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Review: Grand Kingdom

Jun 21 // Christian Chiok
[embed]35113:5710:0[/embed] Grand Kingdom (PS Vita [reviewed], PS4)Developer: Spike ChunsoftPublisher: NIS AmericaReleased: November 19th, 2015 (JP), June 17th, 2016 (EU), June 21st, 2016 (NA)MSRP: $49.99 (PS4), $39.99 (PS Vita) Unfortunately, the story is only about 12 story chapters each lasting at least 30 minutes to one hour.  On top of the short story, the game only gets interesting near the end.  It’s unfortunate since some of the characters are likeable as well as the voice acting work. Some of the characters reminded me of the typical ones found in Shonen series so I was really looking forward on seeing more of them. However, all the 36 chapters that were delivered as DLC in Japan are going to be included in the western release, giving you a total of 48 chapters of story from the get-go.  In the DLC chapters, you’ll have the chance to delve yourself in the story of each of the four Great Nations, allowing the player to align themselves with a particular nation and dig deeper into that nation’s motivations and history. Each campaign will introduce you to brand new characters, deeper ties that bind rulers to family and nation, and perhaps even discover something about yourself as you decide which nation tugs at your heart the most. The uniqueness of the gameplay styles with each mission taking place on a large game board in both you and enemies move around in, one turn at a time. Your team will be represented by a silver piece while the enemies’ will be represented by a purple and red piece, the latter being a stronger enemy. Additionally, the game board will have items lying around which can improve your journey. The concept may sound simple from first looks, but there’s a lot more to it. Depending on the mission, there will be a limit of how much you can move your piece, and reaching the limit results in an automatic failure. However, for the most part, you realize that you will have a lot more turns than that mission requires giving you room for mistakes and dawdling. You’ll also encounter invisible enemies in which you can only see their movement every three turns. Once you encounter the enemy, you will be taken to battle in a beautiful and crisp 2D art style similar to the Dragon’s Crown and Odin Sphere. In a way, you can say that the game is similar to Valkyria Chronicles, except in a side-on view with three rows for characters to stand on and move around in. Each turn, you will move your unit to a desired spot until your action gauge is emptied, then you can perform a skill, which can range from melee or ranged attacks as well as heal your comrades.  While on the hub and the quest map, you’re allowed to visit the Party menu in which you can form different formations. The game already has two default ones, however, both Offensive and Defensive in which you can modify.  You can also set shields or even medical boxes, which both are very helpful in battle.  Including DLC, which will be available to western players from the get-go, the game offers over 17 classes including Melee, Ranged, Magic, and Specialist units. You’re only allowed to hire a certain few classes in the beginning of the game but it’s enough to create a competent troop to beat the game. You’re allowed to make up to six troops consist of four units each. When hiring, you can customize your character ranging from their hairstyles, voices, colors, and starting stats. Melee units are characterized by their high attack and defense and specialize in close combat. They also have the ability to Guard, allowing the unit to negate all damage until their guard gauge depletes. Melee units have low magic defense, so it’s best to be careful when facing Magic units. Ranged units can attack from longer distances. With their extended attack range, they can reach enemies at the other side of the map. Unfortunately, Ranged units have low defense, so it's imperative that you place them in places where it’s hard for them engage in close combat or being hit by other Ranged units. Magic units have medium attack range, and use ranged attacks which allow the player to target multiple enemies. Some of their more powerful skills must be charged before they can be used, leaving them vulnerable to an enemy's ranged attack, in which results your attack being disrupted as well. Remember that the game has friendly fire so make sure that your units are out of the way as well. Unlike the Melee, Ranged, and Magic units, Specialist units lack a clearly defined role in battle. These units have individualized abilities that can be a great asset in battle, but their specialized nature affords little room for flexibility. They range from Medics, Challengers and Dragon Mage. Medics heal your units, Challenger places explosives and Dragon Mage allows the player to perform powerful melee attacks. One of my issues when using the Medic is that while angling where you want to throw your potion, it’s never accurate.  There will be times where you accidentally hit your unit with a poisonous potion or accidentally heal the opposing unit. While you’ll eventually adapt to the weird aiming, but this still proves to be a hindrance.   Aside from the story missions which usually consist of going from Point A to Point B, the game also features different side quests with variety of missions such as Stealth Missions and Guarding missions. In Stealth missions, you’ll navigate the world-map in a puzzle-like fashion to avoid encountering any enemies at all. As for the Guarding missions, you’ll be moving around the map to defend certain spots from incoming enemy assaults. Once the enemy reaches the spot, the missions fails. A big letdown with this game is that it doesn’t support cross-save so any progress that you made on the go with your PS Vita won’t be transferable to your PS4. It was a bit bothersome since when I got my hands on the PS4 version, I wanted to continue my journey on a bigger and better screen. At least the game allows cross-play support across both systems, expanding the amount of players you can play with in the online multiplayer modes.  Naturally the PS4 version is the superior version as it runs at 60 frames per second at 1080p. However, that doesn’t mean that the game is less enjoyable on PS Vita as it runs very smooth as well. If you’re looking to expand your Tactical JRPG library on PS Vita, I can definitely recommend Grand Kingdom.  Including the integrated DLC chapters, the game offers many hours of fun with more hours on top if you play the side missions. While the main story is short, it still features likeable characters making the journey worthwhile. With the PS Vita not getting many games lately, you can’t go wrong with Grand Kingdom. It’s an excellent addition on PS4 as well, though. 
Grand Kingdom photo
Fight For Your Grand Nation
Being a fan of the JRPGs, I always look forward to new additions to the genre, especially ones that offer a unique gameplay style that separates itself from other series. While not entirely unique, when first announced, Grand...

