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 its 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 Game Boy/Game Boy 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 Game Boy 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 Game Boy title. The music is catchy, but suffers greatly from the limitations provided by the Game Boy 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 Game Boy 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 Game Boy.  Even though the Game Boy 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

Review: Final Fantasy Tactics – The War of the Lions

This is a review that has been a long time coming. Occasionally, I get emails or twitter messages asking me to review or discuss a particular game. Of all the messages I get, by far the most requested retro review is for Final Fantasy Tactics. As a lifelong fan of the Final Fantasy series, I’m ashamed to admit that Tactics is a game that I’ve actually never set aside the time to play. First of all, it came out during a time in my life when my mind was on things other than gaming. Also, it’s a not a traditional RPG like most other Final Fantasy titles. Instead, it is a more of a tactical/strategy game with lots of RPG influence. In case you’re not aware – I generally do not enjoy tactical style games. In my opinion, most games of this type tend to progress just a little too slowly for my tastes. With this in mind, I think I’ve always been hesitant to dive into Final Fantasy Tactics. But, that time is over.

Before we get into the details, I want to start by mentioning that there are two versions of the game. The original release is simply known as “Final Fantasy Tactics“. It was released on the Sony Playstation in 1998 and is also currently available for purchase on the Playstation Network for PS3 and PSP users. The game was later re-released in 2007 for the Playstation Portable under the name “Final Fantasy Tactics: The War of the Lions“. This is considered to be the definitive version of the game. It includes graphical enhancements, new cutscenes, an improved translation, a more balanced difficulty, as well as the inclusion of two new playable jobs (more on that later). This remake is also available on both iOS and Android devices. For the sake of this review, I played the PSP version of War of the Lions.

It’s also worth mentioning that Final Fantasy Tactics is the first FF game to be set in the world of Ivalice. When Final Fantasy XII was released, that game brought the world of Ivalice into the main series – it has since become the favorite setting for many fans.

The story of the game is absolutely magical. It’s even been compared to the works Shakespeare by some. Yes. It’s that good. The game takes place during an age when the world is recovering from the aftermath of a 50-year war. The story focuses on a young knight-errant named Ramza, an unsung hero of history. Despite being a sellsword, Ramza is from a noble bloodline. Ivalice is a world where heritage and caste is held in the highest regard.  As the game progresses, Ramza comes to learn of a nefarious plot by the Church in which his family serves. As a result, he must choose between honoring his family or placing his trust in an old friend. Of course, the actual plot is much more intricate than can be summarized into a simple paragraph. In fact, I daresay it might be the most well written storyline in the entire Final Fantasy series.

Despite having similar themes and a rich story, Final Fantasy Tactics is very different from other games in the main series. Instead of being an open-world game with short turn-based combat, the game is essentially a series of RTS overhead battles. During combat, the player controls a team of various units (characters) on a grid-like battlefield. You move your units into position, then execute attacks or abilities. Once you’ve defeated all of the enemies on the grid, the battle is over. Generally speaking, the story scenes take place between battles and advance the plot.

Units earns experience and job points during battle. As you might expect, experience points level your units up. Job points are used to unlock new job-specific skills for your units. Each unit can be equipped with weapons and equipment and even abilities, many of which are earned by leveling various jobs. At the beginning of the game, only a handful of jobs are available. However, new and more advanced jobs will soon become obtainable as your characters continue to level and grow.

The job system found in Final Fantasy Tactics is similar to what was seen in Final Fantasy III and V. However, the representation in Tactics is widely considered to be the best implementation of the system thus far. Many of the jobs introduced in this game have since been seen in other titles in the series, namely Final Fantasy XI and XIV. Mastery of the Job System is really the key to success in the game. On it’s surface, Final Fantasy Tactics appears to be brutally difficult. In fact, the first few battles players will encounter can often be some of the hardest and most punishing. But, if you’re willing to spend the time to understand the game’s mechanics, it’s quite possible to exploit the job system to your advantage. In this way, the game can actually become ridiculously unbalanced and easy. Certain job and equipment combinations can essentially render your party nearly invulnerable.

Even though the game suffers from balance issues, it’s hard to claim that FFT is anything short of an absolute masterpiece. That being said, I  have to admit that it is not a game that I could really get into. It’s not that it’s a bad game, it’s just not the type of game that I personally find enjoyable. I am just not a strategy/tactical game fan. While I loved the story and the mechanics of the game, the combat was just too slow-paced and lengthy for me. In most Final Fantasy titles, combat is resolved relatively quickly – with the exception of boss battles. But in FFT, most battles take anywhere from 10-15 minutes on average. You can to watch each unit move into place in real time. Then you face them a certain direction, then execute an action, etc. Then, if you mess up and lose a character you will likely want to reload your save and try again. And there are A LOT of battles in the game, even more so if you intend to grind out levels and job points. My other complaint has to do with the grid-based battle system. I found having to rotate the 3D grid just to get a good vantage point to be overly cumbersome. But that’s a flaw that’s easy enough to ignore on it’s own. I just don’t care for this type of game.  It’s not the game…. it’s me. I can admit that. For those that love tactical games like this, FFT is by far the crown jewel.

