Category Archives: Vita

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

Freedom Wars Review

Freedom WarsFreedom Wars (Available exclusively for the PlayStation Vita)
ESRB Rating: T
Number of Players: 1 to 8
Genre: Action
Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment America
Developer: SCE Japan Studio, Shift, and Dimps
Release Date: October 28th, 2014

Parent Talk: The ESRB rates Freedom Wars T for teen because of blood, mild suggestive themes, and violence. It’s not overly gory, but you’re challenged with taking down giant robot-like enemies with all manner of weapons.   The story also touches on some mature themes so the teen rating is just about spot on.

Plays Like: Freedom Wars is an interesting game, it plays similarly to Monster Hunter in that you have a wide array of weapons at your disposal, there are tons of resource gathering, and how you complete each mission is entirely up to you. You can charge in using nothing but projectile weapons, or you can get up close and personal and deliver striking melee attacks. The freedom offered is extremely impressive, and over time you will develop your own play style. Missions take typical shooter fair and mix things up just enough to give the game its own distinct flare. You typically have to rescue captives from giant Abductors (mech-like robots), but sometimes you’re pitted against another team which plays out more like a team deathmatch. There’s a ton of mission variety, but we’ll discuss that in further below.

Review Basis: Finished the campaign using both the AI and real-life cooperative teammates.

Freedom Wars is one of the best PlayStation Vita games to come along in a while. The fact it’s an original game makes it even more impressive. It’s a perfect pick-up and play game, but also has the chops to keep you glued to your Vita for hours on end. If you’re a fan of Monster Hunter or Soul Sacrifice, you’ll love this game. From the incredible game world that pulls you in with each and every aspect of the game, to the great weapon and combat system, Freedom Wars absolutely shocked me with how much fun it is to play. If you haven’t played a Vita game in a while, this is one to look into.

The Great:

I’ve played a lot of games over the years, but very few have pulled me into their game world like Freedom Wars did. Everything about the game makes you want to know more about this unique world. First off, you play as a Sinner, basically someone that has been imprisoned for being a worthless drain on society. Because you’re so useless, you’re sentence is a small one, a million years of forced voluntary military service. I love the way the game continuously reminds you of just how useless you really are, and how you’re ‘volunteering’ for everything, even though you have absolutely no choice. Completing missions will slowly decrease your sentence, but until you’ve earned enough money the restrictions placed upon you are hilarious. You’re not allowed to pace more than five steps in your cell or else you’ll be charged with another decade of imprisonment. Want to go to sleep, no problem, but you can’t lie down. These seemingly ridiculous restrictions play into this insane world perfectly, and help flesh out the Entitlement system which eventually allows you to fast-travel, change your characters clothes, and more. You will eventually your stay more habitual, but it’ll take a while before you’re truly free.

The core gameplay also plays into this unique theme perfectly. Each Panopticon, which is essentially a city, is represented by a group of Sinners. I selected Los Angeles because Montreal wasn’t an option. For shame! The more missions you complete, you not only reduce your imprisonment, but you gain notoriety for your Panopticon. There are 50 in the game, and these act almost like leaderboards. The higher your placement, the better rewards you get for in-game events. It gives a true sense of belonging to this messed up world. One important way to improve your Panopticon is to steal citizens and resources from rival cities. There are giant mech-like machines all over the place called Abductors, and you’re constantly charged with bringing these giants down in order to snatch the civilian inside. Once you have the person, you make a break for the closest transport tube. Securing these people will raise your Panopticon’s rating, lower your rivals, and again, lower your sentence.

The Good:

  • Weapons are a joy to use and you’re gameplay style will directly alter the way you play the game. Let’s say you want to focus on melee combat, well that’s an option, select all the weapons that fit your fighting style and you’re all set. The same is true for projectile attacks. Each weapon feels genuinely unique, and no two players will play the game exactly the same.
  • The Thorn, is a grabbling beam of sorts, which you can use to propel yourself to high up platforms, but can also be used as a weapon. You can latch on to the Abductors to slash away at their armor, you can pull them to the group for a team attack, and more. What’s interesting with the Thorn is that there are three distinct types, one for healing, one for traps and barricades, and one for grabbles. Yet again your play style will determine which variation you use most often. The Thorn also gives the game an incredibly fast-paced feel because at any moment you can zip along the side of a building, you can pull enemies off platforms, propel yourself to a specific target, and so much more.
  • There’s also a great variety of missions. While the bulk are about you rescuing captured civilians, you will also experience unique takes on capture the flag, king of the hill, and more, but all wrapped around the citizen rescue theme. For example there might be a mission where you and an Abductor are racing towards a runaway civilian. Your goal is to grab the person, and race towards the rescue tube before the Abductor can stop you, therein lies your capture the flag game. I adored the way the game played on this classic gaming conventions.
  • Team-based gameplay rocks whether or not you have real friends in your party. Every mission you go on is a group affair. Your teammates will typically follow your lead, so if you bring down an Abductor, they’ll do all in their power to finish it off. You’ll have a great time if you decide to bring some friends into the mix because only by working together can you effectively take down three or four Abductors at once. Doing so is a huge reward too.
  • Full PlayStation TV support. Being the very first Vita game I’ve played from beginning to end on my new PS TV was a delight. Using a DualShock 4 proved a perfect way to play the game. It controlled flawlessly, and looked beautiful upscaled to 720p.
  • While on the subject of graphics, the game looks extremely detailed. It’s amazing how much juice the Vita actually has under the hood. There’s great use of color, the environments look wonderful, and the action is always rock-solid, with the frame-rate being constant throughout.
  • The soundtrack is fast-paced to match the action, and die-hards will be happy to hear that the original Japanese voice acting remains in-tact. Some serious production values went into the development of this game.

The So-So:

+/- The story is alright. It’s a shame too because the game world is so perfectly tied to the gameplay and overall theme that you would think the story would fit just as well, but it doesn’t. It ends up slowing things down, forcing you to walk around and listen to dialogue. There’s a ton of lore here too, but I found myself constantly skipping the dialogue sequences just to get on to the next mission because the gameplay is so much more entertaining.

+/- The camera lock-on mechanic takes a little getting used to. You can tap it on or off, but that’s not the issue, the issue comes in when you’re locked on a target and move too close to said enemy. Suddenly the camera is turning and spinning out of control all over the place.

+/- There’s an overly complex crafting system here that yields random results. Over the course of the game you’ll acquire massive amounts of supplies, however you’re only ever going to use a handful of weapons so there’s very little need for all the resources at your disposal. I think a reworked crafting system would have added even more to an already impressive package.

The Lowdown:

Being Japan’s number one selling new IP on the Vita, and a Monster Hunter clone Vita owners can be proud to call their own, it’s a sure bet Freedom Wars will get a sequel sometime next year. With any luck the developers can fix some of the minor complaints I raised here and deliver the Vita’s true killer app. I also hope that game reaches Western shores as well because this is a game that truly surprised me by how deep and genuinely enjoyable it is. If you own a PlayStation Vita, do yourself a huge favor and check out Freedom Wars.

