Also available on Xbox 360
Do you like giant robots? Do you like massacring dozens of enemies at a single time? Do you like nonsensical storylines that you still don't quite understand even at the end? Then Dynasty Warriors Gundam 3 is for you! The plot is completely bonkers, and you don't even care. All you care about is blowing up hordes of giant robots.
The game plays pretty much exactly like your standard musou games. You run around, tear through ridiculously underpowered enemies like a hot knife through butter. You're not *quite* as powerful as in Dynasty Warriors or Warriors Orochi, but you still absolutely wreck your enemies. You can choose from a pretty large variety of Gundam characters, and there are four different "paths" that give you slightly different perspectives on the story. I played through with Amuro as I'm still a newcomer to the Gundam franchise and have only seen the original movie trilogy, so he was the character I knew. There's also something like 120 mobile suits from which you can choose although only certain pilots can use certain mobile suits.
The visuals look pretty impressive for the PlayStation 3 in my opinion. It doesn't look as good as something like The Last of Us or Uncharted 3, obviously, but it's definitely one of the better looking games on the platform. The audio design is similarly impressive; the music fits the action very well and it great to listen to, and the voice acting - while English dubs that not everyone will like - is fairly well done for most characters. There are obviously some characters who have voices that grate on my nerves - I'm convinced Heero is the most boring sounding character in any series ever - but by and large, the voice acting was pretty well done.
The gameplay is the highlight of the game without a doubt. In addition to the single player campaign with its three paths, you have access to a series of online missions that can be done cooperatively, something Colin and I burnt a whole night playing. The game's mechanics do feel a bit archaic compared to more recent Warriors games - you can't lock on to captain enemies (only a few "giant" bosses), and the game's pace generally feels a little slower, for example - but it's an enjoyable experience nonetheless.
Dynasty Warriors Gundam 3 is a lot of fun, but it does show its age. It's seven years old now, and that's evident in some of the game's rather outdate mechanics. If you're a fan of musou games, then you'll probably enjoy it, and there's definitely a lot to love here for Gundam fans, but unless you fall into one of those two groups, I probably wouldn't run out and order a copy now. If you see it for less than $10, then yeah, pick it up, for sure, but unless you're a musou fan or a Gundam fan, I wouldn't pay more than $10 or $15.
My Rating - 3 Neps
Also available on PlayStation Portable and Windows
God bless NIS America for bringing us exceptionally pervy weeb games. Criminal Girls: Invite Only is an enhanced port of the PSP game, Criminal Girls, that was previously released only in Japan. As is often the case with these games, it received heavy censorship when it was localized for the West, but a censored game is better than no game, I suppose.
Criminal Girls: Invite Only is a dungeon crawling RPG that is average in pretty much every way. The basic premise of the game is that you're some random guy who accepted a job as what you think is a zookeeper for a wage of $0.00 per hour. Speaking as a high school teacher (which is basically a zookeeper most of the time), that is a criminally low wage. Pun intended. Anyway, it turns out your job is not to manage a zoo, per se, but to guide the souls of seven sinful girls through Hell on a journey of redemption so that they might atone for their sins and be reborn. You also get to play minigames to "motivate" the girls to use stronger abilities and attacks. The game's broken into five floors or dungeons.
Being a port of a PSP game, the visuals aren't mind blowing, but the looks crisp and colorful, and the anime style is well done in the game. The music is extremely standard and not particularly memorable, and while the Japanese voice acting is fairly well done, I ended up just turning the volume off on my Vita and keep Happy Console Gamer playing in the background. I legit watched around 120 of his videos during my playthrough of Criminal Girls. The game utilizes random encounters, but they're not so frequent that they get unbearable like in some RPGs.
The actual combat in the game is fairly entertaining and somewhat unique compared to other games that I've played. When you "motivate" the girls to unlock their abilities, they get added to a pool of abilities that the girls' AI will suggest each turn. As you have four girls in active combat, assuming they're all "motivated," you'll have four abilities from which to choose each turn. These suggestions are usually somewhat tailored to the situation - the girls are more likely to suggest healing abilities when characters are badly injured - but they're not always perfect suggestions, and you'll often find yourself wishing they'd made different suggestions.
Criminal Girls: Invite Only is a good weeb dungeon crawling RPG for the Vita, but it doesn't really stand out from the crowd. The visuals are nice, but the music is so-so, and the North American and European releases (I played the latter) were heavily censored, so we perverted weebs will be a bit disappointed. All in all, though, it's a good experience if you like the genre, but it's held its value pretty well, so I can't say that I'd suggest running out to buy it unless this is your favorite series, you're trying to collect weeb games, or you're a hardcore Vita collector. Definitely borrow it from a friend if you have one who owns a copy of the game, however.
My Rating - 3 Neps
Also available on 3DS, Android, and iOS
If Zombie Panic in Wonderland sounds like a completely bizarre game, that's because it is. It's bizarre in the best way possible, though. Zombie Panic in Wonderland is an arcade shooter originally released on Wii and later ported to 3DS and mobile phones that ended up being a LOT more fun than I expected.
The premise of Zombie Panic in Wonderland is that throughout Wonderland, zombies have begun emerging, but no one quite knows why. I quit paying attention to the story after a while, but I can tell you that the game features characters from multiple fairy tales and similar works - Snow White, Dorothy, a ruined yellow brick road, Tin Man, and Red Riding Hood, to name a few. The game's story and cutscenes before each level are wacky and goofy and will definitely bring a smile.
The game is an arcade style shooter but not a traditional one in that it's not a rail shooter. In each level, the backdrop doesn't change at all with enemies just spawning in front of you rather than the camera moving around a world to the enemies as in most arcade shooters. You can move your character but only left and right. You only ways to avoid enemy attacks are to just stay out of the way or press the dodge button (Z) at the right time. It actually plays a lot like Wild Guns except with a submachine gun with a bottomless magazine and comical looking zombies.
Visually the game looks quite good, but the game's best aspect is definitely its music. The soundtrack manages to be ominous yet light at the same time. It's not scary, per se, but it definitely conveys the zombie theme. That's a terrible description, I know, but it's really quite good. The control, as well, is fantastic. It's tight and responsive with no random cursor spasms whatsoever. My only real complaint with the game is the difficulty balancing. There are three stages to the game, each with two or three levels, and while the first stage is pretty easy to let you get used to the controls, and the second stage is a decent but fair challenge, the third stage just seems to throw you at a wall. You go from the easiest of the game's three bosses straight into the most brutal of the game's stages, and while it's not the worst difficulty spike I've ever experienced, it'll give you some figurative whiplash.
Zombie Panic in Wonderland is a charming and fun to play shooter that I definitely recommend no matter how you play it - on Wii, on 3DS, or even on mobile phones if you're a scrub. It's a shame that the difficulty wasn't more smoothly balanced, but that shouldn't deter anyone from giving this a download before the Wii Shop Channel closes its doors. It support two player co-op, so give it a download, grab a buddy and some beers, and kill some goofy zombies.
My Rating - 4 Neps
Apologies for the low resolution image; decent looking cover artwork for mediocre WiiWare games is (un)surprisingly difficult to find. Onslaught is, as I mentioned, a WiiWare exclusive that attempts to answer the question "What if you took Earth Defense Force but made it a arcade-y first person shooter?" Before today, I wasn't aware that that question needed an answer, but an answer I have, and I can't say that my life isn't a little bit better having that question answered.
