xseed

Akiba's Trip photo
Akiba's Trip

Akiba's Trip gets a release date, PS4 version crossing pond


XSEED going for XS!
Jul 24
// Josh Tolentino
XSEED games are really going all-out with their upcoming release of Akiba's Trip: Undead & Undressed. Not only have they ported the Acquire's open-world Akihabara cosplay vampire-stripping game to the English language, t...
The Legend of Heroes photo
The Legend of Heroes

Cheers! Trails in the Sky's PC version gets a release date


It's time to launch more trailers into the sky!
Jul 23
// Salvador GRodiles
As XSEED Games and Carpe Fulgur continue to work on The Legend of Heroes: Trails in the Sky SC, the awesome folks at XSEED have announced that the first Trails in the Sky game's hitting Steam and GOG on July 29th (next Tuesda...
Akiba Strip 2 photo
Akiba Strip 2

Akiba Strip 2 has new PS4 sharing gameplay features


You're going to be typing "panty" a lot...
Jun 24
// Josh Totman
If Akiba Trip 2 couldn't get any crazier, along comes it's new 'share & chat' feature. It's bad enough that the game requires you to save Akihabara from the undead by striping them of clothes so that that the sun can des...

Akiba's Trip 2 photo
Akiba's Trip 2

XSEED adding English audio, gender equality to Akiba's Trip 2


Anglophones and androphiles rejoice
May 13
// Josh Tolentino
Do you own a PS Vita or PS3? Do you happen do be an anglophile, or an androphile (or both)? Are you looking forward to XSEED's upcoming localization of Akiba's Trip: Undead and Undressed? If you answered "yes" to at...
C-Blog photo
C-Blog

Promoted Blog: An alt-review of Senran Kagura Burst


Spoiler: Karutomaru liked it.
Mar 29
// Karutomaru
[Editor's note: The following editorial was originally posted in our community blogs. While the views expressed within are not necessarily shared by Japanator, or its staff, we occasionally see fit to share unique or interes...
Akiba's Trip photo
Akiba's Trip

Take It Off: XSEED to localize Akiba's Trip: Undead & Undressed


Vampires, underwear and Akihabara
Mar 06
// Josh Tolentino
[Update: XSEED's released an announcement teaser. Check it out above!] It's happening! After quite a while existing for no one's eyes but Japan's (and that of a few curious foreigners), Akiba's Trip is...er, trippi...

Review: Ys: Memories of Celceta

Jan 09 // Elliot Gay
Ys: Memories of Celceta (PS Vita)Developer: FalcomPublisher: XSEEDReleased: November 26, 2013 MSRP: $39.99 The young adventurer Adol has once again found himself in an unknown land without his memories. Bruised and beaten, he wakes up in the small town of Casnan with no information as to why he was there to begin with. It's here that he meets a white-haired man named Duren who appears to have known him since before his memories went bye bye. Adol had made an attempt to venture into the dangerous Great Forest of Celceta, and after going missing for a period of time, resurfaced back in town, collapsed on the ground. While mysteries abound and a giant uncharted land at his very feet, Adol embarks on a quest to retake his past and unlock the secrets of Celceta. My biggest problem with Falcom's previous entry in the series, Ys Seven, was that it attempted to tell a grand story in the most wordy way possible. It was unnecessarily chatty in places that it didn't need to be, and that stretched out the game time in a significant way. I clocked in at around 27 hours by the time I finished Seven on its normal mode. Memories of Celceta, while text heavy compared to other entries in the series, is a much more lean experience. On the standard difficulty level, I completed Memories in a brisk 19 hours.  The narrative here isn't going to win any awards for originality, but Falcom spins a good enough yarn that will keep most folks pushing forward in the game. Memories of Celceta offers a rare peek into Adol's earlier years via the use of memory points hidden throughout the game. These story bits are completely new to this re-telling of Ys IV. The rest of the story involves a Mask of the Sun, a trio of evil soldiers and the slowly growing presence of long-time series antagonists, the Romun army. These are all bits taken from the two previous versions of Ys IV, making Memories a strange mash-up of story elements. One strong point in Memories' favor is how often it allows players to shape Adol's personality. Most cutscenes have multiple points at which dialogue options become available. They don't significantly change the story, but it's a fun inclusion that makes Adol feel more like a fleshed-out character. If I had any major issue with the writing, it'd be how abruptly the whole thing comes to a close. At the end of the day though, this is a Ys game, and nobody plays Ys games for their stories. They come and stay for the high speed action gameplay, which Memories of Celceta provides in bulk. At first glance, things don't seem that far removed from Ys Seven. Much like the aforementioned, Memories makes use of a party system that allows you to switch between controllable characters. Each party member has a different set of skills and attack style, meaning certain situations will call for certain characters. For example, an encounter with a group of armored enemies will call for Duren, the brute of the party. More often than not, you'll find yourself faced with a myriad of enemy types which will have you switching between characters every other attack. You're not doing crazy combos as there are only a couple of attack buttons, but it's simple, it's fast, and more importantly it feels good. Much of the changes to the combat system are under the hood. Flash Guard and Flash Move both make a return in Memories of Celceta, but have seen significant tweaks that make them much harder to break. The window of timing to pull off these parry-like moves is a lot smaller, meaning it'll take practice for players to be able to pull them off consistently. The overall game balance is much stronger, especially due to the way Memories of Celceta opens up the world to players. Ys games have always been fairly open affairs with interconnected worlds not totally unlike a Metroid or an Iga-era Castlevania, but Memories of Celceta takes it one step closer. Most of the adventure takes place in the uncharted forest of Celceta, and so Adol is tasked with mapping every corner of the sea of trees. You get rewards for exploring as much of the game world as possible, much of which is locked off depending on the special powers you possess at any given time. Find an area you can't get through yet? Chances are better than not you have to find a power that'll grant you access. Memories of Celceta even gives players freedom to do certain story events in a different order. For example based on which town you go to, you'll either party up with Karna or Ozma first. It's small, but it adds a lot to the overall experience. There are plenty of little nooks and crannies to search, and I can see many players spending hours away from the main story just to explore the world. It's a unique feel for a Ys game, made even better by the day/night cycle that helps exploration feel fresh. Ys: Memories of Celceta appears to be running on a modified version of the Ys Seven engine, meaning that the graphics aren't exactly built to impress. Everything is still significantly better detailed compared to the previous game on the PSP, but there are some noticeable low resolution textures and the whole shebang doesn't run at Vita's native resolution. That being said, strong art direction and a crazy draw distance win the day. As Adol, you'll be traveling through some beautifully designed locations with thunder and lightning crackling in the background, huge towers in the distance, and massive volcanoes erupting nearby. Falcom has never been at the top of the graphics world, but they still manage to impress due to a strong and consistent vision. Sadly the framerate can fluctuate pretty wildly, especially when there are a huge number of enemies on the screen. It's not game-ruining, but it does standout. Also consistent with previous Ys titles is the guitar-heavy soundtrack by the reliable Falcom Sound Team JDK. A mix of new tracks and arrangements taken from Mask of the Sun and Dawn of Ys, Memories of Celceta is mostly a home-run. Some of the arrangements are a bit disappointing (I'm looking at you, Dawn of Ys), but for the most part it's a collection of nostalgic tracks given new life. Where the soundtrack falls short is in the sheer lack of tracks. Despite having so much source material to pull from, Memories of Celceta's score seems surprisingly brief by Falcom standards. What's there is great, but I just wish there was more. Western action game fans have gone too long without experiencing Falcom's Ys games. Like nearly every one to come before it, Memories of Celceta requires no prior knowledge of Adol's exploits, making it another great place to jump in. Don't make the mistake of missing this one. If you have a Vita, I guarantee you that you won't find a better action RPG experience on the console. 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: Ys Celceta photo
Adol goes on yet another danger-filled adventure
Falcom's Ys series is the unspoken hero of the action RPG genre.  Starring red-haired adventurer Adol, the Ys games are sprawling quests that test your reflexes as they throw you into large worlds with monsters that desi...

