Also available on PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, Xbox One, Linux, and Windows
Ahh, Saints Row IV. It was okay. I mean, it's a fun game, and a super wacky sandbox kill-em-up. The whole game is a giant parody of Mass Effect, and there are levels parodying Metal Gear Solid, Streets of Rage, and even Combat from the 2600. It felt to me, however, that it lacked the balance that Saints Row 3 had. Saints Row 2 was a funny game, but it left me feeling like it could have been funnier had they played up the wacky elements a little more. Saints Row IV left me feeling like they were trying just a little too hard to make it funny. Saints Row 3 hit that perfect balance IMO.
The basic premise of the game is that after doing all your awesome shit in the third game, you decide to quit being just a gang leader and start killing terrorists and shit. That makes you so popular that you get elected president of the United States. Then aliens attack and destroy the planet. Almost all of the game takes place in a simulation the aliens created that mimics Steelport. That's my biggest gripe with the game - I hated the simulation angle. I think it would have been way better if I were playing as the POTUS running around Washington DC killing aliens and shit (and anyone else who got in my way).
The gameplay itself is the same rock solid Saints Row combat that you've come to expect from the series, but my gripe with it from a gameplay standpoint is that they add super powers - they explain it as just altering your avatar's code in the simulation - and it just breaks the game. You can run faster than cars, completely defeating the purpose of customizing and driving a car. You can jump over almost every building and glide through the air, defeating the purpose of trying to steal aircraft. It's not that they weren't fun, but it felt like just way too much - again, like they were trying too hard to be wacky.
One fantastic thing, however, is that they gave you a lot of options for character creations, as you've seen with my beautiful president (who, btw, was a fat man with a country girl's voice). That's cool, and it's always fun to beat people to death with a giant purple dildo, but it's basically three-quarters of what made the third game good but trying too hard to outdo that. Definitely play it if you're new to the series but like GTA-style games, and if you really like the characters (I love me some Pierce and Shaundi), play it, but if you're just a casual Saints Row player, skip it and stick with the third game.
My Rating - 4 Neps
Also available on PlayStation 3
Some people may argue with my saying that I "beat" Söldner-X 2: Final Prototype because the way that they have the levels structured, people are going to have different definitions of what they call "beaten." For me, "beaten" is when you finish the core storyline or all levels that don't require "secret" or collectible items to unlock. Söldner-X 2: Final Prototype has, I think 10 or 12 levels, but only 4 or 5 can be accessed without collecting a certain number of "secret keys" in certain levels. I didn't unlock any of those, getting the "The End?" ending before being reminded that I can get the "true" ending by unlocking the other levels and beating them. That's what I would call "completed." Make sense? Anyway, onward to the review (while I pretend to pay attention during this meeting about Google Classroom)!
Söldner-X 2: Final Prototype is a horizontally scrolling shmup not unlike R-Type. It has two difficulty settings available at the beginning - Easy and Normal. I'm NOT good at horizontally scrolling shooters, so I played on easy, and that was a pretty perfect level of challenge for a player of my skill (perhaps a little too easy but pretty good). I had to get my shit together by the time I got to the boss, but I did manage to beat all of the levels I finished without dying. When you start, you pick from three ships to use (two of which are available at the start), and each ship has three weapons - a standard pew pew laser, a PHWOOOSH narrow but powerful beam, and a (in my opinion) useless more defensive laser that has a pseudo-auto targetting feature in a short range.
The game is (mercifully) not a one-hit-kill type of shmup. You have a life bar, and you can take a decent number of hits before you die. Destroyed enemy ships occasionally droop health regeneration items. You can also pick up items like score multipliers, bonus points, and power boosts. Your enemies' endurance vary, too, from little nothing enemies that die with a single shot from any weapon all the way to bigger enemies that take a good 10 seconds of concentrated fire with your PHWOOOSH laser to destroy.
One of the things that a lot of shmups forego (or at least don't spend much time establishing) that I really appreciated about Söldner-X 2: Final Prototype is the storyline. Yeah, at the end of the day, you're just going to be blowing shit up in space, but it's nice to have a backstory to along with your shit in space destroying. All in all, Söldner-X 2: Final Prototype doesn't revolutionize the genre or anything, but horizontally scrolling shooters aren't as common as vertically scrolling shooters (because they're not as good), and it's a very competent game. It just won't really stand out from the crowd after you finish it, and - for me, personally, at least - it's not special enough to make it worthwhile to go through and get the bonus keys to unlock the rest of the levels.
My Rating - 5 Neps
Disaster: Day of Crisis is a game that I'd been hunting on and off for a couple years. It's a Wii exclusive, and it's game that was never released in North America - both categories I LOVE collecting. A couple weeks back, a friend on Racketboy - JoeAwesome - sent me a PM mentioning that he'd found a copy and asking if I wanted to buying it since he remembered that I'd been hunting it. Obviously, I said yes, and he gave me a good price, so this review is dedicated to Joe.
This game was not what I went into it expecting, and in this case, that's neither a good thing nor a bad thing. I expected a non-stop cheesefest on par with one of the greatest motion pictures of all time, Sharknado. It certainly had a bit of that B-movie cheese feel, but the game had much higher production values than I expected (although really, I should have expected high production values from a Monolith game, especially after Nintendo bought them). The basic premise of the game is that this one guy who works for his city's crisis management team has the shittiest day ever. First there's a CATASTROPHIC earthquake. Then that triggers a series of devastating tsunamis. Then there's a massive eruption from the volcano right by town. All this happens while he's trying to rescue his dead best friend's sister from some ex-Marine terrorists who stole nukes. Then the city he chases them to ends up being dead in the middle of the path of a category 5 hurricane. tl;dr this guy's day sucks ass.
