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Have you ever watched a Bond film and thought “that’s what I want to do”? Well, you might change your mind after you play Alpha Protocol. Not because the game is specifically bad, but because you’ll get a feel of what being a spy in the field is actually like.

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Alpha Protocol is an action role-playing stealth game. What a mouthful, but accurate. It was released in 2010, and for a four year old game it feels…older. That’s not a bad thing, mind you.  Most gamers would say their favorites are from a generation of consoles that are no longer distributed, but those games are chosen quite often out of nostalgia. On the one hand those games were the best of their time, but on the other hand they fall short compared to some modern innovations. The point here is that Alpha Protocol feels like one of those games. Something you loved for what it was back when you played it the first time, but over the years it has lost its edge.

To start, Alpha Protocol is truly a spy story. You are Michael Thorton, a new recruit in the Alpha Protocol program, and your job is to serve your country and stop the bad guys. Sounds simple enough given this is the idea behind more than few games. However, you are a spy. Your job is to get things done with minimal exposure. Whether you kill everyone in your way or just leave them with a tortuous headache, no one should know you’re there. Stealth is a great game mechanic, and Alpha Protocol does a great job of using it. Except for the bugs.

Let me talk about those for a moment because most of the issues I had with this game stem from bugged stealth mechanics. There were times when I would be crouched behind a wall, completely out of sight and fully buffed in sound dampening, and taking a few steps alerted a guard more than ten feet away. This would then alert every guard on the map. And if I should come out of cover and actually be seen, one guard would be enough to expose my location to every guard who would then proceed to start shooting. It’s easy enough to rid yourself of guards and turn off an alarm, but in a minute I’ll tell you why this was such a problem.

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This game is good. It’s hard to call it great, and at times it isn’t all that fun, but it’s good. Agent Thorton is betrayed on his first assignment for Alpha Protocol and is set on a path to make things right. Here is where my favorite aspect of the game comes in. Choice. As Thorton you get to choose what happens. How you interact with others can determine how they respond to you and your actions. Gaining friendship has advantages, but so does rivalry. Who you get on your side can change the outcome; deciding who to ally with and who to piss off, that’s the trick. This game requires you to pay attention. Between gathered intelligence, dossier information, and other tidbits you collect along the way there is an abundance of knowledge. Knowing where you’re going, why you’re going there, and who you’re facing will make things far easier. The game doesn’t do all the thinking for you. The missions you choose to do, and the order you choose to do them in, also has impact.

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That’s all great, but how do you actually play? It’s simple enough. There is combat, stealth, hacking, and collecting. In combat you can put points into different weapons: shotguns, SMGs, assault rifles, pistols, and hands. There are also gadgets; from grenades, to flash bangs, to health kits, you can carry a minimal set into missions and use them for different situations. Stealth, while not a requirement in mission, is a good way to get all that you want. Hacking is dealt with in three ways: computers, keypads, and safes. Hacking a computer requires finding a series of non-moving letters and numbers amongst a stream of flashing figures. A keypad is simply hacked by matching numbers is ascending order to their circuit. A safe is a lock picking screen where you move pins into position and click them in place. Collecting is just what it sounds like. Make sure you explore every room because information, money, and security systems may be hiding anywhere (which is useful when you are lacking cash to buy that armor you want). You will spend the majority of the game working on these skills, getting used to being in cover and sneaking into position, only to reach “boss” fights and the final mission.

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Remember when I said how bugged the stealth system was? Here is where that becomes important. Boss fights, including most of the final mission, are tough. Add in the fact that stealth becomes useless and they get tougher. Here, fight a helicopter that can shoot you through cover, never loses target lock, and you have to fire one RPG at a time at it and those RPGs are scattered across the map. On top of that, here are five men who are going to shoot you, chase you, and know where you are because the helicopter never loses target lock. And if one enemy knows where you are, they all do. It’s infuriating.

I will say that I had fun with this game. The story pulls you in, and you feel like a true spy when things go right. The stealth is fantastic, when it works. The characters are ranging, and often have unexpected stories. I plan to try it again, make some different choices and see what happens, but I do like where my initial instincts lead. And that’s good. This isn’t a game that says “here, make a choice” and then gives you a cookie cutter ending. Who you decide to be will change the path, and that’s nice to see.

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There are other things I could cover. How bad targeting is, how wonky movement can be, how bad pathing is for NPCs, how many boss fights I won because of glitches…

If I were to recommend this game it would be lightly. If you like stealth games and spy stories try it out. If you don’t, skip it. Alpha Protocol requires dedication. It asks you to sit down, pay attention, and accept that things will not always go the way you want. You may do a bit of reloading, but know that the only save option is auto saves.

With all that said, you can always use brute force, and then stealth doesn’t matter so much. It will take more time, you’ll face more enemies, and you may lose out on some of the finer points, but at least you’ll know why all the guards are after you.

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Brothers: a Tale of Two Sons is a beautiful game perfectly offset by a dark and bloody story. In Brothers you set off from a nice peaceful town, where the biggest obstacle is a random bully, in order to save your ailing father to dark and bloody areas filled with despair and death. As you travel across the world with their unique controller setup you’ll have to navigate countless simple puzzles and save the occasional NPC who will in turn help you along your journey; which is only becoming more and more perilous as you go.