Video photo
Video

Senran Kagura Burst Hebijo & Hanzou trailers


Time to compare and contrast
Nov 15
// Tim Sheehy
XSEED has released their second character trailer for Senran Kagura Burst, this time featuring the deadly vixens of the evil Hebijo Clandestine Girls' Academy. Since they've already released another trailer for the Hanzou sc...

Review: Senran Kagura Burst

Nov 14 // Tim Sheehy
Senran Kagura Burst (Nintendo 3DS) Developer: Tamsoft Publisher: XSEEDReleased: November 14, 2013 MSRP: $29.99 The first thing you're likely to notice is that every time you enter and exit the intro screen, or navigate through the menus you'll be treated to a few untranslated lines of Japanese voice overs. This might irk some, but it's just basic phrases you've probably heard a million times while playing various fighting games or RPGs over the years -- nothing to fuss over. The options menu itself is pretty limited, and only really allows you to adjust the volume of the music, sound effects and voice overs. When you start a new a game, you're given two paths to choose from, the Hanzou school which contains the content from the first game released in Japan, Senran Kagura: Skirting Shadows, or the Hebijo school from Senran Kagura: Crimson Girls. They recommend you start with the Hanzou path. After a short introduction which explains the purpose of ninjas, and the origin of the school your characters attend, you'll be rewarded with an animated opening sequence. It seems they didn't bother subbing the theme song, but I honestly hadn't expected as much. You soon gain access to various features within the game such as the character select screen, dressing room, mission list, library, records and settings. You can either navigate to each option within the classroom, or quickly access each using a menu on the bottom touch screen. You can also converse with characters who happen to be hanging out in the room, though the conversations seem to be dull and one-sided. The meat of the interactions take place during the event sequences between missions. The dressing room allows you to select different outfits, accessories, and wigs you may have unlocked throughout the course of the game. When choosing an outfit, you can cycle through  different color schemes before confirming your selection. Much to my amusement, moving your character model around while in the dressing room will cause their breast physics to kick in, and may even elicit some protests from your character if you're less-than-gentle about it. You can use the library to view your stats, titles, pictures, movies, music and other unlockables you may have obtained through play. You can also look up terms and character bios in case you want to better familiarize yourself with your favorite characters. They don't make it very clear, but you'll need to hold down X while pressing up and down in order to scroll through the text. That said, all the fun and creepy information you could want seems to be included, such as each character's measurements, birth dates, blood type, favorite foods, and so on. Records allows you to save and load your game. The character select screen is pretty self explanatory, and so is the mission list. As you complete each mission, you'll progress through the chapters. Each mission lists out things such as the location, goal, time limit and difficulty, which is ranked on a scale of 1 to 5, with 1 being the easiest and 5 being ridiculous. They change up the goal from time to time to try and keep things slightly less monotonous, often to little avail. Sadly, simply plowing through your enemies will cause you to achieve whatever goal they've set. I did find that the time limits can make things difficult if you're not constantly mashing your attack buttons. Combat is pretty simplistic. One button for weak attacks, another to punctuate with strong attacks, making combo chains pretty straight forward. There's another button for jump and one for dash, which can be used defensively to avoid enemy attacks. Most attacks and combos can also be performed in mid-air, though pressing down and strong attack allow you to launch an assault strike. Your tech and move list can be viewed on the lower screen, while most action takes place on the top. You'll gain new moves by leveling up over time. You can also select a different "balance" or stance to swap to a different move set, assuming your character has that ability. Like most beat-em-ups that feature leveled move sets however, the early going will feel totally repetitive and may turn off any gamers who lack the patience to grow the characters further. There's also a sweet aerial rave system that lets you chain air combos when you time a jump to coincide with a green ring that appears on the screen mid-combo. If performed correctly, you can keep these going for even more damage, though I found that to be quite difficult myself. You can also launch a limit break by pressing the R shoulder button -- doing so will knock back the enemies who may have you surrounded, but it also drains your health to a measly 10% making it a risky proposition and one that hardly ever seems to pay off. You also have a gauge that builds over time which allows for your character to transform into her special shinobi costume, increasing both attack and speed while allowing you to launch a devastating special attack. So, as some of you are likely aware, taking battle damage in this game results in not only the loss of health, but can actually cause your character's clothes to tear. While you can always restore your health with potions, your clothes not so much. This can have a dire effect if you happen to lose your Shinobi costume, increasing all the damage you take from that point on during the battle. At the start of each battle, you're also given the option to enter frantic mode. This sheds all your clothes down to your bathing suit, which somehow greatly increases your damage and speed at the cost of your defense, and perhaps your modesty. Beating each mission while in frantic mode unlocks something special, and while I wish I had time to attempt this myself, it's something you'll have to try on your own. When you're not in battle, you're either wandering your classroom, engaged in a visual novel-esque conversation, or stuck reading a wall of text set against a static image. These pieces of exposition often read like a bad soft-h fan fiction. Fortunately, you'll find that during the event sequences or walls of text, you're given the opportunity to proceed as normal, fast forward, or skip them entirely. You can also hold down Y to make the text disappear from the top screen, much like a feature you'd find in a typical eroge or visual novel. This, at the very least, lets you move on to portions of the game you may find more enjoyable, such as the actual combat. Unfortunately, while I enjoyed some of what I've played, the game does lack polish in key areas. The music for example is great, however the audio production could have used some serious work -- some of the music tracks will clearly hiss, click or pop which can be a little distracting. The narrative sequences can really drag, and while I'm sure some people out there will love them, others will find themselves skipping through most of it and wondering if they've missed something important. Seeing as Crimson Girls functioned as almost a sequel to the original game, some gameplay elements have been improved. For example, the move sets have better animations and I personally found the combat more enjoyable. That said, the evil shinobi, with the exception of their sexy teacher -- don't ask -- seemed to grate on me, whereas the characters from Skirting Shadows were a bit more humorous overall. The script is completely tongue and cheek, and you basically get what you'd expect from a game that emphasizes breasts, magical-girl transformations, and torn costumes. If you're a prude, you'll probably want to keep your distance, otherwise you'll probably have a good laugh. Overall, the game is a relatively fun experience, but one that will actually require time and effort in order to unlock its full potential. Without that investment, the game play may seem entirely too repetitive -- so much so, that you'll end up tossing it aside and forgetting you had it. The game is packed with plenty of ecchi, so that's a plus depending on how you look at it, but in the end, it's safe to say the game isn't for everyone, and even for those of us who might usually enjoy the beat-em-up genre, Senran Kagura Burst fails to truly innovate.  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.)
Review: Senran Kagura photo
A busty beat-em-up that lacks some polish
I never thought any of the Senran Kagura games would make their way overseas, but I admit I was pleased to learn that XSEED would be localizing the title. Not because I'm a huge fan of the series, but rather that I ...