The game's story is definitely its weakest attribute; it's stupid and makes zero sense. Basically people on Earth experimented on insects to turn them into huge cybernetic creatures with the purposes of terraforming planets for colonization. They sent a ship load of these insect cyborgs to a planet as an experiment, and oops, they mutated and ended up massacring all of the teams that were later sent to investigate. You meet up with a couple of random special forces folks and go do bug killing things. I stopped paying attention around that time. The story's stupid, so don't worry about it. The point is that it's pretty much EDF but in a very arcade-y first person shooter. What I mean by that is that it feels and plays a lot like an arcade rail shooter except that there are no rails and you can move about freely. It's hard to describe, but I guarantee that you'll know EXACTLY what I mean if you play the game.
Visually, the game is actually pretty impressive. The Wii in general isn't exactly known for its graphical prowess, and WiiWare games especially with their roughly 500 MB limit tended to look...shall we say, minimalistic. Onslaught, while definitely not as good looking as The Conduit or Metroid Prime 3, looks much better than I was expecting. Unfortunately the controls are average at best, and the sound is just...not great. The motion controls are extremely twitchy which is in sharp contrast to the character movement; your crosshairs zip around the screen, but your character moves as if he were in a pool of pudding. You get used to both the sensitive aiming and the sluggish movement, but they're definitely not what I would call ideal. The audio, on the other hand, certainly isn't the worst I've heard, but it's certainly not something to highlight when trying to convince folks to play the game. The sound effects for the guns all feel rather hollow, and the music is remarkable only in how forgettable it is.
I know I've been perhaps a bit harsh, but Onslaught really isn't a bad game. I had a good bit of fun the two or three hours I spent playing it. It's just not a very memorable game. It looks good for a WiiWare game with a realistic art style, and once you get used to the somewhat janky controls, it's actually a good bit of fun to play, but it's definitely not a game I'd urge you to go download immediately. If you've got some Wii points left that you want to use before the service shuts down in a few months, then there are definitely ways you could use them, but you're not missing out on a classic or a hidden gem or anything if you forego Onslaught.
My Rating - 3 Neps
Also available on PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and Windows
Doom is a technical marvel on Switch. Panic Button can throw away their entire list of credentials; all they need to say to prove their talent and capability is "We ported the 2016 Doom to the Switch." Obviously there were some pretty significant sacrifices that had to be made to get the game running on the relatively underpowered Switch, but given that the Switch is a handheld system and that the game DOES run - and relatively well, at that - this is nothing less than programming wizardry.
I previously reviewed Doom on PlayStation 4 when it came out last year, so this is going to be a relatively brief review that focuses primarily on the differences between Doom on PlayStation 4 and on Switch. First and foremost, the game is here and completely intact. This isn't like the ports of the original Doom to various consoles in the mid 90s where you'd have some levels shortened or omitted entirely to work around various systems' limitations. The entire non-stop adrenaline campaign is fully intact on Switch, and even multiplayer made the transition, although it's worth noting that even with the physical release of Doom, you have to download the multiplayer part of the game in a big ol' update. Given that you need to have internet access to play the multiplayer anyway, though, I think that's a completely reasonable way to save cartridge space.
Obviously with a game this gorgeous and this busy, getting it to run on any handheld is going to require sacrifices, and the sacrifices here are apparently. They absolutely do not ruin gameplay, though. The textures are noticeably lower in resolution, and the game renders at a maximum of 720p to match the screen's resolution, although it does on occasion dip to around 600p or so in particularly busy scenes (but since you're going to be busy slaughtering demons, you probably won't even notice). The other major sacrifice is frame rate, foregoing the original releases' target 60 fps for a target 30 fps, and unfortunately, that target isn't always met on Switch. I didn't find the drops to be severe enough to ruin gameplay, but others may be more sensitive to those drops.
While the game targets 30 fps, it can drop to around 20 fps during busy fights. There are some ways to get around this, though. I tried playing on various difficulty settings to test a theory, and the game runs significantly smoother the lower you set the difficulty due to having fewer enemies on screen at one time. On the highest difficulty (of the ones unlocked at start), the system, quite frankly, really chugged along, but on the lowest difficulty setting, I actually experienced very few frame rate drops. Obviously this is definitely a sub-optimal situation, and those looking for serious challenge probably shouldn't choose the Switch version of Doom if other platforms are available, but if you just want to kill 20 or 30 minutes killing demons from time to time on the way to work or while taking a crap, then this is a completely playable version of the game. When running on the lowest difficulty to keep the frame rate as stable as possible, I had zero actual complaints. Sure, I missed the higher resolution textures and 60 fps frame rate of the PlayStation 4 release, but the lower resolution textures and reduced frame rate are more than acceptable trade-offs for portability in my opinion.
The multiplayer, while obviously not the focus of Doom, was more disappointing than the single player to me. Frame rate seemed a bit more stable than in single player, but it stayed stable around 25 or 27 frames per second. Having grown up gaming on mid and low end PCs, I can deal with frame rates in the 20s, so I still had a pretty good time playing online, but I know that for most people, the frame rate is a deal breaker for the game's online mode. It is nice that the online multiplayer made it into the Switch version; long time Nintendo gamers are all too familiar with the tried-and-true tactic of completely omitting multiplayer in third party ports to Nintendo platforms, so its inclusion at all is a welcome feature for me.
Doom on Switch is definitely inferior to the original releases on PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and Windows, but don't let that turn you off of it entirely. The multiplayer leaves a bit to be desired, but if you're willing to play on a lower difficulty, there is a LOT of fun to be had in the game's campaign, even if the frame rate and resolution are a good bit lower than its beefier counterparts. The fact that Panic Button was able to get this game to run at all on a handheld, let alone getting it to run this well, is freaking astounding, and for a game this complex to run as well as it does less than a year into the Switch's life span bodes well for the little system that could. If you've got a Switch and are at all a fan of Doom, I definitely recommend picking this up, even if you've already played Doom on another platform.
My Rating - 4 Neps
Also available on PlayStation 4 and Windows
Star Wars: Battlefront II is a game that is shrouded in controversy, and rightly so - EA has structured this game's microtransactions in a way so blatantly greedy that it makes Joel Osteen look generous and selfless. Beneath the controversy and bullshit business practices, however, lies a game that one really ought to judge on its own merit independent from the shenanigans of its publisher. This is especially true for us Star Wars fans as this is one HELL of a Star Wars game.
Pretty much the biggest complaint folks had with the previous Battlefront game (aside from just ripping the name straight from the first game in the series) was the complete exclusion of a single player campaign. Star Wars games have always been known for having narrative-heavy single player experiences, and for a Battlefront game to omit that just felt wrong. DICE realized that they screwed up in that regard, and they made sure to make up for that error in Battlefront II. The campaign isn't long - it even falls short of EA's promised six to seven hours if you're either good at the game or play on a low difficulty - but it's clear from every part of the experience that it goes for quality over quantity.
The campaign takes place between Return of the Jedi and The Force Awakens and shows the events after Emperor Palpatine's death and before the New Republic's final victory over the Galactic Empire. While you play as an array of major franchise characters in various missions, the main protagonist is Iden Versio, an Imperial special forces soldier in command of the elite and infamous Inferno Squad. To avoid spoilers, I'll keep it at that, but the fact that you play as an Imperial soldier and, over the course of the campaign, see multiple sides of the conflict between the Rebel Alliance and the Empire, gives the story a deep and compelling feel that even stands out among other Star Wars games.