In between these moments, however, is where you’ll experience the bulk of the game’s brilliant storytelling. Brothers is a nonverbal game where the characters speak in a fantasy language and your only context are the characters heavy use of hand gestures and actions that do a wonderful job of making everything clear while also showcasing each brother’s personalities. While the older brother’s actions are far more focused on helping his father the little brother’s interactions with others and the environment are more carefree.

Simply going down the alternate paths will reward you with experiences you would have otherwise never knew existed. For instance I’m moving on to the next area and I look down to see a man standing on a chair. What I didn’t notice until I went down his path to look was that there was also a noose tied around his neck. Now you can either watch a man commit suicide or have the older brother hold him up while the little climbs the tree and unties the knot. Brothers is full of moments like that in each and every area and the controls really enhance the experience.

In Brothers you simultaneously control them maneuvering a series of puzzles working together through beautiful landscapes. Each brother is assigned a half of the controller and it works flawlessly. While you use the analogs to control each brother’s direction the triggers control their actions. The only problems I experienced with the controls were user based which at times can cause a little frustration. I would routinely have the little brother running into some random wall because I was paying attention to the other or use the wrong side of the controller and falling.

Puzzles or I guess obstacles are obviously the main challenge of the game and all of them use the teamwork component. Whether it’s the big brother using his strength or the little brother using his size each obstacle is easy to navigate for the most part. The challenge comes when you have to “quickly” traverse the area. You’ll be so focused on doing it right and finding your rhythm and it may take you a little longer than expected. The best part about this, however, is that there isn’t a task that will take you forever to figure out or even do. The “harder” ones will take you a few tries tops and you’ll be on your way. Once you learn the controls you’ll be able to fluidly move through every challenge.

Brothers is an extremely short game, but appropriately so. You won’t have this incomplete of rushed feeling by the end of it. Brothers is a must play for anyone who can appreciated a good story and in my opinion should be enjoyed by all. Gamers and non-gamers alike. It’s truly a beautiful game. 9/10.

You can find Brothers: A tale of two sons on Xbox live arcade or currently for free with a PlayStation plus membership.

By Jesse Willoughby On 3 Feb, 2014 At 11:28 PM | Categorized As Editorials, Featured, Games You Slept On, PC Games, Reviews | With 0 Comments
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Growing up I had no set preference for games except they had to be playable on my computer. Aside from that, if a game looked interesting (I had to judge by cover art mind you) I would do my song and dance until my parents gave in and bought it for me. I don’t recall ever playing a bad game, and that is interesting to 25 year old me. In the past two or three years I’ve walked away from games feeling like my money was entirely wasted. But back in the day I played some great games.

One, or should I say two, of those games was called Syberia.

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It’s not a play on Siberia, though that is a destination in the game, but a mythical island somewhere deep in Eastern Europe. Of course, you don’t really find this out until quite a ways into the first game, but that’s ok and I’ll tell you why.

To start, Syberia focuses on a lawyer named Kate Walker. The opening scene shows Kate arriving in a small town you soon learn is called Valadilene (Vala-da-len for pronunciation) while a funeral procession passes by. There’s something odd about this procession though, the pallbearers are not men, but automatons. As Kate enters town and makes her way to the inn you take control. From here on out, you are going to enjoy a grand point and click adventure.

Part puzzle solving, part character reveal, part exploration, Syberia is fun from start to finish. The majority of the first game is all about discovering Kate. You know she’s a lawyer and has come to Valadilene to talk to the owner of the automaton factory about signing contracts to sell. However, Anna Voralberg has just passed and Kate has arrived just in time for the funeral. Of course Kate thinks everything should still be in order, but Anna has confessed on her deathbed that her brother Hans is still alive and will be in charge of selling the factory. Sounds simple enough, but no one knows where he is.

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Kate sets off through the town to uncover the past in order to track down Hans. She discovers Hans left behind amazing creations. A train, and an automaton named Oscar. The only way to find her man is to start a trek across Eastern and Western Europe. Initially she is set on completing her business deal, but her adventures uncover more than just where Hans Voralberg is located.

Kate is hounded by her boss, the aggressive Mr. Marson, her mother, her friend Olivia, and her fiancé Dan. Despite risking everything for her job, these people constantly call to tell Kate how selfish and unacceptable her behavior is. She begins to feel distant and hurt, and learns a lot about who she really is. Who she wants to be.

And that’s why it’s ok it takes so long to learn about Syberia. Because you are learning about Kate. That’s also why this game is split in two. Syberia is all about Kate, Syberia II is all about completing her adventure. Her boss and family are hunting Kate down while she is simply looking for her better world.

The greatest thing about this game is its story, but there are plenty of good things otherwise. Syberia was released in 2002 and Syberia II was released in 2004. In my opinion they were well made and hold up graphically. While I love both, Syberia II is, as far as game play goes, the better of the two. A number of the inconsistencies of Syberia are corrected, the color is more robust, and there are some updates that make things operate more smoothly most notably the system used in  guiding Kate around areas.

