Duke Nukem Forever Review

It’s been 20 years since Duke Nukem 3D and as such Gearbox have decided to re-release it. However the Duke Nukem series hit an all time low as far as ratings were concerned with it’s latest installment Duke Nukem Forever. As such I thought I’d dive straight into it, yet another Humble Bundle game that came with The Darkness II.


Now I haven’t played much of the Duke Nukem series. I remember only playing a demo of Duke Nukem 3D which was a pretty sizable demo. Should I have picked it up? Maybe… however I ended up getting this instead. Regardless I had fun playing it back then. It had some cleaver secrets and some pretty well designed levels for its time with lots of iconic venues. Of course I didn’t get to play all of it but I just loved using weapons like the Ripper to mow down enemies, those were my best moments playing Duke Nukem, shooting things and exploring the levels. The same could be said about all FPS games really.

So when I picked up Duke Nukem Forever I wondered to myself “How bad could it possibly be?”. I dove straight in and was almost immediately introduced to a boss fight who couldn’t even hit me because I was constantly circling him as he repeated the same attacks over and over again. This is when I realized that Tryptych didn’t really give a fuck about the game’s AI, they added very little variation with the boss fights so much so that they felt stale and uninspired.


That was the first thing that stuck out like a sore thumb to me, that and the simple fact that each time the bosses health bar reaches zero, you had to perform a quick time event execution sequence to finish them off. Needless to say, I didn’t know this at the time and as such I kept fighting it and fighting it till I finally realized what I had to do.

Then the game immediately dropped all of the action in favor of some walking simulation nonsense which exists solely to show just how much of an egomaniac, narcissist Duke is and how everyone and their mother knows and worships him as if he is some kind of god. Funnily enough, I actually enjoyed these sections more than I did the actual game. Why? Because of the level of interactivity in each of those sections. I swear I spent hours just drinking soda out of a vending machine just to see how much of a mess I could make on the floor. That and I love vending machines. Why couldn’t they make the ones in DOOM do something?


Honestly I felt like I was playing two different games at some point. Watching Duke fanny around with pretty much everything is ironically far more satisfying than anything the combat had to offer, so much so that it appeared that the developers knew this and as a result they reduced the level of combat to a minimal. This time instead of fighting tonnes and tonnes of enemies, you are instead thrown into long-ass physics puzzle sections only to encounter brief combat sections every now and again and then returned to the puzzle solving and the occasional walking around and interacting with nonsense stuff. Then you’re thrown into a turret section where you are severely punished for fucking up and finally vehicle sections which were also pretty satisfying IMO.

However the meat of the game, I.E the combat is where Duke Nukem Forever falls flat on its ass. Now the two weapon limit is annoying in itself but I would have been able to cope with it if the weapons you were given didn’t have such limited ammo capacity. Honestly this wasn’t an issue back in Duke Nukem 3D due to the weapon carry limit which is arguably the biggest complaint this game received simply because each weapon has such limited ammo that you are forced to swap between new weapons every so often. This wouldn’t be so bad if they didn’t make so many of the weapons situational. The railgun for one is near useless in a game like Duke Nukem Forever as it is a single shot sniper in a game where you supposed to be up close and personal with the enemy. Even Painkiller’s sniper rifle managed to adapt to this style of gameplay but the railgun feels misplaced.


Other weapons such as the Freeze Ray and the Shrink Ray feel needless, those weapons were originally designed for experimentation purposes to go alongside the huge roster of weapons at your disposal in Duke Nukem 3D but would I seriously swap one of them with the Ripper/Shotgun? Hell no. To add insult to injury, most bosses are immune to bullets and any other non-explosive weapon so it’s important to keep an explosive weapon with you at all times.

In addition you also have access to Pipe Bombs and Trip Mines. Trip Mines are basically useless in most encounters because the enemies just appear and you often end up blocking your own routes. there are even times where the enemy has walked directly into the laser and still lived and in the end I have to shoot the mine to trigger it manually. Pipe Bombs are still useful thankfully and can pack quite a punch against regular enemies. They can also bounce off of jump pads which look like a combination of a flytrap and a rotten cucumber.


Movement in Duke Nukem Forever is pretty standard, you can dodge most bullets and avoid most melee attacks with ease. Explosives however are near impossible to avoid completely. I find that explosive attacks often end up being in a Leningrad esque scenario in the sense that it’s kill or be killed. Now this would have probably been more acceptable if it wasn’t for the horrible regenerating health mechanic that this game shoehorns in. I mean seriously did you need to cover at all in Duke Nukem 3D? No you just shot your way through everything and dodged everything. In this game however you are hit with high AOE blast radius attacks which deal a fuck ton of damage.

Octobrains are the worst for this because they have way too much health and deal way too much unavoidable damage with their explosive breath attack (or whatever it is) which deals insane damage. There really isn’t much balance in terms of the enemy strengths and weaknesses from what I have seen. Octobrains are pretty resistant to the Ripper, the Shotgun is useless because they like to stay as far away from you as possible, rockets and grenades are useless because they fire them back at you and the Shrink Ray is useless since you can’t squash them and makes an already small, fast moving target even harder to hit. Plus the Freeze Ray lacks the range to even reach them.


Most enemies on the other hand will die to pretty much anything except bosses which to me feel all the same. Shoot them get into cover, shoot their minions, leave cover, shoot them again, rinse and repeat. Sure they try to mix them up with certain fights but the lack of cover makes these fights really annoying and the way you are forced to play against these bosses is just nonsense, especially in a Duke Nukem game. The new alien weapons on offer feel rather gimped in comparison to returning weapons and many of them have limited ammo capacity.  Some of them are pretty strong but  you’ll never rely on them because it’s difficult to find ammo for them and other weapons do the job better in general.

It seems what they were trying to do is make it so that certain weapons are better against certain enemies but the two weapon limit ruins this completely. It they didn’t have this two weapon limit I believe the enemy encounters wouldn’t be so uninteresting because there would be so many ways to experiment with lots of different weapons at your disposal and you’d be encouraged to try them all.


I made a point of trying to stick with the Ripper and the Devastator for as long as I could because there would occasionally be ammo crates littered around which gave you access to infinite ammo, you would keep these two weapons around for this reason. However I found myself trying to conserve as much ammo as possible in most sections which was a pain, even trying to melee certain enemies to try and kill them. Yes that includes meleeing an Octobrain.

It just doesn’t feel right, I want to put my finger on the LMB and mow enemies down fast but instead I fire the ripper in short bursts which was not as it was intended to be used for. I didn’t get any satisfaction from any of the weapons for that reason which is a huge problem in a first person shooter like Duke Nukem Forever.


The Level Design is decent for the most part… if a bit linear. A lot of the locations felt uninspired as opposed to that of Duke Nukem 3D. You find yourself in the same bland offices with the same bland tunnels and wreckage for most of the game, it likes to throw the same at you a lot and there isn’t as much variety as I would have liked. Granted Duke Nukem 3D has a lot of levels that look very samey the levels are only that way because of their thematic style and it is consistant. However when you are on the Duke Dome mission in Duke Nukem Forever, most of that mission is spend wandering around wastelands of wreckage and construction sites and it gets old seeing these areas when in reality you want to see what’s going on inside the Duke Dome that the level is supposed to revolve around. Funnily enough once you finally reach the Duke Dome, the level ends.

The biggest annoyance for me was the puzzles. I could cope with the rest of it but the puzzles were just boring. Some of them were straightforward and simple but just took time to do such as filling up a crane with barrels to re-balance the weight. I find that the game threw way too many puzzles at you and it’s just needless. They weren’t even that hard and quite frankly I’m pretty thankful for that. Nevertheless it’s more busywork the player has to do to reach the next shooting section and even that wasn’t much to look forward to.


Quite frankly I had the most fun playing through the walking sim sections and funnily enough I was looking forward to see more of them but eventually there comes to a point in the game where you no longer have any of these interactive moments kinda like in Bioshock Infinite, heck It’s as if most 2K games just love to have these walking sim sections in them. This wouldn’t have been so bad if the actual gameplay wasn’t so monotonous. The sad thing is that the best level in the game turned out to be nothing more than a dream which is hilarious as it just goes to show that even Duke himself is getting bored with this game and it shows.

I spent hours playing the snooker minigame trying to get that ego boost and I ended up getting more engaged in that and all the other minigames on offer than I did with any of the shooting sections. I had a lot of fun playing air hockey and the pinball game was intense and pretty cool. There was also the whack-a-mole game in which I used far more reflexes than I did in any of the shootouts. The dream section only lasted so long though and you couldn’t revisit it or any other area like it for the rest of the game.


Occasionally there were a few other distractions littered around levels and the odd restrooms where you could piss about in (literally) but aside from that is was just walking through repetitive levels, solving puzzles and shooting baddies, trying to keep your ammo stocked up. I swear that I spent the vast majority of the game searching for Ammo for my guns simply because I wanted to keep my Ripper in my inventory and didn’t want to swap it for anything else.

Visually speaking, the bright lighting kinda felt a mid misplaced, unlike in Duke Nukem 3D where it was always night time which added this cool lit up city vibe, Duke Nukem Forever is brightly lit outdoors 95% of the time  and it made the visuals feel lacking in the variety department. A lot of the visual appeal shown to us in Duke Nukem Forever’s original trailer showed this dark urban environment that I felt was lacking in Duke Nukem Forever.


Bright lighting and a dark cloudy sky… not the best combination.

Only inside buildings did you ever see any dark lighting which was a shame. Regardless the visuals aren’t as bad as people make them out to be, there are some nice locations and some dull locations. I find that later on in the games the levels become really dull and samey though.

Additionally the game also seems to have a few minor characters and I mean minor characters. It’s a shame you didn’t really get to see much out of them though as Duke was the central character of the game and even though I understand that they were trying to get that one man army vibe that Painkiller gives, these minor characters just feel as if they were shoved in there in order to take the piss out of modern shooters when it only serves to make them the same… if not worse.


It wouldn’t have been so bad if there was some banter between Duke and Dylan but a lot of the time, Duke just stands there and listens, he doesn’t ever communicate with his team when he is battling alongside them. If anything it’s a missed opportunity on Gearbox’s part.

It would have been cool to have given Duke a cool side-kick who would have given Duke someone to natter to during some of his missions rather than just nattering to himself which is quite amusing to be honest. I guess deep down, Duke isn’t much of a sociable person, if fact despite being an alpha male stereotype he appears to be socially awkward in most situations… unless he’s talking to one of his “babes”.


Dylan seemed like a cool guy to me. Shame he was completely shadowed by the Duke.

The music in the game is pretty forgettable minus the theme song of course which never gets old. There are a lot of tense tracks that appear at random in certain sections but for the most part there is nothing but silence. There are also remixes of the Duke Nukem theme song in the ambiance as well as some classic jingles which play in the elevator which anyone who played Duke Nukem 3D will remember.

All in all as a shooter, Duke Nukem Forever works… it just doesn’t work very well. It feels like a very watered down shooter with minimal satisfaction. To be fair I can see the appeal die hard Duke fans can get from this game as Duke is still for the most part the same Duke, you’re still facing the same enemies and you still get the same legendary quotes. They just threw it all into a very bland modern FPS which tries to function more like an old school FPS at times. However it fails due to the use of modern mechanics which leads to the game being a clusterfuck at times. Still if you want more Duke Nukem, there really is no harm in playing this. It’s not the worst FPS out there and is definitely far better than the horrendous Red Faction was IMO.


Tough choice…

I recommend trying it only if you’re a die hard Duke Nukem fan as you will get something out of it so long as you keep your expectations low but even then I really mean it, the game still feels very sterile even to the most die hard fans however I do honestly believe that die hard Duke fans will be able to appreciate this game and will definitely enjoy the many throwbacks this game has especially the walking sections since a lot of it is pretty much a tribute to Duke himself and the game still works as a shooter. For everybody else, just wait for the 20th anniversary remaster for Duke Nukem 3D.

Story/Plot: Decent

Visuals: Decent

Gameplay: Mediocre

Music: Decent

Lifespan: Quite Short

Would you replay? No


Overall: 20160920201056_2






The Darkness II Review

Well I didn’t expect to be playing this game. The Darkness II was a random punt of mine, I got it from Humble 2k Bundle so it was dirt cheap and the game looked interesting enough to get me to pick it up.

Anyways, The Darkness II is a First Person Shooter based on a comic book series which I don’t know anything about, despite all this, I didn’t have too much trouble following the story, even if it was a little crazy. The story sets you as a guy named Jackie who suffered a traumatic experience and became possessed by a powerful force known as the darkness. Naturally this makes him a badass anti-hero and like all good badasses, he is practically the Godfather of the local Mafia.


Unfortunately for him, the darkness inside him attracts trouble and as such he has to deal with an enemy faction known as the Brotherhood who seek to harness the powers of The Darkness for themselves.

Now the only issue I have with the game’s storyline is that they don’t really build on the whole “mafia” family thing, perhaps they did in the original game but if you jumped into this game without playing the original the pacing of the game is very concise and this is very much to its detriment for newcomers trying to experience the complete story but those who played the original game might appreciate this since they don’t need all the extra exposition.


Despite this the plot itself is very straightforward and easy to follow but for newcomers such as myself it may lack a certain level of depth that you come to expect from most games. Still, I don’t think story is particularly important in these types of games however, it’s easy to tell that The Darkness II tries to deliver a solid narrative experience and while the narrative does its job, it feels kinda rushed. Even those who are fans of the original may realize this pretty quickly as the game doesn’t last that long to begin with.


You will frequently encounter these monologue sections where Jackie talks about himself and The Darkness. It doesn’t really connect to the story in any way though.

Visually, the game is pretty good, there are lots of vibrant colors in this game similar to that of the Bioshock series, if you have played any of the Bioshock games then you will know what to expect here. Needless to say, the game still has that dark tone in order to reflect on the whole “darkness” theme this game is going for. You can tell that the developers wanted to make you feel like the darkness and not just some random dude with a pair of handguns.


In a way you could say that The Darkness II opts for a similar visual style to Shadows Of the Damned in a lot of ways and you wouldn’t be far from wrong. You could also say that it feels similar to Painkiller in a lot of ways however because of the focus on the narrative, the visuals don’t give the game the same feeling as Painkiller as they were opting for a completely different approach. Still I do like this visual style and it really befits the comic book world that they’re trying to replicate.


There really isn’t much to say about the music, it was just… forgettable I guess. It’s mostly just ambient sound which doesn’t really work with a narrative driven game like The Darkness II even though I saw the reasoning behind it, it just doesn’t do anything for me, nor does it stand out. Then again, that’s just my opinion so make of that what you will.


The game does have a few ambient quirks in the game’s hub area, the mansion and while exploring this hub is somewhat enjoyable, I wish a lot of the events that occur there don’t have any relevance to the game’s story which is a shame, I was hoping everything would tie in. It is nice that there is a cool looking hub area though as it was fun to explore.


Gameplay wise the game is rather innovative though this is sometimes to the game’s detriment which I will get to later. Regardless there are lots of different ways to mow down your enemies. Not only do you have guns which can shoot enemies but you also have powerful demonic tentacles coming out of your body. These can be used in all kinds of different ways and it adds a lot of variety to the game and allows you to play in all kinds of different ways.


Like with most modern FPS, there is a leveling system in the form of skill trees which you can use to put points into each of your skills. I do think the skill trees work quite well in this game as the darkness allows you to experiment with different playstyles and as such the skill trees allow you to enhance these playstyles based on personal preferences, that being said, while the skill trees do let you focus on a specific set of powers, it doesn’t take away from the experimentation the game has to offer.


Of course the game likes to throw different types of enemies at you and each one responds to each playstyle differently, certain playstyles work better than others in certain situations. Some encounters can be dealt with quickly when the right tools are available, some can be quite tricky if you don’t know how to approach them. There is a lot of thinking on your feet in this game and this would have been great if the game wasn’t so incredibly clunky.


First of all I’d like to talk about the controls. If you are playing the PC version, by all means play with a gamepad, the keyboard controls are poorly optimized and it shows. This game is almost as complicated to play on a Keyboard as Freespace, there are so many keys you will need to press spread out all over and this can make things chaotic in the heat of things.

This game loves to overwhelm you a lot but unlike the story, the pacing of the gameplay is actually quite slow. Jackie himself moves at a snail’s pace and though there is a sprint button, the controls are so bad that you’ll never use it effectively.


Additionally there are a few annoying features that this game brings to the table. The first one being the heart consumption system. While this is a wonderful idea in concept, it doesn’t work very well simply due to the fact that you have to constantly press E to consume souls *cough* hearts (sorry, I’ve played too much Painkiller) and doing this in the heat of battle is essential if you want to stay alive. This means you are constantly mashing keys aimlessly to keep up with the overwhelming gameplay.

The second and quite possibly the biggest annoyance is the light system. Basically if you approach any light, your screen will blur out and you will lose literally all of your abilities (including the ability to eat hearts) for as long as you are in it. This gets even more frustrating when they throw in enemies which have torches to completely disable you. The worst part of this is that to kill them effectively you have to shoot out the tiny little torch in their hands, this can be rather irritating when you’re in the middle of a huge gunfight as you need pin point accuracy to do it.

The light! the liiight!!!

The light… the liiight!!!

The biggest problem with it though is that it breaks up the gameplay. It makes it so that nearly every 2 steps there is a light illuminating the path and it’s very difficult to tell what is light and what isn’t. Some lights can only be destroyed by destroying generators, some lights can’t even be destroyed at all. The worst part is trying to locate all of the lights as they can sometimes be in very hard to find places and of course not all of them can be destroyed anyways which is extremely frustrating since you are constantly searching for them, even in the middle of battle.

I mean sure, I do get the gist of the whole “light” idea, it fits the concept perfectly but it isn’t executed all that well in the gameplay. A lot of the times you will find the game to be a bit too overwhelming for these reasons. Jackie’s slow movement speed makes dodging bullets a pain and it usually comes down to an “act before you think” scenario, similar to Leningrad in Painkiller, the only difference being that whereas Painkiller’s gameplay is very fast paced and fluid, The Darkness II’s gameplay feels very sluggish. and this can often make the game very frustrating.


However these flaws are still outweighed by the game’s strengths and I do think The Darkness II was an enjoyable romp for the most part. The darkling sections were a nice change of pace as they favored a more stealthy approach which I personally think that this game befit better to be honest and the game’s variety makes it really fun. if you consider yourself to be a fan of games Like Shadows Of The Damned, I’d give this a try as it has a very similar style going for it. Though the game may be sluggish and frustrating at times it manages to keep the player engaged through its variety, if you can get past its annoyances, you will probably enjoy The Darkness II’s gameplay a lot.

All in all, The Darkness II is an enjoyable romp that will last you for about 4-5 hours, its short length may be off-putting but if you can pick it up for under £5.00 it’s definitely worth a punt. I personally wouldn’t spend any more than £20.00 on this though due to its short length bit I do think you will find some enjoyment out of this.

Story/Plot: Satisfactory

Visuals: Good

Music: Mediocre

Gameplay: Satisfactory

Lifespan: Too Short

Would You Replay? No


Overall: Satisfactory




Why? Why is Painkiller my favourite First Person Shooter of all time?

I have been debating on what video content to do for the site and as such I came up with this idea. Why is a series of videos that I may release on the odd occasion about particular games and their mechanics. I will usually talk about why videogames are designed the way they are and why they appeal to us and many more.

Considering the nature of this series, It may take some time to see some uploads, there is no exact schedule or anything. This is just a way for me to discuss things vocally rather than in writing when I need to get something off my chest.

Of course I will still be doing written content that doesn’t fit in with the “Why” theme but I do this in hope that it will give the site more flavor and will allow people to see things in action as I talk.

In this episode I talk about Painkiller and why it’s my favorite FPS to date. The bulk of the video cues in at around 5:00 so skip to that point if you are wanting to see some actual gameplay.

I hope you enjoy this new format and if not feel free to leave feedback.

Apologies for my desktop fan… something you’re going to have to put up with i’m afraid:/. And yes I say “you know” a lot, I didn’t exactly have a script, just a bunch of notes so I tend to say it a lot as a means of connecting things.

Gggmanlives’ Youtube Channel: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCKlUrYO3i9MDlL45Ia6j5EA

Videogames don’t need to be perfect

Sometimes I wonder… does the name Cynical Gaming Blog hold much meaning anymore? Perhaps I should rename the site to “Rational Gaming Blog” because as a gamer, I seem to be one of the most rational gamers there is at the moment. Why is this you ask? Because I can appreciate games for what they are instead of simply berating every single little thing about them.

Ryudo 1

What has happened to gamers these days? Have we really stooped as low as the movie industry? I made three consecutive articles a while back (two of which are reviews) and all three of them revolve around gaming related media which has recieved negative backlash from either fans or critics over something stupid like “why does this girl wear such huge underwear?” or “this movie sucks because it’s based on a series which I haven’t a clue about because I don’t play videogames so I don’t understand the story” or “Why do the character models look so ugly? This game sucks because the character models are ugly!”

Now I think one of my biggest flaws as a blogger is that I haven’t stayed true to my name as a “cynical gamer” and hopefully this blog will help you interpret its meaning. I’m cynical towards the industry, yes because publishers are ruining it (that’s a rant for another day, go watch this video if you want the gist of it because this guy sums it up in a nutshell) but I’m becoming even more cynical of the gaming community. Why? Because we let it happen, it is us gamers that let all the industry bullshit happen because we buy the games that cause the issues in the first place.

You just bought Overwatch? You’re the heart of the problem. I wonder how long it will take before they implement microtransactions… oh, wait they already did? Brilliant, one small step for man, one large step for the industry’s downfall. Lets see how long our beloved games last shall we? Gaming may be on the up now but considering how much backlash Star Ocean 5 has received by so-called fans, can we honestly expect that it will last?

Is Star Ocean 5 really that bad? Or is it simply misunderstood?

Is Star Ocean 5 really that bad? Or is it simply misunderstood?

Perhaps you were disappointed by Star Ocean 5 and while that is cool and all, it doesn’t make it a bad game just because you set your expectations too high, it has too many merits to be a bad game and I have described those merits in my review. That’s why I write reviews, because reviews are all about finding both the merits and the flaws of a game and weighing them up. The problem is that most gamers, sometimes even critics focus way too much on either the positives or the negatives that they contradict their statements completely. I try not to be one of those people. Whilst I won’t deny that I have written reviews that are absolutely terrible (my Star Ocean 2 review which written was back on Destructoid was appaling) I can definite say that I have improved over the years and I have enough experience to understand what makes a good review.

However many may be led to believe that my points are invalid due to the fact that I’m not a paid professional. Journalism goes beyond what I do, they get where they are because they have qualities which I don’t and I am aware of those qualities. That doesn’t mean that their points are any better than mine, I’ve seen some absolutely terrible reviews from critics that don’t know what they’re talking about, go look at Warcraft movie reviews if you want proof of that.
terenas sleeping

As a result, I only read/watch reviews from independent sources such as myself because believe it or not, they do a far better job than professional critics do. This is mainly due to the amount of workload they are given whilst we independent critics have all the time in the world to make a detailed and complete review, it is something which I aspire to do, to cover everything a game has to offer and whilst I don’t always get it the first time (AKA Valkyrie Profile 2) I try my hardest to cover as much as I can about the game and even then it’s not enough. I could re-write half of my reviews and apply so much more information but I’d rather look to the future rather than look to the past. Maybe if I received requests I would go back but until then, I will move forward (unless I really feel the urge to re-write a review).

You see, most paid professionals are given deadlines and a lot of games to review. As such they can only briefly cover each one because they have to be resourceful with their time. How can you trust someone who does half a job? Don’t you want to hear the whole thing? I’m not telling you that you have to read my content and only my content because that’s absurd, so many people do a better job of reviewing videogames than I do, here’s some examples of reviewers that I watch, those guys do a far better job than I do when it comes to making reviews and you should watch them.

That little rant aside, let’s get into the meat of the topic, perfection in videogames. What does perfection mean exactly? I’ll show you exactly what perfection means:

f-zero gx 3

Ok, ok I don’t mean to be so big-headed to state that F-Zero GX is a perfect game as a fact but personally in my opinion, I think it is. Why do you think we haven’t seen a sequel yet? Because what else could they do with it?  Shigeru Miyamoto asked this very question and to be honest I can’t deny that he is right F-Zero GX perfected the gameplay formula, it perfected the world, the feeling.

Even the terrible voice acting and over the top choreography invokes the perfect style of campy charm that was intentionally designed to act as a parody of comic book tropes, an underline agenda that the game never openly admits to but as the player, you can just tell by playing the game that the developers wanted to create a comic book inspired world and rather than trying to come up with something serious, they decided to make it funny, this is made even more evident by the character bio video’s which show each character in a funny situation. The game was intended to be camp and as such the flamboyant and misplaced voice acting was added specifically to add humor to the game.

F-Zero GX 1

Add to that the incredible music, visuals, 60 FPS and the countless features which exist purely to add more to the experience and you have what I consider to be a perfect game. Even Valkyrie Profile 2 couldn’t surpass it in this department but my cognitive bias puts it 1 place above F-Zero GX because I love RPG’s.

However to expect every game to be as incredible as F-Zero GX is simply outrageous. That game was a masterpiece in every single way, though it may be possible to top it, doing so would be an insane task, a challenge and a huge risk. People seem to forget that videogames are made by people. The goal of a videogame director is not to come up with as many ideas as possible because that would be foolish, their job is to be resourceful. Why do you think Star Ocean 5 was so short? It’s not because the developers are lazy, not by a long shot.

The reason why is simple. They want to filter out all of the filler in order to improve the pacing of the game. Shuichi Kobayashi (I swear I spell his name wrong every time) openly mentioned this in an interview. How can you say that’s not a good decision? He is surely giving us what we want by removing the needless filler that many games have these days and even if you enjoy filler, can you honestly say that this decision ultimately made the entire game terrible? Surely not because I refuse to believe that anybody could be that foolish.

Character development on the go. Just like one of those cereal bar commercials.

Character development on the go. Just like one of those cereal bar commercials.

One thing that I would like to mention before wrapping this up is that the things that matter to me in game design are the little things. Whether or not you pay attention to these things or not is irrelevant, it is important to pay attention to the small intricacies if you want your opinion to hold any value. If you aren’t capable of accounting for every single little detail a game has to offer then your opinion is worthless. I’m not saying that having a biased opinion is wrong, I’m saying that you shouldn’t use your opinions to give false advice.

By analyzing the minor intricacies you are able to decide more thoroughly who the game is for and who should avoid it. If you fail to do so, you obviously don’t show enough respect for the game, so why should other people respect your opinion? I don’t care if you’re a reviewer, if you have an opinion, don’t spread biased propaganda if you aren’t able to respect the game enough to give it a thorough analysis.

This however doesn’t mean you have to look at every single feature a game has to offer. Like I said, the small things matter but the big things aren’t as important when discussing a review because they are a lot easier for the consumer to see and as such they can easily judge whether or not the game is for them by just looking at it or watching a lets play on Youtube. This doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t cover these points however. Big things do matter, just not as much, if a game has a unique feature that separates itself from the crowd then it is definitely worth a mention. However most games use features that are set in stone.

Painkiller HD Survival

Like for example, most FPS have horde survival modes now. You don’t have to break down every single game mode to get your point across unless that game mode has issues… and if it does you have to find the problem… and thus you must delve into the small intricacies once again. Instead you evaluate the bulk of the game and judge it based off of that because if the cogs don’t work properly, you aren’t going to have a working machine, no matter what it does.

If people only looked at the big, we would only see the same thing time and time again. If you go back to my “What a rip off” article, I mention the qualities of ripping off other games. It is these small intricacies that differentiate those games from their original concepts.

