Review: King’s Knight – Wrath of the Dark Dragon

This is a review that’s been a long time coming. I mean that in several ways. First, the game itself was delayed for over a year before it finally saw a release. Second, I wanted to spend a good amount of time getting my hands dirty with it before posting a review. As many of you may know, King’s Knight is a mobile tie-in to Final Fantasy XV. Throughout XV, you occasionally hear the character’s banter about playing a video game called “King’s Knight”. Well, this is that game. But, it’s also much more than that. King’s Knight has a very interesting history.

Let’s start by mentioning that this is not the first “King’s Knight” game. The original King’s Knight was a game published by SquareSoft on the NES. It was a commercial and critical failure. However, despite being almost universally panned, many gamers (myself included), have often felt that the game had potential. But, it seemed largely rushed and unfinished. I suppose SquareEnix felt the same way. Because now, eleven years later they have brought us a sequel: King’s Knight – Wrath of the Dark Dragon. This is a mobile title that is available for Android and iPhone devices.

Now, don’t feel like you have to torture yourself with the original game just to understand the new version. In fact, as part of the tutorial you essentially play through a condensed version of the original game. So you’re getting the full story without even seeking out the original title.

Screenshot from the original NES version

Wrath of the Dark Dragon was originally announced alongside Final Fantasy XV. Shortly thereafter, a localized beta was available to players in Australia. However, due to largely negative feedback from testers, the full release of the game was delayed by over a year. Finally in September 2017, the game was released worldwide.

King’s Knight: Wrath of the Dark Dragon tells the story of RayJack and his companions as they quest and explore the kingdom. Keeping it’s citizens safe from monsters and the ever-looming threat of the Dark Dragon.

The game is an overhead action shooter with RPG elements. Each level consists of an overhead, scrolling field filled with monsters, destructible environments, treasure and power ups.  Once players reach the end of the level their performance is tallied and rewards are granted. Some levels feature powerful boss monsters. Different monsters are weak to different attacks. So it is crucial to have a number of characters available to ensure success.

Obtaining new characters is done a number of ways. Some are granted by completing special quests. But the primary way of unlocking new characters to play is through the in-game shop. Yes, like most mobile games, this one has a GACHA element. Players can spend a special in-game currency for a chance to obtain a random characters. They might win a new and powerful character or a weak, duplicate of one they already have. It’s a random grab bag system. This same element applies to weapons in the game as well.

Characters are leveled up by using consumable training books and abilities are unlocked through the use of consumable items. Most characters have a special playable quest or story-arc. So, unlike many games of this type, there is at least some lore-based value to obtaining them. It’s not all pay-to-win.

I’m posting this review in November, 2017. If you’ve not already dived into this game and have a serious interest to do so, now is the best time to start. Most of the new-game bonuses are still available to new players. The Regalite currency is still being given away in large amounts at this time. So it’s very easy to build up a good roster of characters without spending any real money. To be honest, I’ve not spend a dime and I already have several legendary characters and weapons.

The game itself is actually very entertaining. I like the storylines, the events, and even the gameplay. However, there are definitely some quirks with the playcontrol.  All in all, I’m very impressed with the title. As far as cash-grab games go, all of the typical money sinks are here. But, the game doesn’t rub your nose in it like some do.

I guess my biggest disappointment is that despite being marketed as so, the game has no real ties to the Final Fantasy universe. But, I suppose that’s ok.

King’s Knight is a fun time waster with a surprising amount of content. But don’t expect an extremely engrossing RPG experience.

Difficulty: Medium –  Overall, many of the standard quests in the game are quite easy.  Playcontrol presents the biggest challenge at first. The early quests and scenarios are pretty simple. But as you progress the difficulty does ramp up. If you plan to try to score “perfect” on every stage, you’re almost certain to find yourself tempted to whip out your wallet to purchase currency for resurrections, etc. RESIST THE TEMPTATION. You can enjoy the game in full for free. The difficult content is there to drive sales.

Story: The storyline of this game piggybacks off of that found in the original King’s Knight. It expands on it vastly, offering a surprisingly rich story for a mobile game.

Originality: This version of King’s Knight is very much a modern refinement to the original game. Which, in itself was actually a pretty original concept. Considering that many players will have no experience with the original title. This game will feel like a pretty fresh experience.

Soundtrack: The score to the game is very well done. Most of the tracks are sourced from the original game but now fully orchestrated and modernized. It has a very epic, fantasy feel.

Fun: I personally enjoy this game a lot more than I expected to. I try to get in a few rounds each day. I participate in the special events. It’s a great bit of entertainment for zero cost.

Graphics: The graphics in this game are very well done. It’s colorful, fun and all around great for a mobile game. 

Playcontrol: This is the biggest problem. The game has two control schemes: one hand play and two-hand play. Far and wide I recommend playing with two hands. This is even easier if you have a bigger phone. The game is played with a virtual d-pad and two buttons. It takes some getting used to and even then, then controls feel a bit sloppy. But with some practice it does become manageable.

Downloadable Content: YES– In-game currency can be purchased with real money. The game receives regular free updates and features special limited time events. – Buyer beware!   There is a “Data Transfer” option that allows you to move your saved data between devices, but I’ve found it not to be very reliable.

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 well done, fun, gacha game for mobile devices. The cash store seems overpriced for what you get. But the game itself is entertaining and very well done. Playcontrol issues and the odd difficulty curve prevent me from giving this game four stars.

Available on: Apple App Store and Google Play

 

Other Reviews In This 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)

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

Tactics – Tactics Advance – Tactics A2

Dissidia – Dissidia 012

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

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

 

Review: Resident Evil 3 – Nemesis

Halloween is tomorrow! And the Sensei household has been celebrating the season in full swing. The decorations are up, the jack-o-lanterns are carved and the sweet smell of pumpkin spice flows through the air. I’ve spent several caffeine fueled nights playing through the third entry of the Resident Evil franchise. Now, my review is here.

I last reviewed a Resident Evil game back in February. So it’s been a little while since I set foot into the horrifying streets of Raccoon City. Having never played Resident Evil 3 until now, I really had no idea what to expect from this entry in the franchise. But it didn’t take long to get my head back into the game. This title is very reminiscent of the earlier entries in the series. The events of Resident Evil 3 actually start about 24 hours before the previous game. Resident Evil 2 follows the story of Claire Redfield and officer Leon Kennedy as they struggle to survive the hordes of zombies that roam the streets of ravaged Raccoon City. Resident Evil 3 on the other hand, follows the story of Jill Valentine, one of the heroes from the original game, as she also struggles to survive and and escape with her life. Since Resident Evil 2 and 3 take place almost concurrently, there is some overlap between the two games. Some locations from the second game are accessible in this title as well. But, the main characters of the two games never actually cross paths. During her escape of the city, Jill uncovers the terrible secret behind the virus that’s caused the outbreak and encounters a ruthless creature known as “Nemesis”. This infected beast was created by Umbrella Corp to hunt down any surviving STARS members with the intent to kill anyone who might be able to expose Umbrella’s role in the outbreak.

