Monster Hunter Stories: Ride On Review

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It’s time to look at Monster Hunter. An anime that may be different than what you’re expecting as it is based on a very specific game in the series that is about riders instead of hunters. The series never really manages to break out of its shell and become something too epic which is a shame. There are certainly some more interesting things they could have done here and it could have potentially opened up into something like Pokemon. Still, it’s a reasonably good show and one that lasted for a long time so the show had time for a lot of things to happen.

There are two main arcs, but lets say 3 since the pre arc was rather long. The start of the show is about Lute, Cheval, and Lilia as they journey throughout the village and into towns as they learn more about being Riders. Unlike Hunters who destroy monsters for rewards and safety, Lute and the gang grew up in a village where they live as pals. Lute aims to prove that having kinship with a monster is the right thing to do while the hunters aren’t very sure. Hijinx ensues and the cast often have to wonder if this is the right call. Even if it is, how will they convince anyone to change sides? To become a rider you have to get a special jewel and to do that you basically have to join a village so that’s a tough sell for anyone.

The next arc is the darkest of the show as Cheval’s life is forever changed when a blighted monster destroys the village. He decides to avenge his family by hunting down and destroying all blighted monsters. Lute doesn’t think that this is the way to go though and decides to purify all of the crystals instead to stop the corruption at its core. The two of them become enemies now and while Lute is convinced that they can still be friends with differing opinions, Cheval doesn’t agree. He aims to destroy Lute once and for all to prove that sometimes Kinship isn’t enough to keep two people together.

Finally, the series brings in a new group of villains known as the Black/Ebon/Dark Riders who show up and kidnap Avinia. They aim to bring the world to its knees by performing a forbidden ritual and getting unlimited power. Lute and Cheval have to try and stop these guys, but the problem is that they are outnumbered and these villains are also way too powerful. They will need some kind of power up to hold their own. The other villagers realize that they will have to get stronger as well, but can they bridge the gap in time?
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The show’s tone was all over the place, but for the most part it was rather light. Think of it as a classic slice of life series for a while as the heroes head to various towns and chat with people. That’s why in some cases the episodes could get a little boring since the cast isn’t amazing. Then the show gets really dark for the main Blighted Monsters arc. One thing the show is rarely clear about is if defeating monsters means destroying them. It seems like this is the case due to how everyone reacts and Lute always tells everyone not to defeat the monsters except for when he does. The show’s just really not consistent here. This may be more the dub than anything, but it really tried to never use the word destroy. As a result, “defeated” is the term always used even when a monster is slain.

That’s why the middle arc gets really dark as Cheval goes around destroying all monsters who have been in contact with the blight and even any other that just gets in his way. Lute and the others are unable to save any of them. Chieval even commands a Nargacuga of his own as a revenge of sorts for the main one dealing with his family. He is very mean to it of course and then abandons it. Cheval never really had to answer for all of this much and I just felt bad for the monsters. Then of course we have the hunters running around slaying them all. It’s definitely a rather brutal world that Lute and the others live in. The worst part is that Lute has his kinship stone which can purify all of the blighted monsters but he typically forgets about this and still tries to take some of them down at times. This whole part of the saga definitely brings it down quite a bit and is one of the main reasons why the Black Rider arc ended up winning. At this point the monsters started getting written out a bit although Shadow still destroys quite a few along the way as well. I guess they all need to become pals with a main character quickly before it’s too late.

Lute is your typical main character. He believes in the power of friendship (Known as Kinship here) and is always willing to lend a helping hand. He’s really close with Navirou so they trade insults quite a lot but all in good fun. Lute’s only real flaw at times is just how much of a pacifist he is. Even when being attacked he refuses to fight back if he is up against a fellow rider. This is at its worst during the final arc when he first fights with Gale. Considering that this guy kidnapped one of his friends and may destroy the village, Lute really has no time to keep trying to dodge the fight. You’ve got to make a stand and it’s not like simply fighting the opponent is the same as destroying him. Aside from that it is nice to have a more experienced Lute for the final arc. He is treated with a lot of respect at the end since he did help save the world and his new design does a good job of getting that across without any words. As soon as you see the design for the first time you can tell that he has gotten stronger.

Navirou is Lute’s travel companion and he is very useful for navigation in his mind at least. He is the main comic relief character of the series so you can probably guess that he isn’t very good at almost anything. He does have some thunder abilities which are really handy when Navirou actually remembers that he has such a power. Unfortunately that isn’t very often so don’t expect to see it much. Navirou’s cross armed salute is probably his best running gag but I also don’t mind his “Navi rules.” Cutting out some of his comic relief would probably have been nice though or even some of the cat episodes in genera. Overall I think he worked well as a support character and I’m glad he was around but the character could have been better.

