Review: Parasite Eve II

It took longer than expected, but my review for Parasite Eve II is finally here! Two years after the release of the original game, Square followed up with the second entry in the series.  I really enjoyed the first Parasite Eve game and I was very excited to experience the next chapter.

This game picks up three years after the events of the original. After what is now known as the “New York Incident”, Aya was recruited into a secret unit of the FBI called M.I.S.T. Her job is to hunt down and eliminate any remaining Neo-Mitochondria Creatures (NMCs).  The game begins when she is deployed to Los Angeles to help put down a sudden burst of NMC activity. While completing her mission she has an encounter with what appears to be a humanoid NMC. The creature escapes but Aya is persistent in learning more about this unusual being.

Her next assignment brings her to a rural town in the middle of the Mojave desert. The area is infested with NMCs and Aya investigates a lead hinting at their point of origin. It is during this investigation that she unravels a shocking conspiracy. One in which she has unknowingly been a participant in.

While the storyline builds off of the original game, the actual gameplay is considerably different. The first Parasite Eve was an interesting mix of RPG and survival horror action. This time around, nearly all RPG elements have been stripped away. This leaves the game as strictly an action-based survival horror title. In fact, it looks and feels very much like a Resident Evil game. Parasite Eve II has even adapted the familiar and irritating “tank-style” playcontrol scheme, as well as other aspects that have become synonymous with the Resident Evil franchise.

To be honest, the changes from the original game are a mixed bag. The combat no longer relies on meters and timers and it’s not locked into a specified battle area. This allows for much more freedom during combat. Aya is able to run around unfettered and even change zones while engaging an enemy. This is a good thing. Sadly, the movement controls really make navigating problematic during combat, especially early on in the game. Thankfully, Parasite Eve II has a targeting system that does a lot to help with the pain-point caused the crummy playcontrol.

Aya also does not level up in the traditional sense. Combat still yields EXP. However, EXP in this game is reserved for strengthening and unlocking her Parasite Abilities. Aide from experience, Aya also earns Bounty Points with each monster she eliminates. These points can be exchanged for weapons and items. So it’s beneficial to take out any NMCs that you encounter, even if fleeing is an option.

Despite taking a step back in the areas of playcontrol and originality, Parasite Eve II offers some very stunning visuals. The backgrounds are prerendered, yes. But the sprites in the game itself and the cinematic sequences are very well done. This game provides the best of the what original Playstation could offer.

So, praise and gripes aside – how does it play? Parasite Eve II is solid and has hours of content. I personally found the middle section of the game to be a bit repetitive and at times, boring. But, the action picks up again towards the end. As a survival horror, the game excels. The atmosphere is there, and it is very well done. I just wish it would have kept more of the unique elements from the first game, instead of of settling in to what has now become a cookie-cutter format.

The game does feature multiple endings depending on certain choices made during your playthrough. Getting the best ending on your first time through is unlikely unless you have a guide. Thankfully, you can replay the game over upon completion. So it’s very possible to enjoy everything the game has offer even if you missed it the first time around.

 

Difficulty: Variable –  Parasite Eve II offers a single difficulty level for first time players. The biggest challenges here are not found in tough boss mechanics or random encounters. But rather, I found the toughest aspect of the game to be the mastery of the game controls (ie: working through the stiff and stubborn playcontrol). After an hour of two of playtime, you tend to get the feel for things and the game gets a lot easier. Once you’ve completed the game the first time, you do unlock two additional modes of play. Replay Mode (an easier, New Game + style experience) and Bounty Mode (this is essentially Hard Mode). Finally, after reaching a certain rank in either Replay or Bounty mode, you can unlock Scavenger Mode. This ratchets up the difficulty by another notch. But wait… there’s more! Completing the game on Scavenger Mode presents you with a final option: Nightmare Mode. This is mode of play is similar to Bounty Mode, but much more brutal.

Story: This game takes the fundamental story provided by Parasite Eve and gives it an X-Files/Conspiracy twist. This is not necessarily a bad thing, per se. But, I feel like by doing so it really takes some of the more unique lore elements away from the game. All that aside, the in-game story is well done and captivating even if it loses some of itself.

Originality: This game really took a huge step backwards when it comes to being unique and original. It seems that Square panicked at some of the minor criticism they received from PE1 battle system and just decided to scrap it and follow the Resident Evil formula in hopes that no-one noticed. Everything that made the first game unique has been watered down. This is true for both the storyline and the gameplay itself.

Soundtrack: The game scores high here. The music is atmospherics and catchy. The game soundtrack is an excellent companion to the adventure. It is comprised of everything from lo-fi jazz to industrial. It helps build tension and excitement. It is everything you’d want from a survival horror score.

Fun: Despite a number of complaints, this actually a very entertaining game. Fans of the survival horror genre will find a lot to like. The replayability of the title means there are many potential long nights filled spooky fun. The storyline, even if it is not original, hooks you. The characters are soulful and engaging. I had a great time exploring the depths of this game.

Graphics: Like many PS1 titles, this game shows it’s age. However, it stands up better than most Playstation titles from the same era. The prerendered backgrounds are well done and the character sprites were top of the line for their day. The cinematics are as good as they get and are a pleasure to watch.

Playcontrol: No no no. This is the my biggest issue with the game. The playcontrol in this title is several steps down from the original Parasite Eve. It follows the familiar but frustrating scheme found in other survival horror games of the day. Turn-and-walk style controls are the bane of my existence when it comes to action games. Thankfully, we do have a targeting system that helps ease the pain. Without it, this game would be a nightmare to control.

Downloadable Content: No.

Mature Content: YES. Graphic violence, gore. Some minor language.

Value:  Despite a number of complaints, this game can still be very much worth your time. It is available digitally on the Playstation Network for $5.99. Physical copies can be found on eBay for $10 or less usually. Considering the vast amount of content and replayability, it is well worth that price even with all of its faults.

Overall rating (out of four stars): 2 – This is a tough one, because despite its flaws, Parasite Eve II is still a really good game. I enjoyed it immensely. But, when stacked up against its own prequel and other games of a similar nature, it just doesn’t have what it takes to stand out. If you are fan of the original Parasite Eve or if you’re a hardcore survival horror nut, then this game is definitely worth your time. If not, it might be a little hard to recommend this one. To give this game a score of 2 seems a bit unfair. But, it’s not quite where it needs to be to get a solid 3.

Available on: PSN

Review: Deep Space Waifu

It’s Valentine’s Day! And I’ve decided to start a new tradition on this blog. A few years back, I posted a Valentine’s Day review of a flirty little game called Hunie Pop. I did this as sort of a one-off joke. But due to the recent upswing in indie H-games on Steam and the fact that all of my friends insist on gifting me with embarrassing purchases just so they can point to my game library and laugh, I’ve decided to embrace it and review these ridiculous games on Valentine’s day.

When it comes to “questionable” games, I really didn’t know where to start. As mentioned above, I already reviewed Hunie Pop. Which, despite it’s lewd nature, actually featured some pretty solid gameplay. Then back in the summer of last year, I shared a review of the dumpster fire that is Dragonia. Yeah… Let’s not even talk about that. I didn’t think I’d ever be able to top Dragonia. So for this review, I decided to go with a game that had the most absurd title possible. I wanted to find something both descriptive and cringeworthy. Well, I didn’t have to look hard. As soon as I saw the name “Deep Space Waifu”, I knew this would be the game for 2018.

Deep Space Waifu is technically a schmup. Some might even call it a bullet-hell style game. But, I’m not sure it quite fits that description. The gameplay will certainly be familiar to fans of the genre. But it includes the added mechanic of having to also destroy certain “environmental” features along with just enemies. (And by environmental features I mean, blasting the clothes off of crudely drawn anime girls).

You see, in this game, you play a character known as “King Bear”. King Bear hooks up with random girls that he meets on Space Tinder. He then takes that girl on a date. The goal of the game is to have as successful of a date as possible. But every date is sabotaged by random aliens. Completing a date means that you have to blast aliens from the back of your flying motorcycle until a Boss shows up, then you blow the Boss to smithereens. The success level of your date is determined by the percentage of “environmental damage” you have done… Upon completing a date with a rating of 100%, you then unlock what is essentially Easy Mode for that level… (you’ll see what I mean if you play).  As you progress through the stages, you will unlock new special weapons and attacks.  It’s really quite simple.

When this game was first released, it was pretty rough. The artwork was cheap looking, and the controls were pretty wonky. However, the title has received numerous updates since it debuted on Steam. Each of them improving nearly every aspect of the game. At this point, it’s actually a very polished product. The game can be played using either a keyboard, mouse-only or with a controller. But, having tried all three, I highly recommend the mouse-only mode. There’s really no reason to try anything else. Being a mature title, the Steam version of the game is censored. But the developer has released a patch that restores the game to its original form for users who are ambitious enough to go looking for it.

