Neo Geo Pocket Color Selection Vol 1 - Switch Review

Neo Geo Pocket Color Selection Vol 1
by developer and publisher SNK CorporationNintendo Switch review written by Nick with a copy provided by the publisher.

Estimated reading time: 6 minutes

Neo Geo Pocket Color Selection Vol 1 is a fantastic offering from the fondly remembered but short-lived Neo Geo Pocket Color handheld gaming platform. There is a nice variety of titles with ten games included, and while I had played most of them at one point or another in the past, there were a couple of titles that were new to me as well.

This competitor to the Game Boy Color hit North America shortly before the turn of the century. The quality of the titles was generally quite high, but with just shy of a few dozen games released for it, the Neo Geo Pocket Color had a very short shelf life as it was out of production about a year later.

There is a somewhat heavy focus on fighting titles, as those were all the rage back then and SNK has always had a sweet spot in that genre with long-running series such as King of Fighters and Samurai Showdown. In terms of the fighting titles, you have King of Fighters R-2, Samurai Showdown 2 (still one of my favorite fighting games of all-time), SNK Gals’ Fighters, The Last Blade: Beyond the Destiny, Fatal Fury: First Contact and SNK vs Capcom: The Match of the Millennium. These have all seen individual re-releases of late, and there is a ton to like here if you are fans of the genre.

These titles were generally based on the popular arcade machines. So while titles like Samurai Showdown 2 ate many of my quarters, as was often the case during the late 90’s, these arcade-to-console ports were usually a step backwards. Putting the games on a handheld system with less horsepower had a tendency to make those compromises even more noticeable, but honestly? They still worked pretty well. If you needed some side-scrolling Fatal Fury brawling on the go – this was a pretty enjoyable way to go. While Samurai Showdown 2 was obviously not up to par with its arcade counterpart here, it’s unique weapon vs weapon style of play held up decently then on the portable platform, and I still enjoy it today in bursts.

One thing that stands out however, is that the original platform only had two face buttons. For those used to fighting games having four or six buttons (more of a concern with 1-on-1 fighting games than beat-‘em-ups). This can make them feel a little strange to play if you are more accustomed to modern fighting games, but they still work very well.

SNK’s fighting games hold up pretty well here and if you are a big fan of the genre? That alone probably makes this collection worth taking a look at. That being said, there are four more titles in this collection that haven’t seen individual release for the Switch and need to be discussed. Metal Slug 1st Mission, Metal Slug 2nd Mission, Big Tournament Golf and Dark Arms: Beast Buster 1999 help to round out this collection of ten games. While I am very familiar with the Metal Slug games, both Dark Arms and Big Tournament Golf were completely new to me and I was looking forward to delving into these titles for the first time.

Dark Arms: Beast Buster 1999 is probably the most unique of the entries here, as it is an action-RPG with a horror setting. The RPG elements are a little light, in that the focus is less on improving your character and instead building up an arsenal of steadily improving weapons. Instead of character experience, you harvest souls and parts to build them out in a variety of ways. It sort of reminds me a title like Monster Hunter in that sense. There is a layer of exploration tied to a day/night mechanic that makes this a very strange but interesting addition to the collection.

Equally unique to this collection is Big Tournament Golf. It’s a much more arcade-style of sports game. If you had a chance to play it, it’s a slightly watered-down version of the Turf Masters game. If you’re unfamiliar with that one, it’s more Hot Shots Golf than Golf Club or an EA simulation style game. There are a half dozen characters with their own strengths and weaknesses that can play on a trio of different international courses (US, Germany and Japan) with a few different mode variations. Like Dark Arms, Big Tournament Golf is a really unique addition to this collection, but again one that works well to add some variety to the mix.

Last and hardly least, the two Metal Slug games are spun off from the primary series that people have no doubt seen on other consoles in the past. These are action-heavy shooting games with some side-scrolling / platforming elements. I’ve always loved this series, and these First and Second Mission games bring that same kind of action intensity to their smaller screens. One of the more interesting aspects of these games is how alternate routes through the stages can be opened up. These games are charming and a lot of fun. The visuals are impressive though I did run into some slowdown at times when there is a ton of activity on the screen at once. That’s likely truer to the original games and why it’s still happening here, but it’s a little annoying when it comes up given how far video games have come. While both games are enjoyable, Metal Slug 2nd Mission is clearly the superior game. The bones of the two titles are similar, but more power-ups and variety in the game make it the superior experience.

