Samurai Warriors 2: XTreme Legends Review


It’s been a very long time since I played the original Samurai Warriors. I had been focusing on Dynasty for a while but now that I’m caught up with that series it was definitely time to go and check out how this one was doing. Well, it’s definitely a game that has aged really well. You can feel the power behind your attacks and taking down hundreds of opponents all at once certainly never gets old. I definitely look forward to playing the next installment in this series soon.

As with most warrior games you can pick whose story you want to play through. There aren’t a whole lot of options initially but I believe you can unlock more characters as you play through. I played as Kojiro Sasaki. I always like to pick the fire type fighters in these and since Yukimura Sanada wasn’t an option yet I figured this could do the trick. That said, he’s certainly more of an antagonist than I would have figured. Effectively he just wants to destroy a bunch of people but he feels like it’s all a waste. He wants to find someone super powerful to destroy so he goes around on the battlefield until he finds such a person.

I did not warm up to this guy by the end. He’s definitely crazy but would make for a solid antagonist to someone else’s story. At the very least you can’t deny that the guy has some pretty serious skill here. It’s his story so his abilities probably get embellished a bit but he ends up taking everyone out.

The gameplay is fairly standard of course. You go around beating the life points out of all your opponents. You have your standard moves, power moves, and your super attack. I recommend keeping your super on hand for whenever an opponent general shows up because it works as an immediate combo breaker. Just activate it when the opponent lands any kind of hit on you and you’ll be set. The gameplay is very smooth and landing hits is fun. To add some depth here you can power up your weapon at the shop and even buy special abilities that amp up your stats or even control your level ups.

I recommend spending all of your money on this because it’s just a great way to keep your guy ready for action. Your weapon’s important too but the upgrade doesn’t seem to do a whole lot there. The only part of the gameplay where you can tell they haven’t fine tuned it yet is the speed. Your character walks incredibly slow throughout the levels. So it can take a while to get anywhere. I suppose this helps to prevent you from running straight to the goal though. It also adds a little strategy here because moving too far away from your camp is dangerous as a result. After all if your leader dies then you lose the mission instantly.

The game had 5 levels in the campaign I played and I believe it can go up to 7 in some cases as well. It’s fairly short if you’re just playing one character and you should have it beat in around 2 hours. If you do it with all of the characters though then this definitely ought to take a long while. You have no shortage of replay value in this game which is no surprise because that is often the case with any game in the Dynasty franchise. Considering that the games go for around 10-20 bucks now, it’s a good bargain.

The graphics look pretty good here. I always appreciate the fact that there are loads of cutscenes and cinematics everywhere. You’ve got the big budget ones which appear at the beginning and end as well as the mini ones that show up whenever an enemy officer appears. It helps to make these moments feel like a big deal. The attack animations are also on point. As for the soundtrack it’s a little more on the forgettable side but it’s not bad. I’d like to have had more of a signature theme show up at some point. That would have been neat but maybe in the sequel.

The game is reasonably challenging. In particular what makes it pretty tricky here is how long the levels are. If you’ve already polished off about 600 enemies then nothing will be more disheartening than losing at the last second right? There were a few levels where I just had to run for a while to look for health items. The nice sweet spot to be in is when your health is in the red since you can use unlimited super attacks as long as you run a bit. That’s also a good strategy but they take time and it gets pretty intense. You know that a hit could be the end for you. That’s a fun feeling when you come out on top. Fortunately I didn’t end up losing here but that could have been tricky.

Samurai Warriors 2 feels very basic in a lot of respects but it’s part of the charm. You have a pretty direct plot and a lot of good gameplay for each level. In some ways this plot felt a lot more direct than the more extended one in Dynasty Warriors 9. It’s less grand of course but Sasaki’s plot was just interesting and the whole rivalry aspect with Masashi was cool.

Overall, Samurai Warriors 2 is definitely a very good game. I’d call it a great one at that. If you have time then beating it with all of the characters would be a blast since the stories should all be fairly different. I’m far less familiar with the base story here compared to Dynasty as well so it all feels pretty fresh. It seems to take place way after most of the Sengoku Basara anime since the main kings are already gone. The new characters look fun though and I wonder if the rest of the games in this series will deal with the same era and plot like Dynasty or if we’ll be jumping around a little more here. I’m not sure when I’ll get the third game but it shouldn’t be too far in the future I would say.

Overall 8/10

Disgaea 3: Absence of Justice Review


It’s been a little while since I played Disgaea 2, but I’ve been meaning to jump into 3 for a while now. The strategic gameplay of the series is always a blast. It really brings you in for a big challenge from start to finish that’s for sure. You have to consider a lot of angles when playing. While the core story is definitely a bit weaker than the first two, it makes for a great game either way and one that you don’t want to miss.

The game starts by introducing us to Mao. He’s the son of the Overlord and his goal is to rise to that position by destroying his father. The reason he wants to do this is because the Overlord broke his video game console a while back. To that end, Mao has decided that he will need to figure out what powers a hero since heroes usually take the Overlord down. Once he is able to figure that out then he will be ready to roll. To that end he captures a hero named Almaz and steals his title. Now, this gets a little meta and the game isn’t afraid to break the 4th wall but bear with me here. So effectively everyone has a title which actually affects how you act and think. Now that Almaz’s title has been taken he is slowly becoming a demon. He has to find a way to get into Mao’s heart (Which is located as basically a department store that you can walk into) to steal his title back. Will either of the characters get what they want?

Most of the game takes place at school or on campus as Mao tries to locate how to find a lot of power. Heroes are almost mythical in the demon world because of how rarely they appear. Everything is backwards in this world so to be an honor student you need to keep on cutting class and just being mean while the delinquents are people who attend class and are nice to others. It’s a fun dynamic and there are 3 little minions who show up in basically every chapter of the game to try and cause trouble. They’re always fun to have around for sure.

