Category Archives: PSP

Watch This Blacksmith Build and Wield the Buster Sword!

A blacksmith brings Cloud’s Buster Sword to life. For an FFVII fan, it’s a dream come true. For anyone looking for a sword to wield, sadly you won’t be able to carry it. Yet Cloud twirls it with one hand during his victory pose. Gotta love those Japanese. Gravity defying, yet absolutely awesome!

Growlanser IV: Wayfarer of Time Review

Growlanser IV: Wayfarer of Time (Available only on PlayStation Portable and PSN)
ESRB Rating: T
Number of Players: 1
Genre: Strategy RPG
Publisher: ATLUS
Developer: Career Soft
Release Date: July 31st, 2012

Note: This game is playable on PlayStation Vita.

Parent Talk: Growlanser is a complex strategy-based role-playing game. There are mild sexual references and some profanity, but because of the relatively simple graphics, there isn’t any gore or blood to worry about. Some younger players may have a difficult time playing the game because of some of the more difficult battles. You do not have to play previous games in the series to understand or enjoy this game; it is a stand-alone product.

Plays Like: A mix of turn-based strategy games, like Final Fantasy Tactics, and real-time action. Characters do not move on a grid-style chessboard, but instead move freely about the area; movement speed varies between characters.

Review Basis: Played for 60 hours, completed the main adventure, and watched several of the endings.

Growlanser Generations was a pleasant surprise on the PlayStation 2. I imagine many North American gamers are unfamiliar with the series, just as I was when that game arrived. After playing it and enjoying the unique blend of strategy and real-time combat, I came to appreciate the series. Hopefully even more will come to enjoy it considering how excellent Wayfarer of Time is.

The Great: A memorable adventure. Like the PSP-exclusive role-playing game The Legend of Heroes: Trails in the Sky, Growlanser IV succeeds not because of significant contribution to the genre or thoughtful innovations, but simply because it is a memorable, well-crafted adventure. Many (unfairly) criticize JRPGs of being stale, repetitive, and linear. WoT is excellent evidence to the contrary, with its excellent characters, great relationship system, non-linear storyline, and branching dialog. How you choose to play the game, how you choose to interact with other characters, and what your preferences are shape the adventure. Characters may live or die based on your choices, characters may enter or leave your party, and you can even fall in love.

Many gamers may be reminded of the Persona series, which is a fair assumption. However, the branching dialog trees are more pronounced here, with more significant changes to the story. In Persona, you are largely tasked with time management; in Growlanser, the game conforms to your preferences. However, unlike most Western RPGs of this ilk, you cannot customize or change the appearance of your characters. I personally prefer the existing designs because of the excellent artwork from Satoshi Urushihara, so I see this as more of a matter of preference.

The Good:

+ An interesting combat system. WoT mixes together elements of turn-based and real-time action. Players choose each character’s actions based on her or her position in the lineup, but characters move and act based on their movement speed and reaction time. These statistics can be improved by leveling up characters and equipping stones, but that’s only scratching the surface. Characters also have magic spells and skills (called knacks), in addition to unique abilities granted by stones.

Many situations do not simply ask for the player to take out all enemies; other times, players must escort a character safely across the battlefield, stop someone from escaping, recapture an area, etc. This adds a definite element of strategy of the game. Furthermore, battles can be completed without fulfilling the primary objectives, which leads to the possibility of multiple outcomes. You can choose to save someone or let that person die.

+ Many events, many possibilities. It’s simply impossible to see every even that the game has to offer the first time through the adventure. Interacting with characters opens up a wide array of options. If you speak carefully and are perceptive of character traits, it’s possible to have many of your teammates open up to you. Doing so not only makes them more prone to like you, but also gives you the chance to unlock unique events. Between major story events, you can take the time to relax and enjoy a nice furlough period. Doing so will give you time to talk to characters, go to an art gallery, take in the sights, enjoy a play, etc.

Sometimes, these bonus events actually open up interesting side quests and special events. Learning about a character’s past gives insight on how to significantly change that character’s fate, hopefully for the better. This is personally one of my favorite parts of the game, because it makes the characters and the adventure more personal and more genuine. Fans of the Persona series should especially enjoy this element of the game.

+ Length and replayability. As stated before, there are 40 possible endings, many alternate story routes, and many options for character interaction. The main scenario is rather straightforward, but each successive play through will provide new insights on many of the game’s characters (of which there are many)! Not only that, but the game will take a significant amount of time to complete even once. It’s easy to spend about 50 hours just to complete the game one time. That’s nothing to scoff at.

+ Excellent characters, character designs, and artwork. Satoshi Urushihara’s artwork is one of the many, many reasons to appreciate this game. Character portraits are intricately detailed and given a wide variety of expressions; the animation is limited, but the character portraits and special scenes are a joy to look at. All of this would be moot of course if the characters were dull and uninteresting in conversation, but thankfully they contribute frequently and I genuinely wanted to talk to the characters.

The So-So:

+ Music is good, but somewhat forgettable.

+ Character sprites are decent. They lack the punch of the remastered Final Fantasy games, but they at least stand out from the blurry backgrounds.

The Bad:

-The game starts slow. As a word of warning to everyone considering playing this game: make sure you stick it through. The beginning of the game is interesting, but the first act does drag a bit (at the academy, for instance).  However, once new characters are introduced and some of the drama unfolds (and some more of the game options open up), everything gets much more interesting. It would be sad to dismiss the game because of a slow start, because at the end of the game, I found myself attached to the game world and the characters in it.