The main game is pretty short and can easily be completed in under an hour. At the time of this writing, there are two forms of DLC for the game. The first is called the Academy Expansion. This bit of DLC adds some additional dates with sports-themed girls to the main game. There’s also a standalone expansion (basically a separate game) called Flat Justice. Add them all together, and you end up with a decent sized game.

The Flat Justice expansion is actually more like a sequel than a piece of downloadable content. In this version, we learn that King Bear is actually a cop. He is tasked with rooting out corruption in the police force. To do so, he must go undercover and date several suspects from among his own unit until he finds the mole that is working with the enemy.  This version of the game actually attempts to craft some form of a plotline by adding cutscenes in between levels and tacking on insanely inappropriate names and art designs for end bosses.

To say that this is a niche-game is an understatement. On it’s surface it seems only to appeal to lonely weeabos. But fans of shoot-em ups may actually get a bit a fun out of it too. I certainly received way more entertainment from this game than I expected to. The gameplay is very well done, the graphics are colorful, and the humor is over-the-top. This is a game that doesn’t take itself very seriously. The whole thing is really one big joke. It’s a bit like renting a really bad horror movie – It’s terrible but in a good way.

I’m ashamed to admit that I gave this game and it’s expansions as much attention as I did. I’m even more ashamed to admit that if the developer releases an future content updates, I’m likely to add them to my library as well.

So, if you ARE a lonely otaku looking for your waifu… perhaps you should consider one of the deep space variety.

Difficulty: Easy –  Even though this could be considered a “bullet-hell” game. It is EXTREMELY casual. It is very possible for most players to fly through this game and it’s expansions with relative ease. The difficulty does increase a bit as your progress through the different levels. But not by much. The real challenge lies in playing the game in “Gentlemen Mode”. With this option enabled, you want to avoid to any environmental damage at all… but even with this added challenge, the game is still pretty simplistic.

Story: Yeah… you’re a space bear trying to hook up with space chicks. Then, suddenly you’re a cop doing the same thing in the name of justice… If a thought provoking plotline is what you’re looking for, you won’t find it in a game called Deep Space Waifu.

Originality: This is a tough call. While overhead schumps have been done to death, this game adds a pervy twist with a retro/anime feel. It’s an odd combination that somehow manages to keep this game feeling like something you’ve never seen before.

Soundtrack: High praises here! The soundtrack is arguably the best thing about this game. This is especially true for the Flat Justice expansion. Nearly the entire game features music by an artist called Funny Death. This is a musical artist I had never heard of until I played this game. But I have since purchased their entire discography. The music is best described as retro/synth-pop with a bit of a foreign flair. It’s absolutely phenomenal and it fits in well with this quirky game.

Fun: As much as I hate to admit this, Deep Space Waifu is a fun game. It’s not because of the risque art, but the game itself is just downright entertaining. And the silly aspect of the whole thing only adds to the level of enjoyment.

Graphics: When this game first hit the scene, it looked pretty bad, to be honest. But it has since received an overhaul and it’s actually a good looking title these days. Much of the art work is hand-drawn, the rest are rendered in a retro-style that sparks nostalgia and overall good vibes.

Playcontrol: As mentioned in the above review, Mouse-only mode is the way to go. Playing this game with a controller is probably your second best option. But on more than one occasion, I’ve found some issues with responsiveness when using that method. Playing with a keyboard is possible, but not recommended.

Downloadable Content: YES– This game currently features two add-ons. One is a proper expansion, the second is a stand-alone title.

Mature Content: YES. This is a game that focuses on adult situations and inappropriate humor. Enemy names are puns for various body parts, etc. Even though the Steam version of the game is censored, it is still at it’s core pornographic in nature. This is not one for children.

Value:  The main game and the Flat Justice expansion are $2.00 each. The Academy DLC is sold for $0.69. So, you can obtain the entire collection for under $3.00. That is simply a steal. The game is also often found on sale for even cheaper than that.

Overall rating (out of four stars): 3 – Deep Space Waifu is a playable joke. It’s not meant to be taken seriously at all. With that in mind and considering the price point, I have to admit that most players will get a good amount of entertainment from this title. However, the adult nature of the game will limit its audience. This is a bit of a shame, as the game itself does have some really good qualities.

Available on: Steam

Review: Mobius Final Fantasy

Last but not least in my Final Fantasy mobile game backlog, I have a real oddball; Mobius Final Fantasy. This game is unlike any other mobile RPG I have ever played. It was designed to provide a full-sized RPG experience, but on a device that can fit in your pocket. As a result, it’s a weird hybrid of mobile gaming, but with a console look and feel.

The main character of the game is simply known as “Warrior of Light” or Wol. The game begins when he wakes up and finds himself in a strange land called Palamecia. He soon learns that an evil force has conquered this world. Many nameless heroes just like himself, have awakened to find themselves brought here. These heroes are known as “blanks”.  An ancient prophecy foretells that that one of these blanks will defeat the darkness and free the world of Palamecia from it’s grip forever.  Naturally, the goal of the game is to prove yourself as the real Warrior of Light.

When I started playing Mobius Final Fantasy, I initially played on my mobile phone. Since that time, the game has also been released for PC via Steam. I now prefer the PC port of the game simply due to the expanded screen real estate. (The game is gorgeous!) Regardless of the device you choose, the game experience is largely the same. That being said, I would offer a word of warning to anyone getting started with this title. Mobius Final Fantasy is a HUGE game. It is much more complex than any other mobile game I’ve encountered. It features a very in-depth combat system integrated with the Job System that is found in other Final Fantasy games. These two concepts work in tandem. Together, the end result is a rich, but admittedly complicated gameplay experience. Therefore, I highly suggest taking the time to participate in the in-game tutorials before diving right in. Understanding these systems fully is crucial to being able to master the game itself.

Aside from these elements, the rest of the game is fairly standard when it comes to mobile titles. Your character earns experience through battle and unlocks new points of interest on the map as he progresses. The game frequently receives content updates that include new areas, special events and time-limited challenges. Jobs, abilities and power-ups are either won by progression or obtained through a “gacha” style draw system. The game also features an interesting “subscription” option. If enabled, you will be granted with daily bonuses for as long as your subscription is active. This option is purchased using an in-game currency that is earned automatically over time. Once you’re earned a certain amount, you can either spend it, or bank it to save up.

For me, this game exceeds any expectations I had when it comes to mobile gaming. The amount of content is mind-boggling and both the graphics and sound are breathtaking. It’s really no surprise to me that this game was ported over to the regular PC. Fans of the Final Fantasy series will feel right at home. The game features cameos from throughout the franchise, but still manages to be unique in it’s own way.

Of all the mobile Final Fantasy titles out there, Mobius manages to feel the most like a real RPG game. But make no mistake, it still follows the infamous cash-grabbing mobile model. That being said, Square Enix has always managed to avoid making cash transactions feel like a requirement. This game is no exception.

Difficulty: Medium –  The sheer complexity of this game makes it a bit more challenging to master than other mobile titles. The main scenario of the game is easy enough to complete, but as is the usual case with games of this type, optional content and special events do tend to ramp up the challenge.

Story: For a mobile title, Mobius Final Fantasy really delivers. The storyline is not as rich and detailed as a full fledged RPG, but it outshines nearly any other mobile title.

Originality: When compared to other mobile phone games, the developers were not afraid to take some risks. Even though this title follows a familiar profit-model, the overall gameplay is bold and unique. Much more than one would expect from this type of game.

Soundtrack: This is an area that I cannot praise enough. This game features a score that will knock your socks off. The music is fully orchestrated and is nothing short of spectacular. I personally own the two-disc soundtrack – it’s that good.

Fun: Mobile games are usually best enjoyed in short spurts. This game is really no exception to that rule. It’s very possible to blow through the content relatively quickly – but I’ve found the most enjoyment from this game will be had if played casually. Some parts of the game can be repetitive, and some battles seem longer than they need to be. But as far as mobile games go, this is one of the more enjoyable.

Graphics: The graphics on this title are also top-tier. In fact, older phones are likely to suffer from performance issues as a result. The PC version looks just as pretty, if not more so.

Playcontrol: No real issues here. This is a simple tap-based interface. Purchases require confirmation, everything is clear and concise.

Downloadable Content: YES– In-game currency can be purchased with real money. The game receives regular free updates and features special limited time events.

Mature Content: None

Value:  The game itself is available for free. Optional purchases can vary in price.

Overall rating (out of four stars): 3 – Mobius Final Fantasy is an odd bird. It rides the line between a mobile phone game and a more serious RPG. As a result, if you go in expecting either you’re likely to be in for a surprise. This is a prime example of “it is what it is” – with that in mind, it’s actually quite an exceptional little title. But, be warned; this is certainly not a game for everyone. However, considering you can try it out for free, there’s really nothing to lose.

