Category Archives: 3DS Reviews

Lord of Magna: Maiden Heaven Review

Lord of Magna: Maiden Heaven

(Available on 3DS)
ESRB Rating: T
Number of Players: 1
Genre: Role Playing
Publisher: XSeed
Developer: Marvelous
Release Date:
Japan – October 2nd, 2014
North America – June 2nd, 2015
EU- June 4th, 2015

Hey everyone! My name is Cranberry; here with a guest review! Well, let’s get right to it!

Parent Talk:

The Entertainment Software Rating Board has rated this game T for Teen, citing the following: Fantasy Violence, Mild Language, Partial Nudity, & Suggestive Themes. While it’s not excessive, there is some blatant “fan-service” in this game that involves some up-skirt pictures and some unnecessarily skimpy outfits. They aren’t kidding about the suggestive dialogue either; it definitely gets pretty suggestive at times. Of particular note, there is an animated bathing scene that you probably would not want to get caught watching at work.

The battles are not bloody or gory and are pretty tame, although some cut scenes imply some pretty harsh violence at times.

The teen rating seems to be appropriate for this one; I wouldn’t recommend this one for young children.

Plays Like:

This game plays like a cross between a turn based RPG, a strategy game, and a visual novel. The main emphasis of this game is definitely the plot and the interactions between the characters. The game features a lot of cut scenes and dialogue reading, much of it voice acted.

Combat plays a part in this game as well, and combat is played out in a strategic turn-based combat system. In combat, you field a party of up to 4 characters. Each character has different attributes and attack ranges.   Combat takes place on a large field where you can see all of the enemy units. Both you and the enemies take turns moving and attacking. But the field is not a grid. Each character has a circle that appears around them, showing their move range for that turn. You can move freely anywhere within this circle provided there isn’t anything to block your path. When you’re ready to attack, you’ll see a red space that designates the area you can hit.

The game also features an experience point leveling system as well as a crafting system, which adds some RPG elements into its strategy styled combat system.

The Good:

The presentation in this game is quite beautiful. The graphics have a cartoonish feel to them, which is pretty normal for a 3DS game, but they get the job done wonderfully. The 3D effects are not mind blowing, but they supplement the setting well without feeling too “busy” or disorienting.   The characters are likable and full of personality. The story is also pretty well written and engaging. You take the role of an inn keeper, whom you can choose a name for.   He runs an inn on the outskirts of town, and is patiently awaiting the day when his inn at long last receives a guest. The guests soon arrive in the form of characters that will join your party; 7 in all over the course of the game. There is a reason this game is called “Maiden Heaven”, every playable character except for the main character is female. But each girl has a distinct personality and it is quite enjoyable to watch their stories unfold and see their character development over the course of the tale.   These cut scenes are sometimes supplemented by some lovely artwork too.

There are also “heart events” you can access, which are essentially quests that dwell deeper into an individual girl and reveal more about her. There are 21 such heart events, and it will take several play-thoughs to see them all; which fleshes out the story further and gives the game some replay value too.

The music in the game is top-notch. The songs fit the context well and are pleasant to listen to. I received the OST with my game, and I frequently pop the CD in and listen to it. I really enjoy the music.

I really enjoy the combat system in this game. Each character has different roles they can contribute in a battle, and you need to think about how they can complement one another on the battle field. Some characters hit for a wide area in front of them, others hit an area at a distance, some hit an enemy multiple times, and others specialize in support skills.   There are a lot of possibilities even before the battle begins. Once in combat, the strategy-game like field system allows for a lot of tactics that just wouldn’t work in a traditional turn-based RPG. You gain an action point each turn, and you spend this action point to perform your chosen action. This game features an interesting “bowling” mechanic in battle, where enemies you hit can knock down and take out other enemies. If you manage to take down 10 or more enemies with 1 attack, you get a free turn.   It’s quite an interesting and creative mechanic.

If you choose not to take an action, you’ll keep your action point and when your next turn comes, you’ll have 2 action points. This allows you to save up points for special skills.   This makes combat more complex and more engaging than simple “hurt and heal”. You need to carefully consider how best to place your characters, and what action is best for the situation at hand. Do you send one character ahead as a decoy to try and form an opening for the rest of your party to slip through? Do you try and surround the enemy to limit their attack options? Do you fall back and regroup?   All of these and more are decisions you’ll be making in battle, which makes for a very engaging battle system.

The game also features an elemental “Rock, Paper, Scissors” style vulnerabilities system that is similar to the typing system used in Pokemon. This further adds to the strategic combat decisions you make in battle.

An enjoyable story and an engaging well-designed battle system make for quite a good presentation.

The So-So:

The story in this game is both it’s strength and it’s weakness.   While the story is engaging, it’s also very drawn out and you are frequently watching long scenes in which you do nothing but hit the A button to advance through pages upon pages of text.   This can be pretty frustrating if you are itching to get to the action, or if you don’t particularly care about the conversation the characters are having at the time. This is especially noticeable at the very start of the game where you read a huge amount of dialogue before you even gain access to your character. While there is a fast-forward feature, it doesn’t actually skip the cut scenes, but rather speeds through them much more quickly. Doing this does help speed things up, but there’s no “rewind” feature so if you accidentally skip ahead too far, you can’t go back to read what you missed.

The massive amounts of dialogue and the frequent lengthy cut-scenes often make this feel more like reading a book than playing a game; which can be a big put-off for a lot of people. Simply put, playing this game is going to involve reading a LOT of text.

There is a crafting system in the game, and while it adds some interesting customization options by allowing you to create skills for the characters, there’s little else you can make other than skills. There is also very little in-game clues as to what you can craft. You can at least see what the item your chosen ingredients will create before you make it, but there are no recipe books or listings of what can be made. No clues or hints from other characters as to what you should make.   Unless you look up a guide online, it’s entirely trial and error based. The game really needs a recipe list.

This game does not feature equipment to put on your characters. No new weapons, no new armor, no special accessories. Just skills, although some of the skills are passive skills that give you stat bonuses or special attributes, which is similar to what accessory-like items do in many other RPGs.   But it still feels like a real missed opportunity to not include equip-able items in the game.

There are a number of free missions, which allow you to field a team into battle in a variety of settings that you’ll unlock as you go through the story. These missions have some interesting flavor text, but that’s all it ends up being. It’s nothing but a battle against enemies that serves as a grinding or item farming opportunity. The good thing is that these free battles allow you to immediately enter a battle without having to wade through a mountain of text, but it’s disappointing for the missions to be given such interesting descriptions only to have nothing special happen in any of them.

The Bad:

As was already mentioned, the lengthy cut scenes can be pretty jarring, which depending on your tastes can be a real negative. But perhaps the biggest negative is the complete lack of exploration this game allows.

Except for a camp-site that you get to very briefly walk around in, the Inn is the only area you get to explore. Every other area, the only interaction you get with the environment is through battle. No exploring the territory, no searching for treasure, no searching for hidden secrets, no chatting with NPCs in town. There is a town in this game, and your visits to it are entirely scripted. For an RPG title, this is a glaring flaw. Nothing is more frustrating than setting foot on these beautiful maps, and not being able to explore them.

99% of the battles mandate that you have the main character in them, even in free battles. This unnecessarily restricts your party selection, and can be frustrating when you start getting more characters available and want to experiment with a variety of character combinations. In a game that is already quite linear with no exploration, the last thing you want is even more limitations.