In looking at the collection as a whole, I like that this isn’t just a straight port of ten games – there are some additional bells and whistles worth noting. There are some different visual filters (black and white, or New Geo Pocket view), both English and Japanese versions of the games, a Rewind feature, save states (these last two are wonderful quality of life features that have become fairly standard in collections like this now but still very welcome), and a sort of virtual / museum vie that lets you look at a digital representation of what the physical game looked like. There are a few different border options to frame the small screen on what is likely a large wide screen television in your living room.


Neo Geo Pocket Color Selection Vol 1 is a fantastic selection of games, even if it does tilt a little heavy towards the fighting side of things. Given that the title has ‘Vol 1’ in there, I wonder if we’ll see one or two more of these collections (the Pocket Color had 31 games released for it). Assuming you haven’t already picked up all of the previously released fighting games, this is a very worthwhile collection for old school gaming enthusiasts.

Score: 7.75 / 10



Samurai Shodown - Series X Review

Samurai Shodown
by developer and publisher SNK CorporationMicrosoft Xbox Series X review written by Pierre-Yves with a copy provided by the publisher.

Estimated reading time: 5 minutes

Samurai Shodown is one of the latest tournament styled 1v1 fighting versus to get the "next-gen" treatment. Hosting a story mode alongside both offline and online versus modes, this slower paced yet difficult to master fighter was a treat to dive into.

I'm not normally one to pick up a fighting versus title, and if I do, it's generally to play either single player or against my brother. Let's just say that against my brother I generally lose so it's normally for me to experience some sort of story. That said, sometimes I get an itch and I think that maybe now is the time that I can pick up said fighting versus title and do well. Well… I did ok on my first run through and then decided maybe it was a good idea to run through the tutorial to learn some neat tricks.

Samurai Shodown is a classic style 1v1 arcade based fighter. Set on a single line to go left and right, the moves that you have at your disposal aren't inherently designed to be chained together unless you've started to get a hang of the system. Now it's not to say that the combat is slow, but, each move is designed to be performed "one at a time" so going on for a sliding kick may not immediately result in a flying uppercut combo. Instead, you can chain some attacks together such as a light into a medium into a heavy but generally after a heavy the blowback is enough that you won't be hitting your opponent again until they get back off of the ground.

The overall gist of the combat is basically that button mashing will not save you. Period. You have to learn the system. You have to get to know the characters and their move sets. Some are faster than others. Some are stronger than others. From the time that I spent with Samurai Shodown some characters seemed to be a tad "broken" but after figuring out some new moves and counters, the only character that really seemed broken was the final boss of the story mode. That however, is par for the course.

In terms of modes, side to that of the offline story mode, there's also a Time Trial, Survival, Gauntlet and the well known Versus to fight against someone else sitting right beside you. Starting with the time trial mode, you'll have to go up against a series of enemies on an ever decreasing timer. Thankfully for every defeated opponent the clock will add a bit more time to it capping out at 99 seconds should you need it. as it is almost tradition to the style, the beginning opponents are fairly easy ramping up in difficulty as you work your way through the roster.

Unlike Time Trial, Survival Mode will have you go through the same motions but without having to worry about a clock that continuously counts down and doesn't reset. Instead, you'll have to worry about only getting back a portion of lost health. Finally, in Gauntlet Mode, you'll go up against every other character, finishing it off with both forms of the story's final boss.

Moving into the multiplayer modes, you can choose from one of two styles of opponents. The first and easiest to explain is that you can face off against other players online. The second mode is a little bit different than your norm and can be found within the Dojo. Entering the Dojo you can either face off against "ghosts" which are CPU that have the ability to learn from players one at a time or if you’re really feeling brave, head into an Ironman Challenge to fight one-hundred in a row. I found this mode a perfect idea to get your feet wet against what you could find against other players online as there is only so much you’ll get to learn from the standard CPU.

If I had any issues with Samurai Shodown it would be in the performance on the Series X. Load times for the console felt much longer than they should have. More than that, I'm finally beginning to appreciate the beginnings of vertical sync options on the consoles that used to only be present on the PC. The reason for this is that the videos had a bit of a screen tearing across the 35 to 50% mark that made videos a bit harder to view which was unfortunate with how great the graphics looked.