Being a Wii exclusive, it obviously has some "waggle" controls, but (with a couple of notable exceptions I'll address later), they're not overdone, and they're well executed. The actual gameplay really nails keeping a nice variety. Most of the game is played out as a third person adventure game where you run around the area going to the next objective and rescuing any people you find along the way. When you encounter terrorists (who, for once, are neither Muslim nor Russian), it switches to an arcade light gun format. You can hold a button to hide behind whatever cover you're near and pop out to shoot the enemies when you feel the time is best, and you can use restorative items or switch weapons, but other than that, the controls are pretty standard light gun - you can't move, only shoot and reload. I was a little disappointed that it wasn't a more traditional cover based combat system at first, but the more fights I played, the more it REALLY began to grow on me.
There are also several driving segments, and these have you disconnect the Nunchuck and turn the Wiimote sideways. 2 accelerates, 1 is brake/reverse, and A is the handbrake. You steer by turning the Wiimote like a steering wheel. Normally I hate this control scheme because it very often doesn't work at all, but in this case, it works quite well. Not perfectly, but well enough for me to get a lot of enjoyment out of it. A couple of the later driving segments are also among the toughest stages in the game IMO. Controlling somewhat similarly to the driving portions are the underwater portions. You hold B to swim forward and use the Nunchuck stick to control where you're looking.
There are a few less-often used segments that I won't describe in much detail like sprinting away from whatever's trying to kill you or swimming towards whomever you're trying to save, but suffice it to say that in the gameplay department, Disaster has more than enough variety to keep things from getting stale.
Graphically, I was actually fairly impressed. It's not as gorgeous as, say, Super Mario Galaxy or Metroid Prime 3, but it's one of the more visually pleasing Wii games I've played, to be sure. The audio design is also pretty well done. The background music complements the mood of the game nicely without being distracting, a balance that a lot of games mess up by either being too intense or too bland.
The one biiiig gripe I have with the game is with the final boss fight. It's a two stage fight, and that's not too bad, especially considering that there's a checkpoint between the two phases, but the last phase is complete bullshit IMO. It's all QTEs. Now normally, I really like QTEs. I'm pretty good at them, and I just find them enjoyable (might be part of why I love Shenmue). The except to this are when gesture based inputs are used. Unless you're using Wii MotionPlus (which this game does not), I just don't think the standard Wiimote is accurate enough to base QTEs on gestures, ESPECIALLY when some of the parts are instant kills if you fuck up (and this fight has one of those). I probably died 10 times before I finally just lucked out and managed to beat it. It's the last boss, though, and the game is great otherwise, so that definitely isn't a deal breaker for me.
A bit of irony I found amusing is that the game takes place in the United States, the characters are all American, and the voice actors (as far as I know) are all American, but of the four major regions (Asia, Oceana, Europe, and North America), we were the only ones NOT to get a release of this game. That's a shame, too, because while I wouldn't say that this game is "amazing" or "groundbreaking," it's a damn good game, and it's a good exclusive for the Wii. A game doesn't have to redefine a genre or push the limits of hardware capability to be a good, worthwhile game, and that's how Disaster is. It's probably not going to show up on any "Best Wii Games" or "Top XX Wii Exclusives" videos, but it's a good game, and anyone collecting for the Wii would be remiss to pass on this one.
My Rating - 4 Neps
Also available on PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, Windows, and arcade
Caladrius is a shmup originally released on the Xbox 360 in 2013. A few months later, it was ported to arcades under the name Caladrius AC. A year after that, it saw a PlayStation 3 port with the title Caladrius Blaze. Here we are, almost exactly two years later, and its glorious PlayStation 4 port has arrived. IIRC it's available worldwide digitally, but I think only Japan and Korea got physical releases (I have the disc with Korean and English subtitles).
I've only played the story mode for Caladrius, but I have finished it with all eight characters. The common theme throughout all eight characters is that the king went a bit crazy with desire for power (physical power, not political) after failing to protect his son and one of his wives and uses a forbidden tome of black magic to bind human souls to machines, thereby making immensely powerful weapons. Each of the eight characters has his or her own reasons for opposing the king's plans. One of the things that I really appreciated about this game was that, unlike a lot of shmups, each character really does feel and control distinctly, and no two characters' playthroughs feel the same even if you're going through the same levels with the same enemy attack patterns.
Visually, you can tell that it's just a port of a 360/PS3 game, but because of that, it runs VERY smoothly with little to no slowdown. Even with being a port of a last gen game, though, it still looks fantastic. It's mainly just the environment textures that you can tell are a little dated if you look closely. In addition to your standard weapon (which you can hold X to fire; no need to wear yourself out mashing the button millions of times), you have three special weapons that vary from character to character. Typically, one of these will be defensive and destroy incoming shots, one will be a more wide ranged offensive weapon that deals less damage but over a huge area, and one will be a ridiculously powerful but concentrated attack. Each of these special weapons can be fired for extended periods the same way that your standard weapon can, but they've got an energy gauge measured by percentage. This does, however, refill over time. The bosses are (for the most part) a breeze if you effectively utilize these special weapons.
The thing that I think is particularly worth noting above all else is how extremely approachable this game is. There are six difficulty settings - Practice, Very Easy, Easy, Normal, Hard, and Very Hard - so that everyone from greenest of shmup noobs to most ragged of shmup veterans will be able to play at an appropriate difficulty level. Because I'm typically not that great at shmups, I played through on Very Easy with my first character, Easy for the next two or three, and Normal for the rest (since, at least with the story mode, difficulty has no impact on trophies as long as you don't pick Practice).
Speaking of story mode, there are three "versions" you can play. Original Mode is a straight port of the 360 original with 5 stages. Arcade Mode is the arcade version with 5 stages plus 2 extra missions that have no real story connection and are purely for points. Evolution Mode has the 5 stages of the original, the two missions of the arcade version, plus a sixth stage. I played through all of them but felt that - from a narrative perspective - they were all about the same, so most of my playthroughs were done on Original Mode. When I replay on harder difficulties to challenge myself later, though, I'll probably stick to Evolution.