As such, the tools of making a great game are applying the right tools for the player to enjoy a functional, yet enjoyable gameplay experience, you don’t have to make the gameplay spectacular to pull that off. The reason why I gave Star Ocean 5 a “great” rating was for that very reason. I had fun playing through the game despite the lack of move options and the inability to stagger enemies simply because the game was designed well enough to add an element of challenge, something which in all honesty may well be the most executed out of all of the games in the series in my opinion. Is it perfect? Perhaps not.

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If we look at Valkyrie Profile 2 for example, that game uses break mode to allow unlimited attacks for a short period of time, perhaps Star Ocean needs to do the same thing with staggering, they tried it with Star Ocean 4 but I find that they will need to do the opposite in order to succeed. Add a gauge that when filled allows enemies to stagger or do what Valkyrie Profile 2 did and make it so that when you break off an enemy’s body part, you can make them stagger for a short period of time allowing you to combo them.

However that alone wouldn’t make the game perfect. I wrote another article before talking about how we could theoretically create the perfect action game and since Star Ocean 5 is an action RPG, this is relevant. One of the games I brought up is one of Star Ocean 5’s competitor’s, Tales Of Xillia which by holding a certain button, it changes the moveset of the character on the fly allowing for a more varied moveset. This is what the Star Ocean series needs in my opinion, however I cannot deny that Star Ocean 5 was a step in the right direction and you shouldn’t either, removing the stagger-lock was the first step to creating a better game… but it’s not a complete step. People need to realize that these things take time, tri-Ace are probably trying to find some new way to improve this as we speak. Instead of complaining about it we should see the merits of its intentions and move on.

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I’m not just saying this because I’m a Star Ocean/tri-Ace fanboy (which I am). Tri-Ace have made mistakes just like any other developer. In my opinion, that mistake was teaming up with SEGA and making Resonance Of Fate but as a fan of tri-Ace, I’m not going to discredit them just for one game because I know that they are capable of more than that, plus I know that they’re all human beings and human beings make mistakes. This is an undeniable fact, game developers aren’t gods, they are people just like me and you, so appreciate the effort they put into the game by showing a level of respect worthy of that effort but to truly respect the game, you have to look at the small intricacies that make the game so good/bad in the first place because believe it or not while most of us gamers don’t pay attention to these things, developers do, there is a reason for every single little thing they add to a game and you may or may not understand those reasons, nor will you even notice all the things they add to the game.

As someone who knows very little about the intricacies of game development, I cannot say I can completely understand everything, however I consider myself a theorist. It makes things more fun that way. I don’t need to know the exact reason, I just need to know what works and what doesn’t. That is what I do. Though I do want to explore the theory behind why certain game design decisions were made and why certain intricacies and features were included. It’s something I’ve wanted to do for a while but I haven’t found a good enough format in which to do so. Hopefully one of these days, I will be able to get face to face with these developers and learn the truth but the chances of that happening are very low.

So remember, games are supposed to be as good as they can be for what they are. You can’t expect everybody to be as accomplished as Arnold Schwarzenegger and the same applies to videogames. Learn to appreciate things more rather than nitpicking about every little thing and calling it out as bad.

Warcraft Movie: My Thoughts

So I just finished watching the Warcraft movie. Needless to say I had a lot of fun watching it as it was Warcraft and you can’t really go too far wrong with it. The Warcraft movie stays true to classic Warcraft rather than World Of Warcraft which I was glad to see… though there were a few knocks to World Of Warcraft, they were very minor.

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The first thing to note about the movie is that it is very straightforward and simplistic, they kinda sped it up to keep people engaged which was a good thing. The second thing to note is that the movie is very graphic and pretty dark for a 12 rated film which is great considering the fact that it stayed true to the Warcraft novels which were dark to begin with.

The characters didn’t disappoint, Durotan was as you would expect him, you get to see him a lot in the movie and you get to see many different sides of his character which was nice. Lothar gets a bit more exposure in there too with more plot relevance than he had in the original games. He and Durotan pretty much steal the show, though Khadgar makes a few appearances as well and acts as Batman’s Robin toward’s Lothar.

Orgrim Doomhammer returns, he’s just as badass as he was in the books but we don’t see too much of him at this point, he does play a role but it’s not as major as Khadgar so he is kind of a temporary side kick. Instead, Garona plays as Durotan’s sidekick even though they barely had any relevance to one another in the lore which is interesting. This brings me to another point.

The lore in the movie is different, most of it however still ties in to classic Warcraft and there are Loopholes which tie it in to Warcraft Orcs and Humans, I’m not going to say too much due to spoilers but things change in the movie, I believe these changes were directed towards the general public rather than Warcraft lore nerds since they wanted to give the movie a somewhat satisfying conclusion and they wanted the viewers to become invested more. So they changed it up to give extra investment to certain characters.

I will say that for the most part however, these changes are actually for the better as they made things a bit more interesting. On the other hand it causes a few plot holes. We get to see a lot of fight scenes, most of them are large-scale battles (in classic Warcraft style) there are also a few duels AKA mak’gora which adds a bit more focus in the choreography department. For the most part though, a lot of the action is pretty chaotic and difficult to take in though it was always satisfying to see Orgrim casually bashing people with his hammer with no fucks given, like a boss.

Naturally Blackhand plays a part, he’s slightly different now, rather than being ruthless dictator like he was in the books, he is a little more rational this time around but he is still rather brutal. Interestingly enough, they chose to keep him clean of the fel magic for some reason, this seemed somewhat out of character but it was replicated by his new attitude. Blackhand is very much like Orgrim Doomhammer in the sense that he is conflicted about Gul’dan’s actions but sees no other way around it. You never get to see his daughter, Griselda though. It would have been interesting to see how that would have worked out with this new personality he’s got rockin’.

Gul’dan is pretty much the main villain of the story and he is very different this time around. Rather than being a silver tongued schemer, Gul’dan is very much like he was in World Of Warcraft: Warlords Of Draenor in the sense that he is a lot more forward and up-front rather than hovering around from behind the scenes observing his grand plan from the background like he did in the lore. You could say he has basically replaced Blackhand’s role completely which kinda simplifies a lot of things but it’s really not Gul’dan. Nevertheless he’s still a great villain and he has a lot of badass moments, you thought he was starting to show his badass side in Warlords Of Draenor? Ha you’ve seen nothing yet.

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Medivh was a pretty great character this time around, I like the way that they dealt with his character though the whole fel thing was a bit unusual as it came out of nowhere (I’m not going to spoil precisely what i’m talking about). We do get to see him do some cool things though. In a way, I’d say Medivh kinda replaces… nah I’m not going to say it because it’s a spoiler but if you know the lore, you probably know what i’m referring to.

I will definitely say however that I like how Medivh was portrayed in the movie better than the actual book which surprised me. In this you get to see a lot more of his unexpected character quirks than you did in the movie. He is also very protective over the human lands this time and takes his role as guardian a lot more seriously than he does in the book where he seems somewhat annoyed at the constant pestering of the humans for help and would rather keep himself to himself.

One thing that did disappoint me though was the ambiance of Karazhan, I guess I was expecting something a bit more ominous… I don’t know but it seemed like just a normal tower. The Dwarves make a brief appearance but the lack of a Scottish actor felt kind of off. I mean come on guys, it’s only CGI, get a Scottish actor to do the role, we identify the Dwarves with that Scottish accent as it gives off that Nordic feel which feels close to its roots (since the Dwarves are based off of The Lost Vikings) but it’s only a minor issue.

I also would have liked certain things to remain true to the lore such as all the orcs being green due to the dark magic taint that occurred in Draenor before the first war ever happened. Instead, Gul’dan just shoves magic up their asses and turns them green immediately, a bit late for that aren’t we Gul’dan? It felt rather inconsistent and awkward that all the fel orcs were completely irrelevant to the plot and were just there to add a backdrop (including Grom Hellscreem, yes he is there). You would think that Blackhand would have been one of the first to volunteer to drink the fel blood but it seems that he is instead commanding a bunch of steroid infested orcs and still manages to upstage all of them in combat… but this is Blackhand so why am I surprised?

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The choreography was simple but good, all the hits connected well and had a good punch to them which made the fight scenes appear more gruesome. There was a lot of effort put into the sound design in the movie and the ambiance, you get to hear a lot of screeching and it gives the orcs in particular a very intimidating feel. Put simply if you’ve only play Warcraft 3 or World Of Warcraft, you might be a bit surprised as to just how intimidating they are. They are menacing and it’s sometimes difficult for Orgrim and Durotan to stand out amongst all the screaming of the orcs but they surprisingly manage to.

Seeing some of the imagery as it was conceived in the books brought to life was actually very frighteningly accurate and I really think they managed to capture those points quite well in the film which helps the viewer feel a lot more invested in the story if they haven’t read the books.

Put simply, Legendary thought of everything with this movie… but they focused mainly on the important parts of the story and building its foundations on it rather than looking at the broader picture and trying to level it all out with the rest. I think this decision was for the best. As much as I’d have liked to have seen the shadow council, the ogres, Mannoroth and maybe Kil’jaeden. I’m pretty satisfied by what was offered and it was really worth watching for what I was shown.

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There is also one thing with Medivh that I won’t spoil but we get to see something that we have never seen in any Warcraft game before… beyond concepts of course. All I’m going to say is, it’s a bit small but for understandable reasons. However it is still pretty awesome and I’m so glad to finally see it, worth watching for that alone if you ask me.

So all in all, the movie is a must watch for Warcraft fans. I believe others who aren’t too invested in the Warcraft universe will enjoy it too since the story simplifies itself and changes things up to explain things better and get people’s investment quickly. Even if you aren’t a fan of Warcraft, you’ll either be invested in this film or it’s just simply not your kind of thing.

Though I did mention my hiatus in a previous post, I took it down since I made this closely afterwards. I may try to do something in the summer but there’s no promises. I can only hope to be back in winter.

Star Ocean: Integrity And Faithlessness Review

Ah finally I get to reveal the truth about this game. After all the negativity and all the incessant whining from Japanese fans over a pair of underwear, we can finally get down to business. Star Ocean 5 is indeed the return of tri-Ace and Square-Enix’s relationship and I can say with confidence that it doesn’t disappoint. As a fan of tri-Ace, I commend this game for its efforts to bring the JRPG genre back to life.

Now with all that considered, let’s get straight to it. Star Ocean 5 is basically fanservice to all Star Ocean fans, this can be interpreted both positively and negatively but I see it in a positive light, there are tonnes of throwbacks here and there and you can see that the devs are trying hard to bring that Star Ocean magic back into the series.

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Welch returns to cause some more mischief…

However things could seem a little too familiar, many of the enemy designs resemble past Star Ocean games and also many of the music is re-used from previous Star Ocean games. Personally this didn’t bother me so much as I like to listen to old Star Ocean music. The enemy designs didn’t bother me much either, it merely helped maintain that Star Ocean feeling.

Another thing you will notice very quickly is that many of the moves from previous Star Ocean games return. Pretty much every attack in the game is re-used from older Star Ocean titles. This isn’t exactly a bad thing since the Tales series does exactly the same. And several attacks look slightly different from they used to.

That aside, let’s get into the bulk of the game. The story is in Japanese so I didn’t understand a word of it, the cast of characters are quite different this time round. Many of them are highly experienced combat veterans which is a nice change from the usual teenage kid saves the world having had zero combat experience (I’m looking at you Fayt Leingod) and it really gives the cast a strong feeling of importance as if they belong in the story as opposed to being put there due to circumstances in the plot.

The story revolves around planet Faykreed, a single planet. I can see why they went with this though and I believe the plot is the main reason why. The game starts off almost immediately in a conflict which expands over the course of the game, the game revolves around this conflict and as such it’s befitting that the story revolves around a single planet for that reason. As a result, the scale of the game’s storyline is a lot smaller than Star Ocean Till The End Of Time but the execution is done rather well.

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“Who ate the last piece of my pie? Was it you!?”

This brings me to the seamless cutscenes. This is where a double-edged sword comes into play. On the plus side, many of the scenes transition well and helps ease the pacing of the game. On the negative side, the third person perspective of Fidel can be limiting. In other words it’s trying to create a Half-Life effect by essentially putting the player into Fidel’s shoes and watching the story from his perspective rather than watching a traditional cinematic cutscene where the player feels detached.

As such, the seamless cutscenes are somewhat of an acquired taste. As you go through the game you grow to appreciate their significance more once they start playing around with new ideas. The game likes to throw them at you quite often and during these scenes you can walk around so long as you stay in the designated area. However there is a new emotes feature you can make use of which is a nifty novelty. The devs obviously intended for the players to make their own fun with the cutscenes and offered tools to do it with. The question is, is it enough to keep the player’s interest?

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The answer is simply… it depends. Whilst many of us appreciate the flashy CGI cutscenes, those that don’t can usually skip them. The biggest negative implication of the seamless cutscenes is the inability to skip them. This can be troublesome at certain points but for the most part they aren’t long drawn out and if for some reason you’re getting bored watching them, you can force Fidel to do all sorts of nonsense to keep you amused. Personally I had a lot of fun with the emote system but considering the fact that Star Ocean 5 isn’t an MMORPG it could be considered to be somewhat out of place. Then again we are talking about Star Ocean *wink* *wink*.

Another thing that sort of feels very MMO esque is the questing system. Like the seamless cutscenes, these side quests have both positive and negative implications. The obvious negative implication being the fact that questing can be kinda bland. On the other hand the bulletin board keeps everything together in its respective area which cuts out all the monotonous running around town in search of quest givers or trying to find that particular NPC you need to give that item to.

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There’s so much content in this game that you’ll never be board.

One thing that may bother people is that many of the content acquired throughout the game is locked behind sidequests. This includes skill books which are used to learn new battle skills and item creation professions. As a result you will have to spend a lot of time backtracking to different areas fighting mini-boss encounters and finding certain items to obtain new skills and abilities. So to get the most out of Star Ocean 5, you will have to spend a considerable amount of time doing side quests and backtracking. Then again, Star Ocean has always features a lot of backtracking through its private action system.

Speaking of which, private actions return but this time they are a lot easier to access. To access private actions, you merely need to approach a whistle icon in town where your party splits up and by approaching that party member, you trigger that private action. You no longer need to leave town or use a guide to find private actions though you may still want to use a guide to get certain character endings. I personally tried everything in my power to get any ending besides Miki’s, needless to say, I failed and ended up paired up with my least favorite character, looks like the Japanese language barrier trumped me that time.

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Miki appears to get very excited when you trigger her PA’s, shame I don’t feel the same way…

In addition to traditional private actions, certain private actions trigger on the road, kinda like skits in the Tales series only this time you don’t have to trigger them and watch a bunch of character portraits chatting amongst themselves. Instead the private action plays out as you are moving, kinda like seamless cutscenes but you are free to move and even battle during them. Obviously battle will cancel them out. As such you can enjoy these PA’s at your own pace and if you so wish you can take a break from exploring to see their expressions.

Item creation is back and is better than ever. Star Ocean 5 has in my opinion the best item creation in the series. Whilst it mostly sticks to Star Ocean 4’s item creation at first, over the course of the game you will unlock the classic Star Ocean 1 and 2’s item creation… with a twist. As such you get the best of both worlds here. The regular item creation is just like Star Ocean 4’s only this time you no longer have to visit Welch every time and can perform item creation straight from the menu which is handy. Also you don’t have to spend SP on invention or find recipes any more, rather you learn new items by simply making them.

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At first all the items are hidden behind question marks so you don’t know what you’re getting but once you unlock it will reveal what it is and you can make more of it should you wish at any time. Like Star Ocean 4, item creation requires you to gather certain components and use them to create a single item. Over the course of the game however you are able to unlock a new item creation system called the lottery.

The lottery is basically Star Ocean 1 and 2’s item creation where you put items into a pot and get a new one out. This time however you can use just about any item you please and you use up to a combination of 6 items from your inventory. You can have them randomly picked for you or you can choose them manually. Once you’ve selected your items, you can throw them into a pot (or in this case a bunny) to obtain a new item. However be careful not to throw important items in as they may be lost forever and you never know what you’re gonna get, it’s completely random depending on the items you use. The lottery system is fun to experiment with and you may end up getting an item that you can use in regular item creation to create the item you wanted. If you’re lucky, you may also get a new piece of equipment that is better than the one you had before. Of course you will get duds a lot of the time but that’s why they call it a lottery.

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Up to six items can be placed in the pot. Choose wisely!

Item synthesis is back also but is split up between multiple skills, one for weapons and armor, another for accessories. Like Star Ocean 4 you can apply factors to your equipment using any item in your inventory or combine certain items together to create a new and improved one. The system is very much the same as previous titles and whilst it may be nothing we haven’t seen before, it’s still refreshing that they brought it back in all it’s glory. As such there are many customization options for equipment available to you.

Visually, the game is fantastic. Whilst the overall aesthetic style is inherited from Star Ocean 4, there have been some huge improvements made. For starters, the first thing I noticed in the game was how impressive the game’s draw distance was. Whereas Star Ocean 4 tries to cover up a lot of its empty backdrops with white fog and clouds, Star Ocean 5 adds more detail to the game’s environments making them more vast and as such is contributes towards improving the game world’s sense of scale.

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Considering the fact that the majority of the game takes place on one planet though and there aren’t too many areas on that planet, the game’s world isn’t as large as the visuals would lead us to believe. However each location is very detailed.  I found it quite odd that the desert area had constant rain though. Isn’t a desert supposed to be piping hot and dry?

The character designs have been outsourced and are designed by freelance artist Akira Yasuda, who is recognized for his work on the Street Fighter games and they look great. The main character, Fidel is probably the best designed protagonist I’ve seen in a while in terms of visual appeal. Victor looks pretty rad too. The character models are a mixed bag though, Some of them are great, others are a bit off. Emmerson’s head looks a tad too small outside of the CGI’s and Miki… well she looks odd in general. Fidel still looks fine though as does Fiore.

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Overall I’d say the visuals are pretty impressive, at least compared with most other JRPG’s these days. I think they made a good decision to keep the choice of art style colorful and vibrant rather than trying to make it look realistic. It really gives it that Star Ocean flair. In addition, unlike Star Ocean 4, the characters don’t look like weird dolls anymore (aside from perhaps Miki).

Visuals aside, lets talk about the combat. Tri-Ace made the huge mistake of returning to Star Ocean Till The End Of Time’s horribly archaic battle system. Thankfully that’s the only word I could possibly use to describe the battle system of Star Ocean 5. It’s not all doom and gloom though, there has been some improvements. Now in case you don’t know, Star Ocean Till The End Of Time’s combat was abysmal. With the horrible CP cap, difficulty spikes aplenty and of course the dreaded MP death along with the HP cost for special attacks, Star Ocean Till The End Of Time gave me an experience best forgotten, gameplay wise at least.

Star Ocean 5 attempts to fix the system and it uses many simple yet effective methods in an attempt to do so. One method is to simply allow normal attacks to cancel into normal attacks. This way you aren’t stuck with only special cancels. This adds a little more depth to the gameplay as certain specials are long drawn out and you may wish to use a faster normal attack instead, especially if you think the enemy is about to attack you.

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Another improvement is the balancing of the characters. No more useless characters like Adray or Mirage, every character is useful this time round. In fact I found myself switching between characters a lot and thankfully due to the game’s guard system, this worked like a charm. What is the guard system you ask? Remember the fury gauge in Star Ocean 3 which let you guard attacks when it was at its max? Well that awful feature was scrapped and replaced by simply adding a manual guard function. This allows you to block weak attacks and almost all magic attacks which is pretty nifty if you ask me.

Once you have guarded and attack you can unleash a guard counter by letting go of the guard button right after being hit. There is a reasonable time frame but you have to let go of the guard button almost immediately. It does take a while to get used to but once you do it becomes a really fun mechanic and adds a fun new approach to battles. Rather than playing 100% aggressively like in previous Star Ocean games, you can now experience a more defensive style of play. Whilst Star Ocean 4’s blindsides were cool and rewarding, they were rather easy to pull off as you could pull off a blindside before an enemy could get a chance to hit you. In Star Ocean 5 however, guarding requires a lot more precision.

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You see by holding down the guard button, you can maintain a guard for as long as you want. However the enemy will usually read this as an opportunity to hit you with a strong attack. If you are hit with a strong attack whilst guarding your guard breaks and you lose a portion of your reserve gauge. So it’s important to read your opponent carefully and guard their attacks only when necessary. Enemies with blue auras around them are often preparing to attack you with a strong attack so be sure to move out of the way if you see one coming your way.

The reserve gauge is essentially the replacement of the bonus board. However, like in Star Ocean 3 it is a bar this time round. The reserve gauge is accumulated simply by attacking enemies. However it is depleted if you get guard countered or ko’ed. It may also be depleted if you are attacked during an attack animation. Accumulating additional reserve rewards you with bonus experience, sp and fol.

Once the reserve gauge fills up one of its bars you are able to unleash a special reserve rush attack. These attacks are basically the Star Ocean equivalent of Valkyrie Profile’s soul crushes and deal devastating damage to enemies (aside from Miki’s which heals the entire party). It’s cool that they implemented this feature as I always loved the soul crushes in Valkyrie Profile and it’s nice to see a similar concept used in Star Ocean.

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Like in most JRPG’s, it’s important to give the character an extravagant pose before using their ultimate attack. Just so you know that shit is about to get real.

Unlike Valkyrie Profile however, reserve rush attacks don’t show up on a separate screen. Instead they blend into the rest of the battle allowing you to keep the fight going as the reserve rush piles damage into the enemy. As such you could say that reserve rushes are the polar opposite of rush combo’s from Star Ocean 4 as instead of simply showcasing regular attacks on a separate screen, you are able to use unique attacks on the same screen.

The biggest change however is the fact that you control 6 party members in battle and as such you can swap between all of them to make unique combo’s. I personally didn’t have a main character this time round. Instead I cycled between characters and used each one periodically. I mostly stuck with the three dudes: Fidel, Victor and Emmerson though I occasionally swapped to the ladies for some support when needed.

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This brings me to another issue that was fixed from Star Ocean 3. Usually when you switched characters, the character would run up to the enemy in order to perform an attack. This could not be canceled out. In Star Ocean 5 however it is possible to cancel this run up through guarding which cancels out the attack completely. This is extremely handy and can be a life saver at some points.

Another improvement is the removal of boss staggering. Though this could be considered a negative. Bosses will no longer be interrupted by attacks. However with proper usage of the guard mechanic, it’s not likely that they will be able to hit you with a quick attack unless you let them but this is where the strategy comes in. You have to be able to read what the enemy is about to do. As for weak attacks, they aren’t used to interrupt bosses, rather they are used to exploit short counter windows. Strong attacks are used for the same purpose as always, to break down shields. As such, dodging and positioning yourself is very important and you can use it in conjunction with weak attacks for some quick hits.

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This means that you can no longer stagger lock bosses which was an issue that plagued the rest of the series. Now you have to think a bit more and use counter windows to your advantage. On the plus side, this feature only serves to make cancel bonuses all the more rewarding. If you can get a 200% cancel bonus on a boss without getting hit, good job but it’s not that easy. In Star Ocean 3, you could get cancel bonuses easy, all you needed to do was button mash and spam. In Star Ocean 5 however you have to be more calculated as enemies can hit you mid combo which causes your reserve gauge to decrease so you have to be careful with how often you stack attacks and wait for a counter window.

As a result there is a lot more thought process behind Star Ocean 5 compared with the rest of the series, even with the game’s rush mode, Star Ocean 4 still had the ever exploitable staggering but only for a certain period of time. However when an enemy entered rush mode you would simply run away from it until it’s rush gauge depleted then you would wail on it again which was kind of an exploit since the rush gauge was somewhat flawed even if it was a better concept than Star Ocean 3’s fury system.

So Star Ocean 5 manages to do a lot of things right with its battle system despite it’s limitations, so much so that many of its shortcomings are outweighed by the good parts. Needless to say however, the combat system remains somewhat archaic to a degree considering the fact that we’re still using MP for specials (well at least it’s not HP like in Star Ocean 3) rather than AC like in the Tales series. In other words, the Star Ocean series has a bit of catching up to do to keep up with this generation’s standards.

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All that aside however, the combat is still just as fun as the rest of the series, you could even consider it to be the best in the series. I would personally mark it on par with Star Ocean 4’s battle system. I think any Star Ocean fan will find enjoyment out of this system. If you can have fun by simply replaying old Star Ocean games, you will have so much fun with this game, especially if you enjoyed Star Ocean Till The End Of Time.

Now I want to touch on seamless battles a little bit. When you get into a battle, there are no transitions. Instead you are given the option to either attack or block to initiate a battle. If an enemy hits you, you will get surprised and the battle starts so you must be careful as you approach enemies and make sure you get the first move. Once the battle starts, a red ring appears around the field, running into that ring allows you to escape battles but there’s a timer. One thing that could be considered a minor annoyance is that when playing characters other than Fidel, they may end up outside the ring at the start of the fight, setting off the escape counter. It’s only a minor gripe though and if you do run away you merely have to wait some time to re-initiate the battle so it’s all good.

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When the battle ends a results screen appears in the top right of the screen and you are immediately free to move. There is no fade out or loading screen’s in between battles, they start almost immediately. Certain battles may even take you off guard at some points as they are blended in with the seamless cutscenes. Certain battles will give you specific objectives where you have to protect someone as well and as such, battles can get quite difficult later on in the game.

In addition you may occasionally be accompanied by guest characters who will help you in battle. This brings me to what is quite possibly my favorite feature in the game, war battles. War battles are a somewhat frequent occurrence where large scale battles take place in a designated location.

During war battles you can freely move around the map as the battles are waged and can engage into battle simply by getting in range of the enemies and instigating them by using either the guard or attack button. In other words there are several battles going on at once and you are accompanied with NPC soldiers to assist you, very much like the siege of Castle Prevant in Infinite Undiscovery only on a much broader scale. These battles are quite the spectacle and really show off what the game’s seamlessness is capable of as it makes the battles feel more exciting.

Another new feature is the roles system, this allows players to not only provide certain bonuses but it also allows players to alter the character’s AI behavior in battle. As such the AI is vastly improved from Star Ocean Till The End Of Time and no longer will you have to put all characters on manual control due to the fact that the AI likes to recklessly charge towards an enemy. One of thing things that annoyed me the most with Star Ocean Till The End Of Time was the simple fact that Sophia’s AI had to be one of the worst healer AI i have ever had the displeasure of witnessing in a JRPG.

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There are 5 categories for roles. One for offensive, one for defensive, one for healing and one for support. The final category is just for stat boosts among other things that do not affect your character’s AI.

Roles can be used for more than simply changing the AI behavior, certain roles have specific abilities that apply certain effects to the characters in battle. These effects can be pretty dangerous if you don’t know what you’re doing. I ended up accidentally playing through the majority of the game without obtaining any experience from monsters and I had to do sidequests and farm gathering points just to level up. However my lack of Japanese caused me to be completely oblivious to this fact and as such my characters were only around level 60 by the end of the game. It’s like sealstones in Valkyrie Profile 2 taken to a whole new level of dangerous.

Now as I mentioned before, the music of this game includes tracks from Star Ocean 3 and 4, if you haven’t played those games I urge you to give them a try (even though Star Ocean 3’s gameplay is godawful, it’s worth it for the story). The music from those games are as good as ever and with the exception of a few tracks, the majority of the tracks tie in well with the game

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As for the new tracks, Motoi Sakuraba has put a lot of work into developing new ideas for his future projects as shown in Exist Archive. The soundtrack of Star Ocean 5 is a little bit more familiar though and really gives off that Star Ocean feeling. You’ll realize very quickly that the music maintains the series the standard of quality the series is known for and while there isn’t as much of it as we expected (Sakuraba is a pretty busy guy these days, seriously they should get Noriyuki Iwadare to work with him as he did the music for Radiata Stories and the legendary Grandia 2) the music we got is top notch.