-Some battles can be plagued with slowdown in some of the more hectic battles.

The Ugly:

-The field graphics are a blurry mess. It can be hard to distinguish some pathways because of how crowded the areas can be, especially if there are objects, foliage, etc., in the way. Many times, the areas are just rather bland and uninteresting to look at. The artwork is absolutely fantastic and is certainly one of the game’s selling points, but the same cannot be said for the field graphics.

The Lowdown:

Wayfarer of Time is definitely worth picking up if you need a reason to keep your PSP around or if you’re looking for content on the Vita. The series is one of my cult favorites because of its compelling blend of tactical strategy and simulation gameplay. If you’re a fan of JRPGs, especially the Persona series, this is one worth your time.

Score: 8/10

Growlanser IV: Wayfarer of Time Impressions

Growlanser IV: Wayfarer of Time (Available only on PlayStation Portable and PSN)
ESRB Rating: T
Number of Players: 1
Genre: Strategy RPG
Publisher: ATLUS
Developer: Career Soft
Release Date: July 31st, 2012

Note: This game is playable on PlayStation Vita.

So far, I’ve poured about 15 hours into Growlanser IV. I plan to play for quite a lot longer. My experience thus far has been very favorable, because Wayfarer of Time has proven to be an addictive, engaging handheld role-playing game. Fans of the strategy genre will have a lot to work with her and people who enjoy the “dating sim lite” approach in games like Shin Megami Tensei: Persona 3 and 4 will be thrilled. Even if you’ve retired your PlayStation Portable, you may want to dust it off or download this gem for your Vita–because it’s looking great.

What is Growlanser? Growlanser is a strategy role-playing game series. Most of the games have an isometric perspective and 2D character sprites. Think of like like a combination of Final Fantasy Tactics and a dating-sim. Outside of battles, the player can talk with characters, go to shops, engage in events (like going to see plays), and so on. There is an extensive relationship system that permeates the whole game. The player can form relationships with characters in the game, becoming close friends and possibly more. There are extensive dialog trees and the experience is highly customizable and personable. In battles, players fight enemies in a real-time, menu-based system.

I’ve never played a game in this series before. Can I play this one without experiencing the others? Yes! Wayfarer of Time stands on its own. If you’ve played Growlanser Generations, you will have a good understanding of how this game works-both are similar. They have the same battle system and general mechanics.

What makes this game unique/worth playing? The character customization make this a unique, lengthy, and engrossing adventure. There are multiple endings and many different options, depending on how you play. Are you kind and caring? Or are you cold and ruthless? How you act determines how characters will interact with you and treat you. You can also meet different characters based on how you act in the game; certain characters may live or die by your actions, as well. The battle system is also highly engaging and should be fun for any role-playing game fan, with its clever blend of real-time, turn-based, and tactical elements. Characters do not move on a grid nor is it a “wait-based” system. Battles require quick thinking and a level of preparation.

Is the story any good? Yes, and it’s lengthy. Characters are memorable and interesting. The high-level of of character interaction means that you get many opportunities to learn about each of the characters, but it won’t be the same way for each person. ATLUS has proclaimed that there are over 40 possible endings in the game. I won’t include any spoilers here, but here’s a rough primer: You play as Crevanille, a young boy taken in and raised by a mercenary brigade. His leader calls him the “key” and believes he will be instrumental in defeating the angels, who had destroyed human civilization ages ago and apparently threaten to do so again.

Expect a full review from me soon! 

Legend of Heroes Trails in the Sky Review

Legend of Heroes Trails in the Sky (Available exclusively on the PlayStation Portable)
ESRB Rating: T
Number of players: 1
Genre: RPG
Publisher: XSEED
Developer: Nihon Falcom Corp
Release Date: March 29th, 2011

Parent Talk: Trails in the Sky is a Japanese role-playing game with colorful characters and a thoughtful story. There are abundant alcohol references and some mildly suggestive content, but this is a game that is suitable for almost any player. Younger players may not like all of the reading that is necessary though. You do not need to play other games in the Legend of Heroes series to understand or enjoy this game.

Plays Like: Trails in the Sky is a mixture of classic roleplaying games like Final Fantasy and strategy games like Growlanser. In combat, players must move characters around a battle field screen and plan out attacks in turn-based order. Outside of battle, players talk to characters and take on quests.

Review Basis: Completed the main adventure and all quests. Played for roughly 50 hours.

The Great: A wonderful adventure. A decent role playing game may engross you in an adventure, keeping you occupied for hours just because the gameplay is fun or you feel compelled to “beat” the game. A great role playing game compels you to finish because you want to finish the adventure, because it actually pulls you into the experience, making you feel attached to the characters and the world. Trails in the Sky is the latter. Many people today criticize modern Japanese role playing games of losing touch with gamers, especially compared to the masterpiece JPRGs from previous console generations. While I don’t fully agree with that claim, Trails in the Sky does bring to mind the great old adventures from the SNES and PlayStation 1 era.

The story is about personal growth and family, which makes it personal and relatable. Estelle Bright is the daughter of legendary Guild Bracer Cassius Bright, a man who has made a legacy out of helping people across the land. Bracers are sort of like mercenaries, people who are paid for their services. However, they take the creed to help those in need whenever they are able, prioritizing helping over reward. When she was young, Cassius brought home a boy named Joshua, who soon became a part of the family. Now, Estelle and Joshua are traveling across the country, visiting different Bracer Guilds to gain enrichment, learning about the people and the customs of the land and to grow as Bracers. It’s an adventure worth playing because the characters are rich and they grow over the course of the game.

