actually have something to use them on. Here the copies help to limit break your character. It’s possible that once the character is maxed then the copy won’t be of any use, but at least I feel like it’ll be a long while before that happens. There are also many parts of the game that I still don’t understand and likely won’t, but people who love to find out everything will have a blast studying this game.

Overall, Dragon Ball Legends lives up to the hype of being one of the big mobile games. I’d certainly say that it does a much better job of that than Sword Art Online did. (Review pending) In that game’s case it was simply a little too ambitious. Dragon Ball is definitely a title that I would highly recommend. There is a lot to do here even if the story is fairly early on and with the Broly event starting today this is your perfect chance to bet on your luck and hope you get him. As there aren’t many characters right now the odds of getting the one you want is pretty high. (I got Broly on my daily draw)

Overall 8/10

Professor Layton and the Miracle Mask Review

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The famous Professor Layton has finally found himself on the 3DS. While the last game may have not been quite as good as the others the series has never disappointed with its puzzles. This game is no exception and is a fine way to continue the story. At long last we are even introduced to the tragic past of Layton and 5 games in you could say that we were about due for it. This is the first Layton game to have fun switching up the gameplay style as well as we get a 3D racing level and also some overhead Mummy fights. I think Level 5 definitely has the right idea here as throwing in an occasional level like this is pretty fun.

This Layton game starts out with the hero receiving a letter from his old friend Angela. She wants him to hurry over because a villain known as the Masked Gentleman has popped up and is performing dark miracles on the town like turning people into horses and warping people away. Layton heads over but the place brings bad memories. The past that he had hoped to forget had finally caught up to him and he will have to face his fears head on!

The game plays out like some of the recent superhero shows as we jump from the present to the past a lot. For example one chapter will be in the present while another is in the past. In that sense, you could say that Layton solved the present mystery a bit quicker than usual. I suppose the number of viable suspects wasn’t too large so that helped his case. There were really 3 Big suspects here. First is the childhood friend Angela who seems obsessed with the Mask of Order and seems eager to give it to the gentleman. Next is Randall, the kid from Layton’s past who seemingly died, but his body was never found. Then there is Randall’s butler Henry who snagged his treasure and best friend after he died. With the whole town at stake Layton can’t afford to just sit around.

It’s a pretty solid story for sure. Layton’s backstory is definitely rather tragic. He did give up hope even while the other two friends kept looking for Randall, but I guess from a scientific point of view his odds weren’t great. He has been gone for a while after all. Layton chose to forget about the place for around 18 years until now. Layton did do everything that he could though. He would have been able to save Randall had the kid only let go of his treasure. Instead we saw that it was worth his life. It’s just hard to feel bad for him especially since he never had his priorities straight in life. Even if it made everyone worried he wanted to be rich so he would lie to everyone and take huge risks. It was only a matter of time before this caught up with him.

As with the last game we get a teaser for the next one. It’s the biggest teaser yet and that makes sense since the next game ends the trilogy. One last Aztec adventure for the heroes. In the clip we see the main villain of the prequel trilogy be defeated by a new villain. The new villain now has all of the locations needed to destroy the world. This next installment is definitely going to be a blast! The series has mostly been realistic with you just having to suspend disbelief for a bit at times. It’ll be interesting to see if the villain defies that in the next movie. After all, the villain that he defeated was able to contend with rapid bullet fire and that’s no easy feat.

The game has a great cast as you would expect. Layton is just as solid as ever and always reminds us that he can fight as well as he can think. Taking down the Mummy swordsmen was pretty impressive. Luke is a good sidekick as well and I do like the rivalry between him and Emmy even if it is rather one sided. Luke just never really stands a chance when it comes time to start trading burns. Emmy is the main reason why the team dynamic is better in the prequels than in the main game so I’m definitely happy to have her around as a main character. Her role is rather small here, but she still does get some puzzles of her own.

As for the new characters, Randall is annoying as you can guess. He isn’t reasonable at all but I already talked about him so we can move on. There is also Henry who may be rather loyal but quick to take everything the wrong way. He gets upset rather easily and makes himself look very suspicious this way. I guess he isn’t a bad character, but he could have been better. I actually preferred the Dalston character. He wanted to be rich while everyone was having fun adventuring and he accomplished his goals. He is now one of the richest men on the planet, you just can’t beat that. He also talks tough to the coppers and in general felt on the ball.

Angela is a good character if you view her more as a subtle antagonist. She definitely isn’t hear to make Layton feel any better as she spends the majority of her time making him feel even worse. It’s not always intentional, but at the same time in the past it seems as if it was. It’s hard to really understand her character at times, but she will always keep you guessing. Agent Bloom is a fun detective. He is very intelligent and the only police officer who is able to keep up with Layton step for step. He doesn’t appear very much, but it does seem like he will be in the sequel so that’s good. Layton doesn’t really have a rival so having this guy fit that bill would be fun. There are a slew of other supporting characters in the game that are all very solid as well. In particular look for the guy with the big, curved chin. His scenes are always amusing and his rigged puzzles are a blast.

As always the graphics are pretty solid here. It’s great to see fully animated cutscenes as always and we get some CG ones as well. The levels are all pretty clear and the puzzles aren’t too misleading. I still think it’s slightly cheating when the puzzle gives you 5 possible answers and they’re all wrong so the only way to beat the puzzle is to tap on part of it to make the whole thing break. I mean, technically I guess that works, but the false answers is barely legit. If the graphics were a little darker or more unclear then it would be tough to see the tiny cracks that serve as a hint. The controls are on point as well and basically this game does nothing wrong on a technical level. The soundtrack may not have any real new tunes in it, but that’s fine as the usual ones are pretty good.

The actual story is reasonably long as it’s over 10 hours and then we’ve also got a bunch of extra puzzles to try and conquer after the game is over. After all, it’s not like you have to complete all of them to clear the game. As with the previous titles in the series you can tackle any quest that you have not completed yet in the little house at the hotel. There are also a bunch of minigames that you can try to complete all of the levels in. By the time you have done all of this the game will likely be at 20 hours or maybe even longer. There’s definitely no shortage of content here.

Overall, This was a pretty exciting Layton game with a fun story that will keep you engaged the whole time. It starts out quite fast and never really loses steam. The only way you may not enjoy the game is if you don’t care for Layton’s past and I think the game handled it rather well. It’s the best of the prequel trilogy so far, but we’ll see how it holds up to the next game. As that is the final main Layton game I expect it to end with a bang. It certainly got a considerable amount of foreshadowing in this game. In case it’s not obvious, I would definitely recommend picking this game up.

Overall 8/10

NES Remix Pack Review

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It’s time to look at an interesting video game collection known as the NES Remix Pack. It brings both NES Remix 1 and 2 which is a pretty good deal since both of those titles had quite a lot of content in it. The price isn’t bad for the collection as I got it for 20-30 as well and it’s roughly triple the length of Sonic Forces. It’s definitely fun to see them mashup the games in Remix mode or even the mini challenges from the classic games. It’ll really test your knowledge of the older Nintendo titles.

