Month In Review - January 2017


Looks like it's that time of the month again! See everything that we've been up to and catch up on anything you may have missed.

So since our break we've had just a little bit of time to get back into the swing of things so this will be much shorter than normal. That said however, we still have some pretty good titles that we got to take a look at this month.

Article by Pierre-Yves
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Zen Pinball 2: Marvel's Women of Power - PS4 Review


Zen Pinball is frequently releasing new tables for their core game, and while some fare better than others, all of them are of high quality. In the end whether you like a particular table probably comes down to a matter of preference. For me, these are both good but not great tables that continue to use the Marvel license in an enjoyable way.

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Siegecraft Commander - PS4 Review



Like all good adventures, what doesn’t kill you only makes you stronger. Taking this to heart is a bunch of humans who, after crash landing their ship face-first into the dirt, argue about who’s fault it was before setting their sights on something more important. Moving away from who’s fault it really is, this group of humans set it sights on what a group of Lizardmen have as they unfortunately and unceremoniously go about taking it from them by any means necessary.

Siegecraft Commander is probably the first title in a long time that made me feel bad for playing the human race. Let’s me honest for a moment that sometimes we can really, really, suck. This is actually one of those cases as the humans launch into a full scale assault into the Lizardmen because they have something that they want. Plot set, it’s time to plan the rest of your course of action which is going to require a lot of experimentation and possibly a decent amount of patience. At least from a console standpoint.

What can take some time in order to get right is how to slingshot your forces around the map. Technically this is the easiest part of gameplay as you pick a direction, pull back on the analog stick, let your building fly and leave the rest to the system. I’m going to say right here though that learning exactly how far to pull back and even pulling back could sometimes be tenuous with the dualshock’s analog stick. As much as I prefer a controller over a mouse and keyboard, I for once would have prefered the precision of the mouse as there’s a particular sweet spot that is the difference between letting your building fly and kicking a pebble with your toe only to realize it was a heavy rock and it didn’t move very far...



Once you’ve picked your direction and let your building fly, you’ll see a trailing line on a wall that lies between your original building and the newer one that shows arrows back towards its source. Seeing this let’s you know exactly how everything is interconnected once others are placed which is important as these lines essentially make up your defense network’s nervous system. Protecting the major nerves is important because as while taking out the last building in nerve cluster is fine, taking out a previous node or even it’s previous node? This will cause everything that came afterwards to crumble which is why placing your buildings is only half the battle.

The other half of the battle is making sure that these nodes are well defended so that while you’re off further ahead trying to break the enemy’s stronghold, the nerves that brought you that far can stand on their own. This is a bit where things don’t jive so well as there’s a weird formula that either is extremely effective or just doesn’t seem to work. You start off with a giant castle with lots of health. From here you launch outposts which come supplied with catapults in order to damage other buildings. Outposts can from that point spawn multiple other types such as armories for mortars, barracks for soldiers, or libraries for all sorts of fun things like a Tesla Tower. With all of these others however it generally didn’t come down to how well you could use them but how many troops that the enemy sent your way.

Mortars exist as an anti-troop attack. Barracks generate soldiers that can also be used for anti-troops as well as attacking the enemy’s buildings. Often though it seemed like the enemy just simply moved right through as the cooldowns on the mortars were too far between and the troops just simply didn’t spawn fast enough. Protecting these from airships was also an issue as ballistas have a long reload time, which is fair when you think about it, but the amount of airships coming your way didn’t even leave you a chance in the first place as they can unload a hell of a lot faster than a ballista can ever reload.


So with all of this said, you could place four or five mortars around, multiple barracks, a few ballistae, and still things could crumble. Honestly more often than not a better strategy was to aim for where your enemy produced troops and either catapult them manually or use the placement of new buildings to stomp their troops flat as new buildings can be used as a weapon of their own.

Placing buildings while easy in concept could be aggravating at times depending on the camera angle. From one point of view things looked good but placing them by launching them forward and they exploded because there was a slight incline on the map. Placing them “too close”, which sometimes was not even close where you were looking, was too close at the point of origin causing your new would be building to once again explode costing you precious time in certain circumstances. So what should have been quick and easy fun at times was an exercise in patience trying to launch the building just right and not hit that incline because for some reason one incline at ten degrees would make things explode while forty percent inclines were fine. It made no sense.