Review: Stranger of Sword City

May 04 // Christian Chiok
Stranger of Sword City (PS Vita [reviewed], Xbox One, Xbox 360 [Japan only])Developer: Experience Inc.Publisher: NIS America (PS Vita), Experience Inc.Release: April 26, 2016 (Vita), April 29, 2016 (Vita [EU]), March 22, 2016 (Xbox One [US]), March 29, 2016 (Xbox One [EU])MSRP: $39.99 (PS Vita), $40.49 (Xbox One) One of the things that really caught my attention was the game’s robust character customization. Aside from the five races and eight classes to choose from, the game offers character portraits sporting three different art styles, one which makes your character look like an anime character. Unfortunately, you can’t alter a character portrait and the age, gender and race you choose for the character doesn’t really modify it either. On the subject of different art designs, for NPCs, the game allows you to switch between original art design by Yoko Tsukamoto and anime-inspired design by En Okishiji. Personally, I had to go with the new anime design since it was livelier for me. While the original design by Yoko Tsukamoto isn’t dreary by any means, as an anime fan, I just had to go with the anime option. Being used to games like Fire Emblem, the permanent death aspect of the game didn’t really bother me, especially since they still have a certain amount of life points before they are no longer at your disposal if they died. The amount of life points depends on the age of your character, so the younger they are, the more life points they will have, but the limit is three.  You should keep in mind though that the older you make the character, they stronger they will be. Permanent death isn’t really what made the game tedious for me though, because like Fire Emblem, restarting the game is an option. Me never playing any Dungeon RPG in my life, I treated the game like my usual Turn-Based or Tactical RPG, but oh boy I was wrong.  I would even say some Tactical RPGs are more forgiving than this game. Realizing that I was playing the game wrong, I decided to take a different approach. Instead of powering through the dungeon like I would usually do, I decided to go back to base every time my characters were in danger of dying. I would say that the game kind of encourages you to retreat often too since one of your Divinity abilities, called Flash Retreat, allowing you to retreat from any battle other than those against certain Lineage types. Considering that it takes half of your Divinity gauge, I thought that I should save it for very crucial moments but then I realized that I constantly faced those moments where I should have really used it. After your characters die, you can always go back to base to heal them but they still come back after a certain amount of time, usually 24 hours, which of course, it isn’t real time. Since not having a party of 6 usually put my other characters at risk, I usually navigated through the first stage of the dungeon, but even then the game was a bit difficult and some of my characters ended up losing a lot of health. Coming from Persona Q and from the general conscious with dungeon crawlers, I was already prepared to start marking the map myself, but thankfully the game did it for me. It didn’t make things any easier though as the maps was still full of roaming monsters and risky dark rooms. When I knew I had to go back to the guild and save though, I always crossed my fingers that I don’t encounter any random monsters or else that would mess me up. Besides saving of course, the guild has many uses. As previously mentioned, you can revive your characters depending if they have any life points left or even recover their health for a certain cost. You may also create other party members which will replace the fallen ones. Your created characters will start off leveled up equal to your main character. On top of the hard monsters you have to overcome, leveling up your character can get tedious as well. The grinding can get incredibly slow and it was a bit annoying trying to get some of my new characters up to speed with the rest of the current party. Sending a lower level character could really put you at a disadvantage since not only is that character vulnerable but protecting that character would only hinder collecting Blood Crystals. Stranger of Sword City may not have been the best choice to introduce me into the genre, due to it being challenging, but I still find it quite enjoyable since I do love challenges but I think the game would have been a lot more enjoyable if I had any other Dungeon RPG experience prior to this game. It definitely made interested in the genre and I feel veterans will definitely get their money’s worth with this game. 
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Challenging Dungeons
Being a fan of all kind of JRPG games for as long as I’ve been a gamer, I always wanted to try my hands playing a Dungeon Crawler JRPG. I played so many types of JRPGS, such as turn-based, action and strategy. While I d...


Uh-oh: NIS America cuts ties with Atlus in Europe, Oceania

Apr 26
// Josh Tolentino
It's been a long time since it has truly sucked to be a European gamer, but this latest development certainly qualifies, particularly for Europeans and residents of Australia and Oceania that are fans of Atlus' games. NIS Ame...

Review: The Witch and the Hundred Knight: Revival Edition

Mar 22 // Christian Chiok
[embed]34875:5497:0[/embed] The Witch and the Hundred Knight: Revival Edition (PS4)Developer: Nippon Ichi SoftwarePublisher: Nippon Ichi SoftwareReleased: September 25, 2015 (JP), March 1, 2016 (EU), March 4, 2016 (NA)MSRP: $39.99 In the case of The Witch and the Hundred Knight Revival Edition, it includes improved graphics and features not found in its previous generation counterpart. These features include being able to take control of the dastardly witch Metallia, as well as the Tower of Illusion, in which is a nifty way to challenge yourself and gain some sick loot. Players will take control of the Hundred Knight, a legendary creature under the command of the Swamp Witch Metallia, and will be on a mission to release all Pillars and spread the swamp across the world to extend her power and reach. Right off that bat, I thought Metallia’s character was just awful and didn’t care much about her throughout the game. Her vulgarity was hardly humorous (this comes from someone that still enjoys shows like South Park) and her edgy personality seems like something meant to appease middle schoolers. However, the game offering an ironically cheerful story of vengeance kind of made up for her bad character. As someone who played multiple JRPGs, semi-long to long text cutscenes don’t really bother me, especially when the dialogue is entertaining. So on top of tolerating Metallia’s vulgar mannerism, you’ll have to overcome long sessions of cutscenes of her speaking. I always found Nippon Ichi’s ability to create fresh gameplay experiences quite interesting.  While the game is still essentially an action RPG, it offers mechanics that differentiates itself from other games of the genre, and it’s actually quite fun. You will be using a mix of dodging, defending, and a range of attacks backed up with some special skills to overtake the enemy and reach your destination. You will be able to build up different combos depending on your current weapon, allowing you to combine slash, blunt, or magic attacks. I really like that it punishes players for mindlessly attacking the enemy instead of strategizing and probably reaching your destination without the need to attack any enemy. There will be scenarios were the enemies will able to defeat you in a couple of hits, so it’s better to just avoid them. Once you master the combat, you will feel like a badass when destroying everything and anything in your path, giving the player plenty of fun. It actually makes the game a lot more tolerable, but of course, after overcoming the many minutes of dialogue before jumping back into the action. Unfortunately, I can’t recommend this game at full price, unless you can tolerate Metallia and her actions. The gameplay mechanics alone make the game worthwhile, as there is plenty combat system and skills to master as well as the new mode Tower of Illusion, providing more hours of fun. If you missed out on the PS3 version, you can’t go wrong with this game for the right price. [This review is based on a digital retail copy of the game provided by the publisher.] [embed]34875:5497:0[/embed]
Hundred Knight Review photo
Expand Your Swamp, Witch.
From the looks of it, this is the generation in which many games from last generation get ported into this generation’s console. While it may not be ideal that we get an old game instead of a sequel or new IP, those who...

Japanator Live photo
Japanator Live

Japanator Live: Let's survive private school with Danganronpa

Who is going to die first?
Mar 06
// Salvador G Rodiles
[Update: The stream is over, but you can watch it here.] When the odds are stacked against us, we tend to act differently from how we usually do in our everyday lives. Depending on the situation, we might be willing to d...