Final Score: 8.8/10

E3 2014 Press Conference Impressions

Microsoft, Sony, and Nintendo all held press conferences in LA…well ok Nintendo held a digital event, but whatever.  The point is that tons of new games were revealed, and we now have a much better idea what to expect from the next 12 months for each of the big three console manufacturers.  Here are my reactions to the press events.

Microsoft Press Conference:

Sony Press Conference:

Nintendo Digital Event:

What are your thoughts on the big three?

Community Question – What Do You Think of PlayStation Now?

PlayStation Now will allow you to stream previously released PlayStation hits, up to and including games from the PS3 era like The Last of Us, on devices such as the PlayStation 4, Vita, and even your smartphone. What do you all think of this newly announced service?

TearAway Review

TearAwayTearAway (Available exclusively on PlayStation Vita)
ESRB Rating: E
Number of Players: 1
Genre: Action Platformer
Publisher: SCEA
Developer: Media Molecule
Release Date: November 22nd, 2013

Parent Talk: TearAway is rated E for everyone and is the perfect game to give your children because there’s virtually nothing damaging in here at all.  There is some extremely minor violence when you’re forced to take out paper enemies, but that’s it.  I’d call it comic mischief myself.  Some young kids may have a hard time holding the Vita and making full use of the rear track pad and front touch screen though, so that’s a call you’ll have to make.  The Vita is also an expensive piece of hardware to let little kids use, but this is certainly a game they’d enjoy.

Plays Like: At its core TearAway is a 3D action platformer.  It features many interactive areas where players use the Vita’s various features in order to blur the lines between the real world and the digital one.  In total the game can be completed relatively quickly, in only a few hours, but there are plenty of collectables to keep you coming back afterwards.

Review Basis: Finished the game in around four and a half hours.

Every once and a while a game comes along that defines a platform.  Sometimes it’s because the game was so good it defied expectations, other times it changed the future of a particular genre forever, and then there are those games that define a platform because they highlight all the best features of the console they’re released on.  The latter is the case with TearAway, it defines the Vita because it makes perfect use of all the unique features the Vita has to offer without ever coming off as gimmicky or forced.  It’s the Vita’s first true killer app, and is easy the best game on the system.

TearAway1The Great:

Conceptually TearAway is brilliant.  Players take on the role of either a male envelope named Iota, or a female one called Atoi.  Both characters have the same goal, make it to the sun.  What’s unique is that you, as in the real you, are located in the sun.  This is thanks to the front facing camera frequently showing video of your face as you play the game.  Iota is on a mission to tell an exciting story about how he managed to reach you.  He’s not in this alone though, being an outsider partaking in his journey you have the ability to constantly alter Iota’s world by using the back track pad to pop your fingers through the paper and help him make his way through various obstacles.  It’s a genius way of seamlessly brining the real world and the game world together.  There will be times where you have to record snippets of your voice, other times where you’ll have to take pictures of your surroundings and so much more.  Each time you do this, the lines between the two “worlds” blur just a little bit more.  It’s incredibly good fun that justifies each and every feature on the Vita.

TearAway3The Good:

+ The link between the real world and the digital one is further enhanced by the stunning graphics.  Instead of going for the ultra-realistic, Media Molecule went for something that could actually take part in the real world.  This is because the digital world is entirely made up of paper.  With a stick of glue, some crayons and a good imagination, you could actually build TearAway’s entire universe out in the real world.  As you move Iota from one location to the next, levels peel back, or tear open to reveal something new and exciting.  It’s often breathtaking because of how charming the visuals look, and also how much detail was put into them.

+ If that weren’t enough, virtually everything in the game can be customized.  If you don’t like the way Iota looks at any given time, just touch him for a second or two and you can enter a customization menu that allows you to draw on his face, add objects to his body, and more.  Often you can even add different elements to the stages and other characters you meet.  There’s even a paper crafting mechanic built right into the game, whereby you can select from a wide variety of color paper, and draw whatever you want, cut it out, add unique items to it, and bring it to life within the game.  It’s pretty amazing.

+ Another area that is sensational is the interactivity of the game.  Most Vita games force touch screen inputs or the rear track pad in often bizarre ways that a button press could easily have emulated.  In this case though, each and every use of the Vita’s unique functions couldn’t be replicated with a button press.  From extending paper paths using the touch screen, to the already mentioned popping your fingers through the screen using the rear track pad, each feature proves useful, fun and highly creative.  This is how you make a Vita game!

+ The platforming is also top notch.  While all of these other features are great, they wouldn’t really do much if the core gameplay was lacking, but it isn’t.  Each of these interactive areas only enhance what was already there to begin with, a rock solid action platformer.  The first half of the game blends simple platforming and action, but later on the difficulty ramps up and your jumps have to be extremely precise.

+ One area that a lot of Vita games suffer from is their lack of portability.  Most games on the Vita are simply watered down console games, and it shows.  Their levels or missions are far too long to be of any use while gaming on the go.  That can’t be said for TearAway.  Here levels take maybe 15 to 20 minutes, however the game auto-saves every 15 to 20 seconds or so, meaning you can close the game at a moment’s notice.  Load times aren’t very long at all either, in essence there’s one load time upon boot up and that’s the only one you’re ever going to notice.  The entire game can be completed in only a few hours, but if you want to locate all the enemies, all the gift boxes, and all the confetti, it’ll take at least a dozen hours or so.

+ Finally, the lines between the digital world and real world come full circle with the inclusion of printable origami templates you can find in-game.  As you traverse the 3D world Iota will locate white-shaped objects that when he takes a picture of will come to life.  Doing this rewards Iota with an origami template of whatever it was he just snapped a photo of.  It’s the perfect way to wrap up the link between both worlds.

TearAway2The Lowdown:

TearAway is hands down the very best game on the PlayStation Vita right now.  I absolutely adored it.  The way it blends the lines between real world and digital world was spectacular.  I also loved all the different ways the Vita’s features were put to good use.  It never felt like a gimmick, and almost always brought a smile to my face.  The printable origami templates is another great touch.  Media Molecule is quickly becoming one of my favorite exclusive developers in Sony’s arsenal.  I love how they’re willing to think outside the box and take chances.  While this is a super easy recommend for anyone with a Vita, it’s hard to say whether players should race out and pick the system up for just this game.  While it’s fantastic, it is only a few hours long and I’d recommend players check out the rest of the system library to see if there are a few other games that tickle your fancy before taking the plunge.  That said, this is certainly a game everyone should at least experience.

Final Score: 9.5/10

Jarrod’s 2013 Game of the Year Awards

Instead of writing 50,000 words on each game, I decided to do a nice quick video highlighting the best games I played this year.

Please feel free to let me know which games you thought were above the rest for 2013.

Batman: Arkham Origins Blackgate Review

Batman BlackgateBatman: Arkham Origins Blackgate (Available on Nintendo 3DS, and PlayStation Vita)
ESRB Rating: T
Number of Players: 1
Platformer: Action
Publisher: Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment
Developer: Armature Studio
Release Date: October 25th, 2013

Review Basis: We received a copy of the 3DS version from Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment.  I finished the game in around ten hours or so, and tried a little of the New Game+ mode.

