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PS Vita

Review: Trillion: God of Destruction

Apr 18 // Josh Tolentino
Trillion: God of Destruction (PS Vita [Reviewed])Developer: Compile Heart & Preapp PartnersPublisher: Idea Factory InternationalMSRP: $39.99Released: March 29, 2016 (US), April 1, 2016 (EU), July 23, 2015 (JP) Well, saying Trillion is "a game with one battle" may be a bit misleading. Players will actually fight the titular boss quite a few times as they trudge towards victory. Trillion is an ancient god out to consume the underworld, and the Great Overlord Zeabolos is all that stands in his way. After being killed in his first battle with the beast, Zeabolos makes a pact with a mysterious interloper (she's named "Faust", just to give you a hint of what she's all about), granting him the ability to bestow his power onto one of his subordinates, tasking them with training up to eventually take on the threat and kill it - or die trying. The wrinkle in this grand plan is that only one of these lesser Overlords - who just so happen to all be cute anime girls themed after various Deadly Sins - can take Trillion on at a time, and will likely buy the farm doing so. But progress is guaranteed, as any Overlord that wounds Trillion will pass on her strength to the next girl in line, and so on until victory. It actually makes for a touching story about sacrifice, legacy, and struggle against certain death, and in my opinion is one of the most effective stories produced by Compile Heart. Given that Compile Heart is known mainly for Neptunia titles, one shouldn't go in expecting Shakespeare, but the moments it goes for "work" more consistently than the comparatively inconsequential narrative offerings that are par for the course for the studio. [embed]34899:5568:0[/embed] In fact, there's a certain irony to this, as these types of games are usually much stronger in gameplay than story. While charming characters and cutesy anime-soaked banter is to be expected, it's usually deep, complex battle and progression systems that are the true draw. Unfortunately, this is where Trillion is least compelling, or at least makes the worst impression.  Trillion isn't a tactical strategy game, as some folks who assumed it would be Disgaea-like were thinking. It's actually closer to a hybrid of Nippon Ichi's ZHP: Zettai Hero Project, and an old-school dating sim/training game, the kind with character stats to raise periodically, such as in the Tokimeki Memorial series, the newer Long Live The Queen. And raising your stats is the name of the game, as Trillion, the final boss, is a tough nut to crack. Simply getting close enough to land a blow will be any given player's first real achievement, and after that, it's a matter of whittling down the boss's trillion hit points. Yes, one thousand billion HP. That and other absurdly large numbers are Trillion's primary stylistic gimmick, and while somewhat inconsequential in the grand scheme of things (the game's approach to shorthand quickly reduces these numbers to easier-to-manage sums). They do help set the game apart from some of its peers, as well as hammering home the idea that the whole game is about making incremental progress, grinding away at a threat rather than challenging it to a brief, flashy showdown. Getting your Overlords strong enough to burn through all that health is the game's primary goal, and that takes a lot of grinding and raising your Overlord's stats. That takes grinding...a lot of it. Which brings me to Trillion's primary problem, that being that the bulk of its gameplay consists of puttering through various menus to assign your Overlord to train her stats. You'll go through a menu, select a task, and a brief animation will play, showing how well the Overlord did, earning her some points to spend on buying stat increases. Training increases her fatigue, which in turn increases the chance that she'll be injured and unable to train for several days. Fatigue in turn can be managed by resting or doing fun things like going on dates with Zeabolos himself. Some of these "dates"can take on an awkward air given that some of the Overlords are Zeabolos' blood relatives, but they are technically demons, so... Anyway, this kind of light time management makes up the bulk of the game, and can feel quite tedious thanks to a lack of fun stuff like flavor text or a more detailed, interesting approach to presentation. Story events pop up during the daily cycle of activities, like the "skits" in a Tales game, and these are easily the best part of the Trillion: God of Destruction. In many ways, these events were what kept me pushing through the menus long after the daily grind had ceased to be interesting. I normally dislike bringing a game's price into the argument considering that value is such a personal thing, but one feels that a game charging this price should have more. The event scenes and character art are cute, but there isn't enough of it to balance out the inherent repetitiveness of the training cycle. Overlords can also be assigned to delve into the Valley of Swords, a randomized dungeon complex. Delving the dungeons resembles a roguelike in the style of Shiren the Wanderer, where your girls and enemies take their turns simultaneously, with tactical positioning and turn sequence being the key to surviving. Expeditions into the Valley can net your girl stat-boosting gear or usable items, but are given hard turn limits, necessitating careful planning of a route to the good loot.  All of this grinding must be done before Trillion wakes up. Each phase of the game is divided into multiple weeks of training occasionally interspersed with training matches against Mokujin, a Trillion-sized simulacra. The training matches are important for figuring out the bosses' pattern and how to deal with the smaller minions and hazards that appear in your Overlord's path. And once Trillion himself wakes, your Overlord goes to battle, armed only with the gear you collected, the knowledge you gained, and the stats you grinded, all of it shielded by "affection points" gained by treating her nicely during the cycle. Chances are, though, is that she'll eat it trying to take him down, leaving the next girl, armed with her predecessor's knowledge and stat bonuses, to grind through the next phase and try again, stronger than ever. Unfortunately, the battles themselves aren't especially engaging, mainly consisting of walking up a long corridor full of minor enemies and deadly squares, while trying to keep out of the instant-kill areas and get close enough to start attacking. The controls for some reason are extremely unwieldy, and never stop feeling awkward. Movement simply should not be this much of a hassle in a game this outwardly simple.   Add to that the fact that fights with Trillion are easy to predict. Once the pattern is found, it's only a question of having high enough stats to succeed. This tends to exacerbate the tedium of the training sections, and highlight how thin the content can feel once you've stopped fully engaging with the game's other systems. Trillion: God of Destruction is a spirited game with a number of interesting concepts, brought down by fumbled execution and anemic presentation. Like its titular final boss, its big, strong idea is hobbled by a swarm of niggling flaws. Though its strengths in narrative and characterization will persuade some to put up with these issues (perhaps enough to finish the game multiple times to get all the endings), there's no avoiding the feeling that putting a dent in a boss deserves to be more fun than this.   [embed]34899:5568:0[/embed]
Trillion PS Vita Review photo
By A Thousand Billion Cuts
The Final Boss Battle has been a staple of game design since about as long as games have had combat in them, and for the most part, a game is about how players lead their heroes to that final encounter, often plowing through ...