Lilia is technically one of the 3 main characters for a while but starts to get written out by the end. Her path in the show was doomed from the start as she did t have a monster to protect her. Without a monstie in an action show like this, of course she wouldn’t ultimately stand a chance. It’s the same situation as being in a Pokémon show without catching a Pokémon. Lilia decided that she wanted to be a researcher instead which is fine but that kind of character rarely gets to do all that much. Lilia ends up being rather bland as a result.

Then we have Cheval who is the main rival. He gets a very Sasuke esque role here as he starts out by being one of the more heroic characters, but quickly starts to let the darkness consume him. He goes as far as to try and destroy Lute multiple times and nearly destroys one of his own Monsties. His whole arc gets rather dark at times. Naturally he also gets the redemption arc at the end as well. It may be a little tough to buy into as well especially since he did claim quite a few victims. Lute may accept him, but should he? Ultimately it’s hard to see Cheval as anything but a villain even by the end. It’s a shame because his character type is always nice as he becomes the rival that he always should have been by the end. The guy certainly went through a lot of character changes.

Avinia is a mysterious figure who shows up in the series from time to time before getting a big role in the final arc. She does lose this mystique almost right away but it was nice to finally have another rider who could fight. At the time Lute was the only heroic rider so he really needed an ally. Unfortunately, we never did get that Avinia vs Cheval fight I was hoping for. Once again I can say that the show dropped the ball with Avinia quite a bit. She has one of the best designs in the show and a monstie with a lot of potential. Despite this she rarely fights in the series and spends most of the final arc on the sidelines. Considering how powerful she apparently is, I would have liked to have seen her play a more active role. Still a cool character but one who wasn’t given enough to do in the show.
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Of course we can’t forget about Deb….Li. Every character in the series likes to mess up his name and it is heavily implied that this is intentional. That’s because they say his name normally when he isn’t around. We already have a handful of comic relief characters but I guess you can never have too many as this one was thrown in as well. For the most part he is about as obnoxious as you would expect. He yells quite a lot and can’t seem to do anything right. The one running gag that he does right (Aside from the whole name thing since that one is decent because of how Debli panics every time) is when he Rides on. The animation and fake sound effect that he gets for it is handled beautifully. Debli toes the line between being a sympathetic character and an annoying one and does a good job of making it ambiguous. In the end I was okay with him although I wouldn’t have been sad if he had never shown up.

Reverto is probably one of her biggest unintentional jokes in the series. He gets a lot of hype throughout the series as being one of the world’s greatest hunters. If that really is the case then that doesn’t bode well for the hunters in general. He can barely handle any legitimately strong monsters and forget about taking down a plot important villain. In this show all hunters can do is swing their sword around and hope to land some good hits. They have no special abilities or even any enhanced physical ones. They are just guys with swords. Of course one of the main themes of the show is that the Riders are right and the Hunters are wrong so I wouldn’t expect them to look that good but they look downright horrible by the end. Hundreds of hunters can accomplish what a single rider can because they have no special abilities. Why would they possibly not want to become riders then? How have they not all been wiped out by this point? Anyway, there isn’t anything actually wrong with Reverto as he is a decent character but you just can’t take him seriously when he is fighting because despite all of the tough talk you know that he won’t end up coming out on top. He is just there to buy time for Lute.

Simone would fall into the same issue except from the start she is portrayed as a researcher rather than a fighter. Her intel is rarely useful and barely goes beyond the realm of common knowledge but I guess her role isn’t all that bad. She’s just not a very interesting character and none of her scenes really leave an impact. Cut her out from the show entirely and nothing really changes at all. That’s never a good sign.

Dan is one of those comic relief characters where you aren’t sure if it is intentional or not for a while. Technically you would think that he is rather skilled since he is rather old and teaches the kids, but they end up surpassing him very quickly. Part of the issue is the fact that he chose a very weak monster to be his monstie. He never explains why he doesn’t just pick a different creature. Perhaps it has sentimental value or perhaps he just isn’t the smartest rider in the group. Either way, his character doesn’t work too well and his “In top Form” battle cry is so half hearted that you will wonder why they built a whole character around the line. As you can tell, many of the supporting characters just aren’t very interesting. I won’t even get into the various elders who never do anything or the riddle master who is just annoying.
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Mille is one of the side characters who is actually good. She can fight and in the final arc is probably the strongest rider aside from the main 2. (Lute and Chevall) O would have liked her to have gotten more of a role though. From the start of the show you got the impression that she may turn out to be a bit of a rival or at the very least would remain as one of the main fighters for a while. Instead she is effectively kept to the background for most of the show. Still a good character but she could have been even better.