Video game photo
Video game

Senran Kagura Bursts onto 3DS November 14th


To be sold exclusively through Nintendo eShop
Nov 08
// Tim Sheehy
We've known about it for awhile, but it seems XSEED games felt it prudent to remind us that Senran Kagura Burst would be hitting the Nintendo 3DS eShop next week. If you're not already intimately familiar with the series, thi...
Video Games photo
Video Games

Ys: Memories of Celceta bound for Europe in early 2014


Feast on some new art in the meantime
Nov 02
// Karen Mead
Gamers in the United States will be able to play the latest installment in the long-running Ys series before the holidays, with Ys: Memories of Celceta set to drop on November 26th. However, Europeans needn't feel too left ou...
XSEED photo
XSEED

Corpse Party on sale and more from XSEED this Halloween


Just in case you need some nice and cheap horror
Oct 24
// Eric Koziol
Have you been sleeping well? Been looking for a way to remedy that? As it is October and October means scary movies and stuff, right? (Interestingly enough in Japan that time is summer, actually.) So XSEED has let the prices ...

Review: Pandora's Tower

Sep 09 // Salvador GRodiles
Pandora's Tower (Wii)Developer: GanbarionPublisher: XSEED GamesRelease Date: April 16, 2013MSRP: $29.99 [Buy] After being inflicted with a strange curse, our hero’s love interest Elena is slowly losing her humanity with each passing day. With the help of an old lady named Mavda, the main hero Aeron must venture into the Thirteen Towers to extract the flesh from the Masters that reside in the highest areas of each dungeon. Armed with the Oraclos Chains, Aeron is ready to obtain the tasty morsels that are needed to cure Elena’s curse. Too bad for Elena, she has to go against her principles as a vegetarian for the sake of recovery. For an interesting premise, Pandora’s Tower starts off rather slow. While the game’s story has to do with Elena and Aeron’s relationship, I didn’t feel any sort of attachment to the game’s romance themes. It doesn’t help that Aeron isn't that expressive, since his personality gets in the way of the love story's great potential. Thankfully, the story has other great aspects, since part of Pandora’s Tower’s premise has to do with the mystery behind the Thirteen Towers and the strange curse that changes people into beasts. Overall, the plot outside of the romance was the real meat of the game’s storyline. Even though the bond between both characters starts off weak, things do pick up in the later part of the story, as you start to see some strange occurrences after the first half of the game. During your interactions with Elena, players can give her presents to make her happy, which includes items that can change her appearance – such as clothes or jewelry. Depending on your bond, you’ll be able to trigger different events between Elena and Aeron. I will admit that I found them annoying at first, but the exchanges between both characters manage to grow on me after things picked up in the story. As you’re exploring the Thirteen Towers, players have to worry about the state of Elena’s curse, so you’ll have to return to your base to feed her the flesh of regular enemies to keep her from changing. At first, the whole process can be a little tedious, but each area ensures that you can create some shortcuts to lessen the blow of traveling back and forth between locations. Since you’ll have the option to interact with Elena during quest, the motivation to move forward will grow with each passing hour. While you’re working your way to get to each boss, Aeron is capable of using his chains to work his way through the floors of each Tower. The chain have some useful features that include throwing enemies and objects, binding things, and extracting flesh and items from the corpses of your slain foes. Other than combat, the same features with the chains will be used to solve the puzzles in each Tower. If you’re in the mood to get up close and personal, Aeron has access to some melee weapons that can be used to create combos with the A button. When enemies aren’t going down too quick, players will have the ability to do a charge attack to speed things up. However, the chains still play the bigger role, as they are the main weapon against the Masters that dwell in the Towers. Each Master has a core, and it is up to the players to use their wits to exploit each boss’s weakness. In a way, the battles are like a mix of Zelda and Shadow of the Colossus, due to the puzzle-like elements that players must go through to reach the cores. Since the chains play a big role in the game’s system, I found the Wiimote and Nunchuck to be the most effective controller, since it’s easier to aim the chains. While we’re still on the topic of controls, the Z button on the Nunchuck (Or the L or R buttons on the Classic Controller) will allow you to block or dodge attacks from you enemies, which is an important skill to master. Not only do you receive damage from enemy attacks; your items have a chance of breaking in the heat of battle. Despite the slight drawback from this system, the broken items can be repaired at Mavda’s place. While it sounds like a bit of a pain, Pandora’s Tower is a bit forgiving in regards to its checkpoints and death system. As long as you fail in a manner that doesn’t involve Elena changing into a hideous monstrosity, players will be sent back to the last area where a checkpoint was triggered. Before you label the game as being a cakewalk, you’ll actually be grateful for this feature when you realize how useful it is when a certain boss is giving you trouble. With an intense scenario present in Pandora’s Tower, you would think that the game would have a phenomenal soundtrack to go with your adventures. Sadly, the music is very limited in the game, as the level themes for each Tower remains the same, which can get a little repetitive at times. There are even a few times when the stage themes go silent while you’re exploring the Towers. Besides the level themes, the battle themes have a bit of a Jaws vibe, due to the buildup that occurs with each verse. This actually works well with the tone of each fight, since it can inflict a bit of panic to players who are having trouble with certain enemies. Once you reach the boss, you’ll be welcomed by an intense orchestrated theme that has a glorious chanting that will make your spine tingle as you’re trying to figure out the weakness of each boss. This theme is perhaps one of the strongest in the game, and it really sets the mood for the fights against the Tower Masters. You’ll also encounter some soothing tunes when you’re relaxing at the observatory with Elena, which acts as a balance to the songs found in the Tower. Pandora’s Tower may not be pushing the Wii’s limits in the graphics department, but the modeling and texturing found in the game still holds up. The architecture within each Tower goes well with the elemental themes, and the Tower Masters were given some creative designs. Perhaps the only downside is that a good number of the Towers are palette swaps of the previous ones, due to the recurring theme that’s shared between the Masters. While the room placements are different, the puzzles and basic structures are recycled in each swap. Despite the lazy development behind the later Towers, the bosses were at least given their own unique designs and patterns. Despite the fun times that I had with saving Elena from her curse, the North American version of Pandora’s Tower is filled with a few glitches. Other than the freezing glitch that was reported a while back, the game kept freezing when I would select the 11th or 12th Tower from the observatory. Based on the way how the last two Towers work, the glitch might be associated with their design, since I never encountered this issue during my adventures in the previous Towers. At the moment, the closest remedy that I found was to wait a few second between each loading segment in the level select screen, which prevented the issue a good number of times. Luckily, the glitch doesn’t mess with the game’s date, so you won’t lose anything if this problem occurs – unless if you didn’t save beforehand. Putting that glitch aside, Pandora’s Tower is still a good adventure to overcome. You might have to deal with the slow pacing during the early stages of Aeron and Elena’s relationship, but the reward will come to those who put their time into strengthening the bonds. For a game that was developed by a company that worked on games based off of One Piece and Weekly JUMP, Pandora’s Tower is a fine piece as an original title by Ganbarion. The system with the Oraclos Chains plays out in the manner of how a chain should work, and puzzles still manage to give off a sense of accomplishment. As long as you have the patience to deal with the game’s early problems, you’ll be able to exit Pandora’s Tower with a big smile on your face after you achieve the true objective. With that being said, Pandora’s Towers still deserves the rightful title of being the final game to close off the Wii’s excellent lifespan.  7 -- Good (7s are solid games that definitely have an audience. Might lack replay value, could be too short or there are some hard-to-ignore faults, but the experience is fun.)
Pandora's Tower photo
Sometimes in life, the only way to nurture a relationship is with the power of meat.
Just when you thought that the Wii has sang its last song; the system breaks free from the chains that control its life. Formally known as the last piece of the Triforce in Operation Rainfall’s goal, Pandora’s Tow...