I played on Xbox One X, and from what I've seen from DigitalFoundry and a few others, this is one of the games that shows off the One X's graphical superiority over the PS4 Pro. While the PC version, obviously, still looks the best, the One X has a few distinct visual advantages over the PS4 Pro. Whereas the PS4 Pro renders at 1440p and uses lower resolution textures than the PC's max settings, Xbox One X renders the game between 1800p and a full 2160p depending on what's going on in the scene as well as using the high resolution textures from the PC version's max settings. The only major difference between the One X version and PC version aside from locking 60 fps on PC is the shadow and lighting effects that PC does in better detail. Otherwise, you're pretty much getting a virtually identical version on Xbox One X. It's worth noting, however, that while the One X does maintain 60 fps probably 95% of the time (and even then never dropping below 50 or so), the PS4 Pro does seem to hold that 60 fps frame rate a bit more consistently than the One X.
In addition to the campaign, you've also got the obvious multiplayer. You know, that thing DICE and EA thought would be enough on its own to impress Star Wars fans. While I'll always be a sucker for single player and local co-op modes, I have to admit that DICE did an excellent job with the online multiplayer. It can take a little bit to find a match initially, but it's exceptionally addicting once you get going, and unlike the previous game, it doesn't just feel like Battlefield with a Star Wars mod. My favorite part of the previous Battlefront game was the starfighter combat, and they've gone all in with that in Battlefront II, giving you fighters to play and 24 player objective based games. I'm not particularly good at it, but that didn't stop me from having a ball. The ground combat is equally satisfying and features a whopping 40 players. Not only that, but it actually encourages you to play the objective in objective based matches.
Star Wars Battlefront II could have been a perfect game if EA hadn't been the publisher. No matter how good the game is, though - and it is DAMN good - there's no erasing the sins of these egregiously money-gouging microtransactions. While the game's microtransactions have been disabled indefinitely (read: until gamers forget why they were pissed off about them), you can't just retcon that kind of bullshit. Charging a full $60 for a game and then treating the microtransactions as if it were a freemium game is unforgivable. That said, however, the game does feature a campaign that, at least in my opinion, is second only to Knights of the Old Republic in terms of storytelling and an online multiplayer that is truly addicting. Out of principle given the scam-esque controversy, I don't feel comfortable telling anyone to go buy this game new (although I'm not telling anyone they shouldn't; after all, I did it), but I will say that any fan of Star Wars needs to get this game, even if it's used a year down the line. For those who, like me, can't wait that long, just make sure you never use microtransactions when they're inevitably re-enabled. Don't just pass up on this one entirely, though; it's a legit Star Wars game.
My Rating - 4 Neps
Also available on PlayStation Vita and Windows
Blue Reflection is a very unique game. It's a JRPG, but it's not like any JRPG that you've ever played before. It took me a while to decide whether or not I liked it, but I did quite enjoy my time with the game. As an exceptionally weeb-y game, it's sure to please many a Vita collector out there if you opt for the handheld version over the console version.
The story of Blue Reflection is, frankly, fairly standard as far as weeb games go. You're a high school first year who finds out that she's a magical girl who has the ability to cross into another world made up of humanity's emotions and fight four giant gods/monsters that threaten to destroy the world and wipe out humanity. You have to do this while you handle your high school responsibilities - friends, classes, clubs, etc. It's not exactly the most original plot, but it's very well delivered.
What makes the game so unique among JRPGs set in high schools is the way they structure the game play; it can't seem to decide if it wants to be a visual novel or a JRPG. It really is about a 50/50 split. When you're in the "other world" and during the boss fights, it plays like a standard JRPG. When you're in the real world, it plays mostly like a visual novel; most of the game is dialogue and choices as to what personal relationships to try to advance. It's a unique blend, at least as far as the games I've played, but it works well once you get used to it.
Visually, the game is your fairly basic anime inspired style. Not much about the visual design really stands out, but it's adequate enough. The sound design is where the game's ancillary aspects shine, though. The voice acting (it's all Japanese) is very well done, and the music is absolutely fantastic. The music varies from soft instrumental to heavy dubstep, but it's perfectly matched with the scene to fit what's going on in the game. The leveling system is another thing that sets Blue Reflection apart from other RPGs; you don't get any experience from battles. Instead, the way you gain levels is through strengthening your relationships with your friends and finishing key story objectives. It reinforces the importance of the visual novel aspect of the game.
Unfortunately, there are some serious flaws with the game. There's a fair bit of random slowdown even running on PS4 Pro, and while it doesn't break the flow of gameplay, it can be a bit jarring. I also experienced five or six application crashes during my playthrough, although the relatively frequent autosaves kept that from being a major hindrance. The biggest issue and one that is completely inexcusable given the severity of this issue is the translation. I understand a typo or a translation error here or there if there's no quality control. This, however, is on a totally different level. Every ten minutes or so, it seemed, there was a major translation error most of which were less legitimate errors and more just laziness and the lack of any kind of quality assurance whatsoever. It really breaks the flow of the narrative.
Blue Reflection is one of the most unique RPGs that I've played, but it ended up being an enjoyable experience. Mostly. Unfortunately the performance hiccups and egregious translation issues completely break the immersion for me. That's not to say that the experience is ruined - I did still enjoy the game a lot - but the sloppiness and laziness is, in my view, just inexcusable. If you're into hella weeb-y games, I still recommend picking this up, but I can't recommend it to anyone who's into exceptionally Japanese stuff.
My Rating - 3 Neps
Also available on PlayStation 2, Xbox 360, Android, iOS, and Windows
Bully is a game about the struggles of adolescence, high school cliques, and puberty. It also takes place in the worse school in the country. Bullsworth Academy is a private boarding school, and after being expelled from like seven other schools, that's where 15 year old Jimmy Hopkins finds himself.
The game plays a lot like most of Rockstar's games; it's an open world action adventure game that's broken down into set missions while leaving you free to do mostly whatever you want. It's more restrictive than Grand Theft Auto - you can't very well have a 15 year old hiring hookers and then murdering them to get your money back - but you're still free to explore Bullsworth and take part in a number of optional challenges and jobs alongside the core story missions. After you finish the last mission, you're also free to finish up any tasks you might have missed along the way, so you don't have to stress about missing something during your playthrough.
The core of the story involves Jimmy's journey to navigate through the new school and deal with the various cliques, eventually beating them all into submission and becoming "king of the school." Along your journey, you get various weapons - all non-lethal, of course - and the ability to unlock various bikes and scooters to help you get through town more quickly and efficiently. There are a variety of classes to attend - two per day - and passing them unlocks various upgrades to make your life a little bit easier.
The game beautifully stereotypes high school cliques, and the voice actors they chose for the various characters did a perfect job of bringing those stereotypes to life. The entire audio design, from voice acting to sound effects to soundtrack, fits the game extremely well. The visuals aren't much of an upgrade from PlayStation 2, but there seems to be a little improvement to color depth and some slight enhancements to texture details. Overall, though, it's a fair looking game, but it doesn't take much advantage of the Wii's hardware strength over the PlayStation 2.
