Friday, 1 November 2013

Review: Pokemon X & Y (3DS)

Now we come to a BIG review. This is the sort of game that has most reviewers buckle and pander to the millions of gamers that buy the game. Here though we've already shown some integrity and its going to continue now. If your a Pokemon fanboy looking for more justification, then this review is not for you as I'm going to point out things you probably haven't noticed through your fanboy goggles. Don't get me wrong, I have a nostalgic love for Pokemon, Probably putting more hours into Red, Blue, Yellow & Green than most have spent during the entirety of the series, and its because of that love that I'm going to be as objective on this as possible. Because its needed. So how has one of the most eagerly awaited 3DS games turned out?

Thursday, 31 October 2013

Review: The Guided Fate Paradox (Ps3)


What a title eh? Fresh under the radar release from my favourite niche studio NIS famous for such titles as Disgaea, Soul Nomad, Phantom Brave & successful spin off series PRINNY!. Released on 25/10/2013 TGFP (as it shall now be known) is a Roguelike game for the Playstation 3, for those that aren't familiar with Roguelike I shall try explain what I mean by this.

Roguelike is a sub genre of Role-Playing games, usually they tend to consist of randomly generated dungeons (thousands of them!) with the bare minimum in with regards to visual distractions. The main focus is exploring the dungeon floor you are on till you find the stairs down to the next floor, wash & rinse till dungeon ends. Usually tile based with a fast version of turn based combat & usually tougher than your standard RPG in terms of battles & traps. Another feature Roguelike uses a lot is Perma-death, if you die you lose your save which adds to the tense atmosphere these games set (fortunately a lot of them tend to ignore this feature nowadays!).


Renya Kagurazaka is a normal high school loser with no luck to his name what so ever, never won a thing in his life and never will.....until today. Passing a cosplay maid Renya's life is transformed as he enters a raffle and wins the first and biggest prize of his life!.
What is this you wonder? Transported to the heavenly Celestia you are told that you have won the grand daddy of all prizes, you have been made God. No that's not a typo you are now the Almighty himself!.

Turns out the Cosplay maid was an Angel! She isn't the only one too! Another 3 dressed as maids the tomboy, a sweet sounding, large breasted (this is pointed out during the game using the term Old Testament style tits!) older sister type, obviously angry evil angel. With them are 2 male angels which look and act like butlers and a shut in who communicates via messages. 

So what is it exactly you will be doing as God? Glad you asked! You'll be using the Fate Paradox machine to answer prayers and wishes!. This is where the dungeon crawling comes into play but more on that in the gameplay section!.
Celestia is a bright and vibrant setting full of character with the angels and monsters hanging around to talk to. 

Inside the Paradox machine this is where the setting takes a hit, you are presented with level upon level of generic backgrounds e.g Castle setting. This is a common theme for Roguelike so while expected from it people looking for a little more detail in the dungeons will be let down.
The prayers you answer are brilliant aswell, not wanting to spoil them I'll only tell you that the tutorial one you do was made by Cinderella!. 
There is a deeper story behind this but I will not go into it as part of the driving force for this game is the story.

So far the characters have been pretty standard fair for an NIS title if not a little disappointing. Coming off the back of the fantastic Disgaea D2 these characters just aren't as likeable or as funny as previous games by this company have made (another fantastic example is Z.H.P). 
Also I have to point out that the sprite work doesn't seem as good with this title. Unlike the sharp & crisp HD sprites of D2 in Paradox they seem at points quite pixelated and don't look quite as good.


Here we have the meat of TGFP while the story is important to the game in typical NIS fashion there is buckets of gameplay!.
The meat of it is entering a dungeon, killing monsters and reaching the bottom floor. All this while making sure you have enough energy to last you, you get this back by eating meat either bought or found on the floor naturally!.