Review: htoL#NiQ: The Firefly Diary

Feb 22 // Josh Tolentino
htoL#NiQ: The Firely Diary (PS Vita)Developer: Nippon Ichi SoftwarePublisher: NIS AmericaReleased: February 24, 2015MSRP: $19.99 First, to that bit about minimalism: htoL#NiQ has virtually no written or spoken dialog, or even text. Apart from some prompts explaining the basic controls and a brief crawl in the opening, players won't even encounter so much as a lettered sign in the background. The plot, such as it is, is delivered almost entirely in-game, via environmental clues and lightly interactive flashbacks.  The game screen itself is largely free of HUDs and icons, and combined with low-lit environments that flicker as if beaming from a vintage film projector, gives off a universally gloomy, unsettling aura that contrasts well with the cutesy character design. The flashback scenes are rendered in a totally different, isometric style that recalls older RPGs like Contact. [embed]33553:4522:0[/embed] Exploring this downbeat dystopia is Mion, a silver-haired waif with big eyes, a pair of branches growing from her head, and all the self-preservation instinct of a videogame lemming. Accompanying her are Lumen and Umbra, the titular fireflies and the only means by which players can guide Mion through the wilderness. Players can use the touch screen to move Lumen, with Mion following her Navi-esque companion wherever it goes. Lumen can also signal Mion to throw switches, push boxes, and other puzzle-solving interactions. Umbra, on the other hand, resides in Mion's shadow, and can only be controlled by shifting to an alternate dimension with a tap of the rear touchpad. From there, Umbra can move through shadows freely - including those cast by Lumen's glow - and interact with objects too far away for Mion to reach. Manipulating the environment and using the firefly duo to help maneuver Mion past various hazards forms the bulk of htoL#NiQ's mechanics. This all sounds simple enough, but the game in which these mechanics are employed is an artifact of what I can only describe as gleeful, knowing sadism. htoL#NiQ is one of the most difficult games I've ever played, and the bulk of my playtime has been spent dying, over and over and over again. That's not necessarily a bad thing, seeing as the last few years have brought a new renaissance for tough, uncompromising game design, but the type of pain dealt by htoL#NiQ is of a very particular type, one that's been justifiably abandoned by most modern titles. Simply put, this game trades in pure, trial-and-error frustration. Thanks to a combination of deliberately lethargic controls and deathtrap-obsessed level design, virtually no challenge the game poses can be passed on the first try - or the 48th try, for that matter. That's how long it took me to overcome just a single checkpoint in the second level, a checkpoint that, performed successfully, takes about a minute to transition through.  Since Mion can only be moved by moving Lumen ahead of her, a slight delay accompanies every movement, and Mion herself hits her top speed at "leisurely stroll", even when pursued by rampaging hellbeasts made of shadow. The awkwardness of using the touch screen and rear touch pad to control Lumen and Umbra can be alleviated somewhat by switching to an optional control scheme that uses the analog stick and face buttons, but the precision and sluggishness in movement remains. Worse still, some challenges demand precise timing to trigger environmental actions using Umbra, but the pauses that accompany attempting to switch to Umbra's dimension make that timing even tougher to nail down. Add in hidden enemies, barely-telegraphed hazards, instant death, and occasional randomized factors that cheapen every death, and htoL#NiQends up embodying a strange sort of videogame Murphy's Law: Anything that can kill Mion, will kill Mion. Several times.  To clarify, there's nothing wrong with deliberate, "slow" controls. As a fan of Monster Hunter and the Souls games, I can appreciate that style, and intention behind them being in this game is fairly clear. htoL#NiQ aims for the kind of dynamic that defined the likes of classics like Ico. The problem here is the decision to combine the tension of having to escort a helpless charge with such demanding level design. The stress of both having to keep the charge safe as well as perform feats of precision timing and speed is almost too much that would stand to gain the most from the game's low-key storytelling and unique aesthetic. Extending the comparison further, if htoL#NiQ were to be compared to Ico, the difference between the two in terms of difficulty would be akin to trying to shepherd Yorda through the Tower of Latria from Demon's Souls.   It simply isn't fun to have to redo every section just to pass - or replay certain portions perfectly just to access all the game's collectible flashback scenes (which form its most substantial narrative payoff), but then again, I did retry a single section forty-eight times in a row, so there may be something to htoL#NiQ, after all. The creepy atmosphere and interesting visuals were just enough to keep me hooked alongside its grim, intriguing story. And of course, there's the stubborn, bitter, vengeful thrill of finally defeating a game that's seemingly designed with the middle finger extended towards its players.  I won't lie: htoL#NiQ: The Firefly Diary feels like an ordeal to play, but it is worth noting that historically, surviving an ordeal was often taken as a sign of being blessed by a higher power. That notion may appeal to some types of players, and it's they who'll find the fun in this gorgeous, cruel game. Everyone else should just hang back and ask how it went. 6 -- Alright (6s may be slightly above average or simply inoffensive. Fans of the genre should enjoy them a bit, but a fair few will be left unfulfilled.) [This review is based on a retail build of the game provided by the publisher.]
htoL#NiQ Review photo
Oh Dear, Diary
[This post originally appeared on] No, that isn't an encoding error up there in the headline: "htoL#NiQ" is indeed this PS Vita game's title, and is essentially a very stylish way to type "The Firefly Diary" i...

NIS America photo
NIS America

Rejoice: NIS America reveals Fate Ultimatum's release date and more

Next year's looking good for Nippon Ichi
Dec 17
// Salvador G Rodiles
As we're getting closer to the holidays, the folks at NIS America have announced that The Awakened Fate Ultimatum hits North America on March 17, 2015, with Europe getting their release on March 20, 2015. Since the game invol...