The introduction of Nemesis is what really sets this game apart from the other entries in the series. He’s a very formidable foe, that is encountered at semi-random intervals in the game. And it can almost mean certain death for a player who is unprepared. Now, along with the usual exploration, puzzles and zombie encounters, you also never know when and where Nemesis might appear. This actually gives the game an extra layer of tension that is certainly welcome.

While very similar to the previous entries in the series, Resident Evil 3 also seems to inject a little more action-oriented gameplay into the franchise. For the most part, the gameplay experience is identical to Resident Evil 1 and 2, but this time there are many more enemies to be found. It’s not unusual to find yourself being backed into a corner by five or more zombies. When this occurs, you have little choice but to shoot your way through the encounters. Also, the battles with Nemesis will often require you to master the game controls as you will need to dodge his attacks while you flee or unleash an attack of your own against him.

Aside from these mechanics, the gameplay for Resident Evil 3 largely follows the same formula of the previous games. The graphics still consists of pixelated objects on pre-rendered backgrounds. The game also has some of the same faults as it’s predecessors: cumbersome inventory managements and clunky controls.

Upon completion of the game, a new playable mode is unlocked. This features a short mini-game where you can play as one of the Umbrella Corp mercenaries. There’s not much to it, but it’s addition is certainly welcome.

Resident Evil 3 makes for a fine addition to an already awesome series. But, despite all of it’s good aspects, the overall formula does start to show its age a bit in this title.  On it’s own, this game shines. But not quite as much as the first or second entry. The things that made the first games great are certainly present here, but by this point players have pretty much seen every trick in the “survival horror book”.  That being said, if you’re a fan of the genre, this game should not be overlooked. All in all, it makes a fine capstone to the original Resident Evil Trilogy.

Being the last title in the series on the Sony Playstation, I’m very curious to see what the next generation platform holds for Resident Evil. I personally have never played any of the other games, so I’ll be experiencing them much like a new player would have upon their original release as I continue my generation playthroughs.

Difficulty: Variable –  There are two difficulty options in RE3. Easy and Hard. Easy mode essentially unlocks a majority of the game’s weapons and ammo and makes them available to the player almost immediately. It also makes some minor changes to the gameplay itself. While this can certainly be a boon for new players, I really recommend playing the game on the default difficulty if you’re a Resident Evil veteran. The encounters with Nemesis are more meaningful on hard mode and the added difficulty adds to the tension you’ll feel as you play.

Story: This game continues to shed new light on the T-Virus origins. It piggybacks very well on the backstory presented in Resident Evil 2. The very end of this title provides an amazing cliffhanger and a great set up for future entries in the series. As someone largely ignorant to future entries in the RE universe, I can’t wait to see where things are going. The storyline is probably one of the strongest elements in the game.

Originality: This title follows the tried and true method of the first two games with a few new twists. The biggest changes here are the encounters with Nemesis and options presented alongside his appearance. Other than that, if you’ve seen either of the other games, you already know exactly what to expect.

Soundtrack: Just like with the first two games, the soundtrack is very minimal. The music is sparse and often used as a tool to build tension. But, when there is music to hear, it’s appropriate and atmospheric. The game also uses ambient sounds to help set a spooky tone. All of it is very well done. The voice acting is on par with those from the other two games (which leaves a lot to be desired, honestly).

Fun: Resident Evil 3 is a fun and welcome entry to a classic franchise. It doesn’t hold quite the same magic as the first two entries. But fans of the series will be more than happy with what’s in store for them.

Graphics: The pixelated graphics and the low resolution FMV movies are very dated by today’s standards. But at the time of the release, they were considered very well done. Resident Evil 3 does a great job with what it had to work with to create a spooky and exciting game.

Playcontrol:  Again, this is one of the weakest points of the game for me. This seems to be an issue that does not go away. But, to be honest, it really is simply a sign of the times. The characters in the game is controlled using the old, clunky “compass rose tank” style of movement. Players used to modern 360 degree movement will need some time to get adjusted. Overall the controls feel stiff and antiquated. But in the long run, they are manageable with a little practice.

Downloadable Content: N/A

Mature Content: YES – Extreme violence and gore. 

Value:  This game is available as a PS One Classic on the Playstation Network for $9.99. Even today, this price is worth it considering the size and content that game provides.

Overall rating (out of four stars): 3 – Resident Evil 3 is a classic, stellar game. But it’s  not without its faults and its just a bit weaker than it’s predecessors. The new additions keep the game fresh enough so as not to feel like an old retread. But the game also manages to milk the cow of it’s very last drop. It’s a must-play for fans of the series, but a new player would be better advised to check out one of the previous entries if they want the best experience.

Available on: PSN

 

 

Other Reviews In This Series:

Resident Evil  –  Resident Evil 2  –  Resident Evil 3: Nemesis  –  Resident Evil: Code Veronica  –   Resident Evil Zero  –  Resident Evil 4  –  Resident Evil 5   –   Resident Evil: Revelations   –  Resident Evil 6  –  Resident Evil: Revelations 2   –   Resident Evil 7: Biohazard

Resident Evil HD Remake

The Umbrella Chronicles   –  The Darkside Chronicles

Umbrella Corps

 

Review: Doki Doki Literature Club

The October tradition of horror game reviews continues! This time I’m taking a short break from the PSX era games to review a modern title: Doki Doki Literature Club… Wait. That doesn’t sound like a horror game! It certainly doesn’t look like one either. Well… it’s not. At least not in the traditional sense. There’s no jump scares, zombies, horrifying monsters or any of that. Instead, what we have here is a game that shakes and rattles you mentally when you least expect it.  That being said, if you have not experienced this game and you think you might want to, it might actually be in your best interests to stop reading now. This game is truly best experienced blind. You should go into this game with as little information about it as possible to obtain the best experience.

Doki Doki Literature Club is a visual novel game. This is a genre that I’ve not really talked about on this site before, but one that I do enjoy. These days, most visual novels are romance/anime style games. They are filled with cutesy characters and more often then not, the goal of the game is to “meet your future waifu”. The creators of Doki Doki take this expectation and build a game that smacks the unassuming player in the face with a cold dose of shock and anguish.