Available on: Apple App Store, Google Play, Steam

Other Reviews In This Series:

Main Series:

I – II – III – IV – V – VI – VII – VIII – IX – X – X2 – XI – XII – XIII – XIII 2 – XIII Lightning Returns – XIV – XV 

IV: After Years – VII: Dirge of Cerberus – VII: Crisis Core – VII: Advent Children (Movie) – XII: Revenant Wings – Type-0 – XV: A King’s Tale – XV: Brotherhood (Anime) – XV: Kingsglaive (Movie)

Misc Titles:

World of Final Fantasy – Explorers – Mystic Quest – 4 Heroes of Light 

Tactics:

Tactics – Tactics Advance – Tactics A2

Dissidia:

Dissidia – Dissidia 012 – Dissidia NT

Crystal Chronicles:

Crystal Chronicles – Ring of Fates – My Life as King – My Life as Darklord – Echoes of Time – Crystal Bearers

Mobile Titles:

Dimensions – Dimensions 2 – Record Keeper – Brave Exvius – Mobius Final Fantasy  – Justice Monsters V – King’s Knight  – Dissida Final Fantasy Opera Omnia

Review: Final Fantasy Record Keeper

Recently, I posted a review for the Final Fantasy Dissidia mobile game. When doing so, I realized that there are still a handful of mobile Final Fantasy titles that I’ve not posted reviews for. I’ve had several of these sitting in my drafts folder for a while now, so it’s high time that I do a little housecleaning! Next up is a review for the very first mobile-style Final Fantasy game: Record Keeper.

In terms of mobile games, this is an oldie. Final Fantasy Record Keeper was originally released back in 2015. I’ve been playing it off and on since its debut, so I feel pretty bad about neglecting to mention it sooner. Record Keeper is a strange little game. It features a new character by the name of Tyro. Tyro an assistant in a cosmic art gallery that archives all of the events from across the Final Fantasy series. Recently, several records have become tainted and Tyro is tasked with entering the paintings and restoring them to their former glory. In doing so, he relives various events and battles throughout the Final Fantasy universe.

The actual gameplay is similar to other mobile style RPGs. Players can spend stamina to undertake expeditions into various dungeons and events. Once your stamina is expended, you must wait for it to recharge or you can pay real money to replenish it. The main point of the game is to collect and upgrade characters to use in your party. You can then continue to explore new and more challenging areas. The game receives regular content updates that add new scenarios and characters often. There are also special limited-time events that offer rare and exotic prizes.

The main character is Tyro. He is unique in that he can equip all items and abilities. While other characters do come with restrictions on gear. Items are rewarded as you clear stages and also via a “gacha” draw system. Again, players have the option to pay real money for draws. Some characters are more suited than other for particular levels, so it’s always important to keep a variety of secondary characters equipped and leveled up.

Record Keeper was SE’s first foray in the whole micro-transaction based mobile game environment. As a result, the game does show it’s age when compared with SE’s more modern mobile offerings. But that doesn’t mean it’s not worth a look. As far as mobile games go, Record Keeper is pretty standard. It follows a tried-and-true profit model without being overly predatory like some mobile titles.

The main focus of the game is turn-based combat. It is very reminiscent of early Final Fantasy titles. So, the game will most likely appeal to fans of the Final Fantasy series, but even someone who has no experience with the franchise can enjoy this title. More than anything, this game is one big nostalgia trip. It’s a fun way to revisit classic Final Fantasy games on the go.

Finally, mobile phone users who play games like these often run into the situation of data loss. This can happen is you have to perform a factory reset on your device, or if you upgrade your phone, etc. Record Keeper offers a few solutions for data backup. First, if you’re an Android user – have no fear! Your game data is automatically linked to your Google Play Games account. iPhone users can link the game to a social media account for backup if they choose. There’s also a data transfer option for the fearless, if you want to jump between devices.

Difficulty: Easy –  As is true for most mobile RPGs, the base game and storyline quests do not provide much of a challenge. Special events and hard mode areas, however, are pretty tough. For me, the overall difficulty feels balance and appropriate.

Story: The main focus of this game is nostalgia, not lore. The game features a very bare-bones storyline that sets up an excuse for our new hero to visit classic Final Fantasy locales and characters. But other than serving as a vehicle for that, there’s not much in terms of actually story.

Originality: Being the first real mobile title in the Final Fantasy series, Record Keeper took the framework that has been applied to previous successful mobile games and brought it home for fans to enjoy. In that regard, Record Keeper was welcome and fresh upon it’s release. These days, it’s easy to lose it among a sea of other similar titles.

Soundtrack: The game scores high marks here. It features an original soundtrack as well as music ripped straight out of the main series. There’s plenty of variety and it’s all very well done.

Fun: Of all the mobile Final Fantasy titles, this one is probably my least favorite. But, it’s still very entertaining and I wouldn’t think of removing it from my device. It’s very easy to lose yourself in the game for long stretches. But the game also does just as well when played in short spurts.

Graphics: This game mixes cartoon-style art with retro-sprite graphics and it does it well. The art direction of the game is one of my favorite aspects. The game looks sharp and colorful on any mobile device regardless of screen size.

Playcontrol: No real issues here. This is a simple tap-based interface. Purchases require confirmation, everything is clear and concise.

Downloadable Content: YES– In-game currency can be purchased with real money. The game receives regular free updates and features special limited time events.

Mature Content: None

Value:  The game itself is available for free. Optional purchases can vary in price.

Overall rating (out of four stars): 2 – Record Keeper is an original and interesting mobile title, but one that relies almost exclusively on nostalgia to stay afloat. Still, fans of the series can find a lot to love about this little game. That being said, it’s unlikely to appeal to anyone who is not already emotionally invested in the series.

Available on: Apple App Store and Google Play

Other Reviews In This Series:

Main Series:

I – II – III – IV – V – VI – VII – VIII – IX – X – X2 – XI – XII – XIII – XIII 2 – XIII Lightning Returns – XIV – XV 

IV: After Years – VII: Dirge of Cerberus – VII: Crisis Core – VII: Advent Children (Movie) – XII: Revenant Wings – Type-0 – XV: A King’s Tale – XV: Brotherhood (Anime) – XV: Kingsglaive (Movie)

Misc Titles:

World of Final Fantasy – Explorers – Mystic Quest – 4 Heroes of Light 

Tactics:

Tactics – Tactics Advance – Tactics A2

Dissidia:

Dissidia – Dissidia 012 – Dissidia NT

Crystal Chronicles:

Crystal Chronicles – Ring of Fates – My Life as King – My Life as Darklord – Echoes of Time – Crystal Bearers

Mobile Titles:

Dimensions – Dimensions 2 – Record Keeper – Brave Exvius – Mobius Final Fantasy  – Justice Monsters V – King’s Knight  – Dissida Final Fantasy Opera Omnia

Review: Dissidia Final Fantasy Opera Omnia

Fresh on the heels of my Dissidia NT review, I’m going to take a moment to discuss the mobile spin-off; Dissidia Final Fantasy Opera Omnia.  Wow! What a mouthful! This is a free-to-play mobile game that is available on iPhone and Android devices. It features more traditional RPG combat, but also incorporates certain elements found in Dissidia. The end result is a unique mobile gaming experience.

This mobile game was released to coincide with the Dissidia NT launch. In fact, players who purchase a copy of NT at release, will receive a special code that unlocks a starter pack in Opera Omnia. (Normally available for purchase with real money). These two games very much compliment each other. Dissdia NT is action and battle focused, while Opera Omnia helps to round out the storyline and features a much more laid-back battle system.

The basic premise of this game is to participate in a number of battles using a roster of characters from across the Final Fantasy franchise. Characters can earn experience and level up. You can equip various arms and armor on your characters. This equipment is earned through a “gacha” style draw system. The game also features special events, daily quests, and rewards. In-game currency can be earned by playing through the contents of the game or can also be purchased for real money. Pretty standard fare.

The main plot of the game is simple. Heroes from different Final Fantasy games are brought together to help defeat monsters. The roster of playable characters is pretty impressive. All of the usual elements for mobile RPGs will be found in this title.  To be completely honest, there’s little aside from the Final Fantasy theme to set this game apart from a multitude of others out there. But, fans of the series are not likely to care. The gameplay is well done and the script is entertaining. When looking at the big picture, there’s little to complain about.

The basic version of the game is pretty accessible regardless of the player’s skill level. In fact, the game even offers an automatic battle option. So it can literally play itself. However, if you want to max out the rewards that you receive at the end of each battle, you will need to play manually. Once you’ve cleared a chapter, you also unlock a “hard mode” of that area. Hard mode is no cake walk. This is where the game’s real challenge comes into fruition.