In typical Roguelike fashion every time you enter a dungeon you are reset to level 1 BUT every time you leave a dungeon the level you had achieved upgrades your base stats. Though you may be a level 1 you will be significantly more powerful than you were originally!.
Equips work in a different way too, they still enhance stats but unlike some Roguelikes they don't effect how you attack e.g having a gun doesn't shoot in front but just act like a punch. Instead anything you equip gives you a special power which consumes SP. Attack with these equipped for long enough and they "burst", these means when you return to Celestia you can use them to strengthen your base build but more on that later.
Another major difference is moving around the map or holding X & O revive your HP & SP at the cost of your energy so it's all about managing levels (you can use items aswell to keep them up).

As previously mentioned you can modify your base build in Celestia using "body modification". When an item has "Burst" you are given panels in relation to the item for example goggles give you HIT panels and weapons ATK. What you do then is place panels along a chessboard which make your base as level 1 a little stronger with every piece.
All of the above are things you have to take into account before you delve into a dungeon. Should you fall in a dungeon you arrive back at Celestia but missing all your equipment making mistakes brutal.

This creates a near perfect a Roguelike game for fans of the series. A game where it has a huge amount of grind and risk versus reward in abundance.

Overall Impression 
As mentioned previously I came into this off the back of the amazing Z.H.P, i should mention that I am not a fan of this genre to be fair. I have enjoyed titles from it mainly Izuna and mostly Z.H.P which was helped by a fantastic cast and NIS's signature comedy. Unfortunately as mentioned earlier not a single character made an impression on me to the point iv had to reference the game in remembering each characters name!.

This is such a let down for me considering iv always found the Disgaea series having memorable casts and even some of the side characters in Z.H.P are etched in my memory (Chiti Wok anyone?!).
I feel for me personally with it lacking that element I felt no drive with TGFP on top of what seemed like a cutscene hitting after every floor of the dungeon which also seemed to last longer than the time I spent on that floor!.

 7/七 - Yoi (Good)

Wednesday, 30 October 2013

Xbox One Hands-On Impressions.

Last nights Xbox One hands-on started off good. I got a call stating it'd been pushed forward by half an hour and when I arrived there was no delay of any kind in getting into the event, so no I wasn't stuck outside in the cold being hounded about preorders thankfully. The excitable Xbox One reps laid down some ground rules, notably NO pics or videos! With there being security at the event too it was impossible to snap anything. Sorry. Now onto the second part of the Next Gen hands-on!
Im gonna go with the controller first again. In truth, the jury is still out on it for me. In pictures it looks similar to the 360 controller but once Id got a hold of it, it just didn't sit right. Remember the controller S for the original Xbox? It kinda reminds of that in size and feel, just a tad less bulky. The top of the controller too seems incredibly narrow which makes it feel a little awkward when resting your fingers on the triggers. I like the 360 controller, but I'm unsure of whether to regard the X1 controller as an improvement from my hands-on. Aside from shape, everything else about the controller has improved though. Obviously better D-Pad, the analogs don't feel as restrictive as on the 360, the buttons have improved a lot over previous Xbox controllers & of course, dem rumbling trigger (more on them later) At the moment my thoughts are mixed on the controller. While there's obvious technical improvements, its shape rubs me up the wrong way. There's just a nagging feeling that its not as comfortable as the 360 controller for me.
The console was surprisingly smaller than I thought it would be. Some pictures make it look huge, but it doesn't seem to be much larger than the Ps4. With the consoles being shelved instead of locked in a booth it was easier to get a proper look. Also the noise levels from the cooling weren't as bad as I was expecting, seeming to be roughly the same as a slim Xbox360. The way the Xbox logo lights up on the front of the console looks nice too. Unfortunately, I have no info on the UI. Unlike the previous night where you could exit games and browse the UI on the Ps4, the Xbox event was more like a hands-on with the games than the console. Each console had a specific game booted and any attempt to deviate from that had the security twitching. Its a shame really after sampling the Ps4's last night it would've been good to get a feel for the Xbox One's too, but I guess that wasn't to be the case with a more controlled event.

