Anyone who knows me should immediately think of me when hearing the title for this game. When I first saw the pre-order screen for this pop up on Play-Asia, that flew into my cart faster than the KKK flew to the polls on election day. Having played through all of the main missions and about half of the side missions I can safely say that this game is solidly and in every way "okay."
For a weeb-perv game, it's fantastic. And let's be honest - no one is going to buy a game called "School Girl/Zombie Hunter" expecting any depth of story or gameplay. Speaking of story, I have no fucking idea what was going on. The whole damn thing's in Japanese, and the extent of my Japanese is "Domo arigato, Mr. Roboto," and I don't even know what that means. From what I can gather, there's some king zombie that's opening portals...or something...through which other zombies are coming into this high school, and everyone except these five hella unlucky chicks got out, but they're trapped in the school. Fortunately the school focused on preparing Japan's youth for a second invasion of Manchuria once China and the United States go to war under President Trump because there are dozens and dozens of guns - including a rocket launcher - and an unending supply of bullets. So they've got ammo and weapons to defend themselves. They decide that they're gonna fuck shit up and save the world or whatever, so they start looking for these communication beacons linked to some kind of government zombie killing taskforce and try to hunt down the boss zombie. And their zombie doppelgängers. Not sure if it ever explains why there are zombie versions of the girls, but there are.
The gameplay is pretty standard from what I've come to expect from D3. It's the spiritual successor to the Onechanbara series, and that's very apparent - it plays exactly like Onechanbara but with guns instead of swords. The controls are a little stiff, and the aiming seems a bit random with regards to whether or not a lined up shot will hit, but for a campy mid-budget game designed from the bottom up to give you an excuse to kill zombies as a girl in her underwear, it does its job well. The graphics are similarly okay. They look fine, but they're not pushing the PS4 to its limits or anything. It is worth noting that, despite the Japanese-only language settings, I did see online someone had translated the menus. I managed to get through the game using Google's instant translation smartphone app, though. It's the kind of translation you'd see from a student who scraped out a D in a class by the skin of his teeth, but it gets the job done.
You've got a fair variety of zombies - regular zombies, cop with gun zombies, big fat guy with huge butcher knife zombies, big beefy guy with huge hammer zombies, creepy CatDog zombies, gravitationally confused ceiling zombies, explodey zombies, explodey poison zombies, rabid cantfuckingoutrunmebitch zombies, and a handful of boss zombies. In addition to your guns, you've got a melee attack in case they get all up in your grill, but it takes an enormous amount of your stamina bar. The missions mostly consist of find shit in the time limit, kill X number of zombies in the time limit, reach an arbitrary point in the time limit, or defend the thing for the time limit. Honestly, the time limits are the hardest part of the game save for a couple of tricky bosses.
You've got five girls, and each of them defaults to a different weapon, although you're permitted to pick any weapon you want. You've got pistols, assault rifles, submachine guns, shotguns, sniper rifles, and (eventually) a rocket launcher. Truthfully, though, the rocket launcher is useless; you can unlock significantly stronger shotguns and sniper rifles, and the rocket launcher has to be reloaded after each shot (obviously). It looks cool, and explosions are always awesome, but as a weapon - especially against bosses - it's just not worth it.
School Girl/Zombie Hunter really isn't a bad game. It's not a good game, per se, but it's definitely not a bad game. It is, however, every bit as shallow as it looks. If you want some T&A with some mindless zombie killing, then look no further (it's fun af if that's all you're looking for). If you want a good story, though, I wouldn't look here. I mean, I don't know Japanese, so I've got no clue if the story is any good or not, but if the Onechanbara games are anything to go off of, it's probably garbage. Gameplay and visuals don't stand out either, but both get the job done for the aforementioned zombie killing T&A. The game's okay. It's not amazing, but it's not bad.
My Rating - 3 Neps
Also available on Xbox One and Windows
This is the Resident Evil game for which fans have been waiting for over a decade. Not since Resident Evil 4 in 2005 has a Resident Evil game been this damn good, and not since Resident Evil: Code Veronica in 2000 has a Resident Evil game been this damn scary. Resident Evil: Revelations on 3DS came pretty close in terms of quality and fear IMO, but this is the reboot and revitalization that the series needed. It's also the vote of confidence that virtual reality technology needed.
The game is set in 2017 in a bayou in southern Louisiana. Generic protagonist Ethan Winters gets a cryptic message from his wife who's been missing for three years, so he travels to Cajun Country in search of his beloved Mia. When he finds her locked in a prison cell that HAS to violate some international treaty all Law and Order SVU style, shit starts to get weird (and I mean, seriously, how else could things get? Nothing gets normal when you start with an underground torture dungeon). You soon meet the Baker family, a lovely family of South Louisiana's unique flavor of redneck. Well, they're lovely except for the whole actually being hideous neigh-immortal monstrosities, but that's pretty standard stuff for Resident Evil, really.