Instead a lot of screen time is wasted on Hyoro as he tries to overcome his timid nature. The plot does not go well and he even sides with the villainous Chevall to take on the village. Yes, Mille does this as well but at least she was already a quality character. Hyoro never ends up becoming a good character and even after he gets stronger off screen for the final arc it’s hard to ever gain respect for the guy. He just never had a big moment where he got past his fears and did something amazing. Instead he essentially proved his doubts right as he never got to be all that strong. Genie is Hyoro’s older brother and the main reason why the kid turned out the way that he did. Genie can be overly critical of Hyoro but of course he says it is only to make Hyoro better. I didn’t mind Genie, but he was a rather half hearted bully who couldn’t back up his tough talk. Ultimately he was about as weak as the other side characters and Hyoro likely surpassed him in the end.

Gale is the Shadow Rider with the biggest role in the series. He gets to fight Lute quite a few times and his skills are the real deal. He is also the strongest member I’d say although Shadow would give him some competition for that title. He gets quite a few plot twists. While his plan may not have been amazing and he probably should have tried doing something a little earlier, he did make for a good rival. He just kept getting stuck in rather bad situations. While he was also unable to make the hero move at the end which nearly caught him, it’s a mistake that I could sympathize with since he was so close to finally accomplishing his goal. It was an intense moment and he’s in my top 3 characters in the series. I’d say that he is second only to Lute.

Next is Shadow who is certainly the 2nd coolest member of the group. Her speed is astounding to the point where the heroes can’t even keep track of where she is. There is a plot twist about this that I was a little mixed on. It is essentially a nerf, but I didn’t see it coming so I’ll give the show that. I also think Shadow’s rage mode should have kicked in instantly after what Anvis ends up doing to someone instead of waiting til their next meeting. It’s not as if anything would have changed in the outcome though.

Then we have Mad who is one of the villains that you can’t take seriously. I guess in the end the Riders could only score a 50 as 2 of their members were good and the others weren’t. Mad is just one of those guys who only cares about his looks and as a result he can be defeated if you simply get some dirt on him. Even his monster’s design isn’t all that good. It’s basically just a huge worm so that’s not too impressive. Same goes for Wrath but to an even bigger extent. Wrath is the strong but not smart type, but he isn’t even all that tough. There’s nothing original or interesting about him as a character.

Finally we have Anvis, the leader of these guys. Somehow he was able to gain control over an Elder Dragon even before undergoing the complete power up ceremony. Considering this, he does earn the title of being the strongest rider in existence. He makes for a solid final boss and a solid character all around. He definitely thought things through and stayed one step ahead of Gale and the heroes for a while. He’s a considerable improvement over the doctor who was the main villain of the first few arcs. He is reduced to comic relief for the final arc and was never much of a threat anyway. His episodes had a tendency to simply be rather boring so I was fine with him being gone.

There are also the Numbers, but they never had much of a point in the story. They are really just around to get their long piece of recycled animation over and over again. The show certainly loved doing that to save on the budget. The animation for the show is fairly decent. It does take a lot of shortcuts by using recycled animation constantly though. This becomes a bigger issue in season 2 as we even get little scenes of the characters reaching out when calling their monsties. It feels really forced and I could have done without that. I’m happy they all got armor but it just feels like another way to save on animation. It also uses quite a bit of CGI. We do get some real animation whenever a big fight happens though. Some of the special abilities also look really good like Chevall’s energy disc. Overall, the animation wouldn’t hurt the show, but it wouldn’t really help it either.

The soundtrack is rather bland as well unfortunately. You will definitely start to remember the tunes after a while since they keep on popping up, but that’s because the soundtrack is just really limited. I would have loved to have had some really great tunes to amp up the fight scenes, but alas it was simply not to be. This title could not deliver.

Finally I have to say that the show’s ride on mechanic seems rather odd. Basically the monstie that is summoned shows up when a character strikes the pose. The show portrays this as the monsters are just hiding nearby until they are needed but what are they doing in the meantime? Shouldn’t they just be with the heroes then? Lute has over 6 monsties in the show, but only uses his main one for basically the whole series. What is even the point of everyone having up to 6 if they only use one for all of the fights? They should have just had Pokeballs of some kind to keep the others in as that would make more sense if you ask me. I think the show dropped the ball a little on the collect them all aspect of the series.

