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Starlight Inception on PlayStation Vita

I have many fond memories of playing TIE Fighter when I was younger and it is still probably my all-time favorite Star Wars game. You’d think that it would have turned me onto other stuff like Wing Commander, but I actually never gave those a try. TIE Fighter is pretty much the only space combat “sim” that I have played but I still really enjoy the game type. It was just the other day when I was browsing the weekly PlayStation store update when I noticed that something called “Starlight Inception” had released on the Vita. I checked it out and apparently it was a successfully funded Kickstarter project and also released on the PC. Since I’ve been drifting more towards handheld gaming lately I was more interested in the Vita version so I reached out to Escape Hatch Entertainment and they were kind enough to drop us a review code. I can’t speak for the PC version of the game but these are my thoughts on the Vita version.

starlight inception space combatVisuals & Presentation

I knew that the Vita version was obviously going to be a downgrade visually but that doesn’t really bother me. TIE Fighter still looks great to me. The visuals are pretty rough, though. When walking around the interior of the main ship (which you do entirely too slow by the way) things look rather plain. However, after I actually got into my first mission I was pretty impressed by the space visuals and how everything looked. The game may not look as nice as its PC counterpart but it gets the job done. Honestly the only things I wish it had were a few particles here and there to give me the feeling that my ship is actually moving but that’s just me nitpicking.

The second mission was pretty awkward. You fly around near the surface of a city which had just recently suffered an explosive attack. The problem is that it mostly looks like a large gray wall with buildings sprouting up as if the view distance was incredibly short distance. I actually tried to find a youtube video of this scene for the PC version and after viewing it I kind of understand what they were doing for that mission. The problem is that pretty much all of the extra effects that actually make that scene work are missing from the Vita version. [Read more...]

Weapon Shop de Omasse

Weapon Shop de Omasse

This was a curious little title that showed up recently during a Nintendo direct. The concept is immediately interesting: You help run a weapons shop that rents out swords, axes, etc. to various heroes and characters within an RPG. Things get even crazier once you actually start playing the game which is some kind of weird combination of rhythm game and store management with elements of a sitcom and twitter. Yeah, that’s not a typo.

Weapon Shop de Omasse GameYou can forge several different weapon types for your shop and each has different stats that are also increased on how well you do during the forging process. When making a weapon you tap on the hot ore in time with the music to beat it into the right shape.  You can’t just tap anywhere however and will need to actually follow the shape of what you are trying to make.

Once you have your weapon you can rent it out to a hero. Some of them seem to be scripted to show up while others are just random NPCs. They will usually have a specific weapon preference and affinity and it’s let up to you to decide what will be best to give them for their specific quest or to even recommend a different quest. You will want to match the right weapon with each person because if they fail their quest you will lose your weapon. Sorry, just store policy. If they do complete their quest they will come back with your weapon and pay you. Then you can polish up the weapon and increase its overall stats for the next time you rent it out.

One of the more fascinating parts of the game is the Grindcast. It’s something attached to every weapon and acts like a sort of Twitter feed that constantly updates you on what NPCs are doing with your weapons and how their quest is doing. So while you are busy making weapons, polishing them, or managing other aspects of the store you will get to read constant updates from people. These can have some pretty hilarious moments and the characters are zany enough that it never seems to get boring.

It’s only something like $7.99 on the 3DS eShop and it’s totally worth checking out. I’ve never played anything like it.

The Second Half of Bravely Default: How to Almost Ruin a Great Game

*NOTE* If you at all care about spoilers then you might not want to read this. I’m going to try and be as vague as possible but read at your own risk.

Bravely Default ReviewI just completed Bravely Default a few minutes ago and I’m left feeling mixed emotions. Not because I’m sad that it’s over or because I found the ending good or bad, but because I can’t quite decide how I felt about the experience as a whole. Earlier I made a post about game length, and at that point I was near the end of the game’s fourth chapter and around 40 hours in. To be completely honest I think the game should have ended maybe a little after that.

The problem with the second half of Bravely Default is that for some unknown, but assuredly unbelievably stupid, reason they decided to make the final 4 chapters a quicky version of the first four. I don’t mean as a whole, either. Chapters 5, 6, 7, and 8 have you very quickly replaying the events of the first four chapters FOUR additional times just at a quicker pace. All of the side missions are just to defeat the bosses you already defeated but the main goal is to awaken every crystal again. All of this happens with very little dialogue change as well. I won’t bother going into the details of why this is happening in the narrative but that wouldn’t be an excuse for it anyway. A game that has you replay content over and over until it makes you ill can’t be justified even if it fits within the story. I mean, even the characters start to remark about the ridiculousness of this.

