9 Star Games, Game Reviews, Games, Reviews

Astral Chain Review


It’s time to look at one of Nintendo’s most recent games. This one looked like a day 1 purchase right away. It really had everything I could want from a game through its solid gameplay, epic soundtrack, cinematic story, etc. Astral Chain was pretty much guaranteed to be a home run hit and I’m glad to say that it did not disappoint. I definitely hope the game gets a sequel and it continues to show why Platinum is so good at making quality titles. The game will last you for around 14 hours to complete the main story which is pretty good.

The basic plot is that the world is under attack by invisible monsters. The only way to see them is to equip a Legion which is effectively a captured monster that you fight with. This helps to even the playing field with the evil monsters. The main character is one of those silent assassin types who gets the job done without complaint. His sister Akira is the more vocal member of the group who isn’t afraid to speak her mind. The two are selected to be in the Legion program and now work to make the world a safer place. Still, it is odd how there are so many portals with monsters showing up lately and their boss seems rather shady. Akira and the lead will have to stay sharp.

I picked the guy to play as, but if you had chosen to play as Akira then the guy would probably be doing the talking while you are silent. I’m definitely never a big fan of the silent lead, but I suppose it’s not like it hurts the story all that much. It just makes him really lacking in personality. Also, even though I named him Terry nobody actually called me that and in two different cutscenes they called him something else which I’m guessing is his actual name. Still, while the lead has no character the heroine is mostly solid. She’s quick to stand up to the bosses and jumps into action. Her character arc does go in some dicey directions such as her final fight with us which really came out of nowhere. Akira was solid for the most part though and that’s what counts in the end.

The gameplay is that of a 3D brawler. You can fight up close with the sword or hang back and use your gun. The gun is significantly weaker than the sword so it’s not something you’ll want to use very often. A big part of the gameplay is also in controlling your Legion. It’s effectively like an A.I. ally who comes in to help you. His attacks deal massive damage and you can also use him to jump across large distances or for combo moves. The gameplay has a lot of depth to it, but it’s explained well so you’ll quickly get the hang of it. There is also a training room with a lot of tutorials you can go to if you ever forget how to do something. The game also helpfully reminds you of the key abilities whenever you’re in a puzzle which I definitely appreciate.

The soundtrack is definitely quite solid. The main boss theme is rock based and really gets you into the zone. The whole game just clicks really well and it goes without saying that the graphics are really good as well. You can customize your character’s look a lot as well which sticks around for the cutscenes. I had fun changing up my character depending on what was happening. I started out as a hopeful cadet, then I switched to a casual slacker, and then finally to a very cynical rogue. It was a fun little side thing for sure.

I’d say that the only weak part of the game (relatively speaking. This is still a 9 star title so there wasn’t anything seriously weak here) was the investigation parts. I don’t really think this ended up adding much to the game. I suppose it helps the immersion since you’re a cop and there should be a lot of investigating going around. It’s just a lot slower than the actual combat and while you’re finding clues all you can think of it continuing the story a little more. Other than that, the game is very fast paced from start to finish with a lot of twists and turns all around.

I would say that there are enough loose ends here to have a sequel come up. Really it feels like the humans are still the shady ones here, but either way the threat isn’t over. Two plans have already been put into action without results so the heroes are going to have to think of what to do next. If there is no sequel the ending here can still be seen as definitive, but I think a sequel would be a good idea. I’m also glad that the main character stayed strong all the way through to the end even if his legion did not have similar resolve in his actions. One is better than none.

Assuming you’re playing on the Platinum difficulty then I recommend buying upgrades to your Legolas right away. Doing so gives you extra batteries which are effectively extra lives. They are incredibly handy when fighting with the bosses. The game is reasonably difficult so you’ll also want to have items on hand. They’re a little expensive but you want to be maxed out on battery chargers at all times. I barely took down the final boss and that’s considering that I came prepared with around 10 batteries and a bunch of full heals. If you come in with anything less then you’re definitely going to possibly be in some trouble. For replay value you can work on maxing out all of your legions after beating the game. There are also a bunch of side quests and achievements to complete as well. This will definitely take you some time and I expect you will be well acquainted with the world by the end of your adventures.