As a main character Mao is decent. He has his entertaining moments and I do like that he is always trying to set the record straight that he has no friends. The guy has a lot of secrets and a fascination with live experimentation so even by the end he isn’t a true hero. Still, he does end up fighting with the villains so you are at least glad to have him on your side at the very least. Almaz is the other main hero and he’s pretty fun. His plot is about getting Princess Sapphire to finally notice him but he is content to stay in the shadows until he works up the courage. He protects her from a distance and all. A one way romance like this can always be rough but at least the demons aren’t too hard on him about this.

Sapphire is a solid Princess though and one of the better ones of recent years. She has the brilliant idea of going to destroy the Overlord before he even thinks of kidnapping her. That’s pretty proactive so I can certainly get behind that. Princess Peach should consider capturing Bowser next time instead of waiting for the inevitable. She can fight which is always a pretty good skill to have as well. Her super strength punch and Buzzsaw even scare Mao at times.

Mao’s rival is a solid character as well. As leader of the delinquents you’d expect nothing less. One supporting character who could be annoying most of the time was the cook though. Literally all of his lines are using food lingo. I can appreciate good puns and all but I felt like he would never actually get to the point so he didn’t really serve much of a purpose at times. He gets a lot of hype and is apparently super strong but the game doesn’t do much with that concept.

As an RPG there are tons of other characters of course but those are the big ones. You’ll enjoy the story, there’s a lot going on. For the gameplay, it’s the same as in previous titles. You control up to 9 characters and maneuver them through a chess board of sorts. The idea is to take out the opponent fighters. Sometimes this will be straight forward and you just run to take them out while at other times there are a bunch of obstacles to get past. The levels become more like a puzzle as you have to decide how to attack the enemy. A good strategy is just as important as your level ups here.

The game holds nothing back so you will likely need to go replay levels a bunch before clearing the game. It’s difficult to level everyone up here since only the character who beats the enemy gets the level up this time. So by the end of the game I had 4 really strong fighters and my other guys were scrubs. It was worth it though. Then you want to save money to buy excellent equipment. The equipment will really come in handy since it boosts your stats massively. For example you can switch out your weapon with 100 attack power for one with 700 and suddenly you’re blasting through everyone. The toughest part is always choosing between buying a new weapon or new armor. I always prioritized weapons first since it makes the grinding quicker but ultimately you will need armor or you will fall. My strategy is to sell off all the equipment of all my other fighters and only stick to 4 but of course this is risky. It’s a great way to raise funds short term though.

There’s a whole lot of depth to the gameplay as you can also upgrade attacks here. Doing so makes them more powerful but drastically costs more magic meter as well so sometimes getting it too strong can actually be a bad thing. Then you can go to class to have the students give you money or unlock more levels at the shop. There is definitely a whole lot to consider here. The main story took me over 20 hours and there is a sizable post game story as well. This game can easily last you 50+ hours so there is a ton of replay value here. I would definitely recommend sticking with it

Naturally the soundtrack is also pretty solid. You’ll recognize a theme or two from the original game in addition to the new ones. Then you’ve got the solid graphics which go all out with the special attacks as always. It really knows how to make everything look really high tier. I do low key wish you could skip the cinematics on the special moves eventually since it takes up some time but I suppose after putting so much effort into the attacks they don’t want people just skipping them each time.

Overall, Disgaea 3 is a solid way to end the trilogy. The game has a lot of heart and depth to it. It’s a very complete RPG that excels in all areas. While I would say that the first two defeated it, you’ll definitely be invested in the game. It may be very difficult but you always feel like you have hope even if you need to go back and earn some more level ups again. Sometimes that’s just something you have to do. Going back to get stronger is a noble quest at all times.

Overall 8/10

Dynasty Warriors 9 Review


After many years I have finally made it to the final game in the main Dynasty Warriors series. A while back I had done a bit of a marathon in this series but I didn’t own 9 so it had to go on break. Well, I was finally in the mood to fire it up and it’s a game that’s definitely a lot of fun. The new open world setting takes a little getting used to. Ultimately I prefer the usual structure for how Dynasty Warrior games are set up, but I do appreciate the attempt at something different. It does work well in its own way.

As always the game adapts the story of the 3 Kingdoms so if you’ve played any of the first 8 Dynasty Warrior games then you’ll know how this all plays out. This game is able to go into great detail though and it’s easily the longest title in the series. I decided to follow Cao Cao’s path for my playthrough but you have a lot of characters to choose from here. There are dozens and dozens of playable characters in the game and they all have their own story which is pretty impressive. Some are shorter than others of course. For example Cao Cao’s is much longer than the average story since he is one of the 3 main Kings. That’s why he felt like a fair one to go with.

How the open world setting comes into play is between battles you can run around the kingdom and help people out with side quests or expand your kingdom on hand. One thing that was fun was to finish off skirmishes on the outskirts of the kingdom and watch as the map turned into your color. The enemies will take over the territory after you leave so it’s not like it’s permanent or anything but it is a really good way to allow you to quick travel later on. For example, I had fun taking over a lot of settlements and this saved time later on in the game since you can fast travel to anywhere you’ve been. So instead of crossing half the country to join the next big story fight, I was already there.

It’s really worth it in the long run and since the open world was one of the things heavily promoted about on this game, I’d say it’s worth seeing exactly what all the fuss is about. How I see it, it does heavily help the replay value of the game. The world is pretty huge so the developers did not hold anything back here. There’s also just a lot to do including upgrading your character and getting better equipment. It can all be a little overwhelming if anything so definitely take it one step at a time. The main campaign took me around 9 hours. If you try to complete the game with everyone I’m thinking you’ll be here for at least 40+ which is really good. Then if you work on getting all of the PS4 trophies and exploring every inch of the game you can add even more time to that.

Naturally the graphics look really good as well. All of the character models are on point and the whole thing is just very striking from the backgrounds to the combat animations. It looks like a PS4 title through and through. The series may not especially be known for its graphics but at least for this installment I would say it definitely qualifies as a great showing. The soundtrack is a little more forgettable which is unfortunate because the series has had some really excellent rock themes over the years. This time they held onto the brakes a little more I guess and were going for a much more low key kind of soundtrack. You do still get the occasional rock theme though.