How'd the games fare....

Forza5 - I'm starting with the game I probably enjoyed playing the most. Funnily enough I'm not really a racing fan though, but Forza was easily the most impressive of the bunch. 1080p60 has long been confirmed, so I can only confirm that to be the case from my hands on too. There was only one track on offer, Laguna Seca, and 4 cars to choose from (I think I was the only person to give the Ford Focus RS a go) but I still gave it a few go's. Handling seemed to be more similar to the rest of the series and less like the casual offshoot, Horizons. No doubt your wondering about the triggers. Yes, Forza was the only game to make use of them. I'm not really much of a fan. Sure its quirky and fun for a few minutes, but in truth I can't really see many games making good use of them outside of racing games. Forza5 was good to use them with, but how would other types of games use them? I dunno. It would've been nice to have another track or 2 to try and show off a little graphical flair, but I was still impressed with what I saw and the game returning to its series staple instead of continuing with Horizon can only be a good thing.

Ryse - Lets put some concerns to rest. Yes, the game does still feature QTE based executions. Anyone that says otherwise is a moron. The game plays like a hack & slash, albeit a slow and clunky one at that, where you go from enemy to enemy dispatching them in numerous ways. 1 or 2 hits with the light attack brings up an icon over your target which instigates the execution when you press 'B'. Here the QTE comes into play, although they've tried to disguise it so Ill explain. Say an execution has 3 stages. An aura will appear in multiple colours around your target (The game has slowed down at this point too) IF during the 3 stages the aura goes yellow, blue, yellow - guess what you do? Yep, Press 'Y' 'X' 'Y' to complete the execution. Now imagine doing this over & over & over & over again and that seems to be Ryse in a nutshell. Co-op could be a bit of a saving grace (the hands on was with co-op enabled with the player on the Xbox next to me joining in) but aside from dual executions, it never really came into play in any other way during the hands-on. Its a shame as the graphics are pretty good (confirmed at 1600x900 though so no 1080p goodness) with some beautiful fire effects played out during an arena bout in a coliseum, but the gameplay is so clunky. I actually became stuck on a wall at one point for about a minute before an enemy hit me n broke me free, plus enemies would freeze in all manner of weird postures at a time. It may be due to it being based on an older build of the game, but if not - I really don't see what the hype is about. As a Hack & Slash, its way behind almost everything else Ive played in the genre recently.

Dead Rising 3 - To be honest Ive never really been interested in Dead Rising. Played a little of the first one but that's about it. I was looking at this game to surprise me though and maybe be a dark horse for the Xbox. It didn't turn out that way. What came to pass was just another Hack & Slash. Your given a big hammer and dropped into a street with zombies. Thats it. My playthrough mainly consisted of bashing 'X' with the occasional 'Y' to do a heavy attack to clear zombies from around me. I picked up a pistol at one point which switched things up a little, but it was back to the mashing once my ammo ran out. It could just be the area of the game that I was given to play, but I don't remember Dead Rising being this monotonous!? The amount of Zombies onscreen is quite impressive, but drawbacks in resolution (less than 1080p again without a doubt) dull colour palette, lacking fine texture detail (for a next gen title anyway) and some awful aliasing take the sheen off the game. The framerate seemed fixed from E3 though and stayed relatively smooth so there's a good point from my hands-on! I dunno with this. Maybe the full release will add the variety that the hands-on segment I got stuck with was lacking. It has potential but who knows if it will be fulfilled.

There was also Killer Instinct to play but I passed on it due to it being a 1 v 1 with an Xbox rep. After watching the guy pummel a few people I thought 'Whats the point?' I wouldn't be getting a feel for the game, Id just be getting stomped. Can't base a hands-on with being stomped into the dirt due to the rep obviously playing the game at every event! It looked impressive though.