These days, the mobile gaming market is pretty stable. Free to Play titles that are supported by microtransactions are fairly commonplace. In this regard, Opera Omnia is a pretty standard operation. The game itself is free and receives frequent content updates that are also free of charge. The option also exists for players to spend real money on virtual currency that can enhance their characters and expand storage. The trick to enjoying games like this without breaking the bank is patience. Games of this type always offers freebies and bonuses from time to time. Opera Omnia actually feels to be very unoffensive in this regard. Many mobile games are designed to be exploitative. Very often, games like these eventually reach a point where the player feels compelled to spend real money in order to progress. So far, I’ve not encountered this type of issue with Opera Ominia.

My biggest complaint is that in order to back up your game data, you are required to link a Facebook account. Other mobile Final Fantasy games also have this requirement. As someone who no longer keeps a personal Facebook profile, I find this to be annoying. Other games have successfully used alternate methods of backup that work just fine. King’s Knight is a prime example of data backup done right.

All in all, Dissidia Opera Omnia is a welcome addition to the lineup of mobile Final Fantasy titles. It’s simple to grasp and offers a fun way to kill some time. It’s not as engrossing and does not require as much commitment as some mobile titles. But, that’s ok. Sometimes you just need a little something to kill a few minutes of downtime. Opera Omnia provides just that.

Difficulty: Easy –  The base game and storyline quests do not provide much of a challenge. Special events and hard mode areas, however, are pretty tough. Overall, this makes the game feel appropriately balanced.

Story: Opera Omnia provides the story that Dissidia NT neglected. We get to see how our heroes initially came together and there’s lots of fun dialog to boot.

Originality: This game follows a fairly standard mobile model. In large part, it’s nothing that we haven’t seen before. But, the incorporation of the Dissidia battle model does give this game a bit a of a unique feel.

Soundtrack: The music in this title is phenomenal. It features a number of classic Final Fantasy scores, including music from the Dissidia sub-series. Well done and enjoyable.

Fun: I enjoy this game for what it is; a simple, entertaining way to kill time. In my opinion, this is what mobile games should aim for. There’s plenty of content without a huge time investment.

Graphics: This game takes a cartoonish approach to it’s graphical rendering. But, it’s well done and beautiful.  It’s looks good on both smaller smartphones and “phablets”.

Playcontrol: No real issues here. This is a simple tap-based interface. Purchases require confirmation, so there’s no concern about accidentally spending real money due to fat fingers.

Downloadable Content: YES– In-game currency can be purchased with real money. The game receives regular free updates and features special limited time events.

Mature Content: None

Value:  The game itself is available for free. Optional purchases can vary in price.

Overall rating (out of four stars): 3 – A story-heavy gacha game for mobile devices. This title doesn’t seem to rely on cash-transactions as heavily as others. Fans of the old PSP Dissidia titles who are turned off by the fast-paced combat in Dissidia NT, may find what they are looking for in this little game. That aside, there’s very little that sets this apart from other similar titles.

Available on: Apple App Store and Google Play

Other Reviews In This Series:

Main Series:

I – II – III – IV – V – VI – VII – VIII – IX – X – X2 – XI – XII – XIII – XIII 2 – XIII Lightning Returns – XIV – XV 

IV: After Years – VII: Dirge of Cerberus – VII: Crisis Core – VII: Advent Children (Movie) – XII: Revenant Wings – Type-0 – XV: A King’s Tale – XV: Brotherhood (Anime) – XV: Kingsglaive (Movie)

Misc Titles:

World of Final Fantasy – Explorers – Mystic Quest – 4 Heroes of Light 

Tactics:

Tactics – Tactics Advance – Tactics A2

Dissidia:

Dissidia – Dissidia 012 – Dissidia NT

Crystal Chronicles:

Crystal Chronicles – Ring of Fates – My Life as King – My Life as Darklord – Echoes of Time – Crystal Bearers

Mobile Titles:

Dimensions – Dimensions 2 – Record Keeper – Brave Exvius – Mobius Final Fantasy  – Justice Monsters V – King’s Knight  – Dissida Final Fantasy Opera Omnia

Review: Dissidia Final Fantasy NT

The trilogy is now complete! The third and latest game in the Final Fantasy Dissidia series is here! After months of hype from Square Enix and Team Ninja, let’s see how this home version of the arcade sensation measures up.

As I mentioned above, Dissidia Final Fantasy NT is actually a port of the Japanese arcade title “Dissidia Final Fantasy”. The arcade version drew inspiration from the previous Dissidia games for PSP, but was completely redesigned from the ground up to be a six-player competitive title. The PS4 release is essentially an enhanced port of the arcade version. It is Square Enix’s first foray into the the world of professional competitive gaming.

Like the previous Dissidia titles, NT is a fighting game. But this time, the focus is on team battles instead of one-on-one combat. For Dissidia NT, teams are made up of three players each. There are currently two modes of play available: Regular and Core Battles (which is essentially Capture the Flag). The combat itself is similar to previous Dissidia titles. Characters can execute both Bravery and Hit Point attacks against their opponents. They have special abilities at their disposal and can also collect energy that enables them to execute special summons – these summons can really turn the tide of battle in an instant. This time, characters are assigned specific roles. The options are: Vanguard (This is essentially a tank/melee fighter), Assassin (Speedy, with weak individual attacks that can combo-chain and result in significant damage), Marksman (ranged attacker), and Specialists (This is a catch all-role. Each Specialist character offers something unique to the arena – usually buff and de-buff focused.) As you continue to play and level up individual characters, new abilities are unlocked.

The roster of characters for Dissidia Final Fantasy NT is as follows:

Warrior of Light (Vanguard)  *  Garland (Vanguard)  *  Firion (Vanguard)  *  Emperor (Marksman)  *  Onion Knight (Specialist)  *  Cloud of Darkness (Vanguard)  *  Cecil (Vanguard)  *  Kain (Assassin)  *  Golbez (Marksman)  *  Bartz (Specialist)  *  Exdeath (Specialist)  *  Terra (Marksman)  *  Kefka (Marksman)  *  Cloud (Vanguard)  *  Sephiroth (Vanguard)  *  Squall (Assassin)  *  Ultimecia (Marksman)  *  Zidane (Assassin)  *  Kuja (Assassin)  *  Tidus (Assassin)  *  Jecht (Assassin)  *  Shantotto (Marksman)  *  Vaan (Specialist)  *  Lightning (Assassin)  *  Y’shtola (Marksman)  *  Noctis (Assassin)  *  Ramza (Specialist)  *  Ace (Marksman)

The main focus of this game is online multiplayer. The game does feature a single-player story mode, but this consists of nothing but a series of cutscenes that must be unlocked by spending tokens called “Memoria”. Memoria is earned whenever you level up a character. So unlocking all of the cutscenes will require quite a bit of grind. Again, in this title, the storyline really takes a backseat. The main point of the game is to participate in ranked online matches. So, if you’re the type of person that really gets into ladder rankings and eSports statistics, you’re likely to find this game much more interesting than someone who isn’t. Lore enthusiasts are still able to find an enjoyable storyline that fits in nicely with the other Dissidia titles. However, understand that this is delivered almost exclusively through cutscenes – not through gameplay.

Compared to other fighting games, and even other Dissidia titles, NT has quite a huge learning curve. The game does offer various tutorials. However, these leave a lot to be desired. The tutorials are poorly written and the screenshots included are not particularly helpful. To be honest, the only way you’re really going to understand the gist of the game is if you play. The downside is, the game will likely feel overly-chaotic and confusing to the point of frustration, especially for a new player.

The biggest issue for me was understanding the targeting system. The tutorial does a decent job of explaining how to switch between various targets. But, in practice it is not quite that simple. Often times I would find myself locked on to a particular target and I would start advancing towards them, only to have them suddenly dart across the screen. My character would continue to follow them of course, but the camera would no longer be focused on my character. On more than one occasion, I would find myself staring at the screen, clueless, trying to find myself amidst all the chaos.

Movement is also a bit of an issue. The game’s movement and camera controls are simple enough. But, due to the fast-paced nature of the combat, you’ll spend most of your time moving around at high-speed. Being a 4D battlefield, you’ll often end up chasing down a target only to find yourself suspended in mid-air unable to land a blow.  Now, obviously a lot of this is simply an issue of experience. The more I played the game, the more I was able to understand the basic concepts of battle and movement. However, the in-game tutorials do a terrible job of getting a new player ready for their first encounter. Which brings me to the next big issue….

Both the single player AI and the online matchmaking are terribly out of balance. Considering that Dissidia NT is a team-based game, skill-balance should really be a major focus. When playing single player mode, the AI versions of your teammates are nearly useless. In most cases, I felt like I was actually playing a 1-on-3 match. On the other side of the coin, the opponent AI seems slightly overpowered. This is worsened as you continue to play and the difficulty level increases. After winning a few single player matches, the difficulty spikes in a way that seems very disproportionate.