What long-time fans of the series need to know upfront is that while this game DOES take place within the established Resident Evil universe and timeline, the only actual in-game connections are brief allusions - a newspaper clipping mentioning "the Raccoon City disaster," some redacted parts of documents implying connections to Las Plagas and the T-virus, etc. Honestly, though, I think that was the right move for the series. Resident Evil 7 is a reboot for the franchise, and it's one that I hope will take off and revitalize the series. They really NEEDED to have as blank a slate as possible to bring in new fans, but what they do to give those of us who've been big fans of the series for 10, 15, 20 years is perfectly adequate in my opinion. You're not going to have Barry saving Jill from becoming questionable deli products, and Leon isn't going to bust through the ceiling like a badass and make everybody hot and bothered, but Capcom does make sure that you know that you're playing a Resident Evil game. They just don't want to alienate potential new players who would have no idea who Leon Kennedy, Albert Wesker, or Chris Redfield are (and shame on them for not knowing!).
The gameplay itself is something else that might turn off hardcore Resident Evil fans. We, as a fandom, have become accustomed to a third person perspective. With the exception of the two Chronicles games on Wii and Survivor on PlayStation, that's how every Resident Evil title has been. That changes with Resident Evil 7. As you've probably gathered from my screenshots and the Beginning Hour teaser, this game takes place entirely in a first person perspective. I was skeptical of this at first. I'm a good ol' Southern boy; I don't like change, and I don't do well with it. This is a big change for Resident Evil. Fortunately, though, Capcom did an excellent job of making sure that the new gameplay style fits nicely with the established horror theme. This is not a first person Resident Evil 5 (which would basically be a "Call of Evil" dudebro shooter), but it's also not exactly Dead Space. There's a very slow, deliberate feel to the movement in this game. It doesn't feel sluggish or unresponsive by any means, but you won't be making any quick, agile escapes, and while that can be frustrating in some games, it's used to great effect here to enhance the tension.
Now let's talk about one of the big selling points for playing this game on Playstation 4 as opposed to Xbox One or even PC - virtual reality. For the first year, Resident Evil 7 is a Playstation VR exclusive in terms of VR compatibility. January 2018, I'm sure, support for Oculus Rift and HTC Vive will be added, but for the time being, if you want to play a AAA horror game in VR, you've gotta do it on Playstation. One of the great things about VR in Resident Evil 7 is that it's not a separate mode or minigame or whatever like a lot of games with Playstation VR compatibility are. It's the exact same game, completely unadulterated save for an obvious graphics downgrade, and you can switch into or out of VR at will from the options menu. This is good because I was about ready to puke my lunch all over the place after about 20 or 30 minutes, even with Dramamine in my system. I normally have no problem with VR. Until Resident Evil 7, the only game that had ever given me motion sickness in VR was Robinson: The Journey (still need to finish that, eventually...). The common denominator between the two? Free roam. What little I played in VR was absolutely amazing, and the decline in graphical fidelity wasn't NEARLY as bad as I'd anticipated. Capcom did it fucking right with VR, and it shows that virtual reality can work with big budget AAA experiences. The motion sickness, unfortunately, is just the nature of the beast and will vary from person to person. As far as what Capcom could have done to mitigate that - giving a plethora of VR options for turning and motion blur, locking a stable framerate, etc - they did 100%. I can't find anything that Capcom could realistically have done to make the VR experience less nauseating. Your body either cooperates or it doesn't. You better believe that I'm gonna be trying again and experiment with different nausea drugs, though, because it's exceptionally well done.
Outside of the VR mode, the graphics are stunning. They're not perfect, and if you're right up close, you can see some texture flaws, but it's the best looking horror game I've ever played. I did play with the PS4 Pro enhancements, though, so I'm not sure how it looks on a standard PS4; I would guess that configuration would give Alien: Isolation the edge, but still, that's not a bad game to come in second to. Speaking of Alien: Isolation, Resident Evil 7 feels VERY similar in style and atmosphere. Isolation hit the balance of horror atmosphere and enemy encounters a bit better, I think, but this is the most atmospheric Resident Evil game since Resident Evil 2. The game feels and plays very much like a hybrid of Alien: Isolation and the ill-fated PT demo, and those are two VERY good things to hybridize for your game.
I only have two real complaints with the game, and the first one is hella petty, so let's get that one out of the way first. The Bakers sound like North Louisiana rednecks, not South Louisiana rednecks. Most wouldn't know there's a difference without having some special connection to Louisiana (for me, it's where my family's from), but it's like the difference between Americans from the South and Americans from the North. They sound different, they act different, their lexicon is different...it's a different type of redneck. That's my little nitpick. My legitimate gripe is with the final boss. It's, hands down, the easiest boss fight of the game. I had been stockpiling magnum and grenade launcher ammo the whole game for the epic final showdown, and with how tense the other boss fights in the game are, I was expecting a clash of titans, essentially). I ended up not firing a single round from my magnum or grenade launcher because the final boss comes WAY sooner I expected and was so easy that I thought it couldn't possibly have been the end. But it was. By no means does it spoil the game, but it is a bit of a letdown.