Trails in the Sky SC photo
Trails in the Sky SC

Launch those trailers! Trails in the Sky SC is going west


XSEED and Carpe Fulgur deserve a big salute!
Sep 06
// Salvador GRodiles
Actually, when I meant trailers, I was talking about using a catapult to launch a bunch of trailers into the sky as a way to celebrate XSEED's new accomplishment. With the help of Carpe Fulgur, the awesome group that localize...
Ys: Memories of Celceta  photo
Ys: Memories of Celceta

Feast your eyes on Ys Celceta's Limited Edition content


The ultimate treasure for any Ys fan.
Aug 27
// Salvador GRodiles
I honestly feel bad for not playing any of the Ys games yet. I mean, Elliot is one of the biggest Ys and Falcom fans that I know, so his influence should have infected my body by now. Thankfully, his recommendations worked, a...
Senran Kagura Burst photo
Senran Kagura Burst

Surprise Bounce! Senran Kagura Burst is coming to NA


Ninpu Shinobi Rejoice!
Aug 06
// Salvador GRodiles
Well played, XSEED Games, your sneak attack has rendered me vulnerable to latest video game announcement. Even if your moves were rather sneaky, the peach color wasn't enough to fool the most experience shinobis on the b...

Review: Ys I & II Chronicles+

Apr 22 // Elliot Gay
Ys I & II Chronicles+ (PC/Steam)Developer: Nihon FalcomPublisher: XSEEDRelease Date: February 14, 2013MSRP: $14.99 Young and fearless adventurer, Adol Christin, finds himself shipwrecked on the mysterious island of Esteria. Surrounded by a wall of storms trapping its citizens within, Esteria has had a bit of a monster problem as of late. With the ominous Darm Tower seemingly active again, Adol takes on the monumental task of uncovering the secret behind the reappearing monsters, and saving the people of Esteria. In the process, he might just find the truth behind the land of Ys, an ancient civilization that mysteriously vanished hundreds of years ago.  Falcom's Ys games aren't known for their engaging or complex stories, and the first two entries in the series are no different. Ys I in particular is a very light experience, with supporting characters who appear only to say a line or two before disappearing entirely. You'll spend a decent amount of time talking to each and every villager in order to figure out what your next objective is, as the game very rarely spells things out for you. The world itself, essentially an open field with some dungeons and a couple of towns, is quite small. As a result, there's a lot of backtracking through familiar areas. Fortunately, Adol moves super quickly, so it never takes too long to get where you need to go. While still beatable, the game becomes extremely difficult if you don't obtain a certain set of items. Ys I expects you to be extremely observant, which is a quality that a lot of recent video games lack.   Ys II however is a much larger game with a bigger cast of characters, more dialogue, and even a few plot twists to boot. It is much clearer about how it directs you, and you'll rarely find yourself lost. Towns are plentiful, and the whole thing is a more impressive experience. Adol is now able to transform into a demon, allowing him to talk with every single enemy monster in the game. It's a ridiculous feature, and even now I'm still blown away by how much optional dialogue there is. These little details help to flesh out the game world, and make for a much more compelling narrative overall. Many characters still only have a few lines each, but the whole shebang is grander. Unlike the more modern Ys games, I & II are remarkably simple games. Save for the use of magic, attacking enemies is as simple as running into them. The bump system that the original Ys games employ can be frustrating at first; receiving damage for slamming straight into an enemy is a mistake many players will make. Once you get the hang of it though, very few things beat the feeling of smashing Adol through a group of enemies, and watching their bodies explode into tiny pieces. Boss battles are tough and plentiful, and the inclusion of the bump system means that you'll constantly be trying to weave in and out of attacks in order to get a hit in. At times, especially in Ys II, it almost feels like you're playing a bullet hell shooter as you try to avoid death in the form of nonstop laser attacks. Visually, Ys I & II are beautiful looking 2D games with some cool little flourishes. The first game struggles with bland environments due to its short length (half the game takes place in a single tower), but its sequel has a wide variety of locations and enemy types. Boss enemies are big and animate well, and the game makes use of scrolling layers to great effect. Chronicles+ also gives players the option to switch back to the character artwork from the older Ys Eternal PC release, for folks who prefer the previous character designs. No, these aren't big budget 3D games, but they don't have to be.  The JDK sound team puts in an A+ effort here, with a soundtrack that will have you cranking up the volume as you smash through enemies left and right. The Chronicles+ soundtrack is unchanged from the PSP release, but given how spectacular it was, that's not exactly a problem. Crazy guitar sounds duel with violins in what is one of my favorite overall video game soundtracks. Fans of the older versions of Ys I & II can switch to the PC88 or Eternal versions at any time as well. There are tons of options here, catering to longtime Falcom fans.  The first two Ys games have seen many releases over the past twenty years. Some good and others terrible, things finally came to a head with the 2009 Japanese release of Ys I & II Chronicles for the PSP. It was a great remake with a host of improvements over its precursors, but as Falcom fans are well aware, the Ys games made the PC their home for a long time. Chronicles would eventually make its way to Japanese PCs, though sadly it was through a shoddy port with a slew of issues, many of which had to do with the fact that it was essentially a straight port of the PSP version. Fortunately, XSEED made some big changes that do a lot to fix those problems. Chronicles+ features a wide variety of screen options, fixing what was the biggest issue with the original PC port. Players can choose from filtered or non-filtered options, the latter for folks who like to see their pixels onscreen. Both options look fantastic, though I actually prefer non-filtered for its rougher look. The game has two distinct display modes, "Complete" and "Chronicles." The latter is essentially the PSP version, widescreen but with a smaller viewing space. The "Complete" version frames the action in some beautiful Ys art, and provides a larger field of view, placing your stats on the bottom of the screen. In my opinion, this is the best way to play the game, and I'm pleased as punch that it was included in this release. It's nice to see that Ys is finally getting the respect it deserves out west. The first two games are true classics that, despite their age, are still a blast to play even now. You might find yourself wondering where to go at times, but these are games that hold up strong against the test of time. With the Ys IV remake, Ys: Memories of Celceta hitting North America later this year, what better place to start catching up than with the first two games?  Ys I & II Chronicles+ is an important piece of gaming history, and anybody with a deep love for action RPGs owes it to themselves to download a copy off of Steam. 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.)
Ys I & II Chronicles+ photo
The definitive version of two beloved classics.
You may not realize this, but Ys I & II are video game classics that the action RPGs of today owe a helluva lot to.  Up until XSEED's partnership with Falcom, the developers of Ys, North America's exposure to th...

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Start off your Valentines Day by giving Adol some love


Valentines Day has gotten even better.
Feb 12
// Salvador GRodiles
Valentines is only two days away, and XSEED is in for some tasty chocolates. By chocolates, I am talking about the dough that they will rake in from the Steam release of Ys I & II Chronicles +. Other than giving Adol som...