The game starts off just like any other stereotypical Visual Novel. You play as a young, socially awkward school boy who is unexpectedly forced to associate with a handful of adorable school girls. Depending on the choices you make in the game, one of these girls will slowly start to take a liking to you. You continue to play in attempt to develop this relationship, while juggling your duties to the other characters in the game. Each character has their own quirks and backstory, and these become more apparent as you continue to play. Then, out of nowhere the game takes a very unexpected turn. I won’t go into specifics or there would be no point in playing the game for yourself. But, as if this twist was not enough – you soon begin to discover that everything you thought you knew about the game is completely wrong. How do I put it? You’re not really playing a game. Instead, this game is playing you.

At this point, some players might suspect that something is wrong with their computer or that somehow their game has become corrupted. But, sharp players will realize exactly what is going on and will feel extremely satisfied with the experience.  It’s difficult to discuss in a review without giving away too many spoilers. But, let me just say that in all my years of gaming, I have never had an experience that made we want to sit back and clap my hands in salute to a developer until now. This game completely exploits the players expectations and trolls them to levels unseen previously. It’s simply masterful in its execution.

One of the first things you will see when you start the game is a warning regarding the game’s disturbing content and imagery. This warning is very true. It might take you 2 hours or more before you encounter this type of content, but once it starts it doesn’t stop.

The disturbing content in Doki Doki Literature Club is more mental than anything else. If you are a person that truly suffers from anxiety or depression, it might seriously be a good idea to skip this title. That’s no a joke. This game will put you in a state of mind that you were not expecting to find yourself in. You have been warned.

That being said, if you are looking for a unique gaming experience that will kick-start your Halloween, this is certainly a title to consider. Look past the J-Pop and busty anime babes and give this game an honest chance. You will be surprised at what you find.

Difficulty: Easy–  As a visual novel there’s really no level of skill needed to play the game. However, unlike most games of this type – if you mess up and don’t get the result you want from the story, it’s not quite as easy to quit and reload your previous save as you might think…

Story: The storyline here is the main focus of the game, and it’s very well done. However, if you play through to completion you’ll realize there’s even MORE going on than the scenario presented in the game itself. You’ll get even MORE out of it if you try to play through a second time. Try it, you’ll see.

Originality: This title is probably one of the most original and refreshing gaming experiences I’ve had a long time. It takes an established genre and exploits the players expectations to a point I’ve never seen before. Sure, many games offer twist endings or try to surprise you in one way or another. But this game takes it to a new level.

Soundtrack: The music in the game is perky and cute. Typical of most Japanese style visual novels. I found the music to be oddly appropriate, but also a little repetitive and annoying after a while.

Fun: I wouldn’t really call this game “fun”. Then again, it’s not supposed to be. This game, if anything, seems to be a bit of a social experiment. It is certainly worth your attention and it’s an experience you are not likely to forget anytime soon. Overall, for me the takeaway was very positive. But this is not going to be everyone’s cup of tea.

Graphics: Typical Visual Novel flair. The game has colorful, anime style visuals. It’s very “kawaii” and well done. 

Playcontrol: No issues. Point and click 100%.

Downloadable Content:  N/A

Mature Content: Disturbing imagery, adult themes, sexual content, violence.

Value:  This game is available to all at no cost. It’s 100% free.

Overall rating (out of four stars): 4 – This game is very unique. I recommend it. Don’t be fooled by it’s outward appearance. This is not your typically sex-driven anime VN. This is a psychological horror experience wrapped in a cutesy interface. It defies labels. Players looking for something different will find what they are looking for here if they have the patience to see it through.

Available on: Steam

Review: The Legend of Zelda – Majora’s Mask

It’s been a long time coming, but my review of Majora’s Mask is finally here! I last reviewed a Zelda game back in February of this year, when I played through Ocarina of Time. This review also marks an important turning point in my history, as this is my very first playthrough of Majora’s Mask. That’s right, I’ve actually never played this title before! Which is a shame as this game ranks right up there with Ocarina of Time in terms of being a classic N64 title.

Just like with Ocarina of Time, gamers who want to experience this title today essentially have two options. They can either play the original version on the Wii U Virtual Console or they can opt for the slightly modernized 3DS version. For the sake of this playthrough, I spent a little time with both versions and again, I found the new Majora’s Mask 3D to make the most sense. I feel safe in declaring this to be the current Definitive Version of Majora’s Mask. Aside from improved graphics, and some minor button assignments/playcontrol tweaks, the games are virtually identical. The biggest changes between the two versions are a number of revamps to boss fights and some minor changes to item locations, etc. But in most cases, I found these changes to actually be a true improvement on the original game.

Also, I once again find the 3DS version to offer vastly improved playcontrol over the N64 version.  I’ve always had issue with camera control on most Nintendo 64 games, and while Majora’s Mask doesn’t suffer from these problems as bad as Ocarina of Time, the camera controls on the N64 version still feel janky and choppy to me. This is not an issue on the 3DS version.

(Original N64 version – emulated)

Majora’s Mask is a very strange entry in the Zelda franchise. Technically, it’s a direct sequel to Ocarina of Time, but it’s much darker that any other entry in the series. Plus, it seemingly takes place in a whole other world; Termina. Yet, this new world is populated with characters that will be familiar to players of the previous games. These inconsistencies have led to several fan theories over the years. Some of which suggest that the events in this game are a dream or perhaps even take place in the afterworld after Link has suffered some untimely demise. However, new games in the franchise have cleared up a lot of the obscurity regarding Termina in recent years. But that’s a story for another day.

The game starts shortly after the events of Ocarina of Time. Link is on a quest to find his missing fairy friend Navi, when he encounters a strange mask-wearing entity in a dark forest. This person, known as Skull Kid, attacks Link and curses him, turning him into a creature known as a Deku Scrub. Link chases the Skull Kid through a cave and into the strange world of Termina. Here, Link runs into an old “friend”, the Happy Mask Salesman. He explains that Skull Kid has stolen a powerful mask that gives him unusual and dangerous powers. The Skull Kid is using this power to bring the moon down from the sky. If he succeeds, the moon with crash to the world killing everyone. All of this will happen within three days. Link must embark on a quest to wake up four powerful giants. The giants together will be able to prevent the moon from making landfall. Only then, will Link be able to confront and defeat the Skull Kid.  Of course, it will likely take much longer than three days to accomplish everything that needs to be done. So, the Happy Mask Salesman teaches Link the ability to manipulate the flow of time.