Blackgate was a surprise announcement last year. There hasn’t been a non-LEGO Batman game on a portable in a very long while. The fact that it was going to be a Metroidvania-style adventure automatically got my attention. The first screens looked fantastic, and it’s one of those genres that was perfectly suited to the duel screen setup of the DS. Castlevania: Dawn of Sorrow was the first game to utilize the second screen, and I actually imported it when it came out because I couldn’t wait to see how well it played. If you’re interested, you can check out my old import play test in the archives. Not to get off topic here, but I really wanted to emphasize that I really enjoy these types of games. Just to show how platform neutral I am, the PlayStation Vita got an incredible Metroidvania-style game in Guacamelee, which is actually one of the very best videogames released this year. Batman: Arkham Origins Blackgate will not end up winning any awards, but it still warrants a play-through for fans of the genre.

The Great:

The tried and true gameplay of Metroidvania games still makes for one heck of a good time. Exploring every nook and cranny to find all the collectibles and power-ups is as addicting as ever. Batman’s detective mode lets you see objects that can be interacted with, which helps, but you’ll still have to come back to certain areas after collecting various upgrades. The satisfaction of finally solving puzzles you’ve been trying too since the beginning just feels awesome.

Batman Blackgate1The Good:

+ Sublime art style. Cutscenes take the form of slightly animated digital graphic novels. They look extremely similar to digital comic you might read on your PC or tablet. They certainly stay true to Batman’s roots.

+ Challenging gameplay. The boss battles in particular will really make you scratch your head. Black Mask is rather simple once you know what to do, but it took me dozens and dozens of Game Over screens before I was able to best him. The same can be said of the Penguin too.

+ Most puzzles won’t take you long to figure out, but they’re fun none-the-less. There are some larger puzzles towards the end of the game that are very satisfying to solve.

+ Classic power-ups from the Arkham series. Expect to find the grapple hook, the Bat-a-rang and a few more weapons we’ve all grown accustomed to with the console versions. The game could have used one or two more however, just to spice things up a little bit.

+ Perfect Length. Blackgate took me a little over ten hours to complete. That’s the right amount of time for a portable adventure like this one.

+ Makes great use of each portables’ strengths. Touch screen commands don’t get in the way and feel natural. On the 3DS, the 3D effects are well handled and help bring you into the journey. Vita owners also get to go trophy hunting.

+ Feels fresh to play a 2.5D Batman game. It’s always fun to experience something new and the more Batman the better.

+ New Game + changes the order of the bosses and adds new cutscenes. What’s not to love about that?

Batman Blackgate2The So-So:

-/+ Lackluster storyline. It’s supposed to compliment the Arkham Origins, but it really doesn’t tell much of a tale. If you play your videogames to be entertained by a blockbuster plot, you’ll be disappointed.

The Bad:

– Some battles are nothing more than glorified quick-time-events.

– Extremely confusing map system. The game takes place in a 3D environment, however your character can only move left or right. Sometimes, moving left on the screen will make you go right on the map, talk about confusing. For the most part, you have to rely on trial and error when backtracking to previous areas as the maps are often a nuisance.

– There’s no platforming whatsoever, not even a jump button. You don’t even aim your projectiles. Everything is done for you. It feels like the game plays itself, with you only moving the character around. It feels like a PC point and click game. It’s 99% exploration, and then a few fights here and there. It’s also kind of weird playing a Metroidvania-style game without a double jump.

The Ugly:

Blackgate introduces a painful fetch-quest right before the final boss that sends you all over previously explored areas to rescue five hostages. This is clearly a shameful attempt to add an extra hour of game time to your play-through. It’s completely unnecessary.

Batman Blackgate3The Lowdown:

While not as memorable as recent games like Guacamelee!, Shadow Complex or even Cave Story 3D, Batman: Arkham Origins Blackgate is still well worth your while. It’s a fun little adventure game that will fit your Nintendo 3DS or PlayStation Vita like a glove. However, I’d recommend this only to the biggest Metroidvania fans out there or those that simply cannot pass a Batman game by. It’s definitely a solid title, just one that comes with a few big flaws.

Final Score: 7.5/10

Sony’s Pre-TGS Conference Reveals New Hardware, and Much More

Sony made quite a big splash on their home turf this morning with a wide assortment of announcements. Here’s a quick round-down of everything they revealed and my thoughts on the news.

The first big reveal was the announcement of a remodeled PS Vita. It’s 20% thinner, and 15% lighter than the previous model. It replaces the OLED screen with a LCD screen, and increases the battery life by one hour. It also includes one gigabyte of on-board storage, although there’s not very much you can do with that, but one would assume this would allow the system to use this storage in lieu of memory cards, but this hasn’t been confirmed as of yet. If it does remove the need for memory cards that will certainly be a selling factor for a lot of people.

Vita SlimSpeaking of memory cards, Sony announced price drops for the Vita memory cards in Japan, and also announced a 64GB model, which will retail for 9.980 yen or about $100 USD. Personally I still think the pricing is way too high. A 64GB SDXC card can be easily found for $60.

The new Vita will go on sale in Japan on October 10th, and will retail for 18,980 yen or around $190 USD. It will be available in six colors, and as of writing this there has been no confirmation on when this new Vita will be made available outside Japan.

The next big news was the announcement of several big Vita exclusives including a remastered or deluxe version of Soul Sacrifice called Soul Sacrifice Delta. Details are scarce at the moment, but we know it will include new content and a more fleshed out storyline. Sony also announced Soul Sacrifice 2, but didn’t say anything about it.

SEGA announced Phantasy Star Nova, which takes place in the popular Phantasy Star Online 2‘s universe. Shame PSO2 has yet to make its way outside Japan as of yet, but this new one just might as it’s more of a traditional RPG, which just so happens to be featured in this rich universe. Up to four players can team up online should they choose, but the emphasis is on single-player this time around. Much like Soul Sacrifice Delta, Phantasy Star Nova is set for release in 2014.

In a somewhat surprising move Sony announced the PlayStation 4 will be available in Japan on February 22nd. There will be several SKUs available, but the core model will retail for 39.980 yen or about $400 USD. Since the system is region free I’m fairly certain a lot of Japanese die-hard Sony fans will import it from North America or Europe. Never thought I’d say that before. Sony says the reason for pushing the platform into 2014 is to strengthen the Japanese software for launch.

SEGA announced Yakuza Ishin will debut not only on PS3, but on PS4 as well. It will retail on February 22nd, making it the biggest named franchise for the Japanese launch of the new PlayStation.

During a sizzle reel several other Japanese developers showcased short teasers of upcoming games, but not much was revealed. The list of titles highlighted include Natural Doctrine, Guilty Gear Xrd, Deep Down, Lily Bergamo, Wonder Flick, and more.

The last piece of news Sony announced was something called PS Vita TV, which could be a fantastic device for the site, because it might allow me to capture footage of Vita games. That’s assuming Sony doesn’t include High Definition Copy Protection (HDCP) over HDMI like they did with the PlayStation 3. Ok, I’m getting ahead of myself. This is the PS Vita TV.