Even with my dislike for this type of game, the storyline was addictive. I felt compelled to play the game to completion and I’m glad I did.  It’s truly a memorable experience. For me, small quality of life changes such as having an option to speed through some battle animations, and slight playcontrol enhancements would likely change my mind.

Difficulty: Mixed –  On the surface, FFT is a brutally difficult game. However, as I mentioned in the main review above, players willing to really dive into the deep mechanics of the job system, and do a little grinding will be able to make the game a complete piece of cake. It just takes a little dedication. Players who intend to play the game “normally”, will find quite a challenge ahead of them.

Story: The storyline is the main selling point of the game for me. It’s truly a work of art. If you’re playing for the storyline, I do recommend the War of the Lions version of the game. The new translation is exceptional, whereas the original localization does leave a lot to be desired. Plus, the cutscenes are extremely well done.

Originality: In terms of other games in the Final Fantasy series at the time of it’s release, FFT was very original. However, it was certainly not the first tactical role playing game. But, by combing a rich story, a unique job system, and other Final Fantasy elements, we are left we a completely original title that is unlike any other.

Soundtrack: The score for the game is also exceptional. It’s fully orchestrated and absolutely stunning. Since experiencing this game, I’ve also purchased an official copy of the soundtrack and added it to my collection.

Fun: If real time strategy or tactical combat games are your cup of tea, this game will undoubtedly be a favorite of yours. Fans who are more RPG oriented, like me, may find this game a little sluggish and a bit of an ill fit. That being said, the game can still be very enjoyable. It’s just not a one-size-fits-all experience.

Graphics: Regardless of which version you play, Final Fantasy Tactics shows it’s age. I do recommend the updated version for the best graphical experience. The cutscenes are hand-drawn animation and absolutely stunning.

Playcontrol:  This is my biggest area of complaint. While the functional controls for the game are of no issue, the camera controls and battlefield screen rotation are annoying. Also, since many of the sprites look alike, it’s easy in the beginning of the title to tell the difference between friends and enemies without actually hovering over individual units. Ironically, the best play control experience comes not on PS1 or PSP, but rather the mobile port of the game. The mobile version actually seems to alleviate many of these playcontrol headaches.

Downloadable Content: N/A

Mature Content:  No Concerns- Minor language. 

Value:  Both the original and remake are available on the Playstation Network for $9.99. So if you have a PSP or a Vita, the War of the Lions version is a no brainer. The price is more than fair for the amount of gameplay in the title. Prices vary for mobile users, but I’ve seen the game as low as $4.99 on the Google Play store.

Overall rating (out of four stars): 3 – I know that many gamers would crucify me for giving this game anything less than a perfect score. But to me, I had just enough complaints to knock this down from four to three stars. The storyline and soundtrack are second to none. But some of the gameplay elements and camera issues just really bothered me. I will say that Final Fantasy Tactics, in any form, is a stellar game. But it’s not a game that I can recommend to all players. If RTS or tactical RPGs are your thing, this will certainly be one of the best titles you might ever play. If you’re like me, you may not find this to be as enjoyable.

Available on: PSN, PSP, iOS, Android

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: Parasite Eve

One of the more popular arguments at my house around Christmas time: is Die Hard a Christmas movie? I’m a firm believer that it is. It takes place at Christmastime, various scenes in the film are decorated for the season, and there’s even a few utterances of “Merry Christmas”. Following that same logic, one could make an argument that Parasite Eve is a Christmas game. So, it’s very fitting that I post this review today, Christmas 2017.

This review has a been a long time coming. Parasite Eve is a classic Playstation title, but one that I’ve never had the chance to enjoy until now. Originally released in 1998, this game is actually the follow-up to a Japanese horror novel. (One I reviewed on this site, just a few months ago). The game was huge success for Squaresoft at the time of it’s release, and maintains a strong cult following. This is one that I’ve always wanted to play, but never got around to. I’m happy to declare that this has finally changed.

The premise of the game is this: Mitochondria, the powerhouse of the human cell are not all that they seem. In fact, they are actually parasites that have laid dormant in the body of each human since the early days of civilization. The consciousness that lives in every mitochondria calls itself “Eve”. Eve has been patiently waiting for human civilization to reach a point of advancement so that it can take over and become the ruling sentient species. That time is now. Eve is able to make humans spontaneously combust and can evolve people and other animals into horrifying mutant creatures. Thankfully, the hero of this game, an NYPD officer named Aya Brea – is actually immune to the effects of her rebellious mitochondria. Aya catches wind of this mysterious plot and sets out to put an end to Eve’s plans before it is too late. Pretty weird, huh?