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Overall, This isn’t a bad show. I’d say that Monster Hunter is fairly decent. The problem is that it’s only average or below average in most areas. There isn’t a single section that I could point to and say that the series was amazing. On the contrary, the series could be a little boring at times. The characters just aren’t strong enough to hold the show as well as others could. It got a little more exciting towards the end but the show also amped up the crude humor and comedy to match. I’d recommend checking it out at some point if you need a good fantasy show, but there are many others that I would suggest seeing before this one. At least there is a lot of content here since the show managed to make it to around 70 episodes. That was actually pretty impressive.

Overall 6/10

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Professor Layton and the Miracle Mask Stats and Records

Stats time!

Play Time 18h 15m
Score 3188 Picarats
Cases Solved 99/135
Hint Coins 80/143
Robot Levels 2/10
Shop Displays 3/10
Rabbit 7/10
Collection 22/40

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

Professor Layton and the Last Specter Review

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It’s time to take a look at the start of the Professor Layton prequel trilogy! It’s always fun to see the characters first meeting up so I was ready for the big Layton/Luke team up. There’s no chance for them to fight as in most classic prequels, but Luke did manage to be rather mysterious for a little while. Aside from a dreadfully terrible ending that makes you want to delete the game, this is another solid title in the consistent series. It always reminds me of how puzzles are actually a lot of fun if they’re handled correctly.

Layton may be a mild mannered professor during the day, but he is also a master sleuth and archaeologist. He receives a letter from an old friend of his requesting some help. As he is about to head off, a girl named Emmy shows up and claims she is now his assistant. Layton tries to get out of this situation, but she won’t take no for an answer. The two of them head to the town where a giant monster shows up and knocks over a lot of buildings. Clearly this is an enemy that Layton is not going to want to underestimate, but is there really a monster or is it just a fake? A kid named Luke seems to be able to predict whenever it will appear which is rather suspect. Between the suspicious mayor, the underground gangs, and the corrupt police, Layton will have his work cut out for him.

Emmy’s a great addition to the cast in this game. I like her more than her current timeline counterpart and the fact that she can fight is really great. We get several cutscenes of her taking down gangs and defending Layton. A gentleman resorts to violence as a last resort of course and as such Layton doesn’t have a whole lot of combat training. I’m definitely going to be interested in seeing why she decides to leave Layton by the end of the trilogy. Maybe she’ll end up appearing in the new 3DS game that is coming out soon.

Layton is a solid main character as always. He stays firm even as he gets threatened by various characters. He’s always tipping his cap when greeting others which is nice of him and has many plans at the ready. Villains rarely catch him off guard. There’s not much more to say about him that I haven’t already said in the older games. Luke is also pretty similar to the other games even though he is quite a bit younger. He’s not really ready to solve too many puzzles this time around, but always manages to try his best regardless. Luke’s father didn’t look very good the whole time. He just seems awfully shady without and never seems like a nice guy. Everything is a mystery though so keep an open mind.

The graphics are pretty good of course. As always we get a number of fully animated cutscenes at the ready which was great. The fact that we had multiple action scenes during them was also pretty neat. The scene of the monster destroying the town of Emmy comboing the gang were both quite exciting. I’d also say that the soundtrack is pretty good, but I’d like some new themes. I felt like they were all recycled from previous games. I can get the nostalgia appeal of course, but new themes help to keep the games fresh and relying on old ones can be a bit lazy.

I enjoyed the array of puzzles. A lot of them follow the same style as older ones, but there are some new ones as well. It’s not as if there are a whole lot of different ways to make a puzzle after all so you’ll inevitably have some recycled ones. Still, they’re always enjoyable to get through and the game does its best to make them all different in some way or another. The game will last you around 12 hours and there is a lot of replay value as you work to solve the rest of the puzzles and complete the minigames. It’ll probably take you around 20-30 hours to do all of that so it’s really worth the price. Even without the replay value, the main game has a lot of value.

Unfortunately there is one thing that holds the game back…the ending. Spoilers will commence so skip this paragraph if you want to avoid that. I always figured that the mysterious monster wasn’t actually a monster so that was no big deal. If anything, I was surprised we got a monster at all, but it turns out that there was one hanging around. He was fighting the robot at night and immense plot hax made this look like a giant monster to the audience. Honestly, the game didn’t try too hard with this moment as there’s just no way it could have happened. Beyond that, the big issue is that at the end the monster dies from overexerting itself. It keeps hitting the walls of the town until it finally shatters them and the little girl is saved from her disease. It’s an emotional tale, but why did the monster have to die? He should have lived and then the ending would have been perfect. As it is, the story took a rather gritty turn there and instantly made this the worst of the Layton adventures. It really is a shame since the rest of the game is so solid, but I couldn’t overlook this. The game crossed a line that it should not have crossed.