In a number of ways, Majora’s Mask is very similar to it’s predecessor. The game controls are nearly identical, and the overall style of play is largely unchanged. The biggest change in Majora’s Mask, and what sets it apart of every other game in the franchise is the “three-day” mechanic. As you play the game, time passes in Termina. The game is split over three different days. If the clock runs out on the third day, the moon crashes to the world and the game is over. Link can save himself by playing a special song on his Ocarina and warping back in time to the morning of the first day. However, doing so will cause him to lose some items he’s collected and will reset some in-game events.  Normally, I’m not a fan of these “race against the clock” mechanics. But it’s actually very well done in this game. Plus, as you play you’ll eventually learn new abilities that allow you to both slow and speed-up the clock to your advantage. So, in the end it’s not really a big hindrance.

(3DS version)

As the title suggests, a big part of the game revolves around collecting and using different masks. When Link dons a mask, he gains special abilities or sometimes even transforms into a different person/creature. These mask are key to unlocking new areas and progressing through the game.  The mask system and the “three day mechanic” are the two things that set this title apart from other entries in the Zelda series. Aside from these two mechanics, the gameplay will be very familiar to fans. The core game involves exploring areas, entering dungeons, solving puzzles and defeating bosses. It’s the classic Zelda formula with a new twist. These changes actually manage to make Majora’s Mask a very fresh and unique addition to the series.

When I first started playing this title, I felt a bit overwhelmed. It was certainly Zelda, but it felt tainted… The whole vibe of the game seemed off at first. I can imagine that some players might feel a bit turned off when picking up this game for the first time. The overall mood of the game does not match what most players would expect from a Zelda title. It’s hard to explain, but it’s there… However, after a few hours in, things do start to come together and make a bit more sense.

All in all, Majora’s Mask is another fantastic entry in the Legend of Zelda series. In some ways, I feel like it ended up being a bit of playground for the game developers. A place where they could try new ideas or concepts. It feels very experimental to me. But, that’s actually a good thing. It takes the winning formula that is Legend of Zelda and pumps just enough “funky mess” into it to keep fans from feeling bored.

Difficulty: Medium –  As typical with Zelda games, Majora’s Mask has a one-size-fits-all difficulty level. The game starts off relatively easy and progresses in difficulty as it goes. Most of the challenge in the game comes in the form of various boss fights or solving dungeon puzzles. For a first time player, several of these encounters can be very frustrating at first. But as typical with most games of this type, each battle has certain mechanics. Once learned, these battles become much easier. The new time mechanic adds a little extra layer of difficulty and frustration to this title, but again there are ways to soften the blow that the clock can bring. Players willing to take the time to explore and complete the optional side quests will also have a much easier time.

Story: The storyline here is a big departure from anything seen in the Zelda series thus far. But if you’re willing to really follow the breadcrumbs of lore found in the game, it’s actually quite an in-depth and interesting story. The Skull Kid and his world of Termina are very psychological. There’s a lot of subtle things going on. This game features a storyline that rewards you as richly as you are willing to invest yourself into it.

Originality: This title features the gated/progression style that players familiar with the series are already accustomed to. It also piggybacks off the the 3D elements introduced in Ocarina of Time. What sets this game apart from other titles is the certainly the mood and time limitation mechanics. These two simple things really make Majora’s Mask seem fresh and new, despite building off the foundation laid by Ocarina of Time.

Soundtrack: As is typical with a Zelda title, the music in this game is very well done. There’s familiar themes and melodies found in Majora’s Mask, but also a number of new tunes. The overall score has a more somber and mysterious tone than other games in the series. As one would expect, the game soundtrack is very well done, but in my opinion, it’s far from the best in the series.

Fun: Once you’re able to get your head around the mechanics of the game, Majora’s Mask is an excellent title. Even as a veteran player, it took me a bit of time to grasp and understand what exactly was going on. At first, I was not all that impressed. But as time went on, I found myself stopping and sitting in awe at just how fantastic the game actually was.

Graphics: At the time of its original release, the 3D graphics were state of the art. Majora’s Mask actually required the N64 Expansion Pack so the graphical textures are somewhat improved from that of Ocarina of Time. However, like many games from that era, the 3D graphics found here have not aged well. Playing the original game on the Wii or Wii U virtual console does give it a bit of a visual boost than playing it on the original hardware. For most players, I do recommend the 3Ds version. The graphics on this new version are not only sharper and less jaggy, but many of the textures have also been improved.  – I should also note that when playing 3DS games, I typically don’t play with the 3-D turned on. But like with Ocarina of Time 3D, the 3-D effects in this game were so stunning that I actually spent the majority of my time playing in full 3-D mode. (I played this on the New 3DS which features improved 3-D effects, so your mileage may vary)

Playcontrol: The original N64 version still seems to have some annoying playcontrol issues for me. Playing the original game on the Wii or Wii U Virtual Console nearly requires a Classic Controller, in my opinion. But even then, the game feels very “off”. The controls for the 3DS version are overall well thought-out and intuitive.  Having played this title on every available system, I have to declare that the 3DS offers the best playcontrol of the lot.

Downloadable Content:  N/A

Mature Content: Cartoon violence, dark imagery

Value:  This title is available on the Wii U virtual console for $10. The 3DS version still sells for a premium price of $40. But, even at full price, the game is worth it for fans of the series.

Overall rating (out of four stars): 3 – This game is nearly as perfect as it’s predecessor… but not quite. The best aspect of the game is also, oddly enough, it’s worst. The time-gated content and the funky vibe the game offers may actually put-off some players. Especially at first. I suppose my biggest caveat to this game is that it’s not a good Zelda title for first time players. But fans of the series should never pass up a chance to experience this title. It’s a valuable entry in the franchise. The game itself is right on par with Ocarina of Time as far as craftsmanship. It’s just… odd.

Available on: Wii and Wii U virtual console,  Nintendo 3DS

 

Other Reviews In This Series:

LoZ –  LoZ II – Link to the Past – Link’s Awakening – Ocarina of Time – Majora’s Mask – Oracle of Season & Ages – Wind Waker – Four Swords – Minish Cap – Twilight Princess – Phantom Hourglass – Spirit Tracks – Skyward Sword – Link Between Worlds – Breath of the Wild

Check Up: No Man’s Sky (1.3 Atlas Rises Update)

It’s been a while since I did a check in on No Man’s Sky. My last post for this game was made back in January for the “Foundation Update”. Since that time there have been a few incremental patches made to the game but all of these pale in comparison to the newest updated: Atlas Rises.