As for the gameplay, it’s pretty similar to most of the other Dynasty Warrior titles although it took a page out of Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity (Well, I guess it would be the other way around) and now you have 4 different special attack options in addition to your normal special attack. It’s an interesting change, and a fun way to spice up the gameplay from just using the same super all the time. I can definitely get behind that. It’s definitely very smooth throughout so you’ll have no problem dealing with the bosses as long as you remember your fundamentals.

One aspect that was also interesting is that in each mission you could head straight for the boss if you wanted a challenge and he would be at a super high level. Or you could weaken defenses and put some plans into motion. This acts like a more realistic strategy if you were fighting a war and so the boss’ level would drop accordingly. Usually I would always run straight for the boss but it was a fun way to have multiple options and also a good way to allow players to challenge themselves a bit or just have fun at a steady pace. This is definitely an element I’d like to see return in future games as well.

Overall, Dynasty Warriors 9 is definitely a great game. I admit I do like just being able to jump into the battles right away but the open world approach was still fun. If you like exploring that should add a little extra boost to the experience as well. You do wonder if the series will eventually try something new with the story or if it’ll always adapt the same one though. I suppose it’s a classic story that never gets old but it would also be fun to see the characters in new situations. If you liked the previous Dynasty Warrior titles then I expect you will definitely like this one as well.

Overall 8/10

Mario & Luigi Dream Team Review


Mario & Luigi has been a fun series to play through. Each game throws in some new elements and adds in another villain for the heroes to go up against. Dream Team doesn’t manage to capture the amazing dialogue of Bowser’s Inside Story though and the plot isn’t quite as hype as Partners in Time. It gets close at times and the climax is great but ultimately the game drags itself a little too long to reach that elusive next level of gaming.

We start out with the Mario bros and Peach being invited to a resort for a vacation. It sounds innocent enough but it turns out that there are some shady circumstances at work here. On the island all of the Pillows around are actually sentient creatures from hibernation. A villain known as Antasma intends to bring the world to darkness and cause everybody to go into an endless slumber. Clearly he is not the kind of villain you want to mess with. Starlow is back to help out but the heroes will need more than that if they are to win. This villain manipulates dreams but fortunately Luigi is good at going to sleep. Now the heroes have a fighting chance.

It’s a pretty interesting plot at face value and this is also a perfect way for Luigi to contribute. In the real world he may not be as skilled as Mario but there is nothing to say that the same would be true in the dream world right? There Luigi’s power is matched only by his imagination and he gets some pretty solid moments. At times you have “Mega” boss battles like in Inside Story. Only this time instead of Bowser turning giant it’s Luigi who does this. It makes for some fun visuals like when Luigi and Bowser have an actual fist collision. Luigi’s also a lot more confident in his dream world as he consistently steps up to help Mario out. Imagine if he was always this secure, I think Luigi would be a great ally to have around.

In the real world he is still as nervous as ever though, but at least this allowed him to showcase some more of his skills. In the dream world Luigi also has a lot of extra skills such as the ability to turn into a wrecking ball, tornado, etc. The game uses this as extra gameplay mechanics as you use these abilities to solve puzzles. The gameplay in the real world is a straight forward platformer with turn based gameplay while the dream world adds a lot of different styles like the ability to slow down time roll over enemies, and things of that nature.

It’s pretty fun how both worlds have such different gameplay methods. Both are pretty enjoyable to be sure. The actual combat is also as good as ever. The only thing I wasn’t a big fan of were the motion control aspects of some of the attacks. You can’t exactly play lying down when you have to be spinning around. Still, it’s not very often and you can always choose not to use those attacks and stick to non motion ones. The game’s difficulty level is considerable though so you may not be at liberty to do that. Dream Team does not pull any punches, especially with the final bosses.

This is where you really need to make sure you are good at dodging, have a good badge setup, and are at a high level. I had to do quite a bit of EXP grinding near the end of the game and it still got close. The best badge set to have here is either the one that makes you invincible for several turns or the one that just freezes Bowser for multiple moves as well. He can’t go on healing himself if he isn’t able to move after all so it’s definitely a tactic that works nicely.

As with previous Mario & Luigi games my one main negative here is just that leveling up can take so long. I wish the enemies were a little more balanced with the EXP. It’s something that the game series has always struggled with next to most other adventures. Not sure why but the pattern definitely stuck so leveling up can definitely hurt to an extent. At least you’ve also got the Beans to collect which amp up your stars permanently. Also, there are some extra variables to consider because when leveling up you are given the option of advancing one stat in particular by a few points. Depending on what you focus it on will be key. Even the equipment have a lot of variables since you can choose to wear items that boost attack, defense, or something else.

I do like the fact that there is so much to think about. The gameplay is also very smooth for travelling the worlds. I had fun running around and trying to locate all of the beans and Pillows. I nearly completed the game 100% as I was close to grabbing them all but it wasn’t to be. The various warp pipes around definitely help for convenience and I also like that you can save at any point now. That’s a big positive. The game also has some bonus activities which were pretty fun like the puzzle assemblies. It’s been a while since I had to try and connect puzzles together so that was definitely a blast.

The soundtrack is also dynamite. There are a lot of great tunes here. Danger themes, villain themes, and the whole thing feels like an RPG. The boss themes go all in and you can easily forget that this is a Mario soundtrack early on. It would fit right in with something like Kingdom Hearts or Final Fantasy. Additionally the graphics certainly look very good. You can definitely tell that this is a modern adventure with all the trimmings. It’s a fitting way to continue the series.

Naturally the story will take you a long while. It took me close to 40 hours and if you intend to grab the rest of the beans and pillows then this will easily take you over that milestone. It’s a long game and that’s definitely pretty admirable. You will not be finishing this game in the blink of an eye so you’ve got a lot of content. As mentioned, the story is a bit weaker than the last two though so that part might make you shake your head a bit. Until the climax occurs it can just be rather boring. Bowser steals the show whenever he appears so you’ll be waiting for him to arrive. He gets a ton of hype here so the writers must clearly like the character a lot.