With that said, Syberia is filled with better content. The puzzles make more sense and require seeking out information. Syberia II gets a bit sloppy and requires a stupid amount of luck while you guess your way through. I get frustrated easily with these games as missing a simple click can cost you more time than you’d like to admit searching around, but in the second game that is less the issue than facing a puzzle that you’ve seen no notes on beforehand and you must solve by pressing buttons until they work.

There aren’t very many options in these games in terms of graphics and audio, they don’t require them really. But the cutscenes are beautiful, the characters are quirky, the interactions are fun, and you fall in love with the clockwork origins of just about everything. There’s plenty to admire, as long as some mistakes in subtitles don’t bother you.

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There are things you can find wrong with this game, most notably the treatment of the female lead by male counterparts, but they are easy to overlook. Kate is too strong and self-reliant to care about how others treat her.

If you’re playing this on a new system, and have two monitors like I do, this game gets confused. A mistaken mouse click off screen and you will find a number of highly hilarious but annoying glitches. Also, I ran into a problem where my anti-virus software would quarantine the .exe file of Syberia II and make the game unplayable, but the Steam version of these games might not have these problem.

All in all, Syberia and its sequel are great. The story, the world, the graphics, all is satisfying. If you love point and click, adventure, a good story, clock work and automatons, and discovery, then Syberia and Syberia II are for you. If you slept on these, wake up and try them out. If you do and like them, or have long since played them, the Internet says there will be another one this year or next. I’m excited.

The art for this game is beautiful, check it all out.

The art for this game is beautiful, check it all out.

By Sean Jacobs On 17 Jan, 2014 At 02:06 PM | Categorized As Games You Slept On, Indie Spotlight, Nintendo Wii/Wii U, Reviews | With 0 Comments
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Nano Assault Neo is a great game that harkens back to the old school games of the 16 bit era brought to you by Shin’En. Games like Gradius, R-Type are ones that I think of when I am trying to sell this game. While, I only use these classic titles as mere reference points into luring you the reader or any random person whom is looking for a good game to try, this game packs so much more. Nano Assault Neo is a very beautiful, fast-paced (16:9 60 frames per seconds) space shooter based inside the microscopic world in linear PCM 5.1 surround sound. Nano Assault isn’t just a side scrolling shooter like the games I originally mentioned yet it is a 3D hybrid of those titles. You will face all sorts of microscopic creatures that will come at you from various angles even from ways you can’t even see them attacking you from. These strange creatures come in all shapes and sizes with a large arsenal of projectiles speeding your way these will not be your only obstacles neither, the world itself presents its own challenges.

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“A warrior never enters a battle without a proper weapon” with the “Nanoshop” provided to you in between the 16 stages divided between 4 uniquely designed microscopic cluster worlds you can upgrade your ship with points collected on the previous stage completed with up to 3 different types of Subweapons and 4 Satellites which are position-able anyplace around your ship via your Wii U Gamepad. You can buy extra lives, Item Attractors, Score Doublers amongst other additions to your arsenal. Each world has its own large “extreme boss” after the 4 stages are completed within each cluster. Then fun can also be shared with a friend locally via co-op play using the TV & gamepad the gamepad even displays a small live feed in the corner of it displaying the action that’s going on screen with your team member. Additionally, missions are given to you that you can decide to complete if you desire along with competing with online with the ranking system provided to you the system ranges from all modes available to you within the game like single-player, two-player  & survivor mode to name a few.

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This game is another great title that utilizes the Wii u gamepad well in small subtle ways that are intuitive and not overly done. Nano Assault can be used totally independent of the television, which is a plus for a parent of a house load of children and a wife who just might want to use the TV right when I am deep within a battle on one of these tyrannical micro worlds of Nano Assault Neo. This game can be played by any level of gamer but, you have been warned this game is not for the faint of heart, just endure the pain that will occur you will be thankful afterwards. This is an excellent shooter to the controller gripping end, I hope my words has moved you to go pick up this title on Nintendo’s Eshop now available for $9.99 in the U.S. Don’t miss out on this great game you already slept long enough on Shin’En games Nano Assault Neo.

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Contrast is an ode to the storytelling of the early 1920’s.It has an artistic film noir feel to it, this is one of the main reasons why I downloaded this game on PlayStation Network (though this game is also available on Steam) Oh, plus this game is free of charge brought to me by my lovely PlayStation Plus subscription also available for $15

Contrast-PS4  First, I will touch on the gameplay because the crown jewel of this game is the actual story which in today’s gaming scene is hard to come by. This game first starts you off by briefly going through tutorials while pushing the story forward. The mechanics are simplistic in nature there are only four moves you learn Jump, Dash, Interact & Phase in/out (For transitioning into & out of the shadow world). It is slightly difficult in some parts due to timing or maneuvering of the game worlds objects you have to position to progress forward. Contrast is setup like a stage play the game is broken into acts. Within each act there are a set number of light orbs called “Luminaries” you will need these orbs to lighten certain paths needed to progress through the stage. Contrast is considered to me as a 3D puzzle platformer and plays as such but, the shadow play really adds complexity to this simple game. The design of the game has been used before but, is still fairly new to me and to the console platform as far as I know. Games like Super Mario 3D World has touched on this artistic shadow game mechanic along with a few others. Shifting from reality to the shadow realm is part of this games allure fun and frustration will ensue because of this new found mechanic. You will find yourself in precarious situations whereas you will find yourself stumped in several puzzles. Please do not fret because simplicity is the key and it is not as hard as you think it is. In many cases you will find that you were over thinking the whole situation.