The Lowdown:

This is almost a love it or hate it game. The story is an engaging tale full of mystery, drama, and suspense.

There’s a fair amount of customization you can do with the character’s skills, and the combat system is magnificent.

But, the frequent extremely lengthy cut scenes, the lack of exploration, and the lack of equip-able items are pretty significant flaws that are quite noticeable and glaring during play.

If you are looking for an engaging tale full of lovable characters, I recommend this game whole-heatedly. But if you’re looking for action and adventure, or your traditional RPG experience, this game won’t satisfy you.

That’s why my final rating for this game is a 7/10.

Fire Emblem Fates: Birthright Review

FEFire Emblem Fates: Birthright (Available Exclusively on the Nintendo 3DS)
ESRB Rating: T
Number of Players: 1 to 2
Genre: Strategy RPG
Publisher: Nintendo
Developer: Intelligent Systems
Release Date: February 19th, 2016

Parent Talk: The ESRB rates Fire Emblem Fates: Birthright T for teen because of animated blood, fantasy violence, and suggestive themes. I’ve personally been playing this series since the early 90’s, and it’s truly not a damaging game for young audiences. There is violence to be sure, but there’s no gore, and the violence is completely fantasy-based. Even the suggestive themes are mild at best.

Plays Like: The Fire Emblem series hasn’t changed very much in the twenty plus years its been around, it remains a strategy RPG at its very core, regardless of how many new gameplay mechanics are thrown into the mix. This means you move your characters around a grid-based map taking out enemy units. Each character class has pros and cons and by properly taking advantage of your units you can destroy your opponents.

Review Basis: I purchased the Special Edition at launch, and played through Birthright. To give myself an extra challenge I played on Normal, and on Classic. This means if a character dies, they’re dead for good, which has been a staple of the series since day one.

I’m a longtime fan of the Fire Emblem series, having started with the series back in 1990 when the original game hit the Famicom and all the way through to this very day. I always enjoyed the chess-like gameplay a strategy or tactical RPG has to offer. Fire Emblem Fates is especially special in that there are actually three different versions of the game out there, Conquest, Revelation, and Birthright. Today we’re going to be talking about Birthright, which is actually the easiest of the three games. So let’s jump in and see what makes this game tick.

FE2The Great:

I’m sure I will say the same thing for the other parts, but Fire Emblem Fates: Birthright is an incredible game to play. The gameplay is absolutely spot-on. You move your units across a grid-battlefield in order to successfully complete objectives. Each chapter has a specific objective, but unfortunately Birthright stumbles in this category, which I’ll discuss later on. The gameplay is where it’s at though. The legendary weapon triangle has returned although it’s slightly changed now. Swords and Magic have an advantage over Axes and Bows. Axes and Bows have an advantage over Lances and Hidden Weapons. Lances and Hidden Weapons have an advantage over Swords and Magic. To make things ultra-simple the triangle is also color-based, red has the advantage over green, green over blue, and blue over red.

As you level your units up, not only do they become more powerful, but they also learn skills such as counter attack. Each unit can hold a maximum of six skills. It’s also possible to change classes, of which there are many, if you happen to locate a specific class-changing item. Classes can also be advanced to a stronger class, for example a ninja can become a master ninja, and so on. The support system, first introduced in Fire Emblem: Binding Blade, which was unfortunately never released outside Japan, and is on the Game Boy Advance. Character build bonds based on whether they fight side-by-side with one another. Characters that form strong support for one another can use special items in order to change classes that reflect this bond. That’s nothing to mention the stronger characters support one another, the better they fight alongside each other. Then there’s the weapon system, which can change a very weak character into a powerhouse if they increase their weapon rank from E to S. There’s so much depth here it’s just incredible.

FE1The Good:

  • I really enjoyed the storyline in Birthright, and I can’t wait to jump back into the other two game and see all the differences. You play as Corrin, either a male or female, who lives in Nohr with her loving family. Her father, an absolute monster of a man, is hell-bent on the destruction of Hoshido, the neighboring kingdom. I really don’t want to spoil any of the storyline, but needless to say things are not as they appear, and after the sixth chapter the player has to make a very important choice, and this is ultimately what separates the three different versions of Fire Emblem Fates. Players have to decide if they stay with their family in Nohr, defend Hoshido, or decide to veer off on their own. If you purchase Birthright on its own, your choice is made for you, you will defend Hoshido, if you purchase Conquest, you’ll side with Nohr, and if you purchased the Special Edition and play Revelation, you will decide to stand on your own. Revelation is available as a downloadable game from the Nintendo eShop for those who weren’t lucky enough to snag the Special Edition. Whichever game you decide to pick, the story unfolds based on the choice you made during this pivotal moment.
  • The 3DS, much like the DS before it, is perfectly well suited for this genre. The bottom screen displays your projected battle outcomes and percentages of achieving a critical strike, as well as displaying the map and the location of all the units.

  • Units selection is fantastic allowing you to select between archer, cavalier, knight, paladin, ninja, monk, and countless others. Selecting which units to bring with you into battle is the key element in Fire Emblem because you have to balance all of the different gameplay elements I mentioned above. Do you bring in your most powerful units all the time, and let the others stay at a low level? Doing so could put you at a serious disadvantage later on when specific classes have advantages over your mighty few. Thankfully Birthright eases players into things by allowing them to scout for challenges, which essentially allows you to grind levels. It’s entirely possible to max out each unit to level 20, then use a Master Seal to promote said unit to their advanced class, think cavalier to knight, and then level that class to 20 and get another seal to boost it to 25. If you take the time to do this for each of your units you will be virtually unstoppable.

  • Outside combat you’ll spend a lot of your time customizing your castle. Not only will you decide where to play your armory, jail, and all manner of other buildings, but this is where you’ll develop bonds with the different characters. Eventually you can even marry and have children, which causes new events to take place throughout the game. While in your castle hub you can purchase accessories for all of your troops which gives them stat buffs, and you can even fortify your castle with powerful armaments. You can even purchase permanent stat boosts by making statues of each specific unit. All around there’s a wealth of things you can do while not in combat.

  • A great start for newcomers. There are three core difficulty settings you can choose from, Normal, Hard, and Lunatic, and these control the strength of the enemies you face. Then there’s the whole permadeath subject, which is what most people dislike about Fire Emblem as a whole. On classic, it’s enabled, meaning if a unit dies, they’re gone for the duration of the game. Casual brings fallen units back once the chapter is complete, and finally Phoenix mode brings them back after their next turn. This is by far the most forgiving mode to play the game on, but if you’re seriously stuck, by all means go ahead and give it a try in Phoenix mode.

  • DLC isn’t mandatory for any of the Fire Emblem Fates games, but it’s certainly worth it. Not only do you get to play through some great maps, have a chance to level some of your characters, but you also get access to some extremely rare weapons, which can make certain units almost god-like in power. There’s a mixture of free and paid DLC for those interested and it’s accessible through the standard ‘next battle’ menu upon leaving the castle.

The So-So:

+/- I didn’t find the intimate moments all that special, and to be honest they come across as cheesy more often than not. You’re supposed to use the microphone to blow away steam from another character’s face, or caress your lover’s face so they wake up, things like that. It just comes across as bizarre to me. Most of these scenes were censored compared to what you were able to do in the Japanese version.