Bully is a good, solid Rockstar title that makes the transition from PlayStation 2 to Wii fairly well. The motion controls aren't as fluid or precise as Call of Duty, The Conduit, or Metroid Prime, but there's a lock on button when fighting enemies, so there aren't many situations where motion aiming is necessary. Even with the imperfect motion controls when aiming, the game in general controls extremely well and is a joy to play. The story is both interesting and funny especially for those of us who work in a high school (and aren't that far removed from being a student in high school). Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed my time with Bully, and it's worth noting that while the PS2 original is the highest rated version, the Wii version tends to get rated just a hair below that and decently higher than the Xbox 360 or Windows ports, and the Wii port has a handful of added features and missions that the PS2 version didn't have.
My Rating - 4 Neps
Also available on PlayStation 4 and Windows
For Honor is a game that promised a glorious amount of combat and strategy. What it delivered was a glorious amount of disappointment. It was supposed to be like The Division but instead of guns in New York, it's swords and axes in a fictional world filled with Vikings, samurai, and European knights. Just like with The Division, the first thirty minutes or so seem a LOT cooler than the last six or seven hours.
The game looks nice, but as is often the case with Ubisoft, that's about as far as the pros go. It plays well enough for a while, but it gets old fast. I didn't mess around with the online much because, frankly, I was sick of the game halfway through the campaign. I use the word "campaign" pretty loosely because it amounted to little more than a seven hour tutorial. There are about half a dozen missions in each of the three chapters - a knight chapter, a Viking chapter, and a samurai chapter. There's a story there and characters, but it's utterly uninteresting. There's this psychotic lady who wants to start a war between the three factions because apparently eternal war is a desirable state for her. Beyond that, nothing really makes a whole lot of sense. They go and burn the Vikings' land to piss them off. Then they decide to go raid the samurai because Vikings. Then the samurai go attack the knights because they just magically know that they're behind everything. Or something. It's stupid, and there's no real context for these nations except "There's a kingdom of knights, a kingdom for Vikings, and a kingdom of samurai."
The gameplay is very much like a mix of Dark Souls and The Division except replace the rolling in Dark Souls with blocking and parrying. Otherwise, the combat feels similarly slow but powerful, and the sort of openish but pointless feeling online combat of The Division. I honestly can't imagine wanting to play much of this, though. I lowered the campaign difficulty to easy about a third of the way through not because it was too difficult but because it was too damn boring; I just wanted it to be over. Why didn't I just quit playing, you may ask? I don't know, because I'm stubborn and hate not finishing games these days. I really should have, though; that was seven hours I'll never get back.
For Honor is a game that promised a lot and delivered none of it. There was a lot of potential, but despite the game's impressive visuals, the monotonous gameplay, terrible voice acting, and perhaps the stupidest story I've ever heard from a game all ruin what could have potentially been a decent game. The game is pretty and is technically functional. That's really the only praise I can find to give this game. I got it on sale for like $12 new, and I have no doubt that I overpaid.
My Rating - 2 Neps
Also available on PlayStation 4 and Windows
After nine long years, Call of Duty finally makes its triumphant return to World War II. Not since 2008's World at War has Call of Duty gone back to its roots in war torn western Europe, but Sledgehammer made sure that when it did, it was as if it never left. I'm a sucker for historical games in general (I mean, I AM a history teacher) and especially games set in World War II, so I'm a little naturally biased, but this is a REALLY fantastic game.
WWII follows the US Army's 1st Infantry Division - "Big Red One" - which the aptly named Call of Duty 2: Big Red One also made its subject. I've not played CoD2: BRO, so I'll not be comparing the two, but aside from the photorealistic visuals (I seriously couldn't tell at first if it were live actors or CGI), the part about WWII that stands out the most is how damn well the characters are portrayed. This is another example of fantastic writing coupled with superb voice acting to deliver an unforgettable experience. The campaign follows battles that anyone even somewhat versed in the second world war should know - the D-Day invasion, the liberation of Paris, the Battle of the Bulge - but the emphasis on the characters and their interactions is what really sets this game apart from other World War II shooters. It's not just about the mission; that just serves as a backdrop for the intrapersonal and interpersonal struggles these young men go through as they throw themselves into the meat grinder day after day.
Call of Duty has dramatically raised its standards over the past few years, taking the series from multiplayer games with an okay-I-guess campaign to being a truly great single player experience, and this is no exception. The voice acting is absolutely spot on, and the character development is among the most well written of any Call of Duty game to date. Only Black Ops III can give WWII a run for its money in terms of writing quality, character development, and voice acting, and I'm honestly not sure which one I'd say is better; both are masterpieces of FPS storytelling and immersion.
In a turn that's very much unlike Call of Duty, I actually think the multiplayer is the weakest element of the game. Don't get me wrong, the mulitplayer is still fun and well made. It just pales in comparison to the supremely well crafted single player campaign. The zombies mode is about what you'd expect, and it's quite well done, but I've never been the biggest fan of Call of Duty's zombies mode. I want my zombie games to be zombie games, and the other side of that is that I want my non-zombie games to be non-zombie games. That's a very minor and personal nitpick, though. All in all, the multiplayer is well executed, but it definitely plays second fiddle to the campaign.
One little bonus is the inclusion of 15 of Activision's Atari 2600 games that you can play on an arcade-style from the multiplayer hub. Each play takes 10 "armory" tokens that you can earn in multiplayer, but you can play black and white versions of fifteen of Activision's old Atari 2600 games - Barnstorming, Boxing, Chopper Command, Cosmic Commuter, Demon Attack, Enduro, Fishing Derby, Grand Prix, Kaboom, Pitfall II, Private Eye, River Raid, Seaquest, Skiing, and Spider Fighter. Chopper Command and River Raid are two of my favorite games on the system, so that got me REALLY excited to see.
Call of Duty isn't generally thought of for its amazing single player experiences, but Call of Duty: WWII has carried the mantle of its most recent predecessors in working to address that series shortcoming. While I, personally, found the multiplayer element to be a bit less enticing than the past few Call of Duty games, the single player is just phenomenal. The emphasis on characterization and relationships really elevates the quality of the narrative to a level that's rarely seen in AAA shooters these days, and that's worthy of recognition. I'm tempted to give this game a perfect rating because of my general lack of concern for multiplayer, but as it is an important element of Call of Duty's identity and a key part of the game for most people, I'll take it into account and call the game "almost" perfect. Because it is damn near "almost" perfect.
My Rating - 4 Neps
Also available on PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and Windows
Sonic Forces is Sega's latest attempt to make Sonic modern but not cringey like Sonic '06, not 3edgy5me like Shadow the Hedgehog, and not an almost literally unplayable broken mess like Sonic Boom. Did they succeed? Well, almost. Kind of. It really depends on who you ask.
First and foremost, it's important to note that I'm pretty casual Sonic fan. I like the series and have many of the games, but I've not beaten many of them, and I don't ABSOLUTELY LOVE it like a lot of Sonic fans do. They're fun games, but I'm not as gung-ho about Sonic as I am with Fire Emblem, Hyperdimension Neptunia, or Fallout, so I'm going to have a more tempered view of the games than most. With that said, I really enjoyed Sonic Forces. Overall, it's definitely on the easy side of things, but there were still some parts that game me some serious trouble, especially the final boss.