PS VIta TV1

PS Vita TV2

PS Vita TV3This device allows over one hundred Vita games to be played directly on your HDTV, while using a DualShock 3. The system reads Vita game cards, and memory cards, but no word yet on how digital downloads will work. We know it has access to Hulu and Netflix though. Why do I say “over 100 Vita games” you might be asking, well any games that require specific use of the Vita’s unique features like the touch screen or back track pad obviously wouldn’t be able to be used. The device will also allow remote play with the PS4, meaning you could have your PS4 in one room and play it on another TV in the house with a DualShock 4. This functionality will be added via a firmware update later next year. The PS Vita TV will be available in Japan on November 14th and will retail for 9.480 yen or around $95 USD. Once again, no word on if and when it will be released outside Japan.

All in all that’s a pretty decent amount of information from Sony’s pre-TGS conference. What do you guys think of this? I, for one, am really hoping Sony does away with the copy protection on their HDMI-enabled devices such as the PS Vita TV and PS4. The only way to record PS3 footage right now is to use component cables in order to bypass the HDCP. If they don’t include that on the Vita TV than I will most certainly pick that up for future video content. As for everything else, it’s nice to see them announce a remodeled Vita, although a savings of only $10 is hardly worthwhile in my opinion. Would have been nicer to see this one debut at say $150 or so. That way not only would there be an obvious savings right away, but if the device doesn’t require memory cards because of the internal storage there would have been great word of mouth post-launch as well. I’m also shocked the PS4 won’t be hitting Japan until early next year. It’s amazing how times have changed, no?

Dragon’s Crown Review

dragonscrown02Dragon’s Crown (Available on PlayStation 3 and PlayStation Vita)
ESRB Rating: T
Number of Players: 1-4
Genre: Action/RPG
Publisher: Atlus
Developer: Vanillaware, Atlus
Release Date: August 6th, 2013
PS3 Price: $49.99
PS Vita Price: $39.99

PS3 vs. Vita: There aren’t many differences between the two versions. The Vita version has all of the content found in the home console version. It’s easier to gather around friends and play together with the home console version, though the handheld version is $10 cheaper and the pointer controls feel much more natural on the Vita. The Vita version seems to slow down more frequently during gameplay though, especially in the fights with the Kraken and the Goblin Gate. You can transfer save data between the two versions, though unfortunately cross-buy and cross-play features are not available.

Parent Talk: Dragon’s Crown doesn’t have any blood or gore, but it does have highly sexualized character designs. The character designs are meant to reference Dungeons and Dragons and Weird Tales/Conan the Barbarian, which had very scantily clad characters, but it may make some people feel uncomfortable, especially parents with young children.

Plays like: Classic arcade brawlers with a twist like Capcom’s Dungeons and Dragons: Tower of Doom (and the recently re-released Dungeons and Dragons: Chronicles of Mystara), as well as the Golden Axe series. Dragon’s Crown is a beat ‘em up game at its core, throwing you against hordes of enemies in a semi-2D field, but it has adventure and role-playing elements as well. Also, if you enjoyed Code of Princess, you’ll really love this game.

Review Basis: Completed the Elf campaign, played locally and online, currently on Hard mode, started campaigns with the Fighter, Wizard, and Sorceress.

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Vanillaware deserves a lot of love, whether or not many gamers know it already. They’ve been keeping 2D gaming alive with excellent titles like Odin Sphere and Muramasa: The Demon Blade (my personal favorite of the bunch). Dragon’s Crown fits squarely in with its forebears, because it thoroughly embraces its 2D heritage and manages to be fresh and interesting at the same time. While Odin Sphere was more of a single-player RPG and Muramasa was more of a Metroidvania-style adventure game, Dragon’s Crown is more of a Golden Axe-like arcade brawler. Yet also like its kin, Dragon’s Crown manages to make itself distinct, thanks to an interesting array of characters and a surprising amount of depth.

The Great:

Wonderful, nostalgic, 2D brawling. Dragon’s Crown is a throwback to classic arcade-style games, but given a modern twist. Part of the game’s charm is that it seems like a mindless, fun, hack-and-slash game at first glance, but hides a layer of depth beneath the surface. Destructoid probably put it best, calling the game a “technical brawler.” It doesn’t have the insane move-set of a typical fighting game, but each character has a unique move-set, a character-specific skill tree, and a wide variety of equipment at his or her disposal. Deciding who to go with and how to spec characters can make your adventure that much more successful.

The Good:

+ Absolutely stunning artwork. Though the character designs drew some ire from people, I’ll go out and defend it: George Kamitani’s artwork is absolutely wonderful and he has a true sense of style. The designs are meant to pay homage to the stylized look of Weird Tales/Conan the Barbarian, Dungeons and Dragons, Golden Axe, and perhaps Record of Lodoss War. I do agree that it’s highly exaggerated, but that’s the point of the characters. I personally prefer the aesthetic of Muramasa more, but that’s because I’m more interested in the Japanese mythology background and characters from that game. No matter which you prefer, it’s impossible to deny that the highly detailed characters and the amazing monsters really show that 2D artwork can still impress in the HD era. The dilapidated ruins, sprawling ruins, ornate castles, and dank waterways feel nostalgic rather than cliché. The characters have a sense of personality and life. The game looks especially beautiful on the Vita’s OLED widescreen. It’s quite possibly the most beautiful game on that system.

+ A diverse cast. There are six playable character types: Elf, Fighter, Amazon, Sorceress, Wizard, and Dwarf. While you cannot customize your character like in some fantasy role-playing games, each character has unique gimmicks. The Fighter has a wide array of sword attacks, can block with his shield, charge through enemies, and perform powerful combination attacks. However, the Wizard can create familiars out of wood and rain down fiery destruction. Each character gets access to a common skill tree as well as a character-specific skill tree. The Elf character, for example, can get access to a larger quiver, a better charged-shot skill, and more. You can build your character differently by focusing on different skills and changing your equipment list. I’ve spent most of my time playing as the Elf character, which is nimble and graceful. She can quickly unload a volley of arrows, but also unleash quick kick attack combos, which makes her a fun character to play.

+ Variety of equipment options. Most beat ‘em up games just set you own your way with a basic weapon and an occasional power-up. That is not the case here. Over the course of the game, you can open chests and get new gear, including weapons, armor, belts, necklaces, greaves, etc. Each piece of gear is ranked between E through S. E ranked gear tends to not offer any perks, while S ranked gear tends to have more passive bonuses. You can even purchase multiple equipment bags so that you can swap out different item sets between levels. You can spec one item list for finding items and increasing your chances of getting great loot. You can have up to 500 pieces of loot in your main equipment list, so you’re never pressured to start selling off your gear. Your equipment actually has a durability gauge as well. If you use your equipment too often, it may break, so you have to go to the shop and repair it. Though you may find that appraising a weapon you found may be the better option.

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 + Items and power-ups. In addition to the equipment system mentioned above, you can also find limited-use weapons and items, such as crossbows, daggers, and torches. You need torches to ward off ghosts and bombs are needed to blow up secret passages. You can even mount certain monsters and ride them around!