When being grouped with other players online, the game is supposed to try to match you with players of an equal skill. However, I’ve found this not to be the case. To make matters worse, the online game is currently suffering from both matchmaking errors and lag issues. These are items that simply must be corrected in short order if the game is to have any chance of success.

As far as eSports titles go, Dissidia NT does have a lot of potential. Gamers that enjoy ranked competition and who want to try their hand at a different type of fighting game may find just what they’re looking for here. Casual players are likely to be turned off by this title.

Finally, let’s look at a few other aspects of the game itself. Like many arena style games, players can earn and unlock various outfits, color schemes, and emotes to equip on their characters. These are earned via a gacha-style draw system. Thankfully, instead of being available in real-money loot boxes, treasure is earned by spending in-game points. A handful of outfits and weapons are also available in the form of DLC (currently as pre-order perks and promotional redemptions). I expect to see these available for individual purchase on PSN eventually. SE has also promised that six new playable characters will be available in the future as part of a Season Pass.

In summary, Dissidia Final Fantasy NT is a game that’s designed for a very specific niche of gamers. You’re either going to love it or hate it. Personally, it’s not the type of game that I enjoy in the long term. Typically, I tend to play a game to completion before I post a review. However, due to the nature of this title I decided to share my thoughts after spending a few solid days with it. I’m not a competitive gamer. I prefer to play games to unwind. While I don’t mind the occasional grind, the reward has to be worth the time I’m putting in. In this case, I found very little in Dissidia NT to keep my interest. Grinding battle after battle for trophies is not my cup of tea and considering I have no interest in ladder rankings – there’s just not a lot that’s going to keep me playing once I’ve cleared the story mode. I’m curious to see if the eSports crowd adopts this title or if it is ultimately going to be forgotten. Regardless, it is a noble attempt from Square Enix and a pretty impressive debut into the evolving genre of professional online gaming.

Difficulty: Variable –  Being primarily an online title, you are competing against other players. Therefore, the difficulty of the battles you will encounter will vary greatly. Generally speaking, this type of game attracts players of a very competitive nature. So, if you’re a casual player, expect to find yourself pitted against those of a much greater skill level – this is true even though the game claims to match you players of an equal skill. For single player challenges, the game may feel overly difficult at first. The unusual nature of the game will provide quite a learning curve, even for players used to brawlers. However, it should generally become a bit easier as you’re able to grasp the concepts of the game and get a little more experience under your belt.

Story: This is the game’s weakest link. Dissidia NT is technically a sequel to other games in the Dissidia series. However, once again, the storyline provided is barebones at best. The game’s overall plot unfolds through a series of cutscenes that players can unlock as they grind through battles. It serves as nothing more than a loose excuse to throw a bunch of characters from various Final Fantasy games together in one title. But, considering the nature of the game itself, this is forgivable.

Originality: Fighting games are nothing new. Dissidia NT manages to stay unique by providing a 3-on-3 experience and an original battle concept. It borrows heavily from the previous Dissidia titles, but also isn’t shy about venturing off into a new direction.

Soundtrack: This game features a variety of background tracks hailing from the entire line of previous Final Fantasy games. These classic tracks have been rearranged fairly well and are fitting for the style of gameplay. The voice acting is a mixed bag. It’s great to hear Noctis and Lightning again, but some of the characters are downright annoying.

Fun: If fast-paced competitive gaming is your thing, you’ll find to find a lot of like about Dissidia NT. If you’re expecting a battle game with RPG elements like the previous Dissidia titles, prepare to be disappointed. It’s as simple as that.

Graphics: High marks here. This is a simply beautiful game. Everything from the characters to the environments are breathtakingly rendered. The battle effects are colorful and well done. This game is filled with eye candy.

Playcontrol:  This will be an issue for many players. While the controls are responsive and well thought out, they are unusual. Mastering the controls will take practice. Thankfully, they are customizable. The chase camera needs some work. But there’s always manual camera controls if needed.

Downloadable Content: YES – At the time of this writing, DLC is restricted to pre-order, and promotional codes for vanity items. A season pass will also be available and currently promises six additional playable characters. Price to be announced.

Mature Content: Skimpy outfits on some characters. Online interactions.

Value:  The game currently retails for the premier price of $60.00. This is likely to decrease in the months to come. If you’re the type of player that enjoys these style of games, the full price might very well be worth it. However, if you’re on the fence it might be best to wait a while.

Overall rating (out of four stars): 2 – I wanted to like this game. But, in the end I decided that it’s just not for me. That alone doesn’t sink the title. But when combined with a poor tutorial, connection issues, and the current unbalanced play. I have to call a spade a spade. Dissidia NT has a lot of potential. Thankfully, in the world we live in now, games can be patched and refined. I hope to see many of my concerns addressed in the months to come. If you’re a Final Fantasy RPG fan who wants a little fighting action, perhaps Dissidia 012 on the PSP will be more your speed. However, if you’re a hardcore MOBA gamer who’s in the mood for something unique, Dissdia NT might be exactly what you’re looking for

Available on: PS4

Other Reviews In This Series:

Main Series:

I – II – III – IV – V – VI – VII – VIII – IX – X – X2 – XI – XII – XIII – XIII 2 – XIII Lightning Returns – XIV – XV 

IV: After Years – VII: Dirge of Cerberus – VII: Crisis Core – VII: Advent Children (Movie) – XII: Revenant Wings – Type-0 – XV: A King’s Tale – XV: Brotherhood (Anime) – XV: Kingsglaive (Movie)

Misc Titles:

World of Final Fantasy – Explorers – Mystic Quest – 4 Heroes of Light 

Tactics:

Tactics – Tactics Advance – Tactics A2

Dissidia:

Dissidia – Dissidia 012 – Dissidia NT

Crystal Chronicles:

Crystal Chronicles – Ring of Fates – My Life as King – My Life as Darklord – Echoes of Time – Crystal Bearers

Mobile Titles:

Dimensions – Dimensions 2 – Record Keeper – Brave Exvius – Mobius Final Fantasy  – Justice Monsters V – King’s Knight  – Dissida Final Fantasy Opera Omnia

Collective Review: Tomb Raider – The Last Revelation & Chronicles

           

I’m still polishing off my “turn of the century” gaming reviews and today I bring a collective look at two Tomb Raider titles. It’s been five years since I last discussed this series. Five years! I’m slacking! At that time, I did a collective review of the first three Tomb Raider games. In case you missed it, you can read it: here

The first three Tomb Raider games were released back to back in ’96, ’97 and ’98.  They were very similar in design and therefore I chose to review them together. The same is true with the next two entries in the series; Tomb Raider – The Last Revelation (AKA: Tomb Raider IV – 1999) and Tomb Raider Chronicles (AKA: Tomb Raider V – 2000).  So again, I’m going to look at these games together. I played the first three Tomb Raider games on the PC at the time they were released and loved them. However, by the time the next two entries were released my mind was on other things and I shamefully admit that I overlooked them. I’m glad to have finally had a chance to sink my teeth into these classic titles.

Before starting, let me say upfront that these games are old and they do not always play well with modern systems. In fact, to get these to run properly you may need to resort to the use of various third-party tools. There are video driver wrappers, full-screen resolution fixes, and other tricks available out there for players who wish to play these on modern systems. It is likely you will require at least some of these if you want to enjoy these on the PC. Of course, these games were also available on the Sony Playstation, so if you are able to play them native or emulated on that system you can save some stress (albeit you might be missing some of the additional content – more on that later).

First up is Tomb Raider: The Last Revelation. This is the fourth game in the original Tomb Raider series and it’s very much more of the same. In fact, I was a bit shocked at just how much like the previous games this title ended up being. The game starts with a brief tutorial showing Lara Croft as a young sixteen year old girl accompanying her mentor as they explore some ruins. Once this initial stage is over, the game returns to the modern time and focuses on Lara as she seeks to retrieve an ancient Egyptian artifact and uncovers a secret archaeological plot. Sadly, very predictable stuff. But, admittedly pretty well done – all things considered.

Even though the graphics are similar to the previous games, there are some subtle improvements that make this title a pleasure to look at. Even today, in a world of high definition textures, The Last Revelation manages to be very atmospheric. It has the classic Tomb Raider feel that made the series popular. Also, Lara now has a few new moves at her disposal to keep things feeling fresh in a gameplay model that is quickly running the risk of growing stale. For me, The Last Revelation is a great example of classic Tomb Raider. There’s plenty of content and it’s overall very well done.

As with several of the previous games in the series, it’s worth mentioning that there was a free additional level available for download shortly after the game’s release. This level is included automatically if you purchase the game from GOG. If you purchase the game elsewhere, or still have an original copy, you may need to do some scouring to find it.