Senran Kagura Estival Versus: PS4 vs. PS Vita Comparison Video

Mar 28 // Christian Chiok
With the power of the PlayStation 4, fans can now experience the franchise in smooth 60 frames per second and crispy 1080p with great graphics.  Luckily, the PS Vita version doesn't fall too far behind. While cutscenes and stages may look less defined, it still manages to hold it's own and looks a little and performs better than the previous entry Shinovi Versus. As for performance differences, the PS Vita version loads levels a lot slower compared to the PS4 version, which jumps right ahead into the action. Additionally, the PS Vita version uses the system's features such as it's touch screen and gyro sensors, giving you a better experience when messing with the characters in the Dressing Room.  Check out the differences between the PS4 and PS Vita versions below: [embed]34893:5515:0[/embed]
Senran Kagura photo
Console vs. Handheld Comparison
Senran Kagura: Estival Versus is the first game in the franchise that makes it's way into consoles. Originally, the series was handheld-exclusive, with it's previous titles being on available on both the 3DS and the Vita, even counting other spin-offs like Senran Kagura Bon Appétit!

Review: Senran Kagura Estival Versus

Mar 28 // Christian Chiok
[embed]34893:5514:0[/embed] Senran Kagura: Estival Versus (PS4 [Reviewed], PS Vita)Developer: TamsoftPublisher: Marvelous EntertainmentReleased: March 26, 2015 (JP), March 15, 2016 (EU), March 18, 2016 (NA)MSRP: $59.99 Unlike the previous game which had a more serious tone, which involved the destruction of schools via the Shinobi Battle Royale, the ancient tradition amongst numerous Shinobi schools whereby every 50 years, the five elite students of each school will do battle, this time around the franchise took a more amicable turn, showing all the characters getting along, at least during the beginning. This time around, Hanzo Academy, Gessen Academy, Hebijo Academy and Homura’s Crimson Squad were brought to the Kagura Millennium Festival, an event hosted by Master Sayuri, the Mikagura sisters, and Ryoki, which took place in a world where our characters reunited with their dead loved ones. This time around the game offers a unified story instead of separating it per school. Learning from Shinovi Versus, I didn’t expect the story to be amazing this time around either, as a matter of fact, I appreciated that it didn’t take itself too seriously during the beginning, especially since it took place in a beach most of the time. However, during the second half of the story, the game took a more serious approach, showing character progression, and story progression, where we learn why this event was hosted in the first place. Just like any of the previous games, alongside the main story, you will be able to play the character’s individual story (Shinobi Girl's Heart) which stirs away from the main story. Depending on who you are playing as, their story could either be comical or dramatic. Overall each story is highly entertaining and adds many hours of action to the game.   Unlike the other games though, in Estival Versus, you got to unlock the character’s Shinobi Girl's Heart, probably because they contain spoilers. While that’s reasonable, I really that it gave you that freedom to play the game in whatever order you wanted. In Shinovi Versus, I wanted to get invested with the characters first before proceeding to the main story. Unfortunately, most of the stages feel repetitive as you're basically revising every stage in most chapters. The only difference would be the main boss you're facing at the end of the stage. If I wasn't really invested in the story, the game would be rather boring. The Shinobi Dojo returns, allowing you to play with other friends locally via ad-hoc or via online. You will be able to play free-for-all or Team Battle in various game modes such as Point Battle, Understorm, Capture the Bra, Shinobi Survival, Walker Battle, and Shinobi Deathmatch. The only difference between the PS Vita and PS4 is that the former lets you play up to four players while the PS4 version allows you to play up to 10 players. Naturally, the more the merrier, so the PS4 version is the way to go with this mode. With the power of the PlayStation 4, the game’s visuals have heavily improved, even on the PS Vita version. The characters model look a lot closer to an anime series, allowing you appreciate their beauty a lot more. Gameplay-wise the game shares similarities to the Musou genre, which consists of beating multiple enemies on the field and leveling up your character while doing it. Just like Shinovi Versus, Estival Versus is NOT a Musou, but a 3D beat’em up instead. You’ll have two attack buttons, normal and strong attacks, which can be used to execute powerful combos as you level up. Just like the other games, you will be able to perform a Shinobi Transformation, allowing you to each girl's true shinobi form and allows for powerful special attacks called "Secret Ninja Arts." These special attacks deal massive damage and have a wider range than normal attacks. You may also use Frantic Mode, which in addition to using Secret Ninja Arts, it makes you more powerful, but it weakens your defense. You can also block and parry attacks when blocking timely. While there might be a feeling of repetitiveness, the game does a really good job at making you feel like a badass, especially with a powerful and completely leveled up character (especially if they are wielding a cool weapon). One of the major improvements is the lock-on feature which now allows you to control the camera while still being locked on. In the previous game, locking on into your enemy limited your camera control by having the angle fixed into your locked on opponent, making you vulnerable to other enemies. However, even with the lock on feature, sometimes your attack doesn't go directly to your enemy, thus ending your combo.  Stages will now have Bombs hidden inside creates. Each Bomb will have a different effect, such as poisoning or electrocuting your enemy, making you invisible or even summon a Puppet, which is technically a robot that deals a great amount of damage. Naturally with the game running on PS4 as well, you will be able to enjoy the smoothness of 60 frames per second. Even the PS Vita version of Estival Versus has improved a little bit from the previous entry as it definitely feels a bit smoother as well. It wouldn’t be Senran Kagura without its perverted moments.  Naturally, the game allows players to customize the characters’ apparel, including their normal attire and their Shinobi and Frantic Mode attire. An improvement from the first game is that you can also customize their hair’s color, offering five options of different colors. Additionally, you can equip extra accessories such as tails, glasses, gloves and more. A lot of the clothing options are exotic and really bring out the character’s outer beauty. However, the customization menu also allows you to fully view the character models from multiple angles, and it includes a “perverted” mini game, if that’s what you can call it, that allows you to harass the character in any way that you wish. The PS Vita works similarly to Shinovi Versus and Bon Appétit, where it uses the system’s PlayStation Vita’s features such as its touch screen, back screen, microphone, and gyro sensors. However, in the PS4 version, you will have to use the PS4 controller, which works similarly as putting any of the previous game on the PlayStation TV. Personally, I prefer this minigame on the PS Vita version, as it is more natural. There’s also a Diorama feature, allowing you to control the girls by putting them in any pose that you wish, change the condition of their clothing, as well as their expression. You may also change the background and add any type of visual effect to it. It is obvious that the Senran Kagura franchise is aimed to a selective audience, but that obviously doesn’t make it a bad game. Estival Versus offers improved gameplay mechanics alongside an improved multiplayer mode that adds replay value to the game.  The game has a galore breast and panty shots shown during gameplay in the most comedic way, but beneath all that, it’s fun title that fans of niche Japanese games or Anime-style games should get. So if you own a PS4 or a PS Vita, then you should pick up the game.  Check out a comparison video between the PS4 and PS Vita versions here.
Senran Kagura photo
The Path to Become a Strong Shinobi
After a year from its Japanese release, Senran Kagura Estival Versus made its way outside of Japan, making PlayStation 4 and PlayStation Vita owners very happy. This game is sequel to Shinovi Versus, so if you played it then ...

