Category Archives: Downloads

Citizens of Earth Review

medium_coverCitizens of Earth (Available on PC, PS4, PS Vita, 3DS, and Wii U)
ESRB Rating: E10+
Number of Players: 1
Genre: RPG
Publisher: Atlus
Developer: Eden Industries
Release Date: January 20th, 2015

Parent Talk: Citizens of Earth has been rated E10+ for everyone ten and up. It features animated violence, tobacco references, and simulated gambling. If you’ve ever played Earthbound you know what to expect here. The game’s world is animated with cartoony flare, and the setting is a modern day, over the top city. It’s very goofy, which means that even players who are ten shouldn’t have a problem with any of the material showcased in the game.

Plays Like: At first glance one might be inclined to say this is the next entry in the Earthbound series. Citizens of Earth features many elements inspired by that classic SNES game, however it has a few other elements that separate it. Gameplay is broken down into typical RPG fair, where you move around an overworld, get new quests by talking to people you see, complete quests to get more members on your team, and battles take place via turn-based gameplay.

Review Basis: Finished the PC version of the game, which Atlus sent us.

Earthbound is considered a lost classic. For whatever reason the game bombed upon its original release, however it has developed a massive cult following since then. There was something special about it, the modern setting, the charm and awesome characters were also so unlike everything else on the market. Citizens of Earth tries so desperately to be the unofficial sequel, but never manages to capture the same spirits.

COE1The Great:

If there’s one elements that I absolutely loved with Citizens of Earth it has to be the presentation. I loved how all the characters looked, and the game’s setting. This often felt like a modern day Earthbound. The art style is beautiful and also very humorous. I laughed out loud on more than one occasion. The voice acting of the character is also another area that I really enjoyed because each has their own unique charm to them.

The Good:

  • The story can also be quite humorous at times. You take on the role of…you. You’ve just become the Vice President of the World, and after a day on the job you’re tired and decide to go on a much deserved vacation. The game picks up with you waking up at your mother’s house, and as soon as you leave said house you see protestors everywhere. Eventually the plot takes a turn to the bizarre with some strange brewed coffee affecting the citizens, and well, there’s much more going on behind the scenes. Sadly the story does get a little jumbled with the abundant amount of side-quests thrown in.
  • Characters galore. There are over a dozen recruits you can find in the game, and each one has their own unique ability. Your brother can allow you to acquire items from anywhere, a mascot character can change the game’s difficulty on the fly, and so on. These abilities also transfer over into battle, where your mother might be able to heal an ally, and another character might be able to protect other characters. Mixing and matching your team is a powerful strategy to ensure you’re always ready for whatever lies ahead.

COE2The So-So:

+/- Most of the game’s objectives are a little too vague for their own good. I understand this was done to be humorous, but in the end it means you have to play through the game in a few sittings or you might have trouble remembering exactly what it was you were supposed to do. A very simple case from the beginning of the game is you try and recruit the conspiracy guy. He requires three pieces of evidence, but you’re not told what the evidence is. The log simply tells you to ‘Collect the Evidence’. What does that mean? It’s simple enough if you play right away, and explore, but if you put the game down for any lengthy period of time you may wonder what it is you’re supposed to do next. This issue pops up constantly throughout the game.

+/- The battle system starts off quite enjoyable, but after a while it becomes tiresome and repetitive. The concept works like this. Every attack either gains or depletes an energy orb. There are also items you can use to restore energy, as you would imagine. That sounds simple enough right, well good because it is. The thing is that after a while you find yourself always cycling through the exact same attacks. You’ll use two physical attacks to build energy, one powerful attack which depletes said energy, another to heal your party, etc. Repeat this countless times and there you have it. Over time it almost feels like you’re not playing at all. Thankfully the auto-defeat feature from Earthbound is featured here so when you visit older areas with weaker enemies you can easily navigate the area without having to defeat countless enemies.

The Bad:

  • At first you won’t mind all the new characters being added to the game, but in time you start to realize that none of these characters has any soul. There’s just nothing special about them. I really enjoyed the banter from a handful, but the rest felt almost like cut and paste clichés. I would have much rather had a solid group of say six or eight characters, but with more fleshed out and humorous storylines than what we got.

COE3The Lowdown:

I think with some tweaking this could have been something special. It’s not a bad game by any means, it’s just that it needed some more time in the oven and the battle system needed some more diversity. I also would have really loved to have seen less characters, but more of a focused backstory on some of these wacky people. As is right now, Citizens of Earth is a decent game that might tickle your fancy if you’ve enjoyed seeing the footage in the video review.

Final Score: 6.5/10

Astebreed Review

Astebreed LogoAstebreed (Available exclusively on PC)
ESRB Rating: N/A
Number of Players: 1
Genre: Shooter
Publisher: AGM Playism
Developer: Edelweiss
Release Date: May 30th, 2014

Parent Talk: Astebreed is an easy T-rated game, even though it was never submitted to the ESRB. This indie release has some mature elements in the plot, but features no blood or other adult-themed game content. There is some harsh language, but nothing too dramatic.

Plays Like: Zone of the Enders and Panzer Dragoon meet Gradius. Yup, this is a good old fashioned shmup at its heart, but built around more modern gameplay mechanics. It also happens to be one of the best indie releases I’ve ever played. That says something, as I’ve played a ton of indie games over the past few years.

Review Basis: Finished the game, and damn what a wild ride.

Astebreed is a Japanese-made indie release from the fine folks at Edelweiss. Never heard of them, that’s ok, as neither did I. A YouTube user named ShinGoldenWarrior sent me a message telling me to check the game out and review it, so I did just that, and I’ve got to say, I’m super thankful we have such a strong YouTube community as this game is absolutely incredible. Thanks for the tip Shin, you rock!

The indie community in Japan hasn’t been nearly as prolific as their Western counterparts largely because of the lack of a solid distribution channel. That’s all starting to change now though with Steam pretty much monopolizing the entire PC landscape. There are also publishers like Playism that are trying to bring indie releases from outside North America to the worldwide market, and you should be extremely happy about that. I can’t stress this enough, if you have even a remotely capable PC, go download Astebreed right now, as it is in my top five games of 2014! It’s a must play!

Astebreed1The Great:

The Dynamic camera angles are absolutely amazing. One of the biggest problems that faced games like Zone of the Enders and the Panzer Dragoon series were the camera angles. In one series you had more 3D movement, but there was room for improvements, and in the other series the camera would often swoop too far or too close on the action leaving you vulnerable to attack. Here there are three different camera angles that seamlessly move from one to the next. There’s a horizontal, vertical, and over the shoulder vantage point. All three work flawlessly. One moment you’re in a vertical position playing as you might in Gradius, and then next the camera swoops over your mech’s shoulder and you’re playing more like Sin & Punishment or Panzer Dragoon. What is so incredible is that at no point does the camera prove a problem. You can always see the enemies coming at you, and instead the camera acts as a way to constantly keep things interesting.

Astebreed2The Good:

+ Believe it or not, but there’s even a somewhat deep storyline here too. I know, a shooter with a good storyline, who would have thought? The gist of it is that you’re in a galactic war between humans and an alien race, and you play as an ace pilot of a giant mech out to save the day. It gets far deeper as the story progresses, but I leave that for you to discover.

+ The combat system is fantastic. There are two basic projectile attacks. One is a standard stream attack, and the other is a straight shot. If you hold down the respective buttons you will create a homing attack, which in the case of the stream shot has a large circular reticule appear around your mech. Anything that comes in contact with this reticule is automatically targeted. Release the button, and you unleash hell. For the straight shot a cone appears in whichever direction you happen to be holding the analog stick or d-pad.  This is useful when you want to target enemies that are slightly further ahead of your mech. What’s cool is that both of these work regardless of which angle the camera has your mech facing, so that means you can frequently target ships in the background, foreground, or anywhere else. It comes together in such a way to make you feel like a true bad ass.

+ The other very important ability your mech has is that you have access to a huge sword. This weapon can be used both offensively and defensively. You can actually repel or destroy certain types of enemy shots, while also inflicting tons of damage on close-range enemies. Here’s where things get really cool, you can also combine this attack with a targeted homing attack. So while your guns are firing like crazy, you can get close up on enemies and finish them off with your sword. There’s also a yellow meter that fills as you take out enemies, and this will allow you to perform a devastating sword attack and does omega damage.

+ The pacing is also spot on. Each level gets progressively more challenging, and by the time you reach stage six you’ll be forced to use everything you’ve learned along the way to make it out alive. That said, there are different difficulty settings, and while challenging, because of all the different gameplay mechanics you have available, I never felt like I was going to kick my computer because of the difficulty.

+ The graphics are simply gorgeous for an indie release, and better still is the fact that this game runs on older PCs. Sure you won’t be rocking the 4K resolution, but at 720 or even 1080p resolution I didn’t notice a drop in framerate at all.

+ The audio is also upbeat, and catchy, which is what you’d expect and want from a solid shooter.

Astebreed3The So-So:

+/- While I love that the voice acting is all in Japanese, it can make it a little hard to follow along with the game’s storyline because during missions you’ll frequently have to look at the translated text in order to know what’s going on. You won’t want to do that though as there are billions of bullets coming your way, so it’s a catch twenty two. Do you read the text and potentially die, but understand where the story is heading, or do you simply ignore the story?

Astebreed4The Lowdown:

Astebreed came out of nowhere for me. I had no expectations, and it literally blew me away. This is one of the best shooters I’ve played in a very long time, and it proves this genre still has a lot of life left in it. The genre simply requires more talented people willing to take risks and try something new. I absolutely love the gameplay mechanics, and while it might look like I’m not really doing much in the video, it will all make sense when you play the game, and play it you should because this is a fantastic game! Go out and pick it up from Steam right now!

Final Score: 9.5/10

South Park: The Stick of Truth Review

SPSouth Park: The Stick of Truth (Available on PC, PlayStation 3, and Xbox 360)
ESRB Rating: M
Number of Players: 1
Genre: RPG
Publisher: Ubisoft
Developer: Obsidian Entertainment
Release Date: March 4th, 2013

Parent Talk: The ESRB has rated South Park: The Stick of Truth M for mature because of…do you really need to know the rest?  South Park is extremely vulgar, with countless swear words, tons of nudity, and everything else mature-themed you can think of.  Under no circumstances should children be allowed anywhere near this game.  It’s really that simple.