+/- The dialogue can also be a bit cheesy. While the story itself is great, and there are moments where you will truly feel sorry for what happens, often times the dialogue gets in the way of some of the more romantic moments.

+/- While I love the story, I can’t help but notice there are plot holes absolutely everywhere, which I can’t go into detail about for fear of spoiling the game.

The Bad:

  • While I understand Birthright was designed for people just getting into the Fire Emblem series, I find it can leave a bad taste in your mouth because the mission variety just isn’t there. This entire game is essentially broken up into two segments, destroy all the enemies, and defeat the boss. There might be one or two extra objective types but in the 27 missions, virtually every single one was one of these two types and that ultimately gets repetitive.   I’m sure new players would have appreciated more diverse objectives.

FE3The Lowdown:

Fire Emblem was one of the pioneers of the strategy RPG genre, and it’s incredible that after 26 years the series is better than ever before. Fire Emblem Fates: Birthright is a great entry point for anyone looking to see what all the fuss is about, and for longtime veterans, it’s a great story to experience before you jump into the harder games. Having three games to play in this wonderful installment is a delight, and I can’t recommend the game enough. It’s worth buying a 3DS for it’s that good.

Final Score: 9.3/10

Final Fantasy Explorers Review

FFE Final Fantasy Explorers (Available exclusively on the Nintendo 3DS)
ESRB Rating: E10+
Number of Players: 1 to 4
Genre: Action
Publisher: Square-Enix
Developer: Racjin & Square-Enix

Parent Talk: The ESRB rates Final Fantasy Explorers E10+, for everyone over 10 years of age. The content warning includes alcohol references, fantasy violence, and mild suggestive themes. Honestly I wouldn’t worry about the content whatsoever. If someone can understand the class system, and how quests work, they should be able to enjoy everything this game has to offer. There is a lot of information this game throws at you, and children younger than ten may find it hard to come to terms with everything.

Plays Like: Imagine if you took the gameplay from the Monster Hunter series and infused it with Final Fantasy fan-service, and that’s what Final Fantasy Explorers is. You take on quests from a central hub, head out into the wild and hunt down a wide variety of classic Final Fantasy enemies, summons, and more. You can even purchase skins so that your avatar looks like key characters from the series such as Cloud, Squall, and others.

Review Basis: I played up to twenty hours before I had experienced everything this game has to offer. While the core game remains unfinished, I’m at the point where I feel comfortable awarding the game a score.

If you’re a huge fan of the Monster Hunter series, but absolutely love Final Fantasy, this may very well be your dream come true. While it would be unfair to say this is just a simple Monster Hunter clone, it’s close enough. What separates the two is that this game is clearly aimed at the hardcore Final Fantasy fan, the one who wears FF PJs, has played through all 13 of the core games and can tell you exactly how to acquire a Golden Chocobo in Final Fantasy VII. We’re talking about the rabid fans. I’ve only played a few games in my life that have had this much fan-service, so if you love this universe, this may very well be the game for you.

FFE1The Great:

Hands-down the best aspect of Final Fantasy Explorers is the fan service. You can purchase armor that will make you look like Cloud, Squall, Lightning, and countless other characters from the Final Fantasy universe. You can trap classic summoning creatures and use their abilities in combat, and all of the enemies and monsters you fight are based on existing creatures from the popular series. There are surprises everywhere here from items and weapons you can acquire, to surprise characters you will meet on your journey. If you have ever enjoyed a Final Fantasy game before, and you like the gameplay from the Monster Hunter series, you’re going to love this game.

FFE2The Good:

  • The core gameplay is quite solid. The concept is extremely simple, you accept quests from a central hub area, head out into the wild and complete the quest. Simple enough, no? Quests include taking down powerful summoning creatures like Shiva, Ifrit, Odin, and more, all the way to locating key items, or taking out a group of enemies.
  • Job classes are deep, varied, and rich. New classes unlock as you progress through the main storyline, but can only be switched out in the main hub. This isn’t a bad thing per say, but you’ll have to keep it in mind as you progress. Every class has access to different weapons armor sets, but it’s their unique abilities that really separate them from one another. Some classes will level up to the point where they can perform incredible magical attacks, whereas others focus on physical strength. Weapons are also highly dependent on specific classes. Several classes may be able to use swords, for example, but depending on the class your abilities with this weapon vary greatly.

  • The breakdown in classes works something like an MMO, where you have a tank or defensive character, damage dealers, and support classes like mages. You can switch to new classes without penalty, which encourages you to try new ones until you find a set of skills you really like playing with. Thankfully you can save presets so you can switch back and forth with ease. The best news of all is that you don’t start back at level 1 once you switch to a new class, meaning there’s very little reason not to try out multiple classes.

  • While there are a wide variety of abilities, you can only use eight of them at any given time, with four of them being mapped to the face button while holding down the L button and the other four mapped to the same face buttons while holding down the R button. Each ability eats up Action Points, which are represented by a yellow meter. These points are also used for running, which is important as you’ll be running a lot while in battle with larger creatures. In order to replenish Action Points you either have to manually attack an enemy, or wait for the meter to refill. There are also special abilities that you can use periodically which directly impact your future abilities as these abilities are mutations of your core abilities. That’s a mouthful to say that if you use a generic ice attack, eventually you may unlock a special ability where your ice spell adds an additional factor such as potentially a decrease in magic defense. These abilities can then be purchased for Crystal Points, which are one of the two currencies in the game.

  • The party system can be extremely overpowering, but it remains fun. You can have up to three partner monster characters join your party if you happen to locate their amalith, which is to say their spirit. These somewhat rare drops only occur once and a while, and you can use these amaliths to revive fallen monsters and have them join your party. The thing is that they can become insanely powerful after you level them up high enough. In the later portions of the game it’s not uncommon to have your monster partners be significantly stronger than you.

  • The absolute best way to experience Final Fantasy Explorers is with a friend, or three friends to be precise. There is something to be said about screaming at your buddies to help protect you. That’s something else that’s important to mention, each player should take on a specific class, so one or two can be damage dealers, one a tank, and one a healer. When you play online it’s often very difficult to set roles or get people to actually follow each other. The other little caveat is that you can only participate in quests completed by the weakest member. In other words if your party has four players, but one player hasn’t progressed very far, you have to start on those extremely low quests.

The So-So:

+/- The narrative is alright, but nowhere near as deep as something you would find in say a core Final Fantasy RPG. The focus here is on the Grand Crystal and how it powers civilization. Your mission is to establish new pathways to this crystal and ensure civilization can carry on. Like I said, the focus here isn’t on storytelling, but more on getting you out in the wild and hunting down new creatures.

FFE3The Bad:

  • Within a few hours of playing you will have experienced everything the game has to offer in terms of quests. While the difficulty increases over time from one star to ten star ranking, the core quests are always the same. Go hunt down creature X, or collect a certain number of item Y. It all gets extremely repetitive very, very quickly.
  • Forging new equipment often requires you to farm key items that only drop from specific enemies, or are quest rewards meaning you could have to repeat the exact same quest ten times in a row in order to make that fancy new piece of gear you’ve been eyeing.