The main mode is pretty self explanatory in these games. You’ll start off with a few options like Mario Bros, Donkey Kong, and Mario 2 for example. Each of these games will have 7-20 levels depending on which game it is. You try to beat each level where your result will range from 1-3 stars. The more stars you get, the more games you unlock. The main mode in each game is known as Remix and there are around 45-50 of these levels in each Remix. (1 and 2) Once you complete those you will have completed the game but you can keep on playing to clear the bonus world and any leftover game levels that you haven’t beaten yet. Obtain enough points and you will also get all of the stickers in each game which will really prove that you have come far. The simplicity of the game’s menu is certainly something to take note of as it makes navigating through the games rather enjoyable. More games should strive for a similar menu.

An average challenge will range from 7 seconds to around 1 minute. You may find an occasional challenge that is around 2 minutes or so, but I can’t stress enough just how rare these are. The average challenge is around 20 seconds I’d say. For example, “Grab 8 coins in a Mario level” may be a challenge. Some challenges have multiple phases and if you get a game over during it you can continue but the price is that you will only get 1 star for your efforts. The game is rather lenient on stars so you can unlock the final level even if you lose during a bunch of the stages but naturally your goal will be to grab as many of them as possible.

Of course with so many games not all of them will be a hit. From the first game the weak links were Golf and Donkey Kong Jr. I just never liked Golf in any video game format as it always seems to really be luck based. I know there is skill involved here and I just need to learn the mechanics, but it’s just no fun. Donkey Kong Jr. is just a little slow for me and I can see why it never became much of a hit. On the other side of the equation I thought that Excitebike was even more fun than I expected it to be and Clu Clu Land was really unique. I definitely enjoyed that one quite a bit. The only challenge in the first game that was quite grating was the Donkey Kong level where you played as Link. I must have died 100 times there before I finally found an opening. There must be a trick that I don’t know about for that one.

In the second game, Wario’s Woods was the game that I couldn’t get behind. The controls were a little convoluted for my liking and the levels did tend to drag on quite a bit. It was like playing a really twisted version of Dr. Mario and I don’t really know what Nintendo was thinking on this one. All I can say is that I’m not surprised how the game isn’t very well known. I don’t see how it would catch on. The other game would be NES Golf, but I don’t believe I actually got enough stars to unlock that one. I’ll probably have it unlocked by the time I have my Stats page up, but I certainly won’t play it much.

Meanwhile it was cool to have Metroid included this time around and Link II was also pretty interesting. It’s a shame that it didn’t do well since a 2D Link series would have been fun to compete with the others. It was rather rough around the edges of course, but they could have ironed that out with sequels. It’s like how the original Mario games were a little slippery, but they’re a lot easier to handle in the modern day.

It’s important to clarify that the good games outnumbered the annoying ones quite easily. Also from the games that I didn’t care for, only the Golf games were truly bad. Donkey Kong Jr and Wario’s Woods may not have been my style, but it’s not like I actively disliked playing them. There is enough content here for everyone as even if you don’t like a game you can have fun with the rest.

As I mentioned, the length of the game is pretty good. The first Remix took around 6-7 hours and the sequel was only a little shorter than that. Couple those two together and you have a reasonably long title. Then there is quite a lot of replay value here as getting 3 stars on every level will take a lot of practice and you will likely get all of the stickers on the way to accomplishing this feat. I do think it would have been cool if there was some kind of two player mode though. I think that’s the only thing that this game is lacking. Competing in these challenges would be an absolute blast and would certainly increase the replay value of the title. Still, as a single player experience it is not lacking. There is also the Super Luigi Bros where you see how far you can get in the Super Mario game while backwards and the Championship Mode where you are given 3 random tasks and have to see how well you complete them. They won’t keep you for very long, but each bit helps.

Naturally the graphics are kept true to the original game counterparts so this isn’t exactly Madden. The main menu looks fairly crisp though which will remind you that this is a modern title. The games all look pretty good as well. The soundtrack is quite solid as well since the individual game themes have always held up well against the test of time. Then the remix levels add a little extra pop by distorting the stages and zooming in on the map. I loved the gimmicks they would add here to make the games a little more unique. One Mario level for example had a bright blue background which is a cool “What If” scenario. I think that would make a good idea for a future Mario level even if it’s just for a level or two.

Overall, NES Remix Pack is a great homage/tribute to longtime Nintendo fans. It’s a great way to experience their older titles in a convenient minigame format. It’s the perfect kind of game for on the go or to play here and there. The challenges are fun and exciting without being tedious. This is where the short duration comes in handy as even if you die a bunch of times it is not as if you have lost a bunch of time. It never feels like a waste either since most of the challenges revolve around skill instead of RnG so you know that with enough practice you’ll get it. It’s also not too difficult so it’s fine for kids as well as they may have some trouble but will be able to crack the level eventually. There was certainly a lot of heart and effort put into this game to really make it a finished product.

Overall 8/10

Sword Art Online: Fatal Bullet Review

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It’s time to look at the new Sword Art Online game that recently came out. Fatal Bullet was definitely a game that I was looking forward to from day 1 since it promised to be a title full of action and excitement. Sword Art Online has always been a franchise with a ton of raw potential as it could churn out a 9 star product no problem as long as it played its cards right. Lost Song had been a little disappointing as the hype of the gameplay was reduced by some questionable moments in the game. Fortunately, Fatal Bullet plays it straight as all of those iffy moments (If they exist in this game) are relegated to side quests so you don’t actually have to see any of them. The lower budget may have also helped since the game was forced to stay on target. Anyway, Fatal Bullet actually ended up being a great game.

The story follows a new kid on the block named Terry. He’s always wanted to play a VRMMO game so why not head to Gun Gale Online right? His childhood friend Kureha promises to show him the ropes. However, on their first mission Terry manages to obtain the treasure which is a legendary A.I. robot named Terret. Kureha is mad about this since she wanted to be its partner but Terry made eye contact first so now there is no way to split the partnership up. Iconic players Kirito and Asuna are also upset since they were hoping to clear the quest but too late for that now. Terry quickly catches the eye of top players Zeliska and Itsuki and before long he is known as one of the best in the whole game..maybe even The Best. Kureha is jealous of this and tries to undermine Terry throughout the game while everyone else follows his lead. Terry aims to clear the ultimate once in a life time event quest that has just opened and it will also allow Terret to be reunited with her Mom. They’ll have to be careful though since a guy known as Death Gun is skulking in the shadows as well. Taking him down a few pegs will not be easy!

It’s always an interesting game decision to have the main character be an OC instead of the actual main character of the series. I’m fine with it once I start playing since Terry is just generally hardcore, but otherwise I probably prefer when they just stick to the normal lead. Terry is a cool character throughout though as he makes the heroic decisions when needed. He can be a little slow on the uptake though like when he somehow forgot that Itsuki was basically threatening him for a while there. I guess it’s because he’s portrayed as a big optimist so he always takes things in a positive way. That’s good for Terry I suppose. His main gimmick in this game is that he has a grapple hook which you can use to get to higher areas. I like the concept, but the execution was admittedly not on point. You’ll find that you never really use this gadget in the game because the range is rather short. It should have been longer if you ask me as then it would be fun to zip around the place. I’m sure that it’s fun for PVP though.