Resident Evil 7 is, in my opinion, the third best game in the series, surpassed only by the legendary Resident Evil 4 and the remake of the first game. It's not a perfect game, but it's a damn good one, and for a genre that has had a bit of an identity crisis for the past ten years, trying and failing to find a balance between atmospheric tension and throwing hoards of enemies at you to create "horror," and this particular series was the worst offender, turning Resident Evil 5 into an action shooter instead of a horror game. The genre has definitely been on the upswing for the past few years, and Resident Evil 7 stands proudly near the top of that pack. Truthfully, the only full games that I think have done horror better in recent years would be Alien: Isolation and possibly Outlast. If the seventh main series game is any indication, Resident Evil has finally found itself again and is in for a fantastic future.
My Rating - 5 Neps
Also available on PlayStation 3 and PlayStation Vita
Imagine, if you will, Minecraft but a version of Minecraft that isn't totally pointless. Now imagine Dragon Quest but a version of Dragon Quest that lets you build a town and craft your own weapons and armor. That's Dragon Quest Builders. Take Minecraft, make it not look like shit, and add in a reason to play for more than twenty minutes. Boom. Dragon Quest Builders.
Your journey to rebuild the world begins in a quaint little....well, it's not a town, but the ruins of a quaint little town where you build your first house. In this world, houses don't need roofs. Just stack some dirt about six feet high, throw a door and a burning stick in there, and hooray, it's a house - construction standards almost as low as the 1980s. Let me expand a bit on my earlier Minecraft comparison. The construction part - 75% or so of the gameplay - is almost exactly like Minecraft. You punch the ground to get dirt and build shit. The difference between Builders and Minecraft, however, is that there's actually a purpose to Builders. "Oh, but there's the Ender Dragon to beat!" Yeah, shut up, nerd, that's totally optional and wasn't even in the original build. Minecraft is cool, but it's ultimately pointless IMO. Builders gives you an objective, quests, and a long-term goal to achieve. Minecraft gives you misshapen green pigs that hiss and explode. Woopdie-fucking-doo.
I said building is about 75% of the gameplay. What's the other 25%? Well, this is still a Dragon Quest game; you still hit shit with your sword until it dies. And yes, I know Minecraft has combat, but again, it's totally just a side thing that barely even serves a purpose. You literally cannot progress in Dragon Quest without combat. You have waves of enemies to repel, bosses to kill, drops to farm, dragons to kill with giant cannons that blast holes in the floor and trap said dragon just out of his fire breath range. In all seriousness, the combat is very similar to Minecraft. It's not NEARLY as awkward and clunky, but at its core, it's basically the same sort of deal. One thing to note is that this is NOT an RPG. You do not gain experience, your stats do not to up except by making better equipment, and you cannot grind. The only "experience" is gained by your base for building more and better rooms, and the only thing that affects is a few quests and some extra unlockables at the end of each chapter.
The story is fairly simple. It's an alternate universe branching off from the first Dragon Quest. When the hero gets to the Dragonlord in the first game, he's presented with a choice to side with him or stick with your plan to kill him and save the world. In the actual game, it doesn't matter what you pick; you always save the world. Builders takes place several hundred years after this fateful encounter when the hero chooses to join the Dragonlord, ensuring that the world will be plunged into darkness. To prevent humanity from being able to resist him, the Dragonlord takes from humans their ability to build and create. They can have ideas, but some bullshit plot device magic keeps them from actually making anything. I guess they just graze on all fours like cattle since they can't even do so much as cook since that counts as creating.
Along comes the legendary Builder, sent by the goddess to restore light to various parts of the world and teach humans how to build again, laying the foundations for the hero who will eventually destroy the Dragonlord (and not fuck it up this time). You are not that hero. That's made very clear. Like two dozen times. You know when someone tells you that you're NOT supposed to do something over and over and over again at seemingly random times and they're really trying to get you to do that thing? Yeah, that's basically your interactions with the goddess throughout this entire game. I mean, did anyone really expect to play a Dragon Quest game and NOT kill some horrible tyrant monster and save the world?
The game is broken into four chapters, each in a different part of the realm. Each chapter is a self-contained unit. Your items do not carry over. Your equipment does not carry over. The recipes you learned do not carry over. You HP boosts - the only "stat" in the game that isn't dependent on equipment - does not carry over. Nothing you built or did carries over. Here's where I started to take issue with the game. On the one hand, these are perfect "stopping points" if you want to take a break. Other than "kill Dragonlord, save world," there's no plot that you need to remember because each chapter is its own quest. Every chapter has a "main" villain you must defeat to restore light to that part of the world, and every chapter has its own cast of characters with side quests for you to do that lead up to that main showdown. On the other hand, even if you try to rush through, you'll inevitably spend enough time building up a great base that you're loath to just abandon everything and start over with literally nothing but the clothes on your back. I've seen people online say that it's great for keeping the game fresh, but it really burned me, and that one aspect made the game wear out its welcome REALLY quickly. By the end of chapter 2, I was ready to call it quits, but I really wanted to finish it, especially since you unlock stuff for the free mode by completing each chapter as well as various optional challenges in each chapter.