All in all, this is a GREAT shmup that everyone with a PS4, PS3, 360, or PC needs to pick up. I think it's only like $20 in the PlayStation Store (don't quote me on that), and its fantastic. Oh, and there's local multiplayer and global leaderboards. Replay value galore.
My Rating - 5 Neps
Let me say up front that I'm not the world's biggest Kirby fan. I think his games are cute, and I enjoy them from time to time, but in general, I don't enjoy them the way most Nintendo fans do. With that said, Planet Robobot was okay. It wasn't great, though maybe "good" is a more apt description. It certainly never approached bad. But I found myself playing it to say that I beat it rather than because I had an overwhelming urge to play it, although I certainly didn't have to "force" myself to beat it.
Planet Robobot is your fairly standard Kirby affair - six worlds, each with five levels and a boss. For the most part, the bosses are really easy. The world 5 boss, IIRC, has two phases, and the only one that was really a challenge at all was the final boss - it has, I think, six phases. It's certainly not the relaxing cakewalk that Kirby's Epic Yarn was, but it's basically the next most laid back thing. I only died three times - once I jumped into a pit early on thinking it was a secret area (too much Mario, not enough Kirby), and I died twice at the final boss when I was trying to figure out attack patterns. Fortunately with the final boss, if you die, it starts you back at whatever phase you died on; if you die in phase 3, you restart at the beginning of phase 3 with full health, not all the way back at phase 1.
I never actually tried out the amiibo functionality, so I can't comment on that. I will say, however, that - as with all games IMO - the addition of giant, overpowered robots was a HUGE boon for this game. It's extremely satisfying to punch a Knuckle Joe in the face with a robot hand three times his size and send him flying into oblivion. There are also come cool shmup-esque level segments when you're in the robot with the jet power-up. Other than that, I really don't have a lot to say about it. If you're a fan of Kirby, I think you'll definitely enjoy it. If you're like me and just so-so on the series, it's an okay game - certainly not a waste of time - but it's not mind-blowing or anything.
My Rating - 3 Neps
Layers of Fear is a prime example of the modern horror game. I'm not talking the shitty modern horror games like Resident Evil 6, Five Nights at Freddie's, or Silent Hill: Homecoming. I mean good horror. As third person action has gotten better, it's become harder and harder to make a good third person horror game without having it devolve into a third person shooter with slightly creepy enemies (like the cardinal sin of the series IMO, Resident Evil 5). Layers of Fear, like Until Dawn, proves that what third person shooters were for horror in the 90s and early 2000s, walking simulators are for horror in the 2010s.
At it's core, that's what Layers of Fear is - a walking sim. There's not combat. There are no enemies. There are no deaths or game over screens. You can "die" in a sense in that you fuck up on a puzzle and get sent back to a "try again" area, but that's about as close as it comes. No, Layers of Fear is about atmosphere and tension, not difficulty through enemy toughness or ammo scarcity like the old Resident Evil and Silent Hill games. Not to say that doing a horror game like that is a bad thing; it's not, and as Dead Space (until 3) proved, it can still work in modern horror games. Layers of Fear really takes advantage of the edge that graphical enhancements (and the brilliant Unity engine) offered by the last 20 years of gaming technology. It's not an exceptionally long game - it took me about 3 hours - so completionists out there don't have a ridiculous task to get all three endings.
The very subtle but very creepy multilayered audio tracks, quietly whispering in the background, is used to GREAT effect in this game, and key to that great effect is in its timing. It's not just constantly there like some try-hard games I've played. It's used in specific instances, and that really maximizes its effect; you don't hear it enough to "get used to it." Jump scares are used in a similar fashion. Jump scares have gotten a bad rap because of how poorly implemented and overused they've gotten in horror games, but Layers of Fear does them right for the most part. They're not used ad nauseam. They're overused just a little - I could start to tell when one was likely about halfway through the game - but while they're frequent enough that you can start to predict them, the execution is still good enough that you're probably going jump even when you know it's coming.
The basic premise of the game is that you're a painter. Over time as you go through the game, you learn that you've fallen from popularity with the public (we're talking Archduchess Cordelia in southern Gallia after she revealed she's a Darksen or the Dixie Chicks in the South after criticizing President Bush level of "fallen from popularity") and that your marriage with your wife is...less than happy.
If I had to describe this game in one word, it would be "mind-fuck." That's basically what it is. It's a complete and total mind-fuck of a game; once it gets going, that train has ZERO brakes. The truly brilliant aspect of the game's pacing is how it paces the insanity of the protagonist. It starts off "Okay, I'm in this creepy house. Things are a bit unsettling." Slowly, it turns to "Huh...That's a little paranormal. But this is a horror game, so that's not out of the ordinary." Next thing you, it's "SWEET BABY CHRIST, WHAT THE ACTUAL FUCK IS GOING ON?!?" It's great, trust me.
Now I scare more easily than most guys, and I LOVE being scared (it's why I love horror movies and games), so I'm good at "getting into a game" and letting myself get scared by things that might not otherwise scare me, so it's possible that - like Until Dawn - I'm giving this game's horror elements a little too much credit, but I really did get my money's worth out of this game in the scare department. My roommate can attest - there were not infrequent shrieks coming out of my bedroom when a jump scare got me good. This game isn't going to be for everyone - you have to like walking sims to really enjoy this one - but if you're a fan of atmospheric horror games, I cannot recommend this one highly enough. It's on PC, Playstation 4, and Xbox One, so chances are, everyone here can play it on one platform or another. I urge you to do so. Learn some art history while you're at it; they actually feature what is probably the most famous painting by Jan van Eyck, the premier Flemish Renaissance painter.
Also, baby dolls are the creepiest fucking things on the planet. I'm thoroughly convinced of this.
My Rating - 5 Neps
Also available on PlayStation 2
Long time Army Men fans like me are used to disappointment. This is especially true when discussing the (mercifully few) games produced after 3DO's IP was bought by Global Star Software. Never content to keep a bad thing from getting worse, Global Star took everything that was wrong with the first of their two Army Men games - Sarge's War - amplified that, stripped it of the few scraps left of what made Army Men good, and then called it Major Malfunction.