When first playing Contrast you will see it doesn’t shine with all the next gen shiny graphics. Easily something that can be done with last gen tech. Though,  it does have some high res textures throughout the world you can still come to appreciate the beauty that this game portrays. The neon lights through the city scape to the brownish toned film noir feel the world has down to the shadow play game mechanics that are the main catalyst propelling the games storyline forward. You will be impressed how the developers and story writers let the story unfold. The crown jewel of this is definitely that, the story.contrastkep02This game drops you off into a story about a family torn apart by the complexities of love, trust and loyalty. The main characters of the game are Didi and Dawn the latter is the avatar you will play as. Dawn (The playable character) is the imaginary burlesque circus performer dressed friend of the adolescent girl Didi. The Mother of our character is a nightclub songstress Kat whom is fed up with her husband Johnny because he lives in the skies with lofty get rich schemes. While her parents try to hide the ever-present issue they face as a couple. Didi just wants her dad to live back with them because Mom kicked him out once again. Johnny failing at almost everything he does. He truly wants the best for his family. His dreams in the clouds are not helping paying the bills. While Kat is struggling to keep her home together and a roof over Didi’s and her head all alone is left to do things that drives added stress into their lives. Kat leaves her daughter to her own devices at home alone while she tries to make a living. Dawn is created to help her coupe the emotional stresses put upon this young lady as they escape to the city to have a little fun much is revealed to us through their night time adventures.

contrast1-545x306There are a few more caveats to add spice to this story but, I will leave it to you experience because I repeat the story is what you truly what you want to experience with Contrast. I tried to eliminate as much of the spoiler content within my review while exposing enough of the story to you so, that it will shine just enough light on this title in hopes that you will purchase/download Contrast .Please try to get into this sweet and touching story that displays the skills of the developers skills in storytelling.

 

 

By Jesse Willoughby On 19 Dec, 2013 At 10:41 PM | Categorized As Featured, Games You Slept On, PC Games | With 0 Comments
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I’m not the most diverse gamer, or the most knowledgeable gamer, or even the best gamer, but damn if I don’t want to be. I love games. I love gaming. I love being a gamer.

I also love writing and have spent the last ten years of my life writing about all that bounces around in my head. That’s one reason why my gaming experiences are most enjoyable when a good story is involved. Story makes all the difference.

That’s partly why I’ve chosen “Freelancer” as my first review.

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If you’ve never played this game it came out in 2003 for PC and is classified as a space trading and combat simulator. The trading part is small, so if that’s what you’re looking for this isn’t the game. However, don’t let that stop you. Freelancer is always on my list of favorite games, and I’m going to tell you why.

Let’s start with the plot. You play as freelancer Edison Trent. You have left your home planet of Leeds to make your fortune. You make a deal with a Republican Shipping captain for a large shipment of boron, and then you make a deal with a man named Lonigan who is promising you 1million credits for your cargo. Just as you are signing the contract the space station you are on is attacked. You barely make it out having to carry Lonigan over your shoulder. The next thing you know you are on the planet Manhattan, Lonigan is being taken away for medical attention, and you are now a freelancer without a ship. Lucky for you a Liberty Security Force officer is looking for someone just like you. Jun’ko Zane, who wants you to call her Juni, gives you a ship, a couple thousand credits, and a job.  But when all goes sideways you find yourself falling down the rabbit hole.

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I really enjoy this story. One could pick it apart, poke holes in all the science that ceases to exist, compare it to other stories, but I like it. The farther you go the more fun it is, the more conspiracy theory it becomes. This is a story heavy game despite the creator’s attempts to make it more.

Next let’s talk about the setting. Something I learned in looking up a few facts about this game is that it’s set 800 years after the game “Starlancer” which I have never played. In that sense I don’t know entirely about the build up behind this game, but the opening cut scene does a decent job of setting the scene.  All those 800 years ago back in the Sol system a civil war broke out between the Alliance (made up of America, England, Spain, Germany, Italy, France, Japan and other minor nations) and the Coalition (made up of Russia, China, the Middle East, and southeast Asia). In a last act of defiance the Alliance built five ships to break past the Coalition and settle in a new sector, the Sirius Sector.

This sector is huge, consisting of many solar systems that contain no less than two planets and a number of stations. If you understand simple physics, this will bother you. The planets seem to fall on the same line in rotation around their stars. It takes a few minutes to get from one planet to the next via a Trade Lane. Perhaps not the most realistic.

Other than the science, the look of the Sirius Sector is decent. Though most planets have similar, flat, desolate textures, the space stations have smooth surfaces, and the debris fields look the same no matter where you go, this game still looks good. Each planet has an individual backdrop when you land, the different areas you can visit are decorated in their own style, and the space backdrop…oh the space backdrop.

How about the voice acting you ask? Well, Jennifer Hale is the voice of Jun’ko Zane. That’s all I needed to learn. The main cast is good all together. They needed to be. The story is good, but there are some moments when you needed to know the characters were actually struggling with their situation. When you are escorting Juni to her home system while on this insane quest you need to hear how hurt she is to know all of what she loves may be in danger and you need to hear Trent understand her. It makes all the difference.