I wanted to enjoy Siegecraft Commander a lot more than I did, but the issues with the gameplay were too much to completely overlook. Between having to struggle with the analog stick and worry about every other incline while simultaneously concerning myself with the number of troops coming at you could be the difference between either restarting the level or taking a break before trying it again with a calmer demeanor.

Game Information

Platform:
Sony PlayStation 4
Developer(s):
Blowfish Studios
Publisher(s):
Level 77 Pty Ltd
Genre(s):
Real Time Strategy
Turned Based Strategy
Mode(s):
Single Player
Multiplayer
Other Platform(s):
PC

Source:
Provided by Publisher




Article by Pierre-Yves
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Atelier Shallie Plus: Alchemists of the Dusk Sea - Vita Review


The Atelier series is long running with my first entry being the sixth entry of Atelier Iris back on the PS2. Not having played an entry through to completion since the twelfth and thirteenth* entries of Atelier Meruru and Ayesha, I was a bit hesitant to jump into the final entry of the trilogy that Ayesha started. I should have known better than to worry, as the reappearing characters hold very well to themselves and Atelier Shallie brings back one of my favorite aspects of the series. No Time Limits.

I was never a fan of the time limits that were introduced into the series through Atelier Iris 3 and then taken a step further through Atelier Rorona when the series moved over onto the PS3. Picking up ingredients costed time. Performing Alchemy costed time. Leave town costed time and so did moving around the world map turning an RPG series that I fell in love with into a lesson of time management. This added a stress into the mix as the adventure could simply end if you didn't meet your objectives all the while having to figure out where to go, what to do, and how to do it all the while seeing the day counter tick down to your next deadline and perhaps the end of the adventure.

Atelier Shallie brings back how things used to be creating a much smoother and enjoyable experience. There is now a chance to "fully" explore an area, defeat enemies, pick up resources and come back for more without losing "months" worth of time and seeing a dealing approach at mach speed. This has also allows an easier time leveling up in order to help move onto a higher leveled area and perform the alchemy needed for the items to survive it!


The Atelier series has never had a heavy emphasis on "grinding" even though some entries needed it. Atelier Shallie in some way does away with this as even if you fight in combat it's possible to gain fourteen levels at a time earlier on by performing objectives such as defeating xth number of beasts for example. This vast experience boost was a shock the first time though it pretty much turned having to fight monsters for experience into fighting monsters for materials.

Not really having to worry about leveling up leaves time, now unlimited, for everything else such as taking on as many quests as you want, performing alchemy, and moving the main story along when you're ready to. Quests can be picked up from the Cooperative Union Headquarters and come in two flavours. The first of these, and the one that will grant those leveling up spikes, are the monster elimination quests.

The second can be "picked" up only to finish them off as all they require is handing in either raw materials or alchemic goods. This leaves the possibility for a higher roll over of new quests when you're out exploring and tackling the elimination ones that must be accepted before leaving the town. Regardless of the quests accepted, the rewards are varying amounts of gold that can be used to buy other materials or books for learning recipes.


Taking these recipe books back to your lab is just as easy as it's ever been. Choosing a recipe that you have learned and now know opens up a menu to insert the appropriate styled ingredients. Bombs whether Fire, Ice or Lightning need paper and explosive substances while healing items needs herbs and liquids in order to begin the alchemic process. As you get more materials you gain access to more options as to how to make something.

What I found interesting was the use of a grid system in order to carry your alchemy items out into the field with you. Instead of just opening up an item menu and picking either a healing item or a weapon to throw at the enemy, you instead have to place them in a grid and only these items can be taken with you. The grid has a limited space and some items are more than a single grid space and sometimes not even a straight object making it difficult to fit them all in together.

This space increases as the Shallie's journey moves on but making a choice choices as to which properties to imbue can sometimes be tough when the options are either to make more, increase the potential for healing or destruction, or to simply shrink it down in order to fit better so that more items can fit into the grid. You could by the same principle make the item even bigger and take up more grid space for an increase in power. These choices are entirely up to you.


Not having played Escha and Logy, the last time that I played an Atelier with two main characters was Atelier Iris 2. This saw the switching of the two characters as the story progressed and they had their own events in order to handle. What I enjoyed about Atelier Shallie is that both main characters, both named Shallie (Shallistera and Shallotte), star as the protagonists to their own separate adventures. IT was interesting to see that each did their own thing before then meeting up chapters later before even then joining one another's party.