The Good:

+ A long game. The game’s packaging advertises that it takes about 50 hours to complete, which is no exaggeration. This is a lengthy game! Seeing all of the different lands, taking on all of the different quests, and tackling all of the challenges takes quite a bit of time. Of course, reading through lines and lines of text also takes a while, so don’t expect that you will be enjoying 50 hours of straight play. Old-school enthusiasts should feel right at home though. If you’re looking for a portable game you can commit to, this is an excellent choice.

+ Wonderful characters. Most of the game is dedicated to exploring and developing Estelle and Joshua Bright, a brother-and-sister pair who are traveling across the country to become Bracers like their father. They meet a variety of interesting teammates, each of which brings unique personalities and perspectives. The journey is really about Estelle’s feelings, her family, her relationship with her adopted brother Joshua, and how she grows. Seeing characters develop so well makes the game more fun to play. Even the other characters, like the seemingly cold-blooded Agate and the eccentric young inventor Tita, make their mark without wasting much time. Every character is important.

+ Colorful artwork. Character portraits really help bring the game to life. The animated cutscene in the beginning of the game and the character portraits featured in battles/menus help give the adventure more personality. The character design is definitely one of the game’s strong suits.

+ A deep but not overly complex battle system. Trails in the Sky adopts an easy-to-learn turn-based combat system with some twists. Characters take turns attacking and moving, with the turn order displayed on the battle screen. During that character’s turn, he or she can move across the field, attack, use an item, use magic, or use a special attack. You can move and attack in the same phase if an enemy is in rage, but you cannot move and use an item or special ability. Certain spells and abilities can be used to stop enemies from moving around the board or using attacks.

The game gradually increases the difficulty, giving you plenty of time to figure out all of the nuances to battle. As you progress in the adventure, you learn new magic skills (depending on what gems you equip onto your character) and new abilities. Characters can even equip super moves, which can be performed at any time once they fill the “CP Meter.” By mastering super moves, magic, and arts, you can handle a variety of enemies in a number of ways. The game isn’t held back by complicated information systems, making it easy to jump into.

+ Character customization and management. Besides giving characters the standard weapons, armors, helmets, shoes, and accessories, players can also outfit characters with orbments. Orbments are basically magic gems, like Final Fantasy VII’s materia system, that gives characters magic spells and statistic boosting effects. Depending on where the orbs are placed and what orbs are paired with them, characters can gain access to new spells or different power boosts.

+ An abundance of quests. In each area of the country, there are different Bracer Guilds. By checking the bulletin boards at the guilds, you can read about and accept a number of odd jobs. They offer extra incentive to explore the towns more thoroughly before moving on to the next part of the story.

+ Great writing and dialog. Some gamers hate reading lines and lines of text, but you shouldn’t dismiss Trails in the Sky. The plot is well done and the characters show a wide range of emotion. Characters can be genuinely endearing or funny, which makes reading through the dialog all the more fun.

The So-So:

+/- The music is good, but not much else can really be said about it. I didn’t find many of the tracks memorable.

+/- The graphics are decent, but lack the punch and vibrancy of other PSP role playing games. The art style is wonderful though.

+/- The orbments system is robust, but it’s difficult to figure out the pattern for how magic and stat boosts work. I played around with equipping different orbs on characters (in varying order) and never found a concrete pattern, but perhaps I just didn’t understand it properly.

The Bad:

-This may contain some spoilers for the game’s story, but it should be known that the game ends rather abruptly with a serious cliffhanger. Trails in the Sky is intended as the first chapter of a trilogy. There is no word on whether or not the sequels will be localized and released in English though. Supposedly, XSEED is working on the Second Chapter though.

-The pacing is kind of slow. Some parts of the game tend to drag on, but the end result is worth it.

The Lowdown:

Trails in the Sky is a great throwback to classic role playing games, with excellent characters, witty writing, and a fun combat system. Gamers who dislike lots of reading or a slower, turn-based combat system may be turned off by this adventure, but if you want a seriously long, committed adventure, then Trails in the Sky is a wonderful choice. Just as long as you don’t mind waiting for future installments.

Final Score: 8.5/10

Gungnir Review

Gungnir (Available exclusively on PlayStation Portable)
ESRB Rating: T
Number of layers: 1
Genre: SRPG
Publisher: Atlus
Developer: Sting
Release Date: June 12th, 2012

Parent Talk: Gungnir is rated T for teen by the ESRB because of alcohol references, fantasy violence, mild language and mild suggestive themes.  It’s a sprite-based strategy role-playing game filled with colorful characters, and lots and lots of cartoonish mystical violence.  Not very damaging if you ask me.

Plays Like: This is one of those tactical strategy RPGs that plays very similar to Final Fantasy Tactics, Vandal Hearts, and Tactics Ogre.

Review Basis: Finished the main storyline.

The Great:

Gungnir is one of the deepest SRPGs released in a while.  Featuring a wide assortment of customization options, brilliant ‘think before you make a move’ mechanics and so much more.  The gameplay is far closer to Final Fantasy Tactics and Vandal Hearts for those looking to know the finer details.  If you’re looking for a game that you could play for months, this is it.

The Good:

+ Fantastic production values.  Sting knows the PSP hardware and that’s evident by their work here.  Sprits look sharp, and even with tons of special effects the PSP never slows down.  The audio is equally impressive.