Now for those of you who say "BUT I LIKE SPENDING DOZENS OF HOURS ON A POINTLESS GAME LIKE MINECRAFT WITH NO OBJECTIVE OR STORYLINE WHATSOEVER," Dragon Quest Builders has you covered, but you'll have to put on your big boy/girl britches and actually play a real game first. Builders has a mode called Terra Incognita which is essentially your free build mode like Minecraft. The catch is that you don't unlock it until you finish Chapter 1, and you have to finish the other chapters to unlock more islands to visit (which means more resources) and more recipes to build in Terra Incognita. Being burnt out on the game, I won't be visiting Terra Incognita for a while, but because I think Dragon Quest Builders is a superior game to Minecraft in every way (well, except one), I'll definitely revisit the game at some point for some free stress relief building. That one single way Minecraft wins out? Multiplayer. You can upload certain parts of your creations in Terra Incognita to an online server and download other people's creations, but there's not true multiplayer. You can't enter each others worlds online and build, and there's no local multiplayer whatsoever. That's really the only way this game is inferior to Minecraft. Square Enix has said that they're considering adding in local and/or online multiplayer should they decide to make a Dragon Quest Builders II, and that would make it better than Minecraft in LITERALLY every way, but until then, only 99% of the game is better. #Fuckthe1%
All in all, Dragon Quest Builders is a great game. The storyline, while nothing you won't be able to piece together from the first five minutes, gives the game a purpose, and the options and relative freedom to build let you make this Dragon Quest really feel personalized. Having each room and its decorations add to your base's points and overall level gives you an incentive to expand and spruce up instead of just "LET'S MAKE A SLAVE SHIP WITH 30 BEDS SO WE CAN ALL SLEEP AND CATCH PLAGUE." The combat is definitely not the game's strong point, but once you get a feel for the timing of enemy attack and get used to the necessary hit-and-run tactics, it's totally doable and not a pain or anything. It does, admittedly, get REALLY old having to restart from nothing every chapter, and that was such a detriment in my eyes that I really struggled with what rating to give this game. I don't do half points, but I was really torn between a 3 and a 4, but in the end, I decided to err on the side of a higher score because the Terra Incognita does do something to make up for that aspect. If you're into "creation" games, I definitely recommend this, but if you don't like those games, pass on this even unless you're Dragon Quest superfan #1 or something.
My Rating - 4 Neps
Also available on PlayStation 2, PlayStation Portable, Nintendo DS, Wii via Virtual Console, iOS, Android, and Windows
Played via Wii Virtual Console
Holy god. This game, man. Holy shit. I mean...DAMN. Even though they were original released as separate games, I waited until finishing both Ys I and Ys II to write this because they were released in the same package here, and (more importantly) the end of Ys I immediately leads into the beginning of Ys II. If you recall, I played Ys I on Master System about a week or so ago. Everyone told me that the TurboGrafx-CD version is by far the definitive version, but unfortunately, I don't have a TurboGrafx-CD - just a TurgoGrafx-16 and a PC-Engine. Fortunately, however, the incredible Nintendo Wii has it on the Virtual Console service. God bless the Wii.
So, to begin, let's start by comparing Ys I on TGCD vs Master System. First and foremost, it's definitely the same game. Don't expect something like Nintendo Tetris vs Tengen Tetris on NES. Other than the obvious technical boosts, though, it starts with about two or three minutes of prologue that was excluded from the Master System release; Adol arrives on the continent by ship and sets out on his quest out of a desire to help the people of this land he's visiting. Not exactly a gripping, intricate narrative or motivation, but it's at least SOME motivation, something the Master System version lacked. Beyond that, it's the same game with some minor tweaks. The dungeon layouts are SLIGHTLY different - some are mirrored vertically, some horizontally, a few paths here and there are different - but I was able to do everything except the mine straight from memory of the Master System version (that one was mirrored and just confusing in general). Some of the names are slightly changed (Adol is actually called Adol in this one, for example; he had some stupid different name on Master System).
As you can see, the character interactions are enhanced with some GREAT 80s style anime art in addition to the regular character sprites, and since this originally used CD technology, key characters even have voice acting - something truly outstanding when you consider that this game was originally released in 1989. Because Ys I carries over directly into Ys II, the leveling system is drastically different. Whereas in the Master System version of Ys I the level cap was 10, each level took a LOT of exp to reach, and your stat boosts were dramatic, the level cap here is 62, each level is MUCH more attainable, and your stat boost are very incremental because you'll be level over two games (and the second game is probably at least twice as long as the first). For reference, I was level 37 at the end of Ys I and 59 when I got to the final boss of Ys II (though I had to grind to the max level 62 before I was able to beat him). Unfortunately, none of your gold carries over to Ys II (and you need a lot more gold in Ys II than you did in Ys I), and unsurprisingly, none of your items carry over.
After you defeat Dark Fact at the end of Ys I, you're transported magically up to the floating land of Ys for the start of Ys II. The only items that you still have are the six books of Ys, and they're the key to the first part of your quest. You'll travel through a mine complex first that's very similar in purpose to the shrine in Ys I (although infinitely more convoluted) returning each book to its respective priest statue. Then you kill an ass ton of demons, travel through Hoth and then straight into and through Hell before you get to the most obnoxious and oversized dungeon I've ever see in an RPG and one that by itself will easily take up a third of your play time. Seriously, it's a bitch, use a map and/or a walkthrough when you get to Solomon Shrine. I did Ys I without a walkthrough and only used a map for the mine, and I did Ys II without a walk through or map (except for the mine) up until that point, but I had to pull out a walkthrough AND a map for Solomon Shrine because it was SO huge, SO complex, and SO confusing.