This .gif sums up my feelings on the hands-on perfectly. It was a clear missed opportunity by Microsoft. With the games being the typical dudebro yarn, it was hard to get excited from a niche gamers perspective. There wasn't even a quirky indie title to give the event some variety. I spent 3 HOURS there, quizzing the reps & playing games - and left unimpressed. With all the Battlefield 4 news yesterday too with regards to the next-gen iterations, Microsoft needed to wow me with some exclusives to drum up some excitement, but I was left wanting at the fidelity on show. It was a far cry from the 1080p crispness, colourful & detailed Ps4 hands-on the night before. I'm going to play the waiting game with the Xbox One, my opinion on it can't really get any lower after last nights hands-on so it has to improve at some point. Microsoft are quite clearly not aiming for the demographic that's going to frequent an Otaku gaming site though.

Tuesday, 29 October 2013

Ps4 Hands-On Impressions.

Last night I had me some Ps4 hands-on. The night didn't start too well with the event being delayed so I was stood out in the cold for half an hour while staff constantly bigged up the Xbox One at every opportunity to me until they realised I was on the verge of throwing punches if I had to say no to an Xbox One preorder again. There was also the disappointment of no Killzone: Shadow Fall. Yes, I love me some Killzone every now again. Still, Once Id clasped that Dualshock 4, all was forgiven. So how did it go?
I'm going to deal with the controller first. Ive had my reservations with the redesign mainly focused around the analogs. They looked to be similar to how the 360 has them, I use a 360 controller on PC, and Ive always found the movement to be a little restrictive on the 360 compared to a DS3. Thankfully the freedom of movement is still there with the redesigned Dualshock! I stand by my tweet last night when describing the DS4 too - "What do I think of the DS4? Awesome. Its like holding the firmest breasts of the best hunni. probably better..." It just seems to sit so comfortably in your hands and the textured grips on the underside of the controller ensure the slippery aspect of the glossy Ds3 is a thing of the past. The size is also odd. From images its always looked bigger, more bulky, but last nights hands-on painted a different picture. Its actually not that much bigger than a Ds3 with most of the extra size coming from the widening of the centre to accommodate the touchpad. I was left very much surprised as Ive always considered the Dualshock to be a superb all-rounder with its design, but this new design takes it a step further yet still feels natural for those with a long history of Playstation gaming.
How about the Console? Well they were locked away inside a booth, but I have had the privilege of holding one a while back. Its very similar in size & weight to a slim Ps3 (not a super slim) with its slanted design giving it a sleek look & those grills on the back adding a little menace. The Ps4 really does light up like it does in the gif too! With the consoles locked away I wasn't able to test how loud the system is with its cooling or disk access, all demo's appeared to be loading straight from the HDD too. The UI was also sleek. Ive never had any issues with the XMB, Ive always considered its functionality to be superior to most UI's, but the redesign for the Ps4 is to be expected. While not as functional, its definitely more sleek & stylish with the added benefit of a multicore CPU ensuring everything is snappy.

Onto the games...
Knack was probably the big game of the hands on session, although some would say FIFA14 but meh, and it didn't disappoint. The game has always intrigued me due to it being the only action platformer of both consoles to launch (actually does the Xbox One even have one? I dunno.) that's had any spotlight put onto it. I came away surprisingly impressed. While the gameplay is basic, its intended for younger audiences afterall, there were still times of difficulty for the more seasoned gamer. The ice caves in particular when trying to land blows on enemies while dodging arrows and fighting the slippery ice being a source of frustration I remember. The gameplay also switched out to a stealthy puzzle segment too for a short while so theres some variety to be had. Graphically it was nice too. 1080p crispness is confirmed, although a little bit of extra AA could do to smooth things off a little. IF that was done, we'd be looking at Pixar movie quality graphics. Its that good! Framerate was also butter smooth and particle effects n the like were suitably impressive. While its not going to be everyones cup o' tea, those that give it a try will be surprised if the hands-on session I had is anything to go by.