+ War gods are awesome.  You can summon a war god during battles, but unlike a typical summons these powerful characters not only attack the enemy, but also anything around them including your troops.

+ Tactical advantage.  By collecting flags on the mission maps you can slow down the tactical meter, which allows you to sneak in another attack.  This can also be useful when trying to launch a magical attack before your opponent moves out of the way.

+ Excellent translation from Atlus.  The humor hits all the right notes, and the drama work just as well, although can be slightly heavy handed at times.

The So-So:

+/- Gungnir is a more advanced SRPG, and as such not one I would recommend to beginners.   While it becomes straight forward after a few hours, newbies will likely find it overwhelming.

+/- The story follows Julio who meets a young woman during a terrible war.  He’s eventually given the Gungnir (a divine spear) and goes on become the savior of the land.  Fairly standard stuff, right?  The story does loosely tie into Yggdra Union and Knights in the Nightmare, so fans of those games be sure to take note.

The Bad:

– For a portable SRPG, missions can take up to 40 minutes to complete, without the ability to save mid-way through.

– Doesn’t break the mold, in fact it doesn’t really do much ‘new’ at all.  Longtime fans of the genre might feel Sting played it a little too safe with this one.

The Ugly:

Getting to the boss of a mission, only to have to him take an elixir, while you only have two characters left, and realizing you’re going to have to redo the entire 50 minute mission all over again…for the fifth time.

The Lowdown:

Gungnir is a really fun strategy RPG, but it doesn’t bring very much new to the table.  If you’re a veteran you might find yourself loosing interest quickly, or just the opposite.  This is one of those genres that typically skew towards the ultra hardcore and there aren’t all that many out there.   Atlus needs to be commended for delivering a perfect translation, a game with really fun gameplay, and helping to support a niche genre.

Final Score: 7/10

Square-Enix Brings Final Fantasy III (DS) to the PSP in Japan

I find this a little funny myself, but Square-Enix is bringing a remastered version of Final Fantasy III (DS) to the PSP.  They even released a teaser trailer to get fans excited.

The biggest news is that we have an official release date, which is September 20th.  Final Fantasy III (PSP) will be available for ¥3,990 ($50 USD) on UMD and ¥3,300 ($40 USD) as a download from the PlayStation Network.  New features include a new 16×9 resolution, an auto battle option, and the ability to switch between the original Famicom music and the remastered soundtrack.

I’m curious if there are any importer out there interested in giving this a spin.  I also find this rather intriguing that Square-Enix is continuing to support the PSP in Japan even though the Vita is on the market.  Just goes to show you how popular the PSP remains in Japan.

PS1 Classic. May 1st. The Legend of Dragoon on PSN. About Time.

The US PlayStation Blog just let the news hit today. The blog writer goes on further to explain that he used to work for the team and the sequel was unfortunately cancelled.

Anyway, I honestly don’t remember much about it. The timed-based battle system and the awesome soundtrack were highlights for me, but I remember feeling negative vibes as it ripped off the spirit of Final Fantasy VII back then…and I admit that was fanboyish of me. Dragoon was basically Sony’s first big budget in house game if you think about it, spawning their Japanese studio later to be known for ICO and Shadow of the Colossus. I’m willing to give it a go for nostalgia’s sake. It’s been too long and my biased fanboyishness has mostly been eliminated. It deserves a fresh perspective.

Getting in on the PSP Today, for the Vita Tomorrow

Sure the PSP is pretty well dead in North America and Europe right now, but that doesn’t mean its software library is suddenly out of style.  If you enjoy RPGs in particular, this is a platform you should have been playing for years now, but if not it’s not too late to get onboard right now.  Below is a short list of some of the biggest releases to hit the PSP since its release.  Keep in mind this isn’t a complete list, just a bunch of titles I thought of off the top of my head.  I’ve broken the prices into two sections, one for the current PSN price and the other is the average asking price for a brand new sealed copy of the game.  Keep in mind many of these releases can be found at your local Wal Mart bargain bin for significantly lower than what’s listed here.  The other day I saw a copy of Dark Mirror for only $4!

Castlevania: The Dracula X Chronicles – $14.99 (PSN) / $14.99 (UMD)

Disgaea: Afternoon of Darkness – $14.99 (PSN) / $24.99 (UMD)

Disgaea 2: Dark Hero Days – $19.99 (PSN) / $24.99 (UMD)

Dissidia Final Fantasy – $19.99 (PSN) / $9.99 (UMD)

Dissidia 012 Final Fantasy – $29.99 (PSN) / $19.99 (UMD)

Final Fantasy IV: The Complete Collection – $29.99 (PSN) / $19.99 (UMD)

Final Fantasy Tactics: The War of the Lions – $9.99 (PSN) / $9.99 (UMD)

God of War: Chains of Olympus – $19.99 (PSN) / $9.99 (UMD)

God of War: Ghost of Sparta – $29.99 (PSN) / $9.99 (UMD)

Killzone Liberation – $15.99 (PSN) / $4.99 (UMD)

Lord of Arcana – $19.99 (PSN) / $14.99 (UMD)

Lunar: Silver Star Harmony – $14.99 (PSN) / $19.99 (UMD)

Resistance: Retribution – $19.99 (PSN) / $9.99 (UMD)

Shin Megami Tensei: Persona – $39.99 (PSN) / $29.99 (UMD)

Shin Megami Tensei: Persona 2: Innocent Sin – $39.99 (PSN) / $29.99 (UMD)

Shin Megami Tensei: Persona 3 – $39.99 (PSN) / $24.99 (UMD)