You spend the game's 30 stages (plus a few bonus stages you can unlock) playing as either Sonic, early Sega alternate dimension Sonic, or your custom made OC (which is why I've spent the past few months referring to the game as Bad OC Simulator 2017). To my disappointment, though, there aren't a lot of options for making your OC truly horrendous outside of clothing choices (although a t shirt, golden plate helmet, and Crocs IS pretty horrible). Your avatar never speaks, and you don't get to name him/her; you're always "buddy" or "rookie." The stages are all almost purely linear, but there are some branching paths with different collectibles that give a little bit of replayability. The game's only real replay value comes in trying to better your score on a stage, though, and compete with friends that way. It's something, but personally, I feel no urge to keep playing now that I've finished the story.
The Switch version runs smoothly and looks pretty good. Granted, it's not the most visually demanding game, but the fiery and ruined environments still look good on Switch both docked and handheld, and the frame rate didn't give me any real noticeable hiccups. The music is bit...dated....though that may be intentional as it reminds me a LOT of Sonic Adventure on the Dreamcast. The voice acting is fine, although some characters' voices are definitely better than others. What made me REALLY happy is that they didn't completely disregard the established character for Knuckles like they did in Sonic Boom. Knuckles is NOT an idiot, and Sega finally remembered that, it seems.
Sonic Forces really isn't a bad game. It's not an amazing game, and it's not the game that most Sonic fans were hoping it would be, but I really enjoyed it, and I think that's probably indicative of how it's likely to be perceived in general - casual fans or newcomers will likely enjoy it while hardcore and long time fans will probably be left pretty disappointed. Wait for this one to get cheaper - $20 or less, I'd say - but then give it a play. It's a good time even if not one you'll likely want to revisit.
My Rating - 3 Neps
Also available on PlayStation 4, Switch, and Windows
God bless MachineGames and Bethesda. If you've played Wolfenstein: The New Order or Wolfenstein: The Old Blood, then you know the kind of amazing game to expect here. The reason I said "God bless MachineGames and Bethesda" despite being solidly secular, however, is because of how they handled the issue of multiplayer. They basically said "There's no multiplayer because that's not the kind of game we want to make and screw you if that's all it takes to convince you not to buy it." I love it. In an age where single player games are increasingly scarce, I absolutely adore a game that is aggressively single player.
The New Colossus takes place right after the events of The New Order, so if you've not played The New Order, I'm going to strongly recommend you go play that game first. Following the destruction of New York City by a German atom bomb, the United States has surrendered and been absorbed into the Greater Reich. Fighting with a small but stalwart resistance, BJ's role has shifted from elite American soldier to whatever-it-takes anti-fascist (Antifa, if you will) revolutionary. While a game of over-the-top fiction, it does provide an alarmingly likely scenario had the Nazis won the second world war - mandatory German classes, heavily armed Nazi soldiers patrolling the streets of America, and the Ku Klux Klan serving as the Nazis' link to the American people. I won't spoil anything about the missions that take place there, but for me as a Louisiana native, fighting in the walled off New Orleans ghetto where our new Nazi overlords dumped the "undesirables" - Jews, people of color, homosexuals, leftists, etc - was particularly powerful for me and made me especially grateful to my ancestors who fought tooth and nail to keep the Nazis from our shores.
Visually, the game is absolutely beautiful. I waited until my Xbox One X was delivered so that I could enjoy the game in the full glory of 2160p and HDR, and it was well worth the wait. While both PS4 Pro and Xbox One X make use of dynamic scaling, the PS4 Pro maxes out at 1440p and upscales to 4K whereas the Xbox One X has a maximum native resolution of a full 2160p according to DigitalFoundry. DigitalFoundry also reports that the game on Xbox One X is comparable with running it on PC at max settings with a 1080 Ti. I haven't played it on PC to compare, but with how damn good it looks on Xbox One X and how smooth is runs, it wouldn't surprise me. The visuals are just incredible and really serve to deepen an already immersive game.
As one should expect these days from a Bethesda published id property, the music is just killer. The whole sound design is, really, but the music is fantastic. It's heavy and fast paced to play off the adrenaline of battle but not so overpowering that it steals the spotlight from the action. The sound effects are perfectly balanced, and the voice acting is probably the most impressive part of the audio. The voice acting is so well done that the emotion really comes through clearly in the dialogue. I won't go into detail, but there's a really....hard....scene fairly early on, and the voice acting during and after that scene really give it a touch of life that so many games lack.
On the subject of difficulty, it's definitely a marked step up from The New Order. Enemies are tougher, smarter, and you can't soak up nearly as much damage. A lot of people, myself included, commented on how easy The New Order was relatively speaking, and it seems that those comments were taken to heart. Even on lower difficulty settings, The New Colossus is a good challenge that won't leave most wanting a harder experience. Challenge aside, though, this is pretty much already my 2017 game of the year for one simple fact - it lets me kill both Nazis AND the Ku Klux Klan IN THE SAME MISSION. It's glorious; I can be a LITERAL social justice warrior, not just the cringey try-hards on Tumblr.
There was a lot of "controversy" surrounding the game leading up to its release (and I use "controversy" in the loosest 'this is bullshit' way possible) because of perceived commentary on current events although I have a hard time seeing how anyone can think "Nazis are bad" is a controversial statement. Anyway, at the risk of waxing political, I do want to offer my thoughts on that briefly, but feel free to skip this paragraph.
First and foremost, it is absolutely a stretch to call President Trump a Nazi as Nazism is a sub-category of fascism with a few pretty specific tenets. Judging strictly based on his speech on the campaign and in office as well as his policies, both attempted and blocked, it's not unfair to describe him as a fascist broadly. The fact that he was enthusiastically endorsed by the Ku Klux Klan as well as modern American neo-Nazis gives some credibility to that assessment. With regards to this game, it's obvious to anyone who's actually played it that it's in no way, shape, or form an attack on President Trump; the series has ALWAYS been anti-Nazi, and the only "attack" one could legitimately infer from the game is an attack on the KKK, and I think by this point, thinking people are all pretty much in agreement that "the KKK is objectively bad" is just as much a truism as "Nazis are objectively bad." Our shameful history aside, both Nazis and the Klan are as inherently unAmerican based on the governing ideals and principles of this nation as anything could be. If folks see this game as an attack on them or their political beliefs, then they need to take a good, long, hard look in the mirror and ask "Am I an ass hole?" The answer is probably yes.
Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus is an EXTREMELY competent sequel to Wolfenstein: The New Order and addressed, for better or for worse, the common complaint of "The New Order is too easy!" It picks up right where The New Order left off and brings both an engaging and emotionally stimulating story as well as intense Nazi killing action. You can sneak around and pop Nazis in the head with a silenced pistol, run in screaming like a lunatic while dual wielding automatic shotguns, or sprint from Nazi to Nazi burying a bloody hatchet in their necks. The freedom and agency the game gives to play however the hell you good and well please is amazing, especially when you're killing enemies as universally loathed as Nazis. If you enjoyed Wolfenstein: The New Order, you owe it to yourself to get The New Colossus.
My Rating - 5 Neps
Also available on Xbox 360 and Windows
Crysis 3, the exciting conclusion to Crytek's definitely-not-a-tech-demo trilogy! Okay, so that was a little too dismissive, but Crysis really has always seemed like a glorified tech demo to me. I thoroughly enjoyed the first one, but the second one was a step back, in my opinion, so I wasn't sure what to expect going into the Crysis 3.