Plays Like: Imagine Paper Mario for light-RPG gameplay, mixed with shades of Knights of the Old Republic II when it comes to weapon and armor upgrades.  The story is wickedly delightful, and the humor is often offensive, but hilarious.

Review Basis: I played through the PC version of the game.  I finished it, and will return one day, as the legends have foretold.

Could South Park: The Stick of Truth be a near perfect game?  Is it possible that it could make me laugh non-stop for hours on end?  The answer to both of those questions is yes, South Park: The Stick of Truth is one of the very best videogames of the generation, and hands down the best licensed game ever made.  I knew this looked good when I first saw it at E3, but having completed the game, I never imagined it would be this incredible.

The Testicular:

Having the balls to do what no one else has done before.  The show has always pushed new ground in satire, and now Matt Stone and Trey Parker have done the same for videogames.  You have never played a videogame like this before, I guarantee it.

SP2The Great:

Over the years there have been a few licensed games that have been spectacular and genre-defining like GoldenEye 007, Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic, and ET the Extraterrestrial for the Atari 2600…ok maybe not that last one, but there sure have been some awesome licensed games.  More often than not though these types of games are quick cash-ins that completely suck, or are extremely disappointing.  South Park: The Stick of Truth is absolutely, 110% the absolute best licensed game I have ever played in my life.  It not only uses the property in smart and unique ways, but it actually feels like you’re playing through a mini-series devoted to South Park.  I’m not joking either, I haven’t watched a South Park episode in years, and yet I couldn’t help but laugh at all the dick jokes, or be amazed by just how wonderfully intelligent this piece of satire is.  If you have any doubts about this game or its quality, you can rest assure you have nothing to fear here.  The Stick of Truth is brilliant!

It’s not just the fact that the property has been used so well, it’s the core concept itself that is fantastic.  What’s more normal than a group of children trying to save the universe from their very own backyard?  I used to do this all the time with my brother.  So in essence you have a videogame wrapped around an imaginary setting created by a group of foul-mouthed children.  It couldn’t be more perfect.

SP1The Good:

+ The story and satire are pure South Park.  Even if you aren’t the biggest fan of the show, or haven’t watched it in years, you’ll come to appreciate almost everything this game has to offer.  The story is epic, ridiculous, and awesome all at the same time.  Sure the dick jokes can get old if that’s not your thing, but in the end you’ll actually care for these characters even if you aren’t a fan of the universe.

+ Great gameplay.  The battle system is easy to understand and works much like the Paper Mario series.  When you see enemies on the street, you can flick them with your sword which will draw you into a turn-based encounter.  From there a very simple radial command system allows you to attack, use magic, perform summoning spells, and more.  Real-time elements have been added in order to make the action feel more interactive.  All the key moves you can perform from attacking to using special magical attacks will require you to press certain buttons at key moments in order to boost your attacks, or prevent severe damage from incoming attacks.  It works so much better than I thought it would, and while it does take some getting used to for the timing, once you get the hang of it, battles almost always feel fresh.

+ There’s also a great enhancement system in place, which works much like KOTOR II.   Weapons and armor both have sockets, which you can fill with special offensive and defensive bonuses.  These include being able to gain a 10% HP bonus on a pair of gloves you happen to have equipped, or a fire damage bonus on that shiny new sword you just got.  Being able to easily mix and match enhancements is great because you always feel like trying something new.

+ Some of the most epic boss battles you’ll ever face.  I wish I could go into detail about just how epic these battles are, or who you’ll face, but doing so would ruin the game for a lot of people.  Instead I’ll just say that it’s often not just the characters you face off against, but the setting.  There’s one battle in particular that had me in stiches because not only did I have to contend with a mighty foe, but also the incredible power of one man’s…well…you’ll see when you play the game.

+ While you explore the ‘overworld’ you can actually defeat enemies without ever engaging in battle because of magic farting abilities you learn.  Yes, that’s right, you learn to control the mystical power of the fart.  If you happen to see enemies near a candle, you can unleash a powerful fart which will ignite and kill all those enemies around the candle.  Using your environment in effective ways because a great way to avoid fights, and a clever way to reaching areas you didn’t even realize you could get to.

+ There are four classes available, Fighter, Mage, Thief, and Jew.  How many other games would actually have the balls to do something like that?  Anyways, while the classes each have their own unique abilities, none of them use different weapons.  This was done to stream-line the experience in my opinion because the whole concept here was to keep things simple, and imaginative, and by having the classes similar to one-another, they allow for players to get sucked up in the world, and not have to worry about equipping the wrong type of armor or weapon.

+ Quick party system allows you to take one, and only one, active party member with you at any point in time.  Why this is good is because you have the ability to easily swap any member from your roster of teammates.  You don’t need to worry about leveling them up, or equipping them with armor or weapons.  You just pick the one you like the most and go to town.  Each will have their own abilities and skills, which makes certain characters better against certain types of enemies.

+ South Park: The Stick of Truth may just be one of the most beautiful games I’ve ever seen.  You really have to sit back and take it all in to realize just how impressive the game is.  It looks exactly like the cartoon, and I mean exactly.  The entire town has been officially mapped out, so it’s awesome just going into all the different homes and exploring every single inch of South Park.  I could go on and on, but honestly this is a true gem and playing the PC version means I didn’t notice a single dip in framerate.

+ All your favorite characters are here, with their authentic voices.  The music is all based on the show, as are the sound effect.  It’s brilliant and a fan’s wet dream.  Some of the classic songs from the series’ past are also featured, and put to very good use.

SP3The Lowdown:

So long as you’re not easily offended, this is a game you have to play.  It’s currently the best game I’ve played in 2014, and one of the very best games released in the PS3/360 generation.  It’s intelligent, humorous, and often outrageous and it is without a doubt the funniest game I’ve ever played.  Never have I laughed out loud as often or frequently as I have here.  Obsidian you’ve created a game for our time, and you should be extremely proud.  Don’t let the source material fool you, this is a brilliant effort and the best licensed videogame of all time.

Final Score: 10/10

The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past Review

ALttPThe Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past (Available on the Wii U, and Wii Virtual Console)
ESRB Rating: E
Number of Players: 1
Genre: Action RPG
Publisher: Nintendo
Developer: Nintendo
Original Release Date: April 13th, 1992
Wii Virtual Console Release Date: January 22nd, 2007
Wii U Virtual Console Release Date: January 30th, 2014

Parent Talk: Grab ahold of your sword, pick up that shield, and go out there and rescue seven captured maidens, only then can you restore peace to the land of Hyrule.  Sounds awesome and epic, doesn’t it?  That’s because it is!  The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past features lots of sword wielding action, and yet thanks to the cartoony look, never feels like a mature game.  There are some enemies that might frighten the extremely young, but for the most part this is an adventure you’ll want to share with as many as possible, regardless of age.

Plays Like: Take the overhead perspective from the NES classic The Legend of Zelda, and mix the magic spells from Zelda II, and you have only a brief idea of what to expect here.  A Link to the Past (ALttP) forever changed action games upon its release in 1991/2 (depending on your region).  It set the bar so high that no game has ever been able to reach it.  It featured the best possible mix of supremely tight gameplay, a fantastic story, and incredible audio visuals.  Bottom line, this is considered the greatest game of all time for a reason.

Review Basis: Upon purchasing the game in 1992, I have completed it virtually every single year since.  There’s something extremely special about this game that keeps bringing you back for more.

The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past is not only my favorite videogame of all time, but most of the world’s as well.  It was the first game that truly made me go WOW.  The world was massive, the gameplay was spot-on, the story was epic, and the graphics and music were just incredible.  Today, some 22 years after its release, it remains the best of the best.  If you have never played this masterpiece before, you cannot call yourself a gamer.

Who could ever forget their first steps outside.
Who could ever forget their first steps outside.

The Great:

Everything!!!  Thanks for reading the review.  Now go play it.  What, still here?  Why?!  I told you, everything is great, so stop reading and go play damn it!  Ok fine, you want further details, I’ll humor you, but only this once.

Let’s start off with the story.  For the first time in the series, the English actually made sense!  Sure the translation has come under fire in recent years with liberties being taken, but you know what, it doesn’t matter in the least.  The story was so shocking back in 1992 that none of us noticed, and given the quality of the dialogue, you won’t notice today either.  It was one of the first games I can remember that actually had an extremely detailed intro, if you didn’t hit the start button that is.  It explained all about the Golden Land and how a thief broke into this sacred realm and stole a very powerful object.  When you do eventually begin the game, you’re awoken by your uncle, who’s heading off to the castle to rescue the princess Zelda.  Being the good lad you are, you ignore his pleas to stay home and venture forth.  Eventually what appears to be a simple quest becomes something so much more.  By the time you face off against Ganon, and the credits roll it’s incredible to reflect back on all the adventures you’ve had, all the friends you’ve made along the way, and just how epic this tale really was.  Even today it holds up perfectly, but back in 1992 this was simply unheard of in the console space, and it forever changed people’s opinion of what a videogame could do.

One of the coolest uses of Mode-7.
One of the coolest uses of Mode-7.

Next up we have the graphics.  They’re incredible, even 22 years later.  Back when this game hit, the lightning and rain at the beginning of the game were eye popping.  It was such a fantastic way to start the game.  Later on, heading to the Mysterious Forest and unsheathing the Master Sword was another wow moment.  There was also the immense size of the game, not only were there almost a dozen dungeons, but the entire Light World had a clone, with the Dark World.  Clone isn’t the right word, as the Dark World was actually completely different, and because of that this felt like the longest game ever.  The level design was spectacular, the enemy designs were awesome, and the special effects, especially the Mode-7 map was just incredible.  Putting all these things together made one hell of an impression.

The audio was another area that was just spectacular in 1992.  The overworld theme from the original Zelda was crisper, sharper, and all around better in 16-bit.  The number of themes made for this one game were staggering to youngsters the world over.  From the Dark World theme, to the classic fairy music, the amount of songs that originated in this game remain surprising.  Every Zelda game since this one has borrowed at least one theme because they were that memorable.  The sound effects were also great, with a variety of different sounds emitting whenever Link cut a bush, hit into a rock, or attacked an enemy.

A Legend is born!
A Legend is born!