Overall Samurai Shodown for the Xbox Series X is a pretty good 1v1 versus fighter. While I may not be able to compare it to the previous generation, it does a fairly good job at what it sets out to do whether you're planning for a night in for some couch versus or if you're feeling confident enough to take your skills online.

Score: 8 / 10


Black Legend - PS4 Review

Black Legend
by developer and publisher WarcaveSony PlayStation 4 review written by Nick with a copy provided by the publisher.

Estimated reading time: 6 minutes

Black Legend is a perfectly serviceable strategy game with an interesting theme and aesthetic, but presentation issues and pacing concerns hold this tactics game from truly standing out in the genre.

On the surface, the setting for Black Legend is really unique with its gothic / medieval setting in the city of Grant. A strange fog has rolled it as, creating a sense of mystery and dread. An alchemist named Mephisto has taken control of the city, enforcing his control with a zealot-like cult of guards at his disposal. Black Legend’s overall aesthetic is very reminiscent of Bloodborne, which is a good thing. That was arguably one of my two favorite Souls games, and that was due in large part to the environments.

That being said, the studio doesn’t have the same kind of resources at their disposal and once you get past the initial gothic setting, the visuals and audio come across a little glitchy at times and certainly lack polish. I am fine with a grim, sort of grimy vibe from the visuals, but over time that impression gave way to me feeling like there is a dated ‘sameness’ to everything. Perhaps this is reinforced by the combat, which grows somewhat repetitive over time. It starts off challenging, especially since early on when healing options are somewhat limited (they are expensive, you can’t heal unless you’re in combat, and even just finding healing items can be pretty scarce), but over time the enemy variety is somewhat limited and tactics don’t change a whole lot.

Moving around Grant is intriguing to start. I was excited to learn more about the city itself. Grant is broken up into a variety of districts, though they don’t really feel dramatically different from one another. There is no map, which I think will rub some gamers the wrong way, given the similar aesthetic throughout the game. There are street signs you can read to serve as directional guides, but as smooene who has a somewhat terrible sense of direction in both real-life and video games, I did find myself doing a lot of needless backtracking. There is a light element of stealth / line-of-sight to exploration as you can engage in combat by approaching enemy parties that are patrolling the streets. Once combat begins, there is a familiar grid-based combat that takes place.

These elements are all relatively standard in the genre, with initiative impacting who goes in what order. Characters move around the grid and then use ability points on special or standard attacks. Ranged, flanking, backstabbing and more all play into the damage being dealt. This is all delivered through a turn-based structure boils down to positioning and the best use of action points. You want to deal maximum damage while minimizing incoming damage to your own units.

Where things get more interesting is in the way you can progress your actual characters. Different classes can develop in unique ways. Classes can be swapped out between combat, and some abilities persist across classes and others do not. Growing my character abilities and synergizing the different perks of the classes within a character and across my party of characters was where I found most of my max/min statistical enjoyment.

New weapons unlock new classes, and when you start the game you have a trio of options, but later you will have access to over a dozen options. There is also the Humor system (think of these as stacks that can be applied to attacks – and they can yield oodles of damage if you save them for the right moments). This system relies on alchemy and has a somewhat heavy elemental aspect to it that adds some depth to the otherwise somewhat shallow combat. I would say that saving humors for the bigger battles and positioning are what most of the combat hinges on.

Now, one callout I want to make is the boss battles. These are actually quite engaging – very challenging. They certainly are not the same battles as those you have wandering the city streets where you deal with somewhat generic soldiers and dogs. This element added a somewhat Souls-like flavor to the proceedings, as I often lost those fights on the first go-round or two, but then learned how the developers wanted me to engage with those bosses and felt a solid sense of accomplishment upon beating them. Sure, there was some frustrating mixed in there as well, but they were a nice change of pace from the rest of the game’s content.

While the gothic-themed city was interesting to explore, the actual characters lack… well, character really. They are respectably voice acted, but the writing in Black Legend is nothing special. It’s not bad, but the story was less intriguing than the actual sense of exploration, and all four of my party members felt rather generic throughout. Conversations with NPCs were fine, but there was a lack of banter or growth in the characters themselves that left me feeling rather ambivalent towards them outside of their class skills and development.

The technical side also had some rough patches. Playing on my PS4, the game crashed once and froze once. I save pretty frequently, so it didn’t set me back much, but felt worth calling out. The audio could use a little tweaking as there was quite a bit of inconsistency between sound effects, music and voiced dialog, and just a lot of minor visual hiccups along the way as well as some pretty lengthy load times. I also had moments where I felt as though I was fighting the camera as much as my enemies, with some weird pathing popping up as my soldiers moved about the map. There is room for some technical optimization here.