Contrast - This was probably my favourite of the bunch I played. It was just , I dunno. Its hard to put into words my feelings on the game from what I played. Definitely impressed though. It has a nice 1920's Tim Burton style going on which makes it look different to most games out there. Plus, 1080p again and some nice lighting effects keep the graphical side ticking over. The gameplay though was pure puzzle platforming. Basically you can 'shift' onto any wall that has strong light shining onto it and you become a shadow on the wall. In this you can then run along shadows that are projected onto the walls to access other areas your not able to usually. Its a simple mechanic that works flawlessly. Later in the demo you are also able to manipulate spotlights to generate your own shadows and create a pathway for yourself once you shift. There was also a cutscene of shadows talking on a wall as you eavesdrop, so does that mean theres some kind of time displacement with regards to shadows? or maybe somethings happened and everyone has become a shadow? None of that is explained in the demo, it was just pure gameplay. It was absolutely fascinating though and hopefully is a sign of things to come with regards to unique experiences from Sony's indie push. One to keep an eye on for sure.

  • Octodad - This is just as quirky as you have expected it to be. At first thought it will leave you confuddled with its control scheme for a few minutes while you get to grips with it. Once you get used to its physics based gameplay, its unique charm will leave you chuckling. The analogs control your 'arms' and the triggers control your walking, the more you press the trigger - the bigger your strides! While the graphics weren't the best, It still manages to remain at the forefront of most peoples minds, evident by the amount of times the demo was played by other last night, due to its completely unique & quirky premise.
  • FIFA14 - Its FIFA, so there's no need to go into much detail. Instead I guess I could let you know how the ignite engine is. To be honest it probably plays a lot different to current gen iterations. I found the players to have actual weight & momentum which gives the game a more realistic feel, especially when you factor in the independent ball physics. 1080p confirmed again but the graphical jump isn't that big. Cloth effects on kits were improved, detail a tad higher but probably the main improvement came with the crowd detail no doubt due to the bump up in resolution. 
  • Super Motherload. - Didn't really like this one in truth. Wasn't really too sure of what to do on it either as there was no tutorial on the demo and none of the reps could enlighten me either. You seem to control a digger and you have to dig below the surface to find ore to upgrade your digger. Fuel can also run out so you have to occasionally return to the surface to fuel up and buy upgrades. Not really sure what to make of it and probably the weakest title I tried.

I only managed to Solid Snake a few pictures as when I enquired with the reps to record some Knack footage I was told that No pictures or Footage was to be taken. Dem connections only go so far it seems! I suppose I should get some 'Otaku Gamers UK' shirst made up so people know who's in the house at these events. Still stealthily snapped a few pictures anyway!  Got a couple of the controller, one with my average sized hand holding it to give you an idea of its size, plus a booth pic of the Ps4 and a pic of the menu on Knack to show the clarity on offer with 1080p. I was a little disappointed about this aspect of the hands-on, but it can't be helped I supposed. Sorry guys. Overall I came away impressed. While I'm still waiting for some eastern games to be announced before I decide to grab a Ps4, Probably stump up the cash in the new year I think, Its still an impressive console. Its not surprising Sony have been riding a goodwill wave since February. Tonight though is Hands on with the Xbox One, although I doubt its going to be as enlightening as the Ps4 due to its heavy focus on its own American demographic. Still, it could surprise me! Ill let you know tomorrow how it goes.


Monday, 28 October 2013

Review: Lollipop Chainsaw (Ps3/Xbox360)

"Just because something is dumb, that doesn't mean it can't be brilliant."
OK. First things first. If your the kind of person who just hates this kind of content and writes fervent blog posts about how wrong it is to base a piece of entertainment on a concept like this, Leave. Now. Move your mouse pointer to the top of the page and close the window. I'm not going to mark this game down due to its content. I refuse to pander to you types of people. Personally I like American Grindhouse movies & Japanese exploitation flicks so the fact this game has the audacity to style itself like them is great. They gone? good. On to the review!