Review: Danganronpa 2: Goodbye Despair

Sep 21 // Josh Tolentino
Danganronpa 2: Goodbye Despair (PS Vita) Developer: Spike ChunsoftPublisher: NIS AmericaRelease: September 2, 2014MSRP: $39.99 For the uninitiated, the Danganronpa games are visual novels with a courtroom twist, their gameplay (such as it is) a fusion of Phoenix Wright with Battle Royale. As with the first game, Goodbye Despair stars a group of sixteen elite high school students, "Ultimates" among their peers, recently enrolled at the exclusive Hope's Peak Academy. Their first day at class sees them abducted, spirited away to the tropical Jabberwock Island by Monokuma, a murderous, two-tone teddy bear. Also as before, Monokuma presents the Ultimates with an ultimatum: Stay trapped on the island forever, or kill a schoolmate to earn the right to leave. The caveat: Once a murder happens, the whole cast gathers together to conduct a "Class Trial", debating the case and voting on the "blackened". The murderer needs to avoid getting fingered, or else suffer deadly consequences. [embed]32999:4157:0[/embed] Players are put into the shirt-and-tie ensemble of Hajime Hinata, the one member of the group who can't seem to remember just what his "Ultimate" talent is. Thankfully memory loss hasn't impacted his prowess at playing "getting to know you" with the world's most puissant (and unstable) studentry. Nor has it hindered his ability to argue way to the truth, something that will come in handy once the bodies start hitting the floor.  But, though Goodbye Despair is no mass murderer. The need for would-be players in Monokuma's "killing school trip" both make the kill and get away with it ensures that every new case, investigation, and subsequent class trial a roller-coaster ride of elaborate murder plans, red herrings, and last-second plot twists. In any rational setting the logical leaps required to make sense of each incident would drive one to despair, but the Danganronpa series sells the inherent absurdity of the scenario, setting, and characters so well that virtually anything is fair game. Goodbye Despair upholds that tradition, and in fact manages to surpass the original in some key ways, particularly where it comes to characterization. The sequel's cast of sixteen students is more dynamic and colorful than the original's, hard as that might be to believe for series fans. The archetypes employed are less obvious, and all but the earliest victims manage to grow out of their initial one-dimensional niches, becoming characters that one really doesn't want to see kick the bucket. As for the larger plot...well, "nuts" doesn't quite do Goodbye Despair justice. Somehow, it even tops Trigger Happy Havoc for off-the-wall happenings and genuinely surprising twists. Even more than the first game, Goodbye Despair glories in its inherent pulpiness, rather than striving to "elevate" itself. This gives it the freedom to play with expectations, fulfilling them at first glance right before pulling the rug out from under the player. All the while, the goofy, screwball tone of it all prevents the premise from ever becoming too bleak. Players will be sad that so-and-so character kicked the bucket, but they'll never fear being overwhelmed by the seriousness of an island trip where young high-schoolers are forced to murder each other for survival. And that's exactly the point.  NIS America's localization manages to capture the slightly unhinged tone of the game perfectly, despite a few typos and some questionable decisions to "westernize" certain references. It's one thing to find familiar cultural touchstones to ensure the jokes get across, but converting Yen figures to US dollars seems an out-of-place thing to do when most everyone in the story is quite obviously Japanese. But these are minor quibbles overall. The voice performances are serviceable in English, though dub purists will miss out on an all-star Japanese voice cast, including standout jobs from the likes of Kana Hanazawa and Evangelion alumnus Megumi Ogata. When it comes the individual cases themselves, they're more difficult to predict, with much of the crime-solving done during the actual Class Trial, rather than during the investigation. The characters themselves also tend to play bigger roles in each trial, so there's less of a feeling that events are contrived to allow Hajime to solve every aspect of the murder. The changes, however, cut both ways, as the more unpredictable stories and involved characters tend to lessen the feeling that the player is genuinely involved in the proceedings, rather than simply pushing buttons to advance. Put plain, Goodbye Despair trades away a key component of a good "whodunnit"- the sense of audience participation - in exchange for deeper characterization and plotting. The trade has paid off, though players looking to get their detective itch scratched may come away slightly disappointed. If this all sounds rather familiar to series veterans, that's because it is. In straight mechanical terms, Goodbye Despair is virtually identical to Trigger Happy Havoc. Every major gameplay element from the original has been carried over, either as-is or with slight tweaks. Map navigation is less time-consuming, with the first-person exploration swapped for looping two-dimensional plane. A leveling system has been put into play, based on the amount of steps Hajime takes. Skills - the perks that make class trials easier - are now purchased using "Hope Fragments" awarded for progressing classmate relationships. The minigames do their job, though, using mechanics to make literal the idea of debate-as-combat. As before, players shoot down contradictions with ammunition made of evidence, with a new twist that allows Hajime to agree with a classmate's statement. Stubborn comrades can be convinced in the new "Rebuttal Showdown" that swaps Truth Bullets for blades and marksmanship for Fruit Ninja-esque screen-slashing. The Logic Dive challenges players to solve key dilemmas by surfing their way through a Tron-like landscape of multiple-choice questions. It could be said that the minigames, and particularly their emphasis on getting things right or risk "failing" the trial, ultimately distract from the story, but they're simple enough to get by (especially if one sets the difficulty to "Gentle", with no consequences), and help preserve the manic tension of the arguments going on. If real-life jury deliberations worked that way, one would bet that jury duty would be a thing to look forward to. Not to mention that they make up the bulk of gameplay, and a not-insignificant portion of its stylistic flair. There's no doubting that it's all arbitrary and unecessary, but there's also no doubting that Danganronpa 2 would be a poorer experience without it. There's no shortage of worthwhile extras as well. Once the main game is rounded off, "Island Mode" is unlocked, allowing players to explore Jabberwock Island risk-free in the kind of dating sim-like scenario Goodbye Despair parodies in its own opening movie, and a throwaway minigame starring Monokuma's sister Monomi allows one to earn more Monocoins (used to unlock extras and buy relationship-boosting presents). Most interesting, though, is Danganronpa If, a full light novel containing an alternate scenario for Trigger Happy Havoc, telling the story from the perspective of a new character. The latter is worth reading through, if only because its viewpoint is much less milquetoast than the game's "canonical" hero. Danganronpa 2: Goodbye Despair is the perfect sequel. It preserves everything that was good about its predecessor, while building on its foundation a worthy story that not only helps draw in newcomers but excites and satisfies fans of the original. If there's anything to be held against it, it's that it accomplishes all this by barely deviating from the path gone before, but that's hardly a complaint when the result is a solid, thoroughly entertaining coda. Anyone who won't accept those terms, though...well, they can go feel some despair.   9 -- Superb (9s are a hallmark of excellence. There may be flaws, but they are negligible and won't cause massive damage to what is a supreme title.)
Danganronpa 2 photo
Double Jeopardy
I almost don't want to be writing this review. That's because Danganronpa 2: Goodbye Despair is quite a lot like its predecessor, Trigger Happy Havoc. That means it's one of the few games where "spoilers" really matter, and t...

Natural Doctrine photo
Natural Doctrine

Natural Doctrine prides itself on killing you, apparently

Darwin would be proud?
Aug 12
// Josh Tolentino
It looks like Natural Doctrine is really attempting to introduce strategy players to the cruelty of natural selection, if the latest trailer for NIS America's new PS4, PS3, and Vita game is to be believed.  Though ...
NIS America photo
NIS America

AX '14: NIS America to localize three new games

Fireflies, Gods, and fugitives are heading our way
Jul 04
// Salvador G Rodiles
Anime Expo 2014 is among us, and NIS America has revealed three new titles that they're planning to localize in the west. If you happen to be a Vita owner, then you'll enjoy the first game on the list, since htoL#NiQ: The Fir...
Video games photo
Video games

Play Battle Princess Arcadias this June in NA and Europe

A Battle Princess' work is never done.
May 08
// Dae Lee
Some of you may have been following the NIS-developed Battle Princess Arcadia, a side scrolling action RPG for the PS3. We've been treated to a few screenshots and videos, but NISA just dropped the release date for the locali...

Review: Nyaruko: Crawling With Love! Blu-ray Season 1 Set Premium Edition

May 02 // LB Bryant
Nyaruko: Crawling With Love! Blu-ray Season 1 Set Premium Edition [Blu-ray]Studio: XebecLicensed by: NIS AmericaRelease Date: 4/15/14MSRP: $64.99 Despite having never read anything that Lovecraft has ever written, I enjoyed Nyaruko: Crawling With Love when I first saw it on Crunchyroll a couple of years ago. It was never a particularly deep series but it was fun, and so I was looking forward to re-watching it and seeing how it held up on a second viewing. What a difference a couple of years can make.  That isn't to say that I was absolutely bored by this series; it's actually pretty hard to be completely bored by this one, as there is always something going on which makes for a sometimes entertaining viewing. There are certainly more than a few large flaws however which will make this tough to get through for some anime fans.  The biggest of these flaws is that the characters are over-the-top to the point of being downright unlikable. When it comes to love and hate, every character dials it up to eleven. Nyaruko is literally throwing herself at Mahiro every chance she gets, Kuko is the worst type of yuri character (imagine Kuroko from Raildex only with far less subtlety or cleverness) and Mahiro shows his displeasure at Nyaruko by stabbing her with forks -- seriously. I kept a running tally of how many times he stabs her with a fork and was up to ten before I even reached the end of the first disc. It's really hard to get into what little story there is when you can't even enjoy the characters.  There are good points along the way. If you're a fan of Lovecraft, you're going to enjoy all the little inserts and references that are thrown in. If you've never actually read any of his works though, you're going to be constantly going to Google in order to figure out what the characters are talking about. Luckily, most of the jokes are pretty blunt so a complete understanding of the world isn't particularly necessary, but if you actually want to understand everything in this series you'll want to keep a wiki page open at all times while watching.  As with other NISA titles, the real extras are the pretty art box and collectible book that comes with the release, while the discs themselves are pretty empty. The only extras are trailers and clean animations, so if you're looking for special features to peruse, you'll be sorely disappointed in that regard.  This can be a cute and, dare I say, funny series at times. However it's not something that I can fully recommend or endorse with all my heart. It has its moments, but overall this isn't a series that anyone absolutely has to have in their collection. Be sure to check out a couple of episodes first before you commit to buying this one. If you enjoy the first two or three episodes, you're highly likely to enjoy the rest of the series, as it's much more of the same with few added tricks up its sleeve.  5.0 – Average. The definition of mediocre. It has many flaws, and just couldn’t follow through on its intentions or had ones that were simply too narrow to warrant consideration. Some will still enjoy it, but should temper their expectations, or perhaps just opt to pass. Watch more trailers and read more reviews before you decide.
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Crawling with Lovecraftian humor
Originally released in 2012, Nyaruko: Crawling With Love is a bizarre little romantic comedy which takes a typical harem anime set up and inserts tons of references to Lovecraft into the mix. The end result is a weird series ...