From a visual standpoint, the game is fine. That's to be expected - it's running on the most powerful console of the 6th gen. I haven't played the PAL-only PS2 port to compare, but at least on Xbox, it looks pretty good. It sounds...well, audio is polarizing. The music is pretty good. Not epic like the early Army Men games, but it's got a decent soundtrack. The dialogue and sound effects, however....damn, man. The sound effects sound like they're straight from an Ebaumsworld soundboard, and the dialogue is straight Sims gibberish. Army Men always either had no voice acting or legitimate voice acting, but this is the only game in the series that's actually had fucking gibberish, and it does NOT work. The writing doesn't redeem it any; the entire script is just early 2000s meme humor. Bad TV references and lame movie quotes make up at least 40% of the script. It's like a prophetic warning about Meme Run on the Wii U eShop a decade later.
The biggest problem aside from the writing and dialogue (I can look past that if the gameplay is good) is control. It has a camera controlled by the right stick, but it's really hit or miss whether or not it will actually let you move the camera; half the time, the camera gets stuck in a single position because of the positioning of the environment. When you can move it, it's only one dimensional movement; you can't move it at all along the Y axis, making it extremely difficult to try to check if you missed any of the ten service medals hidden throughout each level. It also suffers from the ever-obnoxious sudden shift in directional orientation upon changing camera angles. In those situations where you're given almost no control over the camera, it behaves a bit like a fixed camera, so when it snaps back into a more free motion position, you'll sometimes find that due to the position, your up and down movement have been flipped. When you're trying to edge across a sink or bathtub where water is an instant death and there are no mid-level checkpoints, that's irksome as shit.
The other problem is the collision detection. It is COMPLETELY random whether or not Anderson (yeah, you don't play as Sarge) decides to grab a ledge or if you're going to spent a minute and a half jumping up and down against a wall like a rabbit on crack. You also will - not infrequently - just kind of slide off a platform that SHOULD be solid and level. Like the ground wasn't bad from its lunch break or some shit. Again, water - one level has you jump across the arms of an inflatable octopus in a filled bathtub. Then you have the instances where the walls get hungry and eat you. That's what it seems like, anyway. There was one particular instance that made me rage quit for 10 or 20 minutes. I was at the very end of a level, and I had to do some platforming jumping up a series of stacks of towels (this was a level taking place in the bathroom). Well, rather than grab onto the ledge of the stack of towels in front of him, my dumbass character decides to phase out of this dimension for a fraction of a second and merge with the wall. The front half of my body was firmly blended with the wall in front of me with the back half sticking out. No matter what I did, I stayed stuck. Jumping didn't work. Crouching didn't work. Trying to walk didn't work. Shooting every weapon I had in an attempt to knock myself back didn't work. I had to restart the level. 30 more minutes of my life down the shitter.
My last complaint is a minor one and one that will only apply to people who love the series like I do. You don't fight the Tan. This is the only game in the entire series in which you don't fight the Tan. That's literally the series' whole thing - the Green Army fights the Tan Army. The Tan aren't even MENTIONED in this game. That's like having a full length Halo game where the Master Chief spends 10 hours fighting random space pirates with ZERO mention of the Covenant or the Flood throughout the entire game. It just feels...wrong. Very, deeply wrong.
If everything worked, this would probably be a 6 or 7 hour game. As it stands now, though, with the various bugs and glitches that I encountered, it took me closer to 9 or 10 hours. Unless you're a hardcore Army Men fan like I am, just steer clear of this one. Stick to either Army Men 2 or Army Men Toys in Space on PC; the Army Men World War sub-series on PlayStation; or Sarge's Heroes on numerous consoles.
My Rating - 2 Neps
Also available on Windows
Monster Monpiece is yet another titty anime game in the Vita's library. This one only got a digital release in the West, but at least it got released here at all; what brought me to his game was having first played its spiritual successor, Moe Chronicle, which never got a Western localization at all (thank god for Asian versions with English subtitles). Anyway, after falling in love with the weeb af dungeon crawler Moe Chronicle, I decided to download the TCG RPG Monster Monpiece. I then proceeded to let it sit on my Vita's overpriced memory stick unplayed for a year until I eventually got around to it.
A bit about the game mechanics. The battles take place on a 7x3 grid with each player's "HQ" at either end. A 3x3 square in front of each HQ makes up that player's part of the grid with a 1x3 no man's land of sorts in the middle. Each card has a specific mana cost (you get 3 mana at the start of each turn) that is usually determined by that card's values for each of the three stats - HP, Attack, and Intelligence/MP (Intelligence for buff cards, MP for healer cards). There are four main categories of cards - Offense, Range, Buffs, and Healers. Offense cards are your heavy hitters that can only attack directly in front of them. Range cards usually have high Attack but low HP and have attack ranges varying from 2 spaces all the way up to 6 (the entire field). Buff cards boost the attack of the card directly in front of them and usually have moderate HP and Attack, and Healer cards heal lost HP from the card directly in front of them and usually have moderate to low HP and Attack.
In addition to these types, there are four "Auras" of cards - Red, Yellow, Blue, and Green. Playing cards in a certain aura consecutively gets you a bonus. Two cards in a row will get you an extra mana point, and playing three cards in a row will get you three extra mana points as well as an extra Attack stat point and an extra hit point for all of your cards currently in play. After three in a row, it resets to zero. There are also eight difference "species" of card, two for each type. Your Offensive species are Dragon and Demi-Human, your Ranged species are Bird and Beast, your Buff species are Undead and Hybrid, and your Healer species are Fairy and Nature; and there are multiple different "characters" within each species. If you play a card on top of a card of the same species (i.e. playing a Dragon card on top of another Dragon card), you can perform a fusion, fusing the two cards together and combining their stats. Let's say you have an Fairy card with 3 Attack, 5 HP, and 8 MP. If you play another Fairy card with 1 Attack, 3 HP, and 11 MP on top of that card, you'd end up with a Fairy card with 4 Attack, 8 HP, and 19 MP. You can only fuse two - no making a god card of 10 fusions - but it definitely helps you hold a defensive line or press into enemy territory. With Ranged card fusions, if one has a higher range than the other - say a 2 range card and a 4 range card - the final fusion will take the higher of the two attack ranges.