+ Partner system. Even if you’re playing alone, you still have options. You can play locally or online of course, but if you prefer, you can resurrect other characters to help you. If you find bones in a level, you can take them to the local priest and revive them. These partner characters can’t level up or change equipment, so you’re encouraged to manage these partners carefully. Bury the bones if you don’t need to revive them and then part ways with them after you’ve adventured for some time.  If you bury the bones, you may be rewarded with a bonus item as well.

+ Magic system. Of course, the Sorceress and the Wizard have spells at their disposal, but there’s also a rune system as well. You can purchase several runes from the wizard Lucain, who looks suspiciously like Lord of the Ring’s Gandalf.  When you enter a level, you may find inscriptions strewn about the landscape. You can select the runes via a point-and-click style control system and then combine them with your own to cast a variety of spells. By combining specific runes, you can heal your characters, open hidden passages, petrify enemies, and more. After you uncover a rune combination, it will be recorded in Lucain’s rune guide. Sometimes it’s too hectic to select the runes while fighting enemies and renders some of the attack-based rune spells somewhat ineffective, but it’s an interesting mechanic.

+ Multiple pathways, multiple difficulties. When you first play the game, everything is very straightforward. You go through a basic tutorial, undertake a basic quest, and then gradually reach new areas. Once you get far enough, you can get a “second quest” in each area. Once you finally clear each level and get all of the talismans, you can challenge the dragon in the hopes of defeating it and restoring the land. However, that’s just part of your quest. Beating the dragon once clears the game on “Normal” and revives on the goddesses, represented as a statute in the church. You can then play the game again on Hard, and then again on Nightmare, in the hopes of reviving the other goddesses. Your level cap increases on each mode, going from level 35 on Normal, to 65 on Hard, to 99 on Nightmare. I completed the Normal mode in about 15 hours after completing all of the quests, and going through the remaining modes is not a breeze either. The bosses become more challenging and you also gain access to a new labyrinth level, which is basically like a remixed tower consisting of various sections of other levels. Most levels only take about 10 minutes or less to beat, making the game ideal for short bursts of play.

+ Both English and Japanese audio is available.

+ There are multiple color schemes for each character.

+ Continuous play option. Levels don’t take much time to complete, but there’s an interesting hook that comes after beating a stage—you can choose to keep going in the hopes of getting added rewards, but risk becoming worn out. After each stage, you may get a bonus incentive, whether it’s added gold or score bonuses. However, if you use your equipment too long, it might break, making it less effective in combat. You also have to worry about how many life points your characters have, because after a certain amount of revives, you have to start shelling out money to revive your comrades. It’s a careful balancing act. Do you risk braving the next level? Or do you go home and rest, repair your equipment, and prepare for the next adventure? However, you may occasionally get the option to heal between adventures by feasting over the campfire.

+ Quests. Each level already has a secondary path to discover and alternate boss to fight, but you can also revisit levels to satisfy quest objectives. Some quests ask you to defeat a number of enemies, for example. After completing a quest, you get a piece of art with a short story. It’s simple, but rewarding, and may remind many gamers of Lost Odyssey. I became more interested in finishing the quests just to see the various art pieces and stories, rather than getting the quest bonuses and items.

+ Multiplayer. One of the big draws of Dragon’s Crown is the multiplayer. You can easily drop in and out of online plays, making play seamless and quick. I joined a game in a few seconds and experienced no lag whatsoever.  I also played with a friend locally and everything was seamless. You can drop in and drop out in the middle of levels, making joining games less cumbersome.

+ Music. The music is just excellent. Composed by Hitoshi Sakimoto, Dragon’s Crown score perfectly fits the fantasy aesthetic. Some of Sakimoto’s work includes Tactics Ogre, Vagrant Story, and Final Fantasy Tactics, which should give you an idea of its epic scope.

+ The fantasy landscape. Playing Dragon’s Crown is like reliving a session of Dungeons and Dragon’s mixed with a game of Golden Axe at the same time. The narrator perfectly complements the adventure with lines that make you feel as though you’re experiencing a tabletop adventure. The game play is reminiscent of classic arcade beat ‘em up, but the sparse story segments still manage to have personality and charm thanks to the dungeon master-like proclamations from the narrator. You can even access other narrator voices as well. The adventure is remarkably simple in scope, but that’s what makes it endearing—you have to defeat the dragon and save the land. It’s not bogged down with brooding characters or meandering plot threads.

+ Cross Save option easily lets you transfer your save data between the PS3 and Vita versions. You can upload your save data on one platform and then download the data on the other, so you can pick up where you left off.

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The Bad:

-The pointer controls on PS3. Controlling Rannie the Thief and activating runes is interesting, but the pointer controls on the PS3 are a bit awkward. It’s not necessarily that bad, and considering that it would otherwise be impossible to control Rannie at the same time, it’s a somewhat necessary evil. Many times, I wouldn’t activate runes or move Rannie until I cleared out enemies because it was difficult to do both, but the runes had attack-focused abilities, thus completely useless by the time I cleared out the enemies. This is a very minor complaint. The Vita version avoids it completely, because the touch controls are significantly quicker and easier.

-Stiffness. Dragon’s Crown is a 2D brawler, but it has a pseudo-3D plane like other arcade brawlers. And like those games, it also can be a bit awkward at first. This was especially problematic when playing as the Elf, when precision is required. Sometimes I would barely miss my arrow strikes because I misjudged the enemy’s hit box. Using the analog stick makes movement a bit easier, but then running became more awkward, because you have to hold the attack button down to run. The d-pad makes running easier (with a simple double tap), but then lining up to attack enemies is a bit trickier. This issue goes away in time and to be fair, it’s just a matter of getting used to the game’s controls and quirks. After some time, I was able to easily land hits.

-Even with the option to replay levels, do quests, and explore hidden routes, the action can get a bit repetitive. You’ll be fighting the same bosses several times, you’ll see the same levels several times, and you’ll have to run through the same challenges. If you play the game with other characters, you’ll have to redo the same challenges and stages. Playing on multiplayer alleviates the tedium and the game does remain fun to play for quite some time, but if you’re on your own, it does drone on a bit.

-Unfortunately, you cannot customize your character’s appearance and equipment doesn’t seem to change the look of the character. Also, there aren’t variations of the characters—if you select the Elf, there’s only the female Elf character, for example. The six characters are very well developed and designed, and the character art is incredibly intricate, so I can understand why they don’t have the added customization options. Still, it would have been nice to have other options for these characters.

-Sadly no Cross Play feature.

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The Ugly:

Occasional slowdown. This issue was more prevalent on the Vita version, especially during more hectic boss fights like the Kraken. I rarely had this issue with the PS3 version.

The Lowdown:

If you like classic arcade games and are a fan of 2D action, you’ll find a lot to love in Dragon’s Crown. It’s one of the best games of its kind, as a brawler with depth and heart. For a game in this genre to last more than a few hours is a feat in itself, so one that lasts a dozen is a godsend.