As great as the game is, people might be surprised to hear just how tough it was to complete.  Today we have the Internet, but back in ’92 there was no real way to get help if you got stuck.  Sure you could call a gaming hotline for crazy amounts of money, or subscribe to Nintendo Power, but what if the hotline didn’t have ALttP yet, or what if Nintendo Power didn’t cover the game in that particular issue?  That was it, you just tried, and tried again until you figured it out.  This was such a tough game that Nintendo included a sealed hint book in every copy.  That might be looked at as a fault, but it forced you to explore, and try all the various tools at your disposal.

Speaking of tools, the variety of weapons and items available were jaw-dropping back in the day.  In the original Zelda there were only a handful of items you could find.  In the sequel, the emphasis was more on magic.  With ALttP though, it featured the best of both worlds.  Not only were there tons of fantastic weapons and items to find, but you also had three powerful magic spells you could learn.  The Master Sword had a revamped attack as well.  You could even power-up classic items like the shield and boomerang.  It was nuts!  Overall, this really was light years ahead of the games that came before it.

How did I already rescue the princess?
How did I already rescue the princess?

All of these superb additions wouldn’t mean a thing if the core gameplay wasn’t tight and responsive, but boy was it ever.  Link could not move in eight directions, so everything felt so much smoother.  You could perform a spin attack by holding down the attack button, you could ram through multiple enemies with the Pegasus Boots, and perform so many other fantastic feats with little to no effort whatsoever.  That’s the clear sign that you’re ignoring the controller, and just focusing on the excellent game.

All of this is even before taking into account the Light and Dark World mechanics.  By exploring both worlds you could hop back and forth, finding secrets everywhere.  Exploring became much more than what players had experienced in the previous games, and it was so rewarding that Nintendo would mimic this system with their first 3D Zelda game, Ocarina of Time, except instead of travelling between worlds, you would travel between time.

Many Zelda bosses were inspired from this one battle.
Many Zelda bosses were inspired from this one battle.

The Lowdown:

I could go on for ages, but there’s really no point.  The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past is a masterpiece that hasn’t aged a single day in 22 years.  It deserves to be played every year, and if you have never gotten around to playing it before, you really owe it to yourself to give this one a download.  It set the blueprint for all the Zelda games to come.  It’s the best of the best, a living Legend!

Final Score: 10/10

SoulCalibur II HD Online Review

SCIIHDOSoulCalibur II HD Online (Available on PlayStation 3, and Xbox 360)
ESRB Rating: T
Number of Players: 1 to 2
Genre: Fighting
Publisher: Namco Bandai
Developer: Project Soul
Release Date: November 19th, 2013

Parent Talk: SoulCalibur II HD Online is rated T for teen because of violence, suggestive themes, and mild language.  One look at Taki and you’ll understand why the game’s rated T.  She’s wearing a skin tight spandex outfit with no bra.  Yup, 13-year old men made this game.  Seriously though, it’s rated T because of some of the skimpy outfits, and also because it’s a weapon-based fighter, but there’s no blood or anything like that.

Plays Like: This complex weapon-based fighter is the follow-up to the Dreamcast launch title, SoulCalibur.  Prior to this naming convention the series was known as Soul Edge, and wasn’t anywhere near as popular.  The game features a killer single-player story mode, as well as the usual assortment of arcade and versus modes.  New to this HD remastered version is a competitive online multiplayer mode, but the game retains the same excellent gameplay from the 2003 version.

Review Basis: Namco Bandai sent us a PSN review code, and having played the living hell out of this game upon its initial release in 2003, I simply went through the motions of testing the single player portion, and then headed online and proceeded to get my butt handed to me several times over.

While only a handful of people actually remember Soul Edge, which was released on the original PlayStation way back in 1997, everyone remembers the 1999 follow-up, SoulCalibur, as it was the most polished fighter of all time, upon its release.  It was the first time a home console port actually exceeded the arcade original.  It also happened to be a fantastic fighting game that was extremely well balanced…well except for Kilik with his far reach, but that’s beside the point.  Everyone loved SoulCalibur and it singlehandedly pushed this franchise into the mainstream, so naturally a sequel was inevitable.  When said sequel was finally released in 2003 it featured the same refined gameplay from the original, with an expanded roster, and a sweet little extra.  Each console version, one on the PS2, the original Xbox, and GameCube each had one exclusive character.  Remember this was during a time before DLC, so these characters remained exclusive for the duration of the console’s lifespan.  Everyone I knew picked up the GameCube version because of Link’s inclusion, but naturally he’s not in this version of the game as a Wii U port wasn’t made.  Instead both Spawn (Xbox version) and Heihachi Mishima (PS2 version) join the roster regardless of which version you pick up.  While they’re nice additions, they’re not Link.  That said, how has the rest of the remaster turned out, and has the core gameplay aged well or is this one better off left in the past?

SCIIHDO1The Great:

An all-around fantastic remaster.  Textures are crisper than ever before, character models look extremely detailed, and to be perfectly honest, if it weren’t for hair physics being improved so much during the PS3/360 era I’m sure a lot of people would have assumed the game was made for those consoles.  That’s how much care and attention went into this port.  Level design and overall graphic quality has always been one of the strong points of the series, and it’s amazing how well the overall look of the game holds up some ten years after its original release.  It’s pretty damn impressive, and when you see it in motion it makes you wonder why more companies don’t invest in HD remakes like this.  The audio is equally impressive as the soundtrack and audio effects have all been remastered in Dolby Digital 5.1 and sound wonderful.

SCIIHDO2The Good:

+ All the superb gameplay modes you remember from the original make their way back.  Arcade, versus, training, team battle, time attack, and the phenomenal Weapon Master mode all return.  Weapon Master Mode is where you spend the majority of your time in single player and features what would equate to a deep story mode in a modern fighter.  You select your character and tackle various objective-based missions.  Sometimes it’s beat three characters, sometimes it’s complete a round without blocking, and so on.  As you progress you earn points which can then be used to unlock a wide assortment of goodies from additional characters and weapons to costume colors.

+ Gameplay remains as tight as ever.  Not much else to say about it.

+ Great touch adding Spawn and Heihachi to the mix, but it would have been great to see Link make an appearance.  Obviously that was never going to happen, and no one should have expected it, but it would have made a killer Wii U exclusive had they made a version of the game for that platform.

SCIIHDO3The So-So:

+/- I appreciate the inclusion of an online mode for die-hard fighting fans, but it’s about as barebones as you can imagine.  Featuring only a Ranked and Player match mode, there’s really not much to see.  Player match is far too basic to be useful, as if you create a private match, or even a public one, as soon as the fight is over with you are kicked out and placed back on the menu screen.  You can’t create a fight list and slowly work your way through it facing multiple friends, one after another.  There’s also no spectator mode allowing you to watch other fights.  As I said, it’s extremely basic, but at least there’s a way to play online.

+/- Speaking of online play, fighters live and die based on their net code and it’s kind of lukewarm in SC II HD Online.  All the online matches I played featured input lag, making parrying impossible, and blocking a real pain.  If you’re a casual fan the input lag won’t likely be bothersome, but to the hardcore it could be a deal-breaker.

SCIIHDO4The Lowdown:

SoulCalibur II HD Online is a fantastic game for those who loved the original, or are just looking into getting into the series.  While I wish the online mode was improved, the core gameplay and overall package remains highly impressive.  If you’re into fighting games, this is certainly one to check out for $20.

Final Score: 8/10 

Resogun Review

ResogunResogun (Available exclusively on PlayStation 4)
ESRB Rating: E10+
Number of Players: 1 to 2
Genre: Shoot ‘em up
Publisher: SCEA
Developer: Housemarque
Release Date: November 15th, 2013

Parent Talk: I’ve got no idea how this game scored an E10+ rating as it’s a spaceship shooter based on Defender.  Children have been playing 2D arcade shooters since the creation of the genre way back in the early 70s.  I would easily allow my children to play this game.

Plays Like: Resogun takes its inspiration from the classic Williams Electronics hit from 1980, Defender.  You fly left or right around a cylindrical world, trying to rescue the last humans while taking out all the aliens around you.  Simple as that…if only it were simple.

Review Basis: Finished all levels, and played through the game a second time in co-op mode.

When Sony announced the PlayStation 4 they went to great lengths to talk about how they’re going back to basics and focusing on the games.  They spent a lot of time talking about indie developer because that’s where all the innovation will come from.  It’s true too, as AAA titles have a budget in the tens of millions, whereas indie developers often make their games for a fraction of the cost, and are willing to take chances.  Housemarque might not be an indie developer anymore, but they surely aren’t in the same league as the big boys with operating budgets in the millions, but that doesn’t mean their games can’t stand on their own.  Incredibly, Resogun is my favorite PlayStation 4 game on the market right now, including all the big AAA releases from third parties and Sony itself.  That speaks volumes to the talent at the studio, and how much of a sucker I am for arcade classics.

Resogun1The Great:

Ridiculously simple gameplay that’s insanely challenging to master.  Based on the arcade hit Defender, players move their craft around a large cylinder trying to take out the alien armada.  Once keepers drop, destroying them will free a human.  Your goal is to “save the last humans,” while trying to stay alive yourself.  Each stage is broken up into three phases, ending with a boss fight.  Rescuing the humans is essential if you want a high score, or if you plan to make it to the end of the stage.  When you defeat the keepers a human is released from their cell and you only have a limited amount of time to pick them up before an enemy will take them out.  Returning a human to the base nets you either points or an upgrade, such as an extra life, a shield bonus, etc.

Chasing high scores is a large part of the fun and the risk and reward system is always on your mind.  If you activate a bomb, which clears the entire screen of enemies you take a good chance at losing your score multiplier since you need to continuously shoot down enemy ships in order to keep the multiplier going.  So often bombs are only used as a last resort.

Overdrive is a special blast attack that consumes a tiny green meter located around your ship.  As you defeat enemies they explode into hundreds of tiny cubes, and if you collect enough of them you’ll fill your Overdrive meter.  The trade-off is that you can’t control the length of the overdrive, in other words once you activate it it’s gone until you fill the meter back up.  Another move, the boost is far more important to master as it uses a similar meter, although you can control how long you wish to boost for.  While technically a defensive move used for when you’re about to get overrun, the boost actually releases a small explosion once you stop.  A good technique is to boost right into oncoming enemies, and watch as they all explode.