There's also a "rubbing" mechanic. If you have enough Rub points, you can (basically) molest the monster girls living in your cards and upgrade them. Each time you do this successfully, they lose a layer of clothing and (usually) gain some stats. Sometimes they lose, stats, though. I couldn't find any rhyme or reason to whether they end up stronger or weaker, though, so I only did this once or twice and then gave up.
This game starts off great. It's got a cool battle system, every card is a cute titty anime girl, and the tutorial stages do a great job of explaining the game and its mechanics. The chapters don't take too long - even if you do EVERYTHING like I did, maybe an hour per chapter. Then you get to chapter 8, and the pacing goes out the window. Chapter 8 takes as long as the previous seven chapters combined. THEN you get to chapter 9 - the final chapter - and that one takes as long as the previous EIGHT chapters combined (maybe not quite that long, but it's close). When you finally finish that, you discover that there's a post-game epilogue chapter to complete (assuming you don't just call it beaten when the credits roll and quit). That one, mercifully, wasn't too too long - maybe a two hours. The game had definitely overstayed its welcome by the end of chapter 8, though.
As for the difficulty, in general, the game is pretty easy. I just used my default starting deck for the first five or six chapters. After that, I got beaten, so I used the massive amounts of gold I had accrued to buy (literally) about 70 three and five card packs from the in-game store and reworked my entire deck. Obviously half the fun of TCGs is building your own deck, but what I found to the be the most effective was a deck of all one Aura and one of the two species for each category. My end-game deck, for example, was all Yellow with just Dragon, Fairy, Undead, and Beast cards. That way you ALWAYS keep your Aura bonuses continually repeating (unless you have to pass a turn for whatever reason; that breaks the chain), and it's extremely easy to fuse cards. Those Aura bonuses will make or break a game since they not only heal and buff all of your cards, but they also keep your mana pool supplied.
All in all, while it does get extremely tedious at the end, it's a fun game. If you're a fan of titty anime or of TCGs (or both), I definitely recommend giving this a download if you've got $20 you don't know what to do with. Oh, and you get a Neptune card from Hyperdimension Neptunia (since Compile Heart and Idea Factory made both games).
My Rating - 3 Neps
Ladies and gentlemen, I bring to you a serious contender for 2014 Game of the Year. Just kidding, this game is shit. I know I shouldn't be surprised; licensed games - especially modern ones - are usually total rubbish, especially when they're aimed at a younger audience. Especially especially when that younger audience is female because I guess girls can't appreciate a good game like boys can? Patriarchal bullshit aside, I was legitimately disappointed. Not like "Wow, this is a bad game," but "Wow, this is a really bad game and I actually thought it would be decently entertaining."
I'm a fan of Hello Kitty. Not a huge fan - I don't have any Hello Kitty shit - but I think she's a cute character, and I like her. I also like uncommon and rare games, and knowing that this was a game printed in low numbers on an unpopular console, I know this is going to be a rare game in the future, so I picked it up before prices got out of control. Sure, that was the main reason that I ordered this last week, but I also really did think it would just be your typical Mario Kart clone (complete with shitty Rainbow Road rip-off). Oh, how wrong I was.
My buddy Jordan mentioned this in a thread on the Racketboy forums after I said I had ordered the game, and I can't help but agree with him - the game plays soooo slowly. Like, I'll compare it to Mario Kart. Mario Kart's difficulties are listed by speed - 50 cc is slow/easy, 100 cc is normal, and 150 cc is fast/hard. And on Mario Kart 8, 200 cc is plaid/you're-going-to-lose. Well, Hello Kitty Kruisers would stack up around 15 cc with no difficulty settings in sight. It's just....you might as well be racing on tortoises.
It plays like Diddy Kong's Racing less successful little sister (and looks like it, too; Jordan was right about this looking like a 5th gen game); some races are done in karts, some are done in boats, and some are done in planes. Anyway, as for game modes, there are three - Quick Race, Tournament, and Adventure. I started with Tournament since it seemed the most straightforward and would unlock characters and stuff. There are four tournaments, and you unlock each one by beating the previous tournament. Each tournament has four races. At no point after the first 10 seconds of each race was I ever out of first place for all sixteen races. The AI in this game would make President Bush (the second one) look like a Rhodes Scholar. I saw racers driving the wrong way. I saw racers driving in circles. I saw racers driving straight into walls and just staying there, wheels spinning. During one race, I lapped every single opponent twice because they decided to have a giant clusterfuck of driving into the same rock wall all at once.
If you haven't gathered yet, this game is laughably easy. I can't imagine four year olds having any difficulty with this game. Any difficulty to be had here is not due to level design - that's literally more uninspired than any game I've ever played - or even to cheap AI but to floaty controls. The planes control fine. The cars control okay - a little slippery, but not bad. The boats, though. Jesus fucking Christ, the boats are the floatiest fucking shit in the whole world. You try to turn in the boat. You're facing the direction you want to go. Your boat says "NOPE" and keeps fucking traveling in whatever the fuck direction it feels like. Normally this isn't a huge problem because the AI is so god damn useless. Enter the "Adventure" mode.
Adventure mode is really just 20 "challenge" levels, and THOSE are just the same four things repeated five times - collect every cupcake in the time limit, drive through every gate in the time limit, complete one lap in the time limit, and collect 99 apples in the time limit. I beat 19 of these 20 levels in one attempt. The third to last one, though....fucking collecting the cupcakes in the god damn FLOATY ASS BOAT. That one took me legit like a dozen tries. It's not that the GAME is hard. It's not that it's a cleverly designed level. It's that the boat is fucking broken if ANY semblance of control or precision is called for.