Score: 9/10

Persona 4 Golden Review

Persona 4 Golden BoxPersona 4 Golden (Available exclusively on PlayStation Vita)
ESRB Rating: M
Number of Players: 1
Genre: RPG
Publisher: Atlus
Developer: Atlus
Release Date: November 20th, 2012

Persona 4 is easily one of my favorite games on the PlayStation 2, and one of my favorite role-playing games of all time, so when I finally got the chance to play an enhanced director’s cut on the Vita, I was ecstatic. For that reason, this is a difficult game for me to review—I became so attached to the original I wasn’t sure if I could view it through a critical lens. After finally getting time to play the game, I’ve been hooked all over again. Shin Megami Tensei: Persona 4 was already a near-perfect masterpiece, but Golden improves upon it in every way, making it a must-own for the Vita.

Parent Talk: Persona 4 Golden is rated M because of some suggestive dialog, alcohol references, and the dark nature of the story. There are only a few instances of profanity, there’s no sexual content, and there is hardly any blood or gore whatsoever. The game could have easily gotten away with a T for Teen rating.

Plays Like: A turn-based role-playing game mixed together with a dating-simulation game.

Review Basis: Completed everything the game has to offer, received a Platinum Trophy, and played approximately 140 hours.

Persona 4 Golden_meeting

The Great:

A flawless director’s cut. There are a lot of things I could put here—the endearing cast of characters, the excellent story, the innovative gameplay, but ultimately, I’m most impressed by how well the game stays fresh and how the changes, both the minor touches and the more major additions, mesh so well and result in a more polished, finished, and dare I say perfect product. Not only has the game received a visual upgrade, but there are additional dungeons, new story elements, new characters, new Social Links, more activities to do, and well…more of everything. It’s like an entirely new game. While it unfortunately lacks the ability to play as a female lead character, which Atlus implemented in the PlayStation Portable port of Persona 3, it offers enough to convince both existing fans and newbies alike to put down the cash.

The addition of Marie is unarguably the game’s biggest draw, serving as both an interesting new character and a vehicle for more compelling story content. The developers managed to insert her story so seamlessly into the adventure that people may think it was always there to begin with. The minor changes, such as the upgrades to the fishing mini-game, are welcome and help improve the parts of the game that felt less polished. That’s not to say there was much wrong with the original release. In fact, you’d be hard pressed to find someone critical of the original, making these additions all the more amazing. The game scenario even continues for a longer period of time than in the original—in this game, you play until February, whereas in the original, you stopped in December.

Persona 4 Golden_izanagi

The Good:

+ An excellent cast of lovable characters. What makes the newer Persona games so great is that they are more about your interactions with the characters, as opposed to your interactions with a blank, expressionless world. Many RPGs send the player out into a world to explore, and the NPCs only act as a means to an end—a way to get a quest item or bit of the story. In the Persona games, the main character does act as somewhat of a blank slate for the player, but the rest of the cast are well-written and interesting. They grapple with problems that make them believable and human. Chie is jealous of her friend Yukiko, but she is upset with herself for feeling that way, leading to a cycle of self-loathing and depression. Yosuke is deeply hurt that he wasn’t able to get closer to a girl he liked, because she was killed before he really had the chance to open up. The characters feelings are actually an integral part of the plot, because each character needs to face his or her “True Self.” It’s a clever way of tying in the game mechanics, characters, and story into one cohesive theme—friendship and bonds. This game is all about the bonds you make when you meet someone, whether it’s by hanging out at school, working at a job, or spending time at home. By the end of the game, I was genuinely attached to the entire cast and was sad that it ended. The game eschews the “save the world” theme, in favor of getting you more attached to your fans and the little country town of Inaba.

+ Fantastic music. The music in the original was already incredible and the new tracks don’t disappoint either. The song “Memory,” which plays in one of the new dungeons, is probably my new favorite song in the game.

+ Refined combat. The game is still a menu-driven, turn-based role-playing game. That may make many newer gamers cringe, but it really shouldn’t. The mechanics are so polished and perfected here that it makes you believe it shouldn’t be any other way. Like the original, you have a party of four members, including the protagonist. The protagonist has access to a wide variety of personas and thus can be a jack-of-all-trades, while each other character has a specific specialty. Yukiko has fire-based attacks and high magic stats, while Kanji has electric-based moves and high physical attack, for example. Knowing how to best use your party for any situation and adapt your main character’s persona list accordingly can make a huge difference in battle. Each persona is kind of like a Pokémon—it’s a creature that can do your fighting for you. Though your character can perform physical attacks, personas can have up to eight attacks, spells, or abilities. If you use a spell or ability that exploits an enemy’s weakness, you can get another turn to attack. If you knock all of the enemies down, you can get an “All Out Attack” and have your entire party rush the field for added damage. This much should be a given for anyone who has played the original game.

In this version, however, not only are there more personas to use, but there are other subtle changes. For one, Rise is far more useful in combat than before. In the original, Rise acted only as a navigator, providing advice for the player. In this version, Rise can heal characters after battle, add damage to an All Out Attack, come into the battle to raise your party’s stats, and completely scan enemy weaknesses at the start of battle. How well she helps you is dependent on her level and her Social Link ranking with the protagonist. The other characters can also use team attacks, and characters outside the party can randomly join in for a support attack, as well. Also, it’s now far easier to refine your cast and your move-set. You can find cards in dungeons that will teach a move to your persona. After registering found cards, you can go and purchase more of them later, and you can even get cards by going to the café in town. You can teach your teammates moves they’ve forgotten by traveling to the hot spring and talking about your memories or you can teach them new moves by talking about your future. Characters can also get access to a third-tier persona in this version, with new attacks! The gameplay and battles are still carefully balanced, fun, and occasionally challenging even with these new additions.

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+ Social Link system. Persona 3 gained notoriety for its innovative hybrid of dating sim and role-playing game styles. Persona 4 improved on it in every way, offering more balanced content. Golden does the same. Basically, part of the game is a life simulator. You have to attend class and experience the major story events, but aside from that, you’re free to determine your own schedule. You can play basketball or soccer, join the drama club or band, hang out with friends after school (or even ditch class), go around town on your scooter, go fishing, watch movies, read books, get a part-time job, and more. Each of these events, seemingly insignificant at first, actually are incredibly important to building your character and learning more about the cast. Pursuing these events will build on your “Social Links,” which represent different Arcana. Arcana correlate with a certain class of persona. Thus, advancing your Social Link will allow you to create more powerful persona of that respective Arcana. Only by advancing the Social Link, learning more about that character’s likes and dislikes, and meeting them on their schedule will you be able to succeed.

It’s a careful balancing act, because you want to create a powerful persona to beat a boss, but to do that, you have to spend enough time with the person who represents that link. In this version, there are more characters to spend time with, more events to participate in (like the New Year’s Festival), and more ways to advance your social link. For example, you can know hang out with your friends at night and chat, which will raise their affection and speed up the time for increasing your Social Link.

+ Trophy support.

+ New scenes to watch, which give more insight to the characters. Many of them are quite fun and the Valentine’s Day scenes are actually really sweet. (By the way, Chie is the best choice).

+ Bonus extras, like a music player, cutscene viewer, a compilation of promotional videos and concert videos, and a quiz game.