Next, let’s turn our attention to the fifth game in the Tomb Raider series: Tomb Raider Chronicles. This one is a bit of an oddball…  I don’t want to ruin the ending of The Last Revelation, but the game ends on a bit of a cliffhanger. Chronicles is a direct sequel, but instead of following a continuous story like all of the games that game before it. Tomb Raider Chronicles is instead a collection of smaller scenarios that focus on a number of Lara’s previously untold adventures.

Gameplay wise, the title works well. But this entry in the series feels largely uninspired. It simply doesn’t hold the magic that the first four games in the series managed to conjure up. Still, fans of the series are likely to find it enjoyable.

In a nutshell, these two games are a welcome entries in original franchise. But the series is beginning to show signs of age. Chronicles is a strong example of what happens when developers cling to a proven model but refuse to take new risks. I’m curious to see how the next few games in the series pan out.

Difficulty: Hard –  The classic Tomb Raider titles held a reputation for being a bit on the tough side. These games certainly continue that trend. In fact, I feel they are even a little harder that the first trilogy. Personally, I find a large part of the difficulty in these games coming from the playcontrol. The PC controls are stiff and stubborn, even with a controller. The console versions are little easier to manage, but not by much. The puzzles are thoughtful and challenging, yes. But by far the main level of frustration in these games comes from the actual gameplay, at least for me.

Story: The storyline for The Last Revelation is very well done. It’s compelling and interesting and it ends with a shocker. Chronicles is a bit of a mixed bag, but it does a decent job linking up with it’s predecessor. Like with the previous games, most of the lore and story is presented through cutscenes that take place in between levels and at the beginning and end of the games.

Originality: At this point there’s nothing new to see here. Yes, there are some novel additions to the games. But adding the ability to walk on tightropes and swing on vines does not help this quickly aging recipe. The game engine is past its prime and compared to other titles of the day, the Tomb Raider series is starting to lag behind.

Soundtrack: The voice acting is fairly well done. The OST for the games vary. Overall, most of the background music is fitting but not particularly exciting. There are a few stand out tracks, however.

Fun: Hardcore Tomb Raider fans will find a good level of enjoyment in these games, especially The Last Revelation. But casual players might have a harder time getting into these. Regardless, if Tomb Raider is your cup of tea, you won’t be disappointed.

Graphics: Despite still piggybacking off the original TR engine, the graphics show some minor signs of improvement when compared with earlier games in the series. That being said, they also lag behind other games of the era. Oddly enough, TR4 seems to outshine TR5 in terms of beauty. 

Playcontrol:  For me, the playcontrol on these classic Tomb Raider titles are the biggest issue. Controls are stiff, non-responsive and punishing. Again, the saving grace here is being able to save and reload your game as needed. I’ve played these titles using both the keyboard as well as various gamepads. I can’t decide which works best… either way is riddled with issues. The console versions do feel a bit more natural, but still suffer.

Downloadable Content: YES – Tomb Raider: The Last Revelation received a free playable level that was distributed by the English newspaper The Times. The file is no longer available officially, but can be found on various fan sites free of charge.

Mature Content: Minor language, ridiculously shaped female characters.

Value:  You can snag both of these games together from GOG for $10. Buying them individually on Steam will run you about $7 each. So unless they go on sale, GOG is the way to go. Plus, GOG also happens to distribute the DLC level for Tomb Raider 4.  Even despite their faults, these games are a steal at $10.00.

Overall rating (out of four stars): 2 – At this point, the Tomb Raider series is starting to show it’s age. These games are far from perfect when compared with the original trilogy – this is especially the case with Chronicles. However, for the price and the amount of content, they are well worth an addition to any gamer’s collection. The biggest thing holding these back are the persistent playcontrol issues and the lack of innovation.

Available on: PSN, GOG, Steam

 

Other Reviews In This Series:

TR – TR2 – TR3 – Last Revelation – Chronicles – Angel of Darkness

Legends – Anniversary – Underworld – Guardian of Light
Tomb Raider (2013)    –  Rise of the Tomb Raider

Review: Dissidia 012 Final Fantasy

The release date for Final Fantasy Dissidia NT is just around the corner. So today, I present my look back at the biggest Dissidia title thus far; Dissidia 012.

This game is very similar to its predecessor.  In fact, it’s actually somewhat of a retelling and expansion of the first game. In the first title, the story revolves around an epic final battle between the gods Cosmos and Chaos. That decisive conflict is actually the thirteenth cycle of what has been an ongoing war between the two deities. Dissidia 012 actually starts during the twelfth cycle – so it serves as prequel. But then the game continues and actually retells the events of the original Dissidia. In this way, it can be argued that Dissidia 012 acts as a retcon to the original game.

Personally, that’s sort of the way I see it. The game itself is largely identical to the original, but with improvements, added characters, and newer features. Having played both, I feel that Dissidia 012 essentially makes the original title irrelevant.

 

With that in mind, I’m going to focus this review on what is new and different. I’d rather do this than rehash nearly identical elements between the two games. So if you have not already done so, you may wish to check out my review on the original game here: Dissidia Final Fantasy.

As I mentioned, this title is largely a refinement. All of the features from the original Dissidia are present here; Mognet, Play Plans, Friend Cards, etc. All of the characters from the original game are also still present and playable. However, we do now have some additional characters to enjoy:

Kain (FF4)   *  Gilgamesh (FF5)  *  Tifa (FF7)  *  Laguna (FF8)  *  Yuna (FF10)  *  Prishe (FF11)  *  Vaan (FF12)  *  Lightning (FF13)  *  Feral Chaos (Unlockable New Character)

Combat works in Dissidia 012 just like it did in the original title. However, some characters now have new special moves in their arsenal. Also, Dissdia 012 also offers a new “assist” option. This allows you to occasionally summon a second character to the battlefield to aid you in combat. I should stop here and mention that there’s also a special demo version of the game available for free on PSN (Dissidia 012 Prologus) . This demo is actually a prequel chapter to the main game. Completing the demo unlocks an additional Assist-Only character, Aerith from Final Fantasy VII and allows her to be imported to the retail game itself. Playing the demo can also unlock various items that can be imported to the main game. With this in mind, I consider playing the demo to crucial to the Dissdia 012 experience.

Despite cloning most elements from it’s predecessor. Dissdia 012 also introduces two big changes. The first being the addition of a World Map to the single player campaign. During the story mode, you can move around on an open world and interact with NPCs, hunt down random encounters or move to different battlefields. For me, this is a welcome change. It is reminiscent of older games in the Final Fantasy series, which is something that is near and dear to my heart. Second, this game also introduces an alternate mode of combat. Instead of controlling every move your character makes during battle, you can instead opt to play in “RPG mode”. With this mode enabled, your character acts on their own. However, you control what type of actions they will be performing using a menu. For example, you can choose to have them “Fight” which is equal to a Bravery Attack. You switch your heroes’ mode of attack at will. So you can move from Bravery Attacks to Finishers, or from Flee to Defend, etc. Special moves, summons and assists must still be manually executed. This mode of play is designed for players who do not have much experience with action based fighting games.

The other major change is the renaming of the Duel Colosseum that was present in the original Dissidia. In this game, this mode of play is called Labyrinth. It’s essentially a refined version of the Colosseum with a more RPG-based focus. Again, this mode of play is only available after completing the main storyline.

All in all, this game is basically Dissidia Final Fantasy version 2.0. If you’re curious about these titles but you have to choose one of the two, Dissidia 012 is a no brainer. The biggest issue you will face is that this is a very multiplayer focused title and it’s age means it will difficult to find others still interested in playing. This is a problem that is only going to compound with the release of Dissidia NT. Thankfully, the single player mode will always be there for those who want to experience the actual story itself.

Difficulty: Variable –  Just like with Dissidia Final Fantasy, the story mode difficulty will vary depending on your actions. As you play through the story you can make choices that render your journey either easier or harder. Enemies do get more difficult as the game progresses, but you can always grind and level up to make things a bit easier. Optional battles are more difficult, but can be avoided. Of course, when playing multiplayer against other gamers, the difficultly is will vary.

Story: The storyline here is a retelling and expansion of the original Dissidia. The cutscenes and script are compelling, but when compared with other Final Fantasy titles, it does come off as very shallow. On the other side of the coin, when compared with other fighting games, the storyline is superb. So, there’s that.

Originality: A large portion of what is found in this game is an exact clone of the previous Dissidia. However, new features and refinements make this game an acceptable revamp.

Soundtrack: Again, one of the high points of the game. Dissidia 012 brings back a number of classic Final Fantasy scores and renders them in new and fresh arrangements. The voice acting is spot-on and very well done.

Fun: Fans of brawlers will find a lot to enjoy here. This time, even RPG fans have something to look forward too. The best time will be had by those with friends who can engage in the multiplayer aspects of the game.