Overall, Astral Chain is definitely an excellent game and I highly recommend checking it out. The menu screens are all very intuitive. Leveling up is pretty easy and never feels like a drag. Obtaining enough premium codes to max everyone out seems like it’ll take a long time, but the replay value is good. It’s not forced so you only have to keep going if you want to. With all of the difficulty levels here you never have to feel like you’re truly stuck. As you learn the boss patterns you can also put up a much better fight the longer you train. If you don’t have this game yet then you’re going to want to change that.

Overall 9/10

8 Star Games, Comic Reviews, Games, Reviews

Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze Review


It’s time to review the final DK Country game and possibly the final main DK game of them all. The Country series has been pretty solid for all of the installments so it’s nice to see what the Wii U can bring to the table. The game is a little shorter than Returns and noticeably easier as well, but it’s still a quality platformer. One nice mechanic that they added was the dash and now I can’t imagine playing a DK game without it. It makes the characters so much more versatile and deadly in the levels.I certainly had a blast spamming it and it’ll remind you of the 3D Sonic games.

The plot involves a group of ice creatures deciding to take over a mountain. This angers DK and his pals because they want more bananas and they don’t grow in frigid temperatures. Thus, DK and friends decide to beat people up along the way and eat what they can. Still, can they defeat this Bowser impostor or will the trials be too much for them? The story definitely pales in comparison to the last game though for one key reason…the first 4 worlds are filler. They have nothing to do with the plot and there aren’t even any ice levels in them. For a game that’s called Tropical Freeze, this was a little odd. Once you enter the final 2 worlds then the ice levels start to show up so that was neat. Either way, the level variety is always fun, but I wish the plot could have worked with that a little.

The gameplay is the 2D platforming that you would expect. That being said, as mentioned earlier we now have a dash mechanic. It is incredibly handy as you can cross large distances with the move. It’s also not too automatic or easy so it feels like a legitimate technique that you’ll want to master. If you learn it just right, you’ll find yourself blasting through the levels. The gameplay is very smooth and you can definitely know that this is a AAA game right off the bat. I was very happy to trade in the Wii remote controls for a more proper All Pro and Gamepad setup as well. It’s night and day comparing the two styles for this platformer.

While the levels are significantly easier than DK Country Returns, it’s not really fair to say that it’s too drastic. The main reason for this is that I just got done completing the former so it’s possible that I’m just more prepared for whatever the DK series throws at me right now. It’s like playing Dark Souls 1 and 2 back to back. 2 will probably feel a lot easier than 1 did initially. I do think that Tropical Freeze probably had the tougher bosses though. It’s a close one, but the last boss for example would certainly be rather difficult to defeat in one player mode. He has a lot of health and it’s hard to predict his horn attack. It almost feels purely random. I don’t think any of the bosses are inherently unfair though. They’re tough, but you just need to keep on going at them until you win.

The soundtrack isn’t bad. There are no super hype themes like the Returns villain jingle, but they’ll get you through the stages. The boss theme that plays when a boss first shows up is similar to Mighty No 9’s main boss theme which is pretty interesting. There’s a good guitar/drum solo that works well for that. I don’t really recall any of the stage themes, but they were pleasant enough. The graphics also look pretty sharp for the title. It brought back the Shadow levels and the elements all look really sharp. The characters also look good in the cutscenes. Nintendo never disappoints when it comes to the technical aspects and they rarely do with the gameplay either.

There’s a good amount of replay value here as you’d expect. Collecting all of the puzzle pieces in the levels will certainly take a good amount of time. There are quite a few of them in each level after all. Most of the levels require repetition to really get them down so it’s more about the time than the difficulty. I believe you unlock an extra world if you do that so that’s a nice incentive. It’ll certainly give hardcore DK players a few extra hours to have fun with. The main game will only take you a handful of hours as well. 6-8 I’d imagine, but that’s a pretty decent length for a platformer. Having 8 worlds helps a lot, but 6 will do.