You can feel the effort that was put into the music and you can also feel the struggle that Sakuraba has gone through to make the soundtrack as good as it can be. I think by now, music composition has become more of a challenge than ever for Sakuraba as he has a lot of reputation behind him that he needs to maintain and this means experimenting with new ideas and new approaches.

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It’s amazing how the soundtrack manages to remain so familiar but feel so different at the same time. The mixture of Violin, brass and alluring techno is the style Motoi Sakuraba went with for this game. The brass often stands out as being somewhat overpowering whereas the violin is very technical. The techno really brings out the sci-fi effect, especially when accompanied with the brass.

As will all tri-Ace games, there’s a bonus dungeon at the end and like the other games in the series there are two more unlockable difficulty levels for completing the game. The game itself is rather short but doesn’t outlive its welcome. There are several diversions available throughout the story such as the cathedral (the replacement for the series’ more conventional arena) which pits you against a gauntlet of enemies and finally a boss to obtain a reward at the end. There also of course plenty of side quests to do via the bulletin board and private actions. As a result you’ll generally spend around 40 hours or so which isn’t bad by any means.

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Those intent on rushing through the main story may be disappointed by the game’s length. I’d say the main story is on par with that of Infinite Undiscovery’s main story in terms of play time so if you don’t mind a short JRPG, you should be satisfied with what this game has to offer. I for one am glad the game was short as it meant that I could get to this review a lot quicker. Still I took my time and played through around 37 hours worth doing sidequests and stuff and had a lot of fun doing so, so much so that I was getting a bit lax on my analysis hahahaha. It is a long time since I’ve enjoyed a proper Star Ocean game, I wanted to make the most of it and I got what I came for.

So if you’re wondering whether or not Star Ocean Integrity And Faithlessness is for you, it all depends on what you’re looking for in a JRPG. Are you looking for a long adventure with lots of filler? You won’t find it here. If you’re looking for a game that’s short but sweet and intend to play through some of the game’s side content, I’d definitely recommend this game to you. In other words, Star Ocean Integrity And Faithlessness is the opposite of Exist Archive in the sense that rather than trying to shove as much filler into the game as possible, it aims to bring top quality content in small quantities to keep the budget costs down.

As such I believe they made the right decision with this game and though many will disagree with me, I think that Star Ocean 5 is a top quality game that didn’t get enough time to blossom but it’s definitely on the right track and I can see a potential for a Star Ocean 6 in the making. So just ignore all the irrational hate, give this game a go and I promise so long as you don’t set your expectations too high, you will enjoy this game a lot.


Plot/story: Not going to comment till I play it in English

Visuals: Exceptional

Music: Great

Game play: Great

Lifespan: Quite Short

Worth replaying? Yes


Overall score: Great





Valkyrie Profile 2: Silmeria Review/Analysis

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So before we get this started, I want to inform everyone reading that I have written about this game so many times and have still failed to deliver the proper message each time. The first time I wrote about it was on Destructoid, it was a review of the game that felt half-baked.

The second time I attempted it was on a site called WeAreJustGamers.com, a site that has recently been taken down that I used to write for before starting my own site. I am going to be using the second version… which is a shame since all of the images have been buggered up due to the site’s deletion but I think I still have the files available and can replace them pretty easily maintaining their relevance.

Nevertheless, even though this is a rehash of a review/analysis of a game I hold dear to me, I will be improving it as I still think there is so much that I need to cover with this game. Doing so will be a challenge as even though I want to keep a lot of the content which I already wrote in my second article because it still holds true, however I need to add further content in order to give it the true attention it deserves. In case you didn’t already get the memo, Valkyrie Profile 2: Silmeria currently stands as my favourite game of all time and it’s my job to explain to you why I find it to be the greatest game ever made and man this is going to be one hell of a challenge to review.

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So lets start with the logical observation. Unlike the first Valkyrie Profile which was a cult hit, Valkyrie Profile 2 was shadowed by its predecessor in every single possible way and was considered a “massive disappointment” by many fans of the first game. I’ve never seen a game that has been nitpicked as much as this game. It’s a game that literally did no wrong (at least to me). Seriously just picking out flaws in this game alone is like finding a needle in a haystack and yes there are flaws there but personally I find that they do not hinder the game’s experience in any way.

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So what did the game do to make people dislike it? Well for starters, Valkyrie Profile was a very good game… I say that loosely considering the fact that it was a hugely flawed game, an acquired taste you could say but the flaws in that game stuck out like a sore thumb. Nevertheless, Valkyrie Profile managed to gain a cult following who appreciated the games design choices for its originality and also appreciating the emotional impacts and deep undertones that made the game feel unlike any other.

Valkyrie Profile was unique and to see it become a traditional JRPG was ludicrous. People refused to accept that an 18-year-old midget princess with social disorders replaced the almost stereotypical stoic goddess that was Lenneth but if you look back at Lenneth, as cool as she was, her stoic disposition really took a toll on her character as a whole and her development arc was blatantly forced. I just think the game was rushed by the end… but then again even Valkyrie Profile 2 suffered a similar fate by the end though looking back, I found that Valkyrie Profile 2’s story as a whole was better structured and was better executed than its predecessor.

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At first sight, it’s understandable how someone can detest the idea of Alicia being the main character. She appears to be a stereotypical bimbo at the start of the game which is ironic considering the fact that I found that her alter ego, Silmeria fit that category far better in the long run. Over time however, things began to make sense and I did start appreciating Alicia as the main lead and became to understand the developers reasoning behind this choice, it was all about perspective and that’s what led to the biggest change Valkyrie Profile 2 made, the fact that it followed a more generic narrative structure but despite popular belief, this change was completely vital.

Lets face it, Valkyrie Profile was an unpolished masterpiece. Horribly unpolished might I add. Had the developers put more TLC into the game’s execution, it could have become the masterpiece that was Valkyrie Profile 2 but it didn’t and remained nothing more than a cult hit. Valkyrie Profile 2 barely got together a cult following but nowhere near the same level as Valkyrie Profile. People who hated Valkyrie Profile avoided it and people who loved it… also avoided it… it was an inevitable flop that went down with a huge bang that no one ever saw. Basically Valkyrie Profile 2 is the most under-appreciated video game ever made.

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Now as someone who disliked the direction the first Valkyrie Profile took, I played a few more tri-Ace games and realized that they were by the same people who did Valkyrie Profile. So surely I should give the series another chance and I picked up Valkyrie Profile 2 on a whim. It could have been another horrible experience but I had a small glimmer of hope that they changed it and thank god they did.

“Valkyrie Profile 2 is the most under-appreciated video game ever made”


Gone was the open-ended story line concept which sucked just as much ass as Big Rigs Over The Road Racing, Gone was the ever punishing period system which punished player choice and exploration and in with the old school narrative structure we all know and love. Vanilla storytelling has never been so bliss and to be honest, it was quite refreshing seeing the Valkyrie Profile series’ story line told in this new direction. You got to actually experience the story line directly as opposed to just watching some random scene which holds no relevance to the plot whatsoever only to be thrown into the next dungeon, rinse and repeat. It was a horrible… seemingly repetitive formula which bogged the first game down.

Valkyrie Profile 2’s traditional approach may not have been perfect though. Early on in the game, you are presented with quite possibly the worst macguffin trope ever conceived to man and I honestly don’t mind macguffin tropes so long as they don’t take up too much time and aren’t too predictable. It’s easy to just sit there and say “this game is boring, give me a better plot” but as bad as it was, it didn’t seem to hinder the game’s pacing half as much as Valkyrie Profile’s entire story line and strangely enough, it really didn’t impede on the overall experience. In fact I believe the slow pacing was actually needed. Why? Because it allowed you to take everything in.

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That’s right, Valkyrie Profile 2 is the best looking game on the PS2, still holding up today as one of the most aesthetically appealing games ever created. The visuals are crisp and are loaded with glittering particle effects to add that extra sparkle. It’s easy to tell that a considerable amount of effort was put into the game and there are a lot of minute details that are easily missed the first time round.

So to put it simply, the visuals are a step beyond sublimity but the game’s incredible soundtrack just happens to be even better. The two go hand in hand to provide the player with one of the greatest gaming experiences you could possibly imagine.

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As I have said before in my original review of this game back on Destructoid, Valkyrie Profile 2 is a work of art in motion and not just visually but musically as well. If you can appreciate music and visuals, then this might possibly be your dream game and I damn well love some good music and visuals.

Seriously if I listen to the game’s soundtrack on Youtube (which I do way too much) I start to get addicted to listening to it and think to myself “fuck it, I’m going to listen to it all over again from beginning to end” and after listening to it all over again, I realize that I’ve just spent hours simply listening to the same songs over and over again.

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Listening to the songs in Valkyrie Profile 2 is just like eating a full bag of Dorito’s, they are just simply moreish, I just can’t get enough of them, they’re like a drug. Captivating is probably the most fitting word to describe Valkyrie Profile 2’s soundtrack. Heck I’ve spent more time listening to the game’s soundtrack than I have actually playing the game. Heck I sometimes even listen to them whilst playing other games, particularly open world RPG’s where they are surprisingly fitting.


 “Valkyrie Profile 2 is a work of art in motion”


I find that the music of Valkyrie Profile 2 has a much greater purpose beyond simply being enjoyable. The music of Valkyrie Profile 2 has a purpose beyond merely engaging the player, it also helps build up the game’s abstraction. In fact the music in this game somehow tells a better story than it’s dialogue. I don’t know whether or not Motoi Sakuraba was aware of this, perhaps I’m looking into it too much. However many of the dungeon music in this game not only the perfect ambiance but also manages to illustrate the significance of the area you are in.

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It is implied that many of the locations you visit in Valkyrie Profile 2 have historic connections with a lot of the game’s lore and whilst I cannot discredit the visual department for doing its bit, the music certainly does it part in building up the abstract background of the game’s story line just as well. I swear I could analyze many of the game’s songs and decipher their hidden meanings but I’d rather let you, the player experience that for yourselves.

A recurring theme surrounding Valkyrie Profile 2’s abstraction and story is history. The game takes place many years before the events of Valkyrie Profile and puts you in the perspective of a Valkyrie who can read the psychic energy of objects allowing her to read into the past. Hence the reason why this game’s story focuses a lot on abstraction rather than what’s actually going on in the plot. This is likely one of two main reason why most JRPG fans are turned off from the game’s story for they fail to recognize this abstraction.

Silmeria's object reading opens up a whole new dimension within the game's storytelling.

Silmeria’s object reading opens up a whole new dimension within the game’s storytelling.

Somebody mentioned in an article that Valkyrie Profile 2 tells a better story in its world and setting than it does in its narrative. This is 100% the truth. The narrative in Valkyrie Profile 2 isn’t bad by any means but as I have mentioned before, the narrative doesn’t even compare to the likes of games such as Grandia 2 as it is somewhat flawed at certain points. That is because narrative is not the focus of Valkyrie Profile 2 whereas the first Valkyrie Profile had quite a lot of narrative, some more trivial than others but there was plenty of it nonetheless.

Valkyrie Profile 2 decides that rather than telling you the story it wants the player to explore its world and uncover the story for themselves. Sadly, most players aren’t patient enough to do this and as such, I find that the story of Valkyrie Profile 2 was horribly misunderstood. Nevertheless, the music of Valkyrie Profile 2 creates a solid ambiance that will pull you into its world.

Rather than simply plundering people's hoses for Loot, Valkyrie Profile 2 often has readable books where you can learn some of the lore.

Rather than simply plundering people’s hoses for Loot, Valkyrie Profile 2 often has readable books where you can learn some of the lore.

As such, I’ve come to the conclusion that Valkyrie Profile 2’s soundtrack works with everything and just makes everything better. Seriously you should listen to some of the songs whilst playing Skyrim or something, it will make the experience so much better. The fact that it manages to capture such a perfect ambiance to the world makes it so ideal to listen to whilst playing open world RPGs as it enhances the experience of exploration. I listened to the soundtrack of Valkyrie Profile 2 whilst playing Two Worlds 2 and whilst the game was good (at least to me), I doubt the experience would have been the same without the music of Valkyrie Profile 2 playing in the background.

As for the game play. It doesn’t disappoint, like the first game, it is a side scrolling RPG, probably one of the biggest reasons why it got overlooked but it’s part of the series’ charm and couldn’t be ignored. In any case, the visuals more than make up for it.

As with most side scrolling games, Valkyrie Profile 2 experiments with platforming with the use of photons. For the most part, the game’s platforming sections are pretty simplistic and the game tends to focus on thinking rather than reflexes.

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Photons can be used to crystallize enemies to immobilize them, however if you shoot a photon at a crystallized enemy, you will swap places with it. This mechanic is the most common element of the game’s platforming as it revolves around swapping places with enemies to reach certain areas.

If anything, the side scrolling sections are less about platforming and more about puzzle solving. I often joke about how Valkyrie Profile 2 invented the portal gun idea before Valve did with their release of Portal as it is essentially the same idea with photons except it uses enemies instead of walls. Overall, the platforming sections are a cool distraction, but the real meat of the game play is in the battles.

Valkyrie Profile 2 keeps the same style of combat as the first game but expands on it greatly. In battle, you are actually able to roam around a 3D battlefield… oh the irony. This opens up a completely new approach to battles and applies more flexibility and depth to them as a whole.

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Like the first game, characters are set to face buttons, they are your choice of attacks. Rather than just giving you a set of special attacks for each character, picking one and letting the computer play the rest, Valkyrie Profile 1 and 2 have you playing as all the characters at the same time and each character represents a certain move set which can be customized at will in Valkyrie Profile 2 (which was limited in the first game). This is where Valkyrie Profile 2 succeeds where other ARPGs fail, the ability to be in control of everything on-screen at all times. So if you make a mistake it’s your fault.

Valkyrie Profile 2’s battle system is unlike any other JRPG and can take a while to get used to. It can also feel quite repetitive at the start but once the training wheels are off and you obtain more characters, the real action starts. Honestly when I replayed the game and just had Alicia and Rufus I felt like the game removed so much. That’s because the combat improves over time but eases you into the basics and you better appreciate that as the game is very deep. Sadly it can put a lot of newcomers off, particularly impatient ones who judge the game at first sight.

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A lot of people say that this game is really hard. I honestly had no trouble playing through this game. It’s a very deep game and you really need to pay attention to the tutorials, get the right skills and understand seal stones as this game requires a lot of preparation. Valkyrie Profile 2’s game play is all about thinking outside the box. Whilst there is some strategy involved during game play, it matters little if your characters are under equipped, you’re going to get a spanking if you’re not prepared.

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Then again, if you do come prepared, you might find the game to be way too easy. This is because Valkyrie Profile 2 is so easily broken, it’s ridiculous. It’s all about knowing how the game works and if you want to play the game the normal way, the difficulty might be tough. However if you’re into power leveling and gearing then this game can seem be a bit too rewarding.


“This is where Valkyrie Profile 2 succeeds where other ARPG’s fail, the ability to be in control of everything on-screen at all times. So if you make a mistake it’s your fault”


There are a lot of ways to play this game and it can seem a little daunting at first but experimentation is key. Valkyrie Profile 2 is all about finding the best play style for you and maximizing it to its full potential, though it is encouraged to switch on the fly. For this reason, gaining experience matters little in comparison with equipment and skills.

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Each character has their own set of attacks and they learn more of them as they level up. Considering the fact that Valkyrie Profile is not a Tales/Star Ocean game, the move selection in battle is limited (and linear) for each character simply due to the fact that you are controlling everyone in the party (though you can learn the scramble attack skill to mix things up). You’re not picking out moves, you’re picking out characters and developing moves from the characters you like in order to enhance them, you can then change-up their moves later after you’ve developed them, either that or swap them out for a new character and equip that character with the armaments from the other character to make them just as powerful.

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Characters learn skills through battling, the amount of battles required depend on the character’s level. So it’s important to learn new skills as early as possible.

Utilizing all of your character’s skills and abilities is the name of the game here. Most battles revolve around timing your attacks in order to acquire bonus experience via magic crystals as well as increasing your AP reserves via gems which lets you use more attacks. Whereas some characters are best at dealing direct damage, others are better at generating extra hits which can not only help gain more gems and experience crystals but it can also generate more heat allowing you to perform soul crushes which are a signature move each character has which can be chained with other soul crushes to deal a tremendous amount of damage towards the enemy. In addition, the higher your hit count, the higher the damage you deal.

That’s not all, enemies can also lose body parts when they attack in a Monster Hunter esque fashion in the sense that breaking off enemy body parts often rewards you with loot such as accessories which you can use to learn skills and improve stats. Additionally, breaking off certain body parts changes the behavior of the enemy, if you break off their weapon for example, their range will be limited.

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Shopping in Valkyrie Profile 2 is like Monster hunter. Basic armaments can be bought with cash, more powerful items need additional materials to be created. You do however get a return on your materials simply by trading them for OTH.

The biggest reward for breaking however is break mode. Break Mode allows the player to attack freely without expending AP so you can button mash to your heart’s content. The strategy guide mentions that break mode occurs randomly and the rate that is occurs accumulates by 5% per break for each character and the occurence rate starts at 70%. Pretty deep stuff huh?

Allow Lezard Valeth to demonstrate the many benefits of breaking

It is often important to experiment with different attacks in order to hit a certain body part and acquire certain items early on in the game which can be used to learn skills quickly. This is important if you want to have an easier time with this game.

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Magic is visually spectacular, however many of the enemies have high resistances making mages fall short of other characters in the damage department. Possibly an oversight by the developers.

Visually, the combat is spectacular. The animations are very detailed and encourage a steady flow of combat. Like I mentioned previously, timing your attacks is important and can be very rewarding. However if you miss an attack, it could prove detrimental so it’s important to stay focused on the action, however it never becomes too hectic and can even be somewhat relaxing due to it’s pacing. The soul crushes are also a treat for the eyes and can be extremely satisfying to pull off. All in all, Valkyrie Profile 2’s combat is not only intricate in its mechanics but also in spectacle.

However, Valkyrie Profile 2 offers a variety of features which enhance the possibilities in combat. Sealstones are powerful tools you can use whilst traversing through dungeons to empower or weaken the holder.

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Sealstones can be purchased with Magic Crystals which are rewarded for hitting enemies in a mid air combo in battle. Allowing you to keep them permanently.

By holding a sealstone, the effects of said sealstone are bestowed upon the entire party. As such you may find some sealstones to be detrimental in battle. However if you place it on a dais within the dungeon, all the enemies in the area will be under the effects of the sealstone. Sealstones have multiple uses, you can use them to assist you and you can even use them to deliberately handicap yourself for challenge runs, if that’s what you’re into.

Furthermore, the game has up to 50 difficulty levels which can only unlocked with each play through (complete the game on 1 difficulty, unlock the next difficulty etc). Each difficulty multiplies the enemies stats depending on the difficulty making this game quite possibly one of the most challenging rpg’s out there. If you are a perfectionist you will spend a long time on this game.

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The game also has a bonus dungeon which butchers the game’s storyline deliberately (typical tri-Ace trend) which provides a real challenge for the dedicated players. The bonus dungeon has 5 floors each packed full of mini-bosses and tough super-bosses and lots of loot. Much of the side content takes place here and the developers worked hard despite having limited resources to make it a somewhat interesting bonus dungeon compared to the conventional bonus dungeons many rpg’s implement which tend to be rushed, dry and tedious.

Valkyrie profile 2 carries on the trademark super-bosses of the tri-Ace games as well as adding its own, allowing players to recruit otherwise inaccessible characters in the main story. Sadly most of these characters have already been playable beforehand so you won’t find many surprises here except maybe for one but you’ll have to wait and see.

There is a lot of depth provided by this game’s lore. You can collect einherjar by interacting with weapons littered around dungeons and they will fight for you, essentially giving you another character to control in battle. Each character comes with a bio which can only be read in the status screen, some characters relate to one another, it’s funny when you learn that one of the first einherjar you get is one of Alicia’s ancestors. Now this is one of the game’s biggest controversies and what gives the game so much hate. The first game practically revolved around einherjar which are basically warriors risen from the dead to fight for Odin.

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In Valkyrie Profile, you can view the death scenes of each character during intervals. This is where the game’s abstraction is rooted, a series of short stories involving character deaths who will eventually become a member of your party and from that point on, you never see or hear from them again, except in battle or the sacred phase (which shows brief conversations between characters that aren’t really all that big of a deal and to view them, those characters have to be removed from your party). So essentially Valkyrie Profile had absolutely no character interaction outside the sacred phase and at a certain point you are expected to believe that they have grown attached to her which is total bullshit if you ask me.

Now the second game replaced them with a brief bio and people hated this despite the fact that the einherjar in Valkyrie Profile 2 took a backseat role which to be honest is quite relieving as it allows you to experience a more direct storytelling approach with a bit of character interaction and even though it’s not as deep as other games of the genre, there is some character development to be found here. I do believe the cutscenes do a good enough job, at least enough to motivate the player. People who expect strong character arcs may not find it in Valkyrie Profile 2 (or any JRPG for that matter, go play Warcraft 3 if you want serious storytelling) but it doesn’t make the game any less enjoyable. If you prioritize gameplay and just about everything else over story, then you will adore Valkyrie Profile 2.

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Then again, there is a lot of attention to detail when it comes to the einherjar backstories in Valkyrie Profile 2, it’s just a different kind of approach which requires more reading than watching. If you take the time to read all of the character bio’s in the game, you will find out about a lot of events which occurred many years before Valkyrie Profile 2 and it’s quite interesting to say the least. In fact some of the einherjar are connected and will occasionally share a battle quote with each other relating to their backstory which symbolizes that the einherjar, though backseat characters are actually part of the game’s lore. I personally believe that the attention to detail makes up for the lack of einherjar stories as just like the music, it contributes to the game’s abstraction. it’s obvious that the developers didn’t rush this design choice, it was just changed to reflect on the game’s storyline.

One word that defines the experience of Valkyrie Profile 2 overall is sophistication. Though I have mentioned the visuals previously, I find that sophistication is the core of all aspects of Valkyrie Profile 2. Not only does its focus on history carry a lot of sophistication within itself but just about everything from the subtle yet somewhat simplistic story, the unbelievably sublime soundtrack, the crisp yet somewhat achromatic visual style and even the pacing of battles feels sophisticated as the game encourages times button presses rather than reckless button mashing.

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In fact this game is so sophisticated, it is difficult to believe that it is a tri-Ace game at times considering the fact that many of their games often try to follow a more generic anime style route. I find that Valkyrie Profile as a series stands as tri-Ace’s true claim to fame personally because as enjoyable as the Star Ocean games are, they don’t manage to capture half the depth the Valkyrie Profile games do and each installment seems to follow the same formula… just with a different method of conveying that formula.

Part of what makes the Valkyrie Profile series in general so iconic is the simple fact that it stands out as being sophisticated but the first Valkyrie Profile, despite it’s plot and setting didn’t manage to capture as much sophistication as the sequel simply because of it’s ridiculously flamboyant voice direction, the enjoyably dynamic, yet unsophisticated soundtrack and it’s focus on delivery through exposition, which despite being presented and performed very well, fell flat on its face in the end simply due to the fact that it was not only rushed by the end but it also felt as if they shoved way too much forced exposition down the players throat leaving them confused as to what relevance each and every moment of the game’s story had.

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Valkyrie Profile 2 didn’t have this problem. Whilst Valkyrie Profile was undoubtedly sophisticated to a degree, Valkyrie Profile 2 seemed to have perfected the sophisticated feeling that they were trying to convey in the first game but with a completely different approach. Rather than hurling tonnes and tonnes of exposition down our throats it instead focuses on building up its world and lore through abstraction rather than narrative. In my personal opinion, they did a better job conveying the game’s lore through abstraction rather than exposition.


“One word that defines the experience of Valkyrie Profile 2 overall is sophistication”


The beauty of Valkyrie Profile 2 being a sequel is that the first Valkyrie Profile already explains so much that they had a lot of room to focus on abstraction. Personally I think they simply took an opportunity and ran with that expecting players to appreciate it. They were sadly wrong for the most part. However I for one can see the beauty in the game’s direction and as a result it made me love the game more than any other.

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“I know you are there… come out and play”

Ultimately though, the storyline can be enjoyable but it doesn’t satisfy all tastes and it’s narrative, though it is enjoyable to a degree feels rather simplistic, though the delivery of the narrative is done in a fashion which befits the sophisticated style of the game. The voice direction is very direct in its approach and the pauses in cutscenes helps tell the story in a clearer fashion rather than coming across as convoluted like the first game. For those who are dissatisfied with the simplicity and are unable to appreciate abstraction, the story may seem quite boring which is understandable.

As such, if we speak from a broad perspective, Valkyrie Profile 2 is the opposite of Warcraft 3, the story is serviceable but the rest is absolutely brilliant. It brings together everything that makes a JRPG experience so enjoyable. I encourage anyone with an ounce of taste in JRPG’s to give it a try, just be sure not to rush through it and take time to appreciate what this game has to offer. Oh and Valkyrie Profile 3 needs to happen, get on that shit tri-Ace, I know you’re busy with Star Ocean 5 but please do not forget this legendary series. Honestly all of the Valkyrie Profile games are legendary though Valkyrie Profile 2 holds that special place in my heart that no other game has. If you’re going to play Valkyrie Profile 2, you may as well play them all, yes that includes Covenant Of The Plume.

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Subtle and sophisticated, Valkyrie Profile 2 is not just your run-of-the-mill JRPG experience, it’s Michelin star quality gaming at its finest and as a result, it deserves a star of its own, a symbol that this game is phenomenal, something which I can easily recommend to all fans of JRPG’s because if you don’t enjoy this game, you’re not a true JRPG fan. As such This game gets my gold star of awesome and I do not give them out lightly. Reviewing a game like this is quite daunting, after all, a game as classy as this deserves a review of equal standards and though that feat is a tough one to meet, It won’t stop me from trying.


Plot/story: Great

Visuals: Masterful

Music: Masterful

Game play: Exceptional

Lifespan: Decent Length

Worth replaying? Maybe


Overall score: Masterpiece 

Gold Star Of Awesome





Warcraft 3 Patch 1.27

Warcraft 3 patch notes

Looks like there’s a new patch for Warcraft 3 The Frozen Throne, Here are the contents. It appears that MAC users will have an easier time playing the game. As for Battle.net, I think the maphacking community are probably shitting themselves right now, they actually have to play the game without hacks😮.

I honestly never imagined Blizzard would step foot back into Warcraft 3 Battle.net ever again. I doubt they’ll be able to fix the smurfs, the godawful hosting system or the horrible community though. It will be a shame. I wonder if the classic game’s team have the balls to moderate this game like the GM’s do in WOW. I mean we’re talking about Battle.net here, the 4chan of online gaming.

To be honest, with this new patch, I think Battle.net has lost it’s identity. Without maphackers it just won’t be the same. Who else are people going to blame for losing because someone had a sneaky shade in their base? What else is a BM player gonna blame when the enemy heard them wind walking into their base and decide to base camp?

It also kinda sucks that I lost all of my replay footage because of this patch… damn… there were some good times had playing on Battle.net even if it is a scum filled shit hole, it’s a place of freedom and liberty, a place where you could switch off your adult brain and enjoy some childish banter in games such as:

God I just love this game for so many reasons…

The fact is, playing Warcraft 3 Battle.net is a guilty pleasure of mine, sure I suck at the game and I get ridiculed for it on a daily basis but I also like the fact that there is freedom to give them some of their own medicine.