Syphon Filter: Logan’s Shadow – $9.99 (PSN) / $4.99 (UMD)

Syphon Filter: Dark Mirror – $15.99 (PSN) / $4.99

Tactics Ogre: Let us Cling Together – $19.99 (PSN) / $19.99 (UMD)

The 3rd Birthday – $19.99 (PSN) / $19.99 (UMD)

Valkyria Chronicles 2 – $39.99 (PSN) / $39.99 (UMD)

Ys: I & II Chronicles – $24.99 (PSN) / $59.99 (UMD)

Ys: The Oath in Felghana – $14.99 (PSN) / $29.99 (UMD)

Ys Seven – $14.99 (PSN) / $19.99 (UMD)

Oh I had some good times with you over the years

That’s a healthy amount of games for those looking to start a digital collection.  That would be the wisest move to make if you’re planning on purchasing a Vita next month as the portable doesn’t have a UMD drive.  Sadly that’s also a limitation because there are several real gems that are only available on UMD; all of them listed here are Square-Enix titles.  Take a quick look at what is missing from the PlayStation Store.  I’ve included the average asking price for a new copy.

Final Fantasy – $9.99

Final Fantasy II – $9.99

Crisis Core: Final Fantasy VII – $9.99

Kingdom Hearts: Birth by Sleep – $19.99

Star Ocean: First Departure – $9.99

Star Ocean: Second Evolution – $14.99

Valkyrie Profile: Lenneth – $19.99

It sucks that this isn't available on the PlayStation Store damn it!

There are some really good games in that list, like all of them.  I’m not entirely sure why Square-Enix refuses to put these titles on the PlayStation Store considering how easy it would be for them to do so.  It also allows another revenue stream, especially for those purchasing a Vita looking to jump in on all the classics they may have missed on the PSP.

For those with a keen eye may have noticed there are quite a few discrepancies between the physical copy and digital version.  In some cases the digital versions are significantly overpriced like most Sony-published games.  Other companies like XSEED offer their games are nicely reduced prices, and then others still like Square-Enix that are pretty much on par.  Be wise with whatever you purchase as the prices are likely to continue to go down as time goes by, at least for the digital versions.

Obviously if you’re already an owner of the PSP, or one of its many incarnations than you’ll likely own a whole bunch of UMDs and be none-to-happy about the fact the Vita doesn’t offer true backwards compatibility.  Sony has said there will be a program where you can place the UMD into your PSP, sync up to the PlayStation Network and they’ll allow you to download the digital version for a reduced cost.  That essentially means you’re going to have to pay for something you already own.  Bizarre.  The other problem with this method is that games that aren’t currently on the PSN will obviously not suddenly appear just because you put the UMD version in your system and synced it with the Network.  Games like Birth by Sleep will remain UMD-only releases unless Square-Enix decides to release the game on the Network before the Vita launches…which I seriously doubt will happen.  Sadly there is no workaround for those of us with large PSP libraries, outside this method.

The Vita will likely be the absolute best way to get in on the PSP action because of improved controls and that incredible OLED screen.

If you’re looking to get into the PSP game at this point in time there are many avenues available to you.  You could purchase a PSP-3000 and either download your games or pick them up via your nearest retailer, or you could skip out on the PSP entirely and wait for the Vita to launch and go the digital-only route.  Whatever you decide to do, if you skipped out on all these games you’re really missing out.  Given the asking price is so low for the vast majority of these titles, I think now is the best time to see what the fuss is all about.

Corpse Party Review

Corpse Party (Available only for PSP)
ESRB Rating: M
Number of Players: 1
Genre: Horror/Adventure
Publisher: XSEED Games
Developer: Team GrisGris
Release Date: November 22nd, 2011

Parent Talk: Corpse Party is a dark, violent, disturbing horror-themed video game. The grim tone, profane language, and horrifying subject matter make this game completely inappropriate for children.

Plays Like: Old Japanese role-playing games from the Super Nintendo era (i.e. Final Fantasy IV, etc) mixed with elements from the visual novel genre (i.e. Phoenix Wright, 999, etc).

Review Basis: Completed every chapter and saw the game’s “true” ending.

Details: Corpse Party is only available via the PSN store and is only playable on the PSP.

The Great:

Corpse Party may not look like the most intimidating horror game available. Compared to modern horror games like Dead Space, how can this be considered scary? The truth is that Corpse Party is far more disturbing and creepy than you imagine. The grim tone and absolutely cruel atmosphere make this game one of the most memorable and haunting game experiences available on the PSP. At first glance, it’s easy to mistake Corpse Party for some kind of retro-throwback role-playing game, complete with pseudo 16-bit visual design. The truth is that there are no battles or combat here at all. The goal is to simply survive—and not lose your mind in the process.

The cast is comprised of defenseless children who must try to find an escape from the hell they’ve stumbled into. No one is exempt from harm though. In addition to murderous ghosts and dangerous traps, the entire school is out to kill you—making the adventure far creepier and more stressful than you may imagine. Like any good adventure game, Corpse Party strongly encourages you to be curious. You never know what may be around the corner. The exit may be right down the hallway. However, the developers also punish curiosity in equal doses. That seemingly-harmless newspaper may in fact cause you to be cursed. That switch may result in the death of your teammate. Death here is visceral and upsetting.