  • All quests and sub-quests you pick up are tied to the currencies, both Crystal Points and Gil. If you don’t have enough of one type, you can’t take on the quest. This can become quite annoying in the early portions of the game since Gil can be a bit hard to come by at first.

  • The Lowdown:

    Final Fantasy Explorers is an extremely fun game to play for die-hard fans of the Monster Hunter series, or those that eat up everything Final Fantasy related. The problem is that the game is extremely repetitive, and if you’re not into grind-based game, chances are you’ll tire of this one very quickly. The absolute best way to enjoy the game is with a group of friends with each taking on a key role and just having a blast together. These days though it may prove difficult to find four people with the game, which is where online play should have saved the game, but given the somewhat basic feature-set, that’s not really what happens.

    Final Score: 7/10

    Lord of Magna: Maiden Heaven Review

    510932_frontLord of Magna: Maiden Heaven (Available exclusively on 3DS)
    ESRB Rating: T
    Number of Players: 1
    Genre: Role Playing
    Publisher: XSeed
    Developer: Marvelous
    Release Date: June 2nd, 2015

    Hey everyone! My name is Cranberry; here with a guest review! Well, let’s get right to it!

    Lord of Magna ReviewParent Talk: The Entertainment Software Rating Board has rated this game T for Teen, citing the following: Fantasy Violence, Mild Language, Partial Nudity, & Suggestive Themes. While it’s not excessive, there is some blatant “fan-service” in this game that involves some up-skirt pictures and some unnecessarily skimpy outfits. They aren’t kidding about the suggestive dialogue either; it definitely gets pretty suggestive at times. Of particular note, there is an animated bathing scene that you probably would not want to get caught watching at work.

    The battles are not bloody or gory and are pretty tame, although some cut scenes imply some pretty harsh violence at times.

    The teen rating seems to be appropriate for this one; I wouldn’t recommend this one for young children.

    Plays Like:  This game plays like a cross between a turn based RPG, a strategy game, and a visual novel. The main emphasis of the game is definitely the plot and the interactions between the characters. It features a lot of cut scenes and dialogue reading, much of it voice acted.

    Combat plays a part as well, and is played out in a strategic turn-based system. You field a party of up to four characters, each with different attributes and attack ranges. Combat takes place on a large field where you can see all of the enemy units. Both you and the enemies take turns moving and attacking, however the field is not a grid. Each character has a circle that appears around them, showing their move range for that turn. You can move freely anywhere within this circle provided there isn’t anything to block your path. When you’re ready to attack, you’ll see a red space that designates the area you can hit.

    Lord of Magna1Lord of Magna also features an experience point leveling system as well as a crafting system, which adds some RPG elements into its strategy styled combat system.

    The Good:

    • The presentation  is quite beautiful. The graphics have a cartoonish feel to them, which is pretty normal for a 3DS game, but they get the job done wonderfully. The 3D effects are not mind blowing, but they supplement the setting well without feeling too “busy” or disorienting. The characters are likable and full of personality. The story is also pretty well written and engaging. You take the role of an inn keeper, whom you can choose a name for. He runs an inn on the outskirts of town, and is patiently awaiting the day when his inn at long last receives a guest. The guests soon arrive in the form of characters that will join your party; seven in all over the course of the game. There is a reason this game is called “Maiden Heaven”, every playable character except for the main character is female. But each girl has a distinct personality and it is quite enjoyable to watch their stories unfold and see their character development over the course of the tale. These cut scenes are sometimes supplemented by some lovely artwork too.

    Lord of Magna2+ There are also “heart events” you can access, which are essentially quests that dwell deeper into an individual girl and reveal more about her. There are 21 such heart events, and it will take several play-throughs to see them all; which fleshes out the story further and gives the game some replay value too.

    • The music is top-notch. The songs fit the context well and are pleasant to listen to. I received the original soundtrack with my purchase, and I frequently pop the CD in and listen to it. I really enjoy the music.
    • I also enjoy the combat system in this game. Each character has different roles they can contribute in a battle, and you need to think about how they can complement one another on the battle field. Some characters hit for a wide area in front of them, others hit an area at a distance, some hit an enemy multiple times, and others specialize in support skills. There are a lot of possibilities even before the battle begins. Once in combat, the strategy-game like field system allows for a lot of tactics that just wouldn’t work in a traditional turn-based RPG. You gain an action point each turn, and you spend this action point to perform your chosen action. There’s also an interesting “bowling” mechanic in battle, where enemies you hit can knock down and take out other enemies. If you manage to take down ten or more enemies with one attack, you get a free turn. It’s quite an interesting and creative mechanic.
    • If you choose not to take an action, you’ll keep your action point and when your next turn comes, you’ll have two action points. This allows you to save up points for special skills. This makes combat more complex and engaging than simple “hurt and heal”. You need to carefully consider how best to place your characters, and what action is best for the situation at hand. Do you send one character ahead as a decoy to try and form an opening for the rest of your party to slip through? Do you try and surround the enemy to limit their attack options? Do you fall back and regroup? All of these and more are decisions you’ll be making in battle, which makes for a very engaging battle system.
    • There’s also an elemental “Rock, Paper, Scissors” style vulnerabilities system that is similar to the typing system used in Pokémon. This further adds to the strategic combat decisions you make in battle.
    • An enjoyable story and an engaging well-designed battle system make for quite a good presentation.

    The So-So:

    +/- The story is both it’s strength and it’s weakness. While the story is engaging, it’s also very drawn out and you’re frequently watching long scenes in which you do nothing but hit the A button to advance through pages upon pages of text. This can be pretty frustrating if you are itching to get to the action, or if you don’t particularly care about the conversation the characters are having at the time. This is especially noticeable at the very start of the game where you read a huge amount of dialogue before you even gain access to your character. While there is a fast-forward feature, it doesn’t actually skip the cut scenes, but rather speeds through them much more quickly. Doing this does help speed things up, but there’s no “rewind” feature so if you accidentally skip ahead too far, you can’t go back to read what you missed.

    The massive amounts of dialogue and the frequent lengthy cut-scenes often make this feel more like reading a book than playing a game; which can be a big put-off for a lot of people. Simply put, playing this game is going to involve reading a LOT of text.

    Lord of Magna3+/- There is a crafting system, and while it adds some interesting customization options by allowing you to create skills for the characters, there’s little else you can make other than skills. There is also very little in-game clues as to what you can craft. You can at least see what the item your chosen ingredients will create before you make it, but there are no recipe books or listings of what can be made. No clues or hints from other characters as to what you should make. Unless you look up a guide online, it’s entirely trial and error based. The game really needs a recipe list.

    +/- Sadly there’s no equipment to put on your characters. No new weapons, no new armor, no special accessories. Just skills, although some of the skills are passive skills that give you stat bonuses or special attributes, which is similar to what accessory-like items do in many other RPGs. But it still feels like a real missed opportunity to not include equip-able items in the game.

    +/- There are a number of free missions, which allow you to field a team into battle in a variety of settings that you’ll unlock as you go through the story. These missions have some interesting flavor text, but that’s all it ends up being. It’s nothing but a battle against enemies that serves as a grinding or item farming opportunity. The good thing is that these free battles allow you to immediately enter a battle without having to wade through a mountain of text, but it’s disappointing for the missions to be given such interesting descriptions only to have nothing special happen in any of them.