Graphics: Dissidia 012 is an amazingly rendered game. Perhaps one of the best titles graphically on the PSP.

Playcontrol:  I’m happy to announce that some headway was made between this and the first Dissidia game. The camera is not nearly as annoying and the controls offer more customization.

Downloadable Content: YES – This title offers vanity costumes for playable characters and add-on soundtrack packs for sale via PSN.  There’s also a free “Demo” that actually serves as a prequel to the events in the game.

Mature Content:  No Concerns – Minor language. 

Value:  Finding a physical copy of this game may be difficult and pricing on physical copies can vary. The game is available for purchase digitally on PSN for $10. For the amount of content in the title, this price is worth it.

Overall rating (out of four stars): 4 – This is the game that the first Dissidia title should have been. It’s the perfect mix between a fighting game and an RPG. The storyline is improved, the visuals and soundtrack are superb. The nagging play control issues that plagued the first game are nearly non-existent. If you’re a fan of Final Fantasy and you also enjoy brawler style games, this one is worth is a look.

Available on: PSN, PSP,

Other Reviews In This Series:

Main Series:

I – II – III – IV – V – VI – VII – VIII – IX – X – X2 – XI – XII – XIII – XIII 2 – XIII Lightning Returns – XIV – XV 

IV: After Years – VII: Dirge of Cerberus – VII: Crisis Core – VII: Advent Children (Movie) – XII: Revenant Wings – Type-0 – XV: A King’s Tale – XV: Brotherhood (Anime) – XV: Kingsglaive (Movie)

Misc Titles:

World of Final Fantasy – Explorers – Mystic Quest – 4 Heroes of Light 

Tactics:

Tactics – Tactics Advance – Tactics A2

Dissidia:

Dissidia – Dissidia 012 – Dissidia NT

Crystal Chronicles:

Crystal Chronicles – Ring of Fates – My Life as King – My Life as Darklord – Echoes of Time – Crystal Bearers

Mobile Titles:

Dimensions – Dimensions 2 – Record Keeper – Brave Exvius – Mobius Final Fantasy  – Justice Monsters V – King’s Knight  – Dissida Final Fantasy Opera Omnia

Review: Dissidia Final Fantasy

As the upcoming release for Dissidia Final Fantasy NT approaches, I’m taking a moment to veer off of my regular playthrough schedule to take a look back at the original Dissidia titles.  Naturally, I’m starting with “Dissidia Final Fantasy” which was released for the Playstation Portable in 2009. In case you’re not familiar with the title, I’ll take a second to explain. Dissidia is, at its heart, a fighting/brawler game. It fills its roster using various characters from the Final Fantasy series.  On the surface, it seems like a cheap attempt by Square Enix to cash in on the brawler game craze by simply slapping a Final Fantasy label on a fighting game. But in truth, there’s actually quite a bit of depth to the game itself.

Fighting games are a genre that I’ve never really covered on this site before. So it may seem a bit backwards to start with something like Dissidia, which is a modern 3D brawler. Essentially this means that characters do battle in full three-dimensional areas. They can move north, south, east, west, and up and down. Characters can do battle with their feet on the ground or while soaring though the air. The main goal is to reduce your opponent’s hit points to zero and thus, win the battle. Dissidia is certainly not the first 3D fighting game, but a number of things help it stand apart from other similar titles.  First, being a Final Fantasy game, there are RPG elements. Characters can level up, equip various weapons and armor, and even learn new skills. Second, there’s actually somewhat of a storyline that attempts to bring all of these characters together in a sensible way.

Unlike other fighting games I’ve played over the years, battles in Dissidia are not as simple as just hitting your opponent until they’re dead. There are two main types of attacks in Dissidia: Bravery attacks and Health Attacks. And each character has two gauges: Bravery Points and Hit Points. Bravery points are basically “armor points”. In order to deal damage to your enemy, you must first execute a number of Bravery Attacks. Doing so successfully will leech Bravery Points from your opponent and add them your Bravery gauge. When full, you execute a special attack that does massive damage to your enemy’s hit point, but leaves you in an extremely vulnerable state. As a result, the game is just as much about stat management as it is about combat technique. Once you’ve depleted your opponent’s HP gauge, you can execute a Final Blow that finishes them off.

Naturally, this type of fighting action makes Dissidia a great multiplayer game. You can do battle with other players in a number of ways. There are lobby servers that allow for battle matching via the PSP’s wireless connection using a Friend Code system. Players are able to create custom matches and even exchange “Friend Cards” – which allow you to collect special items.  However, if you’re looking for something a little simpler, there’s even a special “Arcade Mode” that strips out all of the RPG elements (armor and weapons) and simply allows two players to do battle on equal ground wirelessly. This is perfect for quick matches. But it is advised that you first complete the game’s single player “Story Mode”. This way you can earn enough points to unlock all of the characters in the game. (Completing the Story Mode also unlocks the ability to participate in something called the Duel Colosseum – a mode of play that rewards participants with trade materials.)

That’s right, when first starting Dissidia, there’s a limited number of playable characters. To unlock the rest, players will need to progress through the game’s Story Mode. This allows you to earn points that can then be spent on purchasing new characters, costumes, and perks. There’s also a few hidden characters that are only available after meeting certain special requirements.

The complete character roster is as follows:

Warrior of Light (FF1)  *  Garland (FF1)  *  Firion (FF2)  *  The Emperor (FF2)  *  Onion Knight (FF3)  *  Cloud of Darkness (FF3)  *  Cecil (FF4)  *  Golbez (FF4)  *  Bartz (FF5)
Exdeath (FF5)  *  Terra (FF6)  *  Kefka (FF6)  *  Cloud (FF7)  *  Sephiroth (FF7)  *  Squall (FF8)  *  Ultimecia (FF8)  *  Zidane (FF9)  *  Kuja (FF9)  *  Tidus (FF10)  *  Jecht (FF10)
Shantotto (FF11)  *  Gabranth (FF12)

 

On its surface, Dissidia may seem like a simple fighting game. But when you consider all of the RPG elements, unlockables, and social trading, it’s easy to see that there’s actually quite a bit more than meets the eye. For example, the game also features a fun calendar system. When starting the game for the first time, you will be asked to select a day of the week in which you would most likely play. This day becomes your Bonus Day. Playing the game on your Bonus Day grants you a special point reward. Also, the game features something called the “Play Plan”. Players will be asked to select if they are Casual, Average or Hardcore players. This selection will determine the frequency in which players are rewarded with special bonuses.

The story mode included in the game is extensive and time consuming. There’s a scenario for nearly every starting character. This is a good thing too, because these days most players would be hard pressed to find random people to play with. At the time of this writing, the game is about nine years old. It’s very unlikely that you will encounter other players on the street to exchange Friend Cards with. Unless you have a friend or family member that shares your interest, Dissidia Final Fantasy is likely to be more of a single player experience these days.

I went into this game not expecting much more than a simple arcade style brawler. What I found was a very well put together title, with loads of potential. The graphics and sound are simply top tier for a handheld title, and even the skeleton of the storyline is decent enough to remain interesting until the end of the game. My biggest gripe with this title is the playcontrol. Most of the action is played with the thumb pad, which on a PSP is not a control of particularly good design. I found myself suffering from hand cramps after longer play sessions just due to the overall shape of the PSP and the position I had to place my hands. I do not own a Playstation Vita – so I couldn’t test this for myself, but I’d be willing to bet that these these issues would not carry over to that hardware as it seems to be much more ergonomic. The game also suffers from some annoying camera issues. I would often find myself engaged in a battle and unable to see my opponent. I’d have to break off my attack to adjust the camera angle, thus losing my attack chain or opening myself up to danger.

In summary, I found Dissidia to be a very innovative but somewhat imperfect game. Some of these imperfections are not the fault of the game itself, but rather repercussions of age and the platform in which is was designed for. I’m curious to see how things differ in it’s sequel.

Difficulty: Variable –  On its surface, the Story Mode of Dissidia can be as easy or as challenging as you want it to be. As you play through the story map you can make choices to make your journey either easier or harder. Enemies do get more difficult as the game progresses, but you can always grind and level up to make things a bit easier. Many of the optional challenges can be downright brutal. And as expected, when playing multiplayer against others, you never know what to expect.

Story: The storyline is admittedly weak. It serves only as a barebones excuse for bringing heroes and villains from different Final Fantasy titles together. In truth, people don’t play these kinds of games for storyline. So, it’s forgivable.

Originality: Fighting games are usually very unoriginal things. Dissidia manages to break that stigma by introducing characters with separate storylines and goals and providing a unique leveling system and social interactions. These functions are very well done in their design.