+ Adjustable difficulty. You can set the game on Easy if you don’t want to concern yourself much with fighting, but the truly dedicated can try the game on higher modes. You can even fine tune individual settings, such as the rate of experience points awarded after battle, the amount of money you receive, the amount of damage dealt, and so on.

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The So-So:

The graphics have received a face-lift, but the character models are about the same as before. The game wasn’t designed for the Vita originally, so it won’t compete with the likes of Gravity Rush and Soul Sacrifice in terms of visuals, but it still has enough flair and style to make it look great. It’s definitely a game that will look good no matter how old it gets.

The Bad:

Unlike Persona 3 Portable, there is no option to play as a female lead character. It’s difficult to complain about this given how much content this version has and just how good the game is, but considering it was an addition to the previous game and this is a director’s cut, it would have been nice to have this in the game. Even if not much was changed, it would have been a neat option.

The Lowdown:

I consider Persona 4 Golden a near-perfect game. It improved upon an already excellent game in nearly every way and I had to struggle to find a complaint. The only major issue I had was the lack of an option that was featured in the previous game, but the adventure was just so fun and gameplay so addicting that I really didn’t care. I sunk in approximately 140 hours into the game and didn’t stop until I got the Platinum Trophy—and I still want to play it again and again. It’s a role-playing game that shows that JRPGs can still hang with the best of them, and if you have even a remote interest in role-playing games, this is simply a must-own for the PlayStation Vita. I consider it the best game in the system’s library. This game comes highly recommended.

Score: 10/10

The Current State of Portable Game Sales

Steven recently wrote an article on his top 3DS games, which was then followed up with a top Vita games article. Since everyone pretty much agrees on which games are the best on any given platform, let’s take a look if those great games actually have great sales. Before we begin please keep in mind these are sales estimates, and they don’t include digital sales, so that does have an impact. The numbers are also worldwide sales, and not region specific. Let’s start with his top five 3DS games.

The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3D – 3 million +

Luigi’s Mansion: Dark Moon – 2 million +

Super Mario 3D Land – 8.5 million +

Fire Emblem: Awakening – 900,000 +

Resident Evil: Revelations – 700,000 +

Next we’ll take the most popular Vita games based on sales I could actually find.

PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale – 170,000 +

Metal Gear Solid HD Collection – 190,000 +

Gravity Rush – 300,000 +

Lumines – 100,000 +

Uncharted: Golden Abyss – 970,000 +

Now comes the fun part, matching those highly regarded games against the actual top five selling games on each of the platforms. We’ll keep the same order, first 3DS then Vita.

1. Super Mario 3D Land – 8.5 million +

2. Mario Kart 7 – 8 million +

3. New Super Mario Bros. 2 – 6 million +

4. Animal Crossing: New Leaf – 3 million +

5. The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time – 3 million +

1. Uncharted: Golden Abyss – 970,000 +

2. Call of Duty Black Ops: Declassified – 740,000 +

3. Assassin’s Creed III: Liberation – 690,000 +

4. Persona 4: The Golden – 450,000 +

5. FIFA Soccer – 420, 000 +

Now before looking at the numbers and saying wtf, keep in mind that worldwide lifetime sales of the 3DS are 32 million compared to around 5 million for the Vita, which explains why Vita numbers are so much lower. Super Mario 3D Land was purchased by 27% of all 3DS owners, and Uncharted was bought by 20% of all Vita owners, which is pretty damn impressive for both platforms.

It’s interesting how so many people adore Resident Evil: Revelations on the 3DS, yet the game’s performance pales in comparison to the first party Nintendo content. Notice the top selling Vita games are all more mature releases, leading one to believe that the system is selling to an older demograph. So what do we take away from this, first and foremost that the PlayStation Vita is in dire need of more software in order to pump out higher sales figures, and that as always, the biggest hits on a Nintendo system are Nintendo first party games. The 3DS has proved to be a truly impressive piece of hardware that the masses are eating up. Selling 6 million units of any game is truly impressive, and Nintendo has three games that have already sold that much.

So what do you take away from the current portable sales? People like to talk smack about Nintendo, but clearly the company is doing something right with sales figures this high. Is there any hope for the Vita to rebound, or will Sony just leave the system to die?

The Ultimate Top 5 Vita Games of All Time List

Steven originally came up with the concept of writing a Top 5 article for the PlayStation Vita. To mix things up he invited one of our most loyal fans to join the ranks and list off his top 5. So here’s how this is going to work. Steven’s list is based on a novice’s point of view, seeing that he’s played on a few Vita games. Next up will be my list. I’ve played quite a few games, but nowhere near as many as AppetitePat, who acts as our Vita expert. If you want to check out our reviews, click on the title of the game. So let’s get the party started!

Steven’s Ultimate List

HSG5) Hot Shots Golf: World Invitational – A truly kick ass launch game that I had the pleasure of reviewing. One of the best golf games I’ve played, also really well adapted for a portable system. This made me realize how awesome it was to have (near) HD visuals on a portable.

 

 

 

Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3 Review4) Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3 – I’m a huge fan of this game, and having it on the go can’t be matched. The Vita port is almost 100% identical to the console version, with just a bit too much loading. Still, it plays like a champ and the lightning-fast action is represented marvelously on the Vita’s OLED screen. Gotta love it!

 

 

Mutant Blobs Attack3) Tales From Space: Mutant Blob Attacks – The Vita’s surprise launch hit. This made me fall in love with DrinkBox Studios. If you’ve yet to experience this classic, shame on you!

 

 

 

Guacamelee!2) Guacamelee! – Go read my review right away! That should tell you why it’s so high on my list. What could possibly beat this as my number 1…..

 

 

 

Lumines: Electronic Symphony Review + Video Review1) Lumines: Electronic Symphony – I just couldn’t believe how addicting a puzzle game could be. I’ve invested over a dozen hours into this title. I don’t recall ever playing a puzzle game for more than 15 minutes before. I would lose myself for hours trying to beat my friend’s high scores, the Vita’s online infrastructure is perfect for a game like this. It’s an awesome puzzler that fools you into thinking you’re playing an action game at some points. You really need to give this game a chance.

 

 

Jarrod’s Deluxe List

Gravity Rush5) Gravity Rush – With an incredibly unique concept, a great gameplay world to explore, and a pretty entertaining storyline, Gravity Rush is just what the doctor ordered for anyone looking for a unique Vita action adventure unlike anything else out there. It may have had a few issues, but it’s still a fantastic trip worth taking.

 

 

 

Lumines: Electronic Symphony Review + Video Review4) Lumines: Electronic Symphony – My favorite PSP launch title also happens to be one of the very best puzzle games of all time. Electronic Symphony is just as endearing and exciting to play. It includes a ton of amazing gameplay modes, phenomenal music, and great gameplay. What’s not to love?

 

 

 

Uncharted: Golden Abyss Review3) Uncharted: Golden Abyss – Proving it is possible to have a console-like experience on the go, Golden Abyss takes everything you love about the Uncharted series and miniaturizes it for the go. Featuring a great cast of characters, some of the best visuals ever seen on a portable and excellent gameplay, Golden Abyss deserves to be on everyone’s top five list (I’m looking at you Steven!).