Review: Demon Gaze

May 01 // Dae Lee
Demon Gaze (PS Vita) Developer: Kadokawa GamesPublisher: NISAReleased: April 22, 2014MSRP: $39.99 It might make a tiny digital footprint on my Vita but make no mistake, this is a large-scale game, easily taking 50 hours to complete. Demon Gaze is a marathon: a rewarding and challenging grid-based dungeon crawler by Kadokawa Games. Demon Gaze's presentation is likely to impress. The vocaloid music can seem odd at first, but it quickly grows on you -- don't be surprised if you catch yourself humming these themes incessantly between game sessions. The art consists of gorgeously painted high-resolution CG paintings that really pop on the Vita screen. It's even more impressive when you realize the sheer amount of unique characters and enemy designs there are. The only weakness in the visuals are the 3D renderings of the dungeons you navigate block-to-block on a grid, where the environments are noticeably low polygon and muddy-looking. The game is split into two parts: Your time spent in the inn, where you can accept quests, advance the story, and buy/sell items; and your time spent in dungeons, where all the battling, looting, and demon gazing takes place. How you balance the two becomes vital. Your main character is a rare Demon Gazer, someone with the ability to capture demon souls after you've tamed them, allowing them to assist you in battles. Your amnesia-riddled self is taken to an inn run by a energetic young lady named Fran, who houses fellow dungeon crawling sell-swords, as well as quirky merchants and traders you will quickly befriend. The colorful cast and the warm greetings really make you feel at home, making it a welcome site to return to after a hard day's work of dungeon conquering. The battle system is turn-based and you can have a party of up to five members. While your class is unique as a Gazer, the game gives you a lot of freedom when it comes to recruiting party members. You have lists of options, from the character art, voice, class, and race, balancing certain strengths and weaknesses. They all start from level 1 when you recruit, so using your gold to add party members quickly is a good idea. Each class has fixed skills they will learn as they gain levels, but there is flexibility and customization in the form of artifacts. Each artifact will teach a skill to any of your party members, regardless of their class, allowing you to create unique builds based on your needs. You can also receive furniture as rewards, which give varying levels of stat boosts that go into effect by placing them in your party member's individual rooms at the inn. Whenever you visit your party members' rooms, the game gives you a randomized little description of what they're doing, which is a nice touch. As little as it affects the game, hearing that my Healer is using the fluffy bed I got her as a trampoline, or that my Fighter is admiring the shelf I acquired, put a smile on my face every time I dropped in. Despite its fairly easy opening sections, Demon Gaze is not a walk in the park, especially once the game gets going. Your objective in each dungeon is to defeat the resident demon of each location. There are specific capture points called Gem Circles you need to conquer to make a demon circle appear, where you will finally face the demon and acquire it, if you are victorious. Successfully capture the boss demon, and you will be able to equip it, bringing it in and out of battle per turn. Demons come with a limited number of turns they can take fighting the enemy before they go berserk and start attacking your party indiscriminately, so it becomes a balancing act where you want to save your demons for harder battles, though it becomes less of an issue later in the game as your demons level up and their turn counts rise dramatically. Between the number of capture points spread across the map, one of them will actually house the resident demon, introducing itself and giving you a taste of its abilities with a preliminary battle. These battles are often intense, because these demons don't mess around. They give no quarter, and you'll be dead very quickly if you're not prepared. Facing each demon for a final showdown is a battle of attrition, making every move and character ability count. Trying to brute force might get you through some tough enemies, but rarely ever bosses. Demons are here to stand as difficult walls for you to conquer, and facing each one is an exciting, if not terrifying, process. Gem Circles are also areas of interest to you because they are prime areas for loot drops and saves. I've found each capture point to be lifesavers as the game went on, especially when the maps begin to get larger and require a long stretches of battles between each one. You will acquire specific item gem drops from enemy encounters, which you use to activate these capture points. If you successfully capture it by winning the following battle, you will get drops depending on the gem you put down. There are a wide variety of different gem types, ranging from bows, swords, and staves, to hats and underwear. It's a much better alternative to buying weapons and items in the overpriced shop, so using gems often is recommended. There are also special gems for rare drops that tend to summon stronger enemies to defeat. Demon Gaze keeps you on your toes with each new area sporting stronger enemy types, and even stronger resident demons. As you progress further into a dungeon and gain some levels, the common enemies will be noticeably easier to defeat; a promising sign of progress, and you might be tempted to mash through every random encounter. There is a mechanic that lets you auto-battle in fast forward, activated by pressing triangle, but mashing on it confidently is a sure way to lose party members, as one or two stronger enemies in the mix could make fast work of your party if you're not careful. There is a very helpful map you can bring up that charts everywhere you've gone. In addition to tracking your progress through a dungeon, you can select any part of the grid that you've already walked across, and have your party automatically navigate to the selected block, making backtracking incredibly simple and painless. Whenever you return to the inn after a session of dungeon crawling, you're expected to pay rent, which Fran collects with glee. The higher level and more party members you have, the higher your rent rises. In the first half of the game where money is harder to come by, you probably won't be able to afford the egregiously overpriced revive items, so the best way to bring back fallen party members is to retreat back to the inn, pay the rent, and have the resident basement dweller revive your party member for, you guessed it, an additional fee based on your fallen comrade's level. You could add more party members, but each requires you to buy an extra room (with a price that doubles with each additional member), and your return fee rises even higher. This game has you practically bleeding gold and it can get downright brutal, but soon enough you'll figure out how to strategize each outing to get the most out of each dungeon, allowing you to stay out longer and accrue enough gold to make the additional payments a non-issue. I would be remiss not to mention that Demon Gaze is a game with a lot of charm. Everyone you share quarters with is affable and entertaining, with something different to bring to the table. The ensemble cast is made up of characters coming from all walks of life and give you the feeling that you're part of their wacky family. Some of the quests you accept give further insight into your fellow inn-mates, and there's a quirky sense of humor embedded into the writing. A good amount of story and character interactions outline your dungeon looting, and it provides a good break when you have your fill of battles. I won't mince words; if you hate grinding, spending lots of your time comparing character stats, and loot gathering followed by harrowing bosses you might die to over and over again, this game may not be for you. Demon Gaze is a very traditional dungeon crawler following the likes of Wizardry and Etrian Odyssey, down to its challenging and heavy grinding roots, but also provides a decent story and an endearing cast you'll miss when it's all over. Whether you're newly interested in the genre or a hardcore veteran, this is an engaging and addictive Vita game that comes highly recommended. 9 -- Superb (9s are a hallmark of excellence. There may be flaws, but they are negligible and won't cause massive damage to what is a supreme title.)
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Look deep into my eyes...
There's something comforting and satisfying about Japanese turn-based RPGs, growing your party and exploring the unknown in the name of loot and power. Every progressive inch forward is one step closer to realizing your ultim...