Unlike most SAO games, this one is a third person shooter. You can also use a sword to go up and personal but it’s almost always one of the worst options. It’s just a lot more practical to have a gun as the damage it deals is around the same as a sword but you can also be dodging gunfire while using it. A sword is a high commitment option that will usually just get you punished right away. I personally stuck with a hand gun and an automatic gun. Those two were the perfect combo, but I dabbled around with missile launchers, machine guns, and even a sword for a while. They all naturally have their uses, but Hand Guns just seem like the best bang for your buck.

Most of the game consists of you going to various dungeons across the world. You beat all of the enemies in a room and then move on to the next one. The gameplay is handled flawlessly as you can quickly run out of the room to regroup if necessary or plunge into battle. You can give your partners general instructions so they know what to do during battle as well and you can change their instructions while fighting so you don’t have to worry about getting hit. Also, there is no pausing in the game which makes it even more interactive. I mean, you can press the pause button of course, but time goes on normally so whatever you have to do, it can wait until you hide behind the debris. While the A.I. of your allies is pretty bad (probably intentional) the villains are quite smart. They will lead you into ambushes, call for reinforcements, or just generally fight in a tactical way against you.

I can’t stress enough that this game really understands how to be a good third person shooter. The levels are huge and you can move quickly which makes the gameplay feel a lot more dynamic. If there are any problems with the gameplay, it’s just that the bosses may have a little too much health. One boss fight took me almost an hour to complete and the rest were all fairly long as well. The guns just aren’t too strong. It’s a tough balance of course since the game doesn’t want you to mow through the enemies either, but taking a little health out of the equation would have been nice. Beyond that, the difficulty is high but fair.

This is probably one of the hardest games that I’ve played in a very long time. It’ll have you on the edge of your seat as one wrong move can set you back quite a few rooms where the enemies will respawn again. The checkpoints are close enough where this isn’t too bad of course, but it does make you want to focus on playing your cards right. Get too aggressive and you’ll be gunned down by the snipers. There’s also a nice mechanic that lets you grow into a true player. You have an assist option with your gun that will help you hit a target but it is at the cost of accuracy. This may sound contradictory, but basically it widens your gun range by about 50x, but you’ll end up missing a great deal of shots and you also won’t hit the weak point. You can zoom in to take your own shots, but then you can’t move too quickly. If you take the assist off you can control where you shoot at normal speeds, but naturally this is very difficult. I usually just kept the assist on and used the zoom feature for when I was fighting bosses and needed to hit the weak spot. This game forces you to make a lot of tough choices throughout the game.

One big example of this is how the level up system works. As you level up you are given points which you can put into whichever attribute you want. Strength, Vitality, Intelligence, etc. Once you put the points in you can’t take them out without going through some elaborate hoops to get a specific item. I ended up putting the bulk of my points into Strength and Agility if I recall correctly. You need to strength to hold the better guns and Agility is just awesome for many reasons. One of which is that you can eventually outrun laser beams which is incredibly handy. It’s very close, but my speed was slightly faster than the blasts by the end which helped a lot. I also dumped a lot of points into luck which I would probably take back if I had a second chance, but it sounded good at the time. It increases your chances of landing a critical hit.

The story does take a long while to get started which isn’t good news for fans who are coming in expecting a game with stakes. This isn’t the game for you then. Out of the roughly 18 hours of the game, the first 15 are just the characters having fun and messing around. They’re just enjoying the game and trying to level up. The whole Death Gun story only takes about an hour and the climax will probably be another hour or maybe a little longer. This is really just a slice of life game with a big climax at the end which isn’t unheard of. Many games take a similar approach like Kirby games to an extent and the payoff works so it’s a decent strategy. I’ll be honest and say that it would have been nice if the whole game was epic as opposed to just the ending, but I guess this franchise just likes its day to day adventures a lot.

There isn’t much to say about all of the returning characters like Kirito and friends since they are epic as always so lets just talk about the new ones. I already talked about Terry and why he is a quality character. Zeliska is a top player who prefers to play solo, but doesn’t mind being in a team with Terry and the others. She is always very polite and courteous to everyone as even though she is a top player she never let it get to her head. Zeliska is portrayed as basically being a perfect character and it works well. How I see it, you don’t need to have a flaw to be a quality character and Zeliska definitely plays a pretty important role in the game. You will see her plot twist coming a mile away though.

Itsuki is the other top player and he is portrayed as the complete opposite of Zeliska. He doesn’t play well with others and is always being sarcastic. He’s quick to put others down and it becomes apparent that Terry is the only person he cares about. He’s rather dismissive of everyone else. He’s always lying and joking around throughout the game as well so it’s hard to know what he is thinking. He’s very suspicious throughout the game and a potential sequel or post game DLC should definitely not try to redeem him. He’s too far gone at this point and Terry needs to make it his mission to take him down. Terry almost seemed sympathetic at the end, but I think that would definitely be a mistake and would end up hurting his character.

There is also Bazalt Joe who is another top player who always tries to steal Terret away from you. He quickly learns that this will never work out but you get to beat him up 3 times before that. He never really becomes likable or fun at all so this is one new character that I definitely could have done without. He didn’t actually add anything to the game if you ask me.

Then of course we have the childhood friend Kureha. Unfortunately she starts out as a decent character and then turns into a pretty terrible one. She is always trying to undercut Terry throughout and never learns her lesson. Even by the end of the game she is still holding a grudge and basically pays a high price for it. During the climax of the game you are given an option on which character you are going to make it your priority to protect during the final battle. Depending on who you choose is who you will die. In one version naturally this is Kureha. I just couldn’t sympathize with her by the end of the game because she was just such a poor sport the whole time. She really didn’t even try to support Terry.

The graphics are also pretty solid as you’d expect. The energy effects are nice and the character designs are on point. Here’s where we transition to a bit of a negative though. The game just feels like it’s relatively low budget though and the story was slapped together. A lot of fights are off screen and scenes will cut and restart rather awkwardly. There aren’t too many cutscenes considering how long the game is and most of the still images from Lost Song seem to be gone as well. While the graphics are good, they aren’t quite as amazing as you’d expect and don’t seem to have really changed at all since Lost Song. There just wasn’t a lot of innovation here. It’s not as extreme as Sonic Forces where the story was really sabotaged but I would have appreciated more actual cutscenes or more vibrant animation. This was supposed to be the next big SAO game after all. Personally, I’m guessing that they just used most of the budget on the gameplay at the expense of everything else.

The soundtrack is pretty solid if a bit limited. There only seem to be a handful of themes in the game so you better get used to hearing them quite a bit. I do like the danger theme and the main menu song. The rest are rather generic, but I suppose they get the job done. They never actually got annoying so I’ll give the game some credit there. A nice insert song would have been cool though. Of course, the game had an opening movie song like Lost Song. It wasn’t quite as good as that one, but was still really solid.

The main story is around 15-18 hours long which is pretty decent. If you stick around to get bonds with all of the characters and try for the Platinum then it should be well over 60 hours with the estimate being around 90. I don’t have that much time to drop on most games so I won’t be aiming for it, but at least the Platinum seems mostly reasonable. The only one that sounds like an insane grind is beating the game on Super Hard difficulty, but hopefully they let you just go to the final boss and then change the difficulty or something. Considering how much there is to do in the game it’s certainly worth spending 60 bucks. I won’t stay and explain all of the different features here, but trust me when I say that the game has a ton of depth. There are many skills to learn, weapon styles to master, and a whole lot to consider while playing in general. My advice is to save your money and SP until later in the game when you are a little more sure of what it is that you want. Until then just enjoy the game and try to get to the end.