Overall, Dream Team takes a major step back in terms of story but the rest of the game’s areas are all handled quite strongly so this one is still a great title that I would recommend. While Antasma gets consistently outshined by Bowser, I would still say that he is a pretty solid game. His best appearance was probably in a dream near the beginning of the game. I was glad Peach also got to contribute in the climax. She’s done well in this series. I’ve already talked about how Luigi and Bowser look really good here and Mario’s a solid lead as always. If you want to see the Mario gang fighting it out in a pretty serious context then this is definitely the title to check out. You won’t be forgetting the ultimate dream team. I’m hoping Paper Jam can keep up the great gameplay even if the story ends up faltering as well.

Overall 8/10

Mario & Luigi: Bowser’s Inside Story + Bowser Jr’s Journey Review


The Mario & Luigi series has been a fun one to play through. Bowser’s Inside Story has often been known as the best one in the series and I can see why. The story is a blast and it’s just nice to see Bowser getting a star role like how he is here. The game does have a few new mechanics in there that aren’t my favorite but for the most part this takes everything from Partners in Time and improves upon them. Making this a very complete Mario game that you’ve got to check out at some point. Then you’ve also got the new bonus game Bowser Jr’s Journey which is surprisingly substantial considering that it’s a bonus experience.

In Bowser’s Inside Story the plot starts with a pandemic going across the planet. Everyone is turning into Blorbs which is a fancy way of saying they are all swelling up like balloons. Peach calls an emergency meeting but did not invite Bowser. He isn’t happy about that and bursts in. Shortly afterwards he eats a poisoned mushroom and sucks everyone inside himself. Now there is nobody to stop Fawful from taking over the Kingdom and ruling the world. Nobody except…Bowser! Little does he know that Mario and Luigi will still be providing some help though from inside his belly.

There’s quite a lot more story to go through here but that’s the general premise. It’s nice to really see Bowser’s side of things here. Finally you have a lead going straight after the villains instead of going to a bunch of different castles the whole time. Bowser’s just a lot of fun. Mario and Luigi still can’t really talk here while Bowser constantly gets a ton of great lines and moments which really helps him out here. You have to love his confidence. A lot of things go over his head but the guy just seems very genuine. He’s a villain, but one who at least does care about his minions which is always good to see.

The gameplay is your classic turn based adventure. You can use special combo attacks (Which are much, much stronger than normal moves so you really need to use them) hammers, or jumps. You also can move around the overworld and enemies appear so by jumping on them or hitting them with hammers you can get a pre-emptive strike which is very useful in battle. The only parts of the gameplay that I found to be pretty weak were the moments in Bowser’s stomach when you have to jump up and down to make him wake up and blasting the orbs to make Bowser giant. These moments happened a little too often and always took forever. Not a big thing of course but a minor area where things could have been improved.

Beyond that, I had no real complaints with the game. The story was a lot of fun and the gameplay was smooth. I felt like leveling up wasn’t quite as daunting as the previous games. In part because this time I actually understood how the bonus multipliers worked this time around so I didn’t waste it all in HP. Definitely not a fun moment that time. Fawful also works really well as the main villain. I loved his catch phrase “I have chortles” as he starts laughing. Basically his grammar is majorly messed up but in a pretty fun way. He certainly enjoys mocking Bowser so you know the main character will get his revenge at some point. His second in command Midbus was also pretty impressive. A guy who can fight with Bowser toe to toe has got to be crazy strong. It also helps raise the stakes in the game which were already pretty high. Having an end of the world threat was great. Also quick shoutout to Peach for actually having telekinetic powers in this game. She only used this in one scene but it was impressive. I guess she has been training.

In Bowser Jr’s Journey we see the events of the main game from his perspective. Bowser Jr is a pretty ungrateful guy who really does as he pleases. He’s not here to make friends and all the Koopalings get upset as he continues to disregard their opinions as he searches for a very sketchy “cure” to the Blorbs. One by one the Koopalings leave until Bowser Jr’s group consists of him and Morton. When a trio of new villains working under Fawful appear Bowser Jr must rethink his approach. Is he really going to be able to save Bowser if none of the minions want to work for him anymore?

The story is pretty emotional in large part because we’ve already seen how polite and heart warming Bowser can be. The guy’s just fun to hang around and he does treat his minions well. Bowser Jr is the opposite and is incredibly unlikable. I was not expecting him to be quite so mean all the time so that did come as a bit of a shock. Regardless, I would definitely have to say that the game had some good story arcs going. The story was actually crafted really well which helped the game succeed.

The gameplay is pretty different as it’s more like an automatic game where you watch your minions fight. You can cheer them on and issue several special attacks/power their moves up but it’s not super interactive. Prepare to play old levels quite a lot here in order to get their levels up to snuff. Playing the elements here is most important. Flying minions beat ground minions. Ground beat throwers and throwers beat flyers. If you put your team in a good formation that makes the most of this then you will be in a good position to do a lot of good. Tactics are more important than level ups but if you really just want to skate by just find a level that you can beat without having to help out at all and have them run it over and over again. Before long you’ll have made it to the end of the game. It’s surprisingly tough but as with every game that has a level up system, you can ultimately persevere.

I liked the game. It’s a pretty simple title that doesn’t have a lot to it in terms of gameplay variation and such but that’s fine. It’s really just a side adventure you’re playing around with. If anything you could play it during the main game to try and keep them in sync. What was particularly impressive was the story since it was actually pretty engaging. I never would have thought Bowser Jr would be the one to be able to lead his own adventure but here we are.

The graphics are pretty good. The character models are very sharp and the backgrounds really stand out. The whole thing looks really modern. Then you’ve got a catchy soundtrack as well. The best theme in the game for me has to either me the final boss of Inside Story or the general Bowser encounter theme. Both themes are actually pretty intense. The final boss even sounds like a Kingdom Hearts theme. You can really hear the usual instruments and themes at least. It helped really make the game feel like a big deal. In terms of replay value, I’d say this game has a good amount. Keep in mind that the main stories for the two combined should take you around 40 hours. (It took me 43) If you then work on getting all levels ups and beating all levels then this would probably get you to around 47 hours.