This is the patch that everyone was waiting for. With the introduction of 1.3, No Man’s Sky now has a proper storyline, side quests, and even limited player interaction! Gameplay elements added by previous patches are all integrated into the game’s new narrative, so simply playing through the storyline will ensure players can experience things like bases and exocrafts. No longer do players have to simply stumble upon abandoned structures to claim a base. This resolves a major pain point that players have been screaming about since the game’s inception.

Second on the list of big complaints by fans is; multiplayer. Even after it was promised by the game developers – the game has thus far, failed to deliver. Now, even with the Atlas Rises patch, we don’t have true multiplayer capability. But finally, players will be able to detect when they within the vicinity of each other and even engage in VOIP chat with another traveler. The developers have hinted that they will continue to expand multiplayer functionality in future updates.  – We’ll see.

For me, this patch addresses a lot of what was wrong with the initial game. While there was a certain charm to the mystery that was No Man’s Sky, having an actual storyline that sheds some light on things is more welcome than not. My biggest complaint seems to be with performance issues after the update.  I’m playing on a PS4 Pro, I do have the latest 1.31 patch yet I often suffer from temporary lock ups, stuttering and even occasional crashes.  Also, after experimenting with the new “Terrain Editor” weapon, I ended up falling through the world and getting stuck in some invisible water and dying on more than one occasion. Other’s have also complained about the performance, so I hope to see this addressed in the near future. This is the only game on my PS4 that suffers like this.

All in all, the Atlas Rises patch is a very welcome and much needed fix for No Man’s Sky. I hope to continue to see these types of enhancements in the future.

Review: Thief II – The Metal Age

Again, I want to apologize for the long hiatus between game reviews, but I’m back now and continuing my “turn of the century” playthroughs. Today I give you my long-awaited review of Thief II: The Metal Age. I discussed the original Thief more than three years ago, in anticipation of the Square-Enix reboot. But it took me this long to catch up and play through the second entry in the original franchise. But finally, here we are.

For those unfamiliar with the original game, Thief took the concept of first-person PC games and turned it on it’s head. Instead of being a fast-paced shooter, this game required you to sneak around in the shadows and actually try to avoid killing enemies unless absolutely necessary. It was a smashing success and it was only a matter of time until it spawned a sequel. Thief II took everything that was great about the original game and cranked it up a notch. In fact, this sequel is a great example of developers actually listening to their customers. The folks behind the game took the feedback they received from the first title, and added more of what fans liked the most, and removed some of the concepts that seemed to garner the most complaints. The end result, is a game true to the original but largely superior.

This game takes place one year after the events of the original title. Garrett continues to make his living as a skilled catpurse, relying on no one other than himself. Since the events of the original game, a new faction has emerged in the city. One that believes in a future ruled by technology and machines.  As a result, the nature-worshiping Pagans have been driven out of town and into hiding.  None of this matters too much to Garrett, as he has other things to worry about. You see, there’s a new sheriff in town, literally – and he’s got his eye on putting an end to Garrett’s way of life. However, as one might expect, it’s not so easy to remain neutral. Before long, Garrett finds himself wrapped up in the middle of this conflict between the Mechanists and the Pagans. To save himself, he’s going to have to choose sides.

One thing to know before you decide to jump in to the world of Thief II; this is an older game and one designed for a different age of computing. However, just like the original – there’s a number of tweaks and unofficial patches available that will allow the game to run on modern hardware. I recommend something called “TafferPatcher”. This is a fan-made all-in-one patch that will both optimize the game for modern hardware, but retain the original look and feel of the title. Despite being unofficial, it’s widely respected and very much safe to install.

As I mentioned above, if you enjoyed the original game, Thief II is certainly worth your time. Every single thing that is great about the first title is expanded on here and there’s lots of it. To me, both the size of the levels and the number of mission objectives have increased and become much more engaging. There’s nothing better than sneaking around in the shadows right under the noses of the night watchmen and looting a place clean. The feel of the original game remains intact, but this time with a more engaging storyline.

From a technical standpoint, Thief II feels very much like it’s predecessor. I don’t really see a big difference in the bulk of the game engine. The environments look very similar to those founds in Thief. But, the character textures are greatly improved.  The enemy AI is also quite a bit better – in this game guards will notice more things that seem out-of-place. For example open doors or damaged environmental objects. So, tech-wise, Thief II does show signs of progression over the original.

To me, the Thief series represents a high point in PC gaming. It was a time where the industry was largely engaged in copy-cat behavior. But the Thief series took a bold step to stand apart from all the clones. It was a risk that paid off big. To me, Thief II represents the very best of the series. It’s a game that I recommend to retro PC gamers looking for a unique experience.

Difficulty: Variable–  Thief II offers several levels of difficulty. Increasing the difficulty level not only gives the player more objectives to accomplish during the game’s missions, but also going for Hard or Expert restricts you from being allowed to kill enemies. The game is certainly more rewarding on one of these two settings. But I recommend Normal for most players going on their first run.

Story: Thief II continues the lore and storyline established in the original game, and it’s quite well done. The game story develops a number of ways. First, there are cutscenes between levels. But, tidbits can also be picked up by eavesdropping on various NPC conversations or reading notes and journals that you encounter as you sneak your way through the areas of the game. Players who take their time and explore every nook and cranny will be rewarded with additional storyline elements.

Originality: The trail was certainly blazed with the original Thief. But the concepts laid out by it’s predecessor are highly refined and presented to players in this sequel.  Despite being a sequel, Thief II still manages to avoid feeling like a cheap retread of the original game.

Soundtrack: There not a lot here in terms of game music. But, that’s ok. This game is ALL about atmosphere. You have to listen for footsteps and other audible clues as you play. These sound effects are very well done. This is one of those games that still takes advantage of older surround sound technology – and it does it very well. Ambient noises aside, the voice acting in the game is also superb.

Fun: This kind of game may not appeal to all players. It requires patience and a willingness to learn from your mistakes. This will likely be a turn-off to some, but for those that enjoy stealth games, this one will provide hours of entertainment.

Graphics:  The first two entries in the Thief series are an odd mix of both really good 3D graphics and funky, blocky textures. However, Thief II does improve on the look and feel of NPC characters significantly. This entry also includes improved skybox and lighting effects. Regardless, it still looks very dated when compared to modern games. But it was quite top of the line for it’s time. 

Playcontrol:  No real issues here. The game runs on the standard WSAD keyboard layout for first-person PC games, with some modifications for the game’s unique features. Occasionally, climbing and jumping around on platforms can feel a bit awkward and cumbersome. But, it’s merely a minor annoyance at times.

Downloadable Content:  N/A. 

Mature Content: Mild language.