Black Legend’s combat is solid if unspectacular, and the setting is unique and atmospheric. The character progression is more interesting than the characters themselves, and the story fails to match the intrigue created by the overall visual style due to average writing. Across the board, Black Legend is a decent game with some good ideas but technical issues hold it back.

Score: 6 / 10



Anodyne 2: Return to Dust - PS5 Review

Anodyne 2: Return to Dust
by developers MelosHan-Tani, Marina Kittaka and publisher Analgesic ProductionsSony PlayStation 5 review written by Pierre-Yves with a copy provided by the publisher.

Estimated reading time: 5 minutes

Having constantly seen the original come up in listings and been wanting to sit down to it, I was happy to find out that Anodyne 2: Return to Dust didn't need any prior knowledge before jumping into it. Mixing multiple genres both visually and mechanically in a puzzle based experience, this retro inspired tale was definitely an interesting one.

For a lot of people there's a make or break point in any title that they sit down to. Having made my way several hours in (as I figured out where to go and what I needed to get there) I had started to wonder if Anodyne 2 was going to give me anything more than it had been giving me as while interesting conceptually, I was getting bored. Up until this point our main character and protagonist Nova would literally dive into a person, remove a dust crystal, collect a card, and rinse and repeat. There was a little bit of dialogue but it was always one-sided with people talking to Nova, and while I am no stranger to a silent protagonist, as it has to be done well, it just felt empty.

Cue several rounds of card and dust collecting later and Nova is placed in a situation where people can't "do the thinking" for her and she finally finds out that she actually has a voice. She has feelings that she's attempting to come to terms with. She’s something real and not just an on screen avatar for you to interact with the world. Now, there was life infused to the overall experience and the rinse and repeat action didn't feel quite so empty anymore. I really wish that this point had come long before it did because Anodyne 2 is a great experience and some people may fall off before this point without ever knowing the actual depth that it holds.

Traveling the overworld in a PS1 3D-esque era in order to cleanse beings from the dust accumulating inside of their bodies, Nova will have to shrink down to microscopic sizes to enter their bodies. Once shrunk down to these microscopic sizes the PS1 graphics get changed for that classic top-down 16-bit era Legend of Zelda Link - A Link to the Past style and for every being cleansed, Nova will receive a card. These cards, along with the dust collected, will be used to reinforce the central location’s containment unit that was previously damaged in order to re-protect everyone from the dust that had been doing them harm.

What I enjoyed about the difference between the two presented visual styles is that it gives you an idea of the type of puzzle solving that would be laid out before you. In the PS1 graphics, you'll be running, jumping, double jumping your way through a series of obstacles in order to find the paths forward. In the 16-bit era graphics you'll be moving from map to map in a top-down style with a vacuum cleaner like weapon that can shoot out projectiles from whatever had been sucked up.

Now while in these dungeons and while the overall format is the same which is to get from point A to B in order to collect the dust shard and the resulting card, how you do so was switched up a bit. In the first four dungeons you had to fight your way through the puzzle solving and then face off against a boss. Once these are done in the world, I was shocked to find myself not having to face off against the boss in my first outer world dungeon. What surprised me a little more than this though is that some of the puzzles weren't exactly puzzles but storytelling sessions. there were no enemies to fight there was just somebody who needed someone to listen and once you did the gates would open after they'd told their story.

Anodyne 2 really wasn't afraid to break the mold that so often traps a title in a rinse and repeat cycle that feels so stuffy by the end. The only issue with the chosen format is that it takes so long before Nova becomes “Nova” and not just your on screen avatar with no voice and emotions. With that one thing passed, I found myself no longer on the edge of rinse and repeat boredom but instead sitting a bit more forward and wondering what would come next as the story had finally really started. 


Anodyne 2: Return to Dust is a good example of taking chances with blending in several styles in order to tell a story. While the concept itself is nothing new, often it’s taken too far and too many styles are attempted and the whole experience just either comes apart or is a mess to play. Thankfully, that is definitely not the case here and I both look forward to both the developer’s next project and to finally sitting down to the original Anodyne.

Score: 8 / 10


Root Film - PS4 Review

Root Film
by developer Kadokawa Games and publisher PQube Ltd.Sony PlayStation 4 review written by Richard with a copy provided by the publisher.