Overall, This is a game with mountains of content. It’s clear why this has always been a standout game for the Mario series. I’ll be starting Dream Team pretty soon but it’s definitely got big boots to fill this time around. I have little doubts that it will be another good installment though as the series has been consistent. The fact that this is really two games in one just makes the whole thing even better. Jr’s Journey gameplay may take some getting used to but it can quickly become addicting once you’re into it. I almost went and 100% completed the game just because I felt like it so there’s that. Sometimes you just never know when a game’s going to just go off like that.

Overall 8/10

Bonds of the Skies Review


I can’t say that I was familiar with this game before it came out but the fact that it’s from Kemco was a really good sign because they have quickly solidified themselves as one of the leaders in mobile gaming. Whenever their games get ported to PS4 you know you’re in for a treat. To date Asdivine Hearts is one of the gold standards for RPGs. I would put it up there with fellow titans Kingdom Hearts 2 and Final Fantasy XIII. The sequel was a little weaker thanks to the story but the gameplay was still top notch with a lot of strategy. I’ve never played a game like that where I got all the characters to the max level 99 and still couldn’t beat the final boss without working on my magic some more. This game is on the shorter side next to those but still delivers a complete experience.

So in this world there exist a few Grimoa. These are the deities of the land. 3 of them decided to split their powers into a kid of sorts while the flame one decided not to do so. Well, many years later various towns start being attacked by a fire monster and all of the deities assume the fire one is responsible. This leads Nogard, the wind Grimoa to go to a small town and recruit the help of a man named Eil. Eil is a mild mannered guy who just wants to do the right thing. He’s not really much of a fighter but will absolutely help in order to stop these villains from having their way with the world. He suits up but this will be no easy quest. He must find two other humans to partner with the other two deities. Only then will they be strong enough to take on the Fire dragon and save the planet.

The story is pretty straight forward with a classic formula. You go to each town to find a new partner until you have a full team of 3. After that you go to different islands to find the kid deities and then you’re set for the final boss. There aren’t really any big twists or turns here beyond the usual although you do get a ton of dialogue. The game should take you between 7-10 hours to complete. There isn’t a whole lot of grinding necessary as your levels will do well for the most part but it’s also worth noting that grinding isn’t all that painful here for people who don’t like it. As I mentioned, Kemco is an old pro at this. The gameplay speed is incredibly fast. You can also put your guys on auto battle mode in order to take out the minions. Now, it’s a little less advanced than in their later games as auto mode means the can only fire off a generic strike so spells are off the table. It’s still a fair compromise for not actually having to control them. It means instead of running away from encounters you can fight through all of them in order to keep your level doing well. The EXP you can earn in the dungeon right before the final boss is insane so don’t be afraid to stay there and grind for a bit. In less than 10 minutes I got my guys from level 60 to 75 in this place and it was just enough to claim victory.

The gameplay is that of a turn based style. You have the option to use physical attacks, magic, or items. In general I recommend only having one skill equipped because then you can equip a lot of passive boosts which are far more useful in my opinion. You only ever need 1 real skill here. Perhaps 3 for Avi as the team’s medic you want her to have the main 2 healing spells as well. Fight like this and you’ll have a very balanced roster. In addition to the usual equipment you can also equip which monsters you want to have at the ready. I stayed with the default ones throughout the whole game but it’s a nice way to add more variety.

The graphics look pretty nice. I was surprised that only one of the Grimoa got a character portrait as the others talk so having one would make sense. In general you get the feeling that this game didn’t have a big budget the way some of the others had but they still did a pretty good job of getting all the fundamentals in. The animations are really smooth and the game does look quite nice. I definitely wouldn’t dock any points there. This is a game that’s aged really well. The soundtrack is also pretty solid. It’s all nice and fast paced which works pretty well with how quickly the gameplay moves. Note that you can speed up the gameplay to 3X by clicking L1.

Aside from the story you do have some post game content to work on. There will definitely still be some quests around and I think there are two dungeons. The Platinum trophy is definitely pretty achievable. I don’t expect it should take you more than an extra 2-3 hours to get the rest of the trophies. It’s something that’s worth doing if you completed the game since you’ll already be so close to doing so.

As for the main characters, Eil is decent but not great. He’s a very timid character. Throughout the game everyone mocks him quite a bit for being too nice and always talking in a worried way. It’s a fairly interesting character arc at times but I never felt like he really came into his own. A little more confidence would have gone a long way. His ally Iks is a lot more outgoing by nature and isn’t afraid to stand up for himself. If anything you’ll feel bad for him a bit when Eil sets up a trick against him. Iks is a solid companion to have. Finally you have Avi who wants to do her part to save the world but has a hard time being straight with the group. She’s used to withholding her feelings at all times. She gradually becomes close with the group though and the 3 make for a solid team. I’ll give her props for being bold enough to walk up to the other two demanding they hand over their Grimoas at the time they met even if that’s probably not how transferring ownership works.

Overall, Bonds of the Skies is definitely a pretty great game. It’s like a pocket RPG that you can quickly blast through and get a feel for the genre. I can’t state enough how seamless the gameplay is here with all of the quality of life upgrades in. Even little things like speeding up the gameplay for grinding and auto battle are things that more RPGs should add but surprisingly this is one of the only companies to do so. Playing through it just never feels like a chore and this is a very balanced game. I’d definitely recommend it to anyone that wants to check out an RPG title.

Overall 8/10

Need For Speed Rivals Review


Well, at long last the Need for Speed marathon is now over. Rivals was the last one I owned that I had not yet played so this was quite the milestone. It’s been a lot of fun racing around and Rivals definitely does feel like a lot of effort was put into it. The graphics are definitely top notch and there’s a whole lot to do here. You have fast travel here which is always a must for games where the hub world is so huge. The story may be a bit weak but you’re here for the gameplay and definitely will not be disappointed.