Trillion photo
Trillion

Yes, Trillion: God of Destruction is also kind of a dating sim


GET CLOSER TO MAMMON
Mar 21
// Josh Tolentino
It wouldn't be a niche JRPG without some vaguely salacious feature, and Trillion: God of Destruction is set to provide on that front, thanks to a set of romance-sim-inspired features. The latest trailer covers the game'...
Sword Art Online photo
Sword Art Online

Bring it home to Aincrad in Sword Art Online: Hollow Realization


Or rather, 'Ainground'
Mar 20
// Josh Tolentino
While the most interesting Sword Art Online-related news of the week was the yesterday's infodump regarding IBM's VR take on The Kirito Show VR Edition Sword Art Online: The Beginning, folks interested in actual videoga...
Danganronpa 2 photo
Danganronpa 2

Hello, Goodbye Despair: Danganronpa 2 gets a PC port


Catch the murder fever!
Mar 14
// Josh Tolentino
The Danganronpa games are fantastic. Stylish, tense, and utterly engrossing, they're easily among my favorite visual novels, and I recommend that everyone play them. Thankfully, that just got a lot easier, as people won't hav...
Trails in the Sky photo
Trails in the Sky

Rejoice: Trails in the Sky the 3rd crosses the pond


Our prayers have been answered
Mar 11
// Salvador GRodiles
For a second, I wasn't sure if XSEED's tweet about a priest and a nun was important since they might've been in the mood to tell a great joke. Lo and behold, this statement had a higher purpose as the company announced t...
Kamen Rider photo
Kamen Rider

Check Out Kamen Rider Specter in Battride War Genesis


First DLC character now available
Mar 09
// Christian Chiok
Two weeks after it's release, Kamen Rider Battride War Genesis has gotten it's first free post-launch DLC Character–Kamen Rider Specter. The size of the DLC character is about 1.1mb and it's available for PS4, PS3 and PS Vita if you have a Japanese account. 
Battride War Genesis photo
Battride War Genesis

Check Out The Full Playthrough of Kamen Rider: Battride War Genesis


Masked Riders Now On Next-Gen
Mar 02
// Christian Chiok
As a Kamen Rider fan, I heavily anticipated this entry to hit consoles, especially since it took a bit over a year compared to the second game which released around a year after the first game. Naturally, the game would have ...

Review: Atelier Escha & Logy Plus: Alchemists of the Dusk Sky

Feb 08 // Christian Chiok
Atelier Escha & Logy PlusDeveloper: GustPublisher: Koei TecmoRelease Date: 19 January 2016 (NA), January 20, 2016 (EU)MSRP: $39.99 You will be playing as both Escha and Logy, two alchemists recently hired as as members of their R&D division. While learning the ropes of their new occupation, Escha and Logy gather friends and companions as they unlock the secrets of the nearby ruins and help the citizens in a world that is still recovering from a catastrophic event known as "The Dusk". Depending on who you choose as your protagonist (Escha or Logy), the game will feature different story events and endings, but for the most part, some endings are the same no matter who the chosen protagonist is.  The timed assignments from the Atelier Rorona are back. While that may be a turn off already, though fortunately the timed assignments are a lot more tolerable in this entry. You have one main assignment that must be completed within about 4 months, along with a bunch of other optional assignments as well. While completing the optional assignments isn’t essential, you will be rewarded for completing them. While the timed assignments themselves don’t bother me, I really dislike that I can’t truly freely travel as moving around locations consumes days, so you really got to pay attention to your movements. Personally, the assignments being timed hasn’t hinder my ability to complete the game but I would like to be able to explore the game’s world freely. The battle system is quite an improvement from the other entries. This time around you will be able to control a party of six members—three on the front and three on the back. While the three characters on the front are your main party, you will be able to switch out between front and back at your leisure. Additionally, you will be able to link attacks among other party members and guard them whenever prompted. Using either one consumes from your Link gauge, however, so it is important to have some leftoever when you need to protect your party members from a strong opponent’s attack. With the two alchemy systems, the player can combine different items to create a new item(s). "Item Synthesis" is the area Escha is in charge of, while Logy can create armor and weapons through the "drilling/training” system. Both kinds of synthesis can be performed in the workshop, and it's possible to use both systems no matter who the protagonist chosen is. Atelier Escha & Logy didn’t really suffer from being ported into the PS Vita. Even while playing on the PS Vita TV, the game still is nice to look at. Granted, with the system’s resolution it is still noticeable that it’s a PS Vita game, but it’s something that you would have to pay close attention to since it's barely noticeable.  I would definitely recommend the game if you’re looking for your RPG fix on system, even if you already own the PlayStation 3 version. The new playable characters, enemies and story events are definitely worth it.  [This review is based on a digital retail copy of the game provided by the publisher.]
Atelier Escha Logy Plus photo
An Alchemical Adventure
With games like Persona 3, Persona 4, and many of the Hyperdimension Neptunia games coming to portable systems with new features and improvements, it has been a common practice among Japanese developers, and that includes Gus...

Ys VIII photo
Ys VIII

Get shipwrecked with some new Ys VIII screenshots


When sailing goes wrong
Jan 29
// Salvador GRodiles
It almost feels like it was yesterday when Ys VIII: Lacrimosa of Dana's key details were revealed to the public, as my experience with the series has changed from then. Right now, I was able to go through a majority of the ca...