The Good:

+ A solid story. It could be argued that making a legitimately scary game is one of the most difficult tasks for a game developer. To elicit a sense of fear, the player must have some kind of connection with the experience—it’s not enough to be simply afraid to “fail” the game. Thanks to a strong narrative and an interesting cast of characters, Corpse Party draws you in and doesn’t let go. Though it pays strong attention to introducing all of the characters, the game frequently reminds you that no one is invincible. For the sake of this review, spoilers will be avoided, but take note that the story is particularly grim and terrifying.

At the start of the game, a group of eight children and their homeroom teacher meet at school after hours to engage in a little harmless fun. After performing what they assume to be a childish game, they wind up in the horrifying halls of the supposedly destroyed Heavenly Host Elementary School. Within its walls, many of died either through starvation, murder, cannibalism, suicide, or worse. Scribbles on the walls and notes scattered about give the grisly details of the building’s history, which includes how many of the victims met their ends.

+ A fantastic soundtrack. Corpse Party has excellent music. The music perfectly sets the right mood for the story.

+ No gimmicks. The developers did not tack on any unnecessary “mini-games” or unwelcome features, making the adventure as seamless and pure as possible. Corpse Party is an excellent lesson in minimalist game design. You don’t “need” to have action or battles in a horror game. Simply exploring and surviving is core to the experience. Though the game could benefit from an interesting hook or new gameplay concepts, Team GrisGris has proven they can do a lot with only a little. Sometimes the text alone managed to upset me more than a dozen onscreen deaths in more “advanced” games.

+ Multiple endings. Death is a frequent visitor over the course of the game, but the severity of your loss will vary significantly. There are technically over two dozen endings, with hardly a “happy” moment to speak of.

+ Extra chapters. In addition to the nine characters introduced at the beginning, there are many others who have been trapped inside Heavenly Host. After unlocking the “extra chapters,” the player can gain some perspective on other characters stuck in the cursed school.

+ Great character artwork. Character portraits are detailed and perfectly convey what emotion the character is feeling. The more humble character sprites are not quite as effective, but the simplistic animation does a surprisingly effective job at delivering expression.

The Bad:

-Not much to interact with. Gameplay options are rather limited. Most of the time, you will walk around and explore the building, read text, or pick up objects. The amount of puzzles or actual interaction is rather limited though. If reading copious amounts of text just puts you to sleep, then Corpse Party may not be for you. It’s considered a niche title for good reason. The specific audience for this game may be small, but it’s perfectly tailored for people who enjoy visual novels and horror games.

-Slow paced. Corpse Party takes some time to get going. You will need to invest time in the story, which means this game is not ideal for quick pick-up-and-play sessions.

-No interesting hook to the gameplay. Games don’t need gimmicks, but an interesting gameplay system goes a long way. Ghost Trick has a unique and compelling story, but it also has an innovative puzzle game system. 9 Doors, 9 Persons, 9 Hours doesn’t have any combat scenes either, but survival hinges on the ability to solve context sensitive puzzles (finding keys, making an escape route, etc).

The Ugly:

-Some of the death scenes are beyond unpleasant.

The Lowdown:

I’ve used a lot of hyperbole in describing this game, but it really is something that sticks in your mind. Corpse Party does an excellent job of preying on your mind and turning your imagination against you. Subtle bits of text have never been so terrifying. I’ve played quite a few “scary” games, and this managed to surprise me thoroughly. Despite the slower pace and limited amount of interaction, this is a horror game worth visiting. If you have $20 to spare and want a good horror story for your PSP or PSP Go, buy this game. If you find text boring and don’t have patience for something with a slower pace, pass on this one.

Score: 8/10

Alpha Mission II Review

Alpha Mission II (Available on PlayStation 3 & PSP)
ESRB Rating: E
Players: 12
Genre: Shooter
Publisher: SNK Playmore
Developer: SNK
Release Date: December 21, 2010

Parent Talk: The ESRB appropriate rates Alpha Mission II E for everyone.

Plays Like: Any vertical space shooter.

Review Basis: Played arcade mode on the PS3, and tried online co-op.

Details: PS3/$8.99; PSP/$6.99.

What’s This About?: Originally titled ASO II: Last Guardian, it was strangely renamed for North American.  ASO stands for Armored Scrum Object, which sounds awesome doesn’t it?  Alpha Mission II is your typical vertical space shooter where players shoot everything on screen, bomb enemies on the ground and progressively collect power-ups.

What It’s Remembered For:

  • Vast superiority to the original pre-Neo Geo arcade classic.  The gameplay was tighter, the ASO moved quicker, and it was all around a much better game.
  • Bad power-ups. Not only must you collect power-ups in a certain order to pull off omega special moves, but the purple ones actually downgrade your spacecraft.  Talk about tricky!  The level of strategy involved is excellent without ever becoming annoying.
  • The armor protects you.  Collect enough parts to form the armor addition to your ship, and you may take one hit. Then the armor is gone and you need to collect the pieces again.  If you can maintain the armor, your firepower strengthens, which makes acquiring it worthwhile.
  • Currency.  You collect G while flying around the levels. Before moving on, there’s the opportunity to purchase armor power-ups for your vessel. Again, the strategy here was really something.
  • Details galore.  If only I could show you video of this bad boy in action.  SNK is known for adding tons of detail to their sprites, and Alpha Mission II is no exception. I challenge anyone to find another 1991 shooter that matches it.

Anything Else You Need To Know?

(Note that all Neo Geo Station games support PSN play, PSP play, region-selecting options for blood and added bounciness, visual smoothers, save states, bug editors, and command lists.)

  • The online co-op works surprisingly well. I wholeheartedly recommend everyone who purchases this game to get their butts online.