Value:  Thief II can be found on Steam for around $7.00. For that price, the game is well worth every penny. The amount of content in this game and the quality of this title overall makes it an absolute steal for that price.

Overall rating (out of four stars): 4 – Thief II, despite it’s age, still holds up as one of the definitive stealth-based first-person games of all time. Fans of the genre that have not yet experienced it, should not hesitate for a moment. This is one game worthy of your attentions. For players who are not sure if this type of game would appeal to them, the price tag alone makes it worth the gamble. You’ll never spend a better $7 on a PC title.

Available on: PC (Steam)

Original Trilogy:

Thief: The Dark Project  –  Thief 2: The Metal Age  – Thief: Deadly Shadows

Reboot:

Thief

Check Up: Diablo III – Rise of the Necromancer (Patch 2.6.0)

It’s been a little over six months since I last checked in on the status of Diablo III. At the time, the game was just getting into it’s ninth “season” and the Diablo Anniversary event was in full swing. Now, Diablo fans have something new to celebrate. Just in time for Season 11, Blizzard has a released a new batch of paid DLC for Diablo III called Rise of the Necromancer. I call it DLC because the content does come at a cost and it’s contents are a bit more extraordinary than what you’d find in a mere patch, but also less than what you’d expect from a full expansion.

Essentially, for the cost of $15.00, you gain access to the new Necromancer character class, and all of the fluff that comes with it, but there are no new levels or main storyline content. The purchase does include a few cosmetic items as well. (A portrait frame and a pet).

Personally, I feel like this is a fair asking price from Blizzard. Asking $15.00 from players who are already well invested in the game is reasonable. But if you’re new to Diablo III or considering buying it in the future, it may be best to wait and see if there is going to be an “all-in-one” collection. But, if you’re impatient the existing Battlechest collection only costs $20. That includes the base game and expansion. So even if you purchased that and Rise of the Necromancer, you’re only out $35 total, which if we’re being honest, is a more than acceptable price for a full game of this quality.

Just like any other class in Diablo III, the Necromancer comes complete with it’s own skill tree, item drops and audio dialogue. So, this class is in no way a cheap tack-on. In fact, I found the Necromancer to be a the perfect fit into the Diablo III universe. I daresay that it might be my favorite class in the game! It has arrived just in time for the upcoming season. So, seizing this opportunity, once Season 11 starts, and friend and I plan to play through the game again as Necromancers. So, if you have similar plans (and I’m sure many do), feel free to look for me.

My final thoughts on this release are as follows: considering the  success that this DLC release has brought Blizzard, I can only wonder if they plan future releases using this model. Diablo III is now several years old, but it remains popular and profitable. Perhaps future add-ons to the game will come in the form of piecemeal DLC like this. Aside from character classes, maybe we’ll see new storyline areas or other paid content in the future? Blizzard has been very hush hush on such matters in regards to Diablo III, but we know from other games like Overwatch or even World of Warcraft that they tend to embrace paid content. We’ll have to see.

Review: Dragonia

It is with both shame and amusement that I type this review… As it is my ritual every summer in the weeks leading up to the Steam Summer Sale, I always take a moment to browse through the store looking for games that interest me. When I find one, I will add it my wishlist to ensure that I receive a notification if it goes on sale. This year, while perusing the store I came upon an interesting trend – I found a number of anime style games, of various types that were selling for $1.50 or less. Due to the extremely low price, I snatched up as many of them as I could. One of them happened to be an anime-style shoot-em-up by the name of Dragonia. After scrolling through the store page for the game, it quickly became obvious that this was an adult title. But, the game play looked interesting and the reviews were great so I bit the bullet.

Now, even knowing that the game contained some adult themes, I had NO IDEA what I had got myself into… to say this is a “mature” game is an understatement. This game is downright pornographic. On top of that, there’s even an “uncensoring patch” available directly from the developer, just in case you need absolutely nothing left to the imagination. In fact, I debated even reviewing this game at all, considering the content. But, as you will see, it’s actually a somewhat intriguing title. So much so, I decided to review it regardless of it’s extremely adult nature.

Let me take a moment to explain what this game actually is. First off, in it’s heart and soul, Dragonia is a bullet-hell schmup. You play the character of Feeney, a half-human, half dragon. Feeney is summoned by an old witch to help purge the land from the grip of several Evil Dragons. As it turns out, only Feeney has the ability to defeat and “purify” these dragons. As might be able to guess, to “purify” them, Feeney has to resort to her… seductive skills and… well… you can guess the rest.

(Censored by Sensei)

The basic storyline outlined above is easy enough to decipher. However, that’s about all you’re going to get out of the storyline text in the game. The English translation in this game can only be described as horrendous. It seems to literally be a copy paste from Chinese to English via Google Translate… Which in some ways is actually a godsend, because the text likes to describe in detail every single thing Feeney has to do to “purify” her enemies.

All of the adult material in the game is limited to the cutscenes that play before and after each game level. The gameplay itself is pretty much family friendly. You control Feeney from a birds-eye-view as she flies around and blasts her opponents from the air.  Enemies approach from every angle. It’s a classic bullet-hell scenario.

As you play through each level, Feeney will collect “souls”. In between stages, souls can be exchanged for a variety of things. You can unlock new modes of attack, you can increase your damage level, health, etc.  So in some ways, this game has a very RPG-like progression element to it.  You complete a level by defeating a certain number of enemies. Once you reach this number, the level boss is spawned. Defeating the boss allows you to proceed to the next area.  At first, the game levels are fairly simple but eventually you will come across a boss that you just can’t take down. This is where you’ll want to grind up some more health of damage output. Some bosses are weak to certain attacks (lightning, fire, etc). So unlocking specific attack modes is also part of the strategy.

In this way, despite the extremely high levels of fan-service, the game actually has some redeeming value to it.  I personally found the gameplay to be engaging and overall very well done. There’s no shortage of upgrades to unlock. So, this game gets quite a few things right. It’s hard to argue that the gameplay itself is bad. And, depending on your viewpoint, the cutscenes are either going to be a big plus or a big turn off.

The down points to this title are without a doubt the terrible localization and the UI/playcontol. The in-game menus look like they were designed by rank amateurs. There’s no logic to them at all. But with a little diligence, you’ll be able to figure out their quirks and limp through the UI. The game itself can be played using a keyboard, but I don’t recommend this. These types of game just work best with a controller. Personally, I played Dragonia using my trusty USB Xbox 360 controller.  Even on a controller, the control-scheme makes little sense. But, it is accurate and responsive. Normally, these types of complaints would be a BIG DEAL, because when I say they are bad, I mean they are really REALLY terrible. But, when the game sells for $1.50, it’s very difficult to complain. Especially for all of the content you actually get with that $1.50. Dragonia is a short game, but it’s longer than others that I’ve paid premium prices for.