Review: Gravity Rush Remastered

Jan 16 // Josh Tolentino
Gravity Rush Remastered (PS4)Developer: SCE Japan Studio and Bluepoint GamesPublisher: Sony Computer Entertainment Japan and AsiaReleased: December 10, 2015 (Japan/Asia), February 2, 2016 (NA/EU)MSRP: $29.99 [Note: This review is based on the English-language version of the game released in Asian regions on December 10, 2015. We expect that there will be few if any significant differences between this release and the upcoming North America/EU releases.] The most striking part of Bluepoint's work on Gravity Rush Remastered is on the technical side. The game runs at a smooth, uninterrupted 60 frames per second, at a native 1080p resolution. Higher-resolution textures sport additional detail and sharpening while improved lighting and antialiasing brings out the color in the game's unique cel-shaded aesthetic. No one's going to mistake Gravity Rush Remastered for a "native" PS4 game, but it does look much like the way I (fondly) remember the Vita original, which is high praise considering that I can compare the two side-by-side and see just how much work went into the porting job.  While Bluepoint has made some considerable improvements to Gravity Rush Remastered's graphical quality and performance, it was more conservative in terms of content, opting just to add the original's three downloadable content packs as standard, and a gallery mode to check out concept art, character designs, and unlocked cutscenes. This may dilute the game's value proposition somewhat for existing Gravity Rush owners on the fence about double-dipping since the game is identical in content and design to the Vita version. [embed]34700:5357:0[/embed] If there's anything about the game that qualifies as "bad news," it's rooted in the fact that the content itself is unchanged. As such, the criticisms raised by Jim Sterling in his review of the original do stand, to an extent. The game's mission design never really lives up to the sheer joy of its central gravity-shifting mechanic, and no amount of frame rate improvement or antialiasing can change that. Combat and control in stressful situations can still be a little squirrely, though the better "feel" of a DualShock 4 controller, combined with the extra awareness afforded by a larger screen, makes it easier to compensate. Even players who enjoyed the tilt- and touchscreen-based features of Gravity Rush are accommodated, thanks to the DualShock 4's own motion sensing and touch panel (though these can be turned off if desired). The narrative is also much more proficient at establishing atmosphere and personality than at answering the questions it raises, and by the end of the campaign it can feel like has read  an incomplete set of obscure foreign comic books, not knowing when or where the next issue will turn up. That said, I'm of the opinion that these rough edges are not nearly as serious in their impact as some may think, and to players in the right mindset, even add to Gravity Rush's considerable charm. The writing, dialog and story all emphasize Kat's character as a somewhat hapless amateur superhero (think "anime Ms. Marvel with a different power set") just getting started in her crime-fighting career, and she's exactly the kind of person who might whiff on landing a gravity kick and go flying into a pile of boxes. Just in the way that deliberately "slow" controls can improve the atmosphere of a horror game like Amnesia,occasional finickiness and flubs reinforce Gravity Rush Remastered's sense of character (albeit unintentionally). In the end, Bluepoint deserves credit for managing to bring out the best in an already-pretty-good game, allowing PS4 owners the chance to experience the charm of Gravity Rush unhampered by the limitations of its original platform.  [This review is based on a retail copy of the game acquired by the reviewer.] [embed]34700:5357:0[/embed]
Gravity Rush Remastered photo
Falling with style
Gravity Rush is and remains one of the coolest games on the PS Vita, even three years after its original 2012 release. Unfortunately for fans of cool games, the PS Vita didn't get into nearly as many hands as Sony was ho...

Review: The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel

Jan 15 // Salvador GRodiles
[embed]34698:5355:0[/embed] The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel (PlayStation 3 [Reviewed], PlayStation Vita)Developer: Nihon FalcomPublisher: XSEED Games (NA), NIS America (EU)Release Date: December 22, 2015 (NA), January 29, 2016 (EU)MSRP: $39.99 (Regular Edition), $49.99 (Lionheart Edition) Before the game’s main story begins, players are thrown into the middle of a mission you’re storming a military base that’s filled with robots, along with a few tidbits that hint at a major crisis in Erebonia. Then Trails of Cold Steel focuses on Rean Schwarzer's enrollment at the Thors Military Academy, which places him in the newly created class called Class VII. During his new academic life, he’ll have to bond with his classmates as they learn about the reasoning behind their group’s creation, along with encountering a few suspicious scenarios that are happening from behind the scenes. Throughout a good chunk of the adventure, Trails of Cold Steel’s story moves at a very slow place, as it takes a long time for the major events to kick in. Mind you, this isn’t a bad thing, as players are showered with many elements that expand a few great treats, such as the Erebonia region’s historical background, the culture of each location in the territory, and a ton of other stuff that gets people acquainted with the land. This is accomplished through the books that players read throughout the adventure, the characters that they interact with, and the quests (both main and optional) that they undertake. All in all, I was entertained by the title’s presentation since it throws each piece at the player in a steady manner. When it comes to Trails of Cold Steel progression, the whole formula felt similar to titles like Persona 4 and Mana Khemia: Alchemist of Al-Revis since the meat of the game focuses on Rean’s school life and his ordeals with his classmates. You spend most of your time attending classes, spending time with your Class VII buddies, and undertaking different tasks for the Student Council. Then the story takes the group on a field trip where they test their skills in different towns and large environments all over Erebonia. With the group consisting of nobles and commoners with their own problems, the developing chemistry between the party ended up being entertaining. For the most part, the formula doesn’t deviate from this path too much, but that doesn’t stop it from getting dull and/or repetitive as the events and narrative that lead up to each activity holds the entire package together nicely. As players start to see other segments that hint at the real conflicts in the story, the whole segment manages to feel rewarding during each of the game’s chapters. Whether it’s seeing the events unfold through mysterious characters that are up to something huge, political struggles between the top noble classes, or the main cast’s dilemmas, the game's story blends different styles of world-building elements into one tasty treat; thus pleasing those who were pulled in from the beginning. For players who got to play the Trails in the Sky saga, Trails of Cold Steel’s combat system brings back the turn-based benefits and the S-Break mechanic/the ability to use any character's ultimate move during any moment in battle. As an added feature, the game throws in a few mechanics that give off a nice Persona 4 vibe. With the introduction to Link Attacks, this lets players find new ways to exploit their opponent’s weaknesses. All in all, this new addition to the game acts as another feature for players to make sure that enemies don’t take advantage of the random battle bonuses (such as dealing critical damage or gaining life). Throw in the ability to switch party members like in Final Fantasy X, and we have ourselves some good ways to turn each encounter into a fun time. Perhaps the best part out of the team attacks is that their power can be improved through methods outside of spending time with your classmates. Through minigames and using each character in your adventure, players can increase their link levels of their allies very easily— even if some of the social events can only be done on certain days. Best of all, this allows for other party members to support each other in combat. Thanks to these new features, I found myself coming up with various ways to mop the floor with my enemies. The game’s Arts feature, the Trails series’ term for magic-like abilities, feels like an improved version of Final Fantasy VII’s Materia system, which grants players endless possibilities on how they want to tailor their party; therefore resulting in a rewarding experience when a setup works well in battle. Trails of Cold Steel may not have the greatest looking graphics on the PS3 and Vita, but the simplicity and style behind its designs work well in giving the game a nice presentation that's good enough to pull people into Erebonia. At the same time, the Falcom’s 3D models manage to do great justice to Nakae’s lovely character designs, which is one of the benefits of its simple look. As a person who’s been digging the Ys series’ upbeat and fast-paced music, Trails of Cold Steel’s soundtrack lives up to Falcom’s great record of having some amazing tunes in their titles. For example, the boss theme track known as “Tie a Link of Arcus” is a harmonious fusion between electric guitar and violin music that always gets my blood pumping when I’m about to fight a tough adversary. The same can be said about the main battle song “A Glint of Cold Steel,” a tune that somehow creates a wonderful melody that mixes techno, rock, and piano music together. In terms of the area tunes, they all manage to suit the locations theme, such as the Nord Highland’s piece, "Land of Blue Skies," having some soothing panflute segments that feel you’re exploring the mountain regions of Peru. While we’re still on the topic of sound, the game’s English voice cast knocked it out of the ballpark. Sean Chiplock’s (Magi’s Cassim, Danganronpa’s Ishimaru) performance as Rean worked well in conveying the guy's various reaction in his quest to find his place in life, along with his fumbles during the beginning of the story and his serious moments. Also, Carrie Keranen (KILL la KILL’s Satsuki, Madoka Magica’s Mami) was able to convey the Class VII Instructor Sara’s laid-back personality and drunk side wonderfully; thus making her one of my favorite teachers in an RPG. Overall, XSEED Games did a great job in ensuring that each person gave it their all with their roles in Trails of Cold Steel. At the same time, it helped show how well their localization work on the game blended with each performance. In terms of downsides, there were a couple minor issues present in the game. One has to do with two Quartz items called Dragon Vein and Septium Vein. The former’s description says that it’s supposed to regenerate the user’s HP outside of battle; however, it only restores their EP, the points used to cast Arts. As for the latter, it says that it’s supposed to grant players the healing skill Teara, but the ability isn’t available when someone equips in on one of their party members. Nonetheless, this error is very small, as both items are still useful. Most importantly, it doesn’t change the fact that Trails of Cold Steel’s English script flowed nicely throughout the story, which shows how dedicated the team was at making sure that the lines hit us in a positive way. Also, it was neat to see that one of the academy’s students speaks in a Scottish accent. Another problem includes a few instances where Trails of Cold Steel would lag during panning scenes or when the player is navigating through the Orbment section of the menu in Trista, the game's main town. In the end, these problems don’t happen frequently to the point where the whole adventure goes through tons of slowdowns. When they happen, they are very brief, since a majority of the game’s segments ran smoothly. In the end, my time with Trails of Cold Steel was like a great relationship where the problems didn’t get in the way of the strong bond. The title’s slow narrative and world-building aspects benefit the adventure more than hurting it, as it prepares players for the major events in its sequel. While there were a few references to the previous Trails titles, newcomers to the series aren’t exposed to the who, what, and why behind these events, since they’re more of an extra tasty topping to the yummy Teriyaki Chicken Pizza that’s right in front of us. Just like any tasty delight, the reward for savoring every moment makes this game a nice course that'll satisfy anyone who loves to consume RPGs. [This review is based on a digital retail copy of the game provided by the publisher.] [embed]34698:5355:0[/embed]
Trails of Cold Steel photo
It's time to hit the books!
It’s hard to believe that we live in a world where The Legend of Heroes: Trails in the Sky SC and Trails of Cold Steel went West during the same year. This outcome has made me believe that Hell has frozen over, as this ...