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BD PE and DVD RE, starting August 5th
Hoeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee! While pinching myself, I'm here to share with you the great news that NISA has licensed Cardcaptor Sakura the TV series for home video release. The series was originally licensed by Geneon and sat in ...

Review: Wagnaria!!2 Blu-ray Complete Box Set Premium Edition

Apr 24 // LB Bryant
Wagnaria!!2 [Blu-ray]Studio: A-1 PicturesLicensed by: NIS AmericaRelease Date: 2/4/14MSRP: $64.99  Wagnaria takes place in a family restaurant in Hokkaido that just happens to be filled with oddballs and eccentrics. These include the lead character Takanashi who loves cute and small things; Taneshima ,who happens to be a cute, small thing; their manager, who used to be a delinquent; a runaway named Yamada, the agoraphobic Inami and many others. The stories in each episode follows their daily lives at work as they attempt to serve customers in between various crises.  With animation produced by A-1 Pictures, the second season of Wagnaria premiered in late 2011 with a splash. It was as though the series had never left and fans were happy to pick it back up without a single complaint. One of the best things about this particular series is that you need very little knowledge about the characters or story to enjoy it ,allowing viewers to jump in at any point and just laugh along with the characters' antics. If you've ever worked a day of customer service in your life, you'll appreciate this series more and more with each passing episode. Always happy to deliver a laugh, Wagnaria is just plain fun and never delves into hard-hitting drama. The hardest hits that you'll ever need to worry about coming from this series are Inami's punches, indicating that she's seen another male. I mention this as a segue into the negatives about Wagnaria which, sadly, there are a couple of.  There are two things about Wagnaria which will likely bother viewers. The first problem with this series is the pacing...each episode moves very slowly. I wouldn't go so far as to say that the jokes are subtle, but they are spaced out, which makes many episodes feel like a crawl. Wagnaria is a series best served in small doses for this reason. As I've already said repeatedly, it's not a bad series at all but it's not really suited for marathon viewing.  The other problem is that this is very much a character-based show which means that much of the humor is based on personalities and relationships. Normally this wouldn't be a problem, but the jokes can get repetitive at times. There are really only so many times that you can watch Inami freak out and punch a male in the face simply because she's scared of him, or Takanashi gush over something because it is small and therefore cute before the jokes gets old. The saving grace here is the kitchen staff Satou and Souma who keep things lively and fresh by being such understated characters who keep everyone else mostly grounded.  If you're the type who enjoys extras, you'll be pleased to know that NIS America has put out another high-quality set to place among your collection. Including the standard high quality artbox and book, the discs also have clean animations. Admittedly this isn't much by way of extras but as with all NIS America sets, the artbox and book are worth the price of admission alone.  This is a comedy that can appeal to just about anyone but will particularly speak to those of us who have dealt with rude customers or deranged coworkers in the past. Regardless, this is a great pick-up and is a welcome addition to my personal collection. If I ever return to the customer service field and need a pick me up after a hard day, this show will be my go-to anime comfort food. 7.0 – Good. Films or shows that get this score are good, but not great. These could have been destined for greatness, but were held back by their flaws. While some may not enjoy them, fans of the genre will definitely love them.
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Don't mess with the kitchen staff!
Before I was a professional writer, my primary source of income was working in the customer service industry. Every single day I would deal with customers face to face and while most of them were perfectly fine, there were so...

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Love Live

NIS America announces home video rights for Love Live Season 2

More very cute idols girls headed your way
Apr 08
// LB Bryant
Last year NIS America surprised damn near everyone when they revealed that they had licensed the series Love Live for home video release. Now, a little more than a year later, they sent out a press release which falls in the ...