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What about the game play? I am not a huge simulator fan, but this seems the perfect fit for me. It’s a great mix of flying a space ship, maintaining a space ship, making a reputation for yourself, and exploring a universe. The default key bindings are intuitive, the controls are concise, and you are never overloaded with things to do. Don’t think it’s easy though, as you progress through the game you will have to use more than brute force to stay alive.

What else is there? Well, not much. Aside from the main cast you will hear the same four people a hundred times over if you want to talk to NPCs. If you like hearing “activation sequence completed, lane jump initiated” many times over, then you’ll love this game. The character designs are unique amongst the main cast, but the NPCs tend to…repeat. Be it story or off campaign you do the same thing quite a bit.

Freelancer 2013-12-16 22-11-37-58Over all Freelancer is a great game. Complete the campaign, enjoy the story, love the characters, and then explore the universe. If you really love it you’ll make a fortune, own the best ships, use the best guns, and have whatever reputation you choose.

I know it’s not new, and I know it’s not “the best game ever”, and I know you’re probably wondering why I’m even talking about it, but Freelancer is a great experience. Definitely give it a try.


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The Nintendo DS was an underrated system. Cue backlash, but hear me out for a moment: in an era with flashy onscreen graphics and multiplayer gameplay, the DS stood alone with its often “basic” displays and “restricted” single-player campaigns. And, predictably, there were a great many games that flew under the radar of gamers. This is the tale of one of those games, which appeared and vanished quickly, while still gathering praise and helping add to the prestige of the series with which it was aligned.

This is the tale of Devil Survivor.

Devil_Survivor_by_MachoMachiDevil Survivor arrived on scene at the perfect time: early Summer 2009, right after the release of Pokemon Platinum (and at the time when the casual Poke-players would be seeking something new), near the beginning of a season perfectly suited for portable gaming. Part of the prolific Shin Megami Tensei series, this game was a solid representation of the visual novel/tactical battle system pioneered by Atlus throughout the previous decade or so. Mixing elements of strategy, foresight and “common sense,” it brought players into a world on the brink and asked “what would you do to survive?”

Devil Survivor was an apocalypse story in the truest sense of the word. Rather than portraying the downfall of society at the hands of zombies/aliens/communists/etc, the game chose to “pull back the veil,” and reveal to a select few the “reality” behind out world: angels are calling the shots and maintaining a semblance of order, while demons seek to rebel and overtake the masses using mankind as a nexus point for their plots. Humanity, caught in between their eternal war, is given seven days to comply with the angel’s commands, or the city of Tokyo will be completely destroyed.

While borrowing heavily from Christian symbolism and storytelling, the game manages to frame the topic in a context that leaves religion out of the debate. Rather than bear witness to the coming doom, a select few of those humans choose to do something. Cults devoted to the idea of human liberation preach the transcendental power of humanity as a whole and warn against both domination and depravity. Certain demons, despite their “unholy” origins, choose to work alongside humans to spare the destruction, while angels appear petty at times, reveling in their “power” while the world around them slowly decays. Long before Supernatural decided to “humanize” the warring factions of good and evil and throw shades of gray into the cosmic struggle, Devil Survivor was portraying both sides strengths and weaknesses as part of an expansive “morality play” and forcing the player to call the shots on how the story ended.

shin-megami-tensei-devil-survivor-overclock-3ds-screenshots-10The concept of survival was a central point to the entire experience, as players were forced to deal with mobs of panicking humans, discovering shelter for the night, acquiring food and even looking for a power source at one point, all while society crumbles around them. The daily “countdown” towards impending doom added to the tension of the story, facilitating the need for “smart” decisions, rather than just reacting to the situation at hand, a tactic which would more than likely lead to death or derailment of plans/plots/initiatives. While not as urgent as a survival horror game, there was a distinct emphasis on consequences and foresight built into the plot, which rewarded astute gamers, and added stress to impulsive choices.

This emphasis on storytelling is one of the hallmarks of the Shin Megami Tensei series as a whole, and Devil Survivor expanded upon narrative and character interaction throughout the “seven days” of gameplay. There were numerous story lines in play, rooted around the game’s central characters, and even more around some of the “supporting cast.” Deciding which path the game took often required quick thinking, time management, and attention to detail, for some of the alternate stories hinged on how certain interactions proceeded, how often specific characters were used, what time of day it was, and how well the Protagonist sympathized and related to the individual stories of his friends. One slip up could close off an entire story line from that play through (especially those which were time-sensitive), and often that deciding moment would not be noticed until hours later. Finally, unlike its sequel, which forced the player to choose which side he was on, Devil Survivor elected instead to keep the main plot of the game static: the alterations to the plot rarely changed the outcome, just the path the story took to get to the outcome.

auctionMechanically, Devil Survivor was fantastically executed. I often called this game series “Pokemon with demons,” and for good reason. Unlike Persona games, which rely on luck and savvy fusing skills, or previous SMT games which needed negotiations to win demons over to your side, Devil Survivor tackled the issue by instituting an auction system. Money accrued during gameplay was used to enter into a “demon auction” against computer controlled AI “characters,” who would bid for the rights to contract with demons offering their services online. Quick bidding and successful manipulation of the system would net powerful demons at a low cost. Failure would mean loss of a potentially powerful ally forever.

mqdefaultWhile there was a buyout system which circumvented the bidding wars, it was often more cost-effective to analyze strategies and find ways to outbid the computer, thereby winning powerful new demons to your collection, which could then be fielded or fused within the Cathedral of Shadows to create more powerful fare. Players were encouraged to keep checking the auctions after each battle, since new demons would appear frequently, as older ones would eventually “experience out” of viability. This mix of fusion and “negotiation” proved to be as addictive to players as wandering the tall grass, because battles were often challenging and required a steady stream of “the best” demons to ensure victory.