Kamen Rider photo
Kamen Rider

Kamen Rider Battride War Genesis' opening will turn the world into your stage


Gotta Break Those Chains!
Jan 07
// Salvador GRodiles
After hearing Kamen Rider Girls in the first two Kamen Rider Battride War titles, it feels a bit strange that the group didn't return to sing Battride War Genesis' theme. My guess is that it might have to do with their album...

The Japanator Awards 2015: Red's Top 5 Japanese Games of the Year

Jan 03 // Red Veron
Honorable Mentions: Dragon Quest Heroes, Oneechanbara Z2, Hatoful Boyfriend, Steins;Gate, Bloodbourne, Legend of Heroes: Trails in the Cold Steel, Earth Defense Force 2 Portable.   Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain I easily spent 30 hours in this game and I have only tapped into a quarter of the game's content (if not less). This game, considered now the swan song for the now defunct (but born anew) famed Kojima Productions over at game publisher/developer Konami in the long running Metal Gear franchise. This game, even in the era of first person shooters where you can run on the sides of buildings, can make hiding in the cardboard boxes so much fun. I absolutely loved the fine tuned mechanics such hiding and shooting. The new open world sandbox just keeps it so fresh and each encounter can be new every time adding to the tension you just don't get in other games. There is just so much in this game that you wouldn't think would be there and some even bordering into the absurd.   SuperBeat Xonic From the developers of DJMAX, this new game aims to satiate those rhythm music game fans that loved the DJMAX series and/or just loved the genre. This one has a great selection of music and great gameplay with mechanics that compliment both touch and physical controls well. A great start for the new studio, this new title has the great potential and I can't wait to see the next game in the series.   Yakuza 5 I've only barely scratched the surface of this game, and I am already loving it. This game is basically a Japanese RPG set in modern day Japan with a beat-em-up combat system along with a cheesy, over-the-top dramatic crime drama. I am told by many that this is one of those games that let you experience Japan by walking through the streets and going into places such as restaurants that capture the atmosphere and ambiance really well.   Once Piece: Pirate Warriors 3 I am not a One Piece fan at all but being a Warriors fan, I loved this entry. This game has more improvements over the past two games and runs amazingly. I thoroughly enjoyed this beat-em-up formula set in the One Piece universe that suits it very well. More characters and following the actual manga story, this new entry impresses a lot with also its great stylish combat and overall fun gameplay.   Earth Defense Force 4.1: The Shadow of New Despair A great update to the latest entry of the Earth Defense Force series, this one takes advantage of the new hardware muscle of the PS4 for better performance and added content with some tweaks along the way. Those who got put off by how the game ran on older consoles should give this new one a try, it works so much better and makes it a much more enjoyable game. They added more missions and even a giant robot sequence which regrettably brings the game to its knees in performance.
Japanator Awards 2015 photo
Games from the Far East
Growing up, most (if not exclusively) of the video games I loved came from Japan, but in the previous generation of consoles with the XBox 360 and PS3 took most Japanese game developers quite some time to acclimate to changin...