Overall, Fatal Bullet is a blast to play. The gameplay is absolutely excellent and while the game may falter on a technical level at times it still holds up well against many others. The story can be a little slow, but it picks up by the end. At this point, SAO isn’t really known for its epic video game stories and you are just playing to see the characters again and enjoy the gameplay. There is a lot to do here so that’ll give you a lot of time with them. I’d definitely recommend checking this game out. It’s a game that you won’t want to miss! Since the game ends with a cliffhanger we definitely need a sequel where Terry settles the score. This could end up being a bit of a revenge run so the game might be a bit darker. (Of course, I haven’t seen the true ending yet so depending on how that plays out Terry may not be too upset)

Overall 8/10

Secret of Mana Review

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The Secret of Mana is an RPG that I had heard of in passing but never focused on too much. It just got lost in the shuffle next to Final Fantasy and Dragon Quest. Well thanks to the HD PS4 remake I have finally gotten to play it. It’s definitely a great RPG as you would expect and the real time/turn based mix will remind you of the .hack series.

I renamed the main characters so bear with me here. Terry is the chosen hero who is finally able to wield the Mana Sword. Everyone is shocked and dismayed because once the sword is lifted the world is supposed to fall into ruin. Terry meets a girl named Terret who needs help in stopping a witch to rescue the hero named Dyluck. Unfortunately this is a dead end but she must continue on her quest and since Terry has nothing more pressing to do at the moment he agrees to join her. Finally, they run into a sprite known as Terry Jr. who was scamming people for money. We show her the error of her ways and add one more member to the party. Now we must attack the enemy fortress and save the planet!

The gameplay is a blend as I mentioned earlier. You have a number under your character. Once it rises to 100 you are free to attack again and deal some damage. While you can attack sooner than that, it will almost definitely miss and even if the attack lands it will be weaker. Furthermore, the count will go back to 0 so waiting it out is just the better option. Also, you should start leveling up your magic early on as it is incredibly useful. Level them all up if you can, but you should focus on 1 in particular to get it to a high level early on. The Gnome magic was really useful for me, but each boss is typically a different element which is why you want a lot of them.

Equipment is extremely handy in this game as well and is basically mandatory to clear the game. You want the top of the line stuff and if you think you can beat an area without purchasing some armor then wait til the next village. Each village gradually adds better equipment options so you save a lot of money by just waiting. Of course, earning money is actually pretty easy in this game so it’s not something that you have to worry about that much. It will come naturally. Likewise, the EXP grind here isn’t bad either. It will go very quickly. That’s why you just want to stay at the top of your game since the A.I. won’t help much. They tend to just get crushed very quickly throughout the game.

Terry is a reasonably solid main character. He does actually talk and everything so he has a real personality. His personality is that he’s a hero and while that may not be all that deep or anything, the character means well. We do get a random plot twist involving his Mom which was kind of out of left field, but Terry took it in stride. Terret is a solid heroine. Her whole adventure is about saving the legendary Dyluck which is a nice twist of events. You rarely see the heroine have to go and save the famous hero and I can definitely get behind this. Shockingly they don’t even try to get you into a contrived romance with her as Terret only has eyes for Dyluck the whole game. I can applaud the title’s restraint here. Terry Jr probably has the least time to get really good, but she’s not a bad character. I still don’t get why she is referred to in the plural sense, but I don’t want to assume that it’s a translation error. Either way, she helped to raise everyone’s spirits.

As far as the villains are concerned, I would have liked them to have had more screen time. The villain group shows up out of nowhere and half of them are defeated quite quickly and without a chance to really show off their personalities. The King who makes a deal with the main villain wasn’t very smart, but made for a decent antagonist. Thanatos is the main villain to watch out for and he is definitely pretty strong. I like the design and he made for a cool antagonist. Then we have the Team Rocket trio who felt really out of place. They weren’t quite as hype as the others.

One major plot point is that you have to choose a side. Destroy the Mana Beast or destroy the Fortress. I felt like the game couldn’t really decide which the right option was as the Fortress is evil from the start, but by the end of the game we decide to destroy the Beast instead to balance things. This was part of the main plot and it made no sense. Now, I know a lot of behind the scenes stuff happened with this game and that is probably what made the plot feel rather off at times. It’s unfortunate but that’s also part of why I consider this RPG’s plot to be one of the weakest RPG plots in a while. It takes a little bit to get going and then once it does it’s like we’re playing an abridged game. Not to the same extent as Sonic Forces fortunately, but enough that parts of the plot feel weird like with the Beast. Personally I would have helped the guy, but apparently he was going to destroy the planet in the process so I suppose that wasn’t a viable option. Then we have a guy named Genma who talks tough throughout the game, but never actually got to do anything. Ah well, at least he looks rally tough.

The graphics were switched from sprites to 3D character models which usually works pretty well, but perhaps not in this case. The boss designs looked a little more intimidating in the original version and the colors were nice and sharp. As far as the cutscenes go, the characters don’t actually move their mouths while talking half of the time. Not a big deal I suppose, but basically it had the art style of World of Final Fantasy without the detail. I guess if this allowed the game to come out a few years early then it was probably worth it. As far as the soundtrack goes we have quite a few tunes. Each area has a different theme and they all work pretty well. They are classic rpg style themes so they should remind you of the good ole days.

The length of the main campaign is roughly 20 hours give or take so it’s definitely a solid amount of time for the rpg. You will almost certainly need to grind by the end so I’ll give you a pro tip here. Max out your Dryad skill since you cannot defeat is he final boss without it. I made it to the final boss without leveling it up at all which meant I had to go back and grind it out. If you level it naturally then it won’t actually feel like a grind. You’ll probably end up shaving an hour or two off as well. For replay value you can probably nab most of the trophies to end up with the Platinum. Out of the 38 in the game, I think around 26 are obtained just for completing the game. That’s a pretty solid number if you ask me. If you want to get the Platinum then you need to make a backup save before you beat the Blue Dragon as there are some rare item drops that you can’t go back for. It’s probably a good idea to defeat every new enemy you see as well to register them. Getting the Platinum here isn’t hard at all but it does take a little time and nobody wants to replay a 20 hour game just to get one missed trophy.

Overall, Secret of Mana was a pretty fun game. As far as RPG stories go the plot was rather weak, but the gameplay was still enjoyable. I just love RPGs in general as leveling up and grinding can be a blast. I can see why they got so big back in the day. Many RPGs will end up being quite solid by the end since you get used to the characters as you shared so much time together. This one is no exception and there is certainly a lot to do. Even without replay value, the story length justifies the price that you paid for it. Maybe I’ll get to play some more Mana games in the future. Until then, I recommend checking out this game and seeing what the Secret of Mana has to offer you. It’ll test your mettle one way or the other.

Overall 8/10

.Hack Part 3 Outbreak Review

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The .Hack series continues with this next game. Getting Outbreak was no easy task given how expensive these games are, but I knew that it was time. It took a little while to relearn the mechanics and weird element system (Fire beats Water?….) but once I got those out of the way I was ready to dominate. It’s a really fun game even if it’s the shortest one.