Review: The Witch and the Hundred Knight

Mar 24 // Chris Walden
The Witch and the Hundred Knight (PS3)Developer: Nippon Ichi SoftwarePublisher: NIS AmericaRelease date: July 25, 2013 (JP), March 21, 2014 (EU), March 25, 2014 (NA)MSRP: $49.99/€49.99/£34.99 The titular witch, Metallia, has been fighting with the forest witch Malia for over one hundred years, which is preventing Metallia from growing the size of her realm. As Metallia can only travel where there's a swamp, she decides she can do with some help and summons the Hundred Knight, a pathetic-looking demon with a deceiving appearance. Its considerably powerful, and helps Metallia to extend the reaches of her swamp. You may find the story somewhat similar to Nippon Ichi's Disgaea series, as you spend the game fighting for the bad guys. However, there's not much of the signature Disgaea humor to be seen, thanks in part to Metallia's attitude. She's gratingly rude, spouts swears as often as possible, and with the Hundred Knight being a silent protagonist, you have to rely on other characters to get any form of humor. Then again, while it might seem like there must be laughs to be found in here somewhere, The Witch and the Hundred Knight is considerably darker than anything Nippon Ichi has previously put out.  While I don't want to go ahead and spoil the story for those of you who want to give this game a go, I have to say that you might find parts of it incredibly uncomfortable. To give you an idea, I stopped playing the game for a few hours after a particular story event in the first chapter, just to digest the horrific scene it was describing. Now, I'm not a squeamish guy at all, but what was being described could put Saya no Uta and the brothers Grimm to shame. I'd liken it to something I'd expect out of Corpse Party: Book of Shadows.  For those of you that have played something from the Diablo series, the basic gameplay will already seem familiar. You walk around as the Hundred Knight, beat-up enemies, find lots of loot and gain experience along the way. That said, the combat is a lot simpler than most dungeon crawlers, as you'll spend most of it hitting 'square' over and over again to perform weapon combos. Hundred Knight can equip several weapons at once, so hitting the melee button will have it perform a string of attacks, one for each weapon and in the order equipped. You'll need to pick your weapons carefully, as some enemies are only vulnerable to blunt weapons like hammers, while others are dispatched easier when pierced with spears.  One of the most interesting spins on the typical dungeon crawler formula is the addition of GigaCals. The Hundred Knight will start with 100 GigaCals at the start of a level, and as it moves around and performs actions, it will slowly lose them. When you hit zero, your health will start to deteriorate instead, so you may find yourself working out whether you can take on a big enemy with what you have remaining, or if you'd rather grind during the last ten or so GigaCals before leaving the map. There are ways to replenish GigaCals during the level, but you'll want to make sure you leave the map voluntarily via one of the numerous pillars you'll find. If you let yourself die while you have no GigaCals remaining, you can say goodbye to the items you've picked up during that level, as well as half of the experience you accumulated on the way.  As you progress through the game, you'll unlock the ability to change your 'facet': the form Hundred Knight appears in. Doing so changes its stats, abilities and weapon proficiency, and you can even set them up with different load-outs and change your form mid-level. This leads to creating strategies with different set-ups -- like using the Wonder Knight form to deal with pesky creatures with strong armor by equipping blunt weapons and staves with status-causing effects, while leaving your stronger Power Fortress form to do the majority of the damage with blades and piercing weapons.  As you progress through individual levels, you will earn Grade Points and Bonus Points. Grade Points exist on a per-level basis, and are used to give yourself temporary stat boosts for the remainder of your time on that map. Most of the time you'll be putting points into HP, attack and defense, but you also have the choice to replenish some of your GigaCals, or to convert them into Bonus Points. When you accumulate enough Bonus Points, you'll gain access to a new 'level' in the Bonus tree, which in turn awards you with items at the end of the level. Putting all of your Grade Points into Bonus Points would give you the biggest reward if you can finish the level without dying, but you may need to put points into other stats in order to give yourself a fighting chance of getting that far.  Sounds good, right? The Witch and the Hundred Knight makes some genuinely neat changes to the typical gameplay you see in games that share its genre, but the biggest problem is that it never feels like these systems are being stretched far enough. The tutorial is one of the most uninformative and utterly boring tutorials I've ever played through, with mechanics like GigaCals and Grade Points left unexplained. When you start the game proper, you'll find yourself wandering around the maps, trying to figure out where all of the content is. Levels are made bigger than they should be to make GigaCals important in the early game, when it's too soon for the large spaces to be filled with loads of enemies. Yes, it gets better with time, but it makes a pretty horrible first impression that's sure to put off a fair portion of its audience. The lack of enemy swarms and piles of loot may also have you craving a return journey to Diablo's Sanctuary, rather than venturing deeper into this with the accompanying barrage of terrible dialogue from Metallia.  When you're not out exploring, you'll often be in dialogue with the main cast. During these moments you'll get an interface that imitates the style of visual novels, with crisp looking 2D art of the characters to either side of the screen. With this being static 2D imagery, it's a lot easier to convey emotions than with janky looking 3D models and animations. It's almost a shame that there's 3D in this game at all, as while looks aren't everything, The Witch and the Hundred Knight has to be one of the worst looking PS3 games during the adventure segments. There was genuinely a moment where I paused the game during the tutorial to look up whether this was originally a PSP game, as I was so confused as to why the 3D models looked so awful when the 2D visuals are so crisp.  Without even seeing the game, you'll be able to figure out that this was made by Nippon Ichi Software. It's the music that gives it away, as the typical focus on goofy, upbeat, accordion-filled tunes is ever apparent. This is fine in itself, as many of the songs are pretty good, but there's a minor issue in some instances where it doesn't seem to fit the mood of what's happening on screen. There's nothing dumb happening in the same kind of tone as, say, Etna, Laharl or Flonne from Disgaea chatting it up. It's the foul-mouthed Metallia with her teenage attitude, with only the servant Arlecchino to offer the rare bit of humor.  [embed]31993:3718:0[/embed] Fans of original Japanese audio can rejoice, as you can pick between that and the English dub speech for the duration of the game. The English dub is actually rather good, but it's the Japanese dub that I found most entertaining. This is because of a certain change that was made between versions, which is retained in the Japanese audio. In the original version of The Witch and the Hundred Knight, Mettalia is actually named Metallica, after that one rather famous metal band. Funnily enough it might rile up Lars Ulrich if it remained in the western release, so her name is changed to Metallia in the English dub and text. This means that whenever her name is mentioned during in the Japanese dub, you'll be subliminally told to dig out your copy of Death Magnetic. [Editor's Note: Or Load? Can we get some love for Load?] This game is full to the brim with ideas, and some really interesting ideas at that, but The Witch and the Hundred Knight ultimately fails to use them to the best of its ability. The sparse worlds and wasted potential, coupled with a dull cast that's lead by one of the most unlikeable lead characters in a video game, sinks the game straight into mediocrity. It's a genuine shame, and I can't help but wonder what this game could have been had the game received a few more months of development time. 5 – Mediocre (5s are an exercise in apathy, neither Solid nor Liquid. Not exactly bad, but not very good either. Just a bit "meh," really.)
Review: Hundred Knight photo
Disgaea meets Diablo? Kind of...
Diablo 3 was disappointing. That might be an odd way to start a review on a game from Nippon Ichi Software, but while I and many others await the Reaper of Souls expansion to complete the many Diablo 3 renovations, the u...

Toradora photo

NIS America announces Toradora blu-ray release with English dub

Their first dip into the world of anime dubbing
Mar 12
// LB Bryant
A few months ago, NIS America revealed at a convention panel that they were looking in the possibility of dubbing some of their anime releases. Since that time fans have been speculating on which title would be the first from...
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NIS America bringing Danganronpa 2, Disgaea 4 to PS Vita

Battle Princess of Arcadias & Fairy Fencer F to hit PS3
Feb 14
// Brad Rice
At yesterday's NIS America press event, the game localizer announced four new titles for 2014 for the US and European markets. If you're a Vita owner, then you've got two sequels to look forward to: Danganronpa 2: Goodbye Des...
Anime photo

NIS America licenses Fuse: Memoirs of a Huntress

Edo-period film features wolf people from Akira studio
Feb 13
// Brad Rice
The latest anime film to hit Western shores will be TMS Entertainment's Fuse: Memoirs of a Huntress. TMS is best known for handling production on Akira, and based on watching the trailer for Fuse, they didn't slack on this mo...
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Danganronpa 2

Danganronpa 2 accidentally confirmed for localization?

Feb 11
// Chris Walden
If today's release of Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc in North America isn't enough to get you excited, then what about the news that the sequel may be following it? Kyle Hebert, a voice actor who has previously worked on an...