Truthfully, the ending of Ys II was underwhelming. The final boss fight was intense although the mid-boss before you get to him was a joke; I literally walked straight through is attacks and just wailed on him with no attempt to dodge and beat him with more than 3/4 of my health left. Darm, the final boss, however, was a bitch. I couldn't get more than half of his health down at level 59, and at level 62 - an hour and between ten and fifteen THOUSAND random enemies later - while he was extremely manageable, I still had to take care to dodge his attacks as much as I could. The ending itself, though, after you defeat Darm, was...okay. It wasn't bad by any means, and it was your general feel-good "thanks for saving all of creation from certain doom" celebration, but after such an incredible game, it felt like a bit of a let down.
Now let's wrap this up talking about where the game REALLY shines - the soundtrack. Ys I & II on TurboGrafx-CD has, without exaggeration or compare, the greatest soundtrack of any game I've ever played. Holy shit, man. The Master System version sounded good (as long as you played with FM Sound), but god DAMN, this music is incredible thanks to the CD audio capabilities. It obviously looks SIGNIFICANTLY better than the Master System visually, but for a 16-bit system using CDs versus an 8-bit system using cartridges, that shouldn't come as a surprise. The music is really where this shines. The music for the area between Rance Village and the shrine/mine dungeon in and the music for the sewers underneath Solomon Shrine (both in Ys II) are among the greatest video game musical compositions I have ever heard, surpassed only by Final Fantasy VII's One-Winged Angel in my opinion.
The TurboGrafx version is DEFINITELY the version of Ys I and Ys II to play. The gameplay and controls are superb; the awkward hit detection I lamented in the Master System version of Ys I is totally fixed. The visuals are incredible, especially the dialogue character models and parallax scrolling. The music is unrivaled. My buddy BoneSnapDeez was right; this game is truly god-tier in every sense of the expression. By all means, play other versions of Ys - it's a bitchin game in general - but do NOT skip the TurboGrafx version. Get an actual TurboGrafx-CD, download it on Wii or Wii U, whatever you need to do (I GUESS you can emulate on a PC if you're a punk-ass bitch), but play this version, man. It's just incredible.
My Rating - 5 Neps
Also available on Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 3, and Windows
Dragon Quest Heroes was a bit of an impulse buy for me. It was my birthday, and I had a 20% off Gamestop coupon in my inbox, and there was a nice pre-owned copy, so I was like what the hell, why not. Then it sat on my shelf for a solid month, untoched. I fully planned on playing it at some point, but that's also how my backlog grew to approach 900 games, so....yeah. But I got to talking to a very good friend of mine about games, and she mentioned how much she loves the Dragon Quest series, so that got me thinking about it more. I needed a bit of a pallet cleanser after I finished Ys on the Master System before I dive into my Wii Virtual Console release of Ys on the TurboGrafx-CD, so I figure I'd throw in some hack and slash goodness. And oh, what goodness it was.
So Dragon Quest Heroes might as well have been called Dragon Quest Warriors because it's a straight up Muso game (by which I mean the Dynasty Warriors style of gameplay). You control a team of up to four characters (you end up getting about a dozen but rotate out the ones you use) with your main character being either the male or female royal guard captain. Both of them feature prominently in story, and the only difference in your choice is who is slightly more at the center of the action. You get to name them both, you can control whomever you want in battle, etc. So I picked the chick (not knowing this) and named her Asparagus♥, and her companion was Popoxilla♪. Shout out to my Racketboy homies there.
The game consists of going on a quest to discover why the hitherto friendly monsters have suddenly started butchering and devouring the townsfolk of your kingdom and massacring thousands of monsters in the process. These monster range in strength from tiny little Slimes that I'm not entirely sure can even actually attack you all the way up to dragons that use your sword as a toothpick after it finishes eating you. To master this game, you need more than just the attack button (although make sure your controller's Square button is in good shape); you'll need to learn all of the controls to dodge, duck, dip, dive, and dodge your way to victory. Seriously though, I spent as much time rolling out of the way of enemy attacks as I did actually hitting things with my sword.
The basic story of the game, beyond the mysterious change in the monsters' behavior, is that a mysterious person is trying to awaken an ancient dark god to plunge the world into darkness and other generic JRPG antagonist things. You are joined on your quest by people abruptly transported from other dimensions (meaning characters from past Dragon Quest games) who agree to aid in your noble quest. If you've played Hyrule Warriors on the Wii U or 3DS, then imagine that but with Dragon Quest instead of Legend of Zelda, and that's basically this game. There's as little bit of level diversity, but not a lot. Your missions will consist mostly of one of four types - murder everything, protect the thing, escort the thing, or kill the boss before it horribly dismembers you. The nice thing is that if you fail a mission, it makes you start back from the beginning, but you get to keep any experience and/or spoils you might have gained up until your disgraceful defeat.