The game is definitely leading up to something big in the next one as the villain gets an after credits scene. He’s not bad so far and should make for a good antagonist. I prefer him to the guy from the first two games, but Future Luke is still the best villain in the series. I aim to get the next game fairly soon so prepare for that, it shall be Epic! There’s not much more to say about the game. The gameplay is all as streamlined as it can be at this point and you can tell that the company is very experienced with the Layton game. It’s easy to pick up and play at any time and while the story is fairly long it never gets dull. Something is always happening.

Overall, This game is a lot more low key than the last one as this is only the start of the trilogy. It still gets off to a more exciting start than the first ever Layton though. Unfortunately the gritty ending does shave off 2 whole stars from the game. An ending is supposed to make you feel glad that you played the whole game, not make you shake your head in disbelief. I’m confident that the next two games will go back to the quality that I’ve come to expect though as the rest of the game is quite sound. I’d still recommend this game to all gamers, just watch out for the ending. See how many puzzles you can solve before you have to resort to the hint coins. I’d be immensely impressed if anyone could solve all of the main puzzles without hint coins since that honestly seems almost impossible. Before the next Layton game, it’s going to be time to play something a little less intellectually stimulating.

Overall 6/10

LBX: Little Battlers eXperience Review

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I’m always up for a good robot game. Mega Man and Custom Robo were always exceptional titles and so naturally LBX looked like a winner from the get go. I actually got to watch the TV show way before the game so if anything this version feels pretty nostalgic while playing through. The anime adapted the game pretty faithfully to be honest and the quality is sharp since it’s by Level 5. Those guys really do a great job of completely building a game around its concept. Layton is the perfect puzzle game and this is the optimal robot experience. You just can’t go wrong with buying this title.

The story follows a kid named Van. He’s really interested in the new game that everyone is playing. It’s called LBX and you buy a mini robot that you can use to fight with other people. Think of it like those classic Rock em Sock Em toys that used to be around, but 1000X cooler as the robots have weapons with live ammo and you control them with your phones. Unfortunately his Mom is against it for reasons unknown and Van’s Dad may have created the LBX franchise, but he died in a plane crash. A mysterious lady gives Van a one of a kind LBX one day though and after he stops some burglars from stealing it, he ends up joining a private faction who is trying to stop the villain organization from using it for their own means. They tell Van that his Dad is actually alive and being held hostage so Van quickly goes on board. His two friends Ami and Kaz agree to help as well. They’ll have to win multiple tournaments, break into enemy territory, and hone their skills. The risk is high, but there are lives on the line so the heroes put on their game faces and get ready for action.

It’s a pretty long game at 15 hours so that’s really just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the plot. There are 12-13 episodes in the game and the length varies for each one. There is also a lot of replay value as you have many parts to buy and quests to complete. I did a few quests here and there and got a bunch of weapons, but getting them all would take a long while. There are also online battles that you can play so content is certainly not lacking in this title. You can have fun playing the game for a very long time and it’s worth the full price.

The soundtrack is stellar. It was pretty cool hearing the tunes from the anime even if they technically came out in this game first. It was still nostalgic and most of them are quite memorable. LBX spared no expense in this department and the same goes for the graphics. Not only are the in game graphics sharp, but there are a number of fully animated cutscenes at the ready as well. They really help you dive into the game. It used up a bunch of these cutscenes early on and I would have preferred for Jin to get more of them, but it’s how it goes. It’s really impressive that they added so much in and I feel like we got more animations than Layton. It just feels that way so I can’t confirm it, but a quick Youtube search would give you the answer to that.

As you can imagine, the gameplay is really sharp. It’s in full 3D like Custom Robo and you can equip two weapons at a time. I always went with a good Machine Gun and an electric sword. Even if it’s not the strongest, I like the electric sword because it stuns the opponent so you get more hits in. More hits = More damage or at least that’s how I saw it. The gun can be safer, but the opponent can use the downtime between rounds to get in close and take you down. You have to use a lot of strategy here. You can carry health items to help yourself out as well. There are also a number of final smashes that you can equip. You can use a weaker one to try and get some damage in, but the catch is that the enemy might dodge it. You can instead use an ultra attack which is impossible to dodge, but you can’t move for around 5-8 seconds which is a long time and if an opponent deals enough damage during that time you will lose the attack. I was able to use it successfully in the final boss which was helpful. It seems to always happen that the boss gets me to my last bit of health and then I clutch it out. It’s an amazing feeling, but also super stressful. The final bosses were definitely incredibly powerful so I recommend training a lot so you’re prepared for it.