Trash talking is the name of the game, I sometimes look at myself playing Warcraft 3 and I think to myself “this is just so painfully absurd but I just love every little bit of it”. There is nothing more fun that just randomly trash talking the enemy to invoke an argument and watching people get enraged. I find Battle.net give me agency to let loose my inner 12 year old, something I just love to do, I love being an immature child, it’s more fun than being a sensible adult. Battle.net takes away all the responsibilities of being grown up and flushes it down the toilet.

I don’t have to hold back on saying something just because it isn’t politically correct, I’ll just say it. If I think you’re a moron, I’m going to say it but deep down, I don’t mean it, it’s just some silly childish banter. Games like Mafia allow people to act like children again, it brings out the worst in people and I love it. I love the hate, I love the rage, I love the heated arguments this game brings.

Mafia is a masterpiece of game design for this reason… even though it is just a mod. It’s a game which revolves around trolling people in a light-hearted manner. If I want to name myself Adolf Hitler, I can without having a profanity filter like Town Of Salem does. Seriously fuck profanity filters. They’re stupid pieces of shit. If I really gave a flying fuck about profanity filters do you really think I’d be swearing right now? Of course not.

Of course Battle.net has it’s fair share of obscenities with games like “The Rape Game” and “Revenge Of The Niggers” but what do you expect? Warcraft 3 is no man’s land, if you live in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, then you’ll know exactly what I mean. Freedom brings both good and bad. Look at Farcry 3 for example, people can smoke whatever dope they want out there but at the same time there are shitheads who will exploit the freedom and attack others and sell them as slaves.

As such if they did for whatever reason decide to moderate Battle.net, it would completely lose it’s identity. It’s like if Russia took over Rapture in Bioshock and made it into a communist society.

In any case, It seems that Blizzard are still interested in this wasteland of a game and as such I can only help but wonder what their intentions are. Will we see more patches in the future? Will maphackers be gone for good? What about the community? Will it be the same snobby elitist cunts the dominate the food chain above all the angry infants or will we see a more civilized community? Who knows what the future holds. Lets just say I’m pessimistic, Battle.net is beyond saving if you ask me and besides, what else is a cynical individual such as myself going to think about the future? We’re talking about Battle.net after all.


In other news, Microsoft are at it again with their new universal windows platform. In addition, they are trying to push Windows 10 so badly that they make it automatically install for all Windows 7 and 8 users. Fortunately as a Windows 8 user, I disabled it. Windows 8 is bad enough Moneysoft, no thanks. STOP TRYING TO CONTROL MY GAMING!!!

Exist Archive: The Other Side Of The Sky Review

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In case you’re wondering what I’ve been busy doing in the past few weeks, I’ve been playing Exist Archive The Other Side Of The Sky, a game developed by tri-Ace. This game is a Japanese import I have been eager to pick up since it was announced last year. Exist Archive presents itself as the spiritual successor to the Valkyrie Profile series, a series which spawned the legendary Valkyrie Profile 2: Silmeria, my favorite game of all time and naturally I have waited for a sequel (or in this case a pseudo sequel) to this wonderful game for years. So does Exist Archive manage to deliver the same amount of quality that Valkyrie Profile 2 managed to capture?

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Well I’m going to get straight to the point and put it bluntly. The answer is unsurprisingly no, it doesn’t. So how much quality does this game deliver to us, the player? Well that’s what we’re going to look into right now aren’t we.

Now before I start I want to make all of you aware that comparing Exist Archive to Valkyrie Profile 2 is just plain unfair. How could I possibly compare such games? I mean, Valkyrie Profile 2 is a masterpiece, how could that game be topped? Oh and I’m not saying that as a close minded idiot who is blinded by nostalgia, I’m saying it as a rational individual who is well aware as to how quality is measured up and I will tell you one thing. Exist Archive doesn’t seem to realize that sometimes, less is more but believe me, if I told you I didn’t get my money’s worth out of it, I’d be lying. Exist Archive is an excellent attempt at not only reviving what seemed to be a dead franchise but also refining it to a degree. It’s one of those games that tries it’s damn hardest to squeeze all the juice it can from what little it has.

Mmm... juicy goodness

Mmm… juicy goodness

However we have to remember that tri-Ace are not independent developer’s like they used to be, they are a subsidiary now. Not only that but all of their games with the exception of maybe Judas Code has been published under other companies, like most game development teams so forgive me for having very little sympathy when I say that Exist Archive could have done a lot better.

Or could it? This is a tough question isn’t it. We now find ourselves in a whole new territory as Japanese publisher Spike Chunsoft has taken the reigns. Now I don’t know very much about Spike Chunsoft (which is probably for the best since most publishers I know are just plain savages towards consumers) aside from the fact that they’ve published handheld games such as Pokemon Mystery Dungeon.


“It’s one of those games that tries it’s damn hardest to squeeze all the juice it can from what little it has”


However with this new, lesser known publisher at the helm, it is very difficult to set our expectations high for lesser known publishers tend to be financially unstable. As a result, to expect a localization for this game is absolute fucking bonkers so I bought it off of Play Asia anyways so that I could take a gander for myself and write this review in hopes that I could re-live the experiences of the Valkyrie Profile series once more.

So before I get on with the more intricate points in the review, I want to briefly cover the story. Now first of all, I don’t understand a single word of Japanese and although some of the cutscenes manages to make me chuckle somehow, I still don’t really get what’s going on. However this is not to the game’s detriment rather it is my own detriment. As such I can’t really recommend this game as a whole to those who cannot speak the language.

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The premise (from what I can tell) seems to be the JRPG equivalent of a fantasy world reality TV show which throws a bunch of school kids (and a few older folks) into a fantasy world where they must survive the harsh wilderness infested with monsters designed to look like cutesy chibi plushies (well… some of them). Take this for what you will but I cannot deny that it’s quite an original story concept for a JRPG, somewhat ambitious one could say.

Nevertheless, I personally find the depiction of schoolkids in anime to be annoying, plus I find the execution of the early game plot to be somewhat repetitive as it revolves around a recurring plot device known as existence crystals. I’m pretty sure the devs were going for something here but my lack of understanding of the Japanese language left me unable to decipher it’s worth.

Now there is a bit of abstract in the game’s story. It seems they took a page from Valkyrie Profile 2’s book which is admirable. There are optional existence crystals you can interact with in dungeons for some extra dialogue revolving around what appears to be flashbacks of the other characters. A rather innovative and ambitious attempt at developing the characters for sure though as to how well it does, I cannot say. It is nice that they’re there though and they appear on your collections screen.

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Existence Crystals are essentially the JRPG equivalent of audio logs though to be honest I think it’s mostly used as a replacement for Valkyrie Profile 2’s einherjar. They are also fully voiced through the PS4’s controller. An interesting idea for sure though I kinda feel sorry for those who want to record footage of the game. Nevertheless you have gotta give it to the developers for making the effort as these scenes don’t seem to be half-baked.

So overall, regardless of my feelings of the game’s story as a whole, I’m going to abstain from making any judgments on it due to my complete and utter lack of understanding of the Japanese language. I do apologize if this bothers you but at least you know whether or not it’s worth importing or not if you don’t understand Japanese.

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Visually the game is quite stunning, once again they have taken a page from Valkyrie Profile 2’s book with this one. The level of detail in many of the locations is staggering. The backdrops are also incredible to look at. The enemy designs are quite unusual. One of the enemies looks like Solo from the new Strider, another enemy looks like Ardjet from Zone Of The Enders. There are quite a few enemy designs despite many people’s complaints. Some are better looking than others.

Exist Archive suffers from what I like to call Final Fantasy II syndrome, no I’m not talking about the repeated usage of spells to make them stronger and level up, I’m talking about the shameless re-usage of enemies. Like one minute you’re in a boss fight against an enemy, the next minute that boss fight becomes a regular enemy in future encounters, usually re-skinned.

In fact I was shaking in fear once I saw the enemy that looked like Solo in a regular battle as that guy kicked my sorry ass when I fought him the first time. Then I kicked his ass and I wondered how he had gotten so weak. Needless to say, he was just a re-used asset. Well Tales Of Phantasia did it too and I didn’t complain so I don’t think it’s too much of an issue.

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The biggest problem with Exist Archive’s visuals are the character models. Though to be honest we are digging knee-deep into the realm of controversy when we talk about this. A lot of people shunned this game at launch for its Xbox Live Avatar compatibility. I don’t know why people showed such disdain at this somewhat innovative feature which allowed me to bring my now short-white haired Xbox live Ava- oh wait… this is PS4 isn’t it? How!? Sony, you have a lot to answer for, you stole Microsoft’s idea didn’t you! On second thoughts… why am I rooting for Moneysoft when I despise them so much?

In all seriousness, let us take time to celebrate the long-awaited return of big head mode! Remember those times where you could enter a cheat into the game and when you activated it your character’s head was puffed up like a balloon? Well tri-Ace saved us the trouble and gave us this feature right off the bat. Thanks tri-Ace, you know what we gamer’s want. I’m not going to touch on the character models any further because… well I don’t mind them. Do you know why? Because I don’t nitpick every single little tiny thing about a videogame and base my judgement solely on it! You got that? Good, let’s move on.

It's morphin' time!

It’s morphin’ time!

The music in Exist Archive feels somewhat unusual compared with Motoi Sakuraba’s usual work. There are some nice tracks in there, some even reminiscent of Valkyrie Profile 2’s style. The music that plays in the main hub area at the top of the tower is very relaxing. The dungeon music seems to follow the first Valkyrie Profile’s style in the sense that is dynamic and somewhat catchy.

The only issue I have with the game’s soundtrack is… well, there’s just not enough of it. The bonus soundtrack that came with the game has 11 tracks in it, that’s almost half the number of tracks found in the game itself. This is quite worrying. However quality over quantity comes to mind here and I will say for what it’s worth, the soundtrack is quite enjoyable nonetheless.

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Speaking of quality over quantity, this game doesn’t seem to realize when enough is enough when it comes to filler content. I swear you will go through so many dungeons in this game and since the dungeons themselves are mostly re-skins of other dungeons, this can quickly become quite dull at times.

Now to add to this, it is also impossible to save inside a dungeon, rather the game expects you to get through it in one sitting. This can be a bit of a pain for those who have OCD when it comes to fighting every single enemy in the dungeon without a break and after doing it for a significant amount of time, it does get quite tiring after a while. Heck I still haven’t finished this game yet whilst writing this.

You can leave the dungeon at any time but if you do...

You can leave the dungeon at any time but if you do…

However I decided to make a start on this review and finish it off when I have finished the game. By the time this review is up, I will have already finished it, so bear in mind that I never review unfinished games… OK, I lied, I did it once with Warhammer 40K Space Marine but I got to the last boss in that game and could never beat him. I promise not to do so again if I can help it. In any case, this game has a lot of content available and it can be daunting to try and get through it all.

Now to end this review on a high note, the gameplay of Exist Archive is where I really start singing praises. Exist Archive’s battle system is reminiscent of the original Valkyrie Profile but with a few ideas from Valkyrie Profile 2 thrown in there too (thank god they brought back the AP gauge, praise be to tri-Ace).

Like Valkyrie Profile, the battle system is turned based and the characters attack using the face buttons. You control every character on the field and can press the menu button (options) to use certain spells and items. Sound similar to Valkyrie Profile doesn’t it? Well the similarities end there.

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Rather than focusing on comboing enemies, Exist Archive’s battle system is more strategic and forces you to think more. Though it may lack the flashiness of Valkyrie Profile 2’s combat system, it makes up for with it’s simple, yet somewhat intricate combat system which manages to keep players on their toes. There is so much to like about Exist Archive’s battle system and so much to cover, so let’s get straight to business.

First I’d like to touch on the differences between Valkyrie Profile and Exist Archive’s battle system and this lies in the enemy placement and the weapon range. Enemies are all bunched up together. Some are more further apart from others, some are stronger than others. The gauge on the bottom left hand side of the screen (the one shaped like red diamonds) is the demon’s greed gauge. To fill it up you have to attack enemies, just like the heat gauge in Valkyrie Profile.

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Unlike Valkyrie Profile however, the demon’s greed gauge isn’t drained when you’re not attacking so rather than focusing on chaining your combo’s your focus is to target either specific enemies or groups of enemies and deal the most hits and damage.

Attacking multiple enemies simultaneously can help build up your demon’s greed faster however it may be important to target specific enemies first, particularly if they are spiked enemies who deal damage to melee. As such, each battle requires a different approach in order to bring in the best results.

Your tactical choice can depend on your setup. Exist Archive is probably the first game of its kind to offer a class system. Yes, much like Final Fantasy V your characters can change classes with other characters by gaining affection with said characters. Gaining affection works similar to private actions in the Star Ocean series… but without the private actions.

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The more you battle with people, the higher your affection grows. Eventually once your affection is high enough you will be able to share skills between your party. This is extremely handy as unlike Valkyrie Profile 2 where you had to grind for skills. In this game you pick a skill for each character and once their affection is high enough, everyone will learn each other’s skill. Pretty neat if you ask me.

Each class has its ups and downs and it’s up to the player to find the right synergy, much like Valkyrie Profile 2. Swords are well-balanced weapons, they’re pretty fast and cover a wide area though their damage is pretty average. Katana’s deal heavy damage to enemies but cover a shorter range than swords, their attacks vary in speed and their attacks require precision to get the most out of them. Whips however cover a very wide area and can also deal multiple hits to enemies, they’re great for gaining heat but they’re not very powerful.

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In addition to melee weapons, there are ranged weapons. These are mostly gun-based classes and are used to attack enemies from afar. This can be useful for breaking an enemy’s guard with a barrage of hits allowing you to avoid getting intercepted. They can also be useful at hitting spiked enemies as they won’t take damage when attacking unlike melee.

Mage classes are based on multiple elements. These are fire, ice, wind and lightning. Fire magic deals the most damage to single targets, wind magic is often best for dealing with multiple enemies. Lightning mages deal decent damage but also have de-buffs which can be handy. Ice mages have buffs and are mostly single target casters like fire mages.

Your current setup not working out for you? Time for a class change.

Your current setup not working out for you? Time for a class change!

You can’t rely on a single class type throughout the entire game, you will need to experiment with multiple class combinations and find what works for you. The class change system allows you to bring your favorite characters into the party and change their class on the fly, keeping their levels and demons greed. The class system could be seen as detrimental to those who want the characters to have more individuality but if that doesn’t bother you, it’s a pretty cool addition.

Once you reach a certain point in the game you are able to access a new feature called greed mode. I love greed mode, more games should have greed mode. Heck I think games should also provide the same level of empowerment and challenge that greed mode offers. Rather than forcing players to grind for power leveling, greed mode gives a higher rate of chain encounters. This means you have one long battle of up to 5 encounters stacked on top of one another.

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You can make this faster than simply fighting multiple battles by conserving your AP and demon’s greed for the next battle which allows you to end it quicker. At the end of the battle gauntlet, you are given bonus experience for your efforts, the higher the chain encounter, the more xp you acquire.

This can make you very powerful very quickly without the need to grind. Sadly this doesn’t manage to completely counteract my OCD when it comes to fighting every single enemy in my path. Nevertheless it is a wonderful addition to the game which more games should employ. Consider it a revamped version of Star Ocean 4’s bonus board but better in every way.

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However greed mode isn’t all fun and games. Once you are in greed mode, you are unable to heal up your party with spells/items. So you will have to survive a gauntlet of monsters without healing making it kinda like a risk/reward gimmick. It can make battles a lot more exhilarating though when you know there are more battles to come and you have to survive them all by taking minimal damage. One way to reduce damage is by guarding.

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Guarding in Exist Archive is extremely important, unlike Baten Kaitos and Eternal Sonata however, you do not have to time it perfectly. Instead Guards last for a certain period of time and continue until you are guard braked. When you are guard braked you may re-instigate the guard but only at the cost of AP. So you have to guard sparingly as it otherwise will cost you precious AP which you can use to get demon’s greed.

However Guarding proves especially useful for farming drops as there is yet another feature in the game’s battle system. The risk gauge. Your risk gauge is depicted as a number in a similar fashion to the d-ratio in Breath Of Fire Dragon Quarter. When you accumulate red gems, instead of replenishing charge time or replenishing AP, red orbs increase the drop rate of items through the risk gauge. The better you time your attacks and combo your enemies well, the higher the risk you obtain as well as the chance to gain drops.

This replaces Valkyrie Profile 2’s breaking feature which was awesome but sadly it’s no longer present in this game. Regardless, the risk gauge will carry over between battles. As such it feels even closer to the bonus board from Star Ocean 4 in the sense that if you get hit by an attack you didn’t block or get intercepted by a guarding enemy, you have a chance to get a bonus break which reduces your risk gauge and also any magic crystal XP gains to zero which you don’t want to happen.


With proper timing, you are able to intercept enemy attacks by guarding.

With proper timing, you are able to intercept enemy attacks by guarding.

As such you are encouraged to block quite often in Exist Archive, however not all attacks can be blocked through normal means. Magic attacks and breath attacks can pierce your blocks. I’m not sure but I think I heard there was a skill that allowed you to block magic attacks but I’m not all that sure as I couldn’t read the Japanese text properly. Just something to keep in mind.



“The better you time your attacks and combo your enemies well, the higher the risk you obtain as well as the chance to gain drops”


So all in all, the risk gauge and greed mode manages to keep players on their toes in battle and makes battles all the more intense and rewarding. In addition to drop rate increase, by increasing your risk gauge to a high enough percentage, you are also eligible for title drops. These drops are enhanced versions of regular drops which have additional factors and bonuses.

There are two tiers of these drops, title and title rank. Title rank is simply a better version of a title drop as it enhances stats or applies extra factors to your equipment to make it more powerful. As such, it’s rather satisfying and quite rewarding to get new drops. Better yet, unlike Valkyrie Profile, the weapons actually have cosmetic alterations too which is cool.

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The skill system of Exist Archive is reminiscent of the first Valkyrie Profile as it allows you to put points into skills rather than learning from equipment runes like in Valkyrie Profile 2. The skills themselves however are rather interesting. Rather than simply boosting stats, skills can be used to alter certain actions in battle. Each skill is split into categories and you can equip 1 skill in each category. For example, defensive skills alter your guarding ability and offensive skills add modifiers to certain attacks to give them extra hits etc.

Shopping in Exist Archive works like Valkyrie Profile. This would be rather sad if it wasn’t for the premise of the game. As such, it makes sense that they wouldn’t include conventional shops like other RPGs. Instead you shop in the main hub where you can buy items from Amatsume using a currency you gain from selling items you acquire from enemies (AMP). The items you can buy are mostly potions and usually outdated equipment. I kinda find shopping to be pointless in this game aside from replenishing your potion supply but at least it gives you a place to dump all your unneeded loot which is nice considering the fact that there is an inventory cap.

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Seriously of all the games to do this, why does a game like Exist Archive have an inventory limit? It’s just annoying to have to constantly be removing items from my inventory after every battle just to fit new ones in. Can’t we just have a bottomless inventory like most RPGs? I mean why does this game of all things try to be realistic when it comes to inventory storage when it has you fighting dancing plushies which explode on contact and pull out giant pots which shoot bullets at you right out of their mouths? It’s nothing more than a painful ordeal that I tire of having to constantly deal with.

Anyways back to the battle system. Like I mentioned before, you can stack up to 4 demon’s greed attacks (one for each character) and they can be activated by pressing the L2 button at any moment during an attack. Your demon’s greed is reset after every battle. However like I mentioned before, your demon’s greed gauge doesn’t reset after a combo so you can save it for when you need it, should you choose to do so. As such, unlike in Valkyrie Profile, you cannot chain your special attacks if you only have 1 crystal lit up as you can only use 1 character’s special attack. However if you rise it to 4 crystals (which is maximum) you can use all 4 of your characters attacks in any order you choose.

This can be really handy in chain encounters as it doesn’t reset after each wave. Oh and in case you didn’t already realize, yes your demon’s greed attacks are essentially the replacement of soul crushes/purify weird soul attacks from the Valkyrie Profile series and whilst they aren’t as flashy as Valkyrie Profile 2’s soul crushes, they’re still pretty cool to look at. I love how all the special attacks summon part of the god’s power stored inside each character.

Button mashing is fun... but Namero takes it a bit too far...

Button mashing is fun… but Namero takes it a bit too far…

Combat aside, the game’s platforming sections are handled quite well in this game. As you progress through the story, you will unlock more actions you can use to reach certain areas in the map (as well as other features found throughout the game).

The platforming seems to follow Valkyrie Profile 2’s style but rather than using photons to solve puzzles, Exist Archive allows you to transform enemies into come kind of boost mechanism, kinda like the cannon barrels in Donkey Kong which shoot you in the direction you choose.



Ultimately, the gameplay for me was the most stand-out feature in Exist Archive and that is never a bad thing. It’s a shame I was unable to truly experience the game to its fullest especially considering the story-driven nature of this game. I can only hope that this game was successful enough to warrant localizing it later down the line. There are so many scenes that looked interesting but because I couldn’t understand what was going on in them, I feel like I only played through half of a game which probably damaged my review in the process.

Oh and one more thing, I notice that this game has a few bugs here and there. The devs have been working to patch them. The only bug I encountered was at the end of battle where I pressed the demon’s greed button right before the battle ended and I was stuck on the results screen. Just something you might want to bare in mind.

Nevertheless, this game has given me a lot to write about and although the budget constraints have caused to fall short in some areas, I still think it stands up as an enjoyable RPG and a great homage to the Valkyrie Profile series. If anything, this game is a message to Square-Enix telling them that Valkyrie Profile is far from dead and that they should continue it.

Say YES to Valkyrie Profile 3!

Say YES to Valkyrie Profile 3! Wait… hold on, did he just speak…

I strongly recommend this game if you can understand Japanese and enjoyed Valkyrie Profile. If you cannot understand Japanese and are intrigued by the gameplay, I’d say it’s worth a try too as I got my money’s worth out of it. If you’re not a fan of Valkyrie Profile and can’t speak Japanese, I doubt you’ll care to pick up this game and no matter how much I try to convince you to, If you can’t understand Japanese, there’s no point.


Story/plot: Didn’t understand a word of it… but I’m sure it’s fascinating

Visuals: Great

Music: Great

Gameplay: Excellent

Lifespan: Decent Length (but most of it is filler)

Would You Replay? Maybe


Overall: Great (from what I understood of it)


What a rip off…


Why do people in this day in age seem to treat the term “rip off” so negatively? I mean it’s not like I’m Jim Sterling number #356 trying to knock game publishers in the name of consumer justice… right? Right?

rip off

No, not that kind of rip off…

Ok, ok before people start throwing apples at me, let’s try to be rational about this. Jim Sterling himself is a rip off. I mean, we’re talking journalism here, In journalism you have the “yes” men and the “no fucking way” men (or women). Yes men pander to the publishers and just do as they are expected to do such as Geoff Keighley.

Why is Geoff Keighley such a successful journalist? Because he is a yes man. If he spoke out about certain publishers (lets forget the time he talked shit about Konami’s treatment of Kojima for a minute which considering Konami’s position, isn’t likely to affect him in any way, especially considering how diplomatically he put it) then he’d have nothing to cover and would lose a lot of his influence in the industry.

Then you have people like Jim Sterling, the “people’s journalist”, someone whom tries to relate to the woes of the general public at the risk of sounding controversial or radicalized. He’s a journalist who speaks his mind whatever it might be and although his points aren’t always widely agreed upon (seriously that review of Modern Warfare 3 was just…ugh), he manages to maintain a strong stature in the industry through his iron skin and his past accomplishments. His successes come from pandering to the consumer by enlightening people about the woes of the gaming industry and he does so in what seems to be an intentionally egotistical manner with quotes such as “Thank god for me”. It’s pretty obvious that Jim Sterling’s confidence in himself as a journalist is off the charts and that’s why he’s still going strong today.

But trying to be an inbetweener is futile. The industry doesn’t want original writers/journalists, they want people who can pander to a particular crowd and as such, they want extremists. Whether you want to be the ever lovable optimist or the strong idealistic pessimist is the question you should be asking yourself, you can’t be both and expect the same level of success because that’s inconsistent and inconsistency is poor journalism.

But lets stop talking about gaming media for now as I tire of hearing about it every single day. I already have the stupid SJW vs Gamergate breathing down my neck every day that the mere idea of discussing gaming politics is downright terrifying to say the least. Thankfully This article is more to do with videogames than writers, I was merely comparing myself to an established journalist.


No… not that kind of rip off either

So I’ve used the term rip off before, even blatant rip off. However, would I say that being a rip off is a bad thing? Hell no. In fact I want to see more of it.

Videogames have been a passion for me, so why can’t they be a passion for game creators too? I mean surely you’ve been inspired by a videogame in your lifetime, I know I have. I wanted to work in-game design for a long time in my youth and for good reason too. Games are inspiring. If you’ve ever finished a videogame, you’ll know that as the credits roll, your mind is filled to the brim with ideas. Rather than watching the credits, you spend the whole time thinking about the game and developing ideas from it.


Games like Space Engineers help satisfy my creative cravings.

With games as they are, it’s difficult not to think “What if they did it this way?” or “I wonder If I could do that?”. Inspiration goes beyond just videogames. Look at the recently deceased David Bowie for example (R.I.P man). That guy inspired countless people and has changed the way society works for the better. He was a revolutionary artist and people wanted to be like him. That is just the way things are with gaming too.

As such, how can we begrudge these people who want to bring their dreams to life? Their dreams based off of the dreams inspired through other dreams? Is it really wrong to think “Perhaps if I changed this a little, it could be like this”? I mean, if you are any kind of content creator, you will know that art breeds more art. It’s like a reproductory process. It’s like two ideas having intercourse. It is done out of passion (mostly) and it’s the same with games and other media.

So why should people have a problem with this? Because if you do have a problem with concepts ripping off of other concepts then take a good look at yourself because you yourself are a rip off, a mish-mash of genes from past ancestors. However you yourself are an individual. The same goes for videogames. Do I begrudge Warcraft 3 for being too much like Star Wars/Warhammer? Hell no. I love Warcraft lore (well I did before WOW was a thing), it is a well presented mish mash of countless stories told in a single book… only that the “Book” is technically a videogame.

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And before someone states “but this game is original, not like your crappy Warcraft game”, how do you know for sure that it isn’t based off of other media? Have you experienced everything life has to offer? Ha, you don’t live long enough for that I’m afraid. We can’t all be like Lezard Valeth and have the world’s knowledge in our hands… oh wait isn’t that character another rip off? Oh hell yeah he is and a well-known one too. He’s based off of JK Rowling’s very own Harry Potter (but with a bit of Medivh shoehorned in there too for good measure). And yet comparing Lezard Valeth to Harry Potter is like comparing a snail to a python. There’s just no similarities besides their appearance and their background.

And whilst we’re on the topic of Valkyrie Profile, lets talk about Arngrim. This character in particular is interesting and his name manages to remain relevant to norse mythology despite being a blatant rip off of Guts from Berserk. I mean, Arngrim is a badass mofo and so is Guts and they both have similar looks and personality. However if you look deeply into norse mythology, you will see a mention of another Arngrim with a similar background to the Arngrim of Valkyrie Profile, a berserker who wielded the sword Tyrfing (technically the ultimate heavy warrior weapon of Valkyrie Profile 2).