I can’t give a great previously segment since I’m hazy on that myself but more and more people are starting to behave oddly. The World appears to be having an impact on the players’ minds. The Mods have decided to shut it down, but doing that would ensure that the people in a coma stay that way which would be unfortunate. Kite decides that the team should strike one last offensive at Cubia and the army of Databugs, but the only way to succeed is to have Helba, Wiseman, and the Mod on board.

Beyond the main plot there are a ton of subplots looming in the background. The Cat user from the previous games is deteriorating more and more as the games go by. At this point she doesn’t have long until she is completely corrupted. Her friend is worried but there really isn’t a whole lot that he can do about this situation. Then you have other characters who are trying to get treasure or other rare items and want Kite’s help with this. One character is even planning to leave the game which would be tragic. I did a few of the side missions. They’re not all that long so it wouldn’t be a problem to do them, but I’ll just put them off til the final game. Then I may have fun saving all of them if I need more rare items or I’ll just try and take the final boss head on.

The gameplay is exactly as you remember it with the unique mix of real time and turn based combat. As I mentioned, it will take you a little longer to get used to it if you haven’t played the game in a whole because there are certain nuances that make this game more complex than others. You will have to keep switching your party tactics since your A.I. Allies are completely dependent on this. Then you’ve also got to remember the types. Basically there are many pairs of two elements and both elements are good against each other. Water beats fire but fire beats water. Using the elements is absolutely required and will help you take down bosses. If you don’t use the elements then I’d say that you are really in a pinch.. It’s just such a massive game changer.

Level ups are important as well of course. While I was still relearning how to play I quickly focused on level ups. I got about 20 right away and that left Kite at level 70. That’s high enough for you to beat the game. Perhaps not easily, but it is achievable. You’ll still be a bit of a glass cannon without good equipment, but that is hard to get. I barely even notice the difference to be honest so just get used to carrying a lot of potions and revives around. You’ll absolutely need them and when your partners are running low on inventory you should give them some as well. Sharing is caring after all and if everyone is properly equipped it will make the whole journey a lot more manageable. The game’s difficulty is intense, but not unfair. Just have every element on hand even if it means lugging around extra equipment that you could have sold for more money. You can always find more ways to get money, but good equipment is hard to come by. Data Draining powerful enemies is probably the most efficient way of getting effective inventory.

The graphics are about the same as the other 2 which makes sense since it’s practically the same game from a technical standpoint. It looks good and the graphics have aged quite well. The glitch effects that occur when a databug shows up are still genius. It looks as if an actual glitch has appeared as the screen will go crazy and it sounds like a computer shuts off. It’s all very meta and really well executed. I’d like to see a modern game take a stab at something like this as well. With other big data games like Digimon and Sword Art Online still going, one of them should try to have an interface like this. I think it would work really well. There aren’t really any new tunes here or maybe there are and they just weren’t memorable. Either way, it’s very nostalgic. You’ll certainly remember hearing these themes from the first two parts and they’re still a lot of fun. I would like to have an extra theme or two, but the ones in the game are satisfying enough.

When it comes to the story length this game is a lot shorter than I was expecting. The first game was 25 hours long, the second was 15 and this last one was 12. I guess we’ll see how long the 4th game was but if it’s any shorter then it’s really going to breeze by. I also think I did more of the bonus content in the 1st game which helped its case. After beating the game there are a bunch of side quests to do here so there’s a ton of replay value. Leveling up and getting new equipment isn’t exactly a fast process either. It’s certainly worth the normal price. Granted, this game goes for around 50-80 dollars nowadays so you’ll want to think carefully on if it’s worth it or not. The game’s a lot of fun so I’d say it is, but don’t spend too much on it. Know your limits. It’s why I likely won’t be getting the final game for a while since it’s well over 100 dollars. That’s just way too much money for a single game and hopefully the price will go down at some point.

I have to mention one last time that it’s really cool how the game feels like an online MMO. There’s just so much to do here and the game keeps track of every little thing. How many objects you break, enemies met, etc. It gives you an incentive to just keep playing the game and you could easily cross 100 hours just by doing all of this. One slight improvement the game could make would be to allow you to get to the main menu without having to log out every time, but I guess that is for the added realism of being on your computer. It’s definitely pretty meta.

Overall, Outbreak is a solid addition to the .Hack series. While it is a little on the short side, the gameplay and story are on point as always. We’re one step closer to the climax now and I can definitely say that I’m a big fan of the franchise. I’m also looking forward to the GU titles as those definitely seem pretty action packed. Who knows, maybe I’ll do some of the side quests at some point while waiting for the 4th game. At least I leveled up a bunch ahead of time so when the 4th game comes out I should be ready to rock and roll. I just need to remind myself that type advantages are key and by putting that in this review I will definitely be prepared.

Overall 8/10

Sonic Forces Review

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There has been a lot of hype and negativity surrounding this game ever since the first trailer. Some thought the idea of a dark Sonic game would mark the return of Sonic 06 (Great game btw) while others thought it could finally be the next big Sonic Adventure title. For me, this was a good sign because the plot heavy Sonic games of the GameCube era were amazing. While Sonic Forces is a great game, it’s not quite as downright amazing as I had expected. A few areas hold it back from that.

The story starts off with a bang as Sonic heads to the city to help the others take down Eggman as per usual. Instead, he is greeted by all of his old foes and a new one known as Infinite. They defeat and presumably destroy him. A level or two later you find out that Sonic is alive and has been kept prisoner for the last few months. Classic Sonic also shows up from a portal to help out. Meanwhile, Terry (The name of my avatar) has decided to realize his potential as the ultimate life form. He frees Sonic and basically leads the charge against Infinite. Can the heroes defeat this opponent who effectively seems unbeatable?

Aside from the main story we also have a 3 level Shadow The Hedgehog prologue. It’s pretty fun as we see Shadow head off to help Omega fight Infinite. We also learn Infinite’s origin story. It’s very short since there are only 3 levels and they are pretty fun since playing as Shadow is always great. That being said, after playing the main game it can seem a little lazy. They reuse at least one of the levels from the main story as well as the final cutscene. There also aren’t any boss battles to be found here. It’s extra content and context for the story so I can’t complain about it too much but the story aspect also doesn’t make sense.

Many spoilers on the story will follow from here so skip the next 7 paragraphs if you haven’t played the game yet. Shadow is talking to Rouge towards the end of hiss prologue and she tells him not to bother going to help Sonic since he has the situation under control. That’s fine. Then she tells him to forget that because the situation has changed and Sonic is up against a squadron of lethal foes. The cutscene ends here and presumably Shadow dashed off to help. Despite this, in the main story he doesn’t show up until months after this event as he helps Sonic against a fake Shadow. Why did he not make it in time with his speed? At the very least he should have been informing the team about Infinite and had a more active role in the story. I feel like with his prologue they created it after the story so they were stuck by that point.