I still think the concept of LBX was borrowed heavily from Megaman Battle Network, but it certainly did a good job of making a name for itself. It had a lot of its own unique features which differentiated itself from Megaman. It’s also a good move to be like Megaman since Capcom isn’t making any new games at the moment so we can get our Megaman fix this way. Imagine a Megaman game that was 3D like this one with a bunch of hype cutscenes. Hopefully Capcom can learn a thing or two from this title and incorporate it into future titles.

The cast is basically the same from the anime, but I’ll briefly mention some of the big ones. Van is a solid hero as you’d expect. He’s always ready for a fight and is very proactive in trying to save his Dad. He has a brief lapse in confidence, but gets over it right away. At times he can almost seem too happy like when they arrive to the toy store to buy things which felt like a contrast to his rather serious self, but at the end of the day he’s still just a kid. It’s hard to say if he beats Lan Hikari or not as they’re both very similar. He’s a lead you can get behind.

His two friends aren’t bad. Kaz is always low on confidence which can be a little grating, but he still helps out when he can. Ami is always supporting Van and doing her best to get in on the action. The school friends are pretty bland and underwhelming though. I can see why they got such tiny roles in the game since they didn’t add anything to the dynamic. Jin is a great rival and his LBX has an excellent design. He’s pretty reasonable throughout and does a good job of balancing this while still acting really confident the whole time. He’s an ideal rival and his team up fights with Van at the end are a blast.

Dak and Gouda are two other characters who help out a bit. They’re a step below Jin and Van when it comes to ability, but the more allies the better right? I thought Dak was an enjoyable supporting character, but Gouda is a little too weak to be taken seriously. He was good as an opening boss though. Mr. Kaido is a solid main villain. The fact that he can actually fight goes a long way since he doesn’t have to hide when the fighting starts. His robot is also really cool and has a great design. One villain that came in towards the very end was Kirito and he was exceptionally good. Taking out almost the whole cast on his own was certainly a hype moment and the fact that his LBX had a Super Form was really cool as well.

I have to say that I liked how the super forms were incorporated in this game. When you get below 25% health you can activate it and heavily boost your attack power. It helped a lot in the final boss and just looked really cool. When an opponent would use it, it would up the stakes as you had to focus on defense a lot more. Since some fights would give them all of their health back, the game really didn’t hold anything back. You need to be pretty good at the game and be at a high level to win. It always feels fair and balanced with just the right amount of difficulty to make things interesting.

Van’s Dad is okay at best here. I still think he tends to run off too often and leave Van behind for no reason. He gets a lot of hype so he’s a good scientist, but seems like a bad father. I wasn’t impressed with the Red Haired guy and his Team Rocket homage members. They’re the only part of the cast/plot that I couldn’t take seriously. I just never liked them for some reason. The true final boss of the game was great though. His origin story was definitely pretty intense and his LBX even more so. It was a pretty nice/explosive way to end the game. It’s great to see Level 5 get to go all out with the ending here as most of their other titles are a lot more down to Earth. Now we know what they can do with a good action title. I didn’t even totally get how the final boss worked and just had to keep on buying time and using hit and run tactics. You can probably see why I just barely defeated him.

Overall, LBX is without a doubt an excellent game. There are absolutely no negatives with it. The gameplay was completely on point. It felt balanced and it was easy to lock on to an opponent. The levels were huge which was a lot of fun but you can move fast so you don’t have to worry about matches dragging out. The plot was really engaging and kept you alert with all of its twists and turns. You felt like you were playing a big RPG and I think this probably would fit in the genre considering that you do have to backtrack to various areas and you explore as you go through the game. The cast of characters was a lot of fun. It’s a little hard to get used to the American names so in this review I mainly used the ones I was familiar with but not all of them were downgrades. The main case where the English name definitely loses is with Justin though. The graphics and audio were definitely well above average and there is a lot of content in this game. It’s the definition of a AAA title and I’m convinced that Level 5 is one of the best studios of all time. It’s hard to see them churning out a game that isn’t great at this point. I highly recommend buying this game. You’ll be glad that you did.

Overall 9/10

Professor Layton and the Unwound Future Review

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Time for the next Layton game. This is the big one folks. We assemble all of the characters from the first two games and throw in the most fantastic plot yet for epic results. While I don’t really care for some of the final twists in the game, I can’t really go into detail or else it would spoil everything. Needless to say though, the series has always been very grounded in reality which is something to keep in mind for this game. I like to think about what could have been had the twist not occurred, but it is what it is. It’s still a fantastic game and the best Layton title.