Having never played this game before, I was a little unsure what to expect. Visually, the game looks a lot Final Fantasy VIII. Which makes sense as it was developed by the same company and around the same time. Both the in-game graphics and cinematic cutscenes are similar. For it’s day and age, the game looked pretty impressive. Parasite Eve also has some of the RPG aspects that one would expect to find in a Squaresoft title. The main character can equip various weapons and armor, she earns EXP through battle and can level up, she also has the ability to use magic (called Parasitic Energy in this game). Your progress can be saved at various locations in the game (at telephones), so players used to “save points” will feel right at home. However, unlike most RPGs, battles are a mixture of both turn-based combat and live action.

When fighting enemies in Parasite Eve, you need to wait for your “Attack Meter” to fill up before you can execute an attack, cast a spell, or use an item. During the downtime between actions, you can run around the battlefield openly. This allows you to chase enemies, dodge attacks, etc. When attacking, you can direct your attack at multiple enemies. So, if you are firing a pistol, for example, you can aim a few shots at Monster A and a few at Monster B – all in one turn.  I found this blend of turned-based/action combat to be both refreshing and engaging. Being a longtime fan of RPGs, it was a new twist that I wasn’t expecting. I really enjoyed this model of combat. High marks to battle designer on this title.

Parasite Eve is a very story-driven game. The game is broken up into several chapters (or Days). Most of these days are focused on a single task and introduce the player to new locations or characters. After a certain point, the gameworld opens up and the player is able to visit various locations in New York City at will. Later in the game, players can use this freedom to their advantage. It allows them to grind monsters for experience, collect loot to customize weapons and armor, etc. The main scenario itself is rather short for an RPG. I believe I cleared it in about 8 hours.

Upon completing the game the players will receive a rather ambiguous ending. But, this unlocks “Ex Mode” – essentially a New Game Plus option that allows players to play through the entire game again, with their current level and items. This can be done as many times as the player likes. During these subsequent playthroughs, a new area is available. This new level features 77 randomly generated floors. On the last floor is an ultimate boss. Completing this hidden dungeon in Ex Mode will allow you to view the real ending for the game.

All of this makes Parasite Eve a very interesting game. Despite being a classic title, in many ways it was very ahead of it’s time. The “New Game Plus” is an option found in most modern RPG titles. So are multiple endings. But it’s not something you saw very often in 1998. – I enjoyed this game tremendously. It felt both familiar and new at the same time. I was pleased to see many new and risky concepts unseen in previous popular RPGs. I’m curious to see what the next entries in series bring to the table.

If you like Square’s RPGs and you’re looking for something different, this is certainly a game worthy of your attention.

Difficulty: Medium –  Parasite Eve does not feature multiple levels of difficulty. The game is very different from other RPGs and as a result can seem a little complex at first. New players are advised to review the Tutorial option from the main menu before playing to make things a bit easier. The game starts off fairly easy, but the difficulty does ramp up in later chapters. It is possible to grind your way to higher levels, thus making the game a piece of cake. However, regardless of your level, completing the optional dungeon and defeating the hidden boss will require a bit of effort.

Story: This title is very story driven – and is actually probably the best part of the game. The plot unfolds through both in-game narratives and video cutscenes. The storyline is riveting and very well told. Players wanting even more can seek out a copy of the Parasite Eve novel, which actually serves as a prequel to the game itself.

Originality: Despite being labelled as an RPG, Parasite Eve is a refreshing take on the genre. First, it takes place in the real world – in New York City to be exact. Instead of knights and dragons, we have cops and monsters. The combat is a mixture of turn-based and live-action – very unique for a game of it’s time. In many ways, it also incorporates some survival horror elements.

Soundtrack: The game soundtrack is catchy and groovy. There’s not really a wide variety of music in the game, but despite being a bit repetitive at times, it’s well done and pleasant.

Fun: If you enjoy games with a heavy plot and unique RPG elements, Parasite Eve is worth a look. I enjoyed this title very much – and for different reasons than I expected to.

Graphics: The pixelated graphics and FMV movies are very dated by today’s standards. But at the time of the release, they were considered very well done. To be fair, many of the creature transformation scenes are so shocking and grotesque that even with their aged looked, they still retain a blood-curdling effect on the watcher. (At least they did with me.)

Playcontrol:  The game controls are a bit antiquated by today’s standards, but overall are well implemented and intuitive. The combat takes a bit to get used to at first and sometimes feels a bit boxed in – but after a few hours it becomes second nature.

Downloadable Content: N/A

Mature Content: YES – Graphic violence and gore, adult themes (medical reproduction). 

Value:  This game is available as a PS One Classic on the Playstation Network for $5.99. At this price, the game is a steal. Parasite Eve also features a decent level of replayability due to it’s “EX Mode” and randomly generated optional dungeon.

Overall rating (out of four stars): 4 – I found this title to be a delightful change of pace from other 64-bit era role playing games. The real-world setting and strange pseudo-scientific flare made for a really unique experience. I’m ashamed to admit that it took me almost twenty years to experience this title. I recommend it to anyone who enjoy both role playing games and survival horror titles from the late 90s.

Available on: PSN

Other Reviews In This Series:

Parasite Eve (Novel) –  Parasite Eve  –  Parasite Eve II   –  The 3rd Birthday

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 two 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