Add extremely powerful bosses into the mix, especially in the later levels, and you have one of the very best arcade shooters released in a long time.  There’s always a constant risk and reward factor to each element of the gameplay.  Do you sacrifice a human so you don’t lose an extra life, or do you take the chance and perhaps get a weapon upgrade in the process?

Things only get more intense when you add a co-op partner to the mix, which I highly recommend you do.

Resogun2The Good:

+ By using voxel (also known as 3D cubes) graphics gives the game its own unique look.  When you destroy an enemy ship it explodes into millions of tiny cubes.  On top of that the particle effects are spectacular whenever enemy ships fire at you, which is all the time.  When you combine everything together, from the enemy ships exploding, to bombs being set off, to the particular effects, you’re left with the nicest looking arcade game I’ve ever played.

+ The soundtrack is techno-infused, and fits the setting perfectly.  All voice samples play out through the DualShock 4’s internal microphone for a little extra flare.  Ship explosions also sound great and there’s lots of bass for those with a good surround sound system.

+ Fun trophy list.  Can you rescue two humans within a second of one another?  Can you kill 50 enemies using only one boost?  I love when developers put time and effort into their trophies because it gives you an incentive to actually try and collect them.

The So-So:

+/- Having only five levels, and three different ships might grate on some people’s nerves.  The three ships play quite differently from one another in terms of the weapons they have available, but the limited levels will eventually start to feel similar to one another after a while.

Resogun3The Lowdown:

Resogun is my favorite PlayStation 4 game right now.  When I purchased my PS4 at launch Resogun, like Contrast was free for PlayStation Plus members.  This is an outstanding game for free, and a great game for the asking price of $10.  If you own a PS4, this is one you really need to play.

Final Score: 9/10

The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds Review

The Legend of Zelda - A Link Between WorldsThe Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds (Available exclusively on Nintendo 3DS)
ESRB Rating: E
Number of Players: 1
Genre: Action RPG
Publisher: Nintendo
Developer: Nintendo
Release Date: November 22nd, 2013

Parent Talk: Parents rest easy, since the very first Zelda on the NES, the series has featured nothing but fantasy violence. The same is true here. This is the perfect game for children of all ages, from three year olds, to the children reaching ever so close to 40. It’s a wonderful game that everyone can enjoy.

Plays Like: Technically if you’ve played one Zelda you’ve played them all. You go around the overworld looking for dungeons, complete said dungeons, and eventually collect a certain number of relics to take on the ultimate evil. In this case there’s a very cool new gameplay mechanic introduced, and all the weapons are available right from the get-go, but the core mechanics the series is known for are still very much present.

Review Basis: Downloaded the game on the 22nd of November, and completed it on the 23rd. That’s normal for a hardcore Zelda fan like me, so don’t read anything into it. According to the 3DS’ activity log, I played 11 times for a total of 18 hours and 33 minutes.

The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past is my favorite videogame of all time. It’s the game I talk about on a weekly basis with friends and family. It’s the reason I have a Triforce tattoo on my right shoulder blade. It’s a game that literally changed my life. When it was first released on the Super NES back in 1992 (’91 in Japan) it became an overnight sensation. It flew to the top of the SNES sales charts, and was almost always the number one voted Best SNES Game on the Nintendo Power charts. It also has the distinction of being one of the only Zelda games not to have a follow-up on the same platform as the original. For years and years players cried, screamed, and begged for Nintendo to release a sequel, and while we did get Link’s Awakening for the original Game Boy, players always wanted to return to that special place, that one game that changed the direction of the series forever. They wanted A Link to the Past 2, and now, some 20 years later, we finally have it, and it just so happens to be my favorite sequel to any videogame ever made.

ALBW7The Great:

Finally a return to form! I can’t tell you how happy I am to write this, but A Link Between Worlds finally goes back to basics and doesn’t treat the gamer like an idiot. Do you remember the first time you played the Zelda series? Well I sure do and at no point was there a character screaming in my ear every three seconds saying “Hey! Listen”. No, I was left alone, in some strange mysterious place. It was up to me to figure out where to go, what to do, and how much the green, blue, and red rupees were worth. I wasn’t given an explanation that item X did this or that, after having just collected my 96th one. Even if the rest of the game was complete garbage, this one element would justify the score, and yes I’m very serious. You have no idea how fresh the game feels without being told exactly where to go, and what to do every couple of seconds. It’s a godsend and for the love of everything holy in this world, the series NEEDS to continue down this path. Exploration is more rewarding, stumbling onto a strange new dungeon, or finally figuring out what a certain item does is about a thousand times more exhilarating when you’re the one who figured it out, not some programmer. The series must continue down this path moving forward.

ALBW5Another element that is a welcome change is that of allowing the player to decide where and what to tackle next. After the first three dungeons the game opens up and allows you to rent every weapon (die and they go back to the shop, or purchase them and they stay with you forever), which would normally be a reward from a particular dungeon. From there you’re tasked with rescuing seven sages and that’s it, the rest is up to you. Rent all the weapons, and do as you please. It feels like a spin on the classic Mega Man series, or more precisely, how you used to be able to sequence break on the old Zelda games. The freedom offered is brilliant, because when you decide to play it again, and believe me you will, you can weigh the choice of getting an armor upgrade, or doing the dungeon which has a piece of Master Ore inside, which is used to upgrade your Master Sword. It’s amazing how such a simple choice unlocks a wealth of freedom and replay value.

ALBW6Link’s ability to become a painting version of himself and walk alongside walls, and other objects could very well be the single biggest thing to hit Zelda since the introduction of world swapping. Think of it like Link gets sucked into the 3D background, and can move in 2D. It might seem like nothing more than a gimmick at first glance, but it dramatically and fundamentally changes gameplay for the better. Not only do you have to think about solving puzzles as you normally would, meaning how do I get here or there, how do I light that torch, or move this object to that location, but now you have to take into consideration the environment itself. You might have to move across a huge gab that in other Zelda games would require a special weapon, but since you already have all the weapons right away, what aren’t you seeing? All you need to do is to merge into the wall, and walk to safety a short distance away. It really does change your perception of how puzzles should be tackled and believe me, you’ll be stumped more than once. It’s such a simple concept that I can’t believe Nintendo didn’t think of this before, and now I can’t imagine playing another Zelda without it, because of just how fresh and excited the dungeons became.

Lorule is brilliant and is a fantastic throwback to the Dark World from A Link to the Past, but different at the same time. That’s another area that really took me for a loop. You see this game plays with your nostalgia. While Hyrule looks exactly as it did in A Link to the Past, it’s not the same. Time has changed the land somewhat, and the developers did a really outstanding job of taking what you think you know, and turning it on its head. Lorule goes one step further because it’s an entirely new area, although it is still based on Hyrule, so there remains a few connections here and there.

ALBW4New players may not get the same feeling of nostalgia, but it doesn’t matter in the long run. The game is spectacular in its own right. Dungeons are typically only a few floors, but that doesn’t make them any less entertaining. Remember this is a portable videogame after all so even if a dungeon appears relatively simple, the new gameplay mechanics more than make up for sheer size. That said, there were a few dungeons that took me a while to figure out and complete. The same can also be said for the overall difficulty. New players will likely find the challenge just right, whereas long-time vets will probably be able to finish the whole game without coming close to death. Nintendo goes one step further here too, thanks to Hero Mode. Once you finish the game you can tackle this new and improved mode which makes enemies four times stronger than they were in the original version. If long-time fans can blast through that mode I’d be very surprised. So it’s this constant give and take Nintendo does that makes A Link Between Worlds so fantastic. It’s the perfect entry Zelda, while also perfectly catering to the most hardcore fans.

ALBW3Speaking of those lifelong fans, there’s never been a Zelda sequel like this before. From the moment the title screen begins prepare to have goosebumps that won’t let up for hours. The orchestrated soundtrack is incredible, as are the graphics. This really is A Link to the Past’s world, feeling, and overall ambiance evolved to the current generation. It’s a sequel I could never imagine before actually playing it. I had so many nostalgic memories while playing through the game, yet all the changes really help make this something special. They help make this its own game, free from the chains of A Link to the Past, yet if you’re going to be chained to a game, that’s the one you want to be chained to. The look and sound are taken directly from ALttP, but everything has been modernized and redone in polygons. Hyrule looks and feels just as you remember it, albeit way nicer. Lorule is something else though, it’s stunning. They took the concept of the Dark World, and did something completely different; it’s literally a world falling apart. Almost all of the boss designs are inspired by A Link to the Past, although reworked, and it’s yet another way the game feels so familiar and different at the same time. When Link merges into a wall or even while running, there are slight little graphical tweaks here and there that may be missed by most, but do so much to bring the character to life. While moving around in 3D, he’ll look if he hears something, and while in 2D painting mode, his eyes actually move, and so does his animation as he moves around. It’s brilliant.

ALBW1That’s all without talking about the 3D effect. If you’re playing this in 2D you’re doing a huge disservice to yourself. A Link Between Worlds features the single best use of 3D I have ever seen, Avatar included. Seriously, the way Nintendo wrapped puzzles around the 3D use is nothing short of shocking. Multi-layered depth, text that pops from the screen, and so much more. Honestly, I was left breathless on more than one occasion.

The audio effects are mostly from previous Zelda games, with a few new ones scattered here and there, but the soundtrack is in a league all of its own. Believe me, you need to hear it for yourself. The track arrangement is perfect, and I honestly cannot wait for the soundtrack to become available as this is a day one purchase for me.

ALBW2The Lowdown:

I could go on and on about how there’s StreetPass battles you can do with Shadow Link, how there’s a sort of horde mode in a tower in Lorule, the fantastic map system on the lower screen, the simple but super effective and touching storyline, or the fact that you’ll want to replay this over and over again to see what the greatest sequence is to take when completing dungeons. Instead I’ll leave you with this, The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds is one of the very best Zelda games ever made, it’s my new favorite sequel to any videogame ever, and the very best portable game I’ve ever played. If you enjoy videogames at all, you need to experience this modern day masterpiece.

Final Score: 10/10

Power Rangers MegaForce Review

Power Rangers MegaForcePower Rangers: MegaForce (Available exclusively on Nintendo 3DS)
ESRB Rating: E10+
Number of Players: 1
Genre: Action
Publisher: Namco Bandai
Developer: Digital Works Entertainment
Release Date: November 5th, 2013

Review Basis: Completed the game on normal.