Crysis 3 finished the story of the Ceph alien invasion that the first Crysis started. The game's story is decent enough; you play as Prophet, a soldier who, as the series progressed, lost more and more of his humanity as he bonded further with his cybernetic nanosuit. It doesn't really do much to stand out from the crowd from a narrative perspective, though. Aliens invade, humanity barely fights them off and an evil corporation takes over, then the aliens come back and we survive by the dumbest of luck. Pretty textbook. Not bad. Just not creative.
The big draw of Crysis was originally its graphics. I remember the original Crysis being heralded as just insanely graphically impressive back when I was in high school, and when I played Crysis, I understood why; it did look absolutely amazing for 2007. Fast forward to 2013 with Crysis 3, though, and while the game still definitely looks great, it doesn't wow me like Crysis did in 2007 or like Halo 4 did in 2012. Without being the most graphically impressive game ever (at least on console; I'm not sure about PC), Crysis 3 really didn't have a lot going for it to differentiate it from Generic Sci-fi Schooter 20XX.
In terms of gameplay - obviously the most important part of a game - Crysis 3 is quite competent. It's nothing you haven't played before, but it's well executed, and it was a decent weapon variety, although all of the assault rifles do tend to feel pretty same-y. Most of the game takes place in the ruins of New York City, and the environment for the city is well designed and feels like a fairly realistic ruin. Granted, it's no Fallout - that series has the best post-apocalyptic ruins ever - but the environments are, for the most part, well designed and make for interesting battlegrounds.
Crysis 3 is a pretty solid shooter and concludes the story begun by the first two games. If you're not into the series' story, then there's not a lot of reason to play this over any other sci-fi shooter from the period, but there's not reason not to play it. Crysis 3 is a perfectly competent game that's a fun playthrough; it just doesn't do anything that makes one thing "Wow, I definitely need to recommend this to my friends!"
My Rating - 3 Neps
Also available on PlayStation, Saturn, and Windows
Gex is the embodiment of mid-90s attitude. Most folks probably played Gex on the PlayStation - let's be honest, the 3DO wasn't a popular console - but I wanted to play it on 3DO partly because I'm a sucker for "failed" consoles and partly because it's the original version. Gex, both in gameplay and in character, remind me a lot of Crash Bandicoot (at least the 2D levels) despite releasing a year earlier.
Gex is another of the anthropomorphic mascot platformers that were so common in the 90s. At a time when most games were moving to 3D perspectives, Gex was one of the last big 2D platformers. The controls are very tight and responsive, although the hit detection is a bit hit or miss; I'll manage to hit an enemy that definitely should have hit me first, and I'll get hit by enemies that I definitely dodged. It's not so bad that some practice can't compensate, though.
The visuals in Gex are...okay. Even running S-video, they look rather murky, and given that it's a 2D game, that was disappointing for me. It doesn't look bad, per se, but it's not a visually impressive game on 3DO. The enemies are at least fairly interesting with enemy designs varying to fit the theme of the world you're in. The sound design is similarly okay. The music is decent enough - distinctly early 90s - but the sound effects and Gex's one-liners sound a bit rough, presumably due to how the sound files were compressed. It's not bad by any means, but it does show its age.
Gex shows its age, but it's not a bad 2D platformer. If you're nostalgic for the 90s and 90s attitude, then you'll probably find a good bit to like here. The gameplay is decent, but even competition from the era can offer better options. The visuals and sound are just okay - not good but not bad - and the one liners are cheesy even if entertaining in small doses. Truthfully, I can only recommend that you go out and search for this game if you're trying to build a 3DO collection as it's a decent title and relatively affordable, but otherwise, give it a play if the opportunity arises, but don't go out of your way. This is one that's better in your memories than in reality.
My Rating - 3 Neps
Also available on Xbox One, Linux, OSX, and Windows
Dear Esther is a game that I've heard people hotly debate. The main debate isn't over the game's visuals or story or voice acting but on whether or not it even deserves to be called a game. Dear Esther is the best example I've found of a relatively new genre - the "walking simulator." While opinions on the genre as a whole and this game specifically remain fairly divisive in a lot of circles, I was extremely satisfied with my experience with Dear Esther.
The "gameplay" in Dear Esther doesn't really exist, at least not in a traditional sense. The entire game consists of walking - not running or jogging, but walking - across a deserted island as an anonymous narrator reads letters to Esther. There's no context given to these letters, and they're triggered by reaching different parts of the island, meaning that the letters are often read in a different order each playthrough. That ambiguity is the game's strongest aspect because it leaves it up to the player's own mind and understanding to piece together the story. There are a few different people mentioned in the letters, but exactly who is who isn't made explicitly clear. It's a kind of agency that games rarely give players, and it serves only to deepen immersion.
The most striking thing about Dear Esther early on is the visuals. The island is absolutely beautiful especially with respect to the lighting effects. On some of the higher areas of the island, it's an extremely rewarding view to just look over a cliff at the landscape below and the sea stretching out the horizon. It's not AAA game studio tier, but it is breathtaking, especially with the way the game is presented. That presentation is probably the game's strongest aspect. You're given no context, no prompting, and no goal. You just start walking and eventually hear the narrator. Then you keep walking, and you start to piece together the story little by little, always with enough gaps left to keep you interested and curious. I've never before had a game's story engross me in quite that way before.
If the visuals are the most striking aspect of the game, the part of the game that will last the longest in players' memories is the way it makes you feel. Lots of game make you sympathize or even empathize with the characters, and there are some games with great storytelling. There are tons of games with voice acting so superb that the characters feel like real people. Dear Esther is something else. When I finished the game, I felt. I felt the sorrow of the narrator's loneliness. I felt the despair of his hopelessness. I felt the anguish of his mourning. Whoever did the voice acting for the narrator gave one of the most masterful performances in voice acting history, and I firmly stand by that statement. His voice is the only connection to the game's narrative that you get, and it alone is enough to make you feel every emotion, both fleeting and life changing, that the character felt. It's truly a marvelous performance.
Dear Esther is, in a lot of ways, the finest of what the walking sim genre has to offer. I want to give it a perfect rating due to how brilliantly the game delivered its narrative, how perfectly balanced the ambiguity of the story is, and how emotionally powerful the presentation is. The only reason I can't is because it is a pure walking sim; most others incorporate some degree of puzzle solving to give the game a little more gameplay, and that little bit of interactivity is needed to push me over the edge. Even just finding a few ancillary documents throughout the island that give a little context. The fact that I'm so tempted to give it a perfect rating even with no actual interactive gameplay, though, should be a testament to how damn incredible the game's presentation and emotional impact are. If you're at all interested in powerful stories, you owe it to yourself to play Dear Esther.
My Rating - 4 Neps
Also available on Xbox One, OSX, and Windows
The Bunker is a game of a genre that has been woefully underrepresented in the past 20 years - full motion video. Having its (admittedly cringey) peak in the early and mid 1990s, FMV games have more or less died out since the late '90s. The Bunker proves that this genre still has a lot to offer if developers put in the effort needed to make a quality product.
You play as a man named John, the last survivor of an English fallout bunker after a cataclysmic nuclear war. John, who was born in the bunker, goes through his life following the same routine every day. When a system malfunction breaks that routine, however, John's sanity starts to unravel as he tries desperately to repair the malfunctioning bunker and avoid a radioactive death. The story is extremely well written and well presented, and when you look at the game's pedigree, you start to see why; the writers had previously worked on The Witcher, Broken Sword, and SOMA, and the actors boast filmographies include The Hobbit, Star Wars, and Game of Thrones.