The Japanator Awards 2015: Christian's Top 5 Games of the Year

Jan 01 // Christian Chiok
Honorable Mentions Toukiden; Kiwami (PS4, PS Vita, & PC), Dragon Quest Heroes (PS4, PS3, & PC), Senran Kagura 2: Deep Crimson (3DS), Disgaea 5: Alliance of Vengeance (PS4), Ys VI: The Ark of Napishtim (PC), and The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel (PS3 & PS Vita) 5. Fatal Frame: Maiden of Black Water (Wii U) As a huge fan of the Fatal Frame series (or Project Zero as known in Japan), I was really happy that Nintendo of America took the risk to port this game over to the west. While some of the costumes as well as scenes were unfortunately censored, it doesn’t hinder from the overall gameplay and it’s a gem you must play if you need to add to your horror game’s collection. 4. One Piece: Pirate Warriors 3 (PS4, PS3, PS Vita, & PC) It’s really hard to say that Pirate Warriors 3 isn’t the best entry in the series. While I enjoyed the first title since it did a great job recreating the first part (before the time-skip) of the One Piece series, the gameplay was really annoying and hard to appreciate, as if it was trying to separate itself from the Musou genre while still being a Musou. The second title fixes that issue, but the “What If” story wasn’t really that appealing.  Then comes Pirate Warriors 3, which mixes both the great gameplay from the second title, and improves it, and it actually retells the story of One Piece, starting from the first arc. So if you’re and One Piece fan and own any of the platforms above, but still haven’t gave the game a chance, then do yourself the favor of playing the game. 3. Dragon Ball Xenoverse (PS4, PS3, Xbox One, Xbox 360 & PC) This definitely had to go on my Top 5 of 2015 for various reasons. For once, it’s the first Dragon Ball game that implanted “Create a Character” that right way, giving us various races and options for our character. Second of all, it’s almost original story was definitely felt fresh and it was a good change from the usual story mode we have been playing for the past two decades. While the gameplay isn’t on par with games like the Sparlking or the Budokai series, this is definitely the best Dragon Ball game we have received since Raging Blast. 2. Bloodborne (PS4) At first, for the sake of making this list “Otaku”, I wanted to exclude Bloodborne from the list and make Dragon Quest Heroes my fifth recommended title. However, Bloodborne is a Japanese-developed game, so it counts. If you haven’t played the game yet and own a PS4, I don’t know what you have been doing all year. While the combat isn’t an exact replica of the Souls games, Bloodborne is still a game that Souls fans can enjoy. It’s certainly faster too. 1. Xenoblade Chronicles X (Wii U) Considering I kept this list exclusive to Japanese games, this made it easily as my favorite game of 2015 (Otherwise it would have been a tie with The Witcher 3). Xenoblade X is a great game for many reasons, including its massive world, gameplay, combat, and it’s variety of classes and weapons. While the story is definitely enjoyable, it’s definitely inferior to its predecessor. The same can be said about its soundtrack.   Note: For those curious of my overall Top 5 Video Games of 2015, it would be; Xenoblade Chronicles X, The Witcher 3, Bloodborne, Splatoon, and Fallout 4.  
Japanator Awards 2015 photo
A Great Year For Fan of Japanese Games
First of all, I would like to wish everyone a Happy New Year. Like I stated on my Top 5 Anime of the Year, I mostly spent my time playing video games, so making this list was a lot easier to make than the former. However, sin...

God Eater photo
God Eater

Bon appetit: God Eater Resurrection and Rage Burst go West


Dinner is served
Dec 22
// Salvador GRodiles
Ever since I got addicted to the Monster Hunter series, I've been hoping to play a hunting title on a home console instead of a portable system. Thanks to Bandai Namco's efforts, it seems that this will finally happen, as Go...
Trails of Cold Steel photo
Trails of Cold Steel

Aw, yeah: Trails of Cold Steel hits us with its best S-Craft attacks


Let's have a sophisticated fight
Dec 19
// Salvador GRodiles
I may not be too far in The Legend of Heroes: Trails in the Sky but its prologue chapter has already made me a fan of the game already. Since Estelle and Joshua's great chemistry pulled me in, I guess you could say that...
Ys VIII photo
Ys VIII

Land Ho: Ys VIII sails to Japan next Summer


Expect to get shipwrecked again
Dec 16
// Salvador GRodiles
For a long time, the two main colors used in Christmas are red and green. Of course, white happens to be another one that's used during this occasion. Speaking of holiday colors, it turns out that Falcom has revealed new deta...
Kamen Rider photo
Kamen Rider

Kamen Rider Battride War Genesis' five minute trailer is filled with Segata Sanshiro goodness


RAIDAAA KICK!!!
Dec 11
// Salvador GRodiles
You know that the universe is about to explode when Segata Sanshiro appears in not one but two games. Besides his appearance in Project X Zone 2, the legendary mascot of the Sega Saturn is reprising his role as Takeshi Hongo...
Trillion photo
Trillion

Trillion: God of Destruction makes for a game-long final boss fight


Talk about a tough cookie
Dec 08
// Josh Tolentino
About the worst insult one can usually level at an RPG final boss fight is that the boss is nothing more than a "brick" of hit points, a big ol' thing whose primary attribute is having a huge health bar. Such a boss isn't in...
Danganronpa 3 photo
Danganronpa 3

Danganronpa 3 anime series coming, is a real sequel


V3 has come to
Dec 02
// Josh Tolentino
We all knew that the saga of Danganronpa would continue. Though excellent and relatively self-contained, Danganronpa 2: Goodbye Despair left a few threads from Trigger Happy Havoc dangling. The shooter spinoff...
Dead or Alive Xtreme DOA photo
Dead or Alive Xtreme DOA

Sorry, Nope: Dead or Alive Xtreme 3 still not going west


Now with word from Koei Tecmo
Dec 02
// Josh Tolentino
If you're a Dead or Alive fan who prefers poolside partying to fisticuffs, your fortunes this February will largely depend on your location. That's because Dead or Alive Xtreme 3, the latest in Koei Tecmo's unabashedly ribal...
Ray Gigant photo
Ray Gigant

Sound the Alarm: Ray Gigant to wreck havoc in the West next Spring


No one is safe
Nov 20
// Salvador GRodiles
Now here's something that came from the left field. Acttil has announced that they're bringing Bandai Namco's dungeon crawler RPG, Ray Gigant, to North America and Europe. Compare to most titles of its genre, one neat th...