Review: Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc

Feb 10 // Chris Walden
Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc (PS Vita)Developer: Spike ChunsoftPublisher: NIS AmericaRelease date: October 10, 2013 (JP), February 11, 2014 (NA), February 14, 2014 (EU)MSRP: $39.99/€39.99/£29.99 Hope's Peak Academy is the most prestigious school around, where only the finest students are offered the opportunity to attend. It is said that anyone that graduates from the academy will be set for life, so those lucky enough to be given an invitation are very quick to snap it up. However, students aren't expected to be the best at everything; rather, they each excel in one particular area. Joining the cast is the 'Ultimate Baseball Star', the 'Ultimate Clairvoyant' and the 'Ultimate Fanfic Creator', among others. Our hero, Makoto Naegi, has been picked at random to attend, even though he doesn't have a specialty to speak of. He is the 'Ultimate Lucky Student'.  However, it turns out that this academy isn't what everyone was expecting. The students all wake up to discover themselves within the school, with no apparent way to escape. Greeted by Monokuma, the odd bear-like creature above, they discover that the only way they can ever leave the school is to graduate, or else they will spend the rest of their lives confined there. To graduate, all you must do is kill another student and get away with it. If you get caught, you're dead! However, it's not quite as simple as completing a murder without people seeing you do it, as you must make sure you're not selected as the murderer (known as the 'blackened') in a trial conducted by all of the students involved. If you get away with it, then you're free to leave the school while everyone else dies. If you get caught, you will die and the rest of the students get to continue living in the school.  During the exploration portions of the game, Danganronpa plays much like a typical visual novel. You can talk with other students in the school, both for investigation purposes and to get to know people better. By talking to other students, and maybe giving them a present, you can raise your friendship level with them and acquire useful skills to use during trials. It's very important to build relationships with the other students, if only to increase your overall chances of survival. You can also make use of the 'Re:Action' system, which allows you to press students for more information on particular topics if their dialogue appears pink, like in the image above. It makes the speech segments much more involved, which is a nice departure from what can be a dull click-fest in other visual novels. Moving about the map and exploring individual rooms in the school is done in 3D, from a first-person perspective. It's unconventional, but it works rather well and isn't at all jarring like you might assume. It adds a lot more depth to exploration in particular, as you can maneuver the camera around to look for clues that'll help you find a killer. While looking around and interacting with objects, you might find a 'Monokuma Coin' or two, which you can spend in a special gashapon machine in the school shop. This is how you can obtain presents, which you'll find incredibly useful when building friendships. There are 114 different presents to register, good news for the completionists out there! When you're not chilling out, investigating or stumbling upon murders, you're in the 'court room' with the other students attempting to deduce the identity of a culprit. It's a thorough process as you might expect, given that everyone's lives are at stake, so trials are comprised of four different modes. The first, called 'Non-Stop Debate', sees your fellow students discussing a particular point of the murder. You need to pay attention to what is being said, looking for false statements and/or lies, 'shooting' them with a 'truth bullet' by moving a reticle on-screen. Shooting a false statement allows you to present evidence and move proceedings along. You can also lose 'Influence' by shooting statements that are correct, or by presenting the wrong evidence, and you'll get a game over if you lose it all. Non-Stop Debates make up the largest part of the trial. At certain points in the trial you may get to participate in a 'Hangman's Gambit' or a 'Bullet Time Battle'. The former is a word puzzle that you need to solve, which reveals a word that adds a new idea to the debate. You'll have to guess what the word is by looking at what letters you already have, as well as where the missing letters are, in a process very similar to Hangman. Once you've figured it out, you must shoot the letters that are missing while they appear on the screen. The word will be related to something you've already noticed in your investigation, but even so the first Hangman's Gambit you encounter took me a little while to solve. It was quite the eureka moment once I figured it out, as the current debate topic moved in a logical direction in response. Bullet Time Battles may sound like fun, but they're possibly the biggest let down in the whole game. They represent an argument over how something transpired during the murder, so you must disprove opponents' statements by...completing a rhythm mini-game? To the beat of the music, you push 'cross' to select a statement and 'triangle' to destroy it, and this continues for a short period while the speed of the beat increases. While not awful, it just doesn't have a place among the other modes. Each of the other three modes has a deduction element, and conveys a real feeling that the debate is progressing towards its conclusion. Bullet Time Battles simply feel like filler. Rounding it all off is the 'Closing Argument', during which you must complete a manga version of the murder and all of the events that transpire thereafter. Some of the panels are filled in for you, and you must drop small buttons depicting different scenes into the blank panels in order to complete your summary. Makoto will then summarize the argument, making the culprit squirm as you figure out exactly what happened. This serves as a great way to recap the murder, as some players may find it hard to keep track of everything. You've now discovered the killer, and after everyone agrees with your deduction, you must watch helplessly as Monokuma "punishes" the criminal. [Editor's Note: I'm pretty sure I don't want to know what that means.] Danganronpa is also packed full of options and features, including two alterable game difficulties. These can be set to Gentle, Kind and Mean, so if you want a bit of a challenge or fancy replaying the game at some point, you may want to consider altering the difficulty. You also have the option to use English or Japanese voices, with no need to download voice packs or pay extra for DLC. The main menu is packed full of empty galleries to fill up over the course of the game, and while these are pretty common in visual novels, it does give you handy access to the animated cutscenes, which are one of the best parts of the game.  For the most part, the soundtrack does a great job of matching the mood of the events on-screen, while also managing to sound unique to this game. There are a few songs that are rather disappointing in that they could belong in any generic visual novel, but for the most part I'm more than satisfied listening to the soundtrack. As for dialogue, the students are only voiced in key scenes, and usually those that feature Monokuma. This means that for the most part you'll be reading through text with only a few grunts and laughs to accompany the background music. It's not really a surprise, and it doesn't really hamper the game in any way. Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc is proof that there's still plenty of life left in the visual novel genre. It offers a quirky cast that quickly grasps your interest, while never needing to use them as a crutch to hold up the gameplay. As superb as the character interaction is, it's the courtroom battles that really steal the show, and they will prove the deciding factor in whether or not this game becomes one of your all-time favorites. Sure, there's a few blemishes here and there, but nothing that stops it from serving as evidence that the PlayStation Vita has some life left in it yet.  9 – Superb (9s are a hallmark of excellence. There may be flaws, but they are negligible and won't cause massive damage to what is a supreme title.)
Review: Danganronpa photo
Phoenix Wright meets 999
I'll be honest with you. Before playing Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc for the first time, I had to dust off my PS Vita, charge it up for a few hours and install a stack of updates. Unfortunately, this isn't the first time ...

Harem Paradise photo
Harem Paradise

Nippon Ichi's new game has the best title

'nuff said!
Jan 16
// Josh Tolentino
Yep, the best title. Here it is: "ハーレム天国だと思ったら、ヤンデレ地獄だった". Didn't ...
Nyaruko-san photo

NISA licenses Nyaruko-san as she crawls home with love

Moe Lovecraft lore lands in Lovecraft's home country
Jan 15
// Jeff Chuang
NISA deploys its anime licensing tentacles once again and snatches 2010 TV anime adaptation of similarly named light novel, The Crawling Chaos: Nyaruko-san. Now titled Nyaruko-san: Crawling with Love, the NISA title will come...
NISA photo

New screens, video from The Witch and the Hundred Knight

Looks like a cutesy Diablo
Jan 04
// Pedro Cortes
I haven't been paying too much attention to coverage about The Witch and the Hundred Knight, but these new screens and video have put it on my radar. It looks like a cutesy Diablo or Torchlight. My fondness for those games c...
Licensing photo

NISA grabs Nagi no Asukara

Water still doesn't work like that
Dec 14
// Karen Mead
NIS America has just netted (oh ho!) this season's anime Nagi no Asukara, to be released under the title Nagi-Asu: A Lull in the Sea. Now, the show lovingly referred to on Jtor AM as Snorks and That Show With No Underwat...
Video games photo
Video games

The Witch and the Hundred Knight to be released in March

Metallia's troops are getting ready for battle!
Dec 11
// Salvador G Rodiles
For a second, I almost forgot that The Witch and the Hundred Knight was a thing. If anything, I should be ashamed of myself, since the title features Takehito Harada's artwork (character designer for the Disgae...
Dangan Ronpa photo
Dangan Ronpa

First English Danganronpa trailer emerges

All the trigger happy havoc
Dec 06
// Elliot Gay
Having played the original Dangan Ronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc a total of two times, I can't wait to see how folks new to the series will react when NIS America releases its localization out west next year. It's a glorious lit...
Danganronpa Audio photo
Danganronpa Audio

NISA's Demon Gaze and Danganronpa to have dual audio

Double the dub, double the fun
Nov 20
// Jeff Chuang
This news may only interest some of you, but as someone who lived through the anime dub/sub debate before dual audio DVDs made the issue moot, I wish more games have the option of both Japanese and English dubs available to p...
Video game photo
Video game

Hyperdimension Neptunia V hits PSN this month

Digital edition launches November 26th
Nov 12
// Tim Sheehy
If you've been craving more Hyperdimension Neptunia, NIS America have announced the North American and European release dates for their PlayStation 3 JRPG, Hyperdimension Neptunia Victory. This latest installment of the serie...

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