Visually, the game is great. Nothing super amazing - it's no Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare with stunning 4K graphics - but it looks very good. The sound design is nice; the voice acting is well done, and the music is good and very fitting for Dragon Quest. There wasn't any noticeable slowdown during even hectic battles. My only complaint in terms of design, really, is that the camera would sometimes shoot behind a wall and completely obscure your view of the battle if you happened to be fighting a monster near a wall. It only happened to me a couple of times, but it did get rather irksome, so I figured it was worth mentioning.
Dragon Quest Heroes doesn't break any records. It's not a masterpiece of game design, it doesn't redefine a genre, and it doesn't breathe new life into a series. It is quite good, though. A game doesn't have to be a game changer, so to speak, to be a good game. As far as Muso games go, this is one that held my attention much better than most. The only Muso game I can remember being more sucked into was Hyrule Warriors, and that was probably because of my passionate love of Legend of Zelda. There's enough enemy diversity, enough side quests, enough characterization, and enough different environments here to keep things from getting stale, and that's something that not a lot of Muso games can say. All in all, I recommend Dragon Quest Heroes, especially if you're a fan of the Dragon Quest franchise or the Muso hack and slash subgenre.
My Rating - 4 Neps
Also available on Wii via Virtual Console (Japan only)
M.U.S.H.A.: Metallic Uniframe Super Hybrid Armor is one of the premier shmup titles of the 16-bit era. It's also one of those games so rare and expensive that it's a prized piece of any collection. And yes, I do have an actual CIB copy. MUSHA is one of those shmups that does almost everything right. The style is metal af, the music is pumpin, the action is non-stop, and the control is solid. It's not flawless, but it's pretty close.
MUSHA is a lot of things, but one thing it's not is easy. It seems like I had a harder time with it than most, but it did get much more manageable for me once I realized two things. First, your hit box is enormous. Just accept the fact that you have ZERO margin for error in MUSHA. I'm used to shmups with smaller hitboxes that give a little bit of breathing room, but MUSHA makes no such allowances. That took me a long time to get through my head. Second, power-ups will let you take a couple hits. I don't know why this took me so long to figure out - I suppose because many shmups don't afford any protection from power-ups - but once you realize that, things get more doable. The game is also relatively generous with its power-ups, so keeping one usually isn't too tall an order.
Let me be upfront with something before I continue - I played MUSHA on my Retron 5 using save states. I feel no shame about this, personally. Normally I prefer to beat shmups by bashing my head against the wall until it goes through, but even with finally understanding the two things I mentioned above, MUSHA is a tough game. It's also just absolutely oozing style, so I really wanted to see everything that it has to offer. You bet I'll be going back and playing again on my Genesis sans save states, but I wanted to experience the full range of music, enviornments, and enemy designs that MUSHA had to offer, and I don't regret it a bit. I'm normally one of those guys who prefers the SNES's smoother sound chip over the grittier sound of the Genesis, but MUSHA really shows that, with the right musical style and composer, the Genesis has some damn good tunes to offer. I had to make a point not to play this until after my roommate got out of bed because headphones just wouldn't do MUSHA justice; I had to have the soundbar and subwoofer cranked up.
Screenshots don't really do it justice, but the backgrounds are just fantastic. What makes them so great is the way parallax scrolling is used. I know that parallax scrolling is extremely common in Genesis and Super Nintendo games, but it's used to great effect in MUSHA. Compile proved that they really knew what they were doing back in the day. The enemy designs are also incredible. I meant it at the top; this game is metal as fuck. You've got baby faces that split in half to reveal death rays, skulls spewing lasers, Satan's face on a battleship sailing through an ocean of magma - fucking metal as shit, bro. The visuals in this game are just outstanding all around. The problem, however, is that the hardware can't always seem to keep up with the visuals. There's a LOT of slowdown when the screen gets super crowded and busy. Fortunately it only gets to that level a handful of times, but it is worth noting - any change in the run speed of a shmup is going to throw a wrench in the flow of action.
MUSHA is a damn good shmup. It's one that every shmup fan needs to play, and while the cartridge is hella expensive these days, it's on the Wii virtual console (accessible on the Wii U), so there is an affordable option. I guess you could also emulate if you're a punk ass bitch, but I'll look down on you in shame. I can't say it's perfect - there is some noticeable slow down, and while I know that it's a stylistic choice, I'm not a fan of the huge hit box - but damn if it's not close. Even with its few flaws, you're doing yourself a HUGE disservice by foregoing MUSHA.
My Rating - 4 Neps
Also available on X1, PC-8801, PC-9801, FM-7, MSX2, X68000, Famicom, Saturn, PlayStation 2, AppleIIGS, MS-DOS, and Windows
Ys is a series to which I'm fairly new. I played Ys Origin a few months ago on Steam, and I was captivated by the story. It was then that I decided that I wanted to experience more of the series, and since I've also been wanting to expand my Master System collection, I asked for this for Christmas. I know that it's a technically inferior game to the TurboGrafx-CD version (which I have downloaded on my Wii and will play soon), but I wanted to see what the Master System could do, especially with regards to its FM sound capabilities (I played on my Retron 5 so I could patch the FM sound back in since it was removed from the North American release of Ys).