You have a minute to collect 12 cupcakes in this level with a moderately twisty river course. Well, I say river, but it was more of a lackadaisical creek. Anyway, the first four cupcakes are in two pairs, side by side. I first tried getting one, turning around, and getting the other one before continuing, clearly overestimating the ability of my motorboat to do anything I told it to. That failed spectacularly. I then though "The course isn't that long; I could probably grab one as I go by and then just pick up the other two after finishing a lap in the last few seconds." Indeed, that is what you are supposed to do, and that would have been as easy as any other stage if it weren't for a couple of problems. Problem A - the aforementioned fact that the boat is impossible to steer. Problem B - the hit detection is ridiculous; sometimes you can miss an object entirely and hit it, and sometimes you go straight through it and the game won't register that you've hit it. This is rather problematic when your stages is "collect soggy ass cupcakes." Problem C - the banks of this creek have the gravitational pull of small stars. God forbid you brush up against one pixel of the bank; that fucker is going to have your boat in a death grip that it takes you a good three or four seconds to break out of. When the creek is just a series of 90 degree angles, that makes this tough.
The racers are all identical in terms of performance, and while there does seem to be some real performance difference between the various karts/boats/planes, no where is there a stat screen, so who fucking knows what's better than what in what area. It's a total crapshoot. This is most noticeable with the boats - the motorboats feel faster but are literally impossible to steer with ANY precision whereas the hoverboats are slower but if you try REALLY hard and sacrifice a virgin to an eldritch god, you can actually steer it. Sort of.
This game is garbage. Unless you're going for a full Wii U set or particularly like collecting low print Wii U games (like me), don't bother with this game. Don't even waste your time emulating it or downloading the $10 digital version. It's just rubbish. Are you or your kids fans of Hello Kitty? I don't care; still avoid this game. It will just hurt you on the inside. I beat and unlocked everything - all 16 tournament races and all 20 adventure courses - in an hour and a half. And I still feel like I wasted an hour and a half of my life.
My Rating - 2 Neps
Also available on Windows
This is a game that's been on my shelf for a few years but that I had never gotten around to playing. I always figured I wouldn't much care for it. I've always recognized the series as extremely well made, but I really don't like stealth games that much; I prefer to sprint in, guns blazing, and rack up a body count that would put Josef Mengele to shame. I decided a few days ago, however, that this was a game that I NEEDED to play. For Heaven's sake, I've played through every main series Call of Duty game for the sake of being able to judge them fairly; I should, at the very least, play through a game that's legitimately good even if I don't personally like the style. So I started juggling Metal Gear Solid with Monster Monpiece on my Vita.
I have to admit, however, now that I've finished the game....I REALLY liked it. I still wish I'd had running in and murdering everything in a hail of bullets as a real option, but I'd be lying if I said that - once I got into it - I didn't thoroughly enjoy the stealth. It's still not my preferred playstyle, but damn if they didn't get it right in this game. I suspect most people are familiar with a game as legendary as Metal Gear Solid, so I won't spend any time going into the plot and rather just give my take on it.
I'll admit up front that, being terrible at stealth games, I played the game on easy. I think even I probably could have handled normal, though; except for the actual Metal Gear boss battle, none of the game gave me much real difficulty. There were some segments or bosses that were a good challenge for me, but that one boss fight was the only one that was "hard" for me at all, and honestly, once I figured out the trick to beating it on my second try, even that one was extremely manageable. That is, however, probably due in no small part to the merciful health and ammo drops throughout the game that my difficulty setting allowed.
There's really not a whole lot more for me to say about the game. I do think, however, that the cutscene at the very end TOTALLY ruined the series mood that the preceding nine hours established for me. I get that it fit with the narrative, but it felt like a rather jarring character shift for Snake, and I just wasn't a fan. It felt forced. Other than that one part, however, I really don't have any complaints for the game. It truly was a remarkable game, and I'm glad that I finally got around to playing it. I look forward to starting Metal Gear Solid 2...eventually.
My Rating - 4 Neps
I had always heard great things about this game, but I never owned it myself, and I never knew exactly what it was. I won an eBay auction for it for $26 not long ago (I decided to look for it since it's a pretty major cult classic GCN exclusive), so I decided that I'd give it a play immediately before it got lost in the dark recesses of my backlog (sorry, Dino Crisis 2...I'll play you eventually, I swear). I'm not sure how exactly I'd describe the game, but it's not what I was expecting (and I mean that in a good way).
Most of what I had heard and seen online was comparisons to Resident Evil, so I went into the game expecting a survival horror game that would keep me constantly on edge. I definitely see why that comparison is made - it plays almost exactly like Resident Evil - but I'm not sure that's a good comparison when talking about the feel of the game. Eternal Darkness is definitely a very foreboding game, but I'm not sure "horror" fits it like it does with Silent Hill, Resident Evil, and Dead Space. It's a very creepy and atmospheric game, but it's not a "scary" game. As I dug deeper, I started to see some people describe it as "Lovecraftian," and I think that's a much more apt description as it very much has the feel of a Lovecraft work. While it kept on edge less than Resident Evil, the story had me MUCH more interested, the characters were better developed (though not perfect), and I found it an overall more engrossing game than I was expecting.
I'm not going to spend too much time on the plot so as to avoid spoilers in case anyone else has joined me on the SS Late-to-the-Game on this one, but the basic plot is that you have stop an immortal zombie guy from summoning an evil god to destroy the world. The story revolves around the Tome of Eternal Darkness, and the game is largely broken into a number of chapters taking place in various locations around the world and times throughout history. Each chapter follows a different character, but it all ties back to Alex in 2000 CE Rhode Island as the main character around whom the story revolves. It's an uncommon method of storytelling in games, and one that I usually am not fond of, but it works quite well here.