I’m a huge Power Rangers fan. Watched the show as kid all the way until the ‘Lost Galaxy’ season back in the day. My favorite were the Mighty Morphin ones, the only series that lasted three seasons. After that, every year would see a new series (Zeo, Turbo, In Space, etc.). 2013 marks the 20th anniversary of the show, and Saban (the creators of the series) have decided to celebrate by releasing all kinds of goodies, such as a huge DVD set with every single series, and this 3DS game. I saw the trailer before the start of the summer and instantly fell for it. The reason is simple, the theme song absolutely rocks! It’s a direct homage to the Mighty Morphin days. Because of that, and the 20 year anniversary, I assumed the game would be great for long-time Power Rangers fan.

I should have likely taken my Power Rangers undies off and re-watched the trailer a little closer. Usually when you get an 80-second trailer, and only 10 seconds of it features gameplay footage and the rest is footage from the show, said game is in for a very tough time. To its credit, the MegaForce show looks awesome. I should probably give it a look at some point, and I just might do that however, the game is complete garbage. I ended up having some fun with it near the end, but that’s only because I’m a huge Power Rangers fanboy. It’s the kind of game that even the developers knew they were making a crappy game. They were probably rushed to release this before the holidays. This is the type of game that wants to make a quick buck knowing that kids watching the show will bug their parents for the game, nothing more than that.

Power Rangers MegaForce1The Great:

The theme song is just that good!

The Good:

+ All the characters from the show seems to be incorporated well. You have all your main five colored rangers, plus the side character- Robo Knight. There’s also a huge cast of enemies taken directly from the show.

+ You get some interesting power-ups half-way through the game that make battles more interesting.

Power Rangers MegaForce2The Bad:

– The first thing you’ll notice right off the bat is that the game looks like ass. It wouldn’t even pass for an original DS title. Stereoscopic 3D is only supported during cut-scenes, which are just skits with characters talking. Extremely disappointing.

MegaForce is as repetitive as it gets. Levels have these objectives: defeat all enemies, collect all medals, find the switch, survive 60 second, and defeat the boss. Rinse and repeat. What’s worse is that the game stops to tell you the objective instead of letting you finish a stage without any interruptions, and reminds you that you’ve completed said objective with the words “clear” popping over the screen. Since the entire three-hour adventure composed of 31 levels plays exactly the same, it’s cumbersome to always be interrupted like that.

– Not only is the gameplay redundant, but so are the stages. You’re either fighting in a city, a jungle or an icy cavern. The backgrounds are the same during the entire game.

– Get ready to be annoyed by the ranger’s commands. Each seem to have one or two different phrases, and they alternate between them every two seconds. It makes playing with the volume on damn near impossible.

– If only the mech battles would have been fun, but no that would be asking for too much. Press the attack button until your enemy’s health is diminished then tap the touch screen repetitively. Those are the Megazord battles in a nutshell.

– Hey, here’s some special bonus stages for your efforts! Enjoy the repetitive combat and lame backgrounds again, just this time, these levels are optional. What? You don’t want to play these? Shame on you!

– Apparently, you can buy trading cards in stores and scan them. The game even includes one. I tried scanning it for exactly two minutes and failed. This simple mechanic doesn’t even work properly.

Power Rangers MegaForce3The Lowdown:

The few moments where I was having fun playing this can be explained by two simple facts; I’m a huge Power Rangers nut and I knew I was almost done playing this travesty. There is no redeeming factor. Do not buy this game, it’s that simple.

Final Score: 2.5/10

Disgaea D2: A Brighter Darkness Review

Disgaea D2 BoxDisgaea D2: A Brighter Darkness (Available only on PlayStation 3)
ESRB Rating: T
Number of Players: 1
Genre: Strategy/RPG
Publisher: Nippon Ichi Software
Developer: Nippon Ichi Software
Release Date: October 8th, 2013

Parent Talk: Disgaea is filled with character archetypes and comedy tropes that should resonate with any anime fan, though the sexual innuendos and more offbeat humor may make some jokes too crude for children. Most of the humor is taken from clever wordplay and (sometimes groan-inducing) puns, making it great for the anime lover in the family.

Plays Like: If you’ve played previous entries into the main Disgaea line, you should have an understanding of how this game works. D2 is a direct sequel to the first game in the series, though it does take into account the tweaks of the later entries (not counting the Prinny-focused action games or the visual novel PSP game). Basically, the game is a series of battles that occur on a chessboard-like environment. There are no places to explore or towns to visit; you simply power up your characters, watch cutscenes, and then play the next map. It sounds simple but it’s so incredibly deep and complex it would take hundreds and hundreds of hours to see all the game has to offer.

Review Basis: Completed the game once, currently on a second play-through.

disgaea03

I never expected Disgaea to become the recognizable fan-favorite franchise it’s become today. When the first game, Disgaea: Hour of Darkness, came out for the PlayStation 2 back in 2004, I expected it would become a beloved cult-favorite, destined to be lost to time and then home on many “Best of PS2” and “Games We Wish Had Sequels” list. I was certainly wrong. The lovable, offbeat (and admittedly bizarre) comedy, great characters, and dizzyingly deep combat and character customization not only made it a hit, but led to sequels, spin-offs, merchandise, an anime series, manga, and much more. Disgaea has become so popular that the Prinny, the hilarious penguin-like demons featured in the games, have basically become the de facto mascot of Nippon Ichi Software. Still, after all this time and all of the sequels, ports, and spinoffs, I’m amazed it’s taken this long to make a true-to-form sequel to the original game. D2 features the cast of the first game, back in action after nearly a decade. Laharl, Flonne, and Etna are without a doubt the most popular characters the franchise has to offer, so it’s great to see them return.

Even if you’ve only played the original game, you can dive into this one quite comfortably. All of the core entries in the series are turn-based strategy RPGs akin to Final Fantasy Tactics or Fire Emblem. If you haven’t played a game in the series before, you may be completely unable to follow the plot, but it’s still a fun ride. There are no towns to visit or vast fields to explore; instead, it’s all about character customization, grinding, and battles. Characters move on a map laid out like a chessboard, attacking enemies with a variety of magic, weapons, and skills. What makes the series so compelling though, is the sheer depth it has to offer. In addition to the main characters, each of which with their own special skills, you can create a number of other characters and develop them in a myriad of ways. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

The Great: An intricately laid out game. The basic flow of the game goes like this: 1) Watch a cutscene introducing the chapter. 2) Battle on a map. 3) Access new map. 4) Repeat a few times. 5) Fight boss. 6) End cutscene. It sounds simple, but the combat and character building is what makes the game so interesting. There are tons of possible character types you can create, including: Warrior, Skull, Witch, Healer, Thief, Gunner, Ninja, Samurai, Brawler, Archer, Magic Knight, Shaman, and much more, including monsters. When a character is created, he or she is set at a certain proficiency level, such as Good-for-Nothing, Incompetent, Skilled, and Genius.

Higher proficiency levels take more mana, which you get from winning battles and performing actions, but ensure the characters will have better growth. You can also promote characters to better class types once they are unlocked. You can also choose to reincarnate characters at level 1, to improve their stat growth patterns. That’s not including the smorgasbord of options available to you via the Dark Assembly courtroom. You can recruit special characters by fighting them in special missions and then maintain their growth with meticulous detail. Not only do characters level up, but they also can gain proficiency in different weapon types and gain experience in specific skills. That’s still not all of it.

disgaea04

The Good:

+ A brilliant cast of characters. Laharl, Flonne, and Etna are some of the best characters that the series has to offer and I’d make the argument that they are some of the most memorable RPG characters of all time. Laharl is the son of the previous Overlord, King Krichevskoy. In the first game, the story was all about Laharl rising up to become the Overlord himself, and find out what happened to his mother along the way. He also befriends an angel named Flonne. And then we have a series of offbeat jokes, references to Super Sentai hero action shows, references to anime, nonsensical character dialog and humor, terrible puns, and more. It’s wonderful. The characters are back in full force and are just as lovable as ever.

The voice work, both in English and Japanese, is just spot on and captures the spirit of these characters perfectly. Case in point: the beginning of the game opens with Laharl riding a meteor that crashes into a flower garden that Flonne is tending to. Laharl laughs maniacally as it crashes into the ground. When Flonne says she’s angry, Laharl just comments that he’s the Overlord so it’s ok. Sicily, one of the new characters central to the story, fits in well with the cast. The plot of this game is about a group of schemers threatening to overthrow Laharl as the Overlord, the mysterious Sicily who claims to be Laharl’s younger sister, and the potential war between Celestia and the Netherworld.

+ A fun, nonsensical world. What makes the Disgaea series so lovable is the quirky sense of humor. It’s difficult to tread the line between groan-worthy and hilarious, but the game manages to do so well most of the time. It tends to be mostly juvenile, but there are some hilarious moments, especially all of the weapon descriptions. Puns abound! Like the original game though, it still balances out with a narrative that has weighty overtones. Most of the game is about accepting your family and reconnecting with lost loved ones. Laharl paints himself as a ruthless villain, but he actually cares deeply about his family. It’s that juxtaposition that makes the game interesting.

+ Character Maker is more intricate than before. This time around, you can choose between three different personality types for the character, which will change that unit’s passive bonus (called “evility” in this game), voice, and other characteristics.

disgaea06

+ The Master/Apprentice system allows you to develop characters in the way you want. Do you want your spellcaster to learn some healing spells? Then have him serve as an apprentice to a healer!

+ The Demon Dojo also lets you develop your characters in the way you see fit. When you start, only certain sections of the dojo are open. For example, you can raise your characters’ HP or SP by making them train in the corresponding sections of the dojo. That way, when they level up, they will gain extra bonuses to those areas. By using the Dojo more often, you get new areas to train in (which gives you new opportunities for character growth) and more character slots per each spot in the Dojo.

+ The Cheat Shop allows you to fine-tune your preferences even further. Do you desperately need more mana, but you have more money than you know what to do with? Then adjust the settings so that you receive more mana at the cost of less money! You can even make the game harder by disabling certain features, like team combination attacks.

+ Geo Panels, team combination attacks, likability, and more!  Very few of the battles in this game are cut and dry. Not only do you have to account for your enemies’ attack patterns and movements, but you have to consider whether they will attempt to do a team attack on you, if the Geo Panel effects work to your favor or against you, and more. For example, you may have one section that gives you a boost to experience points—but enemies have higher damage output. Do you risk getting hurt for the sake of more experience? Or do you just destroy the Geo Panel? Or do you throw it to another part of the map to change what section the effects correspond to? Furthermore, you also have to consider how well your teammates get along. If you frequently pair units up together, they will like each other more. This means they will engage in team combination attacks more frequently. Or, if you’re on the receiving end of damage, an ally might step in and brace the attack for you if he or she likes you enough.