    The Bad:

    As was already mentioned, the lengthy cut scenes can be pretty jarring, which depending on your tastes can be a real negative. But perhaps the biggest negative is the complete lack of exploration this game allows.

    • Except for a camp-site that you get to very briefly walk around in, the Inn is the only area you get to explore. Every other area, the only interaction you get with the environment is through battle. No exploring the territory, no searching for treasure, no searching for hidden secrets, no chatting with NPCs in town. There is a town in this game, and your visits to it are entirely scripted. For an RPG title, this is a glaring flaw. Nothing is more frustrating than setting foot on these beautiful maps, and not being able to explore them.
    • 99% of the battles mandate that you have the main character in them, even in free battles. This unnecessarily restricts your party selection, and can be frustrating when you start getting more characters available and want to experiment with a variety of character combinations. In a game that is already quite linear with no exploration, the last thing you want is even more limitations.

    The Lowdown:

    This is almost a love it or hate it game. The story is an engaging tale full of mystery, drama, and suspense.

    Lord of Magna4There’s a fair amount of customization you can do with the character’s skills, and the combat system is magnificent but, the frequent extremely lengthy cut scenes, the lack of exploration, and the lack of equip-able items are pretty significant flaws that are quite noticeable and glaring during play.

    If you’re looking for an engaging tale full of lovable characters, I recommend this game wholeheartedly. But if you’re looking for action and adventure, or your traditional RPG experience, this game won’t satisfy you.

    That’s why my final rating for this game is a 7/10.

    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

    Shovel Knight Review

    Shovel Knight ReviewShovel Knight (Available on 3DS, PC, and Wii U)
    ESRB Rating: E
    Number of Players: 1
    Genre: Action Platformer
    Publisher: Yacht Club Games
    Developer: Yacht Club Games
    Release Date: June 26th, 2014

    Parent Talk: Shovel Knight has been rated E for everyone by the ESRB, and features mild fantasy violence. This has all the makings of a fantastic NES classic, meaning even your youngest children can play the game without fear of any damaging material. It’s hardcore platforming action at its best.

    Plays Like: Imagine if Mega Man, Super Mario Bros. 3, and DuckTales had an NES offspring, and you’ve got yourself Shovel Knight. It borrows gameplay elements from all three of those classic titles, and yet still brings enough new and fresh ideas to the tables to keep things very, very interesting. It’s a must-play game.

    Review Basis: I finished the PC version of the game in one sitting. Afterwards, I grabbed some food, and went right back to playing. I haven’t started the New Game+ mode yet, but oh yes, I sure will.

    Here’s an interesting story for you. I told Steven, one of the other COE nutcases, about a new game I just discovered that was absolutely incredible, Astebreed for those that don’t know. He took a guess and said Shovel Knight, to which I replied ‘WTF is Shovel Knight’. After some swearing, belittling, and other obscenities, he said it was a new action platforming game that would be right up my alley. A quick Google search later and I realized what Shovel Knight was. It was a Kickstarter game that got funded last April, I vividly recall their pitch video. Why I never gave them money is beyond me, because it turns out not only is this my style of game, but it too has jumped into my top five games of 2014 thus far. If you enjoy the retro scene, or are just looking for a kick ass game, go download Shovel Knight right now.

    SK2The Great:

    Everything old is new again. Let’s face facts, the retro scene is on fire right now. Not only are countless indie developers releasing games that reminisce about the classic NES days, but the original carts themselves have exploded in value over the past five years. Just take a quick look at eBay and you’ll see that even SNES games are crazy expensive. I mean $50 for a loose cart of Super Metroid?!?! For real!

    Enter Shovel Knight. Shovel Knight was developed by a start-up indie developer called Yacht Club Games, and after this masterpiece they’re not going to be an unknown company for long. Shovel Knight successfully combined level design and boss elements from Mega Man, the awesome pogo gameplay from DuckTales, the overworld from Super Mario Bros. 3, and towns from Zelda II: The Adventure of Link. It’s not just a combination of these elements that make Shovel Knight so great, it’s the fact that Yacht Club Games simply took inspiration from these classics, but developed their own unique style, flair, and game world. Everything about Shovel Knight screams classic NES, yet at the same time it feels fresh enough to stand on its own, and that’s what makes it such a wonderful experience.

    SK1The Good:

    + A platformer with a story. The setup is simple, Shovel Knight and his partner in crime Shield Knight are separated, an evil Enchantress has restored a powerful tower, and there are eight robot masters…I mean eight henchmen that must be stopped in order to restore peace to the land.

    + Each of the eight Order of No Quarter feels like they were ripped directly from a Mega Man game. You have your underwater Treasure Knight, there’s the ice world boss Polar Knight, and more. I loved the throwback to Mega Man, and the fact that each boss and stage is so completely unique compared to the last only makes things that much better.

    + Boss fights aren’t scripted, which means while a certain boss might have access to five moves, how they attack you changes every time you fight them. I really enjoyed that as simple pattern recognition isn’t enough.

    + I already mentioned the overworld map system is taken directly from Super Mario Bros. 3, but I love how they’ve adapted it to fit this unique world. While Shovel Knight moves from one area to the next, occasionally minor boss fights will pop up, there will be gem areas that you can only traverse with a special power-up, and much, much more.

    + Core gameplay is simple, but completely spot-on. You can jump, attack, or perform a downward thrust with your shovel. Along the way you can gain access to secondary attacks which use little jars of magic. Think of it like the heart system from the vintage Castlevania games. You can eventually find relics that allow you to punch through rocks, shoot flames, and more.

    + Weapon and armor upgrades are more than just for show. You can purchase upgrades that allow you to activate a powerful swipe attack after two successful bounces off enemies or blocks, you can get a charge shot like Mega Man would use, or even a beam attack like the vintage Zelda games.

    + You earn gems and diamonds from digging up treasure, defeating enemies, and virtually everything else you can imagine. The more loot you have, the more you can upgrade your health, your magic container number, and more. Die though, and a portion of your loot appears in three flying bags. Taken from Diablo, the only way to get your stolen loot is to head back to where you died and collect it yourself.

    + New Game+ If you’re looking for a challenge, this is certainly the mode you’re going to want to play through. Finish the game, which take under six hours unless you want to explore everything. Once done you can restart the game with all your previous equipment, but prepare to get your ass handed to you.

    + Level design, character design, and the overall graphics are fantastic. The game looks as if it were ripped from the NES, and given the HD treatment. Not since Mega Man 9 and 10 has a retro game looked so good. The sound design is exactly the same, it sounds perfectly unique featuring catchy tunes, and great sound effects. Both come together perfectly to establish Shovel Knight as Yacht Club Games’ mascot moving forward. They’re going to have their work cut out for them to top this.

    SK3The So-So:

    +/- Perhaps the only negative thing I can say about Shovel Knight is that some of its replay factor just isn’t there. The levels are 100% linear, even though they do feature some hidden paths here and there. The design isn’t enough to warrant multiple play-throughs. Once you’ve completed the main story and New Game+ I’m not convinced you’ll want to return every year, but proof is in the pudding so only time will tell. All the NES classics that this game borrows gameplay elements from could easily be replayed over and over, and over again and if Shovel Knight is able to do the same then it will have earned its place in gaming history.