Overall, Donkey Kong has brought us another pretty solid game. If you want to really experience the difficulty as the true DK experience, make sure you choose to play as DK. If you want to coast through the levels a little easier, make sure to pick Diddy Kong or Dixie. They can cheese you through just about any obstacle. I look forward to seeing another Donkey Kong country game rise to the surface. Hopefully the plot will be a little better even though I know that is rarely Nintendo’s goal. As long as the gameplay is good, I suppose the rest doesn’t matter quite as much and Nintendo certainly knows how to handle gameplay. I never got to play as Cranky, but that’s fine. I get the feeling that his special ability wouldn’t have been all that great.

Overall 8/10

7 Star Games, Game Reviews, Reviews

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutants in Manhattan Review

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It’s been a while since I played a Ninja Turtles game. Platinum has been doing a good job with their titles and they are well known for their combat mechanics so this definitely looked like a fun adventure. Reviews have not been kind to it, but this is definitely a solid game. It may not be quite as polished as their Transformers title or Bayonetta, but it’s definitely still a solid game. Platinum leaves their signature combat mechanics and level of difficulty on this title so don’t expect it to be a walk in the park.

The Turtles are called back into action when their old villains start to make some moves. Alien Invasions, Bank Robberies, and more things occur as the villains continue their onslaught of attacks. What is their goal and are these just distractions? The turtles will have to stay on their toes if they don’t want to be caught off guard, but can they really hope to defeat the Shredder? The plot is fairly standard for the TMNT and it doesn’t go for anything grand, but it’s possible that it’s meant to feel like a normal episode. To an extent, that’s what Platinum seems to do for their retro games.

While the gameplay is fairly intricate, I don’t think it’s all that good. The way that the buttons are configured does take quite a bit of time to get used to. You may have beaten the game by then so I suppose it could be useful for the second run through. R2 is to block and evade while attacking is with the SQ button. You can also throw shruiken with L1 although that is really never necessary. It is good for getting some trophies like blowing up cameras though. It’s just very difficult to utilize the blocking button on instinct with how quick the villains strike and how odd of a button it is. I’d prefer for blocking to be R1, but you can possibly switch that somewhere.

You do have quite a few options for attacking though and a lot of ninjutsu can be purchased. I personally liked Stealth Mode, Combo Attack, Super Shruiken, and Healing Circle for my set. You can have 4 at a time. Charms can also be equipped, but they didn’t make much of a noticeable difference. I may just need to buy better ones. You can switch between turtles at any time and you only lose a level if all 4 of them are defeated at once. In that case, you are taken back to the lair to eat some pizza and recharge your strength before going back to the level. For most levels, you are taken back to the exact point of time in which you died, but some bosses regain their full health. It seems to depend on the level.

There are a lot of collectibles and trophies so obtain so there is a solid amount of replay value here. That’s definitely a good thing because the campaign isn’t all that long. It’s around 4 hours, which is quickly becoming the average for games nowadays. That, or maybe games were always that short and I never noticed. Maybe that’s why people love RPGs so much. If nothing else, they’re always long, but I gotta admit that turn based gameplay can also be a real blast as well. Seriously, I love grinding those level ups. There are over 50 trophies so it should take you a while to collect them all. I only got 11 of them while beating the game. Most of them aren’t hard though, but simply rely on repetition. Play the levels again and again enough times and you’ll earn most of them. For example, one of them is saving 10 pizza trucks. I maybe saved one during the whole game. It’s partially chance that you end up getting that mission which is what makes it a little tricky. I’m not a huge fan of that and some trophies are tricky and may require online help from other players. It’s a doable Platinum, but not an easy one by any means.