Estimated reading time: 6 minutes

Murder mysteries have always been a genre that's rather polarized many people. Is there enough information to solve the mystery yourself? Has the story been provided in a way that makes the deductions reasonable? Is the culprit someone you know, or is only introduced at the end? All of these can have a huge impact on the telling of a story. Root Film is a title that brings you a set of murder mysteries that are both well grounded yet may keep you on your toes all the same.

Root Film, the sequel to Root Letter (a title I sadly haven't played), you get a dual protagonist feature, starring Rintaro Yagumo, an aspiring director, and Riho, an aspiring actress. They are both supposed to be working on a new movie, but a series of mysterious deaths are constantly happening. Is the movie really cursed like everyone says, or is there a more human evil lurking in the shadows? Rintaro has a ragtag crew of a former delinquent assistant, a cameraman that says little and you never see his face, and a really quirky actress who came along for location scouting. Riho has her manager and highschool friend to help her out.

The thing about Rintaro and Riho though is that they both have a form of synesthesia. If you were curious, synesthesia is the neurological condition where you perceive a stimulus using a different sense than the sense you would expect to, a good example being the ability to see music as colours. In this instance, both Rintaro and Riho perceive important words or phrases as floating letters in front of them. They can then memorize these phrases later when they need to use them. I have to say, while most games do something like this, I'm very happy to see someone finally justify WHY it happens. These keywords and phases can be gathered by talking with people or examining scenes. You will be building up these phrases by visiting locations on a map and interacting with the people or objects in each location you visit. Sometimes it may require talking to the same person multiple times to learn something new.

The key phrases will then be used in “Max Mode”, which is a sort of Cross examination where you have to select a phrase to prove your point. Both the main characters and their opponents have bars, and the more correct answers you get, the more the bar fills. Fill it up all the way and you “win” the interrogation. Answer too many wrong, however, and you fail the interrogation, resulting in you not revealing the truth of the situation. The bars will flip back and forth depending on who had the initiative last, but progress in the bar is not reset.

The storyline is split up into chapters, with each chapter split into parts. The parts of a chapter will follow the progression of the case you're working on, giving you a prologue, some sections for finding clues and figuring out aspects of the case, a solution where you confront a target, and then an epilogue. Now, it should be noted that the solutions to the mysteries that you reveal during the Max Mode interrogation, are fairly well thought out. Occasionally you will have the odd fact or evidence piece that you either didn't know or wasn't revealed, but the selection for the Max Mode key phrase is framed in such a way that it isn't too difficult to figure out what the phrase you require for the interrogation is. For example, the tutorial style Max Mode had a concept of filming technique that I was wholly unaware of, but it was still easy enough to figure out what phrase to use when the other options didn't make sense.

I am glad to say that the location and character graphics are well drawn. Being a Japanese style Visual Novel type murder mystery, the characters are all drawn in an anime style with a sort of old school comic type focus. The backgrounds are also pretty to look at, and are full of cultural and historical points of interest, which is really neat to see. I definitely learned some things about both science and Japanese culture while playing through Root Film. The sound track for Root Film also amply enhances the mood and tone of the locations and situations the characters find themselves, providing for a more enjoyable experience.

If there is one glaring issue, it's that the localization is a, shall we say. There were plenty of occurrences where there were spelling mistakes, or a character would refer to another character in a way that was contradicted later on, or by a different character. This coupled with some of the more obtuse reasoning for some of the mysteries do put a bit of a damper on things, but is easily overlooked in lieu of the engaging story and characters, and fun Max Mode interrogations. The chapters themselves aren't overly long either, meaning you won't have to take a few days each one, and then forget where you left off. You can also save at almost any time, and there is an autosave feature whenever you leave a location, meaning if you fail an interrogation and get a game over, it's easy enough to try again.


Overall, Root Film is a great mystery style Visual Novel with some Phoenix Wright style interrogations, just with only words instead of evidence. The characters are all quirky and entertaining, the mysteries are usually quite reasonable to figure out, and if not the interrogation is a little easier on subjects that may be unknown. There are some localization issues, but those can be fairly easily overlooked for the story. Could Root Film have been better? Yes, there's room for improvement, perhaps making the animations a little more dynamic, or adding a little more player interaction to keep the viewer entertained, but Root Film certainly does provide a mystery tale worth exploring.