I feel conflicted because I still really enjoyed the game. The combat and jobs and all other aspects of the game are top notch. I just cannot understand why they felt the need to pad the game out with extreme levels of repetitiveness. Bravely Default seems to have received many great reviews but I have to wonder how many of them only take into account the first half of the game and not the whole experience. I won’t say that Bravely Default is a bad game because it really isn’t. However I think the second half of the game keeps it from being truly exceptional.

Unexpected side effect: I think I finally understand why Bill Murray’s character in Groundhog Day started to lose his mind.

First Impressions of Bravely Default

bravely-default-boxartI’ve been playing a lot of Bravely Default these past few days. So far it has been a very positive experience and is almost certainly the best 3DS RPG I’ve played. Rather than wait dozens of hours until I finish and possibly review it I decided I’d offer some fist impressions of the game. Most of it is good stuff but there are a few things that are starting to irk me.

Beautiful visuals. The little chibi characters are cute and funny but I’m actually more impressed with the backgrounds. The cities you run around in have a very interesting look to them. They have a somewhat hand-drawn look to them like they were pulled straight out of a fantasy/fairytale book and presented in a three-dimensional papercrafty sort of way. Maybe that’s not a great way to describe but it does look very nice.

The BRAVE and DEFAULT combat system is actually pretty interesting. Choosing to default acts somewhat like a guard and prevents some damage done to you while also giving BP. Most regular actions require at least one BP but if you choose to you can BRAVE to gain additional actions for that turn. You can even go into debt and take extra points that your current BP doesn’t cover. You may have to skip a few turns if you go negative but it lets you do several different actions in 1 turn. The battle system gives you a lot of strategic options and there are several fights where you need to make smart use of the system.

Tons of jobs. The game uses classic final fantasy jobs and they are awesome. You acquire new jobs by defeating the holder of the current job asterisk which then lets you adopt that job. Along with exp that increases your regular level you get JP to increase your job level. Higher job levels give you more abilities to use, both active and passive. Another really cool thing you get to do is equip a second set of job abilities. So if you are a thief, for example, you could also equip white mage abilities. Then there are the passive abilities that can be equipped which leads to a whole lot more cross-job awesomeness. Sometimes you might want to get several levels in a job just for ONE specific ability which might help out another job.

A world map and airship! I can’t remember the last time we got both of these things. It’s funny how this isn’t technically a Final Fantasy game and yet it is the best Final Fantasy game in many, many years.

Most of my negatives seem to revolve around the village rebuilding mechanic.

bravely-defaultIn order to build up your village, which is required to unlock a lot of stuff, you need to devote workers and real time to build them. It’s a similar mechanic to a lot of iOS games where it might take 10 real hours to build something. Fortunately you can attach additional workers to make it go faster but this is still the kind of mechanic that I was hoping to never see on portable systems. I absolutely hate this kind of progression.

In order to get more workers for your village you need streetpasses, which I’m liking to rarely ever see in North America unless I attend a convention. You do get 3-5 workers per server day if you connect online but it’s still somewhat frustrating. I’m not a big fan of the streetpass feature at all.

For time to pass you need to have your 3DS on or in sleep mode. It’s not like animal crossing where time passes whether you are powered on or not. Sure, they may be entirely different kinds of games but they both still deal with the passing of real time. I’m not personally a fan of leaving my electronics in sleep mode for long periods of time especially when I sometimes might not play my 3DS for weeks at a time. So if I want to chip away at some of these buildings that take 99 hours to build then I need to have the system at least in sleep mode.

Really most of my complaints are just a small aspect of the game and some just boil down to personal preference. Bravely Default is still an incredibly fantastic game from what I’ve seen so far. If you have a 3DS you should definitely check it out.

Graev’s Game of the Year 2013

Picking a game of the year is hard. I can barely remember what I even played the first half of this year. Usually all I can recall is the last third and stuff I thought was this year turned out to be from two years ago and so on. I did manage to look through a list of this year’s last year’s games and found one thing in common with most of my favorite games: They’re all on handheld devices.