The game starts off by asking if you want to play as the rebels or the cops this time around. I went with rebels since I played as the cops last time. Please note that you can switch sides at any time. Ideally the game is hoping you’ll go ahead and complete both stories. As it is, each side is fairly long so the game did a good job of really making sure the purchase was worth the money. I don’t think it would be possible for you to beat this game in under 10 hours for example. On the Rebels side the plot is basically that the main guy is trying to prove that it’s best to live life on the edge getting your 15 minutes at a time as he breaks all of the rules. The cops begin getting more and more desperate to catch him. Then you have the cops who are doing everything they can to take this rebel down but it’s proving to be difficult. They’re also having to deal with a lot of copycat racers so all of those guys need to go down and fast.

The game has a lot of different ways to race. You’ve got the standard races, time trials, pursuit races which is a race while being chased by the cops, and Interceptor which is a 1 on 1 battle with you and a police car. Each chapter is divided into missions and each mission is divided into a few tasks. For example one mission might be to win 3 races, clear one time trial, and earn 100K. Once you do all of that then the mission is completed and you will move onto the next set. I like the clear plot progression here as well as the fact that none of them feel all too crazy to me. The tasks are all pretty achievable even if they may take some time. The toughest set always seemed to be the drifting ones so I didn’t even try those. Typically you’re given 3 options on which set of tasks you want to complete and I would go for the racing focused ones. They just seemed the most direct.

I’d say the game took around 12-15 hours but I suppose it’s hard to say exactly. The final race in particular was a really tough one that took me quite a few tries. You have to drive over 30 miles nonstop in order to reach the end and if you made a wrong call or had a bad bump then there’s a chance you would lose and have to start from scratch. Let me tell you, starting from scratch is never fun. Still, since it’s the final level I can give it a pass. None of the other levels are nearly so long and it does make sense that you would want the final level to be a challenge. This game actually had far better pacing than most other Need for Speed games with how the levels go so I have to give a lot of kudos there. I also liked the variety. This was just a really well balanced game.

Part of what makes it work is how interactive the hub world is. It just feels alive with cars moving around at all time and the cutting edge graphics. As I mentioned earlier the game looks amazing. Definitely what you would expect form a next gen title. The soundtrack was also not all that annoying this time around which is great. The franchise is not usually known for having a good amount of solid themes so it’s something that can always be a bit concerning. This way there wasn’t really anything to worry about. When you pack on the replay value then you’ve definitely got a bargain here.

At its core what makes Rivals so good is of course the gameplay. It’s all very smooth and you feel in control of the car. I like that you unlock cars which you can use and buy them with cash but there isn’t the crazy level of customization that other titles have. I don’t mind a little customization of course but after a point you want to be able to just jump into a car and start driving instead of always wondering how you can optimize it. This one leaves things reasonably automatic as well which I think is a great middle ground. The game also has a lot of items at the ready here as you can attack with mines and shockwaves as well as protect yourself with Jammers and stuff like that. Items can work quite well when used the right way. For racers I really don’t mind not having any gimmicks but I won’t complain about them either.

Overall, Need For Speed: Rivals is a great game. It really captures the essence of the series and executes on every angle quite brilliantly. There is no part of the game that I would shake my head at. Even the story which can be a bit overdramatic as you follow a lead who is so far from being a hero that you can’t root for him, is okay in the end. At least it doesn’t drag on which I appreciate. You don’t get to see a whole lot of cutscenes but at least each one has a direct purpose. If you’re looking for a good racing game to pick up then I would definitely recommend this one. You really can’t go wrong with Rivals.

Overall 8/10

Midnight Club: Los Angeles Review


Midnight Club is a pretty big racing series in its own right. It has long been overshadowed by the Need For Speed games but it has still lasted a while. In effect it’s like a Grand Theft Auto mixed with Need for Speed game or at least that’s the kind of vibe you get from it. The open world may be even bigger than what NFS usually brings. It’s a pretty great game with a ton of content at your disposal so you really can’t go wrong here.

The basic story is that you’re a new racer who is trying to gain reputation and move up the ranks. You know that you’re the best racer on the block but in order to challenge the best racers you will have to go up the ranks slowly but surely. You make some friends along the way like Karl and Annie as well as some rivals and enemies like Hugo or the 4 Champions. You’ll have to defeat them all, friend or foe in order to claim the title.

One thing I always appreciate in a racing game is having an actual story. You can’t take these for granted because a lot of games in the genre don’t have one. It’s not like this story is particularly unique or ambitious but it’s a story nonetheless. There’s a lot of fun banter between the lead and everyone else which ends up being the best part to me. They never stop with the burns, especially the lead and Karl. There are a lot of great lines like “Face me if you want a real challenge” “I’d love a real challenge but I’ll settle for racing you Karl” and a lot of lines like that. The burns and insults just keep on coming.

I played in over 200 races during the course of the game and I would still have needed to play a bunch more in order to unlock the final events. You’d think that taking down the city champions was the final battle but after that there is a champion for each kind of vehicle which is the part I didn’t finish. To unlock them you would need to play a lot of races in each car type and that was definitely not going to be done
anytime soon. I put in over 20 hours on this game s you definitely don’t need to worry about content here. There’s enough to tide you over and then some. With replay value on the other races and getting more cars I’d estimate this title to be around 30 hours.

The gameplay here is pretty direct, you drive through the stages and try to reach the goal first. Simple as that, that’s what you need to do in order to score a win here. There are other racing types in the game as well like time trials and trying to ram people off the road. The delivery events were likely the trickiest if you ask me because usually you would at least need to know where one or two of the shortcuts were in order to progress further.

As for my car of choice, it wasn’t even a car. As soon as I had enough money to buy a motorcycle I grabbed one and never looked back. The stats are off the charts and the only drawback is that an enemy attack can instantly knock you off your bike and your durability is very low so there is a good chance that you will get “damaged out” during the race and lose by default. Essentially you’ve got ultimate speed at the cost of your defense and that’s a fine trade off for me. I figure durability won’t be a concern as long as I stay ahead of the other racers and that’s exactly how things played out. It was really hard to go back to a car after that for the events where one was mandatory.

One issue I have with the game though is the fact that there is no fast travel. The main world is quite large so at times you would be driving for whole minutes to get to the next event. I’d much rather just be able to jump into the next event. I suppose the reason this game was designed that way was to prevent such things from happening. Admittedly if fast travel was an option I would have skipped most of the hub world experience and jumped straight into the duels.