Score: 8 / 10


Story of Seasons: Pioneers of Olive Town - Switch Review

Story of Seasons: Pioneers of Olive Town
by developer Marvelous Interactive Inc. and publishers XSEED Games, MarvelousNintendo Switch review written by Pierre-Yves with a copy provided by the publisher.

Estimated reading time: 8 minutes

If there's one series that has come a long way over the years it would be this one. Story of Seasons: Pioneers of Olive Town is the latest in the long running series once originally known as Harvest Moon which shows that the developers are paying attention to what has worked both with their own previous work and the wonderful experiences that have spawned from it such as Stardew Valley and My Time at Portia.

Like any good farming simulator, this adventure starts off when our protagonist arrives in town to take over their grandparent's farm. Having once thrived, this farm is now in serious disrepair and is now your responsibility to get it back up and running. Starting off with nothing more than a tent and a bedroll you are soon given the tools of the trade and it'll be up to you to both upgrade your tools and your house if you're planning to both be successful and stay here a while.

If there's one thing that the series does, and does well, it is the balancing of casual relaxation while simultaneously stressing you the hell out. There are no timelines. There are no due dates. There are events that happen on certain dates, but that's about it. The adventure can be taken at your own pace. The part that can stress you the hell out is that you can only do so much in a day and sometimes you just don't have enough time, or like in real life, energy to pull it all off. If you simply want to till your fields one day and then plant and water your crops the next (and subsequent days after so they actually grow), that’s up to you. Don’t actually want to handle loads of crops but instead want to raise livestock? Up to you. Want to bum around everyday and just chat up the locals? I mean it’s possible but then what would be the point of playing a farming simulator?

Like a lot of titles of late and this is a really good thing, there's an accessibility to the experience that just eases you in instead of throwing you right into it all without even a map or a cookie for emotional support. Over the course of the first week you'll be given crash courses and the tools that you require in order to get going instead of having to figure it all out from scratch. That said, FINALLY HERE’S AN EXPERIENCE THAT DOESN’T berate you in the form of a tutorial, just lets you know what you can do and let’s you go on your way to do whatever it was that you were hoping to do that day.

Speaking of making your life easier, not everything has to be bought in a store or built from a craftsman. Instead, there are several things that you can build on your own as long as you have the materials on hand in order to do so. This lets you stay on your farm a little longer as well as get a bit more done instead of having to worry about what time shops open and close as well as how much money it's going to cost in case your crops aren't exactly going according to plan. What also helps in this regard is that certain elements are almost self sustaining if you are patient enough such as base ores and trees that you’ll be relying on a lot in order to get everything just the way that you want it.

When it comes to upgrading your tools it's simple enough as all you really need are the materials that you can handle on your own as well as a bit of money to hand to the craftsman who will upgrade them for you. Jumping back up one paragraph in regards to sustainability and how you get all those materials will come in the form of chopping down trees and breaking down iron, silver and gold ore before processing them with machines that you can make yourself. Trees of various types will grow back as long as you leave them enough space to take root and grow once again. Rocks and ores will come back just to haunt you but unlike trees, several mines exist in order to dive into and acquire what you really need at that particular moment in time. Dealing with these materials leads into one of the features that I absolutely loved.

Oftentimes when dealing with simulations / management and city builders, once you've put something down it cannot be moved unless you destroy it first and oftentimes if you do you won’t get your full investment back. Thankfully, Pioneers of Olive Town allows you to put whatever you want wherever you want as long as you are able to and then move it again if you're not happy. This works for your small grade equipment just as much as it does for pre-existing facilities that have to be repaired in order to be used again. I was pleasantly surprised by this as at first you’re not quite sure what you’re actually working with and then once you start and think things through knowing the full scope and size of the objects, what you started with will probably be wasting space and look aesthetically awful which leads into the other feature that I really loved.

Global pandemic or not, we are in 2021 and not everything can fit into neat little boxes anymore. It is a small step forward but I will give credit where credit is due. While Story of Seasons: Pioneers of Olive Town still asks you to pick a binary gender of 'girl' or 'boy', it allows you to dress as you want and have same sex relationships with other townspeople who are open to it. It's nothing revolutionary, but it's something that is finally starting to move in the right direction especially when this style of game is supposed to simulate a part of life and people should be allowed to approach it as they see fit without having to worry about conforming to very strict and old fashioned boxes that just don’t work anymore.