Review: Superbeat XONIC

Nov 11 // Red Veron
[embed]34458:5161:0[/embed] Superbeat XONiC (PS Vita)Developer: PM Studios & NurijoyPublisher: PM Studios & Acttil Released: December 17, 2015 (JP) / November 10, 2015 (US) / November 10, 2015 (EU)MSRP: $39.99 Superbeat XONiC's overall visual presentation is very slick and stylish, not only with its menus but every bit of the game looks really good with its use of contemporary design language. DJMAX fans will feel right at home when the game starts up. Superbeat XONIC's gameplay is something rather new to audiences that aren't up-to-date with the latest rhythm music games. The music game interface features the notes moving on tracks from the center of the screen outward to the "Gears" on the left and right sides of the screen. As with many music rhythm games, you push the corresponding buttons (or tap/perform the screen button/action) when the the Notes on the track line up with the "Gears" on the sides of the screen. Those who played Persona 4: Dancing All Night earlier this year will be familiar with this game play style.  To get a better idea of how this works, just watch the trailer video above. There are three ways to play Superbeat XONiC; the physical Vita buttons, the Vita's touch screen, and using a Dual Shock 3/4 controller on the Playstation TV. The physical button controls is there for you out there who like to play traditional physical controls. The touchscreen controls feel surprisingly good, I did better with the touch controls with harder songs. The Dual Shock controller also worked really well (though some have reported have experienced input and display delay on Playstation TV). The touch screen controls suggest that we might see this title on mobile and tablet in the future. While you play, the backgrounds provide nice atmosphere to the song much like those song visualizers in your computer's music player applications. Those who are familiar with the DJMAX games will be a bit disappointed that music video styled background videos are not in this game due to the way the game plays but the nice song cover art are still present. Superbeat XONiC offers many modifiers or "Effectors" to the central gameplay. You can choose the Note (Fade in, Fade Mid, and Fade out), Gear (Flicker, Flicker 2, and Ghost), Note chart (mirror and random). You can also change the speed of the note tracks while selecting the song and even while playing the song.  Playing through the songs allow you to gather experience to level up which then unlocks songs and "DJ Icons" which is used for your in-game profile for ranking and grants you bonuses such as experience bonuses, health, shields, etc. The difficulty of this game varies and can be accessible to rhythm music beginners. You can change the difficulty which will allow you to miss more notes on easy, allowing you play through the game more and unlock more of the game. There is a "Health" meter in the game that goes down when you miss a note, there are bonuses that boost your health or help you recharge to keep from failing. Superbeat XONiC's soundtrack will definitely please with its variety and really good quality. Some may see some familiar artists from the DJMAX series and some songs are even from Arc System Works (who published the game in Japan). Songs are just the right length for portable play which makes it so much easier to marathon the games. Genres include electronic, pop, k-pop, rock, metal, RnB, and different fusions of the genres for even more variety. Music game play styles include are in three different styles: 4 Track, 6 Track, 6 Track FX. 4 Track uses four "tracks" in the visual interface on the game screen (two on each side of the screen) and correspond with four physical buttons: left, down, cross, and circle. While 6 Track adds two more tracks (one to each side) that correspond with the up and the triangle buttons. 6 Track FX adds the L and R shoulder buttons. All modes make use of the left and right sticks when using the physical controls. There aren't other modes in the game other than the World Tour mode that features a set goal that gives you a set of songs to play on three different difficulties. These give you an extra challenge to do on the side but isn't required to unlock different parts of the game. Your game performance in the different game types add to your DJ Ranking, which you can compare to other Superbeat XONiC players around the world when you connect to PSN. Superbeat XONiC provides a great core rhythm music game experience, even though it doesn't offer much in the way of bells and whistles like other games in the genre. It doesn't need any of the fluff though, the great music and solid experience is worth the entry alone. DJMAX fans should check out this game, sure it's not the same game but they should feel right at home here once they familiarize themselves with the game. The same goes for those interested in the rhythm music game genre, there are enough features to ease in beginners while keeping genre enthusiasts satisfied.
Review photo
Get into the Beat!
I know I am not the only one who felt crushed when I heard that there wouldn't be any more games of the super fun music rhythm game series DJMAX. I remember seeing the cover art for DJMAX for the first time and being very int...

Muv-Luv photo
Muv-Luv

Mission Complete: Muv-Luv Kickstarter comes to a triumphant close


The Earth is now saved!
Nov 05
// Salvador GRodiles
Ladies and gentlemen. It looks like we've successfully vanquished the BETA, as the Muv-Luv Kickstarter ended a total of $1,255,444 on Nov. 3. Not only did they managed to achieve every stretch goal possible (such as...

Review: One Piece Pirate Warriors 3

Nov 02 // Red Veron
One Piece Pirate Warriors 3 (PS4 [Reviewed], PS3, PS Vita)Developer: Omega ForcePublisher: Bandai Namco GamesReleased: March 26, 2015 (JP) / August 25, 2015 (US) / August 28, 2015 (EU)MSRP: $59.99 From Gundam to Fist of the North Star, the Dynasty Warriors formula works well with anime-styled action and the One Piece series is one of those that excels using that gameplay style. This new entry to the Pirate Warriors series has us playing through some of the official One Piece story arcs from Romance Dawn to the latest Dressrosa Atc, unlike the previous game that had its own original game-exclusive story. Though a "Dream Log" mode is there to satisfy those who would like to play some "what if" scenarios with their favorite characters and/or various team-ups/duels. The Dream Log mode is somewhat similar to Samurai Warriors' Chronicle mode. You get play through a map filled with different points that each have scenarios with certain objectives. These scenarios are short and have different choices to change things up, such as choosing to side with different factions of different characters.   The action in this new Pirate Warriors provides more variety than most Warriors games, each character will play differently whether it is in their speed or strength. Each character will have their own combos and even those who seem to have similar weapons do play differently, which adds plenty of replay value. This is a great way to showcase the uniqueness of the One Piece characters in more than just the way they look, button-mashing isn't going to work here. Another thing that differentiates this title is the use of a dodge button that replaces the jump button, this lets you dodge in any direction on one plane and works well when timed right. Co-op play adds much fun to the game but the online co-op is limited to the Legend and Free logs, while local split-screen co-op works with all modes.The different ways to play against or with characters feed into the way you increase your character's stats. Beating or teaming up with the differing characters gives you access to the specific character's coins. These character coins will upgrade each character's specific stats, adding a loot aspect to the game. Leveling up characters is easy, especially for those who like sticking to one character. You can just boost other characters' level to the highest level character you have using the generously abundant in-game currency. There are more playable characters in this new entry, which is great for local split-screen play and also adds to the new "Kizuna Rush" attack mechanic. The new "Kizuna Rush" system allows your player character to team up with up to three other characters for support that provide more stronger attacks at the end of your combos as you level up your Kizuna gauge. When you max out the Kizuna Gauge, you can perform a Kizuna Rush that obliterates all non-special characters onscreen and deals a good damaged to special characters. This adds more to your combat variety and timing your Kizuna attacks just feels satisfying, especially when clearing out huge mobs quickly.The Kizuna system works with "Hero Powers", filling up the Kizuna gauge beyond level 3 with certain characters allow for map-wide affecting specials which can range from healing your allies to landing attacks that damage all acitve enemies on the map. One thing that kept from enjoying the different Warriors games in the past was the performance and visuals of the games. I am very pleased that this latest Pirate Warriors game on the Playstation 4 runs great (with very rare minor hiccups) and looks great. This game is also on the Playstation Vita which looks good and runs just as well as its console counterparts. Pirate Warriors 3 also features cross-save support which allows you to upload your save to the cloud and lets you continue your progress on any platform. Pirate Warriors 3 being on the Playstation Vita is probably why the levels can be finished in around 10 minutes and have reasonably sized maps, this is great as it keeps you from getting bored in running around a map or dying accidentally and losing a lot of progress like in the mainline Dynasty Warriors game. Levels that have those timed objectives are much more balanced compared to the strict time limits or easily killed allies that end up in mission failure in the previous game. Presentation of the story is pretty but a bit inconsistent. There are nice looking full CG animated scenes adapted from the show but not all parts are presented in this manner, some scenes are done in the minimal animated voiced character models with a text box; then there there are the plain text exposition voiced over by the narrator. It may be confusing to those unfamiliar and the drama that fans love from the anime will be lost on One Piece newcomers since it just doesn't have the impact. There's plenty of content in this game for fans and those just wanting to play some Warriors action. Those wanting a different take on the Warriors formula and die-hard One Piece fans should find something in this new game, it's an improvement over the previous game but those tired with the second game won't find much different here. If you've never played a Pirate Warriors title and want to play a great take on the Warriors formula, Pirate Warriors 3 provides a great fun time.
One Piece photo
King of the Pirates!
As someone who isn't into One Piece, it's always a surprise for me every time I am reminded that the franchise is still wildly popular around the world. Its enduring popularity remains strong especially in its native Japan wi...