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However, the original story of Valkyrie Profile states that he owns a weapon called the Dragon Slayer which was apparently passed down by his father. This makes for a lot of interesting speculation such as “Is the world of Valkyrie Profile and Berserk intertwined?” Of course not, it’s just combining the ideas of berserk and norse mythology to make a character of their own. Though it’s pretty obvious where Masaki Norimoto’s inspiration’s came from

Speaking of Valkyrie Profile, Let’s talk about Final Fantasy XIII Lightning Returns, a game that I have secretly praised for ripping off Valkyrie Profile. However that praise still cannot get me over the fact that Lightning is the main character and that it is set in the same universe as Final Fantasy XIII. And so the director of Final Fantasy XIII thought “Let’s sacrifice originality for familiarity” and believe it or not, it worked… to some degree. However, Final Fantasy XIII Lightning Returns was an attempt to rectify an already broken series of games which should have been left behind. This I couldn’t ignore.

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However, with the release of tri-Ace’s Exist Archive. Tri-Ace were able to experiment with different ideas to make a completely different game. Valkyrie Profile was obviously partly an influence but it seems that other Japanese media had a huge influence in it as well and is probably the most exotic game tri-Ace has ever attempted at making. Nevertheless I’d rather play this game over Final Fantasy XIII Lightning Returns not because it’s original but because it’s not trying to shove an established concept into an already established world to try to compensate for the fact that the world itself sucks. As such, Lightning Returns is completely meaningless to me now.

Another example of a game that influenced many other games is Grandia 2. Grandia 2’s plot has been done to death now, so much so that its own plot comes across as cliché and generic. Games like Final Fantasy X, Tales Of Symphonia and Devil May Cry 4 may follow a similar plot formula but can we really say that they’re the same game? Devil May Cry 4 isn’t even an RPG for heaven’s sake, how can you compare it to Grandia 2? Then again, perhaps it’s not intentional. Perhaps the ideas that came up in the developer’s mind were of his own. Perhaps they never even played Grandia 2 to begin with, who knows?

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As for Tales Of Symphonia, that game took a step further in the plot. Although Grandia 2 executed it far better than Tales Of Symphonia, Tales Of Symphonia chose to rush that part of the plot so that they could focus on another one. As for Final Fantasy X, looking back, I’d say it’s probably the most generic of the bunch. To be honest, presentation aside. Final Fantasy X felt rushed, I felt the characters were rushed too. As for the presentation, the setting was cool and all but the story itself was presented in such a lazy manner compared with Grandia 2 that it felt like a bad rip off.

On the other hand, Tales Of Symphonia was a good rip off. It established a completely new story built up off of a trope set by Grandia 2 (or whatever game originally started that trope) which was executed extremely well as there is also a lot of depth to the world and lore. This is what I appreciated about Warcraft so much. Sure, the plot and characters may be generic but the world was designed so well that it doesn’t matter, I enjoyed it. It doesn’t hurt to enjoy games every now and again, even for a cynical prick like me.


As for Devil May Cry 4, that game wasn’t even trying to tell an interesting story, it’s a series which has always been based around the gameplay over all else, so why should we care? The story works well enough for what it’s trying to do so that’s good enough if you ask me.

Now ever since the indie scene came to be, there have been some new ideas added to gaming such as Rocket League… oh wait, that was inspired by stuff like Top Gear. Uhh… how about Goat Simulator? Yeah, Goat Simulator is the perfect example of an original game… if you could call it that. Sure it has similar mechanics to Tony Hawk games but it’s not a Tony Hawk game, it’s a physics simulation game involving goats. Well technically speaking, it is kinda a mish-mash of other game mechanics such as skating games and MMO’s. Kinda like a parody. In a way, this makes it a completely original concept… using other concepts. Well that basically sums up how difficult it is to be original these days.


But here’s the problem. People don’t want something new or different, they want more of the same. This is where Nostalgia comes in… and actually connects with the point of this article entirely. As much as people love originality, once the novelty dies out, people get tired of it and then they seek something that can bring them back to the days of old. However sometimes it’s not the player who desires it, it’s the developer. This is why you’re seeing so many spiritual successors of games appearing on Kickstarter right now. They want to bring back an audience of a game that was laid to rest or defiled by their respective developer.

Now remember the review I made recently of Tales Of Phantasia and how it pioneered the Japanese action role playing game? Well that game not only inspired other ideas for games but it was also inspired by other games that preceded it such as Secret of Mana and Final Fantasy. Didn’t you get the not-so-vague hint in my review?

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Well in any case, the spiritual successor to Tales Of Phantasia, Star Ocean is also a blatant rip off… just not of Secret Of Mana. Rather they combined both Tales Of Phantasia’s battle system with the story concept of Star Trek. Then it hit me, the reason why the intro cutscene to Star Ocean is voice acted in english, despite the fact that it is a Super Famicom exclusive game is simply because Star Trek was released in the west… and they wanted to emulate that.

I like the word emulate, even better than that of rip off simply because of its meaning “to imitate and or improve on”. This is exactly what developers try to do with their games. They brainstorm ideas from their mind (which is influenced by other media) and then they focus on making it the best they can. Every developer in the history of gaming has always developed a game with the mindset that it will be the best game ever made.

So before you start knocking games or any form of media for ripping off of other media. Remember that it is someone else’s image that has taken inspiration from something else. Be pleased for the games that rip off other games, do not scorn them. Instead, think of it as a form of alchemical art because that is what it is. People may disagree that videogames are art (which could be said for some… but then again games are a content medium and all content could be considered art in a way) but I find art to be the most fitting word to describe this as it is something all of us can relate to and appreciate.

If you want to see less and less games on the market, go ahead but know that 99% of the ideas in videogames are inspired by other forms of media or mythology or whatever. Just appreciate it for what it is for heaven’s sake.

Tales Of Phantasia Review

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Well this is a long time coming, I finished the game ages ago but I was too bummed out to do a review afterwards. In case you’re curious, I played the Dejap SFC version and believe me, its the best translation.

Playing Tales Of Phantasia has been an experience without a doubt, an experience that has taught me many things about RPGs and tri-Ace alike. I would consider this game a must play for any
Tales or tri-Ace fan but with that said, the experience you get from this game may be mixed. I will enlighten some of these points in my review.

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For starters, lets look at the premise of Tales Of Phantasia or should I say, the story. Tales Of Phantasia is a very ambitious plotline which suffers from archaic plot devices with lackluster execution but offers a somewhat interesting twist to the usual JRPG romp by establishing a somewhat interesting universe which could have been more than it turned out to be.

Though this just happens to be a continuation from Tales Of Symphonia Dawn Of The New World timeline wise, it feels kinda more like a prelude to what could have been an epic series. In fact it hit me the moment when I reached the city on the eastern continent and viewed that scene. I knew what I saw in that scene and what I saw was tri-Ace as they are now. It would seem that the Wolf Team were planning something big with Tales Of Phantasia, a whole series continuing the timeline and unfolding an epic universe with potentially an epic storyline… but instead we got a prequel which felt a bit too similar to Tales Of Phantasia, moreso a massive nod to the series, similar to what Star Ocean 4 did to Star Ocean 1.

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There are so many things you hear about in Tales Of Phantasia and it makes you want to learn more but the game’s plot felt half-baked. I honestly feel like we were playing only half a game… or maybe they were trying to build up a sequel… wait they did make a sequel, well sorta. It’s my favourite game of all time (well the second one at least). It all made sense now. tri-Ace pulled an Exist Archive on Tales Of Phantasia but they split it into two games. Those games being Star Ocean and Valkyrie Profile, these were tri-Aces legacy but Tales Of Phantasia is where it all began.

Though technically a Namco game by right, this was a tri-Ace game by heart. You could tell this was a tri-Ace game with the whole long/short-range attacks and the fact that the entire interface and style mimics Star Ocean. This game was the foundation for all the tri-Ace games we have grown to love but not only that, it was the foundation to pretty much all JARPG’s (unless you count Secret Of Mana which was similar but very different and ultimately felt more like a Final Fantasy game than anything). Pretty much every action JRPG is built on this game’s foundation as such it’s the pioneer of the Japanese ARPG genre.

So Tales Of Phantasia has a lot of acclaim under its belt but what does it do to earn this praise? Well I can’t speak as a gamer of today but if we transport ourselves back to the early 90’s where the only ARPG’s around were Secret Of Mana and the Soul Blazer series (which were more like action puzzlers if you ask me), Tales Of Phantasia really stood out for its style. It was the first ARPG which didn’t feel like a Squaresoft game or a Zelda game. It instead opted to be different from the competitors in order to attract attention. If we look at gaming today, we can see that Tales Of Phantasia has outlived them in terms of its legacy.

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I don’t want to go in too deep with the story but I will say that it’s one of those stories you’ve likely seen before in some form but you probably won’t see it quite like this. Think Grandia 2 when I say this, only a lot more primitive. This game has a charm to it that separates itself from the other games of its time, something only tri-Ace could do. In fact, this game doesn’t really feel much like a Tales game at all, there aren’t any skits or anything you would consider to be “Tales”, if anything it felt more like Chrono Trigger/Secret Of Mana combined into one. This game has everything you would expect from a JRPG released in the early 90’s.

One of the things that took my interest immediately was the opening music. Whilst it wasn’t dubbed in english (unlike the strange intro of Star Ocean) it was pretty incredible to hear vocalized music coming out of a SFC game, something many games have adopted these days. While I’m not much of a fan of JPOP, I have to credit them for making this possible on such a dated system, there’s just something mysteriously alluring about hearing the primitive voice recordings on an SFC. It felt less of a Final Fantasy/Dragon Quest clone and more of a unique anime-like style RPG whilst not forgetting the preceding RPG games as it is quite clearly inspired by such games.

This looks awfully familiar... Well I suppose every mana tree has it's secrets.

This looks awfully familiar… Well I suppose every mana tree has it’s secrets.

To be honest, to call this game the core of every JRPG I love wouldn’t be too far off, though there would be a few exceptions, Tales Of Phantasia is the game that established many of the games I love today and as such, it earns my respect regardless.

As for playing the game yourself, if you go into this game with a more modern mindset, you’ll probably find yourself getting bored with all the currently archaic elements this game has and whilst this is true for pretty much all games released in the 90’s, this game sticks out like a saw thumb in the archaic department.

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Being the pioneer of the many games I love, it’s unsurprising that this game is so primitive. The characters line up in battle which causes movement issues, since your movement is restricted constantly. Tales Of Phantasia, like many early Japanese ARPG’s feels like a stunlock fest but it’s definitely a good one. However with this said, it can also prove to be bothersome as the movement issues tend to give you some trouble in boss fights. However the main thing to be concerned here is not the comboing, blocking or dodging like in most ARPG’s these days but with picking the best attacks for the job.

Comparing it to Star Ocean on the SFC, the combat is very different as it focuses more of elemental attacks and conventional JRPG strategy whereas Star Ocean is more about positioning yourself and picking the right attack string for the situation as you can manually move anywhere (though not directly with the d-pad, rather you control a cursor which position’s you). However the premise is very similar. You have special attacks and regular attacks at both long/short-range and whilst regular attacks have a bit more focus in this game, they don’t really amount too much.

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I was a bit peeved that the only character worth controlling was Cless and as much as you basically have to control pretty much everyone manually (due to some AI issues), you don’t really feel like you can play with different styles unlike Star Ocean which was a shame. Cless is pretty versatile though and has a lot of cool moves and different weapons but Chester… he’s kinda useless and boring, the rest of the cast are all… you guessed it, casters. This was fixed in later versions where they added a new character to balance things out.

There are quite a few side quests about, I didn’t bother with many of them though but some of them are pretty interesting and just enhance the game’s story more as well as the game’s world. If I could devote more time to this game, I might have done so but I tend to rush through most game’s these days.

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The visuals, whilst not as lush as Star Ocean’s are still rather nice, typical SNES stuff mostly, if you’ve played Seiken Densetsu 3 you’ll probably be in familiar territory here though I personally find Seiken Densetsu 3 to look better from what I’ve played (in fact that game looks more like Star Ocean to me). Still the good ol’ fashioned 16 bit top down world map never gets old.

The music was obviously composed by Motoi Sakuraba, who else would it be? Mickey Mouse? I mean, this is the game that pioneered practically 80% of games he composed for (basically everything except Golden Sun and Dark Souls). His soundtrack in this, whilst not completely as memorable as Star Ocean’s has some quirky ones to say the least. To say that this was the first soundtrack he ever did for a Japanese ARPG, it’s pretty unique and somewhat captivatingly magical… but not on the same level of Valkyrie Profile 2 of course.

However one song that really stuck out to me was the piano solo which was played at the adventurers guild which was played by none other than Motoi Sakuraba himself. He is actually a character in the game. That pretty much sums up just how important this game is to not only me, not only the fans but also the creators themselves. This is the game where Motoi Sakuraba made his mark and he is immortalized in this game for a reason.

Now that's my kinda music right there...

Now that’s my kinda music right there…

This game was developed out of passion and though it may be a series that has moved on since, it’s hard to consider Tales Of Phantasia to be a Tales game, it doesn’t belong to Namco, it belongs to no one because if tri-Ace can’t have it, no one can and whilst Namco themselves might disagree, they’ve yet to prove that they are worthy of owning the rights to this game because as it stands, this game is not only the centerpiece for the Tales series, it is the centerpiece for tri-Ace and practically every single game Motoi Sakuraba has ever composed for.

So whilst this may not be much of a review, let it be understood that whether you like this game or not, I urge you to play it just to experience it yourself if you consider yourself to be a fan of Tales, tri-Ace, tri-Crescendo and pretty much any Japanese ARPG in general. As for whether you enjoy it or not depends on your standards, if you really dislike archaic games, you probably won’t enjoy this, however if you’re open to these kind of games or are new to the genre, you might appreciate it more.

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Ultimately though, it is what it is and nothing can change that. At least I can safely say that this game has a lot of unique charm that is a nice change from most 16 bit JRPGs but to compare it with Star Ocean, I’m afraid I’ll have to give it to Star Ocean to be honest as that game tried a lot of cool new concepts whereas Tales Of Destiny focused on expanding current concepts.

Then again that basically sums up the difference between tri-Ace and Namco’s Tales team as developers, tri-Ace aim to innovate and tinker with new ideas, Namco aim to expand on current ideas to refine them to the best they can be. Regardless this game is the centerpiece of it all and it’s wonderful to see just how much it managed to accomplish in the long run, despite it’s shortcomings.

Who is the mysterious man of mystery? Which mysterious man of mystery is the real mysterious man of mystery? Or is that just another mystery?

Who is the mysterious man of mystery? Which mysterious man of mystery is the real mysterious man of mystery? Or is that just another mystery?

In general, Tales Of Phantasia is a good game but it hasn’t aged well. The archaic combat system of this game is unacceptable to today’s standards but if you’re just looking to re-live some of the series’ history or are wanting to see where many of the best ARPG’s began, you might want to give this a go, it’s definitely a worthwhile experience.
Story/Plot: Decent
Presentation: Good
Gameplay: So-So
Music: Great
Lifespan: Decent length
Would you replay? No

Overall: Satisfactory


Proxy Blade Zero Review

Ahh a 2 hour game. I love these games. You pick them up, you have your fun and you can finally write about them. Seriously, who doesn’t love short games?

Anyways Proxy Blade Zero is a character action game (or hack n slash) which puts you in control of a humanoid robot named Fenrir a smaller version of Jehuty from Zone Of The Enders who can’t fly but can dash. Seriously if you’ve played Zone Of The Enders you will find the combat very similar, just on a smaller scale. In fact that combat is actually more fun than Zone Of The Enders because it doesn’t try too many things and keeps things simple.

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Combat is the name of the game here. You have your parry button X (an odd choice) your attack button marked Y (Classic DMC style) and B is a delay which transforms your regular attacks with standard attacks. Using the right trigger allows you to dash and perform energy attacks.

The only problem I had with the combat were the controls, mostly the fact that X is the parry button. I’m serious when I say that this is the game’s only flaw. Often you will mistake the X button for attack which will lead to many deaths. This game is hard and I died to the final boss just because I pressed Y to block, thinking I was playing Sleeping Dogs or something.


This wouldn’t be so bad if they offered you the ability to changed the controls. Remember my last blog talking about the importance of options in videogames? That applied here too. The option to customize your control layout is important for a game and I’m still baffled as to why Character action games still fail to do this.

The enemies you fight in the game are very punishing and you will have to learn them fast. Sometimes it’s difficult to distinguish enemies from one another. Shielded enemies don’t stagger. This isn’t explained in game but you’ll learn this soon enough. You can tell a shielded enemy from a non shielded enemy by the blue bar over their head. To remove a shield you can press Y after a successful block to perform an EMP blast which removed their shield and leaves them vulnerable to attack.


Stop, you have violated the law!

This can get pretty chaotic when there are multiple enemies as the animation for the emp blast keeps you still for a couple of seconds so you have to be very careful when to use it. One particular enemy I fought pushed me too far away to make use of the emp blast. As such I had to literally wait for it to run out of shields. You see shields and energy are the same, energy attacks used by the enemy are unblockable same can’t be said for yours though so you have to dash away to avoid them. However dashing uses energy so you have to be tactical.

Proxy Blade Zero is a thinking mans hack n slash, kinda like a puzzle but which punishes those who don’t think fast. As such I highly recommend playing on easy first to save yourself the punishment and learn the enemies. I cannot stress this enough. You will die a lot, health is dropped by enemies but in very small doses so you have to be very conservative with your health. Some situations will make you want to be more aggressive, others more defensive. You have to make quick judgement in this game.


Basically it’s not like Devil May Cry where you just use any random attack string to KO enemies. In Proxy Blade Zero, each enemy has a set strategy on how to KO them. The challenge is to find their weak point and rinse and repeat. A concept that wouldn’t work in most games but in Proxy Blade Zero, it works really well. Enemies are varied and you will have to change your tactics quick. You will also find some really difficult situations where you’ll have to think outside the box.

Proxy Blade Zero isn’t a reaction based hack n slash, parrying gives you a pretty comfortable time-frame which doesn’t punish players for poor timing. This is ideal as it allows anyone to pick up and play this game which can only be a good thing. Proxy Blade Zero is all about quick thinking and dexterity and rewards players who can develop such skills.

As such if you’re the sort of player who loves freedom in creativity, you’ve picked the wrong game in Proxy Blade Zero. It’s a puzzle game with heavy emphasis on speed so if you dislike puzzle games you’ll probably dislike this game. I personally feel that the game is just not for me despite the fact that I love the visuals and enjoy the music, the gameplay itself, though flashy just isn’t my cup of tea personally. Just throwing that out there.


One system I like in particular though is the momentum system (can I call it that?). Every successful action increases an orange bar which enhances Fenrir’s attack speed which allows you to chain even more combo’s using both delay and energy attacks for a satisfying finisher. It may not be as varied and flashy as Devil May Cry but it’s still a nice feature to have.


As for the rest of the game, the visuals are very Tron inspired which can only be a good thing. I personally like how the textures feel very crisp as does the nebula skybox. It feels like a universe that is cool (and isn’t ruined by a “being inside a computer” plot point) and makes the world feel very technologically advanced. The levels look varied. There are many exterior sections, city-like sections and interior sections to spice things up.

The music accompanies it well enough and though it’s not the most memorable soundtrack, it has a really nice techno feeling to enhance the ambiance. Honestly, this is a game which requires time to appreciate it’s ambiance and is not just about being absorbed into the combat. There are some areas which look pretty nice, as if you want to explore more of it.


Lovely weather… uh I mean nebula

Sadly this is only a 2 hour long game with only 6 levels (I played on easy so it’ll be longer on harder difficulties) but it’s something you feel interested in despite it’s basic concept. I think a sequel to this game would be really cool, maybe to fix the controls and add even more areas because I the tron style visuals just pulled me in.


All in all. Don’t go into Proxy Blade Zero thinking you know what you’re doing or it’ll smack you hard. Play on easy, then normal and if you’re really ballsy, critical. I think replaying the game will give you more value, there’s achievements as well. In any case for a 1 man project, Proxy Blade Zero is a fantastic effort but I still have to point out the control issues as they were quite iffy. I did have a bit of fun though and the game didn’t frustrate me too much (though it has it’s rough bits) so I wouldn’t consider it to be a game-breaker, moreso a nitpick. If you’re looking for a puzzle based Hack N Slash that focuses more on thinking rather than comboing, this is the game for you. If you’re looking for something which offers more freedom in combat then this game definitely isn’t for you.

However as much as the gameplay frustrated me to a degree (often due to the controls), I can’t help but give this game merit as it does what it does really well. The gameplay is fluid and though it requires a degree of finesse to master, it does feel satisfying once you have conquered it. If you’re patient and are looking for a game with a difficult learning curve I’d say pick it up as it’s only £4.00 on steam, plus you get to support a 1 man dev and I always encourage the support of small devs.

If you’re easily frustrated, like me. You may want to wait till steam sales to try it and see if it’s worth your investment. It’s a short game so you don’t have to invest too much time into it to learn it. Plus there are always steam refunds if you aren’t happy with it. At the end of the day, it all depends on whether you’re into this style of game or not. If you’re not just skip it.

Gameplay: Good
Visuals: Great
Music: Good
Lifespan: Too short

Overall: Good


Oh and by the way as thanks for checking out this review, i’m giving away Bionic Commando on Steam to the first person who reads this review.

First come first served, here’s the code:

If you’ve claimed it, please leave a comment below (you need to click the title of the article to write comments) just so that people can be aware that the prize has been claimed.

The importance of freedom and options in videogames

So I just purchased Medieval Engineers when it was on sale. I was a bit apprehensive to do so and rightfully so. When I picked up the game I wanted to build a Necropolis from Warcraft 3. In case you are wondering what a Necropolis is, here’s a picture of one from Warcraft 3 Battle.net.

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I said Warcraft 3 Battle.Net for a reason… This is why I avoid this place. Sadly this is the only image of a Necropolis I could find…

The necropolis is the large structure in the middle of the image. They are my favorite building simply due to their quirkiness. I mean they’re a huge floating stronghold shaped like two trapezoidal prism’s attached at their base and another smaller trapezoid on top with a large pillar. There is a skull in the middle of each trapezoid which are usually used as a sewerage system.

Now in case you’re wondering, the necropolis is the main stronghold of the scourge. The most famous necropolis is Naxxramas which is a notorious raid in World Of Warcraft and was mentioned in Ashbringer. However there are many necropoli (can I call them that plural? I don’t know but i’m gonna do it anyway) littered around the world of Azeroth and they are used to deploy undead troops.

So naturally being the Warcraft fan that I am, it was the first thing that came to mind when I wanted to start building in Medieval Engineers but sadly it was not to be. Unfortunately, the necropolis is a floating stronghold… however surprisingly enough I managed to make a floating structure by disabling structural integrity (i’ll get to the reason why I dislike these things later). Sadly when I was trying to place a corner slope block, just like in Space Engineers I found out that I couldn’t rotate it upside down. WHAT!?


The triforce of freedom in all it’s glory.

The irony of this is that I could have easily built this structure in Space Engineers as it is common to have floating objects in space and as such they allow it but why do they even bother to restrict it here? it’s not like it would be harmful to allow us to build upside down slopes, it would just allow for more options. And this brings me to the topic at hand.

Now what makes options so important? I’m not talking about settings and stuff like that. I’m talking about options in general. The answer is simple. Options are essentially the building blocks of videogames. They are what allows us to control what is going on in game. Without options, there is no game. As such every game has options whether it being the ability to move forward and backwards, that’s called giving the player options so even walking simulators have options.

Restrictions on the other hand is a word that I cannot stand regardless of it’s purpose. Restrictions designed to apply realism are what infuriate me the most. My philosophy is that a successful game is one that gives you more options than any other and is presented in a tasteful manner.




Oh shi-

I did say tasteful…

So why do you take away the option to turn your block upside down? I have no idea why this is so. Do KeenSWH insist that we all build the same structures as they do because as far as I can see, they want to limit our creativity to their own standards. They only want us to build castles and realistic structures. “We can’t have people building floating strongholds, that’s preposterous, we need to make sure that doesn’t happen so we can keep the player on the right track” ~KeenSWH Employee.


Now on a related note, I also picked up the Stanley Parable on sale and the entire game revolves around options and how they make the character behave whilst mocking every little bit of it which is ironic considering the fact that the game is designed in a linear style to give the player an illusion that they’re playing a linear game but taunting them by adding options that encourage deviance. I will say one thing. I like this game. As a walking simulator I feel that reviewing it is out of the question. You either like them or you don’t but regardless I can at least bring it up in this article.


Now the Stanley Parable taught me a very important lesson in game design. If it works, let players use it. This goes for anything really. Allowing for freedom in videogames is important and although many games are remarkably linear (such as Grandia 2) those games merely lack the ability to allow for too much freedom and though Grandia 2 is criminally linear as I mentioned in my review, I doubt they could make it into an open world game simply because it wouldn’t work (well it could but until Xenoblade Chronicles it wasn’t attempted).

grandia 2 fixed image 4

JRPG’s are linear by nature. They’re trying to tell you a story and are streamlined in order to make it easier to follow and prevent the player from getting lost or accessing areas that would feel inconsistent with the game’s design. Other games such as Gothic 3 aren’t concerned for this “consistency” and just leave the player free to explore their world with few barriers. Of course this means that game game has way more bugs and glitches than a linear game because there are more options for the player and with options comes more holes to fill.

“Without options, there is no game”

Giving the player options is like planting a garden. Plants need to be tended to every so often, they need water and good soil to bloom. Essentially, the more you add to something, the more work is required to maintain the consistent quality of the game. This is why linear games exist simply because it’s not worth adding more because it just means more work. I know this because my job involves gardening and adding more to the garden just adds more work for me to do, so I naturally decide not to do it even though it would make the garden look a bit nicer, is it really worth it if the plant ends up dead and looks awful?


Ahh what a beautiful forest…

So as a result, there are limitations in some games like JRPG’s and this is acceptable. However making it impossible to rotate a block upside down in a game that uses the same engine and presumably the same coding language as a game that already allows you to build a block upside down is inexcusable and downright stupid in my opinion because you’re limiting us for no reason.


Despite all the hype built up for it, the open world that was promised by the developers of Tales Of Zesteria was a blatant lie.

Now before I stop going on about this I want to bring up why the streamlined approach towards JRPG’s appeals to me and why I personally prefer them over WRPG’s. You see, the ability to go anywhere at any time doesn’t appeal to me personally, it’s nice that it’s there but personally what I love about open world games is the ability to build my own structure of linearity by making my own imaginary barriers.

“Essentially, the more you add to something, the more work is required to maintain the consistent quality of the game”

This is why I love games such as Two Worlds 2 which some criticize as being too linear for having plot barriers. This didn’t affect me a single bit however as I am used to it. I’ve played JRPG’s for 16 years now and as such this is just normal to me.

When playing games like Gothic 3 which encourage exploration, I like to make my own imaginary barriers and my own path. I choose to explore each town and dungeon in a particular order to build a structured RPG experience for myself. As such, the freedom doesn’t exactly bother me as I can merely form my own path. Games like Skyrim on the other hand annoy me because the game has you travelling to the other side of the world just to progress through the story which feels completely unnatural. they might as well not have a story at all.

grandia 2 fixed image 2

As such, Open world games have their place. If done right, they can work in story-driven games but if done wrong it can be frustrating for the player who wants to explore at their own pace and aren’t forced to travel beyond their own boundaries just to make progression. But in a way this is a restriction in itself, the restriction is a barrier that prevents you from making progress. This frustrates me a lot.

As a result, adding options can be dangerous at times and require a lot of thinking and decision making when designing a game. You have to ask yourself “what could possibly go wrong with this?” and try to work it out. Problem solving is the name of the game here and problem solving is the job of a game director because nothing is ever too much for a game, it is only as good as you allow it to be. Game directors are working on limited time and money so it’s important for them to prioritize which options matter the most and not to offer any options which may ruin the game’s overall presentation due to neglect.


I’ll be taking this, thanks!