As per usual, Platinum hits us with a great soundtrack. The rock themes are always a blast to have even if it seemed like the game started to reuse them a little after a while. It’s fine, I’ll still take this over 70% of boss fights in the average games. A good theme can go a long way. That being said, the actual boss fights could be a little annoying at times. I feel like the bosses had too much health and our attacks didn’t deal enough damage. It could take quite a while to take some bosses down and I can only imagine what it’s like on Hard Mode since they gain even more health on that difficulty. Each level isn’t all that long with the boss taking the most time, but it does hurt the replay value of the level a little. Especially with the annoying bosses like Wingnut.

Graphically the game looks good. There is only 1-2 day-time levels though so the graphics usually have it a little easy in the dark. It’s not as impressive as Transformers Devastation by any means, but it certainly doesn’t look bad. The graphics will suffice. Whether it was a glitch or not, a funny thing occurred during the final level though. The game actually replayed an old cutscene in its entirety. For a second there I thought I had clicked on the wrong level, but nope, it still ended up being in the right place. So…what’s up with that? It wasn’t a particularly good cutscene either which was unfortunate.

They reuse a lot of gags in the story mode even though it’s fairly short. For example, Michelangelo always wanting pizza. The turtles should be used to it, but they still act a little surprised and reprimand him each time. I mean, the Turtles are known for this and it’s supposed to be nostalgic I suppose, but this definitely wasn’t my favorite portrayal of them. Leonardo definitely looked the best as he was down to business and had a plan each time. Splinter isn’t quite as good as he seems rather nervous the whole time and subtly recommends retreating for a little while. Seeing Shredder actually be a lackey for once was also rather interesting. Krang’s the boss this time eh? He’s certainly moving up the ranks and if he also calls the shots in the new live action film, maybe he will eventually replace Shredder in that role completely.

I tried going to the online mode, but nobody was online. That’s not a good sign considering how new the game is, but I may have just missed everyone. The online mode is basically a way to play the game co-op, so I imagine there is not a whole lot of incentive for people to do that besides the trophies. Local Co-Op should have been a thing. This isn’t bad if you have a friend who is far away, but it’s definitely not optimal. I suppose TMNT fans will still be thrilled that the series finally has a new game. Granted, it wasn’t amazing, but this game is still a big improvement from games like De Blob and maybe it’ll get a sequel at some point. Platinum doesn’t really do sequels very often, but you never know.

Honestly, I’d probably say that this game does lose to the rest of the TMNT games that I’ve played except for the PSP title. They’re all fairly close, but the Gamecube game was just a little more fun and the plot was certainly a lot more intense. Being related to the 2003 show helped quite a bit as well. It just shows that the series sets the bar rather high though. Transformers is also held at a high level, but each game tends to be roughly equivalent to the rest. Likewise with TMNT, but in the end its weak plot and less likable characters hurt it a bit.

Overall, This is a solid TMNT game, but not one that I’d really recommend for 60 dollars. There’s not enough content here to justify the price, but once it goes down then I’d definitely recommend snagging it. It’s essentially a beat em up with today’s graphics and that’s always fun. In the end, the plot may not have been great, but the most important part is still the gameplay and that’s solid. There are a lot of attacks to mess around with and for those who like difficult games, you’ll get a kick out of this. I lost quite a few times, but luckily the other turtles would revive me. I only had my full team lose twice, but if you don’t adapt and block a lot, prepare for that total to go up quite a bit.

Overall 7/10

Game Records

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutants in Manhattan Stats and Records

Stats time!