Battles were both simple and complicated affairs. Borrowing from the tactical RPGs which Atlus is known for, combat removed the player from the interactive world and placed him on a massive grid system, facing off against wild demons or opposing summoners. Strategy took the form of choosing not only the appropriate demon, but also having a working knowledge of the demons skills and “specialties.” Certain demons had the ability to move quickly, or multiple times. Others could attach twice. Others could attack from long range. Some could heal, or fly, or teleport. It was very easy to lose sight of these special skills in the heat of combat, and thereby discover your party has been maneuvered into a tight spot from which escape was unlikely. There were many-a-battle where enemies with huge hit boxes could wipe out an unprepared party before they could move within range to strike.

beelzebulDevil Survivor was a frustrating experience for the unprepared. While the learning curve was hardly an issue, the difficulty would abruptly ratchet up several levels in between encounters. Time-sensitive events would vanish swiftly, and frequently never pop up again in the “daily log,” thereby restricting (or even breaking) carefully planned course of action. Certain bosses were quirky and had merciless AI and “random number generators,” which could spell doom for even the best-prepared party. Even grinding was unpredictable and relentless in its encounters. And yet, it is a testament to the game’s appeal that one would not wish to stop playing. Even after losing a hard-fought, twenty-plus minute boss fight in the final moments due to an unanticipated sequence of strikes, the player would simply reload a save and go right back, taking what they learned and hopefully avoiding it the second (or third, or fourth) time around. Maybe a tweak to character abilities, or a swapping of demons/party members, and it was back into battle. It made the eventual victory both sweeter and more satisfying, knowing it was attained through strategy and effort, and not just overpowered steamrolling.

devil survivor 2It might be a testament to the success of the game that you rarely see copies for sale. It sold fairly well, maybe not a hit in most people’s opinions, but certainly enough to warrant both a “fancy” 3DS upgrade, and “cult classic” status. It vanished from store shelves a few months after release, and even the used game sections rarely-if ever- see copies in them. Like many of the other SMT titles, this one served to satisfy the fan-base, but also made fans of many newcomers, myself included. While it’s a radical departure from the wildly popular Persona series that many casual gamers recognize, it was also familiar enough to have solid appeal. The replay value was extremely high: New Game + mode carried over demons and money, which made the followup game sessions ridiculously easy; the existence of multiple endings, “exclusive” fusions, and optional bosses prompted repeat plays just to see how strong one could become.

There was a sequel released in February of last year, also for the DS, which carried over many of the aspects that made this game such a success. And on it’s own, Devil Survivor 2 is as much a “Game You Slept On” as it’s precursor. But for this gamer, the first title will always be the special one. It opened the wide world of Shin Megami Tensei on a platform that seemed perfectly suited for casual play, while not losing any of the addictive nature that other SMT games hold. It was because of this game that I sampled Persona, which has become its own monster in my gaming life. And while I haven’t played it since those three hundred or so hours back in 2009, I can still recall vividly how much enjoyment the game carried with it. That’s a rarity these days.

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DragonsDogmaOne of the biggest genres this generation has been the Western-style RPG, typified by games like Skyrim, the Souls games, and The Witcher series. with their gritty Game of Thrones aesthetics and more open-world structure. With Eastern-styled RPGs struggling this generation, Capcom chose a different approach and decided to create its own entry to the Western-style fantasy RPG, while still keeping Capcom’s sensibilities regarding action and combat. The result of this is Dragon’s Dogma, an open-world action-RPG from a team of designers whose members have worked on the PS2 Devil May Cry games, Monster Hunter, and the Eastern-RPG-styled Breath of Fire series.

In Dragon’s Dogma, you play a blank-slate main character of your own design who is attacked by a dragon during the intro sequence and has his/her heart torn out, informed by the dragon that they are now the Chosen One. Known thereafter as the Arisen, you then travel the world fighting the monsters that have suddenly plagued the countryside. The plot is paper-thin pulp fantasy that mainly serves as a backdrop for some great hack-and-slash action. In this way, Dragon’s Dogma is very much like Capcom’s hugely popular Monster Hunter series, only with an eye more towards international audiences.