The main story is also a little…strange. It’s not like there are a bunch of plot holes or anything but the random time skips have you feel like the game is on fast forward. For example, Sonic loses and suddenly 3 months past. Why does everyone immediately assume he is dead? Why did it take 3 months for anyone to do something about it? The characters act like Tails has gone crazy or cracked since Sonic left but he seems perfectly okay to me. Classic Sonic popping up was also one of the most random moments in the game. He doesn’t have any real reason to be here and while I don’t mind crossovers for the sake of crossovers, I feel like he doesn’t even look that good. He clearly has no idea what is even happening and just goes after Eggman like it’s the good ole days. If they could have squeezed in a fight with Infinite that would have been awesome. Otherwise it’s really just a waste.

A cool part of the story was when Silver fought Infinite. Now that was a really cool battle and it’s a fight that was always fun to think about. Silver got wrecked of course but it was a cool visual. Of course for every positive, there is another limitation that pops up. The fights in the game are all made up of a singe homing attack of a bump. At the end of the game we get to see everyone taking on the army of Sonic villains and Shadow is just swerving from side to side and somehow he is knocking his opponents out with his hips or something. Keep in mind that these clones are supposed to be as strong as the real ones and yet, Shadow beat his clone in a single hit. I think the writers just added that line to add some drama and suspense but it didn’t make sense.

I think the first moment I knew something was wrong was when Chaos got one shotted by classic Sonic. Not only is this disgraceful to Sonic DX fans, but it was a perfect chance for a boss fight. The fact that they didn’t do so was rather alarming. Then the same thing happened with Shadow as mentioned above. It gets to the heart of the issue which is that Sonic Forces’ story feels like clickbait at times. You’re waiting for something really awesome to happen and then it never does. The only clone who really got a good role was Zavok since at least he got some hype lines and talked a good game. I would have been pretty upset if he had actually defeated Sonic though. I just wouldn’t be able to wrap my head around that. Another example of this is at the end when you beat Infinite. He starts yelling about how he can’t be defeated and flies off….never to be seen again. Yes, there could be a post game mission to solve that, but I wanted him to show up in the main story. Why did we not get Super Sonic? He should be a staple in the series and yet he hasn’t made the cut lately. I thought for sure that he would show up here since Infinite was so powerful.

Another very odd moment was when they said that Eggman had been torturing Sonic for months. That came out of nowhere and was there purely for edge. Sonic still makes one liners and walks out of his cell like it was nothing. It’s cool that Sonic never lets things get to him, but the torturing reference should have been cut out, especially since the game barely acknowledges that it even happened. Another weird moment is when Eggman has Infinite hit Sonic with a new Null weapon which will trap him inside of an indestructible void. Sonic…then breaks out so fast that it’s not even a level. It’s practically back to back cutscenes where he’s out instantly. It hints even further that a big chunk of the game was simply cut out. I feel fairly confident that this isn’t the original Sonic Forces that we were supposed to be getting.

Lets talk about the Avatar. Terry is legitimately amazing. I gave him a really cool design so he looks like an evil Sonic. He takes charge of the situation and even holds his own against Infinite. The cutscene where he stands his ground is handled excellently as well as his quick save towards the end of the game. He’s a great character and while it may be a little cheesy with how he is the chosen one and all…I could get behind it. Pro tip, don’t switch away from his flamethrower. You can beat levels really quickly with that one although the whip isn’t bad.

Infinite is also really cool, but admittedly not as great as he could have been. I felt like his origin story was actually made after people started making fun of him. He basically gets wrecked by Shadow and starts trembling. He tries to psych himself up by yelling about the whole thing, but it doesn’t work and Eggman kidnaps him later on to give him the new power. With it Infinite talks a good game and has a great voice so I can get behind that. All of his lines are quite awesome as well. The origin story could just have been better, but I’m glad we got to see a glimpse of his old self. Surprisingly we didn’t see that in the main story, but budget cuts and all that. I hope he appears again someday because the character has a lot of potential. We just should have seen a fight between him and the Super Hedgehogs. Maybe the Shadow vs Infinite battle since they teased it in the prologue and the two have a history. It makes no sense why Infinite wouldn’t fight him. Of course, it makes no sense why he would let Sonic live every time aside from plot convenience as well.

There are 3 gameplay styles in the game. Lets start with the best one, Modern Sonic. The levels are really awesome and you’re always moving at a high speed. I actually really like the boost mechanic since it feels good to actually enjoy using the speed that Sonic is famous for. The levels are unfortunately a little on the short side as a result and you can finish basically all of them in under 2 minutes. There are some annoying traps where a hole will suddenly pop up thanks to spotty level design but it’s not enough to really hurt the style. That’s why we need another fast Sonic game without a gimmick. No Werehog, No Wisps, No Classic Sonic. I just want a 3D Sonic game where you can zoom from start to finish the whole time and enjoy yourself along the way.

Then there is the Avatar levels. They’re actually quite good and are basically what people would have wanted Sonic Boom’s gameplay to be like. He still feels like you’re playing as Modern Sonic half the time, but you also get a weapon now. The controls are pretty smooth unless you’re using the thunder wisp in which case you’re doomed. Using your grappling hook is always very satisfying and it’s just handled great all around. It’s another reason why I am ultimately glad the character made it into the game. If his inclusion is the reason why the rest of the game suffered then I’ll take that back, but otherwise I am all for it.

Unfortunately there was one gameplay style which did not work. That would be Classic Sonic and he is the only character where I would actually get disappointed if I saw his level coming up. Whoever added on his gameplay style did so at the last second as it isn’t polished at all. The controls are slippery and the levels aren’t all that fun. You can’t go fast because you’ll just fall and you’re left wondering for the 100th time why he is in this game. He just should not have been here and you can tell that the developers didn’t care by this point.

To point out some more laziness on the game’s part…they reuse boss battles. Yes, you heard that right. One big example that is impossible not to notice is Metal Sonic and Infinite. Both of them are the same boss fight and they simply recolored Metal Sonic to make him look like Infinite. It’s why Infinite also looks huge during the whole boss fight for no real reason. The game also reuses level designs throughout under the guise of Classic and Modern as well as the Avatar. Honestly this just doesn’t feel like a AAA game would would be double at the most. It explains the reduced price, but I fully expected and wanted my Sonic game to be as high budget as it can get.

As expected the graphics are really solid. The colors may not be as striking as Adventure 2 Battle but it has some pretty solid moments. Any scene with Infinite usually has a pretty good color palette. I don’t think the game looks as good as it could have, but I still can’t really complain about it either. It’s at a high enough level where I am definitely still satisfied.

The soundtrack is also really solid as we get a bunch of remixes and lyrical songs. Not all of the lyrical songs are a hit, but most of them are. There are definitely a lot of up beat ones in there and the intense Infinite theme also shows up. Unfortunately, whoever was in charge of the sound didn’t really do a great job as the effects will often drown out the actual music. This can be pretty unfortunate when you want to hear the tune but can’t focus on it with all the background noise.

Well, the main area that does hurt the game somewhat is it’s lack of replay value. The main story isn’t very long as it is so not having a multiplayer mode doesn’t do it any favors either. You can get all of the S ranks and clothes for your avatar but if you actually try that shouldn’t take very long either. That’s because there is a new system involving daily missions. Essentially you clear the mission and unlock a score boost which makes it easier to get S ranks. I don’t even know what you get for obtaining them all but hopefully it’s something epic. Grab your Platinum Trophy on the way back of course.