+ The Item World. If all of that wasn’t enough—skills, character classes, Geo Panels, and more—you can also level up your items and make them more potent! You see, each item basically hosts a dungeon. Different items have a different number of floors and guardians. If you can defeat the guardians and get to lower floors, you can power up your items. You can get all the way to level 9999!

+ Intricate balance and management. All of these mechanics are deep and profound, but the game carefully treads between spoon-feeding you details and ignoring it completely. The result is a game that manages to quickly instruct the player in a simple, unobtrusive way. For example, learning how to throw and stack characters is crucial to completing certain maps. The game teaches you the mechanic early on and encourages you to experiment.

+ Previous characters return in DLC. Fuka and Desco, two characters from Disgaea 4: A Promise Unforgotten, are currently available to download, and more will be coming, some of which from games outside of the Disgaea series. For example, Gig (one of my personal favorites) from the game Soul Nomad and the World Eaters is slated to be a DLC character.

+ The HD sprites, character designs, and colorful presentation all look great. While the field graphics are nothing special, and the castle hub is somewhat plain, the character designs are really what stand out. The series is not particularly well-known for offering more advanced visuals, say as in a game like Ni No Kuni, but the colorful presentation and characters are packed with charm and personality. Unfortunately, unlike Disgaea 4, there is no option to toggle between the old-style sprites and new HD sprites, though it’s not much of a loss. There is a free DLC pack that allows you to use the original designs/outfits for the main characters though.

+ Great audio. Both the English and Japanese voice tracks are available, and both are great. When playing in English, some of the grunts and in-battle dialog isn’t translated, but the main performances are great and are in keeping with the character. The music is fun to listen to, and fans of the original game may recognize several tracks.

+ Extra missions. If you take the time to visit the Dark Assembly between missions, you may notice special options available to Laharl. If you successful convince the senators to vote in your favor, you’ll have access to new areas. These bonus missions don’t just let you battle on a new map; they also have special story cutscenes and allow you to recruit a bonus character to your party.

+ Multiple endings and New Game +. Playing through the game once takes dedication and patience. Completing the game multiple times offers extra incentive for the truly hardcore. Also, if you complete the game, you can carry over your party, gear, and levels, so that you can raise your characters to even greater levels.

disgaea05

The Bad:

-The plot and characters are difficult to follow and care about it if you are not invested in the series. Laharl, Etna, and Flonne aren’t given much introduction in this game, so the expectation is that you are familiar with the world of Disgaea from the get-go. On the other hand, longtime fans might appreciate the fact that the game doesn’t waste time re-introducing the cast or treading over known territory. Also, because the original game is available on PSN, there isn’t much of a reason not to dive in.

-The adventure isn’t quite as memorable as the first. Sicily is a lovable character and I did genuinely enjoy the new story, but the story doesn’t quite live up to the original. It’s probably one of the weakest parts of the game. The story and gameplay are both great, but just not as great as the first. It tends to retread familiar ground. Even with the new gameplay tweaks, people who have played previous entries may already feel as though they’ve played this one before. Still, that should be taken in context—it’s still a wonderful game, one most certainly worth playing, just not as excellent as the first game. Trying to top the first game would be like capturing lightning in a bottle.  While this sequel plays it safe, it still manages to be fun and charming.

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The Lowdown:

If you like strategy RPGs, niche Japanese games, or games with a bizarre comedic style, Disgaea D2 is perfect for you. If you’re feeling burned out by lengthy strategy RPGs or simply don’t wish to invest that much into a game, this adventure might be a hard sell. But this entry sits comfortably alongside its contemporaries as one of the better strategy RPGs available.

Score: 8.5/10

Pokémon X & Y Review

Poke XPokémon X & Y (Available exclusively on Nintendo 3DS)
ESRB Rating: E
Number of Players: 1 to 2
Genre: RPG
Publisher: Nintendo / The Pokémon Company
Developer: Game Freak
Release Date: October 12th, 2013

Well there we have it, after 15 years of waiting, a 3D Pokémon adventure is finally upon us. I was 13 years old when I started playing this franchise and like many, I became addicted. I had to buy all the games that came out, even minor upgraded version during the same generation. I was a die-hard fan of the show (which to its credit, remains one of the very best licensed properties ever) and even collected the trading cards. I’m now way into my twenties, dangerously close to the big 30, and while the craziness has stopped, I’m still very much the same kid when it comes to the games. I invested over 200 hours into Black and White and their respective sequels. What always drags me back to these games are the addictive multiplayer features. Trading Pokémon and battling other trainers simply cannot be matched elsewhere. If you’ve read my review of Black & White 2, you’d know that I was pretty disappointed by the online features. It seemed like a missed opportunity when you factor in the popularity of the series and the huge e-sport community. Well ladies and gentleman, to my pleasant surprise, Nintendo (well Game Freak rather) of all people have nailed it this time. With the exception of one minor detail, expect to get lost in the e-sport because all of the tools you need to have fun online are included in Pokémon X & Y.

Poke X1The Great:

Online gaming in Pokémon is no longer a headache. For starters, the servers have been fixed. It’s now easier than ever to connect to someone and you don’t need to rely on luck or wait long periods of times before the connection happens. Check out this video I made of how ridiculous the system was in Black & White.

Now, by touching an icon on the bottom screen, you can connect and stay online the entire time. Not only that, but you have all your friends right there on the bottom screen. By touching their avatar, you can challenge them to a battle, trade Pokémon, give them a limited power or simply enter a chat session using the built-in microphone. If you don’t have any friends online, no problem, you can do all of this with random people. If that’s not to your liking, you can also battle and trade with random people using another menu, which is similar to the system found in generation V but without the hassle of connecting. The excellent GTS system also returns letting you deposit a Pokémon and ask for a specific one in return. It’s brilliant and makes it easier to complete your Pokédex than ever before. It’s an understatement how awesome all of this is. If you’ve been out of Pokémon for a while, now’s the time to get back into it. You could easily spend the rest of your gaming time playing X & Y until Generation VII comes out.

Poke X5The Good:

+ Wonder Trade is genius! Whoever thought of that needs a raise. It’s extremely simple, choose a Pokémon and in seconds it will be traded to someone anywhere in the world. In exchange, you’ll get a random Pokémon. Sure, often you’ll get a crappy Pidgey in return, but every now and then you’ll get a true gem. Some of my highlights include a few Fennekins, a Charmander, an Abra and tons of Eevees. Since you never know what you’re gonna get in return, it’s easy to get lost in this mode for hours.

+ The visuals are great. I’ve always wanted to play around in a 3D Pokémon world and I couldn’t be more pleased with the results. Battles now look more exciting than ever before, and the moves feel alive. Brilliant.

+ For the first time since Generation II, a new type is introduced, the fairy. Be sure to include a good one in your party as it completely demolishes Dark, Fighting and Dragon types which are usually pretty common online. They’ve also revamped the type chart and added some small changes here and there. For example, electric Pokémon can no longer be paralyzed. Little nooks like this are always appreciated and pros will surely come up with new strategies in a heartbeat.

+ You now gain experience points when capturing Pokémon. Also, the new exp share item makes everyone in your party gain experience points instead of just the Pokémon holding it like in previous games. This means that raising an entire party of Pokémon is easier than ever.

+ Huge diversity of creatures. It’s not uncommon to face 12 or more new Pokémon to capture and raise in a single area, because the game has over 700 creatures. As such they don’t waste much time introducing them, which is great.

+ Mega evolution is a fantastic new twist. It’s now possible to evolve certain monsters once they’ve reached their previous evolution cap. You need an item specific to the Pokémon and you can only trigger one mega evolution per battle so it balances things out. The Pokémon only stays in its mega evolution form during the battle then reverts back to its previous state. There are only a few out of the entire library that can do this, which is smart and keeps the mystery going. You never know just who can mega evolve until you find a stone or see a trainer do so in battle.

+ Worldwide release was ambitious and it paid off. Usually, Japan gets the game a few months ahead of everyone else and because of this, information is already out and you just can’t help but know a lot about the game before its release. Pokémon X & Y feels completely fresh since walkthroughs and strategy guides are only just coming out now. The entire game feels mysterious and is yours to discover.

+ There’s a cave somewhere that plays out just like a classic dungeon crawler game with a first person view. Really adored that segment and it felt like a nice throwback.

+ Fast paced single player campaign means you can get straight to the point and enjoy the game. Besides one useless tutorial on how to catch a Pokémon (when it was shown to me, I had already captured six), the rest of the adventure doesn’t hold your hand and just let’s you play.

+ Super Training makes EV training a lot more simple. It’s still something that will probably end up causing more harm than good to casual players as they won’t really understand the system, but for hardcore players who spend hours and hours raising the perfect Chandelure, this system will save them a lot of time.

+ Buy the game before January and you can receive a brand new Torchic via mystery gift. The generation III starter is a beast and a worthwhile addition to your team. Nintendo usually gives out a new rare Pokémon every three months so stay tuned.

+ Global link lets you register your account online and buy up some useful items at a discount that you can then transfer to your game. Very nice stuff.

Poke X4The So-So:

+/- Stereoscopic 3D is limited to battles only. It looks awesome but makes you wonder why the rest of the game doesn’t support it. Maybe the 2DS had a say in this. Nintendo already confirmed that some 3D puzzles were removed from the upcoming A Link Between Worlds so the situation is a bit scary for 3DS owners.

+/- It would have been nice to be able to send text messages with the stylus to friends on the lower screen. It would make it much easier to set up a battle or a trade. Chatting is nice, but you can’t do anything else while using that feature. The Animal Crossing: New Leaf system would have been perfect here.

+/- Story takes some time to kick in. Team Flare doesn’t really make an appearance until the ten hour mark and besides a few missions, they don’t take center role. Pokémon has always been aimed at kids and I’m fine with that as I was one when I started playing the franchise after-all, however I sure remember the originals being a lot more epic than this one.