Review: Corpse Party: Book of Shadows

Feb 04 // Chris Walden
Corpse Party: Book of Shadows (PlayStation Network)Developer: Team GrisGrisPublisher: XSEED GamesRelease date: January 15, 2013MSRP: $19.99 First of all, there really isn't any point in you playing this game if you haven't reached the end of the first game. Doing so will leave you confused about most of the characters and events, as well as why certain characters end up with memories from the first game. That's a little misleading I suppose, as like I've already said, this isn't a sequel. Book of Shadows takes scenarios from the first game and expands them a bit. Some things happen differently for one reason or another, so you get to see some new things along the way. For example, the first scenario you play follows Naomi and Seiko. However, instead of heading straight to the ritual scenes, we get to see Seiko...have a sleepover at Naomi's place? There's also some nudity and plenty of touchy-feely antics? Okay, it starts off a little misleading, but soon enough we're wandering the halls of Heavenly Host. The events play out a little differently this time around, but I'll get back to that. As I mentioned in the intro, gameplay is a little different this time around. When you aren't in the typical visual novel-style conversations, you'll be navigating a map of Heavenly Host to systematically explore different rooms to figure out how to progress. While you are in a room, you enter 'search mode', which allows you to move a reticle around the screen in order to explore the environment and potentially pick things up. Half visual novel, half point-and-click. Nothing wrong with that at all. Ditching the sprite art certainly improves the overall look of the game. The art is very impressive and looks great on the PSP, so while I personally didn't mind the sprite art in the first game, I wasn't too hung up about it. Everything is static, so don't expect to see any moving images. Most of the dynamic effects are done using image layers, camera shakes and colour flashes, which works pretty well at making it look like there is more action happening than there actually is.  The music is as great as the last game, there's no question about that. One thing I did want to point out is that you should definitely play this game with headphones. The game uses directional sound extremely well, making people speaking behind you actually sound like they're coming from that direction and so on. It definitely helps to build the right kind of atmosphere, so be sure to try it out. It's kind of a shame that a lot of the sound effects are terrible, in particular the sound of a hammer being dragged. It sounds almost like it was ripped from the Internet, so it's kind of a shame.  There are some real gruesome death scenes waiting for you too. One in particular during the second scenario left me feeling pretty ill, as while it isn't graphic visually, it did a good job of describing what was going on. This isn't a criticism, far from it, as they are undoubtedly written extremely well. I'm also certain that people will find them, well, enjoyable. On the flip side, if you aren't a fan of seeing the shocking demises of school children, then perhaps you will want to consider giving this game a miss. The 'bad ends' far outweigh the interesting dialogue, so just be aware of that if you got squeamish during the death scenes in the first game. Decision making certainly doesn't hold as much importance as it did in the original Corpse Party, for a few reasons. As you are largely playing scenarios you have already seen, you tend to know where to head and what to do. This isn't the case for every scenario due to the differences in how the stories play out, but it also seemed that decisions really didn't have too much of an effect, either. When you go to pick up an item, you'll be prompted to decide whether you want to pick it up or not. 90% of the time you simply have to pick it up to progress, and leaving it only serves to make your game last a little longer while you work out that there's nothing else to do and you need that item.  One of the most annoying new features of this game is the school map, in particular the number of rooms there are to explore. You are often given a section of the school to explore at a time, with obstructions and holes stopping you from walking all over the place. However, because sections of the hallway count as separate locations, there are often around 25 or more screens available to explore at one time. The first time I saw this menu, I was well and truly overwhelmed. I had no idea where to start.  I soon learned that the hallways usually had nothing going on, and that if they did, the game would stop you when you 'walked through' them to play whatever scene you had triggered. That's fine, right? Well no, as near the beginning of the second chapter, you need to look in the hallways to find a particular item, and it doesn't stop you if you manage to walk through the room it's in. There are way too many of them (on the second floor I counted 18, and this doesn't count those on the floors above/below), they reuse the same two or three pictures and most of them serve absolutely no purpose. You'll spend way too much time stepping through each section, looking around and finding out yet again that you've wasted your time in doing so. Key hallway sections, sure, keep those, but there really was no need for all of them. It's not a deal breaker, but it's definitely the most aggravating feature in Book of Shadows. Can I really say that this game is a simple expansion of the story in the first? No, not really, and that's because there isn't any mystery. Throughout the first game you were kept on your toes, curious as to what was really happening in Heavenly Host, thinking about who Sachiko is and wondering whether you can make it out alive or not. The horrific death scenes fit well, but you were soon back at it, trying to lead the students to survival. There is none of this in Book of Shadows, because we already know what happens. Rather, Book of Shadows is a large collection of gruesome student deaths.  The charm of the goofy characters is also somewhat lost here. It's not like they've really gone anywhere, but we don't really learn anything important. Most of the dialogue involves characters in terror, pain or both, and we aren't finding out more about what kind of people they are, as we largely already know. I guess you could argue that in the case of Seiko, we did learn something new (or rather, we had something confirmed), but it was unnecessary from a story standpoint. We've swapped the adventure gameplay for a clunky point-and-click system and changed the death/s at the end of each scenario. That's about it.  I guess I wouldn't have felt nearly as disappointed if it wasn't that Book of Shadows seems more about seeing the 'bad ends' than seeing the conclusion of a gripping story, like the original. For me, Corpse Party was about the narrative and the characters, both of which we seem to have lost somewhere in the transition. It's still going to creep the hell out of you, and for that it should be commended, but it's a darn shame that there isn't more too it.  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.)
Review: Corpse Party: BoS photo
Do not play directly after eating.
It was a little over a year ago that I parted my review of Corpse Party by wishing that the sequel would also end up getting localised. Here we are with another game in the series in a language I understand, and while it's no...

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The Wii lives on: XSEED to release Pandora's Tower in NA


The Wii will survive for another year!
Jan 16
// Salvador GRodiles
It's 2013, and the Wii has yet to sing its last swansong, because XSEED is planning to release Pandora's Tower in North America during the spring season of 2013. Thanks to the Wii U's ability to play Wii games, no one will fe...
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PSA: Corpse Party sequel coming soon


Party time!
Jan 09
// Josh Tolentino
Rejoice, fans of horrific games and disturbing scenes: more Corpse Party is on the way to your PSPs and PS Vitas soon. And by "soon", I mean "next week", as XSEED's terrifying sequel, Corpse Party: Book of Shadows ...