One of the main features of Dragon’s Dogma is the pawn system. Pawns are player-created servants/battle companions of the main character. They are created using the same classes available to create the main character and are always at the side of the main character. However, in addition to creating your pawn, you can also download pawns created by other players via PSN or Xbox Live, and you can make your own pawn available for download by other players. The pawn system is a community feature. When you draft another player’s pawn into your party, you can rate his/her appearance and abilities as well as send the pawn with a gift for his/her original creator, and likewise other players can do the same with your pawn. You can also share your pawn via Facebook if your Facebook account is connected to your PSN/XBL account. Your companions are controlled by AI, although you do have the standard commands to change your companions’ behaviors as you see fit. The AI is reasonably competent. You generally won’t be frustrated as your pawns throw themselves headlong into an unwinnable situation or draw hordes of enemies upon you before you’re ready to take them on. The pawns will also constantly give you advice and/or warnings about enemies or other hazards in your party’s vicinity, which is helpful at times but can become an annoyance.

The combat is where Dragon’s Dogma really shines and reminds you of its Japanese heritage at Capcom. This is some of the best action RPG combat I’ve ever seen. Unlike so many other RPGs where it feels like you’re fighting paper dolls, the hits in Dragon’s Dogma feel rock solid, both on the giving end and the receiving end. Furthermore, Dragon’s Dogma allows you attacking options like climbing on the backs or heads of large enemies to deal damage, although you’ll have to do your best to hang on. These same large enemies are more than capable of crushing you underneath their feet.  While the combat isn’t as fast as a dedicated hack-and-slash brawler, it’s still among the best in the RPG genre. More than a few long-time Capcom fans have compared the combat in Dragon’s Dogma to that of Capcom’s 90s Dungeons and Dragons arcade brawlers (Tower of Doom and Shadow Over Mystara), and with Dragon’s Dogma’s huge array of melee attacks and magic, this is a fitting comparison.

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You’ll be fighting plenty of huge monsters like this as you journey throughout the huge open world of Dragon’s Dogma.

In terms of visuals and sounds, Dragon’s Dogma is solid, if not spectacular. The world is suitably huge and panoramic, with sprawling cityscapes and endless mountains, valleys, and rivers. The character-creation modes are a cut above those of other games and allow you to customize your characters beyond the standard crew-cut males or helmet-haired females. The animations are done well enough, although slowdown rears its ugly head during crowded scenes.  The sound features stock Western-style RPG background motifs and sound effects. As previously noted, your pawns will constantly chatter to you, which may annoy some players, although you do have the option of turning the game’s voices down or off.

All in all, if you like intense, frenetic combat and a huge world to explore and can overlook the paper-thin plot, Dragon’s Dogma is highly recommended. While it isn’t likely to give From Software any cause to worry, Capcom has made a good first foray into the world of gritty console action RPGs, and hopefully we will see more in the future from this promising franchise.

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Hello everyone its @GovPancakes from the @RealOtakuGamer and I am going to review  Konami’s Zone Of The Enders HD Collection. I have to put this out here, this review is going to be a ton of fun for me. I LOVE THIS SERIES AND FOR KONAMI TO PUT BOTH GAMES ON ONE DISK REMADE IN HD BLOWS MY MIND! When people say mecha games this is the first thing on my mind. This is is one of the most slept on Mech/RPG/Action games ever in my opinion.

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Zone of the Enders is set in the future sometime in the late 22nd Century where humans have colonized Mars and several space colonies are set up around Jupiter. The Humans from earth and the humans who went into outer space of course separated from the people who went into outer space and those people who left became to be as “Enders”. The people of Mars and colonists of Jupiter begin to rise and form factions and the most well known one is BAHRAM. To avoid spoiling the story I will only tell the plot to the first game. The game starts out as Leo Stenbuck (the main protagonist) Colony gets invaded by BAHRAM to find an Orbital Frame (The main mechs of the series) called Jehuty. Leo watches as his town gets destroyed and falls upon Jehuty. He climbs aboard and starts his journey. Later down the line he conflicts with the BAHRAM organization and learns that Jehuty has a sister craft called Anubis led by the leader of the BAHRAM organization called Colonel Nohman. The story is driven by the rivalry of these two Orbital Frames and stopping each other.

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Now the game play was first of its kind. On the original box for Zone Of The Enders 1 the box said “High Speed Mech Action” and thats exactly what it is. I used to describe it as “the Gundam game i always wanted”. The controls for 1 aren’t as smooth as the controls for two but when you jump into 2 you are going to feel amazing, but the controls for one aren’t horrible so make sure you play that one first. The controls are pretty simple and there are PLENTY of in game tutorials completely show you everything you need to know. It has a simple level up system where every time you level up your health increases, which you will need. During the games when you defeat certain enemies or find certain items, you are able to gain weapons and moves to further your moves list and making you feel like your in a giant mech like you see in anime. Also the environments play a role in the combat from throwing enemies into electrical fields or picking up pillars and throwing them at enemies. You can even grab enemies to use on other enemies! Some of the best game play for any mech game ever.

Zone of the Enders HD music and animated cut scenes have been revamped for the HD collection. When i saw the intro movie I was just shocked. The in game movies look SO good and shows a lot more depth then the originals. The music in the HD version is just “remix” versions of some of the first music, but over all the music for the game is still astounding and makes you feel like your right there in the mech. I hear of some frame rate drops but i haven’t experienced them myself.

In conclusion if you haven’t ever played Z.O.E. 1 or 2 go buy it. Its $40 for 2 amazing games. You will not be disappointed.