16/99 Charms
Level 15
11/51 PS3 Trophies

Stage Stats

Level 1 A Rank 3503
Level 2 S Rank 7130
Level 3 S Rank 6624
Level 4 S Rank 4969
Level 5 S Rank 5569
Level 6 S Rank 2520
Level 7 A Rank 4276
Level 8 S Rank 17834
Level 9 A Rank 4265

Attack Stats

Stealth Mode Level 3
Combo Attack Level 3
Warp Dash Level 2
Shell Crusher Level 1
Super Shruiken Level max
Spin Attack Level 1
Shruiken Rain Level 1
Super Sumo Slap Level 1
Ninja Drop Kick Level 1
Spin Slash Level 1
Flying Piledriver Level 1
Healing Circle Level 3
Turbo Mode Level 2
Decoy Level 1
High Jump Level 1
Barrier Level 1
Invincibility Level 1
Rain of Fire Level 1
Homerun Swing Level 1
Slash Roll Level 1
Teleport Attack Level 1
Shark Attack Level 1
UFO Attack Level 1
Beam Cannon Level 1
Giant Hologram Level 1
Ground Pound Level 1

5 Star Games, Game Reviews, Games, Reviews

Sword Art Online Lost Song Review

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Yes, I’ve finally taken down another long RPG! I’ve probably played video games more in these last 2 months than I did for almost 6 months prior to that. It’s been the perfect time to play some RPGs and getting through Sword Art Online was good. I wish the game had kept track of the play time though because I feel like I easily put in 50+ hours on this one. If not, then at least 30+. Ah well, it is what it is I suppose. Unfortunately, elements of the story really hold this game back quite a lot, taking down at least 3 stars with it. So, if you want the maximum amount of enjoyment from this title, focus on the gameplay!

This game takes place after another game which loosely adapted the first arc of Sword Art Online where Kirito and his friends were stranded in a dangerous video game world. They managed to escape so this time Kirito wants to hang out with his friends in the virtual world for fun. Instead of worrying about dying, they can worry about whether or not they will be the first team to beat the game. On their way to the top, they learn of the famous Seven. A little girl who is one of the world’s greatest researchers and also happens to be the number 1 pop idol. That’s a lot of talent for a little kid wouldn’t you say? (We get a big cinematic of her singing and I am not convinced that a little girl could sound like that. Maybe I have simply never heard a prodigy before) Her guild is rapidly making its way to the top and is the only group besides Kirito’s that is doing so well. Obviously something must be up.

Meanwhile, a mysterious girl keeps shadowing Kirito’s group. He quickly finds out about this (He found out instantly because Kirito is perfect at literally everything that he tries. It’s why he is the ultimate main character) She just wants to hang around the main characters to get close to Seven and Kirito’s fine with that. He just wants to have fun after all, but if Seven’s group is going to do anything to jeopardize that enjoyment…well…he may have to take a stand here!

The gameplay is your classic 3D beat em up in a sense. It plays out a lot more like .Hack than Dynasty Warriors for example, but there are still enough monsters for you to not just call this your average Legend of Zelda platformer. One of the coolest parts of this spin is that you can fly indefinitely. That’s a nice spin on the classic beat em up formula. You can choose to attack normally with sword skills and combos or you can opt to use some of your magical abilities from afar. I didn’t use any magic skills at all during the game except for when I was trophy grinding. It is so much more satisfying to go in and take enemies down from up close. That’s how the beat em up genre was meant to be played in my eyes.

When you’re not fighting, you can explore the hub world for all sorts of things. You can enter the Colosseum to have fun in 1 on 1 duels against various opponents and you can also buy items/upgrade your equipment. Upgrading your equipment is very handy and I highly recommend it, but you should certainly be aware of the cost and materials needed. If you’re going to buy a new sword soon anyway, then you shouldn’t upgrade your current weapon. There are also quite a lot of extra story events that you can start while at home. Some lead to actual quests, trophies, and boss levels while others just lead to a series of cinematics so you can learn more about the characters.

The main theme that plays in the opening cinematic for the game is very good and is definitely catchy. This lyrical song also appears at one point in the game. The final boss theme is also very grand and reminds you that the stakes have finally risen a little. Most of the other themes are fairly unmemorable, but two really good themes is already quite solid and the others aren’t bad so I definitely give the game a passing grade here.