Bottom Line: Who Should Download This?

When I review Alpha Mission of the PSN Minis I’ll flat out say it doesn’t hold up to today’s high standards.  We expect shooters to be quick and responsive, but the original is neither. That’s not the case with Alpha Mission II.  I highly recommend it to anyone who enjoys the genre. It’s an all-around excellent shooter, with online co-op.  What’s not to like about that?

World Heroes Review

World Heroes (Available on PlayStation 3 & PSP)
ESRB Rating: T
Players: 1-2
Genre: Fighting
Publisher: SNK Playmore
Developer: Alpha Denshi
Release Date: December 21, 2010

Parent Talk: World Heroes is rated T for teen thanks to blood and animated violence.

Plays Like: Street Fighter II, Fatal Fury, etc.

Review Basis: Played arcade mode on the PS3, and tried online multiplayer.

Details: PS3/$8.99; PSP/$6.99.

What’s This About?: It’s 1992 and everyone is trying to capitalize on Street Fighter II’s success.  Alpha Denshi was no different.  Most of the roster in World Heroes execute moves ripped from Street Fighter II. To differentiate, Denshi added several unique features, though they make the game a bit silly.

What It’s Remembered For:

  • An eight-character roster featured in virtually all fighters from the early nineties.  Most fighters were your stereotypical archetypes.  The American was a Hulk Hogan rip-off; the Chinese was a Bruce Lee knockoff, etc.
  • Two distinct modes, a “normal” and “deathmatch” mode.  The deathmatch arenas featured such memorable features such as flaming ropes surrounding the ring, spiked walls and more.  There’s nothing like throwing your friend into an electrified fence.  Oh, good times.
  • Simple three button layout, one for punch, kick and throw.  Many other early Neo Geo fighters also employed the same layout, and it worked well enough when coupled with all the special moves players could pull off.  The biggest difference here is that the punch and kick buttons were pressure sensitive so if players really mashed down hard on the buttons their character would inflict more damage to their opponent.
  • Colorful, vibrant and silly, that’s how you make something special.

Anything Else We Need To Know?

(Note that all Neo Geo Station games feature online play, PSP versions, region-selecting options for blood and added bounciness, visual smoothers, save states, bug editors, and command lists.)

  • Surprisingly I found the online multiplayer in World Heroes to be quite enjoyable.  My matches didn’t really experience too much lag, but sadly there weren’t very many people playing.

Bottom Line: Who Should Download This?

If you’re looking to experience one of the very first Street Fighter II clones, you might feel like giving World Heroes a go.  It doesn’t hold up nearly as well as some of the other early Neo Geo fighters and it’s likely most casual fighter fans will opt for something else.  Still, there’s something memorable about fighting in a “deathmatch” with a giant American wrestler who keeps saying he’s number one.

Metal Slug Review

Metal Slug (Available on PlayStation 3 & PSP)
ESRB Rating: T
Number of Players: 1 to 2
Genre: Action
Publisher: SNK Playmore
Developer: Nazca Corporation
Release Date: December 21st, 2010

Parent Talk: Metal Slug is rated T for teen by the ESRB because of violence and animated blood and gore.  The violence is extremely over the top, but we strongly recommend you follow the ESRB guidelines with this one.

Plays Like: Contra, most 2D shooters.

Review Basis: Played through the story mode on the PS3, and tried some online co-op.

Details: PS3 version is $8.99 and PSP version is $6.99.

What’s This About: The evil dictator General Morden is hell bent on world domination and only Marco and Tarma can stop him.  Armed with a slew of weapons and a special tank called a Metal Slug, Marco and Tarma will stop at nothing to save the world.

What It’s Remembered For:

  • 2D side-scrolling shooter action that set the stage for the entire series.  Sure it’s your typical run and gun shooter, but after ten minutes with the game you can easily see why it’s so fondly remembered.  From driving the Metal Slug to launching grenades at unsuspecting enemies, you just knew this series would endure.
  • Humor is the key.  Unlike so many other shooters released back in the mid-nineties Metal Slug took the generic formula and flipped it on its head.  Here players have the ability to shoot just about everything on the screen including enemies who are sunbathing, cooking, etc.  Instead of just disappearing once they’ve been shot, these enemies animate in bizarre death sequences that are often hilarious.
  • The six levels may all have to do with fighting General Morden’s army, but their unique locations made each stage highly memorable.  The level of animation and overall quality of graphics was shocking.  While there were moments where the framerate dropped to a crawl, no one minded because of the excellent gameplay and tremendous charm.

Anything Else We Need To Know?

(Note that all Neo Geo Station games feature online play, PSP versions, region-selecting options for blood and added bounciness, visual smoothers, save states, bug editors, and command lists.)

  • Like all the first wave of Neo Geo Station releases, the online play isn’t as good as later releases.  This is a real shame for Metal Slug because having lag-free online co-op would be awesome.

Bottom Line: Who Should Download This?

This is it, the real question on everyone’s mind.  Unlike Metal Slug 2, which has vastly superior net code, the original suffers from lag while being played online.  At least that was the case while I was running the game through its paces.  The $9 asking price might also put some of the casual fans off.  The reason being this game has been released on virtually every platform known to man.  In fact there was a compilation called Metal Slug Anthology released for the PSP, PS2 and Wii that contains all the Metal Slug games from this one all the way through 6.  It also only costs $20 for a brand new copy.  Then again, you don’t get all the bells and whistles this version offers.  I’d say the bottom line is this, if you don’t own Metal Slug and want to give it a try, this is the perfect and easiest way to do so.