    SK4The Lowdown:

    Shovel Knight is the best Kickstarter released game I’ve played to date. Yes, I even enjoyed it more than Broken Age. There’s just something about these throwback games I love. Shovel Knight takes the best of what made the original classics so much fun to play, and spices things up just enough to make it feel unique. If you own a Wii U, 3DS, or a somewhat capable PC, I wholeheartedly recommend you purchase Shovel Knight. It’s retro gaming at its absolute finest.

    Final Score: 9.5/10

    Mario Party: Island Tour Review

    Mario Party Island TourMario Party: Island Tour (Available exclusively on Nintendo 3DS)
    ESRB Rating: E
    Number of Players: 1 to 4
    Genre: Party
    Publisher: Nintendo
    Developer: Nd Cube
    Release Date: November 22nd, 2013

    Mario Party has been around since the early Nintendo 64 days. It’s a series known for its wackiness and great multiplayer, however this 3DS installment fails to recognize what makes the franchise so much fun. As such, this one should be left for only the most hardcore Mario Party addicts.

    The Great:

    Visually, the game looks beautiful with tons of bright, vibrant, and flashy colors, and all your favorite characters well illustrated. The mini-games are also a blast to play and use all of the 3DS’ functions perfectly.

    The Good:

    + Bowser’s Tower is a unique twist to the series, challenging you to tackle mini-game after mini-game in order to reach the top of the dungeon. This is probably the mode you’ll spend the bulk of your time with.

    + Plenty of different maps for you to try on as well as unlockable characters and goodies to keep you playing.

    + Most sessions are set up so they can be completed in five, ten, or fifteen minutes, making them perfect for portable play.

    Mario Party Island Tour3The Bad:

    – Removing online play is a gutless and lazy move. Knowing that the name itself would easily sell the game and make Nintendo a reasonable profit, no investment whatsoever was made to keep this game true to its roots. Nobody plays Mario Party alone, it’s just boring to duke it out with computer controlled bots. You can play locally, but that requires multiple systems and that’s only going to be a practical option to a few. Adding an online mode would have cost more, but would have warranted this game’s existence because the core gameplay still works. I can see the problem that some players would eventually quit instead of finishing a game, but they could easily be replaced by an AI character when and if this scenario occurs. The rest of the game could then be completed. It’s baffling to see Nintendo pull this crap off left and right. I know some will say it’s beating a dead horse, but I don’t think we should stop pointing it out.

    – I’m not a big fan of the new race mechanic. Instead of playing for a set number of turns and trying to earn as many stars as possible, every map is now a race to the finish. This makes the experience feel like you’re not getting the full Mario Party experience.

    Mario Party Island Tour4The Lowdown:

    No online play means no recommendation from me. This is only for the hardcore fans and even then, it won’t stay long in your 3DS.

    Final Score: 5.0/10

    The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds Review

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

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

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

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

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

    ALBW7The Great:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    ALBW2The Lowdown:

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

    Final Score: 10/10

    Power Rangers MegaForce Review

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

    Review Basis: Completed the game on normal.

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

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

    Power Rangers MegaForce1The Great:

    The theme song is just that good!

    The Good:

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

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

    Power Rangers MegaForce2The Bad:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Power Rangers MegaForce3The Lowdown:

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

    Final Score: 2.5/10

    Phoenix Wright Dual Destinies Review

    Phoenix-Wright-Ace-Attorney-Dual-Destinies-logo

    Phoenix Wright Dual Destinies (Available exclusively on Nintendo 3DS eShop)
    ESRB Rating: M
    Number of Players: 1
    Genre: Adventure/Visual Novel
    Publisher: Capcom
    Developer: Capcom
    Release Date: October 24th, 2013

    Parent Talk: Phoenix Wright is rated M for Mature because of mature themes—it’s a murder mystery, after all. There are some scenes of killing and splattering of blood, but the level of violence in this game is significantly different than something like Grand Theft Auto or Saints Row. The rating is deceptive, because if anything, the dialog and scenario are actually appropriate for younger audiences, and the game could have easily gotten away with a T rating.

    Phoenix Wright Athena

    Plays Like: The previous games in the Phoenix Wright series; that is, a point-and-click style adventure game or visual novel. Most of the game consists of reading. You read story scenes, watch cutscenes, analyze witness testimony, and then find contradictions by presenting the appropriate evidence at the right time.

    Review Basis: Completed all cases.

    Phoenix Wright games are basically “visual novels.” It’s a nebulous genre term at best, so if you’re not familiar with it, here’s what you’re in for: you read witness testimony and present evidence when you read something that you think is contradictory. Most of the game is reading. There is a lot of story text and dialog. You are able to move around and collect evidence in certain scenes, much akin to a point-and-click style adventure game, but you don’t really change the flow of the story nor do different scenarios. Yet, the series is loved by many because of its tightly-wounded narratives, memorable characters, and great music. It’s basically a courtroom drama and murder mystery.

    The Great: A dramatic story. Phoenix Wright is all about the dramatic turnabouts. Heck, the original Japanese title for the series is “Turnabout Courtroom” (Gyakuten Saiban 逆転裁判). This game exemplifies that spirit perfectly. All of the games in the series have jaw-dropping moments of ridiculous drama and the games have done an excellent job of straddling the line between comedy and tragedy. It’s arguably the most consistently good series that Capcom has created, or any company for that matter. Each game in the series stands well on its own, with tightly wound narratives that are incredibly fun to unravel. Dual Destinies has one of the most engaging stories of the series, weaving in nods to the past games and establishing new characters and plot threads in expert fashion. Newcomer Athena has a genuinely intriguing backstory and this game’s finale really brought me back to the original title’s landmark DL-6 case.  Do yourself a favor: do not read walkthroughs on how to solve the cases and do not spoil the last case for yourself. I almost dropped my 3DS in shock when I got to the end!

    Phoenix Wright Payne

    The Good:

    • Excellent characters, both old and new. Phoenix Wright is one of Capcom’s best characters, in my opinion. He’s eminently likable because of his awkward charms, so it’s great to see him back in full force (though to be fair, he was still a major presence in Apollo Justice). Speaking of Apollo, he also gets a major role in this game, making this feel like a true sequel, one that honors what the fourth game set out to do. Some past characters come back to make you feel nostalgic, and the new characters fit in quite well with the series cast. Simon Blackquill may remind many of prosecutors Von Karma or Godot from the original games, and Athena has quickly become a fan-favorite because of her excellent character design and well-written dialog. She’s a strong-headed young woman with a strong sense of justice. Even when the game comes off as cliché, it still manages to be sincere and genuine.
    • Perfect transition from 2D to 3D. Capturing Phoenix Wright in 3D is a tall order. The games are so well-known for the somewhat choppy sprite-based graphics of the original and it would be a shame to sacrifice the game’s visual flair. However, Capcom managed to capture the essence of Phoenix Wright’s look exceedingly well in this game. The characters are all spot on and the witness breakdowns are just as memorable as ever. It’s unfortunate that the iOS version of the games didn’t go this route, because it looks magnificent, and even better in 3D. The added depth works well in the visually busy courtroom.  I played through the entire game in 3D because I couldn’t get enough of looking at it.