The graphics here definitely look really good as expected. The game had aged quite well from the PS3. It’s naturally under some of the more high budget experiences like Need for Speed but I’d say it did good with what it had. The soundtrack is not very good though. I spent the majority of my play through constantly switching through songs to find the few gold ones. I would definitely have liked the ability to remove songs from the lineup so it would only cycle through a few that I would give a thumbs up.

Overall, Midnight Club is a great racing game. There is just so much to do here between all of the cars to collect and events to complete. 200 races is quite a lot so there’s no way to beat them all too quickly. In fact I even managed to make it to the maximum driver level which was a lot of fun. That’s not something that I can say happens every time. It was a pretty rare event and one I won’t soon forget. If you like racing games then I highly recommend this one. See how it stacks up for you compared to the famous Need for Speed franchise.

Overall 8/10

Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit Review


Need for Speed has had a ton of games over the years. It’s took a while but I’ve gotten to play just about all of them now. Hot Pursuit is one of the more recent ones and it’s a really solid installment. It takes the series back to its roots with a lot of solid races and the fact that you can now play on the police side as well. This makes for a pretty long campaign all things considered and there is still the free roam as well. Throw in the top notch graphics EA is known for and you’ve definitely got a winner here.

There is no story mode this time though so that’s something to consider here. You’ll instead just jump right into the races. There are around 60 races as a classic rebel who is going through illegal races and trying to be the #1 underground racer. Then you have the police side which has around 50 races as you take these guys to justice. I did all of the police levels and around 10-20 of the racer ones. There are definitely a lot of races to be had here so you really need to like the gameplay. Of course, why would you get a racing game if you don’t like the genre right?

The gameplay is a bit different between the two sides. On the rebel side it’s fairly standard as you try to outspeed the other racers to the goal. You also have time attack races where you just gotta go really fast. On the police side it’s about busting opposing cars. Take them out via ramming or with your 4 special abilities. You can fire EMP bombs at them, call in helicopters, use barricades, or even drop spikes. The rebels have these abilities as well so this is a bit of a departure from the more street level titles of the past. The abilities are pretty fun though and help make the game fresh. That’s why I played less of the rebel levels this time because I just liked the new approach here.

The gameplay is as smooth as it’s ever been. You really feel like you’re in control as the car zooms forward. Turns are seamless and everything feels right while you’re drifting. That’s good because some of the levels really call for a ton of precision so you need this level of control or you could find yourself in a lot of dangerous situations. Then you’ve got the graphics which are top notch as I mentioned. The game just looks really good. The cars are as realistic as they can be and that makes driving them even more fun. The rain is on point and the game looks PS4 level easy. It’s about as ahead of its time as you can get.

The soundtracks for this franchise can be very hit or miss but this one’s a hit without question. The main theme of the game is fantastic so whenever the game loads up you know you’re in for a treat. Not just any game can pull that off. It helps you tolerate the initial loading time a lot more than you would otherwise. The tunes in the actual game are a little less memorable but still work well enough. With a soundtrack of this size you’re not likely to enjoy them all but more work than the ones that do not.

With 100+ levels in here the game should last you around 12 hours if you want to complete them all but if you only aim to complete one side then around 6 hours will do. Of course that leaves a lot of replay value regardless. Earning the Distinction or Gold Medal on each level will be really difficult. You can also earn levels ups as you go through the game which unlocks more abilities and better cars. With these cars you can then go back to the older levels and it’ll be a little easier to complete them. So this game does reward your continued play. You can also go for trophies but with the online not around anymore hopefully there are no online ones or the Platinum trophy will be impossible to get anyway so I’m not sure if you would really bother with it.

One thing I would say that is in this game’s favor is the more Arcade like approach. I’m cool with the game just giving you the cars and you choose which one to grab. While I can see the appeal in customizing your own car and heading to the lot to buy new ones every few levels, I prefer to sometimes just get in and race. Give everyone the same cars and just let it come down to skill. If you ask me that’s for the best. It’s not like a game will lose points for not doing this of course, but I just really like it going this way.

Overall, Need For Speed: Hot Pursuit is really a great game. There’s just a whole lot for you to enjoy. It’s a complete racing game with top notch gameplay and graphics. It certainly makes a case for being the strongest Need for Speed title. Really the only thing stopping it is the fact that there is 0 story. Even if the gameplay may be the best, it’s hard for me to put it above one of the titles that actually has a strong story. If you’re just in it for the gameplay though then I’d say that you really can’t go wrong here. There’s something to be said for going back to the core basics which this game executed really well.

Overall 8/10

Tales of Symphonia: Dawn of the New World Review


It’s time to look at the sequel to the original Tales of Symphonia game. As I recently beat the first one I knew it was time to jump right into the sequel. It’s definitely a very worthy successor. Is it as good as the first one? Well….it’s a tricky one. I do appreciate that we no longer have to worry about big dungeons and there are a lot more cinematics here. On the other hand, the original game had the better story if you ask me. So overall I would say that the original wins but it’s very close and that’s definitely impressive considering how good the first one.

It’s been a few years since the original game’s events concluded. The heroes succeeded in merging the two worlds together but this didn’t result in the perfect utopia that they expected. Instead of war about to break out between the half elves and humans, now there are big battles between the inhabitants of both worlds. The Church of Martel seems to have become more radical as well. The game starts with Lloyd appearing and murdering everyone in the city of Palmacosta. Emil barely manages to escape and saves a girl named Marta as well. We then skip forward a few years. Emil doesn’t remember these events and has had a pretty tough time of it. Nobody likes him as they believe him to be a bad luck charm. One day he meets up with Marta again who is being chased by a bunch of villains. She asks him if he will serve her as a Knight of Ratatosk and since he has nothing to lose, Emil agrees to this and gains a lot of power.