The game plays like a point and click adventure, and there are no computer generated images at all; every bit of the game, from start to end, is live action full motion video. It's an approach that's almost never seen these days, but because it's such an uncommon approach to gameplay and storytelling, it works EXTREMELY well. It's a breath of fresh air in an industry otherwise filled with attempts to make realistic looking but still artificial characters. The fact that real actors are used is what allows it to deliver such an emotionally impactful story. The player is made to feel the sadness that John feels at certain memories, and even though there's not real "enemy" to escape, the feel of anxiety elicited from the game is palpable. It's really a masterfully crafted game.
The Bunker is a brilliant speck of color in a sea of monochrome. The directing done for the game's production is extraordinarily well done, and the manner in which the game's story is delivered is its highest point without a doubt. That's not to say that the game is perfect - some of the objectives can be a bit obscure, and I feel like there could have been a bit more done to expand on the game's backstory and context - but all things considered, it's an excellent game. While it's unlikely most folks will be able to snag a copy of the Limited Run Games release that I have, it's readily available digitally on Xbox, PlayStation, and both major computer operating systems. I definitely recommend giving it a playthrough.
My Rating - 4 Neps
Also available on PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, PlayStation Portable, PlayStation Vita, Xbox 360, Xbox One, and Nintendo Switch
Warriors Orochi 3 Hyper is an enhanced Wii U port of Warriors Orochi 3 that includes the extra characters that were feature in the PSP exclusive Warriors Orochi 3 Special. It's the third game in the Dynasty Warriors/Samurai Warriors crossover series (fourth if you count the compilation with the first two games) and takes place after the events of Warriors Orochi 2.
The premise of the game is steeped in Shinto mythology. Orochi, a legendary eight headed dragon from Japanese folklore, was slain in his human form at the end of the previous game but has been reborn as an eight headed hydra to try to destroy the world again. Facing apocalyptic situation, the warriors of Japan's Sengoku period and China's Three Kingdoms era must put aside their differences and come together to combat Orochi and his army of demons. From there, the story gets pretty convoluted with the various characters all intersecting and their motivations and relationships with one another. In that regard, given the size of the roster, it's definitely a game that would be best enjoyed by those familiar with the characters of both Dynasty Warriors and Samurai Warriors.
The gameplay is your standard musou affair - pick a team of three characters and use them to massacre hundreds or thousands of enemies in each battle. Most of the missions are core missions central to the game's story, but there are a handful of optional side missions that you can unlock by getting certain characters' affinity with one another high enough. I'm lazy, so I never bothered with those. The missions can get a bit monotonous, so you might want to play the game in a couple of sittings instead of marathoning it. I think I played it in two bursts. Your characters gain experience and level up and get their stats increased based on level, and you also get some points at the end of each level that you can use to level up any of your characters. You can also do basic weapon fusions to improve the traits and attributes of your weapons.
The game's visuals are fairly good. The wall and floor textures aren't amazing, but considering that it's a port of an Xbox 360/PS3 game, it looks pretty good overall. The character models looks nice, and the facial animations are well done. The music is fairly standard but very fitting for the action going on. It's appropriately upbeat and exciting to keep the blood pumping during the heavy action.
Warriors Orochi 3 Hyper is a good musou game and a welcome part of the depressingly slim Wii U library. I, personally, found it less engaging than Dynasty Warriors 7 or either of the two Nintendo crossover musou games, but it's still a fun game that's worth playing especially if you've got a friend to play co-op. It's pretty cheap these days - around $10 or $15 complete at the time of writing - and while it's not an "amazing" game, it's definitely worth adding to a Wii U collection and playing through.
My Rating - 3 Neps
Also available on Sharp X68000, PC-8801, PC-9801, Genesis, Famicom, Super Nintendo, and PlayStation 2
As I've already reviewed this game on Super Nintendo (read that review here), this will be a fairly short review. I'm mainly going to focus on the major differences that I noticed between the TurboGrafx-CD version and the Super Nintendo version as well as mention a bug or two that I encountered.
The first two things that one will likely notice is that while the TurboGrafx version can't quite match up the visuals in the Super Nintendo version, the music simply blows the SNES out of the water, but given that we're talking cartridge versus compact disc, that's to be expected. That's not to say that the Super Nintendo version has bad music - it's probably my top 5 Super Nintendo soundtracks - but it just can't compete with CD quality audio especially when that audio is some kickin' 1980s synth rock. I'm actually not typically a fan of that particular style of rock music, but it's really well done in this game and works well.
Having the advantage of CD audio gives this version the upper hand with delivering the story as it allows for full voice acting. Granted, the voice acting in this game is TERRIBLE, but it's still a nice touch that most RPGs of the era still lacked. Despite the utter lack of acting talent on the part of the voice actors, the dialogue does give the game and its story a more engaging feel than its text-only counterpart, at least for me. As for the big visual differences, there aren't really MAJOR difference for the most part, but there are a number worth noting. The parallax scrolling is MUCH superior on Super Nintendo as the hardware was more suited to that type of effect. It's not horrible on TurboGrafx, but the backgrounds - especially in town - look as if they stutter along instead of scrolling smoothly. It's not horrendous, but it can be pretty jarring, especially before you get used to it. Otherwise the differences are mainly the relatively minor things one would expect when comparing a game on two pieces of hardware with noticeably different specs. Sprites don't look quite as detailed or sharp, and the colors don't pop quite as much as on Super Nintendo. It's worth mentioning, however, that I played the Super Nintendo version on a Retron 5 with HDMI whereas I played the TurboGrafx version on my PC Engine CD with composite output, so that's a factor to keep in mind.
While there are a couple minor changes I'll note in a bit, the biggest difference in terms of mechanics and gameplay is the difficulty curve - it's MUCH smoother and lacks the brutal spikes that were present in the Super Nintendo version. When playing on SNES, I had to get myself to max level in the second dungeon; on TurboGrafx, I was on the second to last dungeon before I felt a real need to reach max level. With regards to level grinding, the TurboGrafx version lacks the nice little owl exploit on Super Nintendo that allowed for SUPER easy money and exp grinding, although there's a spot in the mountain dungeon that is almost as fast and convenient. The last two things I want to note relate to bugs. The Super Nintendo version had a bug where the (outrageously expensive) fairy necklace did nothing. It's supposed to revive you automatically if you die in battle, and that items works as intended in the TurboGrafx version. Instead, the TurboGrafx version has a bugged time ring which works as intended on Super Nintendo but does nothing except drain your ring power with no actual effect on TurboGrafx; it's supposed to slow enemies. If I had to take one, though, I'd picked having a bugged time ring over a bugged fairy necklace, so I found it to be a fair trade.
Ys III: Wanderers from Ys on TurboGrafx-CD remains a fantastic action RPG. It still doesn't live up to the high standards set by Ys I+II, but it's still a solid experience. Playing on CD on TurboGrafx as opposed to cartridge on Super Nintendo brought about as many advantages as it did disadvantages, but I definitely think that TurboGrafx is the way to play. The difficulty is much more reasonable with a much fairer progression juxtaposing the brutal spikes on Super Nintendo, and while the visuals suffer, the improved audio more than makes up for it. It's definitely MUCH cheaper on Super Nintendo, but if you're able to play it on TurboGrafx, then that's absolutely the version I recommend.