As for the graphics, I’d say that they’re pretty good. The cinematics can maybe look a little funny at times compared to the rest of the game. Maybe everyone’s a little too big or something. The sword fight with Kirito and Sumeragi was cool though. I just wish they would have upped the speed a little to make the fight more impressive. From the anime, we know that Kirito’s immensely powerful after all and he’s always fighting at a high level.

There are also a lot of trophies to collect in this game and they’re all fairly reasonable. Keep in mind that while none of them are really all that difficult, they will require a long grind. This game unfortunately does not keep track of your playtime. I’m confident that I’ve spent anywhere between 30-60 hours on this title, but I’ll never know for sure. Either way, some trophies you’ll need include “Reach Level 500, Get a sword spell to level 500, Get a magic spell to level 500 (Or 400) Get someone to a combined skill level of 1600, etc. The grinds are certainly very real in this game and that’s why I always prefer when RPGs have the standard 100 levels system. This one doesn’t even go by EXP and works by damage dealt. I’ve never cared for that style. Still grinding is fun enough. It’s nowhere near as enjoyable as Cyber Sleuth in that respect, but it was good. I did get the Platinum after all and I certainly wouldn’t have done that if I found the grind to be really bad.

I definitely had no problems with the length. You can’t complete Sword Art Online Lost Song in 3 hours You’d be hardpressed to beat the game in 10 hours either. It took me quite a while to beat. Without the extra grinding I’m not sure how long it’d take, but I’d expect that number to easily be in the 20’s to 30’s. (hours) There is also a whole lot of replay value through the trophies, quests, and extra cutscenes that you can activate by talking to people around town. The full experience of this game will last you just as long as any really big RPG.

Great gameplay, lasting replay value, solid soundtrack and graphics…this game must be getting an 8 right? It would have no problem, but the story is unfortunately where things got dicey. I don’t even mind the whole “no stakes” part to be honest. Kirito and friends can hold their own game even if they’re just playing levels for the lolz with no end plot. That being said, the game goes way too far in trying to go for its harem undertones. The TV show (Arc 1 anyway) actually handled the situation pretty well. Kirito doesn’t care for all that stuff anyway and always pulls the friend zone card. That doesn’t change here, but the game does make sure to put him in as many awkward and embarrassing positions as possible.

We’re talking the classic, “walk in while his friends are changing” “grabbing someone’s ears because he couldn’t resist” “getting flirted with by literally every single one of his female partners” “hot springs, festivals, (You have to do the festival with every one of the heroines for a trophy by the way) etc. It goes wayyyyy overboard by the end and it doesn’t help that the only male friend in the group (Klein) is always sure to point out just how crazy these scenarios are. You never get a break from this for the entire game…the entire thing. These plots are always happening and some characters seem invented just for this purpose like an original character who is always hugging Kirito. There’s also the fact that just about all of your partners have a swimsuit costume that you can equip so they’ll be wearing it during the entirety of the game’s gameplay. There are dozens and dozens of other examples that I could give, but you get the general gist. The game is shooting for that angle to appease one segment of the Sword Art Online fans while alienating the rest. Well, I can safely say that this cost the game 3 stars and hopefully the sequel dials this down.

Overall, Sword Art Online Lost Song is technically a great game. Maybe not incredible, but it had all of the tools to be one of the best PS4 games on the block. Instead, the story really played up the harem elements and lowered the quality of the story. As it is, you’ll want to skip all of the bonus quests that you can so you can avoid these scenarios. You can still play this RPG for the gameplay and ignore the story I suppose, but for that you may as well play a better RPG and have fun with both. Final Fantasy XIII-2, Final Fantasy VII, Digimon Cyber Sleuth, and White Knight Chronicles are all far better games than this one when it comes to the plot and have the classic RPG gameplay that I love so much. As much as I love real time, I also reeeeeally like turn based as well. Still, the potential is here so here’s to hoping that the next Sword Art Online game lives up to its potential!

Overall 5/10