Review: The Last Story

Nov 29 // Salvador GRodiles
The Last Story (Wii)Developer: MistwalkerPublisher: XSEED Games Release date: August 14, 2012MSRP: $29.99 [Buy] With so many games starting off with a cutscene or narration, it felt great to see The Last Story take players into the middle of a dungeon. While it's nice to have a breathtaking scene that bring us into the story, the gameplay is also an important factor to consider for any game that will eat away your precious time. Once we begin the first dungeon, we start off playing as a mercenary known as Dagran, who's in the middle of a mission with his other mercenary buddies. As players start to figure out the mechanics of the early battles, we then begin to control Zael, the game's true protagonist. We then continue the mission, which involves the group clearing out a cave from these reptile-like creatures called Reptids. Zael then experiences a tragic event that gets resolved through an ancient power that will change his entire life. I am going to be honest here, as a main character for a story, Zael fails to hold up the potential that lies within The Last Story. Sure, he has a big dream about becoming a knight, but his attitude and reaction to things feel like your average protagonist that we have seen a million times. To some extent, he almost feels like Vaan from Final Fantasy XII, except that Zael is involved with the story; whereas Vaan was only tagging along for the ride. While he has the ambitions and dreams to push the story, Zael lacks that feeling that draws players into his story. Unfortunately, the rest of the cast falls in a similar case as Zael. While their characteristics are more interesting, they still lack that impact that makes them stand out. However, what makes each character shine in the story is their actions and decisions, which contribute to the story's theme that revolves around the price that comes from accomplishing certain goals. Among the main cast, we have Dagran, Zael's closest comrade and go-to guy that helps Zael get out of trouble. Then we have Yurick and Mirania, who tend to keep to themselves, but are opposite in their personalities. We also have Syrenne and Lowell, who fall into the category of the fierce drunk and womanizer. And last but not least, we have Calista, the princess that's caught in the conspiracy that Zael drags himself into. Though I will admit that a good chunk of the main cast has some deep backstories, but their performance keeps them from making this tale into a true masterpiece.  Luckily, the plot of The Last Story takes us into a series of conflicts that reign from an ongoing war between the people of Lazulis Island and a reptilian race known as the Guraks, to a tale of conspiracies that will bring out the tale's true colors. And at the center of this story is the power that Zael inherited in the beginning of the game, which brings out a sense of mystery in regards to the history behind the island. In fact, the war is the least of your concerns, since the current ruler of Lazulis is connected to a history that is filled with murders and betrayal. As Zael's powers is used to aid the kingdom, you begin to realize that he is only a tool that's being used in a bigger picture.  While this story would feel great at home with any of Sakaguchi's previous works, it lacks the emotion and substance that we adored from titles such as Final Fantasy VI and Chrono Trigger. One thing that made both games very memorable was the emphasis placed into the cast, which results in the players caring for each hero. And yet for some reason, Sakaguchi's charm is lost in The Last Story. Either Sakaguchi has lost his touch in storytelling, or he wanted to experiment with a story that's dominated by the events and actions that unfold. However, Sakaguchi did a good job in laying down the pieces for a story that focuses on the different shades of gray, since I found myself getting surprised when certain outcomes defy the laws of black and white.  Despite my complaints about the story, The Last Story's battles feels rather chaotic in an intense and enjoyable way. The fights feel similar to Uncharted, if Uncharted focused on swords, crossbows, and magic. In this battlefield, you have to make do with what you have, because the environment is an important factor in winning each fights. Players can have Zael hide behind walls and structures, run up walls for a Vertical Slash, or use a Horizontal Slash on nearby foes after jumping out of a hiding spot. While you are able to do normal combos, it's best to take advantage of every special skills, since enemies tend to hit really hard. You also have a crossbow, but its purpose is to draw attention, destroy certain objects, or take out mages and other archers from a distance. If you come across any objects that you can't destroy, then you could use your handy spell casters to cast their magic, which can cause environmental damage to most foes. Another great thing that makes The Last Story's battles different, is that you will eventually get to use up to six people in your party. In other words, you won't have to worry about investing time on trying to balance out your party's levels, which is something that I would love to see in more RPG games.   If there's one thing that can hinder your combat style, it's that the default controls can feel very awkward. As an action RPG, having the option on auto-attack feels out of place, since you have no control of when you want to strike or dodge. And even with the controls on manual, the attacks will be the least of your concerns. With the lack of a good tactical system, your party members are acting beyond your control, which can get a bit worrisome in most battles. However, you can assign commands to them when your SP gauge is full, which can also be used to trigger the stronger skills you get later on. Other than that, players will have to utilize Zael's Gathering ability to the fullest.  Gathering allows Zael to resurrect allies, draw all enemies towards him, and regenerate health as he hits enemies. Even though your allies can revive on their own, if Zael revives them, then they are rewarded with temporary buffs. In a way, the Gathering system is there to keep Zael's party members from becoming the center of attention in battle. Since you can turn your Gathering ability on and off, players can manage the way how enemies target certain characters. For a game that features battle system that requires players to be on high alert, The Last Story is actually quite forgiving when it comes to deaths. Characters are given five lives before they are considered fully dead, and their lives go back to five at the end of each battle. This may sound like the game is holding the player's hands, but you'll be thankful when realize how these lives will come in handy. Besides your save point, there are checkpoints scattered across the game, which eliminates the frustration of losing countless hours to one annoyingly cheap enemy strike. In the end, these elements makes up for the fragility present in your entire team.  When Zael is not battling people, you can take the chance to explore the kingdom as you discover new quests that expand the game's story. Since each quest is given the narration treatment of the main quest, it manages to give an illusion of importance to the players. You can also upgrade your weapons and equipment with materials, which is more essential  in combat than your actual level. One neat thing about the equipment is that you can obtain special abilities within each category of gear, which allows players to their preferred setup for each character. And for those who love to color code their characters, The Last Story grants players the option to change the color of the equipment that you wear, which is a nice little novelty that you don't see much in JRPGs. And to those that find crafting systems to be time consuming, The Last Story keeps it simple by using one or two materials that can easily be found by replaying dungeons.  You can also test your skills online to battle other players, or team up with others to fight most of the bosses from the main story. Other than obtaining exclusive online gear and materials to upgrade them, the online mode in The Last Story feels like it was tacked on there for the sake of having a multiplayer option. The combat system is too simple to be used in a competitive match, and the stages don't feel big enough to allow players to exploit their opponent's actions. Perhaps if there were some stages where you could inflict environmental damage on your opponents, the deathmatches would be more entertaining.  For a Wii game, Mistwalker did a good job with the graphics in The Last Story, since each area manages to shine well. The waters have the shiny ripple effects, the lighting illuminates each area with different shades, and the characters have a unique smooth-like texture applied to them. During the cinematic cutscenes, you can see the areas, ships, and fortresses grace the scene with each actions that takes place on screen. In fact, The Last Story takes the cake in regards to being one of the best looking RPGs on the Wii.  Fans of Nobuo Uematsu's work might be a little disappointed with the soundtrack present, since none of the songs in The Last Story stand out as much as his previous works. It's not that they are terrible, it's that they lack that special touch that makes each Uematsu song a glorious orchestrated spectacle. Considering that the man has done a lot of good songs, there might be a chance that he was experimenting with a new style as well.  Since XSEED's localization of the game is based off of Nintendo of Europe's release, The Last Story features the British voice acting from NoE's version of the game. Even though it goes well with The Last Story's fantasy setting, the voice acting lacks that emphasis on emotions that would normally make each line an engaging piece of dialogue. Not to say that the voices are bad, it's just that they feel a bit empty at times. And on the side of the English text, don't let the spelling throw you off, since the game uses the grammar of old English. So expect words like colour and armour to appear throughout the game.  The Last Story may not be the next big hit by the great Hironobu Sakaguchi, since it looks like Mistwalker was experimenting with a beast that they have yet to tame. Folks that are looking for a story that takes different turns might find something to look forward to. As long as you don't mind the typical characters, you might find The Last Story's plot to be rather enjoyable. Otherwise, there are better RPG games for players to explore on the Wii, such as Xenoblade. Hopefully, the team has learned their lesson from this title, since Mistwalker has the potential to make their next big game into a wondrous treasure.  6.5 -- 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.)
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A synonym of Final.
Not having the opportunity to play Lost Odyssey, I was stoked about having the chance to play a new game by Hironobu Sakaguchi. And while Operation Rainfall's efforts made this whole thing possible, I stil...

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Success In-XS: Last Story XSEED's most successful release


GREAT SUCCESS
Nov 25
// Josh Tolentino
As much fans most otaku are of companies like XSEED, NIS America, Atlus USA and other publishers that specialize in bringing niche Japanese titles overseas, sometimes its easy to forget that sometimes there's more to think ab...
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Corpse Party sequel to be localised, first is discounted


Time to hang out in the toilets again.
Oct 22
// Chris Walden
Oh hell yes. The lovely folk at XSEED have announced that the sequel to the awesome Corpse Party will be heading to both North America and Europe. Those in the states can expect to see it sometime in the Winter, with a Europe...