The story is that of Adol, a young adventerer who embarks on a quest to rid the land of evil. Or something. I'm hoping that the TurboGrafx version is a bit more forthcoming with the plot because the Master System game gave very little with regards to context. Once you get into the game, the story is pretty interesting - there's a shady guy who creeps everyone out that's been seen lurking around the area. Couple this with monsters and reports of mysterious statues of a mysterious goddess found in the mines and things being stolen from the local thieves (they swear they're Robin Hood types who only steal from the rich), and it's clear that some manner of insidious plot is afoot. As you progress through the game, you begin to learn of the legendary ancient land of Ys and the six books written in a cryptic language that contain its history and its power. What is not explained particularly well is why Adol is putting his life in danger and prancing through monster ridden dungeons in the first place. I mean, sure, he's trying to bring peace to his home, but why is it him? Why isn't he a blacksmith or a fisherman or a farmer? Is he a mercenary who was hired? Is he a knight? Is he just a narcissist with delusions of grandeur? I don't know, and unless I missed a few key bits of dialogue in the beginning, neither does the Master System.
The most noteworthy and memorable thing about Ys is its combat. The older Ys games are well known for their "bump" combat. In short, you bump into your enemies to deal damage automatically. You basically hump them to death. But seriously, your level and weapons affect how strong your attack is and how resistent you are to enemy attacks, and you just bump into each other until one of you dies. The bumping in this game felt...odd...and from what I've read online, that seems to be a fairly universal opinion on the Master System version. The trick with the bumping in this version is to hit the enemy on the edge, not dead on. Hit them dead on, and they're as likely to kill you as you are to kill them (and if you're low level, they're probably going to kill you first). Hit them on the edge, though, as if you're jousting, and you do damage fairly reliably and rarely take much if any. The problem is that the Master System controller doesn't exactly lend itself to precision, and since the max level is 10, the game's not very forgiving in most instances. Once you get a feel for it, though, it's not terrible.
I'm going to keep this relatively brief since my review of the TG-CD version will include both Ys and Ys II, but I do want to make note of some of the things that the Master System did especially well and some of the things that the system did not-so-well. Let's start with the bad and end on a positive note. The main drawback with this version - other than the aforementioned plot issues - are the visuals. I know the Master System was an 8-bit system and therefore not a graphical powerhouse, but I've seen what the system is capable of. Phantasy Star looks miles better than Ys. And it's not that this game looks bad, but it's not what the console was capable of, and that's especially apparent with the character sprites. The music, however, more than makes up for any graphical mediocrity. Don't get me wrong, it's a hot mess without FM sound. Like, it sounds terrible. But play it on a Retron 5 and patch the FM sound tracks back in? Holy moley, that music is great. I don't know how it compares to the CD audio of the TurboGrafx version - I'll find out soon - but for an 8-bit cartridge system, it's freaking incredible.
This version of Ys has some flaws, and it's definitely not the version to play if your options are open, but if you're collecting for the Master System, or if that's the only system you have that has Ys, then it's still absolutely worth playing. It's definitely worth playing if you have a Retron 5 and can use the FM Sound patch, but even without it, just mute the TV and throw on some other music because the game itself is fun. It's not without its flaws, but the story is interesting (once you get past the confusion of why this dude's doing all this in the first place), and the FM soundtrack is absolutely killer. I'd definitely recommend it to Master System gamers, fer sher.
My Rating - 4 Neps
Also available on PlayStation, DS, Wii via Virtual Console, iOS, and Android
Chrono Trigger is one of those RPGs that gamers talk about the same way that movie buffs talk about The Godfather or bibliophiles talk about To Kill a Mockingbird. It's the type of game that you have to play to really understand. You can tell someone all day how good Chrono Trigger is, but until they play it for themselves, they're not really going to get it. That's how it was for me. I've had access to the game via the Final Fantasy Chronicles PS1 disc that has it and Final Fantasy IV bundled together, but I never bothered playing it. I'm a stickler for playing games on the original hardware, so I wanted to wait until I could play it with a legit Super Nintendo controller. Little did I know what a legendary experience I was putting off.
Chrono Trigger is a JRPG that tells the story Crono, a misplaced Dragon Ball Z character who thinks he's going to spend a lovely day at a local festival and ends up on a journey through time to stop an unspeakable evil that could put The Doctor to shame. Along the way, he encounters with a spunky blond chick, a dorky genuis chick, a Battletoad, C-3PO, a female Grognak, and a Dunmer that forgot which RPG franchise he's supposed to be in. So you're here at the festival, just chilling, and this dorky chick is like "Hey yall, check this out, I built a teleporter!" That's your first red flag. One thing leads to another, you tear a hole in the space-time continuum, and then adventure happens. And oh, what a glorious and brilliantly paced adventure it is.