If you want a horror game, this is NOT the game for you. If you want a dark game, however, then look no further than Eternal Darkness. It's got a good amount of its own lore that you learn throughout the game, and the narrative is like a book that you can't put down because you just have to know what happens next.
My Rating - 4 Neps
Also available on iOS, Android, OSX, Linux, and Windows
Breach and Clear was first a Steam game, then a Vita game, and then the rarest physical Vita game in the world with - IIRC - only 1530 copies in existence (1500 for the initial sale and 30 for the bundle with Breach and Clear: Deadline that went on sale a week or two ago). But what IS it? Well, it's part turn based strategy, part 'Murica sim, and part SRPG. I'll explain what I mean by each of those.
The TBS is the most obvious part. You control each member of your four person fire team individually when you give orders for each turn (called "phases" in the game) that last for five seconds. When all of your orders are given, everyone - your four soldiers as well as however many terrorists are on the map - move at the same time. What determines the combat is what enemies your guys come into contact with (or vice versa), what direction each combatant is facing, and the level of your stats.
Speaking of stats, there are six stats in the game - Accuracy, Reaction, Health, Speed, Evasion, and a class specific stat (more about classes in a moment). The first two are the most important for offense. If you have high reaction but low accuracy, you'll shoot at everything the second it enters your field of vision, but you're not going to hit shit. Conversely, if you have really high accuracy but low reaction, you're not going to realize there's an enemy until he's practically kissing you, but you could hit a squirrel three miles away using a 17th Century musket. Obviously, a balance is best.
The first thing you do when you start is make a four man fire team. You'll first choose which spec ops force you want to use, each specializing in a certain stat - US Army Rangers (health), US Navy SEALs (reaction), US Army Special Forces (speed), Canadian Joint Task Force 2 (accuracy), British Special Air Service (evasion), German Kommando Spezialkräfte (units' special stat), and Russian Spetznaz (health and reaction).
After that, you pick from six classes for each of your four units - Fireteam Leader, Weapons Sergeant, Breacher, Direct Action, Medic, and Intelligence. My team consisted of the Weapons Sergeant Rapejizz Dickfuck (who used a blue assault rifle), Breacher Douchenozzle Gigacock (who used a green shotgun), Fireteam Leader Barack Obama (who used a gold sniper rifle), and Medic John Cena (who used a hot pink SMG).
Once you make your team, you get into the meat of the game. There are three games modes - one where you kill everybody, one where you defuse bombs in a time limit, and one where you just GTFO. Within each game mode, there are seven locations - Afghanistan, Turkey, Germany, China, Russia, Colombia, and Mexico. Within each location, you have five missions. So you've got a total of 105 missions. There are five difficulties ranging from Very Easy to Very Hard, and for each mission, you can receive between one and four starts based on how quickly you complete it and how your soldiers fared. These stars are used to unlock more missions as well as unlock weapons for purchase from the store.
Now the RPG element comes into play with the experience gained after each mission. After every mission, all of your soldiers - even if they died - are given experience, and each time you level up (up to a cap of 30), you get five skill points to place in any of the six stats. You can turn on permadeath for more experience, but I like to YOLO things way too much to bother with that mess. It's a nice way to specialize certain characters (I focused on speed for my medic, accuracy for my sniper, reaction for my shotgun breacher, etc).
My Rating - 4 Neps
When I played Valkyria Chronicles a year or two ago, it became one of my all-time favorite SRPGs. The strategy was great, the blend of real time and turn based was brilliant, the story was engrossing, and the characters were captivating. From the day I beat that game, I wanted to get a PSP, more than anything, to play the sequel.
Having beaten said sequel, I can now conclude that while it's a competent sequel, it does not live up the standard its predecessor set. Don't get me wrong, it's a good game, and as far as I'm concerned, it hit the story part right on the head. Using the same combat system as the first game, the gameplay itself was done well, also. It does, however, fail to impress me with the characters (at least in comparison to the original game) and the pacing of the game. It does, however, allow for ad hoc multiplayer. While I didn't get to try that feature out, I thought it was great that they facilitated co-op battles.
For those who've played the first game, this one picks up two years after its conclusion at Lanseal Military Academy in southern Gallia at the outset of a civil war sparked by a major spoiler for the first game that I won't mention. Your main character - this game's Welkin - is a dumb-as-shit kid named Avan. Now despite having an IQ of approximately 12, he's a damn likable character. Honestly, he, Cosette, Zeri, and Melissa (the two former being the other two "main" playable characters) were the only four playable characters that I ever actually cared about. It's not that there was anything "wrong" with the other characters, but they never really "clicked" with me the way those four did.
Anyway, some guy from the academy shows up at Avan's house, goes "hey, sorry fam, but your brother died on a special mission," and Avan's all "bullshit, bro, i'm going to that school to find out about this special mission and do some stuff!" There you meet the other characters of Class G - the reject class - and they decide to make the mentally handicapped guy class leader. Why not?
My biggest gripe with the game is the pacing, and it's the same problem I have with the first Assassin's Creed game. When the game is going and I'm doing the actual story, it's great, and I'm loving every minute of it. The problem is all of the bullshit side stuff that the game makes you do in order to progress to the next part of the story. Just like Assassin's Creed made you go do random bullshit quests to unlock the next story quest, each month in Valkyria Chronicles II (the game is broken up into 12 months) requires you to do between 3 and 5 side missions before you can unlock that month's story mission. Normally it's something like "This town that you've liberated from the rebels four times already has been taken over again. Go there and occupy this one really special enemy camp. We should probably leave some soldiers there to actually guard the city this time, but fuck that, we'll just send you back to liberate it again next month."