If you enjoy schmups and bullet hells, this is a game that might tickle your fancy. Just know going in, that it is filled with unapologetic hentai visuals.

Difficulty: Easy–  This game is a curious case in terms of difficulty simply because as a schmup, it is exactly what you’d expect: bullets flying everywhere, endless enemies pouring from all sides, etc. Each level gets harder and harder. But, as mentioned in the main review, you can upgrade your life meter and even the damage that you deal. So, if you find yourself stuck on a particular level, the only thing you really need to do is be patient and grind until you are overpowered enough to blast your way through whatever roadblock you encountered. This mechanic actually renders most of the challenges in the game meaningless.

Story: If we’re being honest, the storyline for this game is nothing more then a vehicle to deliver some heavy doses of fanservice. In fact, I have a sneaking suspicion that the game itself was developed separately from the dirty cutscenes and the two were cobbled together into the game that we see now. The in-game story is shallow and weird. But, admittedly mildly interesting. The translation is barely comprehendable.

Originality: Hentai games are nothing new. Neither are bullet-hells. But, I have to admit that this is the first time I’ve ever seen them lumped together in one title. Add in the the RP/progression element and you have a pretty original package.

Soundtrack: The game has a somewhat catchy soundtrack. But the sound effects can be a bit annoying at times. One weapon in particular sounds like high volume static. It is quite annoying. Overall, the audio in this title is pretty poor and unimaginative.

Fun: It’s hard to admit this. But, I had a pretty good time with the game. The gameplay kept me hooked. I enjoyed leveling and unlocking all of the weapons. The cutscenes are amusing, albeit shocking at times. A certain fraction of players will no doubt be able to have a really good time with the cutscenes.

Graphics:  The cutscenes are colorful, crisp and well rendered. Fans of anime-style art will be pleased. The game itself is actually quite-well rendered as well. The bullet effects are colorful and dynamic. Sadly, the UI is crudely chopped together and messy.

Playcontrol:  No matter what method you use, the playcontrol is rough and very non-intuitive. Playing with a controller is manageable, but it still just feels off.

Downloadable Content:  None. 

Mature Content: Pornographic content and extreme adult language.

Value:  Despite the many negative things about this game, it’s hard to argue with the price. Someone paying a little over a dollar for a game shouldn’t expect much. Considering the paltry cost for this title, you are getting your money’s worth ten times over.  Often, many adult-content games actually come with a premium price tag. It’s hard to go wrong here from a value standpoint.

Overall rating (out of four stars): 2 – Content aside, a lot of aspects about this game are well done and interesting. There’s quite a bit of content for a very small price. On the other side of the coin, the game suffers from bad localization, terrible UI and playcontrol. It’s an interesting but largely mediocre title, but one that will appeal to certain gamers.

Available on: PC (Steam)

Final Fantasy XIV: Stormblood

It’s been two years since the release of Heavensward and SE has spent that time working on the next chapter in the Final Fantasy XIV saga: Stormblood. Well, it’s finally here! I’ve spent the last two weeks playing the new content and I’ve finally completed the expansion. So, as expected, I’m here with a full review!

Stormblood brings Final Fantasy XIV up to version 4.0. With that version bump comes a ton of new content. Stormblood adds two new (long awaited) jobs to the game: Red Mage and Samurai. It also raises the level cap to 70 and adds an entire new continent to explore. The focus of the expansion is the retaking of the nations of Ala Mhigo and Doma from Imperial control. The occupation of Ala Mhigo has long been a part of the game’s lore, reaching back as early as 1.0. In this way, Stormblood finally brings a capstone to nearly every loose-end that is left from the original version of the game.

Whereas Heavensward introduced flying to the world of FFXIV, Stormblood brings about the ability to dive and swim. Even some areas of the original game have been updated to allow players to swim in shallow waters. For many of the new zones, players are able to dive down and explore areas of the deep. Flying mounts are also able to traverse the underwater zones as well.  Currently, this ability is pretty novel and really only comes into play for the new scenario missions. But SE has hinted that more content might be coming that incorporates swimming/diving.

I have to go on record and state that the storyline for Stormblood is absolutely fantastic. At worst, it is on par with A Realm Reborn, but I daresay it even exceeds it. To me, Heavensward was a decent expansion. But, at times it became very repetitive and downright boring. This was not the case with Stormblood. Everything about this expansion felt fresh and interesting to me.  From the storyline, the new cities and zones, the innovative dungeons and even the boss fights, the whole of Stormblood was just spot on for me.

Aside from all the new content, Final Fantasy XIV version 4.0 also marked a major revamp to the core game itself. The whole job system received an overhaul of sorts. Skills and abilities were streamlined, with several actions being revamped or even eliminated. The pointless concept of customizing character ability scores (an old mechanic from the now defunct 1.0 version) has finally been removed from the game. 4.0 also introduces the “Job Gauge”, a job-specific on-screen graphic that is unique to each job and related to that job’s special abilities.

A major theme of Stormblood is that of the Far East. Pretty much any type of Asian flair is represented in the new zones. From the Japanese-inspired city of Kugane, to the Chinese-like landscape of Doma. There are even elements of ancient Mongolia, Turkey, and Slavic inspiration found in the new zones.

At the time of this writing, Stormblood has received one minor content patch, bringing the game up to version 4.01. This patch added the highly awaited Omega raid to the game.

All in all, I cannot say enough great things about Stormblood. If I had to find a complaint, it would not be with the expansion itself, but rather with SE’s recent decision to sell level boosting potions on the Mog Station store. For cold hard cash, players can now purchase an item that will level their characters to either level 50 or 60, and even one that will clear the main scenario content for A Realm Reborn and Heavensward.  I understand the concept behind such items: they allow new players to jump right in and join their friends on new adventures. But at the same time, I feel they cheapen the game play experience somewhat. As a player who has stuck with FFXIV since the early (and often dismal) days of 1.0, I couldn’t imagine spending money to purchase a game, then spending more money so that I don’t have to actually play it. But, to each their own I suppose.

I’m going to continue my tradition of reviewing each major patch as they are released. So stay tuned and as they say in the FFXIV community; “Please look forward to it!”