Kamen Rider photo
Kamen Rider

Eyes Wide Open: Kamen Rider Battride War Genesis gets a new trailer


Get Ready People!
Oct 30
// Salvador GRodiles
As we get closer to Halloween, the folks at Bandai Namco have channeled their spiritual energy to bring us a new trailer for Kamen Rider Battride War Genesis. Honestly, it looks like it isn't much of an improvement over the ...
Trillion photo
Trillion

The Underworld is saved: Trillion: God of Destruction goes West


Disgaea: Compile Heart Edition
Oct 22
// Salvador GRodiles
I don't know about you, but when I first heard about Compile Heart's newest strategy RPG, Trillion: God of Destruction, I almost confused it as a title that was a spin-off of Makai Kingdom or the Disgaea games. I guess t...

Review: Danganronpa Another Episode: Ultra Despair Girls

Oct 03 // Josh Tolentino
[Note: This review will mention certain elements from both Danganronpa games that may be considered spoilers. No major plot developments in Ultra Despair Girls will be discussed but some details that hint to towards the circumstances of the other games are unavoidable.] Danganronpa Another Episode: Ultra Despair Girls  (PS Vita [reviewed])Developer: Spike ChunsoftPublisher: Spike Chunsoft (JP) / NIS America (EU, US)Released: September 25, 2014 (JP) / September 1, 2015 (US) / September 4, 2015 (EU)MSRP: $39.99 The change I'm referring to, of course, is the swapping of the core games' visual novel mechanics with third-person shooting gameplay. Players will use a specialized, bullhorn-shaped "hacking gun" to shoot "truth bullets" with varying effects at the legions of Monokuma, the two-tone robotic death bear that serves as the series' mascot.  The mechanics themselves are serviceable but unremarkable, with the act of shooting resembling nothing so much as a stripped-down version of the laser-sight-guided gunplay of Resident Evil 4 and the like. Different truth bullets have different effects and enable varied tactics against enemies. Knockback bullets send hostiles flying while Dance bullets stun enemies with the power of funky music. Link bullets take control of enemies by remote while the Detect "bullet" is more of a flashlight that highlights puzzle clues, rather than a tool for combat. Ammunition is kept relatively scarce, privileging good aim as players can save on shots by hitting oncoming foes in their weak spots, and enemies come in varying shapes, sizes, and attack patterns. The game also mixes things up with "game rooms", essentially puzzle sections with specific win conditions and restrictions on ammo type. One room might demand that players clear every enemy in a single explosion, or by exploiting both the special functions of the different truth bullets in conjunction with environmental elements. [embed]34161:5059:0[/embed] It's all solid and works fine, for the most part, but Ultra Despair Girls hardly distinguishes itself against any dedicated shooters on the strength of its gameplay. And for the most part, that's not what fans of the Danganronpa series will be playing the game for in any case. Thankfully, the parts of Ultra Despair Girls that Danganronpa fans will be playing the game for - the bizzarro narrative twists, the off-the-wall characters and unpredictable storytelling - are all intact and fully present. Any fears that becoming a shooter would diminish the series' ability to spin an engrossing yarn are quickly proven unfounded. As with the core games, virtually all but the most cursory discussion threatens spoilers, so I'll keep the summary somewhat vague: Players take on the role of Komaru Naegi, sister to Danganronpa protagonist Makoto, as she and a partner fans will find familiar roll through the ruined city of Towa, fighting a group calling themselves "The Warriors of Hope". The narrative is quick to let on that virtually nothing is what it seems at first, and even subverts some of the core games' key themes through its story beats. Fans of the deeper lore will also find plenty of interesting references and callbacks to both Trigger Happy Havoc and Goodbye Despair, as Ultra Despair Girls functions, chronologically, as a bridge of sorts between the two games. Twists and turns aside, Ultra Despair Girls also features good characterization, quickly and effectively establishing its cast in the over-the-top manner unique to the series. The English dub is effective, with key performances from actresses Erin Fitzgerald and Cherami Lee anchoring the project. The quality of the other voices is a bit more variable, but overall it works, and purists have the option of grabbing the original Japanese voice track (which helpfully adds subtitles to the cutscenes) as free DLC on the PSN Store. Side content is also plentiful, as collectible books poke fun at common tropes in Japan's geek-literary scene. Fans who don't mind reading on the Vita's screen can also peruse a tie-in novel included on the game cartridge, starring Danganronpa alumnus Hiro Hagakure.  All this in mind, one can't help but feel that Ultra Despair Girls' greatest flaw isn't that its adoption of shooting gameplay doesn't work - it works fine - but that the game is almost as good without it. Just as some may make the credible argument that the original games' minigame sections were a blemish on an otherwise pristinely entertaining visual novel, here, it's the gameplay portions of this game that are the least remarkable aspect. In the end, though, that's hardly an offense, and everything works well enough that it's quite easy to recommend putting up with mediocre shooting to get to a meaty and substantial entry into the Danganronpa canon.
Danganronpa Review photo
Shot Through The Heart
When it was first announced that Spike Chunsoft's third Danganronpa game wouldn't be a visual novel, a lot of folks, including yours truly, were understandably apprehensive. Trigger Happy Havoc and its fantastic seq...


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