My Rating - 4 Neps
Also available on PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, PlayStation Vita, Xbox 360, Xbox One, Ouya, iOS, and Windows
Sine Mora EX was a bit of an impulse pre-order for me. I obviously love getting new retail Switch games to support the system and have something else to play on it, but I'd never heard of this particular game despite the fact that it's an enhanced port of an older game. What sold me was that it was advertised as a story driven shmup, something that I don't see very often. Although I suck at it, I'm a huge fan of the shmup genre, and having that with a legit story AND on the Switch was more than enough to sell me on it.
The first thing that stood out to be about Sine Mora was the visuals. The game is absolutely beautiful, and while that's expected to a certain extent from modern shmups, the environments and pseudo-2.5D perspective with regards to enemy spawns really impressed me. The bosses are also EXTREMELY well detailed and truly beautiful. They take place in multiple phases, and most of them have short transition scenes between the phases that move you around to a different side of the boss. It's a really well executed way to give a 2D game a feeling of three dimensional depth.
Unfortunately, the story failed to hold my attention. It's something about time travel, some empire of furries or something, and some dude trying to avenge his dead kid. That's about all I got from it. It's not brimming with clarity, and the story telling itself is a bit dry. The voice acting doesn't help - it feels rather dull and amateur. The story has potential - it's an interesting enough premise - but the execution leaves a lot to be desired.
Sine Mora EX is a stunningly beautiful and addictingly fun to play shmup that unfortunately falls a bit short with the attempt to deliver a compelling story. Fortunately, however, the gameplay and graphics are more than enough to make up for the lackluster story and meh voice acting. With the game's being available on a whole host of platforms, pretty much every gamer has access to the game on one system or another, and I definitely recommend it for shmup fans.
My Rating - 4 Neps
Also available on 3DS
Anyone who knows my gaming tastes knows that I'm a HUGE Fire Emblem fan. It's my favorite Nintendo IP even surpassing Legend of Zelda and Mario. Fire Emblem Warriors is, like Hyrule Warriors was for Zelda, a big departure for the Fire Emblem series in terms of genre. Like Hyrule Warriors was for Zelda, however, it's a fantastic new take on the series that will likely appeal to fans of both Fire Emblem and Koei Tecmo's musou games and may well serve as a gateway for one of those series for players.
If you've played Dynasty Warriors, Samurai Warriors, or any of the Warriors/randomIP crossovers (Zelda, Gundam, One Piece), then you exactly how this game plays - you run around killing hundreds or thousands of enemies single handedly and take control points while occasionally killing bosses. For those unfamiliar with any of those games, it's basically large scale hack 'n' slash. You've got a handful of ally characters, a handful of playable characters (you can choose what characters you want to be allied and playable before starting a battle), and a gazillion random grunts who die for you. Each character handles a little differently and has different pros and cons, and they all level up the more they kill, so who you choose to play as can have a big impact on changing your gameplay experience.
The game obviously doesn't play much like Fire Emblem given how drastically different the genre is, but it does have a few features that keep it somewhat similar. When you pause and bring up the map, you can give simple orders to any allied unit. For example, you can have an allied unit protect another one, attack an enemy fort, protect one of your forts, attack an enemy boss or sub-boss, or just move to a specific area. It's not as direct control as you'd get in a proper Fire Emblem game, but it's still a nice degree of strategy. Most significantly, however, is that they kept class ups and the weapon triangle intact. There are a small handful of missions that reward you with a Master Seal upon completion, allowing you to promote a unit at level 15 or higher to the next class, granting additional skill upgrades as well as dramatic stat boosts.
The game isn't perfect, however. A lot of folks I know don't particularly care for the stories in Fire Emblem, but even by Fire Emblem standards, the plot of Fire Emblem Warriors isn't especially great. It's not awful, mind you, but it's EXTREMELY predictable and cliche. I typically like the stories in Fire Emblem games, but I found myself a bit disappointed with this one. I predicted the "plot twist" towards the end at the very beginning of the game. The voice acting is especially bad for most characters. There are a few characters who sound fine, but in general, it's...bad. Not mid 90s level of bad, of course, but by modern standards? Yeah, it's not great.
For all of the game's shortcomings in terms of narrative and voice acting, Fire Emblem Warriors more than makes up for that with visuals and music. It's not the best looking game on Switch (although it is worth noting that development began when the Wii U still had another two years of life), but it does look extremely pretty. The real star of the show the soundtrack, however. The game's music is another nod to the Fire Emblem series proper with grandiose orchestral scores that really elevate the feeling of awe behind the massive battles.
Fire Emblem Warriors is definitely a musou game first and foremost, but if you're into that style of gameplay and a fan of the Fire Emblem series, there is a LOT to love here. It's a much more balanced crossover than the Shin Megami Tensei/Fire Emblem crossover, Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE, and that will likely be a big relief to long time Fire Emblem fans. Class promotions and the weapon triangle are kept intact, and while there are some big Fire Emblem characters who I felt shouldn't have been omitted from the game, there's always a chance that they'll be added later in DLC, and the characters who were featured are big names from the most recent games - something to be expected, honestly. All in all, there are a few notable flaws in the game, but it's an extremely enjoyable experience and one that I highly recommend to Switch and New 3DS owners.
My Rating - 4 Neps
Splatterhouse: Wanpaku Graffiti (translates to "Naughty Graffiti") is definitely the odd man out in the Splatterhouse series, and it's partly for that reason that I chose it as my game to play on Halloween. It's the second game that was made in the series, and unlike the others, was only released in Japan. Rather than the more serious, dark tone of the other games in the series, Wanpaku Graffiti uses rather cutesy super deformed characters and parodies tropes in the horror movie genre.
In terms of gameplay mechanics, the game plays as a fairly standard side scrolling beat 'em up like the rest of the early Splatterhouse games, and overall, it controls very well. My only real complaint with the controls is that the landings from jumps can feel a little slippery. The bigger problem with the jumps wasn't the controls, however, but the rather hit-or-miss fall points on the platforms; you can be right on the edge of the platforms and sometimes fall through. It's not a HUGE deal, but it can get a little annoying in the game's few platforming sections.
The visuals are quite nice for the Famicom with bright and colorful sprites. The music is well done, as well, though they take a backseat to the sprite artwork in my opinion. The game's strongest aspect is definitely its parody jokes, though; the first boss, for example, is a Michael Jackson inspired vampire, and one of the bosses in the middle of the game is an Alien reference. For fans of horror movies, there's a LOT to love here, and unlike some parody games, the references in Wanpaku Graffiti are clever and well implemented rather than sloppy and hastily thrown together. It makes for an entertaining game with solid presentation that's a blast to play. There's also some fantastic Engrish in the game.
Splatterhouse: Wanpaku Graffiti is the kind of game that modern gaming is sorely lacking - clever, well planned parody. Personally, I found the game to be a bit tougher than the TurboGrafx-16 port of the first Splatterhouse game, but the (mostly) tight controls, bright visuals, and hilarious parodies make it absolutely worth playing. It's a criminally overlooked Famicom game that really deserves a worldwide Virtual Console release. It's gone up in value over the past couple years, but it's totally worth adding to a Famicom collection.
My Rating - 4 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.