Patch 4.1

FFXIV Hub

** Final Fantasy XIV  (1.x)  –    A Realm Reborn  –    Heavensward   –  Stormblood **

Review: Tale of ALLTYNEX Trilogy

As I type this, I’m downloading the Final Fantasy XIV 4.0 patch and awaiting the release of that game’s new expansion. It’s during downtime like this that I tend to dig through my library and pull out something that can be played start-to-finish in a reasonable amount of time. In keeping with my current theme of games from the late-90’s era, I came across a trilogy of arcade-style schmups (shoot-em-ups) called The Tale of ALLTYNEX. This trilogy consists of three games: ALLTYNEX Second, RefleX and KAMUI. I’ve had these titles sitting in my Steam library for some time, but I’ve never paid them much attention. If I remember right, I got them as part of an indie Japanese game bundle several years ago. Last weekend, I found myself with a desire to step away from all the deep and complicated RPGS that tend to consume the majority of my game playing, and jump into some old school, bullet-hell arcade action. So I installed these games and went in completely blind.

Unless you’re really into the Japanese indie scene, you’ve probably never heard of these games. So, let’s take a moment to bring ourselves up to speed. This trilogy contains a set of games created by Japanese developer Siter Skain. This collection was actually made possible via a project on Kickstarter. It contains the following titles:

ALLTYNEX Second – This game is a semi-modern remake of the Japanese 1996 arcade classic ALLTYNEX.

RefleX – A 2008 remake, this time of an indie freeware game called Reflection from 1997.

KAMUI – A 1999 Japanese PC game, based on classic shoot-em-up arcade titles.

Originally, each of these games were separate entities with each successive game being largely inspired by the one that came before it. Now, they have been compiled and somewhat re-imagined as a loose trilogy. Oddly enough, due to the various remakes, the newest games are actually the oldest chronologically.

As mentioned above, the first game lore-wise in the trilogy is ALLTNYEX Second.  Essentially, you play as the pilot of a “superfighter” starship.  In this title, mankind’s  orbital defensive supercomputer, ALLTYNEX suddenly goes rogue and uses its control over all of all of Earth’s military hardware to wage war on humanity. As a result, the human race is forced to flee the planet and regroup on the far reaches of the solar system. In a last-ditch effort to reclaim the planet, a team of  “superfighters” are dispatched to destroy ALLTYNEX.

This game is very well done. It feels just like one of those old quarter-pumper arcade machines, and thanks to moderns graphics, it makes the genre look better than ever.  It embodies the classic Starfighter schmup gameplay: swarms of enemies, rapid fire, bullets everywhere.  The player can choose between their regular blasters or a special shield that both protects your starship as well as damages enemies.  The gameplay is intense and not particularly easy – but few bullet hells are. The nearly unlimited continues make the game accessible for even a casual player. From start to finish the game can be completed in under an hour by an experienced player.

Next up is RefleX. This game is very similar to the others. It’s an overheard bullet hell/schmup. But unlike the other entries, you don’t have multiple lives. If your ship is destroyed, it’s game over. Luckily, the starship here is protected by a reflective shield. Enemy bolts will bounce off the shield and back towards the sender. This provides a whole new level of strategy to the game.

RefleX actually has quite an in-depth backstory, but to find all the juicy details you will have to dig through the manual. (The Steam version does have a PDF manual).  Essentially, you are a member of a resistance group that is rallying against an overbearing government. What’s unclear, at least to me, is how this ties in with the first game… has humanity retaken Earth and now bad guys are running the show? Despite several similarities, it just isn’t made very clear.

Finally, we have the third game in the trilogy, KAMUI. Despite being the last game in the series, this title is the one that shows it’s age the most. Which, considering the other two are remakes, I guess that’s to be expected.

This is the game that actually manages to tie the other two titles together. It features story elements from both ALLTYNEX and RefleX and presents a final battle between the resistance and a new militarized version of the ALLTYNEX AI.

Despite being the most dated of the three, I think KAMUI is my favorite of the trilogy simply because it reminds me the most of those old arcade-style shoot-em-ups that consumed so many hours of my youth. Which, is odd in itself considering KAMUI was a PC title.

Difficulty: Hard–  Most schmups and bullet hell games are infamous for their high degree of difficulty. These games are no different. Unless you’re one of those machine-like professional gamers or some kind of savant, you’re going to die a lot. Luckily, the games are pretty forgiving in that you are granted nearly unlimited continue credits. So, in reality, as long as you are persistent you can manage to complete the games regardless of overall skill. This still doesn’t change the fact that the game itself is difficult in it’s own right.

Story: As a whole, the storyline shared between these games is surprisingly rich. This is true despite it being largely absent from the games themselves. Schmups are not typically known for being rich is lore and storyline, so for this type of game any real attempt to provide one is welcome

Originality: Back in the 90’s games like these were a dime a dozen. These days, they have become a bit a niche category. Despite being based on a tested and tired model, the games in the ALLTYNEX Trilogy manage to stand out in their own little ways. For example, the ricochet shield from RefleX is a pretty unique feature. Little things like these keep the games feeling semi-fresh in a pool of stagnant copy-cat titles.

Soundtrack: One of the high points of all three of these games are the fantastic soundtracks. All these of titles come complete with a groovy, high-energy techno-like score. The music is catchy and appropriate. It does a fantastic job of keeping your blood pumping for the split-second twitch action that games like these require.

Fun: I can imagine that many people would find games like these to be frustrating and overly difficult. But that is something that fans of bullet hell games have come to expect and love. So you’re either going to enjoy this type of game or you’re not. For people like me, I don’t really consider myself to be a fan of these types of games, per se. But I do enjoy them for the nostalgia factor. And, I can appreciate them for what they are.

Graphics:  Being a trilogy of games from different eras, the graphics are a mixed bag.  Kamui and RefleX, are both still stuck in the 16-bit era. While ALLTYNEX Second has a much more modern, polished look. 

Playcontrol:  Even though these games support keyboard controls, take my advice and plug in either an Xbox or Playstation game pad. Games like these were made for controllers. Personally, I found a trusty old Xbox 360 controller to be perfect to all three games, with no real issues.

Downloadable Content:  None

Mature Content: Sci-Fi violence.

Value:  Each of these games is available separately on Steam for $8, or together in a bundle for $20. If you’re a fan of this genre, the $20 pricetag may be well worth it. But, these games are on sale frequently so a bargain shopper can usually snag them on a deal.

Overall rating (out of four stars): 3 – Even though I don’t really consider myself a fan of the shoot-em-up genre, I found a lot of enjoyment in these three games. It was really a nice break our of the norm for me. Everything from the fast-paced action, to the visuals, to the soundtrack really scratched an itch I had been having for some retro arcade action. My biggest complaint about the collection is that the original versions of ALLTYNEX and RefleX were not included.

Available on: PC (Steam)