Baseball Stars Professional Review

Baseball Stars Professional (Available on PlayStation 3 & PSP)
ESRB Rating: E
Number of Players: 1 to 2
Genre: Sports
Publisher: SNK Playmore
Developer: SNK
Release Date: December 21st, 2010

Parent Talk: Baseball Stars Professional is rated E for everyone, and given this is a cartoony baseball game; I think the rating fits perfectly.

Plays Like: Any early baseball game released on the NES or arcades.

Review Basis: Played through the arcade mode on the PS3, and tried some online multiplayer.

Details: PS3 version is $8.99 and PSP version is $6.99.

What’s This About: Not many people know this, but Baseball Stars Professional is actually the sequel to the NES game Baseball Stars.  It may not be quite as innovative as the original game, but it remains an extremely fun arcade baseball game.

What It’s Remembered For:

  • Sadly Baseball Stars Professional is remembered for what it didn’t do, over what it did.  The NES original featured all kinds of unique features such as being able to create your own team, leveling your team up over time, etc.  All of this was cut to make way for a much more streamlined arcade experience.
  • What it lacked in originality, it made up for in spirit.  There were a lot of interesting features players could mess around with like moving around the batter’s box, angling a pitch, etc.  This game’s development went with the idea that less is more and for the most part it worked.
  • Very few baseball games looked this good in 1990, and it has aged tremendously well.  In fact now that it’s in HD, it looks and sounds better than ever.

Anything Else We Need To Know?

(Note that all Neo Geo Station games feature online play, PSP versions, region-selecting options for blood and added bounciness, visual smoothers, save states, bug editors, and command lists.)

  • I only managed to play one online match and that worked well.  There just aren’t many people playing Baseball Stars Professional when the much-improved sequel is available.

Bottom Line: Who Should Download This?

This one is a hard game to recommend when the vastly superior sequel is available for download.  Baseball Stars 2 is my favorite Neo Geo baseball game and worth your time and money.  This one is interesting for historians, but for true gamers there’s little incentive.

The Art of Fighting Review

The Art of Fighting (Available on PlayStation 3 & PSP)
ESRB Rating: T
Number of Players: 1 to 2
Genre: Fighting
Publisher: SNK Playmore
Developer: SNK
Release Date: December 21st, 2010

Parent Talk: The Art of Fighting is rated T for teen by the ESRB for violence.  Given the game was released back in 1992, the violence is cartoony.

Plays Like: Any 2D fighter.

Review Basis: Played through the story mode on the PS3, and tried some online multiplayer.

Details: PS3 version is $8.99 and PSP version is $6.99.

What’s This About: The Art of Fighting is about…the art of fighting?  Ok, not really.  It’s actually about Ryo Sakazaki and Robert Garcia searching for Ryo’s sister, Yuri.  Yuri’s been kidnapped by the evil Mr. Big.  That might sound simple and a little ridiculous, but what makes it stand out are the great characters and unique special moves.  While not as good as Fatal Fury it would go on to spawn two sequels and eventually become completely absorbed into the King of Fighters universe.

What It’s Remembered For:

  • Ridged combat, unless you know what you’re doing.  This was one game where experts were awesome, and newbies sucked hard.  It always felt much more tactical than the other SNK fighters.
  • Spirit gauge. This was actually really innovative for 1992.  The higher your spirit gauge the more special moves you can pull off.  Want to drain an opponent’s spirit gauge, simply taunt them.  Let’s just say that made for some interesting matches.
  • Another key feature introduced with The Art of Fighting was the ability to level your fighter up…sort of.   After each bonus round players could strengthen their character by learning new moves associated with the spirit gauge.  It was a mind-blowing addition back then.
  • A connected universe.  What really made The Art of Fighting special was that it was connected to SNK’s other big game from the previous year, Fatal Fury: The King of Fighters.  In fact it was actually a prequel to that series, as players found out with The Art of Fighting 2, which featured a young Geese, the main baddy from Fatal Fury.  It was awesome, until the series ended and a separate continuity was set up so that characters from The Art of Fighting could fight alongside the characters from Fatal Fury in the King of Fighters series.
  • Two selectable characters for the story mode and eight for the versus mode. The roster wasn’t large, but what little characters were available were all unique and special in their own way.
  • One of the worst translations ever.  It’s so bad, it’s funny.  There are countless examples, but perhaps the best is seeing grammatical errors such as when an opponent loses a match and screams “Rat’s”… what belongs to the rats?  Did I miss something?
  • Great presentation values.  It may not look it, but this was quite the looker back in 1992.

Anything Else We Need To Know?

(Note that all Neo Geo Station games feature online play, PSP versions, region-selecting options for blood and added bounciness, visual smoothers, save states, bug editors, and command lists.)

  • Like all the first wave of Neo Geo Station releases, the online play isn’t as good as later releases.

Bottom Line: Who Should Download This?

The Art of Fighting is a hard title to recommend for anyone but the utmost die-hard SNK fans.  The reason is simple, the combat is extremely dated and the fighters are far too ridged.  If you want a better example of what this series has to offer, you’re going to have to wait until The Art of Fighting 3 hits the Neo Geo Station.  In the meantime I’d strongly recommend you pick up something else like The King of Fighters ’96 or even Capcom vs. SNK for the Dreamcast.  Heck, there are tons of games available for the Neo Geo Station that are worth your time and money.  Just look through all my reviews and see which one tickles your fancy.