Now while this may be my first crack at Atelier Shallie, a lot of other people will be coming to it for an upgraded from the original PS3 version. I don't have a baseline to gauge off of but I can say that it runs smoother on the Vita's OS. The first chapter seemed a bit rough on the system resources but that was before the official launch day. Once that rolled around the performance issues smoothed over. There are still a few slowdowns when things load up either in town or in the field but nothing major or game breaking. The only real issue that I had is that a cutscene would be running and right as you are about to be told what to do, the scene cuts out and them makes you pull up the menu for whatever was decided on after the screen went black. I would have much rather preferred hearing what the task was and then only loading the menu thereafter if I needed a reminder because I put the Vita down for a few hours.

Overall Atelier Shallie Plus: Alchemists of the Dusk Sea was a great re-entry into the series for me. Not only is the story a good one, the dialog from both a written and verbal standpoint is highly enjoyable. Best of all, the gameplay is a return to a much more enjoyable and relaxing experience.

*if you consider Mana Khemia and its sequel part of the main series

Game Information

Platform:
Sony PlayStation Vita
Developer(s):
Gust
Publisher(s):
Tecmo KOEI America
Genre(s):
RPG
Mode(s):
Single Player
Other Platform(s):
Sony PlayStation 3 - Regular

Source:
Provided by Publisher


Article by Pierre-Yves
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Bandai Namco has some great games coming up soon


Last year saw a lot of great games come out by Bandai Namco, and we're keeping an eye on several upcoming titles including the following news about Sword Art, Ace Combat and Ni no Kuni II.

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Memorable Music in Gaming #32


I don't do these very often but lately I keep finding myself returning to The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel OSTs. These latest in the series have some incredible music tracks and more often than not I would find myself prolonging a battle just to hear the track start to repeat itself.

Battle music in an RPG can either make or break it. Now while that may come across as a bit of a melodramatic statement, do you really want to spend the next twenty, thirty, forty, fifty, so on and so forth hours listening to a track that drives you nuts? I didn't think so.

Trails of Cold Steel

Battle Theme 1 - The Glint of Cold Steel

The main battle theme of Cold Steel the first time I heard it I just let it run and still found myself doing so hours later down the line. It's a track that picks up and lets off in appropriate amounts while switching it up and not being overly repetitive on the same few notes making you want to simply end it as fast as possible or mute it. I swear I don't have the repeat fifteen minute version in my favorites...



Battle Theme 2 - Tie a Link to Arcus

With the length of Cold Steel I was surprised (though shouldn't have been) to see that there was more than one battle theme. Taking a different tone from the first, this second theme makes the point that things have become more serious and is used to emphasize that point.



Risking Everything, Here We Stand

Finally from the first entry is my favorite of the musical tracks which starts off the adventure before going back to the beginning. Risking Everything, Here We Stand was just as epic at the beginning with no knowledge as it was thirty of forty hours into it when you get back there and have all the details.



Trails of Cold Steel 2

Battle Theme 1 - Heated Mind

Having moved over to the second entry the first battle that picked up I remembered asking myself what the hell was this? I had honestly expected the original battle theme to continue though after a few battles it grew on me and also showed that the music can change to accompany the rest of the changes.



That's it for now! Hopefully a bit of battle music was enough to get you through the last day of the week before jumping into the weekend!

Article by Pierre-Yves
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Robocop - Amstrad CPC 6128 Retro Reflections


This is another retro review for the Amstrad, a home computer of the eighties. Though most people today have never heard of it, this machine made me love video games and triggered my imagination, along with comics and cinema. So, I am very fond of it.

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Heroine Anthem Zero - PC Review


Heroine Anthem Zero is a new beginning to an older series that saw its last release back in 2003. Set in a Slavic fantasy world, Wanin and Mormolia start off on a new adventure after heading back to their village as part of those known as the Forest Keepers.

From the store page on steam itself the developers state that "it may not be for the hardcore platform gamer". Having played platformers for the past twenty some odd years I can say that while they may be right, it feels a bit like a deprecated statement as Heroine Anthem Zero is still a great gaming experience in its own right even if it concentrates more heavily on its narrative elements for a good portion of the adventure.