The game starts off with the Prime Minister being kidnapped. Layton and Luke head over to investigate when they are told a fantastic story. The Minister has been taken 10 years into the future and they can go over there as well to find him. Layton is skeptical, but he always keeps an open mind about these things so he heads on over. In the future we meet up with Future Luke who is now a genius who can compete with Layton in battles of the mind. He lets them know that Layton has turned evil in the future and rules the city with an iron fist. His gang is in control and the cops are no more. Layton wants to meet his future self and save the Prime Minister, but it will require some brawn as well as brain this time.

It’s just a very ambitious game and the new setting was a lot of fun. All of the usual supporting cast members got to come to the future as well which made for some fun interactions. The cop and his bumbling sidekick are here, Flora is here, the main villain from the first two games is here, etc. Everyone is back which makes the game feel pretty grand and the old villain even gets a backstory. I think the game maybe tried a little too hard to make him a nice guy all of a sudden who Layton treats as a rival, but I can roll with it. The standout character here is definitely future Luke. He had the perfect voice for the character and we just haven’t seen a really overconfident genius until now. They were either all very polite like Layton or not the genius type. Luke was just a nice contrast and any scene he was in was pretty great. It’s no exaggeration to say that he is my favorite character in the series. He was just really awesome.

The rest of the characters are really good as well of course. Layton is still a great lead who always stays calm and collected no matter what happens. He just stays in control of the situation and always has a plan up his sleeve. Honestly, I could have done without his flashbacks, but I suppose this way we finally learned about his past. It wasn’t the most interesting of tales, but I guess it gave him his motivation for why he became a genius. Young Luke is the same as always. He’s pretty eager to help out with the cases and he is actually very smart, but still lags behind the others. He’s nice enough.

I definitely enjoyed the story and it certainly went by quickly. The game is of a pretty decent length as it will last you over 10 hours, but the pacing is just really solid. It’s also still funny how everyone will randomly challenge you with puzzles for everything so you’re always solving. It’s sort of like how everyone duels you in Yu-Gi-Oh. The more forced the situation the better. That being said, I did have some problems with the final twists. I’ll try to go about it in the least spoiler way possible. Just skip the next paragraph if you don’t want to learn about the twists.

So, the big twist is that there is no future and the characters were just taking an elevator which took them to the basement of a building where the main villain created an exact duplicate of London down to every building and street. I get that the whole future thing didn’t work since it wasn’t realistic…but is this any better? I just have a very hard time believing that a duplicate London could be built without anyone knowing about it. You’d need an incredible amount of resources and time to do it. It would take at least a decade and probably more. Not to mention that at least one worker would have likely squealed at some point. I feel like the entire story doesn’t work as a result and I could not wrap my head around the twist. It happened though, so I just gotta hold that L.

The graphics are pretty good as usual. It’s still very impressive how the game has complete animated cutscenes within it. The normal levels also look really good and the puzzles are pretty clear. The soundtrack is actually better than usual and it’s easily the best Layton soundtrack. Again, you can tell that the creators of the game really put their all into this one. It’s just very well done on all accounts.

If I had another minor gripe, it would be that the puzzles can be a little unclear at times. You just don’t know what they want you to do and that can naturally make them difficult to solve. On the other hand, the game is more generous with the hint coins than usual so you should usually have enough to help you out with the tougher ones. A lot of other puzzles you can also guess through as there are a limited number of answers so you’re bound to run into the right one sooner or later. All in all, it was a solid puzzle selection though. To help with replay value, you also have parrot minigames and a car one. I didn’t play around with those much, but they’re not bad. There’s also the extra puzzles that you didn’t solve during the story. If you count all of that, the game will definitely last you a long while.

Overall, This was a really fun game. Everything is smooth, from the interface to the controls in the puzzles. I’ve definitely enjoyed the Layton games a great deal and can’t wait to buy the next one. The next game is apparently the start of the prequel trilogy so for all intents and purposes, this was the big climax of the series. You should really play the first two games to appreciate this one more, but it’s pretty new gamer friendly so you’ll be able to get into it either way. I already own the next game so I’ll certainly be starting it soon after a quick break to play through LBX first. Imagine if all puzzle games were like the Layton series, I’d be playing them a lot more.

Overall 8/10

Professor Layton and the Diabolical Box Review

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After finally finishing the last Professor Layton game, I quickly jumped onto this one. I was pretty close to wrapping up Little Big Planet, but Layton is one of those elite series that takes precedence over just about anything. It also helps that the game is fairly short so it’s not as if it’ll be holding onto that spot for a long time. This sequel is very good and while the first one is certainly the better game in my opinion, this one had the better plot.