So it’s on that note that I was maybe a little disappointed in how you actually interact with the townspeople. To increase their affection towards you, platonic or romantic, once a day you have to go find them, talk to them, give them a present if you have one, and then rinse and repeat it the next day with the same preset “NPC” dialog lines. Eventually, either by having performed certain tasks or having simply had time pass by, events will occur that let you actually see their personalities and how they interact with both you and others, but in the meantime, it just feels like a chore instead of a strengthening of a meaningful relationship.

Leveraging the above out a bit, and taking some notes from others along the way, is that you are now more than simply the new person in town. Coming from the big city, and putting your grandparent’s farm back to its former glory, or to a new found glory really, you’ll be asked to contribute to the town’s development. Occasionally, you’ll be asked for some input on what the town needs in order to make it more appealing for tourists. Other times, instead of being asked for input, you’ll also be asked to bring in some materials in order to create new buildings or refurbish older ones to make them more appealing. It makes you feel more included than simply the person living outside the town’s borders raising crops and trying to make ends meet.

From there, it’s really planning out your days and being careful to not stay up too late as unlike previous entries that simply gave you less stamina because you didn’t sleep as much, now you’ll wake up LONG past that 6am mark AND have a stamina drain giving you even less time and energy to work with on the following day. Tilling fields, planting seeds, watering crops, grooming your livestock from chickens and cows to llamas and sheep, and then chatting with the townspeople before decide whether you’re going to delve into a cave for ores or chop down a few trees, just make sure that you also make time for your puppy or lord of fluff (cat). There’s no stress on what you do or when you do it (unless you’re me looking at the day’s clock) and things can be taken at your own pace.


Overall though, Story of Seasons: Pioneers of Olive Town is a great addition to the series and will easily appeal to longtime fans as well as newcomers. With plenty of options of how you want to go about your days, you’ll easily see the real world clock jump hours ahead of the last time you saw it and even debate playing for “one more day” before calling your own day quits to get some sleep for your own next morning.

Score: 9 / 10



City of Gangsters - PC Preview

City of Gangsters
by developer SomaSim and publisher Kasedo GamesPC preview written by Susan N. with a copy provided by the publisher.

Estimated reading time: 8 minutes

City of Gangsters is a mafia management simulator that is simple in design and quite addicting. It is not to be confused with Omerta - City of Gangsters which is also a simulation game set in the same era. While there are similar elements, the combat system in this title is not part of the core experience. Overall, City of Gangsters has a solid foundation. It will be a great addition to the mafia simulation genre but it needs added features to knock it out of the part. Either way, I'm here for it.


Unlike Empire of Sin (reviewed here), which tried to fit into too many boxes, City of Gangsters is simple. As the new mafia boss in town, players begin building their reputation by buying and selling products. At first, the gameplay loop is a bit slow because players need to manually do this, but as time progresses, that task can be delegated. Either way, players need to supply their production. And without supply, production halts, causing players to scramble for money in the early game stages.

Reputation and Expansion

In City of Gangsters, players build their reputation through word of mouth. This is achieved through calling in favors as their reputation builds with a character. Favors are represented by tickets which are used for introductions to helpful characters or starting a front for your empire. Each of those actions uses one ticket. If players use a ticket for an introduction, then a new building will be revealed on the map. However, if players use the reputation to turn the person's business into a front, then players will likely pay a monthly fee. This is how players begin to expand their empire.

Over time, players need to add members to their crew. This is so that automatic transactions can be set up, and the mafia boss can focus on bigger issues. And by bigger issues, I mean protecting their new empire from rival crews and pesky police. Thankfully, this hasn't hindered my game too much. Perhaps they will be a nuisance later, but my empire will crumble from lack of supply before that happens!

Leveling and Maintenance

As players progress through the game, they are able to level skills like fast driving or dealing extra damage. Instead of bogging down the gameplay with too many elements, City of Gangsters keeps it simple. Players click on which skill they want to upgrade and it's done. They don't need to worry about outfitting armor and weapons to characters like in an RPG.

Another interesting feature that City of Gangsters has over others is vehicle maintenance. Most of the time, players pay a maintenance cost as part of their empire expenses. In City of Gangsters, as your car breaks down, players must head to a car shop for repairs. However, players aren't told this until the car begins to breakdown. Thankfully, they are given the time to find a shop before significant damage is done. I believe it took about 15 turns to find a repair shop and the car was only at half health.