Every single feature in a game needs TLC for it to be appealing. Adding features is never a bad thing, so long as it doesn’t affect the core presentation of the game. If it’s just an unpolished add on that is separate from the game then it’s fine. However if it’s integrated into the game itself, it could cause problems with the game’s overall presentation. This is probably why KeenSWH removed Ladders from Space Engineers because they didn’t want to work on them. However they didn’t need to remove the ladder aesthetic from the block, that was just stupid and unnecessary in my opinion and ruined a lot of the things I built which relied on ladders. Now they just look silly.

As such, if it’s not game breaking, don’t remove it. Never remove features from games unless they are seriously game breaking (like the DMR in Halo, fuck that weapon). Removing features accomplishes nothing and merely shows that you don’t give enough of a shit to try and make it work. I hate KeenSWH for this and I hope other developers don’t do that same thing.

So all in all to all you game developers out there, please give us as much freedom and as many options as it is possible without ruining the game. Never boycott features without a good reason.


Thankfully the mods allow us to bypass these barriers and have limitless freedom. Shame the devs can’t do the same.


Grandia 2 Anniversary Edition Review


Of all the many games to be re-released, Grandia 2 Anniversary is the only time I’ve ever forked over money for a game I have already played. My reasons for this were simple. Grandia 2 Anniversary is available solely on PC. Now considering the fact that PC is my main platform for games these days (subject to change) I chose to purchase the game for convenience reasons, in other words no more plugging in my PS2 to play it. I could now play through this game in all its glory once again and I’ll tell you one thing for sure, the second visit to this game alone was worth every penny… even though I could have done so for free. Grandia 2 is worth another playthrough without a doubt.


At least they didn’t call it “The Battle Of Good And Evil Anniversary Edition”

Now before we discuss the remaster itself, lets talk about the game. Grandia 2 is the sequel to Grandia 1 and is set in a completely new setting with new characters. Basically the game is completely different from Grandia in a lot of ways. I haven’t played the original Grandia but based on the knowledge I have of the game, it seems to function very differently.

So all in all, Grandia 2 feels like a standalone title and doesn’t require any experience of the first game to enjoy it. If you are looking to jump into the series or are just looking for an amazing JRPG, you could do far worse than Grandia 2. If you’re a newcomer to JRPGs I highly encourage you to start with Grandia 2 as it is quite possibly the most definitive JRPG experience you will ever experience. Only trouble is… you’ll feel a bit spoiled by the end and may struggle to appreciate other JRPGs which fail to meet the same standards in which this game set.

The story of Grandia 2 is straightforward for the most part. It is best described as “A run-of-the-mill JRPG experience with an unexpected twist of satire coated in dozens and dozens of euphemisms to keep things clean”. As such, the characters of this game aren’t the usual bunch… save for maybe two.


Enter Ryudo, the snarkmeister.


The protagonist, Ryudo is what you’d expect from such a satirical-driven game. Ryudo is a lovable, yet sarcastic bastard (that’s an understatement) who takes pleasure in being an asshole. His dark past has led him to become rather cold and pessimistic but his cynical disposition gifts him with a unique, dry sense of humor… often at the expense of others. His unorthodox vocabulary may lead some confused… but others amused, nevertheless the delivery of his lines is priceless. Worth the price of admission in itself. Ryudo is without a doubt the best written protagonist in a JRPG and if you disagree, you probably hug too many trees.

Grandia 2 04

Personality aside, Ryudo is a geohound (euphemism for a mercenary). Accompanied by his talking pet bird Skye (dubbed by the legendary Paul Eiding), he takes on numerous jobs for cash, usually involving monster slaying among other things. He is renowned for his trade which often invokes resentment among the populace but rather than being bothered by their hateful remarks, he shrugs it off… usually accompanied with a snide gag to put them in their place.

Despite his rough upbringing, Ryudo, unlike most JRPG protagonists doesn’t tend to distance himself from others, rather he tolerates others so long as they don’t get in his way. He is highly sociable though his crude mannerisms tend to turn others away. As a result, Ryudo spends most of his life as a social outcast, save for his partner Skye, he is a lone wolf.


Bird is the word!


Ryudo later meets Elena, a pious songstress who’s on a mission to perform an exorcism. Elena’s character is the definition of prude… So much so that she comes across as both obnoxious and frustratingly naive towards Ryudo. Ryudo is tasked with escorting her to this exorcism.


This offers a unique dynamic rarely seen in JRPGs these days and its this dynamic that surprisingly many JRPGs lack. Banter… though not always the pleasant kind. It’s this which makes Grandia 2 so memorable and the characters strong. As more characters join the group, more banter unfolds.

Speaking of unique dynamics, unlike standard JRPGs where the NPC’s talk to you and you walk away, Grandia 2 makes the NPC’s relevant by adding character interaction whilst talking to them as opposed to them talking to what might as well be a brick wall. This gives more life to the world and more personality to the characters and setting. It’s a truly unique experience that cannot be missed.


In addition, the game has dinner scenes offering even more character interaction, these just simply cannot be missed… unless you’re not interested in JRPG storytelling in which case, you can skip over half the game’s dialogue. They are essentially the skits from the Tales series done right and are usually far more relevant in comparison.

To feed your curiosity, I made a video to showcase one of these dinner scenes:

(Playstation 2 footage)

Overall the story manages to stand out from other JRPGs despite its common approach to storytelling. If you’ve played other JRPGs you’ve likely seen it all before… but just not in the same way. Though Grandia 2 is mostly lighthearted, it can be surprisingly dark at times, sometimes too dark. Despite all this the characters hold everything together so well that you almost forget about the archaic plotline (though if we consider its release date it was pretty unique for its time).


“A run-of-the-mill JRPG experience with an unexpected twist of satire coated in dozens and dozens of euphemisms to keep things clean”


I really like the whole campy feeling this game has. It really makes it feel surreal, in a good way. The characters, particularly Ryudo approach dangerous situations without blinking an eye, usually saying something awesome or witty like a classic 80’s action movie. Sure it isn’t realistic and all… but its a JRPG and I tire of the constant melodrama among JRPG casts, especially if it follows a conventional plotline (White Knight Chronicles anyone?). Despite this, the story is written in a way that it manages to make a huge impact in the latter half of the game and though there’s a tiny bit of melodrama in there, its cut short by the “getting shit done vibe” before it gets out of hand… I’m looking at you Edge Maverick.

It’s this reason that I consider Grandia 2’s story to be purely satire, it doesn’t take itself seriously half the time and when it does, the game still feels like a barrel of laughs due to how generic everything is but you can’t help but love every minute of it. It makes a mockery of generic RPG stories with it’s campy yet well written dialogue which doesn’t hesitate to add some cheesy lines in there to further intensify the satire, it works so well that it makes for a great JRPG story in itself.


The core gameplay of Grandia 2 could be considered mildly archaic to todays standards but it still manages to stand out from other JRPGs of its time with its unique style of combat. Grandia 2 combines the ATB system from Final Fantasy and mixes it with the turned based style of older JRPGs and instead of using the ATB system to apply tension, it uses it to apply strategy.

Gameplay video:

(Playstation 2 footage)

Grandia 2 is a very easy game to master once you know the mechanics and when best to use them. As such I couldn’t recommend this game any more to newcomers, its one of the best JRPGs to start with. The combat is rather satisfying and never outstays it’s welcome.

Battles follow a simple mechanic called the “cancel” mechanic which allows you to push enemies back along the “IP gauge” (the game’s ATB gauge) to essentially cancel out it’s turn. The IP gauge may appear confusing at first and if you don’t pay attention, you may get hammered pretty quickly but once tamed, you will find yourself controlling every battle.


One of the complaints I made about the original Grandia 2 is that it was too easy. The gameplay on normal difficulty doesn’t punish seasoned JRPG veterans and it led to the game feeling like a cakewalk. Grandia 2 anniversary edition attempts to rectify this with the game’s new hard difficulty. What are my views on hard difficulty you ask? I personally believe it is falsely advertised as “normal” but it does manage to add some extra challenge to the game and I did have a few moments where the bosses nearly kicked by ass but I still never saw a single game over screen. Nevertheless I still found the game to be of a reasonable challenge on hard difficulty and I recommend all JRPG vets to play it on hard right from the get go.


“Expect an early winter… with lots of snow”!!!

On Hard difficulty the enemies move along the IP gauge much faster, so you have to think more. I enjoyed this challenge a lot more and the game definitely rectified itself in this department. Overall though I’d say the gameplay is still a fun romp, it’s very simplistic but unique. I couldn’t recommend this game any more to newcomers in this department, veterans should play on hard mode like me to get the most out of it.


“The IP gauge may appear confusing at first and if you don’t pay attention, you may get hammered pretty quickly but once tamed, you will find yourself controlling every battle”.


Now in my previous review I talked a lot about the character management but after a bit of research, I found out that a lot of the information I gave was false, sorry about that. In any case, hard difficulty has opened me up to new strategies and has made the character management much more essential than normal which is refreshing.

Sure there are still a lot of imbalances (lotus flower anyone?) but I found that a lot of the moves that I claimed to be useless actually came in useful whilst playing hard mode. Sure there are still a lot of useless moves and spells (I never found much use for freeze at all in this game) but I find that hard mode has opened up new possibilities. As such I can safely say that character management serves a greater purpose than it did in the original game.


Now for those unfamiliar with the character management of Grandia 2, I’ll explain. Grandia 2 offers total freedom over your character progression. This may turn off some people but it is definitely inviting to those who love freedom. Of course with freedom, there are exploits so I strongly recommend (and this goes for any game which focuses on freedom in character management) that you avoid all guides, forums or any form of conversations over gameplay so that you are not spoiled the fun of character management.

You are given 2 different currencies to develop your character’s skills, much like Star Ocean, you can spend these to put points in skills, moves and spells. These two currencies are special coins and magic coins. Special coins develop moves and general skills, magic coins develop spells and skills relating to spells. These coins are dropped by enemies along with experience so you’re able to break the monotony between battles by developing your character on the fly… not that battles are monotonous to begin with (dat battle theme never gets old).


Spells are developed separately from characters. Instead of binding spells to each character, there is a pseudo materia style item called a mana egg. These mana eggs can be equipped to any character and whoever equips them gets access to its corresponding spells. Mana eggs are developed exclusively with magic coins and are completely separate from characters. There are several eggs each with their own set of spells. Each egg has 3 pages of magic and to learn them all, you must first master lesser spells and by doing so you will unlock new ones. This makes things a little trickier as you don’t know the spells available in each egg so you have to be careful what spells you want to develop.

Now here we get to the bad stuff. Grandia 2 is an excellent game without a doubt and please note that the vast majority of these issues are found in the anniversary edition and I will notify those issues which are found in said edition. The Playstation 2 version is constantly ridiculed by people for being a bad port. I disagree, the Playstation 2 version worked perfectly fine for me. However I own the PAL version which is said to lack the problems of the NTSC version. Ultimately though, if you live in Europe or the UK, the PS2 version is the definitive version as it doesn’t have any major issues like the NTSC PS2 version has and it’s really cheap. Alternatively you could pick up the anniversary edition if you’re looking for more of a challenge but overall the experience is better on the PS2.

If you live in the US, I would encourage getting the anniversary edition… unless the problems I state would prove really troublesome for you, if so then…*sigh* I’ll have to recommend the Dreamcast version (I hate SEGA and it pains me to recommend anything involving that company).

Grandia 2 18

H..hey, don’t fall asleep on me just yet, there’s still more to cover in this review.

Now before we look at the anniversary edition exclusively, lets look at the issues Grandia 2 has. For starters Grandia 2 has the tendency to lock you out of areas during certain points in the story and force you along a linear path. Though there is some backtracking to be done, the game loves to block out areas of the map you’ve been to previously, preventing you from returning. This can be quite aggravating if you’re deeply invested in the game’s narrative as there are optional dinner scenes and missable NPC dialogue that you can be locked out of and some of this is worth witnessing. Thankfully there are very few missable items in this game… though there are quite a few. Put simply, if you thought Legend Of Dragoon was linear, you’re in for a nasty surprise. Grandia 2’s linearity feels very similar to Legend Of Heroes: Trails In The Sky… heck the game itself is very similar to Legend Of Heroes Trails In The Sky but superior in pretty much every single way in my opinion.


Only 2 areas available on the map? Linearity at it’s finest…

Put simply, if you’ve played and enjoyed Legend Of Heroes: Trails In The Sky and haven’t played Grandia 2… what are you doing with your life? Get this game right now! Anyways let’s get back on topic. Grandia 2’s biggest flaw is its lack of optional content. Inability to backtrack aside, I would have loved to have seen some side quests here and there. Sure there are a few minigames (i’ll get to those later) and a few diversions but not enough to truly divert myself from the main story. I would have loved to have gone back to Agear Town and rebuild it back to its former glory like Luin in Tales Of Symphonia but sadly it was not to be I guess.


My final complaint with Grandia 2 in general is the annoying compass which replaces the conventional minimap making traversing certain field sections a nightmare. Seriously Game Arts, why subject us to this torment? Can’t you just put in a conventional minimap like everyone else?


Anyways I’ve covered all of the issues with Grandia 2 in general, lets look at some of the issues with the anniversary edition. Before I do lets talk about the visuals. Grandia 2 anniversary edition improves the visuals slightly. The lighting is improved, the terrain looks a lot more polished and there are some other small details that have been improved too. That aside we’re finally going to discuss the issues with this port.

First of all I have noticed numerous crash issues throughout the game (PC gaming as it’s finest ;)). I can’t count how many times I’ve been forced to replay certain sections due to crashing. It’s frustrating. Thankfully there is a great abundance of save points in this game which helped out a lot (even if their ability to fully heal your party is exploitable as hell). Still these issues are inexcusable. There have been a few patches here and there so many of the crashes have been fixed though there may be a few un-patched ones still lingering.

Grandia 2 23

Aside from the random crashes, the other major issue of Grandia 2 anniversary edition is the music synchronization. This has been acknowledged by the developers who claim it is due to framerate issues. Battles in Grandia 2: anniversary edition have the option of running at 60 fps but the rest of the game runs at 30 or lower. Put simply, the framerate is all over the place, certain scenes run at 25 FPS, others at 30, it all depends on how long each scene is played out. As a result, the audio synch is messy so you may not hear certain tracks when you’re supposed to and vice versa.

That’s not to say improvements haven’t been made, there have been several fixes made to the game, including music loop issues. Those are patched now as well as a few major crash bugs.

Aside from all that there are a lot of awkward scenes where parts of the terrain are cut out or certain objects are see through or completely disappear altogether. Funnily enough these issues tend to show up in the game’s more cornier sections which adds some amusement to what would otherwise be an insipid melodrama.


“We have to ruin this scene… how can we possibly ruin this scene”? ~ GungHo

Finally I’d like to touch on a few more things. The music of Grandia 2 is very dynamic, lighthearted and catchy. The battle music in particular is a real treat to the eardrums. I cannot get enough of the game’s battle music. The music also enhances the emotional investment of the game’s cutscenes in its own unique 80’s cop movie style which Noriyuki Iwadare just loves to display and it gives the game more personality. All in all, the music does it’s job really well and is really memorable, it might not be Valkyrie Profile 2 caliber but it certainly manages to stand out from the rest in this department.

On a final note I’d like to touch on Grandia 2’s minigames. Grandia 2’s minigames are unlike any other game (they’re awful). Grandia 2’s minigames will give you an unforgettable experience (one that will haunt you for the rest of your life). Grandia 2’s minigames are innovative and offer a lot of depth (if you consider incessant button mashing to be depth).


The first minigame you will encounter pits you in a 1 on 1 contest of strength that will test your skill (ha, more like test your patience). You are given two buttons, one button applies power, the other button applies endurance (just tap the power button 3 times then tap the endurance button, rinse and repeat) it can be quite difficult to manage your power and your endurance (if you have no brain). The rewards for completing this arduous task are worth all the effort (if you like collecting junk that is).

Next up is the nut grabbing minigame, if you thought the arm wrestling minigame was difficult, the nut grabbing minigame proves to be an even greater challenge (challenge? more like ordeal). You are tasked with grabbing nuts from moving pillars before the pink insects drop down and stun you (sounds like a bad Snickers commercial).


Great minds think alike eh Ryudo?

With all that aside I can say with great confidence that Grandia 2 was worth the second look and that playing the anniversary edition was enjoyable despite it’s shortcomings. I managed to find a lot of new things that I previously missed in my first playthrough. All in all, Grandia 2 is a game that should be cherished and I’m glad it is finally immortalized as a digital classic on Steam so that future generations may too appreciate this legendary RPG.

As for whether you should fork over your hard-earned money for it… If you really loved Grandia 2 and haven’t played it to death, I’d say yes, if you’ve played it to death already, I’d give it a miss. If you’re new to the series (or the game) or haven’t played a JRPG at all, the anniversary edition would be worth checking out. All in all, the port has it’s problems (like many of its previous ports) but it also improves on a few things which were lacking in the previous versions. Regardless of which version you get, Grandia 2 is a must play for all JRPG fans and a great game to get invested into the genre. If you’re curious and haven’t tried a JRPG before, I’d say give it a try, you’ll either love it or hate it and if you hate it, at least you’ll know where you stand.


“Grandia 2 is a game that should be cherished and I’m glad it is finally immortalized as a digital classic on Steam so that future generations may too appreciate this legendary RPG”.


Personally I think Grandia 2 is the perfect example as to how a traditional JRPG is executed to cater to all audiences. I would even go so far to recommend it over Valkyrie Profile 2 (my favorite game of all time).


That may be so… but I feel that this review has gone on long enough…

Story/Plot: Exceptional
Presentation: Great
Music: Exceptional
Gameplay: Great
Lifespan: Decent Length
Would you replay? Yes

Overall: Exceptional

silver-star-of-awesome sized


Mafia 2 Review

Mafia 2 was kind of hit or miss for me personally, it’s a game that tries really hard to create a realistic setting and story line but it is held back by several issues that pushed the game into mediocrity.


So much fun!!!

First of all, I’d like to get the bad bits out of the way so lets talk about the game play of Mafia 2. There are two different sections to play, driving and shooting sections, even a few stealth sections here and there. First of all lets talk about the shooting sections.

Now Mafia 2 is a third person shooter and I don’t have a lot of good things to say about this genre other than it has never appealed to me in the slightest for many reasons and believe me, this game made damn well sure to expose those issues. As expected, I was quite skeptical about the TPS sections and rightfully so.


For starters, the cover system. I can’t stand cover systems and this game really brings the worst out of them. Seriously there is this one mission where a boss throws seemingly endless molotovs at you which can hit you through cover so you have to leave cover only to be shot by everyone in order to get to the next cover only to be burned again. It was infuriating and after doing some research, it seems I wasn’t the only one who had trouble with this part.

Put simply (consider this a mini rant), I am sick and tired of seeing cover systems in video games. They do nothing but piss me off, they are just awful and for good reasons too. Cover systems are basically just popping in and out and firing random potshots hoping to hit the enemy as opposed to FPS games like Painkiller where you are constantly moving and avoiding enemy attacks.


The thing that gets me the most is that cover systems aren’t even realistic (unless you count Dishonored or Wolfenstein The New Order which are both games I personally disliked). The biggest issue with cover systems is that you’re in third person. If you want to make the game play feel realistic then do it in first person so that we can only peek in and out of cover to see where our enemies are (like in the two games I mentioned).

If you can see everything around you, whilst being in cover, it defeats the purpose of cover systems in general as it is completely unrealistic that you can see beyond cover on your screen so you know where the enemies are and the only reason why cover exists in games is because it’s realistic, otherwise we’d be running around and dodging bullets like Duke Nukem.

So all in all cover systems in third person shooters are stupid. What they should do instead is remove the stupid hitscan enemies and remove the cover and have you strafe to avoid enemy attacks. Look at the Serious Sam games for example, as much as I ridicule them for their unforgiving and frustrating difficulty, at least they made third person perspective playable and are the only game to do so (Warhammer 40k Space Marine came close but failed simply due to how slow you move).


Basically the game play goes like this, you watch a cut scene and are thrust straight into a fight, you have to run to cover quickly and mash the left trigger to constantly go in and out of cover and shoot estimated potshots at enemies and keep going in and out until the enemy decides to pop out then shoot them, rinse and repeat. This wouldn’t be so bad if enemies didn’t stay in cover for insanely long periods of time so you’re usually playing the waiting game. This can become quite tedious, especially when you die and have to restart it all over again which brings me to my next problem.

The stupid checkpoint/save system is absolutely awful. I swear, half the game was spent replaying annoying TPS sections just because I got killed by some random blind spot (I’ll get to that in a minute) and brought back all the way to the start of the gunfight so I have to do all of those annoying TPS sections all over again!

I swear, the checkpoints are so spaced out, it’s ridiculous, you’d think that after completing one section that you’d get a checkpoint… but no, instead you get a checkpoint after 2 or sometimes even 3 sections and each section can take ridiculously long due to the horrible cover system. So basically you clear out a room of enemies, go to the next room and get killed by a blind spot.


This brings me to the biggest problem with the shooting sections, the enemy placement. Mafia 2 pays homage to Red Faction in this regard as the enemies are placed in positions specifically to take you by surprise… or as I like to call, campy AI. I swear there are so many moments where you walk down a hallway and BAM! You get 1 shotted by a dude with a shotgun who was hiding in the room. The biggest issue with this is simply the minimap, it is dreadful. The minimap only displays enemies right when you’ve seen them and by the time the red triangles appear on the map, you are gunned down almost immediately.

There are so many points in this game where I reached the next section only to be one shotted by a group of enemies who appeared out of seemingly nowhere but half way through the game I noticed that this was due to the enemy placement.


There is this one section where you’re walking down the stairs and there is an enemy waiting for you right at the bottom and they can see you as you are walking down and kill you before you even notice them. There was also a part where I opened a door and was greeted by a shotgun blast to the face.

Put simply, the enemy placement is designed to aggravate the player, just like in Red Faction, only difference is that because Mafia 2 is a cover based TPS, it makes things twice as bad due to the fact that you need to be in cover to survive gunfights, if you’re out of cover, you’re not going to last two seconds and since you cannot see where the enemies are, you get ambushed in every single encounter before you can get to cover. Either that or you hug every single wall you come across… but then the enemies could hit you from another direction.


So all in all, this game is about trial and error, once you know the enemy placements, know how to react to the blind spots, you’ll beat it easily. Still I hate it when games give you cheap game over screens and make you replay a section you already did 10 minutes ago. That is what Mafia 2 does a lot.


The stealth sections are decent at best, you can drag bodies and perform sneak take downs and stuff but nothing too fancy. I personally found the stealth sections to be underused and it annoyed me that they usually ended with a huge gunfight essentially making it impossible to stealth your way through a level which was a shame. Also some of the enemy placements can make it a pain as they never seem to want to move. Put simply, Mafia 2 is definitely not a great stealth game.


Now the driving sections aren’t as bad but can still be frustrating at times simply due to the checkpoint system. There is one mission where you have to escape from the Feds and the police are on your tail immediately, you are also a wanted man. So you have to escape from the police whilst Joe deals with the Feds, sounds easy doesn’t it? Well it is… until Joe tells you to take him to Kingston in which you will have to navigate the map without getting any attention from the cops as you are a wanted man. In Mafia 2, being Wanted means that any cop who sees you will chase you down and that every area is locked down.

The problem is that because there is no checkpoint after killing off the feds, if the cops catch you or your vehicle gets smashed up, you have to restart the entire mission all over again! Seriously couldn’t you at least have given me a checkpoint after killing the Feds and escaping the cops?


On the other hand, cop chases aren’t all that bad, they never feel completely one-sided (like GTA 5’s cop chases) but never feel too easy. Cop cars are slow in Mafia 2 so you can outrun them with speed, additionally, you can kill the cops yourself to make things easier and since the guns work really well and unlike GTA 5, 4 star cop chases aren’t too hard as long as you have the right guns, if you can time it right, you can kill both cops and take their car. Alternatively you can change your clothes/licence plate when you have escaped the cops to lose your wanted status.


In any case, thankfully the driving works quite well in the game. Once thing I did enjoy was the speed limiter which allowed you to drive slowly, obeying the laws of the road. This allows you to role play a little which helps immerse you into the world instead of just driving like a complete lunatic all the time like in most open world games.

Speaking of Open World. Don’t go into Mafia 2 expecting an open world experience, sure there is a city to explore but the game is all mission based and the city serves as an extra. Think of it more like Halo 3 ODST’s New Mombasa in the sense that you have a city to explore but there isn’t much to do in it and it’s all broken up into missions. The city kinda acts as a hub between missions rather than a free roaming component as you will always find yourself in the middle of a mission. With that being said, there is nothing stopping you from exploring should you wish to do so.


Missions are split into chapters which can be loaded at any time from the menu screen

There are cars to steal, shops to buy from and wanted posters to find so there’s something at least. Just don’t think of it as deep as games like GTA, Saints Row or Sleeping Dogs as it’s nothing like them (though it’s probably closest to Sleeping Dogs).

Speaking of collectibles, you can also pick up Playboy magazines in between levels which rewards your keen eye with erotic imagery, coincidence much?


The game also adds hand to hand combat which feels like a glorified rock paper scissors game. I personally found it to be mediocre as it’s all about reading enemy patterns which can sometimes be quite unpredictable. A lot of it is just rinse and repeat dodge and counter until you see the opportunity for a finisher. That being said, these sections do manage to break things up a bit and add something different though they didn’t get as much use as I would have liked. Sparring against a Mob boss would have been far more satisfying than just capping them in the head as this game shows. On the other hand, the combat isn’t quite on the same level of depth as Sleeping Dogs so I’ll probably take back that statement.


Mafia 2 isn’t all bad though and it does offer something of worth for those who are patient enough to put up with its issues. For starters, the world itself is very immersive. Seriously I have yet to play a game quite as immersive as Mafia 2. It seriously feels like taking a step back to the 50’s. The city itself is very well designed. The weather change is also brilliant. It feels like the entire city changes when you move on to the next time period. You start in what I presume to be the mid 1940’s around winter time and later on find yourself in the 1950’s mid summer. Heck even the cars change.


You can also listen to the radio when you’re driving. Sure it’s not a completely new concept and the music isn’t anything incredible (it’s not video game music) but it really gets you immersed in the time period with songs like Dean Martin’s “Let it snow” playing in the background when you first arrive in Empire Bay. In addition, the radio likes to make many references to modern culture claiming that such ideas are ridiculous. There is even a stealth section where I overheard the guards saying “you know what would be cool? If we had a TV program which we could interact with, we could use a controller to move around, it would be so cool” and the other guard makes a snarky remark insisting that it will never happen.

Another great feature is the ability to own and customize vehicles, it’s a nice little bonus which you will almost never make practical use of as missions usually provide you with a car and even if they don’t, you can easily just steal one. Nevertheless it’s still a cool feature and it’s always nice to have a little bit of personalized touches to your ride. Of course it’s not as deep as it could be but at least it had it. GTA 4 didn’t. The vehicles all look very nice too, some great classic looking cars to steal and drive around in. Put simply, the vehicle customization is a good distraction and gives you something to spend your money on (when you’re not buying new suits or guns).


The story in Mafia 2 is also done quite well though I would have liked to have seen more of it as the game is quite short. The story is presented in a rather gritty approach, particularly near the end, though there are a few comical sections here and there. For the most part it is a serious story though and can get quite dark too (as you would expect from a Mafia game).


There are all sorts of really interesting scenarios like being thrown into jail for 10 years and experiencing prison life which I thought was a cool addition considering most games tend to skip those parts, it helped me get all the more immersed into the game and opened my eyes to the harshness of 1950’s prison life. Something I really appreciated.