Soundtrack: One of the high points of the game. Dissidia brings back a number of classic Final Fantasy scores and renders them in new and fresh arrangements. The game also features fairly decent voice acting. Well done.

Fun: Fans of brawlers will find a lot to enjoy here. Annoying camera issues and iffy playcontrol can be a damper. The best time will be had by those with friends who can engage in the multiplayer aspects of the game.

Graphics: Dissidia is a beautiful game. The PSP really shines on this title. The characters, environments and even the special effects in battle are all breathtaking. 

Playcontrol:  This is where the game really suffers. The camera issues I mentioned are a fairly big problem. Also, some of the controls are just not very intuitive. The layout of the original PSP exacerbate the issue.  Play this on a Vita if you can.

Downloadable Content: N/A

Mature Content:  No Concerns – Minor language. 

Value:  Finding a physical copy of this game may be difficult and pricing on physical copies can vary. The game is available for purchase digitally on PSN for $10. For the amount of content in the title, this price is worth it for fans.

Overall rating (out of four stars): 3 – For me, Dissidia is an interesting game and one certainly worth the time I invested in it. However, it is far from perfect. The sheer amount of content is its saving grace. Most players would likely be better served by skipping over this debut entry and checking out one of the sequels. But fans of the series can still find a lot to enjoy in this release.

Available on: PSN, PSP,

Other Reviews In This Series:

Main Series:

I – II – III – IV – V – VI – VII – VIII – IX – X – X2 – XI – XII – XIII – XIII 2 – XIII Lightning Returns – XIV – XV 

IV: After Years – VII: Dirge of Cerberus – VII: Crisis Core – VII: Advent Children (Movie) – XII: Revenant Wings – Type-0 – XV: A King’s Tale – XV: Brotherhood (Anime) – XV: Kingsglaive (Movie)

Misc Titles:

World of Final Fantasy – Explorers – Mystic Quest – 4 Heroes of Light 

Tactics:

Tactics – Tactics Advance – Tactics A2

Dissidia:

Dissidia – Dissidia 012 – Dissidia NT

Crystal Chronicles:

Crystal Chronicles – Ring of Fates – My Life as King – My Life as Darklord – Echoes of Time – Crystal Bearers

Mobile Titles:

Dimensions – Dimensions 2 – Record Keeper – Brave Exvius – Mobius Final Fantasy  – Justice Monsters V – King’s Knight  – Dissida Final Fantasy Opera Omnia

Review: Pokemon – Gold/Silver/Crystal

It’s been almost two years since I reviewed the Virtual Console release of the original Pokemon games, Red/Blue. At the time, I had never played a single Pokemon title in all my years of gaming. By the time I was finished, I was hooked. When I learned that Nintendo was going to release the original versions of the sequel in the same fashion, I was eager to dive in. In September of 2017, they made good on their promise. Pokemon Gold/Silver were finally here. I started playing on day one and finally finished just last week.

Now, before getting into this review, I want to state that like the games themselves, this review is a bit of a sequel to my original Red/Blue/Yellow review. So if you haven’t read it, click the link below and give it a glance before we continue.

Pokemon Red/Blue/ Yellow review

If you’re all caught up, let’s proceed.

First of all, let’s go over a few basics. Like Pokemon Red/Blue, The second generation of Pokemon game comes in two flavors. This time we have Silver and Gold. The concept is same as it was before. Each game is identical with the exception of the Pokemon that you can encounter/catch during the adventure. Players that own different versions, can trade Pokemon with each other. Thus allowing a “Silver player” to collect Pokemon that are exclusive to the Gold version of the game. In fact, Gold/Silver also offers a new feature called Time Capsule. This allows players to trade not only between the Silver and Gold versions, but also from Red/Blue/Yellow as well. Of course, trading is restricted by system. So if you’re playing the original physical version of the game, you’ll need to trade with someone who is also using an actual Gameboy/Gameboy Color. Virtual Console players are restricted to trading with other VC players.

Just like the previous generation, there was a third Pokemon game released later. The first time around the special edition was called Pokemon Yellow. This time, it’s Pokemon Crystal.  – It’s important to note that Pokemon Crystal was not made available on the Virtual Console at the same time as Gold/Silver. Instead, it’s actually going to be released at the end of January 2018.

In my opinion, Pokemon Crystal is very much the definitive version of the second generation games. While the base game is the same, Crystal offers several fixes and tweaks. It also includes the option to play as either a male of female. Something that future Pokemon titles would adopt. So, if you’re interested in playing these titles on your 3DS but haven’t taken the plunge yet, you may want to wait to from the VC Crystal release.

In case you didn’t notice, this generation of Pokemon games was released for the Gameboy Color. So not only do we have a new region to explore, but it’s prettier!

 

Other changes since Generation 1 include the introduction of both male and female Pokemon. This allows players to actually breed and raise Pokemon. A concept that becomes a staple of the series later on. Also, in this version we are introduced to the concept of “Shiny” Pokemon. Shiny Pokemon are simply regular Pokemon with an alternate color scheme. The chance of finding or breeding a Shiny Pokemon is very low, thus making them rare and collectible.

This game also introduces the concept of time to Pokemon. At the beginning of the game, you will be asked a series of questions regarding the time of day and day of the week. This is because in Gold/Silver,  some Pokemon are only available to catch at certain times.

Aside from these major changes and a few quality of life tweaks, Pokemon Gold/Silver/Crystal is very similar to the first generation games. The graphics are similar (even if they are now in color), as is the soundtrack. The core concept of the game remains unchanged. The game is larger and much more of a timesink for players that really want to “catch them all”. But that’s not a bad thing.

One final thing worth mentioning; players who use the Virtual Console versions of these classic games (Blue, Red, Yellow, Gold, Silver, Crystal) are able to send any Pokemon they obtain to some of the more modern titles using the Pokemon Transporter software that is available for the 3DS. This is a big deal. As it bridges the gap between the original first and second generation titles and the current gen Pokemon games. This is functionality that, until now, was almost impossible to achieve.

All in all, Pokemon Gold/Silver is an excellent evolution to a pair of games that took the world by storm. Everything great about the first generation of Pokemon games remains and is actually improved upon in these titles. Plus, with the release of the Virtual Console versions, fans who never got to experience the original Gen 2 titles now have a chance to do just that.

Difficulty: Medium –  With a little patience and willingness to grind levels, the main scenario is not particularly difficult. The biggest challenge comes in the form of optional goals. “Catching them all” will require many hours of patience and even having friends or family to trade with.

Story: As was the case with the original game, the storyline in the game is cute and enjoyable. This game builds off the foundation of lore created in Pokemon Red/Blue and expands on it. There’s also some nice throwbacks to the original.

Originality: In terms of originality, the base game leans very heavily on it’s predecessor. However, new quality of life improvements and other refinements keep it feeling fresh.

Soundtrack: Well, it’s a Gabeboy title. The music is catchy, but suffers greatly from the limitations provided by the Gameboy system. The soundtrack here is very similar to what was presented in the original game, but it seems like the devs attempted to make some slight changes to avoid complete repetition.

Fun: If Pokemon is your sort of thing, there’s nothing to dislike about this title. For me, trading Pokemon with friends is a blast. It allows for real world social interactions with others who share your interest in the game.

Graphics: Being a Gameboy Color title really does a lot for this game. Pokemon, with its variety of monsters and environments really doesn’t belong in the monochrome world of the original Gameboy.  Even though the Gameboy Color has a very limited range of colors, it adds a lot to the game.

Playcontrol:  Overall no problems here. I still find the UI of the Pokemon storage system to be overly annoying and slow. However, this behavior seemed to be improved in the classic Crystal version of the game. Here’s to hoping this tweak carries over to the upcoming Virtual Console release.

Downloadable Content: N/A

Mature Content:  No Concerns

Value:  Pokemon games often sell at a premium price. The secondhand market is even more expensive as many titles are out print.  Original versions of Gold/Silver can often fetch $40-$50 for used copies. Nintendo gave fans a huge break by bringing these games to the Virtual Console and at a price of $10 per game. This is an amazing deal considering the amount of content.

Overall rating (out of four stars): 4 – Pokemon Gold/Silver/Crystal is one of those rare occasions where the sequel is even better than the original. Everything that was great about the first game carries over and is improved upon in this new version. Even if you’ve never played a Pokemon game before, Generation II is a great place to start. As someone who never thought they’d enjoy something that is so seemingly childish, I have to admit – I’m not a Pokemon fan.

Available on: 3DS Virtual Console

Other Reviews In This Series:

Red/Blue/Yellow  (FireRed/LeafGreen)    – Gold/Silver/Crystal  (HeartGold/SoulSilver)  – Ruby/Sapphire/Emerald   (OmegaRuby/AlphaSapphire)  – Diamond/Pearl/Platinum – Black/White – Black 2/White 2 – X/Y – Sun/Moon