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AsuraWhat do you get when you take the makers of Naruto: Ultimate Ninja & Ultimate Ninja Storm, and most of the .hack games? You get a game that plays like an anime, with an very basic gameplay mechanic, and the over the topness of Dragonball Z, and you’ll get CyberConnect2’s Asura’s Wrath. An original story developed by CyberConnect2 and produced by Capcom. The story focuses on the titular character, Asura. The game melds together Hinduism and Buddhism, with a splash of Science Fiction, giving the game an interesting blend with the anime style of the game. Now all these elements turned into a game is rather great blend, but to me personally, it fell short on quite a few instances throughout the game.

I’ll start with the good. The good revolves around the amazing story crafted from the tales in both Buddhism and Hinduism, and allowing for such a colorful story to be created, and played out in Parts, each named after the level of achieving enlightenment. The story centers around an age old war of apparent evil against the righteous elected Eight Guardian Generals to defeat the evil on Gaea or Earth. The evil is called the Gohma, and they ravaged the world and destroy anything that isn’t a Gohma. But behind the scenes, the leader of the Eight Guardian Generals, Deus, sets into place his plan to gain complete power over Gaea and the Gohma as well as be sole ruler in everything. But his plan requires Asura be the scapegoat for the Emperor’s murder, having his wife, Durga, killed, while kidnapping his daughter, Mithra. After being killed by Dues, Asura is sent to Naraka. Now Asura is already an angry demi-god, but once all these events transpire, and his death over the 12,000 years causes memory loss, he begins to gain them back and what he must fight for in a blood fueled and revenge induced rage to defeat all Seven Deities for killing him and his wife and rescue Mithra.

Catch SwordAs I mentioned before, the game is played in parts, and each part is broken into a number of episodes, this is where the anime feel of the game comes in. Each episode starts with the naming the artist, producer, voice actors, and such. And at the end of each episode, it gives you a preview of the next in the form of the cinematics that will be played at some point during the episode. This nuance is quite cool, and makes you feel like you’re playing an anime, but after the 4th or 5th episode, its gets annoying and you just want to skip it, but you don’t want to miss anything. This and the way it’s played, its more on a level of a “interactive media” than video game. As you play, you’ll either love or hate the graphics of the game, which is a blend of anime, 3D CG graphics, and cel-shading, giving the game a gritty feeling, completely matching at times the mood and feeling of the characters. The level design, is limited since the arenas you fight in, are essentially set pieces, and no real exploration is given to you, the player, at any given time. You jump from one set piece, to the next, like an episode of any anime.

Asura WandererBut as any high budget anime from any of the major anime production companies, the voice acting is top notch, and over the top as you would expect for a game like this. Each characters personality nailed down for the plot against the Emperor, to the self loathing of Yasha, the rage monster that is Asura, and the forgiving and imprisoned Mithra. The voice actors, be it in the original Japanese voices, or the English voices, they give their all to give you the player, the complete emotion of the scene present. As I’m not intimately familiar with Japanese voice acting, I’ll mention the outstanding voice action by Liam O’Brien (Asura), Robin Atkins Downes (Yasha), Kari Wahlgren (Mithra), and David Pizzuto (Deus), to name a few.

Over the TopAs the game, cannot stand alone on solely voice acting, high budget, and story, the gameplay is what brings people to the table to play, and the story is what makes them stay. And the gameplay for this game runs the gambit: Action, Beat ‘Em Up, Hack And Slash, Rail Shooter, Rhythm Game, Quick Time Events, and Third Person Shooter. At various points in the game, it turns into one of the many different game types. Each with a rather basic control scheme, nothing revolutionary, by no means. Much of the gameplay isn’t amazing; it’s rather pedestrian, and just to get you through an event that requires you to utterly destroy a Gohma, or one of the Deities. The game completely encompasses an over the top action, and consistently gives the player, the feeling, everything is certainly bigger and more angry from Asura, especially with the duel against Deus… but his anger is never abated.

The game comes down to, not in this exact order: cutscene, fight for a bit, cutscene, quick time, cutscene, button mash, and burst event which triggers more cutscenes. During some of these cutscenes, you’ll have to input a button that will appear on the screen for you to continue. This is where the gameplay is melded with the presentation of the game, allowing for the most over the top fights, and the badassery from Asura, and certain characters during their interactions with each other. For instance, the fight between Asura and Augus, you fight on the moon, and Augus, uses a Sword imbued with the mystic trait of extending no

Asura vs Augusmatter the length, which ends with Asura and Augus plummeting towards Gaea with Asura being impaled back towards Gaea. But guess what, this all preceded by a hot springs quick time event involving a big busty servant.

Don’t get me wrong, Asura’s Wrath is an solid game, as long as you go into it, knowing full well, that you’re more so getting anime episodes in game form, where you slightly interact with the game and various quick time events, to spice up the ride during Asura’s anger induced revenge. The story with its roots in Buddhism and Hinduism, and sci-fi twist, allow for a fresh story, not done before. The game visually, isn’t stunning, but the gameplay melded with it, gives you a sensory overload, to a degree, allowing you to watch, somewhat at a distance, but still interact. At the end of the day, if you can get Asura’s Wrath for cheap, it’ll be worth the money, but when it was first released, I wouldn’t say the $60 price tag, was worth what was given at the end of the day.Punch Out

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