The characters are hit and miss, some are forgettable, some are pretty interesting. I found Vito, Joe, Henry and Leo to be the most notable characters, they kept the story strong for me, everyone else was quite forgettable (except Marty who was somewhat irritating).

Overall, Mafia 2 is a mixed bag, it’s an interesting experience for those who want an insight on Mafia life and it offers and engaging story and setting. On the other hand, the game play is pretty rusty and often frustrating, especially due to the annoying checkpoint system. Overall, Mafia 2 is not a bad game but it’s not really a good game.

Story/Plot: Good
Visuals: Good
Game play: Mediocre
Music: Good
Lifespan: Very Short
Would You Replay? No

Overall: Mediocre


Need For Speed Carbon Review

Now as we all know, EA are a greedy publisher. Their development team Black Box on the other hand are actually not that bad and it shows through Need For Speed Carbon.


Completely ignoring the controversy behind EA, I’m giving Need For Speed Carbon a fair chance. Need For Speed Carbon is available for many platforms but I chose the Wii version. Why, I have no idea, possibly because I just got a Wii at that point. So I’ll be reviewing the Wii version.


To start with we have the visuals. I honestly think that the visuals of Need For Speed Carbon are a vast improvement over its predecessors and still hold up well today. All the cars look nice and shiny and there are some great lighting effects on the paint work. The dark neon lit urban sandbox returns from Need For Speed Underground 2 which is good considering the bright, sunny Rockport kinda got tiring after a while, plus it provides a fitting environment to show off the game’s lighting effects.


I really like Palmont City a lot as it has a lot of cool areas, particularly in Silverton and unlike Rockport which had very few memorable landmarks, Palmont has plenty. This can help out a lot with the police chases as it helps to know where you are on the map and the visuals are a lot bolder and clearer due to the game’s darker environment allowing you to identify light easier. All in all though, I really think Carbon does well in the visual department.

But what really matters in games like this is the racing. First things first though I have to bring up the controls as they are easily the most interesting part of the Wii version. Unlike the other versions, the Wii version utilizes the Wii remote which requires you to tilt it to steer (kind of like a steering wheel). This can turn a lot of people off at first and can seem quite intimidating, its a bit like transitioning from the DK Bongo’s to the Gamecube controller in Donkey Konga, it just feels awkward. The bad thing is that there aren’t any conventional controller options, though there are still a few options here and there which require the Wii remote and nunchuck, I felt that the default controls were ultimately the least clunky of the bunch.

As you can see, i can’t drive in third person perspective using the Wii remote.

With that said, the Wii remote operates fine by itself. You use 2 to accelerate, 1 to brake and the best bit, A to hand brake. My god I can’t think of any racing game where I’ve ever used the hand brake as much as this, and it handles so smoothly too. This is partly due to the mechanics of the steering which are very fast and surprisingly responsive even on the Wii version. Cornering feels fast, as it should with the use of the hand brake, its as if you almost never need to use the brake.

When I say fast… I mean really fast.

In addition, there is speed breaker which can be used by pressing down on the d pad (or from a horizontal position, you press right on the d pad). Speed breaker is so ridiculously abusive though it’s not even funny. Like Nitrous, it regenerates over time, so you can use it on nearly every corner and it’s really fun to do so. This can be a good thing as it makes the game more accessible for newcomers to the series and ultimately makes the game more fun as it’s cool to watch your car drift around corners carrying the weight of all it’s speed. It’s as if they knew exactly how to make an engaging arcade racer.


As with previous installments, you have your nitrous to give yourself an extra boost, this can be done by pressing right on the d pad (or up horizontally) and can be useful at getting your speed back after a sharp turn. Something new however is crew abilities. Crew abilities allow you to either stop your opponent in their tracks or draft behind a crew member to gain some speed. As if speed breaker didn’t make it easy enough in Most Wanted, now you have another racer on your side who can win the races for you. Talk about hand-holding.

In addition, crew members have rubber band AI. This is usually a good thing since they stay with you, particularly if they’re a drafter but sometimes they get in your way and you end up ramming into their rear bumper with them complaining at you for driving like a lunatic when it was their fault. In addition, it can make a fun challenge to beat your teammate in a race as they generally play on the same level as you making them a tough challenge. Sometimes however your ally can be found all the way back in last place. Sometimes it’s because they hit a wall directly, sometimes a pursuit breaker blocks their way, this can even happen to the enemy racers too which is hilarious.


To step things up there’s the canyon races. These races are Need For Speed Carbon’s most stand-out feature. Canyon races turn off both nitrous and speed breaker, forcing you to drive with pure skill. The hand holding essentially disappears completely here and whilst the arcade racing mechanics might help a little, the tracks theme around tight corners and thin roads which are designed to intimidate the player. This makes canyon races some of the best this game has to offer, they’re intense and really fun. Essentially, canyons are the ultimate test of your driving ability in the Need For Speed series.

Canyon’s are tough but not tough enough for the Dodge Viper

Police chases make a return and they’re more or less the same as they were in Most Wanted with a few alterations. Police helicopters will no longer follow you on the map, why they removed them is unknown.  Additionally, spike strips are not as effective as they were in Most Wanted and it’s possible to outrun the cops without tires as opposed to slowing down to 0 mph.


As Palmont is a more cramped space, with lots of corners, there are a lot of quick exits to escape from the cops, and without the helicopters, the police will have a harder time finding you. This makes the cop chases in NFS Carbon a lot more forgiving than Most Wanted and are still just as enjoyable though they can sometimes be a pain. That being said, police pursuits have no impact on your career progression and for the most part you will rarely encounter them, especially not as often as you do in Most Wanted. It is cool to see them return though and not be completely ruined like they are in more recent NFS titles.

Another returning feature is the drift challenges from Need For Speed Underground 2 which have replaced the Drag races in Need For Speed Most Wanted (which I personally hated). Drifts couldn’t be more fun with the Wii remote, not to mention more challenging and rewarding. I swear your arms will hurt after a while as drifting requires you to corner some really sharp turns without touching the railings. The higher the speed the more points you get. I personally find drifts to be really fun though I can understand how they can be a huge turnoff to some. Still, I find them a lot more bearable than Drag races which were a glorified car frogger simulation with manual transmission (automatic all the way, sorry, I just suck with manual transmission, it’s the main reason why I never learned to drive IRL).

And that pretty much covers the general game play experience of Need For Speed Carbon but that’s not the only thing Need For Speed Carbon has going for it. Like all good street racing games, you gotta have some good car customization. It is something the Need For Speed games have been lacking for a while now and Carbon is arguably the best of the bunch in this category (though some argue pro street which I personally disagree with despite them being very similar as to me, the cars look a lot better in Carbon which makes the customization feel more desirable).


Like previous NFS titles, you can customize your rims, hoods, add a few vinyl’s here and there but what stands out the most is the game’s autosculpt system. This allows you to freely adjust the shape and size of your cars body to give it its own look. In addition, the number of vinyl slots is now limitless. This is the one thing that annoyed me the most about NFS Most Wanted, the fact that you could only pick one vinyl which was stupid as Underground 2 allowed you to have up to 4. Carbon rectify’s this problem by giving you limitless design possibilities. I guarantee you will never see two of the same car in NFS Carbon… unless they’re deliberately designing the same car.


Unlike the other games in the series, Need For Speed Carbon comes with its own original soundtrack. Instead of just throwing money at licensed music (which they still do with their EA Trax), they actually managed to design their own to accompany it. So if you don’t want to listen to licensed music, you can just turn it off and still listen to the game’s OST. I actually really like the OST as it’s intense (the cop chases still use the remixed version of The Mann), particularly the music that plays in the canyons which has a lot of heavy percussion.


The biggest issue with NFS Carbon is it’s length. The career mode is sadly very short, there are only 4 boss fights (each with both a circuit and canyon race) and the career can be a little too easy to beat. With all of its hand holding features like the speed breaker and your crew, the game can easily be beaten in a few hours. The final race however is really tough and it can really suck for people who have a low acceleration car as your opponent is driving the best car in the game with perfect handling down one of the game’s most twistiest tracks.

To make up for this, there is a lot of replay value to be had in NFS Carbon. Aside from the career mode there is also the challenge series. Though it doesn’t offer half as much content as NFS Most Wanted, it’s still there and has you driving some cars that are unavailable in career mode which is cool. In addition there are reward cards which are basically in-game achievements which reward you with new car parts, visuals and cars to unlock in Quick Race (the game’s multi-player). I actually went out of my way to get all of the reward cards in the game and it was a lot of fun replaying the game again each time to get them (though I set up a new alias as I wasn’t fond of losing all my pimped out cars to complete some of the reward cards).


Here’s proof, proof that I have no life

The Wii version doesn’t have online multi-player but split screen is still there and can still be fun with a friend. It’s pretty bog standard and sadly there is no coop free roam like in Midnight Club 3 but it’s still quite fun for a little bit though you’ll eventually get bored and move on to something else.


Did somebody call the fire brigade?

All in all, Carbon is a solid entry in the series and is my personal favorite. As a racer, it’s up there, but it ain’t got nothing on F-Zero GX.

Advice to all Wii version owners: Play in first person perspective, trust me, it makes a huge difference. Oh and stick with default controls and learn them. You will grow to love this game.


Visuals: Great

Music: Good

Gameplay: Great

Customization: Excellent

Content: Satisfactory

Lifespan: Very Short

Multi-Player: Decent

Licensed Cars? Yes

Would you replay? Yes


Overall: Great


Mount And Blade: Warband Review

mount and blade warband review thumbnail

I’m a bit late with this one, too busy playing Mount And Blade Warband to make this review but alas, the time has finally come to review this awesome… if unpolished game. Mount And Blade Warband is the best WRPG ever made, it’s better than Skyrim, Dragon Age, Gothic and pretty much every other WRPG on the face of the earth, I say this loosely because Diablo 1 exists and whilst that is a timeless classic, this game does so much more than Diablo ever did. Put simply, if you want an RPG where you can truly forge your path in an epic medieval world, you’ve found the right game.

Now Mount And Blade isn’t a fantasy game… so it loses a few points for that… oh wait, no it doesn’t, there are fantasy mods, heck there are even Sci-Fi mods. Mount And Blade Warband is everything you could ever want in a WRPG… but there’s more. Mount And Blade Warband is more than just an RPG, it’s a simulation… should you want it to be.

Everybody line up for your beating!

Now sure, pretty much everything about the game centers around war but you can do pretty much anything you want to in this game. Enjoy getting bored trading goods from town to town if that’s what you enjoy, heck you can also be a cattle farmer and heard them to the nearest village where you can sell their meat for a profit. Nevertheless, there is obviously more to Mount And Blade Warband than just that. Mount And Blade Warband is all about gathering a huge fucking army and raiding villages, killing armies of bandits, joining one of the many factions as a vassal/mercenary or even saying “Screw you guys, I’m making my own kingdom and if you try to stop me I will fuck you up and throw you in my dungeon bitches!”

Welcome to my bitch dungeon motherfucker!

Of course war is the centralized feature of Mount And Blade Warband and eventually you’re going to be at war no matter what but there are plenty of other things to do on the side too should you want a change of pace. Admittedly though, you will typically find that this can become a tad repetitive over time but to me, war never gets old. That being said, I can easily recommend this game to anyone who enjoys medieval warfare, go get it right now, you are seriously missing out. For the rest of you… keep reading.

Shot through the heart… and you’re to blame!

Where Mount And Blade excels at is it’s intricacy. Ruling a kingdom is no simple task, let alone being a vassal and you are encouraged to do so only late on in the game. On the other hand you could just choose to stick with your chosen faction… if you want to be a hipster, go ahead. Should you choose to become a ruler, you need to pay attention to your right to rule. Not just anyone can rule a kingdom, you have to be a renown adventurer who has proven him/herself worthy of leadership.

One interesting factor of Mount And Blade Warband is it’s character creation. Upon creating your character you select your gender, facials, character background and base stats. These are secretly the game’s difficulty rating in disguise. The difficulty of Mount And Blade Warband can be customized to your liking. Personally I turned saves on and fight easy ai with reduced damage but I played as a commoner who grew up as an iron smith. The next minute I’m riding off into the wilderness taking bounties and working my way up the ladder, eventually becoming a vassal of the Nords.

Riding on into the sunset…

I spent many years fighting with the company of the Nords… however things started to get out of hand when the Rhodocks, the Sarranids and the Kherjits declared war on the Nords simultaneously due to the Nords recklessness, I thought I could do better, so i rebelled against the Nords and set up my new faction, The Brotherhood Of Arms and though it was a difficult ordeal at first, my past experiences had developed me into a strong ruler that managed to conquer many of my former faction’s lands.

Now of course I make it sound easy, I was playing on the lowest difficulty which just happens to be the default difficulty. I didn’t bother turning it up because I enjoyed the thrill of charging into battle and just wailing my sword around like a mad man. Of course if that’s not your scene then you might choose a harder difficulty or even to remove saving completely so you cannot reload the game. Should you choose to do this though you will really have to think about your actions considerably because if you make one wrong move, you’ll screw everything. Taking over Calradia may seem like a simple feat on the easy difficulty but if you’re playing on the hardest difficulty with no saves it can be nigh impossible. Of course even on the easiest difficulty it’s no free ride but I could play more aggressively as a result which suited my play style.

Once you start the game, you will need to enlist new men into your army. You will be able to hire companions along your journey who can level up and develop as you do (well it is an RPG after all). Character management is a huge part of this game as you don’t just level up your main character, you need to level up your entire army. Of course, leveling up your units is simple enough, they generally start off as farmers with pitchforks/hatchets but they can grow into powerful warriors, archers and even mounted knights. This is where the character management comes in, as your character develops, they will be given multiple branches which can develop them into a completely new type of unit.

Body Surfin’

In other words you can develop your army however you want. Of course the customization for regular units is limited and this is where companions come in. Companions are essentially party members who level up conventionally as your main character does. This means they can have skills which you don’t making up for your character’s weaknesses. Choosing the right companions makes a huge difference, it all depends on your character’s build. If you chose to be a strong, powerful dumbass, you might want to hire a medical companion to heal your troops after battle, you may also want to hire an engineer for raiding enemy castles easier.

Siege towers… the bane of my existence… they take forever to build and once they’re built you have to wait till it reaches the walls…

Of course it’s not that simple, you see some companions just don’t get along and will leave you if you put them with someone they don’t like. This is why it’s important to choose your companions wisely. Worse comes to worse, you can send them on other jobs for a while such as spying on enemies and stuff to calm things down. You can also persuade them to stay if your persuasion skill is high enough.

As a ruler, you will need more than just a single army. Most rulers have several armies in their own faction, so taking them on solo won’t be efficient, especially if your leadership is low. You need to hire other leaders to help you lay claim to Calradia. Upon starting your own kingdom, you will want to hire lords to fight at your side. However, lords won’t fight for you without a cause and you must persuade them to join your cause.

In addition, you will also need to grant them feifs (villages, towns, castles) that you own in order to reward them for their efforts and show your appreciation. That being said, in some cases the tongue is mightier than the sword. Talking your way into people’s recognition for you can often yield great results. One time i approached Knudaar, a nordish lord. Our past endeavours together back when i was a vassal of the Nords had made us close friends… in a bit of a tricky situation, we were on opposite sides. Instead of just lopping his head off, which I could have done, i asked him if he would like to join my new order.

See that red text on the map? Those are feifs, the red text indicates feifs I own… which is all of them. Beat that!

After some careful consideration, he chose to join me against the Nords and with it, all the feifs he had acquired through his efforts as a vassal of the Nords, effectively giving me more territory than the Nords as a result. This just happened to be my turning point in the game. Whilst I barely survived the Nords onslaught on my measly kingdom, by bringing one of their men to my side, I had taken nearly half their nation, essentially becoming equal in power to the Nords.

However, as a result, you must bear in mind that the same can happen to you. Vassals come and go and only the most trustworthy vassals should ever lay claim to a town/castle should you want to keep hold of your territory. Trust works both ways though. If you grant feifs to someone else, a vassal will dislike you more. Once you find yourself with a lot of vassals, this can become difficult to manage so you don’t always want to have so many vassals, sometimes a small team of trusted comrades can become a juggernaut in itself which can lay siege to countless fortifications at your command. On the other hand, recruiting lots of lords can outnumber enemy lords and you can send them on other tasks whilst you’re pounding them in their castle.

It all depends on the lord’s personalities and the only way to test them is by experimenting. As dangerous as this can be, you don’t need to panic as it’s usually pretty easy to tell the greedy lords from the content ones just by seeing which lords get mad when they don’t get a feif. At the start, most lords will want feifs for themselves so it becomes really difficult to balance things, later on however these lords tend to nominate other lords who they deem worthy of claiming a feif. This makes things a little easier. At some point you will find a lord that begins to dislike you. At this point you have the option of either keeping him in your army and pray he stays, grant him a feif or indicting him for treason. The latter will make all the other lords dislike you more so it is only used as a last resort. If you only gave them villages, the first two options are the best choices. Whether or not you should give them a feif depends on their worthiness and greed. Do they have a powerful army? If so then you might want to consider giving them more feifs, if not then just leave them to rot.


“Screw you guys, I’m making my own kingdom and if you try to stop me I will fuck you up and throw you in my dungeon bitches!”


There are multiple ways to recruit lords. One way is by recruiting exiles, I generally opt to keep exiles in my court. The problem with this is that your court will get full and you won’t be able to get bonus relation gains with current lords when you host feasts. On the plus side, these lords are incredibly patient and leaving them in your court makes other factions considerably weaker. You can also recruit companions, I thought this was a cool idea. Companions are a mixed bag but better than exiles imo.

Begging for scraps at the emperors table? I think not. Executioner, to the dungeon with them!

Instead of begging to join your faction, companions have no intention of holding a feif until offered. Some companions are satisfied with this, others let the power go to their head and get greedy. Oh and companions can betray you as well so be careful. It’s also important to recruit noble companions as common companions will make other lords hate you yet should you want to be a king who values equality, you may choose to do so.

Ok guys… time for a cleanup

There are so many different intricacies to ruling a kingdom and I’m not going to cover all of them but I think you get the picture. Mount And Blade is more than just a simple action game and even the mightiest warrior can lose to politics. Then again a politician with no fighting skill will find their lack of leadership and weakness in battle to cause them great losses in the long run.

Now as i said, there are so many mods for Mount And Blade Warband and whilst native (the vanilla version) takes place in a fictional medieval setting, there are many mods which take place in real life historic settings, fantasy settings and more. If you’re into history and want to experience historic warfare, you might be interested in these mods.

Should you choose to stick with native, there is a diplomacy mod which has a lot of other features which improve the intricacy of ruling, personally i stuck with native but I’m not going to rule out any conversion mods in the future.

Gameplay Video:

Now Mount And Blade Warband isn’t without its issues. It’s not the most polished game out there. There are a few glitches such as the siege tower not moving, clipping and a few other issues here and there. The graphics aren’t the best either, visually the game is ok but nothing special. The heart of the visuals comes from watching the epic battles. There can be 100’s of enemies on-screen which can also make the framerate drop a little, though you can decrease the battle size should you need to fix that.

The AI are godlike… literally

One of the biggest issues with Mount And Blade Warband however is memory leak. After a while, the game hits a massive slowdown and there are also graphical glitches everywhere. This often happens when you’ve had the game on for so long. The best thing to do is to restart the game to recover from this. Aside from that, the game runs fine.

There ain’t nothing a good boot to the balls can’t solve

The combat is very simple. You basically press RMB to attack and LMB to block, basically like Skyrim but you can also press E to kick people. If you’re not using a shield, you have to time your blocks precisely as your weapon can only block one direction. You can attack in different directions based on how you move the mouse. if you move the mouse forward, you will do an overhead smash, moving the mouse left you will do a cleave to the left, moving the mouse right will cleave to the right and moving the mouse backwards will stab the enemy. Guarding is very much the same in this regard so be careful which direction you’re blocking (though in single player, well-timed blocks are automated to block in the direction the attack is coming from). On horseback, combat is slightly different, you will either slash to the side or stab to the front. I never really grasped the controls very well, this is just the gist of it.

Using a lance however is different. The animation is slow and it does 0 damage however if you hit an enemy directly at high speeds with this motherfucker, they will get shafted and likely die instantly. Lances are great for killing mounted units… but not much else. They’re only viable for mounted combat though.

Get off yer high horse knave!

Archery is quite difficult but satisfying to pull off, you have to time the shot just right to avoid reticule bloom. At early levels you will suck at it badly. Later on, you will be more accurate. Throwing weapons have less accuracy but deal more damage. Crossbows have a long loading time but don’t have reticle bloom (from what I can recall).

The soundtrack can be best described as contagious. I can’t help but hum to every tune in battle. The music really gets you pumped up for battle. I personally challenge myself to synchronize my kills to every beat of the music. No other game manages to capture the intensity of battle with it’s music as well as Mount And Blade Warband

There is also a multiplayer mode, i haven’t played much of it because i get killed all the time. I have no comment on it other than it’s totally inaccessible for new players simply due to the huge skill gap. As such i never really enjoyed it personally but others may do. If you have friends and can convince them to play the game, it might be a good idea to try it.



Ultimately, Mount And Blade is an experience like no other, it manages to capture the feeling of medieval warfare perfectly. If you’ve ever wanted to lead an army into battle, Mount And Blade Warband is the game for you. If you’re not into medieval warfare, you might not enjoy it as much as others. Still if you’re an RPG fan and find this game cheap on steam buy it!!!


Story/plot: As good as you make it

Presentation: Mediocre

Gameplay: Great

Music: Great

Lifespan: Infinite (though it can get repetitive)

Would you replay: Yes


Overall: Excellent

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This game doesn’t need conventional scores, it’s the concept itself which makes the game so fun. Mount And Blade is in a league of its own so I highly recommend it if you’re into medieval warfare.

Warcraft 3 Reign Of Chaos/Frozen Throne Campaign Review


Since this review is for both the main game and the expansion, I’m going to focus on the campaign. In any case, the online multi player component might as well be considered dead at this point due to it’s utterly toxic community among other things. Just stay away from Warcraft 3 battle.net at all costs.


So you say you’re a fan of RTS? But you also like RPG’s? Well this is the closest you’ll ever get (besides maybe Mount and Blade which is more of an RPG than an RTS, Knightshift and Spellforce) Warcraft 3 is at its core a Real Time Strategy with a twist. It presents itself in a similar manner to most RPG’s in the sense that there is a huge focus on storytelling, narrative and also leveling up. All these factors are what make up Warcraft 3.

It’s predecessors, Warcraft 1 and 2 were vastly different from the series’ third installment as they focused on more traditional RTS elements and was possibly an attempt to rival the Warhammer series. It wasn’t until Warcraft 3 where the series’ roots extended beyond what was merely a knock off Warhammer game and became a game of its own.


Warcraft 3’s game play is similar to that of the tabletop game Chainmail In the sense that you are given powerful units called Heroes. Heroes are the backbone of your army and they plays a huge role in battles as they have many unique abilities which aren’t usable by regular Units. In addition, Heroes are able to level up and learn new skills, just like in an RPG but despite this, there is a level cap reminding you that this is still an RTS at it’s core. As such, you will need units to assist your hero. Units have basic upgrade trees which are very easy to figure out so you shouldn’t have too much trouble in strengthening them.

war3 2015-05-20 16-32-33-03

Like many RTS, micromanagement is a huge part of Warcraft 3. Micromanagement is a fancy term for multi-tasking. Basically you will periodically have to build buildings, get upgrades and spend your resources as well as controlling your entire army. Picking the right units is easy. Controlling them on the other hand is far from simple. If you have an army of ghouls and you charge into an army of archers, your ghouls are history. Why? Because their armor is so weak. How do you avoid this? That’s simple, by moving your units back when they’re hurt… and that’s easier said than done.


A good strategy is to surround enemies with your units so they cannot escape


Put simply, if clicking back and forth between your workers, units, buildings and hero’s isn’t your cup of tea, you’ll probably not enjoy the game play of Warcraft 3. Personally I hate multi-tasking, I’d much rather control my units with vocalized instructions than with a mouse and keyboard. Hence the reason why I’ve always wanted a Mount and Blade crossover with Warcraft.

But before you decide to bugger off, Warcraft 3’s campaign is still fun for newcomers to the genre and it gets you used to the basics very easily as well as putting RPG fans such as myself in familiar territory, despite it’s genre, Warcraft 3 managed to design the campaign in a way that it’s enjoyable for both RTS and RPG fans and I strongly recommend that if you’re a fan of RPG’s to give Warcraft 3 a try for two reasons.


You can play capture the Illidan!

First of all, Warcraft 3’s format is similar to that of an RPG in the sense that you have creep camps. Creep camps are groups of neutral/hostile enemies that will attack anyone on sight and are not affiliated with the enemy. “So why should I go for them?” you say? Creeps usually carry valuable items on them, as well as gold and XP. Basically in the early stages of game, you will often find yourself battling creep camps to strengthen yourself against the enemy.

Warcraft 3 review 7.jpg

In each campaign, your hero’s stats and inventory get carried over to the next chapter so you will want to scavenge high and low for better items to help you out in battles later. Some items are hidden in crates/barrels which you must destroy to get them. Others are quest rewards, yes there are quests in Warcraft 3, how else did World Of Warcraft become an MMO?


Quest Complete!

Questing in Warcraft 3 can make either a huge or small difference though sometimes it’s almost essential to do them, particularly if you aren’t a very good player. As such, Warcraft 3 offers many different approaches which doesn’t give it too many merits considering it is after all a RTS and as such it is expected to have multiple “strategies” to winning campaigns, quests are merely one of these.

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In addition, there are some levels, usually interior levels which give you a small group of units and a hero and send you into a more RPG style environment where there is no base to help you and you instead have to rely on your hero and units. If your hero dies it’s game over. These sections are usually quite innovative and as an RPG fan I quite enjoyed them, even if they are a little too easy as you are mostly battling through creep camps. There is one in particular near the end of the game which is actually quite challenging.

This is where the game makes use of puzzles to get from place to place. You will find many circle’s of power, these are used to interact with certain things. In addition, there are switches too, kind like pressure plates which can be used in a similar manner. Some missions meld both traditional and RPG style levels together. For example, one level requires you to send out workers to repair some observatories and you are given limited units and workers to repair with and as such you have to make your way through creep infested areas with limited units, eventually you find a gold mine and are expected to build a base. From here on out you are able to build more units to bolster your forces and you will need to, because the undead have already noticed you and are attacking.


Put simply if you’re looking for a more innovative RTS, Warcraft 3 is definitely worth checking out as it has a lot of interesting levels which each require a different approach and the pacing of the game makes sure that you are not fed up with the constant base building and warring and provides small-scale RPG sections to break things up so there’s plenty of variety.

In addition, Warcraft 3 has many easter eggs that give the game that extra charm. Units and heroes each have their own dialogue whenever they’re clicked on, click on them multiple times though and they’ll start breaking the forth wall and start bringing up movie references among other things.


By Elune, it is huge!

There are also many hidden easter eggs which are easily missed. For this reason I highly encourage exploration in each level as there are many secrets to be found. There is even a bonus level to unlock that is easily missed. You can also utilize your abilities to traverse certain areas. Sometimes hidden items can be found in inaccessible areas which require a certain ability to reach. Warcraft 3 might be in real-time but sometimes it never hurts to stop and think.


All that aside, it’s time to talk about the meat of the package. The second reason why I would recommend Warcraft 3 to fans of RPG’s is the story. Oh boy is the story of Warcraft 3 excellent. It puts most RPG’s to shame. If you’ve played games like Fire Emblem, you’ll probably feel right at home with Warcraft 3’s story… although it’s a lot less Japanese and has a lot more depth and lore.