Starting off with gameplay however, it is the weakest link. Taking control of Wanin, it can be a few hours before even getting access to anything new. Walking, running, jumping, wall jumping, wall sliding and flat out hitting things are all available from the very beginning. While these are available from the beginning however, out of the six hours that the adventure can take, you won't see any new weapons or armor for about three and a half to four hours. It isn't that big of an issue as most things short of poison and bosses won't kill you, but you'll want new weapons for the bosses as they are very Hit Point heavy.


Heroine Anthem Zero is titled as an adventure platformer but it does hold onto some Metroidvania aspects that I wished had been explored further. Most of these elements only come out to play hours later at about the same time as the new items. Once these elements do come into play however one can see how much effort was put into the design of the environments. Gameplay wise, as mentioned, is not hard but it is fun as it allows your fingers to stretch out as storytime is now over and it's time to let loose.

So if the gameplay only ramps up at the two-thirds mark of the adventure, what do you do in the meantime? Honestly, a lot of the beginning is simple gameplay and a lot of storytelling. The written dialog is translated and not natively English but it is only enhanced by either the Mandarin or Japanese Voice Overs for the multiple characters that Wanin and Mormolia encounter.

This storytelling is really what makes Heroine Anthem Zero. In a lot of cases it feels like a play along Visual Novel until things ramp up with two visual styles that move the events along. The first of these, in which you will spend most of your time seeing, is the "in-game" graphics that make up the gameplay and the bulk of the in-game cutscenes. When zoomed out this style is nice but it can get a bit pixelated once the camera pans up close.


The second of these styles that is used are gorgeous anime character portraits and full screen artworks that can sometimes scroll for better effect. All the main characters have their own portraits with several different expressions in order to properly support the context of the dialog. Mormolia for example is equipped with both annoyed and pissed off portraits for all the dumb things that Wanin can spew without thinking.

There are others with portraits around town but mostly you'll only see them from the main cast unless you move around and talk to the others that are going about their business. These two visual forms carry the narrative a long way. More often than not the two work together with the in-game sprites moving, shrugging, and using emoticons that match the portraits. Between this and the dialog it makes up for the lighter gameplay near the beginning.

The last piece to bring everything together is the stellar soundtrack that exists throughout the entire adventure. Not only does it sound great and work, but it also has a couple voiced tracks for specific scenes that are used to tell a story alongside the in-game graphics, the portraits, and the full screen artworks. This, if nothing else, eases the fact that it takes two-thirds of the adventure to really get the gameplay started as these bardic scenes had to be the best part of the adventure.


The only issue with the sound is not the sounds or the music themselves, but the audio levels during some of the automatic scenes where you didn't have to hit "A" (using an XB1 controller) to continue. For some reason the volume skyrockets, and if you are wearing headphones, it may hurt your eardrums a little bit as you reach for the volume adjustor.

Unfortunately the adventure is only five or six hours long, more or less depending on the state of "your" adventurous soul to look everywhere. The reason that this is unfortunate is that the "Zero" emphasises that this is an introduction and there is more to come both in terms of playable characters and episodes for the story. It really is over too fast and currently there is no information as to when the rest is to follow. In the meantime however they are working to fix any issues that are flagged which is always great to see from a developer.

Now while it can take a good deal of time in order to get started, Heroine Anthem Zero is a great experience. With an amazing soundtrack that supports a very well written, and translated, story, the marriage of the two create an experience that should not be passed up on because of it's "slow" start.

Game Information

Platform:
PC
Developer(s):
WindThunder Studio
Publisher(s):
Winking Entertainment
Genre(s):
Platforming Metroidvania-ish
Mode(s):
Single Player
Other Platform(s):
N/A

Source:
Provided by Publisher




Article by Pierre-Yves
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Sylvio - Xbox One Review


Sylvio puts an emphasis on atmosphere, creating horror more through storytelling and exploration than a true sense of danger. It is one of those titles that makes great use of sound and as such is best experienced in a dark room with an ideal audio situation (headset or surround sound). When the game is played this way, it is an interesting, creepy experience that horror fans should enjoy despite some of the game's limitations.

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Games of January 2017


I would love to say that "It’s that time again!" but we are a bit later this month. Coming in near the end of the month however isn't all that bad as it hasn't been a heavy one and the important titles? Dragon Quest VIII on the 3DS just released this past friday and the best title of the month? Tales of Berseria comes out tomorrow!


Earlier this month and out now

Criminal Girls: Invite Only - PC

With Criminal Girls 2: Party Favors having released not that long before the end of the year, it's predecesor has made it's way over to the PC like many other of NIS/NISA's titles. Didn't have a Vita and missed out on this Dungeon Crawler? Now's your chance to jump on it!