 

 

 

Mutant Blobs Attack2) Tales From Space: Mutant Blob Attacks – The surprise hit of the decade. Honestly I had no expectations for this game at all. Released as a digital-only title at the Vita’s launch, Mutant Blobs Attack featured the most charming characters ever. The gameplay was spot-on, and the secrets were excellent. This game shocked me to no end, and should be played by absolutely everyone. It’s the title that introduced me to DrinkBox Studios, who have since become my favorite PSN developer out there.

 

 

 

Guacamelee!1) Guacamelee! – Hands down my favorite game on the Vita. While it’s also available on the PS3, this game rules like no other. It’s a Metroidvania-style game, but with its own unique charm and visuals. Another smash from Drinkbox Studios. This game challenges you in insane ways, but never becomes frustrating. If you own a Vita, this is one game you need to play right this very second. It’s brilliant!

 

 

Pat’s Super Crazy Cool List

Plants vs. Zombies Review5) Plants vs Zombies – Probably my favorite tower defense game! I spent more hours on this one than I care to mention! Did three playthroughs and this is on top of the two I had already done on the iPhone. The screen size and touchscreen worked really well once again. Not much else to say.

 

 

 

 

Battle Royale4) PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royal – This is a game that I feel didn’t get as much love as it deserved. One of (if not the first) games to have multiplayer servers for both PS3 and Vita. There was absolutely no lie when they said it would play as great on any system! Even though it didn’t sell much or become a classic like Nintendo’s Super Smash Bros., the online community is still going strong!

 

 

 

MGS HD Collection Vita3) Metal Gear Solid HD Collection – Not much to say here, we’ve all played the MGS games numerous times and know what to expect from this collection. Everything worked well from the screen size to the smooth controls.

 

 

 

Rayman_Vita2) Rayman Origins – This was my first Rayman experience, and I enjoyed it quite a lot! I found it to have all my favorite aspects of platform games and none of my dislikes. Fast paced, unlimited lives, diversity and great music all contributed to what made it so enjoyable. Sure the Vita version didn’t have multiplayer, but I usually play my games alone anyway and quite honestly, I think acquiring the platinum trophy would’ve been harder without the touch feature.

 

 

Uncharted: Golden Abyss Review1) Uncharted: Golden Abyss – This one’s an absolute no-brainer! I had quite a lot of fun with this one. I think it’s quite crazy to have been able to reproduce a game on a handheld that is just as good if not better than the original Uncharted on the PS3. The length of the game was long too, and the ability to use the accelerometer to fine tune your aiming was quite welcome! I even found myself trying to do that on the PS3 afterwards!

 

 

Unfortunately there are a lot of games that I haven’t had the chance to play yet. There are plenty of them that could easily have made this top 5 list such as Gravity Rush, Persona 4, Assassin’s Creed 3 Liberation, LittleBigPlanet, Sly Cooper 4, Unit 13, Guacamelee and Mutant Blob attacks. That’s not naming them all, and that’s why I don’t understand when people say the Vita doesn’t have any games. Sure a lot of them are also available on PS3 but it doesn’t make them any less available on the Vita to play on the go. For some of us, on the go is where you get most of your gaming! I really love that powerful little machine and I hope Sony’s got a good show for us this time around for E3!

Soul Sacrifice Review

Soul SacrificeSoul Sacrifice (Available exclusively on PlayStation Vita)
ESRB Rating: M
Number of Players: 1 to 4
Genre: Action RPG
Publisher: SCEA
Developer: Comcept
Release Date: April 30th, 2013
PSN: Online co-op

Parent Talk: Soul Sacrifice is rated M for mature because of blood and gore, suggestive themes, and violence. This isn’t a game for kids. After you defeat each enemy you have to decide if you will sacrifice their soul or save them. The game also features many grotesque images.

Plays Like: It’s easy to say it plays like any other dungeon crawler/action RPG, but that would be doing an injustice to the game. In truth it plays unlike most other games in the genre. Full details are contained within the review itself.

Review Basis: Finished the single player campaign.

Mega Man creator Keiji Inafune has created what many were hoping would be the PlayStation Vita’s killer app. While that’s not exactly the case here, he has put together a fun, albeit highly repetitive, action RPG that fans of the genre will surely enjoy. Featuring a very unique decision-making mechanic that allows players to customize their character as they see fit, Soul Sacrifice is far more advance than I originally though, and it just might surprise you.

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The Great:

You literally have the choice to change your character anyway you want. During a mission’s onset players must decide which six abilities to bring with them. Abilities include everything from magical spells to melee attacks. As players progress more and more abilities are fused together or discovered. The tricky, and fun part is in balancing which abilities you bring with you and how you handle yourself during combat. You can only use these six abilities a handful of times during any given quest, and in order to replenish them you have to sacrifice the souls of your enemies. If you decide to spare your enemy’s soul, you gain an HP boost, but sometimes at the cost of your abilities. Boss characters go one step further, by saving one you can then ask that person to join your party later on. By carefully planning out your attack strategy you can create the character you’re most interested in playing. If you simply go in and mindlessly sacrifice or save everyone you encounter, your character will be vastly underpowered in no time.

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The Good:

+ Clever use of a hub instead of an over-world make the game very portable friendly, and ties directly into the storyline. A magical book, called Libron is able to transport players from their cell to relive key moments in the past. The book also has a ton of lore for players to get into if they care to learn more about the lore.

+ Play how you want. If you prefer to get up close and personal with enemies, morph your character into a melee fighter, if you would rather be a caster, by all means go for it. It’s great being able to play how you want, although players that create well rounded characters will likely have an easier time towards the end of the adventure.

+ Excellent use of the Vita hardware. The controls are spot on, with only minimal use of the touch screen during combat. Flipping through Libron is also highly rewarding.

+ Online play allows players to join forces to take on special Avalon Pact missions, which are surprisingly fun and fresh. Would have been awesome to bring a co-op buddy with me for the entire campaign though.

+ Impressive audio visuals, make full use of the Vita hardware. Some moments will have you shocked you’re playing on a portable. The voice acting, especially Libron is top tier.

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The Bad:

– The lock-on targeting mechanic can sometimes force you to attack an enemy you don’t want to, and camera problems also pop up from time to time which can lead to an untimely death.

– Repetitive in nature. While there are a variety of quests, from killing X number of enemies, locating specific items, or hunting down powerful bosses, you often have to take part in a large number of side-quests in order to build your character up enough so the main campaign quests are manageable. After a while it becomes apparent you’re in for a major grind if you really want to finish the game.

The Ugly:

Reaching over twenty hours of play time only to discover you’re nowhere near strong enough to take on the boss, and realizing you have to go back and grind previous missions to better tune your character.

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The Lowdown:

Soul Sacrifice is a fun game that has some really great ideas behind it. The balancing and decision making alone are things I’d like to see revisited sometime in the future. Sadly the repetitive nature of the genre is ultimately what brings the experience down. If you enjoy these types of games, by all means give this one a download, but if they’re not your cup of tea you may want to hold off until something else peaks your interest. Sadly this isn’t the killer app Vita fans were hoping for, but it is a fun game just the same.

Final Score: 7.5/10