Poke X3The Bad:

– Difficulty took a huge hit. Easiest single player Pokémon game by far. This is a step back from Black & White 2 which were the first to introduce a hard mode to the series. The challenge is taken down because of three reasons. The first being the new exp share, which means your Pokémon level up faster. This should have been countered by upping the levels of the A.I. Pokémon as well. Second, trainers always raise a team composed of one type, which is the stupidest strategy possible. I was hoping Game Freak would change this standard and mix things up by removing type-based gyms or at worst, remove this for the elite 4. Thirdly and most important of all, the only trainer encountered with a full party of six Pokémon in the entire 30 hour adventure is the champion, your very last foe. Most gym leaders have a maximum of three Pokémon. Even the elite 4 themselves don’t have more than four monsters in their party. How is this supposed to be challenging when you come in there with a full party of six? I’m really hoping the next entries ups the difficulty by a mile, or at least offer a Hard mode from the get go.

– Only 69 new Pokémon in X & Y, the lowest amount of any new entry ever. This means that there are fewer incentives to raise new creatures.

– A few extremely boring quests. One in particular requires you to find the Pokéflute to wake up Snorlax. Doing so takes around 30 minutes. During that time, there is not one single battle to be had or one Pokémon to catch. All you do is explore a standard looking castle and talk about non-Pokémon related stuff with other boring characters. It ends with fireworks to force some “magic” moment between you and a friend, even though you couldn’t care less about her. A series of post-game content makes you join a detective agency and “solve” various crimes. Again, the game tries to force simple educational morals on you that even young kids will find boring. Where is all this coming from?

Poke X2The Lowdown:

Since I’m very passionate about this series, it’s always easy for me to point out the flaws. I did so with my Black & White 2 review, and to my surprise, the online system was revamped. This makes X & Y a must buy game for anyone out there. Still, I would love to see more improvements made to the next entry like I talked about above.

Don’t be fooled, this is one of the best 3DS games you’ll ever play. With a fantastic online system, this game will stay into your 3DS for a long time to come. Even if you’re not into competitive matches, the new visual style warrants a look. All the new changes like the addition of the fairy type, the mega evolutions and wonder trade creates a fantastic product. Pokémon X & Y comes with my highest recommendation. Buy it today.

Final Score: 9.6/10

rain Review

rainrain (Available exclusively on PlayStation 3)
ESRB Rating: E10+
Number of Players: 1
Genre: Action Adventure
Publisher: SCEA
Developer: SCE Japan Studio
Release Date: October 1st, 2013

Parent Talk: rain is touching, sad, yet beautiful all at the same time. Children might be put off by some of the enemies that chase after you while, but there’s nothing overly violent or gory about the game as a whole. Young children will most likely not enjoy the feeling of isolation, and anyone over 10 should be perfectly fine.

Plays Like: rain is an action adventure game that tries to do something new. For the first few stages you’re trying to make your way to a little girl, always one step away from you no matter how close you get. While in the rain your playable character (a little boy) is visible, to both you the player, and to the various creatures that roam the land. If they touch you, it’s game over. The trick is to make use of your environments wisely. If an enemy can see you in the rain, then be sure to hide under sections of the street that have an awning so the rain doesn’t touch you. The goal is to make your way to the next section of the stage without being swallowed by the darkness. It sounds easy, but it gets complex fast. After the third level the game switches gears and plays more like ICO, where you have to work together with the little girl in order to overcome enemies, and other obstacles as you make your way to the stage’s exit.

Review Basis: Sony sent us a review code, and I completed the game.

Sony has made real strides this generation with their digital download service. What started off rather simple, has blossomed into a platform with some of the very best games available. From Super Stardust HD and Guacamelee!, to Journey and The Unfinished Swan, the PlayStation Network is home to a wide variety of AAA titles. With all that quality, releasing a new original IP can be tough, what with it being easily overshadowed by its peers. Sony has a lot of faith in rain and for good reason, it feels incredibly unique, looks great, and has solid gameplay.

rain5The Great:

An incredibly unique world. It often feels like a mixture of ICO and Limbo, because of the setting and overall gameplay. rain takes place in a world that is constantly raining. The only way to see yourself is to walk into the open, and let the rain fall down on you. The problem is monsters can also see you when you’re standing in the rain. In order to bypass them, you need to walk underneath awnings, roofs, or any other area where the rain can’t hit you. Throw in puzzles based around this gameplay mechanic, and a stunning visual style and you have yourself one heck of a creative videogame.

The feeling the game puts off is also impressive. Do you remember being extremely young and walking into a dark basement? Remember that feeling of isolation or dread that slowly crept up inside you? That’s exactly what this game does, it makes you feel like a child who’s trapped in a familiar setting, that’s teeming with dark and strange creatures.

rain4The Good:

+ Excellent difficulty progression. While the first few stages are extremely simple, mainly acting as a large tutorial, eventually you’re forced to use quick thinking, and multiple skills at the same time. That includes making sure you don’t step in mud, hiding from the rain, pushing blocks so you can reach safe zones and much, much more. Oh and you need to do this all while being chased by the Unknown, a large hulking beast that shares a few resemblances to a teacher, which ties into the feeling of making players feel like children.

+ Gameplay really shines once you hit the forth stage. That’s when you have access to a second character, and much like ICO before it, you have to help each other in order to solve puzzles, and escape enemies. This can include moving a ladder so one character can climb to a higher level, or waiting for your partner to sneak by enemies so you can quietly get by afterwards. Things get really interesting when several mechanics are thrown into the mix while enemies are chasing you both down.

+ Nerve-wracking at times. You might not believe it, but this game can be more creepy than even the scariest Resident Evil game, and that’s because there are several monsters that will follow you wherever you go, and you only have a finite amount of time to solve the puzzle before you and your partner get consumed by darkness.

+ While the eight levels can be completed in around three to four hours, maybe less if you use the hint system, upon finishing the game you can revisit each chapter to try and locate memories.

+ Level and art design are excellent. The way the rain interacts with both kids is wonderful to look at. Rain drips from their silhouettes, there are wet footprints which show which direction you’re walking in when not in the rain, and the overall environments are extremely polished. The way the narrative is presented is superbly stylized. This is one fine-looking videogame.

+ The audio is also very impressive. While there’s no spoken dialogue, the ambient noise is enough to calm you down during thought-provoking puzzles, or drive you up the wall when a giant monster is right on your tail. Composer Yugo Kanno and singer Connie Talbot have crafted an excellent soundtrack to accompany the sound effects. The tracks are somber, sad, and delightful, which fit the mood of each scene perfectly. There’s a lot of piano work here that’s especially memorable.

rain3The So-So:

+/- It can be a little hard to see exactly where you’re going when multiple mechanics are thrown at you at once. For example there are sections of the game where you need to use moving cover in order to hide from enemies all around you. One false step and it’s game over because you’ll be spotted within a second. The problem is that the moving cover doesn’t highlight your wet prints making it extremely difficult to tell if you’re going to overshoot your cover or not. It’s not mechanic that’s used too often, but when it is, it can be problematic.

+/- Some really intelligent gameplay mechanics like the one mentioned above are only featured in one stage in the entire game. While most will be further expanded as the game progress, there are a few puzzle elements that are slowly introduced just for the sake of having them at one particular point in time, and then never used again.

+/- Fixed camera angles are also problematic over time. 90% of the time they work perfectly and offer some stunning views of the action, but the other 10% twist and turn or cut too soon and will cause you to either run off a roof, or walk directly into an enemy you didn’t even know was there.

rain1The Bad:

– Hand-holding to the extreme. Die three times and the solution is presented to you. Wait around for a few minutes and the same thing happens. Sure you don’t have to hit the ‘Select’ button, but the fact that the solution shows up so quickly is annoying. It encourages people to simply ‘cheat’ their way through the game instead of using their brain to try and figure out the solutions for themselves. Sadly the hints cannot be turned off.

The Ugly:

You will learn to hate the Unknown monster. He clearly represents a teacher, as he sticks his finger out scanning for your footsteps, and it reminds me of a teacher scolding a kid in class with their finger. If he spots you he’s almost impossible to lose, and will surely catch up to you. It makes for some truly intense moments, and if someone like Steven were to play this, you’d hear his screams miles away.

rain2The Lowdown:

rain is a very refreshing game. While it has a few problems that keep it from achieving the same milestones that some of the other big heavy hitters on the PSN have, it’s originality help make it a title you should check out. The biggest problem is clearly the hint system, and the fact certain gameplay elements don’t seem to evolve over time, but the environments, the soundtrack, and feeling of isolation all come together to make rain a truly unique experience. If you enjoyed ICO or are simply looking for something a bit different, you can’t go wrong with rain.

Final Score: 7.5/10

Marlow Briggs and the Mask of Death Review

MarlowMarlow Briggs and the Mask of Death (Available on PC, and Xbox 360)
ESRB Rating: M
Number of Players: 1
Genre: Action
Publisher: 505 Games
Developer: ZootFly
Release Date: September 20th, 2013

Parent Talk: Marlow Briggs and the Mask of Death was given an M rating by the ESRB because of violence, blood and gore, partial nudity, and strong language. This third-person action game features lots and lots of violence, but never goes too over the top compared to something like God of War. That doesn’t mean you don’t impale your enemies, or perform other devastating attacks, because you do.

Plays Like: Let’s get the obvious out of the way right now, this is a God of War clone, but that doesn’t automatically make it a bad game. It feature all the staples of the genre, including QTE events, light platforming, and lots and lots of button mashing action. The developers went a step further though, and added some much needed humor, which rounds out a surprisingly fun package.

Review Basis: Microsoft sent us a review code, and I finished the game in about five hours on the Normal difficulty setting.

Marlow Briggs and the Mask of Death is a game I was certain I wouldn’t like. The opening cutscene was unimpressive, and the production values were clearly low budget. I didn’t let the sour taste put me off though, and gave the game a fair shakedown. I’m really glad I did too, because this is actually a very fun action game that features lots of great dialogue, witty banter, and surprisingly deep gameplay. If you enjoy the God of War series, this is certainly a game you should check out. Seriously, don’t let the first impression put you off.