Layton and Luke head onto a train, but their adventure is quickly derailed when they find out that someone was murdered over a mysterious box. The heroes dig up some dirt on it during the first town they stop in, but the real evidence starts to appear once they hitch a ride to a ghost town. They infiltrated the royal deluxe suite in order to get in and the only problem is that they might not be able to get out again. That’s fine, they’re prepared for the dangers that may arise, but will their intellectual skills be up to the task?

It’s certainly a solid follow-up to the last game and it acknowledges the first one by having their new partner Flora show up. We also get the big villain from the last game to appear again although the main villain here is a big improvement. There are a few new characters along with some old ones like the Inspector. One of the main reasons why I found the plot here to be better than the last game is that it gets to the meat of the story right away. The first game gave you a lot of time to get used to the characters and the plot didn’t start until you were well into the game. Since people are dying from the box, the stakes are higher than the first game from the get go. Things really heat up during the climax as well since we get a sword fight through one of the cutscenes and the heroes actually get kidnapped.

I have to say that the whole kidnapping plot was pretty odd. The heroes hallucinated about a large gang and then the butler acted as if everything was normal. I suppose that the hallucinogens got to the heroes, but it was still an odd scene. It was an epic one as well though so I’ll take it. The game was just very entertaining and exciting from start to finish and you won’t want to tear yourself away. As always, the game paces itself pretty well. It is noticeably shorter than the last one though as I beat this game in a little over 9 hours while the last one took me around 16. Granted, I got stuck on a puzzle for a while in the last game so it should have been a lot shorter.

I do think this game was easier than the last one though. Perhaps some of the test players said that the first one was too hard so they fixed it here. It’s still not extremely easy to the point where you will be bored, but now a lot of the puzzles have limited answers. This means that instead of figuring it out rationally, you can just guess all 5 or 6 of the possible choices until you get it right. The final puzzles are surprisingly easy as you will be able to solve quite a few of them at a glance. I’ve heard that the post game quests are quite challenging though so that will probably bump things up a notch. On the other hand, I do think this is possibly a smart move if the developers wanted to get more kids to play. I still don’t think a kid would be able to solve some of the puzzles from the first game.

On a technical level, this game is quite solid as expected. The graphics are very clear so everything stands out nicely. You can always see a puzzle with absolute clarity so you can focus on figuring it out as opposed to thinking about what it is supposed to be. The fully animated cutscenes look really good as well and I feel like there are more of them this time around than in the first game. Having a fight in one of the cutscenes was also a blast to see. The music is also pretty catchy. It’s fairly simple, but that’s what makes it effective for the puzzles. There also is a good danger theme which plays during some of the game’s more tense moments.

There is a lot of replay value here which should more than make up for the 9 hour story mode. I only beat around 90 of the missions which means there are still almost 50 left to go. That’s a lot of puzzles and naturally the ones that I left are the trickiest ones of all. I never had to stop at any point in the story mode to solve more puzzles to get to the next chapter because I had fun beating a lot of the quick n easy ones in the mean time. This does mean the toughest ones will take longer and unless you’ve got a lot of hint coins stashed away (Which is feasible since this game was really generous with them) you’ll find that this game could get to an RPG’s length very quickly. I don’t personally plan to go back and beat the rest of them soon, but maybe someday.

Another aspect that helps the series is the colorful cast of characters. The Inspector is a nice ally to have around. He may not correctly guess who the culprit is most of the time, but he does try his best and is a likable enough fellow. Luke is a good kid who continues to improve when it comes to riddles. Flora is a good heroine as well and while she’s not much of a detective yet, she does like finding new riddles. Layton steals the show whenever he appears and managed to basically be a perfect lead. The recurring villain is rather bland and won’t leave an impression on you, but they can’t all be winners. I did like the voice that the game gave him when he was coming out of a disguise. The new villain was great and Katia was good enough. Poorly written characters could have held the game back so I’m glad to see that this was not a factor here.

Overall, Professor Layton is a series that I’m glad to finally be apart of. I’m definitely going to get the third game as soon as possible and will probably order it once February hits. This series is just so much fun and in a way it’s good that I took so long to start it because it means that there are more games to catch up on. I believe there are 6 at the moment so I’ve got a lot of catching up to do. It makes me realize that if the Switch had gotten a Layton game for launch, that could have made things very interesting. Ah well, it’s never been a big console title anyway, but that would be fun to think about. If you played the first game then you already know what to expect. If you haven’t, you can still get into this game easy enough, but I’d recommend playing the first one first since this one builds off of that. Not to the extent where it is unplayable, but it’s nice to see the characters reference the past events. At this rate, I don’t see how a Layton game can get under an 8 so long as they don’t mess something up with the formula. It’s just a really fun and exciting game that you can play whenever you want. The controls are easy to pick up and you’ll be a whiz in no time.

Overall 8/10