——–Spoilers for Warcraft 1 and 2——–

Warcraft 3 offers 4 main campaigns (7 if you count Frozen throne) each with its own story line. Campaigns are split into 4 factions. First being the humans, a proud (somewhat too proud), self-righteous old race that has thrived in the Eastern Kingdoms for many years… until the orcs came. In Warcraft: Orcs and Humans (the first game) the orcs ravaged their lands one by one and the humans were pushed back towards the northern kingdoms of Lordaeron. In Warcraft 2, the humans were invaded once again by the orcs but barely managed to push them back and defeated their leader, Orgrim Doomhammer, imprisoned him and sealed his people in internment camps (similar to the concentration camps in WW2).

The orcs appear to be a savage and violent race but in truth they were once a peaceful, honorable race, guided by the elements (AKA the spirits). Despite their peaceful nature, orcs have always been boorish fighters and they are a highly competitive race. Battle is everything to them, it practically rules their entire society, the strong are revered, the weak are shunned. The shaman on the other hand were also revered for their guidance and the orc’s sense of honor kept them in check.


However, certain events caused the orcs to become bloodthirsty savages. After being imprisoned in the internment camps for many years, they were rescued by an orc named Thrall and were united once more to stand against the humans. The orcs seek to return to their former ways and bring peace back to the lands of Azeroth, though their past provocations had not been forgotten by the humans and the hostility between the two races continues to rage on.

———————–Spoilers End——————————–

Aside from the orcs and humans, two new races enter the fray. These are the undead and the night elves. These two new races bring their own lore to the story line to set up an even deeper world. Furthermore, the Burning Legion, a race of powerful demons have returned to the world of Azeroth intent on destroying all existence. Who will survive? Will the mortal races make amends? Who is this legion? All these questions are answered in the story and I strongly recommend playing it yourself.


One thing I personally enjoy about Warcraft 3’s story line is the ambiguity surrounding good/evil in each faction. Due to the story being presented in multiple perspectives, it’s easy to empathize with each of the four races (except maybe the undead). In fact there’s more to it than just racial perspectives. Certain campaigns put you into the perspective of a sub faction. These perspectives are usually found in Frozen Throne and give you a completely different hero to play as. These factions may or may not be opposed to their own race but they act independently from the main racial factions.

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Put simply, the characters in Warcraft 3 each have their own sense of morals but no one is truly good or evil (except maybe the dreadlords who are pure evil). Each character has their own demons to contend with (some more than others) and in doing so they may find themselves in situations where their demons influence their actions in a negative way which usually leads to many conflicts between characters among other things.


Join the dark side, we have cookies!

This makes the characters of Warcraft 3 feel real, they aren’t just cut/paste heroes/villains, they’re just people with strong convictions who are willing to fight for them with their lives. Thus begins the terrible warfare that decides the victor and we love it. That’s what Warcraft is about after all.


Then again, there is the undead campaign which is somewhat different from the other 3 campaigns. In the undead campaign, you play the bad guy, that’s right, you play as the main villain and you slaughter everyone in your way for nothing more than pleasure. Unlike most games, Warcraft doesn’t have protagonists or antagonists, instead each side is both a protagonist and an antagonist at some point (besides the Burning Legion, which I would just love to play as but sadly Varimathras is the closest we get :/).


Varimathras is just too damn cool


“Human names all sound the same to me” ~Varimathras


The ability to experience both sides of the coin is something video games should embrace more. I’m tired of games only showing one perspective in their story. We need more games like Warcraft which allows us to experience multiple perspectives for ourselves. As such i find Warcraft 3 to be the greatest storytelling I’ve ever experienced in a video game and it encouraged me to get the books to read more about the lore and having read several of them, I’ve come to the conclusion that Warcraft 3 has some of the deepest lore a video game can offer. Seriously, the lore doesn’t end with Warcraft 3, read all the books and watch the Warcraft movie when it comes out to experience one of the greatest stories established by a video game ever.


Now with all that aside, time to talk about the little things. The visuals are a notable improvement from the previous games in the series though I would have liked to have seen a bit more detail from a 2003 game, I believe they did a reasonable job considering the time this game was made. The cinematics on the other hand are absolutely stellar. I mean it is Blizzard after all, they do make the best cinematics. It’s like you’re watching a movie.


The music is done by Glenn Stafford and though his Warcraft 2 music was catchier, Warcraft 3’s music is a lot more epic and orchestrated, particularly in the cinematics which are really well done. It’s hard not to get goosebumps when you’re watching the human campaign ending. The voice acting is also fantastic, particularly the dreadlords. There are also many fantastic lines of dialogue to match making for some epic quotes such as:

“Save your breath human, you’ll need it to scream when I start tearing off your limbs!” ~ Grom Hellscream

Now if you haven’t already realized by the title, Warcraft 3 has online multiplayer but do yourself a favor and stay away. It’s really awful and I’m not going to review it. If you want to know more about Warcraft 3’s Battle.net, I highly encourage you to read this article I made back on the Destructoid C blogs as it will tell you pretty much everything you need to know:

Warcraft 3 Battle.net Blog

Overall, Warcraft 3’s campaign is definitely worth purchasing the game by itself, just be sure to get the expansion with it as well, you can’t just get one of them. Be sure to get both to finish the story. Trust me, Frozen Throne is even better, especially if you liked Reign Of Chaos. I also highly encourage you to try out the books too. As for World Of Warcraft, I have played it and I will say right now that it killed the entire series, don’t play it. I don’t play it anymore, in case you haven’t already gathered.

Story/Plot: Exceptional
Visuals: Good
Gameplay: Great
Music: Good
Multiplayer: Awful (just putting that out there)
Lifespan: Quite Long (ROC) Decent Legnth (TFT)
Would you replay? Maybe

Overall: Excellent

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Welcome to the Cynical Gaming Blog

Hello there people of the internet, how wonderful it is that you stumbled across this site. I am known by the names Terry309 and Brainjuice654, if you see anyone by that name, it’s probably me or an impersonator. In case you couldn’t tell, i’m a gamer with a passion for writing about video games, it’s been a hobby of mine for a while now and I have been writing on other sites for a year or so. Over time I’ve had my ups and downs in writing but I can safely say that the time to set up a more personal blog has come.

If you’re here, you either came from Youtube, We Are Just Gamers.com or Destructoid. I linger around there a lot and will still post my work over there. This is just a place to call home, A place I desperately need if I want to be taken seriously. I’m by no means a professional writer and have had zero experience in journalism. I’m just a normal guy like you who just loves video games.

Now you might be wondering why I picked the name Cynical Gaming Blog. Well for starters the gaming industry is a piece of shit. Publishers treat us consumers like lab rats by creating new systems to try and leech as much money from us as possible whilst offering very little in return, I’m sick of it. As a result I’ve grown to accept that being a gamer comes with it’s fair share of cynicism hence the name Cynical Gaming Blog. Plus it’s a simple enough domain name and it’s good enough for me. I don’t need anything too fancy just a title to identify this site rather than just Terry309’s blog which is boring and doesn’t say a lot about me at all.

Here’s hoping I don’t forget the domain name by the time this site is up and if this is the only post you see then I probably have. If so then R.I.P Cynical Gaming Blog… you were like the brother I never had and even though I only knew you for about two minutes, you will be forever in my heart.


Cynical Gaming Blog


But surely it wouldn’t come to that.

~ Terry 309

Exist Archive The Other Side Of The Sky English Stream /w Commentary

I finally have my copy of the game and made it through the first section of the game. However I couldn’t continue further because apparently it hasn’t fully installed yet. I’ll have to find out how to solve that issue soon. In any case, this should help give you a better idea on how this game works.

Update: Apologies

Turns out I didn’t do a good enough job fixing the images of the old posts. I had to go back to them and re-do all the images. I have re-cropped some of them and updated them to the current format as well as changed a few things.

So I apologize for the mess that this site has had, it has been fixed now and it’s looking better than ever now. All the images have been cropped and edited to be less scruffy.

I have a few projects that I am working on at the moment but I will do my best to get some more content up ASAP. I have got a Painkiller review up and running, it’s not going to be your run of the mill informative review either, I don’t really think it needs to be to be honest with you. It was a challenge to write but it gave me something to do at work. Unfortunately my work computer doesn’t have any games on it so I haven’t been able to scrrencap images. This will take some time.

Other than that I have more content to come. There is so much I have to do at this point with two games on the go but I will get through them eventually.

Thanks for your patience.

Exist Archive Costs £49.99 at release. Is It Worth it?

Well in case you didn’t know, Exist Archive released today overseas and it turns out there are a few things to note about it after doing a bit of research. I have not yet played the localized version of the game but I have seen footage of it and found out a few important things.

First of all, the pricetag has escalated to £49.99 for the PS4 copy of the game. If you’re unfortunate to not own a Vita you’ll be forking out a lot for this game. Now I can see what they’re trying to do here, they’re trying to get rid of the DLC/Microtransactions. However, I am watching you Aksys Games, the moment I see the DLC costumes, I won’t be afraid to call you out on it.

Of course the Japanese release did have cosmetic DLC but I could accept it since it was just that, DLC. No strings attached, no fun money, no loot boxes, just straight up cosmetic DLC. That’s perfectly acceptable, plus we got some free costumes as well.

Oh and as for those free costumes we got in the Japanese version, you guys are gonna miss out on them. Now this might not be a big deal to the vast majority of people but it is a shame considering the fact that they were costumes from the Valkyrie Profile series. It seems Square-Enix weren’t willing to bargain with Aksys Games so I guess it’s not their fault.

In addition to this, the game also has an English dub and from what I have heard so far, the dub isn’t anything particularly special but my views on it could change when I actually do pick up the game. Regardless it is a nice surprise to see an English dub included in there as well. I know a lot of people hate English dubs but for me, it’s important because it makes it easier to understand the character’s emotion. However it’s not be all and end all, after all, back 20 years ago dubbing was a rarity as was voice acting so I could easily cope with it. This is a nice surprise regardless even though the voice actor for Kanata sounds like Dust from Dust an Elysian Tail which is… well, not my thing to be honest. However it was to be expected so there’s no point getting worked up about it.

As for when I’ll pick up the game… not sure, all I know is I will buy it eventually, maybe today or tomorrow, maybe when the price drops? I don’t really know. All I can say is that this release is definitely an interesting one. Lets put it this way, it’s been very uneventful. I thought I should at least post something about it to acknowledge its existence (see what i did there?) because nobody else is going to so I might as well considering the fact that I’m a huge tri-Ace and Valkyrie Profile 2 fan and all.

As for whether or not it is worth £49:99, check my review here: Exist Archive: The Other Side Of The Sky Review

Bare in mind the story may be good or bad, I don’t know yet, I don’t think the story is going to be terrible though, I think they’re going for something interesting with this game story wise but I will wait till I actually play it in English to give my 2 cents on it.

In other news…. Star Ocean Anamnesis

No comment…

Seriously you should know by now what I think of this. All I can say is, it was bound to happen.

Update: New Review Section


It had to happen at some point but I have given the review section a proper page so you can access all of the reviews on one page, plus it means less scrolling for each review you want to read as a blog format simply doesn’t work well enough for it. To access the review just click the link or the image and it will send you directly to the review instead of having to manually scroll down to find it. It also means you don’t have to click on the review’s title just to leave a comment. Handy huh?

To access the new review section, you must click review on the menu bar at the top. The sidebar remains unchanged and will bring you to the old school blog-style format should you wish to use that instead but bare in mind that it will only list the most recent reviews. If for some reason the review section isn’t updated, I recommend leaving a comment in said review and I will put it up. Mistakes are easily made.

I have also changed the “so-so” rating to Mediocre, I believe it makes more sense. I may plan on altering my review format further in the future but until then things will remain as they are for now.

Try the new review page here

Videogame consoles need to go… now!

Before I begin this rant, let me begin by saying I have been a console gamer for a sizable portion of my life. I had a lot of fun playing consoles, particularly in the sixth generation of gaming with gems such as the Nintendo Gamecube and the Playstation 2. Those consoles were great, the Gamecube especially being my favorite videogame platform of all time, so much so that I decided to make it into the logo for my website.

I loved playing consoles for a long time and after having invested in a SNES and a N64 I have consoles littered all over the place and it’s kinda difficult to keep everything together. So much so that I had to separate them from my main setup which is the main reason why it has been difficult to write about SNES/N64 games on the site because I have been unable to get screen caps from them due to them being on the other dies of the room to my PC.

The biggest selling point of a console to me has always been its accessibility, its ergonomic focus on design, the ease of setting up local multiplayer and finally the ability to purchase games second-hand to avoid sticking my crotch into the mouths of greedy publishers, something I have taken great pleasure in doing for many years. When you compare these factors to the flexibility of PC gaming, it may appear to be easily outmatched at face value however when you weigh them up, as someone who enjoys playing local multiplayer (particularly Co-Op) and buying second-hand games at a cheaper price without having to worry about DRM and having to forfeit my principles when it comes to purchasing games distributed by greedy publishers, I believed for a long time that console gaming was the real deal.

However like most things in the gaming industry, consoles have moved on and like most things these days, have become a shadow of their former self. It all started in the year 2005 just as the sixth generation was nearing its end and beginning to transition into the seventh generation which began in the year 2007. The console known as the Xbox 360 was manufactured and distributed across the world.

Now I was never an original Xbox player. I saw that the Xbox was lacking a lot of exclusives and that many of its games were PC ports and vice versa. The console never appealed to me and I found that the Gamecube and PS2 overshadowed it in every single way. However with what I presume to be the power of marketing brought by none other than Microsoft or as I like to call, the kingpin of the tech industry. As a result, Microsoft could easily catch up with Sony due to the fact that they already have plenty of money from their previous successes via software distribution. They believed that they could make their mark on the console market and so they did and people bought into it.

I purchased an Xbox 360 mainly because it was the console all my friends were playing on and I purchased Halo 3 which at first wasn’t a game I was excited for but I grew to enjoy it. This is when things started going wrong. First of all an acquaintance of mine offered to set it up (which I didn’t need but he did it anyway). Problem is that in doing so he entered his own details into the console without telling me so essentially I had no access to my account even though it was on a console… but wait, why do I need an account to play videogames on my console? It was never a thing that I expected at the time. Previously I had just put the game in and it played but now I saw this huge menu littering the screen.

At first I was just baffled by just how much needless bull crap this console seemed to want to throw at me but I just wanted to play Halo 3, so I did. Of course I was also given a free trial for Xbox Live so I played online for a bit and had some fun, however I didn’t know all of this because an acquaintance set it up for me. In any case eventually my Xbox Live ran out and realizing that it was a subscription based service I was outraged but I paid the money anyways because back then I was a complete mug.

However over time I grew to hate the Xbox 360, I hated everything about the console, the disk drive wouldn’t work half the time, the red ring of death, the needless subscription fee for online which I never had to deal with on other consoles at the time and the fact that besides a few exclusives like Infinite Undiscovery, many of the games in the seventh generation were either shit or mediocre and Xbox’s exclusives besides Halo and Infinite Undiscovery were just that. Heck Halo itself wasn’t anything special and Infinite Undiscovery is still considered to be one of tri-Ace’s worst games by many and for good reason. However I enjoyed both of these games and they were the only saving grace of that console.

Quite frankly though, the PS3 wasn’t much better, sure it had free online but the fact that there was no removable harddrive was annoying as well as the lack of good games on the system. I played White Knight Chronicles one of the most abysmal JRPG’s I have ever played in my life and besides the Tales games such as Graces and Xillia, there was really nothing for me on that system. It was full of open world action games (which were all inferior to the cross-platform Prototype which I took pleasure in buying second-hand)and silly little hollywood wannabe games like Uncharted which I couldn’t give two shits about.

All that was left was the Wii. Well at least they had the decency to add Gamecube compatibility and as such it is the main reason why I still use my Nintendo Wii today. It’s quite sad to say that I’ve played more Gamecube games on the Wii than actual Wii games. My Wii library is pitiful having a measly 9 games in my library, yes 9 as opposed to my huge collection of 35 Xbox 360 games (well it’s not as huge as most people but it definitely takes up a lot of space on my shelf) and 11 PS3 games (which is only so small because I sold most of them). This is pathetic Nintendo. There was no Kirby (until 2011 which was very late on in the console’s life), no Starfox, no new Pokemon game in the same vein as Colosseum (Battle Revolution was a joke) and most importantly F-Zero.

So needless to say, seventh generation was pretty depressing for me overall and now we are in eight gen. Putting the excitement of Star Ocean and Exist Archive aside (both games I really did enjoy despite their reception amongst critics), the consoles introduced this generation have been complete gutter trash. Basically, take seventh generation consoles and make them worse, that is essentially what eighth generation consoles are, complete and utter horseshit.

It didn’t help that the Xbox One’s launch was a complete disaster and that they forced on a shit load of bullcrap such as always online DRM, digital only gaming and a kinect spying on you 24/7 which you were forced to have kinected (see what I did there) to the console at all times for it to work. Needless to say, fans were in uproar so Microsoft had no choice but to give up on their original plan (temporarily of course) and give them the console the consumer really wanted… except they didn’t, it still has that shitty Xbox Live service that continues to siphon our hard-earned money for seemingly no good reason and it still uses that stupid disk drive and what makes things worse is that it no longer has a removable hard drive which is absolutely ridiculous.

During this Fiasco, Sony took the opportunity to apply their own pay wall to online multiplayer via their Playstation Plus which they only got away with due to Microfoft’s failed Launch of the Xbox One. Needless to say unlike the masses who all went to sony begging with their pants unzipped waiting for their dicks to be sucked (not meaning to offend here but that’s pretty much metaphorically speaking how these companies treat us), I took what I personally believe to be the smart approach and joined the PC master race, a group of individuals I used to hate and still kinda do (even though I completely understand their frustrations).

Then news came in that tri-Ace’s newest titles, Star Ocean 5 and Exist Archive The Other Side Of The Sky came out. Obviously I knew they would be PS4 exclusives because I saw the tri-Ace logo on Sony’s presentation at E3 about the PS4’s exclusive. So I went to my local game store to see if he had a second had PS4. Sadly he didn’t but he offered me an Xbox One instead. I laughed and went to my nearest GAME store, something I usually try to avoid. I walked up to the counter and asked for a PS4.

After waiting for them to get into the back room only to come out with two boxes each with an exclusive game (I think one of them was Little Big Planet 2 included in the bundle) I told them that I wasn’t having any of that crap and asked if they had any pre-owned in stock. Turns out they did, so I paid a bit less for it, got my wallet out and funneled cash into GAME because even though GAME like to charge obscene prices for their games, at least they still sold pre-owned games that I could get on the day without having to wait for the post all the time.

I received my PS4 in a blank white box, in this box now lies my long and forgotten Xbox 360 which has been buried within its casket that was formerly my PS4’s blank box. I plugged my PS4 in… or tried to. I realized that It came with a HDMI cable which would not work on my cheap standard definition telivision and as such I was forced to buy a converter from Amazon in order to play on my PS4. Next thing I noticed is that I had no games for the system. I wanted to make sure I got it before Exist Archive released in Japan and as such I got it early. I wrote a blog about it on Destructoid which got a lot of negative reception due to the fact that I was tearing the PS4 (and the Xbox One) to shreds.

So I bought Toukiden Kiwami just to kill some time for a bit. I thought about doing a review of the game but somebody else on Destructoid got there before me so I abstained and moved my focus onto Exist Archive and Star Ocean. Eventually the games came out and I played them and enjoyed them. Afterwards I was left wondering what I should do next so I picked up DOOM reluctantly on PS4 since my PC couldn’t run it only to remember that I couldn’t play it online. So I applied for a trial and played some DOOM multiplayer. Needless to say I was hooked by it for days… until my PS+ ran out then I found out some terrible truths.

You see one of the things Sony offered with their Playstation Plus is free games each month. Naturally I downloaded these free games. One of them was NBA 2K 2016 which was shit but I played a bit for the lulz, the other one being Gone Home which was interesting but I never got around to it since I was playing too much DOOM. Finally some Indie game I can barely remember.

However when my trial ended I tried playing these games only to find out that I could no longer access them. Wait what? Turns out that once your PS+ expires, you can no longer use the games. This is the most misleading thing I have ever seen any console manufacturer do, offer a service promising free games but forgetting to tell us that they only lasted for as long as your Playstation Plus subscription lasted. Heck even Microsoft’s Games with Gold allowed me to keep playing the game after I cancelled my Xbox Live subscription (right after they started their whole bullshit security crap which I couldn’t bypass due to my acquaintance setting it up for me and as such I couldn’t access Xbox Live at all, not even silver.

So my hatred for Sony and Microsoft grew more and more potent. Microsoft have already reached the pinnacle of asshatterry but Sony’s recent scandal involving Fallout 4’s clack of modding capability have moved them ever so closer to Microsoft in regards to how shitty their company is. The silly thing is that there isn’t even any monetary gain involved in this which just makes Sony look like a bunch of fools in comparison to Microsoft who can already smell the big bucks coming their way. Add to this the PS4 Pro fiasco, I don’t know much about it nor do I care but the Xbox Scorpio has also been announced.

Could the most recent console generation be coming to a close already or is this just another one of those throwaway ideas made by Sony and Microsoft get some quick cash from newcomers to their respective platforms? I swear if this is another “walled garden” as Boogie2988 puts it in this video (you should totally watch it since it relates strongly to this topic). We can only hope that it doesn’t come to that, maybe it will be like the so-called “new” 3DS which only had Xenoblade Chronicles as it’s only exclusive. We can only hope that it doesn’t become the next Playstation console otherwise things will be very bad for consumers, very bad indeed.

Then again it could be worse, we could be getting another console like the Xbox One was supposed to be at launch with Always Online DRM and there is still a good chance that they will pull that one out of the hat again in the near future. I haven’t heard much about the Xbox Scorpio but I don’t expect much good will come from it. All I can say is that the future of consoles keeps looking grimmer and grimmer with each coming console generation. Oh and here’s a message from me to all of you console manufacturers. When you create a new console and a new walled garden of games for it, for the love of god do not call it an optional “upgrade” of the previous console. It sickens me to just how much of a lie that is, stop doing that.

Oh and before I forget, the most important message I can give to all of you console manufacturers, enjoy it while it lasts. The market for PC is slowly rising higher and higher and the more accessible PC’s become, the faster you will be brought to your knees begging for us to support you and if you aren’t, you are going to lose relevance in this industry quickly with the exception of your devoted loyalists.

As for all you consumers out there, be sure to keep in mind that if my observations are correct, with the path consoles are trying to take “to be more like PC’s” and with Microsoft’s original Pitch of the Xbox One to be “always online and digital only” alongside the fact that most games on consoles lack local multiplayer, consoles are becoming a harder sell to us now. Don’t be a mug like I was when I purchased my Xbox 360 and signed up for Xbox Live. If you give a single fuck about the future of the gaming industry, hop right onto the PC bandwagon. I’m not saying this to be an elitist, I am saying this to make a point. Consoles are dying out, the only thing that remains is their brand and it’s the only thing keeping them afloat. If you want to move on from a “dying brand” then PC is your only option. I wish I could say otherwise but we really don’t have a choice now, PC is the only way to go now, either that or Mobile gaming and I’m sure no one wants to do that.

Finally to all you console manufacturers out there, if you think for a second that you’re going to compete with PC, you are mistaken. PC’s tech is upgraded so regularly that it’s impossible to compete because PC offers the freedom that your pathetic plastic boxes of shit don’t have. You cannot win against PC. It doesn’t matter what you do really… unless you get rid of your stupid monthly subscription fees and return to the days of the Playstation 2 back when games had local multiplayer as well as online (yes Playstation 2 has online) then you are well and truly fucked from my perspective. You better pray that your loyal fans don’t get fed up with your shit Sony and Microsoft because I’m already gone. You will never hear from me again and if you do, my money won’t be coming your way, it will be going straight to the retailer just so that I can personally slight you for your wrongdoings.

In addition to all of this, let’s not forget the licensing fees which Boogie2988 brought up in his video also bring harm to game developers as well which is more money which could be spend elsewhere such as… um I don’t know… games? This is another problem that consoles have had for a very long time.

So there you have it, I believe consoles need to go and will go. Do you agree or do you still hold onto your consoles? Leave a message here if you agree and I might respond, leave a message here disagreeing and I probably won’t respond because I can’t help you any further. Regardless, my path has been decided, PC all the way for me, consoles can just go and jump off a cliff.

You can also watch Jim Sterling’s video on the topic here, I think he mails it pretty well as always: Video.

Bullshit PSA: Sony ripping off its customers again…

So they weren’t content with simply charging for us. Nor were they content with promising free games only to get rid of them after your PS+ subscription ends with the hopes that their customers will never find out (which isn’t hard to do considering the gullibility of the masses these days) and now they’ve decided that because PS+ has become so popular (due to the fact that people actually paid for that crap) they have decided to increase the price tag.

It seems Moneysoft have some competition. I’m not sure they will take advantage of the situation because they are way too far up their own asses to give a damn. Besides, they’re too busy trying to dump all of their shit into the PC market and charge for them as well, good luck with that one M$.

Regardless be sure to keep an eye on your bank statements this year if you plan on signing up for this because the prices will soon be going up. If the new price tag sounds outrageous, don’t complain to Sony about it, just cancel your subscription and keep things cool. Sony don’t care about our ethical standards (like pretty much every other company in the gaming industry) so there is little point in moaning at them. Instead cancel your subscription and spread the word so that other people know what to do when they aren’t happy about a service that tries to rip them off.

After all, money is our most powerful weapon in these dark times. Let’s force Sony into near-bankruptcy so they will finally realize that their new terms are unacceptable. If only things were that easy. In any case, don’t forget to buy all of Sony’s products second-hand if you want them, buying them brand new will only go towards increasing their sales numbers which will in turn make them even more eager to extort more money out of our wallets because that’s how pretty much every gaming publisher works. Sales numbers are their only source of valuable feedback so be sure to keep that in mind when purchasing other Sony products in the future.

Sorry that this has to happen but unfortunately life isn’t always fair and we have to pay for it. I wouldn’t get too worked up about it though, us games should be used to getting the short end of the stick by now. The sooner we accept this fact and let it sweep over us, the faster Moneysoft can implement their always online console plans and digital-only gaming for their own benefit and we would all love that now wouldn’t we? Oh and let’s not forget their attempts to dominate the PC market with their Xbox Live service. If that were to happen, it would be like returning to the dark ages of World War 2, Only this time, the Russians and the Americans wouldn’t be there to save us. Think Wolfenstein The New Order when I say this, We’d be in for a very grim ordeal, not only that but our freedom of rights would be stomped out and our wallets would be siphoned by the nazi company known as Moneysoft. Ok, that might be a bit of an unfair comparison but it’s not like Moneysoft have ever played fair before.

In other news, it turns out that No Man’s Sky was a big fat lie… what a surprise. I decided it wasn’t worth my time the moment I saw some actual gameplay footage of it. It looks like your generic space survival game such as Empyrion or Space Engineers. Sad thing is, despite their countless bugs, these two games actually seem to be superior to No Man’s Sky, who would have thought?  I wouldn’t worry about Hello Games though, they’ve got their money and since they don’t have any shareholders or publishers behind them, they’re going straight to the bank with it.

In any case, we’ve been through worse, at least we’ve actually got some games this generation such as Star ocean 5. I don’t care whether you liked that game or hated it, the fact that we actually got it is progress enough. It’s better than me leaving on a sad note. As for me, I’m considering getting Horizon next year. Naturally since it’s a Sony product I will be buying it second-hand so don’t expect me to talk about it at launch because I won’t. t might be several months before I pick it up since it won’t be on my priority list, believe me.