Marta explains her mission. She has to find all of the Centurion Cores and awaken them. This will restore Lord Ratatosk who will bring peace to this chaotic world. There are a lot of questions here to be honest but Emil doesn’t care. He’s finally found someone who needs him and so he has a purpose at long last. Emil agrees to help but he also wants revenge against Lloyd along the way. Emil doesn’t understand why people seem to love Lloyd so much despite the guy being a mass murderer. Most people don’t even believe Emil. Then you’ve also got the Vanguard which is an army of extremists who are trying to murder everyone and Emil’s mentor of sorts named Richter is a part of their group. The heroes will definitely need to take some sides here.

There’s a lot of story going on here and that’s why it’s always interesting writing reviews for an RPG. It’s a lot different from my standard game reviews where the plot doesn’t have to be mentioned much. Even from what I’ve written below, there’s just so much more to get into. Of course, it’s a story that is constantly evolving as you go through the chapters so you don’t want to get into it too deeply either. Needless to say there is a very large cast of characters here along with a ton of plot twists. You’ll need to play through the game in its entirety to really get the payoff here. I’ll still give a few thoughts here.

One of the big plots here is naturally involving Lloyd and how he went from being the main character of the first film to now seemingly murdering a bunch of people. If you played through the first game then I’m sure you’re thinking that there’s no way Lloyd would actually be evil. It would certainly be a bold move though that’s for sure but it would likely be a very unpopular move that would turn the fanbase against you. Well, the game explains why he’s doing all of this by the line but I just don’t buy into it. The whole thing is a huge stretch if you ask me. The guy’s just out of character, there’s no other way around it. It’s great to see him of course but he just doesn’t act like Lloyd.

It is always nice to see the old cast show up when you’re with a new group though. To date the game that did this the best was the second Golden Sun game. It was handled masterfully. Here you aren’t squarely against the old cast although you do get to fight Lloyd a few times which was neat. The game comes so close to making Lloyd the final boss which was impressive. It’s also just hype to see the characters acknowledge that Lloyd and the others saved the world a while back. It’s rare to go back to a world where the heroes are now famous for saving the world from the brink of disaster. Richter managing to fight off the whole original group was certainly impressive.

The game also retroactively shows us why the villain from the first game had some good points. Uniting the planet did nothing to stop the class battles. It just switched the sides. Now people from both planets are getting into even more fights than the old days. The characters are far from perfect and the world is in desperate need of someone saving it once more. The problem is that without a tangible villain to fight against for the most part, this battle is a lot tougher on the heroes. Then you’ve got the fact that Emil and Marta are working for a powerful spirit named Ratatosk who may or may not be evil.

So it’s a very ambitious story and certainly one that I enjoyed quite a lot. As for the characters, they’re definitely solid. Aside from Lloyd, I’d say that the rest of the old characters are in character. I’m glad that most of them are still trusting Lloyd although I don’t blame the ones who stopped due to how shady he is. If Lloyd doesn’t trust them then why should they trust him right? For the new characters, I’ll start with Emil. I can’t say that I’m a big fan of his. He’s just too timid. The guy backs down to everyone and always tends to panic. When the others get in trouble Emil is forced to call out for Ratatosk mode to save the day each time. Emil’s standard form is just in over his head and to save his character he would have needed to get with the program a lot sooner.

As for his Ratatosk mode, that’s when Emil’s at his best. It’s a similar dynamic to Jekyl and Hyde or Yugi and Yami Yugi. They are effectively different characters. As Ratatosk, Emil is a fun character even if you may not be able to call him a very heroic one. He’s always ready for a fight and isn’t passive this time around. When there’s someone in his way Emil will just blast through them. I wouldn’t have minded if he was in this form all the time. Then you have the heroine Marta. She’s a pretty unique characters. For starters she is constantly flirting with Emil due to admiring him after he saved her as a child. Emil doesn’t remember this and isn’t as brave as Marta expected him to be but that could also be why she was enjoying teasing him the whole time.

Beneath that she has a solid character arc though. Like Emil she has a lot of reasons for being fairly withdrawn and creating an external persona. She wants revenge on some characters but tries to hold this back. At the end of the day she is doing what she can to save the world and does well at this. I would say that she is better than the heroine of the first game. So the these two characters make for a solid duo. Then you’ve got Richter who is one of the major players of the game. He’s definitely a solid villain. No matter what justifications he uses, one of the guy’s first appearances is to try to murder Marta so there’s no way you can stretch him into being a hero. The guy has his goals and the motivations are solid but he definitely goes too far in trying to achieve them. He has the best theme in the game though which makes it extra fun whenever he appears. I also liked his weapon of choice.

The game’s story has a ton of cinematics which is fun because it makes this feel like a movie type event at times. There is always something happening and a benefit of being a sequel is having a lot of nostalgic moments everywhere. Pretty much every town is accurately recreated from the first game including the dungeons. The hub world is gone so now you go directly from place to place. I was definitely pretty cool with that. The graphics are quite solid and the soundtrack is good. While the first game wins with the music overall, I really liked Richter’s theme as well as the various remasters from the first game.

There’s definitely a lot of replay value here. The game itself is over 20 hours long and there are a lot of side quests and bonus cutscenes you can experience during the game as well. Add onto that the various collectibles and this will definitely last you for a while. It’s not quite as long as the first game but still quite long in its own right. There are also some new mechanics compared to the first game like being able to train up monsters. While it’s always sad to see them go back to level 1 when they reincarnate, their stats go quite high. They were super valuable during the final bosses here and they level up faster than the human characters so at least to me it seemed to balance out pretty well.

Overall, Dawn of the New World is a great sequel to the first Tales Of. I definitely recommend picking this up whether you’ve played the first one or not. Either way it’s a great RPG that really succeeds in every area. The fact that most of the dungeons are already completed when you start the game is fine by me. It just means that there’s more time to focus on the story and battles. We get quite a few action scenes in the cinematics like Lloyd taking on Richter or the main duo going up against Alice and her partner. The story gets quite deep at times and doesn’t pull its punches. The ending is pretty tragic in some ways but I was glad that at least some of the characters got a happy ending here. It would have been pretty sad if the game had cut out a bit early. Hopefully they bring these characters back for another adventure some day.

Overall 8/10