    • An excellent soundtrack. Phoenix Wright games are typically known for the dramatic turnabouts, but what really makes those moments stand out is the music. When you start to go on the offensive and point out holes in the witness testimony, the game sets the stage perfectly with great songs. My personal favorite tracks are this game’s version of “Announcing the Truth” and “Running Wild ~ Mood Matrix.”

    • The Mood Matrix, Apollo’s super eyesight, and Phoenix’s Psyche Locks. During most of the game, you have to present the correct evidence at the right time to point out holes in witness testimony—that much is a given. But the series also has other gimmicks that make things interesting, and this game incorporates a lot of them. Phoenix has his magatama, a mystical item given to him by the Fey family, which allows him to see the “locks” around a person’s heart. In short, he can know when someone is keeping a secret. Apollo, on the other hand, has a bracelet on his wrist that reacts when someone lies. Then, using his hyper-sensitive eyesight, he can spot the small twitches and quirks that witnesses have when they lie. Athena uses a device and her knowledge of Analytical Psychology to basically walk the witness through their testimony, identifying how they are feeling and calming them down enough to divulge more details. It makes the courtroom scenes more interesting and fun. The Mood Matrix system starts simply, but becomes more interesting in later cases when you have more challenging witnesses.

    Phoenix Wright Jumiper

    The So/So:

    +/-It’s a linear game. This is complaint that I always see plastered on Phoenix Wright reviews, so I debated on pointing it out at all, but figured that I may as well. It’s somewhat pointless to complain about this in a visual novel type game, especially because the entire premise is to go through the story. To me, it’s like complaining that a book is linear. It simply comes with the territory. Nevertheless, if you don’t like a game that you can’t change the direction of, this may not be for you. Phoenix Wright isn’t about diverging plotlines or multiple scenarios; nor is it a game that you really play through multiple times in a row. Most of the enjoyment comes from seeing plot revelations unfold for the first time and figuring things out on your own.

    The Bad:

    -Not much use of the touch screen or other features, aside from menus. In the bonus case of Phoenix Wright Ace Attorney, you got to use various forensic tools with Emma Skye (and later in Apollo Justice). It was a neat way of exploiting some of the DS’s touch features, so I was hoping that we would see more of that in Dual Destinies. While the menus and interface has been significantly improved, there isn’t much forensic analysis in this game. You do have to “select” the right areas for certain pieces of evidence, but I do miss checking for fingerprints, testing for blood, etc. This is a minor nitpick at best though.

    -Only minor cameos from certain characters and others don’t make an appearance. I wanted to see more of the cast! Where’s Franziska von Karma?!

    -If you’re not a longtime fan, you won’t get as much out of the story. It’s still easy to play and enjoy, but there are many subtle nods to the previous games. There aren’t any strongly overt ties to the past games, so you can still jump in to this knowing simply that Phoenix and Apollo know each other from long ago and both are defense lawyers they have been fighting the xarelto lawsuits. You don’t need to know about how Phoenix defended his rival Miles Edgeworth in a landmark case in the first game, but it does help you understand the significance when he arrives in this game. It helps you understand why he’s indebted to Phoenix. The narrative weaves in a lot of references to the previous games and that significantly increases your enjoyment.

    The Lowdown:

    Dual Destinies is not to be missed. It’s an excellent game through-and-through and continues the series tradition quite admirably. It reaffirms my belief that Phoenix Wright is Capcom’s most consistently great series, because each game can stand on its own as an excellent adventure. If you absolutely cannot stand reading in games and you don’t like a game that doesn’t offer replay value, it may not be for you, but if you’re interested in playing something different from the mainstream and something with a great story, you should definitely get this. And parents, don’t let the M-for-mature rating fool you; this game is easily appropriate for teens to play. Download this one whenever you can!

    Score: 9/10

    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

    Pokémon X & Y Review

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

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

    Poke X1The Great:

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

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

    Poke X5The Good:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Poke X4The So-So:

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

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

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

    Poke X3The Bad:

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

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

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

    Poke X2The Lowdown:

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

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

    Final Score: 9.6/10

    Zelda II: The Adventure of Link Review

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

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

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

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

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

    ZeldaII_1The Great:

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

    ZeldaII_2The Good:

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

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

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

    ZeldaII_3The So-So:

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

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

    The Bad:

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

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

    ZeldaII_4The Lowdown:

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

    Final Score: 8/10

    Animal Crossing: New Leaf Review

    AC New LeafAnimal Crossing: New Leaf (Available exclusively on Nintendo 3DS)
    ESRB Rating: E
    Number of Players: 1 to 4
    Genre: Simulation
    Publisher: Nintendo
    Developer: Nintendo
    Release Date: June 9th, 2013
    Download Size: 8,192 Blocks

    First released on the Nintendo 64 under the Animal Forest name, Animal Crossing started out on the GameCube in North America, and has seen one release on every Nintendo platform since. Does New Leaf has enough variety to warrant another purchase? Read on to find out.

    The Great:

    I always thought that Animal Crossing’s real time clock was the best feature of the series. Because of it, the game feels like your second life. Villagers will have different activities depending on the time of day. When it’s night, most will sleep while a few nocturnal personalities will carry on. Stores will open at various hours and close at different. Some even have night clerks. Even though there are way less activities to do at night, I always enjoyed playing AC after midnight just to see how everything goes. It’s also reassuring to know that even on nights when you can’t sleep, you can always turn on your 3DS and find some entertainment. Animal Crossing also has a variety of weekly activities and national holidays that make this second life feel even closer to home. Seasons also change, meaning there’s always something new to do in this virtual world. Its highly addictive gameplay means you could be playing this for months, if not years to come.

    AC New Leaf1

    The Good:

    + For the first time in the franchise, Tortimer is no longer active mayor, you are. This opens up many more possibilities. From building bridges and signs to organizing events, there’s always daily tasks awaiting you at the town hall.

    + Fishing is as addicting as ever! I can spend hours doing nothing but fishing. The game boosts more then 70 fish, some that can only be captured during certain months of the year, and at a certain times of the day. The satisfaction of catching a rare fish after trying for hours or even days is extraordinarily satisfying. The same can be said about bugs. These hobbies are also the quickest way to earn much needed money, which you can then use to improve your town or pay off your mortgage.

    + There has never been a greater variety of stores. The new retail shop is simply awesome. Think of it as a pawn shop, or a second hand store. The lady will always pay premium for your fish and whatnot, but she also lets you sell furniture there at whatever price you desire. Ask for too much money and your item will collect dust, but for the right price it will sell quickly. It’s also a great way to find rare pieces as the villagers will also try to sell their unwanted items here. There are also returning stores, plus many more that open up the longer you play.

    + Designing clothes is back and it’s still as fun as ever to wear your custom jerseys! I always rock a Habs jersey while Jarrod opts for something he really digs.

    + The multiplayer rocks! By giving you the opportunity to chat at anytime with designated friends, it makes setting up visits completely painless. You no longer need to text a friend or phone a relative in order to visit their village. If you see them online you can message them and join up. Visiting other people’s towns has always been a highlight, and it’s now easier than ever to do so. You can even play with random people at the tropical island, proving that Nintendo is going in the right direction with the franchise.