Marlow3The Great:

The humor stands out above all other aspects. This is one seriously funny game, and not because of juvenile humor, no it’s funny because as a videogame it doesn’t take itself seriously at all. Marlow makes one cliché comment after another, but then slowly starts to realize where he is. He’ll yell “wow having that turret here sure is convenient,” and then “how is it this whole place is trying to kill me,” referring to giant pistons that could crush him at a moment’s notice. His partner in crime, a possessed Mayan mask, is perhaps the real star. He names Marlow the dancing death princess, and all other manor of belittlement. When Marlow happens to fall to his death, he says one of my favorite lines, “did you see some enemies down there?” The back and forth banter goes a long way in making this feel like a fresh experience, even though the gameplay has been done a million times before.

Marlow1

The Good:

+ Solid combat system. There’s a simple combo-chain system in place whereby you have a fierce and weak attack which can be used in conjunction with each other. There are special magical attacks, grappling moves, and much, much more.

+ Additional weapons also flesh out the combat system. While Marlow starts off with a weapon that has mid-range, he eventually finds three others with one that looks an awful lot like Kratos’ mighty blades.

+ Keeps things fresh by introducing new elements one after another. Just when you’re getting bored of fighting wave after wave of nameless goons, you get to use a turret to take out helicopters. Once that’s done, there’s a large platforming section followed by an upside down helicopter mini-game. By continuously throwing new things at players, the action never becomes overly monotonous.

+ There’s also the genre-mandatory experience system, which allows players to improve a weapon’s strength, or increase Marlow’s health and magic meters. It’s not original, but works.

+ While the cutscenes aren’t anything special, but the grand set-pieces look fantastic for a $15 arcade release. Marlow also animates very well while facing a nice assortment of enemies. The level design is also very impressive.

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The So-So:

+/- Real-time cutscenes are interesting the first few times you see them, but get dull fast. They feature paused action sequences that have the camera sweeping around, and zoomed in for dramatic effect.

+/- Platforming sections don’t have the same fluid feel as the combat. Marlow often feels far too heavy compared to how agile he is while in battle.

+/- For the most part the fixed camera angles are great, but every now and then enemies will appear from just beyond the camera’s reach and cause you problems.

The Bad:

– Too many cutscenes break up the pacing. While all the cutscenes can be skipped, there are simply far too many of them, often back to back after only a minute of gameplay.

The Ugly:

The introduction is jerky, low res and quite frankly poor in quality. I was thinking to myself, “oh no, not another one of these…” but then everything got so much better. Really wish the intro would have been reworked.

Marlow4

The Lowdown:

Marlow Briggs and the Mask of Death started off as a me-too clone, but eventually turned into something surprising. If you’ve got $15 lying around and are looking for a very fun way to spend five to six hours, this is a game you should look into. It’s not original by any means, but the gameplay is deep, the humor is top notch, and it feels as though the developers really let the game come into its own. This one might just surprise you.

Final Score: 8/10

Citizens of Earth Preview

Eden Industries recently started a Kickstarter for a brand new RPG for the PC that shares a lot in common with the legendary Earthbound on the Super NES. Their funding goal is $100,00 Canadian, and as of writing this they have garnered around 10% of that total, with 26 days left in the campaign. The developer is made up of several people involved with Luigi’s Mansion: Dark Moon, and seems to have a clear vision for where they want to take this game. One of the team contacted me and asked if I’d be interested in covering the title, and since I love all things Earthbound, I figured why the heck not.

The game begins with players taking on the role of the Vice Presents of the World. Right there that should give you an idea of just how wacky the sense of humor is in this game. 24 hours after being elected the new VP, you decide it’s time for a vacation and head back to your old home, where your mother and brother live. From there the adventure begins.

The funniest part is that you don’t actually do any of the fighting yourself. Like a true politician you get everyone else to do the work for you. That’s where Citizens of Earth really shines, in its recruitment system. Virtually every new character you meet can be recruited into your party, each having their own unique power set. Meet a baker, they’ll be your go-to for fire attacks, while the conspiracy guy is perfect for dealing high damage to mechanical creatures. Each character will require the completion of a side-quest before they’ll join you. Sometimes it’s locating a certain item or items, while others require you to defeat a certain enemy.

CoE3

Gameplay is broken down into your typical 16-bit era RPG formula. You do a lot of exploring around the local town before venturing off into the forest, fighting countless creatures along the way. The story has you originally trying to figure out why there are so many protesters in town, and then why everyone in the coffee shop is so out of it because of the new Special Blend. From there things escalate to the outrageous.

The game shares a lot in common with Earthbound, from the contemporary setting to the combat engine. Whenever you see enemies walking around, which is all the time as there are no random encounters, you have the ability to shout “Go!” and send up to three party members rushing towards the enemy. If they hit the enemy’s back, they’re given a power boost, but if the enemy strikes them first they lose a power boost. Power boosts work sort of like MP in other RPGs. Each character can store up to three power boosts, with some attacks consuming them, while others build them. This means you can’t just walk into a fight and go crazy, you actually have to plan your attacks accordingly and make sure you have enough power boosts in reserve for when needed.

CoE1Another feature carried over from Earthbound that I love is the auto-fight mechanic. If you send your group to attack an enemy and they’re a few levels higher, the fight will automatically end with you gaining the experience. Experience is handled much like the old-school RPGs of yesterday, whereby points are automatically allocated to your attributes.

While not available in the playable demo, additional party members are able to be stored in the town’s school so they can earn experience while they’re not in use. If you keep all your characters on you, you’ll have to switch them up in order to level them all out. That might sound bothersome, but we have no clue how the school system will work. Perhaps you’ll be able to transport members on the fly.

CoE4The demo, which is available from the game’s Kickstarter page takes about two to three hours to complete, and offers a nice tease of what the developer hopes to achieve with sufficient funding. After having played through the demo myself, there’s a lot of potential here. Eden Industries promises dozens of party members, a truly robust combat system, and a great storyline. I’m already convinced this is a game that deserves to be funded if nothing else because of the hilarious narrative. I’d really love to see the funding get pushed to $160,000 so a Wii U version could be made, but right now I’d be happy just to see the game released. If you’re looking for an old-school RPG that has many modern elements like detailed and creative graphics, a kick-ass soundtrack, and fun combat system, be sure to check out Citizens of Earth!

Zelda II: The Adventure of Link Review

Zelda IIZelda II: The Adventure of Link (Available on 3DS, Wii, and Wii U)
ESRB Rating: E
Number of Players: 1
Genre: Action RPG
Publisher: Nintendo
Developer: Nintendo
Original Release Date: September 26th, 1988
Wii Virtual Console Release Date: June 4th, 2007
3DS Virtual Console Release Date: November 22nd, 2012
Wii U Virtual Console Release Date: September 12th, 2013

Parent Talk: Having played this while a youngster myself, I can understand why the ESRB rated Zelda II E for everyone. Considering the somewhat primitive graphics, there really isn’t anything too overly mature about the game except the overall plot, which thankfully comes across much clearer than the original’s did.

Plays Like: Unlike The Legend of Zelda, The Adventure of Link no longer takes place with an overhead perspective. Instead the game plays something more like Castlevania mixed with Dragon Quest. There’s still an overworld, although whenever enemies touch Link, they’re transported to a side-scrolling battle stage. Dungeons also take place in side scrolling areas where players engage in some of the most challenging battles ever to grace a Zelda game. Many consider this the most difficult game in the series, and for very good reason, it is. There’s also a leveling system, magic, and so much more.

Review Basis: Much like the original Zelda on the NES, I’ve played my fair share of The Adventure of Link. While this may be one of my least favorite entries in the series, it’s remains a fantastic game that dramatically changed the course of the series.

Zelda II: The Adventure of Link is generally regarded as the weakest link in the Zelda series, but that’s only because it tried to do so many new things. As a stand-alone videogame it’s actually extremely fun to play, so long as you aren’t easily frustrated. Reviewing this game as if playing it for the first time proved one thing right away, if you dislike dying a lot, this is most likely not the game for you. Outside the challenge, it’s pretty remarkable how well certain aspects have held up some 25 years after its original release?

ZeldaII_1The Great:

Having the balls to do something different. Bow and arrows, boomerang, bombs, yeah, they’re all gone in Zelda II. They’ve been replaced with an overworld and leveling system that mimics Dragon Quest. Enjoyed spending countless hours looking for secret entrances, well they’re still here although they’ve been scaled back to make room for what the real focus is, action. Link can learn a wide variety of skillful sword techniques including the awesome down-thrust, which is one of the most useful abilities in the entire game. There’s now a magic system which allows Link to shield himself, heal his wounds, or even transform into a fairy. All of these changes made Zelda II a completely different beast compared to the original, and depending on when you began playing the series, you either loved it or hated it. No one can deny that it was extremely risky of Nintendo to make all these changes, and today the game is remembered for having the courage to try something different.

ZeldaII_2The Good:

+ Extremely large overworld that contains loads of hidden goodies. While completely different than the original, the overworld still has its fair share of secrets. Players can find point bags, which aid in leveling, they can find heart containers, which increase Link’s capacity to hold more health, and more.

+ Grinding isn’t really required. Sure you can if you want, but unlike true RPGs, Zelda II works quite differently in that each dungeon automatically increases Link’s level upon completion. The game automatically determines which area will increase in strength upon leveling, be it either health, magic or sword strength.

+ Save sates are a blessing for new players. Given the extreme difficulty level, new players will be able to slowly ease into the game thanks to the save states, and not have to worry about restarting over and over again.

ZeldaII_3The So-So:

+/- Brutally difficult at the onset of the game, but slowly balances out as you progress. That’s not to say it ever becomes easy, but as you learn to use your spells more effectively, and get better at the combat system, things eventually balance out.

+/- Dialogue is more useful than the original Zelda, but players will still get lost. Thankfully towns are useful because there are more than a few characters which can point you in the right direction, but when it comes to hidden items that are required to progress, more often than not you’ll spend hours trying to find them unless you resort to using a guide.

The Bad:

– Hit boxes are extremely small. If you’re up against an Ironknuckle for example, unless you use the jump thrust move, you’re likely to lose of half your health because of how precise your hits have to be.

– Merciless. Difficulty is one thing, the lack of health drops from enemies is something else entirely. If you don’t use save states you’re going to die, a lot.

ZeldaII_4The Lowdown:

While many may dismiss Zelda II because of its difficulty or how radically different it is compared to its predecessor, it remains a fun game. The magic system remains fun to use, and exploration is easier than the original because of additional hints and a more linear progression system. If you can stomach the difficulty, aren’t put off by the emphasis on action, then Zelda II is certainly a classic worth revisiting.

Final Score: 8/10