Other Gameplay Features

Unlike Empire of Sin where players can level individual crew members, City of Gangsters takes a simple approach to combat. Players start with a baseball bat as a weapon, but they can buy others to outfit their crew members with. Where most games have separate screens dedicated to combat actions, this one doesn't. Everything can be seen and executed through the overhead map. And when players drive into the range of an enemy outfit, either they will take damage immediately, or they can initiate a fight through dialogue. Since City of Gangsters is not really meant to be a combat-focused game, I'm glad that this is how combat is managed. It doesn't take away precious management time. After all, we're mafia bosses, not common street thugs!

Graphics and UI:

Since we were given an early press version of City of Gangsters, I found that the graphics are not fantastic. It really has the indie impression down to a tee, and that isn't a bad thing. City of Gangsters is a top-down management simulator where players need to delegate tasks more than anything. It gets the concept of management sim right. Sure, it would be great to have better graphics, but it's not inherently required. Nor should it. Personally, I would just like a little bit more variety in this regard.

When driving around the city, I found that the vehicle pathing is strange. A player could click to move from one corner to another that is two blocks away. The game will sometimes take an indirect path, thereby wasting movement points. While this isn't an issue at the outset, I can see this being complicated in late gameplay. It could potentially be an issue if players are evading pursuit from cops or enemy crews. In fact, there were a few times where my car drove through enemy territory, causing me to be attacked! Shesh.

User Interface

Let's talk about the clean UI for a bit. On the left side of the screen are buttons that display various useful overlays. Players can view information overlays like recent transactions, police precincts, and respect. Next are resource overlays that display the item and ingredient locations like hops, bottles, and weapons. Finally, players can review report dialogues. It contains data on their finances, crew list, fronts and territory, crew skills, rival outfits, notification history, and missions.

Along the top bar, players see total crew members, total vehicles, available parking spaces, and total cash. One thing to note about the cash is that the amount will display the total cash. This is important because some money has to stay at your safehouse for upgrades.

On the right of the screen, players see crew members out in the field, fronts they own, and scheduled deliveries. From the right display, players are able to add delivery routes so that their empire can run. I assume that over time, this display will grow as players add more crew members to their outfits.


Unfortunately, City of Gangsters has lackluster music and audio design. This isn’t really an issue but since the graphics aren't amazing, I had hoped that players would get something out of the audio design. Not only is music and audio important for setting the tone of the game, but the only ways players know about the prohibition era are from trailers or the title screen! Beyond that, there is one core music loop that endlessly repeats and it gets tiresome after extended gameplay periods. In fact, the music doesn’t change when entering a rival crew’s territory nor when police are on high alert. To me, adding a little bit extra by changing the music up would be a tremendous addition to City of Gangsters.

If that wasn't enough, there also lacks voice acting in the game, and City of Gangsters is strictly a text-based game, I suppose that is less important, but come on. Give us something! This would be less of an issue if the dialogue had more punch and was witty, but it isn't. The writing is also generic and it is one element that Empire of Sin has over this title. And while the game isn’t focused on the audio, I’m disappointed that there isn’t more that lends itself to the 1920's feel. Overall, this title could really use a bit of seasoning. 

Pros and Cons:


     Simple UI

     The game has a simplistic design

     Doesn't try to push too many gaming elements into one

     Empire expansion is done through introductions from people you know

     Doesn’t require a high-end gaming computer to run

     Combat is simple, allowing focus on empire management


     No tutorial

     Local Saving Only (for the time being)

     Music is Repetitive

     No Voice Acting

     The car pathing is odd

     Unsure of the barricade purpose since they don’t appear to hinder anything at this stage

     Pre-generated maps make the game a bit predictable

Final Thoughts:

I really enjoy City of Gangsters because it doesn’t try to drown players with too much at once. However, it is missing some features that could really go a long way in making this title spectacular. Yes, it is still in the early stages of development as the retail version isn't releasing until later this year, but right now it needs some more features and elements. Otherwise, it could fall into obscurity as 'just another management simulator.' I hope it doesn't end up like that.

I look forward to the full release of City of Gangsters because it has a solid foundation. City of Gangsters is an easy game to load as the maps are randomly generated and not graphically intensive. However, some of the travel pathing could be cleaned up, more music loops added, and it could use a tutorial. Once some of those features are added, then this title will be able to stand firmly with others in its genre. It's just not there yet. So, keep your eyes on this one because there could be a new Mafia boss in town!

Score: N/A



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