    + Speaking of the tropical island, it’s an absolute blast! Jarrod and I spent hours completing the various mini-games. Most are childish, but still prove addicting for some inexplicable reason. The harder bug catching ones feel like true co-op missions as you’re tasked with finding specific insects in a limited amount of time. The island itself has some exclusive fruits and lets you catch many rare fish all year long. It’s a fantastic way to kill some time, and earn some Bells.

    AC New Leaf2

    + Perfect portable game. Designed in essence for short sessions, this is a game you want to come back for every single day. It’s addicting as hell and once your done, simply select ‘Save and Quit,’ and resume with your life. You’ll want to bring this with you everywhere you go.

    AC New Leaf4

    The Bad:

    – The museum doesn’t accept donations while a friend is visiting and you can’t execute your mayor duties as well. Kind of a strange decision on Nintendo’s part.

    AC New Leaf3

    The Lowdown:

    Animal Crossing: New Leaf proves to be a superb addition to the series and a title every 3DS owner should try. It’s also the perfect family title, as your significant other can move in with you and also live in your town. It might look like a simple title, but don’t let that discourage you, there is so much to love here that you won’t be able to put the game down. This will be the first thing you do when you get up, and you’ll have trouble putting it down before heading to bed. I absolutely can’t say it enough, New Leaf is one of the best 3DS games out there. Buy it!

    Final Score: 9.7/10

    Original Review Date: June 6th, 2013

    The Legend of Zelda Review

    Legend of ZeldaThe Legend of Zelda (Available on Wii U, Wii, and 3DS)
    ESRB Rating: E
    Number of Players: 1
    Genre: Action RPG
    Publisher: Nintendo
    Developer: Nintendo
    Original Release Date: August 22nd, 1987
    Wii Virtual Console Release Date: November 19th, 2006
    3DS Virtual Console Release Date: July 5th, 2012
    Wii U Virtual Console Release Date: August 29th, 2013

    Parent Talk: The ESRB rates The Legend of Zelda E for everyone because of mild fantasy violence. I’m not sure how the ESRB can rate the game so low when it features one of the most grotesque scenes in any NES videogame ever. Don’t know what I’m talking about, finish the game and look at what happens to poor old Ganon. Truthfully though, children of all ages can easily pick up and enjoy even the most mature officially licensed NES games. Parents have nothing to fear here.

    Plays Like: At the time of its release it didn’t really play much like anything else out there. It was one of the first truly open videogames, allowing players to explore each and every square foot of Hyrule. By traversing the overworld and the various dungeons, players acquired new weapons and power-ups along the way. Eventually they would take the fight to Ganon and become the hero of legend, or something like that. For anyone looking to play through the game today, think of it as a much simpler version of A Link to the Past or any of the 2D Zelda games released after it.

    Review Basis: I’ve finished the game once or twice over the years, maybe a few more.

    The Legend of Zelda truly doesn’t need an introduction, nor a review for that matter. This game was so ground-breaking when it hit the NES that it single-handily established an entire genre. It remains one of the best selling NES games of all time, and the series has become one of Nintendo’s most successful to date. Instead of looking at the game through the eyes of someone who grew up playing it, let’s look at it from the perspective of a brand new gamer. How does the game hold up some twenty-six years after its original release?

    Umm...thanks...
    Umm…thanks…

    The Great:

    The sense of exploration is superb. From forests to a great mountain, The Legend of Zelda offers players unique environments to explore. Pre-NES games tried to give players the same sense of freedom, but failed due to technical limitations of the hardware they were released on. Here players didn’t have to imagine what the forest or river looked it, they could actually see it. Even today the graphics do a good job of highlighting key areas. You can easily tell where you are, and where you’re heading next. It’s because of this that you’ll want to keep exploring until you’ve seen everything Hyrule has to offer. That joyous sense of wonderment hasn’t aged a day.

    One well placed bomb and this guy is toast.
    One well placed bomb and this guy is toast.

    The Good:

    + Great variety of weapons, and items. Each new one you find unlocks just a little bit more of Hyrule. Be it the raft, or the ladder, every time you get something new, you start to wonder where you’ll be able to go next.

    + Dungeon map system is great. Not only can you see the direction of doors, but it’s also extremely useful to locate hidden rooms, or areas where you can bomb to make shot-cuts to other sections.

    + Combat is exceptional. Not only do you have a sword that throws a beam when you have full health, but you can mix and match sword fighting techniques with ranged attacks such as using the boomerang to stun enemies and then moving in for the kill with the sword, or a well placed bomb. Every weapon can be used against multiple enemies and that’s where the deepness of the combat system shines through.

    + Surprising amount of content. There are exactly eight main dungeon, plus one final hooray against Ganon up on Death Mountain. The game was so big it came with a battery to save your game. Thankfully the Wii U version goes one step further and allows you to use restore points for those frustratingly difficult parts.

    + Miiverse integration with the Wii U version is outstanding. Now I can finally show players the proper way to play this game. What do I mean, I’m talking about having six heart containers, the magic shield, the blue ring, blue candle, bombs, and arrows, all before even entering the first dungeon. Now that’s how you roll baby!

    Ah yes, I remember the first time I saw this.  Classic moment.
    Ah yes, I remember the first time I saw this. Classic moment.

    The So-So:

    +/- The map system on the overworld hasn’t aged so well. Sure it’s great being able to see a dot in a large black rectangle, but realistically it’s too rudimentary for today’s spoiled gamer. You might remember there was a heart piece somewhere to the right of the map, but without having a detailed map, getting there may prove much more difficult than you realize.

    +/- Link can only move in four directions, and because of that sword fighting feels far looser than it should. When you come face to face with a Darknut for example, it can be extremely difficult to attack and move a split second later. The bizarre thing is that the boomerang can be thrown in all eight directions, so clearly this was a design choice, not a technical limitation.

    +/- Secrets are not highlighted or otherwise hinted at. Sure there are some poor translations which will get you to the next dungeon, but I’m talking about secret heart containers, rupee stashes and things like that. These secret areas are truly secret. The only way to know where one is, is to spend hours upon hours bombing every wall, or burning every tree. As such, modern gamers will likely have no choice but to use a strategy guide in hopes of acquiring all the necessary power-ups in order to complete the game. Good news is the Wii U has a built-in web browser players can use.

    Really expensive, yes, but awesome just the same.
    Really expensive, yes, but awesome just the same.

    The Bad:

    – Translation is awful. You would have no clue Miyamoto-san actually had anything to do with this game if you were to look at his name in the credits. What does “Master using it, and you can have it” mean anyways? Oh it means you require a certain number of heart containers, oh…well why didn’t you just say that? Some dungeons require you to follow explicit instructions in order to find their entrance, good luck with that.

    The Ugly:

    The Legend of Zelda has some of the absolute worst boss battles in the series. Some of the dungeons can be brutally hard, and yet you get to the boss and he can be defeated with literally one bomb.

    It's around here where the game becomes rather challenging.
    It’s around here where the game becomes rather challenging.

    The Lowdown:

    Wow this game sounds awful doesn’t it? The truth of the matter is that while some aspects of the game haven’t aged so well, this is still a game that deserves to be played. Remember that I’m reviewing this not for its past accomplishments, but rather as a game that’s being played for the very first time by someone in 2013. Even the newest of new players will find a lot to enjoy in this classic. There’s just something magical about it that holds up over two decades years after its original release, and that really speaks volumes to just how forward thinking it was.

    Final Score: 8/10