The great thing about Chrono Trigger's pacing is that you never need to grind, but you're also never completely overpowered. Unless I was backtracking for an item or something, at no point did I streamroll through the opposition, and except for a battle I'm expected to lose, at no point did I get absolutely annihilated in the blink of an eye. It's an extremely approachable game for beginners, and while some may say that the game is too easy, but with 17 different endings (18 if you're playing on DS or Android), there's enough replay value to make up for any low difficulty and then some, and the plus to that many different endings is that you can start New Game Plus with your level carried over (you'll definitely steamroll shit that way, though).
The visuals in Chrono Trigger are fantastic with detailed sprites, colorful vistas, and some great scrolling effects. The music, however, is what really elevates things to another level. Chrono Trigger has some of the best music I've heard in any 16-bit RPG. It's right up there with the best that Final Fantasy had to offer, although that should be no surprise given that Squaresoft produced both. This is not a game that you want to play with headphones; hook up a sound bar or at least decent speakers and blast it because you're doing a favor to whomever else can hear it (whether they want to hear it or not). The dungeon music sets the tone for each area perfectly, and Chrono Trigger has some of the best boss themes found anywhere in the Super Nintendo's library.
The game is great about giving you direction with regards to where you should go next, another thing make it approachable for JRPG beginners. On your journey, you'll explore the present (1000 AD), the Middle Ages (600 AD), the Dark Ages (12000 BC), prehistory (65000000 BC), the apocalypse (1999 AD), the future (2300 AD), and even the end of time itself, traveling through time via both temporal portals and a time machine. With each character you add to your ragtag band of heroes, you get to name them (up to a paltry five letters). I chose to name each after Racketboy members, so my team ended up consisting of Elkin, Key, Laurn, Bone, Maru, Bogus, J T, and the time ship Popo.
The greatness of this game really can't be overstated. I thought he was exaggerating when a friend of mine describe Chrono Trigger as "god tier," but that really is one of the best descriptions I can think of. I still have several other big title 16-bit RPGs that I'm intending to play in the next few months, but from what Super Nintendo and Genesis RPGs I've played thus far, Chrono Trigger definitely reigns supreme. To call this game legendary is an understatement. It's not my favorite RPG of all time, but it's DEFINITELY high up on my list.
My Rating - 5 Neps
Also available on Xbox 360 and arcade
I'm a huge fan of the Persona series. I honestly like it much more than the base Shin Megami Tensei series. Why? Because of the characters. Don't get me wrong, there are great characters in the regular Shin Megami Tensei games, but the character development in the Persona games is on a whole different level. Naturally, I like the idea of anything that keeps using characters that I've come to know and love, and that's what this game does - bring back the beloved characters from Persona 4 and even a few from Persona 3 in an all new storyline taking place after but referencing events from both games.
Not many fighting games put storytelling above gameplay and flashy finishers, but being an Atlus game, narrative is at the heart of Persona 4 Arena. Honestly, it's not entirely fair to call this a fighting game. In my opinion, it's more aptly described as a visual novel with a fighting game packaged in because that's what the story mode will feel like - a visual novel. I spent probably around 10 hours with this one playing through the 5 of the 12 characters' stories that I did, and probably spent half an hour max actually fighting. You'll spent twenty minutes of dialogue to get to a fight that will be over in thirty seconds. Only once did a fight take me longer than a minute; it took me about a minute and a half. Many will say that's a major flaw, but I think it's this game's strength. If you're a fan of Persona, you're a fan because of the storytelling above all else, and this game gives you the full Persona story experience. The feel of the actual fighting shows that, too; it's apparent that the focus was on continuing the narratives from Persona 3 and Person 4 first and on the fighting mechanics second. It's not that the actual fighting is bad because it's not, but it feels rather...standard. It doesn't stand out as especially polished like Street Fighter or Virtua Fighter, for example. That may turn fighting game junkies off.
My favorite thing about this game - other than the brilliant story - is the music. It's the exact same soundtrack from Persona 4, and that should be all I need to say to tell you exactly why this game's music is so good. Persona 4 has, in my opinion, one of the greatest gaming soundtracks of all-time, and the used that same soundtrack for this game. Brilliant. Utterly brilliant. Now let's get to the one aspect of the game that I really didn't think was at ALL brilliant - the facial animations. More accurately the lack of any real ones. During the dialogue, the only thing that would move on the faces would be the mouths. That's not that uncommon, I know, but when you have a face that takes up a third of the screen and the only thing that even remotely moves is the mouth, it's creepy. It's even creepier when that mouth is just moving up and down repeatedly with no attempt to match any real words whatsoever. It's a minor gripe, I know, but it's REALLY creepy once you notice it, and once you see it, you can't ever NOT see it again.
Honestly, this is the first fighting game that's ever truly impressed me. I'm a very single player oriented kind of gamer, so for a fighting game to really suck me in and knock my socks off is completely unheard of. The fighting itself may just be so-so, but the storytelling and the unique perspectives of each of the 12 characters is absolutely phenomenal. Enough praise cannot be heaped onto this game.
My Rating - 5 Neps
I'm Mr. Deck
And I like to play video games. I like to collect video games. I like to talk about video games, and I like to write about video games. During the day, I teach history at a high school in central North Carolina; during the night, I spend my spare time gaming. Then I write about it.