(PSV Trailer)


Fate/EXTELLA: The Umbral Star - PS4, Vita

The next Fate exeprience has recently released and here's what it's all about:

Automaton is a spiritron computer, which exists on the moon and has the power to grant any wish. All across the spiritron-constructed virtual world, SE.RA.PH., Servants and the Masters who control them fight for the right to be the Moon Cell Automaton's one owner in a ceremonial conflict known as the Holy Grail War.

Now, the Servant Nero Claudius and her Master have won the Holy Grail War and have obtained the universal wishing mechanism, the Holy Grail.

They also obtained the Regalia, a ring that proves their kingship. With it, they rule over their once-enemy Servants and start a new beginning on the moon's new world.

But a new enemy has appeared before them. And this enemy has something that shouldn't exist: another Regalia.




Gravity Rush 2 - PS4

Still searching for clues behind the mystery of her origin, Kat must master three unique gravity attack styles as she takes on a new danger emerges to threaten the fabric of the universe itself.



Dragon Quest VIII: Journey of the Cursed King - 3DS

Dragon Quest VIII is where I started in the series after renting it for no other reason than playing the Final Fantasy XII demo at the time. Falling in love with both it and the series since then, it's seeing its second re-release with the first being for both the iOS and Android platforms. Best part is that the voice acting is back which was a dissapointment to have seen removed from the mobile versions alongside new features.



Saban's Mighty Morphin Power Rangers: Mega Battle

Alright. This. This right here is the most naltolgic thing on this month's list. I grew up with the Power Rangers on TV and this Brawler goes all the right back to the beginning with the original five and then adds in the Green and White (DLC) Rangers. Hell the putties make that hilarious noise and I swear it's Rita's original voice as she screams at you!



Tuesday January 24th

Tales of Berseria - PS4

Tales of Berseria - PC January 26th

A good portion of the team are fans of the Tales of series. Nick, Robert, Richard, and myself I know are going to be pretty busy throwing as much time as we can into this latest of the series which also finds itself being a few hundred years prior prequel to Zestiria. Thankfully we've only had to wait two years between releases!



Resident Evil 7 biohazard - PS4, XB1, PC

I have to be one of the biggest chickens on the team when it comes to horror and I can't wait to get my hands on this. Resisdent Evil going back to it's roots from the run and gun that's it's become and I'm excited to possibly be scared to death. <- I will NOT be playing this alone or in the dark!



Yakuza 0 - PS4

The Yakuza series is seeing its newest entry which acts as a prequel to the rest of the series and it's looking good.



Kingdom Hearts HD 2.8 Final Chapter Prologue - PS4

I swear that I'm never actually going to see Kingdom Hearts 3 as the appocalypse has more chances to occur first. 2.8 is putting the last titles into HD while also giving us a brand new experience with Aqua who was one of the three main characters from Birth by Sleep which is one of my favorite PSP games.



Monday January 30th

Disgaea 2 - PC

Like Disgaea before it, Phantom Brave, and Criminal Girls above, Disgaea 2 is seeing a PC release. Join in on Adell and Rozalin's adventure as Adell tries to bring her back to Overlord Zenon, in which he's got a bone to pick with anyways. There's only one problem. He's afraid to be touched by girls!



Tuesday January 31st

Conan Exiles (Early Access) - PC

While it may have been cheesy watching it when I was a bit older, I still enjoyed the original Conan the Barbarian. Set in that same world is an open world survival that will allow you to play either on your own server or with others for both better or worse online. Think ARK Survival Evolved.



Digimon World: Next Order - PS4

Digimon World: Next Order is the latest Digimon to come out way after Cyber Sleuth. Unlike the awesome RPG however this time things are in real time. Can you once again save the Digiworld?



Hitman: The Complete First Season (physical release) - PS4, XB1

Hitman came back last year in an episodic way which is seeing the physical release of the entire season of content. Six episodes alongside bonus missions and DLC will be up for grabs for any fan that's been holding on for a full package.



Article by Pierre-Yves
Information Provided by Jim
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Month In Review - December 2016



Looks like it’s that time of the month again came and passed. I hope that everyone enjoyed their holidays. Getting back into the swing of things wee everything that you may have missed before our break!


Article by Pierre-Yves
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