Japanator Kind Of Recommends: Way of the Samurai 4

Oct 03 // Josh Tolentino
Way of the Samurai 4 (PlayStation 3)Developer: AcquirePublisher: XSEEDMRSP: $39.99 (PSN download only)Release: August 21, 2012 Josh Tolentino's Review There’s a place in Kyoto called the "Toei Uzumasa Eiga Mura", AKA "The Toei Movie Village". Made up to look like an Edo-period Japanese neighborhood, it’s all wooden sliding doors, dirt streets and paper lamps. And if you’re filming a samurai-themed show, movie, or commercial, dozens of which swell Japanese TV each year, you’re probably going to do a shoot or two there. Watchers of Kamen Rider Fourze may remember the place from the school trip episode. It serves a double function as well, being a theme park of sorts for tourists to get the period samurai experience, dressing up in kimonos and yukatas and hakamas and the same costumes used in popular dramas (Musashi Miyamoto and geishas are favorite picks). Lucky visitors are occasionally invited to participate as extras in ongoing projects, as well. What does this all have to do with Way of the Samurai 4? Well, playing the game is kind of like being a visitor to the Movie Village, a tourist, invited to play a bit part on set, and yet operating with no real script, told by the director that he's free to just wing it all the way through. That winging it usually results in one looking like a fool, or a tool, or (heaven forbid) a hero. Way of the Samurai 4's basic premise will be familiar to any series fan, as it sticks to the established formula like a harem anime to a milquetoast protagonist. A fictional part of Japan is stuck between warring factions, and you're a wandering samurai/tourist out to make his mark on the world, or maybe just pass through. The place is Amihama, the time is the end of Japan's isolation, and the factions are the curious British, the opportunistic magistrates, and the xenophic Disciples of Prajna.  Players are free to choose a faction to back, or even choose none and walk their own path - their own way of the samurai, if you will - or even just simply sleep away the game's four-day timeline. In fact, one can end the game within thirty seconds of the intro by simply turning around and leaving town with the boatman that brought them to the dock. That said, such non-endings aren't truly considered valid, and the game's ten distinct outcomes usually favor picking one faction or another. Advancing the story consists of encountering events scattered across the map. Ranging from short cutscenes to day-long missions, which events players encounter helps determine the next event in the chain. A convenient flowchart in the game journal helps keep track of progress. Like any other Way of the Samurai game, this game is intended to be explored over multiple playthroughs.  That sense of replayability and persistence is ramped up from previous entries, with some changes made to the world carrying over and influencing the next cycle. Help establish an English-teaching school in one playthrough, and you'll be able to talk to foreigners through subsequent forays. Buy ownership of a swordfighting dojo, and any pupils you've recruited will remain next time around. All in all, what makes Way of the Samurai 4 unique is that you are freer than ever to act as you will in the world, and being a hero, fool, or tool as the mood suits you. The game now allows you to interject during cutscenes, effectively allowing you to heckle characters as they act all serious and dramatic. Nothing livens up a magistrate's epic speech like some jackass (read: you) yelling "Take it off!". That irreverent, silly tone is more prevalent than ever, thanks to a localization that fully embraces how inane the game can be. XSEED has fully translated most of the game's bad puns, revealing formerly exotic-sounding attack styles to be called "Cantgetmi", "Penetrator", and "Flying Knee", and bringing characters named "Jet Jenkins" or "Melinda Megamelons". You can be captured for criminality and play a torture minigame that looks like a Japanese variety show, and seduce a woman by telling her she has "nice, firm buttocks" and asking her to "open her ports" to your "black ship", then engaging in a creepy "night crawling" stealth mission involving sneaking into her bed. The bulk of the game, however, lies in its combat. Dozens of weapons and move sets can be collected and expanded by dueling, exploration, and good old murder. Unlike previous games move sets are now independent of individual weapons, freeing you up to disassemble the best-looking swords to construct your own, unique weapon. Learned moves can be mixed and matched into a custom fighting style, and the game's rudimentary online features randomly insert other players' characters as wandering duelists, allowing you to kill them and take their weapons, which stand a good chance of being min-maxed up the wazoo.  Fans might be disappointed by the removal of the one-hit-kill difficulty, or be taken aback by the game's apparent tone (previous localizations allowed players to treat the game like an interactive Kurosawa film). A lack of character development (barring a "little sister" arc with the underage British ambassador) tends to foster a sense of detachment from the story. And ironically, the divorce between weapons and styles has reduced the value of collecting unique swords for any other reason than picking their best-looking parts to use in a custom creation (though this change is ultimately a net gain). Sadly, Way of the Samurai 4's flaws are pretty much the same ones endemic to the series as a whole. Most of these intriguing features, the strengths that make the series unique, are barely, if ever, made known to the player. Anyone who isn't a fan will likely find themselves confused, seeing an open world that doesn't seem to get what makes more conventional open world games (i.e. Skyrim) "good." They'll find Amihama an awkward, rough-hewn location full of characters that look like they were from an HD remake of a PS2 game. The incremental improvements that distinguish Way of the Samurai 4 from its predecessors will simply be lost on newbies, who naturally will never know that this game is freer than any that came before. For whatever reason, Acquire has never fully addressed these shortcomings, and Way of the Samurai as a whole, ends up a lesser game for it, doomed to never receive the attention it deserves, relegated to the ignored niches and listed among "quirky Japanese games only weirdos like". It's frankly a shame that only the open-minded and persistent will ever be able to stick with the game long enough to find out that its experience is pretty much unique, with no true equivalents to be found. Way of the Samurai continues to walk its own path, and the tragedy is that it refuses to map that path out for anyone else to follow. [7.0 – Good. Sevens might have good replay value, have some cool ideas, or be just plain fun, but aren't quite innovative or amazing. A seven has potentially large flaws that, and while they don't make the game outright bad, those flaws prevent it from being as good as it could be.]   Josh Totman's Review Right off the bat, I have never played any of the Way of the Samurai series. Heard of it, but have not played. So I am coming into it blind, which could either be good or bad, but as far as I can tell, it’s a good thing. This wandering samurai story is pretty intriguing. I can’t even fathom doing that back in the day for real and being so good with a sword that I can get paid to wielding it. You seem that you have to be on your guard at all times but still be approachable to get hired. Tough balance I guess but when you’re a badass with a sword you can handle it. Speaking of badass, the first thing you need to do is create your samurai. You don’t get many options to start with but you can unlock more later on in the game. The freedom you have to go around looking however you please is nice for those who like to mix things up now and again. I’m not that adventurous when it comes to games like this. It feels better to me to keep with the period or whatever the story calls for. After we are done dressing ourselves, it’s time to go exploring. The map and area are not very robust but then again you are on foot. Last thing you need is a fifteen minute walk just to get a quest done. Yeah, no thank you. It just lags down the game having to travel over 50% of it. Picking up quests are nice and easy though. Just go up to any random person either standing on the side of the road or walking around. Talk, accept, complete, and repeat. And I do mean repeat. I don’t know how many lunches I delivered to breaking stuff missions I went on. It is pretty tedious doing these chores for people. They could at least mix them up a bit with different dialog or something. Something! It is, one of the worst things could complain about the game. The game's fighting is pretty good. It felt like it had a good balance in the overall sense. I didn't feel too overwhelmed by any fight, but no fight was just a straight pushover. The fun ones were the traveling duelists you would encounter randomly. They never went for you full tilt but stood back a ways to measure you up. It was a nice back and forth kind of battle where not one person was over or under matched. Mainly I had a great time with the game. It was better than I expected. More polished then what I was expecting. Now that doesn't mean it was a great game, just a good one. I’d say more on the slightly above average side of the scales. Again, like I said in the beginning, this is the first one of these I have played. So I had nothing to base it on. If you are a fan of the series I would expect you to think this is a great game. Which is fine and I understand that but I came in blind but still had a good time. I would recommend this game for at least a once through if this is your type of game or if you have been thinking about it. The “oh, this looks kind of cool” thinking. You know you do it and if you did then pick it up or find a friend that has it. You might be surprised by it like I was. [7.0 – Good. Sevens might have good replay value, have some cool ideas, or be just plain fun, but aren't quite innovative or amazing. A seven has potentially large flaws that, and while they don't make the game outright bad, those flaws prevent it from being as good as it could be.]
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Act like a tool in period Japan
There's no doubt that the Way of the Samurai franchise is an intriguing series, but is nearly opaque to those unfamiliar with the franchise. One's enjoyment of such games can depend significantly on prior experience with Acqu...