I could go on for quite a while, but lets get this into perspective. Sonic Forces is still a great game of course. The gameplay is tight and the technical aspects are on point. The story is awesome and epic even if it feels like someone cut out 80% of the game to speed things up. There are a number of weaknesses, but many of them are only so large because I’m a big Sonic fan. It also couldn’t have had many of these negatives if it had chosen to go with a retro plot of Sonic simply stopping Eggman with no real cutscenes throughout and then we wouldn’t have expected so much out of it. The main menu interfaces are really clean and sleek. They’re some of the best out there and Sonic always sets a high bar for this. The game feels modern in many ways like that. You just won’t be playing it for a long time compared to the average game.

Overall, Sonic Forces is better in concept than in the execution. It’s just a little too short and you can’t help but think that it got rushed out of the gate or was given low priority for some reason. There were so many reasons why this game should have been just about perfect which is why it is disappointing that the game didn’t live up to its potential. It’s still a great game so at least it’s not like Star Fox Zero or anything. It’s a small consolation at least. Infinite and the Avatar were good additions to the cast. Maybe Sega will take another shot at this game in the future and get it perfect this time around. I’ll still hold out a lot of hope for the next Sonic game and I eagerly await seeing what Sega will do from here with the 3D titles.

Overall 8/10

Naruto Ultimate Ninja 4 Review

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It feels like such a long time since I’ve played one of the Naruto Ultimate Ninja games. It’s a pretty nostalgic series for me because I remember playing Ultimate Ninja Heroes nonstop on the PSP back in the day and also sank a ton of hours into Ultimate Ninja 2. The games just had an excellent amount of replay value with tight gameplay to boot. It was almost sad to see how far my skills have deteriorated from those days. In time I could get them back, but it would take a while. Ultimate Ninja 4 is a fun sequel. I wouldn’t say it is strictly better than 2 because some aspects as a bit weaker, but it’s still a great game all the same.

The main story mode is called Master Mode this time around. Basically there are two chapters in the game. The first is an original story about Naruto helping a girl avoid her path to self sacrifice. You have to fight a giant monster and it’s pretty fun. I was surprised when it ended so fast though. Then the game adapts a little less than half of Arc 1 of Shippuden as you get to meet up with the fake Itachi. The main gimmick for this story mode is that unlike the main gameplay of the other modes, you fight in 3D here. It’s like a beta for the Ultimate Ninja Storm games. It’s pretty fun, but you’ll quickly realize that you’re just using the same combo a lot. It’s the only one worth using because it does so much damage. The game is fairly easy so you shouldn’t have any problem clearing it. It’s only around 3-4 hours long and probably a lot shorter if you really blast through it. I appreciated the experiment and it seems to be a popular thing to do as Tekken 6 also had a main story mode which was in 3D while the rest was in 2D.

There’s a backup story mode where you relive the original series. Most of it is told through flashbacks while you get a few fights. It’s not the most engaging way to re learn the story, but it does allow you to unlock new fighters so it’s worth going over. Aside from that you have the multiplayer mode and the shop where you can buy a lot of things. There is a ton to purchase and earning money takes a while at first so this definitely helps to add a bunch of replay value for a while. Either way, the multiplayer has you covered in that regard. One thing to always remember is that for fighting games, the story is the cherry on top, but not the cake. As long as the gameplay is really good, the rest will all fall into place.

The gameplay is different from many other 2D fighters. You can jump between the background and the foreground. You can launch opponents with up to 4 different directions per hit which results in numerous combos. Once you launch an opponent in the skty and gives chase, it becomes a matter of timing. You have to press the substitution button at just the right instant and it keeps on getting faster and faster. Hesitate too much and it’s over or press too quickly and you’ll meet the same fate. It’s pretty interesting and this is one game where it’ll get pretty advanced as you learn more and more.You’ll definitely be very engaged with the gameplay style right from the start and my favorite part of it is probably that every character has a homing attack. It’s always a lot of fun to use.

I don’t care for the new rock paper scissors gimmick they added though. Occasionally you’ll see this happen and the computer happened to win it virtually every time. You can’t really beat a computer in a “luck” game unless they allow it after all. As a result, the whole thing feels sadly futile at times, but you won’t lose much health even if you lose the round. I also don’t like the fact that they got rid of the triple final smash. In the older games you had 3 different levels of a final smash like in the Marvel vs Capcom games. Unless they just got rid of it for story levels, you are down to only one in this game and you either switch it in the main menu or you have to play a different version of the character to have another attack. Either way it is a bit of a downgrade.

Really, that’s why this game can be a bit of a downgrade from Ultimate Ninja 2 at times. The story definitely isn’t as good as 2’s which was a cool original plot and the new gameplay mechanics just don’t help. It’s still a very solid game as it kept most of what made the originals a lot of fun, but there probably isn’t much reason to play 4 when you can play 2. Unless you really like the Shippuden cast more than the regular one I suppose. It’s a shame that Ultimate Ninja 5 never came to America, I would have been curious to see how that one would have been.

The graphics look pretty good. They’re not amazing and the style doesn’t pop out as much as the Clash of Ninja series since they’re going for a more drawn look, but it works well. The final smashes are still flashy when they need to be and the game has held up well. The music selection is also pretty good. It reuses some themes from the older games, but I’m assuming that some of them are new as well. There is a pretty good amount of variety here so you don’t have to be worried about getting spammed by the same song too often. As far as difficulty goes, Ultimate Ninja 4 definitely isn’t too hard. Like I said it can get pretty difficult if you turn the computer all the way up or fight an opponent who knows what he is doing, but at the very least you’ll breeze through the story.

Most fighting games have at least one broken character and at least from my casual perspective I feel like that would be Itachi here. When he activates his slow mode attack, you can barely move. It also lasts forever so he can get a bunch of different combos in the meantime. Even if you jump overboard and re spawn, his attack will still be active. That was the only fight where I almost lost in story mode and had to quickly cheese him out with final smash attacks. The computers don’t seem to dodge it very often. They either block or get hit, there’s never an alternative.

Overall, Naruto Ultimate Ninja 4 is a solid game. I think they should have gone a more traditional route as far as the story is concerned, but it worked out all right. I’m sure they learned from this after all. The character cast is fairly decent even if it doesn’t look too impressive because of the wheel they set up. I think a character roster should always let you see all of the characters at once like in Super Smash. That one is basically the ultimate template for a fighting game. I am now one step closer to owning all of the Naruto games which is pretty impressive. I’d definitely recommend checking this game out. It’s old enough where it’s retro, but modern enough where the gameplay still feels pretty intense.

Overall 8/10

Asdivine Hearts Review

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It’s time for another installment from Limited Run games. It’s had a pretty good run so far and this is probably the best game they’ve ported yet. It’s a classic RPG with all of the old elements in tact. It started out as a mobile game which explains why they didn’t mess around with the formula too much. Maybe it’s just me, but I think you only need the core aspects of an RPG to do well. A solid leveling up system, a map, and a convenient way to heal/save. As long as you have that then you’re okay. Modern RPGs sometimes get lost in all of the extra features that take away from this basic concept. This title pulls it off flawlessly.