It's not that the side missions are bad, per se. They just feel REALLY repetitive and pointless after about April. I know the whole "But it earns you money to buy weapon upgrades and experience to upgrade your classes!" bit, but that could be done just as easily by having the upgrades cost less and scale it to just have the story missions provide you with that. Or at least make it optional so I feel a desire to grind instead of forcing me to do it. It's like having to read for class - I refused to pick up a book for pleasure all throughout college and my first year after graduation. Once I wasn't forced to read anymore, however, I started reading a lot again. Make someone do something, and they're probably going to hate it.
One nice thing, however, is that your units don't "die." If they get wounded, you have a small window of opportunity to get to them on the field, in which case they'll be hospitalized for one mission. If you don't make it in time, or if an enemy unit gets to them first, then they're hospitalized for three missions (which SERIOUSLY sucks). It may suck, but it's WAY better than having them dead forever. So at least the game is forgiving in that regard.
It's not a bad game. It's really not. It's actually quite a good SRPG. But that pacing, man...that pacing killed it for me. Nothing is going to break my immersion (aside from an idiot sitting next to me singing or laughing during a horror game - looking at you, Paul) faster than a game that makes me feel like I'm wasting my time. I don't even actually have to be wasting my time (you are getting money and experience, after all), but if I FEEL like it's wasting my time, it's going to make me hella salty. This game does that. Buuuuut they did introduce a class that lets you cut enemies in half with a giant sword and a huge shield that blocks most of their bullets as you sprint towards them like a madman. It definitely gets kudos for that.
My Rating - 3 Neps
Also available on PlayStation Vita and Windows
This is not a long game. Not for one playthrough, anyway. It took me probably somewhere around 4 hours, I would guess? This is also, however, not a game that can be fully experienced in one playthrough. I'm posting this after having finished my first playthrough, but I can promise that it will not be my last playthrough. There are other girls to choose, other starting stats to try, and other paths to take.
The core gameplay here is very much a House of the Dead style rail shooter - straightforward shooting gameplay, branching paths, and WHY THE SWEET FUCK DIDN'T THEY LET US USE PLAYSTATION MOVE?? Seriously, Move is faaar from perfect, but that control scheme would have worked much better for this game than the DualShock 4 controller. I mean, the DualShock works, but it's like playing House of the Dead 4 with a DualShock 3; yeah, it works, but why would you choose that?
Anyway, the basic premise is that this cupid fucks up, shoots you with way too much aphrodisiac, and now your entire high school (minus like three special girls) want you to power drill the yippee bog with the dude piston. The catch is that if you don't get into a relationship with "the one" by sundown, literally everyone and everything on the planet will hate you for the rest of your life. And you have literally hundreds and hundreds of girls who just want you to vulcanize the whoopee stick in the ham wallet.
To solve this dilemma, you fire "pheromone shots" at the girls to "give them euphoria." It's basically just a gun that shoots orgasms. Between each stage, you have the option of visiting a shop and using angel feathers (which you accumulate from completing stages and completing bonus fetch quests along the way) to buy either stat boosts or items or protective items. The stat boost items will increase one of the four stats - Intelligent, Athletic, Stylish, and Lewd - by 10 points (the maximum is 100). You also have the option of donating to the shopkeeper's band, but I'm not sure what doing that will do. You have to donate 100, 500, 1000, 5000, and then 9999 angel feathers to complete whatever bonus thing that is, and I still needed to do the 9999 donation when I finished my playthrough
On your first playthrough, you have the option of pursuing relationships with one of two girls. Subsequent playthroughs unlock further options as well as starting stat sets for your character, adding some incentive to play the game more (although, seriously, it's a rail shooter with anime titties; what more incentive do I need?). Now on the subject of the infamous $90 DLC, as in love with this game as I am, that's fucking stupid; I'm not paying nearly double what I paid for the game (thank you Amazon) for a single piece of DLC that just makes it easier to see panties. As you can see from a couple of my screenshots, you can still see the girls' underwear; the DLC just makes it easier and makes it show up in Doki-Doki Mode (which is basically a super attack you can charge).
So all in all, this game is definitely not for everyone. It's really mainly for me and my buddies Exhuminator, and Lauren. I think my pals JT and Edwin would love it, too, though. Okay, so the Racketboy forums have a decent group of perverted weebs and quasi-weebs, but you know what? That's what makes Racketboy awesome. POWER TO THE PERV-WEEBS.
My Rating - 4 Neps
This game came courtesy of my buddy Fragems for the Racketboy Secret Santa in July, and it feels like it was made specifically for me. There's really not a lot of depth to this game. In terms of core gameplay, it's a shmup, and it's an okay one. It's certainly not as amazing as Blazing Lasers or Truxton, but it's not bad. My only real gripe with it is the first level. It legitimately gives me a headache just playing it. The background is supposed to be water, but it's got columns of what are basically blue arrows going in alternating directions (one goes up, the next goes down, the next goes down) at extremely fast speeds. It's basically a recipe for the perfect epileptic seizure (or, in my case, just a headache).
Now what makes this game more than just an okay shmup and one of my new favorite collection pieces is what happens between each of the five stages - glorious 16-bit space titty! I can't make out much of the story since I can't read moon language, but from what I can gather and infer, you're some hot shot space pilot who keeps getting distress calls from beautiful space babes. When you go save them, they take off all their clothes to reward you. My screenshots don't reflect it (because I don't want the mods coming after my head), but you do get legitimate space titty complete with space nipple.
TITTY ALL DAY EVERY DAY
While the gameplay may be just okay, there is some REALLY impressive parallax scrolling in the game. I'm talking four or five different levels of scroll speeds. It's seriously cool, and it looks fantastic. I have noticed that this game is EXTREMELY hard to find online, and the few listings I saw on eBay are really pricey (hence why IDGAF that I'm fairly certain this copy is a repro), so I'd recommend emulating or Everdriving it, but I DEFINITELY recommending doing one of those two. Just make sure any parents/children/spouses aren't around.
My Rating - 3 Neps
I'm a teacher.
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 high school history; during the night, I spend my spare time gaming. Then I write about it.