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Corpse Party 2 will scare your socks off this winter


Aug 19
// Elliot Gay
I stumbled upon Corpse Party for the PSP a few months before the game ended up getting picked up XSEED Games. I had done a little bit of reading on the game's history and was looking for something to pass the time before the ...
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XSEED to bring music strategy Orgarhythm to western Vitas


Aug 16
// Josh Tolentino
Hey, Vita owners! Is there not enough rhythm in your handheld gaming life? How about strategy? How about strategic rhythm? If you're a Vita owner without a heady stable of PSP games, the answer is more "yes" than "no", which...

Japanator Doesn't Recommend: Unchained Blades

Aug 15 // Bob Muir
Unchained Blades (PSP)Developer: FuRyuPublisher: XSEED GamesRelease Date: June 26, 2012MSRP: $29.99 The game introduces Fang as the Dragon Emperor, one of the most powerful beings in the world. In his hubris, Fang approaches the goddess Clunea in her sky temple and demands to be told of the strongest monster in the world, eager to test his strength. Understandably, this offends Clunea, who sends him crashing back to earth as a fledgling, the weak, human-like form of those still too young to be true dragons. To gain his power back, Fang must go questing through Titans, giant living dungeons, in order to be granted a wish by the goddess. Along the way, fledglings from other monster clans will join him, each with their own wish to be granted. It's a cool premise for an RPG, but even though Unchained Blades has more story than most dungeon crawlers, its influence on the core experience is very light. It doesn't change the fact that the story still centers around trekking through mazes and fighting tons of enemies. It does try to shake things up by focusing on different characters in different chapters, but then it's right back into fighting through dungeons.  The numerous party members are almost all human versions of the monsters you would usually fight in RPGs, like golems, phoenixes, reapers, and Medusas. It adds some novelty to the usual band of adventurers, but it doesn't mean they're well-developed. All the characters can be boiled down to a simple character trait: Fang is an overconfident jerk, Lapis is a shy cute girl, Tiana is a hot-headed princess. You can attempt to learn more about a character by talking to them at a campsite, but they rarely give any valuable insight. For example, I talked to Fang and was treated to a soliloquy about how much it sucks to be a fledgling again and how much he wants to get revenge on Clunea. Hm, you don't say? This seems to be the fault of the original developer rather than XSEED's localization work. They tried to impart more personality to your party, but it doesn't look like there's much room in the script to add characterization. Many segments feature voice acting, which helps, though characters like Hector and Lapis can be too cutesy. XSEED deserves a reprimand for the way text displays, though. There's an extra space after every bit of punctuation. Putting a double space after a period is controversial enough, but putting a space after a comma or even an apostrophe looks amazingly sloppy, like I was reading a fan-translation hack. The diverse characters also run into a slight problem in terms of visual consistency. Fourteen notable anime, game, and manga artists contributed character designs, and as a result some of the characters don't mesh well, either because of their clothing or because of their face, especially the eyes. In particular, the delicate design used for the reaper clan's Sylvie looks strange when introduced alongside the spirit fox clan's Niko. It isn't too annoying, considering that all the characters are from different clans, but it's still distracting, as if seeing a CG-generated character mixed into a hand-drawn crowd. Conversely, customizing your characters' skills is one of the best parts of the game. The skill map is made up of numerous rings full of stat boosts and new abilities, similar to Final Fantasy X's sphere grid. Every additional level gives the choice of two new bonuses, with further branches offering new possibilities. Furthermore, gaining all the bonuses on a single ring opens access to the skill in the center, which is often more powerful. It's a matter of balancing the accumulation of nearby skills with progress towards the farther, juicier skills, and I really liked the control I had over each character's build. But enough about the story and characters, dungeon crawlers are all about crawling through dungeons, and boy, do you crawl. It's easy to forget where you're headed in the first-person dungeons when the same undetailed tiles are repeated everywhere. In fact, once you've uncovered the map by exploring the area, it's more useful to look at the map than the actual environment. Naturally, you're forced into random encounters every so many steps. The usual turn-based battle elements are here: attacks, special skills, items, and running, as well as powerful "burst" skills unlocked when a character has attacked enough. Up to five enemies can appear on a screen, though they'll often be all the same type of enemy. If one enemy differs, it will generally appear in the middle as a sort of "general," and taking it out causes a "union break" that stuns the remaining enemies in some way. This seems to suggest new strategy concepts, but in practice the middle monster was always the strongest, so I just made it my target every time. In a Shin Megami Tensei-styled twist, your characters can use their charisma to win monsters over to their side. Charisma rises and falls based on your battle performance, and if it's high enough, characters can "unchain" weakened monsters. After passing a timing minigame, the monster will join your party. However, it doesn't fight directly in battle, instead serving as one of up to four "followers" that attach to a character. The higher a character's charisma, the more likely a follower is to perform follow-up attacks, or even block or fully deflect an enemy attack. Followers will often approach their master after battle and ask a question, and answering correctly can boost charisma, improve the follower's mood, or earn gifts. Unfortunately, anything involving followers is random, determined by your charisma score and the follower's mood, and as a result feels superfluous. The extra damage followers do is negligible, and only useful if a monster has only 1 or 2 HP remaining. There were countless times when I would have really liked the ability to tell a follower to not kill itself to protect a character with full HP, or instruct it to deflect a crucial blow, but there's no way to control these things. Even their questions seem random, as it's impossible to check the follower's personality while they're asking, This means you have no idea which response will produce which effect. One follower told me I needed to learn to dodge more, and when I agreed with it, it thought I was patronizing it, worsening its mood. When you have more than one of the same monster attached to your party and they have different personalities, it's very difficult to remember how to sweet-talk them all. Occasionally, your followers will be forced to fight a boss battle themselves against a massive group of enemies. This involves the followers throwing themselves at monsters and butting heads with little control from the player beyond a scrolling line of arrows that need to be pressed. How long they last before needing the next follower to automatically take over depends on their level. Occasionally, a follower will be forced into a one-on-one fight, which is the signal to mash X as fast as possible to win. These battles are the most superfluous use of the followers. They basically serve to halt progression until the game is satisfied that you've unchained enough monsters, even if you can't equip characters the number of followers they need just to pass the battle. But this is par for the course in a game centered around grinding. Forget going through a dungeon in one go; noticeably stronger monsters show up on each floor, and sometimes even within a floor once a certain point is reached. Instead of providing a smooth curve tailored to the average path through the dungeon, each new section requires the player to stop and grind until that area's monsters can be handled efficiently enough. Then, it's time to head back to town, heal up, and try tackling the next area. The grind gets tedious fast, since the rapid rise in monster difficulty feels like padding to keep players from getting through dungeons too quickly. It's worse when you realize there's not much strategy behind battles, as the repetition turns an average, functional combat system into a drag. Even Tsutomu Narita's well-done soundtrack becomes boring when you're stuck in an area too long, forced to fight in too many battles to get to the next part of the dungeon. As if to enhance the sluggish pace, once I finally started to make good progress in the skill map, the second chapter took the initial four characters away from me. I was stuck with a fresh set of characters, all at level one, which stole any sense of momentum the game was gaining. Adding insult to injury, this new party's first dungeon was the same dungeon I had just spent hours inside with my old party. It undermined any feelings of advancement that I had pushed for in the previous chapter. All of the unique features that Unchained Blades tries to add to a standard dungeon crawler aren't enough to make it stand out. The story is too light to augment the game's core mechanical focus, while ideas like the follower system feel tacked-on and inconsequential to strategy. Fans of dungeon crawlers may squeeze some enjoyment from the grind, but most players will be turned off by the tedious progression and repetitive battles. 4 -- Below Average (4s have some high points, but they soon give way to glaring faults. Not the worst games, but are difficult to recommend.)
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