The game starts off with the Light and Dark gods fighting it out. (Okay, a little cliche, but who doesn’t like a classic Good vs Evil theme?) The Light god is defeated and falls to Earth where she possesses a cat. This takes us to our heroes Zack and Stella. They grew up in an orphanage and are now getting ready to head to the outside world so they can earn money and support the other orphans. As they traverse the forest, they notice their cat change. It wasn’t very subtle since the Light goddess loves to talk. They call her Felix since that was the cat’s name. They also don’t believe her story about being all powerful after all, but I don’t blame them since Felix basically has no power for most of the game due to possessing such a small animal. The fate of the world now rests with these two teenagers and their pet cat goddess. Can they really stop the Dark god from destroying the world?

There are a lot of twists and turns in the plot, but I’m trying to avoid them to you can see for yourself. In short, the Dark god has his reasons for doing this even though the two gods used to be best friends. I don’t agree with them at all though as even being sympathetic is a stretch. It’s one of those cases where the whole game would have been averted if there had been a little more communication between the characters. I’d also say that he went off the deep end either way so you just can’t defend him. Felix was surprisingly shady as well, but she finally learned the values of friendship.

The gameplay is your classic turn based combat. You can use physical skill attacks or magic against foes. I used magic for the first 70% of the game until I found out that skills are actually far more powerful. I recommend focusing on those but always have a magic stone equipped so you can learn new spells. Uriel and Stella’s are especially helpful since they weaken a boss’ defense and attack. It’s a simple gameplay style but you always learn new things. I had been using Stella’s final smash throughout the game since it restores everyone’s HP and MP, as well as increasing all of their stats to the max, but little did I know that Uriel’s is even better. I used it against the Final Boss and he was frozen for almost 20 turns. It was crazy and that Final boss was definitely unforgettable. He had a similar move where he’s paralyze you for the whole fight so it was merely a question of who used the ability first.

Be warned that whenever you flee a monster encounter you lose some final smash meter. (9% to be exact) My strategy was to run until I made it to the end of the dungeon. There is always a save point near the end which tells you that a boss is up ahead. Then I’d quickly fight a bunch of monsters to get my full meter back and then fight. The save point heals your HP and MP as well so this way you don’t have to waste any items on the way. You will almost definitely need to do some serious grinding before you finish the game, but it goes by pretty quickly here. The enemies give you a lot of EXP.

Also, make sure you break any rocks that you see by the enemies. They have a chance to have 3 AHP points within them. You can save up to 20 of those to buy a 20% up EXP item for a character or save up to 100 points so you can have a full team revive during a boss fight. I went the whole game without getting 100 so I’m glad I just went for the EXP right away, but it depends on how you play. I’m sure there is a way to find more rocks, but you can’t find out much from the game online. It’s just trial and error so these are the paths that worked for me. As you can see, the gameplay was simple, but pretty detailed. I could spend a while just talking about that aspect, but you get the idea.

Zack is a solid main character. He’s your classic adventurer who rushes into danger and is always confident in his skills. He’s a nice guy but doesn’t tend to be very formal so all of the characters call him out on this. I’d think that formalities wouldn’t matter much when the planet is at stake, but evidently it is still a priority. He has to make some tough calls at the end, but chooses the right ones. I definitely have no qualms with Zack and he was an engaging protagonist to follow.

Stella is the main heroine and she’s pretty nice. Her unfortunate tendency to try whipping the main character when he’s being nice is a little suspect, but she actively tries to control herself as the game goes on. She’s a little more timid than the other main characters which is another part of her character arc. Based on her design in the sequel, she has learned to be more independent so it’ll be cool to see how she is there. She’s a good character even if she’s not a great one.

Celine is a high priestess who ends up joining the cast and becoming a main character. The fact that she knows hand to hand combat is certainly helpful. She also objects to Zack being nice to everyone all the time but gradually learns that he doesn’t mean it as an insult. I’d probably rank her last among the main heroines, but they’re all rather close. She just didn’t seem to bring as much to the table as the others and her subplot about lacking confidence didn’t really help matters.

Uriel is a mysterious girl who claims to know Zack from the past even though he doesn’t remember her. To pay Zack back for saving her life, she will now help him save the world. Her dark magic is incredibly useful in combat and she is the most loyal of the allies. She was my favorite member of the team and I relied on her Final Smash attack for the final boss. If I’d known it was so good, I would have used it sooner.

Felix is an intriguing character since she acts nothing like what you’d expect based on her role in the universe and character design. Instead of being a wise old lady who brings peace, she’s always insulting the humans and picking fights. She talks quite a lot and doesn’t follow any orders even if they’ll save a lot of trouble. It’s all about her pride here. She’s a fun character to have around since this results in a lot of banter. It was unexpected, but certainly in a good way. I already talked about the Dark god. He comes across as very whiny and completely unsympathetic so you’ll just think of him as another obstacle in the road. I preferred his two Legion generals.

Finally we also have the Dark Copies. The heroes end up travelling to a Mirror World towards the second half of the game where they meet evil copies of Zack and Stella. They were definitely interesting characters. I don’t like either of them, but they make for really good villains. It always ups the stakes when you find an evil version of yourself. They were also quite powerful and had some of the more challenging boss fights in the game. They were a great addition to the cast. You need human opponents like that once in a while because just having monsters isn’t as personal. Throwing in the humans shows that you can’t trust anyone in the mirror world.

There are a few supporting characters like the Queen, Lars, Luna, etc. They are fairly good. They add to the plot and come in handy, but aren’t really main characters. There are 3 different levels of characters here. The main characters who appear frequently and go on the missions. The supporting characters, these still have full character portraits like the main ones, but don’t get on the front lines. Finally, the non characters, the ones with names, but no accompanying picture. It was a pretty good way of knowing who was important and who wasn’t right off the bat.

The graphics look really clear and smooth. One positive for mobile games in general is that they don’t have the budget to add in the fancy stuff so they make the fields clear so the sprites that they do have look great. Throw in the PS4 resolution and this game really looks modern. There is absolutely nothing dated about the graphics and the character portraits are also high budget as opposed to the interesting Street Fighter V ones. I enjoyed the soundtrack. It’s noticeably limited as there are only 3-4 themes in the game for the most part, but fortunately they are catchy. I really enjoyed the main battle theme which plays for virtually all of the bosses. The game also did throw in a unique theme for the final boss which was definitely appreciated. I have no qualms with this area of the game.

There is a good amount of replay value here as you can try to get all of the PS4 trophies. During that process you can try to hit Level 600 with all of the characters and unlock the various endings. I got the normal ending, which I’m pretty satisfied with, but it would have been nice to have gotten the others. I thought I had enough of a trust level to get one of the bonus endings, but apparently not. The main game will last you over 25 hours as well so it’s not like the game even needed bonus content at all. It’s well worth the price.

Overall, Asdivine Hearts was a really fun game. The plot starts right away and even the intro which is probably the slowest part as you get the feel for the game was fun. A lot of that is due to the smooth gameplay, but the characters and story deserve a nod here as well. I definitely love RPGs since turn based combat/grinding is fun and you spend so much time in the story that you’re almost guaranteed to get to like the cast. The map in this game is also perfect so you’ll never get lost which is huge. I’m not going to say that this was one of the best RPGs ever, but it actually is pretty high up there. I hope the sequel ends up getting a PS4 release as well.

Overall 8/10