It was a big year for portable gaming. At least for me, anyway. Also, when I say portable gaming I use the term very loosely since I don’t actually take my 3DS and Vita more than a few feet from an electrical socket. I should also mention that I’m not talking about games on devices like phones and tablets. Some people consider those to be in the same portable/handheld category but that’s usually something I avoid altogether if I can. Anywho… Let’s look back at some of my favorite handheld games of 2013.

fire-emblem-awakeningFire Emblem: Awakening

This was a really fun game from what I can remember. It actually held my interest for quite a while. I’m a fan of strategy games and RPGs that use turn-based mechanics. I used to enjoy playing real-time strategy games but I just don’t have the reflexes to play competitively.

Fire Emblem had a lot of replayability with so many characters and different ways you could match them up with the relationship system to create the most powerful offspring, etc.

Monster Hunter 3 UltimateMonster Hunter 3 Ultimate

Okay, this one is actually a little bit of a cheat since I didn’t actually play the 3DS version. It is, however, supposedly the exact same game except the Wii U version has multiplayer. I did try and convince Keen to pick up the 3DS version to play local co-op but that never panned out. He hasn’t touched a Monster Hunter game since he died on on of the first missions in Monster Hunter Freedom Unite and threw my PSP across the room. Actually, that’s not quite true. We were in a car so he technically throw it across that.

Anyway, I played this game a whole lot this year and especially online and once they added the off-TV mode. I’m not entirely sure but I think I spent over 200-300 hours fighting large monsters online with other players and grinding away to craft better stuff. I’m actually getting the itch to play just talking about it.

animal-crossing-new-leaf-fishingAnimal Crossing: New Leaf

Keen and I both love Animal Crossing and played the heck out of it for several weeks straight. Or at least I did. I think Keen might have drifted off a bit before me. Still, there usually comes a point when for one reason or another we just stop playing, which is actually kind of odd when the game features so many neat seasonal features. Some people may be able to enjoy it over the course of an entire year but I’m not sure I ever could. Maybe if I had picked up the digital version things would be different. I hate swapping carts.

Shin Megami Tensei IV ReviewShin Megami Tensei IV

My first SMT game from the main series. I had previously played Persona 4 Golden, which I loved. The two series are very different, though. Even so I enjoyed SMTIV very much. Recruiting, collecting, and fusing demons was a lot of fun and gave it somewhat of a Pokemon vibe. The story was interesting and thought-provoking and the visuals were fantastic. Maybe not a game for everybody but I loved it.

Pokemon X & Y

I’m sure we’ve stated at least a dozen times now that we’re huge Pokemon fans. We’ve loved the series since the original games and have played almost every pokemon game, and off-shoot, since. X & Y seem to have made some of the most significant advances in the series. The visuals are now all rendered with 3D models and there are several great new camera angles utilized throughout the game. Battling with your pokemon also shows rendered models rather than 2D sprites which gives more life to the little creatures. Not saying there was anything wrong with sprites, though.

Pokemon XY 3D RenderThe thing that I spent the most time on was breeding and training pokemon. This was the first time in the series where I actually felt like I was able to play the metagame. It was more approachable than ever and quite easy. EV training your pokemon could be done quite easily through little minigames and there was no way to screw it up since resets were possible. Breeding pokemon with perfect IVs was also much easier since player safari pokemon came with two already perfect IVs. I spent hundreds of hours breeding different kinds of pokemon.

Tearaway

I just wrote a post about this game and how much I love it. The fantastic visual style that recreates a paper crafted world just totally captures my imagination. I love creating new little character decorations and trying to make my little envelope dude look like Iron Man or A Ninja Turtle. The gameplay is fun and inventive and the way it incorporates the player into the game and narrative is unique. This was a real tough choice and it ALMOST was my game of the year. It was a really close call.

GAME OF THE YEAR 2013…

hyrule-and-lorule

The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds

a link between worlds 3dMaybe it’s a bit cliche or obvious but I don’t care. I’ve loved Zelda games since I first played Link’s Awakening back on my gameboy. I’m not sure if we’ve ever posted pictures of our game room but there are 2 framed posters: one depicting the evolution of Link through the years and another one from one of the games. One wall has a Link cling art on it and the other has a giant Phantom Hourglass 3D advertisement display that we liberated from a Gamestop. I’m a huge fan.

I love the classic top-view 2D Zeldas the most and I love how this was a throwback to those as well as being linked (lol puns) to A Link to the Past. Not only that but it introduced some fascinating new characters from the Lorule Kingdom, which I hope we get to see more of in the future. The game did so much right while getting very little wrong.  A Link Between Worlds is easily my game of the year for 2013.